(c) Jodi Ralston
Key Plot Point One: Edit One
This key point has been edited into several parts for easier loading.
You can find Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four here.
It was a beautiful day to be exiled. Our party of eight stood in a schism's clearing, illumed by that giant, restless, iridescent spark. The air didn't suffocate. The sun didn't blind nor boil you. The mid-morning sky was a cheery clear blue between fluffy confections of . . . . Who was I kidding? Pretty or not, they were going to throw me through that schism never to return this reality again, for doing the right thing.
"Does the accused have any last words?"
Many, I wanted to answer Maha. But during my trial and sentencing, no one had said a word on my behalf. Not one. Not her. My former superior officer. My sometimes sister-in-law. My one time savior. The woman I loved. Had loved. Was still in love with. I had done my best to distance her from my current legal entanglement; she did better. I couldn't even look at her, because when I did, I only saw how much more the law, her job--the boarder-guards--meant to her than me.
This Land's Regulator's Spokesman stepped into my field of vision, away from his accompaniment of scribe and escorts. This spindly man with his spindly voice said, "You do well to think your words over carefully, for they will be the last this world knows of you, malefactor." He sent a look behind him at the escorts. He looked back at me. "You do well, if your thoughts were worth capturing. But the law is the law, and we do follow the law here; silence is no answer." With that, the spokesman gathered up his spindly courage and his spindly hate to hover over me, just hoping he could provoke me. Just hoping I would give him reason to use his "escorts" to "escort me along to the next life" instead of just from this one.
My gaze flicked over them. They stood out amongst the tunic-clad officials in more ways than their dark dress and pants: The muscular and especially muscular-armed male and his ice-blond, hard sister. Escorts once under my employ and acquaintance. They looked back. For fun, Grips cracked his knuckles. His sister never moved an elegant muscle--statuesque in more than one way.
I looked away first. Tired. They wanted my final words? What did they matter, when the truth hadn't? But it was all I could give. "The cure, it worked."
"'The cure, it worked.'" The spokesman waved forward the record keeper, who was already duly scribbling on his tablet, to start scribbling my response and his own interpretation thereof. "So you knowingly forsook your duty as a mehnsettir and citizen to aid and abet the illegal research and production of a 'cure'. You knowingly aided and abetted the subversion of a branch of our government--of several branches--responsible for the safety of our country. Our reality. And all you can say for yourself is, 'The cure, it worked'?" Snorting his disgust, he waved at the border guards. "Take the criminal away."
With that order, he had just overstepped his bounds and stepped all over his fine moral stance of "following the letter of the law, damn the consequence to all" attitude. The Pharaoh's Spokesman, disinterested in the whole affair, seemed not to care. She nodded and turned away. Now, the escorts approached and took me in hand, one on each side.
Somewhere inside of me something woke up. "Is that all you have to say? Do you hear yourself, Spokesman? You are charging me with success. The cure works. No more turning into monsters that suck the life out of people like a spider on a fly. You would think the Regulators would appreciate that. Schiz it, even give me a medal of honor. I know the flies would."
The grips on my arms tightened, picked me up, and turned me about-face. Grips gave me a slight shake of his head during this. His twin looked even more unmoved than Maha, but Diamond always did. Behind me, no doubt, a spindly man was holding together his spindly hands waiting for me to fight so that my escorts could break something on me. Like my arms. And I knew firsthand how easy it was for them, especially Grips, to break something, especially on me. All it took from him was one squeeze . . . .
I didn't give the spokesman the satisfaction. He had his scapegoat. He wasn't going to get a broken one in the bargain.
But while I had them by me, I had my only chance to ask about a reversal of my condemnation. Only a Regulator could close a schism; only another Regulator could have it opened again and something extracted out. Namely, me. "Did you get word to newlyweds?" The Regulator of the other Land was a little more on my side. Had to be, since by trick of law and fate, I had married into that mighty mess. Sort of.
"We worked something out," Diamond said. "Don't worry."
I breathed "Thank you" at my favorite twin.
The pain-in-my-everything twin waited until they were handing me off to the border guards to have his parting shot. "Watch your ass, Legs, because I won't be there to watch it for ya, no matter the incentive." And he planted his hand on my nickname's vicinity and gave me a shove that nearly bowled us all down.
"Easy there, Walker," Tesha's cousin, Bustis, said as she straightened me, brushed me off a little to well before taking one lightly bruised arm in her grip.
My former classmate took the other with a smirk before he got serious--well as serious as he ever got. The man was never without a smile. Even now. "Don't worry, mate." He clapped me on the back. "Once they see this is the real deal, they won't be able to get you out fast enough. Think of it as a vacation. To Paradise, no less. Someone is looking out for ya." He would have said more, but his mehnset was bothering us both by now.
Their mehnset tongued my arm from theirs, detecting something magical on me with their mechanical, snaky senses. But neither Cousin Bustis nor "Smiley" Hepren stopped to investigate. Instead, they jerked their wrists, and properly chastised, their mehnsets settled back down, impersonating golden snake armbands.
We were only a few feet from iridescent tear in the air, and I was already feeling better. But not well.
Just in case, it was truly time for last words. I turned to Tesha's cousin. "Ensign, Tesha--"
"I know. It's alright." She glanced back at Maha. "She acts cold now, but she'll do right by her sister. There's no law against that."
Cousin Bustis was right. Tesha was out there somewhere, infected, and normally the mehnsettirs killed keshets as part of their guard duty. Normally Tesha would leave behind an older sister, a daughter, and a sometimes--but usually reluctant--husband. Now mehnsettirs had a choice. Now Tesha did. Now all three of us--Maha, Denira, and I did--in our dysfunctional little family did. Because of the cure.
I looked behind at Maha as I was pushed through the schism. She watched me go without a kind look of any kind. Then, the world brightened. Whitened. Compressed. Ended. And began somewhere else.
End of Part.
Links to Key Plot Point One Parts:
Links to Key Plot Point One Parts: