ATLANTIS IS DEAD...But her daughter-cities live! PREPARE for the Triple Rising (Completed)
"Berwyn," Omree's sober voice resound throughout the Council chamber, "Are the capsules ready for occupancy?"
The collective focus of the chamber's occupants centered squarely on the Science Order Overseer, a diligent elderly man.
"Yes," he said with gentle authority.
Semylyn sat next to her father at the Council table and listened as he fielded questions and gave assurances. It seemed that everyone had an opinion to voice, save one. Troyak.
Slouched in his seat with an arm stretched across the table, he tapped a steady cadence with his fingers. Though she'd tried not to, she couldn't help looking in his direction. His dark eyes watched her through the whole meeting, and she felt their heat even when she looked away.
"These Sun-Dwellers...will they be, safe? Are they of sufficient age to deal with the task ahead of them?" This question came from Lady Owena, head of the Archivists Order. Semylyn flicked her gaze toward Troyak in time to see his jaw muscles ripple as he clenched his teeth.
"Yes," Omree quickly answered, "these are young adults who have all reached the age of eighteen years. Originally, we planned to initiate the Gathering when they were twenty-two. However, at their present age, they are mature enough to understand the crisis before each of our peoples, their enhancements have proven to be successful, and they are of bonding age, as well."
With this last factor spoken aloud, a few of the Council members glanced in Semylyn and Troyak's direction, and then swiftly looked away.
Semylyn felt the first flush of heat reach her cheeks. They all understand, she thought.
"Why are we even discussing this Gathering plan while the Prime is in danger? Shouldn't we focus on that problem?" Oarket, the Head of the Order of Habitation Representatives asked with a cautiously raised hand.
"As I'm sure you're all aware, if we don't find a way to stop the Prime's degeneration, its penetration will result in all of Earth's ecosystems breaking down," Omree responded, "In a few years, life above the waters, as we know it, will be irrevocably damaged, and could go as far as extinction."
A moment of tense silence followed Omree's last word, extinction, the cold, dark reality needing a moment to take seed.
He continued, "If that happens, of course, it will seal Sitnalta's fate. Without introducing a new gene into our collective pool, eventual extinction will be our end as well. Our peoples and our heritage will simply stay submerged beneath earth's waters. No one will ever know that Atlantis still lives through us, her progeny. We must bring the Sun-Dweller's to Sitnalta. We must ensure our own survival. I know better than most that this plan is self-seeking and devoid of any regard for the feelings of those involved, but our people's welfare is my foremost concern. Once the Gathering is completed, we can work on both problems facing Sitnalta at the same time."
Though the expressions of many were grim, Semylyn saw heads nodding all around the Council chamber. Lady Owena looked vaguely alarmed but Semylyn sensed her strong determination. Xerell, his eyes on Omree, gave a solemn nod even as he puffed a mighty sigh of discontent.
"Then it is decided. The Gathering must commence at once." Omree, as High Guardian, used his stone gavel to punctuate his pronouncement.
Omree stood, Semylyn rising a few seconds after. In smooth succession, the remaining Council members came to their feet. Last of all, Troyak rose in one fluid motion that belied the stiffness of his shoulders. His smoldering gaze captured hers as Omree began the Council Meeting's routine closing speech.
"In Unity of Decision, we are Bound by Law." The Council members repeated the sentiment, and with their collective oath, they sealed her and Troyak's destiny.
Omree turned to his daughter and placed a warm hand on her shoulder. "All will be well," he murmured.
Semylyn nodded, but inside, a sickening dread hit her stomach. Panic rose like bile. She'd secretly hoped in the deepest recesses of her heart that some other solution would surface, that somehow she and Troyak would be spared this fate. All her childhood memories congealed together in one tumultuous yearning. She chocked back a cry and sought a way to get away from the crowd.
Semylyn fought to control her churning emotions and made her way toward the Council chamber doors. A spark of apprehension coursed through her as Troyak stepped next to her, matching her stride. She felt his presence like electricity but stopped herself from looking at him as most of the Council members moved past them.
They walked side by side down the main habitation conduit, away from the Council Chamber and towards the central dome itself. Over them, the deep-ocean waters moved gently, held aloft by the conduit's curved, cylindrical crystalline walls. The murky blue played on the tiled floor and Semylyn's eyes followed the pattern as they walked.
Troyak clasped her wrist and stopped suddenly, turning her to face him. "Are you alright?"
The last of the Council members cleared the central dome, leaving them alone. His eyes searched her face, as if to pierce her thoughts. Standing this close, she had to crane her neck upwards to meet his gaze. His broad shoulders blocked all other sights when he stood next to her like this.
"Are you alright?" She countered."
She felt the tremor in his fingers just before he released her wrist. A half-smile that didn't quite reach his eyes softened his mouth.
"I'm sorry for last night," he said finally.
