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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2005 8:12 am 
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13. Big Knowledge Woman

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 3:08 pm
Posts: 1827
Location: Space, the final frontier
You know, SQ, my birthday is in two weeks. Hittin' 36 and the grey hair keeps a'comin.....I was wondering when I can expect my bound copy of Latency? :flirt It would make a great gift, you know :devil


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 6:06 pm 
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13. Big Knowledge Woman

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 3:08 pm
Posts: 1827
Location: Space, the final frontier
Did I forget to mention that Aki means autumn in Japanese? So...Aki-san is sort of a balance.....neither too hot nor too cold. Just right for Claire.


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2006 6:23 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
Posts: 35
Location: New Jersey
Actually, Claire mentions that in chapter 3?-- I think (It's been too long :( ) Additionally, the story takes place in Autumn, winter approaching as things progress.

Something like:

“Autumn.”

“You speak Japanese?”

“I know a few words.”

Great observation about the just right-ness implied in Aki’s name-meaning. It’s congruent with my many intentions for her name and the names of the others. Look up Reveche. Look up Osterholm. Check out Claire. Or Natalia Serafino. I put a lot of thought into all of them.

Ok, so I just confirmed that I'm alive. Thank Goddess for rely email notification. Is Latency dead? No. Far from it. Will there be another installment soon? Maybe. Things are slowing down on other projects and distractions, so I hope to get the next chapter edited and posted soon. I’m dying to get back to this, more than any of you who’ve connected with the material might be dying to read more.

It’s the proximity to THE END that’s making the process slow a bit. When you’re almost done with your long car-trip to a far away place, you can be inclined to speed toward the end, maybe missing a turn or highway exit in the process. I feel that and have felt it for a while, and to miss a turn now would betray much of what everyone in the story has gone through.

More of the show soon. :)

Thanks for your patience everyone.

Kieli, thanks for thinking about my story. Warm fuzziness on a day when I need it :)


--SQ


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2006 6:56 am 
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13. Big Knowledge Woman

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 3:08 pm
Posts: 1827
Location: Space, the final frontier
Good lord, woman, what EVER made you think I could forget this story? :o Hell I've copied and pasted the whole thing into a Word document so I can go back and re-read it when my Internet connection shits the bed. (which it does FAR too often :happy ) Anyway, glad to see you're still living.

My own original story has been put on the back burner for a bit in lieu of a few anime fanfics and shorts (and a web comic that I'm producing with a friend that you might enjoy) that I've gotten started to appease a certain fandom. My Japanese is still a little rusty but I think I'm slowly but surely improving. I can't wait for the ending but I'm sure your fans can be as patient as I. All good things come to whomever waits and all that.

Be well, my dear.

K.


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 6:58 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2005 11:12 am
Posts: 97
Topics: 1
Location: Maryland / New York
This is an amazing story and I very much hope that you get it published once it's all done so I can read it whenever I want and bring it anywhere with me.

Apparently not all that many people like Simone all that much, but she's one of my favorite characters.

Update soon. :peace


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 8:01 pm 
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13. Big Knowledge Woman

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 3:08 pm
Posts: 1827
Location: Space, the final frontier
AAAHHHH, dying from Latency withdrawal *no pun intended* Must...have...MORE *faint*


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 9:02 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 11:58 am
Posts: 134
Hello

I started reading your orginal story um in a fit of procrastination..mid term times here.. an I just wanted to let you know that i am really enjoying reading it..and i cant wait for more. Your very talented in ideas and writting..its wonderful.

trish


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 11:43 am 
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13. Big Knowledge Woman
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Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2005 12:09 pm
Posts: 1861
Location: Italy
i just found this story, and i have to say....wow. you write beautifully. and the progression of the charachter, the complex relationships between them.....i'm impressed. i'm SO impressed. i can't wait to read more, i hope you'll be updating soon cause i'm completely hooked.

i also looked at the drawings of the characters, and i especially liked the one of Simone. hot woman, she is :P they really help with imagining the story, btw, so thank you.

please, give me more, i'm addicted :D

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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 1:35 pm 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
Posts: 35
Location: New Jersey
Hey Thianne, Endless, and Cup. Glad to have you on board with this seemingly neverending story.

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends.
I'm so glad you could attend... Step inside, step inside.

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to drop a line and let me know that there's something in all this that you like.

The big question: Do I have an update ready?

The crappy answer: No. :(

I've been working on another project (for a while) and haven't had time to hem and haw about the conclusion of this one. I did re-read the first 16 chapters a few days ago and have become a bit more energized about reaching the conclusion and doing it with poise and grace.

Sadly, I've had some family illnesses competing with my regular job for all of my remaining free time. Know this though; Latency *will* be finished and finished tidily. I've invested so much time, emotion, and blood into this, my epic, that I *must* finish it. I hope to accomplish that soon.

Thanks to everyone for your kind words and patience.


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:30 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 11:58 am
Posts: 134
Hey!

No Problem..i will be checking somewhat patiently for updates..its a great story..and i am not losing any kind of interest with the waiting..I hope everything gets well!

trish

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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 12:32 pm 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
Posts: 35
Location: New Jersey
Still here. Just too busy to work on Latency. Sorry to dissapoint.


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 5:10 pm 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:11 pm
Posts: 21
Location: Four Corners Co. USA
Its okay we will wait lol yo know out of all the fics on his board this one has be by far my favourite and it still is.. just don't tell Marie lol


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:11 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
Posts: 35
Location: New Jersey
Here's more. Sorry it's short and rough.


A giddy sensation seeped into Claire's body as she filed through the front door, following the others to assemble next to the truck and van in the driveway. The smolder of vodka lingered; charming the back of her throat while it dissolved the pills in her stomach. She stood for a moment on the front step, watching the others climb into the HXX and fuss over their seating choices. She headed onto the driveway and circled to the opposite side of the truck, almost loosing her footing on a few steps as she scanned for Aki.

Barry stood next to the still-open passenger door, arms folded, smiling, looking toward the bickering inside the vehicle. He gave a quick glance to Claire's presence and asked, "Ready to go, Ms. Galloway?"

"Aren't you coming with us?" She nodded toward the truck, where the others had finally taken their places.

Barry glanced over his shoulder to the other vehicle in the driveway. "Gotta ditch the van first. I'll leave it somewhere downtown with the keys inside-- That should make it disappear in a hurry. You should get in before the queens start crowning each other, commander."

Claire peered through the droplets and glare of morning overcast that shone on the truck's windows. She could account for everyone-- except her lover. She asked Barry, "Have you seen Aki?"

"No. Why?"

Claire thought for a moment before replying, "I thought she'd be out here. I guess she's still in the house."

Barry smirked and said, "I'm not one to judge and, hell, I've sunk pretty low from time to time, but you shouldn't hit the sauce this early in the morning, Genius. You're still a kid, but it can't be good for you."

Claire looked to the pavement at once, sudden shame corroding the edges of her mounting inebriation. Her defensive self spoke by reflex, "You don't understand... I have my reasons."

"All addicts do-- Every single one of them." Barry reached into his coat and pulled out his M-lync. He gazed at the gadget's screen and said, "Well, Ms. Nashumara'd better get out here now. We've only got an hour 'til our plane leaves-- With or without us. The Air Force doesn't reschedule nonexistent flights."

"I'll go find her. We'll be right out. Then we can get going." She managed a weak smile, knowing that at least with that task, she would not earn further disapproval.

Claire tottered back into the house. She glanced around the living room, found no one, and swayed into the hallway. No one. As she passed each doorway, she called into the stillness of the vacant place, "Aki-chan? Cutie?" No answer.

At last, she found her love on the edge of the bed they had shared hours ago. Aki gave no outward acknowledgement of Claire's presence; she remained still, staring toward the room's sole window, her expression unreadable.

Claire approached the bed. "We have to go cutie-chan. We're going to miss our plane if we don't leave now."

Aki maintained her stoic gaze. Eventually, she whispered, "This is easy for you, isn't it?" She paused and then added, "It isn't easy for me."

