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16+ Language

The Lie that Saved the World Chapter 12: The Beltian

by VengefulReaper


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

Ethan strolled down the dilapidated street. The place smelt as if someone’s body had been left to rot. Sporadic fires burned the grass in the area, creating a cloud of charcoal-gray smoke. This was the largest Beltian refugee camp in the world. In fact, the only legal camp in the world. One couldn’t call it a haven,but it was certainly a safe space that protected defectors from the corrupt Beltian empire in distant space.

Duncan and the FSP had made it abundantly clear that the camp was to take in no more refugees, but the influx of Beltian citizens forced the party to reconsider or risk war with their Belt allies. Ethan was aware of some tensions between Earthers and Beltians, but never made much of it. It remained relatively safe for a Beltian to roam the streets from his experience.

But today, a large police force had arrived on the scene. At a time so early in the morning, no Earther would dare to take a stroll through this route, but Ethan had to meet Steve and the infiltrators a few streets down from the senate building. Something was happening, and they needed to be there at five in the morning sharp, and this was the fastest route to get there.

“Details to follow on site,” Steve had said to the team late last night.

Ethan covered his face partially with his hood, put his head down, and quickened his pace as he walked by the armed police in yellow jackets.

They rounded them all up, forcibly taking them from their homes, men and women alike. The children who looked pre-pubescent were spared.

“You there!” one of the police officers shouted in Ethan’s direction.

Ethan kept walking, pretending like he had heard nothing. He heard footsteps approach him.

“I was talking to you, you filthy bastard,” she hissed.

He felt a firm tug on his shirt. The tug became stronger, almost as if his shirt was about to be ripped off, but Ethan didn’t budge. It was wise of him to give in, but for some reason, he just felt stubborn that day. He was annoyed with what the police were doing… Rounding up Beltians like a shepherd herds their sheep.

“I’m not Beltian,” Ethan said calmly. “I’m just passing through. Here... Scan my ID if you have to.”

The officer eyed him cautiously, reaching for the scanner on her belt. “You have the attitude of one…” She looked at the results and shrugged. “But it seems you are not one.”

“Please move along, sir, and have a nice day,” she said with a smile.

Ethan shrugged and moved along until he heard a woman scream.

“Move it, Beltian!” shouted an officer, gripping the pregnant woman from her child.

He stopped dead in his tracks.

“Watch it! She’s pregnant!” he shouted.

“We know,” one of them said as they beat one of them with a steel baton. “Would be better if she weren’t, am I right?” he laughed mockingly.

“I told you to move along,” the officer said, her tone more firm this time.

“Until I know where they’re going, I am not moving anywhere,” Ethan said as he stood closer to the officer, who was a full head and shoulders shorter than him. “Whatever scans you’re doing, you can do them here.”

She pulled out her gun and clicked the safety switch off. “Sir, you are intervening with an… investigation and defending a criminal.”

“Criminal? But they’re innocent!” he shouted.

“That has not been proven. Now. Move. Along!” she shouted in return, pointing the gun directly at his face so that Ethan could see down the barrel. A glowing blue energy bolt that would likely rip a hole in his face was staring directly at him. The thought of lashing out certainly crossed his mind but the best-case scenario ended with him getting shot before moving a finger.

It's probably just a routine check for permits, Ethan shrugged. Nothing would come of it other than a little violence. 

“Sorry about that, officer,” he muttered, his eyes fixed on the crying child no older than twelve watching his mother being dragged away like a corpse. “I’ll be on my way.”

As he turned away, they began picking out random people, pointing to them, and bringing them forward despite the insults from the gathering. They were angry and understandably tired of their treatment, but everyone knew how easily any resistance could be crushed.

There were many things he wished he could change, most of which were so large he did not know where to start. You can’t solve everything, Ethan, he told himself. Stay in your lane.

***

Ethan ducked under the construction tape and entered the half-built building. It barely had a roof and loose light fitting dangled from the walls, almost as if they were about to fall off. The dust flicked up into the air with every step he took, forming a brown cloud in front of him. All he could hear was the steady dripping of a leaking water pipe running down the wall. At the center of the building, all the infiltrators, Steve and Jim stood around a rectangular table staring at a floor plan on a steel table.

Steve looked up and motioned for Ethan to join them. As he entered the circle, Breach whispered in his ear.

“This is going to hurt a little.”

“What do you me—”

Ethan was cut short as the HUD generated from his eye muffled like static on a radio. It blurred out half of his vision like the eye was being disrupted by something and he felt a crushing pressure on his eye socket, like the eye was digging into his skull.

Ethan gripped his eye with his hand and fell to one knee. His body shook and his bones became weak for a few seconds. He nearly passed out, seeing flashes of blinding light in the corner of his remaining eye. In fact, he may have blacked out for a few seconds before recovering himself.

