Deborah shivered as she finally got up on top of the platform. A new family? Was she really that desperate? No, she wasn’t, at least she hoped not. In either case, she was still stuck without a clear answer to the problem. She pulled the glasses from her pocket and cradled them in her hands. The answer, it would seem, would have to come through another means.
The actual diving board had been sheared off earlier, leaving the platform and a couple holes behind for the bolts that were also gone. There was no sign of the board either down in the pool or elsewhere. The pool looked strange now, and it took a moment for Deborah to realize why. Before, when she had first come in, it was not only full, but green and full of plant life. Now, though, it was completely empty, the few remaining plants had been cooked brown or black and the sealant material that was blue, but severely pitted and torn by the fight now raging.
Deborah put inched toward the edge of the platform and looked down. Explosions were occurring everywhere, rattling through the building in an almost continuous rumble of thunder. Up now on her feet, but still crouching low, almost uncomfortably so, she put the glasses on and looked again. Now she could see L’lorne and Ritch ‘arrd in their static poses of combat. With a sigh, Deborah began to let her eyes follow the action on their own.
The flashes rumbled across the floor, but Deborah held her head steady, trying not to follow the action with anything more than her eyes. She could only see them in glimpses as her eyes quickly moved to the next flash, but she could see their faces. L’lorne didn’t seem angry, but she was intense, in poses where her weapon was being swung, she seemed to be yelling. Ritch ‘arrd was almost calm, but stern, scrunching his face only when forced to hold back a blow as if it were a heavy weight.
Back and forth across the floor they went, down into the pool, up onto the remains of the blocks Ritch ‘arrd had, long ago it seemed now, lifted out of the ground for cover. They barely looked like blocks anymore, just piles of sand that seemed to explode randomly. They weren’t randomly placed either, now that Deborah could see them from above, they were rather regular, almost looking like the pieces on a chessboard, though not quite.
Actually, the whole thing looked like a game of chess in a weird way, and as Deborah thought about it, she realized she was looking at it very much like she did when she was playing. Like that day in the park with L’lorne, as she stared at the board, trying to figure out the next move and then suddenly knowing it and all the subsequent ones. All back to that again, chess in the park. What if she hadn’t done that? Hadn’t chased L’lorne through the city, what if she had simply never met L’lorne at all?
Would she have been beaten up by that drunk in the ally? Maybe, hard to say. Definitely she would have gone for help, probably dragged to some orphanage or foster home somewhere. Dropped into the system just as Ritch ‘arrd said he had originally planned. A foster family would probably have followed, a relatively well to do one, and a higher class of education would come out of it. Her own aptitude for chess would probably come out soon after and off to schooling for that.
Mr. Davis, the man who taught her chess in between sessions with her mom, often talked of tournaments for chess players, though never if he had ever participated. After a spell learning chess specifically, she could see herself at such a tournament, probably stunning the crowd with her almost unnatural talent. Would she see Mr. Davis at one such tournament? Would he even recognize her? Probably better if not, but even so, it’s unlikely either would say anything. A championship or two later she would likely be introduced to the Minister of Education, Malcolm Donalds. From there. . .
Deborah grunted in frustration. Why was she still going over all this in her mind? She should focus on the now, not on what might be, what could be, and what might have been. In mere minutes none of that could matter, the world would be gone in a flash. Even as her mind had wandered, her eyes had not, and suddenly every muscle in her body tensed. She felt it and her heartbeat shot up in anticipation.
Deborah jumped off the high dive platform.
A split second later the surprise of having jumped hit her and she nearly screamed. Her arms shot out from her sides and she charged the ground at the speed of gravity. The wind of the fall blasted past her face, the ground shot up near her and all she could think of was if this was the end.
Suddenly, it was all gone. The fast moving wind was replaced by a slight breeze, chilly but not terribly so. The oncoming floor of the pool was replaced by a view of clouds off into the distance. What was out there? As if on command, the clouds parted revealing a vast field far, far below. She turned around and looked up. A mountain, huge, dominate and vanishing into the clouds above her stood looking back. It seemed to go on into infinity, disappearing only as the cloud density grew tighter.
She turned back to the field and looked out. From here, she could just see specs moving against the green hills. People, she supposed, going about their daily lives. How did she get here? What was this? Then she heard a voice from behind her. It was young, but old, oh so very old. She could hear his age in it, and knew, without knowing why, that she understood that age better than anyone else had ever understood it. She felt old now, so very, very old, older than she could ever imagine. Worse yet, she could feel that however old she felt, he was far, far older. Despite that feeling, it was the words that shook her most.
“Are you going to jump?” Quinn asked.
She turned to reply, but before she saw him, the mountain was gone and she was falling again. She knew to start closing her arms, and did so, but something else caught her attention. It vibrated beneath her, back and forth, and she stretched out for it with something she had never felt before. Catching it, she pulled it close and knew this was the answer she was looking for.
Not this time. Let's leave it for the finale.