Magellan Universe characters © Stephen Crowley
Symbol © Pascal Rassi, 1998 [p-04referent.blogspot.com]
Disclaimer : this story is not Magellan canon.
Author's content advisory : intense romantism ahead, diabetics proceed with caution.
The events in this story take place just after page 5.18
If you haven't read the Magellan comic story, there are many spoilers here.
Pascal Rassi, April 2008
Space : Sol System, planet #3 : Earth, continent Oceania, Magellan Island [coordinates classified]
Time : +2009-10-23 - 09-03
Sigma code : dimensional plane I-1026
2009, October 10th, 9:03am UT, 7:03pm local time.
Counselor Freya Foster, friendly-faced pink-haired human female, had worried all day about 1st year Magellan Academy cadet Maya Applecross [female human too, black hair, dark skin, body corpulence above the average], whose delicate case she was following. Maya hadn´t been dealing well, to say the least, with the dramatic events that had shaken the island and her own life nearly six months earlier. Despite the young girl´s unflinching facade, Freya could sense the potentially explosive turmoil of emotions brewing, festering, inside Maya´s soul, and she didn´t really need her empathic powers to know that. Everybody who knew was worried that she could become the alternate future criminal Miasma, beautiful and deadly. Maya knew about her, but did she care? To be or not to be...
It was Freya´s job to assess and manage such issues. Their last meeting had left her apprehensive, so after classes she had met the girl to further try and talk through the translucent shield of her tensed indifference, in the propitious atmosphere of a tranquil evening stroll. The chat wasn´t going too well so far. Maya was defensive, and wouldn´t come out of her skulking shell. Freya´s psychologist skills were being taxed. She raised the sensitivity level of her natural empathic power, "listening" acutely, to better sense the tendancies of her patient, to manuver through Maya´s defenses and try to reach her, like a captain navigating among dangerous reefs in hostile waters. Distracted by her worries, the counselor pushed her invisible power of perception (and potentially of manipulation) too intensely.
That was very fortunate in this instance. Because she sensed more than the was looking for, and in the nick of time.
«Maya! There´s somebody nearby!» Her voice was tense, almost desperate.
«So what?», Maya indiffered. «It´s not like I´m gonna spill my beans to you in public. Or were you hoping...
- Where is he? Quick! It´s almost too late!»
The vesperal light was dimming, and the shadows stretching on the calm campus. The healer of souls looked frantically around, spreading her superhuman sensitivity everywhere like a radar. She grabbed Maya´s arm and, pointing at one of the tall modern buildings nearby, whispered in the annoyed girl´s ear :
«Up there, on the ledge! Hush! He´s about to jump. Maya, do something, quick. Mojo him, it´s the only way.
- At that distance? You´re dreaming! He´s way too high up.
- You can do it. Try.
- Help me out here. I need info, a scenario to distract him. What´s his motivation?
- His love is dead. [Freya acutely realized the irony of the situation, since this was precisely the source of Maya´s problems as well.] He wants to join her and end the pain. Easy now, any mistake and he jumps, he´s almost made his decision.
- Got that. I´m on it.»
Despite her own state of mind, Maya Applecross already had the well-honed reflexes of any good superheroine-in-training. People in danger meant immediate action. She focused on the building facade, many feet above them, and sent all the might of her "mojo" power, capable of creating incredibly life-like illusions, basically getting her targets to believe they were really living any hallucination she suggested to them. A very potent and dangerous power, in the wrong hands...
What´s the use? I can´t go on like this. And I don´t even WANT to any more. First my whole family, and now Kat. I had almost regained the will to live. I was in love, madly. She had found me a new job, and a great one at that, right here with her. And then the dragons came. Killed her before my eyes. I see the horrible scene every time I close my eyes. Katty...
All these months, and I still can´t forget. It hurts too much, all the time. So many people died that day, anyway, why would my own loss be more important? It´s nobody´s fault. But Destiny chose to strike me down. Again. It´s too much.
