Davey startled at the use of her Commune moniker. How could these two possibly know? Even contemplate the truth? Davey couldn’t pull her thoughts together. “By the Holy Mother Eternia, what is going on?” D slipped back into the language of the Commune. No one on this planet should even know who Eternia was, but neither Ajay or Sinder looked surprised.
“I may not have been entirely forthcoming last time we talked.” Ajay shifted nervously.
“I guess not.” Davey crossed her arms defensively over her chest. “How do you know each other? Why did you call me D? What were you arguing about?” She stepped towards Ajay, forcing him to step back against the display case. The delicious cookie crushed in her fingers as she formed an involuntary fist.
“We can’t talk here. There’s too much to explain.” Sinder started towards the back room.
“I want answers.” Davey stood her ground. Hiding how off balance she felt. “And I want them now.”
“Davey, this is important.” Sinder’s face was still soft and gentle, but completely resolved.
“I’ve noticed, but since it’s entirely possible that you’re going to take me back there and hand me over to the Fenton, can I at least have something to drink first?” Even as she said it, Davey knew she didn’t believe it. In her gut, she trusted Sinder and Ajay. But she wasn’t about to let them know that right away.
Sinder chuckled and stepped behind the counter. “I suppose I can make that happen.” While she filled the cups and loaded a tray with goodies, Ajay pulled the blinds on the window and lit up the closed sign. They led Davey to a small staff area set behind the back wall. They settled into their seats and waited, staring at each other over the rims of their drinks.
“Who are you guys?” Davey finally asked, breaking the silence.
“A baker and a soldier.” Sinder answered, watching her closely.
“And I’m a seventeen year old high school student.” Davey nodded “You know that’s not what I mean”
“Then, what do you mean?” The blonde’s sunny disposition did nothing to hide her intensity.
“Stop testing her, Sinder.” Ajay sighed. “She’s smart enough to know that something here isn’t normal. She is an Interloper after all.”
“A what?” Davey crinkled her forehead, unsure if she’d just been insulted or if she was wrong about them knowing what she was.
“I guess you guys call yourselves Travelers, don’t you?” Ajay nodded, “Our name for you isn’t as pleasant.”
“How the hell do you know that?” Davey stopped trying to be evasive. “Who are you?” She asked again. When neither of them answered, she crossed arms and stared at them. “Drat! Are you guys part of the Provenance?” The look they shot each other told her she was right.
“How do you know about us?” Sinder asked, her soft voice carrying an authority no one could ignore. “Do they teach you about us?”
“No.” Davey hesitated. She didn’t know enough about what was going on to know what she should be sharing. “I was just told about you for this assignment. I was warned you would try to distract me from my assignment. In fact, that warning came the same night I met both of you.” She glanced towards Ajay and thought about their morning in bed. “I guess I should have listened. God, I’m stupid!” She shook her head and reached for a chocolate danish. “You are very good at your job, Ajay.”
“Last night wasn’t supposed to be a distraction.” Ajay muttered into his cup. “It was supposed to be a way to test your… accessibility, I guess.”
“It was a test? You were testing me?” Davey was furious.
“Not testing you. More like checking to see if you might be different from the other Veils. If we could maybe approach you.” Ajay brushed his hand along his beard.
“We were unaware that you knew about us.” Sinder tapped her fingers against the ceramic mug.
“You guys clearly know about us.” Davey picked at the pastry in her hand, suddenly seeing it as part of the distraction that was being created to stop her. “Why would it be so odd for us to know about you?”
“Our job is to stop you, so yes, we know about you. At least our division does.” Sinder explained. “That’s why we’re revealing ourselves to you now.”
“You’re revealing yourselves because I caught you together.”
“We could have come up with an excuse, but we need you to know that what you’re doing is wrong.”
“You’re going to try to convince me that the wrong thing to do is to help my amazing friend feel better. To make her life better. And the right thing to do is let her end her own life? To just sit back and let her die? That’s the right thing to do?” Davey shook her head.
“It is, Davey. It really is.” Sinder leaned forward emphatically. “How much information are you given when you go on your assignments? Information about the future you’re changing. Not information about what you’re supposed to do, but why you’re doing it.”
“None. We’re just told what to do. It must be important if the Masters are willing to step in and go to the effort of changing the future.”
“Can I show you something?” Sinder asked, leaning across the table.
“What kind of something?” Davey asked skeptically.
“Something about Carly.” Ajay leaned forward reassuringly. “We’re not here to hurt you, Damhnait. I think you’re just doing your job. Just doing what you’re told is right. But, you don’t have all the information. You need to know everything. This is very important.”
Davey paused for a moment and took a deep breath. “Okay,” she sighed, “Go ahead.”
Sinder pulled the long gold chain from around her neck and removed the golden ball that was held in the delicate claws. From the pocket of her apron, she pulled out a short green rod. The interior was filled with a thick, silvery liquid barely visible through the darkened glass. Sinder slid it into the now vacant pendant and held it out to Davey. “Put this around your neck and concentrate.”
