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Read the latest words below this line:
“Hello… Mr. Rivera. Are you there?”
And the voice knew my name…
“Mr. Rivera. We understand what happened and we still want this to end this with you safe and in one piece.”
The tone in this male voice and the fact that he was speaking English, and speaking it well, made me suspicious, understandably, I feel. So naturally, I said nothing. In fact, I had a strange sensation as I felt my senses sharpen. As the voice continued to speak, I could tell the guy’s voice was coming from all around, rather than a single person—like from speakers in a PA system or something. But there was something else I was sensing—more light in the area. I pulled myself slowly up the side of a cargo container and peered over the top of it to see a dim beam of light projecting from a small lens I had not noticed earlier that was fixed in the far upper left corner of the hold. I dropped myself back down and moved back, past the porthole and on to the front of the hold, against one of the walls that the lens was projecting from. I crept with almost perfect silence along that wall towards the middle of the hold, stopping just short of the edge of another big cargo container. I peered around the corner of it and saw a flickering hologram of a man, a human man, wearing a suit, with his back to me.
“You see, it’s not that we will let them kill you, nor do they want to kill you–not even after you slaughtered the men tasked with protecting you on your journey to them.”
Suddenly the hologram flipped directions and was now facing in my direction.
“Ah, good. I’m glad you are willing to discuss this. If we work together with the Conva, this will all work out.”
“I said I’m listening, not that I’m open to discussion. You tell me what you want and I decide if I’m down with it.”
He smiled and I recognized him. He was in Jill’s surveillance hologram. He was that politician who was also a Double-O. They sent this guy because he is someone who I will like and trust because he’s a human. Or at least they’ll think that I think that he’s human. It’s all a manipulation–they think they can put one over on me.
“The Conva are a peaceful people. The don’t want to harm you or even try you. They just want you… shall we say, taken off the game board.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means I’d like it if you could surrender to them and they promise they will keep you safe until this strife is over.”
“What do you get out of this?”
“I’m just trying to keep the lives of my fellow humans safe.”
“If you agree to go with them, they agree to turn over a few humans that got mixed up with them.”
‘What does that even mean,’ I wondered.
“And if I don’t?”
“I’m not sure. Firstly, as I said, they want you off of the game board and only thanks to my persuasion have they decided to give you this option. Otherwise, they’ll fall back on their initial plan and blow the ship you are in out of the starry sky.”
This guy was almost poetic. Normally, I dig a guy who has a way with words, but…
“And what about our fellow humans? What will happen to them if I refuse?”
“They may hold onto them until after the strife ends or execute them immediately. Either option is unacceptable to anyone with a human heart. This is why you need to give yourself over to them so we can have those people home and home safe. You, of all people, should be concerned with their safety.”
“Because the three they have are your sister, Jill Rivera, and your two roommates, Kim John Park and Kate Robinson.”
My heart skipped a beat. He was right. I should have been concerned, but I wasn’t entirely sure I needed to be. I took a breath and cleared my throat loud enough for him to hear me. Then I spoke. “How do I know they are the ones being held?”
“I’ve seen them. I’ve been in communication with them.”
“Oh yeah? Are they worried about me?”
“Yes, your sister, in particular, said that she loves you very much and wants you to be safe. In fact, she was quite worried about you. I could hear it in her voice.”
HA! Got him! My sister would never admit to any of that. All that hanging out with KJ and his crazy paranoid conspiracy stuff finally paid off.
“Can I think about it?”
“How about I give you an hour?”
“Uh, I don’t have a watch on me so, sure?”
“Very good. Please take this seriously, Mr. Rivera. This could help determine the outcome of the current strife.”
“Oh, one last question.”
“What is this strife you’re talking about?”
“It’s similar to the Cold War a few decades ago. The Conva are our opponents but I believe with the right people on both sides of the strife we can work out a plan for peace.”
I bet you do.
“OK, thanks. Be in touch in an hour,” I said.
“One hour,” he said, just before the hologram blinked off.
So, there I was, with just one hour to decide my own fate…