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[Fiction] Hugin - In Between


Vixen

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It was late at night as Hugin walked the halls of New Ground. It was quiet, because everyone else had gone home - s'he was between necessary dream cycles and did not see the need for sleep.

Several dozen thought cycles ran inside hir brain at once. Twenty-one of them were dedicated to the Asian stock market over the last year's time, compiling a list of all patterns. A further forty analyzed the patterns to see where they could be prodded gently or not so gently. S'he already had all the money s'he would ever need, of course, but there were favors to be accumulated - favors s'he would need sooner or later, and people gave them out so readily.

To hir annoyance, one of the cycles had a song stuck in it. Worse, it was a baseline song - elementary melody and timing and talent, and yet somehow it had wormed its way into hir brain, consuming resources.

You got to ac-cent-uate the positive...

Hugin isolated the cycle and hir wanderings took her into the art gallery. S'he walked past the cruder baseline renderings without a sideways glance, and headed into the wing dedicated to exotic artistic expressions. S'he breezed past the more familiar offerings, a cycle noting a few paint flecks had fallen off the ceiling and onto the carpet, which was laced with a six-thousand digit mathematical equation that described the solar system's gravitational fields. It didn't need adjusting just yet, but people kept opening wormholes, and eventually s'he'd have to tear it up and start again.

She reached a corner with a clear glass booth, and stepped inside. Seals clicked into place softly and across the room, a screen lit up. Hugin felt the low-level splash of lasers across hir eyeball as they followed what s'he was looking at.

E-lim-inate the negative... latch on to the affirmative...

Hugin selected 'random,' and inhaled deeply as the pheromone synthesizers let loose a tightly calibrated combination of scents that could only be described as artistic. S'he was filled with what one young artist had identified as the universal memory scent - it brought back memories of anything, in this case anything random.

The cycle was cleared, and refilled, entertaining a memory of life immediately post-eruption, as Utopia's puppet 'Prodigy.' Not quite having sloughed off the cocoon. Not quite having admitted that James Meehan was dead. He reveled in his power, aware in only the vaguest sense of the future that awaited him.

Hugin stepped out of the booth, and resealed it, the cleaner microbes already doing their duty, getting the booth ready for its next use. S'he didn't use it often, since hir memory was sufficient to recall the flight pattern of the fruit fly that had gotten into hir office four weeks ago. But sometimes all the wheels did not turn as they should.

S'he cast a quick glance around the room, noting the glass clock was about to strike midnight. It was a true glass clock, not the imitation invented by a German some decades past. That glass clock had a tiny metal spring inside, but this glass clock had - through a teasing of certain elastic properties - no metal parts. It lost a second every eleven months, but Hugin kept it around anyway as a favor to its creator.

Hugin looked up to the ceiling, where an projected infrared passion play was on endless loop - dancing between the visible spectrum and the phantom colors, its dialogue projected in the style of silent movies. To a less discerning eye it would seem to be one story thanks to strategic omission, and to one that could see further into the spectrum it would be another entirely. S'he was fond of the idea, but hated the execution, and had never been able to put hir finger on why.

The clock struck, tiny glass hammers striking softly, filling the room with a sympathetic resonance. Hugin stopped to examine a four-dimensional fractal hologram, turning hir head this way and that. The artist in question was working on a nine-dimensional map of possibility, and Hugin didn't expect the young thing to succeed within the century so s'he contented herself with this good first effort...

S'he stopped, standing up slowly, and turned to the clock. Thirteen?

S'he counted, as the clock continued to chime. Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen.

Hugin was tempted to mutter 'impossible' under hir breath, except the word had little meaning in this day and age. S'he walked towards the clock as it continued to strike the hour. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty. Twenty-one.

All three hands pointed straight up.

Twenty-two. Twenty-three. Twenty-four.

They pointed to the ceiling, and Hugin felt the hairs on the back of hir neck stand on end. Suddenly s'he felt cold.

Twenty-five. Twenty-six. Twenty-seven.

Hugin looked up, at the passion play. Blood red letters in an angry scrawl glared down at hir.

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"Holographic images," s'he said. "Telepathic imagery." S'he sent a pulse of quantum through the faracytes in hir brain...

Nothing.

Twenty-eight. Twenty-nine. Thirty.

