"Destination reached, Loire System. Local time: 08:04," a slightly female voice rang out against hard steel, echoing slightly. The smile on Reid’s face seemed to grow as he heard the beacon.
"Thanks, Arch." He said as he pushed three buttons to hold his ship in orbit around Loire. The Loire System had been manufactured to be a trading post ring of planets. There were three small planets orbiting around their own sun. The outermost planet was named Loire, to save everyone from confusion, no doubt. "Bring her in," he added, his words falling on the deaf ears of his ship’s computer.
Reid Emory, a glorified delivery boy, had a feeling about how the day was going to go. He had felt off since he woke up. There was just something in the air, and on his conscience when he had to do a delivery near this system. He couldn’t quite pinpoint his feelings. They seemed to evade him, even when applying psychotherapy techniques he learned while he was in college. He hadn’t completed the course, but he had so many experiences since he left the Flight Academy, he didn’t even mind.
Loire’s sun started to rise over the horizon above the planet’s surface. Reid raised the solar shields on the lenses of the viewer screen. He watched the sun rise, waiting for one of two calls he was supposed to receive. He bit the inside corner of his lip in anticipation. He waited for his ship to inform him of a telecommunication, while he did inventory of the cargo he was supposed to deliver to Loire. This job had several end destinations. He was taking many different packages to different people in the Ganle Marketplace. He didn’t care for the place much, but it was a way to pay his debts and his bills. He still owed so many people from his Flight School days that he would probably never get out from under their thumbs, no matter how much his high-paying jobs and clients were willing to offer him.
"Incoming transmission from the Planet’s surface. Ganle City."
"Lovely," Reid said. He made sure his sandy-coloured hair was pushed out of his face, so his contact could read his lips. The man was better at reading lips than actually hearing anything Reid had to say. A life as a weapons tester could do that to a person, especially if they had no desire to keep to safety regulations. Reid punched his communicator’s ‘on’ button and a fake grin passed his face at a distance. He wasn’t known as a very happy guy to his clients most of the time. One couldn’t afford for appearances to drop in a world like this one. Politics was the name of the game.
"Reid," The voice attached to the puffy face he could see on his screen said.
"Boyd. It’s a good morning, don’t you think?" he asked, making small talk. It was hard to keep up the charade every day. Neither of them cared about the weather, but it was a formality.
"The sheep have a particular skip in their step, indeed."
It was also a very good way to make sure that the people one was talking to weren’t under the influence of any outside hands. Codes could be exchanged in order for the other party to be put at ease.
"It’s the salt from the sea," Reid replied, hoping Boyd’s code hadn’t changed. It had been the same for about six months. Soon it would change, and Reid would forget it. Boyd should be used to it by now. They worked together a lot, the man loved his exotic goods.
"I trust you have the goods Loredo sent," Boyd said. He had a habit of making statements from questions. Everything he said had a certain lack of enthusiasm, and Reid enjoyed it. It was fun trying to unravel the enigma that surrounded the man. They never really got to know each other — there was never time. Someday, Reid would take that man out for a drink.
"They’re intact." Reid assured Boyd. Reid put up a video feed from his cargo hold next to his face in the communication. Boyd could see the packages marked for Loire.
"The large one in the back… Has it woken up yet?"
The only response was a blink from Reid.
"Emory, I need to know if it’s still asleep."
"I haven’t looked, Boyd. You know I don’t ask questions, and I don’t pay attention to what it is you get in these crates. That’s why you pay me so much. I’m not a babysitter, I’m your friendly, oblivious smuggler." He said rolling his eyes. He had to admit to being … slightly curious as to what was in the crate now. He had no idea what it could be. Boyd certainly did have exotic tastes, and he was a show off. That was why he was asking, he didn’t care about the actual crate, he wanted Reid to ask questions about it. He smirked as he figured out Boyd’s game.
Reid raised an eyebrow at his contact on Loire. “I’ll go have a look, then, shall I?” he asked. “I’ll leave the comm link up. Back in two shakes.”
