“Lex. You can let go of my hand now. It kinda hurts.”
“Oh, right sorry.” Lex hurriedly let go of Seven’s hand. “H-how are you feeling, kid? You’re not hurt are you?”
“I’m fine,” Seven said. An awkward silence spread out between them.
“Um, I-” “Well, if you-” They both began to say at the same time.
“Sorry,” Lex said, “you go first.”
“Uh, well. It’s just. Lex! I wanted to say thank you! With-with out you, I’d still be back at the compound, and I’m not sure how much longer I could’ve lasted. But you came and, well I wanted to say thanks and everything so… Thank You!” Seven bowed his head towards Lex. He felt his face heating up.
Lex looked away in embarrassment. “Sure thing, kid. It wasn’t anything you needed to thank me for.”
The doors of the elevator opened, showing the bridge. It had wide windows that wrapped around the edges of the room and doubled as monitor screens. A few couches crouched around a coffee table, their feet nestled into thick carpet. Offa sat behind a row consuls near the back of the room. He rested his hand on a thick, polished wooden pole jutting out from a complex system of gears behind a glass panel in the wall.
“This wasn’t exactly what I was picturing when I thought of the bridge,” Seven said.
“That’s what I’ve been told. But I’m one for comfort and style rather than practicality.”
“Whys he holding onto that stick coming out of the wall?”
“Oh, that’s the tiller. It drives the ship. I wanted a full on steering wheel like in those really old massive sailing ships, but Juleka said no. It apparently wouldn’t work to well with the steering mechanism we have right now. I had to go with my second choice. Juleka didn’t like it much better, but she gave in once I pestered her enough. Looks cool, right?”
“Uh… maybe,” Seven said.
“Don’t worry, it’ll grow on you. Maybe we can convince Offa to let you take her for a spin.”
He ruffled Seven’s hair and then padded into the room with a confident air. “Offa, status.”
“Glad you could finally make it. They’ve been getting annoyed at the elevator music I’ve been playing to keep them patient. Done playing around now?”
“Hey come on. That was a full blown crisis. It totally gave me a viable excuse.”
Offa rolled his eyes and scratched his beard in annoyance.
“Alright,” Lex said once he settled into a sofa. He motioned Seven to one of the others. “Bring them on screen.”
A video feed popped up of a man in a faded military uniform. A nasty scar cut across the side of his face, nearly missing his eye.
“Are you the captain of this ship?” he said in a gravelly voice.
“I am,” Lex said with an uncharacteristic seriousness.
“It would be appreciated if you responded to our hail in a more prompt manner.”
“I am sorry for the delay, but some unexpected difficulties arose. I hope that your organization will be forgiving.”
“I presume that said difficulties-”
“Yes, it has been dealt with.”
“I see. And your purpose?”
“We would like to plead for entry into the Free State of India.”
“I am sure that you can understand my position, Captain. I cannot just allow anyone to enter as they please.”
“So I’ve heard, uh-”
“Specialist Gahara Vedic.”
“Yes, Specialist Vedic. But you see, I have a special agreement with a mutual friend of ours. I believe that his good name will help to resolve matters.” Lex pulled out a coin embossed with a Camilla flower. The man’s eyes narrowed.
“Very well then, you may proceed. I hope you enjoyed your stay here in India.”
“Thank you very much, Specialist Vedic.” Lex signaled Offa to cut the transmission and let out a breath of air.
“You alright,” Seven asked.
“Yes. I always hate doing that, but the Wall’s a tricky organization.”
“They are completely autonomous. They don’t listen to anyone in the world, not even the limited government of India, but they do their job very well.”
“What’s their job?”
“Hm? Oh. It’s s regulating the wall. They’re very strict on who comes and who goes. Almost no one can get through unless they have connections. Luckily for us, I know Ahmed Mubai. Hate the guy, but his name is useful.”
“But isn’t he a mobster? Why would that help you get through the wall?”
“Well, Mubai primarily deals with weapons as his main good. He sells to anyone and everyone as long as they’re willing to pay the price. He’s created some of the best guns in the world. Nearly a whole third of the ones on the international market come from him alone.”
“So, the Wall buys guns from him?”
“You got it. Need weapons to defend such a large barricade. They don’t want to get on his bad side. And well, Ahmed only gives out these coins to those he owes a favor.” Lex flicked the coin into the air and caught it.
The massive wall stared at them from outside the window. Offa navigated Biscotti closer to it as an opening just big enough for the ship yawned open. It was an uneventful passage. Once they got to the other side, the land of India spread out before them. Seven’s eyebrows crinkled.
“Lex, I thought India was green. Why is the land black?”
“Do you know much about World War IV?”
“A little bit. Not a whole lot.”
“Well, sometime ask Howll about it. He was a engineer in the war for the Confederate of North America before he defected to New Poland. He probably knows the most about what happened. But, let’s just say that India was razed. Everything. All burnt right to the ground. It’s slowly coming back though, especially in the mountains.”
Lex stood up and stretched. “I don’t know about you kid, but I’m going to find something to eat. Haven’t even had breakfast yet. It’ll be a few hours before we reach Delhi.”
“Okay. Um, I guess I’ll go wander around, if that’s alright.”
“Yup, you go do that. Just don’t go getting stuck on some ceiling again.”
Seven smiled, “I’ll try not to.”