57. More Logic
Lai, Alec, and Les scuttle out of the ventilation ducts as quickly and quietly as they can. Lai’s face is tight and paler than usual, and she looks as if she might be ready to shout out a few expletives at any time, but she has plenty of experience in staying silent when she has something to say. In fact, she’s the quietest of all three of them, until they reach the corridor again and hastily shut the forbidden door behind them. Then she exclaims, “Please tell me that I didn’t just hear what I think I heard!”
“Hush, Lai,” says Alec sternly. “We shall discuss this where we cannot be overheard.”
“This can’t be real,” sputters Les, his tawny face blanched. “Lady T would never – ”
“We must not speak of it here!” interrupts Alec sharply. His eye darts back and forth warily, searching for any addled guests who might have wandered off, orbital staff heading to the vents, or even ILG agents who have discovered their location, but the hallway remains deserted.
They hurry off in silence. Lai’s head keeps darting over her shoulder fearfully, as if one of Lady T’s assassins might be after her right now. After a time, Alec reaches down and takes her hand into his own, giving her petite fingers a brief squeeze.
“No harm will come to you,” he promises, his voice soft but firm. “I can assure you of that.”
She manages a small smile. “Yeah. Between the two of us, no one stands a chance.”
Les notes their clasped hands with interests, but he’s focused enough on the matter at hand that he doesn’t say anything.
Upon reaching Faction C’s suite, Alec and Lai consult the eye reader so that all three of them can slip inside, making an unspoken, unanimous decision to cross over to Lai’s cabin. They pass the majority of Faction C on the way, a crowded assortment of imps who are all lounging across furniture, wondering aloud why their mission has been suddenly halted. No one spares a glance at the three imps (well, two imps and a nimp, really) moving inconspicuously through the common area, and Alec and Lai are suddenly grateful for their antisocial dispositions.
It’s not until they have reached Lai’s room and latched the door securely behind them that her emotions burst forth. “That witch!” she cries.
“Calm yourself,” says Alec gruffly. “There is a possibility that we are mistaken.”
“Are you kidding?!” She is pacing fervently now. “There was nothing unclear about that! All of us heard it!”
Les shakes his head slowly. “It doesn’t make any sense. Lady T was talking about you as if she thinks you’re worthless, but her actions towards you have shown exactly the opposite.”
“Sheknew!” Lai continues to chase herself in circles, her shoulders rising and falling with the same restless, heaving motion of the tides. “I’m sure of it. She always knew that I was Pandora Amity – that’s why she took such an interest in me, because she wanted to keep me under her thumb!”
“But if she was aware from the beginning that you are the nimp, what could have been her objective in sending us here?” demands Alec.
“I don’t know.” She stops up short, hissing with frustration. “I don’t understand it! Why would she lie? Why does she want me to disappear? And what does she need us Uniters for?”
“Perhaps for exactly the reason we were initially given,” he replies thoughtfully. “We have been selected to defeat the ILG.”
Les finds himself bobbing his head. “But that begs the question…who is the ILG, and why are we really fighting them?”
Silence dangles in the air around them, tenuous and heavy.
“Let us first establish what it is that we know for sure,” suggests Alec. “To begin at the beginning, the Imps Liberation Group launched a siege on Settlement 211. Media coverage professed that they were an imp supremacy movement determined on reversing the hierarchy of humans and imps.”
“They refused to answer any peace negotiations, and many never even showed their faces,” contributes Les. “They were more or less stuck in Settlement 211, and no one could get in or out…or so we thought, because some of them managed to get up here, to Orbital 9.”
“We followed them up here, with orders to find a nimp named Pandora Amity,” Lai adds. “And…the nimp turned out to be me.”
“And our entire mission was organized by Lady T and her associates in the World Government,” finishes Alec.
Lai wrinkles her nose. “You know, I just realized something. What do we even know about Lady T?”
“Well…we know that she used to be the CEO of Evolutionary Research Associates,” answers Les carefully. “And that she wears glasses because she doesn’t believe in human improvements, and that she owned Ule for a little while, and…uh…”
“…and nothing else,” Lai completes. “We don’t know how old she is, where she’s originally from, if she has any other imps or any family, why she doesn’t like ‘human improvements’…hell, we don’t even know her real name!”
