Author's note: 14 weeks of straight 10kd, its been pretty crazy. Its for that reason Annie and I are going to take a brief hiatus after Chapter 15. Er, more like Annie is because during that hiatus you're still going to get a 10kd bonus story every week featuring some of the other characters from the story! Right now the Hiatus schedule looks like this:
Oct 22nd: Alice "Songbird" MacLeod Story
Oct 29th: "Knights and Dragons" Story
Oct 31st: 10,000 Dawns Halloween Special, art by Annie Zhu
Nov 5th: The Adventures of Mister Sprinkles the Cat Sequel
Nov 12th: Jame Morrel Story
Nov 19th: (return to normal schedule) 10,000 Dawns Chapter 16
Wait whats that-- a Halloween special!?!? Yeah, so that's going to be a thing! Graelyn and Arch will return on Halloween with a stand alone story for you to enjoy. In many ways this Hiatus is actually exciting, as you'll get to see the universe through other character's eyes for a month. Still, next week is Chapter 15, and that's going to be a wild ride in itself!
Previous chapters are also available as an audio podcast from the Southgate Media Group.
You can also subscribe to the podcast version on iTunes and your RSS feed easily from libsyn:
If you're new to 10kd, you can read the story from the start for free below:
Chapter 14: I Dream of Judicator
Then she dreamed. She was standing on top of the Pyramid at Nojpeten, and Graelyn was throwing toy stuffed giraffes at her.
"I'm sorry!" Graelyn said with every throw. The Giraffes splattered her with blood whenever they hit her, and she pulled out her own giraffe and threatened Graelyn with it.
She looked down and saw the bullet holes across her chest, and looked up, to see Graelyn dropping the gun. "Oh." She heard herself say as she dropped to the ground. She could feel herself slipping away from the Earth.
Alice was an Asatru, and worshiped Thor, his hammer hung around her neck, and as she bled out she had wondered if she'd go to Valhalla. She wondered it in the dream to, but this time, she saw the Valkyries coming down from a crack in the sky.
But they weren't... Normal Valkyries. They had blue skin, no visible orifices, and their legs hung limply under their bodies as they floated down. Lightning seeming to zip between them.
"You have done well, Alice MacLeod." She heard Thor say, and sat up to see him at a green felt table playing cards with Jesus, Horus, David Bowie, Artemis and Kali. Graelyn was now their waiter, serving them all drinks.
"Just water." Said Jesus, and was served a sparkling clear glass of it that he then took a sip of wine from."
"Mead for me!" Thor said, and was given a big mug.
"I'll take what the big guy had." Said Bowie.
"Wine." Said Horus, Artemis, and Kali together.
"Right away!" Said waiter Graelyn, and jumped off the side of the building, only to reappear with the drinks.
"What's going on?" Alice asked Thor.
"Well, I'm about to win this hand." Said Thor.
"He always says that." Kali added, revealing her cards and winning the hand. Thor laughed jovially as she did so.
"Am I dead?"
"No, not yet. But we're all here to give you a warning. Aha, this time I have it for sure!" Thor added, right before he lost the hand to Artemis.
"What kind of warning?" Alice asked, she rose to her feet, and realized that the blue things she'd thought were Valkyries were all over the sky now.
"They're warning you about me." She heard a woman say. Alice looked over, and she was not looking at the roof of the pyramid, but across a vast crystal road that seemed to be filled with sand sitting in an infinite blackness. She looked back, and was looking at the card table on the rooftop again. She got a headache even in her dream. She was looking away from Alice, wearing a hoodie with the hood pulled down with a pattern of a sun turning into a moon running down the spine, a pattern identical to the hoodies on the people standing in a V-formation extending away from her, with the hoods pulled up. The woman turned her head, she was blond, with her hair along one side of her head shaved off and the rest of her chin length hair combed to the other side. Alice didn't recognize her.
"And you should be warned about me," she continued, "I'm the Architect of anyone's wildest dreams."
She looked back at the Gods, who had set their cards down. They spoke to her in unison.
"You've stepped into something you never imagined."
She felt the woman's breath on her neck.
"And Graelyn Scythes and Archimedes VonAhnerabe are ours."
