Author: ReLies PM
In a post-apocalyptic world, the only hope lies in the magnet-users. But society has a way of tearing out its own seams and destroying the things it needs most. This social commentary was also an experiment in foreshadowing and symbolism: can you catch all the clues? PM me for a list of all the hints!Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Sci-Fi/Drama - Words: 2,420 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 08-04-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3047784
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She wasn't quite stunning, but certainly she was attractive. Attractive, in the same way a magnet attracts metal, pulling everything towards its intractable stature. The faint decagonal scars of the armor's use were beginning to show on her skin, marking her as one of them, as one of the slaves of the armor, a magnet stuck not to metal but to another magnet, very different but too much alike. The site of the original implant, still stained florescent green from the surgical tattoo, burned like a convoluted necklace upon her chest, removing her farther still from the mortal cloud. But the strangest thing about this girl, the aspect of her electricity that filtered her out from the ignorance of civilization, was her eyes. One blazed with the green of her tattooed necklace, infected with the armor's magnetism, but the other remained clear and brown.
The doctor, peering at her cranium with an intense focus, ran his fingers through her hair, and she stiffened. He located the spot kept bald for the procedure and pinned the surrounding lengths of blond silk down. Reaching for a small black tubing that trailed back into some obscure apparatus, he notified the nurses that the procedure was about to begin. It was the first transformation some of the newer staffers had seen, and they were excited to see what the magnetism would do to this already magnetic girl, what kind of horror or beauty or both they were about to behold. The doctor pressed a small button on the side of the tube and the tube's opening circle rotated with gaining momentum. Soon the whine of the ten miniscule, spinning blades reached a high-pitched scream, and the girl closed her eyes. The doctor attached the tube to her head and the girl twitched. She had done this before and expected the pain, but her first transformation ended with her screaming in agony.
"Tube one clear," said the doctor. "Attachment successful. Commencing attachment of tubes two through five."
Again he searched her head for the four remaining patches of skin, and again he pinned back her hair. Again he pressed the buttons; again he attached the tubes to her head. The girl's eyes remained closed until the final one was in place. Then, and only then, did they open.
Each tube delivered two doses of the magnetism that was filling the girl, funneling through the tubes to the site of the implantation. She felt both powerful and powerless, just like always, as the steel slid out of her body to meet the magnets inside her and the endless capabilities filled her soul. She was ready, once again, to face the world, decagons traced on her skin, green light filling her eyes. She was transformed.
The nurses clapped politely, as if the stunning medical feat performed before them was conceived just for their entertainment. The reality was anything but.
"Commencing removal of tubes."
As each tube was separated once more from her body, discs in her armor slid to cover the vacated holes. She was invulnerable. She was the magnet, but she was the metal as well.
Beneath the research center, half-deranged peasants swam in the mud for scraps and descendants of humankind's greatest dove into radioactive sludge to escape the deathly heat. This was what she was designed to fight. The magnet-girl was designed to fight humankind.
Long-abandoned technology had baked the Amerigo continent into an unrecognizable heap of despair, forcing the survivors of the great war to return to Europe. Rumors and tales of the New World still flooded the dying world, but they were all old wives' tales about lost peoples and plentiful bounties. Such things were so ridiculous to most inhabitants that they were cast away as superstition. Indeed, the pitiful government of the survivors had long since known the truth about the fabled New World. It had baked away into nothingness, leaving not a drop of water or cell of life. But why crush the hopes of the people you cared for? No one had said a word to the public about this bleak heaven, this deserted Eden. Maybe it was better like that.
The magnet-girl ran through tests of her armor: cracked armor on the surface meant death from radiation or mutated bacteria. When finally the doctor's need for certainty was sated, she was deployed and removed from the hospital, cut loose and told to change the world.
There were others like her, ten scattered across England. Her country had been lucky as the ice caps melted; much of it had survived. After the floods settled, a massive operation was set up, raising sunken ground on giant beds of carbon dioxide. It was an ingenious idea, solving both the problems of air pollution and land destruction at once. It worked quite well, rescuing the majority of England and restoring its former glory. But then came the heat waves, caused by endless years of black smog funneling into the horizon from the various unimportant industries pockmarking the surface of the once-beautiful Earth. Water levels sunk again, and the carbon dioxide wells under the majority of England leaked and exploded, destroying two-thirds of the island's mass. Beneath the scarce waves lay millions of souls lost in the collapse of Wales, souls better off than the ones still alive.
The magnet-girl turned her head. Her heightened senses had identified the sound of another Black Wave gathering. Damn.
England didn't support open religion anymore. It bred discontent and helped no one, as personified by the persistent Black Wave movement. England also didn't have any sort of army or navy. Why should they? All the other nations were too preoccupied with rampant starvation and fires to try and concur other territories. They did have a multitude of different flying machines, however, a field they'd developed expertly. Their planes and rockets had traveled as far as the Pacific Ocean on the Caleafornia shore. There was no life there. There was no hope.
They'd noticed the same about most other nations as well. Some, mostly nations like Australea and Auntartika that were cold before the heat, were thriving and blushing with color, but most were just as dead as the Amerigos.
The magnet-girl leapt off of the precipice outside of the hospital and started her rocketpack, engaging its engine right before she smashed to the ground. It took a lot to get a thrill for her these days; she'd seen and experienced almost everything.
She followed the old Thames riverbed to the natural amphitheatre carved out by the once-winding river and predictably found the practitioners. Only a handful were gathered there, maybe a hundred or so. They panicked as she neared and she readied her weapons. But she wasn't expecting a fight. These were the 'pure' black-wavers. They'd probably scatter.
Even as she reached hearing distance they still remained rooted to the spot. Then a burst of frantic nonsense from the preacher shocked them into motion. They were moving towards her. Moving towards her with weapons in their hands.
Her magnetic brain fed her information about the weapons she saw before she recognized them herself, listing danger ratings, firepower, cost, age of production.
Dewali trigger-manned pistol, said her mind. Rating 8 of 10. Fire power 8 of 10. Cost: $100,000 on black market, over $1,000,000 in associated fees if bought legally. Last produced in October of 2053. Zero known in existence.
Where did a peasant diving for scrap get a Dewali pistol? How could they afford it? How did any still exist if they were produced a nearly a thousand years ago?
Septiembre Ricochet novelty gun. Rating 7 of 10. Firepower 6 of 10. Cost: $10,000,000 legally in October 2053, date last one in existence was destroyed. Last produced in October 2053. Note: ineffective as a weapon but used as a symbol of complete power during production.
Another weapon that shouldn't exist. What was going on?
Enpower rocket launcher. Production ended October 2053.
Freemason knife. Production ended October 2053.
October 2053. What was significant about that month? What was going on? The crazed black-wavers ran underneath her, shots being fired but going wide. Chanted whispers were reaching her supersensitive ears.
"…net on…net on…" whispered the crowds below. Distracted, the magnet-girl looked down. "Net on, net on." The voices raised in intensity. "Net on, net on!" Louder and louder. "Net on! Net on!" The magnet-girl notified the other armor-users of the situation mentally, and all the other magnets saw her message displayed on their visors.
Black Wave emergency. Uprising. Need assistance.
The closest magnet rocketed to the spot. But nothing was in the dry amphitheatre when he arrived. No trace of his companion and no trace of any sort of religious event. Barring a single metal sliver noticed by none, it looked as if no one had ever even laid eyes on the place. Had any one of them attempted to remove or pick up the sliver of metal they would have found themselves, with all their electric strength, unable to budge it. The magnetism that rooted it in its spot was too strong.
No sign of Dekka. Return to patrol grounds. I will fly out to headquarters.
The message from Noeve scrolled across the helmets of the others. He was concerned. Black Wave followers? An uprising of the most peaceful religious organization in Britain? Something didn't add up. Then again, nothing had, not since he could remember. He sighed and activated the homing beacon on her helmet. "Where are you, Dekka?" he whispered.
