Art by Annie Zhu, Story by James Wylder
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Chapter 13: An Aftermath of Coverage
Video Transcript: News cast, July 1st 2495
World Revolutionary Council Headquarters, Oslo Norway
Image: We see several figures standing in front of a large backdrop with the WRC logo on it. Most of these people are members of the Council itself, an international body of the most important people throughout the world's revolution. We recognize some of these people: Alice MacLeod is there, clearly still recovering from her injuries, one of her arms in a sling, and a stiffness around her belly that one could assume comes from many bandages. Maria Salazar is also there on stage, and when the camera cut to the crowd for reaction shots we can catch other familiar faces: Jack, Chantelle, Shona, Trevon, Yi... The surprise on the stage is Manuel Salazar, who was formerly under a kill or capture order. A mixed race woman we haven't been introduced to before, the leader of the WRC, Pauline Lamarque, steps forward to much applause.
Pauline: Thank you. (She gestures for the crowd to stop applauding. It continues.) Thank you very much. (The crowd dies down slowly, and then finally drops off.)
When this revolution began, we were prepared for a long fight. A war that would tear this planet apart at the seams. However, thanks to intelligence gained by Alice MacLeod, also known as the Songbird of Liberation, we were able to win this fight in not years, but in mere months. Such a quick turnover of the world is unprecedented in our history, and today we mark the official end of the conflict.
(There is a pause as more applause erupts, as well as a chant of "Songbird! Songbird!")
While the eradication of the leadership of Centro Systems was originally considered a certainty by us, the story of our world is malleable. Manuel Salazar has proved completely co-operative in assisting the medical needs of the world since turning himself over to the WRC, not to mention personally saved the life of Alice MacLeod after an attempted assassination.
Alice: That's n-
(The crowd erupts in applause, drowning her out.)
Pauline: And so, from a grateful Earth, we present Manuel Salazar with an official pardon, as well as a position in the WRC to help shape our new socialized medical system.
(More applause, Manuel comes to the Microphone.)
Manuel: Thank you, thank you. I'll keep this short: our struggle is over. For those of you who loved the old world, do not clutch to it. Instead rejoice in the chance to build a new future. It may not be the one you expected, but it is the one you will live in. I pledge to create a new, free, medical system that will care for everyone on Earth, while continuing to push innovating medical technology. Thank you.
(He waves and steps away from the Microphone. There is more applause. The people on the stage wave. Let’s change the channel.)
Image: A man stands in front of an image of what looks like a factory, he is dressed nicely, and looks out of place in the industrial wasteland. He has a pin that labels him as part of a news agency.
Reporter: Hello, I'm Antwon Phillipe, here in Mexico City where the World Revolutionary Council is still refusing to say exactly what they have discovered inside this building. Earlier today, I managed to talk to some of the workers who are going through the facility
Image: We see four people sitting on the curb, all of them look disheveled. Each is wearing a hazmat suit, though their helmets have all been removed. One of them is crying, one is vaping.
Reporter (offscreen): Excuse me, Antwon Phillipe, Populi News. Could you tell us what the WRC is investigating in there.
(two of the people just keep staring off into the distance, oblivious. The reporter repeats the question)
Man: I... I can't talk about that.
Woman: Go away please.
Reporter: The people of Earth want to know what the WRC found.
Man: Look its... Look you'll know eventually, we have to catalog this.
Woman: You want a quote or something? I'll give you a quote: Graelyn Scythes is a bastard.
(Enough of that. What else is on?)
Image: We see a different reporter, this one a non-binary person. They are with Pauline Lamarque. We appear to have caught them in the middle of something.
Pauline: ...is difficult. After all the creation of a new government isn't a smooth process, especially on this scale. It’s certainly good to have Martian co-operation, but I can't say dealing with the Rim Crimelords has been any easier. If anything, they seem to want to exploit this situation more than anything.
Reporter: So you've talked with Premier Mashima?
