Mar sat in her forlorn self, in her forlorn cabin, thinking about her forlorn Shattered. How miserable. How wretched. Her chest felt desolate; her insides felt of wide open spaces not of repose, but agoraphobic places stretching out hideously. She thought of corn fields. Endless corn fields. Her first college was in Nebraska. ‘Why don’t you go to an Ivy, darling?’ Mother would ask. Why not an Ivy? A poison Ivy. I wanted to study dirt; I wanted to be dirt. Three years working at an agricultural degree. Did I even like dirt? Or was I just trying to spite my parents? Mar became further absorbed in her thoughts. She sat, memories flowed through her; her streams-of-consciousness, by certain degrees, as the clock ticks, disembogued, opened up, into other, deeper, rivers of recollection. Why exile S to the Central Valley? Where is he? And mother. Her mind meandered, many snaked heads grew out of her skull.
A knock on the door. Another. Another.
“Mar! You OK in there?” Stone shouted. “Mar! I can see you. You’re just staring off into space. I am coming in.” Mar’s left side drooped. Stone hadn’t realized this when he knocked because only her right side was visible from the window. He put his hands on her lap. “Mar, listen to me, can you hear me? Blink if you can.” Her right eye blinked. She murmured something unintelligible. Drool. The smell of feces and urine. Stone had seen it all; he was a part-time porter at the local infirmary. He ran and got his horses and wagon. He picked up Mar’s body. Stone’s muscular frame made light work of safely carrying the old woman to the wagon. In the back he had spread out blankets and he laid Mar out on the big makeshit bed. This was a wagon made for long-haul journeys; he had it incidentally because of his contract with Autumn Spring. This was Shattered’s wagon. The wagon that would wheel Mar’s body to the infirmary. Before he could climb into the driver’s seat, a small black spherical drone appeared. It hoovered silently, almost inside the wagon, near Mar. Stone only noticed it because he felt a bit of movement of air behind his head.
Within seconds Mar’s body, wrapped in some transparent substance, floated sideways, then zoomed up into the sky and away at speed Stone hadn’t seen in decades. Stone had a duty to report both Mar’s stroke and the Marin drone’s appearance. Knowing what he did about Marin technology, and that Mar would have had to have been transferred there regardless, and she probably wouldn’t have survived the trip by standard means, Stone mulled what to do. He decided to report the matter to the most decent person he knew. And there were only three people that he could inform, especially of the breach of Marin’s agreement not to use their technology in Park’s region: Jamal Cohen Jr, TJ Tallie, and Shinji Kurosawa, Park’s Internal Intelligence Chief. He did not know Shinji well enough, he did not trust TJ, and so he chose Jamal.
“God damn, what the hell, where the fuck… Oh, yes.” Mar regained consciousness. She was sitting inside a recuperation pod, deep in Marin’s Central Nexus. The small ovoid chamber, like a womb, lit up slightly as Mar awoke. After her exclamations, she realized where she was. She felt her body; her hands rubbed her stomach; she put her left index finger in her belly button; she touched her forehead with her right index finger, then rubbed her hands through her thick, white hair. Stroke. Yes, I had a stroke. I know that, all the symptoms I experienced, and then. I can’t remember, but I am sure this thing is reconstructing my neuronal connections as best it can. But how did I get here? I remember blacking out, then waking, and knowing I had had a stroke – damn I was terrified – and I remember a man. Yes, Stone. He picked me up. But after that I can’t put together how I got here. There would not have been time to transfer me here by usual means. Old Morph must’ve sent a drone. A violation of the agreement. Mar’s eyes closed. Just need to meditate. Rest my eyes. She fell deeply asleep.
“Where’s Mar? I must see her! Take me to her!” Shattered, fully recovered, shouted as he left the small room adjacent to an immense dark, blue Forum. There was no door between the two spaces, just a hallway that bent so that one could not see directly in or out. Shattered’s exclamations, directed at a room full of people working, met with stony silence. Everyone was keenly involved in a project: their faces glowing with ocular implants; the ones without implants were engaged with screens indicating codes, formulas and other things Shattered did not understand. He recalled being rescued by the dark floating sphere that turned sky-blue; he recalled Kyoto taking him to the small chamber to sleep. After his shouts, within thirty seconds, out of the dark, cool and studious atmosphere, Kyoto approached him from seemingly infinite space. “She is well, she is recovering. I told you, do you remember?” “No, I think I…”
Kyoto nodded, “That happens with psychosomatic trauma. Dr Smithson, Mar, had a very severe right hemisphere stroke. Her central nervous system pathway, and her spinothalmic tract, was severely damaged. She will require, under these circumstances, given that the medical system here is… basic, a few more days, yet she will fully recover.”
“She’ll recover fully? You’re sure?”
“Yes, I am, I ran the diagnostics myself.”
“Kyoto, you said the heath system here is basic, what do you mean by that? It seems incredibly advanced. I mean, even by what I’ve read of pre-calamity medical standards…?”
“Shattered, there is much you must learn, yet I cannot tell you at present what I meant. I often find myself remarking too much, so I have learned to say little. Yet, you are one of us now. You are in Adjunct Seventy-Seven, do you know what that is? Did Premier Morph Zed tell you?”
“No, he never mentioned it. But I did notice this place has got a lot more people doing what looks like work than the other places in Marin I have been too. Mostly people playing around. Here, everyone is focused on something… serious? I am one you? What does that mean.”
Kyoto ignored his inquiry. “Correct. This is a very, as you say, serious place. There are two people from Marin, they came here to deliver a message to save your life. Brook Woods and Kenya Cohen, do you know them?”
“Yes, of course I know them! Wait, I thought Mar’s the reason you brought me here?”
“She is, but the initial message came through these two, and they are here too. Just not in this zone. Would you like to see them? There really isn’t much for you to do here, at present.”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
Kyoto walked to a wall. “Come.” As they neared the dark, blue wall, a hole opened. Inside the opening, a silver sphere, large enough for five or so people, with a soft, dark blue floor, awaited. “Come.” Shattered followed Kyoto. The sphere sped off, although the speed was hardly noticeable to those inside. “Listen, Kyoto, you seem to know a lot here, I have read about inertia, and we are moving at great speed.”
“If you call two-hundred kilometers an hour great speed, then yes?”
“Why don’t we feel…?”
“The experience has been muted by the design of the sphere, and the way it moves through space. That’s all I can say at the moment. We are almost there.”
Another opening. A large apartment, in building with that transparent glass-like gel that holds the buildings of Marin in their perpetual wombs; only the floors were opaque white. Out the floor-to-ceiling ‘window,’ Shattered saw the Pacific Ocean. He walked quickly to the slightly curved, clear wall. He put his hand on the soft barrier. Kenya placed her hand on his shoulder. He gasped and turned back. “Oh, it’s you Kenya! May I have a hug?”
“Yes, of course!” They hugged and cried and cried. Shattered had seen what people who had his skin color did to people who had her skin color. He felt ashamed. He felt relieved. He felt whole and shattered. Brook came in with a bowl of fresh fruits and berries. They sat at the large dining table and drank coffee. Shattered told the two what he had seen. During their conversation, which lasted for two hours, he cried, Kenya cried, Brook cried and everyone felt, deep down, poorly about the prospects of their species. Near the end, Kenya turned to Shattered, put her hand on his and said, “I wanted to say something, as I am sick of humans at the moment, something that might shock you, but Kyoto isn’t from here. At least not fully, one of her parents is from somewhere else. And I don’t think she has been here her whole life.”
featured image: (Courtesy Artnet)