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[OpNet] Zach Bronstein Interviews Elizabeth


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Hello my gentle readers. Yet again I come to you from behind the safe confines of the printed page. Cease your ceaseless prattle!! You can read, so exercise those eyeballs and remember, it's left to right, up to down, except if your reading this in a Hebrew translation. I can't remember how the hell it goes then, sorry Rabbi Schifman. As for the rest of you semi-literate mongrels; you can calm down and try to remember the basics. Like I said when we spoke with the illuminating Jager, sometimes these nova types are a touchy bunch and don't like having a camera poked in their puss. So, sit down and be polite, dogs.

[by the way Jager, the "illuminating" comment was sarcasm you drip. You tempted this dog one time too many and I spent the last two weeks trying to find some proof that you've been involved in some black book nasty business. Thanks for wasting my time.]

Well, today we are going to be interview a lovely lady, I assume the lovely part, as she still hasn't shown up, by the name of Elizabeth. No last name. No, she's not to be likened that hag Madonna. I just don't know it.

"What," you ask in shock. "The great Bronstein is unprepared?"

Well, fuck you all. No, even I do not know my future subject. She is a nova and she liked my Jager piece so she volunteered to do an interview. Normally this hardhearted reporter would have insisted on more, but the messages were forwarded to my by my secretary, Trixie. Trixie informed me that I could either interview Elizabeth or I could find a new secretary. Seems like Elizabeth made quite the impression, so, as it was hard enough finding one woman who could handle my voluminous phone log and deal with Marvin, my desk monster, I relented.

Aha! The door!

In the open doorway stands 'Elizabeth' and it's not a bad sight all things considered. She has a heart shaped face framed by straight (figuratively) flaming red hair hanging just a couple of inches below her shoulder. The inward curl of her bangs make the framing effect complete and draws my eyes to her face subtly. Round sunglass lenses, a shade of metallic red so deep that it's almost black obscures her eyes. Her skin is the pale shade of alabaster they would have called milky or creamy before tans and skin cancer became the rage last century. The contrast between the whiteness of her skin and the shock of red from her hair and glasses is eye jarring in a way that invites a closer examination.

She's wearing a long gray sweater draping from shoulders to calves hangs open. Under it a tight fitting mid-top with matching jeans and a gleaming golden locket rests just above her breasts on the outside of the top. Her slim lean body hints at muscle and energy even at rest. Not Ragnorockette muscled, or as endowed for that matter. It's more like a ballerina's physique or a gymnast at her peak. She looks tall at first glance but logic and knowledge of my doorway whispers that she stands around five-five with the high top cross-trainers she wearing adding a bit. The illusion of height is not easy to pin down but it's somehow there anyway.

She enters the room with a slight smile on her face, her walk that impressively smooth bearing so sought in an age more gentle by woman of breeding. It's an almost erotic gliding motion. She approaches the desk without ever taking her eyes off the man sitting behind it.

Me.

ZB: Please, please come in 'Elizabeth', if that truly is your real name. Make yourself comfortable. Trixie insisted that I provide you a clean and orderly place to sit so I firebombed that side of the office today. Mind the ashes. All right, now let's get started. Why are you here? Why am I, the famous Zach Bronstein, interviewing a 'nova' whom I have never heard of and whom my vast sources and innumerable contacts have never heard of?

E: I've used more than a few other names, Zach, when there was a need. That's done with now. I'm Elizabeth.

Her voice is soft and borders on that throaty quality they called whiskey sweet in the provincial hellhole where I grew up. Not outright sexy or seductive, just enough of that quality to allow you to wonder what she could sound like if she wanted to.

She walks past the proffered chair, circling the desk to stand next before me gazing down at me, through for a long moment. Then, slowly she bends at the waist and reaches out her arms to lean against my chair while her obscured eyes stare into mines. Her face is only a foot from my own and the scent of cinnamon is in the air. She opens her mouth to speak and I smell lilacs on her breath.

E: "May I offer you a friendly word of advice Zach?"

ZB: "Good Lord woman, move around like that some more and you can do anything you damn well please!"

E: "When you meet a woman for the first time and want to make a good impression... For instance on a date or for an interview... Where do your eyes look first? Legs or face?"

ZB: "Well, usually the face. It's the best way to make sure that the escort agency sent me the right one this time."

E: (Smiling) "Woman like it when a man starts at her face, no matter what she thinks her best feature is. It affirms interest beyond the obvious. Now; when you look at a nova, where do you look first?

E: (the smile disappears): "Never look directly into the eyes. Human eyes may be the windows to the soul but the eyes of a nova are more intense. And dangerous in ways you can't imagine. If you have to look, always... Always... Keep your eyes focused here."

Softly, her index finger touches the spot just above the bridge of my nose and centered between my eyes. Her touch is... cool. Not Kewl cool or even Ice Queen cool. You ever leave a bottle of Crown Royal in the freezer for six months? Pull it out for that first sip on a sweltering August night in Manhattan. That's the sensation, frozen fire and burning ice sort of cool.

She drops her hand from my brow and leans closer. Her cheek is next to mine, so close to me that I can feel her cool skin next to mine even without actually touching. That smell, the scent of fresh cut cinnamon, is nearly overpowering but it's not actually a smell. Or at least I do not actually smell it with my nose. The taste of the spice is on my tongue and in my mind. Memories of a poor man's breakfast, the food we ate in the sticks when I was a boy. The taste of buttered toast heavily coated with a heaping helping of sugar and cinnamon mixed together and ground into the butter.

E (whispering in my ear): "Never... Not ever, forget that they're novas. Behind their brow, out of sight, they carry the fire of the heavens. Theirs is the power to create. Or the power to destroy."

Withdrawing, she slowly straightens and reaches for her glasses. With the tip of her finger, the same one she used to touch me, she tugs them steadily outward to reveal... Lambent pale green eyes like warm polished jade. Pretty, but my mind doesn't suddenly melt nor do I descend into stark terror.

E: (Laughing) You must remember to try harder next time, Zach. It might be important when you land the interview with someone more... formidable... than myself. To answer each of your questions though; I'm here to give the great Zach Bronstein an interview. And you agreed to aggressively follow up with your exclusive of Jager, thereby parlaying your salary into a figure with one more zero attached.

My congratulations on that interview by the way. Jager is a very difficult man to pin down, in many ways, and he rarely tarries long enough to answer questions. Let alone grant interviews. It's even more impressive that you chose a professional 'spook' as the first in the new series. As a group, they're reputed to be less than forthright or gregarious. Did you really make him swear to abstain from political, social or self-aggrandizing rants?

