“Fuck and damn, Wolf, you’ve gotten mean. Turned into a real bastard haven’t you?” Rocky grimaces as he holds his arm. “You used to be nice when we spar.”
“You all left me to have one on one with the Iron Bull,” Ellana replies, “What, exactly, did you think was going to happen?”
“I didn’t think you’d hold a grudge.” Even as Rocky says it, Ellana can see him realizing the folly of his words. “Alright. I mean. It’s you. Of course you’re gonna hold a grudge. Wouldn’t be you otherwise. I didn’t think you’d take it out on me like this though.”
“Again, what did you think was going to happen?” Ellana rolls her shoulders, testing the movement of her arms. Rocky had gotten her legs out from under her and given her a good toss. There’s a slight pull on her right bicep that could either be from her poor landing or a poor punch she’d thrown at a bad angle. Ellana tests her right arm again to see if the strain persists.
It does, unfortunately.
“Knowing you, it’d be more subtle than trying to cave my face in during a sparring match,” Rocky continues. “I thought you’d…rearrange the patrol schedules to give me a really bad one. Or purposefully get me sent out on a shit mission to the marshes or somewhere like that.”
Ellana shoots Rocky a fond look. “Like engenders like, Rocky. Fair turn around. You leave me to suffer in the training ring with the Iron Bull, the next time I catch you in the ring you’re mine to toss around.”
“So…after this are we even?” Rocky asks.
Ellana smiles at him. Rocky wilts under it.
“What do you think the answer to that question is, Rocky?” Ellana replies, sweet like syrup and sugar pastry.
“I think you’ve got a vindictive streak wider than this damn mountain range,” Rocky groans. “And I think if you angled that last hit any differently you might have popped my arm out of socket.”
“Lucky you,” Ellana replies, prodding her own arm with her fingertips. Maybe it’s just a bruise. The more she moves her arm the less it hurts. Or maybe her pain tolerance has grown. She’ll ask Dalish to check it later. Not Stitches. “Maybe consider not leaving people to the Chief’s ruthless mercies next time.”
“It really was for your own good, you know,” Rocky grumbles. “You needed the hand to hand combat training. Sure you weren’t awful at it before, but now look at you. You can hold your own against templars.”
“I could always hold my own against templars,” Ellana points out.
“With your fists?” Rocky shakes his head. “Right. Sure. And I’m the real Herald of Andraste.”
Ellana scowls at him. “I’m not arguing that it hasn’t been helpful. I’m trying to make a point that you all didn’t have to abandon me for one on one when you could have stuck around to help me. You know what he’s like.”
“Consider it a right of passage.”
“Consider this the consequences.”
“Wolf,” Rocky meets her eyes, “Look. Consider it a betrayal if you want — “
“I do want. And I do consider it as such. I do not need your permission.”
“ — but can you think about it from our point of view for a second?”
Ellana stares him down in silence before answering. “There. I thought about it. For a whole ten seconds. I don’t consider it justified. I’m still going to hold it against you.”
“I mean, really think about it. You think any of us want to be hanging around when you and the Chief are flirting?”
“You call him making me swing a training sword for two hours flirting? I assure you, I do not. I would have deeply, deeply appreciated any sort of interference,” Ellana replies. “I did not come out of any of those training experiences feeling flirted with. There were no positive associations or thoughts going through my head then or now when I’m thinking about it. If anything I crawled out of those experiences with more negative thoughts in my head about him and the rest of you than I did going into them.”
“Alright, fine. Maybe it didn’t seem like flirting to you. And maybe the Chief only thought of about ten percent of it as an opportunity to tease you and rile you up. But I promise you from an outside perspective the tension you two create when both of you get focused on something and get into it is enough to choke on.” Rocky grimaces. “Even when you two are arguing with each other. It’s intense, Wolf. It’s stupid intense.”
“The Iron Bull has an intense personality.”
“So do you.”
“Only when someone forces me to,” Ellana retorts. “And the Iron Bull seems to enjoy forcing me to.”
“I think you enjoy being forced to rise to the occasion,” Rocky replies. “It gives you an excuse to let loose. You’re normally so quiet and buttoned up.”
Ellana points to herself. “Me? Buttoned up? I think you have me confused with some other elf who’s been signed on with the Chargers. Or some other elf in general. No one’s ever considered me…buttoned up in my life.”