Reid got up from his chair. There was silence. Boyd liked that better, from what Reid remembered. The man was almost fully deaf, so silence came naturally to the man. Boyd tapped his fingers on his oak desk and waited until he could see Emory on the cargo bay screen.
Reid moved some of the crates and lock-boxes out of the way of the largest crate of the bunch. He stepped closer to it and tapped the outside. His hand hit wood, but it didn’t sound hollow. There was a metal sheet on the inside of the crate to reinforce it. What was Boyd trying to show off? It was important whatever it was. He wouldn’t have had Reid carry it over inter-planetary borders had it not been. He squinted at the box. Maybe this meant more money for Reid.
He climbed the ladder back up to Archer’s cockpit and slumped back into his chair. He felt less like being formal and more like asking for more money from Boyd. He knew the man was good for it. “My price has raised. Whatever’s in there isn’t awake.” he said. “You know my prices for anything alive, Boyd.” he said.
"You’ve got guts."
"I’ve also got sense," he said. "Anything living is extra, because I know it’s illegal already. You know the rules, Boyd."
"I’ll give you twenty more, but that’s it."
Reid was ready to end the communication right there. “When you’re ready to talk real numbers, Boyd, call me bac—”
"Okay, look, Reid. It’s a favor for a friend of mine. He’s got a very exotic collection, and I wanted to add to it. I owe him… I can give you one hundred extra and that’s it."
"And the truth will out," Reid commented, offhandedly. "I’ll be on the surface in an hour, waiting for my money." Reid punched the button on the communication’s computer.
Archer piped up. “Communication ended, 08:10.”
"Transporter being prepared. Estimated time remaining: Thirty minutes."
Reid delayed the transporter prep by thirty more minutes so he could take other calls. Boyd’s call was the most important. The others were small-time criminals, trying to cheat Reid out of his proper money. Reid had a headache by the time all of them were finished. He didn’t want to have to go deal with them in person, because then he couldn’t conceal anything. His body language would say it all, and he’d have to pretend even harder not to be mad about losing money, when he should be making it.
The life of a smuggler seemed so glamorous when he first started. He didn’t realize how much actual work was involved. There were so many other legal professions to consider, but Reid Emory had no time to go through the hiring process. He outfitted Archer when he first got her, and then he was off with his own license, fake as it was. He couldn’t get his real license, not after dropping out of flight school. No man in their right mind would grant a flight school dropout with a bad track record a flight license, or the proper paperwork to start his own delivery business. Since he didn’t know what was in the crates, in the event of being overtaken by a BRUTE Cruiser he didn’t have to lie. It was the perfect set up, in Reid’s opinion. Plus, he didn’t have to pry into his client’s lives. He hated prying.
"See you later, Arch. keep the engine warm for me." The silence in the room overcame Reid as he zipped his olive flight suit to the top. The one-piece jumpsuit carried his usual gear for planet-side deliveries. A screwdriver, and a pen. He had electronic tracking devices on each crate that came in, so he could make sure that all the cargo arrived at its destination point.
With the push of a button, Reid was standing on the planet’s surface. He hated being transported. There was something unsettling about it. His stomach never came out too well after it. There was a sudden lurch upon stopping, as if the calculations of where to stop had been off by half a meter. Reid’s adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed past it, and made sure his cargo was safe. He decided that recallibration was in order when he got home… Whenever that would be.
He transported down to the planet outside of the Ganle marketplace, Boyd’s haunt. He’d go there after the small-time jobs. He had learned his lesson — allot Boyd the most time in his rounds. Last time the other deliveries were late because Boyd liked to brag about what he had ordered from across the world once it arrived — thus not breaking the agreement he had with Reid.
The first stop would be three packages. Probably dried meats. Even though Reid didn’t ask questions, he hadn’t been born yesterday. He knew what ended up in what kinds of crates, and had spend a lot of his time figuring out what was in those crates. He was alone for most of his time anyway; ruminating on the past and playing guessing games was probably the best way he could pass his time.
