If the night is day and the day is night, then what am I?
Arc 3 Decisions
“Wake up! Wake up!” A high pitched shrill voice greeted Hales in the morning, bright and early. She groaned as consciousness was restored to her from the previous night. There were three of them all jumping and tugging on her sheets yelling excitedly. Her siblings. The oldest of which was her brother at ten years old and her two sisters at seven and five.
“Ugh.” The extent of Hales’ vocabulary this early in the day. She grabbed a pillow and covered her face and ears with it, attempting to drown out the noise.
“Stars, stars, stars!”
“And planets too!” They giggled and danced and jeered around the room singing about space. Hales had promised the night before that in the morning she’d use her Aspect to give them a show. Her siblings loved to see her Solar Aspect at work but she hadn’t used her power in a week. Ever since the tournament she had practically been in a recovery coma, staying in bed and resting. They kept her up last night begging to see her power and in the moment she made a promise to show them first thing in the morning, tomorrow, which is now today. It had worked last night but she was regretting her short sightedness.
“Okay okay, let me wake up.” Hales said as she rubbed her eyes. The kids calmed down after seeing their victory, they were conniving if nothing else.
“I’m hungry.” Lauri’s little voice spoke up, she was the youngest and carried every inch of her mother’s looks. It was uncanny and Hales could never say no.
“Aw, I’ll make you some breakfast then we can see the stars.” Hales gave Lauri a big hug and the other two joined in, their excitement renewed at the prospect of food.
“Ouch!” Hales winced as they embraced too enthusiastically, her ribs were still tender.
“Alright Jed, go take everyone to the living room and I’ll make pancakes.” She ruffled his hair and the boy’s eyes lit up at the word.
“Pancakes!” He grabbed his two younger sisters hands and sprinted out the door, dragging them along with him. Jed was surprisingly strong for his age but his eyes were oblivious and full of childhood innocence. Lauri, even though she was only five, already had quiet peaceful eyes. She was shy but cared about things on a deeper level, as if she was friends with the whole world. Then there was Secille, the seven year old, who was sly and observant. She was smart for her age and had the most understanding eyes out of the three.
Hales’ Aspect was a galaxy but her siblings were her world. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for them. Right now that meant making pancakes and showing them miniature space.
Hales prepared batter and was turning on the stove when her phone lit up with a text. It was Dartan.
“Got info on that Rabio guy, when are you free?”
Hales replied, “How about lunch today?”
Dartan responded instantly. “Usual coffee place?”
“Magun wants to come, you mind?”
“Yea that’s cool.” Hales put her phone down and finished making breakfast. She set the plates on a tray and grabbed silverware, not that they would use the utensils but it was worth a try.
“It’s hot so be careful.” Hales warned and left the living room to retrieve syrup. The three kids chorused their thanks and immediately began to drown their pancakes in syrup. Hales would never understand a kids’ fascination with messy food.
“Use a fork Jed!” Hales berated. He was old enough to know better but seeing his two younger sisters eat with their hands made him do the same. To his credit, Jed did use a fork, only to tear the hot pancakes apart easier. Hales sighed, dreading the cleanup that would have to follow.
Hales was actually eager to try out her power, it had been a week and she wasn’t sure if her stamina could sustain even a tiny solar system. That’s how drained she was, how far she pushed herself during the tournament.
Hales focused her mind and centered herself, forgetting everything going on. All the stress and exhaustion and pain washing away from her thoughts. The anticipated noises from the kids slowly muted as Hales went deeper into trance. Meditation was a strange thing. At first when the eyes are closed, there is trapped light inside the lids that dance and make discombobulated shapes. After the mind is quieted and thoughts slip away it becomes dark and the vision, in a most strange manner, appears to merge with the consciousness as if seeing with the mind or thinking through the eyes. Brainwaves alter into a near sleep state and perception changes the deeper the trance is. Feelings of vastness, insignificance, and oneness flood the body in an impossible yet completely real way.
Hales was familiar with this deep state of meditation, she trained for five months attaining this state, holding and exploring it. In this state one could unlock the mysterious power of the Aspect, an actualization of the potential of the human mind and body or the tapping into of a primordial force that flows through the universe. The truth remained unknown, only its existence was certain.
Hales awakened her Aspect once more, her mind entering a swirling spiral galaxy. Her galaxy. The majesty of colorful stars and orbiting planets and the millions upon millions of systems all unique and all perfectly natural thrilled her with a sense of amazement that rivaled a good night’s sleep. Hales lost herself floating through the expanse of space, the visions awesome to behold.
