"An alliance with a powerful person is never safe. "
The Decagon was a huge complex. It was built as a military intelligence headquarters after the Pentagon had been destroyed in 2056. However, after almost all the world’s Human government buildings had been thoroughly uprooted by the invading forces, the Decagon also served as a potential Senate for the remaining Humans. As its name foretells, the building was shaped like a five-pointed star – having ten sides. The original complex was two stories underground and three stories above. But after the Pact of Ceasefire, the Senate had decided to build the Decagon on a more massive scale – so that if the Empire was invaded again, people would have somewhere to retreat and take refuge. That in mind, the Decagon was now some twenty stories below ground and five stories above.
This was the ‘safest place in the world’ that Cato had mentioned. Proxima saw the building from a distance, and looked questioningly at Cato. He hadn’t spoken for much of the journey after their taking refuge in the parking lot, and Proxima had the odd feeling that Cato didn’t want to go to the Decagon but – the situation as it was – didn’t have much of a choice. So, instead of glowering at the huge star in the middle of nowhere; Proxima pressed her face against the window and watched the closely clustered trees zip by as the jeep drove on. Tiny specks of water pattered in the windows as rain began to descend, and Proxima heard the steady rhythm of the window-wipers. A steady vibration, caused by the speed of the vehicle, hummed against her face.
She wanted to go outside, and stand under the shade of those tall, protective trees, and feel the wind in her hair and the droplets on her face. But Proxima doubted she’d be going out in a long time.
* * * * *
“There is a vehicle approaching, sir,” said the optio.
The Legate looked around and bent down to watch the screen. He placed his hands on the table, and squinted at the blue and red blip on the huge radar. The optio looked up at the Legate. His face – bathed in the blue light of the screen – was drawn in concern, and age had all but withered his once handsome features. He was – nonetheless – the Legate; and his word was law for any legionary.
The Legate straightened, the symptoms of a smile on his face – though it didn’t fully appear – and placed his hands behind his back saying, “Have you scanned the vehicle?”
“Yes, sir. Centurion Cato, and a secondary occupant,” replied the attendant.
“Who is the other occupant?”
The Legate furrowed a brow, “Unidentified?” he placed his hands on the desk once more, “Race? Gender? Age?”
The Legate began to worry, “…Human?”
“I can’t tell…”
The Legate straightened once more, and stroked is bearded chin.
Cato would never bring a threat to the Decagon, no matter how cynical he was about the Empire, mused the Legate; Anyway, I could always send that idiot Sheldon to give them a test when they get in.
“Alright,” decided the Legate, “Let them through.”
* * * * *
Cato couldn’t help being amused by the way Proxima kept looking around. The Decagon was so much more advanced than the rest of the Empire; it was hard to believe that such a place existed. Beacons lined the walls, emitting false, holographic flames that looked so real Proxima actually went over to stick her hands in them. Almost all the people who were walking around looked like they’d come straight out of Star Trek, with their matching uniforms and the black eagle emblem of the Empire fasten to their lapels. There were a few people – however – who were dressed in Kevlar and breastplates, with diamond-bladed weapons at their sides and hanging off their large belts, sitting on benches and chatting in hushed tones.
Legionaries, thought Proxima.
There was what looked like a small garden in the center [some way off from where Proxima and Cato were standing] and a small fountain burbled while birds chirped around it.
“Cato…” said Proxima, “This place is so… mismatched.”
“Wait until you see the Emperor – then you’ll know what ‘mismatched’ really means,” Cato muttered.
“Should you really be saying stuff like that?”
Cato ignored the remark, and finished what he was saying before, “And here comes our starter of mismatched-ness.”
Cato pointed at a short pot-bellied man, in a flowing white lab coat. He had a bob haircut, and looked every part an Indian. He wore an earpiece and carried a clipboard. As the man approached, he gave Proxima a smile that was so empty and insincere that she frowned.
“Ah,” said Cato bitterly, “Holmes.”
“Good to see your memory is well, Centurion Cato FitzGerald,” replied the man in an Indian accent, “Or is it ex-Centurion? Or just Cato? I don’t know, I suppose it doesn’t matter,” his beady eyes fell on Proxima.
He frowned a little. There wasn’t something right about the girl. She looked normal enough – auburn hair, freckles, pale green eyes, and white skin – even if she was still in her bedclothes. But she was about six foot tall [which didn’t matter much to Cato as he was nearly six foot and five inches, but which also meant that she loomed over the short Indian man] and she didn’t quite… feel safe to be around.
“And who might this be?” said the man, a little suspiciously.
Cato put a hand on Proxima’s shoulder, “This is Proxima. Mind you, she isn’t very fond of doctors either.”
The man ignored him and said, “Dr. Sheldon Holmes. Welcome to the Decagon, Proxima,” he put out his hand, and Proxima took it – reluctantly – with a firm grasp.
“Your name is ‘Sheldon’?” she said, amused.
“Yes… is there a problem with that?” replied Sheldon, annoyed by the question.
“It’s not a very common name nowadays…”
“His real name is ‘Ubriculius’,” Cato explained, “He wasn’t very happy with it.”
