Short Story 30

Jack and Conor

Have you ever found yourself staring at the clouds in the sky? Or maybe you’ve looked up after catching something in the corner of your eye, but suddenly you can’t remember what or why when your eyes eventually scan the heavens. There has never been a cloudless day; when the sky is clear in one city, it’s cloudy in another. Think about it for a second, really think about it – you know something isn’t right, but as soon as the thoughts enter your mind, you start convincing yourself that the idea is ridiculous. Despite what you are led to believe, there is a reason you have that feeling deep inside that something isn’t quite right about the weather. So, I’m here to put your mind to rest…or maybe just open a giant can of worms. There is a secret in the sky, but most people forget as soon as they have seen it. The thing is, being completely unaware is exactly how it must be for humans to survive (depending on who you talk to).

The sky is a perfect canvas for an elite game of hide and seek. But, just like most things that are exclusive, people who don’t have the privilege to know the truth, know only what they are being told. The difference here, of course, is that we’re not talking about access to the VIP lounge. No, right now, we’re talking about life and death. The delicate balance that is required to save humans from themselves and to put the timeline back in place. There is, without any doubt, something up there, masquerading in the sky behind big white fluffy pieces of magic. It’s my job to make sure people keep believing, because I’ve been shown what happens in the future if it is no longer a secret. I’m starting to question some of the things I’ve been told because things simply aren’t adding up anymore.

You’re probably wondering who I am, and why I’m talking about this. Well, my name is Jack, and I have to stop the world from imploding in on itself. Literally. But the problem with working for a secret intergalactic organisation is that you work for a secret intergalactic organisation. Secrets are almost never a good thing, and lately, I’m not sure whether I’m on the right side of this extraordinary war. What’s strange about all of this is that I stumbled into a life that was destined for me. That might sound like a contradiction, but it will all make sense when I’m finished explaining.

It all started when my brother Conor and I were younger. We always did everything together. We’re identical twins, and thanks to our pilot father, we were flying before we could walk. We used to spend hours above the clouds making up stories about magic floating cities. We were just two kids dreaming, but we had no idea that the clouds were already occupied and that we weren’t far off the truth. I hadn’t seen him in years, but he’s the reason I’m here doing this. He was always the one seeking the adventure…and the one who was closer to our father. Even though we were twins, my father always favoured Conor, and as far as they were concerned, I wasn’t made from the stuff needed to be respected in our family. Conor went on to become a surgeon, and I became an artist, much to my father’s disappointment and assuming he even cared in the first place.

I didn’t find any of this out until I stumbled into this shit-storm of a situation, but my father had been grooming Conor to be a custodian to the Star-Sapien agreement from when he was five. According to a prophecy, a great war would erupt and one man with the same face as another, with the heart of a lion and the blood of the ancestors, will save humanity. My father always believed it was Conor because an elder – who was a self-proclaimed psychic – touched us as babies and said, “Conor will always endeavour to be the one everyone will turn to in tough times, while Jack will not seek such responsibility.” I spent the next twenty years completely in the dark and forgotten by my family until one eventful night back in March.

See, that night I was minding my own business at the studio with my headphones on playing music too loud. I’d been painting since midday and it was well into the night. My hands were multi-coloured and I was surrounded by canvasses of temples and symbols that I didn’t remember painting. All of a sudden, my music stopped and phone went black. I was left in silence and in the dark. I felt a low rumble through my feet and soon the room was shaking. Something outside covered the room in green light and I looked to the window just in time to see the barrel of a gun so big and foreign that it surely belonged in a video game. I dropped as a gaping burning hole appeared on the canvas I’d been working on accompanied by a loud bang and the sound of shattering glass.

I tried to head to the door, but whoever was outside started shooting in my path, so as quickly as I could I moved straight for safety behind the kitchen island. More than two people were in the studio at this point, but I refused to just lay down and die. I had one advantage over them, I knew this room like the back of my hand.  The closest things to me that could be used as weapons were some knives and bug spray. I moved to the side of the island and waited for the loose floor board to creak before I made my move. It was weird, in a situation like this, you’d think that I’d be freaking out, but my heart was calm, my mind was clear and my body moved like second nature.

