2019 Short Stories

One-Shot: An Innocent Question

‘So I’m immortal, right?’

Curt lifted his head, glad of the break from the paperwork, but his mood immediately dropped again as the words fully sank in.

Nothing normal ever followed Stef asking a question like that.

‘Every time,’ he said slowly, ‘you ask something like that, I wish the Demolition Man expanding foam stuff was real.’ He looked around the office – nothing was out of place – so there was nothing that he needed to immediately yank her away from.

But Newbie with weird ideas in her head was equally as dangerous as a Newbie who wanted to pick up a live wire because “electricity can’t hurt me, right?” or “do you really go x-ray when you get electrocuted”.

One day, he might ask Agent Jones for a button that would immediately encapsulate her in a giant hamster ball. Though, it would have to be carefully designed – with soft cushions and shiny distractions, lest she try and figure out how aerodynamic it was by running it off the roof.

‘Hm?’

‘The only thing, Newbie, that stops my blood pressure from going through the roof is that it’s scientifically and magically regulated.’ He put his pen down and noticed that she’d changed the engraving on the slide.

Two emojis. An elephant and a foot. Random, but- He almost felt the clunk in his brain as random bits of trivia connected the necessary neurons and-

‘Newbie, no!’

The look on her face was one of pure, sickly sweet innocence. He was sure that – if it wouldn’t have looked creepy as fuck – she would have made her eyes bigger and given them an anime shine to enhance the “what, me? I don’t cause trouble” aura.

‘Newbie, yes?’ she said and laid down a small map of the exclusion zone. ‘Look. I can’t go to the moon. I already sussed that out, which is disappointing. I was never gonna be an astronaut, but if there was an easy way to go play moon golf, then that would have been fun. The most we can manage is LEO, and that is way off-limits till I’m older. They only let agents with seniority play with the really fun toys.’

This was a conversation he remembered. ‘And it’s dangerous because you might get stuck in orbit.’

‘And it’s dangerous because you might get stuck in orbit,’ she parroted. She immediately perked back up and brandished the map, which he was growing more and more sure was from a video game. ‘But this I can do. And it’s something that normal ass people can’t, so should I take advantage of it?’

She bent over the map and started muttering as she looked at locations.

More thoughts connected. Random pictures he’d seen online.

‘Hm.’

He lifted his phone and quickly searched a few things, and – magically maintained or not – his blood pressure normalised.

‘Time travel is pretty difficult, right?’

She nodded. ‘Yep.’ She looked up at him. ‘Huh? I’m supposed to be the- Your questions are supposed to be related to the subject at hand. Two of us with fucky brains is going to make this more difficult, even if it’s allowed under the Accords.’

He pushed his phone across the table. ‘It hasn’t been insta-death for years.’

As he had hoped, her shoulders immediately dropped like a little kid told they couldn’t go to the park. Now, if she wanted to visit, she could do so from the point of genuine curiosity and not just a “look, radiation doesn’t kill me!” need to experiment with her immortality.

She lifted the map, and it disappeared from her hands, dismissed into nothingness. ‘Does radiation have to go on the no-no list?’

‘I would like it to go on the no-no list.’

‘I still want to swim in one of those reactor pools. Cause it’s so stupid and fascinating. Here is fine,’ she said, holding her hand out, ‘but here,’ she said, dropping it a few inches, ‘is death. Exponential stuff like that is fascinating.’ She slid his phone back to him. ‘I’ll be sensible. For today.’

‘Today is all I’m asking for. And tomorrow. And the next day. And the rest of my life.’

She wrinkled her nose and laid a freshly-required model of the elephant’s foot onto the finished schedules like a paperweight.

‘I just wanted to know if it feels fuzzy,’ she said as she grabbed the next thing from her pile. ‘I always thought radiation would feel fuzzy.’

He held himself back from saying, for the millionth time, “you are the strangest person on the planet, Newbie”, and looked for something more constructive. ‘You could always ask Agent Jones to irradiate you. I’m sure he’s got the clearance.’

Her eyes shone. ‘Yessss.’

‘Just don’t bite me after you get irradiated.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because I’m O’Connor, not Parker.’ He paused. ‘Though I wouldn’t suggest biting the Parkers either. Two will be into it or rip out your lungs, and you’ll come complaining to me either way.’

‘Connors.’

‘Huh?’

‘The Lizard. It’s Connors. Not O’Connor.’

‘It’s close enough, Newbie.’

‘…I know. It’s why I already have your Halloween costume picked out.’

‘You what.’

Breathing
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She/her Bi nerd, originally from Brisbane, currently in Melbourne.

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