Thursday, July 02, 2009

I KNOW it's not Friday, but . . . SERIAL

All right, fine. It's not Friday. It's three in the freakin' morning on THURSDAY. But I'm flying on Friday, and the dog slipped her chain while she was out in the middle of the flippin night at 2:15 because she just HAD to pee, and then she got out of the fence and led me on a merry (for her) chase all around the neighborhood (we're talking several blocks here), completely ignoring all of those lessons and obedience stuff because it would be so much fun (AGAIN for HER . . . at least until she got caught) and NOW I don't think I could sleep if my friggin life depended on it. Although I suspect about the time it's time to go to the day job my body will decide, WELL if you INSIST (SNORE LOUDLY).

Can you tell I'm a little FRUSTRATED? I KNEW you could.

Anyway, with that in mind, grab your bowl and hang on. Oh, and if the story's affected by my mood, so be it.


Chapter 1 -- I Hate Weddings.

Yellow eggplant arriving dusk.

I looked at the letters on the miniature screen, my brow furrowing. WTF?

"You have got to be kidding me." I talked to the creature in my hand. Yes, it was a creature. It LOOKED like one of those nifty hand-held telephone devices that are all the rage (to the point where the humans will risk life and limb to poke at them with their thumbs when they're indulging in life-threatening activities) and can do everything but tap dance. I would've preferred it look like a cat, or maybe a Labrador. But nope. The boss insisted. Probably because Celeste is allergic.

Ah, Celeste. My partner. Again not my choice.

My name is JoAnn. I'm a clairvoyant. A seer. If I ever get a handle on my "gift" I'll be a strong one. At least that's what they tell me. They being the Academy. Because I'm a clairvoyant, I got paired with a wizard, magic user type. In this case, Celeste. Celeste Rogan-Styles soon to be Rogan-Styles-Woodard. Yes, those Rogans, Styles, and Woodards. The ones who created the Academy after the last big infestation nearly wiped out civilization as we know it. (The "big three" as it were were very big on civilization. At least judging by their descendants.)

That she was paired with a former street-urchin, no matter how powerful, is a source of horrible mortification for Celeste. I know this because she's told me. Loudly. Ad nauseum. She has also tried to use every ounce of influence she and her family have to get the situation changed. Apparently Alara, the current Dean, was not impressed.

Damn it.

Her influence did manage to get us a seriously cushy assignment for our training period. There hadn't been an actual blight infestation on good ole earth ever. The blight, are nasty creatures. They're invisible to the naked eye. They don't smell. You can't taste them. But the damage they can do is truly horrific.

Here's how it works. A single blight latches on to a person. It soaks into their skin, becomes a part of them. It starts by feeding on the energy of their thoughts and emotions. Slowly, it turns them darker, and darker: anger, fear, despair, black rage, suicidal depression take over. And while it's feeding on their energy, it's breeding. Little eggs, no bigger than the head of a pin, form in the large muscles. MILLIONS of them. As they grow their shells put out enzymes that dissolve the muscle tissue so it can be absorbed as food for the unhatched babies. The host is being eaten alive, and doesn't even know it. He's just tired. Listless. No will to live. But at the same time enraged. "Life isn't fair." This is when it gets tricky. If the host suicides, the blight dies, and its offspring with it. Lots of those "murder/suicide" types are blight victims.

But sometimes they don't suicide.

Sometimes the eggs hatch.

Then you get riots, genocide, mass murderers, and worse. Things you don't even want to think about. Your worst nightmares don't even touch the edges of it. Although, I have to say the guy that came up with that Cthulu mythology was on the right track.

Blight can only be killed by magic. Even then it's not easy.

They can only be found by clairvoyants.

Thus, the two person teams.

And, my own, personal hell.

Now she's getting married. Oh freakin' GOODIE.

