Eagle Perfect: Legend of the First is a parody of dystopian young adult novels, in which two ‘chosen ones’ vie for the status of world-saving protagonist. New readers should start at Chapter 1, or you can consult the Table of Contents.
Chapter Four: Viper Sloen
From his hiding place behind the Administration-approved watercolour, Legend struggled to process everything he’d just seen: the haggard old man and his self-important companion, their talk of magic knights both good and bad, the arrival of Coordinator Nicer, and all the Unusual things that subsequently transpired.
The hiding place had been a favourite of Legend’s growing up, and he had been pleased to find it still intact as he fled from Coordinator Nicer’s handmusket. He had also been pleased to find that he still fitted, though that was hardly surprising as the hiding place was conceptual rather than physical. There was, in a strict sense, no gap between painting and wall, and yet there was enough room to conceal a small boy. While this offended several fundamental principles of matter, it provided excellent camouflage, and was probably the reason the Guardsman had not found Legend in his search.
“I understand that I am important,” said the arrogant boy, “and it makes perfect sense that I would have the power to send people back in time, and of course what I did just now was intentional, but despite all that, I want you to tell me how I did it.”
Legend leaned forward. He knew he should not be eavesdropping on their conversation – not only was it impolite, but these two were guests in a hospitality premises, which granted them numerous protections under the Hospitality Oath. On the other hand, Legend was desperate to hear the answer. Indeed, he felt he’d already heard it, long ago, and only needed a few words to refresh his memory. He resolved to continue listening, but made a mental note to send a letter of apology in due course.
“We can’t talk any more,” said the magic knight. “We have to leave.”
And without another word, the two of them left.
“So much for that!” Legend thought to himself.
Stepping down from behind the watercolour, Legend was confronted by an even greater dilemma: seize the opportunity and run away, or stay put until the Guardsmen come to? He knew the Administration planned to execute him for the murder of Coordinator Nicer, but he also knew that the egotistical farmboy was responsible. True, Nicer had killed Legend’s father and sister, but he had done so with Administration approval, and besides, Legend would be assigned a new family unit in due course.
A terrifying scream echoed from the downstairs lobby. Legend couldn’t be sure, but it sounded as if a gold mark was being jammed through someone’s eye socket. After a few supplementary gargles, the sounds ceased, and Legend resumed his internal debate.
If Legend could deliver these renegades to the Administration, his Unusual question would surely be forgotten, and he would be free to return to his job as an invoicing clerk. Furthermore, the farm boy’s miniature ears were disturbing. Legend had heard rumours of ear-docking being practised in some Pastoral Sectors, but seeing it in the flesh (or lack thereof) was another thing entirely.
His mind made up, Legend sat on the bed and waited for the Guardsmen to regain consciousness, which they soon did.
“There he is!” the first Guardsman shouted, and slammed the butt of his crossbow into Legend’s face.
* * *
Legend awoke in a white room, his hands and feet bound by heavy leather straps. Seeing no obvious means of escape, he started to think, and his first thought was: “I must stop conducting internal debates before making decisions, as it takes a long time and I always seem to choose the wrong course of action anyway.”
Before he could think his second thought, a door appeared in the far wall, and opened. Through the door strode a tall figure in a long black tunic. Although her skin was pale, she seemed somehow darker than her attire, as if light withered and died upon coming into contact with her. On her forehead was a scar in the shape of an X.
“My name is Viper Sloen,” she said, “and I am authorised by the Administration to inflict severe pain until you tell me what I need to know. You are now hoping that will not be necessary.”
Legend gulped. He was hoping that. He opened his mouth to speak—
“Please,” said the woman, “call me Viper”.
Legend nodded, and tried again. Before a word had left his lips, Viper interrupted.
“I am already aware of the magic knight and his disfigured agricultural operative.”
Legend barely had time to think before Viper continued.
“Correct. But without knowing where they are headed, finding them will prove near impossible.”
Legend was starting to feel confused.
“Very well,” said Viper, “I will wait until your thoughts have been vocalised before issuing my next question. Please be aware that this course of action will add significant time to our conversation, so try to be concise. I am already running late for my next appointment.”
Legend felt relieved.
“Go on then, say it.”
“I feel relieved,” said Legend.
Viper sighed and consulted her pocket watch.
“I know where they’re going,” said Legend. Viper’s eyebrows had already risen by the time he started talking, but she made a conscious effort to re-raise them as if hearing the news for the first time.
“To a school. Not a normal school. But similar enough that you’d identify with it if you’d been to normal school. They’re going to teach the farm boy what makes him important, which I thought he would have known already given how highly he thinks of himself.”
“The boy does not know his powers,” Viper mused to herself. “Intriguing.”
“Do you know where they’re going?”
Viper consulted her pocket watch again.
“They are headed for the Lyceum, in the mountains beyond Mining Sector 8B2. There is only one road in that direction, and we will intercept them easily enough at Cutter’s Turn.”
Viper straightened to leave.
“Now, I must away to my next appointment. I would have liked to kill you personally, but I’m sure the local Guardsmen will do an adequate job.”
“Pardon me!” Legend cried. “I told you where they’re heading. Don’t I get to go back to my life as an invoicing clerk?”
“Oh,” Viper smiled, “is that what you wanted? You should have stated your terms before telling me everything you know. It’s too late to bargain now.”
Legend kicked himself. Of course he should have stated his terms before telling her everything he knew! What a foolish mistake, and what a time to abandon his usual practice of conducting lengthy internal debates before making big decisions. If he had fully explored all his options before opening his mouth, things might have turned out differently.
“They wouldn’t have,” said Viper as she disappeared through the door.
As Legend commenced an internal debate on the merits of conducting internal debates, he did not notice two Guardsmen enter the room. Indeed, so preoccupied was he with the enumeration of pros and cons that his first awareness of their presence was the cold press of steel against his throat. Looking up he saw the Guardsmen, but he also saw himself. Twice. Like a kaleidoscope placed between two mirrors, he found himself simultaneously looking up at the Guardsmen and looking down on himself from their perspectives, each vantage point overlaid on the other and repeating to infinity.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” the three of them said in unison, before vomiting in perfect synchronicity.