The other deliveries put him behind schedule. He had trouble finding the third client. He ended up asking around for people who knew Newt. Newton Montgomery was a wiry man, with a laid-back attitude that Reid Emory tended to enjoy. It made up for having to deal with Boyd all the time. He moved the cart he carried the boxes in further down the marketplace. He made sure it stayed in front of him, so he could keep an eye on the street urchins trying to take his fare. This was much better than passengers. Reid could at least have fewer eyes prying into what he was doing.
Speaking of eyes, there was a small hole in the side of the largest crate, one being delivered to Boyd, if he could ever find Newt. Reid looked over the boxes, counting each one silently. His gaze passed over one of the holes — presumably for whatever it was in there to have air — and saw an eyeball. Reid stopped dead in his tracks, unable to move his legs. He didn’t know what it was, but it startled him, and the people around him could see that. They started to stare. Reid tugged on the collar of his flight suit and unzipped the front enough so he could feel like he was able to breathe.
He consciously made an effort to move forward with the crate. What the hell could Boyd be so interested in that he was afraid of? Other than just bragging, Reid could tell from Boyd’s tone on the communication that there was fear behind his eyes. He wanted whatever was in that crate to stay asleep, and for good reason. Reid walked slowly, but he could feel his cart shake. He had to think fast. Unfortunately, the only situation in which he had proven proficient at decision-making was in flight. Reid was on solid ground and had no idea how to react to a large eyeball appearing at a hole in the steel-reinforced wood.
He watched the crate as he walked forward, no longer seeing the urchins around him, trying to steal his goods. They didn’t matter when there was something living in this crate.
Reid hated animals.
He pressed on, heading in the direction he had been told to go, but the marketplace was large. He might not even be on the right side of it, let alone the right street. He had a feeling Newt’s was off the beaten path a spell, and he would have to get rid of the live animal crate first. He would just have to have Newt’s delivery later than he had said it would arrive. He’d just radio Newt and hoped the man was patient enough not to care about how late it was.
As he decided to turn around to bring the shaking cart to Boyd, it began to shake more violently. Dark skinned fingers, knuckles covered in hair, popped through the hole. They were the first two fingers on that … thing’s … right hand. Reid swallowed and nervously pushed his hair out of his face. Panic started to flood his body, and he wanted to do something, but nothing came to mind. What was happening? Think, Reid, think.
Whatever is in there, is awake. As long as it’s not strong enough to get out of that box, you’ll be okay, right? Reid thought to himself. Another gulp as he felt the crate rattle. The other problem was the authorities. Inter-planetary smuggling of live animals as strictly forbidden. Reid hated carrying live cargo — especially when the tranquilizer wore off.
Reid pressed on. He trudged through the crowd, which was beginning to look at his crates, and not him. They were more interested in the crate on his hover cart than they were in him, which eased his anxiety, if only slightly. Reid made it back to the main stretch of the market. It spanned close to three blocks in width, and the middle of the marketplace was crowded from end to end with stalls. They were all selling things, some hand-made, some smuggled onto the planet by outside sources like Reid. The market stalls were all touching one another, giving their keepers only enough room to be in their own stall. The main drag was populated by crooks and thieves, and everyone wondered why society had taken to pirateism.
"Sir," Reid heard from behind him. He knew who it was, trying to get his attention. He pretended as if he hadn’t heard, and he began to walk slightly faster, having a hard time moving the cart. A loud screeching noise could be heard from inside the crate. He heard a hollow beating sound following it. The fingers popped through the air hole in the side of the crate once more. Finally, Reid put it together. He hated Boyd more now than he ever had before.
"Sir!" The man called again, louder this time. Reid kept pressing on, thankful for the large crowd surrounding him. They kept the BRUTE away from him. Blessing trapped in a curse, his favourite kind.
"You’re dead, Boyd. Dead." Reid muttered under his breath. At least it didn’t seem like it could break free… yet.