Of course, since we're a team, she has to have me in the wedding. Has to. Even though she (ever so politely) loathes me and I (considerably less subtly) would rather dance the macarena naked in front of a bunch of starving lions than have to go through the very VERY public humiliation of her wedding. Because she'll make it humiliating. Just to show everyone her martyrdom at having been paired with that. It's how she is.

The creature in my hand let out a pained squeak. My grip was starting to crush it.

"Sorry. Sorry."

But I'm not stressed. Of course not.

And stress is so good for my gift. And if you believe that, I have this bridge . . .

Yellow eggplant arriving dusk.

This time the words were underlined and in bold.

"I wish you could just talk to me. It'd be so much easier."

It sighed. A soft sad whisper of sound that would've probably passed unnoticed and unheard if I hadn't known that this wasn't a phone.

"I know, that's not how it works. I have to learn to control my gift. The better my control, the better we can communicate."

Unfortunately, I don't have control over my gift. If I had, I would've seen her coming.

"THERE you are." Celeste's voice was a long-suffering whine. "Do you have any concept of proper behavior? No. Of course not. And even if you did, it wouldn't matter. You don't care. Never mind that it reflects badly on me. My supposed 'maid of honor' disappearing from the festivities without so much as a word."

"You didn't want me there anyway, and you know it. This way you can just blame it on my general lack of breeding and manners." Rather than making snide, disparaging remarks that I was supposed to be too stupid to understand that kept everyone chuckling at my expense.

"That's not the point!" She pouted and stomped her little foot. She looked pretty doing it. Of course. How could she not? She might be a grade-A, full-bore starts with a B and ends with an itch, but an unlimited supply of money can provide one with magical and medical adjustments to any little physical imperfections. Not that there had been a lot of those to begin with. She is a tiny, delicate looking creature, with a perfect features, golden ringlets, and her blue eyes hold all the warmth and compassion of the antarctic plains. "You're making me look bad."

"Consider it payback for last night's remarks." I suggested.

She stared at me, her mouth forming a silent little "o" of surprise. She didn't even seem capable of speech. That was all right. I really didn't want to hear anything she might have to say anyway.

Last night had been the rehearsal dinner. The food had been excellent and expensive. The entertainment had been had at my expense. I was still stinging from it. Good manners weren't what had kept me in my seat. It was pure self-preservation. Because if I made a scene. If I called her on it, confronted her outright in front of all of these notables in this oh-so-public setting, I would be committing career suicide. Maybe even committing literal suicide. Because there are other, less cushy places where I could be assigned. Places where the life expectancy of a Guard is hideously short and the end is excruciatingly painful. They'd make damned sure to arrange it, too. If I didn't "behave."

And the scary part was, I was beginning to think it might be worth it.

"I didn't mean it like that." She lied. Of course. What else could she do?

"Bullshit." I sounded tired as much as angry.

"It was just a joke."

"No." I corrected her. "It was an entire evening of jokes. At my expense. Meant to humiliate me and show everyone how much better you are. We're alone here. You don't need to lie, or pretend. And neither do I."

She blinked again. Whatever she'd expected from me, it wasn't brutal honesty.

"You really do hate me."

"Oh yes." I smiled at her for the first time. It wasn't a nice smile. And she shivered.

"Then why did you fight the reassignment. Are you really that ambitious, that you'd insist on being tied to someone you hate just to use their connections."

It was my turn to blink stupidly. "I didn't."

"Of course you did."

"Nope." I recovered some of my aplomb. "My application for reassignment probably beat yours to the office."

"Then who? Why?" She was outraged, and it brought a flush of color to her pale cheeks.

It occurred to me that we'd finally found something we actually agreed on. "What's say we find out?"


Dolly said...

Oh this is gonna be good. I really enjoy your serials. By the way I have no problem with the white on black as long as you keep writing.

C. T. Adams said...

Why thank you ma'am! You have to know I LOVE the compliments. :)

And no, I'm not going to stop. The trick with the Serials though is the "no editing, no polishing" thing. I do risk embarrassing myself.


Tammy said...

OOHH another good story.

::sitting back with big bowl of ceral :::