Behind? Catch up now.
Godfrey woke the next morning to Mason gently shaking him. “Hey, what’s up?” he asked, sitting up carefully.
“Sennett says there’s something on the news we all need to see,” Mason said. “Come on, she’s ordering breakfast now.”
“I’m coming,” Godfrey said. He sat up in bed, wincing.
Mason frowned. “What’s the matter with you?” he asked. Then, he caught sight of Godfrey’s bare chest. There was a deep purple bruise, spanning across his chest onto his rib cage. “When the fuck did that happen?” Mason asked.
“Yesterday during the protest. Sennett was freaking out a little, and Liam was trying to get her focused. A cop came at us, and got a swing in before I could get away.”
“Shit,” Mason muttered, giving the bruise a close inspection. “You should have had this looked at.”
“I’m fine. I stopped in at the auto health station downstairs. Nothing’s broken and there’s no internal bleeding.”
“Those machines aren’t full proof,” Mason said. “Damn it, why didn’t you tell any of us?”
“I honestly didn’t realize it was going to be this bad in the morning,” Godfrey pulled himself out of bed and heading to his dresser. “Don’t say anything, alright? I don’t want Sennett treating me like a little boy over this.”
“That’s not-,” Mason began, but Godfrey cut him off.
“It’s just a bruise. I’ve had way worse in my life,” he said, pulling a shirt over his head.
Sennett, Liam, and April were all crowded around a small table when Godfrey and Mason walked into the other room. “There you are,” Sennett said. “I thought farm boys were supposed to get up early.”
“You know, this was supposed to be a damn vacation,” Godfrey replied, taking an empty seat next to April.
“So much for that,” Mason growled, sitting down between Godfrey and Liam.
“The news finally broke about the protest yesterday,” Sennett said. “Well, at least what’s going to pass for news right now. Must have taken them a while to figure out a good lie.”
She tapped her wrist pad, and the wall screen lit up. A news anchor was sitting at the desk, his hands folded in front of him. “The beach level was shocked yesterday when a violent protest broke out among citizens. Almost two hundred men and women, mostly workers in the service industry of Station Central, gathered to protest what they called unfair conditions on the station. Sadly, the event turned violent, when the group began badgering and attacking tourists and other citizens. Officer Colette Reynolds led a team to subdue the protesters. While they did their best to react to the incident as quickly as possible, four young people tragically lost their lives.”
The screen cut to the sergeant Godfrey had seen the day before, leading a battalion of armored guards against a group of unarmed kids. Her face was full of concern, now in a somber black dress uniform. “It’s really sad to see these citizens caught up in this mess. If we want to change things here on Station Central, there are better ways to do it. People were hurt here, people died here. And if it had been handled better by the people who organized the protest, that wouldn’t have happened.”
The screen cut back to the news anchor. “Hundreds of protesters are currently in police custody awaiting trial. One such protester is a Khloe woman by the name of Mi Sita, the granddaughter of Khloe president Ly Sita.”
“It’s Sati,” Godfrey said, flatly. A picture of Mi appeared. She looked furious, her teeth bared at the camera.
“That’s the girl who recognized me yesterday,” Sennett said. “I didn’t even know President Ly had kids, let alone grandkids.”
“Well, she’s not like Mom, dragging foreign dignitaries into her house to have impromptu tea parties with her kids and fifteen stuffed animals,” Mason said. He grinned. “Remember when I made the head councilwoman from Station 7 wear a top hat?”
Sennett turned the screen off. “I managed to contact Howie last night. He’s more than willing to help, but I’ve got to get to his studio without getting spotted. Akiko doesn’t know I have this information, not yet at least. But she’ll guess pretty fast once we do this, and I want to be able to get the hell off this station.”
“What about Howie?” April asked. “Won’t he get in trouble?”
“Howie’s already in trouble,” Liam said. “But he’s a celebrity. He’ll be fine.”
“How are we supposed to get to the studio without being seen?” Godfrey asked. “Akiko and Gene have seemed to know exactly where we are a frightening amount of time.”
Sennett glanced at him. “There’s no we. There’s just me. I’m going to go meet with Howie myself in case we get arrested. I’ll need you guys to get April home.”
“That’s not going to take three adults. You can’t do everything by yourself, Sennett. I’m coming with you.”
