‘Option menu: Earth. Costume: France, 17th century. Weapon: rapier,’ Liam Kincaid stated and watched as the sharp-pointed sword appeared in his hand out of nowhere. It glistened in the lamplight as he moved it to check its weight.
‘Not bad,’ he said admiring the density of image. He glanced at the man who was sitting at the desk and typing some commands into his laptop, but received no reply. Looking in the mirror he smartened himself up, staring at the reflection of the French costume that the program dressed him in.
‘You look like an idiot,’ Augur commented, finally turning his gaze away from the screen.
Liam smiled. ‘I'm just testing the training program you stole from the Taelons.’
‘I didn't steal it.’ the hacker seemed irritated. ‘I... borrowed it. Kind of.’
‘Yeah, right,’ Liam raised the rapier, ‘What's next?’
‘Opponent. Choose one.’
Liam seemed lost in thought for a moment. ‘Holodeck: mirror player one.’
Small particles of holographic data appeared in front of him and circling around slowly formed the holographic copy of himself. The holo-Liam bowed and raised the rapier to begin the duel. An intensive series of clangour filled the room as the blades of the rapiers whirled in the air at an enormous speed.
‘He's good,’ Liam commented, panting.
‘Level 3, to be precise,’ Augur again turned his gaze at the screen. ‘The stock market is in a bad shape. Going down like a sinking ship. A perfect opportunity for a smart investor.’
‘A smart investor would probably focus on Taelon technology.’
‘Why should I invest in something that I can actually st?,’ Augur smiled, ‘... borrow.’ He was about to continue when a sudden beeping sound filled the room.
‘Program: termination,’ Liam commanded and watched as both his costume and the rapier disappeared, his opponent turning again into data particles dissolving in the air.
‘I suppose you haven't invited anyone?’ the hacker asked and Liam shook his head, slowly taking out his gun. Augur sighed. ‘Well,’ he continued, ‘Just while you'll be turning the visitor into a sieve, could you please mind my hardware? Your destructive habits cost me money.’ This said, he turned off the alarm and waited in a corner.
Liam slowly aimed his gun at the elevator door, truly hoping he would not be forced to shoot. A beeping sound filled the room again as the automatic door to the elevator opened and a slim figure in a dark hooded cloak appeared. For a moment he could not see the face, but as the figure raised its head, at once he recognized the North American Companion.
He blinked as if disbelieving his eyes. ‘Da'an,’ he muttered.
The Taelon diplomat stepped out of the elevator and looked around. ‘Sinuai Euhura, Liam,’ he stated, making the gesture of Taelon greeting. ‘Much has changed since my last... visit here.’
‘I didn't expect you,’ Liam admitted, lowering his gun. ‘You came here alone?’
‘Yes,’ Da'an answered calmly, ‘There are some matters of the emergency that need to be discussed...,’ he turned his gaze towards the hacker who was standing in the corner of the room, ‘... by us alone.’
‘Okay, I get it,’ Augur raised his hands and headed towards the other room.
‘But as I have the honour of meeting Mr. Deveraux in person,’ Da'an continued, watching Augur stop and turn towards him, ‘I would like to mention the fact that my personal password has been changed... in case someone was tempted to access the Taelon data again. This someone may feel the need to cease entering the system for they presently might be tracked.’
‘I'll keep that in mind,’ Augur grinned and left. As the door closed, Liam hid the gun in his pocket and pointed at the sofa.
‘Have a seat?’
‘No. I thank you. There is not much time.’
Liam sighed. ‘As for Augur...,’ he seemed a bit uneasy, ‘He's not the kind of person that should be taken seriously,’
‘Unlike my superiors, I am quite patient,’ the diplomat turned to his Protector, smiling. ‘There is little time. I must return to the Embassy before my absence is noticed.’
‘Nobody knows you're out?’
‘No,’ Da'an shook his head, ‘It is my sincere hope that the hologram installed in my office is as convincing as ever.’
‘But you know what I think about your wandering through the city alone,’ Liam sighed. ‘I hope you have a good reason for taking this risk.’
