Illustration by Akai
"I vote for Quincy's admittance," Charlotte defied. Quincy placed the old radio on the table, his face hot.
"The majority remains against," said Levi.
"Majority of an incomplete Summit," Charlotte rebuffed, "Without Chief Maselyn, the Avalon Tribes aren't represented."
"If their concern is so dire, where is their Chief?" Levi's eyes shot to Mabel.
"She promised attendance."
"Besides, what sort of evaluation has Quincy had? A glance?" asked Charlotte.
"We have strategists, specialists, and scientists. We need a General. One to contend with Bragg. I will not sentence him to die," said Levi. While he and Levi were on the same page for the matter, Quincy was starting to boil on the dismissed sidelines. He'd tried to make the cut in Strand's game and lost. He'd taken his crack at changing the game, but only buried a few of his fellow pawns. This was it.
"I'm all you've got," Quincy mustered the spark to say, "I made the journey my dad was supposed to make. I can do something."
"The problem is," Mabel tried, a little softer, "The something we need is very specific."
"You're going to throw him away? Just like them?" Charlotte pleaded, "That's everything we're against."
"I think, if we gave him the proper training..." muttered Crichton, like he'd been punched in the gut.
"We don't have the time or resources," Levi sighed, temple pulsing, "If we could train anybody, we'd have sent you to Silvereach, not Greenknoll! We need the strength and skill of a Guardian to the Seeress, not his Unfit son." A cord in Quincy's mind twisted past maximum tension. The Summit could almost hear the snap.
"Are you going to keep spinning in this confusing circle like I'm not here!? My father was a contractor, a foreman! He was strong, but he wasn't a Guardian to the Seeress. He definitely didn't know you bunch of terroristic asshats!" It was like the room had been woken from half-sleep. A veil dissolved with Charlotte's,
"You have no idea what your dad was up to?"
"Besides an upper-middle-class family life? No." Even Levi's stone face lightened. He pulled out the open chair.
"Sit, at least for the story- I'll give you that," he said, "Beyond that... you know my vote."
It sounded like a myth. Levi became the omniscient narrator in the tale of three young strangers, brought together by circumstance, united by a secret. More than thirty years ago, before even young Percy had been born, Henry Famino's world was shaken by a personal request from Prime Guardian James Moreno to join him as a Guardian to the Seeress. Despite his humble laborer's upbringing, Henry's uncommon strength made him an asset on the Firelight Tour. He followed James and the Seeress, Rose, across the Terra Layer. When the time came, he went with them up the Sunrise Column. He walked the heavenly gardens beyond the sky.
The Venter Layer welcomed them with cheers, from bureaucrats to the highest ranking Strand officials, while the previous Beacon dimmed. James saw his wife, Rose, to the Mantle, with Henry right along. There Henry met Levi, Chief of Security to President Veighman Strand. The two didn't exactly click, but they did share a fondness for little Charlotte, daughter of Chief Researcher Carmine Moreno. So, when Charlotte fled the Igniting, hysterical about something she should never have seen, they came to an agreement.
Her secret punctured a hole so deep in Levi's perspective on Strand and its Tower that he resigned as Chief of Security. He fled, to this very Summit. It was enough for Henry to turn down a position on Veighman's security detail. It was enough to ignite an uprising across all three levels of the Tower, waiting quietly to burst alive.
Henry returned to the Terra Layer to divert attention from Islaire, where Levi would establish this base in the Nether. Charlotte, their Venter coordinator, only needed a signal. Her surprise when this delinquent son blew the Roseyard power plant after thirty years of quiet was understandable.
The only part of the story unlike a fairy tale was its ending. In place of happily ever after, Henry was gone, Rose was fire, and Charlotte was as much a prisoner as she was a Venter Lab researcher.
"I never expected he would start a family," said Levi finally, "He knew the risks." Quincy stared at his shoes, numb. The radio in his dad's drawer was proof enough, but he couldn't help thinking its a lie.
"What did you see, Charlotte?" he managed, after pointless seconds trying to decipher it all, "What convinced these idiots to throw their lives away?"
"That's all we can tell you before a full Port analysis. Just what's already in Strand's records. Anything further will jeopardize the Summit if they've bugged you." Levi answered for her.
"For such a key player, you're awfully quiet," Quincy mused at the radio.
"Venter Labs are not always somewhere she can speak freely. This radio is from Henry's Guardian days. Its supposed to be decommissioned, and the only reason we can speak with her at all," Levi told him.
"Sir!" a breathless young man swung in the glass door to the room, "The Maelstrom Channel's under fire!" Levi snapped to his feet.
"Tribal warships!" All eyes turned to Mabel.
"Why would I be here if I was cavorting with Maselyn?" she grunted, "She must've turned coats."
"Can you turn her back?" said Crichton.
"Try. Take three ships from the Tempest," said Levi. It took seconds of panic for Quincy to understand why Levi took charge of the Summit. He divided responsibility among those qualified with an intensity that could qualify anyone. After the tale of Henry, Levi, and Charlotte, Quincy expected at least a minor role. What he got was, "Stay here until we have time to deal with you."
Regis Corman had no intention of dying where he wasn't wanted. With a fresh shipment of Islairian scotch in the Lady's belly, he left the place in chaos. While Crichton manned turrets on high walls, Corman jammed crates under false floorboards. While Mabel's fleet shot through Strand cruisers, he sipped smooth fire to take the edge off at the helm.
Out on Sapphire Lake, he had no idea one of the crates he'd picked up from the Sorry Saddle was stocked with frustrated, Unfit adolescence in place of Marauder's Mud, eighty-proof. Quincy wouldn't die in Islaire either. If he had his way, no one would.
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...