Pauline: Oh, many times. I think our two worlds will finally be friends again.
Reporter: Now, on a different note, I'm sure you've heard the public outcry for the death of Graelyn Scythes.
Pauline: Of course.
Reporter: Can you confirm that she will be executed?
Pauline: She will be granted a fair trial, like anyone else. This case is more complicated than most people know.
Reporter: Could you explain that?
Pauline: I'm afraid not. There is a lot about this that is confidential. I'm sure you have heard Alice MacLeod's opinion on the matter.
Reporter: Many analysts say we can't trust her judgment, that she is suffering from survivor's guilt or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Pauline: I'm not going to put words in her mouth. She seems of sound mind to me, and she has said what she said.
(Wait, what did she say? Let’s scroll through the feed... No that video is just spam... Ah, there we go, lets pull this one up.)
Image: Alice MacLeod is inside an old tavern, she appears to be swigging from a big mug of mead with her good hand. We hear, but to not see, a third reporter, this one a woman. Her voice sounds nervous, as though she is rather new at the job, or maybe just slightly star struck.
Reporter: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me Miss MacLeod.
Alice: Its my pleasure.
Reporter: I've heard from people close to you that you didn't expect to survive the revolution. How does it feel to have come out the other side?
Alice: To be honest, it’s confusing. I've been preparing my whole life for the liberation of Earth, and now that its done... I don't know I'm sorry that doesn't really answer your question.
Reporter: That's fine, totally fine. Do you know what you'll be doing now?
Alice: Taking a break, first of all. I have some wounds to heal from and my friends have persuaded me it would be for everyone's best if I took time to recuperate. I actually tried to go back to work early, and passed out in the Council's planning room. (She laughs) I just can't stop can I? Anyways, I'm taking a lot of walks, seeing more of my parents then I've seen in years, and taking care of my cat.
Reporter: You have a cat?
Alice: Yes, it was given to me by a friend. I always hated cats, but I find this one rather personable. I wouldn't say it likes me, but we have a mutual understanding. (The reporter and Alice both laugh)
Reporter: That's cats for you!
Alice: Did you have any more questions Minh-Ho?
Reporter: Yes, you've been visiting a prison where high level prisoners are being kept quite frequently as of late.
Alice: I'm afraid I can't comment on that.
Reporter: Have you been visiting the woman who attempted to assassinate you, Graelyn Scythes?
Alice: I'll have you know that my injuries were accidental.
Reporter: Excuse me, but you were shot multiple times, that doesn't sound accidental.
Alice: It was. It was an accidental weapon discharge. Graelyn is innocent, and I'm trying to get the WRC to remove the charges against her.
Reporter: What? You can't be serious.
Alice: I'm utterly serious.
Reporter: The people of Earth want justice.
Alice: I gave them justice. I executed Graelyn Scythes personally.
Reporter: Then why is she alive?
Alice: Its not the same person. Minh-Ho, we have a chance to build a better Earth, and I will fight the execution of an innocent girl-
Alice: She's seventeen years old.
Reporter: That's not what the records state.
Alice: Girl. I will fight the execution of an innocent girl till the sun burns redder than I can assume my face is getting.
(Its pretty darn red. Alice gets up, and pays for her drink.)
Alice: I'm sorry, the interview is over.
(Well that sure was something. But enough of the news. We can cut anywhere into this universe, we're watching outside it like a sun watching its planet's rotate. So lets look through someone's eyes.)
Image: We see Graelyn Scythes, in prison garb again in a drab concrete room that is clearly a prison, sitting on a Piano bench. Next to her sits Lizette in a dress patterned with strawberries, and they are playing chopsticks. Graelyn takes her hands off the piano keys, as Lizette continues.
Graelyn: You're doing well.
Lizette: I can only do it when you do it.
Graelyn: You're objectively incorrect.
(Lizette looks over, and squeals as she realizes that she is actually playing the Piano all by herself. She plays the song in a few more loops and then stops, basically bouncing out of her seat on the piano bench.)
