Rachel, One Day Before Impact Day
“What are you doing here?” Sadie asked. The holographic version of her projected onto my glasses folded its arms, pouting.
I knew from what she’d told me that Charlie could actually see Sadie, as clearly as any corporeal person. That had confused me for a while, but so far as I could figure without Charlie herself to test on, what she was seeing was a psychic projection. In reality, Sadie was effectively constructed of a collection of quantum-locked molecules combined in some combination unlike any naturally-forming material, in some impossible state of matter. A fifth state.
It was the closest to a confirmation of the existence of a soul I expected to ever see. Though it was difficult to pull any hard data, the soul particles, as I was thinking of them, seemed to radiate pure energy in a way that entirely contradicted what I understood about the rules of the universe. That energy seemed to be responsible for connecting a soul to a body, and without a body…
She should have dissipated long ago, or more likely detonated, releasing all of that energy all at once. Instead, some impossible force was keeping her together. An impossible force called Charlie.
Regardless, it was that output of energy that let me track her position in the first place. I couldn’t measure the soul particles themselves, but I could measure their impact on the air around them. They didn’t create sound in the sense of vibrations in the air, but it was did broadcast something on a wavelength not dissimilar to the technology behind wireless communication.
All that added up to my ability to track and interact with her, albeit through several complicated pieces of tech I’d thrown together. It was a fun challenge.
Oh yeah, she asked me a question, didn’t she?
“I like it here,” I said. “It smells like Charlie. Besides, I figured you could use the company.”
“Shouldn’t you be looking for Charlie?” she asked, with a hint of accusation.
“I told you, I know where she is. I just can’t get to her.”
“Can’t you build some kind of mech suit or something?” she asked.
I laughed. The idea wasn’t actually impossible. Given enough time and infinite resources, I probably could put together some kind of super suit. Unfortunately, I had neither of those things. Still, it was a fun idea for the future. Maybe Charlie and I could be like Captain America and Iron Man. But like, the angsty teen versions.
“I told you my plan,” I said.
“Your plan is stupid,” she told me. “It’s been five months.“
Don’t take the bait. She’s hurting, just like you.
“I’m doing the best I can,” I said, through gritted teeth. “I’ve examined every possible approach, okay? I’m keeping an eye on Aidan and Liz, who are doing everything you want me to be doing. And surprise, they’re failing. Because it will never work, because we’re three teenagers who don’t have any powers between us except a superhuman ability to understand how things work. Meanwhile, there’s a superhuman just sitting around running a fucking café who could just walk right in and pluck Charlie out, and she’s doing nothing. You get it? She’s the best hope we have. And I am working on it.”
Sadie sat there in silence, and I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. My tech wasn’t precise enough to pick up micro-expressions or the nuances of body language.
“What if she doesn’t ever change her mind?” Sadie asked.
“There’s got to be a way,” I said. “I’m not just giving up. I’m not leaving her. I just won’t.”
“…What if I talked to her?” Sadie suggested.
“You could use this stuff. Let her see me. Maybe she’d listen to me. Maybe if she knew…”
A smile began to creep across my face.
“Sadie, you have the makings of a genius yourself.”
Wendy frowned as I entered the café, Sadie trailing behind.
“We’re closed,” she said. “And I’m not interested in talking about—” She stopped, and sniffed the air. “What is that?”
“You mean my fancy eyewear?” I asked. “That’s actually—”
“Not that,” Wendy snapped, dropping the visage of pleasantness. “That smell, it’s…”
She approaches rapidly, with that inhuman speed and grace that she usually worked so hard to keep hidden. Astonishingly, she stopped right in front of Sadie.
“Me?” Sadie asked, squeaking in surprise.
“What’s here?” Wendy asked. “Who’s here?”
“Incredible,” I said. “It was your nose that gave her away? That’s gonna have some implications…”
“Who is it?” Wendy demanded.
“Sadie,” I said. “Charlie’s sister. That’s why I’m here.”
I handed her a pair of glasses with connected earphones, a matching set to my own.
“You figured out how to communicate with the dead?” Wendy asked.
“Just one,” I replied. “I don’t have a lot of test cases to work with.”
She put the glasses on, and gasped when she looked at Sadie properly.
“Impossible,” she said. “You should be…”
“Welcome to Charlie’s world,” I said. “Impossible is her bread and butter.”
“It’s nice to meet you…” Sadie said.
“How long have you been like this?” Wendy asked.
“Twelve years,” Sadie replied.
“I think Charlie keeps her stable,” I said. “But it’s getting weaker. I think… I think Charlie’s losing hope. And if she does…”
Sadie stared at me, mouth agape. I hadn’t shared any of that with her. I hadn’t wanted to. But if we were going to save Charlie, we needed to convince Wendy. And if we were going to convince Wendy…
“A single soul contains enough energy to level half the state,” Wendy said.
“Five million dead in an instant,” I said.”
“No!” Sadie said. “No, you never told me that!”
“I didn’t want to,” I said. I wanted to save your genuine reaction for Wendy, I didn’t say.
“I need to get away,” she said. “Far away, where I can’t hurt anyone.”
“It’s not just that,” Wendy said. “Soul energy isn’t like, well, energy. Energy is just a property of matter. Specifically, local matter. But soul energy exists outside of the local space. A detonation of that magnitude could rip a hole in the walls of reality itself.”
“Like to the version of Earth that you come from,” I said.
“Yes,” Wendy replied, confirming my suspicions.
“I’ll try to find a way to contain it,” I said. “I’ll find a way to save you, Sadie. Maybe I can shove you inside a different body, or…”
“No,” Wendy said. “That won’t… Just trust me. It won’t work.”
“Then what do we do?”
“I need to think,” Wendy said. “And you need to leave.”
“Don’t take too long,” I said. “There’s a lot at stake here.”
Next Week: Charlie Can’t Know