You were my sole reason to try and live again, Kat my love. You gave me strength. Now I´ve lost everything. Again. I´ve tried to be brave, to be strong. I´ve tried to go on. The psychologists tried their best too, bless them for caring. But I can´t. So I´m coming to you. Only one way for us to be reunited. In a better world. I hope picking up my body won´t be too much of a bother. I did pick a spot out of people´s way. Better not risk falling on someone, it´s not their fault. Okay, I´m ready. No reason to delay any longer. Let´s reunite, my darling.
And then something happened. Right there, in front of me, I saw it. Kat´s face, so big, transparent, phantomatic, looking at me, smiling at me, adorable as ever. And she spoke. I could barely hear her whisper, but it was angelic her allright.
«Don´t do it, William. I loved you too, but now you must live. For me.
- No, Kat. I miss you too much. What´s keeping me here? I´ve got nobody left. Nothing to hope for. It´s over.»
And then she said something I´ll never, ever forget. She said : «You must live, so my memory will live with you.»
Yes, she was right. I owed it to her, to the beauty of our love. Our story was finished, but if I died, nobody would remember it. As long as I lived, she wouldn´t completely be gone, some of her, some of US, would remain. It was then that I decided I´d go on living.
One problem remained. I had, literally, cut off the bridges behind me, not planning on turning back. I looked down into the evening. There were two women in the twilight, not too far away. Trying not to think of the suddenly unappealing void right underneath me, I called them, not too loud so as not to startle them : «Uh... Hello? Ladies? I´m stuck here, could you get some help? Please?»
I don´t know why they looked at each other for a moment before reacting. Ah well, better than if they had freaked out and started yelling hysterically. I sure wasn´t going anywhere while I waited.
I would´ve been very content with whatever flying Super they´d send. The silent Windwalker, Pink Seraphimette, le Montgolfier, Air Raiser, Señor Quetzal, Skydancer, Hayabusa San, Firetail, Abu Metheyn, Phartistic Phoenix, Sulfurious... I´m not picky, a no-codename first year cadet like Bill Banks would´ve done nicely. Even a simple janitor to unlock the nearest window, really, just get me down somehow. But no, it was Written that this evening would be special. I was graced with the high honor (high indeed from where I stood!) of being rescued by the famous Charisma Epoch herself. Turns out she was the easiest to reach, having some big sorority party going on or something. She wasn´t too happy, either : «Like, what´s the big idea, buster? Couldn´t go sightseeing until after hours? I´m missing the party of the year right now, you know.»
I beamed at her. Incredible as it may seem, life was already back to normal, girl students all preoccupied with the futility of their carefree lives. «Sorry for the annoyance, pop princess. And thank you so much for saving my life up there. I´m fine now. Hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.»
She was taken by surprise. As if she expected me to be as grumpy as herself. «Oh. Uh... Well... You be more careful next time, okay?
- Will do.»
She flew away, just like that. In such a rush that she forgot to give me a souvenir autograph, how about that. Ah well. I turned to the women who had commed for help : «I believe I owe you ladies thanks as well.»
I think this is when I must´ve blacked out.
«Nice job, cadet. You just succeeded in a difficult rescue. And without a second to spare.
- Yeah. No sweat.» Maya was lost in her thoughts. «All in a day´s work.
- Was it hard, using your mojo as such a distance?
- A challenge, barely reached him at all, but it did the job. Showed him his sweetheart, telling him not to jump. He did the rest himself, his mind filled in the details.»
Maya´s own mind was clearly elsewhere, she didn´t even think of asking why Freya´s "vybe" power, which influences emotions at will, couldn´t have saved the depressive man. Tactfully, Freya chose to leave well enough alone : «Well, that was quite an eventful evening. We even got to admire the magnificent Charisma Epoch in action. Front row seats, free of charge.»
Maya smiled. She had almost forgotten how it felt to smile for real, not just to be left in peace.
I woke up at the infirmary. Had a surprisingly easy time convincing Miss Foster that I felt fine, and that I was positive I wouldn´t try such a stunt ever again. Somehow, she knew I really meant it. Clever woman. It was like some kind of epiphany, as if I had suddenly opened my eyes to a simple truth that had been sitting right there, waiting to be noticed. There was a reason why I had survived twice. Destiny didn´t want to take MY life. So I had to find a purpose in this life. Whatever it turned out to be. "Till death do us part." Death HAD done us part. One day, I would find solace, peace. One day, like many widowers -Kat and I were never married, but it´s all the same- the wound would heal, and I would love again. And it would not be a betrayal of the woman I had loved. I knew, had I been the one to go, that I would´ve wanted Kat to go on, and to be happy again. True love is not posssessive, it´s generous. Thank you for everything, my beloved.
