Gorlak was different now. This was his new reality. He no longer had a self-defence system keeping his body at optimum status, controlling his emotional state, translating his words for him.
He’d managed to get away from them, but at what cost?
The dreams had been getting bad. Having had them held in check by his defence systems for so long, now they were more like hallucinations - sitting somewhere between full consciousness and sleep. He couldn’t tell what was real a lot of the time. He couldn’t trust his own experiences, so - for a reason that he couldn’t quite figure out - he had decided to trust Jane’s.
Why was she putting herself at risk for him? He remembered coming into the camp, his fear and confusion could have easily made him kill her or any of them. Jane seemed well aware of his strength, she didn’t know of his species’ proclivity for violence but Gorlak was sure she could some of his past in his eyes and in the way he acted when they’d first brought him to this room. Somehow, none of it had put her off. His data about the planet must have been mistranslated or falsely skewed, his research spoke of a two clear genders, one dominant and one submissive - Jane didn’t seem to fit either mould.
She would visit him in his little cell most days. She’d read to him. Much of what she said didn’t make any sense due to his system’s translation abilities being offline, still he found her tone soothing and the one way conversations helped him developed his own limited knowledge of the language. His speech was still unintelligible most of the time but at least now she knew that he was trying to speak and would listen intently to him garble, trying to work out the meaning behind the words.
His first few days had been spent nervously waiting for either his defence systems to wake up or for one of the bolder members of the camp to come and kill him off. Jane said that there was a bunch of the ‘arseholes’ suggesting that having him in the camp at all was a threat to their continued peaceful existence. That they wouldn’t need to kill him, instead they could just drive him out to a desert somewhere and drop him off. Give him a fighting chance to survive, whilst not incurring the wrath of those who put him in that state - or that was the theory.
She explained how, for the last couple of years, she had been little more than a servant for the leaders of the camp. How she’d left her family and her life in the city to join this movement, that she had really believed in the idea of it all - that they were going to be a peaceful hand reaching across the Galaxy. However, soon after she joined she began to realise the fallacy that the camp and the movement itself actually were. Out of a mixed up sense of duty, along with severe embarrassment of not wanting to go back to her family with her tail between her legs, and the hope that things might change - she stuck around.
Bluntly put, she was going to use Gorlak to her political advantage. He didn’t mind, was happy to be of some use to her, he knew he owed her his life. She realised that if the leaders got on the wrong side of this (meaning how to deal with Gorlak), then there would need to be new leadership in place when it all went tits up. She didn’t feel any particular pleasure in the thought of running their “band of merry twats”, but somebody needed to do it. Someone who was actually going to honour their code of friendship across intelligent species. He’d seen her take control when they’d first brought him to this room, felt her presence calm him and everyone else, bringing what could have gotten very ugly very quickly, to a quiet close.
NOTE The founders of their cult were a ragged collection of social dissidents, scientists and ecowarriors.
Based on Jane’s extensive explanation Gorlak formed a relatively clear picture of the organisation structure as it current sat. First off, you had Jim - the chief. He’s the one who had had the idea for the camp and the charisma to get some of his thicker and wealthier friends (and their parents) to bankroll the building of the first structures in the camp.
Jim’s right hand woman was Brenda. “Total badass. Look at her sideways and she’ll have you on your face in the dirt in seconds.” From the way Jane spoke about her, Gorlak suspected she felt a mix of admiration and loathing for the woman. Brenda was the force behind Jim, she kept the ranks in order, she was the one who would ‘encourage’ people to get on with jobs that were handed down from Jim - whether this was to their taste or not.
Then you had Meredith, Brenda’s wife and the organisation’s money manager. She was the one of the most human of those in the top layer of the camp. Jane could share a drink without it descending into an argument most of the time. However, she seemed to have been taken in by Jim’s spiel as much as Jim had.
Meredith knew that Brenda was a hard-arse but there was a lot of closeness there - not that they would show it in public much, turned out Brenda wasn’t that big a fan of PDAs [Public Displays of Affection]. Meredith didn’t seem to care about Brenda’s forays into Jim’s bed, she knew they both had needs to be fulfilled.
Jim’s closest ally - aside from Brenda - was Elizabeth. She’d been the one who came and operated on him shortly after he’d arrived. Gorlak’s body still went tense whenever she entered his room. She’d been back to see him several times since the operation on the pretence of checking how he was doing but the way that she looked at him during those visits make his flesh crawl. To her he was an experiment, a discovery, an anomaly. Never a person. Special only for his interesting skin and other bodily features she found strange.
Jane was there at most instances when Elizabeth decided to turn up, but the one where Jane wasn’t around was the worst.
Gorlak knew that if he hurt anyone in the camp he would be out without a second thought. As much as Jane would try to save him he wouldn’t stand a chance, they would label him as a monster and a freak and take him out to the desert and leave him for the vultures or worse things that stalked the night.
Despite knowing how closely he was to being out without the protection and the cover the camp was providing, this didn’t stop him wanting to rip Elizabeth apart every time she would start her observations. It was her eyes that were the worst. He was learning that humans could display a huge range of emotion through their faces and eyes. He’d figured out that Jane’s face largely showed emotions of caring and pity as well as some fear. To work this out, he’d had to compare her face to those of the other people that passed his room so it wasn’t much to go off but he was pretty convinced that all the other looks he received were not so positive.
