Note: This story takes
place two years after Rome’s Revolution
The trip back to the landing strip did not seem to take nearly as long as the journey out to the combination shrine/museum. MINIMCOM was still parked on the airfield with his landing gear extended. As they approached, he lifted his cargo hatch and lowered the ramp. Rome led the way into the ship with Rei and Virga right behind. The two women that had accompanied them also came aboard. It was quite crowded in MINIMCOM’s cockpit with the five of them filing in. Rome sat down in the pilot’s seat and slid the long-lost slab into MINIMCOM’s data reader. The display lit up as MINIMCOM accessed the slab’s contents. However, no words appeared.
“Can you read it?” Rome asked worriedly.
“Yes and no,” said MINIMCOM. “I can access the internal data however it is heavily encrypted.”
“Can you decrypt it?” Rei asked.
“Please!” MINIMCOM objected. “If I had feelings, I would be highly insulted! However, it might take a little while before I find the proper ciphers.”
“How long?” Rome asked.
“I do not know,” replied MINIMCOM. “I will tell you when I have completed the task. I assure you it will not be long.”
Rome spun in the seat and looked up at Virga.
“Is this an inconvenience to you? Do you mind if we just wait here until MINIMCOM decrypts it?”
“We do not mind at all. You can take as long as you want. In fact, you may keep the slab permanently,” Virga said.
Rome was confused. “We do not need to keep it,” she said. “As soon as MINIMCOM decrypts it and downloads the data you can have it back.”
“We do not need it back. You may have it. We will trade you for it.”
Rome stood up from her seat. “Trade it for what?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.
“For him,” Virga said, pointing at Rei.
“I, I, I do not understand,” Rome stuttered.
Virga looked at her with a deadly serious expression. “Our planet is full of pure-bred Vuduri with a particularly strong diploid variant of the 24th chromosome. Almost all of our babies are born now with all the traits of the Onsiras. Living machines. We need to correct the genetic errors and soon or we will become the very thing we abhor. That is why we need him, his seed.” She pointed at Rei’s groin.
“You cannot,” Rome protested.
“Oh we can,” said Virga firmly. “We have determined that the only way to combat the genetic drift and push our species back toward humanity is to infuse our 24 chromosome complement with the 23 chromosome set of the mandasurte. Half-breed mosdureces, like yourself. The more primitive the better. And what could be more primitive than a living Essessoni?”
“No!” Rome said, moving over to Rei. “You cannot have him. He is mine.”
The two women behind Virga stepped beside her and pulled out hand plasma projectors, aiming them directly at Rome’s head.
“Perhaps I made it seem as if you had a choice in the matter,” Virga responded forcefully. “Let me clarify. We are taking him. Your only choice is whether you wish to leave here alive or not.”
(End of sample)
THE ARK LORDS
All rights reserved
Copyright © 2012 by Michael Brachman
Cover art copyright © 2012 by Bruce Brachman