Absolute Series scene from Book II: Absolute Avar – Greed
race under the stars with her. lose your breath in her storm. if you’re lucky, kiss her long. then smile as she dances away. she’s a wildfire and can’t be tamed. – lyrics from Ballad of the Vixen Nebula, by Starshock Sisters
Kýrie wanted to pick up the nearby chair and throw it. She wanted to watch its metal hinges and slender transparent legs smash into splinters, littering the floor. For a malicious moment, she didn’t mind if the needles pierced into everyone present; maybe then they could feel the slicing agony of the anxiety and fury pricking under her skin.
Have you felt knives demanding to be unleashed from inside your body? she wanted to demand. Jagged edges, thin shivs, ice pricks. Hell. I’m certain a saber has wanted to shred my body once or twice. From the inside out. Do I need to repeat that? From. The. Inside. Out. Sure, I’ve only rarely felt the cutting pain of the slash of a blade to my skin. But, too many times to count my entire body has been impaled from the depths of my blood, muscle, and memory.
“Can’t you help me, Pride? This is worse than being maki-ed in training. At least then, it’s a controlled, though faux, death.”
“Calm yourself. Your anxiety is just fear. It is imperative you embrace each part of yourself—”
“Whatever. Shut up, Pride.” Her dewdrop fell silent at her snarl, the little jewel on her forearm recoiling its mental connection, sought and then snubbed in that baffling cycle by his bearer once again.
Kýrie glowered across the room at the chimera speaking, his great white, feathered wings fluttering, his claws spread wide, clinging to the soft mats, as if he might lift off in his tense euphoria. She dismissed the idea of furniture spikes driving nails into the other Falconmembers in the crying circle of confidentiality. Well, except maybe him. What the hell did he think he was talking about? He clearly was lit from the last battle on Okysina against the Cat Centers. He was up, almost like he was Catalyst tinted. But his Nivelo mental level was elevated in the good way, where his ego was inflated to the point of feeling he was adding so much weight to the universe that it might rock a planet’s axis. He was probably basking in the glory of a million different trainings and brilliant ideas – most of which would be left unfinished as his high broke or when his fractured flights of fancy moved him to a new project. Right now, he was obnoxiously close to pushing Kýrie right off the edge of her shifting, floating bench and smashing him with her SageTablet.
A starjet roared over the curved glass roof, nearby stars glistening off its metal side, the Falcon symbol blazoned across its tail, the starjet pilot supremely satisfied with his or her intense and imperative position in the Falcon Agency. Kýrie wondered what planet the starjet was returning home from, what success they had had, entirely assuming they had accomplished their mission, because that’s what Falcon did: they won.
When it was her turn to speak, Kýrie crossed her arms, slinking down against the wall, legs straight out, heels on the floor, toes pointed up, almost pushing herself from the bench. She pulled the hood of her cloak down a little lower and looked from under it at the group that welcomed her with open eyes. The regulars knew that she was in a different condition than she had been the week before. At the same time, they knew how quickly her mental state shifted anyway. There were a couple new faces in the group that probably didn’t know Kýrie attended, but she didn’t care. The confidentiality and anonymity of the Vigor groups were secured with the truest Falcon codes. They were created to ensure the mental wellbeing of warrior scholars who saw death, took in souls, stressed themselves in battle and academics, and had determinations to win every conquest on every world.
“My name is Kýrie. I’m struggling with my Nivelo. I was at the Okysina Cat Center clash with the WindTamers yesterday. I saw…I saw…I can’t believe what the Crep are doing…also, I, uh…I killed a Mortali for the first time yesterday…” she nearly whispered the words, as if she didn’t want them to be as momentous as they actually were. “…and the Hauntings are—”
“Say it, say what I can do to you even in my death,” Lausini sneered and Kýrie’s pulse quickened. The soul of the WindTamer thrashed in her mind, as if he still thought he could escape back to the realm of the living. Kýrie’s eyes dropped and she knew the others could feel the tragedy she had seen. All those children…stripped of their souls and left to vegetate while their qwaneduns were reaped of their magic. She knew that there were others here who had seen similar things at the Cat Center onslaughts. There were likely others here who were being Haunted right at that moment. But her normal anxiety was just heightened by all that she had seen. She knew she needed to talk about it…Slug her stupid Nivelo.
Kýrie gripped her sleeves a little tighter as the frenetic energy of those knives piercing inside her started to rattle around, cleaving the sinew and making her white blood cells vomit out hope against infection.
She would always be infected by this mental tempest.