Alice woke up sweating, with a jolt. The cat came up to her, looking worried, and sat on her lap. She reached down and stroked it. It was just a dream after all, a weird one, but just a dream. Picking the cat up in her arms, she decided it was time to get up anyways. She put on a playlist, and listened to "Las Baricadas" as she made herself breakfast, and caught up on the news as she ate a fried egg on toast with orange juice. Things were surprisingly calm. A few weeks had passed, and Graelyn was loitering in prison with cushy visiting privileges. Archimedes was largely spending his time vising her, but otherwise was volunteering with helping rebuild in different communities. He was stronger than some moving machines, and had made the news for rescuing a child from a bomb collapsed building who had been presumed dead. His mask hid his expression from her, and from everyone, but he seemed genuine. It had taken a full week to fix the damage to him however, as his cyborg biology was intricate and complicated, so she supposed it must feel good to be out and about, even if it meant lifting large slabs of concrete.
Alice however, kept having the nightmare. Graelyn's shocked face as she realized she'd fired the gun. The gun dropping out of her hands. The realization she'd been shot. She didn't blame Graelyn for what had happened, but Alice had had some trouble leaving the apartment recently. Even though it could be a little snot, she was grateful for the cat living with her, as she always found it calming to stroke, and it seemed to respond to her when she needed it. Getting up from the breakfast table, she looked at the door, and went to sit back down. Her chest still hadn't fully healed, probably because she wasn't resting enough, and as she ran her fingers through her hair, she leaned forward and felt an ache run through her. She didn't moan, didn't scrunch her face up, just took the pain and accepted it in her world.
The doorbell rang. She ignored it. It rang again.
"Alice its Jack." She got up, slowly, and opened the door up. Jack looked tired.
"Hey Jack, come on in." She gestured to the table. "Want some tea?"
"Yeah, sure." She filled the kettle up, and flicked the switch on it. It heated the water in seconds, which she poured into two cups with tea bags in them, and handed one to Jack.
"Thanks." He said, setting the hot cup down.
"We've got a pretty big problem." Jack started.
"When don't we?"
"Graelyn's trial is getting fast tracked, obviously, but its complicated."
Alice sighed, "How much more complicated could it get? It was already complicated."
"No Judge who will accept the case is considered unbiased enough. If we chose a Centro Judge, this will be seen as a choice to let her off the hook. There will be riots. If we chose a Judge from the Revolution, it will be seen as a show trial, and there will be riots. Mars has offered to let us use one of their Judges, but there are enough people from the revolution and ex-Centro forces who don't trust the Martian Communists that this could become a wedge issue for them and allow them to form a coalition using anti-outsider sentiment. There really is no good choice here." Alice looked up at the ceiling. This was so needlessly complicated. No wonder the council had wanted to kill all the Centro Directors and get it done with.
"Why were we able to get away with pardoning Manuel then?"
"Because he saved your life, and already had a populist following. Pardoning him looked good to nearly everyone, with those against it such a small minority most of them have publicly agreed with it anyways just to save face. Graelyn admits to shooting the hero of the revolution, that Manuel saved. She's in hot water." Alice had tried so hard to not have charges pressed, but it wasn't her call. Her father's brother Ivan, in the end, had been the one who had come out the strongest in favor of trial (though he'd started at execution). He'd played at being this about his niece being shot, but she knew very well it didn't actually have much if anything to do with that. Alice slammed her head down onto the table and let out a soft moan.
"Er, are you okay."
"I'm having the best day of my entire life, clearly."
"Did you sleep last night?" She rolled her forehead back and forth on the table to shake her head no.
"I'm still having the Nightmares. I have another therapy session today, so you don't need to worry about it." Jack nodded. He didn't look like his concern had ebbed.
"Tonight's was different though... Jack, do you remember how I told you I got Alastair, the AI box we used to take down Centro's defenses?"
"The weird Miranda lady, yeah."
"Who in the Raggedy-Ann solar system did she work for?" She asked into the table.
"I don't know." Jack admitted.
"I don't either." Alice replied, "But I have a dream of who it could be."
Jack didn't know what to say to that.
"You're scheduled to see Johnathan today." Alice lifted her eyes up from the table, and she wondered again if forgiving Graelyn was the right choice.
