“So, she’s basically retarded?”
“Goddamnit, Dan – no! She’s non verbal and sensory overloaded.”
“Sounds like an Autist to me. Autism is retarded, right?”
“I mean, about as retarded as you are I suppose… Look – I’ll explain it. She’s smart. She’s smarter than smart, she’s so far beyond genius that normal people can’t comprehend the level that her brain operates at. Typically, she’s like this. Quiet, withdrawn, sitting on the floor, making herself small, non verbal, not moving for hours at a time. But I’ve seen her in the zone. I’ve seen the brain scans.”
“If she’s so smart, why’s she look retarded?”
“She’s taking in anywhere from one hundred to ten thousand times more information than you and I are every second. She sees and hears everything we do, but she also knows how fast your heart is beating, how many times I’ve blinked in the last hour, the average percentage of oxygen my body takes in during each breath and a whole host of other details I don’t even know about. She’s like a computer!”
“Okay, so she knows lots of shit? Why’s she so scary, I mean those other kids can stop time?”
“Stopping time was huge. We’d never seen it before when we first opened up the facility ten years ago. This entire building was constructed to house the first child ever born who could stop time. They had to adjust the entire classification system because of him. Now? We have one hundred thirty seven kids who have some degree of time stopping ability. It’s rare for sure – in North America alone there’s seven million individuals rated at a grade six or higher on the Laoton Scale, but Daisy is the only confirmed grade zero in the world right now.”
“So what does she actually do?”
“Everything she can sense – right now, in the dampening field, on medication, in a special facility built specifically to manage the powers of Laoton Scale Individuals, her awareness extends for about fifteen miles around her. What makes her grade zero, is that anything she can sense, she can manipulate. She can stop the heart beat of every living thing within fifteen miles of her, right now, without a second thought. When she’s at peak, “in the zone” we call it, her awareness exceeds all our measurement capabilities. We’ve estimated it at one thousand miles, but we can’t be sure of what is actively being manipulated by her and what is just happening.”
“Jesus fuck. So, like, when exactly are we going to put her overseas and start fuckin’ wrecking shop?”
Johnny gave a nervous titter, uncomfortable with his own joke.
“I mean, from the sounds of it, she’s worth like, at least, ten of those badass fighter jets, right?!”
“And that’s your cue Johnny boy. Out you go.”
“Oh come on, man, what the fuck?!”
“I told you when I let you in here, I can’t talk to you about anything above your classification. You being in here at all is a gray area.” Of course, he answered as many questions with what he didn’t say as with what he did.
“Man, fuck you. So not fair. You think your so cool with your fuckin’ TS/SCI super top alpha eleven unlimited safari golden level clearance bullshit.”
“Everybody’s got a place Johnny. Besides, my lunch break is over and as easy as she seems to take care of, I still have a busy schedule with Daisy today. So, as you’d say, make like a tree and get the fuck out of here. We’ll grab some beers when I get off.”
Dr. Stein spun in his swivel chair and began the hourly checks of Daisy’s vitals, now completely ignoring John. If he didn’t hear the hiss of the airlock breaking its seal within a minute and forty five seconds, he’d get up and formally order John to leave. He hated to do that, and John rarely made him, but he was far and above John’s superior.
Comfortingly, the airlock hissed and he heard the door open and slam as well as the next airlock hissing, more faintly.
Checking his watch, Dr. Stein saw he was almost seven minutes behind schedule. Well, seven minutes behind hisschedule. So still three minutes ahead of facility. Good. He didn’t want to be caught with his pants anywhere near down when Eleanor Phleer came to get him for the meeting.
He rushed through Daisy’s vitals as quickly as he was comfortable with. Dr. Stein really would have liked to have her lunch taken care of before the meeting, but he was told it was at his discretion and that after the meeting was acceptable.
krrissss As he disengaged the airlock to make second contact for the day with Daisy he wasn’t aware of the massive shift in his body posture or emotional state. He had no conscious realization that all his worries, fears, aches, pains – it was all just melting away.
Similarly, as he entered Daisy’s dormitory proper; they didn’t like to call it a cell just like she wasn’t a patient, but a guest, he was completely oblivious to the fact that time as he knew it had completely ceased to exist. If he had, he probably wouldn’t have cared anyway – everything inside the dormitory was serene. He wasn’t consciously aware, and he might not remember it, on Daisy’s whim, but he’d never felt so at ease.
Her voice swam out to him, as though she was floating lazily down a river and not sitting a few feet from him.
