Season 1 final! Cliffhanger alert! Remember you can find all of the episodes here! Please let me know in the comments what you think of this episode and the combined work. Thanks so much for reading. Enjoy! Also, more is coming, but you'll have to wait...
Julia moved quickly through the market, keeping low to avoid recognition. The mud made it difficult to advance too fast. She rounded a corner and snatched a piece of fruit from a vendors table before ducking into a near by ally. Thunder cracked high above; a storm. Julia caught her breath before continuing slowly down the ally. It soon opened into a wider walk way filled with trash and refugees. Julia looked up through the giant towers of Echelon to see heavy, dark clouds ready to burst. She turned down another ally and arrived home; a storage container made of sheet metal. Rain began to beat down. Julia hated being wet, but at least the rain muted the constant smell of garbage a bit. She knocked lightly on the door. Lilana opened it and Julia entered. She removed her soaked shoes and sat by a burning candle. Then she unloaded her pockets. Fruit of all kinds appeared from them. Lilana looked it all over.
“Fresh?” She asked.
“Most of it, yes.” Julia removed her hood and flipped her hair. Lilana smiled while gathering a few items for dinner. Julia removed the rest of her wet cloths and toweled off. She dressed in a long, hand stitched robe and approached a basket in the corner.
“And how are you today?” Julia reached into the basket and picked up a new born child.
“Pissy.” Lilana said.
“I really wish Byron wouldn’t teach you those words.” Julia held the child close. “Have you decided on a name yet?”
“No,” Lilana chopped the fruit. “I like Daniel. Byron says people will call Danny? Says knows too many douches called Danny?” The processed fruit entered a pot.
“Lilana, soon you and I are going to have a long chat about Byron’s vocabulary. I won’t have my nephew growing up calling everyone douches.” They both laughed. “How are you feeling today?”
“Better,” Lilana idly stirred the pot of fruit. “Still very sore.” Julia stood as someone knocked at the door. She passed the child to Lilana and cracked open metal panel acting as he door. Byron pushed his way in. He sat a pack on the floor and kissed Lilana.
“Byron?” Julia said condescendingly as she inspected the contents of the pack. “Did you forget something?”
“No. I went to the medical bay. Dr. Riley hasn’t been seen in three weeks! They told me if we wanted anymore meds you and Lilana would have to come in person.” Byron took the baby from Lilana and rocked it in his arms.
“Both of us in person?” Julia tossed the pack aside. “Not a risk we can afford.”
“Sis, it’s been six months. Maybe it’s safe. He’s never made a move on me.”
“He wants both of us. Killing you would only push me further into hiding.” Julia paused. “This just feels like a trap.” She sat on her bedding and thought. What would Avery do here? Nothing came to mind.
The next morning, Julia left early. Her daily routine involved visiting three or four open air markets. They were all situated at the bases of the huge towers of Echelon. She tried to avoid the same market two days in a row as she went about her looting. The vendors never noticed the small amount of food she stole. It had rained all night long. The streets were a slick mess and very few shoppers were about. The small crowds made Julia more noticeable. She had a feeling today would be a lean one.
The first market yielded nothing. Julia moved quickly to the next one. A small horde of creatures milled about the shops there, so Julia moved closer. She walked by a vendor sitting cross legged on the ground. She walked by him again and noticed he wore dark glasses like those of a blind man. On her third pass she attempted to get his attention with a wave. He did not respond. Julia went around the market again, returning to this man’s shop after some fifteen minutes. His wares were strewn out on blankets in front of him. A tarp hung from some poles protecting it all from the rain. The man himself had long pointed ears and an odd protrusion from his chin. Other than that and his gaunt frame, he seemed quite human. Julia took a deep breath and reached for a small cucumber looking vegetable.
“Stop.” The man said. He did not move. Julia froze and thought of something to say for cover.
“How much?” Julia had no money. The man reached out and grabbed Julia’s arm. His cold skin took Julia’s breath.
“That is my lunch.” He let go of her arm. “You seek Mabry.”
“What? How do you know that?” Julia stepped back and scanned the area for Wasalt.
“You told me.” The old man smiled. “Please, sit with me under the tarp.” Julia cautiously sat by the old man.
“Have we met?”
“Just now. I am Jon.” Jon poured a hot liquid from a pot into a ceramic cup and handed it to Julia. “Mabry is hard to find, but not impossible.”
“You know him?”
“No.” Jon poured himself some of the hot drink. “I know because you told me so. Your touch.”
“How do I find him?”
“The natives know where he is. One visited me last week. When we shook hands he told me so. I think he regret it.” Jon sipped the drink. Julia drank as well. The warmth of the liquid rushed through her.
“What are the natives?” Julia felt much better after the drink.
“The native people of Echelon.” Jon said flatly.
“I thought they were all dead.”
“That’s what Eada would like you to believe.” Jon sat down his cup. “The natives are alive and walk among us. They continue to grow in numbers and plot to take back their world. Mabry works with them, I think. That is what the native man believed at least.”
“He told you this?”
“No, I felt it. I feel many things.” Jon took Julia’s hand again. This time it was warm. “Seek my good friend Naz-ark. He knows where to find natives. You can find him in tower 38, level 101.” Jon released her hand and seemed to stare into space. Julia stood and stepped back out into the rain.
“You love him.” Jon said.
“Who?” Julia gasped.
