"And why would I help someone like you?"
"Well, if maybe, we had Cea with us. Wouldn't want to send people our way then, would you?"
"Oh you are a devil."
"Innocent as pigeons," Augustine hissed in Nic's ear, "Sly as serpents." Then Stanyard made a quick move and drew Nic's gun out of this pocket.
"Now. What were you up to, again?"
And so Nic was forced to spill it all. Besides, he reasoned, he was in too deep now to avoid working with these people. Either he would work with them or he might as well be in their prison. Besides, with this new development, he would need their help.
Augustine flipped on the lights and the two of them descended. Everyone down below woke up rather quickly, and watched in silence as Nic came down first. As Stanyard reached the floor Cea just whispered, "What'd he do?"
Nic answered, "It's not what I did that's of consequence, but what I discovered that matters most."
"He is right," said Stanyard. "Albeit, he discovered it by stealing my computer and hacking through United files, but that's irrelevant now that I have his gun."
No one knew what to make of that. Nic filled the silence, "I discovered a great deal in the United official personnel files. I am legally dead, Cea is legally transferred to a Mars colony..."
She interrupted, "I did what? There is no such thing!"
"Exactly, sister. Ephesus is still dead in an exploded transport. Smyrna's information says he works as a lab-tech in a space-parts factory."
"Which I do."
"And Phili's says that she is religiously a zealot but politically conformed."
The girl began to object but Nic just kept going, "And, to my great amusement, it says specifically that she is not a trouble maker."
Nic watched with smoldering disgust the coy grin that spread on the Christian maid's face. He didn't know what he wanted to do to her, but whatever it was, he knew he was dying to do it.
"Get to the point, Nic," Stanyard interjected.
Ephesus was ready for anything, "Yeah, I doubt all you did was rehash your knowledge of all of our personal histories. If that is all, I would have preferred to remain asleep."
"Well you should be glad we got you up," said Nic.
Stanyard pushed Nic aside to assert his dominance. "Nic found a communications entry saying that a new industry has begun on Rott, the prison island from whence Nic came here."
"A delightful place, let me assure you. The hairstylist culture is a little crude, but otherwise..." With a look Stanyard silenced the doctor.
"They've started making what they call 'Red Rain,' there."
A gasp rippled through everyone in the basement who hadn't heard it already. The silence afterward was tangible.
Ephesus looked over at Nic, the hostility in his gaze latent, "And how, Doctor, is that possible?"
"I finished it the night before the escape. You almost had it, old man," Smyrna would have none of it.
"It's Thomas Smyrna."
Ephesus punctuated, "And I'll knock your block off before I hear you call him anything else again, especially as I am fairly mindful to do it right now anyway. You mean you gave them the weapon and then proceeded to run away?"
"I downloaded the chemistry onto our microchip."
"My. Microchip. My microchip. I hadn't even thought of it since we left there."
"The microchip that was in our possession. But apparently a ghost version remained on the cloud that they decoded."
Ephesus rolled his eyes, "Philli could decode a ghost file without too much trouble. It's not that difficult."
The doubtfulness of the statement was obvious on Philadelphia's face. Ephesus launched, "So what you are saying is, that despite all your intelligence with chemicals and radioactive isotopes, you made the dumbest error none to hacking? I'd say that between your computer ineptitude and utter lack of people skills, you have your life fairly fouled up, and a few others beside!"
"Don't forget my lack of religion. That has to be on the list somewhere."
Ephesus was furious, and stood up about ready to finish off his threat. Cea grabbed his arm and pulled him back down.
Stanyard drew both guns. "You obviously don't realize how important time is. Nic connected that computer to the internet. They will know I am still here. They'll pounce on us at any moment. We have to scatter."
My daddy stood up to that. "We will do know such thing. We're done being pulled around by the schemes of all you people involved in the world's affairs. We are getting out, together. We'll go back to the camp before we'll separate again."
I hoped my face showed that I was resolved with him. Ephesus' face did.
I watched the other half of the room react. It was three versus three.
Nic chuckled, "You know you can't go back? You're all criminals now. Even Miss Philadelphia." I felt blood drain out of my face as I caught on. "You are all thieves and murderers, in the truest sense of the word. Philadelphia shot a man in the stomach and assisted in the murder of several others. Several of you have illegal cell phones. You can't just go back to camp."
Stanyard countered, "No they can't, but they can go to safe-houses. We can keep them safe."
Nic stood up, "Except for one large problem. Two words. Red Rain."
I didn't get it. "Why is that a problem? The United has had weapons of mass destruction for a long time. They won't turn them on us."
Everyone but me bit their lower lip. They all looked around, trying to see who else was in the know. Apparently I was the only one who didn't get it.
My daddy leaned down to me, "Philadelphia, dear, it's not quite like that. There's a civil war brewing. Once one side has Red Rain, it will start. And we're all bound to be caught in the cross fire."
A civil war? in the United? Wasn't that an oxymoron?
Nic finished off for me, "See, pretty girl, on one side is the tyrants who just want control of everything. On the other side are some idealists who want freedom for everyone. They both lobbied me for Red Rain, and in fact, I signed with both. Once they have it, they'll use it to wipe out their resistance."
I still didn't see how us little Christians needed to be involved, but I was sure I didn't like Nic's new nickname for me. "But we're not on a side. We just follow Christ and obey."
Cea got me this time, "But you see, Phil, there's just the thing. We might be able to survive a war. It might even help us. But millions will die. Millions, Phil."
Was everyone against me? "But it's not our job to fix all the wars. It's not our fault. We aren't going to fire the rockets.
Ephesus knelt next to me, "Philli, remember the last time someone had Red Rain?"
Boy did I ever.
"Someone else had Red Rain, and he was going to hurt people. Lot's of innocent people. And even if he didn't use it, he was going to threaten them all with it and other weapons. It's the same thing again except someone else has it."
I looked over at the someone. This was his fault. All of it.
"So you see," the someone said, "You've all got your feet stuck in this one. Mister Thomas Smyrna over there did most of the work; Ephesus did some; I did the rest; Stanyard hid me; Cea supported us all and shot a few people; we lit a laboratory on fire, blew up a few elevators, and now they have my weapon."
"So what are we going to do about it?" I exploded.
Stanyard looked at his guns. Ephesus smiled, and Nic did the same, in his old creepy smile of mastery.
Oh. So that was what we were going to do. I didn't like it.