She came upon a nebula, a host of ideas flooding the more tactical part of her brain. Why she hadn’t thought of this before was a mystery to her. She drew out part of the nebula and it hovered above her open hand. Secille gasped first.
“Wow!” Jed’s jaw dropped and Lauri clapped and giggled. The nebula gas was a brilliant shade of pinkish red made up of thousands of tiny particles all glittering and scintillating. Hales got up slowly to turn off the lights.
“This is a nebula.” Hales explained in the darkened room, “It’s stardust, everything in the universe comes from this. Our planet, the three of you, the trees and animals and everything. Stars form from this and the leftover dust makes the planets.” Her siblings were awed by the display but Hales was even more dazzled. To hold space at her fingertips was so surreal, gazing at the beauty of creation that whirled before her very eyes.
With her free hand Hales drew out more of the nebula, she knew the process in theory but actually facilitating the birth of a star is a different matter entirely. It’s a scaled down model and she could more or less control the gravity. Star formation essentially boils down to gravity and the stabilization of the core once a certain amount of mass is reached.
Using her left hand’s nebula she set the collective gravity to a space in front of her. The dust flowed to the point and began to congeal in a spinning mass. Star creation is a process that takes millions of years of course, but sized down Hales supposed that it might be completed in mere minutes.
Hales wanted to put on a show for her siblings but beyond that reason she was curious to test this out as a possible new power. The clouds of stardust alone made for a useful attack or defense but adding the ability to make a star from a smokescreen just gave her more options and diversity.
Hales started to rotate the nebula on her right hand. It needed to be fast but too much speed risked the hot gases spewing all over the place. She settled on a velocity that felt right, the gases were beginning to congregate towards a center point. Moving her hand under the first nebula she forced the spinning nebula in her right hand to rotate in the middle of where she set the gravity from the first nebula. The right hand nebula was still under her control and the rate at which it turned influenced the gases that had been sent from her left hand. It made for a strange interaction between a fixed gravitational point and a set rotational speed that were both occupying the same place. The conclusion resulted in that focal point collapsing on itself making a sort of well that the gases poured into.
Hales did it. A star was forming but it would be a few minutes before it actually finished. There was nothing else she needed to do so she let control in her right hand go and moved over to sit near her siblings, watching as stardust became star.
The star turned out larger than she expected and there was little remaining stardust, far too little to form any more planets. Whatever she’d done seemed to have worked very effectively. She made a mental note on practicing more with star creation.
With the show over, Hales cleaned off the dishes and struggled to wash everyone’s sticky hands. The star would die on its own, the kids liked to watch it burn out as they sometimes made tiny supernovas.
Hales had a few hours to kill before midday so she showered and napped to pass the time. Her days at home were usually spent alone and quietly. This week especially had been like that as she recovered from her various wounds and the sickness that comes from overusing powers. Deciding she needed extra time to walk the few blocks to the coffee shop, Hales phoned their usual babysitter and prepared to leave an hour ahead of schedule. The babysitter was a sweet plump girl who always raided their pantry claiming to ‘make food for the kids’. Hales liked the girl and thought her clever for being a babysitter to cut down on grocery costs. It was the kind of thing Hales appreciated in a person.
Hales greeted the girl when she arrived and told her she’d be gone for the greater part of the day. With that taken care of Hales gingerly made her way through the city, testing out her bed-ridden muscles. The city streets were how they always were, filled with busy bodies set on whatever task the day gave them. The coffee shop was a dozen blocks from her house and she made it there just as Dartan and Magun found a booth inside.
“Yo.” Hales greeted the two and gratefully sat down, her breathing a lot harder than she would have liked. The trek caused the pain in her ribs to flair up and she took a moment to compose herself.
“You okay?” Magun asked.
“Yeah, just sore from my injuries.”
“You look like you’ve been up to something.” Dartan observed, Hales had somewhat of a glint in her eyes. The newfound power exciting her.
“Just found a new way to use my Aspect.” She gauged their reactions, Magun was shaking his head in disbelief, “I think even Master Klyle would be amazed at your development.”
Dartan was more analytical. “Hmm, I wonder why that is?”
Hales shrugged, “I think it’s because I already knew so much about space before I got my Aspect.”
“Still, I think you might be the best in the whole class.” Magun complemented.
“What is it?” Dartan asked referring to her new power.
“Nebulae. I even made a star out of the gases.”
“A nebula is like space dust right?” Magun asked. Dartan took over in responding, “Yeah they’re pretty much the building blocks of the universe. I can imagine there’s a lot of use for that.”
