wakey. We're here Trace," a goofy smile spread from his lips
as she opened her cybernetically amplified eyes.
huh. Look familiar?"
The setting was surreal.
Wooded land meshed defiantly against a backdrop of steel and glass.
Squirrels and butterflies fluttered throughout the tall grass. Sparrows
and larks sang cheerfully from the branches above. A slim, stone
path led upwards towards the illuminated peak of the Park's hill.
"I don't remember the butterflies,"
noted Tracer, energy returning to her weakened body.
luv, some things do change."
"Apparently. But where
is everyone else?"
newbies come during the day Trace. Man you really have been evading
this place for a long time."
"You know, I have no real
plans on talking to the Columns while I'm here." It was the last
thing she wanted to put up with.
be ridiculous, they know you're here. You might as well see them."
"Nah," she decided.
"I can just lie here till my systems recharge. Then we'll go back
into the 'real' world and look for my bike."
need to use the Pool," declared Onyx flatly. He paced through
the untouched grass twirling a braid in his solemn fingers. He was
either nervous of the Column's response, or what she herself had to say.
"And you're telling me this
I'm gonna need your help."
convince them I should."
"You don't need me for that,"
Tracer stated, quaintly sitting up to hear where this was all headed.
"What's up Onyx? What's going on?"
the brown sugar."
"Oh," she replied, still
not exactly sure what he meant.
Columns won't allow a marriage this way. For them it's not natural."
"Well technically it isn't."
essentially... does it matter?"
"No, no it doesn't.
And you don't think they... what am I saying??? Of course they won't
allow a traditional ceremony this way."
you see my problem."
"Well not really.... who
cares? Just do it somewhere else. Do it right here if you want.
While I'm recharging," she added happily. She felt she'd discovered
a way to avoid the Columns and occupy her cousin at the same time.
"It's not like you need an audience with brown sugar. You'll be outta
it for at least an hour while the mutations settle."
well ya see, I'm well thinking that I want 'her' to jump levels."
"Her? Are you kidding?
They won't let Halogen take a dip in the Pool. You think they'll
she'll be a part of me, so I don't really see the problem."
"Bullshit Onyx, you know
there's a problem. There's no way they'll let you go through with
I HAVE TO FUCKEN TRY!!!"
The cousins paused and contemplated
the situation. Tracer reclined into the grass, taking in its spikey
touch and long-forgotten fragrance. Onyx returned to his pacing,
"Sit-down," she matted the
grass beside her, motioning him to join her. "Remember when we were
new to the city? We used to come here all the time. Now I do
anything to avoid it."
but look at why," he asserted, collecting his kilt and plopping
to the ground. "So much has changed.
We don't exactly identify with the place anymore."
"It's not the place.
I like it here. I miss it. It's the Columns I don't identify
with anymore. Look at you. You still come all the time."
Onyx glared at her like he
was being dissed.
"No no," she laughed.
"Ha ha, you should see your face. I mean you're still all natural.
You're still fairly traditional."
Onyx continued glaring.
"Stop that. You know
what I mean! I haven't been here in years. What am I gonna
do when they find out I've got mech eyes? They'll freak."
"Yeah, but like I don't wanna
have ta put up with it. Fuck the lecture. I'm not the kinda
person who's gonna take a dip in the Pool to see if she'll get some scanner
programs. I'd rather make them myself or have them installed.
Why does everything gotta be software? That's why Mother's become
so strong. Her tribe's not allowed in here so they make things themselves.
And now they've got shit to rival our own."
I agree with ya there luv. The only detail with me, is that I've
always come out content. My programs were always ideal. And
I'm not all 'unscathed' by the city, cuz half my new techniques are all
"Okay okay, but you know
what I'm getting at."
I do, and it's weird. For someone who's First to the Throne, you're
pretty unconventional. But I think I'm catching up," he laughed.
"Look at me. Here I am, asking for a brown
sugar ceremony to be accepted, and then AUGMENTED. The point you're
trying to make, is that this place is making itself obsolete."
"Exactly. Because the
Columns think the past is the future and it's not. What our ancestors
knew about existence when they created the Columns isn't what we know now.
The basics... well they just aren't the basics anymore. Society has
evolved. Beliefs have evolved. I can only imagine the interactive
dramas they're teaching the newbies. They're probably the same ones
I played when I was one."
yeah, they are."
"Fuck, and you wonder why
we're losing weight in the city. No diversity! Everything's
gotta stay the same for tradition's sake. What's the point?
To preserve some stagnant view of identity? Fuck I'm really getting
sick of this tribe. Some days I don't even wanna be First to the
There was a long pause.
Onyx obviously wasn't expecting that one. Tracer rolled forward and
buried her dispirited head in the grass. The last time she was here
she was with Deluxe, and they got into a lot of trouble. Since then
she had promised herself she'd never speak to the Columns.
