Does my world have too many details?
December 27, 2022 at 10:26 pm #156027
Part two in a bit!
We crazy people are the normal ones.December 27, 2022 at 10:28 pm #156028
Ahh I just realized that I forgot to italicize some of Jake’s thoughts! So sorry!
We crazy people are the normal ones.December 27, 2022 at 10:49 pm #156029
Here’s part two!
(However, as a forewarning, there is a part in this installment that while it is dialed back, Jake contemplates suicide, and also, Marian doesn’t eat much (not in an anorexic way, in more of a ‘I don’t notice that i need to eat’ kind of way) Just wanted to inform you as a courtesy even though I know that it’s not necessarily taboo)
Again, no in-depth critique is needed, I’d just love to know what you think and if I’m staying true to the characters and I’d love to know what you think of Leo. 😊
A few hours later…
Fabian lay on several hospital beds, in a coma the doctors assumed he’d wake from shortly. His head tilted to the side, a little sigh flaring his nostrils. Marian took his hand, her stiff posture melting away as she put her forehead into his palm, feeling the smooth-but-rough texture of the scales.
A twinge of pain pricked at her chest. She pressed her cheek against it, sensing a dull fear, grief, and confusion under the cloud of unconsciousness. She tried to communicate feelings of comfort, but her distress ate at her, and she let go, not wishing to burden Fabian with her own issues.
She knew that Fabian might misunderstand anything that accidentally made its way into his mind, like how her own worries had clouded her attempt to tell Jake discreetly that Fabian would be alright. But that had failed, and she was grateful in hindsight. It was best Jake didn’t know. It was the only way for him to not cause trouble… to quietly accept his fate might be easier than letting him struggle and suffer trying to reunite with someone who may not want to see him again.
Fabian’s hand flexed slightly, and she rested her palm in it again, closing her eyes and raking in a breath, only letting her thoughts of calm through.
Her concentration broke, and she stood as a headache began to form. “What?”
“Leave.” An older woman stood in the doorway, but it was hard to see her exact age through the makeup and surgeries that pulled back her skin, and her brown, slick ponytail was likely dyed, but she looked to be in her fifties.
Marian stepped to obstruct the woman’s view of Fabian, saying, “What are you doing here?”
“She has proper I.D.” an enforcer came in, stepping past the woman, saying, “And last I checked, you weren’t supposed to be here.”
“There’s the door pointy ears.”
“I’m an exterminator, so technically Fabian falls under my jurisdiction too.” She squared her stance, “I won’t leave Dr. Saunders’s side until I can assure his safety.”
“Last I checked,” he gave a jagged smile, “that’s still an enforcer’s job, not an exterminator’s.”
The woman adjusted her gauzy shawl with an impatient jerk, making enough movement to silently interrupt them. “An exterminator can prevent me from seeing my son?”
Marian gave the woman a pointed glare, “I thought that Fabian’s mother would be more understanding.”
The woman’s blood-colored lips tightened into a line. “Now will you prevent me from seeing my son?”
“I suppose I can’t.” Marian offered her the seat, standing by the window.
“Why aren’t you leaving?”
“I can stand guard, you’re more than welcome to stay.”
Vigga’s nostrils flared, “He’s no longer under your jurisdiction.”
“He’s my friend as well as your son.”
Vigga smirked, “I can command you any way I please.”
“But the exterminators aren’t a part of the Institute.”
Vigga’s smirk broadened, “As of an hour ago, you work for me.” Her voice increased in severity, “So leave before I have your job.”
Marian clenched her jaw. “Where’s your proof?”
Vigga turned on her watch, lifting it to show a hologram of a certificate, claiming that the exterminators now worked as an extension of the Institute.
Marian didn’t move, glaring.
“If you want I could call up your boss.” Vigga smirked, “But he may fire you for noncompliance.”
The office beside her put his hand on his taser. “Or arrested.”
Marian’s gaze flicked between the two of them. Finally, she muttered. “Don’t hurt him.”
“I’m his mother.”
Marian glided past her, “Regardless, you’d better not. Or I will find you.”
“And do what?” Vigga taunted.
Marian paused at the door, prepared to make a threat, but closed the door instead.
We crazy people are the normal ones.December 27, 2022 at 10:58 pm #156030
Marian boarded the tram, rubbing her temples. She shouldn’t’ve left. That woman could’ve been pretending when she said she was his mother. Maybe the times she’d seen Vigga on screen her appearance had been so retouched that she looked older in real life than the artificially young personage. But even the pictures Fabian had of her on his watch she was looking her best, an ageless woman with a sharp face and sharper hair.
“Why is that lady so pale?”
At the childish voice, she pressed against the window, pulling her hood forward. Hoping they wouldn’t notice her unnatural eye color as well.