ZB: God's teeth, but was he a pain in the ass. Finding him took more effort than you can imagine and getting him to give me just a couple of pages was a Herculean task. I didn't have to make him promise to keep quiet on any subject. For a while there I thought it was going to require several hundred volts to the testicles to get him to open up. It turned out ok though. But enough of that "spook' as you call him. And don't think that teasing me about his supposed black ops past is going to fool me again. He's clean as a whistle, and you're speaking to the man who can find dirt on Alejandra.

I have to ask you, what the hell did you do to Trixie. She's a mean nasty wench of a woman and only her abilities to keep Marvin and my torrents of fan mail under control keep her employed. I don't think I've heard her say two nice things about anyone in the many years of our special “Thinks-he's boss/Wishes-he-would-die” relationship. You however have been gushed about in a way not heard since Disney's original Pollyanna. So 'fess up, you mind squished her didn't you? You have some of those weird Nova powers that Utopia hates to admit exists? What's the deal?

E (laughing): On Alejandra? Really? Perhaps you don't need my advice after all. (Laughs) You're already quite formidable. Trixie will be more than happy to tell you about our talk after the interview. She seems to relish the idea.

She laughs again; soft and musically. The smile reaches all the way to those jade colored eyes to make the light reflected therein dance. She's having a ball here.

E: But really! No questions about the Null Manifesto? How about The Zurich Accord, Teragen sympathies or closet Utopian fantasies? Perhaps we should talk about the QNA or the place of novas in a baseline society? I know; the place of baselines in nova society? Why you couldn't find anything on me with the resources sufficient to determine the name of the boy Alejandra kissed furtively in the church rectory when she was 12? Food, sex, children, ethics, morality, marriage, religion are usually perennially favorites? What about lovers, friends, relatives, rivals? Why Jager is called the White Knight, or how someone that loathes religion can become the Avenging Hand or God? How one lone boy neutralized a Utopia special ops team? What The Prodigy likes to do in his spare time? Who do I love? Who do I hate? Who do I love to hate? Who do I hate to love?

None of these appeal to you?

What about Utopia's Aberrant Syndrome, also known as excessive quantum build-up or Taint? Who's acquiring it? How? Why? Transhumanism philosophy? There's always the latest attempt by the church of Michael Archangel to repeal genetics with good home cooking and armor piercing rounds? India Syndrome? What happens behind the curtain of the world out of sight of normal society? Where all the secret agents go after midnight?

There must be something we can talk about. Don't you think?

Her tone is light and teasing but there is a subtle undercurrent to it. A trace of certainty hiding in that in that too knowing smile as if she were asking if I wanted to know that secret, while giving me a friendly warning. Be careful of what you wish for.

E: Come on, Zach. You can do better than this. Show me the steel. Or maybe it's that you work better under pressure. I've heard that about you. Shall we add a little?

Elizabeth leans forward, her hair cascading forward and the light reflected in her eyes seems to dance faster as she speaks.

E: Ten questions. I'll give you ten questions to determine who I am. What I am. One extra for every truly insightful question you come up with. If I ask you a question, and you answer it truthfully, then I'll spot you one additional question. We'll keep it on a strictly quid pro quo basis. The interview is yours. All yours. If you want to get the right answers you have only to ask the right questions. Take your time.

[Dear readers, my dear faithful readers. As every misbegotten one of you know I, the Great Zach Bronstein, am the greatest singular baseline journalist working the Nova beat. Doc Rollo can kiss my skinny, Middle America, Jewish ass. The late Mackenzie Phillips, god rest her slimy soul, couldn't hold a candle to the wonder that is me. You all know this, for you have accepted the truth that I bring your worthless collective ass. I have interviewed the Stone Badass and lived to experience the hangover. I got in Pax's face and demanded to know the truth about rumors of laced drugs in the Rashoud clinics and I survived to change into a spare set of drawers. I spoke with Alejandra and managed to walk away without worshiping at her feet and renouncing my faith even once. All of this and this Missy-come-lately thinks a few clever quips and a pair of glowing orbs will stump me? Let's boogie.]

ZB: You are a lovely lady Miss Elizabeth, but your manners are just terrible. You challenge me? Me? Fine, if anyone knows how to deal with a Nova sized ego it would be yours truly. I do have to admit though; you've tempted me with some of the tidbits that you floated. Taint? Offering up the possibility of hearing the behind the scenes of a Utopia strike teams op? Sex? But that wasn't your challenge was it?

I am interviewing you, the unknown Nova, but one who has apparently been around for quite some time. You've allegedly been boppin' and hoppin' with the movers and the shakers while managing to stay well below the radar. That's impressive girlie. Don't try to impress me with Prodigy though, the less I have to do with that crank the better. Fine, first question, well not a question per say, that's not how interviews always work. In an interview I can simply direct you attention to a specific subject and request that you expound. Fair enough? Good, so my mysterious madam, tell me about your life before you erupted. What was life like back when you were still a puny baseline? Let us know about the friends and family that helped shape you.

E (leaning back in her chair, still smiling): That's it, Zach? I recalled the steel being sharper! You need that rapier sharp steel, unless you're planning on remaining an entertainer instead becoming a journalist. You want to know whom I know, or what I've seen? Ask the questions. Alejandra's doesn't play in this league and Pax spends too much of his time thinking about the history of the future these days. It's not ego, or at least not mine that is at stake now is it?

Those little pet names are an expenditure of your limited energies and my time. Add them later for your readers if you need to but don't bother with them now. I taste your reactions; the minute interplay of chemicals driving those tiny transitory sparks of thoughts on a level of detail you can't even imagine. A better use might be to remember the basics. Baseline humans lack the gene sequence to spontaneously express MR tissue. Homo Sapiens Novus on the other hand have that sequence. If they've previously undergone MR tissue expression, eruption, they're novas. Otherwise, they're latent novas with the potential to spontaneously express MR tissue. Keep in mind they were never baselines, sweetie. There's a quiz with your name on it for later.

She clicks her tongue against the roof of her mouth fetchingly. Cheeky wench.

E: My life as a human, eh? All right, count one question as used and fasten your seatbelt. Can you imagine a sweet little picturesque village on the slopes of the Rhine? The gently sloping banks, the beautiful wild flowers in the springtime, the babble of the waters? Keep visualizing that. We're not actually going there but it's a nice image to relax to.

Childhood included a mum, a sister and I. No dad in the picture, he exited stage left under very mysterious circumstances before the start of my memories. Each time Mom was asked she about it she would give a different answer as to where he was or what happened. We finally figured out that it hurt her to think about it, that it always hurt her and finally learned to stop asking. For her, I think his absence was like a broken bone that had never been set properly. It always pained her just a little. That pain became her companion in his absence, never completely leaving and so it was always there to remind her of him. She may have forgotten what it was ever like not to feel pain every moment of her day. She seemed okay with that, though. Maybe the pain was preferable to forgetting. It's silly, sad and much too bitterly sweet for words. She always had something nice to say to us, even when we were in trouble, and she always told a story at night. Weird little stories about impossible things and odd happenings in the world. Mythology from all over the world dusted off and shined up, then given new life in her soft voice.

