Story / World: Seer Trilogy book 3 - Iron City
Title: In Which Things Go Almost Too Well (1/3)
Counts for the Summer Challenge? Oh yes!
Prompts: Blueberry Yogurt #23: building.
Characters: Jaime, some Carrion guy who needs to be poked at, Amber, Janet.
Toppings / Extras / Other: Butterscotch.
Notes: ...I feel vaguely odd about Jaime and Janet's interaction near the beginning of this. For a short explanation (highlight if you want stupid rambling): along with all the newfound stuff Janet has Issues about, a longrunning one is appearance (which Jaime thinks is stupid because Janet is, as ey puts it when trying to cheer her up, "pretty and you have really awesome hair") and lack of physical ability to really do much (which is some kind of medical, but she still gets irked about it). Jaime is aware of this. So they can skirt around the edges of it and -- well, Jaime's kind of confused but trying to keep her from feeling bad anyway, which pretty much defines "friend" in that kind of case if you ask me. In other news, this has a sequel, the sequel is -- whenever I type it up. Er. A city made of sliced bread would get moldy fast (and need mods, hyurk hyurk), don't you think? (Jaime's comment about "as much melanin as me in life" is a lot of melanin, you guys.)
Large chunks of the City were designed when everyone was jumping on metal and glass like skyscrapers were the new sliced bread. Except no one's ever tried to make a large city mostly out of sliced bread, I think.
Still my point is: the City, for large stretches of the main bits, is mostly skyscraper and strip mall, “reflective chrome” being the phrase of the day for all.
I hate mirrored buildings, of course.
It just figures.
Maybe it's because of the inherent danger in them for me – mirrors are really not a good thing when you're a Seer, doubly so when you're bound in as many ways as I am. Even with my glasses on there are mirrors – ones with iron and steel nearby, of course; think skyscraper – which will show me what I'd See anyway.
So the fact that the address I'd been given led us to the sleekest and shiniest tower of a bunch of sleek and shiny towers was just adding injury to insult.
Janet was a bit out of breath by the time we got there, and I apologized, cursing myself in my head; not everyone makes it a habit to pace in a way that could be measured in blocks or kilometers, and sometimes I forget even so.
“Forget it,” Janet said shortly, brushing sweaty blue-green hair out of her eyes. I looked at her in confusion and told myself it was because I wasn't yet used to the new dyes. “I'm crazy out of shape, I know that. I should be apologizing.”
“Shut up,” I replied, stern. “You have better things to do than see how many times you can go around the block before your knees lock up, you mean. There's – look, I was stupid, we should have driven and you shouldn't beat yourself up with so many people who would like to do it for you around.”
She shrugged and waved a hand. “I swear I've had this conversation with you before” – her voice had less hard edges now, and I was glad – “and I know it's not what either of us need right now. So. Shall we?”
“After you, fair lady.” I bowed, sort of shaky – fear invades my body when it can't hit up my brain – and Janet did a most unladylike sort of snort.
We crossed the street together.
- - -
On the tenth floor, through the yellow door marked 39A, there was a youngish man – Carrion kind, with the odd skin color that comes of being dead and grayish but having had as much melanin as me in life – who stopped us when I went to walk through. “Under whose authority are you here?” he snapped.
“Fei Amber Belaqua,” I snapped right back. My nerves were fraying too, as if my hands shaking like I'd drunk a liter of espresso wasn't enough. This was just what I needed for serious negotiations, or something.
“And her?” he said rudely, gesturing at Janet.
She smiled at him with no humor or warmth and touched the black band at her wrist. “Thomas Lane.”
That name seemed to shock him in a way what I'd said hadn't, which annoyed me slightly. He didn't move, though, and that annoyed me quite a lot more. “Who are you, then?” he asked (sounding, to his slight credit, a bit more humanly curious), instead of actually moving.
If I had to deal with what tasted, at the back of my throat, like a room full of Cilnar, I'd at least rather get it over with quickly. “Jaime Zie Mendoza,” I said, and added, unnecessary as it was, “the Seer. This is Janet. We're expected, all right?”
“Hey,” a voice I recognized called. “It's all right, they can come in.”
