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Back in the sky city of Pearl, the Aeron chief guild master Kaylim was interrogating the Kiron guild master Sybil.
“What do you know of Kimberley’s plan?”
Sybil sighed heavily, “I know as much about that as you do: she intends to seal the rift.”
“What about those two freemen who helped her to escape?”
“I know nothing about them.”
“I have a witness who says that you cleared them both for entry into the parliament, and also brought them into the parliament chamber,” Kaylim raised his voice, “Why did you let them in if you didn’t know anything about them?”
“Because I hoped they would protect Kimberley when the time came, and they did.”
“You fool! I’m going to have to kill them now, as well as Kimberley. You have three deaths on your conscience now.”
“My conscience? You don’t need to kill any of them. That is your choice and your responsibility.”
“What else do you want me to do then?”
“Just let them go!” Sybil smiled slyly.
“But they will close the rift!”
“Exactly! I hope they do,” There was firmness in her voice as she said this.
“This city is built on the rift, when it goes this city and everyone in it will fall two kilometres down into the ocean. More deaths on your head,” Kaylim was starting to sound hysterical.
“No one needs to die if you would just give the order to evacuate the city, there’s plenty of time, it shouldn’t take more than a week or two to accomplish. Give the order now to redirect all building efforts towards more gloftoons, strip down the houses to make the balloons, use the ropes holding the city together to build new baskets, rip up and use the plumbing if you have to, but don’t waste time!”
“I am the leader of this guild, I will not be told what to do!” thundered Kaylim.
“Well you can call yourself chief guild master all you want, but you don’t have supreme power over everything. People will do what they want to do regardless of what you say to them. These guilds were never meant to be governments, they were supposed to nurture and protect the different classes of our society, not divide them into factions. Did our ancestors not leave Earth to escape tyranny there? Why do you insist on creating a new tyranny here?”
Kaylim was silent for a few minutes as he paced back and forth through the parliament chamber, his mind was racing, seeking for a justification for his actions.
“Over one hundred thousand people live here in the city, she’s going to destroy all their property, everything they’ve invested in, she doesn’t have the right to do that to them. The city belongs to them!”
“And over a million people have property underneath this ocean that belongs to them, you can’t prevent them from getting their property back if they want it back badly enough too.”
“I don’t care what the other guilds wants, all I care about is my guild, that my people come first.”
“I think you care too much about guilds and mottos. Our common heritage matters more, a person chooses their guild in life, one can even change guilds if one wants to, but we can’t change our heritage. The guild masters only speak for their guilds and the concerns of their guilds, not for all Proximians.”
“Precisely, I speak for my guild, and my guild’s interest is to not allow the spatial rift to close!”
“You’re choosing to only hear what you want to hear. Well what are you going to do about it?” taunted Sybil, “They’ve gotten away from you, in one of your very own triplanes, they’re now out of reach. There’s nothing you can do now but warn the population they need to prepare for evacuation!”
A sinister smile crept across Kaylim’s face, “I’m not powerless, I have a spy amongst the Vegani, they have reported to me that the Vegani have been giving them refuge and just this moment transferred them to a Vegani trade ship and are on route to meet with a Comptoni submarine. I have given my spy specific instructions to deal with these three outlaws in a way that will demoralise the other guilds and force them to recognise Aeron ascendency.”
Sybil fell silent. Sensing weakness, Kaylim pressed his attack, “See, your scheme will only result in the deaths of those three people, if you hadn’t forced my head, none of this would have happened.”
Sybil looked him in the eye, “Not all Aerons agree with you, many think you are arrogant and just want power for yourself, other Aeron guild masters question your decisions.”
“Let them question them, in a few more days they will know what happens to those who question my authority!”
Not far away from Pearl, our three heroes had boarded a Vegani trade ship and were just bidding farewell to the Veganis who had given them comfort and company for the past two days. Vegani trade ships are large catamarans, sometimes with as many as three hulls. One hull is always dedicated to fresh produce, while the others to habitation. The bulk of the Vegani population live on these massive ships ingeniously designed for maximum stability in even the worst weather. There were far more people on board this ship than on the boats that they had left and they even had a theatre where plays were performed in the evenings. What struck Harold and Alfred was the presence of different guilds on the Vegani ship: Here they met their first Ferrens and Comptoni. However, there were several Aerons, and these folk were the ones Harold and Alfred were particularly wary of.
Using the coins Sybil had provided them, the trio rented out a cabin together, and discussed their plan. Kimberley explained that she needed to confirm her readings and pinpoint the location of the natural energy source that was keeping the rift open, for this she needed to access the Kiron Experimental Physics Laboratory deep under the water. This meant travelling via submarine to get there, and the Comptoni were the best submariners. The Comptoni were the manufacturers on Proxima Minor, they were expert machinists and tool makers who traded their equipment for the goods and services of the other guilds. Alfred resolved to get up early the next day to inquire, while Harold and Kimberly went shopping for equipment and supplies they might need. Alfred instructed Harold to keep a close eye on the Aerons while they were out shopping, he suspected they were in contact with the guild masters on Pearl via radio. Kimberley for her part seemed complacent about the danger she was in, she was enjoying the fact that most people treated her like a celebrity at the moment, especially the Vegani who were generous to her everywhere she went. Kimberley walked out boldly in public, within eyesight of several Aerons.
“You shouldn’t let them see you here, they might be working for Kaylim and the other guild masters,” cautioned Harold, but Kimberley waved him off with an air of smug superiority.
“It’s infuriating trying to protect someone who is in denial about the dangers she is in,” complained Harold to Alfred as he arrived back from his morning quest.