I had a wonderfully wild Aunt that doted on us and told insane stories of daring and adventure from her younger days. She was a very formidable lady that even managed to drag my so very serious Uncle into the occasional family get together, those usually turned into solo trips for the kids though. Trips to visit the Aunt and Uncle overseas at least once a year, usually during the summer. Most of the other kids envied us but they never knew how much work there was to do. By the time I was thirteen I'd visited Egypt, Brazil, taken a boat ride up the Amazon, Ireland, Scotland, Morocco, Madrid, Spain, China, you name it. If it was off-season and in the middle of nowhere I'd been there, built a lean-to and carved our initials somewhere. By the time we got back home to Mom, she'd already moved to a new place and begun to setup house. New house, new friend, new life and then school would start. If wasn't a bad way to grow up all things considered.

,,

I was the serious older child. The one that obsessively competed for good grades, worried about things too much and desperately loathed the ground on which trod the pristine shoes of the cool girls in their stylishly fascist cliques. As with many things it depends on your point of view. By the time I turned fourteen, about three weeks after my sister's birthday, Mom died of a stroke. One moment she was telling a story, the next she was laying across our bed. We thought she's fallen asleep at first. I remember my sister and I laying blankets across her so she wouldn't get cold in the night. It wasn't until we tried to lay a pillow under her head that we realized something was wrong.

The family were off somewhere in the world sailing up a river or exploring an archeological dig when it happened so I took care of dealing with her affairs until they got the word. Four months later my aunt arrived raising hell with the local authorities and inside of three days we were bundled up, packed up and safely tucked away in a place you could find with a map and three native guides.

Fast forward a couple of years, skipping the happy little commercials for Kodak moments along the way, and you have college followed by work. Through an internship program for the NSA, an unadvertised recruiting pool for the Directive, I found myself working as a mid-level strategic operations analyst. It paid the bills. Also along the way a beautiful little girl I named Deirdre came into my life. She had glossy red hair the day she was born, sky blue eyes, and a laugh like an angel. After she became my entire world, she died from a disease so rare that Triton hadn't gotten around to developing remedial gene therapy for it yet. It took nine months to bring her into this world, three years for her to become the beginning and end of my life, but only a month to die.

Do you think a month is a short time, Zach? Take it from experience… it's not the length of time, it's that expectation for the end that makes it seem long or short. There were moments when the night would go on forever yet the days passed in an instant.

She isn't smiling now and I wonder if she regrets taking the glasses off. There's something in her eyes; maybe pain, anger or just sadness. It's probably all of the above and few more tossed in besides. This moment is like watching a cloud passing the full moon. One moment there's this incredible vitality, the next you standing in the dark wondering where the light went. Maybe that's the point. How many of us survive the loss of a loved one, especially a child, and get over it? What does that do to someone's mind?

E (quietly): It is a source of wonderment to me. That her death didn't kill me, I mean.

She's still looking at me when a strange thought burbles up from the dark depths of my mind like a tiny fetid buddle and bursts into awareness. She's never looked away from me since the moment she entered the office. Even when she sat down she did without looking away from my eyes for even a moment. She just stepped back and glided into an empty chair as if she knew the office like the back or her hand.

Just as suddenly as it came the cloud passes and that sense of quiet vibrancy snaps back on. The cloud has passed and the moon's back in my face again at 200 watts. The smile isn't back but she looks calm and collected again. Alive.

E: There's your remarkable insight into the "baseline life'. For whatever it's worth anyway. If the next question is how did I erupt or what kewl (she accents and draws the word out for my benefit) things I can do because I'm a Nova, well… I'll have to dock you three questions just from disappointment.

Her voice takes on an airy valley-girl quality as she says the "Nova', and the smile returns. It's a little softer, less bright, but firmly in place.

E: Next?

[ 02-01-2002: Message edited by: N News Service ]

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ZB: I hate to damper your spirit lady, but maybe you are mistaken as to what I do. If you were to stand up and take a look out that window you would look down onto a city of half-breed orangutans that barely manage to go through each day without killing themselves from their vast ignorance. Thanks to you folks we live in a world with less pollution, less crime, and less chance of a nuclear catastrophe and for this we "zips' thank you.

However, we also have more time to kill and more crappy, mind numbing entertainment to kill it with. Now, I hate my fans with a razor edged anger that I used to reserve for mass murderers and telemarketers, but as a group they tend to be brighter than the average OpNet junkie. Our marketing drones can prove this, if you were to believe their twaddle. But, as bright and special as my little audience of dumb-shits may be I still know what they are here for. Entertainment. Now, I am flattered beyond hubris that you seem to think that I am going to come up with some fabulously special questions that you feel will justify your time here, but that ain't happening, baby. The chimps at their screens are hooting to know your powers, to know what happened to make you erupt and so forth. Now, I wanna do more than that too, but if we get too special, if we take that road you're trying to push me down the primates are gonna turn the channel and look to see if the new Pandemonium cartoon actually is showing DVDA this season. You're a peach and you got moxie, but I like my job. I like my bigass paycheck and the many sins it buys me. So how "bout you cut me some slack? I'll try not to bore you, but I gotta give the children some semblance of what they're tuning in for.

The smile blossoms on her face, showing just a hint of perfect white teeth evenly spaced, and those almond shaped eyes crinkle in the corners with humor. It occurs to me that, as a nova, she'll never have to worry about crows' feet and the other horrors of aging. Maybe that's why she's so expressive, she's figured out something that a lot of the run of the mill uber-slobs haven't yet. That would make sense if she were not jerking my chain about being erupted for the last decade.

Or does it? Despite the metric butt ton of acquired knowledge Trixie keeps cross-index on my laptop, acquired since the arrival of homo sapiens novus, we know almost nothing about how they age. Some crackpots argue that theoretically the sky is the limit and we're seeing the first of the scientifically provable immortals appearing in our midst. Of course the same fringe scientists promised us an apocalypse at the turn of the century, flying cars any day now, fusion power in the next ten years, and safe teleportation by the middle of the century. I'm putting off getting my flying license until I see the commercials for the jet cars.

