Welcome to the New Normal

A Jason Duncan Story
A Cassie Sutton Story

The air was crisp and the stars twinkled, the Milky Way scattered across the darkness like someone had spilled a salt shaker across the sky. She climbed carefully, placing each foot and handhold with care as she climbed. Not that she couldn’t port out of a fall, but the challenge of climbing the rocks at night unaided was a personal challenge she had to do without Powers. Each stretch of her body, each flex of her legs and arms brought her closer to the sky and more close to the earth that she so loved. There was still the background fear as she looked down, but each look down was also done with a look around the land that she called home even now. She fought the insane desire to let go and fall to see if she could fly.

She didn’t want any sound to wake Jason, sleeping deep and deservedly in the tent. In time, she would teach him to climb as her brother and she had learned. A smile slipped on her face as she reached into her chalk bag to recoat her fingers. Mark was back. Not the ghost of her brother, not the automaton that had inhabited his animated body, but Mark. The smile matured to a full grin. Jason was one, mostly, and Mark was Mark. She felt so happy she could burst. If only there weren’t interstellar termites eating their way through their solar system. She paused and hung free for a moment, dangling with only her grip on the rock.

The view was breathtaking. Her lips parted in awe and sadness. If they couldn’t win. . .. Twisting, she spread-eagled to lock in her toes and pressed into the face to climb again. They would win. They would fight. She couldn’t let the Earth go without fighting for it. So many special places, so much a part of them all. The air that she breathed, the elements that made her, the soul that sang around her. No Worldship could duplicate that, could make home. She couldn’t let the Earth go. It was who they are and leaving, as Jason had said so eloquently, they would lose what made them human.

With a soft groan, she levered herself up higher, straining to make the next grip, and laughed softly as she locked in and got her footholds solid.

The rock submerged under the bed of pine straw and the skimpy padding of the sleeping bag began to work it’s way into his back.. again. He rolled over hoping to snuggle a bit with Cassie and found her gone. He pulled on some shorts and poked his head out of the tent. The chill air pulled at his lungs and caused the hairs on his bare skin to stand on end. He climbed out of the tent, stood and looked about the camp sight. There was no sign of her, but no sign of struggle either.
He flicked an unseen but growingly familiar set of muscles and felt himself divide. He didn’t need to give his other self a command, they were parts of the same. They didn’t share a mind, exactly, but they could communicate, and their beliefs, desires and goals were all the same. He flew into the air and began to circle the camp slowly scanning for Cassie.

He also let his vision shift into the aura sight, and set off by foot to see if he could see any trace of her. She must have teleported, since there were no tracks leading from the campsite. He didn’t want to go too far, just in case she returned.

He soared over the pond and past the site they’d started construction. He had spent a few days weeks ago, pounding rocks, ripping stumps out by the roots, and doing the sort of construction prep only the Brute could do. Cassie was there to keep him on task, and prevent him from destroying anything she wanted to keep. He could see in his minds eye how the property would look when it was complete. That is, if the Earth was still here. He flew silently sat the fledgling gardens nestled into the twists of the small stream leaving the spring. A group of deer paid no heed as we swooped past. His vision was clear at night, and he had not trouble seeing things, but so far no sight of her. Maybe I am going about this the wrong way.

He circumnavigated the spring pond and sat on a rock picking a pernicious thorn out of his foot. He spotted a trail of green tinged aura, but after a short burst of excitement realized that it was his own prints. He looked up and took in the stars. There was probably no other city in the world, where a half hour away you could still still stars like this. Alamy Falls was constructed with a plan to limit light pollution, so even this short distance, they might as well be out in the wilderness. The Milky Way spread across the sky making it nearly impossible to make out individual stars. The Worldship hung ghostly like, like a second moon near the horizon. If they were to leave the Earth, they’d never see those stars again. He shook his head. “I’ve been going about this the wrong way.”

His two selves communicated their nearly identical thoughts to each other and met at the base of the wall. Where would she go? His invisible self grabbed his visible self under the arms and pulled him into the air. Being carried was not the same as soaring, but, all the same, it wasn’t half bad. As the pair rose up the cliff, the green aura of hand prints and shoe marks painted the rock wall with the tell tale traces.