“For a Charger you’re pretty tame unless someone pokes you,” Rocky says. “Like a hornet’s nest.”
The man grins, gesturing to his face, “You even got the warning stripes.”
Ellana rolls her eyes, shaking her head as she pulls herself over the side of the training ring fence to collect her things.
“Are we even now?” Rocky asks.
“Don’t do it again,” Ellana says.
“I am not interfering in whatever special training plans the Chief has for you unless explicitly ordered to.”
“Then we aren’t even,” Ellana says. “You haven’t learned your lesson. And I will continue to be as brutal in our sparring sessions as need be until you do.”
“Come on, Wolf, mercy.”
Ellana throws Rocky a sharp smile over her shoulder. “Asking a wolf for mercy, Rocky? Really?”
“It’s not like you to be indecisive, Wolf.” Skinner picks her teeth with a fish bone as she lounges on the damp grass.
“And it’s not like you to be patient, so we’re all trying something new today,” Ellana replies, cradling her head in her palm. With her free hand she cracks her knuckles with her thumb one finger at a time. “Let’s run through it again.”
“We’ve gone through it ten times,” Skinner says, flicking her fishbone off into the distant grass. If either of them step on it that’s a problem for later.
“Let’s go for a nice dozen then.”
“You aren’t going to find some miraculous new answer. We’ve got two choices and you’ve got to pick one.”
“There’s two of us here, I don’t see why I have to be the one to pick. You have seniority over me, don’t you? Why aren’t you calling the shots here?”
“Because I don’t care enough to call the shots on this one,” Skinner replies, crossing her ankles. “And you’re hilarious when you’re stuck on something. Best entertainment I’ve gotten out of anyone in a good week.”
“Only a week?” Ellana tilts her head in Skinner’s direction.
Skinner thinks it over, frowning at the sky. “When did Grim get his arm stuck in a barrel? Was that this week?”
“It was four days ago,” Ellana says.
“Alright. Fair enough. You’re the best entertainment I’ve gotten out of anyone in four days. You’re stalling now. Make a choice.”
“You’re asking me to choose between a rock and a bed of nails.”
“The rock sounds preferable.”
“A poisonous rock.”
“Is there such a thing?”
“In my figurative set up, yes.”
“Slow acting or instantaneous? What kind of symptoms should I expect from your figurative poisonous rock?”
Ellana lifts her head to turn towards the other woman, glaring at her.
“You’ve spent too long with the Iron Bull. You talk like him now.”
Skinner raises her head, too, glaring at Ellana and jabbing a finger at her. “Take that back. You take that the fuck back. I’m not going to lie down and take that kind of shit from anyone, least of all you.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
“It means if any of us acts more like the Iron Bull it’s you, you bloody hypocrite. Stop trying to stall and pick a damn plan. We can’t just stay here forever. We’d drive each other insane. We’d end up killing each other for sport.”
Ellana scowls. “Then help me make a choice!”
“I did try to help you make a choice but you’re not listening. Make a different one.”
“Our two choices are either we go straight through the forest and gate chased by the incredibly territorial wyverns in the middle of their mating season rut, or we take a full week to go around the woods and get chased by angry magpies that like to dive at people’s heads. Our choices are shit. Absolute shit, Skinner. Forgive me for hoping I can figure out a third way around this one.”
Skinner holds up her middle finger. “Coward.”
Ellana matches the gesture. “Layabout.”
Ellana tucks her head down between her knees, cupping her hands at the back of her neck as she draws in a breath and focuses. In her mind she draws a map of the area, scouring her memory for any detail — useful or not — that could possibly help them now. There aren’t any.
Bull’s voice in the back of her mind points out, very reasonably, that magpies have less overall strength than wyverns. Ellana’s own internal voice retorts that at the most they’d be running from one or two wyverns at a time. The magpies swarm this time of year. That’s dozens if not hundreds of birds trying to rip off their faces.
She slides her thumb underneath her collar pressing against the bone at the nape of her neck.
What would Krem say?
Wyverns have the smaller number. It’s the faster route. If Ellana and Skinner pay close attention to the wind and try to stick to trees they should be fine. What stock do they have? Enough if they’re careful.
If they aren’t careful?