Johnathan sat on the park bench, and threw seeds to the birds. His nurse watched him closely. He did every action intently, and the seed throws were done with a precision that seemed not so much practiced as horrendous, like watching a badly made anamatronic try to imitate a person. His lips had been unsewn, but he was still nonverbal. The modifications to his body had been so intense, figuring out how much of his body had been replaced would be more invasive than it would be useful.
"Johnathan, you're going to have a visitor today. Do you remember Alice?" He nodded.
"She's coming to see you. Isn't that exciting?" He threw some more seeds to the birds. Three seeds landed in front of each bird, in a perfectly triangular shape. The previous throw had been five seeds forming the corners of a pentagon. The Nurse knew it had to be intentional. Down the path she saw Alice coming towards them, she wasn't wearing military clothes today, just jeans and a tshirt with a loose jacket over it. A Thor's hammer hung from her neck.
"Here she comes!" Johnathan looked over at her. She didn't accelerate, just kept the same pace till she reached him.
"Hey Johnathan. Are you doing well?" He nodded.
"Can you speak at all yet?" He shook his head.
"Sorry to ask then." He shrugged. She sat down on the other side of him on the bench.
"I'm not here to see how you're doing today, to be honest. I figured I'd be upfront about that." He made a few signs with his hands. Alice looked up at the Nurse.
"He said: I'm glad you're not leading me on. I like that you're straight to the point."
"I didn't know you could sign Johnathan!" He signed back.
"He says: I didn't know I could either. I think it was installed in me." Alice frowned.
"You mean, like software?" He nodded. The idea of a person having having things installed in their brain against their will like they were a machine was... Abominable.
"I'm glad that I know how to do this though, because it let me talk." The Nurse interpreted.
"I can image you would be. Johnathan, do you remember the woman who came into Graelyn's apartment about a month ago when we rescued you." He nodded.
"It was the one who looked like Graelyn Scythes." Alice tilted her head to the side. Her hair leaned with her.
"Why do you say 'looked like'?"
"Because..." He stopped signing, and seemed to focus very hard, Alice looked over at the Nurse, who put a hand on Johnathan's shoulder. He was trembling.
"Johnathan? Is this too much today?" He shook his head. After a moment, he resumed signing.
"Graelyn Scythes had a chip installed in me so she could control me remotely." The Nurse looked aghast when she said it. Alice looked like this was not particularly surprising.
"Its not your fault. This girl looked like Graelyn, but she was too young, and her hair was wrong. She didn't connect to my chip when she was near me."
"You can sense that?" He nodded.
"Instantly." Alice looked out at the park. Someone was throwing a Frisbee at their dog, who eargly caught it, then dropped it to go smell something.
"The WRC wants you to testify at the trial. Specifically, they want you to testify for the prosecution.
"I'm not their pawn."
"I know. You're no one's pawn." He threw another handful of seeds at the birds, which landed in front of each bird in a perfect square.
"Why did all of this happen?" The Nurse sounded sad as she said it, and not just in trying to imitate his tone.
"I wish I knew Johnathan." She held out a hand to him, and he grasped it tightly.
"I wish I knew..."
* * * *
Songbird escorted the lawyer through the prison, who was doing something on their tablet during the entire journey through the hallways. They didn't speak to each other. After all, technically Alice would probably be asked to be a witness for the prosecution, a role she'd be terrible at. She was wondering if she'd even get called up at this point.
She opened the door to the room Graelyn would be meeting her lawyer, and opened the door. "Graelyn, your lawyer is here. Good luck."
"Thanks, Alice." Graelyn said, with a faint smile. The lawyer looked between them weirdly, and walked in, with the door shutting behind them. The Lawyer wore a plain blue suit that was tightly fitted, with a purple striped tie that somehow matched it. They had stud earrings, and a black hair put up in tiny spikes. Their nails were purple and blue as well, and there were a pair of peircings on their lower lip.
"Hi, I'm Jame Morrel." They held out a hand, and she shook it, "I'll be representing you."
"How familiar are you with my case?" Graelyn asked.
"I've read all of your logged interviews, as well as all of those related to the case, and already read all of the relevant documents." Jame answered, and looke Graelyn right in the eyes.
"What we say in here is totally confidential. You aren't being recorded, and if you are we get a free retrial anyways." Jame continued, "So if you have lied about anything you need to tell me right now."
"I have not lied." She replied.
"So, you honestly believe you are from an alternate reality?"