Da'an smiled slightly, but as he mentally reminded himself of the reason of his visit, his expression saddened. ‘The Synod believes someone has sabotaged the Mothership,’ he started, ‘Zo'or wishes to send battle cruisers to Earth’
‘What?!’ Liam opened his eyes wide.
‘Of course, he still needs the support of the Synod, yet unfortunately my belief is that this is not going to be a problem. For the last few months they have approved his every project.’
The man stared at his superior, thinking. In the dark hooded cloak he looked almost like a human, save his odd blue eyes that glimmered with particles of Taelon energy.
‘Liam, I have come here...,’ Da'an paused suddenly, ‘I must ask whether you were involved.’
‘I didn't sabotage the ship,’ Liam answered coldly.
Da'an blushed and slowly turned around, so that now his Protector could not see his face. ‘Trust is a rare phenomenon these days,’ he stated simply.
‘As is friendship,’ Liam answered. ‘Especially when you ruin it with these pointless accusations.’
‘What do you expect me to think? You are a member of the Resistance. I have seen your people plant bombs and blackmail the American government.’
‘We're fighting for freedom,’ Liam retorted. ‘We do nothing more than you do yourself to deprive us of it.’
‘I understand,’ Da'an turned towards Liam and the man noticed his eyes turning from light blue to silver almost. ‘I need to know the identities of the people who sabotaged the Mothership.’
‘Forget it. I'm not going to give you the names.’
‘Then you force me to choose anyone. At random,’ Da'an waved his hand. ‘I do not wish to see this planet destroyed. If you wish to die for freedom, it is your choice, yet I am not quite convinced that the whole of humanity shares your beliefs. If I provide the Synod with the names of those who sabotaged the ship, Zo'or will not gain the permission to send battle cruisers to Earth.’
‘Do what you want,’ Liam leaned on the desk and closed his eyes.
‘Your friend, Mr Deveraux, appears to be the perfect candidate to be rendered guilty.’
Liam hit the desk with his fist. ‘You touch him and I promise...’ he looked at Da'an with anger, but could not finish his threat.
‘I see,’ the diplomat stated simply. He blushed blue and took a step closer towards his Protector, ‘Do you truly believe that freedom is a reason sufficient enough to sacrifice one's life for it? You all wish to sacrifice your lives for freedom, yet when it comes to saving the planet, you seem? reluctant. Hostile even. I see quite a paradox here.’
‘You're offering me an awful compromise,’ Liam sighed. ‘If there's no other way ... I mean... Just pick someone I don't know. I don't want to look at this, okay?’
‘You are quite a hypocrite, Liam,’ Da'an blinked, ‘Yet I will do as you ask.’
‘Just go,’ the man whispered.
The diplomat nodded and slowly headed towards the elevator, the edges of his long cloak moving slowly across the floor. Dressed this way he looked like a shadow of death; or Death itself even, Liam thought.
Suddenly, he stopped as if considering something. ‘For the future please either do not try to break the codes or do not allow yourself be caught,’ he said and Liam gazed at the floor in silence. ‘As for trust and friendship...,’ the Taelon continued, ‘I would ask you to remove the surveillance cameras you installed in my Embassy last month. I cannot speak freely with my brethren when I know you are able to see and hear all that I say.’
‘I...,’ Liam started, but the words somehow died in his throat.
‘I have sent back the book you have offered to me. It was...,’ Da'an paused, searching for the correct English word, ‘...wired. I have returned the tracking device as well. I believe you might want to use it again... elsewhere.’ This said, the diplomat smiled sadly. ‘What else is there to say, Liam? This hollow fabric either must enclose within its blind recess, our secret foes.’
‘It's the Trojan horse from Aeneid, isn't it?’ Liam asked sadly.
‘Yes. Yes, it is,’ was the barely audible answer.
As Da'an left, Liam stood in silence for a moment. Then, having taken a gulp of brandy, he looked in the mirror. ‘Holodeck: begin program. Option menu: Earth. Costume: Troy, 13th century BC. Weapon...,’ he paused as dark thoughts again entered his mind.