Overture (Animus Vox)

From MSEverse

Sadie had celebrated the ten year anniversary just last week. Everything was different. Nothing had changed. The government still wanted to extract all the value they could from Olten, and Sadie was still forced to work with them if she wanted her life to stay according to plan. Back then, when she first visited Olten, that plan had looked fairly different. She’d wanted the accolades (and money) associated with a five year contract with the AOSE, but was then going to pivot into something quiet in academia for the rest of her life. Now? She was stuck working with the government more or less indefinitely, or else her wife would go to prison under bullshit charges.

She’d visited Olten twice in the last ten years, neither time with the permission or awareness of the AOSE. No, instead she’d simply got up in the middle of the night, stared up at the twinkling stars above, and soared into the sky. Time and space blurred around her, and before she knew it, she was standing on the alien planet as though she’d never left. All around her was the gorgeous flora and fauna that she’d spent her whole life wanting to study, that she’d only gotten a brief moment to experience before everything went awry.

The first time she’d visited, it hadn’t been more than a few months since she left. Daisy was stuck under house arrest, and it was becoming rapidly clear to the AOSE that Sadie’s newly developed powers weren’t actually replicable. Her usefulness was being drawn into question, and in a moment of panic, when she didn’t know where else to go, she’d ended up on Olten. And of course, Glitch had been waiting for her.

Sadie hadn’t met Glitch in person, but Daisy had, and the woman had left quite an impression on Sadie’s wife. “Sometimes,” Daisy had said, “I see a part of her in your eyes.” And so even though they’d never exchanged a word before, when Sadie appeared in front of Glitch, the scientist reached out and grabbed the alien, pulling her into a tight hug and beginning to cry into her shoulder. Glitch radiated warmth, and her breathing sounded like an unceasing hum, occasionally pulsing in beat to the chorus of her heart and the universe itself. She didn’t seem surprised to see Sadie, nor did she object to the hug. Instead, she just let the scientist lose herself in the moment. After several minutes, she patiently spoke up: “I suspected I would see you soon. I imagine you have a lot of questions, about you, and the universe, and the role you play in her vision.”

And she did. And Glitch had the answers she wanted, even if maybe they weren’t the answers she needed. “I have walked countless worlds,” Glitch explained, “and met people such as yourself on many of them.” Planeswalkers. The word sounded strange and fantastical, and part of Sadie wanted to push back against it. Demand a better explanation. But she knew there was none. “You are unbound, Doctor Dal. If you wish to travel anywhere in the multiverse, there is no one that could stop you.” That wasn’t true, however. Daisy, the love of Sadie’s life, was unable to travel, and thus Sadie was already stopped by extension. “You have the power that you do because you love your wife. You were willing to give up everything to hold her, once more, and you achieved that goal.” Glitch had looked away, trying to prevent Sadie from seeing the sorrow in her eyes. “I think most planeswalkers have, or had, people like that.”

Then Sadie had asked the really hard question, whether Glitch knew what she was meant to do with this power, and the planeswalker fell silent. “Animus Vox is made up of a thousand overlapping songs,” she eventually said, “and picking out any individual one is all but impossible. But when I searched for yours, I could barely find it. Your song reached its crescendo when you left this world, months ago. However,” she held up a finger, trying to prevent Sadie from responding just yet, “an aspect of it comes up down the line, maybe a decade from now. A leitmotif, echoing yours, accompanying a new tune. One that I think might change everything, or help to sing Animus Vox in the way she always begged to be sung.”

So just wait it out. Bide her time. Live life. Wait for ten years to pass. Watch as the world changes around her, as riots start and are quelled, as politicians are elected then forced out. Watch as nothing changes at all, as greed reigns above all else, and Senator Winters’ name keeps appearing in the news that would one day be history books.

Those five magic words, spoken by the Oltenen Emissary before killing the president, haunted Sadie.

“Same as it ever was.”


Sadie tried her best to find the quiet moments at work, and hold onto them as best she could. Her official work duties were intentionally ambiguous and broad, leaving her more or less at the mercy of power tripping higher ups. Thankfully, very few people outranked her at this point. The title of Senior Lead Expert Of Oltenen Affairs was one that had evolved over time, as she continued to devote years and years of her life to working with the AOSE. Would she have, if she’d had a choice in the matter? Probably not. But that was a mostly irrelevant line of inquiry.

She was idly working on a theorem, trying to provide any scientific backing for the phenomenon that Glitch referred to as Animus Vox. Sadie had looked into resonance frequencies associated with Slyten crystals, EEG readings of psionics, and so many other things that all seemed to lead to the same dead end. The Planeswalker was simply attuned to something that no one else was, at least as far as Sadie could tell. Unfortunately, that made it awfully hard to present her findings to any of her bosses, given the scientific community’s relative disdain for ‘just trust me, okay?’ as an explanation.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a small stack of papers being dropped on her desk. Sadie looked up, startled, before frowning. “Hello, Mark.”

“Doctor Dal.” Colonel Marcus Payne was one of the few people who outranked her, and didn’t like her, which made dealing with him a deeply unpleasant affair. He was a very ‘by the book’ sort of man, with a love for the chain of command that Sadie quite simply could not get behind. So she disrespected him, did the bare minimum, and otherwise avoided all other interactions. “I hope I’m not interrupting.”

