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Something to distract you from the news of the real world. Let's pretend that Wonder City is somehow having a worse time than we are.

Where We Must Be

I stared at the Earth on the wall-sized screen that pretended to be a window in my exclusive, yet mandatory, penthouse. My dog slept on my lap, trailing a leg off one side and lolling her head off the other side. She snored, occasionally obscuring Billie Holiday's "Lady Sings the Blues". I kept music playing constantly now -- my "hosts" had put the entirety of any repository of music I'd requested at my disposal--and it made my confinement somewhat more tolerable.

I was lonelier than I'd ever been in my bunker under Wonder City.

I wondered how my mother was doing. I wondered if my sisters had noticed anything had changed in the world. I wished I knew where Ruth was. I considered trying to reach out to get hold of Oum Veha, my old friend in Cambodia. He and I usually communicated via a mental link -- he can't be around electronic devices easily, since he is a Class 10 electricity generator -- and he's one of the few people I think I can reach out to easily. But it occurred to me that the aliens had definitely neutralized one of the Class 10 club -- me -- and may have neutralized another -- Ruth -- so what was the chance they had him? Or, worse, had used one of the low-grade telepaths I'd sensed around the ship to somehow alter his mind?

Besides, I'd tried to reach him first thing and couldn't penetrate the shields.

So I sat and stared at the Earth, and wondered if I had any options at all in this clusterfuck, or if I would just be sitting here until some superheroes (or supervillains -- it had happened!) Saved The Day (TM).

Which is when there was a hesitant, barely discernable knock at my door.

I only really noticed it because it was in a break between Lady Day and my girl Nina. Floribunda raised her head, perked her ears, and looked at the door when it happened.

I thought about getting up, but could not summon sufficient damns to give to the effort, so just said loudly, "Come in."

The door opened after a moment. I swiveled the chair to look at my visitor.

She was the sort of woman who had probably been pop-and-fresh pretty at 16, with dark hair and big dark eyes and milky-white skin with a few strategic freckles. However, at what I guessed to be about thirty, she had wilted into one of those women with transparent skin and dark circles under her eyes and blue veins running over the backs of her hands. She was wearing a rumpled pink blouse with a polyester sheen and mommy jeans, and well-worn girly running shoes.

We stared at each other for a long moment as Nina sang along,
But oh, I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.

Then I felt something sliding over my mind, something that I supposed to most people would feel like a soft fleecy blanket, but to me felt like...

Let's put it this way. I mostly only ever felt like that in middle school, before my trip to the institution, when some of the little white girls would feel up my hair and then ask permission to do so.

I mentally swatted at it, and it was sticky, clinging to my mind with gooey pink tendrils until I gathered my wits enough to just burn it the fuck out of my mind.

She recoiled hard, grabbing for the door jamb to hold herself up. Her other hand went to her forehead. "What happened?" she said in a soft, fading sort of voice.

"I just pushed you out of my skull," I said through gritted teeth. "In my world, it's polite to ask before you go fucking with someone's head." Unless it's a case of self-defense, I added to myself.

"Oh, I... I'm sorry," she said, checking her ponytail and the hair that was pulled tight against her scalp in front. "I just... I don't really control it. I mean, I never have controlled it, until now, and now I'm still not very good at it..."

I gave her a bored look. "Come in or go out," I said, laying a hand on Flori's neck. "I don't want my dog to get out." Lord only knows what she'd get into in a spaceship, I thought.

The woman made a little incoherently apologetic noise and scooted inside the doorway enough to the door slide shut behind her. That was not the side I'd hoped she'd choose.

"So I..." she began, but then she looked up, saw my extremely unwelcoming expression, and immediately stumbled over her words, flushing blotchily. She pulled her ponytail over her shoulder and nervously wound a strand of hair around and around her finger.

I let the silence fall. I found it vaguely interesting that Flori wasn't reacting as badly to this woman as she'd reacted to the man, but then I suspected that whatever mental bubblegum the woman emanated might work on dogs too. I'd have to check that later.

She sighed. "My husband told me about you," she assayed.

I raised my eyebrows. "Oh, so you're Mrs. Mark West." And the "the most powerful paranormal human" in the aliens' employ. "I'm sure he was very complimentary about me."

"No," she said. "My husband is a man of... fast judgments."

"Hasty, even," I said.

She gave me a fleeting vaguely hunted look from under her brows that made me think, Oh, hell no, I will not have to have this conversation here.

"So why are you here?" I said. "It would be nice if you'd get to the point. I have a busy schedule of dog-grooming and window-staring to get on with."

Aretha came in for a bit here, while girlfriend tangled her own hair up, singing about chains of fools. Hah.

"Do you have a name?" I finally said, and thought, Because I am so not calling you "Mrs. West," junior miss white lady.

She looked up at that, giving me a big-ass blank stare before saying, "Sara."

"And just so you know, my name is Renata Scott, though your husband probably referred to me by a different word altogether."

She flushed all blotchy again, and I knew I was right.

There was another long pause, long enough that Aretha finished up and we were back to Nina, and Nina was singing,
Now you're living high and mighty
Rich off the fat of the land
Just don't dispose of your natural soul
'Cause if you do you know damn well
That you'll go to hell (yes, you will)
You'll go to hell.

Finally I said, "Well, this has all been just stimulating..."

"I just wanted to know!" she said suddenly, clutching the end of her ponytail.

I waited.

"I just wanted to know," she repeated more softly, "if this... having all this power gets... easier. Because they gave it to me. I had it, only a little bit, before, and I didn't know it, but then they did something to me when I was sleeping -- Mark told them it was okay -- and now I have all this... this." She waved her hands in a helplessly grand gesture.

I watched her for a moment, lips pursed, and then said, "It depends what you're doing with it."

She met my gaze soppily, looking like she was about to burst into tears, looking like she wanted someone to pat her head and tell her it was all right. "I'm making the world a better place. Only it keeps not working the way I think it will."

"Then you're doing it wrong," I said bluntly. "Controlling other people is wrong, full stop. No matter what the aliens say, no matter what your charming hubbykins says."

"But there's so much I can do to help!" she exclaimed, taking three steps toward me, still with that look of appeal.

"If you think that before you think of the harm you can do," I said, "there's nothing more to be said." She staggered one more step, reaching out, opening her mouth to say something, and I snapped, "Don't come to me for comfort. I am no one's mammy, but especially not yours."

She made a little gasping noise, turned, and ran out of the room.

I sat and fumed for quite a while as I picked chewed bubblegum out of my dog's mind before it hardened and stuck. Nina went on to sing,

Some say that hell is below us
But I say it's right by my side
'Cause you see evil in the morning
Evil in the evening, all the time
You know damn well
That we all must be in hell
We got to be in hell
We all must be in hell
We must be in hell.

Date: 2012-12-14 09:59 pm (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
Wow, that woman has no backbone. I guess ethics are optional.

I like the chewed bubblegum image. It's the right mix of vivid and icky.

Thanks for writing!

Date: 2012-12-16 09:43 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx

My temptation

Date: 2013-02-27 07:45 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
would be to burn out every telepath on the ship and damn the consequences.



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