Oblivion (30)

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HELP. SOMEONE HELP! 882: Syncro Earth

Melissa laid lifeless on the floor. Julio wanted to run. He wanted to help. He wanted to scream. He wanted all of this to go away, but it wouldn’t. The red string in his psychic grasp waved in the etheric current, beckoning him to unlock its secrets. But he couldn’t leave the club president like this. He had to call someone. But who? No. He could fix this. He reached out and grabbed as many of Melissa’s memory strings as he could and bunched them up together in a shape approximating a ball. Then he stuffed them back in her astral shell.

Her body seized.

“Shit! Oh fuck, please don’t be dead,” Julio hissed.

He stuffed the memories down harder. Her body jerked left, then right. Then she sat upright. She blinked, then looked at Julio.

“What are you doing?” Melissa asked.

“Um, you passed out. I was just trying to help,” Julio said.

“Oh. Well, thank you.”

“Yeah. Of course,” Julio replied.

Melissa smiled.

Then her astral shell exploded.

Her eyes rolled back into her head and she started seizing violently. Golden memory strings flew everywhere, her quintessential being fundamentally disrupted. Julio panicked, grabbing for anything he could.

“Help! Someone help! Please!” Julio cried. “Oh god oh god oh god! Fuck! Shit!”

“What the hell are you doing?”

Amanda knelt next to him, checking Melissa’s vitals.

“I didn’t mean to. I-I-I-“

“Just shut up right now,” Amanda said. She closed her eyes and put a hand on Melissa’s chest. “Her vitals are spiking. What the hell happened?”

“Her memories. I pulled one loose and then I put them back together and and and-“

“And what?”

“And they exploded.”

“They what?” Amanda screeched, her face the picture of shock.

“I don’t know! I didn’t mean to-“

“Shit. Okay, here, hold on.” Amanda opened her psychic cloak and Mandy slipped out. She stretched her psychic reach and scooped up about half of Melissa’s memories. “Don’t just sit there, help me!”

Julio did so, grabbing up all the other memory strings until there were barely any left flying around.

“Is that everything?” Mandy asked.

“I think so. I can’t hold anymore, they’re wriggling free.”

“Okay, push them together. Here,” Mandy instructed. Julio did so, pushing his half of the memories with Mandy’s half. “Okay now just hold it right there. Don’t move.”

“Now what?” Julio asked.

“Now, wait about… ten minutes. The memories will coalesce and then reattach to Melissa’s astral body, reforming her shell. Just keep holding it together here and here and it’ll heal.” Mandy put the memory ball in Julio’s psychic grasp.

“That’s it? Just hold it?” Julio asked.

“Yup. Now stay right there, okay? Don’t move or the whole thing will come apart,” Mandy said as she slipped Amanda back on.

“Thank you so much. I thought I’d killed her. I thought… hey, where are you going?”

“Hmm? Oh, nowhere in particular,” Amanda said with a wink.

“Hey! I still need your help,” Julio pleaded.

“No, what you need to do is keep her memories together like I showed you for the next nine minutes. Meanwhile, I am going to go visit the vault. Toodles!”

“You can’t!” Julio cried.

“The hell I can’t. Seriously, don’t move. If that ball explodes again, she’ll have to learn everything from scratch.”

“She put defenses up. All kinds of defenses. You’re only wasting your time,” Julio said.

“Well, it’s a good thing I nabbed this then,” Amanda said, holding a golden memory string between her fingers.

“Son of a… I can’t believe you,” Julio said, slowly shaking his head.

“You don’t even know me, kid,” Amanda said, tying the memory string around her pinky finger in a little bow. With a curt wave, she turned and headed straight for Club Tildi’s vault, which she now knew how to get to.

“Shit. Shit! God damn everything!” Julio cried, trying not to sob lest he lose everything Melissa was.

Amanda found the vault door at the bottom of the hidden stairs behind the lounge. She deactivated two alarms and the secret alarm with ease. Then she dissembled the protective imbuement on the door itself, which took some doing but was still within her ability. The locks to the door snapped open and the great metal portal swung slowly open, a bright anti-septic light spilled out from inside.

“Come to momma,” Amanda with a hungry look.

Julio cursed in every language he knew, which was three distressingly enough. He was only supposed to know one. Another side effect of the septapenedrine? The fuck was it doing to him? Fuck, wait, Melissa. He had to focus.

The memory ball hung precariously in the air above Melissa’s head. Sweat dripped down his forehead. He could have vomited if his stomach weren’t ice just then. His hands shook. Don’t lose the ball, he told himself. Stay calm. Fuck!

Amanda’s eyes took a minute to adjust to the light, but when they did she saw a long room with storage cases positioned in two long rows on either side of her. There were old books and electronic prototypes and automaton shells and engine schematics and ancient scrolls filled with technical knowledge of the last Technic Age. There was a giant bird in a golden bird cage. Its feathers were black and iridescent like an oil slick. Its bright orange eyes concealed a sinister intelligence. It watched Amanda as she searched the room. There was an old arcade system with a faded Save The World! logo emblazoned on the side. There was a painting composed of something called nano-ink which depicted a planet exploding.

There, on the right side in between a lightning gun and a drill lance, was her prize. The Book of Black Hours.

“Is everything okay?”

