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[Fiction] Echoes of the Past


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June 28, 2014

Project Utopia Arcology, Team Tomorrow Housing

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Books upon books fill the room, turning the small dormitory suite into an overstuffed library. Paperbacks, oversized atlases, tapestries, hard cover books of all sizes, digital storage devices, and even more eclectic items round out the collection of the room. Moving from bookcase to bookcase in her omnipresent rose-colored blouse is Codex, carefully picking out a small number of books as she peruses her collection. Satisfied with the small stack in her arms, she limps to what could be considered the center of the room where a large Duluth pack, already stuffed with tomes and volumes, awaiting the final selection. Watching the process is Singularity, sitting on one of the two open chairs in the room with his white eufiber relaxed into a shirt and loose pair of pants. He tries to read Regan as she packs for the trip to the Dakotas, failing to puzzle her out. Things were interesting since their visit to the lake; there’s an unspoken attraction and affection between them now, only reappearing at the most private of times and locations, yet neither of them had outwardly said anything to quantify it, even through the link. Behind his walls Franklin wonders if what he’s feeling is what he thinks it is and if she feels the same. Could Regan feel that way about someone like him, even if she says he’s truly changed? Does he even have the right to feel this way, let alone have it reciprocated?

The massive pack snaps shut and Regan pulls the leather straps tight with her parchment-skinned fingers. Nodding in approval at her handiwork, she slumps down in a deep easy chair, the last place free of loose items, and fixes her sharp blue eyes on Franklin’s silver orbs, “We still have a few hours before the flight but I wanted to be sure everything was ready to go.” She hesitates, her mouth freezing in a half-open position as she undoubtedly reconsiders her next words, and then starts to speak again with a precise tone, “So, when do I get to find out the story behind what’s in my head?”

One of Franklin’s eyebrows rises and his eufiber almost ripple in an invisible wind from behind the chair before relaxing again. What is she talking about? Do his thoughts bleeding through the link without him know? Franklin tips his head to one side, eyes narrowing with inquisitiveness, “What do you mean?”

“What happened in March,” Regan curtly replies, one side of her wide mouth curling up into an apparently amused but muted smirk, “Don’t forget: I’ve got a fair chunk your emotional history sitting in the back of my mind. What happened to you is important, especially the context of it.”

Franklin shifts uncomfortably in his chair, eufiber torn between hugging his skin and rippling forward again. No one in the Project knows what happened and he’s refused to tell anyone, pointing them to Codex for confirmation of his change of heart. The Old Man doesn’t need Utopia breathing down his back and even giving a clue to who or where he is would risk their involvement. His silver eyes dart down and to the side, “Regan…”

Eyebrows furrowed, Regan quickly leans forward in the chair, minding her braced knee, “No, Franklin, this is important.” The sharp tone in her voice draws Franklin’s eyes back to hers, “I know you won’t tell the Directors and this isn’t about them finding out. Nothing is going to leave this room and I’m not going to go blab to Pax. Goddess, I just…” The wind goes out of her sails and her voice drifts to a halt. Franklin sees her professional facade drop away and she turns from being Codex, Team Tomorrow Auxiliary, to just being Regan, who’s alone with him while struggling to maintain her eye contact and her voice audible, “Franklin, please…”

He sighs, slowly nodding his head. Maybe it is time to share with someone or maybe the saccharine-coated relativism attitude of the Project is getting to him… but in that moment, Franklin feels that odd and rare intimacy again with Regan when she asks him not as a member of the Project but as… well, as someone much closer. She’s bearing herself, even in the slightest way, and he knows he should return the trust. He wants to return the trust… he does return the trust, even if neither of them are admitting to each other or themselves the truth of the matter. Franklin slowly exhales again, slaps his hands together, and keeps his eyes on Regan, “All right, where to begin…”


March 2, 2014

The Himalaya

Somewhere between India and the Tibet Autonomous Region

Two weeks ago, Temper and Cellular raided a Pakistani village, leaving it burned to the ground and its meager survivors battered and crippled. It was the sixth village near or within the DMZ, depending on whether it’s a Pakistani or a Hindi describing them, and it was the Pakistani military governor’s last nerve. Temper and Cellular were only one of many groups of novas, aligned and independent, raiding the Pakistani holdings along and in Kashmir, but it was time to make an example out of them to show the price of raiding the villages.

Twelve days ago, the military governor commissioned DeVries to send one of their most brutal elites to bring in the rogue novas, horribly beaten but still alive to face further humiliation and punishment.

Ten days ago, Singularity stepped off his Learjet onto the tarmac at Quaid-e-Azam International Airport in Karachi with an eager grin, sending it back to Ibiza to return the three barely-clothed and now satisfied groupies he brought along for the flight.

