97 Days Until Signals And the Uncertain End (part 1)
The air was the same stale taste that Heia had grown up loving. She had longed for it in the stench of the Tower. The artificial air of the CloudCities had felt dry on her tongue, it was not like this. It was not embedded in life and sweat. It was not filled with the same longing and husk of survival. The air of the UnderCities was recycled, refit, changed to suit their needs. It had been her favorite taste. It had been the sensation of home. In it Heia had a power.
However it was not the way the Lowerland’s hit. Crisp and Clean. Free. Real. The air of the natural world had hurt her at first but after months on the surface she had grown with it and knew to love it. It was life itself. It was not as dirty, controlled, contained, manufactured as all the other air was. CloudCity, Tower, Undercity. Their air was wrong.
As she breathed in the air now, head high, Heia was filled with a burning rage. She would make her voice heard. She would let them see her. For weeks she had walked around giving speeches and giving shows. She had never been cut out for it. It had not been her job. She was not an EverDanger member who was poised for the camera and trained to make an act. She was not their pawn. She was not their queen. She was not a chess piece for them to move around.
That was Evester. He could dance their dance and play their game. He knew the stakes and how to win. He could cheat and lie and plot as they needed him to. He was reckless, daring, frightening. Impossible to control. Evester was the speaker. He was the one who had traveled CloudCity to Tower to Lowerlands to Undercity hunting something that he thought was real. He had led a party into the unknown on a whim. He had held to destruction and starred the abyss in the eye. He laughed in the face of death.
That was Zeydar. He could stare a person down and cause them to crumble without words. He knew more about the world than an encyclopedia, giving Uly a run for his money. He could bend space and time with his fingers and could hold up a collapsing tower of glass without thoughts alone. His power had been contained by Dreams and fear. He could annihilate everyone and everything on a whim. He was the epitome of power and cause. He wanted for nothing and cared for their people. He trusted more deeply than anyone in the world, laying his life in the palms of someone who he had just met.
That was her. Heia knew why she was chosen. She was the X who fit the bill. She loved deeply. She cared more. She wanted to believe in a better tomorrow. She resisted and fought. She was a protector. However there were others smarter than her. There were others more charismatic than her. There were others who were better fighters than her. In no way was she superior. She was a jack of all trades but a master of none.
Better than a master of one.
Heia stood with little to hide her as she waited for the signal from Robee. Trace would tell him when she uploaded the video and that would be when Heia would strike. They predicted that Robee and Heia would be caught immediately. There would be one large speech. One large show of power. Heia had one moment to change the way that the people and the world saw her.
She might not have been the strongest, or the fastest, or the smartest. She might have been skilled in a few things. But she loved. She believed. She cared. She cared. She cared. She cared.
They had the charismatic leader. They had the destructive force. They had the team of skilled individuals to make the world revolve proper. But they had no center who understood how it all worked. They did not have a person to choose the path and guide them to it. They did not have someone for the leader to confide in. They did not have someone to control the destructive force. They did not have a morale compass to point them north.
But they had Heia.
Heia was not sure if it was why she was chosen. No. She was sure it was not why she was chosen. No one could have prepared for what she would become. Maverin had made a choice on a hope and a whim. He had made a conjecture based on numbers and Heia was not sure she was what he wanted. She was not sure she cared. She would fill the role, and she would make sure that no one doubted her.
As long as her heart beat in her chest. So long as the world knew her name. Heia was going to make sure that people were equal. She was going to make sure that everyone had the same fighting chance. She’d destroy any institution in her way that stopped that. One day that would mean the Igilistals but she would cross that bridge when she got there.
She had lived her entire life knowing of the beautiful CloudCities were everything was perfect. She had seen the Towers. She heard of tax day. She had been forced to watch their lives through the tilted rose tinted screens. She saw those who had to fight to survive. She’d been there. She had seen terror and destruction. The whole world had and she would not allow for them to turn a blind eye to it. They would face their problems, all of them. Everyone had to work together.