"I don't just believe that, I am from one."
"I hope you understand that that defense isn't going to fly in court. No one is going to believe that outside of a few outside elements. Our best defense is you're a replicant or clone."
"That's not the truth though." Jame sighed.
"What's going to get you off though? Being from an alternate reality sounds like a very bad cover story. Being a clone that thinks its from an alternate reality is the kind of thing that moves a jury."
Graelyn nodded, "We know its a jury trial then?"
"No, we don't. They haven't decided nearly anything yet. Frankly its a mess. The WRC is in such a tizzy to prevent a crisis with this trial they're going to make one simply by virtue of inaction." Jame began looking through something on their tablet.
"Jame, why did you decide to be my lawyer?" Jame finished scrolling, and turned the tablet to face her.
"I haven't yet." On the screen was a picture of Graelyn, next to a picture of older Graelyn.
"Did you know I'd met this other Graelyn Scythes?"
"I did not."
"She was an intolerable know it all, full of herself, and extremely condescending."
"I'm at least not one of those things."
"She never would have said that. I'm taking your case, and I'm taking it because everyone deserves to be treated fairly, even if they're a scheming puddle of rat pee."
Graelyn puffed her cheeks out, and decided not to reply to that.
"I noticed you and Songbird seem almost congenial."
Graelyn looked uncomfortable. "Shooting her didn't help that. Hence the almost."
"You do realize that she had sworn publicly she'd personally execute Graelyn Scythes no less than 27 times?"
Graelyn shook her head, "No I didn't."
"Her hesitancy is our best case for you. The court will try to claim she is mentally unfit to make judgments right now, of course."
"And whatever happened in Mexico City is being kept a secret still, but they'll undoubtedly use it in the trial. Know what it is?"
She shook her head, "No idea. Isn't that illegal though, to not submit evidence for you to see?"
This time it was Jame's turn to shake their head. "Not in this trial. They haven't written a full legal code the WRC can agree on yet, and so they're getting away with playing fast and loose with some of the rules at the moment. The WRC isn't all communist, they're an amalgamation of Commies, socialists, anarchists, and a small number of democratic republicans who just want a return to non-corporate government but are still capitalists. They're scheduled to work out a new constitution in Oslo in two months, and let me tell you, I'm buying a ticket there just to watch the verbal fireworks."
Graelyn stretched her hands out in front of her.
"Who did you support in this war anyways? You don't seem like, well, the people I've met from either side.
"The Revolution of course." Jame replied. "I like having civil rights, for some strange reason, but I'm also a pragmatist. I'm not going to idealize the mess that is the WRC. They weren't ready to win this war so fast, and they're still scrambling."
Graelyn smiled, she liked this person. "Thank you for agreeing to see me."
"Don't thank me. Thank Songbird. She's the one who called me." Graelyn's jaw dropped.
"You can't be serious."
"I'm the best you can get. I'm glad you shot someone who likes you."
* * * *
Alice slipped back under her covers. The cat curled up on top of her. They were finally starting to get along. The nightmares had drawn them closer together, and as much as she wished she'd never gotten them, she was grateful they'd at least done that. She drifted off into dreams again, as she had the night before.
She was standing in a desert, that was new, and there was a storm encroaching behind her. She began trying to outrun it... But the sand started falling away from underneath her, the ground falling away into infinity. She saw that some of it was holding firm, so she scrambled hard for it, and reached it just as the wind blew the rest of the landscape away. She shielded her eyes, and when she uncovered them, she was on the same crystal path she had seen the previous night, filled with sand. The world around her was dark, aside from a shining orb that looked like a moon... Or was it a sun?
"You're here again. Good. I wasn't sure if you would be."
Alice looked behind her. There was that woman again. She was still facing away from her. This time she only had a pair of other people in hoodies with her, one on either side of her, a step back and facing away. One had on a black sport-coat over the hoodie, the other wore shorts. The woman was wearing a long brown coat over her hoodie this time, with the sun/moon symbol emblazoned on the back.
"Who are you?" She tried to stand up, but it felt like her shins were glued to the path.
"If this is just a dream, and isn't real, why does it matter?" She replied. Alice looked around, it looked awful real.
"Is this a dream?"