“Fine, alright,” Sennett said. “It’s not like you haven’t proven yourself in a fight before. But Liam’s going to have to put a partial seeming on your wrist pad.”
“Hand it over,” Liam sighed, holding his hand out. “I love how you volunteer me for shit without asking me first, Sen.”
“I love how you live in my house rent free,” Sennett replied.
“What’s a partial seeming? Is it like April’s seeming?” Godfrey asked.
“Sort of, but it’s smaller and not as strong. It just slightly alters your face,” Liam said, tapping on the wrist pad screen. He handed the pad back to Godfrey, pointing to a small new app on the home screen. It read, “Ice Cream Challenge.”
“The fuck is this?” Godfrey asked.
Liam shrugged. “This ain’t exactly illegal, but it’s what we call legally frowned upon. Best not to draw attention. Try it out.”
Godfrey clicked on the image of a grinning pink ice cream cone. It winked at him, but nothing else happened.
At least, nothing that Godfrey could tell. He looked at Sennett and was surprised to see that he didn’t recognize the face she was wearing. Her hair was short, with a blond streak in the front. Her eyes were missing their tiny gold flecks, and her nose was flatter.
Turning around in his chair, he looked into the mirror to see a light blond head of hair, and a crop of freckles across his nose. “I’m not a fan,” he said.
“It’s supposed to hide you, not look sexy,” Liam snapped.
Godfrey kept glancing at his reflection in the window. He tried to run his hands through his hair and was surprised when it felt exactly the same.
“Will you stop preening?” Sennett snapped as they climbed out of the pod.
“I’m not preening. I’m reacting to a dramatic and not at all pleasant change in my face.”
Sennett shook her head. “At least don’t do it in front of all these people, please.” She looked around at the crowd of people, taking pictures and shouting excitedly when they saw certain buildings. “Come on, let’s go.”
She headed into the crowd, Godfrey hurrying to catch up. He tried to keep his face impassive, casual. When that didn’t work, he tried to just keep his head down, so certain was he that he must run into someone who would recognize a different face on his body. Sennett didn’t even seem to notice. She walked through the crowd the same way she did any other time, confident that she belonged right where she was.
“Will you stop slouching like that? You look like you’re on your way to film porn,” she hissed.
“Alright, sorry,” Godfrey muttered, trying to stand up straight.
“Remind me to never take you on another undercover job ever,” she said. They had reached Howie’s studio and were heading to the back of the building. “He said he’d meet us inside,” she said, pulling open the door.
The hallway was dark, lit only by a few small circular lights built into the wall once the door was closed behind them.
“This place is a lot less fun back-stage,” Godfrey said, looking around at the beige walls and panel floor. “How does he still have access to the studio? I thought they’d fired him.”
“The studio didn’t fire me, because it can’t.” The voice boomed as a nearby door opened, spilling brilliant light out into the hall. Out stepped Howie, at least that’s who Godfrey assumed it was. His rainbow-colored hair was the same, but his face was wiped clean of makeup and he wore a smartly pressed black suit and a maroon tie.
“Young man, I own this building,” Howie said. “It was the only way to make a show that wouldn’t get pigeonholed as a boys show.”
“Thank you for agreeing to help us,” Sennett said, reaching to shake Howie’s hand. “This might not be the right time, but my daughter is a big fan.”
“There’s never a wrong time to tell me I have a fan,” Howie said, “and there’s no reason to thank me, young woman. What we do today is for everyone. I knew that the leaders of this station were corrupt. Look what they’ve done to me, all because I threatened their cash farm. But if they’re doing what you’ve said, that’s a whole other level of evil. These, what did you call them, Hollow Suits? They’re really real, then?”
“Yes,” Sennett said, “They’re real. I wish I could say they’re not.”
Howie turned and started leading them through the eerily empty hallway. “I wish you could, too. But if we don’t tell people, damn it, if we don’t warn people, hundreds upon thousands will die. I keep thinking we’re getting smarter you know. I keep thinking that we’re evolving. But we’re still-.”
He stopped, his face softening to sadness. “I think humans are afraid. I don’t know of what, but we are. And I wish to God that we weren’t.”