"We can talk about this on the plane. We'll have lots of time to talk on the plane."

Aki drew a breath. Her jaw shifted. "You can just go wherever you want..." she turned to Claire and shook her head, "But you don't care if you never see your family again. You hate your parents." She gave another slight shake and added, "But I don't hate my family. I love them. They love me--"

Claire sighed. "I'm not going anywhere unless you go with me. If we don't leave, hide, we're in danger. We have to go now."

"I won't even get to tell them 'goodbye.'" Aki's eyes turned shiny. She sniffled. "I won't get to see them again-- Ever."

Claire sank onto on the edge of the mattress. She wrapped an arm around Aki's back and squeezed, saying, "I guess that's a possibility... But we don't know for sure. Maybe we can find way to see them... like meet them in Switzerland or something. Maybe we could have them come to us, wherever we end up. We'll still be on the same planet, right?"

Aki gave no response except for another muted sniffle.

Knowing that Barry's whole plan hinged on them getting out of there immediately, Claire tried a different approach. "Remember when we ran away together? Living on the road? Eating in greasy little places? Sleeping outdoors, bundled together; stinking like exhaust, gasoline, and sweat?" Claire leaned closer and whispered, "It was just you and me. It was simple. What we had was simple."

"You like that better? What we had then instead of what we have now?"

"Maybe." Claire curled her bottom lip inward as she thought about it. "Don’t you?"

"I guess... We had a way out. We had a chance at being whoever we wanted to be."

"To each other maybe, but what I am would have caught up to us eventually. Inevitably." The words set an idea into motion. Reversal; back to the way it was, thought Claire. Bargaining, ultimatum; there had to be a way. Her racing thoughts halted at Aki's touch.

The tips of Aki's fingers nudged the edge of Claire’s jaw, turning her head into eye-contact. "We can do it again-- Not bother with the ‘goodbye’ part... Just hit the road before anyone knows where we went." Aki’s eyes brightened. "I have some paper money. We can buy another motorcycle and sneak away together. We can--"

"We can't." Claire shook her head. "We don' have time to put any of that together. They're waiting for us outside-- right now."

Aki frowned, closed her eyes, and finally nodded. "You're right. We can figure-out something later-- Once we're settled somewhere... I'm being stupid."

Claire smiled. "Loving your family isn't stupid. Come on Cutie... They're waiting." She started to rise, attempting to usher Aki up within her half embrace, but met with passive resistance. Her intoxication and the unexpected challenge to her balance caused her to collapse backward onto the bed. She started chuckling at the physical comedy from her weakened coordination.

In a weary monotone that barely rose above the sounds of Claire's amusement, Aki asked, "Why did you take those pills with booze?"

Claire's smile faded, her laughter stopped. She stayed silent, thinking about her possible answers.

Aki chided, "You know it scares me, the way you mix things like that. It can't be good for you... But you do it anyway."

"I don't want to do it, but this time I need to. Please trust me? I really need to do this."

"No, You don't. You shouldn't." Aki rose from the bed and turned to Claire. "It scares me. You're, like, out of control. You're going to end up like a celebrity if you keep this up. They all die young-- from doing what you're doing."

Claire struggled to an upright position. She reached and yanked Aki onto her lap and trapped her within a sudden embrace. She whispered, her lips brushing Aki's ear, "I want to tell you. I can't tell you now. There's a reason. I know you care about me-- that's why you're saying what you said. I need you to trust me for now."

Aki sighed, allowing Claire's arms to tighten further.

"I love you, Aki Nashumara."

Aki mumbled, "Let's go. They're waiting." She pulled free of Claire's arms and started to walk from the room.

The wisps of earlier thoughts rushed back into Claire's mind and began to coalesce into the beginnings of a plan. She rose and followed, calling ahead, "Aki-chan. Wait."

Aki stopped.

"We're going home. We'll see your mom and dad... I need to see mine too."

Aki folded her arms. "You said we can't--"

"I changed my mind. Now I think we can... Now I think we need to."

"You aren't doing this on my account, are you?" Aki turned to face Claire. "Putting everyone in jeopardy for me? Trying to please me because I'm mad?"

"On some level, yes. On many others, no. Please trust me?"

Aki's eyes fixed to Claire's. Her face was stern. "I don't like all these secrets."

"Neither do I." Claire offered a weak smile. "Please trust me?"

Aki sighed. "That's just it-- I can't trust you with pills... Why should I trust you with anything else?"

"I love you."

"I heard you the first time."

The words and their delivery caused Claire's chest to ache. She did not know how to react. She stepped closer and said again, "I love you."

Aki turned away and began to walk toward the front door, leaving Claire and her words to linger in the hall. The front door closed. Claire remained in-place. The gnaw of rejection soured into bitterness. Claire spoke into the empty confine of Sarah's home, "I know what I'm doing. You'll see."

She made for the door, muttering, "You'll see who's right."

# # #

Claire rode next to Aki for the trip to the airfield. They were situated on one of the rear benches, both looking sideways toward the front of the vehicle; neither making eye contact or saying a word to each other during the ride.

Vivian brought the truck around to Fairchild’s main gate. A few perfunctory flashes of ID with the guards and the gate rose. She then drove the HXX across a spread of squat, ugly buildings and stopped at the end of the close-by airstrip.

The group began to climb out. As the truck's doors opened, cold gusts swirled through the cabin. Claire left the vehicle last, joining the others in a loose huddle, partially shielded from the surging wind by the truck's profile.

Claire turned her attention to the groan of an approaching jeep. As it rolled closer to them, she inspected the arriving party. A man in what appeared to be dress-uniform sat high in the back of the little truck. He was accompanied by a soldier and the driver. The jeep stopped a few meters from the group, the trio elided.

Barry stepped away from the group and greeted the entourage. He extended his hand toward the senior officer. Claire noticed stars on the man's cap and the epaulets of his overcoat-- a general.

The general reached to shake Barry’s hand. "So, you made it here in one piece."

"More or less, Rip, more or less. You’ve got my plane ready?"

The General nodded. "You got that certain something we discussed?"

Barry flashed a perfect smile and reached into his coat. He maintained his grin, and fussed inside his coat some more, digging deeper. He withdrew his hand and patted his other pockets, saying, "Oh shit..." in a nervous chuckle.

The General folded his arms. His eyes narrowed.

"I don’t know what happened... I had it in my coat--"

"Sure." the General nodded, scowling.

"Mr. Schon, you must have forgotten..." Simone called out, rushing to Barry’s side. "... You bargained my release with it." She presented a roll of bills to the General. "My apologies, Sir. It was a beautiful piece. Please, this should be more than enough for another just like it. We’re both very sorry."

The General’s eyes widened at the sight of Simone and the fat coil of bills. He looked to Barry. "And who’s this delightful young lady with the all that filthy paper money?"

Realizing that Simone's charms seemed to change the tone of things, Claire took a few steps and eased up behind where Simone stood. She waited for the right moment to place her plan into action.

Simone gave a slight bow and introduced herself, "Major D’vone, Royal Canadian SpecOps-- Foreign Threat division." She concluded the introduction by snapping a salute.

The General returned the salute and smiled. "A pleasure, Major. I'd be a grand-prize ass if I didn't mention that whatever fool traded you for a piece of glitz got the short end of the deal." He nodded his head toward Barry then turned back to Simone. He lowered his voice to say, "Don't get too attached to this horse-thief; he might trade you for something shinier or prettier... If there were such a thing." The general gave an unsubtle wink to Simone, and then added, "I've seen him pull some pretty bone-headed stunts."

Simone presented a demure smile. She batted her eyelashes and then reached to touch Barry's sleeve. "Mr. Schon, you didn't tell me that the General would be this charming-- Or handsome."

Barry rolled his eyes. "Okay. We all love each other. That's great. Where's the plane?"

"Sergeant Goloff will lead the way; follow him." The General motioned his chin toward the HXX. "You aren’t leaving that on my base. Your sleaze ball friends’ll come around here looking for it."

"What should we do with it then?" Barry asked.

