July 2nd, Epsilon
The icy wind whips the roasted chestnut hair that hangs over my shoulders onto my cold-bitten cheeks, and a pathetically small, puffy cloud escapes from my half Hue, half Cy lips.
“Lucia?” Indigo whispers, her deep, soft eyes staring up at me as I pull at my fingers violently.
“I’m okay,” I mutter, more to reassure myself than to reply. “I’m fine.”
From my other side, Xander gives a long, audible sigh, clasping both of his metal hands around my own. “Let’s get you home, Luci.”
“No,” I snap, my voice clipped as I jerk my hands away from his. “Are you deaf? I said I’m fine.”
I make a weak attempt to bend my frozen fingers as proof, but as the metal of my joints groans and begins to crack, I cry out in agony, clutching my hands to my chest.
“Luci!” Indigo screams, throwing herself in front of me with her arms spread out.
Xander’s eyes widen and he flinches on impulse. “Woah,” I hear him mutter as he blinks slowly and stares at a suddenly incredibly interesting scrap of notebook paper lying on the sidewalk.
“Luci,” she begins, her voice softer than I’ve ever heard before and her chest heaving in and out, “You don’t have to prove anything. To anyone. It’s cold outside, and you’re freezing. Literally.” She raises her hands and gestures around in the air wildly. I’m sure it means something, but I don’t know what, and when she sights my furrowed brow she drops her arms to her sides. “Nobody’s judging you. Please don’t kill yourself.”
I shut my eyes tight and toss my head back, begging myself to embrace the stinging cold and keep walking, for my long-broken internal heaters to kick in and give me a burst of toasty air to warm my icy body.
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
“Just a bit further,” I mumble, my head still turned skyward.
“Why are you so difficult?” Xander growls, and heads turn. “Why can’t you shelve your ego for one. Damn. Second?” He holds up his pointer finger in my face. “Just one? I am so sick of your attitude. And I am this close —”
“Lucia!” a familiar voice interrupts from a few feet away, and the three of us spin around to see a girl bounding towards us with the neon streaks of blue, pink, green, and purple lining the naturally platinum-colored hair of hers that I know all too well. She slows to a stop and bends over, her palms digging into her knees and her tongue hanging ever so slightly out of her mouth as she gasps for air. “There’s — a Cure — for Luci,” she manages between breaths, and though I don’t understand how it could be possible, my heart still skips a beat.
“Resources for The Cure ran out years ago, Lilium. I’m not stupid.” I try desperately to suppress the flutter of butterflies in my chest. This isn’t true. She doesn’t know what she’s saying.
“They found one more. ‘For the most influential person on planet Taxitas XIV’,” she reads off the hologram projector that she holds in her hand, looking up at me when she finishes with a giddy look in her eye.
Staring at the ground, I blink a few times. How is this possible? Looking up again, I gaze distractedly at the hologon in Lilium’s hand. It’s got a silver glint where six triangles meet up to form a hexagon shape, and in the center, there’s a slot where the projection comes from. The glimmer catches my eye every time, and somehow I’m drawn to it. The idea of being able to revel in the glory of being something so common, yet so beautiful…
I shake my head to clear the thought and read the description again. ‘The most influential person on Taxitas XIV.’ As I read the line once more, one name swims in my mind and rests on the tip of my tongue.
“I’m not the only most influential person on Taxitas XIV.”
Lilium’s eyes drift to the coarse cement of the sidewalk, her face drooping. “Dasha,” she says, so quiet that the name almost disappears among the bustling of traffic next to us.
“It’s alright, Lilium.” I tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear, smiling sadly. “You tried.”
Sniffling, she barely looks up at me, opening her mouth as if to say something, then thinking better of it and closing it.
“Hmm?” I say quietly into her ear.
“Never mind.” She kicks the toe of her boots against the ground. “It’s silly anyway.”
I scoff gently. “Nonsense. Tell me.”
Her lips bunched up to one side of her mouth and her head cocked slightly, she begins. “Wh—what if you… you could cut her out? You know, get her out of the way?”
Indigo’s mouth hangs open. “Kill her?”
“I d—don’t know Dasha, but I know Luci. And I know Luci deserves to live past nineteen. She deserves to see the world, and be happy, and—”
“And Dasha doesn’t?” I question, an eyebrow raised. “I’ve met Dasha before. She’s a great girl—”
“She’s a rich brat who’s had everything she ever wanted given to her on a platter of gold. It’s about time someone takes off those rose-colored glasses of hers and shows her what life is like on the other side.” Xander crosses his arms. “I’m with Lilium.”
I turn to Indigo. “You?”
She sucks her cheeks in and bites them. “I don’t know how I feel about killing her…” Shaking her head, she takes a deep breath and finishes. “But if it means life for Luci… I’m in.”
I let out the breath I’ve been holding in, exhaling slowly. “You want me to kill her?”
“It’s the only way,” Lilium pleads.
I look to the sky once again for answers. There’s nothing above but the exhaust of the overpopulated city and the blurred light of the sun to guide me. “Okay.”