Lizette: Now you play something!
Graelyn: Oh, um. What do you want me to play?
Arch, offscreen: Play one of your favorites!
(Oh! We're watching from Arch's eyes. They are cameras after all. Its funny to be here, you'd think he'd be blinking but it never happens.)
Lizette: And sing it to!
(Graelyn looks back at Arch warily.)
Graelyn: You know, I haven't practiced piano in years, I'm pretty rusty. Are you recording this?
Arch: I record everything I see, its in my hardware.
Graelyn: Right. Well, here goes.
(Graelyn begins to play something, but then realized she is doing it wrong and starts over. It takes her a second to figure it out.)
Graelyn: This is one of my favorite songs. Its called "God Bless the Girl." by David Bowie.
Lizette: Are you the girl?
Graelyn: Sure. I can be the girl.
(She begins to play it and sing along. She isn't the greatest singer, but she does a decent job.)
Graelyn: Jackie loves her work, and her work is love-
Lizette: No, say your own name! You're the girl!
Graelyn: Okay okay. I'm the girl. But you have to help me sing the chorus if I'm going to be the girl. So when I say God Bless the girl, you say it back with me.
Arch: This is too cute.
(Graelyn begins playing again.)
Graelyn: Graelyn loves her work, and her work is love, for there is no other.
She says "God has given me a job!" Graelyn loves her work, there is no other.
Graelyn's aiming for the stars, but landing on the clouds. There is no other.
Sitting in her corner too afraid to run away, like a slave without chains.
Wonder turns to danger, spring turns to winter-- God bless the girl! Now you.
Lizette: God Bless the girl!
Graelyn: But I will always treasure, treasure every single moment...
Graelyn and Lizette: God bless the girl!
Graelyn: Fire turns to water, light becomes darkness
Graelyn, Lizette, and unexpectedly, Arch: God Bless the girl!
Graelyn, now looking at Arch: And I don't want to hurt you, just wanna have some fun....
All together: God bless the girl, god bless the girl!
(Graelyn smiles broadly back at Arch, and proceeds into the instrumental middle of the song. They sing the rest of the song, so you can look it up if you're curious. But you get the point. It looks like this is a regular meet up for them all. Lets cut forward a bit then, Arch's eyes have to see a lot of things.)
Image: Alice and Graelyn are sitting at a table together, there is no partition between them, but you can see a pair of armed guards occasionally when Arch moves his head a certain way.
Alice: They aren't calling the trial off. I've tried my best, but the hardliners on the council are dead set on it. They're still bitter Pauline sided with me about pardoning Manuel. If we don't let the trial go forward, the Council will fracture and we'll likely have a civil war.
Graelyn: There is no question then, I'll be going to trial willingly.
Arch: You realize they'll kill you. You can't let this go forward.
Graelyn: I never wanted anyone to get hurt Arch. I...
(Graelyn cuts herself off, and crosses her arms.)
Arch: I could get her off-world, I know some places in the rim that have to still exist in this universe we could hole up in.
Alice: I have no doubts you could. But what would happen if she broke out? The new government would prove itself entirely unable to manage its own security. Just because we won the revolution doesn't mean the job is over... Really the hard stuff is just starting. Ugh. Politics. I never wanted to deal with them.
Graelyn: I'm staying arch.
Arch: I understand. I don't like it though.
Graelyn: I know.
Alice: I have no idea how we'll be able to find you a fair judge or jury though, it’s going to be nearly impossible.
Graelyn: I'm sure you'll come up with something.
Arch: So a "fair' trial is unlikely.
Alice: (she silently looks at Arch for a few moments.) Yeah.
(But let’s wrap up the world then? Two more feeds. Back to the news:)
Image: Crowds of people are cheering in the streets. It’s unclear what city. We cut, and see another city, and another, and another, and another... WRC members stand on balconies and wave. The world is at peace. A new world. The cameras show a piece of street art: an image of the dead faces of the Centro Directors composited next to each other. It’s gruesome, but this is a time for bloody things. Each of the faces has an X over it, but the last face is Graelyn's corpse, and next to it, a picture of a younger Graelyn being led into a prison. The caption? "We won't be fooled again."