“Oh definitely, my mind is just swimming in ideas.” Hales left to order a coffee and she returned to find Magun and Dartan deep in conversation discussing new possibilities for their own Aspect, not wanting to fall too far behind their adept classmate.
“I can do a lot with my cannon but I’m at a loss when it comes down to using it in different ways. I’ve only been practicing shooting and growing it faster.”
“You should research guns.” Hales said, rejoining the conversation.
“What do you mean?” Magun could be a little slow at times Hales admitted to herself with a slight smile. Dartan noticed it and instantly grinned, agreeing with her thought. Magun remained oblivious.
“Look into antique cannons, different guns, missile launchers. Anything that shoots things. Pay attention to the shot type and the design of the barrel. If you can shape your cannon you might be able to use a variety of weapon types. That’s what I would do, I think.” Hales concluded lamely.
Magun was rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “I know I can shoot out a couple different cannon types but I never thought about going that deep into it.”
“We know.” Dartan teased, the sarcastic implication clear.
“At least I made it passed the prelims.” Magun grumbled. Dartan raised his eyebrows. Hales guessed Magun had been using the same retort for the last week. She wasn’t wrong.
“That’s actually really good advice Hales.” He turned to Dartan, “Want to stop by a library after this?”
“Fine by me. I need more math books anyway.”
“So Dartan, your Rule Aspect uses real math equations?” Hales asked, never fully comprehending his power.
“Yes and no. It’s random each time I activate it but every object, element, and law of physics gets an equation. If I can solve the equation, I can rewrite the numbers to change how it works, to put it simply.”
“So the whole world just becomes numbers for you?”
“Wish it was that easy. Numbers, letters, symbols. It’s some high level math, some of which doesn’t even exist to us. Those equations are usually attached to the most complex objects. It can range from simple algebra and geometry to calculus all the way to proofs and beyond.”
“Proofs?” Hales was getting a headache from the thought of having such a complex Aspect to deal with. She knew Dartan liked it though, it was a challenge that was leading him to expand his knowledge base tenfold.
“Exactly why I’m going to get more math books. Most of my Aspect uses college level mathematics or above.”
“Sounds like you’re on the right track then.”
“I think so, once I have the foundation I can really begin to explore my Rule.”
The trio lapsed into a silence for a minute as they enjoyed their drinks and food. Dartan broke the silence first. “So about this Rabio guy. He’s pretty interesting but I’m not sure if he can be trusted.” Dartan went on, “He was a nobody until he made a fortune as a gambler. Specifically gambling on specters, like the tournament we had. Apparently he’s never bet wrong. A perfect record.”
“Does he have an Aspect?” Hales asked.
“No evidence suggests that. I think he’s just wickedly smart and rich.”
“He offered me a job, I’m supposed to go to an interview in a couple of days.”
“I don’t think you should take it.” Magun added in.
“Why not, it’s just an interview for starters.” Hales said defensively. Dartan and Magun exchanged glances.
“You’d be breaking your military contract,” said Dartan.
“And there’s something else.” Magun spoke tentatively.
Dartan cleared his throat before continuing. “Rabio is planning on leaving Garghent. There’s plenty of signs.” He was about to elaborate when Hales cut him off.
“It’s okay, I believe you. His lackey, Mathis, hinted that something bad is about to happen.”
“War.” Magun stated plainly. Dartan nodded agreement.
“If that’s the case then the city might need you, Hales.” Dartan said somberly. Hales never wanted to be in the military, it was simply the easiest option. The idea of war did change things. She thought at best she’d have a few years before anything that drastic took place. The possibility of fighting right out the gate made her uncomfortable.
“And Rabio’s never wrong.” Hales commented. It didn’t make sense to her that he was without an Aspect. The whole situation felt sketchy to her. Something is definitely wrong. What that something is alluded her.
“Okay, I need to mull things over. Thanks guys.” Hales downed the rest of her coffee and left the building.
Hales needed to decide her purpose. What was she to the world. A weapon, a hero, a soldier? Were the obligations to her school and city so important she had to forgo all thoughts of self. Hales had a rare opportunity to leave it all behind, but not really. Joining Rabio in whatever scheme he was planning translated to just changing owners. Those were her options. A soldier or a bodyguard. Hales was second guessing herself. She needed to talk to someone else, get a different perspective.
Hales pulled out her phone and dialed Deo’s number. She hadn’t talked to him since before the tournament and she was a little nervous. Deo picked up after a few rings.
“Hey, can we meet up for dinner?” Hales asked, the words rushing out too fast.
She could hear the smile in his voice through the phone.
“Back from the dead, eh?”