OPTICA #5

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With a sigh, Jonquil lowered the watch and looked around the train. Big mistake. Morning commuters filled the car, most of them engrossed in their own watches, or paper books, or the window, or the surface of their SPRING_Awakening coffees. But two were not. They were sitting together, across from Jonquil. To her horror, the larger of the two took eye contact as a nonverbal sign to make conversation.

“Hiiiii!” said the taller one, her voice far too cloying for this time of day. Sapiens, did she take her coffee stimmed or something? She was buxom and blond, her golden hair refracting the multi-colored lights above. Her smaller companion was delicate and olive, like a sun-kissed porcelain doll. They wore flowing dresses and wide-brimmed hats and travelled heavy, their bags filled to bursting. SPRING girls, probably new to the city. “I know you must get this all the time, but are you-”

“Yep.” Jonquil cut her off at the pass.

The two exchanged glances. “So then you must be-”

“I am.” Of course she was. Grace Diakon wasn’t just famous, she was visually distinctive. At less than five feet tall and petite, Grace and Jonquil and all the other Diakons were usually the smallest woman in the room. Maddeningly, some people treated her like a child or a mascot as though her lower mass made her less of a person.

“Can we get a picture-”

“No.” Jonquil doubted she could muster the strength to be polite to them. Her hands still hurt from all the digging. She just wanted to read the news in peace with as few interactions with strangers as possible.

The shorter girl grinned. “They’re exactly the same!”

Jonquil huffed. Why couldn’t Grace be known for her candor and good cheer? When annoying people like these two confronted her, they latched on like ticks. Greet them with a smile and they’d launch into a 50-question interrogation. Ignore or insult them and they’d take it as authentic Diakon intensity.

“Soooo… are you cursed too?” the tall one asked.

Another question she got a lot, but one that always disoriented her. Jonquil peered out from the holographic display above her watch. “Curses aren’t real,” she said coldly.

Even by the standards of dumb people who hassled strangers on public transit, the tall woman struck Jonquil as exceptionally, obnoxiously stupid. “But there are… seven Diakons, and all of them but Grace are…”

Failures. Nine Diakons, not seven. One a champion, a luminescent paragon of the sisterhood who was arguably the most famous and significant figure in all of TORCH. The other eight, burnouts of absolutely no import.

Why? Jonquil Diakon-9 had wrestled with that very question every day for years now. She had even reached out to Diakon-8, a BEACON infantrywoman named Chen, in the hopes of learning more about herself. But Chen was a nervous wreck with an anxiety-induced stutter… talking to her had been torturous.

She begrudgingly focused back on the conversation. “Are you calling me a failure?” she asked, hoping some steely-eyed aggression might buy her the few minutes of quiet she desperately needed.

The blond gaped, but her smaller friend intervened. “Nothing like that,” she said with polished smoothness. Fucking businesswomen. “We don’t even know what you do, after all.”

Jonquil released the bond holding her coat closed to reveal two things: the aesthetically-displeasing particle disruptor on her left hip and the eye-shaped badge on her left breast. “OPTICA_MajorCrimes – Precinct 1- Ttlatic – Porropelin – 718315” it read.

Obviously Jonquil was a hound. That should have been instantly apparent from her navy blue raincoat, her unadorned and practical shoes, the long scar that slashed across her nose, or the metal case she carried in lieu of a purse or messenger bag.

The two SPRING girls stared for a moment. “…Are we bothering you, officer?” asked the small dark one.

Jonquil glanced out the window to watch the locals briskly swim in the canals below. It was several moments before she next spoke, and when she did, her voice was cool and sharp like a primed blade. “The largest terror attack in the planet’s history was last night. I’ve been awake since before sunrise. I imagine I’ll probably be awake for the next 40 hours at least. This train ride is my first and possibly last bit of downtime for the next… week, shall we say.” She stared stab wounds at the two interlopers. “So yes, you’re bothering me. Kindly take your seats.”

The two of them shuffled off without a word. Jonquil went back to her watch, trying to hide her smile. Sometimes that trademark Diakon intensity came in handy.

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