The voice, I knew, would have come from a mouth full of silver. (Though I had no idea what had broken almost all of the Fei's teeth at some point in her life, the results had made an impression on me. Possibly because of that I didn't know what had happened, actually.) The girl the mouth was attached to wouldn't have aged in the last year.
Finally, with Amber to back that we were who we said, the Carrion guard moved and Janet and I went in.
- - -
It looked like a normal office, albeit very bright. The bookshelves were yellow, the file cabinets green, the walls blue. Amber was the only one there after all, but her power filled the room like white mist that I didn't even need to glance over the frames of my glasses to see.
The Fei looked terribly out of place there, despite the odd and childish colors. Her hair still made her look like a sheepish sort of dandelion, and she still grinned like she had been thrown into this and we were surely all on the same side.
In the back of my mind, something that was still sort of hers itched like mad, and the rest of me despised it.
Janet curtsied. I don't think she could help it. I gave Amber a vague, jerky nod and took a seat (she had a desk that was dark purple; the chairs were red) without being asked. Janet glanced from her to me and followed suit nervously, looking like all she truly wanted was not to be there or at least not to be noticed.
Amber glanced quickly at her armband and said, “My condolences for your loss. Really. I would have prevented it if I had known how.”
She bobbed her head in acknowledgment and looked away – probably a wise move, that – as she pointed out, “I'm only here because Jaime asked me. As a favor, I mean. Please leave me out of this.”
I almost clapped. Part of me, the scientist part that didn't just want to be sick, found Amber's effect on Janet fascinating. The rest saw how hard it seemed for my friend to even speak, and cringed so hard I wasn't sure it would ever un-cringe.
“Of course.” Amber's voice was soft and understanding, almost like she meant it. She turned to me instead— “So, Jaime, how have you been?”
“Freaked out,” I said airily, “insecure, neurotic, you know the drill. Getting various things broken or dislocated. I just got the sling off my arm, look!” I waved the limb in question at her, cheery as you please.
The way she leaned forward, hands falling heavily on the desk, eyes wide as miniature saucers, looked pretty much genuine, bless her soul. (If she has one. I'm not too sure on that sort of thing. Come to think, do I get one?) “Who did that to you?”
“Oh--” I grinned “--did I say something about people? I just fell down some stairs.”
“Seer,” she said, patiently and I could all but believe she meant it, “if they were my folk you must tell me. There should be retribution in a big way. I'd make sure of it.”
“Why?” I asked, still grinning. “Why should you care?”
“Well.” She put her head in one hand. “First, because I rather like you, in that uncomfortable 'oh right, half my genome is human and wants to still have friends and stuff' sort of way.”
I blinked. “See. Er. Now, that's the sort of thing one wouldn't think you'd tell me. In other words: what the flying cheese-coated merry hell?”
She smiled slightly – a curve of the mouth, a flash of silver – and went on. “That's for the second reason. Which is that you're the human Ambassador, and I don't want that to be an empty title. I can't change what I am relative to what you are; what I can do is give you things to use against me if you need to. There's one.”
“You're actually serious.” I stared at her, wondering what sense of humor would come up with a joke like this. It had to be a twisted one, to give me something that fit with what I knew of Cilnar logic and might actually work besides. “Why? Why not just jerk all of us around like you have up until now? I thought the old Fei was supposed to be the crazy one.”
Amber's eyes flashed, quite literally. Green, if you're wondering. In real life it's a lot less cheesy and a lot more worrying. “My mother was old and her power was weak. She couldn't keep her subjects in line. I can. I want to do this right, do you understand?”
“Sure,” I said, leaning as far away from her as I could get. “Then why take over the City? Why shut us off from everywhere?”
“Because,” Amber replied in a you-should-know-this-already sort of voice, “in about six months there's a sort of virus that's going to hit the outside. All modern technology – all of it, all our beautiful things, everything that fits my mind like logic cast into metal and plastic and glass – is going to disappear. I wanted to save a bit of the world I love, my bit of it. I'm not strong enough to do anything better.”
“Er,” I said wittily, numb in that precious time before horrible ideas kick in, a few seconds from starting to hope she was just insane.
By now she seemed nearly all human again. When she added, “and I'm so sorry for that I can't even say; I'd save everywhere if I could,” I believed her.