But now here they were, and
lying there wasn't going to get Onyx married. "Let's go to a wedding,"
Seconds later they approached
the hilltop. Both had been on many adventures in the name of peace,
war, and of course outright fun. None though, seemed as urgent as
Seven emerald pillars encircled
a small pool of liquid silver. Dark black grooves fluted their solid
lengths. Yellow feathers spun curiously about the crown of each,
forming a dazzling lemon halo. Strawberry runners extended from their
bases, feeding from the shimmering pool. The Columns they were called.
Sacred ideals to the Guild, installed at birth as paradigms of development.
Silver rings rippled across the Pool's surface.
"Greetings," Tracer began
young Tracer. How is our First to the Throne?"
"Well. I'm doing well," she
"Always busy with politics
and such. Still trying to maintain talks with Zalek and the Underworld.
I'm not exactly sure how he is personally though. We both hold different
hours. Halogen tells me he's doing fine."
what have YOU been up to? We haven't seen you in ages."
"I know, it's been a few
Tracer paused. "What
was with the guilt trip?" she thought. "Things have been complicated
in D'ver City. New tribes have mutated that were nothing years ago
and the older ones have overpopulated the city into a sprawl. My
assassins grow in experience with each skirmish, but there will come a
time when our luck will run out."
see, and what is it about today that breaks you from your busy schedule?"
Tracer ignored their pompous
tone, and attempted to respond securely. "My speeder was stolen this
evening and I'm now suffering from speeder shock. I need the protection
of the Park to recuperate, as I cannot regenerate without my adrenaline.
Of course my health will decline when I return to the city, but I should
have enough strength to carry out my plans."
do you assume is responsible for this theft?"
"I don't really know.
Whomever it was decrypted my speeder codes, so my assumption is the Hacker.
No one in Procedures can do that, not even Symm. The Cretins are
a definite 'no'. Goth-psychedelics from the Underworld show no interest
in cryptology, and that goes double for g-p packs in the city. The
Palace is a possibility. There's talk of a new ciphernaut who can
rival the Hacker: Silkworm. But I personally doubt it. The
Palace's new intrusive countermeasures don't compare to that of the Alley."
The Columns grew quiet.
"So your presence here is solely for recuperative
The Columns paused again.
"It's been twenty-three years Tracer. You don't
feel you need to advance a level?"
Tracer smiled with a hint
of pride. "Nah."
"Actually, I walked the hill
for Onyx's sake, not my own."
The Columns grew curious.
is a possibility of impending war with the other tribes," began
Onyx. "And I believe new programs will be required
to ensure my efficiency as Tracer's guard."
is too early for you. You have barely mastered the new skills you've
understand that, and am the first to admit my limitations. However,
I also understand the severity of this situation. If we cannot recover
Tracer's speeder soon, she'll be forced to build a new one. In that
meantime she would be confined to this Park, and our enemies could begin
to align against us. The speeder's theft in itself may be a premeditated
ploy to launch such actions."
are overreacting," the Columns countered. "The
other tribes are not so united to attempt such an attack. And the
city can hold its own without Tracer."
Blood angrily rose to Onyx's
face. "That's what you said before the Freeze,
and now look at the Underworld!"
Freeze would have transpired regardless of Tracer's presence," the
Columns retorted, annoyance in their voices. "It
was Alchemy who betrayed us. No one could have predicted that."
could have prevented the extent of that holocaust. And I still doubt
Alchemy played any part, regardless of what the 'evidence' says about the
sorry Onyx," they stated flatly. "These
conditions don't warrant an emergency and we cannot allow your advancement
Onyx paused. He looked
both angered and desperate. Reaching into his sidebag he pulled out
the sack of brown sugar. "I have been given
the chance to marry. I know it is not common practice, but I would
like to fuse with my spouse inside the Pool."
of the question!" they roared.
it would allow her to acquire exclusive skills that would not affect my
own advancement. We will need help in retrieving Tracer's speeder,
as well as protecting Tracer herself. Allowing my wife to attain
her programs will aid in that."
This form of perverse merging is illegal. You know we'll have to
confiscate the sack."
Onyx's brown sugar surged
into the air, rushing towards the waiting Columns. Rainbow feathers
encircled the bag, halting its ascent over the dishevelled water.
The Columns stirred and their yellow feathers lunged forward. Rainbow
feathers knew only defence, while their yellow counterparts displayed both
attack and protection capabilities. Onyx unsheathed his polearm,
as the vicious stench of napalm aggressively swallowed the area.
Minutes later, Tracer stood
alone above the relaxed chrome pool clutching her tattered trenchcoat.
Cancerous welts showered her long thighs. Smoke billowed from the
inert Columns, a rising beacon to anyone in the Park. Yellow feathers
fluttered about her aching figure, twisting and twirling in a spiralling
helix, engulfed in victorious hellfire.
"Now this I hadn't planned