His helmet informed him that she was exactly zero meters to his left and exactly zero meters to his right. According to his helmet's calculations, the magnet-girl was standing on the same ground he was standing on. Which couldn't be accurate.
He walked a couple feet to the right, and tried running the calculations again. Nothing changed. "What's going on?" he breathed, confused. The others had left to patrol their districts; he was alone. But then where was Dekka?
Experimentally, he turned on his rocketpack and hovered a few feet above the ground. Then he ran the tests again. Dekka now was listed beneath him. Noeve dropped back to the earth, landing with the ping of metal on metal.
The single shard of metal remaining on the field had clanked against his boots. Noeve stepped back and loaded a laser into his weapons canister. He shot the metal shard, the resulting boom echoing across the riverbed.
The dust settled and Noeve saw that the metal shard wasn't just a scrap. It was the corner of a giant metal box, buried beneath the soil. It looked like a coffin.
"Oh shit," whispered Noeve. "Oh shit." He ran the calculations on Dekka's homing beacon, and indeed, it appeared the signal was coming from the coffin.
"No. Oh, no. Come on, Dekka, you're not in there, right?" Noeve loaded another laser and blasted the chamberlock on the metal box. It exploded in sparks and Noeve opened the coffin.
Inside lay a girl not as beautiful as she was magnetic, imprisoned in a lead coffin that wouldn't leak any stray beams of her powerful attraction.
Noeve lifted out the earthly treasure, touching not a human but a metal shell of armor that concealed Dekka within. The magnet-girl was dead.
Chiseled in the fiberglass pane of her visor were the words net on.
"Shit," whispered Noeve.
Orda flew slowly over the river basin, trying to get a clearer reading from Noeve. The few words that reached her helmet were laced with static and barely discernible. Something was definitely wrong. She wasn't even reading Dekka anymore: maybe her feed had been knocked loose. Dekka certainly wasn't dead. She was the strongest of the ten, the bravest. If Dekka fell, she knew they all would.
Finally she received a clear signal from Noeve. "Black Wave uprising. Riverbed amphitheatre. Need help. Dekka down."
Had the magnet of the suit not kept her midair, Orda would have fallen out of the sky. Dekka. The Dekka. The girl who didn't even wince during the transformation. There must be some mistake.
In moments Orda was hovering over the riverbed amphitheatre. She could see two people on the ground beneath her. Noeve, Dekka, respond.
Orda dove to the surface, alighting next to the two bodies. Noeve lay breathing irregularly, his armor punctured at the chest. Blood pooled everywhere, staining the still-clean armor of the corpse beside him.
Orda drew her guns.
The shapes crept out from behind boulders, snuck around sand dunes. She fought valiantly against the people, but power is usurped by numbers. She new she had lost the fight the second it started.
She tried to get aloft, away from the ambush, away from the insanity, but her magnetism was too powerful. Magnets are attracted to metal, and the mob's grips were forged from steel.
She pulled herself down.
Evensa was dragged to the spot next.
Onu was the last to arrive. He knew something was wrong. All of his comrades had arrived here. All of them had disappeared. And although the readings on his helmet stated they were within six feet of him, nobody else was in the dry river basin.
To the government, he said:
Others absent. Helmet malfunctioning, wrong coordinates given. Returning to nearest deployment port.
To the other magnets, he said:
Respond now. A silence will be taken as an emergency signal for help.
There were, of course, no responses, other than the government's. Onu never recieved their transmission, however, and its contents went unread.
For all their efforts, for all their obsession, the black wave never came. Paradise was never reached, no matter how thoroughly happiness was pursued. They gambled with fate and lost, sacrificing their only hope at normalcy for a chance at peace. With their mirrored mantra finally reached, the hospitals in the sky dismantled, and the government gone, they expected to be free. No more confinement. No more rules.
But there was no more happiness, either.
Their society was held together by magnets, but their field only extended so far.