Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Suggestion Box: "One Thousand Words" List #19

Suggested by: +Lee Hawke 

The List:
The Ottoman Empire
Not Earth Time (Is that allowed?) Answer: Yes! I can make it work...
An earthen bowl

The Result: 
"Story Time"

I reached the bridge in only half the allotted time. My bracelet beeped to let me know of an incoming communication. I checked the growing frustration in my chest before it rose to my face as I activated the video interface.

"Agent Celestine, report!"
The uppity Galactic commander's voice grated out of the tiny speaker.
"Relax, Commander Coombe," I muttered. "I've barely gone twenty klicks since the last time you called."
"Have you reached Tower Bridge?"
I surveyed the narrow, treacherous thoroughfare riddled with gaps from ancient bombs. "What's left of it," I muttered.
"All right, once you cross the River of Times, the Old Parliament building should be south of your position."
There were a lot of buildings south of my position. "Commander, I don't even know what a parlament is—"
"Do you see the huge clock tower?"
I could; it was so big, it would be hard to miss. "Yes."
"Scanners indicate that the package is under wraps inside. Check there."
This time I let the sarcasm drip from my voice. "The package is under wraps?" I echoed. "Seriously? Did you come up with that one yourself?"
"Just retrieve the package, Agent! And go dark after this. We don't want the Silencers to pick up our signal before the rescue happens."
"What if I end up needing rescuing?" I demanded.
"You'll find a way, I'm sure." He severed the connection and my bracelet stopped glowing.

"Great!" I muttered to myself as I picked my way over exposed struts and downed tension wires across the ravine that was once full of water. The River of Times (actually, I heard that the old name was something like Tames, for whatever reason) had long since dwindled to a small creek at the bottom of the dry ravine.
I continued my rant when I was safe on solid ground on the other side. "Just because I'm a Silvertongue doesn't mean I am untouchable!" Quite the opposite, actually.

Silvertongue is a rare genetic disposition passed on only in cases where the genes of the Silvertongue are dominant in the offspring. Back in the days of the Ottoman Empire, Silvertongues were regarded as supernaturally-gifted storytellers or prophets and seers who could predict the future—

And as long as there have been Silvertongues, there have been Silencers trying to hunt us down and take our ability.

Our name, Silvertongue, comes from our ability to alter reality through stories. In the Old Ages of science, information, and technology, the effect was always attributed to some other source, it always had a logical explanation why things always managed to end up exactly in the way predicted by the Silvertongue.

Then the Solar Swell happened, and everything changed.
In the course of a single decade, the sun expanded to three times it's normal size. The added gravitational pull sped the Earth's orbit and transformed the surface of the world into a large, barren desert. Oceans, lakes, rivers evaporated. A war broke out among the continents, since they were no longer separated by any kind of impassable waterway. It ended up that each nation built and launched its own space station, capable of housing and supporting its citizens. Now, instead of interacting on the Earth's surface, the inhabitants of the world orbited in the stratosphere. Earth's resources and most of its nonhuman life had been destroyed in the war and in the swell, so there really wasn't any reason to return.

Unless you were a Silvertongue.

The biggest change wrought by the Swell was that one's will could be directly and instantly brought to bear on reality. The population of Silvertongues could bring things and people in and out of existence at a word. No more waiting for things to happen, no more prophecies with "rational explanations"; we spoke and it happened.
It became very easy for the Silencers to find us and pick us off. I blame the legends.

While the Silvertongues remained invisible, the tales about them grew. Some said that the name meant that our tongues were literally made from soft, malleable silver. Others said that liquid silver ran in our veins. But everyone agreed that the "silver" part held our reality-warping power—and consumption of the silver transferred the power to another person. The Silencers became ruthless in their pursuit. Either they wanted to control us, rob us of our power in some way, or kill us all off.

The fact that, outwardly, we didn't look any different from normal people, helped us hide in the masses evacuating earth. Of course, the government knew, but we had always been protected by the government—too many stories of a Silvertongue gaining admittance to inner circles and manipulating the leadership made officials all too willing to leave us well enough alone. Our abilities, while heightened on Earth's surface, remained the same protracted influence on the space stations, so as long as we remained accountable to the authorities and did not go out of our way to cause trouble, we survived.

But now the Silencers had taken one of our own, and it was my job to bring her back.

My timepiece showed 15 hours of the 24-Standard Earth's inhabitants once reckoned as a single day. With the sun so blazing huge and the orbit so fast, the length of an orbit had shrunk and so did the sunless hours. Out on the space stations, people had not wanted to leave the 24-hour reckoning, so the artificial atmosphere had been rigged to follow the old seasonal and daylight patterns, even though we were pretty much always in the presence of the sun onboard.

The enormous edifice loomed over me and spread all around me. This had probably been a headquarters of some sort, judging by the intensity of the damage inflicted upon it. Barely two walls of every four remained standing. I could stand in one place and see the entire layout.

A slight movement next to one of the crumbling walls caught my attention. Now that I focused on that one spot, I could clearly make out the burly, armored shape of a Silencer scout, facing eastward, away from me. The barrel of his gun slanted down to his ankle. Good; that meant I was close. I snuck through the ruins, over wood and carpet floors, through gaping rifts in the plaster and drywall now strewn across the landscape. The closer I got to the enormous clock tower, the more sentries I had to avoid. I clambered through a room with tiled walls--a bathroom, maybe?--and I heard them: voices.

“--can’t do anything if you don’t hold her still!”
“It’s gonna be soup tonight, luv--tongue soup!”
“Watch it! Nearly bled me, idjit!”
“Sorry… Oy! Stop makin’ ‘er squirm, would ya?”

I snuck through the shadows--growing longer as the planet rotated away from the harsh, overwhelming sun--and leaned in as far as I dared, till I could make out the five hulking forms, all gathered around a small, lithe body crouched over an earthen bowl. One man held her head in two hands, while another reached into her mouth with one hand and brandished a knife in the other. They were going to cut her tongue out, maybe bleed her, too--unless I intervened.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and recalled the scene I had just seen. I imagined describing it to Commander Coombe. “Five men crouch around an earthen bowl,” I whispered. In the hands of the man who held a knife, I imagined a feather--a bright, fluffy, pink, fashion-accessory feather. I opened my eyes.

The scene before me had transformed to exactly the way I had re-told it. Treya--their prisoner--was safely away from here, probably back at wherever the Silencers had landed, since telling a story couldn’t transcend the boundaries of atmosphere.

The men all reacted with loud curses.
"She disappeared! Did she say anything?"
"How could she talk when the Boss had his fingers in her mouth?"
“Shaddup, everyone!” said the leader, throwing down the feather as if it were a live wire. “There’s another Silver here!”
“It can’t be far,” muttered another man--moving, if he knew it, dangerously close to the corner where I hid. Close enough, in fact, that I could hear his breathing while I held my own. “A Silvertongue needs a line of sight to be able to work.”
“Silencers,” the leader barked, “spread out and find me that Silvertongue!”

Previously in This Series:
#15 "Rendezvous"("Soul Mates" Part 6/"Serenity's Light" Part 2)