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[personal profile] wonder_city
And we return to Wonder City Stories volume III, already in progress, with an update on Renata.

My Crown Too Heavy

"It is extremely pleasing that you have chosen to help us," Joshua said as its Hoover rolled sedately down the corridor.

I walked alongside it, eyeing what appeared to be peach-painted drywall and medium-brown wood paneling on the walls. The floor was fake hardwood so the Hoover's rolling things could roll, otherwise I expected shag carpeting. Especially when I noticed the variety of (not very good) landscape and still life prints placed at strategic intervals. "Who decorated your ship?" I finally asked.

"My family studied many transmissions from your continent and others, and discovered a convergence of taste..." Joshua stopped rolling when it discovered I had stopped walking. I was giving it my best side-eye. A moment later, it said, "We did research and attempted to make the space more favorable for your species. And then Mark West ordered one of his assistants to decorate."

I didn't say that Mark West's assistant must have played The Sims a lot, but that's exactly what it looked like to me. I decided that line of questioning was unprofitable. "Where are we going?"

"I thought perhaps you would care for a walk beyond your previous bounds," Joshua said diffidently.

I made a noise that wasn't quite acceptance. I was, in fact, enjoying walking somewhere I hadn't seen before. After so many years of becoming accustomed to the same spaces, even my prison had been novel and interesting for a short while (after tamping down the initial agoraphobia). More, I was enjoying the sensation of walking among so many minds and not being crushed under their weight.

"So why can you produce something like this--" I said after a moment, fingering the strange necklace of peculiarly iridescent metal at my throat "--when you can't read human minds?"

"Your people need not be able to perceive certain kinds of radiation with your eyes to be able to shield yourselves from them," Joshua said, and I could tell that it was pleased with its metaphor.

"No one but a few mad scientists have been able to create machines that detect 'psychic emanation,'" I said, making the scare quotes with my fingers, though I wasn't sure Joshua would understand them. "And here you are, referring to it as radiation."

"It is," Joshua said. "Humans and other beings emanate this radiation, but the reason that your kind cannot normally detect it is that it is produced in another dimensional space, and your kind limits itself to four dimensions, despite existing in far more."

I considered this for a moment, and decided not to give my opinion on either the term "limit" or the number "four." Instead, I said, "Is there somewhere in particular we're going, though?"

"Yes," Joshua said. "I am taking you to your office."

"My office?" I said, staring at its hairdryer dome.

"Your... work space," Josua said, apparently attempting to clarify.

"No, no, I got that. But why would I need an office?"

"For your new responsibilities," Joshua said. "You will see when we arrive."

And oh, I did see.

Standing there in fucking mission control with a huge-ass map of Africa floating on the two-story-high screen in front of me, I said, "You want me to do what?"

"It was suggested that you would be the best-equipped of our operatives to work on bringing peace to the African continent," Joshua said.

I put my fists on my hips and cocked my head at it. "By who?"

"The... er... human liaison," Joshua admitted.

"And Mark West based this piece of brilliance on... what, precisely?"

Joshua's systems hummed almost agitatedly. "On your physical similarities with many of the denizens. This similarity is apparently important for humans."

I hadn't changed my posture. "Did your family's studies indicate this?"


I was actually pleased that I'd stumped it. I suspected that this situation might just be Joshua's personal naivete at work. Fluffy had not struck me as the sort to fall for a line like that from a human; it would've gone along with it, consciously and knowing it for the bullshit that it was. Whether or not Fluffy was capable of identifying it as the systemic bullshit it was wasn't an issue. It wasn't interested in that level of detail; it just wanted us to sit down, do what it told us to, and shut the fuck up.

"Look," I said, feeling vaguely sorry for Joshua in its stupidity, "what have you observed about humans and physical similarities?"

"Oh!" Joshua said, its hairdryer perking up a fraction of an inch. "We have observed that humans of the same gender understand each other much better than cross-gender people do."

"Uh-huh," I said, losing most of my sympathy. "And do you attribute that to physical appearance?"

"Oh, uh, no," Joshua said. "It appears to be... cultural, if I understand your language's term for the concept correctly."

"And so, if you extrapolate that finding to people who happen to be of similar skin color but not the same culture..." I said, just to hammer it home.

Joshua was silent for several long moments. Then it said, "I understand."

"Yes?" I said.

"Unfortunately," it said, "we are unable to discuss this issue with the family who is currently in charge of this mission until the next family conclave, and we have no other operative to work on this continent's issues. I hope you will be able to make some impact with your significant abilities."

It started to roll toward the door, the paused and said, "You can ask the door computer to plot you a path back to your apartment when you leave for the day."

"Let me guess, I should plan a forty-hour workweek, per Mark West?" I still hadn't moved except to continue looking after Joshua.

"You should work as much as you think you can, physically and emotionally, to accomplish the task you have been given," it said, and departed.

I stared at the door for a while, then turned back to mission control and threw myself into the chair with possibly more violence than necessary. I stared up at the map disconsolately. "What steaming bullshit," I muttered.

Date: 2013-07-26 05:29 pm (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
Yea! Great to see more of this! I'm glad you're feeling up to it now. I didn't consciously think that I was missing Wonder City Stories, but now that I see an update, I'm thrilled.

They want Renata to 'pacify' Africa? I boggle. These aliens know so little about what they're doing and are still going full steam ahead. They don't much care about who gets hurt.

Date: 2013-07-26 11:34 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Wow, thank you! I'm so flattered.

Yeahhhh. Aliens, man.

Date: 2014-02-03 09:36 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
The sheer mind-boggling idiocy of leaving someone like Mark West in charge despite his inability to get along with most people and especially not people of colour. Plus they really want Renata to get on their side and yet he's allowed around?

Mrs West I dislike but she makes sense from the aliens point of view. Mark? No.

Date: 2014-02-05 08:35 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
He makes sense if his position is the reason they get Sara's powers. Also, he may get along with most other white people that they've recruited just fine -- may even be perceived as being charming, constructive, intelligent, etc. Remember that we're seeing him through Renata's very cynical viewpoint, and she might see George W. Bush, or Karl Rove, or any other successful right-wing US politician, in much the same way.

Date: 2013-07-27 02:53 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Yay! I'm glad to see more of Wonder City. --interleaper

Date: 2013-07-27 02:30 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Thank you! I've missed the WC crew an awful lot. :)


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