“Well tell her to stop her sight seeing, I’ve just been talking to a Comptoni guild master who is offering us a ship to go into the Oblique Plateau and to help search for the energy source that is keeping the rift open.”
Alfred introduced the Comptoni captain who was eager to here what Kimberley had to say. Within minutes the three travellers were explaining their story on the deck of the ship to a group of people that kept growing larger by the minute. Although mostly Veganis, there were Ferrens, Kiron, and Comptoni there too, but most importantly there were two Aerons. One of these Aerons appeared to get more agitated as Kimberley continued until she reached the point in her story of closing the rift. The Aeron could not remain silent any longer.
“Murderer! Mad woman! Evil Kiron traitor! Don’t listen to her, don’t help her, she wants to destroy the Aeron! Never trust a Kiron again after what they did to us!” cried the agitated Aeron man.
There was murmuring in the crowd, but it was clearly not in favour of the Aeron, sensing this the man pulled a gun from underneath his cloak and aimed it at Kimberley. Alfred without thinking stepped forward in front of Kimberley.
The Aeron gunman hesitated, “Move aside outlander, I don’t wish to harm you, but this Kiron witch needs to be silenced for the good of our world!”
“For the good of your world, or the good of yourself?” asked Alfred.
“For the good of my family, I have family living in Pearl, they would lose their homes at once if she did this thing. I can’t let that happen to my family.”
Before Alfred could answer the Comptoni guild master spoke up, “What about my family?”
“What about your family Comptoni! They don’t live on Pearl, they aren’t in danger if she does this wicked thing.”
“My family will perish if she doesn’t do this thing.”
The Aeron gunman flinched, and Harold moved in around behind him while he was distracted by the conversation with the guild master.
“How would your family perish if she didn’t do this?” asked the gunman.
“Because my family live in a settlement at the bottom of the ocean, and as the water level rises the water pressure increases. Soon the water pressure will be so high it will completely crush all our settlements and kill off our families.”
“Well that doesn’t matter, the Aeron will seal off the rift with a cap eventually.”
“Eventually they may do that, but not before most of the Comptoni settlements perish. We need a new plan quickly, and she’s offering that to us,” said the Comptoni guild master impressively.
“You would damn my people to save your own?” retorted the Aeron.
Kimberley lost her cool at this point, “For goodness sake man, you are planning to wipe out all the other tribes just to help your tribe avoid an inconvenience that was your people’s own fault for building a city on a spatial rift in the first place. You can’t stand there moralising us when you’re the one holding a gun and threatening everyone.” As she was saying this, Kimberley stepped out from behind Alfred. The Aeron lunged to take a shot at her but from out of nowhere the other Aeron, a young brown haired woman in her twenties, pushed his gun hand up and out of the way. The shot whizzed harmlessly into the sky. Harold came from behind and belted him hard on the back of the head with a spade he had picked up from nearby garden bed. The Aeron gunman dropped the weapon and was quickly over powered by the crowd.
The Comptoni guild master stepped forward to congratulate the Aeron woman for interceding so heroically.
“May I ask you, what is your name madame?”
“My name is Fiona, and not all the Aerons agree with guild master Kaylim, I want to help these three reach their goal!”
“Marvellous work Fiona, you’re welcome to come on board my submarine when we rendezvous with it. Probably best to do so in order to keep yourself safe after what you just did then.”
Harold was busy binding the Aeron gunman when he asked Alfred to search him in case he had any concealed weapons. Fiona quickly knelt down and helped search through his pockets and she pulled out a printed letter with the seal of the chief guild master Kaylim himself.
She read it out loud, “Agent Sparrow, three enemies of the Aerons will be coming aboard the Vegani cruiser you are currently stationed on. The most important of these enemies is the Kiron scientist called Kimberley, she intends to destroy our capital city of Pearl. Discredit and neutralise her at the earliest opportunity.”
The group looked at each with concern, but it was Fiona who spoke first, “You can’t trust any Aerons you come across not to try to stop you. Let me come with you in case there are any more and I can help talk them out of harming you. They won’t hurt me after all as I’m one of them!”
Kimberley put her hand on Fiona’s shoulder, “I would like that, because I don’t want to hurt your people, I just want us to return to the old times when we weren’t divided like we are now. I mean, we’re the same people, these guild titles are tricking us into forgetting our common heritage.”
Fiona looked into Kimberley’s eyes and smiled sweetly, “You’re right, the guilds were meant to spare us from having a central government, not morph into one like what has happened since this calamity hit our world and forced us to live separately from each other. Things will be much better once the rift is closed and this ocean is drained away.”
Not long afterwards, the trade ship made the rendezvous with the Comptoni guild master’s submarine. While the guild master was helping Fiona and Kimberley to pack their gear, Harold and Alfred used this opportunity to quickly talk to each other out of earshot of the natives.
“What do you think of this situation?” asked Alfred.
“I was not prepared for that man pulling out that gun on us, nor those biplanes opening fire. The Aerons are prepared to murder us it would seem.”
“It makes sense, if the rift is closed a lot of Aerons might die. I can understand why they wouldn’t be happy with the solution because they’ve grown so used to having the problem.”
“Do you think we’re doing the right thing though? Helping to close that rift? We’re interfering in another people’s affairs.”
“I actually think we’re definitely doing the right thing, that rift will probably end up killing almost everyone on this planet eventually. But when the time comes we should give the Aerons enough warning to escape the city before it falls out of the sky.”
“I agree, let’s hope they come to their senses first, it was a foolish idea to build a city up there to begin with. They might just deserve their fate for that alone.”
The adventurers with their new companion were now stowed on board the Comptoni submarine and on their way to the next leg of their journey.