I promised, well, more so rather hinted, way back in the second column of this publication that I would share with you some of the sorted details of my baseline past. Specifically, the days of my tortured youth when I said that I was "streetfighting." Well, itís not glorious, and itís actually rather tame, but here it is anyway.
Though you'll probably not believe me after reading everything I've published about myself thus far, when I was in high school I was a complete social introvert. Seriously. I'm certain everybody knew a girl like me in high school. Well, unless you lived out in the country and you had all of twelve or so people graduating with you.
I was attractive enough that everyone assumed I had a huge social agenda, but in reality, none. Quiet enough that everyone assumed I was stuck up, but in reality, was terminally shy. Had rich enough parents that everyone believed those assumptions. Not athletic enough to be in volleyball or basketball, way too modest and not popular enough to be a cheerleader or on drill team (though I did try out for flag corp my sophomore year at my mother's urging). Too conditioned that drugs were bad (yeah, imagine that after the tale of my eruption, but it was true of me back then) to feel comfortable with the stoners. Involved in choir and jazz band, and intelligent enough to make the honor roll. Wrote really morbid and depressing poems on the covers of my notebooks, hoping and praying that someone would casually walk by them while I was away, find them deep, and want to talk to me.
Yep. That was me. If all you people who graduated with me could see me now. To quote something casually overheard by Lucious Clay upon his eruption, "Oh yeah, looks like I got me some of the good stuff."
Anyway, the point is, there was this brunette bitch who decided I was going to be the target of her derision for our entire junior year. Girls like that tend to have little cronies hanging around them, and this one had three. And me, being the terminally shy girl I was, took every last bit of it. Every little drip of sarcasm, every cruel remark, every joke made in public at my expense, you name it.
One day near the end of our junior year, said bitch and her three flunkies cornered me as I was coming out of the restroom stall. I guess she had decided to make it physical and had her friends there as backup. I suppose I had finally taken enough of her crap, because I grabbed her by the shoulders and rammed her up against the wall.
Well, completely by accident, the hand-dryer happened to be right where her head hit. BANG! Out cold instantly. She drops to the floor in an unconscious pile of Gap gear. I hide my shock as best as I can, then turn and look at the other girls and say, "Who's next?" They all split, and I was victorious. I wish I could say she left me alone after that. But life often doesn't work itself out that cleanly, and it didn't for me. First day of our senior year they cornered me in the restroom again, and this time, they all came for me at once.
When you're young, you don't often think about the consequences of your actions. I don't think they did. One broken arm just above the wrist where one of them stomped on it, several cuts, bruises and scrapes, and my head was bleeding from where one of them slammed it into the tile. I was knocked unconscious just as the brunette bitch was a few months previous, and I have no idea how long I was in there before someone found me. My parents, being who they were, made me reveal who had done it, and soon those particular girls were suspended and facing some time in juve.
That's where that particular story ends. But for me, on that day was when I decided I needed to know how to defend myself. When I was all healed up, I convinced my mother to let me take Hap Ki Do classes. Now, it takes time to be good at any martial art. More time than I ever dedicated to it. Furthermore, to stay at the top of your game you have to constantly keep in practice to make certain you don't lose your reflexes and your instincts. A year after I had started I was going to school to college, focusing more on my writing and my music, and having never used what little I learned in Hap Ki Do once outside of class, my interest in it waned. When I dropped out of college and began my experimentation with the many illegal hallucinogins that I've told you about, my study of Hap Ki Do was forgotten entirely.
You'd have thought that with my eruption, and all the increased physical aptitude I acquired (could I have been subconsciously remembering my desire to be able to defend myself?) that I would have gained some kind of proficiency in Hap Ki Do or that I would have wanted to return to it. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. I got overconfident. I was a damned Nova, after all, with honest-to-goddess superhuman strength. My hand-eye coordination was nearly flawless. My reaction time was cut into microseconds. Knives couldn't even break my skin. What need did I have of technique? I'm not a violent person by nature, and I since I wasn't a public Nova and not in any dangerous profession, I wasn't expecting to actually have to fight another Nova. I honestly thought if I got into any trouble I could handle it. It's not as though I was working for DeVries in the Equatorial Wars.