Her mind wandered to Jake. Where would he be? Would the government, or the Institute, take him? Her gut twisted, her eyes teared up. Why did he have to be so disappointing when he could’ve been so much more? Her eyes filled with tears, remembering his reaction when she told him that. She’d seen that same hurt in different eyes before. Calling him disappointing would’ve never been the right thing to do… the truth could be given to him in gentler ways.
The tram came to a stop, jolting everyone forward.
As people began flooding in and out, a man shouldered past her, upsetting her hood. Her hair fell into her face and she pushed it back, fixing her hood and instantly knowing they’d seen her ears by the surge of hate stinking up the room. People narrowed their eyes, and she could hear their murmurs. A teenager flaunted a tattoo, which had a red ‘X’ over a person with cartoonishly large pointed ears, and a woman pulled her daughter close as the girl loudly asked if Marian was evil.
She gritted her teeth and staggered out of the car as soon as the doors opened, even though it wasn’t her stop. Ramming her fists into her pockets, she was no stranger to being an outcast, but it still hurt.
A twinge of pain clenched her heart. Her eyes welled with tears. She leaned against the wall in a sidestreet. She looked up, dimly seeing the outlines of the glass panels of the dome sectioning out the evening sky and protecting from the dry atmosphere and the massive creatures wandering the wastelands. Where would Jake be now? Was he going to be donated to the Institute? Enslaved on a thrid farm? She may not have a relationship with him anymore, but she still couldn’t bear to think of what he was going through. She pulled off her hood, rubbing her temples. And what had she even been thinking when she confronted him?
There was a rustle of fabric.
Marian’s heartbeat increased and she whirled to face a man dressed in long, flowing clothes of a bland, beige color. She gulped and her lungs constricted. She backed away, prepared to run.
The entek glanced at her hair, frowning in disapproval. “Why do you disrespect your parentage?” he gave a derisive snort as his ultraviolet eyes scanned her clothes, “And dress like them?”
“That’s not your business.” There was a small, whining sound and Marian looked over her shoulder to see someone – no, something – fill the end of the alley that opened onto the luxurious street. She noticed a metallic gleam reflecting the lights, she went pale… a masked cyborg? It approached them, the light absorbing into its dark mask.
Without a second thought, Marian grabbed her male counterpart’s hand, and dragged him after her as she dashed down the alley.
Marian didn’t know how long they were running, but soon she saw the friendly glow of the shopping street coming from an alcove. They slowed, and entered, the far end from which the light streamed was blocked by a high fence. Marian and the man sagged against the wall, he wheezed, “I think we lost…”
Marian nodded, “Just because I’m a…” she heard a faint whine, “Oh no.”
The light went out, and the shadows around them started to move. Marian’s mouth went dry as cyborgs painted solid black but for a faint red symbol on their foreheads appeared from the shadows, completely surrounding them… she felt emotions of terror coming from them, but… they couldn’t be cyborgs. Their faces were covered. They had to be androids.
As Marian drew her knife, one of them said in an eerily metallic voice, “Mauritius, you are under arrest.” But it didn’t say it, it sounded like the toneless voice one might find on an Android.
The entek shook his head, “I-I never…
But before he could justify himself, he was pinned against the wall, an android grabbing a fistful of his waist-length hair. She cringed as a needle was inserted into his neck and he went limp. Before he hit the ground, an android flung him over its shoulder, and they darted into the night.
Marian shuddered, noticing the sky getting darker. Whatever those things were, she didn’t want to be caught. She began running.
She was making good speed and was close to the tram when she collided with a man’s chest, knocking him onto his back. In horror, Marian noticed he was older, and hurried to help him pick up his fallen groceries, “I’m so sorry sir… are you alright?”
“I was going to ask you that.” he adjusted his eyepatch, “By the way, your hood is down.”
Marian forced it over her head, looking at him warily.
He stood, dusting off his slacks. “I didn’t think anyone could run so fast…”
Marian shook her head. “I was built a little different.” Noticing an angular tattoo on his temple, matching those of the androids that had kidnapped the entek but in black.
He looked around before he lowered his voice, “Is someone chasing you?”
Marian shook her head. Unsure whether to tell him the complete truth.
“Are you sure you’re not in trouble?”
Marian looked around, no sign of the ‘borgs. She shook her head. “I had a bad scare, that’s it.”
He nodded, “Stick with me on the tram, I can make sure you’re safe until your stop.”
Marian followed, as the doors closed behind them, she said, “Thank you, but I don’t really need protection… don’t you have to work or something?”
“Given that I was finishing grocery-shopping, no, I’m not working. I have time to help you out.” he grabbed onto a pole as the tram started and the other passengers gave him sidelong glances. “There’s a lot of bad characters out at night… laborers from the underground and that kind of thing.”
“I thought they didn’t come up here… don’t they hate it?”
He shook his head, “Nah. A lot work nights up here… then get drunk.”