And the birds. It’s longer way around. The birds may or may not attack. If it’s possible to avoid the flock, to avoid any nesting sites, they can go through it unscathed. It all depends on where the birds are and where they’re moving in the area. What can Ellana and Skinner do against hundreds of birds?
What can Ellana and Skinner do against one or two wyverns?
Which one are they more likely to be able to endure?
Ellana breathes in slow, nose tickling with the smell of grass and dirt.
“You’ve made a choice?” Skinner asks.
“You can tell?”
“I told you,” Skinner says, “You’re more like the Chief than the rest of us now. You even breathe the way he does when he’s made a hard decision and chosen something he doesn’t particularly like.”
Ellana exhales through her mouth, pressing the air through her teeth.
“Wyverns,” Ellana says.
Skinner sighs. “Should we try to pack ourselves with mud to try and disguise our scents?”
“Might as well,” Ellana replies. “Anything that could help. hopefully the forest’s trees are good for climbing.”
“We’ll find out, huh?” Skinner rises to her feet, walking int he direction of the small river — more like a creek — they’d passed. “Alright. Let’s get started on this. If there’s leeches in the mud I’ll throw you in first.”
“If there’s leeches in the mud we’ll have to take them back for Stitches as an apology gift,” Ellana points out, “For when he has to patch us up because we ran through woods full of rutting wyverns.”
“We could get lucky,” Skinner says.
“Since when were you an optimist?”
“You’re right. We probably won’t. I’ll throw you down so I can escape and tell everyone about how valiant you were.”
Ellana rolls her eyes. “Right. Sure. I’ll bring you down with me. You wouldn’t want me to die alone, would you?”
If Ellana had not walked out that door things would be different. In hindsight that is easy to say, to think. With the full picture building itself before his eyes, with the distance of time and the clarity provided by context, it’s easy to blame everything on that one departure.
Ellana walked through a door.
The world went to absolute shit.
Who would have thought? The world ruins itself over one wrong door. If there is a god, any sort of god, then what sort of world did they create that it could get fucked over by the wrong door being opened? And if that’s intentional what kind of fucked up mess of a god is that?
Three years ago they were normal people living their normal boring lives. Normal, in the sense that they were not at war. Normal in the sense that there was room to breathe and laugh and every day didn’t feel like waking up to a living nightmare in a colorless world that seemed to wildly swing between not caring about anyone or anything and maliciously intent on eradicating everything with a pulse that dared to exist on it.
Three years ago they were all just people. Bull’s greatest concern was how his defection from the Qun would effect his living situation. Ellana’s greatest concern was getting the proper travel documents to see her cousin’s wedding. Maybe it should have been something else, but that’s what Bull remembers. And if he starts doubting his memory now he won’t have anything left so he doesn’t. Let other people doubt for him. It makes no difference at this point.
They had jobs. Well. Bull still has the same job as before. He’s still a soldier. Still a spy.
Even when the world is collapsing in on itself there is a need for his type of work.
Three years ago they were normal people with normal people problems. They did normal people things.
They made dinner. They watched television. They read books. They had friends with whom they would eat dinner with and talk about what they say on television and discuss what they read in books. They had coworkers who they would talk to.
They would do things with their friends, their family. Go on picnics, hold barbecues, go to parks, visit bars, go to game rooms, check out the county fair when the season came around —
Attempt escape rooms.
Bull remembers Ellana in that shitty lighting as she ran her palm over the wooden door. Stage three of that particular escape room series and they had two minutes left. Three doors. One of them is the escape, the other two are fake.
He stands in front of one door, Ellana in front of the other. The third they had just checked together. Behind them, in the room before this one, the others look over clues and laugh and bicker with increasing excitement as the clock counts down. They are looking for a clue to figure out if there was a hint as to which door would be the correct one.
Two minutes left until they time out on the escape room.
Bull watches this memory as a third person spectator. He walks around the space he would have taken and braces his hand on the door Ellana stands in front of.
Would things have changed if they had waited out those two minutes and let the time run out? Or would things have eventually become what they did, anyway, just later on?
Two minutes until the escape room ends.
But only a handful of seconds until the world as they know it does.
Bull examines his memory of those few seconds. Ellana smiles, the smile crooked and pulling up one side of her face higher than the other. She’s just as giddy as the others are, excited as her hand curls around the door knob. She’s going to open her door. She’s tired of listening to them bicker about it.
She winks at him, mouth splitting with laughter that goes unnoticed as she turns her wrist.