"Put it on the goddamn plane. Take it with you. The damned one-thirty one’ll hold ten of them. Just get it off my runway."

"Lieutenant!?!" Simone shouted.

Boot steps scurried to where they stood. "Yes, ma’am?"

"Get everyone into the truck and follow the Sergeant. Drive onto the plane and stop the engine. Everybody leaves the truck but you. Don’t move from that driver's seat until I tell you to do so."

"Yes, ma’am." Vivian dashed back toward the HXX.

Claire cleared her throat. The others turned to her sudden sound. "I don’t mean to complicate things any further, but could we change the flight-plan? Maybe a different destination?"

Barry sighed.

Simone rolled her eyes.

The General folded his arms and scowled. He turned to Barry and asked, "Who the hell is she?"

Simone interjected, "A very important person, sir."

Despite the obvious dissatisfaction of everyone, Claire managed to say, "I have business in New Jersey... Maybe we could go to McGuire instead?"

The General stared at Claire as if evaluating her, perhaps deciding whether a polite or rude dismissal of her request would better suit the situation. Finally, he spoke, "Miss, I--"

Simone reached to touch the General's sleeve. "Please, General?"

The General looked to the ground and absently shook his head. After a moment, he looked up and smiled to Simone and then to Claire. "Alright, fine. Go to McGuire... As long as all of you ghosts vanish from my post without a trace, I don't care where you end up." He glanced to his remaining soldier and gave a nod. The Corporal began keying his Tac-com.

Claire's eyes shifted to Barry, meeting an angry gaze. The sight made her look away at once, ashamed to have upset him again. She suspected that he knew the real reason for her return to home and deemed it beyond reckless, but he offered no protest, said nothing to stop her.

"Oh-- I think I heard the horn," Simone blurted. "Viv must have loaded onto the plane. Let’s go."

Claire followed close behind Simone, part of her thankful for the timely interruption. She followed her sister across the tarmac, away from where Barry stood, heading toward the open tail section of the waiting plane.

The interior was a barren metal tube except for a row of twenty seats bolted onto the starboard wall, all facing the centerline of the craft. There was no carpet, no windows, no snack tables; only as steel deck, aluminum ribs, pipes, and cables. Their footsteps and shuffles echoed through the length of the ship as they situated inside. One by one, the others took their seats; Natalia next to Heather, Josh secured Cecilia next to Heather and then dropped in between Sarah and the Seer. Aki and Claire took the next two. Simone climbed into the truck with Vivian.

The tail ramp groaned to a close, and Claire felt pang of guilt as she watched Barry shuffle into to the farthest seat, leaving many empty between himself and the others. He buckled his harness, and closed his eyes. Claire swallowed and looked forward again.

The flight commenced in minutes. The plane’s body pitched and juddered through some taxiing, and then thrust forward. The whine of the engines was replaced by a roar and everyone’s bodies pitched to one side in a unified wave. That sudden challenge to equilibrium and lack of windows for spatial reference aggravated Claire's inebriation. Her head swam in the flux of vertigo, further accentuating her mind's detachment form physical reality. She concentrated, nurturing the sick, floating sensation, knowing it was her best hope in the first step toward setting things straight. Once the rumble of the craft's landing gear ceased, Claire gulped. She knew that there would be no turning back.

# # #

Simone shifted, settling more comfortably onto the truck’s front bench once the forces of the climb subsided. Inside the cabin of the HXX, the jet-roar of the cargo-hold was little more than a subtle rumble, just above a peaceful quiet. She looked left, eying Vivian. The soldier sat, stoic, still behind the wheel as ordered. Simone spoke, carefully controlling the volume of her voice to outpace the low thrum of the plane’s engines, "You feeling better today?"

Vivian maintained her erect posture and forward gaze, staring through the windshield. She replied, "Yes, ma’am."

"You’re lying," Simone said, chuckling.

"No, ma’am. I really do feel better."

"So you don’t want to lie down? Maybe stretch-out on this bench?"

"No, ma’am." Vivian shook her head. Her eyes flitted right to meet Simone’s for an instant before returning to their forward vigil.

"Suit yourself, soldier. I’m going to catch a nap." She turned toward the door and laid back. She nestled the back of her head onto Vivian's lap, between the steering wheel and the soldier's stomach. She looked up, smiling, seeing Vivian still staring forward, her effort to keep from looking down obvious. "Wake me up when we get there." She closed her eyes, pretending to nap as she waited, certain that Vivian would have to react in some way. After a while, Simone's waiting paid off.

"Commander?" Vivian whispered.

Simone pretended to rouse from her feigned nap. She kept her voice low and whispery, asking, "What is it, Viv?"

"Director Schon told me something about you this morning ma'am. I wasn't sure whether or not you'd like to know..."

Simone kept her eyelids shut and smiled. "You'd better let me decide then." She shifted her neck and sighed, "Tell me."

"Malajuega in Panama... That was you?"

Simone huffed, "Little girls who break their training don't get answers to questions like that."

"Ma'am--" Vivian blurted. "Ma'am, yes ma'am. I'm sorry, ma'am."

"The news story I saw said that old Malajuega suffered a heart attack... Or was it a car-accident? I don't recall really. Who pays attention to the news out of Central America these days anyway?"

"Someone with your skill would never make it look obvious, ma'am."

Simone gave a small grin. "I can't take credit for the hard arteries of a swarthy old drug lord. He should have eaten better food. Maybe gotten more exercise." Simone opened her eyes.

Vivian gazed down at her, her mouth drawn into half a smile. "You're too modest, ma'am."

"What else did Barry say about me?"

Vivian looked up for a moment before replying. "He said that you liberated Venezuela ma'am. That you toppled the communist government-- all by yourself."

"What would it mean to you if I said that I did? That I framed Naidez, made his own people believe he was a really a psychopathic cannibal? Would that thrill you in some way? Can you imagine what I would have needed to do?" Simone felt part of Vivian's answer; the soldier's thighs tensed.

Vivian whipped her head up to stare through the windshield again. "I think I may need to lie down, ma'am. Maybe I'm not feeling so good afterall--"

Simone raised her head from Vivian's lap and leaned against the backrest of the front bench. She smiled and said, "From what I've been told, that's more or less the way the Secretary of State reacted after he read the brief."

Vivian's mouth puckered a little, betraying suppressed amusement.

Simone climbed over the seatback and crouched in front of the middle bench. She lifted the seat and opened one of the cargo compartments beneath. She retrieved two survival blankets, closed the bench, and then turned to address her personal army. She smiled and declared, "You've been a very, very good girl all morning Lieutenant. Good little soldiers deserve some rest."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Here..." Simone said, offering a still-folded blanket to her soldier. "...this is your pillow." Once Vivian complied, Simone unfolded the other cover and draped it over the Lieutenant's body. She took a moment to tuck the blanket securely around Vivian and then cantilevered herself over the seatback, bending forward. She brought her lips within inches of Vivian's upturned ear, but stopped at once, realizing that what she was inclined to do may feel natural, but it was not hers to have. She receded then leaned an arm across the seatback and rested her cheek on it, choosing instead to gaze down upon her soldier as she drifted toward what looked to be a peaceful nap.

# # #

A few hours into the flight, Claire lolled in persistent inebriation, feeling herself floating above her seat. She looked around; all of the passengers sat still and quiet. She felt the comfort of Aki's head against her shoulder. The influence of the pills and vodka made her want to sleep, but she fought the overpowering onset of somnolence as long as she could. Eventually, the weight of her eyelids proved too great.

She had put it off long enough-- this was the best time to try to reach the Seer. She let her eyes close, drew a few deep breaths and struggled to concentrate, connect, and contact. She called out with her thoughts, "Cecilia... Cecilia..." Her brow started to ache, distracting her further from the task at hand. She released the tension around her eyes, pulled in a deep breath, and tried again. "Cecilia..."