Marian took in his appearance. Looking past the distracting tattoo and the eyepatch indicating he couldn’t afford a cybernetic eye, his close-cropped hair was light grey, and his remaining eye a sort of cool green very like Jake’s. She shook her head, maybe it was just her own emotions getting in the way of how she saw people.
As the tram stopped, he disembarked with her, saying, “I didn’t catch your name.”
“It’s Marian.” She bowed at the waist, wincing at a cramp.
“Thought you’d give me a long-winded introduction.” He bowed back, “Leo.”
“I didn’t think I’d meet a human with that name.”
Leo smirked, “Didn’t know enteks used it.” he looked around. “You should be safe.” He bowed, saying, “I have to go, have a good night.”
As he walked away, her shoulders slumped, and she hurried home.
As she entered her apartment, A cyborg lay sprawled on the couch, her silvery metal body reflecting the muted television where her arms and legs were exposed from under her shorts and t-shirt as she did something with a tool on her forearm. She sat up as a cat with a metal tail trotted over to Marian meowing. A little louder than most people felt comfortable with, She said, “Hey M! Like Stumpy’s new tail?”
Marian removed her hoodie, muscles aching. “You added lights?”
“Dosen’t it make him look fancy?”
Stumpy saw his tail in his periphery, then proceeded to attack it.
“I guess…” Marian muttered.
Her roommate leapt to her feet and scooped up a small remote, turning Stumpy’s taillights off. “Looking forward to your week of freedom?”
Marian shook her head, entering a small bathroom strewn with random beauty and maintenance products Tammi used. Marian picked up her half-empty bottle of muscle cream, rubbing it on her stomach, arms, and neck. It didn’t help that much with the soreness, but the placebo removed the edge.
“How was that last trip?”
Marian slumped on the far end of the couch, Stumpy hopping into her lap. “Met a strange man on the ride home. He had an eyepatch and a tattoo on his temple.”
“Really?” Tammi straightened, one of the few times her posture was actually rigid. “Was he an undergrounder?”
“Don’t think so.”
“I also witnessed an arrest. An Entek got captured by some of these.” She touched Tammi’s hand, showing her the image.
Tammi hissed through her teeth, “Yikes. You don’t have to worry about them… but yikes.”
“What are they?”
“New enforcers. They’re ‘borgs and that’s all I know.” Tammi leaned back, “Anyway, how was that last mission?”
Marian sighed, looking down.
“I saw Jake.”
“Oh.” Tammi wrinkled her nose, “Is he better? I mean, I saw the footage…”
Marian leaned forward, hugging herself, “His mother gave him the surgery he needed.” She looked down at Stumpy’s mottled fur, running her fingers through it. “He grew out his hair.”
“Wow. You saw your ex and all you say is that his hair is grown out.”
Stumpy purred, his contentedness seeping into Marian. She sighed and leaned back, “Yeah.”
Tammi turned her attention back to the news.
We crazy people are the normal ones.December 27, 2022 at 11:02 pm #156031
Also, as a quick heads-up, if you see a word that looks like this: dViggaive — that’s because I used replace to swap names on a character who was originally called Eris for Vigga, (not sold yet on the name, have to find another eventually) but Word decided to replace any and every place Eris could be found, including where it goes inside derisive. Sorry!
We crazy people are the normal ones.December 27, 2022 at 11:04 pm #156032
Marian straightened on the couch. Rubbing her eyes. news was off, and Stumpy was yell-meowing. She got up, rubbing her sore neck. She’d found it was easier to fall asleep lately, but the sleep she got wasn’t restful.
She shrugged on a fresh set of clothes, took a brush and smoothed out her messy hair, cringing as she realized she needed to cut her hair again.
Instead of breakfast, she downed an energy drink then shrugged on a hoodie, heading toward the gymnasium after dumping some food into Stumpy’s bowl.
<p style=”text-align: center;”>***</p>
After Jake had woken up in a cell that hadn’t been the one he’d been put in, they’d removed his broken bionic leg. Then he’d changed into a uniform quickly, and was restrained and dragged down the hall, even though there was no possibility he could fight back.
They threw him onto the floor after unbinding him. Jake just managed to catch himself before he faceplanted, glaring at the guards as they slammed the door behind him.
He managed to climb onto the bed, cringing at the hardness of the mattress. He laid on his back, staring at the ceiling. For how rich Paris was, he’d guessed that the Institute would have better cells.
The next morning, a bowl of unappetizing stew lay cold by the door.
Jake lifted his head to look at it, the motion like moving through water. He saw his face in the mirror – a gaunt, ghost-like thing with five-o-clock shadow. He blinked, watching the red-rimmed eyes in the mirror copying him.
A light flickered overhead, and he straightened, able to reach the bowl from where he sat. He tasted the meal and retched. He set the bowl down and took in his surroundings, a bare room, mostly grey, a toilet, sink, and a shelf by a hatch near the door. The door itself was solid metal, only a small window enabled him to see into the hall.
