Beams of light from the sculpture continued to pulse and flash across the globe at its top, throwing odd shapes and shadows throughout the little park. The president of the space station looked around at the others. Grewsa, the Pramotauran representative of the quadrant they stood in, shook her head. Jimmy Cavanaugh and the civil servant Witness, Diana Welles, stared back at her. The two Marines were serious.
"'I will kill you all'," Colonel Singleton said. "Are you sure, Marine?"
"No sir," Pfc Perkins said, looking at his Commanding Officer. "Not a hundred percent."
Kathleen Selwyn threw her hands out. "You translated directly to English?"
"Yes, Ma'am," Perkins said.
"Any chance you might've got it wrong?"
"I don't think so, Ma'am," Perkins said. "I was top of my class in coding. Third in languages. English is the most common in this System and the lights," he pointed to the sculpture, "don't translate to any of the other six diplomatic languages."
Diana turned to the sculpture. "Look," she said. "It’s changed."
Marine Perkins stepped forward ready to interpret. The short pattern repeated itself five times.
"What's it saying?" The colonel was at Perkins' shoulder.
"Hold on, sir."
The lights danced and swayed. Different shades, more subtle: this time more pastels than sharp primary colors. "It's a different voice," Diana said to Jimmy.
"Colonel, I think this is a different voice than the first one," Diana said. "The shading, the swirls. It looks different."
Perkins was hurriedly scribbling with his stylus across the face of his handheld Tablet computer computer. He looked up again and mouthed the letters he was seeing play over the globe at the top of the sculpture. "This doesn't make sense," he said.
"What's it say, Perkins?" The colonel's voice was straining now.
"If I'm right, sir, it says 'Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Got your attention'." Perkins scratched his burr-cut head and looked up again at the lights.
"'Got your attention?'" Jimmy laughed. "That's not Brahmen."
Colonel Singleton looked at Cavanaugh. "Who's Brahmen?"
"The entity behind most of the Universe's pain and suffering," Jimmy said. "Not all of it, but quite a bit.” He turned then to face the sculpture. "Yeah! You've got our attention. Now what do you want?"
The colors changed patterns again, this time moving more quickly but repeating so that Perkins could get the words right. "Listen to the Witness," Perkins said. "She knows."
Everyone looked at Diana. "What?"
"You tell us," Selwyn said.
"I don't know what I'm supposed to tell you," Diana said. "I don't know."
"The ghost," Kathleen Selwyn said.
"You were on trial for seeing something that many others do not believe in," Grewsa chimed in.
"What did the ghost say to you?" Colonel Singleton had his hands on his hips.
"Which time?" Diana was defiant, puzzled, an amalgam of emotion.
"Both times," Jimmy said. "All of them if there are more than just the two. What did they say to you?"
“There’s a war for control of everything,” Diana said. “Literally everything in the Universe.”
“Between who?” The colonel and his Marines were leaning forward to listen to her.
“One side and another, Colonel. The spirits say they’re on the right side.”
“Well, which side is that? Who’s in command?”
Diana let a worried look pass across her face briefly. “The Chondria. Brahmen’s the other, the wrong side.
"Look, I said all this in court. There are records and the System Witness Authority gave me an affidavit of reliability."
"They can be bought," Jimmy said. "Who was it talked to you?"
"It was the same entity each time. The same personalities," Diana said. "There were two women and one man. Mare, Bea and Alain. Each took turns as the dominant personality."
"So what were you supposed to tell everyone?"
"That this station is the center of the next battlefront in that war," Diana said. The lights on the globe top of the sculpture swirled together around and across the glass. All of them were various shades of green. "Is it agreeing with me?"
Perkins shook his head. "Yep. Emphatically."
"Mare? Is that you?" Diana stepped past Colonel Singleton and President Selwyn and closer to the sculpture. More green lights swirling. Diana looked at Perkins, who nodded.
"What's next, then? Can you turn the lights back on?"
The beams of light shifted to bright whites and deep violets, beating out a pattern in the code that Perkins was furiously trying to keep up with. He scribbled on his tablet without looking at it, moving his lips as he kept track of the words. "No," he said. "Still danger."