"I hear you, Genius." Cecilia's reply clamored throughout the folds of Claire's brain. The voice seemed to emanate from all directions with equal intensity-- Sharp, loud, nauseating from its disorienting omni-origination. Claire fought the sickness of the unnatural stimulus, squeezing her closed eyes tighter, struggling to ignore the distraction from sounds of the physical world that still flooded into her ears, threatening to detract from her hard-kept focus. The fomenting cocktail of Hyprocet and vodka helped, but not enough to make it easy.

"I can make it better for you, Genius." Cecilia's continued words made Claire feel as though she were turning inside out. She began to fear, thinking that she may vomit or worse from the overload of drugs and telepathy.

"Okay," Claire thought. She swallowed. "Make it better... Please." Her feet were the first to fade from feeling. The wave of nonexistence crawled up her stomach, through her torso and shoulders, until her self-awareness shrank to a singular spark, just behind where her eyes used to be. The white ember floated; drifting freely through boundless black, pitching and weaving by the random whim of the new universe. The sickness vanished as Claire surrendered to the wonder of her experience. Her consciousness hung in the center of nothing. Death, she concluded, would be the only further place to go.

The blackness started to flake away. Shafts of gentle gold light streamed in through the cracks of decaying infinity, licking her skin with halcyon comfort. Serenity. Beneath the gold, white marble surrendered its warmth, soothing her bare soles. She found herself seated on the edge of a circular fountain several meters across; its trickling and bubbles the only sounds in the ornate garden. Stone pots holding leafy plants ringed the fountain, the central feature of the exquisite place. Every artifact was white marble, carved with the extravagant geometry of ancient glory.

Claire remained still, moving only her eyes to survey the place; a garden of palatial proportion, shaped in perfect circular symmetry. Fluted columns ringed the periphery, their sure stature embraced by vines, adorned with flowers. Rome? Greece? ...Heaven? She had no idea. The flowers lent sweetness to the air. The fountain continued babbling a calming, tuneless melody. High above, the sun cast everything in golden warmth. It was completely beautiful-- That she knew.

A nude figure emerged from behind one of the pillars; stepping out of the umber shadow and into the sun's full light. Claire recognized the face; she shared it with so many others. The bare woman approached, the high sun's rays washing her skin with hues of blush and gold. She called to Claire, "Genius."

Claire's eyes lowered to survey her own form. By reflex, she crossed her legs and raised a forearm to conceal her nipples. She looked back to the sister, now stopped a few steps away. "Cecilia?"

The woman answered with a smile that looked to young and innocent for the grown-up face on which it appeared.

"Where are we? What is this?"

Cecilia turned her face up to the sun. She rose to her toes and spread her arms into an arc that seemed to embrace the sky. She held her tiptoe stance saying softly, "You know where, Genius. You've stared into it many times."

Claire began to recognize the inspiration for their surroundings. "You took this place from my mind."

Cecilia lowered from her sun-embrace and smiled to Claire.

Still guarding her chest, Claire used her free arm to explore the surroundings through touch. She ran her fingertips across the satiny finish of the marble fountain. This idyllic place, peered into through so many nineteenth-century paintings, had become reality. Claire looked again to her sister.

Cecilia shook her head. "She can't be here."

Claire's jaw slackened. "W-wha.. Who? Why not?"

Cecilia closed the distance between them and lowered to sit next to Claire, on the fountain's edge. "Our place, Genius. You wished it, I make it... so also my body, my voice."

"Why?"

"For you. So that you don't feel lost and afraid." Cecilia dipped her fingers beneath the surface of the gentle ripples behind them. She stirred the fountain's pool and cooed, her tone soft with uncomplicated amusement. She looked up to Claire, her face bearing a gentle but eager grin. "Touch the water, Genius. It feels nice."

Claire gave her head a little shake and self-consciously shifted the arm that covered her breasts. "I need to talk to you. That's what we're here for."

Cecilia pulled her hand from the pool and shook it, sending tiny drops of cold against Claire's face and shoulders. The spatter froze in place and stayed on Claire's skin as tiny diamonds of ice. They melted almost at once, their sting vanishing to the pervasive warmth of golden light.

Cecilia rose. "I don't want to talk-- Making words for you is work. I want to play." She adjusted the shoulder-brooch that secured the amber linen now covering her body.

Claire became aware of her own covering. She looked down at the gleaming, petal-soft cloth; white as ivory, trimmed in gold thread. She lowered her arm, feeling more comfortable with her body now covered.

"You feel better?"

Claire looked up from her new clothes and nodded.

Cecilia smiled and said, "Now you look like a Goddess." She dropped to her knees and leaned forward, touching her forehead and palms to the warm stone at Claire's feet. Her voice strained lower, emulating a tone of dramatic proclamation, "All hail the Genius, the goddess whose love is to a mortal bound."

Claire smiled out of embarrassment and amusement. This moment of lucid contact between them felt so special. The display was entertaining, full of much-needed fun, but she had business to take care of. She hated what she was about to do. She started, "Cecilia... Have you been--"

Cecilia snapped upright from her prostrate position. She grimaced. Her hands knotted into fists. "They do it, Genius. They do it. Not me."

Claire fixed her eyes to Cecilia's. "You've been very bad, haven't you?"

Cecilia swallowed. She backed away by a step. She shook her head, staring at the marble floor between them.

"Don't lie to me. I figured out what you've been up to."

Cecilia looked to the side and shook her head again.

"You've been pulling strings, making everyone act-out little dramas." Claire rose from the warmth of the fountain's edge and stepped toward Cecilia, matching the pace of the sister's retreat. "You're causing all this trouble."

"Trouble?" Cecilia raised her arms, holding her hands close to her collarbone.

"You know... I figured it out this morning. You're manipulating all of us." Claire took a big step, closing the distance between them in an instant. She held a scowl at her cowering sister. The pity of the sight and shame of her indignation made her soften her expression. "Cecilia... Honey..."

Cecilia's body relaxed. She looked up to Claire, her eyes pleading forgiveness.

"Just don't do it anymore, okay?"

"I can't make anyone do anything. They do what they want to do." Cecilia looked to the ground again and murmured, "I guess I sometimes make little suggestions."

"Would you un-suggest all of it then? For me?"

Cecilia looked up again. "All?"

Claire nodded. "Everything."

"Will you start liking me again, will you stop being angry with me?"

"As long as you don't do it again... Unless I ask you to."

Cecilia's brows arched. "B-but it's wrong... You think so yourself."

Claire shook her head. "It isn't always wrong."

Cecilia's mouth bent into a frown. She folded her arms across her chest. She huffed, "You can't lie to me either."

"Alright-- It's wrong through and through. But sometimes we may need to do wrong things for the sake of what's right."

Cecilia stepped away, toward the side of the fountain. She looked back to Claire. "Will you teach me how to swim?"

Claire cocked her head in response to the question.

"I never swam before," Cecilia said, "It looks so inviting."

Claire stepped behind where Cecilia stood and gazed at the water's shimmering surface. The ease that had spread into her was retreating. She vague pangs, but was unable to locate where they were coming from. "I'd like to, but I really have to get back."

"Please?" Cecilia whined. "I made all this for us. So we could be together... So we could play."

The disconnected sense of unease grew stronger. Claire frowned. "I don't know if we can play, Cecilia, not like this at least--"

"You don't need to explain." Cecilia raised a foot and dangled it over the rippling water. She dipped her leg into the pool, stirring the surface. "I want to play with you; like you play with Simone." She shifted and plunged her other foot into the fountain and strolled along the edge.

Claire followed along the outside of the pool, part of her afraid that her Seer might slip and fall. She placed her protective instincts aside for a moment and followed-up on the quizzical statement she had just heard. "I play with Simone?"

"Of course. You two are always wrestling and appeasing each other. You play little games with your words and your eyes. You push each other, you feed off each other... She loves you so much. It makes me sad sometimes."

"Sad? I don't follow."

"She wants to be you."

Claire snickered, "Why would she want to be me? She looks like a model. She's so powerful, smart, good-looking, in-control-- Everything I'm not."

"You have one thing that she never will-- Purity."

"I'm pure?" Claire huffed.