Judging by the sounds, A couple of guards strode down the hall, barging into a cell. Jake pulled himself up to look out the window. They dragged out a struggling entek, he punched one of them in the jaw as a guard pressed a button on a small remote and the entek cried out and collapsed, clutching a collar around his neck.
Jake rubbed his neck as laid on his bed, noticing scratch marks on the walls. He glanced at his uniform, reading the numbers 278 on the sleeve – He blinked and reread the number, 223. Jake felt his heart rate increase.
He wondered why it hadn’t clicked at first. He was at the Institute, of course, but for some reason, he’d assumed that his mother would just keep him here. But Paris would want to squeeze every last drop of life out of him as possible.
The light flickered overhead, and faint screams echoed in the distance. Jake hugged his chest, forcing himself to breathe deeply as he grew cold.
<p style=”text-align: center;”>***</p>
The sporadic waking from dreamless sleep then falling back into unconsciousness was confusing. He didn’t know where he was and while he enjoyed the sleep, he just wanted the bizarre dream to end at this point. Or was he dead and this was what the afterlife was like – constant swaying between darkness and light, an unpleasant in-between for all eternity? He was disappointed.
Mercifully, a light stung his eyes. As he raised his hand to block it, he was met with a scaly blue arm. He frowned, observing before he realized that was how his arm looked now. He would’ve thought that after several months waking up to his new body, that he’d be more adjusted.
Looking past his arm, a face came into focus. Fabian growled and sat up, rubbing his forehead. As the blood drained from his head and his vision blotted, He growled again, “W-what do ya want?”
Fabian blinked away his blurring vision, and it became clear, but it was still off, the movement of her red lips stood out better than her actual face. He began to rely on his sense of smell, her perfume more powerful than his eyesight, “Mom?”
Vigga smiled, tears filling her eyes, she threw her arms around his neck.
We crazy people are the normal ones.December 27, 2022 at 11:06 pm #156033
Marian’s second energy drink went flying as someone tripped her. Her arms flung forward, and she turned it into a somersault. She straightened her hoodie, picking up the bottle. “Waste of money…” she muttered before striding away.
“Aren’t you gonna do anything?”
“No.” She hopped onto a treadmill and began to run, already regretting changing gyms.
The young man pulled the emergency break. Marian stumbled to a halt, glaring at him. “You want to cause problems?”
“You should leave before you start any.”
Marian’s nostrils flared. “I’m just here to exercise.” She pulled on her hood, realizing he’d seen her ears.
“I work here…” He growled, his hands balling into fists.
“Actually, you don’t.” A clear, militant voice jarred them.
Marian’s eyes widened as the man flinched away from Leo, growling, “This is none of your business undergrounder.”
“Goin that low?” Leo raised his eyebrows as he crossed his arms, taught with muscle now he wasn’t wearing his tattered jacket. “Even if I was, I would hate to put your photography skills to the test, as that’s all you do here.”
Marian noticed Leo’s stance, it was stable, but his weight rested on the balls of his feet, as if he was ready to dodge an attack if need be.
The man tried to punch Leo, but he stepped out of the way and the man stumbled forward, throwing too much of his weight into it. Leo’s hand flicked ever so slightly and just as he was about to regain his balance, his face struck the floor.
Leo offered him a hand, “Are you overdue for your naptime kid?”
The man glared up at him before walking away.
Marian chuckled as she watched Leo glare at the man as he scurried out of the gym.
“What’re you looking at?”
Marian sobered, “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Leo turned to go. He paused and turned back to her, “By the way, don’t work that treadmill too hard, it’ll start to smoke.” And walked away.
Marian changed treadmills, saying, “Thank you.”
But Leo was out of earshot.
She focused on her running. Her lungs clenched and she forced herself to breathe deeply, slowing her pace. The moment she stopped moving, she’d start feeling about Jake and Fabian, instead of just thinking about them, and she couldn’t do anything but stare out the window of the gym until Tammi came home, she was an enforcer, and could log onto databases and find a lot more on people than the average citizen or exterminator could. She cursed, she shouldn’t’ve held off telling Tammi about them, why was she so hesitant?
An hour later, Marian got off the treadmill, feeling her legs tremor with fatigue. She sighed, heading to the drinking fountain and swallowing mouthfuls of stale water.
“You didn’t bring a water bottle?”
Marian glanced up at Leo as he exited the bathroom, “My roommate doesn’t keep up with dishes, and I didn’t want to wash anything.”
Marian straightened, pushing her hair out of her eyes.
“You need a hair tie?”
“It hides my ears when I leave it down.”
Leo nodded, “I see. I know a hair lady, she could probably help you find a style that might do better.”
“Thanks for the suggestion.” Marian’s face flushed, “But I don’t have enough money.”
“Ok.” Leo frowned, “What are you even doing here?”