I’m coming, Dasha. “When do we start?”
Shuffling through the gold-plated doorway of my 3 wing, 2 story mansion, I collapse onto the decorated tile floor of the foyer. “Detroit,” I croak, my eyes wandering around the room. How did I get here? All I can seem to remember is Xander, Indigo, and Lilium half walking and half carrying me to this place, and me now calling out my servant’s name into the empty hall.
“Miss Callisto, where have you bee — oh, no, no, no, Miss Callisto!” My unfocused eyes can barely rest on Detroit as he comes rushing out of the hallway, arms outstretched and eyes wide.
I can’t forget about Dasha….
“Detroit…” I begin weakly, “my memory card. I need you to—” My speech is interrupted by a hacking cough that sends royal blue liquid up my throat and flying out of my mouth.
“Don’t speak. You’ll be fine. Up and at ‘em in no time…no time at all.”
“No, you don’t—” Another coughing fit racks my body in every direction.
My eyelids feel extremely heavy, as does all of my body. Detroit wraps his arms around my small waist and drags me from behind, pulling me up the first flight of stairs and down the long hallway that leads to my bedroom. He pulls me into the room, and as the door swings open, it seems as if someone has dipped me into a warm bath.
“Mmm,” I mumble, giggling quietly. “That feels nice.”
“Oh, dear…” Detroit looks around the room frantically for something to prop me up with, settling on a weighted metal stool by my bed. “Just sit tight,” he says, sitting me upright and pushing the metal stool behind my back, “and I’ll be right back. I’m just gonna go grab Aynne and Sydnie real quick.” He rushes out, tripping over the fuzzy rug at the door but regaining his footing as quickly as he lost it.
My vision zooms in and out of focus, and all my thoughts float around like stray balloons — except for one. I need my memories.
I reach a frozen hand to the back of my neck and feel around for my memory card slot, but my fingers are so numb that I can’t feel a thing. Grunting, I find what feels like an indent and whack it. I run my fingers over my neck again, but don’t find anything protruding. Come on!
Trying once again, a quiet whirr comes from my neck and the card pops out of its slot. I’m about to yank it out when I realize something: if I take it out, it won’t be long before I don’t know what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. I’ll shut down before Detroit gets back, and I can’t risk losing the conversation.
With a quick prayer muttered under my breath, I draw it out of my neck and begin to repeat the most important things I need to remember as I flop onto my stomach and pull myself to the laptop lying closed on the floor a few feet away. “My name is Lucia Callisto. I need to put this card into my laptop. The password to my laptop is 48274393. I have to upload the files on this card immediately.”
The tips of my fingers brush the edge of the laptop, and I try to push it open, but I’m too far away and it slides just out of my reach. Damn it. Grunting with effort, I extend my arm farther than it should go and hear a loud pop as the hinge keeping my right arm fastened to my torso snaps out of place. Oh, no. I attempt to wiggle my fingers — nothing. My arm lies on the ground in front of me, still attached to my body but as useless as if it wasn’t.
A quiet moan escapes my lips and I shut my eyes tight. Why is this — Gasping, I realize that I’ve forgotten to continue talking to myself. Frantically, I try to remember. “My name is Lucia Ca—Calisto. I need to put this card into the laptop. I need to upload its files right now.” I use my knees to push myself forward, and use my other arm to pull the computer to me. As I pry the card out of my ruined hand, I flip the screen of my laptop open and watch as the screen flashes a bright white, then prompts for a password. “The password to my laptop is…” It’s just on the tip of my tongue, but somehow, I’ve let it dissolve into the fuzz of the rest of my mind. “The password is… it’s…” Slowly, numbers start to fall into place, and one by one, I type them in. “482… 74… 39…” Shaking my head vigorously, a tear falls down my cheek. I can’t remember the last one.
“Ahh!” I slam my fist against the ground, my body shaking from both the cold and the sobs leaving my mouth.
3. It hits me like a fourteen-wheeler on the freeway, and I suck in a breath with the impact. “3,” I mutter as I type it in and hit enter. The screen is still for a moment before a swirling circle pops up, and after a brief moment, I’m in. Yes. I slide the card into the memory slot of my sleek, silver-lined laptop, grinning with satisfaction at my feat. A progress bar that reads 9% appears on the screen when I all of a sudden don’t know why I’m lying on the floor in front of an oddly familiar-looking computer. My brow furrows, and I try to push myself up into a sitting position with my right hand.
It doesn’t budge, so I pick it up with my left one and let go. It thuds to the ground, limp and floppy as a pancake. Horrified, I choke on a breath, using my left arm to lift myself. “What’s happening?” I murmur as my breathing accelerates.
“Miss Callisto, I’ve — what have you done to yourself?”
I hear Detroit barreling through the door, the girls’ worried exchange of dialogue following him closely.
“Miss Callisto, please say something! Can you hear me?”
I try my best to nod with white patches spotting my vision, but before I can complete the motion, the room spins around me and everything goes black.
Part 3 Available!