Sunday, October 16, 2016
Chapter 64: On a Desk, Looking at a Mirror
Today is just a bad day to be Ceth. It's raining, her homework isn't done yet, the bus should be here in 5 minutes, and now the sink has spewed water all over her clothes.
Ceth is so annoyed, she sets the garden on fire on her way out the door.
Luckily, the rain puts it out before any true damage can occur...
After school, the weather clears up, but she's busted for her spray painting antics.
Officer Adora Stefani is unimpressed with this repeat offender.
Lucida's weresons are extremely well-behaved, compared to Ceth.
Then again, they're not teens yet.
And you might not be inclined to misbehave either, if your mother could look like this, and once took a selfie with the grim reaper...
"Mommmm, there's green funk coming from the fridge again..."
"Walk it off, Milo."
"Whatever it is, you can have it for your birthday maybe..."
The young parents continue dancing with the music turned up too loud to actually hear the contents of their child's complaints.
Just another day.
Tacked on to the continuum.
Ceth stares at the tiberium blankly. It glows, and makes sharp chiming noises in precise intervals. It is beautiful, but annoying.
Normally she stays clear of this hoarder room, but today she has been sentenced to some extra chores (in the form of watering plants), after her antics spray painting the town accrued 4000 simoleons in fines. She does feel a little guilty about that.
Her gaze is drawn back to the tiberium. Something about it freaks her out, honestly.
"What makes this so special you were willing to pay me so much to steal it?" Ceth holds a tiberium spire in her hand, gazing at her murky reflection within it.
...And her clearer reflection in the mirror beyond it.
A man's voice answers her, "Well... would you believe me if I said tiberium has two extraordinary uses?"
Ceth watches her shoulders rise and drop back down in a shrug. "Yeah, I'd probably believe you."
"Tiberium can be used to separate and amplify." He pauses, perhaps struggling with the complexity of what he wants to say. "I've used it as part of device to genetically re-engineer animals, forcing their reconstructed bodies to express formerly hidden genes. Now my company has approved my research for human testing."
Ceth answers, quick and smooth, "You mean not quite human testing."
Rather, her mouth answers. Her consciousness can make no sense of these events.
The man nods. Ceth's gaze flicks over to him, expecting something. He seems relieved by her instant understanding. "Yes, exactly. We could take a near human, and rearrange them to be closer to their non-human ancestors. Then they might have access to previously bred-out paranormal abilities. Orrrr... it could enhance the weak abilities they already possess."
"So you're not talking about doing this to fetuses? You're talking about..."
"Restructuring adults, yes."
"How does that work?"
"Well, the individual is torn apart as they are simultaneously rebuilt. It's painful, but they remain alive throughout the entire process."
"So are you still you, if you get completely replaced with a different you?"
"Sure. Your entire body replaces itself many times during your life as it is. Cells age, die... you are more of a collective than a singular entity, I'd say, whether we're talking about physical makeup or continuation of consciousness."
What am I wearing? Ceth wonders. She looks like the film industry's idea of a thief.
That hair, though. That hair is nice.
"Oh, and the device can't replace spirit energy," the man adds. "And the reaper did not show to claim the animal subjects."
"My uncle says Grim is a machine," Ceth says.
"Your uncle the actor, or your uncle the mental patient?"
"What do you think?"
He ignores the question. "I was hoping you'd volunteer."
"Wow. Romantic. Didn't you say this was supposed to be painful?"
"Yessss, but... don't you want magic powers?"
"And pointy ears? Yeah, every girl's dream come true..." Ceth shudders. "My ancestors were apparently scary and terrible."
"You could become ageless, my love. Consider how much further science would be if we had more than one short lifetime to study it... if brilliant minds like ours... yours... wouldn't be gone so soon..."
Ceth's voice wavered. "I'm not that smart..."
"I promise it's safe. I would never let you be hurt."
"What's the second use of tiberium? You said there were two."
"Oh. The second use we know of involves space travel!" He's kind of cute when he's excited, she thinks. "But we're going to need a lot more tiberium for that."
"Ceth?" Milo rounds the corner, looking for her. "Ceth, there's some guy named Anselmo here who wants to see you... um... Ceth?"
Her eyes stare past him. "Ceth," she repeats.
"Ceth, stop!" The scientist backs away from her raised fist.
"You've really made a mess of things!" She snaps. "Again! I'm being hunted like an animal! Not just me, the others too! And this is what, only the fourth or fifth time your research has been used for crazy?!"
The look in his eyes says he is sorry, horribly sorry, and crushed by how cruel the world can really be. "You need to go, Ceth... and do not come back... there's nothing you can do for me. They will always be watching me. Looking for you."
Her tone softens. Rage is replaced with melancholy. "I won't forget you, Nigel. No matter how many lifetimes go by."
