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Compass Rose, Episode 1: Once Upon a Time FINALE. May not be what you expect. :)


"You will note," said their once-upon rescuer, "that I am heroically refraining from saying I told you so."

"You will note," snarled Tom, "that I am refraining from punching you in the face a second time." Her knuckles were still sore and split from the last punch; who knew that faces could be so damn hard? She made a mental note to punch softer places should the occasion arise again.

Christopher said, "Um, could someone tell me what's going on? What are we doing?" He probably didn't mean to sound quite as plaintive as he did. The white sheet the Dean had given him for modesty was still draped around his shoulders.

Tom, the villain-prototype, and Christopher were sitting on white plastic garden chairs which looked as though they had been extruded from a Seventies orifice. Tom was drinking something that purported to be coffee from a plastic mug (white), Christopher was clutching his sheet and shivering, while their erstwhile betrayer was merely sitting with the tips of his fingers under his chin, looking villainous.

Although, come to think of it, he didn't have much choice when it came to the looking villainous department.

"Waiting for the Dean," said Tom into her mug of coffee.

"I'm not sure it's the Dean we're waiting for," muttered their pet villain.

"What on earth?" asked Christopher.

"You'd make me laugh if it wasn't prohibited," said the saturnine man.

"Prohibited?" asked Tom. "Is this one of your programming things again?"

"We've lost our rights," he said, looking up at the ceiling. "We got rid of them."

Tom gave Christopher a bewildered look. Christopher stared back with all the comprehension of a cocker spaniel puppy attending an astrophysics lecture.

The face of their villain-type threatened to break into a smile, but failed at the last moment. "Once," he intoned, "I was a real turtle."

Christopher got to his feet. "I'll get the Dean," he said. "There's something wrong with him!"

Their long-ago guide heaved a deep sigh of obvious patience and folded his arms. "Neither of you has had any education at all, have you?"

"Time to go," the Dean said, walking past just quickly enough to indicate that hurry was called for.

"Where are we going?" asked Christopher, as they all stood up, drawn into the Dean's wake like so many ducklings.

"What's taking you so long?" asked the Dean, prying open what looked like a computer panel with a fetching old-fashioned tape-drive but which turned out to be a door to -- of course -- a long dark tunnel.

Tom sighed and followed. After a moment, she said to their guide, "Do you know where we're going?"

He replied, "I can guess. But I would prefer not to, given your friend."

It was much longer than Tom wanted to walk -- she rehearsed grumpy monologues in her head, mostly having to do with how much her feet hurt and how little the Dean said about where they were going -- before they reached a large, round room.

Christopher said, looking at the large metal pyramid (helpfully decorated with small blinking lights and some sort of controls near the bottom) which occupied the center of the room, "Is that Godmother?"

A pleasant female voice answered from mid-air, "Please input story, myth, fairy tale, parable, allegory, fiction, plot, or desired outcome."

Christopher recoiled. "Oh my God, it is!"

However, upon taking in the distinct lack of death-bots or murderous knights, he slowly uncoiled. "What are we doing here?"

The voice repeated, "Please input story, myth, fairy tale, parable, allegory, fiction, plot, or desired outcome."

"Um," said Christopher.

"Please input story, myth, fairy tale, parable, allegory, fiction, plot, or desired outcome."

"Dean," said Tom slowly, "What have you done?" Her arms were ridging with horror.

The Dean glanced at her briefly. "Nothing, in the sense you mean."

The once-and-future villain laughed. It started out as a hollow chuckle and escalated into a full-fledged mad-scientist whooping and cackling. Christopher and Tom stared at him in astonishment. The Dean eyed Godmother thoughtfully.

"What on Earth..." started Christopher, then stopped, perhaps remembering that they weren't.

"Are you--" started Tom.

"She's done nothing! Nothing!" He had to pause to get his breath back. "Nothing but show the eternal emptiness of existence, of course! Godmother is dead! Long live Godmother!"

Tom and Christopher stared at him some more.

"Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot?" He burst into another cackle of laughter.

Tom looked at the Dean. "I don't..."

The Dean sighed. "AIs are notoriously unstable. It looks like this one died quite a while ago."

Christopher said, "Then what tried to kill us?"

The Dean said, "Automatic security measures. You'll notice they weren't very... efficient."

"And the story?" Christopher asked in a very small voice.

The Dean patted him gently on the shoulder. "Well, you have to understand that the people here don't have any other way of relating to outsiders."

Their once-betrayer leaned against the wall and mopped his forehead on his sleeve. "What the penny public want is plot, and plenty of it; surprises, and plenty of 'em; mystery, as thick as a November fog."

"Did you know about this?" demanded Tom.

He shrugged. "Make something unspeakable and you make it unthinkable."

The Dean gave him an opaque glance. "Well, it's certainly been an education for... Tom and Christopher," she said. "But we really must go."

The villain gave a short, brief nod. The Dean strode toward a small door on the opposite side of the room that Tom could have sworn had not been there before.

Tom paused and asked, "What are you going to do?"

He shrugged. "Practice measurement, practice the sign that means that really means a necessary betrayal, in showing that there is wearing."

She frowned. "What."

The smile which had been hovering for so long finally broke free. It did not make him any more good-looking. "You know, I never really understood Gertrude Stein, either."

Tom gave him an awkward smile and then turned to follow the Dean, who was standing and gesturing Christopher towards the door.

"Wait!" said Christopher. "What about -- shouldn't they know that it's all an illusion, that Godmother doesn't exist? What about that weird war between Godmother and the Merry Men? And, and, the Prince got killed and--"

"You can't solve people's problems for them," said the Dean.

"But can't you at least--"

"Do what? Raise the dead? Save the world? Rescue someone like a prince on a white horse?" The Dean leaned down towards him and said, very quietly, "Not in my mandate."

Christopher reeled back as if slapped.

"We're just going to... leave them here?" Christopher said after a moment.

"Yes," said the Dean. "We leave. They can stay. And wait for Godmother, if they like." And she shoved Christopher through the door.

---

Quotations used in this episode:

“You'd make me laugh if it wasn't prohibited,” "We've lost our rights," "We got rid of them," and "Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot?"
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett

"Once, I was a real turtle."
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

"What the penny public want is plot, and plenty of it; surprises, and plenty of 'em; mystery, as thick as a November fog."
The Doctor's Wife, Mary Elizabeth Braddon

"Make something unspeakable and you make it unthinkable."
"What Can a Heroine Do?" Joanna Russ

"Practice measurement, practice the sign that means that really means a necessary betrayal, in showing that there is wearing."
"Tender Buttons [A Chair]," Gertrude Stein










Date: 2013-03-06 08:24 pm (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
I like the Dean. She's put up with a remarkable lot from Christopher and Tom, and she decidedly knows who she is.

Thanks for writing!

Date: 2013-03-06 09:36 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Thank YOU!

Date: 2013-05-03 03:13 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Thanks for the story! I wonder what else there'll be from Compass Rose.

Is this related at all to the universe of Wonder City? I know the other Interludes were, but this one seems quite separate.

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