Not Too Small, ch. 4: Austin Smith

Monitoring: Austin Smith
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

4:25 p.m. Central Standard Time
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
22:25 Coordinated Universal Time
Wednesday, February 12th, 2013

Rewind—

Austin has dealt with some serious fires and seen gruesome burns, but it still unnerves him when Dead Zone’s eyes roll back and he slumps in his seat. For a moment everyone is looking awkwardly at each other, maybe wondering, like Austin is, whether they ought to check Dead Zone’s pulse or something. Before there’s any sort of silent consensus, though, his eyes are open as wide as they can go. He stares at Hannah for a moment, then pointedly turns away.

“You gave me a message,” he says, still looking in any direction that isn’t hers.

“That was the point.”

“It goes like this: ‘Repeat this exactly: No vision and your power stopped working. London isn’t clean. Greg has the package. Cincinnati Ohio at 500 Almond Street, August 4.’ I don’t know what all of that means, but you must have spent some time practicing because it took almost exactly ten seconds for you to say it.”

Hannah looks thoughtful, but doesn’t say anything. Rucker sends a glance in her direction, evidently decides that if Hannah knew what it meant then she would say something, and then moves on to what they can figure out about the message. “In these visions, you haven’t received any visions from even further in the future, have you, Simon?”

He shakes his head. “So, how does it work, exactly? I guess that it makes a little bit of sense, that there’s some timeline where I don’t have a vision, but the mechanics aren’t making sense to me.”

Rucker shrugs. “We don’t have nearly enough information to guess at that, and I’m reluctant to use up another vision just to find out. A good source of information is not just someone that you can touch and that we can trust to give us information, but someone that we can trust to stay alive until the time is right.” She pays Hannah a look. “You will let me know, of course, if you figure out anything about what your future self was trying to tell us?”

“Of course,” Hannah agrees. “I want to talk about what we’re going to do about this woman that Simon was talking about but…I think there’s a more pressing issue to address first.”

“What?”

Hannah looks first at Simon, and then at Austin. Slowly, she stands up from her chair. “When I signed up for this I wasn’t expecting the apocalypse. Austin looks like a good citizen and Simon wouldn’t have gone cross-country for lack of nothing better to do but I don’t think that they’re interested in pro bono world saving either. So consider us unionized and consider this our first renegotiation of employment terms. You know health and medical and death benefits.” She leans over the table, supporting herself with one hand. “But before that you have to come to an appreciation of what it is that we can do.”

Agent Rucker gives her an appraising look, while Agent Blank remains silent off to the side. “And what it is that you can do?” she asks.

Hannah turns to Austin. “I’ve been thinking about how your power works. You’ve been putting out fires but you don’t have to go through the entire house to do it. You have to touch the fire but the fire is apparently one whole object as far as your power is concerned.”

Austin nods. That wouldn’t be hard to figure out from the reports, and it doesn’t look like anyone else is surprised by her statement.

“I have a hunch though. You don’t just make fires smaller do you? You can make them bigger too.”

Austin nods. He checks the agents, but Blank’s face is impassive and Rucker just looks curious, probably wondering where Hannah is going with this. He’ll have to ask Hannah how the CIA discovered that part of his power.

“So how quickly does it move?”

“A little faster than I can walk.”

“Alright. Let’s say…” She closes her eyes for a moment, evidently doing some calculations or at least bringing something to memory. “Let’s say three miles per hour.” Hannah turns more fully to face Rucker and Blank. “Simon can see how you’re going to die, I can make coins vanish but Austin,” she says, snapping her fingers, “he’s a regular old person of mass destruction.”

Austin almost falls out of his chair. “W-What?”

“The core blast radius at Hiroshima was one mile in diameter, and the firestorm was three miles. So if Austin is at the center you can get the first in, let’s see…ten minutes, and the second in thirty. You can’t tell me that doesn’t have tactical value! But wait, it gets better. There’s this show, have you seen it? Avatar: the Last Airbender? There’s this scene in the third season with zeppelins- and well anyway the point is imagine him hanging out of a plane with a wall of fire two miles wide scouring the battlefield as fast as that plane can go without knocking him out.”

Austin blinks. Hang him out of a plane? How exactly is that supposed to work?