This is the last he will ever see of her. And in that moment he did not say anything at all, caught up in the moment as the rest of them are. He thinks that they’re still playing. That this is still a game.
Ellana opens her door and passes through it and Bull opens his, too.
Bull opens his door. His is the exit and he turns to tell the others to hurry over as the time counts down.
They rush out, delighted at having defeated the set up of the room.
But Ellana does not come out. The timer counts down to nothing but Ellana does not come out. She should have realized her door was not the right one.
Bull steps back across the threshold and he walks to her door, cracked ajar. He opens it.
There’s no one on the other side. There’s nothing on the other side.
“Ellana?” He doesn’t call her name, it’s Evelyn who does. She ducks around him, stepping into the room. “Ellana, the game is over. Ellana?”
There is no answer. There will never be an answer.
Bull in the memory walks into the room, every sense and instinct on high alert. Something is wrong, everything is wrong.
“Ellana?” Her name repeated by six voices in an uncoordinated chorus as their friends trickle into the room, employees behind them.
Their calling becomes a phone call to the police. It becomes an investigation. It becomes a news headline.
It becomes a body — cold and dead — deposited careless to be found by anyone. It becomes a funeral.
It becomes the tipping point to tensions that had been simmering for centuries. It becomes the catalyst for plans no one realized were in place until they began to act and unfold.
It becomes the spark that sets the world on fire.
Bull rewinds the memory. If he had followed her, if he had chosen her door instead —
No. No more hypotheticals.
He rewinds the memory. Replays her laugh. Her smile. The motion of her wrist.
Yeah. Like this. Just so.
“And what are you doing, exactly?” Bull asks Ellana as she and Evelyn start sketching something out in the sand between themselves. Ellana reaches back and gestures for him to come over. She then stands up to maneuver him into standing directly between her, Evelyn, and the viewing window. Then after a moment, she makes him kneel so that he’s also giving them partial cover from one of the observation cameras in the corner.
“I am so fucking hungry,” Evelyn hisses. “Some berries and water and a couple of leaves? This is what they think people from Earth eat like? Combatants from earth? Are they fucking insane? I want to meet the scientists who did the caloric intake calculations on this.”
“Bull, you’ve got to be more hungry than we are, you need at least a third more calories than Evelyn and I do,” Ellana whispers. “How are you handling?”
“I think you’re both forgetting that I’ve trained to starve,” Bull says, draping his arms over their shoulders as he tries to make sense of the drawing they’d made on the ground. “What are you two planning? If we do anything stupid they might decide to kill and dissect us or something. We should stay quiet until the Inquisition busts us out. Or official delegation from the alliance crops up.”
“We are in a people zoo,” Evelyn glares at him. “They are keeping sentient creatures locked up to be gawked at. For entertainment purposes. And they’re also probably shit at keeping them at a baseline for care because — well. Fucking take a look around you. This is their idea of a terran enclosure.”
Bull grimaces. It is pretty stupid.
It’s some sort of weird cross between the savannah and a rain forest. Bull’s not sure how they pulled it off or why they thought it was a good idea. They’ve created the scene out of non-native flora that just looks close enough to the real deal that would trick most people who’ve never seen earth’s native species. There’s a few things that do come from earth — dandelions — but they don’t belong in this sort of terrain anyway so it doesn’t really lend any credence to it at all.
They are being fed. And there’s plenty of water.
The problem is they aren’t being fed nearly enough and with the current situation at hand it’s made both Evelyn and Ellana beyond cranky. Bull should probably be more upset about the situation, but he’s currently focused on trying to pin down the time table of operations around here.
From what he can tell, this whole thing doesn’t seem malicious. The keepers of this…zoo are earnestly trying to take care of them in a very patronizing way. The people who come in seem to range from fully grown to juvenile, with several of what looks like infants of this alien species. Overall, it’s like a regular zoo. Except it has sentient races inside.
Bull doesn’t know if these aliens realize they’ve captured sentient beings or not, or if they care. From the window of their enclosure, if he squints against the glare, he can see a few of the other zoo enclosures. He recognized a one of the exhibits in a vague way, but he didn’t see any occupants. He’s starting to piece together the language of these aliens and he thinks he’s heard of about two or three other sentient races, mixed in with a dozen or more non-sentient ones he’s familiar with.