They floated silently in the air about twenty feet off the cliff watching as Cassie struggled to negotiating an overhang. Jason marveled at her athleticism. Anything he could do would be brute force, strength agility, and endurance. But she had talent, and know-how. The two of them, his two selves, divided, but together, watched her in silence, resisting the urge to help, and trying not to distract her. Mentally they shared thoughts of her beauty and skill. It was a strange sort of fraternity, more literal than metaphorical.

She finally mounted the top, standing to admire the view. “I should go get Jason,” she thought to herself after a few long moments, biting her lip to hide the grin at her anticipation of his reaction. The liquid black of the sky seemed near enough to stir with a finger, the bits of still water below in the spring reflecting the sky back as if a little of the universe pooled there. The moon caught in the faint grays and dark ebony of the shadows in the hills and rocks and she couldn’t help the tiny sound of a child’s contented sigh escape her.

“Time to wake up sleeping beauty,” she announced softly to herself. She prepared to port, knowing she had to wake Jason up to see it.

“Ahem.” Jason coughed from his perch out in he air.

Her insides jumped, but Cassie showed no surprise. “Hi,” she stated softly with a smile. “So waking you up is kinda a moot point huh?” She frowned abruptly. “Or can you do this in your sleep?”

Jason carried himself to the peak, together, visible and not, embraced Cassie under the stars. It was strange and new, but Jason let himself do it for a long moment before rejoining himself.
“The sharp rocks can’t sleep without you.”
He gave her a squeeze and moved behind her so his face was nuzzled up to her neck. They gazed at the stars, the desert, and the city in the distance.
“This is worth is fighting for.” By this he meant it all, the stars, the earth, and having a home with Cassie.

Her gaze misted. “Yes. I can’t leave Earth Jason. I just can’t leave it to be torn apart and consumed. Not only people will die, but animals. . .places. I want to live here. With you. With our children.” She froze as the words left her lips, aware that maybe she had shared a bit too much.

“All of them? Even the troublemaker, the one who’ll keep us up worrying all night?”
Jason smiled, and held her tight.

She relaxed into his arms, biting back a wide grin. “Yeah, each and every one of them.” After a moment, she snuggled into him more suggestively. “So. . .you wanna lie on something a bit more comfortable than a sharp rock?” she asked softly. “I mean, since we’re probably gonna die out there in that lovely bit of stars.”

It might have been a vain hope, but it was enough to cling too. It was enough to power him, to sustain him. He realized what Cassie had been telling him, but couldn’t hear it… Love is hope.
“Sounds good… but, I refuse to die before those kids graduate from college, or at least trade school or something.”

“It’s a deal,” she replied. “I’ll hold you to that. Guess I’ll have to be there to make sure you don’t welsh on me?”

Jason listened to Cassie’s breathing for a bit as the sky outside his window began to lighten. He slipped out of bed to greet the dawn. Atop the base’s roof he looked eastward and welcomed the sun, stretching across the desert. The industrial part of Alamy Falls was less picturesque than the it hilly refuge outside of town. He glanced down into the junkyard abutting the property at the seeping chemical tanks, and rusted out vehicles. There were still abandoned buildings, ancient industrial ruins, and storage tanks dotting the landscape. The morning sounds of trains across the river was testimony to more dirty industry, even in this cleanest of cities. And America had already had a renaissance of green environmentalism. Africa, India and China were in worse shape. Part of him wondered whether a fresh start wouldn’t be a good idea.
But another part of him didn’t want to leave the Earth like this, if we were to leave, it ought to be left better than we got it. Not used up, burnt and abandoned. They had the chance to save their planet, and leaving now, would be giving up, and failing to take care of their own mess.
As the sun rose, the industrial sights and sounds, seemed to give way to the other daily noises, he also smelled coffee drifting up from below. He turned to go down, but saw Cassie, in one of his shirts, with two steaming cups.

“Bed definitely more comfortable here,” she stated as she handed him the cup. “And I’m in love with your coffee maker.” She regarded him fondly as she took a sip and added, “But we’re building the house as soon as we stomp those bugs. So we can wake up to that bit of heaven together every morning without rocks in our bed. Not that I don’t like here. But…”

She cocked her head as a distant crash indicated that the combat area was activated. “Speaking of kids as we were.” She winked with a grin. “Yours are here dear and ready to stomp some bugs.”


Malificent KimberlyEaton

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