While I was there making deep philosophy, I noticed the cadet. She sat there, thoughtful, silently looking at me. I spoke first : «I remember you. Why do I have the feeling I haven´t thanked you for everything yet?»
She only answered with a cryptic Mona Lisa ghost smile. There was something familiar about her. She had changed a lot, but suddenly it came back to me.
«Hey, I know you. You´re Maya Applecross, right? Honored for your heroism in...»
I suddenly stopped mid-sentence while she stared at me. «Excuse me, Miss. I... I lost someone very dear to me that day.» I looked at her, and went on : «And... so did you.»
She changed, looking at me suspiciously :
«You´re faculty staff, aren´t you? What, you read my file?
- No. I only manage personnel files, don´t have clearance for such data. I just saw it in your eyes.»
She relaxed. I have this lucky "thing", that when I´m telling the truth people always seem to know it. Something to with the eyes, I think.
«So... you have me at a disadvantage, mister urban alpinist. I don´t know YOUR name.
- Adam. Adam Zero. Norm, 23, Gemini.»
Dr Chandra cut in, clipboard in hand :
«Isn´t your name William Leno?
- That´s what I said.
- No, you said "Adam Zero".
- I did? Why would I say that? I don´t know anybody with that name.»
They both gave me a strange look. I was puzzled :
«Uh... Did I actually fall and hit my head?
- No. Apart from the emotional shock, you´re in perfect health.
- Yeah, emotional shock. That´s understandable. Charisma Epoch in person carried my insignificant carcass on her busy schedule.» They laughed. Charisma jokes are always popular. «Must´ve been a Freudian slip. Random bits of data from work. I am a bit shaken up, to be honest.»
The Doctor left us to chat, and we talked the night away. (Good thing it was a Friday.) Maya told me about her love, wizard cadet Chang Chong. I remembered him too from the ceremony, posthumous medal hero, but I didn´t know these two were close. Some of their history, the last day, was classified info, so she was forbidden to tell me about it. Very few people knew the details of what had really happened that day. I told her about mine, Kat, and her joyful smile like a dancing ray of sunshine. When I told her how she died, she seemed as if she was feeling guilty. I reassured her that it was okay for her not to tell me what she couldn´t.
I woke up abruptly. What a strange dream! I was Symbol, and I was Witness to terrible events, time-traveling criminals, human sacrifices, ghost planets, and supreme selflessness. But... what is Symbol? And what does it all mean? It´s already vanishing from my memory.
I´m still quite shaken up, it seems. But why? I´ve made my peace with Kat´s death. Seeing her face, that night, made me realize. The pain is still there, but I´ve accepted it now. And getting down carried by Charisma Epoch wasn´t THAT scary. It was definitely better than waiting up there until she arrived.
Is it so traumatizing, to have almost died? But the only danger came from myself. Once I decided to live, the issue was resolved. Wasn´t it?
Maya returned to see me the next day. And the day after that.I guess we actually started dating at some point. There´s something about her... something very special. After several months, I still can´t put my finger on it. All I know is that I feel instinctively drawn to her. Some sort of fascination.
No, I don´t think we were wrong to finally sleep together. But that night, the strange dreams returned, more intense than ever. And this time, I did not forget after I woke up. Quite the contrary. So I awakened Maya. She had to know. Sweet Maya, forgive me. But I owe you the truth.
All the truth.
Maya awoke under the gentle shake. She was not happy. At that moment, she felt like she had betrayed the memory of Chang. She felt utterly despicable, as if she had just renounced avenging his death, a couple hours earlier. She spoke first : «William, this was a mistake.»
William was very excited, and had a strange look in his eyes. «No, sweet Maya, you´re wrong. This was precisely the end of many mistakes.
- You don´t even know what I meant!», she got angry. But he kissed her mouth passionately : «Oh yes I do! Because I HAVE JUST REALIZED WHAT I AM. Everything is suddenly so clear. I´ve found my purpose, thanks to you, and my purpose was to thank you by setting you free!»
She sat up, forgetting her initial intention of covering her more and more fit body with the sheet in a symbolic defensive gesture. God, this man was attractive! But she couldn´t. She should never have let herself even have feelings for him, let her resolve weaken for any reason. He affectionately took her by the shoulders, ignoring her tensing attitude : «Oh, Maya, my darling, my savior every day, you who are more beautiful every morning, I love you. And it´s time to prove it.» A strange shadow passed over his eyes, and she wasn´t sure of what she had seen. «But first things first», he smiled at her with a bizarre joy. «Maya my sweet, I must break up with you. Happy?»
Oh, that look on her face when I said that! Priceless! «Yo, what´s gotten into you? You´re so weird all of a sudden.» And then of course, she tried to use her mojo power to protect herself. My mistake. I shouldn´t so easily forget how edgy she can be. A very adequate vision, I must say. So simple, so efficient. She projected in my mind an image of her, still sitting defenseless in the bed, while actually she rose to safe distance. All the while keeping the connection to see what I would do in her pretend reality, what terrible plans freaky William had for her. With anybody other than Symbol, this would probably have worked. But I promptly ended both the illusion and the link : «Oh, baby, behave! For your own safety, my sweet, don´t do that. There´s too much in my mind for a human to view without danger. Information overload, you see. Ask Mudge Wilson one of these days.»
She didn´t reciprocate my amicable tone one bit. Plump as she might still be, she looked like a tigress ready to strike, beautiful and fearsome, and she snarled : «Don´t you call me "sweet". I´m NOT sweet! Who or what are you, anyway?»
I looked at her with the eyes that cannot lie : «I´m the man who fell in love with you, and I will never do anything to hurt you. You got that? Now, all I´m asking is for you to calm down, return here next to me and hear me out. Let´s just talk. Nothing more, I swear.»
Reluctantly, and still on her guard, she approached slowly : «Allright, go ahead. Talk.»
Maya wasn´t a helpless damsel in distress, not by a long shot. She had at least half a dozen contingency plans ready if ever that puzzling man, whom she so trusted a few hours earlier and who could resist her power, tried to harm her. Some of these plans you´d rather not know about, trust me. But she sat, and warily listened to me.
«Lordy, you´re so beautiful, you know that? Too bad I have to break up with you.
- Why´s that?
- Why? But... simply because that´s what you want, my sweet! All of a sudden, you´re not at ease with our relationship, so of course I have to let you free. Because I love you so.
- How does that make sense?
- Why, because love´s not selfishness or being possessive. True Love is generosity, giving to the other like the other gave to you, and accepting to be given. If it´s what truly makes you happy my dear, then by all means let´s end our relationship.
- What are you? A telepath? An empath like Foster? You´re not a Norm, you lied to me!
- Oh, Maya. I´d never lie to you. What kind of love would that be, without trust? I am just who I said. But I´m also Symbol. I only just realized it myself. All of it. I finally understood the dreams.
- It´s simpler to show you. And that´s no mojo, baby, it´s all real.»
He stood, and started amazing her. First, he became a silhouette much like a Yin-Yang made human. He pointed at an apple on the table, made it levitate, then slowly teleported it into his hand, as if atom by atom it was being dismantled and transfered. Suddenly the apple was cast inside an ice cube, a couple of seconds later it erupted into emerald-green flames and vanished entirely. Then the smoke gathered downwards like a film played in reverse, and the apple was there again. «Inverted entropy», he explained soberly. Blowing on it with the whisper of «carbon only», he turned it into a small apricot-sized block of coal, pressed it into both hands, and revealed a big raw diamond, which in a second became a masterfully cut gem while the discarded shards evaporated into a shiny mist. He then took a glass of water, flung its contents into the air, and the liquid slowed down until stopping in mid-air. «Time flow adjusting, from zero to any speed.» Then the water turned into a solid splash of gold, which he balanced on the tip of the diamond, commenting : «molecular transmutation». Dropping through the floor, he was at the same time falling down from the ceiling to a perfect gymnastics reception. He walked through the bed´s mass like a solid hologram without disturbing a single sheet fold, turned around, and she was looking at another Maya standing before her, who became a woman Symbol silhouette with long snow-white hair, then a man again, then a black oak tree with white leaves, each with a black spot on it and a large white disk on the trunk, then an inch-high homunculus. Suddenly, there were twenty or fifty of him filling the room, some standing on the walls or upside-down above her. Becoming one again, he made a small gesture at the room´s space, and they were in an impossible scenery, with marvellous forms and colors and musical sounds and scents such as she never thought could exist. With the voice of William, he said : «I was born and have died billions of times, I´ve fathered and mothered children, been every kind of living creature, seen and done the impossible. All that power must be put to good use, so I roam the Planes of all Realities, learning, and helping. But I can´t raise the dead once they´re gone. They are not mine to resurrect. And depending on the incarnation, I have more or less powers, sometimes none other than existing after that life is over and remembering it.»
