The Cage (in progress) - Part 1 : Chapter 3 by David Golledge

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"Why are we doing this"? Einar Gestetner asked harshly, raising his thick, rustic eyebrows. He shook his head slowly. "We don't belong here anymore".

"I agree", Michel Graalsaid in the nasal, lofty tone that annoyed Phil Burgess intensely. "We've all noticed the differences on Terra. We can't assume we know our world anymore. And Dionysus. What the fuck happened there? Phil"?

Burgess rubbed his thumb and index finger over his closed eyes, and they met at the bridge of his nose. Opening his eyes he met Graal's stare, wondered if he looked as tired as he felt, if the demons were showing. There was an edge to Graal's voice, he seemed agitated and it was unlike him.

"Dionysus"? Phil shrugged, said "your guess is as good as mine Michel. We can't even be sure we know the source of whatever disabled it. Was it Terran in origin? What happened on the surface? We're all aware of the dangers Michel, remember? They knew this would happen didn't they? What was it they said? Go without assumption. But assumptions are what have brought us this far. It doesn't matter. We're here to do a job. We'll do it and if we don't fit we'll leave again".

"Just like that", Edite Transeau said dryly.

"Yes, Edite", Phil countered, "just like that".

"And what about the Distance Defence Network"?

"The DDN had to utilise Dionysus for amplification of outgoing magnetic and gravity pulses. It can't operate without the station, unless they've found a way around it. Whatever took out the Dionysus also took out the DDN. The only defence Terra has is the shield and that stops incoming hazards. To escape terra we only have to turn this ship around and beat gravity which shouldn't present too many difficulties".

Graal laughed. "They're going to tear this ship apart citizens. Look around you, the modifications, the improvements, there's technology here no-one on Terra will understand. They're going to turn us into a freak show. People are going to pay to see us and when they've done they'll...".

"It's a little late to be getting cold feet now people. We should have thought of this on Vediovis". Burgess regarded Graal, disturbed at the hysterical edge in his voice. Graal was extremely intelligent, very little could upset his equilibrium. He was normally the level-headed, logical thinker within the group. What could be troubling him? A possible answer surfaced, an answer too appalling for Burgess to give if full consideration now, but it troubled him deeply. "Why the sudden unease Michel? You out of all of us argued most strongly for our return. Why the change of heart now when we're so close"?

Graal looked at those gathered and smiled tiredly. "Sorry citizens, I don't mean to worry you. I'm tired, I haven't been sleeping well for a few days..."

Burgess looked up quickly, sudden dread in the pit of his stomach, his skin suddenly crawling. Even that though didn't quite cancel out the aversion he felt towards the man. The fact that he had used the word ‘citizen' when addressing everyone was telling.

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