Where does all this lead? As usual, I want to tell you all a little story. This is a true story, and I haven't changed a damn thing about it. It's fairly simple, actually, and takes place before I ever spoke with Benton Spragg (the publisher of eXistenZialist ) about writing for his magazine. And at the time, I hadn't outed myself yet.
It's curious how I use the word "outed," like I came out of the closet. You'd think that being a Nova is something you'd want to proclaim to the world, or at least to prospective employers, but I didn't. My eruption was a fairly private affair, only one other person was privy to it, and I just never had any need to go to a Rashoud Facility.
I'm certain you're going to want to know why. Well, the simple answer is privacy. I was leading a very quiet life and I liked it that way. I didn't want to be the subject of interviews or random photographs. I still like it that way. You'll notice I haven't ever included a picture of myself in this column (something that Benton and I debate over incessantly), never been interviewed on N!, and when I go from place to place I don't make a spectacle of myself. For example, I doubt those I mentioned in the Amp Room a few issues back knew whom I was until the column came out. Obviously, my life isn't as quiet as it once was, though I hope it is quieter than the average Nova's.
So as a mostly anonymous Nova I would often go out in public "dormed down." That's the catchy little phrase someone came up with to indicate when we minimize the flow of quantum to our nodes. Makes us less obviously Nova, essentially, both to visual senses and quantum ones. Made shopping much, much easier. No prying questions, no curious onlookers, you get the idea.
I can't believe I'm gonna admit this, but at the time this true story takes place, I was not only dormed down, but I was shopping at Target. Yes, me, a Nova, looking for the finest, yet affordable, cutlery set available in my choice of five designer colors and packaged within a wonderful spinning cradle. I wanted the teal set. They had no teal sets on the shelves, so I had asked a curiously friendly associate named Rodger to please check the back. He insisted that if it wasn't on the shelf that they didn't have it, but he'd be happy to order it. I, in turn, felt snippy that day and insisted he go into the back and make absolutely certain. He, from what I remember, didn't care to argue and went in back. I have no clue if he actually looked for my teal cutlery set while he was back there or not. Doesn't matter either way. About three minutes after he presumably went to locate the singular item that brought me into that Mecca of Consumerism in the first place, the roof came down all around me.
Now, dormed down, I was vulnerable, but I was able to react quick enough to turn my juice back on. I got piping and support beams and stuff I can't even begin to name hitting me and disorientating me, knocking me to the ground and burying me underneath. Getting out wasn't really a problem, but once out, I couldn't see from all the dust still trying to settle. I can hear the shoppers screaming and gasping and coughing. Finally, my eyesight clears enough that I can make out a slender form standing a few meters away from me.
"Well well," a decidedly masculine voice said softly, "looks like the little bitch has a friend."
My node is screaming 'Nova' at me as I look in his direction. I can sense power beginning to build up in him, and inexperienced me assumes I have time to react to what he's doing. Very very wrong. A blast of yellow energy no wider than a ballpoint pen hits me in the chest before I can duck or dive for cover. The impact throws me back a good twelve meters, knocking me into nearby shelves. These shelves are full of cutting boards and other assorted kitchen goodies, all of which somehow land on my head or my chest wound.
He's on top of me before I can recover. I'm having trouble breathing, I'm bleeding, and my left arm is completely numb. Nonetheless, as he lifts me out of the mountain of cutting boards, pizza slicers, and spatulas, I swing my good right hand at him in perfect Hap Ki Do form, and he catches it above the wrist. Like I was moving at molasses speed, he simply catches it, and then breaks it with a simple squeeze of his fingers. Whimpering, I fall onto my back, both my arms useless and bleeding from my chest.