If the Circles could bend, and the Stars were forced to help the Xs, and the powerful had to kneel then the X’s needed to see. Heia knew that her people had always worked the hardest. They had always done the most. They had to see. They had to know how the world was coming together for the first time. They needed to see that it was possible for them to be equal. She needed them to know that they mattered.
When Heia saw Robee look back to her and nod, Heia started off towards the capital building with the sign she had made.
The rage swirled in her belly, the fire sparking and threatening to explode. her people mattered too, and they had the right to know. They had the right to see. They were going to and she was going to make the world know.
She may not have been chosen for this reason, but she was making it her place in their game.
“Release the information. Stop the lies!” She began to chant.
She knew that she caught people off guard at first. She also knew that she would be instantly recognizable. Trace had braided her hair into box braids while Robee took over the editing for her. It had taken three days, between alternating editing and food runs. She wore her military uniform and her EverDanger jacket. She had placed her makeup on the way Kim taught her. She used her voice the way that she was told, to project, to make herself known. Chanting and shouting, Heia continued to walk, with her sign. “They are lying to you.”
Robee then began to join. She shouted and chanted, hoping that people would begin to follow her, asking what was happening. She hoped that her face alone would be enough to get people to follow after her. She was working with EverDanger to save the world, she had talked to them before. She was protesting something worth their time.
As they walked, more and more people joined in, whether or not they knew why. Most others watched and Heia knew that she was being recorded. Now began the take over. Heia’s camera had been on for long, and she waited for the signal in her ear, the familiar buzz of instruction.
“I’ve patched in.” Uly’s voice sounded haggard and tired, but when Heia saw her back on the screens of the Undercity, she knew that Uly was showing everything to the world and to the city. That was when the video that they had painstakingly edited began to play on all the speaks, all the radios, on every screen. Heia wanted to know what Uly had to do to pull it off, but she did not ask. Instead she kept yelling, she ket chanting. She was focused.
The capital building had military with their weapons, starring at her, ready to grab her and Robee. Robee hurried to before Heia who starred the soldiers down. Her face appeared on the screens. Her voice bounced and echoed.
“I see you.” Heia starred at the soldiers. “You protect your people. You give them good nights of rest. You let them live in peaceful bliss. You save them.”
Heia did not want to blame them. She would not blame any of them. For a bit she had been so angry that these people were able to live in a dream when the rest of the world suffered. She had been vicious, wanting to destroy them. She had wanted to tear them apart. But then she remembered Zeydar. She saw how he struggled for peace, choosing the dreams over reality because reality was too painful. These people could not be blamed. They were naive not by choice but because their leaders thought it better for them to be.
They were safe and that was a good thing. X’s had lived in such torment for so long, but they had to know.
“You protect us all and for that I thank you. I thank every soldier who has fought, protected, given their life and oath to protect the citizens of their homes and their families.” She felt the anger there, and she channeled it. “But what of the other cities? What of those who are not as fortunate to have massive armies protecting them at all hours? What of the others who struggle for food and shelter, and to make the technology required to save everyone? What of them?”
Heia looked around her and stepped forward, Robee trailing back to keep her in his sight. “I do not blame you. Not you.” Heia pointed to the soldiers. “Or you.” She pointed to the citizens. “It is not your fault. It is not your job. It is your job.” Heia pointed to the camera. “I talk to you Alan Penn. I talk to you Marionette Whitman. I talk to you Issac Auclair. I blame you. I blame all of you. You raid towns, take their most capable, promise them futures and then rip them from their families forever.
“You take them and tell them to defend your cities and your cities alone. You tell them to ignore the rest of the world’s problems. You tell them to forget all those who they were protecting to begin with.” Heia speaks to the soldiers. “I know a man. He was bright. He was charming. He joined the cause when the Catastrophe came. He joined to protect all he had ever wanted to protect. He progressed in the ranks due to his intellect and skill, promised equality and equitable decisions based on capability. He was given it, and what was the cost?”
She thought of Shawn crying to her. She thought of Shawn being unable to speak about what he saw. She knew there were things he would never be able to tell her. He had left the army and in doing so was branded with the worst of all titles.