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"Poppycock," s'he muttered. "Molecular manipulation. Cyberkinetics. Show yourself. Tell me how you entered this building and you may leave with your life."

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Thirty-one. Thirty-two. Thirty-three.

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Thirty-four. Fifty. Six hundred.

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"I lost count," s'he whispered. "I never lose - "

The words vanished, replaced by a rendering of a room. In the corner was a booth, and by the wall there was a clock. Comical "bong!" sound effects pulsed out of the clock. Wavy 'scent lines' emanated from the booth.

There was a stick figure standing in front of the clock. It had two circles at its top and a small line between its legs. Hugin raised one arm and the stick figure did likewise.

Something came into being behind the stick figure, coming in from the infrared end of the spectrum. It was right behind the stick figure. It had a circle for a face and a look of pure malice.

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"Who are you?"

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"That's im - "

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"This - " Hugin's voice caught in hir throat, and s'he felt a stab of rage at losing composure. "This is my home. You come into my home. Tamper with priceless objects of art. Any damage to art, however slight, is akin to its destruction - "

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"Who are you?"

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"You stated if I turned around - "

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Hugin set hir jaw, and dug deep, feeling quantum energies throb in hir forehead, like a water hose about to burst from pressure. S'he stabbed out with a blanket pulse of energy, disabling the central nervous system of everyone in the room. The energy slid off hir own quantum immunities, still firmly in place.

S'he listened, and heard nothing. She stared at the ceiling, which was blank.

The clock continued to chime. S'he'd completely lost track of how many times it had rung. Its hands still pointed upwards.

This is an irrational fear, Hugin, s'he told hirself. That was the strongest pulse of energy you could muster. If that did not disable your opponent then they can kill you at any time regardless of whether you turn around. Turning around means your assailant is in full view and you can construct a plan from there.

So turn around.

Hugin remained still.

Turn around.

The clock was the only sound in the room. S'he imagined the chimes being worn away a sliver at a time, microscopic cracks spreading like a spider's web. S'he wanted to grab it and throw it across the room. S'he could see it shattering in hir mind's eye, all the molecules still there, but no longer a clock, just a mass of broken glass.

Stopped dead.

Turn around, Mister In-Between.

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Hugin whirled, so fast that the walls shook with a microscopic sonic boom. S'he stared.

S'he raised hir arms in a guard, but not fast enough - the intruder bore in, grabbing hir around the throat, jamming thumbs into hir windpipe. The assailant scowled down at hir, eyes pulsing with pale blue energy.

The ceiling flickered back to life. The stick figure with the breasts and penis was fading to infrared, being strangled by the other stick figure.

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"You grkkk can't be here...!"

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"Because you're hrrrkkk you're - "

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Hugin pounded on Prodigy's arms, and it was Prodigy - s'he would recognize hir own face anywhere. Except Prodigy was hir - a less evolved hir but still hir...

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"I didn't gkk! I didn't kill you - "

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Hugin strained to break Prodigy's grip, and sent out another pulse of energy aimed at Prodigy's motor skills. It slid through the other nova as if he wasn't even there.

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"How did you arrive at nnrkk!"

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Hugin felt the cycles falling to pieces, giving in to fear - starved of blood, they fell to chaos. Everything was turning blue...

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"My powers don't work on you..."

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"And therefore hrkkk you share my immunity. My unique quantum signature. And therefore, you are me. And I am not dead, and therefore..."

A stillness hung in the air. Hugin blinked and Prodigy vanished.

A faint click issued from the glass clock as the second hand ticked forward, to 12:00:01.

Hugin struggled to hir feet, rubbing hir neck. S'he spared a glance at the pheromone booth.

Imbalance. Of course. Overdose of memory pheromones. Hir dream cycles were out of synch. S'he'd had a waking case of R.E.M. That's all it was.

The booth would have to be checked out thoroughly. And if the problem could not be isolated, then...

Then nothing. It would have to be dismantled, that's all. If it was dangerous then it had to go. Broken down and dismantled and

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S'he glanced to the mural. It was playing one of its interesting scenes, where a third of what happened was rendered outside of visible light, and to those who could only see normal light, one thing was happening, and to those who could see more, another was happening.

But you couldn't see both at once, of course. Even if you dormed. You couldn't both see and not see the infrared portions of the play.

There was no room in between.

Hugin looked away, and walked out of the room more quickly than s'he'd have liked.

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