Every star system had been placed under one planetary rule. Each one was asked to join, but if they refused, no trade was allowed to that star system by any of the supporters of the Planetary Syndicate. The galaxies slowly suffered without unification under the wings of the Syndicate.. It was a hard time for everyone, and that’s why people like Emory survived on the good graces of other people. They paid him to deliver crates all over the universe, and in a business like this, it was hard to ask questions. No one wanted their business looked in to, and Emory didn’t want to be the one to do it, either. The Brute did that enough. Brute is slang for any member of the Syndicate’s armed forces. More often than not, the Brute just wanted to watch violence, rather than stop it. They incited it just for fun. This was all speculation, of course. Reid had not evidence to support it, but they had never helped anyone that he knew of. They would execute anyone that crossed the Syndicate and that was the end of it. They got a formal hearing, but if you made it that far, chances are that you won’t last much longer.
It was a harsh place, and Reid had gotten used to everything that happened. He was used to the unnecessary violence brought on by the Brutes and the planetary unification that happened. So when this delivery shocked him, it was out of the normal for Reid. He didn’t know what to do, and his social anxiety wasn’t helping either. He felt a weight crushing him from both sides.
“Sir, we need to see your license to carry live animals through the marketplace.” He heard the Brute’s voice behind him. A quick flash of a glance back, and he was staring right into the man’s eyes. The Brute’s shoulders were about twice the width of Reid’s. He stood in his charcoal gray uniform, very confidently. From Reid’s posture alone, anyone in the marketplace could tell he wasn’t confident. He slouched and never made eye contact. The way of the streets.
“If you do not cooperate, sir, you will be taken into custody,” his booming voice sounded again. Three officers started to move around Reid, trying to corner him in the middle of the marketplace. They closed in on every side. Reid turned to face the one that was addressing him, his back to his cart.
“I’m licensed.” he said, feebly.
The Brute took a step toward him, and Reid took a step back, running into his hover cart. After all the shaking, the crate tipped over, landing in the dirt. The top of the box — the only part unlined by steel — cracked open, and the animal emerged. The animal looked like a hybrid of gorilla and robot. There were sections of the gorilla’s fur that had been ripped out, to reveal a silicone body. No doubt this was one of the genetic experiments the Syndicate took part in. The brain was that of a gorilla, placed into a mechanical body, ensuring the long life and durability in the model.
The Brutes changed their target and closed in on the gorilla, trying to contain it. The problem with the Brutes was, as Reid had learned over the years, they were not chosen to be on the force because of their intelligence. Reid groaned, trying not to show his anger at the situation. He didn’t need the Brutes to change their trajectory yet again, and harass Reid even further.
“Nice monkey…” one of the Junior Officers said. What was wrong with the man? Nice Monkey? Was that entirely necessary?
Monkeys were one thing, but a fully adult male gorilla was something entirely different. This gorilla was a silverback — a male model — and his metallic skeleton made him heavier. He looked to be strong, enhanced with the rigid structure of the robotic interior. This was a marvel of the century, but it still had the brain of a gorilla.
From what Reid understood about them, they didn’t actually like feeling threatened. They tended to react poorly by lashing out at their attacker — whom they were almost assuredly heavier in comparison to. A threat (such as being shoved into a steel-lined box, tranquilized, then subsequently approached by angry men carrying laser rifles) seemed to be enough to set this five hundred pound marvel on edge.
"For hundreds of years, the World has been in denial about magics," Lucia said. She sat in her parlor — which was really a tent off to the right side of the marketplace. The outside of the tent bore draped fabric and a sign with gold and purple lettering.
"Ancient Mystic: tarot, palmistry, and remedies."