I'm dead. I know I'm going to die. There's nothing I can do to prevent it. I'm in too much pain and too wounded to put up an effective defense or to flee. I'm wondering who this guy is, why he is after me, if he has something against Novas in general, that even eruption didn't stop people from kicking the crap out of me, and that I'm gonna fucking die in Target. Forget auto-erotic asphyxiation, there's nothing more humiliating than having your life come to an end in Target.
Someone kicks him in the face before he can deliver the killing blow. The kick is strong enough to send him sailing into the next aisle over, where all the plastic organizers and tubs come tumbling down on top of him as the shelf collapses under the impact.
"Stay down," the voice of my would-be rescuer says quickly. My eyes focus enough to see her briefly, because once she began moving I couldn't follow her.
She was fast. I mean real fast. So fast that the air blurred around her. More accurately, the air shadowed around her. With every movement of her body, the space behind her body darkened before fading into the background. The Nova she was fighting moved almost as quick as she did, and there was an absolute fury of strikes, parries, blocks, dodges and kicks. Every move had an equal response.
Once, seeing me rustling, my assailant spared a moment to shoot another bolt of light from his finger at me. This one would have killed me, mind you, but since Iím writing it you obviously know it didnít. Up from my shadow and the shadows of the rubble formed my defender. Standing tall before me, the shadow oozing off of her like oil, the yellow laser smacked her square in the shoulder blade. She cursed, low in her throat, as the flesh there wove itself back together, and then sprung at him again.
Like I said earlier, he moved almost as quick as she.
With fingers that were practically knives she carved a huge gash first into his stomach, and then, in another fluid motion, took his head clean off. I was dimly aware of all the Target patrons gasping and weeping as everything calmed down. The woman, all five-foot-if-that of her looked around at all of them in disdain, her lips curling downward as her head turned. I was given my first glance at her face, then. Something about her bone structure, the curve of her lips, the color of her hair, and her physique made me say,
Now, I didnít really say Ashnod, I said the name I knew her as before she took that one. My defender then turns to me, giving me a cursory look, before walking over to me. As she crouches near me, I get a better look, and realize this canít be her. The eyes are all wrong. So is the tongue.
ďHow do you know that name?Ē She asked this question while glaring at everyone watching to keep them at bay. Very dark tone of voice, and since I just witnessed her kick the crap of someone who kicked the crap out of me I wasnít about to fuck around with her.
ďWeíre old acquaintances,Ē I admit. I was getting faint from loss of blood at that point. I think she could see that.
ďI see.Ē She picked me up with one hand. A single hand. I was probably a good forty pounds heavier and eight inches taller than this girl, and she picked me up like I was a pillow. I donít know how many of you have been picked up so effortlessly but itís pretty unnerving to have someone smaller than you do it. Cradling me like I was nothing more than a baby, she walked back into the shadowy area.
ďI will tell my mother about you, then.Ē With those words, we fell into the shadows. This is an experience I donít recommend, by the way. The trip was pitch black, completely without sound, and very cold. The only sense I had of anything other than oblivion was her arms. Let me say that again. The only sense of anything I had other than oblivion was her arms. I have no clue at all how she navigated that void. The trip couldnít have been any longer than a few seconds, but it was a few seconds longer than I cared to be there.
We came out in the middle of an ER waiting room. Some nurse was the one who actually gave me the name of my rescuer as she gasped in shock.
The rest of this particular story you can guess. She vanished and left me at the hospital. I got patched and healed up. A week later I was recovering, and getting reacquainted with the friend that all of you know as the Teragenís dread Ashnod, and the daughter that everyone knows as Apep. Two weeks after that, I walked into Benton Spraggís office and discussed working for a little magazine heíd secured the permission to name after one of David Cronenburgís films, hoping that a Nova writer would draw a larger readership. The next week, Ashnod hits the XWF in Georgia, I write my first column, and the rest is history.
Now, after that very lengthy exposition, Iím going to sum up the entire point of that diatribe with this little phrase: my life was saved by the ďterroristĒ called Apep. Let me repeat that again.