"Compared to most people, yes. Compared to her, definitely."

Claire thought about what Cecilia said. She motioned for the other to come closer. The casual gesture took a lot of effort, threatened Claire's balance. "C'mere."

Cecilia strolled to the edge where Claire stood.

"Are you... You must be very lonely."

Cecilia rolled her lips in. She closed her eyes and gave a slight shake.

"Why do the others keep you so far away from them?"

"They don't like how I play. They're afraid of me. The same way they're afraid of Simone. They're right to be afraid of us both." Cecilia folded her legs and sat in the water. The ripples darkened her garment, soaking up to her ribs. "We've hurt them. We don't mean to, but we've hurt them."

Claire's flagging equilibrium demanded she sit. She lowered to the edge of the fountain, bringing her eyes closer to Cecilia's level. "Everyone hurts people without meaning to. It's all part of not being alone." She leaned closer to Cecilia and reached to touch her shoulder. She withdrew her hand at once. Cecilia's skin was cold, like Claire imagined a cadaver must feel. With each second, she felt closer to fainting.

"It's ending, Genius," Cecilia sighed.

Claire noticed that beneath the fountain's surface, Cecilia's legs were turning shimmering and transparent, becoming like the water around them. "What's going on? You're--"

"Don't be sad. We'll meet like this again, Genius. We'll all be in this place together. We can spend the rest of our days here." Cecilia offered a smile. Glints from the surface of the water behind the Seer began to sparkle through her fading torso.

Claire's ears detected a steady rumble distant in all directions. The low sound grew more intense. The gold light died. Blackness returned.

Claire opened her eyes. The sensation of her body resumed. She was staring at the ceiling of the plane's cargo bay. Sarah, Aki, Simone, Josh, and Heather were above her staring down, their faces wearing expressions ranging from relief to disgust. The tangy fragrance of fresh vomit wafted into Claire's nostrils. She tasted it. Her jacket and shirt were cold and wet with it.

"She's coming out of it," Josh said.

"Keep her on her side or she might choke," Heather ordered.

Claire gurgled, "I'm okay."

"Thank God," Sarah sighed.

Simone grinned. "You don't fly well on a full stomach, sweetie, do you?"

Aki's expression was hard to read. Her eye's didn't meet Claire's. She just wiped at Claire's mouth and neck with a wad of tissues.

"Aki," Claire said, straining to lift her head. "Aki, honey, I'm sorry. I never had this happen--"

"You got a little airsick, nushi. It's okay." Aki looked to Claire for a moment and then continued her ministrations.

Claire labored to stand, still very queasy and disoriented. Josh and Sarah supported her, each holding one of her elbows. They helped her into one of the seats. Once seated, Claire surveyed her clothes. Not too bad, she thought, just a few spots on my shirt, nothing stuck to the rain-proofed jacket. She looked sidelong and saw the pool on the floor. Most of it must have landed there. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths of chilly air.

Simone used a blanket to wipe up the mess as the others resumed their places. Aki dropped into next seat and reached across Claire to fasten her seatbelt. Aki leaned close to Claire and said, "You scared me, nushi. We thought you were in real trouble."

"I was so stupid," Claire started her apology, "I'll never do that again, I swear--" A finger pressed into Claire's lips, interrupting.

After withdrawing her finger Aki said, "You just got airsick. It's okay, nushi. When my parents took me and Mike to Barbados I threw up too."

Claire uneasily began to accept whatever Aki was trying to give her. "You aren't mad at me? You should be."

Aki leaned her head close and kissed the edge of Claire's ear.

Claire forced herself to accept whatever pass she was being given and said, "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you things before. I can tell you now if you like."

Aki's arms snaked around Claire's bicep, hugging tight for a moment before relaxing. "You don't have to, commander."

Claire smirked. "I'm not your commander, cutie-chan."

Aki hugged Claire's arm again. "I want you to be." She rubbed her cheek against Claire's sleeve. "I need a commander right now."

Was this Cecelia's doing? Claire wondered. Or was this the undoing? Did any of that even happen? Claire leaned close to where Aki's head laid upon her shoulder. "We're equal."

Aki's tone turned playful. "What if I don't want to be equal... not that way, at least?"

"I'm not sure I follow."

"You're the driver. I'm your adoring passenger."

"Um. Okay."

"Please, nushi. I thought a lot about this. I like it when you drive."

Claire flexed her arm and Aki responded with another squeeze. "I think I had a talk with Cecilia."

Aki released Claire's arm and sat upright. Her eyes were wide as they met Claire's. "You mean you... when you were..."

"I'm not sure. I think I may have." Claire clamped her eyes for a moment, trying to recall the experience that now seemed like the mere flashes of remembrance she often had when waking from a dream. Every detail had now slipped to a place just out of frustrated reach. Only flashes of image and bits of emotion. "Maybe I just hallucinated or something. I can't even remember most of it now."

"She talks to all of you though, right? Isn't it like a dream when she does that?"

"This was different. She talked with words just me and her-- At least that's what I imagined?" Claire shook her head. "I don't know."

"So, she kinda reached out to you?"

"I was reaching for her. That's why I took the pills and drank. I'm sorry. I was really stupid. I figured that if I was in a different state of mind I could..."

Aki's face reflected earnest curiosity. "Why did you need to reach her?"

Claire explained.




--TBC


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:56 pm 
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13. Big Knowledge Woman

Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 3:08 pm
Posts: 1827
Location: Space, the final frontier
Thrilled as I was to see a new installment of one of my favourite stories, I was somewhat disappointed to read that it wasn't up to your usual style of writing. It seemed....well, a bit off for some reason. I figured it was just my not having read this in a long while so I went back to reread it.

This chapter just didn't hold up as well as the previous ones. Claire seemed less like the pulled together woman she had become and more like the drugged out, selfish brat of the earlier chapters. I'm sure she had her reasons for doing what she did but her actions seemed so illogical to me.

My intent in writing this was not to sound mean or to speak out of hand. I love your work and normally you have me begging for more. This time round, though, I didn't get that feeling.


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 5:08 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2005 11:12 am
Posts: 97
Topics: 1
Location: Maryland / New York
Please update soon. I really like this story. And as usual, I'm encouraging you to publish it once it's done.

_________________
For all those words of tongue and pen, the saddest are those: "It might have been."

Tara ended up next to Oz in the elevator. He looked at her, nodding to himself.
"What?" She asked.
"You look good. Kinda radiant."
Tara nodded. "I was resurrected a few days ago."
Oz arched an eyebrow. "That'll do it."
-Dark Congress


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 9:26 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
Posts: 35
Location: New Jersey
Hello again everyone.

I apologize for an extended absence from Latency (and other things that simultaneously bring me pain and joy.)

Everyone goes through trials as they speed through life and recently I've had to face a series of them, seeming to flow from one into the next for a span of almost 4 years. It's been a speeding freight train of family illnesses, crises, impossible projects at work-- and hardest to take even now, a year later, the sudden loss of one of my parents.
There just hadn't been any wind in my sails for creative outlets like writing, so everything ground to a near standstill for my right brain.

Then something popped inside my head a few days ago. The winds of creativity picked up and caught my sails. I read the kind and encouraging words from everyone here and I searched my pen-drives for the latest version of this 180k+ word manuscript. I found it, opened it, and started working. I rediscovered a lot of things I had thought were lost forever.

I have since added/edited about 25k more words in the past couple of days; writing when the wind picks up, re-reading when the gusts die down so that I keep careening toward the goal-- Telling a good, complete story that will make people feel and think.

So I'm getting close to having more of the story posted here and I'm hoping that I haven't lost too much of the spark that has kept so many of you kind readers interested in these characters and their lives.

I have a few connecting scenes still to craft before I can put anything coherently connected up here, so I won't promise any solid timeframe, but it will likely be in the next ten days.

Thanks everyone for your patience, encouragement, and enthusiasm for my creation. I try my hardest to earn your audience and keep it.