"Of course its a dream. But we're dealing with concepts outside of humans. Humans aren't supposed to travel between other realities, correct? We aren't supposed to do lots of things, so lets just say that when you've broken one so-called rule, there are ways to break others. This is the last time you'll see us in your dreams however. You should have known the bargain we made had more strings than it seemed on the surface."
"I don't want Graelyn to die. I truly don't. I've been trying to help her."
"That's funny, but I believe you nonetheless." She turned her head so Graelyn could see one of her ferocious blue eyes.
"You and Manuel Salazar were supposed to die, but you both lived. You changed the game."
"You changed it by giving me that box."
"True. But I've done this before. You're only one reality."
"There really are multiple realities? Graelyn isn't... Brainwashed?"
"Of course there are. Don't be silly. You're not the first Alice MacLeod I've dealt with, and you won't be the last. Keep Graelyn safe. I'll do the rest."
"Why do you need Graelyn so badly then? Can't you just... Get another one?" She narrowed her visible eye at Alice.
"No. But that's enough of that. Dawn is coming, you might want to wake up."
Alice's eye's opened with a snap, the sun was shining softly through the window.
* * * *
Alice winced through her teeth, the bandages would probably have to be changed again soon, and it would only sting worse then, but she was alive and that was what was important. Graelyn Scythes was another matter.
“We have a problem.” Alice began, “We need the trial of Graelyn Scythes or her double to begin soon, but we haven't settled on a new legal code. If we give her a military trial through the Revolutionary Army, we'll likely lose the support of the population of the planet who were Centro supporters we've managed to quell, and we'll have another set of uprisings on our hands. However, if we try her under a Centro judge, we'll lose the support of several groups internally, and likely have to fend off a coup. This is difficult, and I need your feedback.
The group around her she could trust, these were people she'd fought beside for years. Jack, Chantelle, Eve, Roxanne, Trevon, Yi, Gerald... The group sat around the table silently at first, a few of them gave support for siding with one idea or another, but neither side could make any particularly strong arguments either way.
“I have a suggestion.” Chantelle said after some time. All eyes turned to her.
“Its uh, kind of unusual though.”
“Please, we need unusual.” Chantelle squirmed in her seat.
“My dad told me a story once, of something Heirum J. Whitehead build before Centro shut him down and he fled to Mars... An automaton that could make legal decisions with total impartiality.”
“We've all heard of it,” Trevon cut in, “but its just a myth.” Chantelle shook her head.
“Its not a myth. My dad used to break into old buildings to see if there was anything he could scrap or sell for more food for the family. Centro didn't care if the place was considered not worth salvaging, so he was never in danger of losing his real job. One night Dad decided to break into the old Talinata Softworks building. He didn't find much he could break into, the place was clearly larger than the inside looked, but it was sealed up pretty tight. He did find what he said was a hidden door.... And under it a robot. Covered in cobwebs, He started walking towards it... And then the lights of its eyes turned on and it raised its head!” Yi gasped, but Jack looked decidedly unimpressed. “Naturally he ran out of the building as fast as he could.”
“Nice ghost story, but we need more than that.” Jack said.
“Now now Jack, there is nothing we lose by checking it out. Since we don't have any other leads, I'd say its time to go to Talinata Softworks. Where is it located?”
“The former province of New Jersey.”
Alice squinted at her, “I've never heard of New Jersey. Is it like New York?”
Chantelle shook her head, “I don't think you want me to take the time to explain New Jersey.”
* * * *
The VTOL landed in front of the abandoned headquarters of Talkinata Softworks, the sign labeling the building as suck had fallen about half a foot from its mooring on one side, and swung gently in the breeze.
"This is the place." Chantelle noted. Alice gestured for the the troops to hop out and using hand signals gave instant orders about their positions and team roles. Alice took point, and rifle in hand, approached the front door where Trevon was already working the systems. The doors snapped open, and she smiled at him to indicate his good work. She stepped through the door.
"H-h-h-hello visitors and welcome to T-t-t-Talinata softworks! I'm WeN-D, and I'll be your guide today won't that be fun?"
"Uh, is this normal commander?" Yi asked. Alice shrugged, she really didn't know.
"Hello, WeN-D, I'm Alice. We're looking for the Judicator." She looked up at the ceiling as though the ceiling was somehow the disembodied voice of WeN-D's face.