The inside of the tent was homey, away from the hustle and bustle of the marketplace, but still on the main drag. Lucia spent a lot of time gathering her resources enough to spread them so thinly at this kiosk of a shop. She had been connected to the spiritual arts for as long as she could remember, and it was often linked to her by touching something that would be useful later, or by seeing someone who was doing the wrong thing with their lives. She tended not to step in where she wasn’t welcome, because most people still didn’t believe magic was real. All of Lucia’s clients had a small inkling of what she was capable of, but she was a soothsayer, a mystic, and thus an outcast as well. She spent so much of her time reassuring her clients that she had never met them before when she reads someone without having met them, or having knowledge of their lives. It was called cold reading. There were people that could do it, and Lucia was one of them. She only needed to touch their palm and she could see their current lives and what would happen to them if they continued on their path.
Lucia also had access to deeper magics, which had been perfected over the years. She knew many spells but used them only when it was necessary. She didn’t need them to offset people’s perception, although she could if she wanted. She didn’t need magics in order to live, she just harnessed them to make her living.
There was a difference, in Lucia’s experience. She had met many mystics that didn’t have the gifts at all, but instead pretended to use magic to tell people they needed to give their money away. Lucia needed money, but not as much as she wanted to help people, deep down. Poverty didn’t seem like the kind of glamourous life that Lucia would like living.
"Mrs. Dawson please relax," Lucia said in an almost sultry tone. She had to keep her voice even, but warm at the same time. It calmed her patients. "I’d like you to take deep, cleansing breaths and clear your mind. This works better if you don’t influence my reading by worrying about one specific thing."
"Well, thats why I’m here, Lucia. I am worried about one single thing," Louise insisted. She was one of Lucia’s regular clients. She had a husband that cheated on her, and coworkers that have set out to make her life harder. After the last time Louise saw Lucia, she quit her job and went back to school to study art. Now she was worried that she made the wrong choice because her husband threatened to leave her. Lucia could tell all of this just from touching the woman’s hand in a comforting manner.
"We all worry about the choices we make as they start effecting out lives. It is harder to make a change in one’s life without effecting the lives of others," Lucia said. "Come, we have work to do, I’m sure that you want some answers."
There was always a palm and tarot reading for Louise, being the paranoid woman she was. This woman took the longest to convince that Lucia actually had the gift. She spent so much time reassuring Louise in their first session together.
The good thing about Lucia’s magics was that they were mailable. The future could be changed in more ways than one. Making decisions every day was one of them, and changing past decisions was another. The fate of the world really did lie with the decision-making of the leaders, but it could also be changed and shaped the way they think to act.
In reality, Louise should see a psychiatrist, but Lucia’s rates were much cheaper for anyone who didn’t have health insurance that would cover going to see a shrink to fix their problems. Plus, all psychiatrists really cared about was the money. Lucia sometimes cared more about other people than she did about herself.
“You are afraid your husband is going to leave you,” Lucia said, stating a fact.
Louise choked up, sniffling. “He said he was done with me, but I don’t know if that was just a heat of the moment idea, or if he was really…” She broke down into sobs as they made it back to Lucia’s reading room. It was a corner of the tent that had been partitioned off by dark curtain, in a round. There were no corners in the room, and there was a round table sitting in the middle of it. Where most fortune tellers had crystal balls, all Lucia had were healing crystals lined up on the far side of the circular table. She had a stack of tarot cards sitting next to them, which was her real tool in the trade. Tarot cards could tell her a lot about the past and future when she already inherently knew the present.
Lucia drew her long skirts over her ankles as she sat down, giving the cloth enough slack to pool around her feet once she settled. Lucia liked wearing skirts and flowing tops, to keep up her gypsy appearance. She completed the look with sculpted, dark eyebrows and tightly curled brown hair. Her porcelain skin seemed to be the only thing setting her apart from the Romana Gypsys of old. She was too pale.
“We all have doubts about the fidelity and loyalty of our lovers,” Lucia started as she took the tarot cards into her hand. She shuffled them and spread them out over the table. “Choose three.”
Louise swallowed her emotions, which welled up into her throat. She chose three cards, and as she pulled them from the stack, another extra one came with it. Louise looked at Lucia and bit her lip. “Should I turn it over?” she asked. Louise was a strong believer that if something happened, it happened for distinct reasons — especially in tarot readings. Lucia had taught her this over the years.
