195 Chapter 192 A Seed of Doubt Remains
Stella watched Joseph bent over the tiny table, pouring through schematics with the old gnome. She didn't have a clue what they were talking about, but he seemed to have calmed down from the drama of his parents, so she was just letting him goof off. If he was still there in an hour, she decided she would remind them that they had important business to finish.
"No, I can't do that. See, when I did this? That happened!" explained the gnome, pointing at something.
"Have you tried routing it this way?" asked Joseph, pointing at something on the table.
"That might work, but only if I did this."
"No, because that would cause this to fail. You need to do this."
"That won't work because of this."
"It looks like it needs to be bigger, to handle this."
"But that would mean the supports would have to be bigger, and that would stress this."
"Try using this material for that, and this for that. That should handle the extra stress."
"That might work! If that does that, and this does this, then I should finally be able to dig through the rock around the city and free us from being underground!"
"Wait," said Joseph raising his head.
Stella saw the process of him reentering the current world again, and smiled to herself.
"What do you mean, free you?"
"We've been trapped down here for generations. The only person who was ever able to reach the surface, came back and told us that it wasn't time for us to return to the surface, and parked his mech in his workshop, where it collects dust because no one knows how to turn the blasted thing on."
Stella straightened up, sensing that Joseph was getting ready to leave this building.
"I would love to see it, but I really need to get to the library."
"Well, they're next door to each other, but only the royal family can access them, and they all died out years ago."
"What do you mean?" asked Stella.
"The same barrier that protects the city, is also around the royal grounds, as a type of secondary protection if the original barrier gave way, to protect the royal family. None of us lesser beings can get through it. The workshop with the mech and the library were claimed by the royal family, and the barrier encompasses them too," explained the gnome twitching his mustache as he looked at her.
Stella wanted to cut his throat for giving her that look, but she chose to ignore the urge. Joseph had enjoyed talking with him, and he was being useful.
"Let's go take a look at this barrier," said Joseph, taking her arm again, and they left the workshop through the hole that was still gaping in the wall. The gnomes scattered like leaves as they stepped onto the street.
"I can show you the way!" grinned the gnome rushing ahead of them. His legs were so much smaller than theirs, he needed to take three steps for their one.
"Who runs the city, if the royal family is all dead?" asked Joseph.
Stella wondered if he was considering taking them back to his kingdom, and knew without having to ask that of course he was considering it. They had mechs. He had already mentioned that big robots were a favorite thing of all men. She didn't get it, but would humor him. Plus, there was no telling what other things they might have that interested him, with those magical eyes. She had been listening to Joe mutter in his head every since they stepped through the barrier. While she couldn't make out what he had been saying, she was sure he was analyzing everything.
"We have a type of counsel, but honestly, there isn't anyone in charge. If someone has a problem with anything, they take it to the person they have a problem with and discuss it until the problem is resolved. Everything else is taken to the counsel, but that's rare."
"Do you not have murders or other crimes?" asked Stella. This place was too…good, for her.
"Oh, no! We don't have anything like that! There's the occasional accident, but never anything so malicious as that. The stories they teach the kids in school, tell of a time when that happened, but it has been generations."
Joseph nodded in understanding, and she wondered what he knew that he wasn't telling.
They arrived at another shimmering barrier, where the gnome stopped. They had hundreds of gnomes gathered behind them, watching in silence as Joseph touched the barrier.
Stella felt pride that they could see her Joseph succeed at something that none of them could accomplish. He pushed through the barrier, as if it wasn't there, and she jumped to his shadow.
"That's very interesting," he said to himself, taking her arm again, and nodded to the gnomes who were gaping at them in astonishment.
"What is?" she asked.
"The first barrier that we crossed to enter the city, protects against evil beings entering the city. This barrier kept out good beings."
Stella wondered about that. "Is that why it felt like I was being attacked by ants when we first entered the city?"
"Yes," he said, glancing at her. "You know that you are evil?"
"Of course! I already told you that you shouldn't listen to me about such things as whether to kill someone or not. I gave up on being good a long time ago. Being nice doesn't get you very far when so many people only respect those they fear."
He looked at her for a moment, then turned towards the large buildings ahead of them. She wondered for a moment if he didn't like her as much, and the doubt chewed at her stomach, making it churn like it used to when she was fighting with her emotions after he walked in on her naked as a child. Remembering those moments made her even more determined to get over her issues. This was Joseph. She had to be the best for him! It didn't matter what had happened back then. She was a different person now. No one would ever be able to hurt her again!
Shaking her head as he sent her comfort through their link, she squeezed his arm in thanks and turned her attention to the two buildings they were standing in front of.