“It’s the cheapest gym I can find.” Marian shrugged. “Have to stay in shape.”
“What about you?”
“Just a hobby.” he yawned, “I have to go,” he headed to the counter to scan his card, saying, “Nice seeing you.” As if it was an afterthought.
“The house is clean?” Tammi untied her hair, widening her arms in delight as she flopped onto the newly-vacuumed carpet, “I love your off weeks.”
Marian smirked, handing Tammi a frozen dinner. “I get bored faster… and it’s only an hour of work.”
Tammi sat up, wrinkling her nose at the plate, “Oh. I forgot I don’t like your off weeks.” She took the tray, “Vague mush, my favorite.”
“It’s not my fault you ate all the good ones, and you bought these anyway.” Marian went back to wiping off the counters, “This is your eating day, right?”
Tammi nodded, shoveling the food into her mouth. “Did you eat?”
Tammi raised an eyebrow, “You do know regular people need more than one meal, right?”
“Not hungry.” Marian crossed her legs as she sat on the couch, “Food isn’t as important for Enteks either.” She adjusted one of the throw-pillows to support her back, “By the way, I saw the eyepatched man at the gym, he scared off a guy that threatened me – he also tried to recommended a hairstylist.”
“So he actually did two public services?”
“I look that bad?”
“Not horrible, but it looks like you cut it with office scissors.”
Marian shrugged, “Well that’s what happened.”
“What does he look like?”
“He looks a little too old to go to the gym if I’m being honest.”
“Really?” Tammi leaned back. “How old is he?”
“About fifty.” Marian put her chin in her hand, “By the way, can you still access the database when you’re off work?”
“I might need to explain why.” Tammi set her empty tray on the table, “So… why?”
“It’s about Jake and Fabian.”
“Why Jake again?” Tammi turned Stumpy’s taillights on and watched him chase it, “And… I hate to be rude but isn’t Fabian dead?”
Marian sighed, “Turns out Fabian didn’t die.”
“What?” Tammi’s posture straightened.
“He was turned into a thrid.”
“But not like a regular one, he was an anthropomorph.”
Tammi rubbed her face, “You see, THIS is the kind of thing you share when I ask you how a mission went – not commenting on an ex’s hair choices.”
“Well…” Marian blushed, “Sorry… I… I was too tired.”
“Ok I guess!” Tammi flopped back onto the ground, thumping loudly. “You must be hallucinating with all those energy drinks… you’re way too nonchalant.”
“No.” Marian sighed, “They wouldn’t cause hallucinations… and I remember the cold of Pagos very well.” She felt the necklace in her pocket, “Fabian really was turned into a thrid.” Her eyes moistened and she looked out the window at the featureless wall of the neighboring apartment complex, “My last mission was to find him. He was on Pagos, and Jake was there. No one knew what had happened until Fabian told us.”
“And why was he there?”
Marian’s voice went monotone, “He was sent to kill Fabian… from what we could tell. Regardless, far out of line for a scouting mission. He shot Fabian in his mouth and put him in a coma.” Marian teared up, “For my own peace of mind, I need to know that Fabian’s safe, and where they took Jake.”
“Why Jake?” Tammi threw her hands up into the air, “You figured out he was no good, and this just proves it!”
“I know. But I still want to give him the opportunity to change. And he won’t have that if he’s dead.”
“He’s had his chances.” Tammi pushed her braids behind her, “Leave him alone.”
“I intend to, but I can’t if he’s in danger.”
“You really aren’t thinking this through.” Tammi shrugged, “What’ll you even do when you find them? How do you expect to smuggle a thrid and an almost murderer, and where’re you gonna take them?”
“I’ll take Jake to the underground, and for Fabian…” she sighed, “I wish I knew. But I have to make sure they’re both ok. And, if I can, give this back to Jake.” She pulled out the necklace, “He said it was an heirloom and gave it to me before he was taken away.”
Tammi stared at it, slowly, she said, “That’s… not an heirloom. It looks way too new.” Tammi held out her hand, “May I hold it?”
Marian handed it to her, Tammi held the charm close to her face, narrowing her eyes. “Yep. It’s designer, and the designer isn’t old enough to have heirloom material.”
“How do you know?”
“The red-haired lady on the T.V. the other day, you said you liked her dress. She designed it. You should check out her stuff.” She gave it back to Marian, “Try it on.”
Marian slipped it on.
“What is it?”
“It looks perfect… Jake might be trash, but his taste isn’t. It was probably for you.”
Marian froze, she removed the necklace with shaking hands.
Marian put the necklace in her pocket, “He was planning on asking me to marry him. I could be wrong… but that has to be what it is.”
“No way… we use rings for that.”
“On Atlantis, it’s necklaces… this one doesn’t look like the ones that my people use, however.”
“Would Jake even know this?”
“He tried giving me a necklace once and I had to explain to him why I didn’t wear it.” Marian rubbed her face. “And he knows I like amethysts and silver.”
“Wow… that’s actually… sweet.” Tammi waved her metal hand dismissively, “Still good thing you broke up with him.”
We crazy people are the normal ones.December 27, 2022 at 11:07 pm #156034
At the gym, again. Marian’s feet pounded as she dashed on the treadmill, she wiped her forehead, puffing. She briefly patted her pocket, the necklace was still there. If she wore it, it would stay on better, but no, that would be too much.
She stumbled, the treadmill shutting off as she caught the rail. “Leo.” She caught her breath, “What’re you doing here?”
“I come here every day.”
Marian nodded. Gulping in more air.
“I thought the treadmill would catch fire.”
Marian shook her head, “I’m fine.”
Leo raised an eyebrow, “What do you even do for a living?”
He raised his other eyebrow. “Hm…”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a detective…” he hissed through his teeth, “Sort of.”
Marian nodded. “Cool… I have to get back to running.”
Leo nodded, saying “Nice seeing you.” And walked away.
Marian continued running. Her watch buzzed, and she held it to her ear, “Thought you couldn’t make phone calls.”
“I’m on break.” Tammi lowered her voice, “Got the info.”
Marian nodded. “Really? Thank you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it says Fabian was released from the hospital to his parents, but that’s it. and Jake…” Tammi hissed through her teeth.
“Well, it says he’s donated.”
Marian turned off the treadmill, standing still. “What?”
“I’m sorry. He’s been donated.”
Marian said, “O-ok… thank you…” with a shaking hand, she hung up and her arms fell to her sides. She stared out the window.
“Hey, are you still using that?”
Marian jolted, seeing a woman standing with her arms crossed. She nodded, adjusting her hood and stepping off.
She left the gym, standing on the dingy street for a moment before walking, numb. Fabian was still in one piece for now, but Jake… who knew? People didn’t talk about what happened after they donated themselves… if they ever got out alive.
She wound up in a park with artificial trees, a mockery of Atlantis’s arbor giants. She slumped, sitting underneath one and looking around at the more manicured place she’d wound up in. She sighed, her body feeling weak and dizzy. She leaned against the trunk, feeling a slight cushioning effect to protect people if they crashed into it, giving it a painfully distant and artificial feel. She closed her eyes, trying not to cry.
She looked up, Leo stood, frowning. “You look sick.”
“I’m fine.” She said in a harsher tone than she preferred to use.
“Yeah I’ve said that too many times to believe it.” Leo crossed his arms. “You sure you wanna leave it at that?”
“I just got some bad news. That’s it.”
“Ok. I won’t pry.” Leo rubbed the back of his neck, “I was hoping to ask since you said you were an exterminator… do you happen to know someone named Jake?”
Marian blinked. “I did.” And left.
We crazy people are the normal ones.December 28, 2022 at 12:27 am #156035
Back at the apartment, Tammi wasn’t lounging around like she usually did, instead, a panel on her thigh was open and she was tinkering with some wires.
“What’re you doing?”
“My reaction time’s a little slow in this leg… an undergrounder trying to break into an old lady’s house almost got away.” Tammi muttered. There was a spark of electricity and Stumpy hid under the couch, “OW!”
Tammi continued working on her leg. “Anyway, I thought about what to do.”
“Great…” Marian sagged on the couch, rubbing her forehead.
“So.” Tammi closed the panel and pulled down the leg of her shorts, putting her elbows on her knees and steepling her fingers, “Two things, I go to Vigga’s house, and tell her I need to update Fabian’s database, which needs to be done – and, for Jake, I can go for you and pay to have him released. You can wear your necklace and pretend he’s your fiancé.”
Marian sighed, “I have the money… but not enough.”
“I thought you were underpaid.”
“I’m not underpaid. I live cheaply.” Marian crossed her legs. “I could pay for Jake’s release, but… it would set me back so far.”
“We could’ve been eating like regular people, and you didn’t bother to tell me?”
Marian blushed, “Sorry… I’ve just been saving.”
Tammi crossed her arms.
Marian sighed, “To buy a ticket back to Atlantis.”
“Can’t you visit through your job?”
Marian shook her head, “I don’t have a card. I’m planning on it once I quit.”
Tammi’s eyes widened, “So you’ll move away for good?”
“If it happens, it’s a few years away. That’s why I haven’t told you.”
Marian looked out the window, “I promised my brother I’d return… it’s been so long already.”
“You were gonna tell me you had a brother when?”
Marian sighed, “I didn’t feel the need to share it… and there’s more important matters at hand. His life isn’t in any danger.”
“O-ok…” Tammi’s posture slackened, “Have you come up with any ideas?”
Marian nodded, “So you don’t get in trouble, I could go to Vigga’s house myself and give her what Fabian left at Jake’s apartment as a peace offering.”