Nine days ago, Singularity ventured into the DMZ, tracking the path of destruction left by Temper and Cellular. By the end of the day he had caught up to the rogue novas, which promptly retreated via their powers before he could properly engage them in combat.

Seven days ago, Temper and Cellular entered the Himalaya from northern Pakistan in an attempt to throw Singularity off of their trail, hoping the terrain would mask their flight much better than their attempts at stealth. Following them in, Singularity spent the next week carefully tracking their path, slowly narrowing the gap between he and the rogue novas and slowly letting his anger build up in response.

Millions of years of tectonic forces have and continue to drive the Indian subcontinent into Eurasia, pushing it beneath the Tibetan Plateau and bringing the Himalaya to life. Puffy clouds mingle between impossibly large peaks and a nigh-perfect blue sky, seeming to be an extension of the permanent snow capping the mountains. It’s a sight very few living creatures have seen and even fewer had the mental capacity to appreciate it. Unfortunately, the beings here today won’t be appreciating the view.

Snow crunches under Singularity’s feet and it fluffs up into the air as he crouches down behind a large, exposed rock. Parts of it crumble under the elite’s impossibly strong grip and scatter into the pristine snow below. They can’t make it easy on him, could they? Doesn’t anyone understand the polite and informative statement “Get your ass over here before I make you do it on your kneecaps” anymore? Oh no, Temper and Cellular had to make it difficult and make him chase them down for days, like he was some kind of common idiot, newbie elite. He could have finished up properly with Simone, Greta, and Katie and found at least five more parties and five times as many more partners. Just for this, one of them is getting brought in with a permanent limp and the other is losing an eye.

Across the valley, two distant figures finally appear, one appearing to be completely made from steel and the other wearing a blue jumpsuit covered with tacky and useless attachments, and Singularity grins with narrowed silver eyes. Good, the two fucks were out in the open. Time to make those little shits pay and go back to enjoying that vacation. He stands up to his full height, stretching out in his stylish red and black bodysuit, and leaps through the air. An almost sadistic sense of pleasure washes over Singularity as he sees the look of surprise and then panic on Temper and Cellular’s faces; he lives for times like these. “Hey shitbirds,” he yells out near the end of his arc, “Are you little pussies done running home to mamma yet?” His foot slams hard into the metallic Temper, sending the elite rolling a few dozen meters away and Singularity takes a moment to gloat, “Look at you, my grandma can take a hit way better than your pansy ass.”

Even as Singularity lands, the ambient radiation from the sunlight filtering through the crisp mountain air starts to coalesce around Cellular. “Let’s see if a faggot like you can burn,” Cellular spits out just before unleashing the low-end and highly focused electromagnetic radiation into Singularity, taking advantage of the red and black elite’s exposed back.

The energy slams into Singularity, wrapping around and passing him the way water passes a rock in a river. “Oooooo, it’s a good think Very Bad isn’t here to hear that,” he says while calmly sauntering over to Cellular with a toothy grin, “He doesn’t like to hear such nasty things said about his sexual preferences.” Singularity swings the back of his hand into the bottom of Cellular’s chin and sends the rogue elite soaring into the air, “No more back talk from you.”

Six hundred pounds of metal slam into Singularity, driving him into the snow covered ground. Temper towers over Singularity, holding out both metal hands as if he’s trying to stop traffic, “Look, man, we don’t want any trouble, if those villages were that important we’ll repaaAAGGRRHH!!!!”

Temper’s words morph into a cry of pain, mixing with the crunching sound of his metal foot being crushed as Singularity finishes squeezing it and using it to help himself up while keeping a grip, “You think it’s still about that anymore, you useless thug?” Once on his feet, Singularity uses his grip on Temper’s foot to unbalance his opponent, driving the metal elite into the ground while putting his other hand on Temper’s kneecap, “Fuck the contract, I’m gonna hurt you and your little buddy for free and out of my own desire.” Temper’s cry-turned-howl is drowned out by the screeching sound of metal being wrenched as Singularity pushes Temper’s calf the wrong direction until his toes can touch his bellybutton, “I gave you fuck faces a chance to come in willingly with only a few bruises. Now you assholes have cost me days of trouncing through goddamn snow and ice. I’m taking this out of your hides and both of you are going to have little presents you’ll never forget.” Singularity picks Temper up and punts the rogue elite into the air, following the arc he sent Cellular on earlier. He grins, giving Temper and Cellular a few seconds respite before leaping in the air to follow.

As Singularity starts to descend, he can see a few small huts tucked into the mountain valley close to where he’ll land. Once he hits the ground, he can see both Cellular and Temper standing just off to the side of him, oddly frozen in space. He can hear both of the rogue elites breathing and moaning in pain, but their bodies are completely immobile with nothing but air holding them in place.