While he spoke, they were back in the bedroom. He sent the immobile splash sculpture through a perfect circle of darkness that swallowed it like a lasso : «On top of Magellan´s statue, to be found by all tomorrow. So you´ll know it wasn´t a dream.» A small rain condensed from thin air and filled the glass, which he drank and then filled again. «Fresh water, such a simple pleasure... yet so precious, yes? Like the customary treasure of your company. We should always appreciate our fortunes while they last.» He gestured at their surroundings. «But that´s just playing. I, as Symbol, was sent here to help you confront what´s been hurting you so deeply, worse than Miasma was ever hurt.»
Miasma was Maya´s evil double from a Future that now wouldn´t be, but who had killed so many very real innocents nevertheless. Maya awoke from her amazement at the reminiscence, defensive again in an instant :
«Nothing´s been hurting me!
- Weren´t you having second thoughts about us?» He became another her again for a few seconds, and spoke to her with her own voice like a mirror image. «I can become anybody in body AND in soul. I know.» Black-and-white silhouette anew, the large white eyes dove into the darkness of hers, gaze of Symbol into gaze of panther. «Wouldn´t you also want to know what you haven´t been told? Don´t you have a right to the whole truth? I can give you that, all you have to do is accept to trust me. Like I trusted you the night you prevented me from killing myself.
- You, or William?
- I became one with William upon reaching the Universe where your soul was aching.. This is why he accidentally gave you my name at the infirmary. You needed a friend. Your pain, my pain, they brought us together. It´s that simple.»
She reached to my hand with hers, and I thought the Sigma formula., the mathematical Verb that opens all possibilities of space, time and soul. We became ghosts floating through Limbo, heading towards the ghostly Past hand in hand, while I explained to her : «It seems that physical time travel is not available to me in this incarnation. Even if it didn´t end up in an alternate timeline with another you, even if it weren´t pointless to the you which you are right now, I cannot undo Chang´s death. But I can let you know all that was kept from your knowledge. The worst lies are often said in silence, sometimes with the best of intentions. The neat thing about this experience is, through my powers you´ll be able to know the true feelings of everybody. For instance, you´ll know exactly what to think of Kaycee Jones or that chroner witch. And... knowledge is power, right?»
She clenched her teeth in firm resolve, her decision made : «Let´s do this. I want to know. I´m ready.»
She wasn´t quite as ready as she thought. But who can be? Even Symbol always gets shaken by such dramas, feels the pain as his own, god-like in powers but always so human at the core. But now she knew. She had seen and felt. Everything. She knew classified things, more than she could have dreamed for to become a master blackmailer, but this she never would. She knew that even the mad para-future evil double of her love wasn´t what had turned her para-future self evil. That truth set her soul free, released her from the power she gave to her curse by believing in it. She knew that nobody had cynically killed Chang to keep her on the straight and narrow. Thank God! Tears flowed from her beautiful eyes while sobs shook her, pain and relief mixed at once. She knew that Jones and the chroner witch [alternate future Montana Rose Touchwood, so fragile, so caring] had done everything in their power to save Chang. She knew that noble Chang, even across the dark drunkenness of the magic drug and the thirst for revenge, had given his life for them all, and for her, out of love. And she knew just who to blame for the creation of the para-future evil versions of her and Chang who had destroyed her life and killed her true love. Diablo was a terrible drug, every time she could she would oppose it. For the memory of Chang. The real one. HER Chang.