“Psh, I don’t care about that.” Tammi waved her hand dismissively, “Seriously, I wouldn’t get fired. What do you think about Jake?”
Marian sighed, “I could inform her of Jake’s plight, or ask how he is.” She sighed, “I don’t know.”
“Do you want to go to her house together?”
Marian shook her head, “You could get in troub—”
“M. I told you that I don’t care.”
“You’re sure you wanna go with me?”
“Yeah.” Tammi yawned, “It’d be fun.”
Vigga’s house was large, standing in the middle of a lawn with artificial trees and neat arrangements of fungus arranged in a pleasing pattern, all locked behind a clear gate.
Tammi found the buzzer, she turned it on, saying, “Olympia enforcement.”
“What’re you here for?” a man’s voice carried through.
“May I speak with the woman of the house?”
“Vigga is unavailable.”
“Well, could you let me and my associate in so we can wait for her?”
“I suppose. By the way, why is the white-haired one carrying a box?”
“She had been in possession of some of Vigga’s son’s belongings and wishes to bring them to her.”
Then, as if they heard from a distance, the clear voice of Vigga said, “Paris, who’s at the gate?”
Paris said, “Give me a moment.” And he turned off the buzzer for a few seconds before turning it on again, he said, “You can come in.” and the gate lowered into the ground.
Marian and Tammi crossed the garden, and headed to a large door of frosted glass.
It opened as they arrived, and they were met with a slender man that would’ve looked like Fabian, if it wasn’t for his slick hair as Fabian’s used to be rather fluffy. He opened the door wider, letting them in, “Welcome.”
They were met with a massive foyer, a pair of floating staircases almost gliding up to the second floor and elegantly framing a blown glass chandelier. All in all, bright, opulent, but cold and dispassionate, feeling more like an office than a house.
“I see you’re here again.”
Marian turned, seeing Vigga coming out of a hallway. She crossed her arms over her green dress, looking at the box. “What’s this?”
Marian swallowed, “After the fire, I helped clean out Jake’s apartment. This was what Fabian had left at Jake’s place… and some of Jake’s things. I thought you’d want them.”
Vigga’s nostrils flared, “Hmph.” But her gaze remained locked on the box.
“You wish for a photo of Fabian?”
“Yes,” Tammi said, “Could we see him?”
“Here you go.” Paris handed Tammi a picture of Fabian, awake and looking at the camera reluctantly with his oval-pupiled eyes. “You can scan this.”
“I would prefer to see him in person to take the photo.”
“This will do fine.” Paris’s eyes glinted unnaturally, “Or will we have a problem?”
Tammi pursed her lips.
“Fabian doesn’t wish to meet anyone.” Vigga added. “He’s been tired.”
Marian turned to Vigga, “About your sons, can I speak with you in private?”
“Anything you say here can be said in front of their father.”
“Fine.” Marian put her hands behind her back, “I wanted to make you aware that your son Jake has been taken as a test subject by your organization. I know that many donate themselves or are sent to you through the penal system, so I wanted to inform you if you didn’t know.”
Vigga paled almost imperceptibly, “Of… o-of course I know. After what he did to my son, I will do as I think best.”
Marian felt unease increase in the atmosphere. She set down the box. “Tell Fabian I said hello.”
Vigga snorted, “Paris, I think it’s time our guests left.”
“As do I.” Paris pressed the photo into Tammi’s hands. “Good evening.”
We crazy people are the normal ones.December 28, 2022 at 12:29 am #156036
“Well I guess I know where Jake got his personality from.” Tammi said, “Is Paris even his real dad?”
Tammi raised an eyebrow, “Really?”
“Jake’s father divorced Vigga years ago.” Marian touched the necklace, as if on instinct, “She remarried quickly.”
Tammi raised both eyebrows, “Was I supposed to know this?”
Marian shrugged, “Jake and Fabian really didn’t care. And Jake didn’t feel comfortable sharing much about his father. I only know that he wasn’t there for Jake most of his life.”
“Daddy issues, and a jerk. You hit the jackpot.”
Marian shook her head, “He wasn’t a jerk. Just did more illegal things than I could allow if I was going to be with him.”
“But you were still crying for days.” Tammi crossed her arms, “And that’s before you told him.”
Marian’s cheeks flushed. They got on the tram, people avoiding them as they held onto a rail, even though some of the children were obviously wowed by Tammi.
“She looks like a superhero…” a little kid said breathlessly.
Tammi blushed as the father said, “That’s because she is.”
“Oh come on, you’re embarrassing me!” Tammi responded laughingly.
Marian checked out of the rest of their conversation. She looked out the window, feeling the tracks bump. Then bump again. then again. They were braking.
As the tram ground to a halt and the emergency power turned on, red lights filled the room and people stumbled and caught themselves, on the verge of panic as a man said over the speakers, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are emergency-stopped because some enforcers are looking for a Marian X onboard.”