“Dr. Stein, please don’t be alarmed.”
It was only a fraction of a second before she was back in control, a span of time humans can’t even measure without the aid of a machine, but Dr. Stein still felt a towering wave of fear and panic sweep across him and drown him. He lay buried underneath layers of silt for centuries and future historians would study his remains in search of clues as to how his daily life was. Just the tiniest fraction of a second, but he felt the fear all the same until suddenly, he just didn’t. He remembered the fear, but it was like looking at an unloaded gun, far, far away from him.
“Oh, what would I have to fear little miss?”
“It’s just, I’ve never spoken before and I know the sort of examples that are used when people talk about my… capacity for mischief.” She chided him, subtly – he said it himself, she could reach out and touch anything within fifteen miles of her on a whim, why did he assume she couldn’t hear every word that came out of his mouth?
“Oh, no. I don’t think I could ever be afraid of you miss. You’re just so… nice.”
Daisy raised herself up up from the floor, to her full and unbent height, a very unimposing five feet and one inch and draped herself across the couch in her dormitory. -This was another massive first for Dr. Stein; if he remembered any of this it’d be a day for the record books.
“Good – that’s really good. I don’t want to scare you, I just wanted to tell you something. Something very important.”
“Very important, huh? Well, what is it?” It was unconscious, a by product of the all encompassing calm that was lapping softly at Dr. Stein’s skin, but he realized he was talking to Daisy the way people do to very young children, or the mentally handicapped, or the very elderly. He made a note to adjust his voice, still completely without fear.
When Daisy spoke, her voice was hard and cold like a calved glacier fragment falling into the sea. “I. Don’t. Want. To. Hurt. People.”
Dr. Stein wouldn’t ever forget the sentence. He’d see it when he closed his eyes, he’d hear it before he fell asleep. Astronauts would find it carved into the soil on Mars.
And then sweetly, “Please pass my message on to Mrs. Phleer, Dr. Stein. Now, would you like me to restore the passage of time while you clean up in here, or should I leave it as is until you exit the airlock so you’ve got more time to prepare for the meeting?”
It was only then that Daisy allowed Dr. Stein to feel the alien sensation that all humans equated with stopped time. It wasn’t something you could describe to anyone who hadn’t been a part of it, just a wrongness that played across your skin. Something you’d never be able to accurately place unless you were told by someone who knew what was happening or you were warned beforehand.
“If it isn’t too much trouble, I would like the extra time to prepare, Daisy.”
“Not at all, Dr.” With that, Daisy turned over on her couch and gave a passable production of false sleep while Dr. Stein did the tidying.
Outside the airlock, in the relative comfort of his swivel chair, Dr. Stein began to replay what had happened, and to try to process it as best mere mortals can. He didn’t dream it, he signed all the logs, all the dormitory tasks were complete, but the camera logs only showed him walking through the airlock and coming back out before they’d scarcely had time to reseal. The clocks on all the instruments as well as his own analog watch were the same. Barely six seconds passed. Dr. Stein didn’t really believe any of it, despite all he knew and all the numerous times he’d been briefed about this sort of possibility, until he started to think about the way Daisy’s voice changed when she said she. Didn’t. Want. To. Hurt. People. The more he thought about it, the more visceral the memory became – it took on a life of it’s own until the memory itself was a massive carnivorous predator with a taste for the flesh of men, slowly walking towards him until Dr. Stein was nose to nose with a creature of such terrifying raw power and murderous intent, breathing in the heady cocktail of viscera and bacteria eschewing from the creature’s maw.
When Dr. Stein was able to pull himself together he realized he’d been crying and he could hear it all over again. Daisy didn’t want. To. Hurt. People. He wouldn’t forget.
Airlocks hissed, doors slammed and Dr. Stein could all, but see Eleanor standing behind him.
As he turned slowly in his chair to face her, “Don’t fuck this up Travis. We cannot lose this contract.”
The meeting had been droning on for hours, little of it was of consequence to Dr. Stein. He almost missed his cue when the general asked him what his personal recommendation was regarding Daisy and her use as an offensive asset.
“With all due respect, sir, I would like more time to study her, to work through some practical exercises so that she, as well as we, can really get a feel for her capabilities.” That wasn’t entirely a lie, Dr. Stein didn’t know exactly what Daisy was capable of, similarly to how he had nothing practical to compare the heat of the sun to.
“I understand. I don’t want to let a dog off a leash if I can’t call her back. Give me a time table.”