Green lights again.
"Okay," Colonel Singleton said. "This is crazy."
"We're in a tin can in outer space, colonel," Jimmy said. "That's crazy to begin with."
"Hold on.” Singleton turned away, touched his jaw and said, “Go.” He listened while, acknowledged the end fo the call and came back to the group.
He set his jaw, put his hands on his hips and breathed out heavily. "We're screwed. The arks can’t get out without power and the entire station’s disabled. We’ll have rioting soon."
The lights on the sculpture swirled and strobed in blues and yellows throwing green-tinged shadows across the little park. Diana turned to Perkins. "What's he saying?"
Perkins scribbled and watched, watched and scribbled. "Look up. It's saying 'look up'."
The ceiling of the Bradbury Common had been painted to resemble a clear blue sky from Earth, with only a few clouds. One of the clouds was moving, becoming a bipedal, humanoid shape and descending towards the little group. It turned so that it would land 'feet' first, but it never touched the deck of the Common and hovered about a foot above them.
"Diana," it said. "Nice to see you."
"Alain," Diana said. "Do you know everyone?"
"We know," the cloud said and addressed President Selwyn. "We are the 'ghost' that Diana has reported faithfully."
The Marines were silent and watchful, Grewsa seemed to be studying the cloud and President Selwyn was visibly shaken. The sculpture glowed with a steady bluish white light.
"What do we do next?" Diana looked up and was reaching out to the cloud person, but not far enough to touch it. She closed her eyes as her fingers got close.
"Nothing," the ghost said. "Unless he sends emissaries."
"Who?" the colonel wanted to know. "What kind of emissaries?"
"There's a thing on this fancy ol' space station that Brahmen wants," a new voice swam up from the ghost. "Or a person. We don't know for sure, we're just guessin'."
"Bea," Diana said. "Is that all? You can’t tell us anything else?”
The ghost came down and nearly landed on the floor of the Common. It faced Diana. "Wish I could," it said. "There's too many variables at this point. There's a person and a thing on this station that could, maybe, possibly be what he's looking for.
"Of course he could bypass the station at this time and try earlier or later," the ghost said. "We don't know. Frustratin’."
"What is it this entity wants?" Grewsa was now as close to the ghost as she would ever get. This personality seemed to reassure her. "I have never heard of 'Brahmen' before."
The ghost spoke to Grewsa in Promatauran. There were several exchanges until the colonel stepped in.
"English, please," he said. "Or at least a diplomatic language."
Grewsa smiled as much as her face would allow. "The spirit was explaining the cultural difference. I know who Brahmen is now."
The colonel scowled. "Okay," he said. "So, who's Brahmen. Educate me."
The station shook, shuddered and the metal joints everywhere groaned in protest. Trees fell over, Marines hit the dirt. Diana, Jimmy and President Selwyn fell. "Look!" the president said. She pointed to the viewing window. "LOOK!"
“Something’s happened.” The stars were moving. "We're turning," the colonel said.
"Colonel," President Selwyn said. "We should table this and get emergency services going."
"Agreed," Singleton said. "Perkins!" The Pfc barked an affirmation in return.
"Get to Major Scoresby and tell him to implement Gibraltar level two. Go!"
Perkins saluted and turned without waiting for a return from his CO.
Jimmy took Diana's arm. "Where did they go?"
The station shook hard again, lurching upward and causing everyone in the Common to fall to the floor. More trees fell, the sculpture tipped over and the globe atop it shattered. There were screams and shouts from everyone present and Diana thought she could hear voices crying from across the station. Colonel Singleton, unsteady, got to his feet.
"What's happening?" Diana looked at Jimmy who shrugged as he tried to get to his knees.
"I don't know," he said. He reached out to help her to her feet.
There was another voice in her head, insistent. She looked at Jimmy, who nodded. "Someone telling you to run?"
Diana nodded. Grewsa heard it, President Selwyn heard it, too.
"Where? We're trapped," Selwyn said. "Where do we run to?"
©2010 By Jason Arnett.
Honest Work by Jason Arnett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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