But, you've piqued my interest; you've touched my shriveled little raisin of a heart. I'll put off the truly silly shit for a while and try for something a little weightier. Maybe our numbers won't plummet too quickly and my lovely fans will hang around out of sheer curiosity. That being said, I thought maybe we could touch on the concept of parenthood among Novas. Unlike many Novas you have some experience in that department, even if your little girl did pass on before you erupted. Many of my interviews have been with people that none of us could picture as parents. I doubt the image of Mephistofoleez changing nappies comes easily to anyone's imagination. I have met a few who do strike me as potential breeders, but because of the excitement common to the Nova lifestyle there are few. Even if that wasn't the case we do have a remarkable lack of procreating Novas. Now, I don't want to rehash conspiracy theories here, let's talk emotion. Let's talk from the heart.

Where do children fit in the Nova experience? Not only do you have various crackpots convinced you are gods you have an equal number who think you are demons pawn. We aren't even mentioning the horde of fans and hangers on that many public Novas have to deal with. Nova children have been rumored, but no solid verifications. But if there are, or where, what about them? What happens should an Elite bear children? Their lives are dangerous to the nth degree, are their children now targets? The Nova experience is so complex and varied, far beyond what most mere humans are ever going to experience. For the most part you have to deal with wealth, notoriety, celebrity, fans and detractors, potential terrorist threats, political value, and a dozen other conditions that until recently were reserved for the few leaders of countries above the third world. How are you, as a group going to handle it?

She's smiling broadly but hasn't said anything yet. I wonder what she's waiting for? And as that thought occurs to me she begins speaking.

E: I'll tell you all you want to know about what I can do, Zach. It would just profoundly disappoint me if that were the only questions you thought to ask. It would be better if you would put the idea of the "nova experience' on hold for a moment.

She holds her hand up to forestall my justifiable need to clarify and cocks her right eyebrow at me until I settle back in my chair. It's strange; on one hand she utterly pisses me off and I have absolutely no data on her that would prove she's one of the uber-prats. On the other hand she exudes a sense of… sincerity… that causes a battle in my head between the need to gag and the desire to just let it play out. Fuck it. Worse comes to worse I'll fall back on my Best of Bronstein pieces for the week. Trixie had the idea of slicing montages of Totentanz in action with excerpts of Narcosis soft core as I do the voice over from the interviews. The really beautiful idea was synching it to some Ter'r but only on the Narcosis excerpts. Drives people bug-shit between fear and longing. If the interview falls through I have that on tap.

E: (dropping her hand) Still with me Zach? Good. I didn't say forget it, I said to put it on hold for a moment. When you talk about experiences, the nova experience, the political experience, the eastern experience, you make it sound as if it were something transitory. Like going to an amusement park for the day or taking a trip to Vegas for the weekend. Something you can partake of then put away as you return to the way things were.

Here, let me give you a simple example; how many hours do you spend eating in a week? How much time do you spend thinking about eating? You know, taking a moment here or there to think about the taste of the burger and comparing to the taste of the chicken to decide what you feel like eating tonight. Or remembering the taste of the Tandori to determine if that sounds good, because one place delivers but the place you really like doesn't. Then of course there's the other side of eating, as your body has to get rid of the waste and excess consumed.

Now imagine that you never had to do that again. Suddenly, what was a core need for your very survival becomes a luxury that you may decide to forego for no reason other than to use the time for something else. At first it wouldn't really matter but in time, as you become accustomed to that new rhythm of your life, what would change for you? What would you begin to see things differently? How many societal or even family customs begin to change just because that one small thing changed? Even if you maintain your connection with those customs, and it doesn't matter why; the reason why you're doing it has changed. You now have less in common with the group of people you considered yourself a part of.

Not every nova has that particular insight but for those that do, their lives change on a fundamental level. Not only away from baselines and those nova no so gifted, but also from other novas that share the gift but have a different reaction to it. I'm sure there's a nova out there somewhere that really enjoyed pushing their body to the limits on a 20K run and then gorging on pizza after becoming ravenously hungry. For them that simple pleasure is gone. For another, they've achieved a freedom that others cannot even imagine.

What could you do, Zach, if you never needed to sleep again? If your mind and body were so adapted that dreaming itself was no longer necessary to your "normal' functioning? How much could you get done and how would you react to others that simply couldn't keep up with you. With anger, pity, understanding, compassion, annoyance or acceptance? So simple a thing, and one you could hide or underplay for a time, yet it marks the end of an experience you shared with others. And brings with it new experiences that you cannot completely share with those for whom it means the difference between living and dying.

And once you've been there, once you've adapted to that as a part of your life, is it transitory anymore? Is it an experience? Or is it part of your life and who you are. And whom will you share it with? Merely having a node isn't enough to guarantee wisdom or commonality of outlook but there comes a point where you have to decide what you truly desire and examine the reasons why.

Commonality is it's own problem in a way. There will be those that are completely unable to leave behind the trappings of their human life because they need the structure of the society they were born in. Those are the ones that I truly will pity when the time comes. Nothing exists that is entirely without change eternally. Those that cannot adapt to the changes will find themselves alienated as the world around them changes while they do not. It will only be then that they will realize what they've forsaken. Some of them will take that realization as a wake up call before it is truly too late, while others will delude themselves into believing that nothing important has changed. A rare few will find a way to recreate their lives or themselves. I think I will pity them most of all. The idea that they could change the world more easily than they could change themselves is very sad.

Looking at her, listening to the sincerity in her voice, I wonder what her personal experience is. When was the last time she slept or ate? Did she miss family dinners and Sunday brunches or dismiss them as relics from a past life? It's… odd … to look at this cute little self-possessed redhead with her amused smile and wonder how much we really have in common. It's odd, and a little chilling, to think that we might have so little in common among the things we assume –must- be common. The chill gets colder when she speaks, her words echoing my thoughts.

E: Trust that feeling, Zach. I'm not one of your women or from your tribe. Trust what it's telling you but remember; it's only telling you that I'm alien. It's the mind that tells people to fear.

You wanted to know about babies, though. Don't worry, it all relates.

Think about the reasons people have babies and then think about which of those reasons become irrelevant to novas. Are you going to have babies between the statistical ages of 17 and 28 just because that's the time of life that humans are biologically optimized for breeding? Zach, why do so many "third world' countries fight to have large families? Fight birth control? Are they really ignorant or are their attitudes the result of a centuries of knowing you need a family of ten to ensure the survival of four. Or bring it to the first world; what would the reaction be off all those people moaning about the ignorance of the third world peoples and overpopulations when they're told they need to get a license to have a child? How long before it came to violence? And what exactly would they be fighting for; the inalienable right to breed in accordance with their biological imperatives?

In the last century the philosophy of Transhumanism became codified and widespread. While not completely applicable to novas, the philosophy's stated intent was to prepare for the future by examining the means by which man could take control of his biology and evolution. The idea was that humanity, as you exist, doesn't represent an end to evolution but rather a beginning. Essentially, it encouraged the use of any resource to overcome fundamental human limitations and made a very important point. The point was that there is not only a possibility of fundamentally altering the human condition but also desirability in identifying the possibilities for doing so.