"That's all I ever wanted," he says.
Ceth stirs, waking to find herself on the cold stone floor. "That was a weird dream..." she gasps, its finer details already slipping away. "Did I pass out here? The hell?"
"You passed out," Milo confirms.
Ceth grits her teeth. "What? Go away, brat. You didn't see anything."
"Fine," Milo sighs, as he walks away.
She decides she really needs to eat more. No more of this skipping breakfast. Her super thin image be damned, passing out on the floor is unacceptable.
But no matter how hard she tries to put it out of her mind, the dream about the (clearly mad) scientist and his sad eyes keeps rising back into the front of her thoughts.
On Monday morning, before school, Izalee is slightly mollified to see Ceth already dressed and watering the plants without having to be told to. Something about the kid's demeanor seems off, though.
"Alright, what." Izalee says bluntly.
Ceth glances over her shoulder, bewildered.
"Yes, you. You're all tensed up."
"I just have a lot on my mind," the teenager mumbles.
Izalee shoos Milo off to get dressed, and instructs Ceth to have a seat.
"I'll bet you do have a lot on your mind. Maybe we should talk about it, before you're tempted to express yourself with property damage."
Ceth sighs dramatically. "I really am sorry."
"You're sorry you got caught," Izalee says flatly.
Ceth scowls. "It's not fair you can read my mind. It really sucks actually. So when things are bothering me and you say nothing, I never know if you just can't tell I'm upset, or if you don't care..."
"I wasn't reading your mind, Ceth."
Ceth lets the silence hang for a while, then opens her mouth again, "I keep thinking how stupid this magic stuff is. This should be a science, but it's suppressed. Why? What happened? Forget it, I know, you don't know. But then it's totally lame I can't do any paranormal anything! Is that why my mother abandoned me? Because I'm a disappointment?"
"I wish I could tell you," Izalee says sadly.
"I hate that I don't know anything about my parents! It's just so weird! I'm such a freak! And everyone knows it! Ugh! But then, you hate your biological mother, so maybe I should be happy I don't even know mine, and I'm just being a stupid brat, jealous of all my schoolmates..." Ceth trails off.
Izalee says nothing. Her biological mother, Venessa, died of old age recently.
Ceth doesn't know about that. "And you. You don't even like normal people. So what's the deal with adopting me? I'm normal and boring."
"Judging yourself a little harshly, there, kid."
"But you don't deny hating pretty much everyone. You don't even date..."
"Why should I? I have my hands full with the family I already have."
"Like we're that hard to manage?"
"You've been talking to Cid, haven't you."
Ceth scrapes her shoes together uncomfortably. "No... I'm sorry... I respect your decision to be single forever... but... don't you ever want to be physical with someone? Or have you had a secret lover all along?"
"If you need advice about boys... maybe you should ask my mom. My real mom. Perenna."
"Whyyy not Aunt Cid?"
"Because she fell for the first guy that even looked at her."
"Uncle Ben is so nice though."
"Yes, well, maybe your superpowers will finally manifest when he keels over."
Ceth realizes that was a Spider-Man joke, but it still falls flat. "Wow. Rude..."
"I'm sorry if I haven't always acted as a good parent. Maybe you wouldn't feel this way if I'd raised you to call me 'Mom'. When you were little, everybody in town was assuming that anyway."
Ceth snuggles up to Izalee. "It's okay."
Again the silence hangs between them. Softer, this time. Warm and sweet instead of cold and accusatory.
"The tiberium..." Ceth finally breaks the quiet calm. "Can it do weird things to your mind?"
Izalee pauses a moment before answering. "What kind of weird things?"
"I passed out next to it and had a strange dream. It felt so real. For a second I thought it was a vision of an older me. With this guy..."
"I knew this was about a boy," Izalee says.
Ceth sits up quickly. "The boys at school are awful! One day they're calling me Ceth Lamer," as opposed to Ceth La Mer, "the next they're asking me out nothing happened."
"Just be smart about how you respond," Izalee advises. "People are fickle."
She proceeds to hurry Ceth off to the school bus, and makes a mental note to get rid of that tiberium. It's probably reflecting some of their latent magic auras or some nonsense. The energy buildup could be dangerous.
Turns out, Lucida was already planning something involving the tiberium.
She needed a mage for this, though.
There will be more experiments later, but I'm only showing this one.
Etc.: 'Ey! Got an update out. Let's all pat me on the back or whatev. *pat pat* Good job.
My over-a-month silence was not because anything bad or sad happened. No worries! My life is looking better than it has in a long time, in fact. I just got busy with other projects and obligations.
That said, coming back to find I had half a chapter of nice screenshots and then a bunch of garbage written without accompanying screenshots proved to be a challenge, and it took me too long to decide to just go in and take the rest of the pictures instead of scrap the entire sequence of events.