Elizabeth was different from the onlookers who would stare into his room, eyes wide and mouths agape. There was always this grin spreading across her face when she entered his room, but as Jane described it - the warmth didn’t reach her eyes. There was no fear, it was as if he was her prize and she’d come to unwrap him all over again.
She always talked as she worked. It seemed to put her at ease, calm her. It helped Gorlak too, just not for the same reason. He hadn’t revealed to Jane just how much he’d begun to understand - by three weeks in the camp he was able to pick up most if not all of what anyone said to him or within a range of about twenty metres. Elizabeth, thinking that he was little more than a curious thing, a dumb creature would let her conversation with him range into areas she’d keep secret from Jane or even Jim.
She told him about what the camp had been like before she arrived. How most of the recruits had simply seen the camp as an escape from the real world, where they would get free food and shelter all by just nodding along when Jim gave one of his rousing speeches. In her first few weeks she’d watched as the camp went about it’s routine, up about noon, sauntering about for a bit pretending to be busy, grabbing what food they felt like from the kitchens and then cracking into the booze from about 3pm.
Gorlak listening as Elizabeth would talk about her life before the camp. How she’d been a well-known, well-respected scientist. How she’d left it all on a whim after attending attending one of Jim recruiting drives at her University. It’d taken a while to pluck up the courage to actually go through with it. The idea had become embedded in her mind after that conversation with Jim after his lecture, hearing him talk about peace across the Galaxy - about what he was trying to build, it had all got her excited for something that she thought that she’d got over long ago.
When she finally arrived at the camp, Jim had welcomed her like a sister. After seeing what the camp actually was, she’d decided that she could either do something about it or she could leave. Leaving meant going back to her dusty life, books, libraries, lecture halls, it all boring to her now. Initially she’d tried to just build what she imagined the camp would be by herself, she started lobbying Jim for a medical centre, more research buildings.
She’d shaped the mission of the Ourea from the vague collection of ideas Jim had started with, into something with real poetic value. She was the most approachable of the founders, although her dedication to her work seemed to bring out another side to her, something sharper that the face she presented most of the time.
Elizabeth had been a scientist of national renown, an astro-physicist who had flirted with the idea of intelligent life off their planet. An idea for which she had been ridiculed by her colleagues. Eventually, after years of pushing for funding to investigate what might be living out there, she was ready to give it all up: her career, her friends, her personal research into the extra-terrestrial. The way she told it, it was during that period that was when she found Jim, and he finally found a co-founder.
She’d seen his videos online, she’d chalked him up as another fake, someone looking for attention to start building himself a cult. It was only when he came to do a talk at her University that she came to scratch the surface of this strange man. After the debate on his favourite subject - communication across cultural boundary, Elizabeth managed to catch him and began assailing him with question after question about his research.
Jim had become used to light-hearted interviews with people who had barely bothered to read anything he’d written, up until this point, no one had ever so pointedly and in such detail queried his knowledge on life in the Galaxy. He managed to compose himself and after a few minutes of talking, Elizabeth’s sharp manner gave way to her excited, childlike interest in the subject and they began to chat like old friends about their independent research. They shared information and Jim imagined that he would never see this strange, intense and clearly brilliant woman ever again. Months later, when Jim had just begun the construction of the first building in the camp he received a rather unexpected visitor. Elizabeth - who had left her partner, quit her job, sold all her possessions - turned up at the camp. The nervous look on her face betrayed her, she knew what she was risking turning up like this, she was pretty sure she’d be turned away.
Jim realised pretty quickly that she could provide the camp with some much needed legitimacy. She was welcomed warmly by the small population of residents, even given her own private quarters away from the shacks occupied by most of the camp.
The only other person of note was a lackey known only as K. He tried to carry off the a similar macho front as Brenda but there were so many holes in it, he quickly became the butt of every other joke for his clumsiness and propensity for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nobody was particularly sure why he’d taken the moniker of ‘K’ - many believed that he was so embarrassed by his birth name that he’d simple taken the initial to give himself an air of mystery - it didn’t really work.
Three weeks into Gorlak’s stay in the camp, Jane began to work on the details of her mutiny - sharing many of the considerations with Gorlak - who, it turned out was a great listener. His communication was limited to providing grunts of encouragement every couple of minutes. She figured that she would need serious backing from many of the people in the camp and to tap into something they were already annoyed by to get them to rally around her believing that she would give them the change they thought they needed. She’d also decided that she needed a scapegoat. Someone to take the heat if things turned out badly so that she could get out with Gorlak - who could just about stand / limp now. The idea being - that if it did all go to pot then they could get somewhere safe whilst the scapegoat was being interrogated for the mutiny that they had been the architect of.
After some consideration and vague gargling noises of assent from Gorlak she picked K as her scapegoat. He would occasionally talk about what a good leader he would make, which would lead to becoming a target of suspicion, plus he was close enough to Jim to know enough to make him dangerous. If Jane could lead him down a particular path of her design without him realising it, they could test the waters of the camp, figure out whether it was the right time and then if all seemed good, strike out against the leadership.
Jane needed to be seen as the saviour coming to rescue of the camp, saving them all from the mess that had been created by K and ignored by Jim. If possible she would like to keep Meredith and Brenda onside because of how valuable they would be to the running of the camp. However, if Brenda sided with Jim when everything started to kick off then Jane did not imagine that Meredith would desert her.