Davey took the delicate chain and glanced between the beautiful girl who made perfect food and the boy who had awakened senses she wasn’t aware she had. Her hands slowly rose until she was able to slip the golden thread around her neck. As the pendant settled against the skin of her chest, she felt a wave of heat rush through her body. It was a pulling feeling, not unlike the experience of accepting a new persona at the Commune. The sensation was strong. It pulled her along, regardless of her own desires.
“Fate is created for a reason, Davey. The chain of events sets the future in motion.” She heard Sinder’s musical voice fade away as the room around her changed. “You need to know what you’re changing.”
No longer was she sitting in the break room of the bakery. Now, Davey was standing in a room she’d never seen, standing over Carly’s lifeless body. Not as a participant but an observer. She tried calling out to her friend, but no sound escaped her lips. Then Davey saw herself burst through the closed bedroom door. Her familiar red hair flying behind her as she dropped to the floor, skidding in the puddle of blood on the floor. She grabbed Carly’s wrists, gripping them tight. Her lips formed a soundless scream. Carly’s parents burst into the room as Davey wrapped fabric around the cuts. Carly’s father grabbed his daughter and ran from the room.
The scene dissolved, swirled and settled into a hospital room, Carly sitting up in bed, smiling her wan smile. The depression still sitting behind her eyes. The room was empty. Davey knew that her assignment was complete by this point and she would have returned to the Commune, once again abandoning her friend in the hospital. Alone, waiting for her best friend to appear in the doorway. When no one appeared, she was once more reassured that she was worthless. Carly glanced towards the door, hearing something in the audio Davey wasn’t privy to. A figure walked through the door. A tall figure the burgundy and black uniform, with long gloved fingers and deep black eyes set behind the facemask of the Hoejiim.
Carly’s eyes widened as the leader of the Fenton began to speak. To offer her something. Davey couldn’t hear the words, but she knew what was being said. The offer to become a soldier. To remove the pain and anguish and accept a better life for her and her family. Watching, Davey knew Carly would refuse. She was stronger than anyone knew. She’d lived through this; she could get through anything. But Carly shut her eyes for a few moments while she thought. Shut her eyes and fingered the bandages on her wrist. She glanced towards the door and back at the Hoejiim. She asked a question. Davey watched her name form on her friend’s lips. When the leader shook its head, Carly swallowed and nodded. They shook hands, sealing the deal.
Once again the scene changed, flashed quickly through images of Carly being given her uniform, receiving her assignment, falling comfortably into the role of a soldier. When it settled again, it was on the image of a Wave. The burgundy uniform blocking out the always blank expressions. Except this soldier had a smile that spread across the exposed mouth. A smile of pure joy. The lips stretched out below the facemask were distinctly female. On the ground below her was a girl. A broken, beaten girl in her mid-twenties. Even through the matted hair and the bruised and battered skin, Davey recognized Joy. No longer the girl who ran everything. Now she was simply another fuel source for the Fenton.
The Wave lowered the Shockwave. Held it there as Joy’s body bucked and twisted. Held it there long after the body had stopped fighting. The Wave reached down and grabbed the unconscious girl’s arm. Dragging her unceremoniously across the floor, she pushed through a door into a room containing one of the large glass cases Davey had seen in the parade. She couldn’t remember what Ajay had told her it was called. That bothered her for a moment as she watched the Wave strap Joy’s lifeless body into the mechanism and turn it on. As the particles began to pull from under the skin, the Wave’s smile grew. Carly peeled off her mask and watched as her former tormentor finally got what she deserved.
Now Wave-Carly was walking down the street of Faulery Valley, stepping up to take her place in line for the Dedication Day parade. She stood in the front line, taking her spot in the centre. The town had changed. Instead of happy spectators and colourful lights and banners that used to fill the town on parade day, the streets were dull and grey. Everyone stood along the streets, waiting. Waiting for their lives to be taken from them by these people. Her expression was joyful as she pulled her facemask down and let the smile fall from her face. She stomped her foot and glanced at the people around her. The others fell in line quickly. Eyes darting to her. Nervous and expectant. Some looked almost scared. The soldiers began to march in silent unison as the scene dissolved.
Now Carly stood in a room. A room filled with darkness and an overwhelming weight of power. It felt almost crushing. In the dark black chair, the Hoejiim sat, staring at the girl. Gone was the scared, timid girl that had tried to take her own life so many years ago. Now, now she stood ramrod straight, defying anyone who challenged her. Her eyes were glazed with the knowledge that she would never have to be scared again. Now she was the one that inflicted that pain, brought retribution to those that disobeyed.
The Hoejiim peeled back the fitted faceplate, revealing a wizened white face, wrinkled with time. The black eyes peered into Carly’s. A silent discussion was taking place. Carly nodded and reached forward to take the leader’s hand. Carly bowed her head and stepped behind a small screen. When she came back, she was no longer in the uniform of the Wave. Now she wore the uniform of the Hoejiim. She accepted the faceplate and took her seat in the throne. She closed her eyes, twisted her neck to release tension and pulled the mask into place. She opened her eyes when it fell into place and the delicate green that Davey had known was gone, replaced by the dark black pits of the Hoejiim.
Davey yanked the necklace from her skin. Pulled it away, dragging herself out of the throne room and back into the break room of the bakery. She threw the pendant to the table like it burned. Her soul screamed as she replayed the images in her head. The horrible image of her friend becoming the leader of the evil on this planet. The image of her torturing that girl. Knowing all the things that must have happened in between those events.
“What the hell was that?” Davey hugged herself.
“That is the future you are trying to guarantee. The path of things to come if you continue to insist on saving Carly’s life.
“That’s not true. It can’t be.” Davey insisted, “My dear, sweet, broken friend could never become that… that horrible… thing. She could never treat people that way. She wouldn’t…”
“She wouldn’t? She wouldn’t accept an outlet for her pain when her very best friend abandoned her for the second time? She wouldn’t want to get back at the girls who ruined her life?”
“What’s to say her life would be better if I didn’t step in? How would the world be better if that poor girl died?”
Sinder removed the glass rod from the pendant and handed the empty case over to Ajay. He reached into the pocket of his uniform and pulled out an identical glass rod, but this time it was yellow instead of green. He slid it into the vacated claws and stepped towards Davey. She stiffened as he reached forward to slide it over her head. He paused for a moment and looked her straight in the eyes.
“We’re not trying to hurt you, Damhnait. We’re trying to show you the consequences of your actions. This one event in this seemingly insignificant girl’s life changes the entire future of this planet.”
As the yellow pendant touched her skin, a wave of calm, soothing heat washed over her. Delicate and inviting. She wanted to follow it. Once again the room around her dissolved. This time, the image that appeared was of a funeral. Carly’s family gathered around her casket. The ceremony small and insignificant. The only people there were her parents and her sister. Only seven years old, the girl stood beside the plain wood box. Her fingers settled against the rough top. The officiant was from the Dry Zone, skin as ashen and pale as the rest of the rest if the community. The ceremony was short. Started and finished in the span of the vision. As the adults walked away, Bridgette’s fingers gripped the side of her sister’s coffin. Her eyes filled with tears she couldn’t cry. Her soul as empty and void as Carly’s had been towards the end of her life.
Bridgette sat in the back of her closet in her room. On the floor, knees hugged to her chest in a posture Davey’s persona knew only too well. She’d done it so many times hiding from her parents. The girl was now in her early teens. In her hand was a crumpled sheet of paper. Dirty with time and use. Bridgette listened to the silence in the house around her and pulled a sweater to her face. She inhaled and wrapped it in her arms. As she pulled it close, Davey saw the familiar yellow canary stitched into the front. Bridgette flattened the paper and stared at the tight, tiny script across the page. A suicide note from Carly. A letter to her sister explaining that the action of the Fenton had driven her to her death. Bridgette’s face set into a hard, angry mask as she re-read the letter and the scene faded out.
Images flashed forward, ideas Davey couldn’t quite follow or place. Soldiers, secret meetings, back alley hand offs. Bridgette building an army of rebels.
Bridgette appeared as a woman now, dressed in the dark uniform of the soldiers. She typed a code into a panel and let herself in the backdoor of the facility. She made her way unnoticed through the corridors. The images flashed quickly now as Bridgette allowed other people into the hallways. They scurried through the corridors disarming soldiers and machinery. The last room they entered was the most important room. Bridgette led the charge, taking the first swing at the glass. They destroyed the machine quickly, pulling apart the animal that fed the Fenton. The final swing was taken at the Hoejiim, still seated in the throne of power, braced there earlier by rebels placed inside the system. Bridgette swung the axe she’d brought along with her. The sharpened blade slicing through the skin of its neck quickly and easily. Bridgette stared down at the head as it lolled on the floor, the face still covered by the faceplate. She unzipped the stolen soldier’s uniform and pulled the fabric from her body. The canary sweater wrapped around her like a second skin. Retribution for her sister finally achieved.
The image changed again. The picture of Faulery Valley emerged, changed. It was once again the town that Davey remembered from her childhood. Colourful and bright without the division or technicolour of the Parks Zone version of the Valley. A feeling of contentment blanketed the community.
Davey felt the image dissolve as the necklace was lifted back over her head, returning her to the smells of the bakery. She remained in her chair, not saying anything. Not sure what to say. Not sure how to resolve the two diametrically opposed images she’d just seen. “Carly’s death is the only thing that saves this town, isn’t it?” She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes.
“It is.” Sinder’s voice was smooth and calm as she slid a cup of steaming liquid towards Davey. “And her life is its destruction.”