Instead of hearing the old flooring shift, I heard three dramatic deep thuds. When I stood to look, all of the intruders trying to kill me were lifeless on the ground. My mind was racing, but a familiar voice brought me back into the moment…because it was mine. My brother was saying my name in shock, and his was face riddled with confusion. After he said my name a few more times, he lunged for me, pushing me up against the wall.

He was screaming and his face was going red, “What are they doing here?! What have you done, Jack?!”

Two of the men he was with had to pull him off, telling him that it was neither the time, nor the place, and that we all had to leave. I had no idea what he was talking about, how could I? I had no choice, I had to go with them, and it didn’t help that Conor was shoving me out the door. We started climbing the stairs, but I didn’t bother to ask why he was running around shooting people instead of prepping for a surgery…or why we weren’t heading out the front of the building. When we reached the roof, Conor waved his hand over a device on his wrist. Pink glowing symbols that seemed familiar somehow appeared as my brother typed in a code. Out of nowhere, what could only be described as a small futuristic cargo vehicle shimmered into view. All of us moved quickly inside, and without warning, and so smoothly you wouldn’t know we were moving had it not been for the sight of the building we were just standing on becoming smaller and smaller underneath us, we raised effortlessly into the sky.

I hadn’t said anything the entire time I had been in their company, but it wasn’t out of shock. It was because the most shocking thing to me was that I wasn’t surprised by any of this – not by the people trying to murder me, not the invisible flying ship, and strangest of them all, not by the goddamn flying city we were approaching.

When we came to a halt, and the cargo ship door opened, we were met by the faces of people dressed in similar black military attire to what my brother and his friends were wearing. We were escorted quickly from a hanger, through various hallways, passed a large training hall, until finally we stopped at an ornate meeting room behind what seemed to be a control room. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but every person I saw on our way to this room were normal people of every race and nationality I could think. I even heard a few different languages being thrown around. Somewhere between questioning why this didn’t seem strange to me and the fact my brother was acting so dramatically, my inner dialogue was cut off at the sight of my father among the many people who were rushing around the room, speaking quickly while examining ancient books.

He was talking to a man who I assumed immediately was the guy in charge of whatever this was, purely based on the manner in which my father was speaking to him. I overheard my father call him Eudard, and say ominously that they were out of options. I stayed in the doorway as Conor and the others walked purposefully into the mayhem. It took a few minutes before attention was turned to me, everyone stopped talking and my brother frustratingly came back to where I was standing and ushered me towards my father.

“What the hell happened?! Why is he here? We said we would keep him out of all of this!” My father always had a short fuse but I had never really seen it directed towards Conor.

I could hear the annoyance in my brother’s voice, “Ask him! Sir, we were tracking them, following the intel we were given and I was just as surprised as you when we stumbled onto them shooting up Jack’s art studio. He hasn’t said a word on the way here, so you’re just as in the dark as I am.”

“If he was the secret they were tracking, they’re getting desperate and think he knows about the weapon or where to find it. That’s the only explanation, or maybe….” My father was interrupted by Eudard with a swift hand movement while he stepped towards me.

Through a thick Scottish accent he spoke and the room stopped to listen, “Hush, Robert. Why don’t we let Jack tell us what happened?”

“I don’t know what to tell you, one second I was painting, the next bullets were spraying through my canvases. But it’s strange, this feels…” Before I could finish, a woman ran into the room, interrupting me, saying something about a device being turned on.

Whatever this was about, it was clearly important, but Eudard insisted I finish my sentence, “… I was just saying that this, I don’t know, feels familiar, but can someone please tell me what’s going on, where…what is this place?”

Eudard’s harsh face softened slightly, and he smirked a little, “Right, Conor, Jack, Robert follow me to the observatory.” Sensing both my father and brother about to protest he continued, “Don’t either of you dare argue with me. We’re telling him everything.”