-SQ


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:16 am 
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2. Floating Rose

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:03 am
Posts: 35
Location: New Jersey
Here's a chunk of update:

CHAPTER 19a



 

Hours within the rumbling belly of the plane had given Claire time to think, time to feel the resounding uncertainty of the collective fate that everyone in her ever-growing party would have to face. She knew Aki was not the only one in the group honest enough with themselves to know that their situation was desperate and that they needed leadership. Claire understood that was her intended role for those in her care.

The palpable weight of duty surrounded her heart, its weight more obvious with each breath she released. She recognized that feeling, ever familiar from the night she clobbered the guy with her axle wrench back in Jersey City. The night her right leg took a bullet. The inevitable night that she now realized set into motion every shock, defeat, and triumph that lay suspended in the blur of the past several months.

Now, Claire turned sideways in the HXX front seat to better face both Simone in the middle and Barry behind the wheel. Still more than an hour from landing, she had called the meeting of the three, deciding on the relative quiet and privacy of the truck. She spoke first, starting the meeting, “We needed to use this time wisely. I think I have our next steps figured out. I got some ideas back at Sarah’s house. I--”

“Hold on... What about the issue with the motor?”

Claire’s eyes contacted Barry’s briefly before she responded, “You may have been right. It should be fixed now.”

“And that’s why you tried to kill yourself back there? To talk to her?” Simone’s delivery carried a tense mix of anger and amusement.

“She knew?” Claire asked, looking back to Barry.

“I clued her in after you regained consciousness. Since you decided to take such a chance, I needed to make sure I wasn’t the only one who knew... You know, in case you lost your chicken-fight with your own metabolism.”

The sound of Barry’s delivery seemed to ridicule Claire more than make light of what could have happened. She snapped back, “You’re the one who insisted I had to do something. I improvised. I did what I could with what I had. When you press me to do something I’ve never done before don’t act surprised if I have to push the limits and go places that make you uncomfortable.”

Barry sighed and said, “Look, let’s forget about that. What’s done is done. I just expected a less random approach from you. And I’m glad you’re still alive despite yourself, Genius, but I’m really more concerned about your improvisation at the airfield-- Do you know what it takes to make a flight like this happen, and have no one know about it?”

Claire huffed, “I’m sorry. But maybe it was better to change at the last minute like that; break a predictable pattern. If someone suspects what you’re up to and they try to think the way you do, to guess your next move, then I just threw them off totally.”

Simone groaned with frustration obvious in her eyes and voice. “This isn’t going anywhere. Are we here to discuss tactics or strategy?”

“Strategy.” Claire drew from Simone’s cue and tried to move things forward. She looked to Barry and said, “I understand-- You had this all worked out until I broke your plan. I didn’t mean any disrespect. I decided that we needed a sudden shift. I’m still deciphering how all of this works so I made a spot decision. I’m sorry if I undermined what you set in motion-- I really am.”

Barry’s eyes locked onto Claire’s. “This isn’t about some student-teacher exercise or whatever you’re treating it like-- This is survival. Your life. Their lives. You’re out of your league. You can’t...” he raised his index fingers to heatedly mimic quotation marks for his next two words, “’wing it’-- we’re all going to end up dead.”

Claire began her explanation, “I’ve had a bit of time to think about this over the last couple of hours--“

Barry interrupted, “So a few hours while shit-faced on pills is all you need to come up with a plan to foil a global cabal that’s been successfully running every major economy and government for over sixty years?” Barry huffed, “Please... please for the sake of the rest of us: Listen to me. I know who and what we’re up against. I know how to hide people. I can keep everyone safe if you let me. We need to hide, regroup, and then plan from there.”

“Agreed,” Simone added softly.

Claire conceded, “You’d know how to keep them safe. I’m not going to challenge you on that. But it’s not enough.”

Simone leaned forward. “That’s the issue we’re having more than anything, Claire: safety-- your safety. You’ve been reckless. If you’re planning what we think you’re planning then you will fail.”

Claire looked into Simone’s eyes intently for a moment before responding with her voice lower than before. “You... You’re afraid?” She noticed a tiny movement of Simone’s lips, reading the gesture as an admission. “You took on an entire invasion force back in that bunker. What about the other way? What if we were the ones doing the invading? The cards wouldn’t be so stacked against us.” Claire raised her voice, trying to lend assertion to her further rationale. “You’re a deadly weapon. You’re built, trained, and skilled to do this.” She swallowed and added, “I won’t fail if you’re at my side. And the rest will be safe with Barry and Vivian looking after them.”

Simone closed her eyes and drew a breath. “At your side...” She paused and then her eyes engaged Claire’s again. “You can’t do what I do. You can’t handle stealing a car, let alone--“

“I think I did really well, especially for my first time. You said so yourself.”

“And then your conscience made you freak out about it to the point you couldn’t function. You think you’re ready for--”

Claire burst in, “Look, you had it figured out before; You and I are different from the rest. We were made the same way, from the same template. The only thing that separates us is experience and training.”

Barry shook his head. “You can train for a decade and you will fail. They’re bigger and more far-reaching that you can imagine. It’s suicide.”

Claire looked to Barry, then to Simone, and back to Barry. She drew a breath and said, “Please look after the rest. I’ve heard your arguments, but I’ve made my decision. I’m giving the orders now.”

Barry looked blankly back to Claire for a few moments before replying. “You aren’t in charge of me. And you’d like to think you’re in charge of the rest-- But you just aren’t ready to lead. I don’t know how long it will take for them to figure that out but I’m afraid it will be too late. And all you’ll be able to do is apologize when it hits the fan.” He shook his head slightly and added, “I’m sorry, but it has to be said. I want you to succeed. I want you to be able to handle this...”

Claire felt her hands tighten into fists. She fought the urge to lash back at the criticism. She looked to Simone and asked, “What do you think?”

Simone looked squarely in Claire’s eyes. “He’s right.”

Claire bowed her head, suffering quietly through the impact of Simone’s agreement with Barry. She tried to find words to voice the most specific of her racing thoughts, to defend her ideas, to make a stand. She looked to Simone and then turned to Barry. “I was not created to flee. I was not created to hide.” She motioned to Simone. “Neither was she.” She leaned closer to Barry, tension in her hands punctuating the passion behind her words as she said, “You are here, with us-- right now-- because you wanted to protect us. I’m grateful for that. You are the best-qualified person on Earth to do that. That’s why I need your help... But that’s an unsustainable state of being. It’s just running from the root of the problem. We’ll have to confront them eventually.”

Claire lowered her voice and continued, “We’ve been losing the game up until now because we didn’t know the rules. We have badminton racquets and then they showed up geared for pro ice hockey-- and we’re getting the shit kicked out of us. We need to engage this with a common protocol; play with the same set of rules.”

Barry raised an eyebrow. He shifted slightly, facing Claire more fully before prompting, “Go on...”

“Diplomacy isn’t going to work, right? We can’t talk our way out of this situation. We can’t buy our way out of it either-- They aren’t after money. Call the cops? The government? Our adversaries run it... We have no one to turn to. We’re cornered. We’re dealing with a force so primal, so controlling that there’s only one medium of communication that our opponents understand-- fear.”

In the corner of her vision, Claire saw Simone’s features tensing. She turned and asked, “I’m making you ill at ease?” Upon hearing the anger dominating her own voice, Claire decided to better modulate her tone to avoid sounding more maniacal than she probably already had; neither of them would take her seriously if she ranted, no matter how passionate or true her thoughts may be.

Simone shook her head slightly and diverted her eyes in the direction of the plane’s passengers outside the truck windows. “Claire you’re-- Never mind. Just finish what you have to say.”

“Take away our own personal fears and it’s a logical issue with a logical solution. When you need to fix a problem you need to figure out the rules, the protocol needed to make it past your immediate obstacle. If the machine’s metric, you use metric tools to open it and fix it. If they speak French, you need to understand French to know what they want. If they use sign language, or interpretive dance, or mental telepathy, or whatever, you need to understand the medium in order to communicate; to interface with the situation fully. Their chosen method is fear.”