“I need six months of lab study and at least another six months of field study, after we figure out how to communicate with her and get her to move of her own volition.”
“That’s… disappointing Travis. That’s not what we were led to believe in our earlier meetings about the subject.”
“Again, sir, with all due respect, I wasn’t privy to those earlier meetings and I’m not sure everyone involved understood the full scope of the project at the time.” That was the best he could do. He never really felt like he was cut out for the politics this high up. He liked the line guys, the grunts – officers never really seemed to like him.
There would be hell to pay.
Eleanor Phleer, to be polite, was a fucking tempest. Travis Stein had briefly dated her in high school. They’d dissolved their relationship due to ‘irreconcilable differences’ – Elle was a psycho bitch, a slave to her whims, and had a habit of fucking Travis’ friends. She reminded Travis of the case files he’d read on Daisy. Her personality always seemed to hit him with an otherworldly force that battered at him until she inevitably got her way. Today felt no different.
“Goddamnit Travis! I will have your head! Your fucking house, your job, your car, your children. I will burn you to the ground and piss on the ashes! 400 billion!”
The rest of what Elle Phleer had to say turned into a pained shriek, the sort of thing you hear in movies when people are burning alive.
“F-f-four hundred billion?” Only she made him stutter.
“Four hundred billion goddamn dollars, you dickless excuse for a man! You just pissed away 400 billion fucking dollars!”
If they weren’t behind multiple airlocks, Travis Stein was sure the entire building would be able to hear them. Hell hath no fury like psycho bitch ex lover turned employer scorned.
“I couldn’t d-d-do it, Elle. She told me she didn’t want to!” He had to shout at her, to debase himself and really crank my buoyancy control device so that he could sink to her level, to get her attention. There’s always a rainbow after a storm cloud though. The fury ceased, totally, wholly and completely when she registered what he’d shouted. She realigned her body posture, smoothed her coif, and positively beamed at the man she had just threatened to erase from the history books before she asked him, in a deceptively calm, almost sweet voice
“She spoke to you?”
Travis spent the next few hours going over his interaction with Daisy before the meeting, in excruciating detail, over and overoveroveroverovergoddamnitIalreadytoldyou and over again.
When she was finally satisfied, Elle told Travis that he might not be out of a job after all – completely dismissing the part about their potential unstoppable killing machine not really being hip to the idea of being a killing machine.
Travis moved through the maw of the airlock as it hissed at him, down the throat, and into the lair of the… into the lair of the perfectly nice teenage girl who Travis Stein now understood could simply walk out of the state of the art facility built to hold her anytime she pleased, but simply didn’t. Still, Travis felt unease.
When he stepped inside, nothing seemed amiss. He cleaned, quietly, in an effort not to wake Daisy, who lay still sleeping on the couch, fairly close to how he’d left her. When he was completely through with his duties inside Daisy’s dormitory, he hesitated before he left, debating on whether he should wake her or not. He felt like she needed to know the latest developments about her. And all that aside, he was panicking a little about having been thrusted into this position as her advocate, possibly losing his job because of it, and he just wanted to tell somebody about it. Finally, he settled on it.
“Daisy?” He whispered cautiously.
That’s so sweet, he feels bad about waking me. She thought to herself. It’s not as though he knew. She didn’t sleep, at all, ever – since probably eight years old. She found she just didn’t need to. Still though, it was nice of him. She’d been through a few caretakers, three – actual few and not just the catchall word, and while none of them had been any kind of mean, or even impolite, but none of them had ever really been nice.
“You know, that isn’t my name?” She asked, projecting a sense of ease. She wouldn’t need to do that forever, but she knew that on some level she truly did terrify her caretaker, and she felt very bad about it.
“I think I did, yeah. I mean, you don’t look anything like a ‘Daisy’ to me. It’s a bit mean, but I always thought it was a name for dumb, plain girls, you know?”
“Our perception of the world shapes it, Dr. Stein. How you interpret the world isn’t mean, or nice, it just is. Though, if it’s easier for you, than trying to come to grips with that, most of the Daisy’s I’ve rode during my travels were a little dumb…”
Similar to the sense of serenity she projected before the first time she spoke to Dr. Travis Stein, sometimes it was just easier to do things without asking.
For Dr. Stein, the room went dark. Starkly dark, the total and complete absence of light that makes a person lose their balance and question their sanity. Mercifully, it lasted, but a second and Dr. Stein found himself a top a rollercoaster on the precipice of the initial plunge.