They stared at each other, heads tilting in synch. His silver scales almost blinded Elida and his eyes reflected a warped image of her face. She turned her head when he turned his, or was he tracing her movements?
The difference was underwhelming. Plenty of Carers bustled about, moving swiftly to their charges. Older Hatcher Assistants strolled slowly, with more caution and confidence. As always, there were few Hatchers in the main room, and what few were there moved sporadically along their path, heads tilting back and forth each time they paused.
During her eleventh year, Elida became one of the youngest girls invited to the Hatchery in recent decades. Sure, she’d been assigned there several times, as all children were, but an invitation was something different. That whole morning, she couldn’t stop smiling. As she waited outside the Hatchery for a patrol to pass, she watched the tendrils of smoke drift and curl into the sky. Finally, she was able to step into the heavy heat, almost dancing out of her boots as she did so.
The sky burned a pleasant violet as the sun delved beneath the horizon. The waves slapped soft and crisp along the small stretch of beach sand. They popped loudly against the weeds and rocks that stretched out of sight beyond the little beach. The air turned cold faster than she would have liked, but it always did this time of year. Elida inhaled deeply and felt the fresh burn from the autumn air.
[Author’s note: a short post with just a little change of pace. Bordelon Detective Agency will be seen in future posts]
The sun burned down upon her linen covered head, seeking flesh to dry and crack. She started to wet her lips but stopped, not wanting to waste any moisture. Her golden-toed steed trudged steadily towards the looming table hill. The woman laid down across the Simerlage’s back, allowing her light cloak to settle over her and offer her some much desired shade. For all the speed a Simerlage could attain, it wasted so quickly and required so much recovery time as to be nearly pointless. Their great desirability as a mount came from their almost endless longevity at their own slow pace. Or so the merchant had told her before he took nearly one whole purse from her, and almost another for supplies.
Then, there was nothing. No light, no sound, no feeling. As I stepped out of the Tube, the heavy feeling returned to my arms and through to my feet. But sound and sight did not return. I touched my face, searching for my eyes and ears. They seemed normal, at least externally. Had the Flashtube finally bungled a re-entry? I started shuffling around, hoping to bump into something when a hand gripped my arm roughly as another hand clamped over my eyes. I felt the person’s heartbeat, slow and steady, behind my own.
The room was stale and musty. An expansive silence held the thin layer of green-gray dust in place. My head felt so heavy, as though it was stuck to the chair.
I moved quickly out of the Tube to avoid the explosions and get out of Quinn’s way. My heart was pounding through my chest, neck and arms. Quinn did not materialize. I pressed my hand to my breastbone and backed into the corner next to the Tube. Sinking to my knees and hugging them tight to my chest, I tapped at my Wristmate, sending a Nudge to Quinn. My finger hovered, ready to send another Nudge. Instead, I counted to 30, and then again to 30, but slower. Just as I sent another Nudge, Quinn Nudged me back with a quick audmes saying that he was home with Minnie and they were sealing up their apartment. There was a green ashy dust swirling everywhere. I exhaled and inhaled rapidly. My head floated off my shoulders and around the room. They were okay. I looked around Bo’s apartment but the air was pristine. There were no foreign contaminants here. I sent Quinn an audmes that they could seek shelter here if they needed. He Nudged back twice followed by a twiddle-tweet.
The diner was charmingly outdated. It was the chicest place in town, ten decades ago. The once shiny white decor was now the yellowed-white of old electronics. But, its loyal patrons never left the diner empty for long and it was still thriving. Like all retail establishments, Valinay’s was always open. The dawdling Servos moved slowly along their designated paths. There were almost no AIs anywhere in the city that still only moved along pre-programmed paths like Valinay’s Servos. That kind of technology was so ancient, it was already outdated by the time the Flushing happened.
I brushed my bangs back a few times then dropped my hand to fidget with the image drive on my Wristmate. I glanced at each full table in the room. Was I the first to arrive or the last? I spotted Mrs. Bordelon lounging at a table in the far left corner with a tall, gorgeous man. She was wearing a striking, fitted jumpsuit with Sunshine threads stitched throughout. She was oblivious to everything except her companion, laughing at his jokes and leaning into his shoulder. Her hand toyed with his long black curls as he gazed warmly into her eyes. It seemed like the most intimate moment in the world. I froze by the entrance.
Bo hummed happily to acknowledge my entrance as I stepped further into the room. His eyes were glazed and darting across the screens circling his head. From the minute he got home, he had that helmet plastered to his skull, indulging in all the latest streamers. It was both wonderful and infuriating. Jameson acknowledged me more than Bo. As odious as he was, at least he contained himself to his chair. For the most part. Continue reading