(Now let’s end our tour of the media with something no one saw. But we can see it, like I said, our arms stretch everywhere, light shining into the deepest shadows. The footage is grainy, maybe no one knows this camera is here. It’s just our secret. So here we are, deep in the belly of the Index's secret base, where Chess Mistress Hex stands in front of a holotable. It has a grid pattern on it, with every square alternating between black and white. Nearby, eerily similar in appearance but cheerier is Alexis. Hex looks furious. It’s strange to see her furious, like her face is unfamiliar with pulling off the expression.)
Hex: What do you mean no one died?
Alexis: I mean, Mistress Hex, that the Songbird, Salazar, Salazar, Scythes, Sarah, and the Cyborg all survived their showdown in Nojpeten.
Hex: And why, praytell, haven't any of them died since then?
Alexis: The members of the council we have been bribing have expressed doubt you can truly manage the situation anymore. Salazar has been pardoned, and the WRC has agreed to grant Sarah amnesty on Earth since she can't return to the rim.
(Hex swipes an expensive looking teacup off the edge of the holotable. It breaks with a tiny crash and even Alexis flinches, her smile faltering.)
Alexis: And Graelyn Scythes is going to trial for shooting Alice MacLeod however, our sources can confirm that.
(Hex considers this, and her face returns to its usual passive but predatory smile.)
Hex: Good. Put a large bounty on Sarah, the kind that would make it worth the very best in the system's time. First class retirement money. That will at least tie that up.
Alexis: It shall be done Mistress Hex!
Hex: There’s still a way to salvage this situation, I’m just not seeing it. What have I missed?
(Hex begins to rub her temples. Alexis busies herself by getting her mistress a fresh cup of tea, setting a cleaning droid on the shattered mess on the floor. Hex’s eyes snap open.)
Hex: Graelyn said she came here from another reality.
Alexis: Yes she did, Mistress.
Hex: What if she wasn't the only person who has? If she could do it nearly on accident, it’s possible – no, probable – that someone else has been coming through. I planned everything out Alexis, the board was set... But what if someone slipped more pieces into the game?
(Alexis flashes an unsettlingly toothy grin.)
Alexis: That’s cheating. And we don’t take kindly to cheaters.
Hex: No... (She pulls up some images, and begins combing through them. She pulls up an image of a box with a sun and moon symbol on it.) This is an image one of our operatives got of the mobile AI that the revolution used to take down Centro's defenses. An AI I had never heard of before, with a logo and color scheme that the revolution doesn't use at all. Now why would that be, Alexis?
(Alexis shrugs, smiling as though she is very pleased she doesn't know.)
Hex: I thought I was whispering in the ears of both players... But someone else was rigging the game while I was maneuvering. It’s a shell game. (She does a search for more images of the sun/moon symbol. Several things come up, including a pin bought by a researcher in Guatemala centuries ago that seems to show construction techniques not possible during the period it dates from. There are also a few blurry pictures of a pair of figures: one in shorts and a hoodie, the other in a hoodie under a sport coat, their faces hidden in every shot. Hex stops skimming through the images, and appears to have a revelation. She looks around the room, turning slowly. Her eyes settle on the camera, on us. She begins to gently laugh. The laugh grows louder.)
Alexis: Was there a joke Mistress?
Hex: Brava, whoever you are. Good game. Well played.
(Hex gets up and walks towards the camera, staring straight into it. We know each other now.)
Hex: I look forward to the next round.
(We cut the feed. The image goes black. However long you linger on the image is up to you. It doesn't move, it simply stays black.
You wait, and for a moment, you feel like you see something writhe in the darkness.)
Next week on 10kd: Alice and Graelyn get ready for the trial, while the outsiders get ready to...
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