We all obeyed, and on the way, I was given the cliff notes. This was the last city of the ‘People of the Stars’. They weren’t native to Earth but had been a part of the world for most of human history. After coming to learn how humans would evolve without interfering, the Star people lost their home-world and sought refuge among humans. It wasn’t long before a civil war erupted that saw three factions of Star people to form, each led by one of the royal elders. Some embraced their new lives and enjoyed the simplicity of homo sapiens, while fully relinquishing all that they were before and living among us but allowing us to evolve as nature intended. Not everyone agreed this was the right course of action or favoured humans, wanting to use technology, craving the power they held over humans, and viewing humanity as a virus that needed to be eradicated from a planet they deserved. But some still held their heritage alive, they hid technology within the very foundation of the planet, opening gateways that could transport people from one side of the world to the other, but for the most part, no technology was used unless the entire planet was at risk. This was the faction who kept this city hidden, guarded humans, and upheld the Star-Sapien agreement.

The war had come to a climax, but over the years, with failing systems and stories being passed down from generation to generation, information was lost. The Star people who still wished to protect humans were stuck trying to find a weapon so powerful, that if it was to fall into the wrong hands, could erase everyone from the history books. This is where the prophecy comes into play. It was written long before the Star people even lost their planet, and Conor was the key to the war ending with as little causalities as possible, based on the insight from the elder all those years ago.

I was taking this all in when we entered an enormous room that looked the most alien out of anything I had seen all day. Our voices echoed and it was pitch black but the light from the corridor let me see a pedestal console in the middle of the room that was emitting a blue pulse.

The woman who interrupted us earlier explained that normally the pedestal emits a single constant white light, but for the past fifteen minutes, it had been glowing blue. Conor walked over to the console and waved his hand over it several times but nothing happened. He came back to the rest of us and tried to make sense of it, coming to the conclusion that the Star ancestors could sense the war coming to the deciding point, and the weapon needed to be found, now more than ever.

Even though I was listening to what they were saying, I felt drawn to console. Eudard was watching me and muttered, “I knew it.”

My father and Conor looked at Eudard who was now talking to me even though I was moving towards the console, “…you see, the very magic, the power that runs through the city and through the blood of Star people is so ancient that it is a living entity. It responds to the bloodline, it responds to the heart of the people, it will know the prophecy.”

By this point, I had climbed the stairs that had each come alight as my feet touched them. I waved my hand over the console and the entire room exploded with a holographically projected universe and the walls were glowing with ancient scripture. Robert asked Eudard what the walls said, but he didn’t know. Without a second thought, I started reciting the writing in the ancient language of the Star people and then smiled as I said, “The lion, the moon, it’s a story on how to find the ultimate power…it’s a map.” I turned to look at my twin brother but only caught his back as he stormed out of the room. I waved my hand over the console again and suddenly found myself within wormhole of information. It all stopped and I was floating as I suddenly understood that this was bigger than humans, bigger than Star people, that there were bigger forces at play…and I worked for them.

Flash forward to me telling you this story right now, and it turns out, I was always supposed to be in the middle of this war. I have always been a guardian of the souls, a glorified intergalactic special agent tasked with keeping the balance. Humans have no idea Star people exist, let alone that their fate lies in the middle of this war. What’s ironic is that the Star people don’t know the full story either. The problem is, the people who I work for are using all of us, and after all the things I’ve seen, and all the things I remember from past lives, I’m questioning who I can trust. At the end of the day, I decided that while there a millions of people in the middle of a war, humans aren’t the only ones in the dark. I think everyone deserves to know the truth. I found the weapon. I’m the only person who can use it, and it’s not what you think. See, over the centuries, it got lost in translation. It’s not a device to take life, it’s a fail-safe for this very situation, a re-set button. How about we make this an even playing field? Stand by for the upload…

By Naomi Eleanor


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