Semylyn reached towards him, hesitated, then rested a hand on his wide chest.
Troyak glanced at her hand, and then followed the path of her arm up to her face. His hand moved across his chest to rest over hers.
"Really though," he said, "are you alright?"
Semylyn bit her lip and shook her head. She wasn't alright. The Prime had been penetrated, that mysterious element that wove through the Earth's oceans, the gleaming thread that balanced all other elements. And compounding that was the possibility of extinction looming everywhere. And...and...the most immediate...the bonding...
"I know. Me neither," Troyak said angrily.
Semylyn blinked and looked away, dropping her hand from his chest.
"It's those idiot Sun-dwellers," he continued, "If they weren't so bent on extracting every bit of anything that's good from the planet, we wouldn't be in this mess!" He started to pace with his fisted hands by his side.
"We'll find a way to repair the Prime," she murmured.
Troyak stopped pacing, running a hand through his slate-gray hair so that it stood on end, making him seem even more upset.
"You think so? Because I think the High Guardian is so distracted by this ridiculous Sun-Dweller concept that we're just going to wind up letting the Prime vanish completely!"
Semylyn's brows knitted in disagreement. She knew that more than the jeopardy of the Prime was fueling Troyak's remarks. But criticism of her father was an old and familiar battle line for them, one she was not up to waging now.
"I'll bid you good day, Troyak," she said stiffly and turned to go.
"No, wait," he said, and put out a hand to stop her. "I didn't mean that. It's just, this idea of being bonded to Sun-Dwellers and..." He stopped and glanced at her uncomfortably, "...and not one of our own kind...it's hard to swallow."
Semylyn crossed her arms, picking at the threads of her lavender Council robe. "I know," she agreed and Troyak sighed.
"I mean they're the ones who are responsible, and yet, they're the ones we are counting on to help us come up with a solution? It's bizarre!"
"Their DNA responds to the Prime. They're affected by it in ways...in ways we're not." Semylyn felt she was reassuring herself as much as she was Troyak. "The enhancements our geneticists made to the Chosen at their conception may be invaluable in helping us solve multiple problems. Anyway, it has become Law through agreement. We have no choice but to try."
Troyak nodded, his expression suspicious.
"I know. We all know. I just hope they're worth the trouble they've caused."
Semylyn gave him a half-hearted smile.
"Semylyn, if anyone can lead us through this crisis, it's your father." Troyak made a gesture as though to reach for her but his hand hovered in the air.
This situation has thrown everyone off, Semylyn thought, since when had Troyak ever hesitated in his responses to her.
"Well, my father will lead us so long as your father can stay out of his way," she said, as they resumed walking.
Troyak gave her a sidelong look. "Hey, when those Sun-dwellers come down here and start making trouble, you can bet it'll be my Father keeping order around here."
She certainly hoped that was the case since the path ahead seemed strewn with every type of danger. She sighed, confusion and anxiety draining her strength.
The habitation conduit widened and gave way to the central dome entrance. Semylyn felt the familiar whoosh of cooled air graze her face. Being Eventime the central dome resonated with the chatter and motion of the city's inhabitants making their way back to the habitation rings.
"Are you going to eat with your father tonight?" Troyak asked as they wound their way through the mix towards the Channel.
The central dome encircled the Channel, Sitnalta's main transport system between levels, like a huge ring. Using some of the many facets of the Prime's power, Sitnaltian engineers had long ago fashioned the Channel using heated seawater.
Troyak and Semylyn approached the Channel and waited as a group of three Scientists pressed their hands into the Channel's warm current. Noiselessly, a vesicle of air formed at their feet and expanded upwards, ending just above the tallest Scientist's head. The air bubble yawned open and the group stepped inside. With a quiet snap, the bubble's surface closed around the trio and in a few moments, the Channel's current had whisked it upwards.
"Actually," Semylyn said, an idea beginning to form in her head, I want to go to the Lifecycle lab and check over some things."
Troyak nodded. "Well, if you want to meet up tonight, you know where I'll be." He pressed his hand into the Channel then stepped inside the formed vesicle. "And Semylyn?" He said, his eyes finding hers and holding them for just a moment. "I'll find a way to make everything alright."
With that, the bubble closed around him and the current swept him upwards.
Typical of Troyak, Semylyn thought as she watched his bubble disappear. All through their childhood, he'd always assumed personal responsibility for her. Now, that endearing quality could become tangled and wearisome, too heavy for him to endure. Not even Troyak could save her from the crushing weight of destiny.
She was the next High Guardian, and long ago she'd sworn in her heart to do whatever it took to protect her people. Even if that meant, she shuddered inwardly, bonding with a Sun-Dweller. Troyak would not come to terms with their new situation easily, but like always, she'd be there for him. She'd allow nothing...NO ONE...to separate her from him. With that resolve, she turned back into the now thinning flow of people, there was someone she needed to talk too.