“I think that’s true,” Godfrey said, nodding. “But thank you, anyway. Not everyone would step up like this.”
“More’s the pity,” Howie muttered.
He led them into the stage area, darkened now. The stage was still, nothing but a rainbow-colored circle in the middle of a sea of seats.
“Come on down here,” Howie said, stepping into the control box. “May I see that flash drive, Ms. Montgomery?”
“Sure, here,” Sennett said, pulling the device from her pocket. She handed it to him, then sat down on the steps.
Godfrey sat down next to her, wincing as the position put pressure on his sore ribs.
“What was that? Are you making dad sounds when you sit down, Terra?” Sennett laughed, giving him a playful elbow to his side. Godfrey gasped, trying not to scream.
“Whoa, what the hell? I didn’t hit you that hard,” Sennett said, pulling away from him.
“I’m fine, you just caught me off guard,” Godfrey said, trying to laugh. It wasn’t working.
“You lie,” Sennett said. She grabbed his shirt and pulled it up before he could stop her. “What the hell is this?” she gasped.
“You can’t just grab at my clothes like that,” Godfrey cried, pulling his shirt down.
“While I would normally agree with you, I have a bigger problem with you right now. Why didn’t you tell me that you were so beaten up?”
“I didn’t want to go into it,” Godfrey said.
“I don’t care if you wanted to go into it or not,” Sennett growled. “You come into a mission with compromised health, you risk not only your life but the lives of everyone else with you. So, what the hell do you have to say for yourself?”
“I don’t know,” Godfrey whispered. He glanced up at Howie, who was fussing with the desk full of controls and didn’t seem to be paying attention to them at all. “I didn’t want you to know I got hurt when you and Liam got out of there without a scratch. I don’t like the thought of you thinking I’m useless.”
“Obviously I don’t think you’re useless. What the hell would you care, anyway?”
Godfrey shrugged. “I don’t know. I think I might be sort of in love with you.”
Sennett glared at him. “What?”
“Hell, I don’t know.” Godfrey ran a hand through his hair. “That’s why Ki left, you know. She thought that I was in love with you. Mason thinks the same thing. And I thought, maybe I am. Maybe I should be.”
Sennett looked down, then over towards the stage. “Maybe you’re not. Did you ever think of that?”
“Yeah, I thought about that a lot. But I love April. She’s such a sweet kid. And I even love Mason, as much of a pain in the ass as he is. I think I do love you, but maybe not the way they think I do. But I’ll be damned if I can tell for sure.”
“Not that I’m listening in,” Howie said, still absorbed with the controls, “but in my experience, love makes itself pretty clear. If it lies to you, it’s to give you a false positive like puppy love or lust. But if you’re not sure, you’re probably not in love.”
“But it would make sense,” Godfrey said.
Howie laughed. “We don’t fall in love because it makes sense. We fall in love and then we make it make sense. I have these files loaded now if you’re wondering.”
“Great,” Sennett said, standing. “Let’s send it out.”
“Where do you want me to send it?” Howie asked.
Sennett stood next to him, looking at the screen on the desk. “Everywhere we can.”
Howie nodded and started fiddling with the dials again. “Going to be some traumatized kids out there. Guess it’s better than dead kids, though.”
As he worked, the screen lit up with images that Godfrey had seen before. Pictures from Earth, and the Hollow Suit attacks. He had no wish to see them again, they already played when he closed his eyes.
Soldiers being slaughtered without hesitation.
Buildings on fire.
People screaming as they were slaughtered.
Cities from all over the world, laying in desolation.
“My God,” Howie said, his eyes glued to the screen. “This is real? This is all real?”
“It’s real,” Godfrey said. “We’ve got to get people on this as soon as we can. As you can see, Earth didn’t think of a single way to stop them.”
“It’s like the damned apocalypse,” Howie said.
Just then, the screen went black, and every light Godfrey could see went out.
Copyright © 2019 by Nicole C. Luttrell
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Start at the beginning, download Seeming now for free.
Station 86 is shocked when a Khloe assassin begins killing members of the all powerful council. Officer Sennett Montgomery and Councilman Godfrey Anders swear to find the assassin after Godfrey’s wife is falsely accused. But the killer, and the council itself, are not what they seem. Neither, as it turns out, is Sennett’s daughter.