Friday, January 14, 2011

Open Minds (Partial)

In submission to the 12/10/10 Friday Challenge, "Telepathy," the opening scene of what will maybe one day be a longer story. It was certainly too large of a story for me to finish on time.

Ahabrim could still hear her incoherent dreams as he walked out his front door. Her unconscious babbling had served as a pleasant white noise while he had shaved and dressed. Where the anticipatory silence of morning would have weighed on his spirit, she instead filled it with a vapid pleasure that in turn filled him. Her mental presence brought with it a strange Freudian joy, so that it was not his razor but her hand that caressed his cheek. It was not his dress shirt but her arms that wrapped around him. It was not his toothbrush but her tongue inside his mouth.

So when Ahabrim left his apartment, both his looks and his spirits had a strong, sharp edge to them. Whatshername had served him better in this than she had last night—not to diminish last night. He closed the door, cutting off the last weak detections of her stream of unconsciousness with the vibrant rays pouring in from the window down the hall. Ahabrim squinted and smiled into the morning sun. He jogged down the stairs and took a deep, appreciative breath before joining the sounds of Humanity.

He walked briskly down the brilliantly lit sidewalk. His street was a Letter Street, so it ran east-west; the pleasant sun morning sun peered down from between the tall buildings. Aside from the sunshine, the street was also flooded with cars and pedestrians.

Many of those who walked or took the subway took advantage of portable music devices. But Ahabrim loved the roar of the crowd. It reminded him what he was fighting for. With this many streams the chatter was largely indecipherable and incoherent, but as with the girl’s dreams, Ahabrim received energy from it. It rolled along with him like an ocean wave as he walked the mile and a half to Central, cresting only when he reached out and opened the double glass doors that led him from the mighty river of Humanity into the lesser eddy of his work.

Here the streams became more intelligible. Mostly acknowledgments that “Marshal Marx is here,” though to a few secretaries and interns, it was “Breem.” Ahabrim did not acknowledge any of them beyond recognition, nor did they dare interrupt him when his mind was focused on the task ahead of him. He walked quickly down the halls and into the Department of Domestic Security.

Annie immediately walked up to him. She had been waiting for his arrival, file ready in hand. Her thoughts reached him before she did, already informing him that there had been no change in the situation since the prisoner’s arrival. Still, as she handed him the file, she properly acknowledged him with voice.

“Marshal Marx, sir, welcome,” she said. Looking good, old man.

“Annie,” he said. Thanks, I feel good. He knew she used the ‘old man’ label to distance herself while simultaneously creating a special intimacy. In her thirties, she was just over half his age, but she also knew that he regularly bedded younger than her. But the Department of Reproductive Health would never approve an application between the two of them, working so closely in the same department as they did, and so she could only admire and tease.

He reviewed the file again, refreshing his memory. He looked forward to cracking Elijah Samuel Long, who was rather high profile when it came to radical shardists. Annie, in the meanwhile, was filling up with dread at the thought of their meeting.

“Stop worrying,” Ahabrim said. Worrying insulted his abilities. Get me a cup of coffee.

Annie immediately felt ashamed, though she passed his request down the line. She looked at the floor. It was only that he was obviously troublesome, or they would have never sent him here. A third transfer for a verbal dissident, across several thousand miles. And then this earlier this morning several Directors showed up—

Ahabrim brightened. Directors? Here? His interview would be observed. This carried potential for further promotion, possibly even a Directorship for himself!

Annie’s fears vanished into awe.

They sent Long here because I am the best, Ahabrim thought to her. I may be an old man, but this morning I feel as strong as when I was in the War. Watch me crack this nut.

Ahabrim took the file and left Annie lusting after him in his wake. Someone gave him a cup of coffee at the Interviewing Room door. Ahabrim tested its heat with a sip while eyeing the two security personnel standing at either side of the door. He thought that they looked like green-thought pansies, who had never seen any conflict like he had in the War. The one on his left felt unfairly offended but powerless, so then he shrugged the insult off with his job being more important than the thoughts of a retired old man. The one on the right decided that it made sense that a veteran of the war would have a steel mind like his. Ahabrim thought that the coffee tasted like water from the gutter.

“See you boys at lunch time,” Ahabrim said. I might be promoted by then.

The kid on the right believed it possible. Ahabrim chuckled and entered Interviewing Room.

As he closed the door behind him and looked over at the prisoner, he was once again starkly reminded why they were called Silent Ones.

The moniker had never made sense to him back in the War. On the battlefield, the shardists were loud of mouth as well as weapon, yelling and screaming at themselves and their enemies long before receiving any wounds deserving of cries. How different they were from the steady organization of his squad, orders traveling at the speed of thought. They were like wild animals, growling and barking in the heat of the moment.

It was not until he came here, as an Official Interviewer for the DDS, that the label seemed appropriate. Here, alone in the IR with them, where his world collapsed down into only his own thoughts, even as Long looked at him from the other side of the table.

Ahabrim glanced over at the tinted glass, the window on the right, not the regular observation room on the left, but the special room reserved only for the Directors. He could not hear them, either, nor they him, even over the come system. But he knew they were there. He walked over to the interview table and set down the file and his cup of coffee. From the corner of his eye he could see the bright orange of Long’s clothes, cut by bands of brown where he was restrained, and topped with a splash of light brown where his shaggy hair fell about his ears and face.

Ahabrim inhaled deeply, then looked up into Long’s eyes.

Long sneered at him. So he would be one of those; defiant and contemptuous, mentally propped up as some sort of barbarian martyr, taking pride in how long it would take to crack. He knew that Ahabrim could not learn anything that he did not voice.

But Ahabrim also knew that it was a two-way street. Long could only know what Ahabrim voiced. The contest had begun.

“You are Elijah Samuel Long,” Ahabrim said. He slowly seated himself with patient authority. “Known amongst shardists as L’oncle.”

Long continued to smile defiantly at him. Ahabrim said nothing, but simply looked expressionlessly back. Several minutes passed.

“Yes,” Long said. Then he grinned. “But your accent is terrible.”

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