Homo Sapiens Novus represent a transhuman possibility. Above and beyond the "kewl' things a nova can do, those things your readers are so enamored of, there is something more important. We are capable of guiding our individual evolution. A single nova can accomplish within the individual that which would take an entire species hundreds of millennia to even begin. When you possess that degree of flexibility and potential it becomes essential to determine what is "real' and what is only the remnant of biological programming. You, Zach, have the option of claiming evolution stuck you with something and that's just the way it is. It's not true but you can argue the case with some success. I don't have that option because I have a means for exerting influence over the results of that evolution at a very personal level. The novas that refuse that are novas entirely unaware of their own nature. Or novas very much afraid of what their nature represents.

(Shrugging) There will always be those that fear an uncertain future. Those poor souls are the ones to be afraid of. The broken ones that can't seem to exercise personal responsibility, and spend their days caught in repetitive emotional loops, echoes from human life that couldn't deal with when they were human. Constantly searching for someone to exercise control so they don't have to, pretending to be something that they aren't. It's very dangerous to challenge their delusions at that point; it's become life itself to them.

,,

Novas are going to see the possibility of children as their lives and outlook shape them to. Some of them are going to relinquish the desire to procreate entirely for the simple reason that they have no need to do so. Other's are going to follow the cultural patterns they grew up with simply because they cannot let it go. They need that structure to feel happy, satisfied or as a prevention of socialized guilt. Some will choose to have families because they genuinely desire children for any number of reasons. Love need not have a biological purpose to be valid, nor is evolution required to cause one to think about children.

She pauses and, though her eyes never leave me, I can tell she's seeing something else from the small thoughtful smile lingering on her face. If she were human, I would guess she's thinking of a particular someone at this moment. Is she human? Is she human enough? Instinct tells me it's not her little girl she's thinking about. After a minute I clear my throat impatiently to remind her that I'm still sitting here waiting.

E: Hmm? Would the children of Elites be targets? All it would take is one person with a need to harm that Elite greater than their ethical or emotion concern for a child and you have the makings of a murder or worse. We, meaning novas, aren't prepared to deal with such things as a group anymore than the world is prepared to deal with such things as a group. One would hope that even those with the weakest of ethics or the basest of natures could see the venality of harming a child. If that's not enough reason though… There would those that take such acts personally. I'm one of them.

Elizabeth continues smiling but for an instant there is something else in her eyes besides the warmth and laughter. Something hard like the gemstone they take their color from. Then it's gone as quickly as it appeared.

E: You might have problems picturing some people as parents but that doesn't mean they would be bad parents. Each of them will react in accordance with their outlooks, their gifts and the circumstances. Things change when you develop in new directions; people adapt and become greater than the sum of their limitations. As far as group concerns; you show me your society's answer and I'll show you mine. Otherwise, ask me again when your society starts issuing parenting licenses.

So what's next in the bag of questions, Zach? Anything pique your interests sufficiently to warrant the possible drop in?

This is getting pretty heavy dear readers, I hope you all are paying attention. Seems Miss Elizabeth has enough respect for you puny brains to break out with some honest opinions here. I have to admit, it's nice to interview someone who just wants to let it out, someone who isn't spouting a company line. This interview is going better than I hoped. If we are lucky Marvin will stay hidden, my breakfast of leftover curry and popodoms will remain quiet and I can keep coming up with questions. That in mind….

ZB: Well, let's move our subject out into the world of novas in general. You've mentioned a few novas by name along with intimations that you were, if not friends, than at least acquaintances. You are not a member of any organization I know of, at least you haven't admitted to any memberships, so you are more free than most to be honest. This being the case, who impressed you, who didn't? Actually, let's make this a bit more organized. Five novas. Who are those five novas who you have had the strongest reaction to for any reason whatsoever. Who has inspired you, who disgusted you? Have you met another Nova who had you quaking in fear or one who had you as bowled over as I was when you first walked in the room? I don't want to give you the prepped list of those novas that the audience knows by heart. If Pax or Mal or Count Orzaiz is on your list, fine, but let's make it your list. Lets' find out what novas impress other novas. If you can't limit yourself to five, fine, I'm no fascist, but give me at least that many.

To Be Continued

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  • 3 weeks later...

E: (Laughing again) Before someone brings accusations of name dropping, I should point out that the world's known nova population is really only that of a large town in the U.S. You've heard of the six degrees of separation rule, yes? The same applies here except that we're talking about a much smaller population to begin with. With the overlapping circles of acquaintances, associates, family or friends it's not really surprising to know a large group even if only as a friend of a friend. I have for instance, never actually met Divis Mal of the Terats or Lambert Asani Sésé of the Congo. The opportunities have simply never arisen. Yet there are those whom have met these worthies and therefore provided some tangential knowledge of them. The surprise does not lie in knowing a nova with which the public is aware, rather in knowing those whom the public is not aware of.

Z: So let's keep it centered on the public novas.

E: Pratima Basham, also known as Splash, impresses everyone and I am no exception. She is one of the three of four publicly known novas that seems to genuinely accept what she is without ever losing herself over to the image or the power. She remains herself no matter what the circumstances. The Utopia organization is luckier than it will ever know to be the beneficiary of her talents and would do well to treat accordingly.

Can you imagine what it is like to hear the oceans sing to you in complex melodies from across the world? To be able to speak, command or become one with the waters covering three quarters of the planetary surface? She is truly an unusual being.

Next would be Ashnod.

(Elizabeth grows quiet as she bites her lower lip thoughtfully)

E: Ashnod…

(Her voice trails off and again she grows quiet while she seems to search for the words.)

E: Ashnod is the most amazing being one could ever hope to meet. She continually surprises me. (Smiling) Her… Clarity of vision is truly impossible to do justice to with any word picture I could craft for you. Suffice to say; in the midst of situations so complex and convoluted that it was almost impossible to know where to begin an explanation, she ascertained the heart of the matter with only a question. If ever you have the opportunity to speak with her don't waste it on pointless questions about the Zurich Accords vs. the Null Manifesto. Don't waste it on trivia. You'll eventually regret the missed opportunity if you do.

And if you want to understand the Teragen movement as a whole, you have only to ask her. There are no others that see so deeply or with such insight as she. Though one would recommend that you ask very politely.

(She raises her finger as my overly worked synapses fire, about to ask her for clarification.)

No.

(It's the tone of her voice; I know that I've heard the final word on this so I settle for making a mental note to review the files on Ashnod before I publish this interview.)

