Sharp as Sword Blades, ch. 8: Simon Martin

Monitoring: Simon Martin
Vienna, Virginia, USA

10:55 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
17:55 Coordinated Universal Time
Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Heron and Blank go with him to see Sinjoro Akvo. He’s being held in a cell, concrete walls on four sides, a one-way mirror, and a heavy door. The hallway leading there is short, more like a between-space whose only purpose is to separate the cell from the main hallway. One more door between him and escape.

The lighting in the hall is poor, so that the one-way mirror will be transparent on their end and they can look in on Akvo themselves and not have to rely on anyone with cameras. The glass is bulletproof and the mirror is small and positioned high enough that it would be difficult for Akvo to escape through it even if it could be broken, but…that is part of the reason that the second door is there. Extra precautions. Continue reading

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Awful Shadow, ch. 13: Reem al-Qattan [null]

Monitoring: Reem al-Qattan
Kuwait City, Al Asimah, Kuwait

12:35 p.m. Arabia Standard Time
Thursday, July 5th, 2014
9:35 Coordinated Universal Time
Thursday, July 5th, 2014

Fast forward—

Knock, knock, knock.

Reem opens the door with a flourish that betrays none of the anxiety that she is feeling. She has never known her special guests to have friends dine with them, and if this meeting does not go well then there may be no repeat business from any of them. It would be a terrible shame, in part because they pay exceedingly well but more importantly because they pay well specifically to keep her quiet, and if they are not going to return then their final payment may be more lethal than cash.

“Welcome to the Grand Star of Kuwait Hotel,” she says, flowing over the words without a stutter. One arm is at the door, and the other points down into the dining hall. It is rather large, enough to feed conference-goers, but as per her guests’ usual requirements it has been totally cleared. A single table sits in the middle of the hall, like an island in a vast emptiness. Continue reading

Awful Shadow, ch. 12: Meifeng Wu

Monitoring: Meifeng Wu
Sanya, Haian Province, China

7:00 a.m. China Standard Time
Monday, June 23rd, 2014
23:00 Coordinated Universal Time
Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Fast forward—

There is both leisure and order in Meifeng’s life. She awakens at 07:00, washes up and has breakfast. If she has been good, and she usually is, then her parents are there. At 08:00, she begins her studies—Chinese and English, mathematics, various sciences (physics and chemistry on even-numbered days, biology on odd-numbered days), history, calligraphy, and programming, plus a few things that come and go, in accordance with the whims of her instructors. She gets a break at 13:00 for lunch, and then she can usually find someone to play badminton with, assuming that she is allowed to go outside that day. At 13:45, or 14:00 if she has been good, she comes inside and returns to her studies until she is needed. That usually doesn’t come until 16:15, to make sure that she has enough time to study, and then, assuming that this is the time, she takes an oxycodone between 16:30 and 17:00 and spends most of the rest of the day with her parents, watching sports or programs on CCTV-14. She has dinner when she feels up to it, usually around 18:00, and may take a walk outside after that or return to the television before going to bed. Continue reading

Awful Shadow, ch. 11: Olivia Garcia

Monitoring: Olivia Garcia
Mesa, Arizona, USA

12:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time
Monday, June 9th, 2014
19:45 Coordinated Universal TIme
Monday, June 9th, 2014

Rewind—

As far as Olivia can tell, nobody is following her. At every intersection she has to press a button and wait for the crossing signal to change, and she takes each stop as an opportunity to look at the yellows and scan her surroundings. It’s a lovely motivation to start learning, quickly, how to distinguish one person from another. Olivia thinks that she’s doing an alright job but can’t know for sure. Up till now she’s never cared much whether a given body was this person or that one, even at the school. Even when she wasn’t more concerned with the big picture stuff and had an interest in the details, caring about who she was looking at would have been like giving names to each brushstroke of a painting. When Olivia was seeing yellows, it wasn’t about people. Continue reading

Awful Shadow, ch. 10: Simon Martin

Monitoring: Simon Martin
Vienna, Virginia, USA

4:50 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
Monday, June 16th, 2014
20:50 Coordinated Universal Time
Monday, June 16th, 2014

Fast forward—

Simon is in a clean, brightly-lit room. There is a white-and-blue checkerboard pattern in the floor tiling, and kitschy animal figures on the shelves. Most of them are elephants, and all of them are engaged in various activities usually reserved for humans, playing golf or putting on bowling shoes or reading the newspaper on a park bench. A few are wearing bowler hats; the rest are bareheaded.

(He’s so cold, but it isn’t the room. It’s him. It’s his body, frantically flipping switches to try to stay alive. If it is alright to personify his organs and bodily systems, then all hands are on deck and every one of them is running terrified.) Continue reading

Awful Shadow, ch. 9: Olivia Garcia

Monitoring: Olivia Garcia
Mesa, Arizona, USA

7:45 a.m. Mountain Standard Time
Monday, June 9th, 2014
14:45 Coordinated Universal Time
Monday, June 9th, 2014

Fast forward—

The world as only Olivia can see it is an ocean of yellow paint. There is no difference between any two specks of it but all the same she has somehow learned to differentiate, say, between the yellow that made the outline of a person, and the yellow on top of that. There was yellow inside each person, and a few months ago she became able to distinguish between the yellow that was their organs and another yellow that was in and around those things. In that way, it’s like an amorphous onion, with a multitude of layers. Continue reading

Awful Shadow, ch. 8: Mary Rucker [null]

Monitoring: Mary Rucker [null]
Vienna, Virginia, United States

11:10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
Thursday, June 5th, 2014
3:10 Coordinated Universal Time
Thursday, June 6th, 2014

Rewind—

Hannah had been perfect. Her discovery couldn’t have been arranged more perfectly: a kid gets superpowers and makes a beeline for somebody who everyone knows is willing to shell out a million dollars for proof of the supernatural. Rucker thought it’d be a good idea to check out James Randi, and sure enough it had paid off. She hadn’t even needed to follow up on any of the other groups like his, just surveil his house for a few days and pretend to be surprised when a teenage girl walked up to his door.

After that, searching for the other children was more annoying than it was anything else. Maybe it was because they had better powers and, unlike Hannah, there were obvious applications to what they could do and they didn’t have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find a way to benefit. Simon had discovered an apocalypse and Austin was fighting house fires. God only knew what the other kids were spending their time. Continue reading