The card was the Fool. In Lucia’s experience, he meant a great change. He was the one who set everything into motion… and the Fool plays a large role in the tarot. It could be an actual person, or just the overall idea of change.
Louise looked at Lucia. Lucia looked at the card. They sat in silence for a moment. Finally, Lucia spoke up. “The Fool represents change. We should probably wait to do your tarot reading, Louise.” she said. “The card was pulled from the stack with your third card, which is an omen that your message to the tarot wasn’t clear enough, that whatever you wanted to know is changing too fast to interpret properly.”
Louise’s emotion welled up in her throat again. This time the lump was too dense to swallow. Tears pooled in her eyes. She wiped her face with her handkerchief and stood.
“Come see me tomorrow.”
Louise nodded and began to pull her wallet out to pay Lucia.
“Louise, please put that away. We can’t do a reading, you don’t owe me anything.”
Louise nodded again. The woman was very emotional, and Lucia wasn’t surprised by their inability to do a reading. “Take this herb mixture. I prepared it earlier, in case this happened. It will help you relax this evening. Come see me tomorrow and we’ll try again.”
Lucia gave her the herbs and walked her out of the tent. Her next client wouldn’t arrive for another thirty minutes, and she had something to settle with the tarot. Lucia went back to her reading room, and started to gather the cards, all but the fool and the three others Louise had pulled out from the stack.
She turned the first one over. The Tower. Lucia closed her eyes, and turned the next one over. Judgement. Not a good sign. Lucia had made the right decision in sending Louise home, these cards didn’t have anything to do with her. They were about the state of the world. People did bad things, and they would be judged. The last card would determine how the world would end up. The past, present, and future are malleable.
Lucia turned the last card. The Sun. She released a sigh of relief. The Sun card could mean that things would turn out well, depending on the actions of whoever was being judged. She hoped that it was someone worthy of whatever task they were given.
The tarot cards were left on the table as Lucia prepared for her next reading. She placed the three Louise had picked out back into the pile, and left them there. It was then that she heard the noises outside.
Three Brute agents fell, broken, to the ground. The fourth waited for his comrades to fall and couldn’t handle the pressure. Reid had always known the Brutes were mostly just bullies. They liked pushing people around but never wanted to follow through on their threats. Most people were so gullible that they even seemed to believe the empty threats. With no Brute agents to take down the gorilla, it was left up to Reid.
Reid didn’t have time to wrangle an angry gorilla that went ape shit after waking up from a tranquilizer sleep. He just wanted things to go smoothly for once. Nothing could be a simple drop-off with some money collection on the side, could it? Reid watched the gorilla manhandle the Brute agents. They laid on the ground; Reid couldn’t tell if they were alive, but he wasn’t going to stick around to find out. He backed up around his hover cart, trying to stay away from the massive predator heading to exact revenge on whatever humans he could find.
This gorilla was grumpy. After a few moments, the gorilla stopped hitting the Brute officers around him, and started to move onto other targets. It knocked over several market stalls, crashing them into one another until they all fell like dominoes. A panic set the motion in the marketplace in overdrive. Everyone ran and the noise levels got louder and louder. The noise didn’t have a calming effect on the gorilla. Reid had hoped that it would lose steam, but with a mechanical body and a machine-regulated mind, something in its programming must have been set off by either the tranquilizer or light-speed travel.
The gorilla moved down the market stalls, hitting anyone in his way with his great arms. Reid swallowed hard and picked up one of the laser rifles of the fallen men. They hadn’t even gotten a chance to use them. The guns were still at full power, and it really was worth a shot. The Gorilla could handle shocks to the system without crashing, but Reid was willing to bet there was some kind of weak spot. There were weak spots in every animal — mechanical or non.
“Oy!” he shouted over the din of people. “Ape!” He ignored the voice in the back of his mind that told him to run. This would be the first time he had ignored the voice in a long time. He was usually so cautious for an illegal goods delivery man. He didn’t want to have anything to do with the illegalities, he just wanted to fly. He had always wanted to be a pilot, and no one would take a guy who dropped out of flight school under his circumstances. The only way it would have been harder to get a job was if he was a sex offender.