E: Raoul Christabol Orzaiz is a being with a way for anticipating people and their reactions that strikes me as utterly phenomenal. He could ride roughshod over someone like you, your readers, or even most of the novas in the world and they would thank him for the experience yet he does not. Like Pratima Basham, he is more than the sum of his limitations or his power for that matter. He is also one of the three beings whose lives and beliefs could be unhesitatingly recommended to a newly erupted nova for consideration. Studying the Count's methods might be likened to studying the Book of Five Rings; each attempt yields depths of subtlety that one would have sworn could not have been there before. And yet there it is when you next peruse the material.

Leviathan would be the fourth, though that might surprise many people. You chose to discuss matters other than those of Taint so I won't dwell on the reasons for his selection overly much. Suffice to say, Leviathan is another that remains himself while exploring areas of reality beyond those recognized by science. He walks the razor's edge on his explorations, balanced between utterly destruction and transcendence, but his reasons were not selfish ones when last there was an opportunity to hear him speak. His is not a path to be recommended lightly but one must admit he has traveled it with courage.

Randel Portman is fitting to be at the mid-point of the spectrum. He is a scholar, a hero, a man of integrity, a man to be respected, and a man of vision. He has lived his life as a good man and succeeded at being a great one. His legacy that will continue to affect mankind well after his name is forgotten in a century or two. It is unfortunate that he is a good man by choice only.

Portman is one of those that have never looked beyond the shell of the world. His vision is one of a united humanity but his definitions of humanity do not account for those of us that are not limited to baseline potential. One must respect him for his integrity but there is pity for his failure to consider what it is to be other than human.

A little more to the right of that mid-point is Thomas Serling of the Protectors; who sit huddled in their barren Antarctic fastness preparing to become the first of a better world. Thomas is bringing all of his remarkable intelligence to bear on the problem of insuring the survival of the society that gave birth to him. What a waste.

Z: You seem less than impressed with his group's effort? I find myself a little surprised here. Even for novas, carving out a large living environment out of one of the most hostile environments on Earth is fairly impressive. Is it his method or his goal that has you judging him so?

E: Is the glass half full or half empty? Serling believes in his own answer to the exclusion of the other possibility. One has to wonder; how does isolation from the world improve the lot of the world? Thomas is making the statement that intelligent baselines and novas can live together and form a stable society. How high a cost will you pay for that stable society? How much potential are you willing to barter away to keep the peace.

Z: You aren't impressed with Herr Serling? What about his accomplishments so far? And Serling has made many a compelling, if poorly received, arguments for society committing itself to a downward spiral of chaos and apathy within the century. How would you answer that?

E: Thomas Serling is very likable. But he and his Protectors are living in the past with the assumptions of the past as their guide. Look, in social circles there's what's known as singularity events. The point where change comes so quickly that what comes after can't be reliably predicted because the situation will have changed in ways we can't even begin to guess at. Before 1998 everyone thought the driving force for the changes would be technology. Surprise; it's not technology that's changing the world.

We're here and we're not the holy angels or the infernal demons of your gods coming to remake the world for you. We are your children and your grandchildren, and we will live lives that most of you couldn't even begin to understand. You don't even know the question to ask.

Serling anticipates some of what's coming and like any good farm boy he knows that when the storm is sweeping in, you huddle down in the cellar to wait it out. He's overlooked two one important considerations though. One; the coming of novas is the storm. And two; change is not inherently a bad thing. He's frightened by the future and what it means to the things he loves so he's withdrawn from the world, placed those things he loves in a vault of his own construction, without ever considering what locking them away would do to them. Arrogance mixed equally with ignorance is a dangerous combination. Keep that in mind for the rest of the list.

Which brings us to the premier skull crackers of the world. Geryon and Pax. Geryon has the courage of his convictions and I respect that about him. Let's be honest though; his life prior to eruption is a matter of public record and well documented by Interpol among others. What's the difference between what he was and what he is now?

Another example of that same mindset is Shelby, excuse me, Pax. Eruption provided both of them with a "higher' purpose, which they pursue with the same methods and fervor as they did their "lesser' causes. Both of them are going to feel insulted by the comparison to the other but can you actually see any more difference between the two than between two chess pieces? I'm not impugning their motives or underestimating their abilities. But, while Portman may lack the vision to see the possibilities in being other than human, those two do see it and don't understand it.

Z: What about a lot of the novas getting airplay for their actions in recent news? Some of those who frighten us as well as fascinate. Novas have been responsible for some singularly menacing occurrences as of late. For instance, the nova called the most successful serial killer in history comes to mind? What about…

E: What about the largest ball of twine in the world?

,,

Z: That seems a little… cold. I can't defend his victims, few would even try. But his utter disregard for any sense of law frightens many of us. What if he isn't always right? What if he makes a mistake. He's a nova, but he seems obsessed.

E: Novas emerge from a cross-section of society. Some of them are going to take to their new potential instinctively while others are going to make every effort to transform their lives as novas into as close an approximation of their baseline life as they can. Some are simply going to find themselves unable to transcend their baseline existence. They will insist on running the same tired emotional loop, making the same choices and then wondering why the results don't change.

For those unfortunates eruption changes nothing. In some ways their problems are worse now because they have the overt power to act in the world. Novas are expected to make a difference, to change things, and Utopia actively supports that. Welcome to the dark side of the human-plus mentality.

Z: For those of you who have been living on the dark side of the moon for the last few years, we're talking about …

E: Avenger; (Enunciating clearly) the self-professed avenging hand of God.

Z: Ouch, sarcasm. It's been obvious so far that you don't think highly of his actions, which doesn't surprise me. Most of his fanbase is made up of uneducated yokels who have little understanding of the difference between justice and vengance. But your tone of voice is communicating more here, you think he's a psycho?

E: Who can say for certain? He's the first to characterize himself as fucked up. As there's never been an opportunity to meet him in the flesh, his own assessment is compelling. Aside from his particular and peculiar obsession he might well be a thoughtful and charming young man. One would be doing him a disservice by substantiating that dark justice fantasy, though.

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Z: You know, what's really bothering me here is that most of these novas you're mentioning are very public figures for the most part. You talk like you've known these people so why don't we know about a nova named Elizabeth? You mentioned when you first came in that you'd used other names but not anymore. What other names? Why no records of you? Did you cut a deal with Utopia? You mentioned working in a recruiting pool for the Directive, did they have a hand…?

E: No, no, and no. It's all a matter of asking the right questions of the right people. You're a journalist, Zach. You know people see what they want to see. Give them a little information to base their expectations on, a face to go with the voice, and they begin to assume all sort of things. Try to correct them on their mistaken impressions and they react by rationalizing. People in general like to think they have a good bead on things and rarely question beyond the obvious. You would have had better results if you'd queried the novas named Dream, Michelle Devalier, Louise Syfer, Warlock, Jean Prestor, Wizard, Jane Doe, Morpheous, Jack Springheel, Sandman, Scott Free, Bai Hsi also called the Mouse, Jenny Spar…

Z: You know all those novas personally? I would be surprised, simply because so many of them are good at avoiding the limelight themselves. They've blipped on the screen of public awareness and most of them have only been around for short span of time. Wait. Wait a minute….