“It’s time for Evelyn to execute what her race is good at,” Ellana says, “Like. Pull a human. And for once have it do some good.”
“And what does that mean?” Bull asks.
“It means I’m about to scare the absolute shit out of these bastards,” Evelyn says. “Persistence predator mode activate.”
Bull’s eyebrows raise. “You’re going to hunt these poor ignorant fucks?”
“I’m going to drive them into the ground and then bring down the Inquisition on them with the full weight of the Galactic Alliance behind me. You think it wont happen? Even if they were ignorant of the GA it doesn’t excuse this. We’re clearly sentient. We have a language. We communicate. And I know that we’re not the only ones here. We’re not going to plan an escape attempt.”
“No. We’re planning a take over,” Evelyn says. “Ellana. I need you to do that thing you do where you chase the living daylights out of people by appearing where you shouldn’t be.”
Ellana salutes. “Ma’am, yes, ma’am.”
“Bull, you need to be a distraction.”
“Am I not always a distraction?” Bull shakes his head. “You want me to stay behind. Fair enough. But how are you getting out?”
Ellana pulls out a small rectangular piece of metal. “I don’t think these aliens are used to being pick pocketed. I know you’ve been building a mental time table of this place. And probably a mental map, too. When’s the best time for me to use this thing to bust us out of here?”
“Don’t you need the key code for that also?”
Evelyn and Ellana both roll their eyes. “As if you didn’t have the key code memorized the first time someone came into the enclosure.”
Bull sighs, moving his arm from around Evelyn to start sketching in the dirt also.
“Alright. Fine. Here’s what I got so far. We’re going to do this right before what I’m guessing are their closing hours. More panic that way. Everyone’s moving for the exits, which we can then get shut down. Everyone’s locked in and most importantly they’re locked in while you two can cause as much shit as you want to scare as many people as you want. It’s also when they start dimming the artificial lighting and that’s when Ellana’s going to shine. Do your reflective eye thingy at them and they’ll probably shit themselves. Based on the biology I’ve been able to note I don’t think they have night predators on this planet. They wouldn’t have anything to compare your eyes to. Lucky for us they might not have figured out that special little trick yet. Evelyn, if you can get to the environmental controls we can flood this place with oxygen. And I’m willing to bet that’s a non-standard element in this atmosphere. You’re going to choke them out and the last thing they’ll see will either be you running them down or Ellana’s flashing eyes.”
“You are a master of the craft, babe. Never change.”
“Speak not of what men deserve. For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.”
— Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed.
(via outlawpoet )
(281): Umm…sounds like a maybe. I broke my nose and have surgery next wed but if I’m ok by Friday I’m down.
(814): Oh my god I need an adult
(814): Wait shit I am an adult
“Dare I ask how Max got his nose broken when he was on vacation?”
“No, you’ve got it backwards. Max is on vacation because he broke his nose and he needs to get surgery to fix it,” Evelyn corrects. “He broke his nose during a car chase and decided to use his built up vacation hours to recover and get everything sorted.”
“Is the surgery for the nose or something else?” Leliana asks.
“Ah, the surgery is for something else. It just so happens to line up pretty nicely with him recovering from a broken nose,” Evelyn answers. “Also, yes, we’re comping him because he got hurt on the job. And yes, he’s fine. The surgery’s isn’t being done by an Inquisition medic, he’s going down into Ferelden for it.”
“What? Why? Just get it done here. He doesn’t have to pay for it, all Inquisition healthcare to employees is free, regardless of what it is,” Josephine interjects. “We worked very hard to secure these kind of benefits for everyone. Well. I did. I worked very hard for it.”
“Take it up with Max, he’s already scheduled it. It think he went outside of the Inquisition network because everyone’s booked solid outside of emergencies. There’s something wrong with his wrist — some kind of bone didn’t set right or something and its causing an issue with the nerves. I’m not sure. Max didn’t really explain it.”
“A broken nose and wrist surgery, and he thinks he’s going to be alright to fly to Antiva as part of the trade talk overseers in a week?” Josephine shakes her head. “Never mind. I’ll find someone else. He should focus on recovery.”
“This isn’t his first broken nose,” Leliana points out, “Trust the man to know his limits.”
All three women pause.
“Well. Never mind,” Leliana grimaces. “I can see why trusting Maxwell to know his own health limits isn’t the best idea. Alright. Well, who else do we have that we can send? Not Herah, she’s too busy covering Edric’s slack. Edric isn’t due to return from vacation for another few days and he’d need time to prep for dispatch. Do we have anyone we can recall from the field?”
“I can go,” Evelyn points out. “I like to think I’m well versed enough in what’s going on with the Inquisition and worldly affairs to be able to keep up. We aren’t even there to negotiate anything for ourselves, we’re just there to oversee and make sure things pan out peacefully, right?”
“Correct,” Leliana says, “And of course, we would love to find out anything interesting. Get a lead on any new developments, get some eyes and ears on the ground to check the pulse of the situation.”
“This is why Max is always tapped for things like this,” Evelyn sighs. “For someone who stands out so much he’s very good at being a wallflower and just passively gathering all sorts of interesting news. People just start talking around him. Or at him. They don’t even hesitate. As soon as I breathe within earshot of someone who’s ever so much as had a single subconscious problematic thought they clam up and go on their guard. I’m not actively going after everyone all the time. What a waste of my time and effort.”
“It’s because you’ve got the aura of a teacher,” Leliana reminds her. “It’s an ingrained response. When the teachers shows up everyone goes on their best behavior and closes ranks. That’s just how it is.”
Josephine laughs, “And you have to admit, your resting face is uncanny. You somehow look like every teacher I’ve ever had and none of them at all. It must be something they teach you when you’re getting your certifications. Or maybe it’s just a universal expression teachers get after dealing with so many colorful characters?”
“Colorful characters is such a polite way of saying little smart asses.”
“This is terrible, I’m the adult now,” Malika groans. “I pay taxes. I go to college. I can drive. I can drink. I can vote. I regularly participate in governmental affairs. I am the adult. People can look to me for things now. Oh no. Is this why you always look so haggard, Uncle? I get it now. I totally get it. I mean. I’m still definitely going to mock you for it. But. I get it.”
“You aren’t an adult,” Edric says. “You’re a college student. There’s a difference. It’s like. What’s it called. Kaaras, what’s the word?”
“Liminal stage,” Kaaras supplies, not looking up from his laptop. “The liminal stage between childhood and adulthood is college life.” He reaches to the side where he’d set aside his reports, blindly patting at them until he finds the page with the folded edge.
“Thank you, Kaaras. Are you going to finish in time?” Edric asks. “You don’t look very good.”
“It’s the energy drinks,” Kaaras replies. “They taste awful, are bad for my health, and are overall terrible. But they get me through. I thought these days were behind me when I graduated. No. They’re still here and they’re persistent. I’ll finish and then I’m going to crash and hopefully nothing catches fire so I can sleep off the worst of it.”
Edric gestures at Kaaras. “Don’t be an adult like Kaaras when you get out of your liminal stage.”
Malika waves at her phone. “Can you be the adult for me then? Because I’ve got to. Like. Sign up for all of these appointments and I’m getting anxiety. There’s too many appointments and too much paperwork. Yeah, I know. I do tons of appointments and paperwork but that’s like. Inquisition stuff. This is personal stuff. It’s entirely different. Working Malika’s got shit on lock down that regular Malika can’t even conceive of.”
“Malika, ther'es only one Malika.”
“Ha. That’s what you think. Wrong. Tell him, Kaaras.”
Kaaras shushes them both. “Sure. Yes. Agreed. I’ve got to finish this. Please stop talking to me.”
(423): You left me a note that said “The Earth is blowing up. Bring the Rosé.” WTF.
“It’s a disaster prediction model,” Dorian says, spinning a stylus between his long fingers, “We’ve been running this thing passively for the past few months with minor tweaks here and there. Overall we believe the programming is up to snuff. Except.”
“Except your prediction model’s started saying the entire planet is headed towards exploding,” Evelyn deadpans. “Is that what you’re about to say? I gathered that much from the text. Elaborate on that. Please. Also why you decided you throw on the request for liquor.”
“Does the heat death of the universe and explosion of our planet not instill within you some need for relief via a slight buzz from alcohol? How commendable of you. Unfortunately, I am not as buttoned up as you are, nor do I have the amazing fortitude of character and mind not to see these read outs and not want to reach for some kind of aperitif.”
“Either someone’s gone and tinkered with our disaster model, or something has seriously gone wrong,” Dorian says, waving Evelyn over towards the innocuous looking computer screen hooked up to several complex looking devices. There are all manner of needles recording waves, pinging and chiming noises, reams of paper being spat out with punched out holes and records of the needle’s movements and rows upon rows of zeros and ones. “Come look at this.”
“Dorian, I may be a scientist but you have to know that all of these is nonsense to me.” Evelyn waves around the room. “I don’t know what any of this does. For all I know you’re pulling an extremely elaborate prank on me right now.”
“Right, well, to be fair I don’t know what most of it is, either. I’m a biologist.” Dorian frowns as he quickly sorts through a stack of files on a truly overburdened table. “But here. Look at these. You don’t need to be specialized in environmental science to know these readings are bad. We’ve got some engineers double checking the models and the codes right now. There’s some factor that’s causing everything to shift towards imminent demise. We’re not sure what. There’s a team currently comparing today’s codes and values to that of what we had two days ago, and that to a week ago, and that to a month ago, and that to quarter back. We’ve pulled eyes from several departments to review this.”
“It’s that serious? It can’t just be the code or the machine or some strange error reading with some sensor somewhere?” Evelyn frowns as she runs her finger over printed out statistics. She doesn’t know what most of it means, but the earthquake readouts are simple enough and truly troublesome if true. “Do we have eyes on the ground?”
“That’s what we’re pulling you in for. We need emergency authorization to dispatch survey teams,” Dorian says. “Emergency authorization needed because we’d need to be sending our teams into some pretty sensitive areas. Preserves, neutral zones, demilitarized dead spaces — we need analysts to check the equipment we have installed for tampering or errors. And we need our scientists out there to take their own readings. We need a gag order, if possible.”
“A gag order?”
Dorian gestures again towards the room of machines and the people currently going in and out, murmuring to themselves and each other as they scan files and papers similar to what Evelyn is holding.
“This is us, here, with all the pieces. Imagine the scientists out there,” Dorian waves towards the door, “Who aren’t the Inquisition who may or may not suddenly be getting a strange influx of readings that seem to point towards some kind of disaster. Certainly governing bodies should be made aware, but we don’t want mass panic over an error.”
“Let me guess, the Inquisition’s read outs are shared?”
“Partially. We’re also tapping into resources from universities and independent groups,” Dorian says. “Don’t get me wrong, Evelyn. The Inquisition’s at the cutting edge of technology and I am truly privileged to be working with the technology we have on hand. But there’s only so many expenditures in the name of science we can handle at once. Sometimes it’s best to use the communal sources. Academics must stick together.”
“Fair.” Evelyn frowns. “If this isn’t a real reading and it’s sabotage…who benefits from that?”
“Ah, and that, Inquisitor, is a question for your council, not me,” Dorian says. “Right now what we need is emergency dispatch orders, warrants, possible gag orders and NDA’s, and official letterhead going out to the heads of state that we may be dealing with either an incredible disaster or an incredibly talented saboteur.”
“Delightful,” Evelyn pulls out her phone and starts typing in her orders. “Can you be spared for a brief? Or do you have anyone you can send as a stand in? Someone who can handle being questioned, probably very rudely. Not an intern.”
“Why in the world would I ever send an intern?” Dorian shakes his head. “I’ll find someone. I have to work on getting the teams split up and ready for departure. We’re getting word from our research stations as well, they’re just waiting for the go ahead to start hitting the field.”
“Wait for escort,” Evelyn says, “If it’s sabotage I don’t want our researchers going out alone. And even if it isn’t sabotage, I don’t want them unprotected.”
“Our researchers definitely aren’t as hapless as you seem to think.”
“Basic survival and self defense doesn’t mean much when confronted with the possibility of the planet dying beneath our very feet,” Evelyn says. “Granted, our soldiers probably won’t be able to do much, but I’d feel better about it anyway. And at the end of the day, at least we’d know we tried.”
Evelyn pauses to consider the situation. “Do you really want the rosé?”
Dorian laughs, eyes crinkling at the corners as he gives Evelyn a gentle shove towards the door. “Why, are you feeling sorry for me and considering it in seriousness? I won’t say no. I only added that on for humor. Something to take off the doom and gloom of a possible world ending scenario. But I really wouldn’t oppose if the great Inquisitor found it in her heart to give me one last gift before we all possible die.”