"Oh gosh, I'm so glad you asked, no one ever asks usually they just ignore me and try to break things!"
"Well, can you help us find the Judicator then?"
"Oh gosh! I can't actually, if it exists, it would be classified and I can't tell you about classified things." Jack rubbed the bridge of his nose between his eyes.
"WeN-D," he began,"Its the year 2495, correct? from the current year, wouldn't you assume that everyone who gave you your orders is currently dead?
There was a pause.
"That's no reason to break the rules!"
"Oh, Thor's thundering hammer." Alice cursed, and made a gesture to begin a search sweep.
"Oh, you're just going to look around then. I see how it is." Alice rolled her eyes at the AI.
After a few minutes of searching, Chantelle called them over to a place where there was a thin line on the floor.
"This is where my dad said it was." Alice nodded, and looked to Trevon, who got to work. Trevon was a man of few words, but he was damn good at what he did. He silently scanned the floor, felt around it, mapped out where its points were, and then applied careful pressure to different areas, which was immediately followed by a rectangle on the floor rising up a few centimeters to reveal a handhold on its side, which Alice and Trevon pulled up together, revealing a stairwell.
"Jack, take point. Lets find out whats down there." Jack nodded, and turning the light on his rifle on, began walking down. It was dark and cobwebby, so he took the brunt of clearing a path. When he reached the bottom, he called back "well there's something down here. They rushed down to follow him. Jack's light shone on a humanoid droid of minimalist design sitting on a chair that more resembled a throne. A plaque behind it stated: "The Judicator: Permanently deactivated for being too good at its job."
"Well, no one was bitter about this guy getting turned off." Yi quipped. Alice breathed in the dusty air, and walked close to it. Did it still work?
"Hello, Judicator? Can you hear me? We need you for a trial."
For a moment, there was silence, and the dust floated gently through the beams of light.
Then, its hand twitched.
The Judicator rose, its pistons falling into place, and the glowing blue rectangles it had for eyes taking the world into focus. The Judicator only needed one look to understand the nature of the people who were approaching it, because the Judicator was made to understand these things. It went over to a rack on the wall, its legs making a squeaking screechy sound, and pulled off a robe it slipped into like clockwork. The Judicator wore a robe made of 100% double-ply Cashmere wool dyed a black so dark you might think it turned the lights off if you stared at it too long. The Judicator turned back to them like it owned the room, and hell maybe it did. You might have judges who had read the law of your country, but the Judicator had read the law of every country in history. You might have judges who form a decision based on weeks of testimony and careful work through of the information through their synapses, but the Judicator had ten trillion microprocessors that each made the machines that sent humans to the moon look like a 1991 textbook that hadn't realized the USSR had fallen. The Judicator had two eyes, but it only needed one because with double layer infrared scanning and the ability to see more colors than a Mantis Shrimp let alone a human it was already outpacing you even if its depth perception wasn't so keen it could eyeball a distance with more precision than you measure your bank account. The Judicator didn't have time for your petty disagreements, it's already figured out who is objectively right and wrong. The Judicator won't put up with your legal loopholes, it will crack you open with an understanding of the legal code so thick you could pour it like concrete to make your new jail cell. The Judicator cared about justice. You couldn't bribe it at parties, or make it take out a vendetta or prejudice on someone: it would spit your inequalities back at you like a hurricane. The Judicator was the last and final say on the law, and you'd damn well respect him or God help your soul whether you passed the bar or not.
“I represent the Revolutionary Government of Earth.” Alice said. The Judicator held up a finger. Its eyes blinked for a few seconds. Alice guessed he had found the wifi.
“I see. A lots happen since I got turned off.” It dusted itself off like a few hundred years of dust was no big deal.
“A lot has changed since you've been turned off.”
“Justice is never turned off.” The Judicator said.
“Well then, we have a case for you to try. Someone we don't think we can try fairly.”
“Then I'm your droid. Just give me some WD-40 and the complete case documents.”
“Excuse me,” Jack cut in, “are you sure you are ready for this? You've only just been reactivated.”
“I know what I'm about, son.” The Judicator. Swirled its robe as it headed for the door, making the rest of the group hustle to keep up with it. The case was on.
Next week: The Trial of Graelyn Scythes. Will Graelyn be freed? What will the Judicator do? Find out as this story arc hits a conclusion!