Deborah was slow to get up. She hurt all over, and it took a moment to orient herself. She had hit the side of a rather large planter box opposite the door they had come in only a few minutes earlier. With a grunt, she flipped over and propped herself against the planter, holding her head.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine ma. . .” She stopped herself. Delphi really did sound like a mother, and in the aftermath of being thrown out a door, she almost thought Delphi sounded like her mother. “I’m fine, thank you.”
“Are you sure?” Delphi’s voice came from the glasses, still sitting in her pocket where L’lorne had placed them earlier that day. “If you want, put the glasses on and I will have them check you out to make sure.”
Deborah chuckled slightly, triggering a wince of pain. With a sigh, she pulled out the glasses and put them on.
“Nothing too serious,” Delphi said. “Still, you should not move too quickly right away.”
“I figured that.” Despite the warning, Deborah still moved to stand up, causing another wince of pain and a little dizziness.
She ignored Delphi and moved to the window set in the door and looked inside. There were explosions of tile everywhere, small ones that consisted more of dust than anything else. Pieces of the floor floated up and shattered against the wall, craters forming in the wake of invisible impacts. The door rattled with a boom that forced Deborah to step back. The small window in the door cracked with the impact. Looking back inside, there was no sign of the source, but many of the blocks that Ritch ‘arrd had created to shield her were utterly destroyed, and the few that remained had been worn away, some losing pieces as she watched.
Neither L’lorne or Ritch ‘arrd were visible. “Where are they?” she asked, her eyes scanning the room, even looking up towards the ceiling, to no avail.
A buzz now began to generate, flashes, and then massive ERROR statements appeared in front of her eyes. The buzzing grew louder and forced Deborah’s head back. She had nearly forgotten how eager to please the glasses were, and they were trying to find L’lorne and Ritch ‘arrd for her, but something was desperately wrong and she reached up to rip the offending eyewear off.
“Hang on, I will take care of that.” Suddenly the glasses went completely dark, the buzz halted so that the only noise was the occasional low boom and cracking coming from inside the natatorium. When the darkness faded away, Deborah was hesitant to move. “It is alright, I am processing the images now.”
“What happened?” Deborah leaned back towards the window and looked inside. The first thing she saw was L’lorne and Ritch ‘arrd, standing next to the pool, their weapons locked together, but neither was moving, but even then the image began to quickly fade away and another, on the other side of the pool appeared. This time they were charging at each other, weapons held up in the air, L’lorne’s mouth open in a silent, unmoving scream, and it was gone again. Then one was jumping over a swipe of the other, and gone, then another with weapon’s close, but not actually touching, and gone. Over and over again, the images appeared and vanished. “What is this?”
“Currently, L’lorne and Ritch ‘arrd are moving at very high speeds and in a separate time state. The glasses attempted to track them for you, but could not keep up, causing multiple errors. I took over for them, but even so, you are simply not moving fast enough to watch the battle in action. As such, I am displaying mere snapshots of every passing event. I will try to keep to the more interesting ones as most of this battle is rather dull.”
An extra loud boom echoed out, startling Deborah back a step. “Doesn’t sound dull.” She stepped back to the window. “So what do you mean by ‘separate time state?’”
“The way time is flowing around each of them is different than the way time flows for you and I. Right now, a second for us is nearly a day for them.”
“Whoa,” Deborah said. “Why?”
“Ritch ‘arrd is faster than L’lorne in general, so L’lorne is using the difference in the flow of time to allow her to keep up and even surpass him. However, he can do this as well, so she only gets this edge for a short time. He then matches it and thus regains the advantage. So, in effect, the passage of time is actually increasing for them incrementally as each takes and retakes the advantage.”
“Okay, that’s neat. So, uh, who’s winning?”
“Neither, it is currently a stalemate and one that will remain so for the next 23 minutes and 58 seconds, our time.”
“So the battle will be over then?”
“Only as far as you are concerned.”
Deborah furrowed her eyebrows. “What do you mean by that?”
“You will be dead.”
She blinked. Then again. By the third time, what Delphi had just said had finally sunk in and now she could no longer blink. “WHAT?” She backed away from the door and bumped into the planter box, knocking herself to the ground. “How? Why?”
“L’lorne has better skills with modifying time than Ritch ‘arrd does. In 23 minutes 3 seconds, he will be able to maintain a balance, but after that he will be behind and never able to catch up. The only solution for survival will be to rely on sheer power, and when he does that, you, this planet, and, depending on how much he thinks he needs, perhaps a significant chunk of this galactic cluster, will be destroyed.”
“But L’lorne. . .” Deborah didn’t finish the thought, already knowing the answer even as Delphi recited it.
“Her promise was for her not to destroy this planet, there was nothing in that promise that said she had to protect it.”
Deborah bowed her head and felt tears beginning to form. “I know, I knew. But why? Why this?”
“L’lorne decided she was no longer going to play whatever game she and Ritch ‘arrd had been playing. As of that moment, this sequence of events was inevitable, though perhaps she believes she can gain enough of an advantage to end it before this moment comes. I cannot say for certain.”
