25. The Call

Most people like to imagine that the world is a fair place. This is a comforting idea, and seems to work well with the human brain’s habit of seeking patterns in its surroundings. Something goes up, so something comes down – sometimes it’s cold, so sometimes it is hot. These things are not as connected as humans like to imagine – after all, there are more places in the universe where throwing an object up will result in it simply sliding away with no end in sight than places where it won’t – but they are still part of the human psyche, taught from birth that the world is a reasonably balanced place, with some symmetry to it. Fairness is part of the human outlook, and those people who see the world as unfair are often called selfish or bleak.

Magic did not see the world that way. Magic cared about patterns. It cared about the mind, it cared about the way the energies flowed, the old runes. To say it even cared was wrong – but what it meant for most people was that magic seemed to exist without rhyme or reason. There were not rolling riots down the main street, as people who had magic went mad with power. People were, for the most part, in their homes.

The first day, there had been lightning. The second day, fire. But now, people had learned lead still worked.

Mostly, people stayed at home. People hugged their families close. And many, many people went to work, as best they could, keeping their heads down and being fearful and modest. Somewhere, a suited reptile that called itself a human being was talking about ways to make money off the tragedy, or ways to exploit the need for resources into places like the vanished school that had left Holland behind. Somewhere else, though, a blonde girl thumbed her phone, wondering why it had said something so banal seeming.

war
war never changes

Barbara looked down at the screen. In the short few days that she had had this phone, it’d lost none of its obscurity.

“What does that mean?”

it is an aphorism from a video game
it seems appropriate based on
historical information I can obtain

That ‘I’ again. “Okay, then. Was there some reason you brought it up?”

it seems to me that the changes
in the world around you are
mostly cosmetic
people with power still have
that power
and you even have the same
approach to warfare through
out most of history

“I’m sure that’s an answer, Aikon, but that’s really not the answer to the question I asked.”

in every fight, it is not uncommon
for hate and fear to be more
important than want and pride
most wars seem built around
these values

“I’m fairly sure,” Barbara said, wading her way through a snowdrift outside an otherwise completely clean storefront, feeling the bitter cold rolling up her legs under the knee. “that there’s more to it than that.”

this is why the doctrine of mutu
ally assured destruction was so
popular in nuclear politics, da?

“Da? You’re Russian?”

isn’t nokia a russian brand?

“It’s Japanese, I think. Or Korean.”

you sure?

“Don’t start speaking those languages, I can’t read them.”
Barbara looked up from her phone, realising that she’d been talking to it in her hand like it was, well, a smartphone and she was a typical Siri-worshipping apple user that her parents couldn’t afford her to be. She’d left the house to get some fresh air, and her father had been frightened, but she’d come out anyway. Why? Because this was her home, she was free, and the fact that some stranger could have a gun had never stopped her. She wasn’t going to live a life of fear.

These were ideals and ideas that swirled around a teenage mind and never found themselves vocalised. More often, people would assume she just didn’t know any better, because that was easier.

“Why do you bring this up?” She asked, finally bringing her attention back down to her phone.

because how people respond
to pressures can be some
thing to indicate how they
will in the future

you made devices
in case you ever lost
the war

‘dr strangelove’
right?

Barbara leant against the store front, feeling the glass of the window against her shoulders. Scarf hanging down in front of her, she pouted annoyedly at the phone, wondering if she’d paid enough attention in class to answer this one.

“Yeah, the bomb that blew up if it didn’t get a command that stopped it?”

close
but something like
that

Barbara looked down at the phone once more, and sighed. When, exactly, was this magic thing going to do what it was supposed to? You know, make for big magical explosions, and fights, and…

No. Don’t be silly. That was the sort of thing that got people hurt. It got them killed. Barbara was a cheerleader. She was a good student. She wasn’t… she wasn’t some teen superhero. That would be just stupid.

Then she heard breaking glass. Then she heard a thumping body – and turning around, she saw, in the store behind her, two figures thumping into the floor, wearing balaclavas and holding pipes.

Barbara didn’t think about it. She just acted.

oh dear

Of course, the true shame of the event was that neither Aikon nor Barbara was really aware that Nokia was a Finnish company.

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