Sunday, January 29, 2012


They were in an elevator, since their debriefings took the same amount of time. It was a pretty glass one, with a lovely view they were both pretending to look at.

"You could literally defeat anyone, up to and including countries. What could she possibly have shown you, to get you to back off?"

The woman in red flipped her knife in the air, caught it by the handle, then flipped it so the point balanced on her first finger. The knife was sharp enough to give papercuts, but it never split her skin. "There is a ridiculously obvious answer to that question," she said, sounding bored. "Which is: I am afraid that, someday, I will go bad, and it will take uniting the world to stop the slaughter. One can fear one's own power. Everything around me is made of cardboard and tissue paper, after all."

The man in the sharp suit pretended to focus on her balancing the knife, but kept his attention on her eyes. "I notice you never said that was the answer," he responded conversationally, shifting back to the view outside the elevator.

"What did it show you?"

" know. My world crumbling around me. Apocalypse is nigh, my family died horribly and now clones are coming back to guilt-trip, torture and kill me. Mostly about failing in my duty. Made me feel like I deserved it. Pretty much what you'd expect." The woman in red would spot the forced lightness in the sharply dressed man's tone.

"Were you that honest with your agent?"

"That honest, yes. Vaguer. You?"

She waited two floors, arranging her thoughts. "I did not lie."

"But?" He said promptly.

"I told them exactly what I told you. Said something safe. They like the idea of my having a healthy fear of my own powers."

Three floors. Tall building, slow elevator. "But, in reality...?"

"Do you know how they keep elephants pinned at the circus?" she asks, then doesn't wait for an answer. "They pin them down, very young, when it's still possible. Because really, think about it. Even if they wanted to spend the money on a chain strong enough, they'd need something remarkably heavy. So, when they're young, the elephants struggle and pull, but they can't break loose. Then, when they're older, they just don't try anymore. They remember the chains being unbreakable, so they are."

They shared a glance, then both looked back out the elevator.

"When I was very young, I had no idea how to use my powers. A group of kids would pick on me. It's nothing major, but...I dunno. Suppose it's just whatever made you feel most helpless. I've been scared, but I haven't felt helpless in...ages."

He nodded.

Had the silence stretched, then doubtless the conversation would have continued. Even a comfortable silence would have meant something, been some marker of companionship. Even small talk might have started some friendship, after that conversation.

The doors opened. He went left; she went right.

No comments:

Post a Comment

© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart