The sounds in my head were better. They resonated like something physical, using drums like timpanis so I could feel the tiny vibrations gain waveform and strength. The sounds had colors too; thunderclaps were a dark blue undercut with a black that ate into them, and steamed and molded; voices were different depending on who spoke them. My mother's was green, lightning-jagged shapes gilded in yellow: "Don't growl at me! What do you think you are?" So it was a bad day. I pushed my face against my blankets and turned away from her, hoping to give her a blanket-rounded pyramid of thin shoulder. A pharaonic monument to the immortality of teenage unconcern. Had I growled? I suppose I had. Maybe a small, gray, growl. It was warm under my blankets and it was early; some time around six o'clock in the morning. I could trust my internal clock. It didn't say six in the little round number but it said six in a sense of darkness outside the window. I heard birds, chittering, percussive little beak-claps not at all describable as twitters or song.
It was six in the morning on a Saturday, my mother was having a huff already, and I was blind.
My doctor's voice was blue and puffy. Sometimes on the vowels it would seem to fall apart like the last drops of water after you turn off the faucet: drip, drip, synesthesia, ah, ah. Watery long sounds pooling in the white silence behind my doctor and my mother sitting in her chair wrapping her fingers in the crinkly substance of her skirt. The doctor's voice always threatened to fall apart, and never quite did. "There is an experimental procedure we could do. It's been tried a few times before."
Mother, green deepening: "How much would it cost."
"That would depend; I'll have to find you a surgeon that does it in the area."
"We can travel if we need to. How much would it cost."
"I'll find out. Now, if you could tip your head back..."
That order was for me; it had my little orange signature dots on it from the way the doctor turned and her breath lifted my hair off my forehead. My own voice doesn't have a color; it's hard for me to hear it really. Sometimes it's a transparency that falls across the world and erases it; sometimes there's a little fog of red between the world and the voice. But my name on other people's lips is usually orange. Cassie. Orange.
I met a Cassie whose name was green once. Amber you'd think it would be orange but it's not, it's blue in the hole in the 'b' and trends toward purple in the end. Maybe I that's why I don't like Ambers; not only does their name lie about what they do to my synesthesia but they're blue. And blue is the opposite of orange. Blue grates on me; blue reminds me that these aren't real colors, they're left over colors from when I was four-and-six-months and I stopped seeing them. They tell me the world got gray slowly but I don't remember that; the colors just stay in my head and come from sounds.
He found a black stone in a beach of white pebbles. Large and round, it lay in his palm like an egg. slowly, voiced from up the beach unhatched from it; his sisters calling for their children, his brother talking about the hot dogs charring on the barbecue stripes. Jake turned the stone over, feeling the slight salt prickle of its cold surface. It must have been lying on the beach for a long time, days or weeks, years, or whatever increments of time stones measured in. For him, the beach was a year place; an every summer-since-grade-school place. His siblings had gained families, his job title had gained important-sounding words, and the beach had stayed the same. Except never before, he thought, had there been a black stone.
The Velociraptor jumped onto the hood of the SUV and aimed its plasma gun at the nearest human. Guy fell with a sound like clattering metal, mostly because of the metal plates he'd clattered onto. Somebody had used them for shields yesterday. That hadn't worked very well. I saw it all from the window up here with the camera pressed against my cheek and one eye watching through it, the other watching by itself cause you can't watch somebody get eaten to death through a camera, you know? It's not right. I mean, I can't go down there and help. There's raptors on the streets.
They're not dinosaurs, really, just aliens that look like 'em, which is basically cooler. Raptors with laser guns. My cousin said he thought it was a conspiracy, aliens wouldn't look like dinosaurs, it's all just a fake to make a movie or something. I said I saw one eat somebody. He said, You're a boarder guard. You guys get paid to be crazy.
She held the lightbulb up. "Look at this. This isn't magic. It's not a crystal or a staff or some other symbolic thing. Except it is magic. I took it from the mages of Portifar and I can prove it to you."
The elderly counselor grumbled, ruffling the feathers draped like a beard around his mouth. "The mages told me you would say that."
"So they're trying to convince you that the thing isn't magic."
"They are trying to convince me that you should be tried for petty theft instead of treason. And I have a hard time understanding why you wish to contend this."
She leaned on the table, holding the lightbulb in one hand. "Because they're making something in this town that's more than just homes and railways. They're making something designed to change the city in some way. Knock it off balance."
"How do you know this?"
"Because I heard them discussing it. Portifar Carnifex and Lucillia Gracewood."
"You snuck in on their conversation?"
"No, I was an employee at the time."
No need to say that she wasn't any more because she had started researching things like the strange shifts in electricity and the more covert e-mails.
The ship's wing twitches slightly. Once, twice, and I'm sure it's okay to go down. One wing tore off early and is lying under a mountain's shadow somewhere about a mile away. Another one crumpled and folded over the hull just as the nose hit the ground, and that one's occluding the sun and no longer twitching. I wait until night time so that the automated defenses will be asleep under the influence of the spores, and then put my mask on and go out.
Of course "automated defenses" means dinghy dragons, the little alien reptilians that chauvers usually have in their crews. One of those can't take an armored human, but two of them could. This armor is mostly made to repel spores and cold anyway. Tyrisia isn't a warlike planet.
Wasn't, I mean. All the crashes lately, I guess it has to count as one. They don't touch our turf; they don't need to. But the space above is a perfect jumping off point for the hyperlanes between Earth and Pyrixic Centauri, so the ships come here to drop out of unreal space. They shoot and shout, and, eventually, crash.
I don't know what kind of pilots they're training at the United Academies, but they sure didn't pass Not Crashing On Tyrisia 101.
The first practical application of teleportation was military. The second was civilian transportation. The third was carjacking. There were still, after all, people who couldn't afford teleportation.
With rent-a-pods set up along major stretches of highway so that people could drive to their nearest and jump from there, it wasn't hard for aspiring pirates to create new stops on the teleportation line as soon as the technology got big enough to cart around in a pickup truck. It was usually people who couldn't afford their own pod card who decided that stealing cars was a good idea. The gap between the rich and the poor got wider as the rich began to leave their wheels behind.