“She said that she’s trying to protect her identity from the ILG,” he points out.
Alec crosses his arms stiffly. “And she has protected her identity from us, as well. Yes, I believe that Lai has a point. The human woman who we recognize as Lady T has the potential to be anyone at all. And it is safe to assume that she has at least some ulterior motives, considering that we have just heard her threatening both Lai and the Amitys directly.”
“She lied to us,” says Lai sourly.
“She did not lie so much as she reinforced her falsehoods by never revealing the truth.”
“So, if we’re going to work under the assumption that there were things Lady T wasn’t telling us,” Les interjects, “then we have to askwhyshe would take part in so many cover-ups. She’s not kidding around about getting rid of the ILG, that’s for sure. But if she’s going up against an imp supremacy group, then isn’t she technically working for a good cause?”
Alec and Lai exchange a glance.
“That’s assuming that the ILG actually is fighting for what Lady T says they are,” responds Lai. “And I’m starting to doubt that.”
“What do you mean? What else could they possibly be doing?”
“Well, when they kidnapped me last night, they told me some pretty insane stuff, and suddenly it doesn’t sound so insane anymore…” She quickly summarizes her conversation with Ule, relating his conspiracy theorist mindset and how he criticized Lady T for not being truthful with her Uniters.
Les’s eyes are round and blinking by the time she finishes. “I know that we always make fun of the conspiracy theorists for being pretentious and crazy,” he starts hesitantly, “but is it okay if I agree with the crazy people just this once?”
“It sounds very logical,” admits Alec. “And beyond that, it also aligns very closely with Lady T’s threats towards the Amitys.”
“She was talking about how nimps arebad,” Lai corrects him. “That’s why she wants to make me disappear, remember?”
Alec shakes his head. “She did not explicitly state that nimps are bad. She expressed interest in segregating you because you are different, and normal citizens are likely to suspect you as an outlier. She also clarified that your disappearance would not be death or decommissioning, but rather experimentation at the hands of the government.”
“But she said that she doesn’t agree with ‘improving’ humans!” protests Les. “That’s probably why she doesn’t like the fact that Lai is a nimp. And she wouldn’t make her submit herself to experiments…would she?”
“Let’s just assume that everything Lady T has said to us is possibly false,” answers Lai. “For all we know, she wears those glasses to make herself look more innocent. I don’t think that we can put anything past her right now.”
“You believe that she was always aware of your relations to the Amitys?” prompts Alec.
She nods. “I think so. Even when we first started training, she was way nicer to me than she was to anyone else. I think she wanted to make me trust her, because she knew that sooner or later I’d find out that I was the nimp, and she wanted to be able to control me when it did.”
“And then she wouldn’t even have to make you disappear,” realizes Les. “She could have just told you that you had to go into hiding, and you would have listened to her, no questions asked. I guess she didn’t count on you being…well, being the way you are.”
“Exactly,” she agrees. “This morning, she came in here to talk to me, and she tried to play the trust card. She wanted to send me back to Earth. I told her no, that I thought it would be in our best interest to stay up here and defeat the ILG once and for all before we left. She decided to let me plan one last offensive, I guess because she still does want to take them out, but something tells me that I’m not going to be here for very long after that battle.”
“She anticipated that you would be emotionally compromised,” says Alec thoughtfully. “In truth, I believe that all of us did. Ema seemed to be quite surprised this morning when you told her that you were not upset, and even I must admit that I was startled by your lack of reaction to your situation.”
Lai shrugs, he eyes flitting towards the ground. “Crying and screaming never got anybody anywhere,” she says.
“So, let me see if I’ve got this straight.” Les lifts a hand to his forehead incredulously. “If we were really the good guys, and the ILG were the bad guys, then Lady T’s actions would add up to that. But they don’t. Instead, they seem to show that she’s working for the government, and the government might or might not want to turn everyone into nimps. Which means that the ILG is just trying to go up against something that they consider to be injustice, which means that…”
“We’rereally the bad guys,” finishes Lai, sounding awed at this revelation.
Alec nods stiffly, mortified but entranced as cold, hard logic leads him to the only possible conclusion. “All of the evidence suggests that we may have been utilized as unwitting pawns. The Imps Liberation Group was in the right all along.”