The small huts near the frozen rogues almost seem to be apart of the valley, barely detectable to Singularity even at this short distance. He starts to walk forward to inspect the area; something stopped Temper and Cellular and there’s no reason to be surprised by the same thing. The soft click of shifting rocks near the rogues draws his attention and he turns quickly to face whoever made the noise. Standing before Singularity is what can be only described as an old Tibetan man that seemingly appeared out of thin air. His dark skin is wrinkled and weathered to the point of looking like worn leather, only a few long wisps of white hair cling to the sides of his head, and his lean body is wrapped in faded orange robes. But despite his obvious age, the old man’s eyes gleam with a presence that defies his appearance and the air around amplifies a feeling of serenity carrying outward from him. Singularity arches an eyebrow and a corner of his mouth twists upwards into a curl, “Look, old man, I don’t have a beef with you, I’m just here to pick up these two idiots.”

The old man smiles and slightly bows his head, drawing a stare from Singularity. “Apologies,” the wrinkled man says in English with a heavily accented voice that again seems to defy his age, “These men must heal before leaving. Roads can no be walked with broken legs.”

Curl turning into a complete sneer, Singularity crosses the distance to the old man and the rogues, “No offense, Master Po, but neither of these two will be walking anywhere for a long time.” Wonderful, now he’s got this idiot to get in the way as well. Singularity stops in front of the old man, giving robed figure a condescending look that would be appropriate for a petulant child, “These shitheads have given me a real bad week and I’ve got no problem knocking your crippled ass out of the way if that’s what it takes to get out of here.”

Unfazed, the old man simply shrugs in his robes, “They are broken men and not ready yet to walk own path, not today. Maybe not for year. Very little potential.” His eyes narrow while looking at Singularity before slowly nodding in approval. A weathered and knobby hand pokes out of the old man’s robe and he points at the elite, “Much potential, but blinded.”

Even better, this guy thinks he’s fucking Yoda. Singularity swings his head back while rolling his eyes, “Screw this shit, kemosabe, if you want to play the cryptic game then I’m gonn…” The elite’s words stop when he looks forward again, ready to strike: the old man was no longer in front of him. Singularity swings around, seeing the old man peacefully standing behind the elite as if he had always been standing there.

Deciding he’s really had enough, Singularity starts to launch his fist towards the old man but it stops dead in the air. The elite tries to move but his body just won’t respond, as if he’s just an observing presence in his own body and consciousness starts to slip away. The old man continues to look at Singularity with a small smile, “Blind man can no walk a path if he can no see path, no matter all potential. Time is only way to learn to see the path.”


Time passes and when Singularity’s eyes open again the majestic scene lies before him. The sun is low in the sky, painting the clouds, rocks, and huts pink and red, but he can’t tell if it’s dawn or dust. And he still can’t move; his arms won’t respond, his eyes don’t move, and he can’t even grind his jaw in frustration. There’s no reason for this, nothing and no one has been able to stop him cold for so long. But the sooner he’s out of this the better: Singularity can’t wait to rip into those two fuckers and show that old coot who’s boss.

The old man calmly walks into view, still wrapped in the faded robes. A small smile crosses the elderly face, “Good, you are awake. Time pass, mind more ready.” If he could, Singularity would tell where this wannabe yogi where to shove it with a snarl yet the elite stills stays immobile, raging against the invisible force. “Ah, body no connected right now,” the old man intones with a solemn voice, “When mind realizes it is body and body realizes it is mind then self can act.” Brilliant, the mummy is spewing Zen crap and his English sucks too. Still standing serenely before Singularity, the old man continues, “Path is before you but you no see.” The roiling blood in Singularity starts to die down, settling back to normal within him and the old man’s voice sounds as soothing as a bubbling creek, “I can show you path but no walk it for you.” The elite stops trying to move, mesmerized by the old man’s words, “I can only point, you make choice.” A preternatural sense of calm and serenity washes over Singularity, the kind the greatest meditation masters speak of and he once openly mocked, and the old man continues, “Consider all life’s choices and actions, see what you see before.” As if on cue, the elite’s life history surges to the forefront of his consciousness and his mind struggles to hold it all in place. He can’t understand how this is happening, but the sense of calm permeating his entire soul helps him accept and manage the onslaught of information. “But,” the old man says with a different, more knowing smile, “Memory not enough. Must consider affects of all choices, where they lead.”