Symbol touched her shoulder, as tender as ever : «Remember. The darkness is potentially within you. I helped guide you through the secrets and silences that destroy countless lives, but only you will make the final choice. Now you´re free, but freedom works both ways. Other events might also push you towards the dark side. Beware that the face you see in the mirror doesn´t become the one that so resembled it. It´s your choice. Always. I´ve done my part.»
She rose and looked at me with the feral gaze that probably terrified many of Miasma´s enemies, a look so reminiscent of the future killer Maya which she could become : «That Master Drake first class S.O.B.! I´ll settle the scores with him, one day or another.»
I smiled grimly at her : «Alternate timeline or not, he sures deserves to be handed his jhorloks on an orichalcum krakhal. But beware that getting him doesn´t come at the price of your soul. Alternate future Jones also did some pretty dark choices. Nobody´s protected from the temptation. Not even me.»
I paused, remembering brief memories of an incredibly old past, across the milleniae of relative plane-traveling. Memories of red-tinted death and mad fury, and of the demon within, mirror of the demon outside which I hunted relentlessly. My deepest, greatest fear of all. My eternal fight. Some things Maya didn´t need to know about.
She took my hand, looked at me : «But I won´t be alone. You´re here now.» She thought for a moment : «I owe Jones an apology. She did all she could for Chang, AND my evil double did kill her horribly.»
He hesitated. «Maya... I won´t be here with you. Not as Symbol.
- What? No, hey, don´t leave me. Honestly, I don´t want to break up any more. Chang is dead, and I have no vengeance to chase with the world. We CAN be together, baby.
- It is time I left the life of William go forth normally, my sweet. You can be together, but Symbol will follow another destiny across the Many Infinites and countless existences. It´s my Destiny. Remember, until tonight there was no Symbol, only William, my Referent.
- Your what?
- It´s... Symbol´s anchor into humanity. There´s always one. A compass in every harbor. You see, I exist and I don´t exist all at once, like the paradox of Schrödinger. It WAS William you saved that night, and hesitantly fell in love with. You´re not really being deserted, it´s just the nomadic conscience that´s leaving the two of you to their Destiny. I don´t even have control over that. But... a part of Symbol will always be there. All the memories. Just not the thinking force with the Powers that came to you in your time of need.»
He drew her close for a kiss, while she was seeking the words to pleade. «Time for you to handle your life like a big girl, my sweet. Fare well, in two words.» A blinding silhouette in the form of a bird of pure white light arose, and in a flash seemed to implode silently, leaving fleeting floating golden sparks and a warmth that filled Maya´s still naked body from inside. Somehow, she wasn´t sad.
The golden warmth gradually returned to a normal feeling. I held my head : «Wow. That was... intense. And kinda cool. I mean, crossing the Whatever Continuum with you, and all.» I looked at her : «And I´m grateful that I got to share your pain like you listened to mine, my sweet. So... you want to break with the Norm who can´t fly you to the moon any more? Or...»
She looked at me, and said, not in the form of a question : «Or.» And then she was close against me, and I knew we´d face the Future together. No matter what it held for us.
At Physical Training, a changed Maya got close to Kaycee Jones, and whispered to her : «Yo, Jones... now I know you really tried, for Chang. We´re good, sister.
- Hunh? That´s great, but... what happened?
- A... little bird told me.
- APPLECROSS! Drop down and give me twenty, NOW!» thundered the booming badass barytone of Tom "ThundaKlap" Bass, Magellan Academy´s resident drill sargeant, the sheer strength of his sonic waves threatening her balance from several feet away.
«Sir, yes sir.» As Maya started sweating on her push-ups, she was still smiling, leaving Bass to scratch his shaved head in wondering. The more exercise, the more fit she became. No wonder He found her more pretty every day, love goggles or not. These drill sessions were definitely getting easier.
At the risk of losing count, she daydreamed. She hoped Master Drake would still be the same scrawny nerd the day she´d get her hands -or her mojo- on him. Maybe she´d mind-loop him into one of Tom Bass´s classes for a few weeks. A class full of bored jocks. Yeah, that´s it. Big muscular oiled bored jocks. In leather undies. That´d be just sweet.
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