He started to jog to where the gorilla ended up. It was close to the end of the street, and most of the people had cleared off the main drag. He just took too long to think of the laser rifle. If he had been a few minutes quicker, there would be less casualties.
He took aim, and once the remaining people were out of his visual range, he pulled the trigger on the laser rifle. Reid had hardly ever fired a gun before. After this fiasco, he’d need to learn. His first shot hit nothing, and gave him a pain in his shoulder. Even in a laser rifle there was some amount of kick back that he hadn’t been expecting. Reid swallowed and shot again. This time the laser round went through a deep purple tent, ripping and cauterizing a hole in the material as the round passed through.
Reid wiped sweat from his brow and took a calming breath. He needed to shoot this stupid gorilla. He finally took his last shot. He felt like he was taking a stab in the dark when playing pin the tail on the donkey. If he had been blindfolded, he probably would have had better aim.
Lucia heard the shot before it happened. Her body was starting its future echo routine. She would see things that would happen soon, followed by things that would happen further and further down the timeline. She saw the laser shot go through the tent, burning as it went. The laser didn’t start a fire, but instead passed quietly through. Lucia counted down the seconds until it happened.
The laser round flew through the tent as Lucia got to the end of her countdown. She closed her eyes and listened outside at the anger. It wasn’t coming from whoever shot the rifle. No, it came from someone else. Someone with a future… Or who had a future at some point. Now all Lucia could sense was burning, incendiary machines. She didn’t get a clear picture of what was happening to the man with the gun, but whatever it was, the world was a little darker without him. Bad things would happen. It gave Lucia faith to know that one man’s future effected the futures of many. She saw the Syndicate falling without the aid of this man. Not only could Lucia see what was, she saw what could be. She could see how to help this man. First with his gorilla problem, and then perhaps in saving the world. He would save it though, Lucia was sure of it. She emerged from her tent at the sound of the third rifle shot. The shot missed its intended target. Lucia could sense the feral anger in the gorilla. She could — had it been human — touched it emotions in order to sway it away from anger and toward contentment. She had no ability over animals. They were more rebellious than humans, and their emotions were harder to pinpoint.
The gorilla continued to move away from the man with the gun. None of the rounds had hit the animal yet. He was obviously not a very good shot. Lucia could see three laser burns around her. All three of them were intended for the gorilla. What was this man who could change the world doing with a contraband animal? Lucia, while she could tell the future, she couldn’t read the past as well without someone aiding her. She would have to figure out this man’s past in order to fix his future. He didn’t belong delivering gorillas anywhere. He belonged … somewhere else.
“Oy! Ape!” Reid screeched again, moving forward so that he could get a better shot at the beast. Whether it was machine or animal, at the moment, the thing was a beast with no self control. Reid wiped some sweat off of his face and took cover behind a fallen market stall. He shot again. This time, the laser round seemed to scorch the fur of the gorilla. It cried out in pain. The gorilla must have mostly gorilla parts…with a metal skeleton. He had no idea. While Reid was good with machines, he couldn’t disable a rage-filled gorilla with a laser rifle and a screw driver.
The singed fur and flesh made the beast rear its head. It stopped moving toward the end of the street, toward Lucia, and turned back around to come at Reid. Reid was the bigger threat at the moment, apparently. The mystic looked like she was staring at Reid and hadn’t been paying attention to the gorilla about to run into her. She looked confident, but why? Could she stop this thing?
Reid fired two more shots, both of which connected to the gorilla’s chest, but nothing changed. It kept coming. It was as if the animal had some kind of armor. Reid’s brow furrowed and his lips tightened. Anger showed on his face more prominently than any of the other emotions running through him. “Come on…” He shot twice more, and then the magazine was dry. Nothing more came out of the laser rifle, and he had nothing else to defend himself with. His anger was replaced by wide-eyed fear. The gorilla closed in on him.
