City of Icons

Four days later, I was ghastly afraid when the hatch flew open, and my mother stood there.

“Leave, quickly,” she said.

I squinted at the new electric light. The generators were recharging. It was true we had world stopped. Then, furtively, she disappeared; leaving a memory of blame glowing large in the pleading oval of her eyes. Now I suspect that it was not at what she had done to me, but what she was doing to Stanislaus that made her eyes plead so.

Once out of the court, I could see through the cloudy portals to the world outside. A maroon sky, studded with dark moons. The land reminded me of ancient Earth-side New Mexico or Mars. But green things budded from throaty limbs: Earth-like leaves. Then, through the portal, I spied the wakers’ makeshift colonies, a shattered pod, three sorrowful, Celtic crosses on a mound.

Waker smoke vortexed against the maroon sky, and I viewed the beginnings of semi-circular, beetle-shell settlements. I desired to belong, but I knew I could not. Stanislaus would convey me back to the court. Then I heard Lorenz from behind.

“What are you doing here?”

I turned to her. She was the perfect waker, diminutive and thin, not having high demands for nutritional needs and unconditionally sane. Sanity is approval, here.

I told her the truth.

“My mother let me out.”

“You know we’ve world stopped.”

“I know that. I am leaving now. I am taking the ship.”

“What of the icons?”

“Do you care about the icons?”

“They’re the reason we’re here.”

“Maybe there are other reasons we are here? You know this is not the scheduled world. This is not the one they had programmed for us.”

“Who, the icons?”

“That’s correct; we are exactly forty years too early.”

“How do you know that?”

“I have seen the Earth videos. My father showed them to me. I have seen the plans, the star maps, and the schedule. I was to tell no one. My father was a commanding waker. I have seen everything. Stanislaus knows this is not the icon’s world.”

“But he’s a waker. Why would he do that?”

“Because he thinks he knows more than the icons. He thinks he is beyond them. There was a word they used: hubris.”

I saw Lorenz hesitate. She looked like a brown mouse, observing me with intense brown eyes.

“You sound desperate.”

“I cannot stay here. Stanislaus would keep me locked into court forever.”

“Maybe you deserve it.”

“Maybe. Maybe Stanislaus deserves my mother so shortly after my father’s death.”

Something blinked in Lorenz’s mouse eyes, and I believe she finally discerned my position.

“You belong with them. You belong with the wakers who aren’t wakers.”

“They’re all I know.”

“Go on, then. Hurry.”

“But the icons…?”

“What of the icons? When was the last time anyone has ever thought of the icons? Does your mother? Did your father? Even Stanislaus does not care about the icons. It is only crazy people that care, anymore, that believe anymore. People that kiss an icon’s glass. That’s crazy, right?”

Lorenz laughed, then blinked, and swiftly turned and fled.

Then I walked the rear ramparts to the Command Bridge and sealed the metal doors. My father showed this to me. The seal sequence. He let me know all the secrets, as if he knew someday it would be necessary. I think he suspected Stanislaus and was counting on my help with him, only I accidentally killed my father first. How might things have been otherwise if I had not noticed Pod32a?

Once the seal sequence was completed, two switches on either end of the bridge executed the alarm. Normally, they have to be thrown at once to prevent accidental evacuation, but father showed me the override button near the back of the command chair’s right arm, under combination of 86i-23-x2. Only Stanislaw knew of this. I pushed it and threw the heavy alarm switch to the right, watched as the arc emptied out, lights flaring, drop ladders extended since we’d world stopped. I watched and waited, checking video screens of each floor until I determined that all the wakers were waiting the all clear signal. Stanislaw tried to re-enter the foremost drop ladder and I retrieved it, then all the other ladders, slowly lifting them into the hull, like a cricket collapsing its legs.

When the engines ignited, and the coarse trembling began, shaking their little world, I saw the wakers running toward the ship, hurling clods and stones at the hull, trying to stop the process. But it would not be stopped. Stanislaus mouth was opened in what I speculated was a roar. I even saw my mother looking up toward the command bridge. She made a diminutive wave, as if wishing me a safe journey through the stars. She looked like video of Queen Elisabeth from ancient times, a little white gloved genuflection of royalty and power.


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