“You know.” Jon sat quietly and answered no more questions. Julia walked slowly through the rain. She passed shop after shop, but had no energy to steal food. As people crossed in front of her she scanned their faces for Wasalt. She hadn’t seen him since their medical bay escape. Dr. Riley’s information seemed to be true, Wasalt did not venture down to the slums. Julia began to think over what Jon just said about natives. Bullshit or truth? She had trouble believing an old man on the streets could know such things. Then again, he knew about Mabry. She lost focus and ran into the back of a large alien. It cussed her and went on with its day. As it moved away Julia’s eyes focused on a man across the market. Avery? In the blink of an eye he vanished. Julia ran to where she saw him standing. Nothing. She twirled around and around looking for him. She even went so far as to shout his name once. Gone, if he was ever there at all. Her imagination? She thought again about what Jon said.
Before going home empty handed Julia stopped by an information kiosk. She accessed the city map. Tower 38 was the same tower as the medical bay. Level 101 had to be very close to the level they arrived on. It was most certainly up in the relay districts. On floor 101 a single room was leased to a Naz-ark. That room contained a relay. Julia thought it was very odd that someone could lease a relay room.
Julia took cover from the rain under a crudely constructed metal shelter and weighed her options. Stay on Echelon indefinitely and hide from Wasalt or use the advice of the old man and seek out this Naz-ark. When she put it that way it seemed clear. Hiding from Wasalt would get her no closer to Mabry or Alexandria. The rain continued to beat on the metal shelter and Julia thought about Avery. As the incident slipped into the past, Julia became less sure she actually saw him. Why would she want to see him? Why would he want to seek her out? The rain let up. Julia began to trek home. As she did, she confirmed in her mind that they had to take this chance to find Mabry. She decided they would drop Lilana and the baby off at the doctor for a check up. Then Byron and herself would find Naz-ark and question him about the natives and Mabry. Julia explained this to Byron and Lilana when she arrived home and they set out for tower 38 within the hour.
Lilana was just happy to get out and see the world. Since their arrival and her pregnancy she had mostly been confined to the small storage container they called home. She cradled her unnamed child as they walked among the shoppers and merchants toward tower 38. Her comprehension of things had improved since meeting Byron and Julia, but she still could not understand how people could build such tall structures like the towers of Echelon. Byron seemed happy that Julia agreed to take herself and Lilana to the doctor. Julia cautiously lead them into the tower lobby and onto the elevator. Her heart began to pound as other aliens flooded into it with them. This would be perfect conditions for an ambush. They arrived on the medical floor and found their way to the doctor’s office without incident. Julia kept her eyes on the crowd just outside the medical bay doors as Byron spoke with a purple doctor.
“Sis?” Byron gently took Julia’s arm. “You first. I’ll keep a look out. When you’re done they will check Lilana and the baby. We can go to Naz-ark’s then.” Julia shook her head and entered the curtained area with the purple doctor. The exam was quick and to Julia’s surprise the doctor did not even have to touch her. It was all done with gadgets and scanners. He gave her a clean bill and sent her out. Lilana and Byron kissed and then Byron kissed the baby before Lilana vanished behind the curtain. Byron and Julia turned and made for level 101. A hooded figure watched them leave, but instead of following, it entered the medical bay and made for Lilana’s curtain.
Julia and Byron made their way back to the elevator and traveled up a few more floors to get to level 101. They were high enough now that the building’s windows became more open. Byron hated being this high up and hated even more being able to fully view it. Julia quickly checked the registry and found the name Naz-ark attached to unit 42. Byron watched for blue colored people while Julia counted door numbers. Traffic was light, but they traveled against it, which made for the occasional awkward moment with any number of strange creatures. After walking further than either of them were comfortable with, they reached door number 42. They stood in silence for a moment.
“Do we knock?” Byron asked.
“I don’t know, is there a doorbell?” Julia stepped towards the door and it whooshed open. She jumped back, startled. Inside was a small room very similar to the one they landed in when they arrived. At the back of the room hovered a relay ring. Julia and Byron entered.
“Hello?” Julia said, not that there was anywhere for someone to be hiding in the small square room.
“Hello.” This voice came from behind them. They both whirled around to see Wasalt standing behind them. He held a small pistol in hand. “I’d grown inpatient. Mabry wasn’t sure you’d make it here,” Wasalt smiled. “I’m glad you did. He pays very well for completed tasks.”
“Listen buddy,” Bryon stepped forward. Wasalt raised the pistol and shot Byron. The bullet put a small hole just above his right eye. Julia screamed but before she could go to her brother’s side, Wasalt pointed the gun at her. She stopped and watched as Byron stumbled forward and then backwards. Then he fell back so far his arms reached through the relay ring at the back of the room. A quick flash of light later and Byron’s body was gone. Julia, shocked, began to cry. A crowd formed outside the room, no one stepped forward to help.
“Just do it!” Julia screamed at Wasalt. He aimed, but just before he could apply the proper amount of pressure to the trigger, a hooded man came rushing through the crowd. He yelled Julia’s name just before tackling Wasalt. The two wrestled on the floor as Julia stood in shock. Wasalt punched the hood off the man, revealing Avery’s bloodied face. Avery took a swipe at the gun in Wasalt’s hand, but missed. Wasalt kicked Avery down and took aim at Julia again.
“Julia! Go!” Avery screamed as he took out Wasalt’s knee. “Through the relay! I’ll find you! Go!” Wasalt pulled the trigger as he fell and white hot pain shot through Julia’s arm. He was off the mark. She turned and leapt for the relay. As she passed through the ring she tried to concentrate on her clothes as the white light surrounded her and took her away.