(Her grin gets wider and those perfect pearl white teeth are fully revealed.)

E: In a manner of speaking. I was those novas.

Z: Bullshit! Bai His for instance, I met the White Mouse…

E: (Interrupting) In Hong Kong.

(Sitting there in my office, her feet propped on the edge of my desk, she doesn't move a single muscle and yet something about her changes. Her eyes soften, the expression changes and I'm growing aware of every sweet curve of that achingly tight little body. Don't get me wrong, Elizabeth was a pretty piece of work, but she's suddenly become a bundle of pure and unbridled sexuality that would have the Pope sporting a full on Sequoia of a woodie. I've seen novas that could wrap you around their little finger with a cool look, that PU tramp Geisha comes to mind, but not someone that could go from stone cold to red hot in a New York minute.

Absently, her left index finger touches the spot at the base of her throat just above the collarbone and then trails slowly downward. She takes her time as she traces a path between her breasts, across her flat stomach until she reaches the band of her jeans and… She laughs and that sound shivers through my body in a nice way. Suddenly my one eyed trouser snake is not only threatening to bust my zipper, but I'm afraid it'll drill straight through my desk. There is something so familiar about this moment.)

E: (Breathing softly and deliciously deeply.) Handsome gwailo. I preferred the translation Pale Mouse to that of White Mouse.

(Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh, shit! That attitude of having met me before… Her comment about showing the steel and working better under pressure.)

Okay boys and girls. Gonna have to do a quick insert here to freshen you paltry memories on the subject of Bai Hsi , nova dj and sex goddess. Here is a snippet from one my first interviews and the one responsible for bringing me to national attention and getting me banned from Utah and Tennessee.

Well gentle readers, it's 2:00am in Hong Kong, I'm currently walking the

halls of the Lotus Hotel of Hong Kong. The hotel club, The Lotus Position

is the current hot as plasma place-to-be in Asia right now. As luck would

have it, I've been given the opportunity to interview the tunesmith who

keeps the pelvis' pumping and the adrenaline running downstair. Cute little

nova called Bai Hsi, The White Mouse. Just looking for her room number, ah,

here it is.

"Boom Baby! Hey! There were suppose to be four of you! Room service in this dump sucks!"

Standing in the door in a 5'4" bundle of red headed energy fresh from the club scenes dressed in a form fitting one piece that looks like it's made from spotless crystal, artfully frosted to hide ~some~ of the naughty bits, with a huge dragon design in the fabric. There is something cat-like, no, predatory about the way she eyes me from across the room. She hasn't done a damn thing yet I am rock hard. Something about her tells me that isn't going to be good enough.

In a blur of motion I suddenly finds myself pinned against the edge of the bed by what looks to be 110 pounds of constantly twisting flesh grinding up against me. Up until a second ago I would have swore she only had two arms, now, it's gotta be eight.

"Handsome little, gwailo," she purrs stroking my cheek. "What am I s'pose ta do with only one of ya? D'ya wanna try somethin' new while we wait for the other three?"

It's about that time that I realize the dragoon is a full body tattoo and that it seems to ~shift~ around as she moves. Damn. Decisions,decisions. Do her now (HA! Do *her*! Like I would have any say in the matter!) and give up the interview or go for the career move? She has these unbelievable blue nails, they've just sent my third button flying

across the room. Surrender into temptation or deliver for you, my readers?

God, I fucking hate every single one of you. If you should see me on the street, do not speak to me, or I will be forced to beat you to death with the raging tumescence that has yet to disappear from my shorts. It took five panicked minutes to explain that I wasn't her evenings entertainment and another five to convince her that this was a reasonable excuse. So, here it goes folks, Zach Bronstein brings you Bai Hsi......

Fine, now back to the show at hand.

Z: Oh my bloody hell! Okay, pending further evidence to the contrary I'll buy into this but why?

E: Freedom to move, to act unhindered. How many novas have you heard complaining about the loss of privacy they suffered after going public? Randel Portman wanted nothing more than to be in a position to help people but after he erupted so publicly that was taken away from him. Reporters called in false fires just to get him on scene to do an interview. Who would risk his life fighting a fire knowing how the world loved him? The world took away the thing that he loved the most.

Z: That still doesn't really explain why though. Freedom to move where and to do what?

You seem like such a nice girl. I hope we are not talking about freedom to move and do awful and nasty things.

(She sits there saying nothing, her face a blank for the first time since she walked into my office. After a full minute goes by I realize that this question is out of bounds and she isn't going to even acknowledge it having been asked. Okay, so I turn it around. My trusty desktop has been listening and finding references to those names she supplied.)

Z: So what's changed? Why are you going public at this point? Bai worked for Anna Devries and Michelle Devalier was fired from Utopia for, shit, let's see…Jesus, did you really say that to Pax?

E: Yes. Haven't you always wanted to?

Z: Anyone who has ever met that bald bastard and been forced to bask in his noxious presence for more than a few heartbeats has. But they don't, they don't because he can ram his goddamn tongue through and I-beam and could cripple a rhino with his left buttock. You must have some serious cajones.

E: Not really. No matter how much you know, or think you know, there is always that slight ambiguity at the individual level. Freedom of choice and split second decisions in extreme circumstance can really go a number of ways for most of us. Even so, it's easy to keep an eye on the general trends. You might be able to do anything but there are only a limited number of choices you can conceive of. Besides, after having put up with his petulance for three months it really was a moral imperative to point out to him how a significant percentage of the world thought of him. I perceived it as a public service.

Z: And?

E: Security assisted me in vacating the premises but otherwise he was professional about it. There's a very nasty entry in Ms. Devalier's performance reviews that would pretty much guarantee difficulty in getting hired elsewhere but since she never really existed it doesn't seem important.

Z: Okay. But back to the original question - what's changed? You apparently had a sweet little deal going here and stayed off everyone's radar for a long time. You don't want to talk about what you were doing? Fine, but why jeopardize the strategy when it was working so well for you. What's going on in the world that makes this necessary?

(She closes her eyes for a moment while inhaling deeply through her nose, then exhaling softly through her mouth. Almost like a meditation ritual. Me, I stare at her while she's not looking trying to see Pale Mouse in those chest actions. I can't. I have no idea how she did what she did but she looks absolutely nothing like her. Appearance, body language, mannerisms; it's all completely different. Abruptly she cocks her head to the side as if she's listening and then, smiling, starts to speak again.)