He opened his eyes as he lay flat on the floor, the infiltrators’ eyes closely examining him. He blinked. Nothing. His HUD vanished, and he experienced the same large blind spot he did before when he wore an eye patch.

“What the hell was that?” he muttered as he pulled himself to his feet.

“EMP,” Steve replied. “It shouldn’t have affected you as bad as it did, though.”

“Everything has been weird since I got this thing.”

“You’ll get used to it, I’m sure,” Amber said. “Umm… Probably a temporary thing, you know?”

“I hope that’s true,” Ethan said.

Steve cleared his throat and looked over at Jim. “Are we off Duncan’s radar?”

Jim nodded. “We only have twenty minutes starting from now,” he added.

“More than enough time,” Steve dismissed with a wave of his hand. “Today’s the first time in ten years Duncan has asked for infiltrator presence during a public announcement,” Steve began resting both hands on the rectangular table with everyone surrounding it. “It is also the first time in his presidency that he has called a physical audience to the senate-house for this announcement, besides broadcasting it on live television.”

“Do we know why?” Ethan asked.

“No,” Steve replied, shaking his head. “That’s the concerning part.”

“Why?” Ethan asked.

“Because Duncan isn’t usually one to hide details from me unless he knows I won’t be on board with it,” Steve replied. “It's probably because of the escalating terrorist attacks on various hospitals. South Africa isn’t safe.”

“It’s so unsafe, Duncan has requested that we bring in our exo-suits to the announcement,” John added. “That’s a tad extreme… even for a man like him.”

The infiltrators looked at each other in surprise. An eerie silence filled the room. Ethan hadn’t expected it to happen so soon.

“So we’re going public?” Amber whispered. “To save his ass?”

Steve shook his head. “Not entirely. Our affairs with SEKT remain hidden, but Duncan wants to phase in the Alliance as a defense force until the country’s safety can be assured.”

“Why now? He had three months to phase us in. Why did he hold off until now?” Breach asked.

Jim piped up. He threw a disk onto the table that displayed a hologram of first-person footage taken from a head cam. “Interplanetary news from six days ago.” A high-quality video from one protester showed the king and his immediate subordinates being killed in the royal palace with a live audience. “I didn’t think it was this bad either.” He flipped through each of the videos filming. “These videos would have taken at least a week to travel across space through our radio-wave network. We can also say that news like this would have been leaked internally, then to surrounding Belt settlements, and then to Earth. A rough estimate of the event would be around one month ago.”

“Who filled the power gap now?” Ethan asked.

Steve held his head in his hands. “How didn’t I see it before?” he muttered to himself. “SEKT. SEKT filled the power gap.”

“SEKT?” Ethan said with his brows furrowed. “I thought SEKT was an Alliance defector. What do they have to do with the Belt?”

“SEKT is purely made up of Beltian citizens who rebelled against the corrupt government roughly eighteen years ago,” Jim began. “They split from the Alliance when news reached Adrian that we didn’t intend to support any Beltian initiatives against the government. He called us cowards and slaves to the oppressive system that resulted in the death of many Beltians.”

“Adrian?” Ethan asked.

Jim shot a glance at Steve asking for approval. He responded with a curt nod. 

“Adrian Salacron, when defected, took on the leadership title of Sigvald. This was a previous alias he used when he did spy work. Sigvald; The one who has the will to overcome.”

“This is news to me,” Breach interrupted.

“For me as well. I thought his name was Sigvald,” Amber added.

“Very few know,” Jim continued. “Some say it was the title given to the first unanimously appointed king of Iassor, the Beltian kingdom in question. In my four years of deep cover, I never actually met Sigvald, even though his presence on Earth felt like he was closer to me than my own heart. I had a running theory that Sigvald migrated his forces to Iassor to grow support with his own people. That, however, has no evidence. Just a theory.”

“So if SEKT released the bio-weapon, and they’ve now seized power in the Belt, surely the two are connected, right?” proposed Ethan.

“Assuming SEKT has indeed seized power, which we have no proof of, that’s a fair conclusion but only if there were no Beltians present in South Africa. However, that's not the case. There are thirty thousand Beltians who have been economically and socially screwed over by the FSP and their fanboys which makes them ideal candidates for Sigvald’s 'mob'. Lumping them in with everyone else and hitting the kill switch on the bioweapon is just shooting himself in the foot.”

“And Duncan?” Steve asked.

“Wildcard,” Jim replied throwing his arms in the air. “God knows what the fuck that bastard wants. I’m not close enough to him to find out what he really does in that office of his, and I don’t think I’ll be included in his inner circle anytime soon.”