“You know the cost. How many of you have had to give up your families? How many of you have had to give up yourselves for their rules? How many of you have had to give up everything you have ever believed in? Protection? Safety? What is there if you are taught that none of that matters? When you are taught that you no longer matter?” Heia held out her hand to them.
How many of them had to compromise their morals? How many of them had to do things they did not believe in? How many of them were shattered but had no where else to go? How many of them told themselves that the only way forward was to keep going because it was all they had left? Who had told themselves that it was all they could do?
“And you?” Heia spun to the audience with her. “How many of you knew of the work they do, of the lives that are given? How many of you hear know of the things that the leaders have done? Did you know that they ruin the world more by tossing the acidic bodies of the dead Aralax to the waters poisoning them. What of those who have to flee their cities because they are not protected? What do they drink? What do they eat? Who protects them?
“No. It is not your fault. No it is not your choice. But it is your responsibility. We are leaving this planet. It is not going to be easy. When we get to our new world there will not be safe cities. There will not be homes. There will be only the laws of men and the men who have held them. They will expect you to bend the knee. They will expect you to listen. Because you always have. They will think you stupid enough to do as they say because they have hidden the truth from you. They will promise you false security without providing you everything to make your own decisions. They will manipulate you again and if they decide that you are not one they want?”
Heia threw out her hands open to present the military, who protected the capital building, to those that were surrounding the crowd.
“What if you are not chosen to be protected? What if you are forced to fend for yourself. What if they horde all the resources and knowledge and you are left alone? No.” Heia said. “No!” There was an agreement. “I said no!” There was a cheer behind the words. “You deserve to know. You deserve to make decisions. You deserve safety. But so does everyone else. Star? Circle? X? No. We are humans. We have always been humans. The system was determined to support the weakest. We create societies so that we can protect and grow.”
Heia looked up to the screen hoping that Uly would be able to pull off some sort of magic here, hoping that he would hear her and know what she was planning. She hoped that Evester was there. For even if Uly did not know then he would know.
“Release the information Alan Penn. Let your people know what you have been deliberately hiding from them. Release your armies leaders. Give them to the world and protect all the X’s. Protect all the people, equally and fairly. You have the skills. You have the techniques. You have the people. We have the people to protect and support everyone. And if you won’t do it willingly then I will force you. We are living. We are here. We matter.
“No Circle. No Star. No anyone is going to tell us that we don’t matter ever again. We might not have trained magic.” The screens flipped to Zedyar using magic when they were on the Lowerlands at the warehouse and when he made the day sky turn black. “But we have magic.” Images of Kony, Karla, and Kori showed up along with Kony using magic with Zeydar. “We might not have power.” Images of Estashia having a full vote in an election and her title change to queen was shown. “But we have the control.” There were images of what the CloudCities now looked like and the food being shipped out to the cities. No lavish adornments. No beautiful clothes. Everything was for survival. “And when we get to our new home. And the leaders try to tell us what to do you must remembered. You hold the power. You have the magic. You are in control. You don’t need them.” Heia’s face was on the screen again.
She looked into Robee’s camera addressing the world. Addressing every person who had ever looked down at her. She let the fire consume her. “You need us.”
The screens went black. With the sudden cut in sound the silence was all that more harrowing.
“Grab her.” Heia could hear the whispered order and she saw no soldier move. She saw the one who ordered it was not in the military. They had fictitious power here. And they were doing as Alan Penn wanted. Alan Penn wanted her dead.
“Go ahead and kill me.” Heia said know that her camera was still recording, that even if this city could not see the rest of the world still may. “I dare you.” No soldier moved. Heia could imagine what was going on over their communications. With a nod, Heia turned and started walking through the crowd chanting again. “You need us.” The chant began to spin through the soldiers and the people. The words bounced and echoed. “Release the truth! Stop the lies!”
When Heia and Robee escaped through the alleyways, they passed by a few soldiers who pretended that they say nothing at all. The protest continued onwards without them. Heia’s spark had begun an inferno that no one had seen coming.