E: We only have a little time left, Zach. The world didn't change but my place in it did. I remembered who I am and where I want to be.

Z: That's it? Just like that? Pardon me, but that sounds a little simplistic.

E: Most simple things do. And no, it wasn't just like that. It was the most difficult experience of my life. Without the assistance it's unlikely to have come to the conclusion that it did.

Our time is done now.

Z: What? Why? Are you…

(The words die as they leave my lips, their corpse dropping to the floor amid the stale crumbs and splashes of liquor. A sickening weight slides onto my chest while last night greasy lasagna and cheap tequila suddenly writhes in my gut. It wants desperately to escape the too small space it's been forced into, as if it hates the sensation of being compressed into an unnaturally tight spot. I barely notice the shaking in my fingers, a mysterious case of the D.T.'s, come years too early. This is too weird, too sudden to be anything natural. What the hell is she doing this for? Elizabeth doesn't look like she's enjoying this, or more insulting, as if she's even noticed. She isn't even looking at me. Her face is lit up like a child on Christmas morning though.

Christ. Even with last night's best forgotten bacchanal clawing its way up there is such a thing as journalist integrity, no matter what you bastards think. Observe and report is the motto, make it entertaining in the dim hopes you worthless voyeurs can actually be enlightened is the goal.

Now, it is important to understand this. Everything from the paragraph above through the end here I am writing four hours after it happened. It's taken me that long to be able to remember my native tongue and to figure out how to move my hands again. So, understand that what I write here is not an exaggeration, mere words could never exaggerate this. They cannot even come close to accurately describe what I felt and saw.

Her eyes aren't just bright anymore; they're bloody glowing like something from the old cartoons of the "70s. She's spent most of the last hour in what I would call a good mood. Many smiles, lots of laughter, but now there's a genuine glow to her that has nothing to do with her eyes or light.

Green glow, my guts twisting, the really bad taste in the back of my mouth; oh wonderful days, I'm Clark fuckin' Kent. For a second, just a tiny sliver of time it occurs to me that maybe it's finally happened. This is nearly classic symptomatology for eruptions.

What the fuck is she looking at anyway?

Turning in the direction of her gaze I see the figure standing in the doorway dressed in white and red. No, Mrs. Bronstein's son Zach didn't win the gene lottery today. She. She, God's Teeth like she even really means anything. She, draws my eyes in a way that even Bai His couldn't do that night back in Hong Kong. Or today when she stopped in briefly to laugh at her old buddy Zach. That was… That was healthy, like a thirteen-year-old boy lusting after the hot teacher's aid doing an internship for college credit. That was hormones and biology and all the icky wonderful things that make life worth living.

This is like a rat staring into the eyes of snake while its tiny brain screams run at the top of its mental lungs. It doesn't run though. It just stands there stupidly, staring into the inevitable. Like I'm doing.

Eyes…

Oh fuck, that's a mistake. Her eyes are the windows into the hell those prissy catholic kids always rattled on about. Blood red energy pools in the eye-sockets of her skull and overflows in tiny droplets of liquid power that hang in the air momentarily before vanishing. The light from them slams my mind into their depths through my eyes like a bolt being driven home on a door. A locked door with me trapped on the wrong side. Caught…

The sight vanishes from view; blocked by Elizabeth's cool alabaster hand as a sense of peace puffs away the fear and longing of that vision. I squeeze my eyes shut tightly the microsecond volition is mine again, while breathing a explosive sigh of sweet relief. The rat lives another moment. The after image of the vision lights the inside of my lids, a too bright photographer's flash, and I know I'm not forgetting this new woman anytime soon. The sight of midnight black hair, red eyes and some kind of glow down her right side. It's like the energy, the power within her has sundered her flesh. Like it refuses to be enclosed within a physical space and has forced it's way out. I have met Novas strong and powerful, good and terrible. But they all wore a mask, they all pretended. What I saw had no pretense, made no effort to make my monkey ass at ease. Elizabeth must be leaning in close to me now. I can feel her breath tickling the skin of my ear as she speaks.)

E: I warned you about looking into the eyes, Zach.

(Her voice sounds so sad as the coolness of her hand slips away from my face but I keep my eyes shut tightly. I don't open them again until that weird itching of the mind and twisting of the gut fades. Until they're out of the room, whoever, whatever they are. I keep my pretty blue orbs locked down and listen to the rustle of movement in the main office, the gasps of surprise and other emotions I hope you witless thugs never understand. It feels like hours but it's probably only a ten or twenty seconds later that I open my eyes again.

They're gone.

You ever have one of those moments when you're not sure if you're awake or only dreaming you're awake? Aw, what am I thinking? You little clicker monkeys never wake up anyway. You only toss a little in your sleep then go back to the incessant snoring. Just assume you know what the hell I'm talking about when I say that for a moment I'm not certain about the state of reality.

Elizabeth is gone, only the recording of her words on my trusty desktop providing any evidence that this wasn't some surreal dream inflicted on my troubled mind by bad tequila and illicit Directive psycho-drug experiments on the unsuspecting public. No other evidence. Except…

Her sunglasses are still sitting on my desk. I pick them up and it's surprising how heavy they are. Weighty. Too much so to be made of plastic or even glass; they have a heft that reminds me of quartz for some reason. And cool to the touch, but not quite cold of uncomfortable. I wonder what the world looks like through the eyes of a goddess. Whatever the lenses are made of, the red tint is so heavy that it really does look almost black even under close examination. Flipping them over I examine the inner surface of the lenses and realize they almost glow from this side.

Holding them up to the light I can see a pattern, no, an image displayed on the inner surface. I can see two figures walking arm in arm away from me. One is a dead ringer for Elizabeth, the outfit and the red hair give her away. The other is the form of an angel, a radiant image of transcendently beautiful woman sculpted of light and blood. They're standing in front of elevator doors, it looks like the lobby of our floor, and then Elizabeth reaches out to touch the doors with her free hand. At her touch the elevator doors slide silently open and what lies beyond is no tiny elevator cell or empty shaft. It's a doorway opening onto a sky filled with a huge harvest moon resting low in the sky. They step through the doorway, into that huge moon and…

The glasses vanish in a shimmer of light like a soap bubble popping and leave me holding empty air. Coincidence? Bullshit! She wanted me to see that. I'm not sure why, but she had to have wanted me to see it. Did she know I would wonder what the world would look like through the eyes of a goddess? How the hell would she know the thought that would percolate in my brain after she had left? Better question; why would she care? And who the hell was that she was walking with? It sure wasn't the thing that came for her!

Was it?

Well you semi-literate apes, this was a first. It started out a little fluff interview to make my secretary happy and to meet a new nova. More than that happened and maybe we can all figure it out someday.

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