Before Singularity can even question what the old man means, something unseen that feels like a sledgehammer hits him square in the forehead. He’s three and the neighborhood boy is cutting off his long, pretty hair and proudly displaying it like a trophy. He’s a first grader and that bully is shoving his face in the sandpit, right where the local cats like to make an outdoor litter box. He’s ten and he’s so afraid to walk home because that kid and his friends are going to wait for him and beat him up. He’s thirteen and he’s being held upside down in a toilet while that voice screams “Swirlie!” He’s fourteen and that linebacker has injured him so bad he’ll never play football again. He’s sixteen and he’s just been rejected after giving himself to that boy three days ago. He’s twenty-two and he’s being mocked while his limbs are being torn off. He’s two and he wants to know why Mommie and Daddie won’t get up and why the big man is laughing. He’s thirty and he’s just finding out his wife will never come home from her mission. He’s eighteen and he’s watching the love of his life being torn apart by a cold, heartless killer. He’s twenty-seven and his right leg is being bent back upon itself. A nigh infinite number of memories and perspectives assault Singularity’s consciousness and his mind’s eye broadens more than it has ever before. The enormity of the sorrow, pain, fear, grief, and more finally overwhelm the struggling serenity within him and he collapses to the frozen group, apparently free of the invisible grip. His body wraps into a fetal position, shaking violently as he sobs with inhumanly strong lungs and an equally powerful realization of guilt makes the foundation of the emotion he can no longer handle. The old man’s smile turns again, sorrow and compassion joining the knowingness that was there before, “Now you see the path.”


Sharp, cold winds rush through the valley, looking for any opening to penetrate in the rocks, huts, and the lone figure outside. The wind tugs at the white Eufiber, trying to pull it away from its owner while simultaneously trying to freeze him too, but neither the unusual substance nor its owner is affected by the freezing air. Singularity watches the frozen vista with silver eyes, rolling the experiences of the past two months in his head. The Old Man had shown him the path, even given him some direction, but so much was still left yet to be seen. He has a lifetime of horrible mistakes on his conscious, a history of acts so horrible he still seriously doubts he can truly change after everything that’s been said and done. But now what? Keep taking contracts as an elite? Ha, like that’s an option; it’ll just perpetuate the problem. Join the Peace Corp? Become a monk? How can anyone compensate for such deeds?

The soft crunch of footsteps on the snow betrays the Old Man’s approach, “Ah, I see you’re enjoying the view again.” Philosophy and personal direction wasn’t the only things Singularity has learned; it’s always easier to speak to a guide in their native tongue. “It is a nice view,” he says with that old and knowing voice, “But focusing on such ascetic things can turn you into something that’s just apart of the landscape.”

A very small smile creeps over Singularity’s face as he continues to look forward, “I know… there is always a lesson to be learned, is there not?” He turns to face the Old Man and his entire posture has changed to one of deference and respect. Funny how a few months can change someone’s perspective. White Eufiber and faded orange robes both snap in the wind, “You have been very generous to me and I have no idea how to repay you, but…”

The Old Man smiles and cuts off Singularity with a wave of his hand, “No need for repayment, seeing and walking the path is useless if you don’t show it to others.” The fine wisps hair barely attached to his smooth head twist in the wind and it only enhances the Old Man’s ethereal look. Those lively and ageless eyes narrow for a moment, gazing into Singularity’s soul, “But you need to move on, yes? Of course, the path never ends. But you don’t know what comes next, yes?” Singularity nods and the Old Man continues with that same smile, “That part is up to you, I can only show you the general path, not the exact twists and turns without taking away the heavenly glory of your own quest. You still worry if you’ve changed and you feel completely adrift in the world, yes? There are others like you, you know. You are not alone; many people have strayed from the path because of pain and loss. They need guidance, companionship, and protection just as much as you. Yes, even those who would want to punish you. They are the ones who need your eye the most. But more importantly, they are the ones you need the most. You will almost certainly find them and watch over them in your penance, but you may be surprised where it will take you and just how close two damaged souls can become.” An almost scolding tone filters into the Old Man’s voice as he finishes, “But do not think you still have lessons to learn, including the lesson that everyone is each other’s teacher and student.” The scolding drops away and his typical light-hearted tone returns, “Come, those two you followed here probably want to move their bodies again and return to civilization.”


August 28, 2015

Unspecified section of the Caribbean Sea

The ocean quietly laps against the sandy shores under the almost blue moonlight covering the tiny island. Franklin stretches his legs out on the sand with his arms holding his body up in a lax sitting position. The rhythmic sound of the water only enhances the peaceful and intimate feeling of the island, cementing the notion that it was one of the truly private places left in the world. The soft shifting of sand lets him know Regan is slowly approaching, unconsciously stalking him in the night, and he keeps his eyes forward so he doesn’t ruin the moment. Her arms slowly snake around his body as she crouches behind him, one hand already reaching for his hair, “I read what you wrote… that was very sweet of you, especially considering what you once told me.” Franklin smiles, leaning into her embrace, and he can’t help but remember as well just how close to the mark the Old Man had been.

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