“So, say you want to engage them directly... How would you send this message, Claire?” Barry asked.

Claire paused for a few moments. Her voice lowered, the word came from her mouth as flat and matter-of-fact as her conscious mind allowed her to say it. “Death.”

“Claire, sweetey,” Simone started, “You don’t want to--“

“I know what needs to be done,” Claire interrupted Simone. “You know I’m right. We were made to do this.” Her voice rose in volume as she said, “Survival. Self-defense-- Not to lie down like lambs, and not to hide like roaches.”

Barry released a confusing sound; not quite a sigh, nothing decisive belying the emotion that triggered it. He then said, “Let me see if I follow you...” He pointed to the group beyond the windshield and continued, “You want me to get the Von Trapps into hiding and you and Simone will become a two-person hit squad with sights set on whomever up high you can reach?”

“In a nutshell, yes. You said there are five of them, right? Even if we can only get rid of one, it would send a strong message-- in their native language.”

Barry glanced to Simone. “You know the business. You’ve done a few big jobs by yourself... What do you think?” He added, “I think I’m starting to understand her reasoning.”

Simone shook her head and addressed Claire, “Sweetey, you can’t even touch a gun when I try to hand it to you.”

“Hand it to me now.” Claire extended her right hand, palm up.

Simone drew her weapon. She turned it sidelong and firmly planted it in Claire’s palm. “It’s loaded, and the safety is off. Don’t point it at anyone, please.”

Claire closed her hand around the gun’s grip, keeping her index finger away from the trigger. Her arms started to tingle and her chest felt empty. She examined the piece in her hand, felt its weight, tried to identify the controls; anything to distract her from the mounting panic that would ruin her resolve and the confidence of the other two. She spotted what had to be the safety lever, reached up with her thumb and gingerly drew it down to point toward where the word ‘safe’ lay embossed into the gun’s frame. Even knowing she had rendered it inert she still felt beyond nervous with the gun in her presence.

Claire noticed Simone and Barry exchange a glance. She assured them, “See? I’m ready. I just need training and practice. You can teach me.”

Simone chuckled. She extended a hand over the seat back toward Claire. “Can I have that back please? You’re going to hyperventilate.”

Claire became aware of her breathing and fought to control it, cursing herself for letting it betray her inner panic. She handed the gun back to Simone and looked away.

“Here,” Barry said. He leaned forward while reaching into his coat toward the small of his back. He produced another pistol and offered it to Claire.

Claire recognized her second chance. She eyed the gun for a few moments and then accepted it into her right hand. This one was warmer looking: matte black on top and desert tan on the bottom. She curled her fingers tighter around its textured plastic grip. This pistol was smaller, lighter, less intimidating; easier to hold. Claire swiveled her wrist, inspecting the new machine with more curiosity than she had with Simone’s Polar Hawk.

“The mag release is by your thumb, below the trigger. Go ahead and let it slide out.” Barry coached.

Claire focused on her breathing finding it easier to control this time. Her chest did not feel as hollow as before. She ejected the clip as directed.

Simone said, “Now pull the slide back and see if there’s a round in there.”

Claire witnessed another look exchanged between Barry and Simone. She did as instructed. “It looks like it’s empty.”

Barry nodded, peering into the side of the gun to confirm. “That... is a Vogel G229. Nice Austrian 9 millimeter-- A pricey shooter you’ve got in your hand.”

Claire continued to move her arm and wrist, experiencing the presence of the firearm, examining the precision workmanship of steel and composite materials that defined the outline of the piece.

“You can keep it, Claire.” Barry said flatly. “It’s practically new. Maybe 150 rounds through it at the firing range.”

Claire looked again at the deadly weapon balanced in her right hand. She coaxed her body into deeper calmness as she extended her thumb to each of the three controls on the left side of the pistol, testing the reach and texture of each.

“You two look like you’re made for each other,” Simone said.

Claire looked to Simone then to Barry. “I can’t keep this.”

“Look at how it fits her hand,” Simone added.

“It’s yours, Claire. I don’t really need it. I only brought it because I had it; a just-in-case-I-needed-it kind of thing.” Barry handed a molded leather holster to Claire. “You’ll need a place for it to sleep.” He smiled.

Claire looked again at her gun, then to Barry. “Thank you.” She added, “I’ll take good care of it.”

“So are you convinced?” Simone asked.

Barry paused before replying. “Yes. They appear to be getting along now. I think if she can overcome her shyness so credibly in five minutes she should be good for the rest of it.”

“The rest of what?” Claire asked.

Simone responded, “Killing people without losing your shit about it.”

Claire tensed up again. She wanted to hand the gun back, take back her whole proposal. She fought to silence the frightened child inside that insisted she drop the whole idea. This was no time to give in and cower, she thought. She knew everyone’s future depended on her and the actions she took from that point on. Her personal fear had to be placed last, behind the needs of everyone she cared about.

To gain control again she said her thoughts out loud, more for herself than the other two in the truck, but she knew it would benefit all three of them. She closed her eyes and tightened her hand’s embrace of the grip on her beautiful, Austrian, precisely built, practically new G229. “I won’t run. I will engage our enemies. I will do it smartly. I will do what I need to do, what needs to be done. We will protect the others.” She found herself breathing heavily. The tone of her voice rose as she continued her meditation, “I’ll eliminate threats to our right to exist. I’ll do it with mercy.”

Several moments of silence elapsed. Claire’s breathing returned to normal.

“We’ll start your training once we land, Sweetey.”

“Thank you both.” Claire said. She slid the magazine back into her gun and engaged the safety, getting more familiar with handling the implement. She placed it in its holster and secreted the whole set into her jacket, nestling it next to her ribs. “So my strategy makes sense?”

Barry nodded. “I can get them hidden and safe. You seem like you’ll make yourself ready to do the dirty stuff.”

Simone added “I’ll show you as much as I can. When you think you’re ready, we’ll make our move-- together.”

Claire nodded in thanks to both of them.

“Have you come up with a way to break this to the others?” Barry asked. “You’ll get a lot of resistance from at least a few delegates in the mock U.N. club out there.”

Claire thought for a moment and replied, “It’s not their decision to make. It’s not their burden; it shouldn’t be... as long as I can do something about it.”

“I think you can get everyone to understand, Claire. You’ve convinced yourself, you convinced us-- They believe in you.”

“Ah. You two...” Claire started, a grin spreading to the edges of her mouth, “I get it now... Check and mate, right?” She shook her head and released a small hiss of amusement. “Your plan worked; all this conditioning... I’m on your side now.”

Barry looked askance toward Claire.

Simone’s mouth twisted.

“You set me on the path you wanted. You gave me something...” Claire reached into her jacket and carefully extracted her pistol, caressing the ridges and texture pads of its grip, her gaze fixed on its shape in her hand. “You gave me something that I used to loathe and now-- for whatever reason-- am unable to take my eyes off of... You conditioned me for this.” She extended her arm, pointing the gun in a safe direction, sighting in on an imaginary target as she had in so many Z-Box games during her teen years. “You’ve brought me over to your side... And I don’t mind it like I thought I would. I’m, I--”

Barry interjected, “We didn’t exactly bring you-- or even beckon you-- anywhere. I think we did our best to dissuade you actually. It’s you who persuaded us.”

“Claire, sweetey, I think you should digest this a bit before you commit. You’re choosing a path that seduces people and doesn’t let go-- there’s no return. You don’t shoot unless you’re willing to kill. You don’t kill unless you’re willing to deal with your own conscience... You will change permanently.”

“You don’t kill unless necessary,” Claire said, dismissing the gravity of Simone’s message. “When you kill quickly, cleanly, with mercy; when you kill to defend yourself and others, you can have a clear conscience. Other people can stand in judgment of what you did, but no one can honestly fault anyone for defending themselves. It’s the most basic human right-- not to be killed, exploited, or lorded over by anyone else. When you have no one else to protect you, defend you, what else can you be expected to do?” She looked down the sights of her gun again and added, “That permanent change you mentioned... It’s already begun.”

A slight smile from Barry caught Claire’s eye. He said, “You and I, Genius... I knew you would... I’m glad you reached these conclusions on your own. You’re...” He paused, visibly searching for the right phrase. “I don’t mean to condescend, but I’ve seen.... you’ve grown up a lot in the past couple weeks.”

Barry’s unusual loss for words signaled to Claire the strength of the unvoiced feelings behind them. She continued her gaze at the tool perched in her right hand, memorizing its look and feel. “I have to confess...” Claire trailed off to pull and release the slide on her pistol, chambering a round. She knew that if she only flipped the safety lever up she would have a deadly weapon cocked, loaded, and ready for her command to destroy whatever it was aimed at. She then ejected the magazine and pulled the slide back, completely unloading her weapon before resuming her previous thought, “I owe a lot to you.” She turned to Simone. “And you.” She cleared her throat. “You both taught me a lot. You may not have realized it, but I’ve learned from both of you. It’s stupid, but I feel like my whole life is headed in a good direction since I met both of you. It’s just... Deep down. It’s crazy, I know. We’ve all lost so much, but we’ve gained, I-I... Thank you.”

Barry cleared his throat. “Okay, this is getting too mushy for me. I need some fresh vitriol to stave off this creeping camaraderie and contentment. I’ll go share some etiquette tips with Osterholm. She seems to appreciate that.”

Claire turned to Simone and asked, “Did you teach him that level of sarcasm? Or is he secretly our father and we merely inherited it?”

Simone smirked, “He’s too ugly to be our daddy.”

“How’s that for vitriol?” Claire asked, grinning.

Barry returned a bright smile and said, “Adieu, ladies.”

#       #       #

“Do you know what they’re talking about in there?”

“Um, no, ma’am.”

“You don’t have to call me ‘ma’am.’ I won’t tell on you.”

“What should I call you?”

“Aki.”

“Alright.” Vivian added, “Um, thank you for before. The tea. It worked.”

Aki reflexively acknowledged the gratitude with a slight bow of her head and a tight-lipped smile, only then realizing she responded the way her mother would have. Mentally, she dismissed the self-observation and tried to bring her mind back to the conversation at hand. “So, they asked you to give them some privacy?”

“Basically.”

Aki thought for a moment and asked, “Why did you sit next to me? Not that I mind... I mean I’m glad you’re here.” Part of her wondered if Simone put Vivian up to this.

Vivian gave a slight shrug in response. After a moment she stated, “You’re like me.”

Aki understood at once. She bent her elbow atop the seat’s arm rest and cradled the side of her head against her knuckles. She stared at the dingy metal of the plane’s floor as she mused, “Well, fellow earthling, you’re probably wondering what I have to do with all this.”

Vivian seemed reluctant to respond.

Aki added, “And I’m curious about you too.”

Vivian sat in silence.

Aki tucked her free hand into her jacket pocket. “I’ll try to make it easy. I’ll start telling my story and you tell me when to stop.”

Vivian nodded.

“We worked together. Well, in the same place at least. She stood out because she worked with all guys-- Grease monkeys. I used to look down on her. But I didn’t actually know her.” Aki stretched her legs out and crossed her ankles, leaving her legs together for warmth in the at-altitude chill of the cargo plane. “I was insecure I think. It was just months ago, but I was more childish. I hadn’t been through what I’ve been through now to know any better.

I just wanted to be happy like everyone else. It was grades and friends and partying. I just went with what everyone else was happy doing. Everything was fake and I didn’t know it. I didn’t stop to notice.

Then she came along and did something real. I didn’t know how to handle it when she did. Like my old self wouldn’t let my new self be full-time. I was splitting down the middle... But she was so far out there, you know, mentally, intellectually, that I ended up doing some real things for her. The old part of me kinda died the day when we ran away. Ever since then--“

“What’s real?”

Aki took a moment to reply, trying her best to convey the thought, “Real like... Like not fake. When you just react, when you’re really alive... You don’t care what the rest of the world thinks or does. It’s like pure... but unnatural; the opposite of being like an animal but still something primal and raw-- Acting out, but not on your own behalf... I’m kinda bad at explaining it.”

Aki glanced to Vivian searching for a reaction, a hint of understanding. She did not recognize any and resumed staring at the plane’s flooring and continued, “I needed her for that. She needed me for it too. We stumbled a lot trying to reach each other... But the more I thought about it, I’d come to realize she’ll never be able to be what I’d like her to be. She even told me, out loud, and I pretended it wasn’t true.”

Vivian shifted in her seat. “You sound like you’re happy, but you’re unhappy too.”

Aki shook her head. “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I have to be. I mean my whole world collapsed and I still feel happy. I feel like there’s some hope even though just about everything that could have gone wrong has. I just needed to realize that my expectations are... they’re like a barricade that I built myself. They’re what kept me from being able to reach a place where we’re happy together. They were like a standard I had for her to live up to. It wasn’t fair to hold her to being something that she wasn’t.”

Silence elapsed for almost a minute.

Aki added, “She... She isn’t like other people. She has different needs. She shows her feelings in a way I don’t always understand. Her feelings are real. I think they’re stronger than mine most of the time. But I’m still learning how to see them, how to hear them. She has her own emotional language-- they all do. It won’t make sense to most people.

Our feelings, the way we show them are like invisible to them too-- Like a tinted window between us where you can only see silhouettes, not features.”

“They can be cold like robots,” Vivian started, “And they can be so overcome with emotion that they’re almost silly. And you can’t tell which it’s going to be just by looking.”

“It’s nice to hear someone else noticed that too.” Aki turned to make eye contact with Vivian. She resumed her aimless forward gaze and continued, “It’s like a part of their minds were left out to make room for their I.Q. and stuff. I thought it was schizophrenia or something but it’s not exactly a problem for them, not like a disease. As long as they have people like us who try to understand them.”

“We’re important to them then?”

Aki nodded. “Claire told me so. Some of the others told me so too.”

“Can you teach me how to understand them?”

Aki paused before responding, unsure whether to take the challenge or not. She thought of Simone and the way Vivian must be disoriented by her strong moods. She looked over to Vivian and gave a slight smile.

Vivian offered, “I’ll do something for you in return.”

Aki readied a polite dismissal of the offer but then reconsidered, wondering if the dialogue between her and Vivian would benefit from chasing the notion a bit further. “What did you have in mind?”

Vivian shrugged and gave a small smile. “Whatever you need me to do. Like an I.O.U.” Vivian quickly added, “I can do something real too-- When you need me to.”

“Okay.”

Silence passed for a moment.

Aki said, “Vivian?”

“Viv.”

“Viv, I want you to know about her.”

Silence passed for another moment.

“I think her childhood was bad... Like really bad. I think she’s been abused. I think that’s why she does some of the things she does.” Aki’s voice faltered a little as she added, “Remember that... when you’re mad at her. She has to have been through some terrible things; so bad that they still hurt her even now. I think she wants to be a better person, but doesn’t think she can be. She’s got scars that won’t heal. She’s...”

Vivian turned away. Her shoulders twitched through a few jagged breaths. After a moment she turned back. Her glassy eyes failed to meet Aki’s. She sniffed and said “Okay. I’ll remember.”

“She’s very lonely. I can tell. She won’t admit it. I saw the same thing in Claire. Sometimes I still do. But I can usually get her to feel better. Touches and hugs and stuff are okay, but I found that just listening to her when she decides to talk is what works best.”

Vivian’s eyes continued to water. Her breaths were measured. She croaked a little as she said, “Then I’ll help her. I’ll figure out how.”

More to come soon.

Thanks again for reading,

SQ


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 Post subject: Re: Original Fiction (Novel-- now with illustrations!) - Lat
PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 5:41 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 3:47 pm
Posts: 565
Location: Canada
OMG!! I have been away from the KB for *years* now, and on a whim I buzz in to see you've picked up the story again, and recently. In those all-too-few spare moments, I shall re-read and get up to speed. I recall this as a delightful work, which I'm glad, these years later, you've returned to.

Patches


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