Tammi glanced at Marian. Before keeping her head ducked as enforcers boarded the tram. They began scanning faces, the holographic grids appearing over large amounts of people. Marian kept her head low.
Marian swallowed, she glanced at the door, only a few steps away, and she could easily escape. But running from enforcers?
Marian pulled her hood down, facing the enforcer. She began sweating as the enforcer scanned her face.
She saw the green light blink on the side of the scanner, indicating that she was the person they were looking for. “I’ll come with you quietly. You’re making everyone uneasy.”
The enforcer grabbed her arm and dragged her off the tram, she saw Tammi watching her and gave a wan smile, “I’ll be ok.” As the tram door slammed shut.
“We got her.”
Marian looked up sharply, seeing Leo standing by as they cuffed her. “You?”
His eye widened as they clamped a collar around her neck. She frowned, “What’s this for?”
“A safety measure.” Leo frowned, “Do you know why we’re arresting you?”
Marian shook her head, biting her lips.
“You’re convicted of tampering with evidence on an arson case. Just happens to be the one I’m working on.”
Marian tried to show no reaction to the news. She kept silent as they lead her away, knowing that nothing would stop them, not even desperate declarations of her innocence.
We crazy people are the normal ones.December 28, 2022 at 12:30 am #156037
She sat at a metal table, cuffed to it. She felt her hands shaking as she looked up at Leo. “Why am I here?”
He nodded. His face unreadable. The silent treatment.
“Can you explain the collar?” she began sweating more.
“I don’t like the collars, but they’ve started using them to prevent captive Enteks from using their abilities. It’ll shock you if you try to do anything telepathic.”
She gulped and nodded.
“Did you have any part in the warehouse fire?”
Leo leaned forward, “You sure?”
“Why would I lie?”
“We’re talking about the arson case that killed Jake and his brother. You are the first lead I’ve gotten in months. I suggest you tell me what you know.”
Marian shrank back, “I was giving some of Jake and Fabian’s belongings that I had in my possession back to their mother when I went to ask after them.”
“We are dealing with murder. I need the truth.”
“Murder?” Marian frowned, “They’re not dead, weren’t you informed?”
Leo paled. His whole body went rigid. He shook his head ever so slightly. He stepped away from her, saying in a wavering voice, “I’m done. Put her in a holding cell.”
Two days later, Marian laid on her back in the same holding cell, trying to calm her breathing. Three years of savings was evaporated by now. And her life might face the same fate too.
She pushed her bangs out of her eyes, sighing. Painfully aware of the necklace not being on her person. They’d taken it despite her protests, along with her watch and all her other clothes, rendering her just as vulnerable as she was when she arrived. Just as helpless. She closed her eyes on her tears. She could do nothing.
Marian sat up, seeing Leo leaning against the door, not facing her. “Here to interview me again?”
“Yes.” His fingers flicked, and her collar fell from her neck.
She frowned, picking it up. “How did you…”
He put his hand through the bars, “Show me what you know.”
Marian approached, handing him the collar and clasping his hand. She closed her eyes, feeling his wariness, but it wasn’t for her. it was worry that he’d show her something. She pushed past her own curiosity, and let her memories of the past few days and the mission flow into his hands. Everything she knew, all the pain and heartache, barraging him.
Leo pulled away from her hand, pale. He leaned against the door, hands shaking. “You…” his voice cut off.
“Are you ok?”
Leo nodded, then shook his head. “Jake was here?”
Marian blinked, “Excuse me?”
His voice strengthened, “You know Jake. And he’s… alive?”
“How do you know him?”
He looked up at her, “I’m Jake’s… their…” he rubbed his face, “I’m his dad.”
Leo sighed, “I…” he fumbled about his pockets, finding a folded up piece of paper and handing it to her, “I’m Jake’s dad.”
Marian looked at it, a little boy with wavy tan hair and cool green eyes smiled too widely at the camera, a smile Jake used to flash whenever his picture was taken – and a woman’s hand rested on his shoulder, but whoever the woman was, the photo had been torn so it didn’t show her. She handed it back to Leo, “He looks so young…”
“And happier…” Leo muttered. He wiped under his eyepatch and straightened, recovering himself alarmingly fast and he left Marian alone.
We crazy people are the normal ones.December 28, 2022 at 12:39 am #156038
Thank you for reading! This is all I have so far as I’m trying to figure out how to get Marian out of this situation, I had a plan originally, but it didn’t make sense for the characters involved.
We crazy people are the normal ones.January 3, 2023 at 8:55 pm #156067Cathy@this-is-not-an-alien
Well I did reply but it seems internet pacman ate that.
That was an amazing read I love how fast paced it is but I still get a good idea of the characters!!!
I still don’t know what to think of Leo he has so many mixed impressions I’d like to see more of his motives!
Can’t wait to see what happens next!!
To be a light to the world you must shine in the darkness.
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