Reid fished around in his pockets for the screw driver. He had nothing else to defend himself with, this was the last call for all trains headed to the afterlife. There was so much that he wanted to do with his life. Being a delivery boy forever wasn’t something that he had aspired to. He spent hours in his youth studying military strategy because he wanted to help his government win wars, but this … this wasn’t war. It was a slaughter.
As the gorilla got closer, Reid reflected on the past as many people in life and death situations tended to do. Most people, however, would see their entire life flash before their eyes. Reid saw his greatest triumph and his biggest failure play in tandem next to one another. The event that caused him to drop out of flight school, and getting Archer to talk to him. Archer, like every other ship made under the Planetary Syndicate’s rule is inherently silent. Everything is man-operated and monitored. There are usually so many people to report what was going on, from proximity warnings to attacks from enemy vessels, that it was not needed. Reid needed it, so he built Archer a voice box. Of course, he couldn’t talk to Archer and have it listen, there still needed to be button pressing, but Archer could talk and tell him what was going on. It took a complete system overhaul and close to thirteen hours of work, but at least he got his own personalized ship. Archer was his home, and his best friend, really. He couldn’t imagine life without it.
His biggest failure in flight school could have been prevented if every ship was outfitted the way Archer was, and that had been the driving force behind reconstructing Archer’s base computer. His only regret in reliving these parts of his history was that he couldn’t change when he came up with his greatest feat of engineering. It took him almost ten years to figure out how to do it, plus the thirteen hour install time. He would have had to start on it when he was ten years old in order to get it up and running by the time he failed out of flight school.
Before Reid had time to react, he realized that the gorilla was too close for him to do anything. He finally understood why cartoon characters let pianos fall on them, or people stared at something until it came right down on their face. They must have all had similar experiences to his. He wondered if everyone saw their wins and losses as Reid had, or if other people who fixated on different things would see their death in different ways. Reid stumbled backwards, landing on his back. He laid on the ground feeling helpless. He was done for.
Reid brought the screwdriver up to embed in the gorilla’s chest or neck — whatever it hit would be good enough if the gorilla stopped on the offensive. From behind him, he heard the booming of thunder, and a crackle. There was a flash of light and the gorilla stopped, power surge to his electrical unit. Some part of his bodily functions were regulated by a miniaturized computer in his nervous system. As the gorilla fell to the ground, he saw the confident woman standing. His eyes closed and he let out the breath he hadn’t realized he held in his lungs.
Lucia stood with her arm outstretched, hand pointed at the gorilla. She righted her posture, smoothing the imaginary wrinkles from her clothing. She hadn’t wanted to do that, but she didn’t see what else could be done. Magic didn’t have any place in this world, other than the minor magics she harnessed to tell the future. Any other kinds of magic had too many consequences. Somewhere else a dozen fires would be started because Lucia started a rain storm in this part of the world. The balance had been thrown off, and should have been restored by Lucia herself. Instead she allowed the rain to fall. She wasn’t going to stop it unless it wouldn’t stop on its own. She had already tested the bonds of the world by even calling forth this mystical energy to help her. A time of need was an exception to the oath she took years ago.
The Oath was for all magic users in all the worlds. Using magics on a regular basis and tapping into the mystical energy that allowed the worlds to rotate and live was punishable by death, except in a time of need, in order to save a life. There were sorcerers that ignored the Oath, because it was hard for the Syndicate to protect themselves against what they couldn’t see or feel. Many of them were very grounded in the world. They needed some tangible energy to harness and stop at will.
Lucia rushed over to the man she saved. His name was still a mystery to her, but she would learn it. She was determined to make him see what was going to happen. Her mind flashed to a burning ship, exploding in space. A small asteroid-shaped piece of space debris clattered through the left engine of the ship. The image made Lucia falter for a moment as she approached him. He wasn’t supposed to be in this time frame. He was supposed to be somewhere else entirely. It was a matter of life and death.
Lucia knew just the spell.