“I don’t need you spewing nonsense about me, Cato!” Sheldon snapped.
“Yeah, but why ‘Sheldon’?” said Proxima, ignoring the tension between the two men, “If you wanted an uncommon name, then why not something like… ‘Guthrum’?”
“Ha,” Sheldon snorted, “And be named after a ruthless Viking who nearly tore up all of ancient Britain? That’s rather amusing.”
Cato folded his arms, taking offense at the remark, “Guthrum was a military leader who started the state of Danelaw, took over the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria and others, and was able to overwhelm the last Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, even if he wasn’t able to secure it for himself. Sheldon was a character in an ancient Chuck Lorre comedy who was known to be obnoxious, an annoying know-it-all and was commonly acknowledged to look like a giant insect.”
Proxima burst out laughing, whilst Sheldon glared at Cato murderously – like he would stick his clipboard down Cato’s throat [if he could reach, that is].
Sheldon cleared his throat and said, “Enough of the pleasantries, I need to get you both tested.”
Cato frowned at this, “Why? We didn’t get as much as a scratch…”
“Regulations, Cato,” said Sheldon, “Or have you forgotten? Or perhaps you think yourself too high?”
“Depends what you mean by ‘high’…”
“What? Still scared of a little blood test? A little prick?”
Cato puffed his cheeks, “I’ve a variety of far more befitting words in my vocabulary I could address you with, but ‘little prick’ will do for now…”
Sheldon shook off the remark with a “Hmph!” and followed it up with, “Alright… I need you both to give a blood sample, a urine sample, perhaps a skin sample,” Sheldon looked up, and put a bony finger to Cato’s chest, “and you need to give a sperm sample.”
“What?!” Cato looked like he’d just been slapped in the face, “Why the hell –?”
“For the sake of humiliating you in front of your… protégée,” he laughed lightly, before leading them both to the Infirmary.
* * * * *
They had remained two weeks in the Decagon, when Sheldon called Proxima and Cato for the results. They were merrily living in an apartment so far underground; Proxima thought she could hear tremors in the earth [obviously, she was imagining it]. It was a small apartment, but it had two bedrooms, one bathroom, and the kitchen and living room were conjoined. Electricity was rationed daily, so there was just enough for people to be comfortable – you could put the kettle on and use the microwave, but watching TV was highly disliked; and if you used up the electricity that was rationed to you… well: you used it up. For leisure, Cato took Proxima around to the training rooms – where he introduced her to some of his fellow legionaries and allowed her to do a bit of swordplay [though, he made it quite clear that he preferred her to learn how to tie a decent knot].
But, anyway, Cato grumbled when he heard that they were to see Sheldon again. He and Proxima went to the Infirmary. Nothing Proxima did would change Cato’s mood, and – if it held up – Sheldon would have no teeth [and possibly no functioning bones either] by the end of the meeting. When they were seated in Sheldon’s office, Cato grumbled something that sounded like ‘will knock him senseless if he pulls that sperm joke again’. Proxima smirked, but didn’t dare laugh. Cato’s attachment to Proxima was strong, but so was his temper – and the mood he was in proved that the latter would take hold if Proxima made fun.
After a moment of mottled silence and grumbling, Sheldon strode into his office – looking pensive and intrigued. He placed the clipboard on his desk, and sat down in a way that made Proxima uncomfortable. And he was smiling at her again.
Cato saw this also and, clenching his fists, said, “Well?”
“Oh, impatience, Cato. Quite surprising for someone who doesn’t like tests,” said Sheldon, putting his hands together and leaning back.
“Are you going to tell us or do I have to throttle you first?”
Sheldon turned to Proxima, “Not very smart, your guardian,” then he cleared his throat and said, “There is some good news, some bad news, and some rather… intriguing news.” Sheldon briefly checked his clipboard again, and then continued, “The good news is, Cato, that you are absolutely fine. No Dyonuxiot poisoning, and you are in top condition… though my recommendation that you stop your smoking habit still stands. Oh, and you’re fertile too,” Sheldon smirked at the enraged look on Cato’s face.
“And Proxima,” Sheldon interrupted himself, “Did I say that right?”
Proxima raised a brow, and said, “What other way could you say it?”
“Well, uh…” Sheldon thought for a moment, “It could be said ‘Prozima’.”
“You really are asking to get beaten up by Cato, aren’t you?”
Sheldon glared at her, but referred to his clipboard once more and said, “Well, Proxima, I’m sorry to say that you do have Dyonuxiot substances running through your veins.”
Cato frowned and looked at Proxima, “That thing in your room didn’t hurt you, did he?” he whispered.
Proxima shook her head, almost innocently, thinking hard.
Nothing… Nothing touched me, she thought.
“Ah, but that’s the interesting thing,” continued Sheldon.
“What are you rambling about?” snapped a very worried Cato.
“It’s not poison that’s in her veins, Cato, its blood. Proxima has Dyonuxiot blood in her.”
Cato and Proxima both said, “What?”
“Proxima you must be a half-blood…” Sheldon looked back to his clipboard, “Media ordinis. Though they are extremely rare. You must be quarantined until we can know for certain that you are…” but when Sheldon looked up, Proxima was already gone.