Julio flinched, almost dropping the memory ball. He turned to see Zach carrying an armful of food back to his bunk.

“Zach Zach Zach! I need you, man,” Julio pleaded.

“Is that the club president?” Zach asked.

“Yeah and she’s not doing good. I need you to come here and hold this.”

Zach thought for a moment, shrugged, and knelt next to Julio.

“So, what am I doing?”

“Just hold the memory ball together and keep it right here.”

“The what?”

“Open your third eye, man!”

“Oh whoops.” He did so. “Whoa. Um, I’m not so sure about this,” Zach said, furrowing his brow.

“She’ll die! I think. I don’t know, just please help.”

“Okay. Okay all right. Just hold it like this?”

“Yeah. That’s perfect.”

“Now what?”

“Stay there for the next eight minutes k thx bai!” Julio said, dashing toward the vault.

“What? Hey!”

Amanda removed the book from its display case, handling it with care as it was incredibly old. A find like this could set her up for life. A nice comfortable life where she’d never have to worry about where the next meal or sleeping place would come from. But she still had things to take care of before then. Then she saw it. A chest plate, sitting on a rack in the back of the vault behind thick glass. It was dark, almost a blackened bronze. The edges were a dull golden color and the inlaid designs decorating the pectoral area spoke of a long lost culture she couldn’t even guess the name of. There was no question the armor was ancient. It was probably the oldest thing Amanda had ever seen. Even the air around it somehow seemed dry and dusty. She put the book in a sack, looped it over her shoulder and went to get a closer look. It wasn’t labeled or catalogued like the other items in the vault. It was just there, placed as if to say, “Yeah, here it is. What about it?” She wondered how much something like this would fetch on the black market.

“Hey!” Julio yelled.

“Jesuz Cristo don’t do that!” Amanda snapped back.

“What the fuck are you up to?”

“What do you think? I’m stealing this so I can get fucking rich! What the fuck’s your excuse?”

“I… I don’t know, but this is fucked up.”

“This has literally nothing to do with you. I know you don’t care about this school. You don’t even want to be here. Are you even a real student, actually?”

“Of course I am.”

“Then why do you keep fucking with me? What’s your deal?”

“I…” Julio thought for a moment. “I just want answers and this is the only place I’ll get ’em.”

“Answers about what?”

“That’s a nunya.”

“A what?”

“Nunya damn business!”

“Don’t think I won’t kill you. I will. Just give me a reason,” Amanda said, slowly and confidently.

“Knock it off. Your tough bitch routine doesn’t scare me,” Julio said.

“Wow. Are you that brave or that dumb?” Amanda asked.

“You say that like I’m supposed to have any idea who you are.”

“Fair enough. Just know that I’m a fucking dangerous person and you don’t want to fuck with me.”

“I don’t know if you saw what I did to the pedestal and Mr. Whiskers the other day, but yeah. I’m pretty dangerous too.”

Amanda looked him over, probing with her senses.

“You’ve been to juvie?” Amanda asked.

“Whose asking?” Julio asked.

“Quit fucking around. Why’d you get locked up?” Amanda asked.

“Two reasons. Nunya, Business,” Julio said, flipping her the double bird.

“Did you kill someone?” Amanda asked.

“No.”

“Have you ever killed anyone?”

“Maybe.”

“You haven’t, huh? I have. It gets easier after a while. Sooner or later you don’t even bat an eye,” Amanda said, making a finger gun at him. Julio pursed his lips, concentrating, doing some probing of his own.

“How big was he?” Julio asked.

“Huh?”

“The first person you killed. He was a pretty big guy, wasn’t he? What’d he do to you exactly?”

A micro-thin wire of water encircled Julio’s throat, cutting his skin with its micro-razors.

“Stay the fuck out of my head, you fuck,” Amanda hissed through clenched teeth, holding the wire taught.

“You ever heard of surface level thoughts? I wasn’t in your head, so cool it,” Julio said. His heart was racing. One small flick and she could slice right through his artery. Or take his head off. But he kept his cool. Don’t let them see you sweat, he reminded himself.

“Hmm,” Amanda grunted, looking him over. He was telling the truth. “Surface level, huh? Guess I’m slipping.” She let go of the wire and it evaporated from around Julio’s neck. He rubbed the wound. It stung real bad.

“That was a neat trick with the water,” Julio said. “Is that your Talent?”

“I’m not telling you shit, home slice,” Amanda winked, so perky she might as well be levitating.

“Holy fuck, please cut that shit out,” Julio said, almost gagging. Amanda grinned mischievously.

“What’s the matter? Allergic to the syrupy sugary sweetness that is Amanda?”

“No, what I’m allergic to is bullshit and you’re so full of it it hurts,” Julio said, holding his stomach.

“Well, you’re not going to have to put up with me much longer,” Amanda said, tapping her shoulder bag. “Five more minutes and I’ll be out of your hair forever.”

“You really think you’ll get away?” Julio asked.

“They’ve got enough problems to deal with. And they’re going to have more very soon. I won’t even be a blip on their radar,” Amanda said.

“What the fuck does that mean?” Julio asked.

It means dark things are coming here.”

Julio and Amanda’s attention snapped to the giant bird in the golden cage.

“Did that thing just talk?” Julio asked.

Yes, young master Valdez. And soon, very soon, you will understand just how unprepared you are for what’s to come.”

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