Chapter 24 - Cynara

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Thursday, November 9, 2000

“I don’t know, I think that if we were going to be superheros, we’d need a better plan then ‘let’s attack everything that’s bad.’ I mean, for one, you have to define bad. Evil? Didn’t pay their parking tickets? Bad fashion sense?”

“Oh, well, if all of those are our qualifiers we might as well attack everyone.” Zita smiled that sharp, strange smile she had. “Which could be fun…”

“Now, ah’m sure not everyone is bad,” Howard offered. “Ah mean, lots of people, of course. But even down here, there’s some good ‘uns.”

“It shouldn’t be too hard to find the good ones,” Leo offered. “They’re usually pretty obvious.”

Cya smiled at all of them. “Oh, I think we can find good people. I just think we need better strategy than ‘beat them all up.’” She shrugged, because she wasn’t comfortable pushing her point with these people yet. “But we have some time to work on that, I think.”

“Plenty of time.” Zita tugged on her collar cheerfully. “I don’t think we’re going to be going off on any rescue missions right away.”

Cya swallowed a sigh. “No, it’s not very likely.” The tug of an order was pulling at her mind: Come home right after your classes. I don’t want you wandering the halls alone. “Well, this is where we split. Have fun, you two.”

“I think I might.” Zita smiled mysteriously, which had the interesting side effect of making Howard groan. “You two enjoy yourselves.”

“Oh, yeah,” Leo agreed, although there was a bit of strain in his expression.

“I’m making pie,” Cya offered. “There ought to be enough for everyone.”

“Oh, that’s good.” He perked up a little bit, but it seemed forced, fake. Cya swallowed — again — the urge to punch Eriko. She wasn’t even allowed to speak sharply to the woman, much less hit her.

She found herself smiling tightly as well. She wouldn’t always be Kept. She wouldn’t always be not allowed to have an opinion. “What kind of pie do you want?” she asked, to distract herself from the plans beginning to form in the back of her head. Dysmas could, on occasion, be very good at reading her — and Leo could be even better. She didn’t want either of them seeing what she was considering.

“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “What kind you want to make?”

She wrinkled her nose at him. “The sort appreciated by my audience,” she retorted. She wasn’t going to think about that too hard, and she knew he was unlikely to, either. “So… what shall it be?”

“Well, if I have to decide… maybe not cherry? Something that goes well with ice cream?”

“I can do that… I’ve got apples, I can do that.” Cya went through her stock of food mentally. Aviv was fairly good about not stealing that which wasn’t his, but Eriko seemed to take everything in the kitchen as communal property — unless she’d bought it for herself, and then heaven help the poor Kept who happened to want it for a recipe. “If not apple pie, I can probably do a peach one.” There always seemed to be fresh fruit — fruit that actually tasted in-season — in the Store. Since nothing else made any sense here, Cya hadn’t wasted an energy questioning October peaches.

“Cool.” Leo smiled brightly at her. “I mean, if you were going to make a pie anyway…”

“I want some pie,” she told him firmly. “I’m going to make it anyway, and I’m going to make enough to share anyway. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have some. It’s not like food is in short supply.”

“Well, if you don’t feel like cooking, I guess you don’t have to eat.” The voice echoed through the hallway — angry, nasty, female. “Just go sit in a corner and think about what you’ve done wrong.”

“But…” The first voice had been foreign, unknown. This one sounded like Cya. “I didn’t have lunch…”

Cya frowned. She wasn’t like that. She didn’t argue with Dysmas and she never went hungry, although sometimes she still felt faint after he’d been feeding from her. Why…

“Do you think I care if you have lunch? Now be a good pet and do as you’re told. Go. Sit. In. The. **Corner!”*** With each word, the phantom voice became louder and louder. A breeze picked up in the hallway, quickly become a gale.

“Unknown, invisible… ἀνωνυμία?” Cya’s Greek still needed a lot of work. “Idu Intinn ἀνωνυμία,” she whispered, Dysmas’ orders pressing at her. That’s a powerful word, he’d said, be careful with it. She was being careful, she thought, and added a gamma onto the end of her working.

At first, she didn’t think it was going to do anything. The voice that sounded like hers was still whimpering and whining. Leo was smiling tightly and looking more and more stressed. And then she caught a wave of images: blood, so much blood, and shouting. She’d never heard anyone shout so much, so incoherently, so painfully.

Cya thought her eardrums would rupture, although the screaming was all in her mind. She fought to break the Working, but it was as if it had grabbed ahold of her and was Working her now. The screaming and yelling grew louder and louder.

It was too much. Cya crumpled, unconscious before she hit the floor.

She struggled to consciousness. There was lightning everywhere, and the smells of ozone and scorched paint filled the air. The screaming hadn’t stopped. She lost hold on the world again.

She blinked her eyes open with effort. She had to move. She had to… the walls were black. No, the world was black. She thought she could still hear the shouting. She let go of consciousness more willingly this time.


She woke up to a frown. Dysmas’ frown, and then, a moment later, Caitrin’s frown.

“What happened?” Dysmas sounded irritated. Cya gave him a watery smile to hide the misery inside. “Eriko’s boy said you passed out in the hall, but Dr. Caitrin says that you’re not Changing yet.”

Other people had Changed. Cya hadn’t, yet, and she was beginning to wonder if she’d never get antlers. Even Leo had antlers. And she’d have thought that was just for boys, but Arnbjörg had horns…

He’d asked her a question. Cya blinked. “There were, ah. I was hearing—” No, you didn’t say I was hearing voices. Never admit to anything too strange, anything that might mark you as different, that was one of her father’s favorite maxims. “I heared someone talking and I couldn’t see them, so I did an Idu and an Intinn—” Dysmas got very unhappy if she used Idu Intinn together without a careful break there, as if she might not like what she saw in his mind or something “—and I saw something in the person’s mind, the invisible person. There was a lot of blood.”

“A lot of blood?” Caitrin’s voice was sharp and worried. “And—what else?”

“Shouting. A lot of shouting, but mostly inside my head, as if whoever’s mind I’d found, they just kept shouting. They were very upset, something about their—”

“That’s enough, Cynara.” Dysmas squeezed her hand. “You’re fine, then? Not Changing? I had to interrupt my game to come get you.”

For a moment, she thought he cared. She watched his face, searching for the little tells she could sometimes see.

“She is staying here for the night,” Dr. Caitrin interrupted. “You can go back to your game, Dysmas.”

He frowned down at Cynara. “I told you to be careful with those words. See what happens when you’re not?”

She wanted to say I was careful, but she found herself nodding miserably instead. “Of course,” she agreed weakly. “I’ll be more careful later.”

He frowned down at Cynara.

“Yes. You will. I’ll see you in the morning, then.” He turned on his heel and left, as if this was all her fault somehow. Cya sank back into the bed and tried not to look a third as miserable as she felt.


**Idu Intinn: Know Mind

ἀνωνυμία: anonymity, namelessness.

Gamma: power levels go by the Greek Alphabet upwards: alpha, beta, gamma…