“Wait a minute… You work for Duncan?”

Jim looked over, slightly amused by Ethan’s disbelief. “Sort of. I’m the senior advisor to the minister of healthcare.” He grinned slightly. “I'm not supposed to be in the senate building, but I find my way around…”

“But I’ve never even se—“

“Speaking of the senate house,” Steve interrupted. “We have a mission brief in which Ethan needs to be in.” He looked at his wristwatch set to a twenty-minute timer. “And we’re punching a clock.”

“M-me?” he stuttered. “But… I don’t even have any training.”

“You have done mandatory service, right?” Steve assumed.

“Well… I mean… yeah… but that’s not… you know…”

“That'll do. I need you to scan the crowd with that nifty eye of yours and pull up as many bios as you can. Prioritize people in the front, people moving through the crowd, people dressed with their faces mostly covered, and maybe if you see a concealed weapon, too. If you pick up on those and they’re making a move, alert the ground team. Amber, our scout, will join you. She’ll give you the rundown on standard operating procedures as and when needed.”

Ethan nodded.

“The rest of us are the ground team. Keep your eyes peeled and your senses sharp just in case our watchers miss something,” Steve continued, pointing to the positions on the map where the remaining members would be stationed. “I know we all hate Duncan. Nobody in this room hates him more than I do. But he is still our president, so his safety always comes first. Understood?”

“Yes, sir!” the team boomed in unison.

“Excellent. Let’s get moving. The EMP should wear off soon.”

The team split into the teams they were assigned to aside from Amber and Steve who remained in the flimsy building.

"I've never seen anything like it before," asked Amber flicking her head in Ethan's direction. 

"I have," Steve replied, looking down. "He's just like the Gen-S Beltians... Like Sigvald. He's a secronium user. This... this changes everything."

"You know putting an eye designed to be Secronium powered was extremely risky, right?" Amber said. 

"It was worth it. He's got a lot more potential now," Steve said. "It's just that we don't have a proficient sec-user to train him. Our last one was Sigvald."

"You mean Adrian?"

"Adrian’s dead."


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Mon Jun 12, 2023 9:16 am
IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hey Reaper, Icy here for a quick review on this sunny Monday morning!

Oof what a chapter for me to come in on! I caught the last line when I was scrolling before actually reading this, so I'm glad to discover there hasn't actually been a death... though it seems Steve considers there has been one. It's a good way of showing clearly his feelings towards Adrian and the situation. Ethan hasn't given off quite such an intense vibe to me, so I can't help but wonder what his reaction to this whole thing is going to be.

“Adrian Salacron, when defected, took on the leadership title of Sigvald. This was a previous alias he used when he did spy work. Sigvald; The one who has the will to overcome.”

“This is news to me,” Breach interrupted.

“For me as well. I thought his name was Sigvald,” Amber added.

I thought this was a cool bit of lore - naming the character after his title shows how much that title is worth and you kind of stop seeing the person behind the name. Clever!

The only area for improvement for me would be in Ethan's interaction with the officer. Firstly, I think it felt a little too long in general and I feel the interaction between them could be condensed to maintain the tension and forward momentum of the scene. Some of Ethan's thoughts around this time also seemed a bit arbitrary - like I didn't need his thoughts to tell me what was happening was awful, and him mentioning it wasn't really needed. He also goes from talking to yelling very suddenly (and then back just as quickly) and I don't feel we really get enough transition between the mood states.

Overall though this was a good read, and I think you've done a good job of integrating the kind of world-building knowledge we'll presumably need going forward!

Hope this was helpful!

Icy
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VengefulReaper says...


Thanks for the review, Icy! I'll definitely tweak Ethan's interaction with the officer. It does seem to drag for a bit lol. I'm glad you like the name reveal for Adrian. Stuff like that can be a hit-or-miss sometimes so I'm glad it hit for you :)

-Reaper



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Thu Mar 16, 2023 8:36 pm
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi again Reaper!

General Impressions

The ending of this chapter certainly leaves an impression. I feel like it conveys a sese of betrayal and also grief over the betrayal, such that Steve considers ‘Adrian’, the person that he knew, to be dead and replaced with this enemy, Sigvald. Another thing that struck me in this chapter was the scene of police brutality against the Beltian refugees, which was disturbing. The police officers talk like Ethan would just agree with them on anything they’re saying, such as about the pregnant woman, which suggests that kind of behaviour is normalised in this society (though maybe mostly among the powerful)? Though I think this is the first time it’s being shown in the plot so far since I don’t think the Beltians have been brought up before except in passing.