She only heard part of Delphi said, and she pulled the glasses off and set them down on the ground beside her so she could wipe her eyes. The tears were flowing slowly enough, dripping down her cheeks at a steady rate. She sniffed and stuffed her hand into the inner pocket of her coat.
Her mother’s picture looked back at her. They had gone to the park that day with a couple of the other girls. Deborah had learned to fly a kite, and it went so high into the sky, she could only just barely see it. When they had finally gotten it down, Mary had taken the picture of the two of them, Deborah holding up the makeshift kite and her mother helping. Both had big smiles.
Deborah began to cry more. “Well,” she said choking out the words. “I guess I’ll see you soon mama.” Her mind suddenly went to David Engera, the poor ghost, killed eating breakfast. “Delphi,” she said still sobbing. “Will I be a ghost?”
“No, I do not think so,” Delphi said in that motherly tone that made Deborah feel a bit better. “If you did, however, I can make sure you move on properly.”
“No, you helped save her from that fate.”
“Thanks,” she said. She looked back at the picture. They were happy then, and now it was all shot to pieces. Worse yet, no one else would be around either, it would all be over. All because of some stupid game.
Game? Deborah’s head looked up and at the door. “Wait,” she said as she wiped away the tears and absently shoved the picture back in its pocket. “Wait a second.” Back on her feet, glasses in hand she moved back towards the door. The room was still in chaos, but without the glasses she couldn’t see Ritch ‘arrd or L’lorne.
“Wait, wait, wait.” The thought began forming quickly in her mind. She reached out for the words, the one that would make her thought form properly. “Why,” she started. “Why hasn’t he done it already?” She expected an answer, but Delphi remained silent, probably because it knew that she knew. “If they’re not playing the game anymore, why hasn’t Ritch ‘arrd done it yet? L’lorne isn’t because she’s trying to keep her promise, but Ritch ‘arrd never made that promise. So what is he waiting for?”
The answer appeared. Her jaw dropped in surprise, not just at what it was but that she had come up with it. “He’s still playing the game.” She could remember feeling like a pawn between two players, and now one of the players had given up, which meant. . . “He’s waiting for me to make a move. But what move? How do I move? I don’t even know the rules!”
“If I may,” Delphi said. “Though I do not know the specifics, I do believe I know what you were intended to do.”
Deborah slid back on the glasses and watched as L’lorne and Ritch ‘arrd began their frozen dance in the natatorium again. “What’s that?”
“They wanted you to choose between them. If you do, the battle will end.”
“Choose? But how can I do that? Do I just go in there and announce it?” As she spoke, a new, more troubling thought surfaced. “Who would I choose?”
“I cannot help you with that.”
The glasses came off as she rubbed her eyes, still a little damp and swollen from only moments before. Despair had been replaced by hope, then confusion, and now a new sense of despair. Choose. Choose between a mass murderer and a killer. Was there really a difference between the two? “What would happen if I did choose one? I mean, to me.”
“I do not know. I have never been able to accurately predict their motives and intentions. Even my suggestion that choosing at all would end the battle is a statistical guess. It may not affect anything at all.”
“But doing nothing would be no better, right?” Deborah closed her eyes as Delphi replied in the affirmative. “I just don’t know,” she said. “Maybe if I knew more about them, I could choose.”
“Unlikely. It would likely make the choice even harder. As it stands you have little time to learn more.”
Another boom echoed from inside the natatorium. The walls shuttered with the explosion and the rumble lasted for a time. “I need more time.”
“If your hypothesis is correct, then the best way to make more time would be to go back inside.”
“In there?” Deborah looked in and shuddered at the thought. “Right, if I go inside, Ritch ‘arrd might think I was ready to move and hold off destroying the world for a little bit.”
“Yes, I think that is most likely.”
“But nothing is for sure.”
“It is like trying to predict chaos; we can only go in based on probabilities.”
“Chaos?” Back at the barn, L’lorne had talked about chaotic events. She said Deborah could see through them, predict them. If L’lorne and Ritch ‘arrd were chaotic, then that meant that she could see their actions. It also was obvious what Delphi wanted her to do. “You said that on purpose.”
“Everything I have said has been on purpose, or else I would not have said it.”
“Am I a game piece to you too?”
“No, I like you, and I want you to live. I will not make you do anything, ever. I promise you this.”
Deborah cradled the glasses in her hands, staring at them. “Then tell me next time, no hints or suggestions like that.”
“Very well. Go inside and predict their movements. The answer will be there.”
Deborah smiled. “Yeah, I kind of figured that out.” She put the glasses in her pocket and opened the door.
1. What kind of person is Lcorn L'lorne? What does she look like (in your mind)?
2. What kind of person is the Deborah Ignigus? What does she look like (in your mind)?
3. What kind of person is The Ritch 'arrd? What does his human form look like (in your mind)?
4. Does the setting seem fitting? Would you like to know more?
5. Does Delphi's explanation for what's going on make sense? Anyway you can see to improve it?