Nonagad: Chapter 8

  Ellie’s main view window was now split into four smaller screens; a ‘quad shot’ she called it. The upper two were of the Great hall, the right of the children, the left of the women. The visitors were positioned on opposite sides of the platform by Rita’s crew when they set up the beds. With the exception of the separate instances of the older child and Charlotte getting up to use the bathroom, they didn’t notice any movement out of what would be expected to be ‘ordinary’ for the situation.
  The lower pair of Ellie’s views were of the southern tip of the town watching the marsh. Because the moon’s phase was only an evening away from full, the lower-left was a relatively bright scene of the trees just below the cornfield; beyond the treeline however, was pitch black. The lower right of the quad encompassed a wider area of the southern end of Home. This screen had an eerie greenish hue. Ghostly silhouettes of the six security members in the cornfield and two, sometimes three unidentified men in the trees slid around on the screen. When they moved, glowing trails of fuzzy green light followed behind them. In the SLCC, two temporary security team members took turns watching Ellie’s screens. Even though Clarke knew she would alert them to any major incident, he slept better knowing there were human eyes on watch. No other significant movement was noticed by human or Ellie’s more intelligent vision overnight.

  The next morning, while the visitors were having firstmeal of eggs and wild boar bacon, Tom and Clarke reviewed the rather mundane video replay of the overnight activity. As they watched the young boy get back into his cot after apparently using the restroom, Clarke looked up at the view screen and asked, “Ellie, have you completed your scans of the children?”
  “Yes Security Clarke.” Ellie’s reply didn’t appear in their implants, her soft childlike voice seemed to come from everywhere in the SLCC’s metal and glass interior.
She continued, “The younger children began breathing approximately five years and six months ago. The male is the oldest of the pair. They are deficient in several vitamin and essential mineral levels. All can be corrected within thirty days of their assimilation. They have no genetic or hereditary defects. They each are blood type…”
  “Ellie, that’s enough for now.” Tom interrupted Ellie’s dissertation. He knew she could go on for an hour detailing everything her tiny sensors had learned while traveling through the children’s bodies.
  “Ellie and what of the older boy?” Clarke asked.
  “Ellie,” Tom interjected, “just the main points please.” Tom added this caveat before she could begin listing his entire medical history.
  “The larger male began breathing thirteen years, two months ago. I do not recommend assimilation.” She fell silent.
  “Well that was short,” Clarke said looking down at Tom.
  “Okay,” Tom said slightly annoyed, “Ellie, we do need more information. Why isn’t he a candidate for us to bring into our family?”
Secretly Tom thought this might be a good thing, if he were to direct Clarke to escort the older boy and the women out of Home, he could tag along and go with them. He was sure that the exquisite woman who had touched him in the Great Hall would take him with her. Surely she felt the same way about him, he could see it her lovely eyes. She would take him to a better place, where Ellie’s unseen force wasn’t guiding his life and making every decision for him.
  “Leader Tom, there are several reasons he should not be chosen.” The fact that he’d never have to hear her refer to him again as ‘Leader’ would be an added bonus.
“The male is too old to be taught our ways; he is beyond the age anyone has ever been successfully adapted. His blood type is rare, O negative; no current residents of Home are of this type and we have none in reserve should he require a transfusion. His heart has a significant murmur, without constant treatment and monitoring by my water, his life expectancy is less than an additional five years from the time of my scan’s completion. He is…”
  “Ellie wait, that’s enough.” Clarke stopped her mid-sentence. He looked at Tom. “That’s sad Tom. I have no issue with telling him and the women that brought him to leave, but don’t we owe it to them to tell them about the boy’s condition? Without us he’ll die.”
Tom was also conflicted on what to do. Keeping the twins was already going to be a challenge he didn’t want to face with the visitors. If he wished to go with them, he’d need to gain their trust. How could that happen if he were to take their children and kick them out of a safe haven with a boy doomed to die prematurely by a condition easily managed here in Home? Distracted by his dilemma, he didn’t hear Clarke ask Ellie about the mysterious language the women spoke when they thought that nobody could hear them. As Ellie answered, Tom found it hard to concentrate on her response. The synthesized voice of Ellie explained that she listened to the whispers of the woman and although she had still not been able to fully decipher their language, she was able to determine it was a mixture of at least three known languages and sub-dialects.
  “Leader Tom,” she spoke into his ear, this was her third request for a response so she reverted to a more direct path of communication.
  “Um, Ellie, yes, what is it? He jolted back into the present.
  “We require more common words to complete translation.” Ellie said now speaking through the loudspeakers again.
  ‘I’m not giving you any help,’ he thought. The powerful effects of the psychic balm that had been administered to his skin would last several days without re-application.
Instead he replied, “I’m sorry Ellie I’ll try again later this morning, I haven’t had a chance to engage them further.” This was a blatant lie, one that the visitor’s potion was able to successfully mask even from Ellie’s sensitive bots. In fact, Tom had spent hours speaking with the raven haired vixen that had captured his heart. If he tried to concentrate on their time together, he could recall only little pieces of their conversation. They talked about the town, how it came to be, what their life and the world would be like outside Ellie’s gaze. He got a flash of an image of Charlotte scribbling on a tiny piece of paper but when he tried to remember more, the beautiful visitor’s face would overwhelm his mind’s eye and he could only think of her and the life they’ll have together. With Charlotte translating, they passed most of the last day’s afternoon talking and touring the town. Tom was very careful to keep their talk well out of Ellie’s ‘earshot.’
  Eventually Clarke and Tom were able to make a decision concerning their guests; the women and Charlie would have to leave, the twins would stay. Clarke had raised concerns about the men hiding in the trees and Tom, secretly needing more time to devise a plan of his own, argued that Ellie should search her memory for a way to help them prolong the older boy’s life once he was beyond Home’s borders. Rita would watch the children while Clarke and Tom escorted the rest out of town after firstmeal tomorrow. Tom needed to see her again; he needed to tell her their life together would begin the next day. In his mind he knew it was treason, in his heart he knew what he had to do.


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