Apep saved my life.
One of the most dangerous Novas alive, universally feared by Nova and baseline alike, and she took a laser in the shoulder for me. Further more, she did so without knowing who I was. A completely selfless act by someone generally thought to care about nobody else. Now, I wanted to talk about Apep because she represents everything that is wrong with Novas in the eyes of many on both sides of the genetic spectrum. This is a Nova, a mere girl in fact, that has taken death and combat beyond anything baselines can accomplish, and in addition has stated that she doesnít believe herself to be human.
We talk about the ďart of warĒ but out there are Novas that are very literally turning war into an art form. In the case of Apep, weíre talking about an individual whose body count is achieved entirely without the use of projectile weaponry. That means getting directly in the face of your prey and putting your own neck on the line. It means having unparalleled control of your body, instincts that react far before you realize it, and a mind that must be focused and sure.
Now, Iím sure someone out there is saying ďWhat about Bruce Lee? Arenít there several baseline examples of the same similarity?Ē To a point, this point of view is of course correct. But remember, Apep is a martial artist par excellence, but, by documented footage, sheís also inhumanly strong, inhumanly quick, can produce talons capable of shredding metal, moves part or all of her body in and out of shadows with lightning celerity, and to top it all off, her body repairs wounds in a matter of seconds. Iím using her as an example, but we could also use Totentanz, who cannot be seen and is practically untouchable.
Iím saying all of this because not only do such Novas have to have Bruce Leeís presence of mind, some of them have to think multi-dimensionally, as Apep must to use shadows in the room as attack foci, and all Novas like this must take into the consideration of dealing with quantum ability while simultaneously dodging, parrying, striking, and kicking. Itís not the same as having to expect a pistol, knife, throwing star, or dust cloud being drawn on you; you know where thatís coming from. Unless you are completely educated in your opponentís abilities, and so few of us can be, itís doubtful that you can anticipate every trick they can pull out. Oh yeah, and some of those Novas carry said pistol, knife, throwing star, and dust cloud in addition to everything else they can do.
Pretty damn scary, isnít it? That to do what these Novas accomplish, they have to be warriors unlike any warrior that has come before them?
Most of us judge them on a scale of how dangerous they are to baseline life, but few of us think about how dangerous they are to Nova life. For a Nova like Apep, staring down a crowd of hostile baselines, all armed and seething for her blood, doesnít even represent a challenge. Itís probably a good warm-up. I hate to put it in those terms, folks, but itís a fact of life. Most of us donít think about what it takes to be dangerous to other dangerous Novas.
If you look at the precision, the dedication, and the skill required to be that way without having quantum abilities that cause mass destruction in a single exertion, itís humbling. I am by no means a slouch when it comes to physical power and raw physical potential. Thereís not a baseline in the world that can compete with me on a physical level. I donít know who it was that attacked me in Target, or why he and Apep were going at it, but I do know that he was about to take me apart as though I was nothing more than a baseline to him. And Apep came along and took him apart as though he was nothing more than a baseline to her .
Iím not going to hazard on her motivations for saving me. I am touched, greatly, that someone that the entire world seems to universally fear and loathe showed a complete stranger that much compassion. She could have let me die and took his head off while he focused on me. She didnít. And Iím still here to tell you about it all these years later.
For those of you who critique my work like college essays, letís summarize here: Sheri gets beat up as an unerupted Nova, Sheri learns Hap Ki Do, Sheri discovers illegal drugs, Sheri gets lax, Sheri erupts, Sheri almost dies humiliatingly in Target, Apep saves Sheri that humiliation, Sheri goes on to ramble about respecting someone that deadly and being eternally grateful that sheís still alive without making any kind of solid point.
Oh wait, I do have a point. Donít assume Novas that exist on a scale of violence and death that most of us canít comprehend are nothing more than bloodthirsty, cold-hearted savages and lunatics.
HmmÖno, that wasnít it. Sorry, the point is stay in school, obey the law, use a condom, and donít do drugs.
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