Illustration by Jebediah Bokker
"Where are you?" Raines said, "I really can't hear you." On the other end of the transmission, Bragg was ready to chuck his radio into the depths.
"Don't worry about where I am!" he barked. He figured the chances of Raines understanding 'the beaches by the Legs' the fourth time were minimal. "Progress on the Tribes?"
"They don't trust me, even though some of their young are sick," the disgust made Raines' voice heavy. Bragg chuckled.
"Well, you have some time- thanks to that stale biscuit, Corman. I'll call Mabel. If anyone can soften the tribesmen up, its her," he said, "What about an identity for our infamous Blackstar?"
"I ran a search for Academy Downshipments. There's only one missing. Quincy Famino." Bragg dredged trenches through the cold, packed sand with clenched fingers.
"Repeat that name."
"Quincy Famino?" The General leaned back and blew a long plume of steam in the cool fall air.
"I'll be damned." It'd been ten years since he'd seen the name Famino, in an obituary. The last he'd heard of an old friend.
"Has the Summit begun?" said Crichton halfway down the long, light wooden hall in Islaire.
"With most of you in the wind?" Levi scoffed.
"Maselyn," said Levi. He glanced back at his unexpected guests, Crichton at his disappointed partner, Corman at anything he could swipe, and Quincy out the occasional window to the vast city. "You return after years with baggage and no results? This isn't like you."
"Levi, I'm sorry..." Crichton sighed as they came to a set of glass doors. Levi clenched their steel handles so hard Quincy thought he might leave an imprint.
"Why are you apologizing?" he said. His head creaked to the side at Quincy. Levi's eyes flashed jade beneath the shadow over his face. "Who is this, Crichton?"
"Henry's dead," Crichton told him, "This is his son, Quincy."
"His..." Quincy shrunk away when Levi's segmented iris' turned freely, independent of the rest of his eyes. They shrunk and grew like the aperture of a camera. His pupils zipped across every corner of Quincy's face. "Henry's son. Henry had a child?"
"That's... me," Quincy murmured, melting a few inches back. Levi's eyes spiraled back to their original size. With a couple glassy blinks, he looked almost human again.
"This expands our docket," Levi said. A degree of his fierce focus fell away with the words, "Sorry about your dad." He pushed the doors in.
"Is that you, Regis?" A curious man sat up at the long wooden table within.
"Adrian!" Corman laughed, "How long as it been?"
"Twenty years, since you begged me to fix you," Adrian hummed. His tattered long, beige coat covered a light blue dress shirt. One of his eyes seemed never to fully open or close, while the other periodically twinged. His hair frilled out in short, brown tendrils. "Have you yet understood you were never broken?"
"Good, we're all acquainted," Levi broke in, "Except for one. Everyone sit down," Crichton took a seat beside him, Corman across from Adrian, but Quincy was left standing when Levi pinned the last open chair with an iron grip. "This is Quincy Famino. Henry's son."
"Where's Henry?" said Adrian, though his face belied that he already knew.
"Can we do this without him?" said a woman in the corner seat. Despite his previous rush, Levi waited for the sparks to settle before he said,
"Henry is deceased. I call to order the First Netherworld Summit-
"Maselyn's not here yet," said the only person whose name Quincy didn't know. Her sleek, short brown hair danced around her face in loose twists. Her clothes were tight, yet dense, like what Quincy envisioned one should wear for a trek through the jungle.
"We have eyes, Mabel. Mine could find her if she was within a mile. She's not, and we can't wait any longer. I call to order the First Netherworld Summit. Levi Preacher- I speak for the Island City."
"Mabel Kalari- I speak for the Strand Biologists," the woman said, reluctant. Strand? Quincy cocked an eyebrow.
"Crichton DeMarcus- I speak for the Circles beyond the City."
"Adrian." Speaks for himself? Quincy guessed.
"First discussion: determining Quincy Famino's eligibility to join the Summit." Levi cut in. In a room full of people who seemed to know more about his dad than him, Quincy was kept silent only by glares of Levi's rotating gemstone eyes.
"Henry was... uncommonly strong, even for someone of his Augmentation," Adrian said first, "His function with us was military. To counteract Bragg, more precisely." Quincy couldn't stop his eyes popping from his head. Bragg's earthen chest coughing out bullets and bones piercing the Lake Lady flashed to his mind.
"Are you strong, Quincy?" Mabel followed.
"Physically?" he laughed from unease.
"Are you even Fitted?" said Levi. Quincy began to shake.
"Let's rip off this band-aid. This was a shortcut to getting Downshipped. I'm... empty." The looks around the room ranged from disbelief to curiosity to dismay. The one he couldn't see was Crichton, who winced for him.
"Why are you here?" said Levi, "Three reasons. We all had our own when we put this Summit together." He gave Quincy a few seconds he didn't need to think them up.
"Partially because I don't like the way things are. More because I had no choice, but... mostly because of a girl."
"I respect your honesty," a smirk cracked Levi's lips. "I vote against his admittance."
"For," said Crichton immediately.
"Against," was Mabel's vote.
"For!" bellowed Corman.
"You're not a part of this Summit," Levi dismissed.
"I petition to join."
"Motion to induct Regis Corman into the Summit?" Levi humored, to a resounding denied, in different words and voices.
"I'm not sure staying here is in Quincy's best interest," said Adrian, "I vote against his admittance." Quincy's arms crossed over his stomach to keep his guts from spilling onto the floor. So stupid, he cursed himself, why should it be any different down here? Stupid-
"We're missing a few votes now, aren't we?" the woman in Quincy's pocket crackled through the silver radio. Levi couldn't stop his head from shaking.
"Ms. Moreno. I was wondering when you'd be joining us."
YOU ARE READING
Strand: the Silver RadioScience Fiction
A shape against the night, in the light of a highway construction sign, is a young man in trouble. An artist in an artless place, he must fit into Strand's machine, or be thrown away like garbage. From the best laid plans to hapless coincidence, Qui...