“I have decided that I’m not so different from the Mortalis who have been deqwaned…half the time, I don’t even feel my own soul. Like I have no halogens of magic empowering me, or, maybe, like I don’t even want to have them at all.” Kýrie knew how dangerous it was to say the last words, but it wasn’t like when she was in her Shaman’s office and the Mindwalker with those huge glasses and Torquen ears worried that she would actually act on any desperate ideations. The Shaman was required to pay more attention. Here, though, Kýrie knew that she was not the only one who could see death creeping through or pouncing on them from the shadows. Actually, her devils visited her just as much in daylight too. “See, I figure I have to just fight as hard as I can while I’m in this state. While I’m in a miserably wrecked, ultradian bouncing, mixed Nivelo like this. It’s the abyss. It really is the abyss. It’s like exploding in slow motion. It’s like: I’m crying but I’m excited about it. I’m either spending my days trapped and totally cratered, or I’m out raging to win at every training, to read every new alert, to learn each Falcon mission. I’m just angry inside. And I’m angry because I know now that I have to accept my limitations. I have to accept that these Hauntings will keep happening and that my own deficiencies will just make it harder to deal with them. What is the answer to death, anyway? Aren’t these Hauntings trying to tell me that I’m doing something wrong?” Kýrie paused, as if expecting an answer. Some of the group nodded, but others weren’t even sure of the answer for themselves. The chimera didn’t even seem to have heard her as he angled his lion’s head up and about, intermittently grinning, then scowling at starjets and nebulas and dreams out the window roof. She rolled her eyes his way, at the same time jealous that he could be so enraptured by life. “Well, that’s about it for me. I just have to sluggin’ accept…” the last words tasted like lead in her mouth and weighed just as heavy, “…that the me I want to be is not sustainable. I can’t have that me. I have to adjust to being some other person – one who can stay stable because she is staying restrained. Accepting that 50% of the time, I’m just a worthless burden to those around me.”
“Thanks for sharing, Kýrie.” The facilitator Mindwalker looked at the person beside her. Kýrie pulled her hood lower, blinking back the veil of tears. The group turned into a seamless blob, a circle around her that wasn’t as tight a a noose, but was just as grim.
“This is not a therapy group, this is a support group…” Pride reminded her of one of the active rules of the Vigor group. “Your words are useless; their response is not permitted to be more than negligible expressions of support. You should not deign them to address you. You are a Kylkynne, after all. You are the Challenge. It is beneath you to be here. There is no intentional display of strength when participating in an action of self-pity.”
“I disagree. Perhaps this is showing that I am stronger than they can imagine. I am like them; I struggle too. Isn’t there value in that? Solidarity, Fraternity, Trust. Isn’t that what the Vigor Groups mean? It is not self-pity…”
The next Falconwoman lamented that her brother had been killed on Stato-oskin. The Falconwoman had cheeks that stuck out further than her isosceles triangle nose. A little coating of snot was sparkling at the edges of her nostrils as she struggled not to cry. Kýrie had known her brother in one of her Fiver training courses. He had always hesitated a moment before making each decision. Kýrie wondered sadly if that hesitation was what had led to his death.
Kýrie relaxed her fingers where they were clutching each opposite bicep and realized her arms hurt. Ached. She unfolded her fingers and curled them out and in, trying to clear the cramping. She squirmed her body a little in the seat, breathing in deeply. She shook out her hands and some of the little spikes of anxiety left with it. She reached into her pack, as silently and as secretively as she could, and took out the kaleidoscope Ayden had given her a few weeks before. Even if she didn’t look through it, even if she didn’t use it for the mindfulness tool it was, ignoring the other members of the group, it felt good to hold its sleek amber wood. It was about six inches long, about one inch in diameter. The entire thing was the barrel, with a crystal ball on the end. It was an amazing moment when she had discovered that kaleidoscopes could work for her as an anxiety reduction tool. It narrowed her vision, it stimulated her brain but also calmed it, distracted it as she felt like a child, spinning it slowly to look at different patterns and colors, exploding them into prism images of ordered chaos.
“We are going to annihilate Falcon—”
Kýrie breathed in deeply and shut out the WindTamer’s hostile attack on her mind.
“About time you dismissed him,” Pride taunted.
Kýrie breathed in deeply and shut out her dewdrop too.
The wood was calming and she let herself grin. Maybe she could make it through; maybe she just needed to remember her soul word. Her passion…
Kýrie held the kaleidoscope up at her eye and scanned the group, not caring if the others saw her. They spun into slate grey cloaks and bright qwaneduns, sad faces and somber voices. Her antic made some smiles, sparking in geometric designs, intricate displays of Mortalis spinning into sharp shapes. She wondered if this was what being tinted with the Catalyst drug looked like. She knew it made distinct shadows and slants of the people around. Maybe Tasting would calm her too.
“Don’t even think that, Kýrie.”
Kýrie jumped as Mak’s voice infiltrated her mind banks. She looked at her Keeper across the circle. Of course he had followed her to the group. He was never faraway and he probably wanted to be present if she had another panic attack.
Kýrie ignored him and breathed deeply, angry that he could break into her mental blocks.
“You need to see Seia,” Mak said.
Everyone kept saying that, but she was reluctant. Seeing Seia for Cogi instruction meant analyzing Seia for a weakness, knowing that she would need to kill the former Challenge soon…sooner than she wanted. Kýrie was already inundated by the WindTamer’s Haunting and the Haunting of the accidental intake of her brother’s soul had been even worse…she didn’t want to kill again.
“It is like the Awakening.”
“Shut up, Pride! I hate that sentiment. It is not an absolute that I will kill again. I can change that…”
“No one can thwart Time.”
Kýrie huffed out a breath and directed the kaleidoscope at the floor in front of her, diving deep into a meditative state. She didn’t want to kill again. She didn’t want her mind to splinter. She didn’t want to ache the way she did…but she didn’t have a choice. Maybe it was like the Awakening…maybe she was just cursed. Maybe she would never be free. Maybe she would fall even deeper into this. Maybe she would ruin everything.
Kýrie looked at her FalconKeeper again, chest tight, fingers trembling against the wood. Mak’s electric blue eyes were a soft comfort. She wanted to melt before his gaze and grab him against the distance his new mission forced between them. At least she got to be near him.
Maybe there were ways that she was blessed too.