About the Laws of Space
The Laws of Space
Chapter 17 Begins
Chapter 17: Should You Choose to Accept It…
Tate was sitting now, on a rock next to the Old Man. The only people left in the cave were Addie, Walsh, Alder, and the maimed leader. Apparently, he had done enough to impress the others; after some sort of parting ritual called a “handshake,” they had left the four to discuss matters further. Webb and Merchant were gone as well—invited on an extended tour of the cavern network. Tate was reluctant to see them go but thirsty for answers. Five minutes into their extended conversation, he could not have been asked to recount the number of why’s that had escaped his lips.
“So who were they, those sphinxes at the fire?” he questioned. Walsh rose to prod the embers back to life; as he did so, Alder’s eyes followed him; the man was huge, imposing in both stature and musculature.
“They have no former titles, Alder,” the Old Man responded. “It’s a sort of ad hoc council, unelected, but trusted to advise the Ones Between on certain matters that effect us all. Sometimes their—our advice is heeded, sometimes not.”
Tate was listening intently to the Old Man but now his gaze was fixed on Addie. She was staring off into the darkness, eating an apple, apparently completely bored with the situation. Her wild beauty was undeniable, made more so by the elusive firelight. After a passing moment she realized he was staring.
“Hey partner, you want to maybe stop making eyes at me?” The out of place man from City Five was jolted by the comment but thought fast.
“I’m sorry Addie. I… actually I don’t mean to be rude, but in all honesty I was lusting more after that apple than anything else.”
Lying. Something new.
“True enough,” said the Old Man. “My apologies. We’ve been remiss in our duties as hosts. Adelyne, would you be kind enough to procure a few things for our guest here. We don’t want to send him and his friends back on an empty stomach.”
“Sure thing, OG.” She hopped up and left the scene.
“Does she always follow orders that quickly?” Alder asked.
“Never, actually,” Walsh said. They were the first words Alder had heard from the brick-shaped man. He smiled coyly. “Pretty sure you embarrassed her there, city boy.”
“I doubt that very much. She doesn’t seem to care one iota for anything I say.”
“She hasn’t shown it obvious, anyway. You’re right about that part. But right then I think she was showing something.”
“Well, I didn’t mean to offend. To speak with all veracity, I’ve never had much acumen in communicating with the opposite sex. It’s part of why I find myself in this predica—situation.”
The Old Man decided to reenter the exchange, laughing. “Mr. Tate, you are unique, but I’m afraid you fall into the same category as the rest of us when it comes to that area.”
“Why did she call you OG just then?”
“Many between the cities do. The name the System gave me was Garrick. The first letter is for Old.”
“Isn’t it a bit irreverent?” Tate queried.
“We don’t mind a certain degree of irreverence, do we Walsh?”
“Nope. As long as it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t hurt.”
“Well put. Now… let’s get back down to brass,” Old Garrick continued. “I realize this is a lot to throw at you, but there is no getting around it.”
Tate was troubled and did nothing to hide it. “What you’re asking is audacious—audacious isn’t the right word—more like crazy, more like suicide. I mean how the heck do I figure into the downfall of the Five Cities?”
Walsh was adamant to move things along. “Come on, city boy. You know the System better than anyone alive. You engineered most of the updates. If you can refine the thing, we figure you can destroy it. Take out the Core, and the whole System collapses.”
“No more chip control,” the Old Man said plainly.
“No more control, period.” Walsh threw a rock into the fire.
Silence took over the discussion for a moment. Alder looked over his new acquaintances, not wanting to mince words. There it was again, that question. “Why?”