Glows – What I liked

The discussion of the Beltian refugees in the beginning totally made sense when I read the second half of the chapter where it turns out SEKT is basically a Beltian defector society. I thought that was super interesting and adds depth to what SEKT does. It makes me wonder the same questions the characters are asking themselves, like if their fellow defectors are here, why activate the bioweapon? I’m def curious as to what SEKT is planning and what motivated them to use the bioweapon in the first place.

‘Sigvald’ being a title and not a name was also an interesting bit of lore. I like how that is used to separate the person ‘Adrian’ is now from the person he used to be? Because from what I remember about his interaction with Steve in a flashback is that he did change a lot to become someone whose identity as leader of SEKT makes up the most of who he is.

Jim looked over, slightly amused by Ethan’s disbelief. “Sort of. I’m the senior advisor to the minister of healthcare.” He grinned slightly. “I'm not supposed to be in the senate building, but I find my way around…”

I love that for Jim – I’d like to see scenes of Jim sneaking around and bamboozling people.

Grows – Ideas to consider

“Criminal? But they’re innocent!” he shouted.
“That has not been proven. Now. Move. Along!”

I kind of felt Ethan’s comment was a bit ‘besides the point’ here? Or rather it felt like it came too quickly, since I was still kind of shocked that they were being called criminals and I guess I just imagined Ethan would have a few sentences of internal thoughts to process that before his next line xD Could just be me. Because calling the refugees “innocent” feels like something the police could rebut very easily and I just think Ethan wouldn’t say something that could be rebutted / dismissed like that, if that makes sense.

There were many things he wished he could change, most of which were so large he did not know where to start. You can’t solve everything, Ethan, he told himself. Stay in your lane.

I was a bit surprised reading this. It may just be my shoddy memory, but I always had the impression that Ethan was a bit single-mindedly focused on stopping the bioweapon, and not so much trying to change the society he’s in at large? I went back to chapter 11 and re-read his internal monologue there about “war leads to peace”, which to me still seems to be about stopping SEKT. And I remember in previous chapters I felt like Ethan was less disturbed by the FSP than his friend Troy? I do think the “stay in your lane” thought is more continuous with the decision he makes in Chapter 11 though – like maybe he *does* think about changing other things but he wants to keep himself on track to his singular goal.

I also noticed Ethan’s mother hasn’t been cropping up in the recent chapters even though her death was a motivation for him trying to go after SEKT. (Though with the extended prologue, it’s more like her death + his work as a scientist + the fact that he hasn’t got long to live and is trying to make something of it)

Overall

I think the development of the SEKT plot in this chapter is pretty strong and adds complexity and intrigue to the story. I don’t have any super strong suggestions on what to do with this chapter aside from considering the ideas and confusions I had in the ‘Grows’ section. I’m curious to see what sort of trouble Duncan has called them in for.

Hope this helps – let me know if you’d like more feedback!
-Lim
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VengefulReaper says...


Hi Lim! Thanks for the review!

I think Ethan's response to the Beltian refugees being taken in does need a bit of tweaking. I'm right there with you on that one. As for Ethan's mom not popping up here... idk... I felt while writing it that I had beaten that one to death in the extended prologue and chapter 1-6 ish. But I think I will mention it here since it does still relate. I usually have a bit of trouble telling when it's too much and when it's appropriate. If you have any advice that has helped you, I'd really appreciate that :)

-Reaper



VengefulReaper says...


Hi Lim! Thanks for the review!

I think Ethan's response to the Beltian refugees being taken in does need a bit of tweaking. I'm right there with you on that one. As for Ethan's mom not popping up here... idk... I felt while writing it that I had beaten that one to death in the extended prologue and chapter 1-6 ish. But I think I will mention it here since it does still relate. I usually have a bit of trouble telling when it's too much and when it's appropriate. If you have any advice that has helped you, I'd really appreciate that :)

-Reaper



VengefulReaper says...


Hi Lim! Thanks for the review!

I think Ethan's response to the Beltian refugees being taken in does need a bit of tweaking. I'm right there with you on that one. As for Ethan's mom not popping up here... idk... I felt while writing it that I had beaten that one to death in the extended prologue and chapter 1-6 ish. But I think I will mention it here since it does still relate. I usually have a bit of trouble telling when it's too much and when it's appropriate. If you have any advice that has helped you, I'd really appreciate that :)

-Reaper



Liminality says...


Heya! Hmm I think usually when I'm reading a story, and there's another character who is relevant to the scene thematically (like Ethan's mom where he is discussing the bioweapon), one or two lines is usually enough to bring them in? For instance, like maybe Ethan might think something like 'no one else is going to die like Mom did'. Or maybe there could be narration like 'he thought of his mother's face' as he's thinking about the bioweapon. Does that help?



VengefulReaper says...


Yeah it does! Thanks for the advice.




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— alliyah