Rather than elaborate, though, she’s on to the next idea: “Not to mention he can probably set up a defense against bullets by–“

Rucker holds up a hand. “We don’t need a full presentation right now.”

“Oh. Right.” Hannah blushes and puts a hand on the back of her neck. “My point is there may not be a single other person with a power like Austin’s–or Simon and I might be the unusual ones–but what matters is that you have at least one, and I bet you thought he was just a firefighter!”

“But that’s all that I wanted to be,” Austin mutters, and Hannah turns to him.

“We’re going to stick together,” Hannah says as she crouches in front of him and puts a hand on his shoulder. “If there are monsters or worse out there, though, then the only option we have might be to kill them with fire. Simon saw nukes go off, and maybe they were meant to contain an outbreak. With you around maybe we’ll be able to avoid that.”

Austin nods, though he’s still uncomfortable with the idea. “I overheat, though.”

“Excuse me?” Hannah says quickly, almost snappily.

“My core temperature rises as I use my power. I don’t know if I could hold it for twenty minutes before it got too hot.”

“We’ll figure out a solution to that. I’m good at solutions,” Hannah says. She glances at Rucker, and Austin finds himself hoping that she won’t. Hannah might be committed to only fighting Giger tree monsters, and maybe the CIA will be on board with that, but one day the world will be saved–however temporarily–and the dust will settle, and slowly everyone will start to scrabble for power again. He’s okay, at least in principle, with fighting monsters, but he doesn’t like the odds that one day they’ll be pressuring him to use his power against other people.

Hannah goes back to her seat and props her feet up on the table. “Now that you know what we’re worth, let’s start negotiating.”

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4 thoughts on “Not Too Small, ch. 4: Austin Smith

  1. Typos:
    “she would say say something”
    Repeated ‘say’.

    ” ‘But before that ”
    Missing double apostrophe before ‘But’.

    Not much else to say other than that this chapter was good, if a bit short. The two Austin chapters could probably have been combined.

    On a more technical note, is there a way to notify a comment poster that his comment is pending due to moderation or something. I’m never a 100% sure if my comments will ever be readable or are just being eaten up by the void.

    Like

    • Thank you for the typo-spotting. >:]

      I don’t know how to get this to notify you that your comment is pending, but now that I’ve approved your comments, you should be fine from here on out (and actually, I should see about getting rid of the moderation policy, since spam isn’t a problem right now).

      Like

  2. Hello! I just started reading 3 days ago, and I’m current now. I love this! 🙂

    I’m commenting on this chapter in particular, because I still have some trouble parsing it. I’m worried it’s just me.

    The line “Repeat this exactly: No vision and your power stopped working” REALLY threw me for a loop. I interpreted it to mean that Future-Hannah wanted Present-Austin to say that he didn’t get any vision from touching Hannah, and his power had stopped working. The fact that he repeated what she said, and told the rest of them the rest of the message as well, looked to me like a giant defection, like he had decided Future-Hannah could not be trusted and he was revealing that immediately. I kept expecting the CIA agents to turn to her and start questioning why she’d want to hide this message from them.

    But no one made any sort of a big deal about it. The CIA still treated her as a trusted ally. It wasn’t until I read the comments to a later chapter that I understood this means something along the lines of “In the timeline I remember, you had no vision and your power stopped working when you touched me.” That’s very startling in a different way, and also reveals a lot about Future-Hannah (or her world’s situation) when we learn she was nonetheless willing to kill herself to transmit a message back to a past that she doesn’t even know will get it.

    I guess I’m asking – is my new interpretation correct? And if so, was anyone else similarly confused? If they were, I kinda think wording that part of the message differently would help a lot.

    Thank you for writing this, it’s awesome, and I’m gonna be checking back often for more. 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you! Comments like yours really help me to keep the story going. I’m glad that you’re enjoying it.

      > I guess I’m asking – is my new interpretation correct? And if so, was anyone else similarly confused?

      Your new interpretation is correct.

      I haven’t gotten any questions about this scene in particular, but I have been asked about the proper interpretation of another message from the future, so I guess it’s a good thing that Simon is apparently pretty good at figuring out what people mean. >:P

      Like

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