“Alas, hope withers on the vine.”

“I’m sure it wasn’t important.” He gestured towards the documents he so kindly gave her, “I need you to go to room 604 to verify that the individual within is cleared for deployment.”

Sadie raised an eyebrow. “This sounds like the sort of menial labor beneath my station, Mark. Just have one of the military doctors do it.”

“As much as I’d love to, this is a rather special circumstance. We would like this individual to be deployed within the next 24 hours, so they need L3 approval, and they also aren’t military.”

Now this was interesting. “Why are you sending a civilian into space?”

“I’m sure that their lab results will explain most of the questions that you’d ask me.”


Sadie only barely remembered to knock on the door before entering room 604, she was so engrossed in the papers. “Remi Amber?” she asked, briefly looking up.

“Hey.” The man lifted a hand in a friendly gesture. “You’re the doctor?” Remi stood awkwardly at the other end of the conference room, hands on a chair in a way that suggested he wasn’t sure if he was meant to be seated or not. Sadie quietly closed the door behind her, and took a seat at the head of the table, motioning for Remi to join her. He did, at the other head, and the empty space between them felt stifling.

“Doctor Sadie Dal,” she smiled, and flipped through a few more of the pages. “Things seem like they’re moving rather fast for you around here. You went through an initial screening a week ago, an aptitude test yesterday morning, and now you’re here, being prepped for space travel.” Sadie cocked her head, and looked Remi in the eyes, trying to get a sense of him as a human, rather than just a series of abstracted numbers and percentiles. “How does it feel?”

“Uh. I don’t know.” He looked concerned, above anything else, and Sadie took a moment to recognize how young he was. Allegedly, he was twenty three, but he looked even younger than that. When she was exploring Olten, Remi would’ve barely been a teenager. And now, here they were. It made her feel old, if nothing else.

“I should be clear: that’s not a question for some sort of psychological evaluation. I’m just curious.”

“Oh.” He noticeably loosened up, and nervously scratched his neck. “Surreal, I guess?”

“How long have you wanted to go to space?”

“My whole life,” Remi said, and Sadie barely suppressed a snort. The man was a bad liar. But she had no reason to press him on this. She flipped through the pages once again. “It looks like your currently in customer service. Most of the people who get sent to space are military.” A statement, but also a question, obviously.

“I dunno if it mentions it in there, but I do have some experience as a private security consultant.” Remi’s mouth gave the slightest twinge of a grimace. Clearly, that stage of his life was behind him, and not one that he looked back on with any particular fondness.

Sadie shrugged. “Security isn’t the same as military. I don’t know if the Colonel told you, but the reason I’m here, to give you the all clear, is because of how special of a circumstance you are.” She placed an elbow on the table, and idly rested her head on her open palm. “The screening answers I’m seeing here assure me that you didn’t have any prior known psionic capabilities. Is that actually true?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“But you gave off a good vibe, so they decided to test you anyways?”

“I think they just had a slow day.”

“They got lucky?”

“They got lucky.”

On the one hand, it reeked of bullshit, but on the other hand, Remi had proven to be a terrible liar, and he seemed just as bewildered as she was about all of this. Sadie drummed her fingers against the desk, continuing to look him in the eyes. “Did you see anything when you touched the Slyten crystal?”

“What?”

“People often report visions, in the process of developing psionic powers via exposure to Slyten. Strange fractal biology, unnatural phenomenon, alien landscapes.” Unfortunately, he just shook his head. “There’s a lot of theory about why it happens, with the leading one being that Slyten somehow stores information about Olten, and what the planet looked like when the crystals formed, and that the process of absorbing the crystal grants the exposed individual that information. The visions often get more vivid the longer you’re exposed, and fade away, along with the psionic powers, as you cease exposure.”

Remi frowned. “I can’t say that matches with my experience.”

He was hiding something. Not about the visions though. Sadie leaned back, and pulled a pen from her pocket. In a fluid motion, she flicked it at the man, instilling it with a simple instruction. But rather than see that through, and halt in front of his face, the pen diverged, shifting its trajectory and flying past him, into the wall behind.

Remi stood up, and glanced rapidly between Sadie and the pen. “What the fuck?”

“Have you told anyone?” She asked. He stared at her, face showing equal parts fear and anger. “Or are your test results speaking for themselves?”

“Literally, what are you talking about?”

“You could move objects during the test, while in direct contact with Slyten, which is incredibly rare and exciting for someone’s first exposure. A lot of innate potential, which is I’m sure a phrase you’re already sick of hearing.” Sadie smirked. “But lingering effects and powers after a single exposure? That is actually unheard of.”

Remi sank back down into his chair. “No. I haven’t mentioned it to anyone.”

“Good,” she said, to his clear confusion. “I suspect if you did, I would be looking at you in a slightly different context.” Still confused. “Such as in a lab.” That did it. Remi looked suitably worried. “If I’ve learned one thing about the AOSE and our government, it is that they don’t like inexplicable or unheard of things. They like to understand things.” She put as much venom into the word as she could. “I’ve dealt with a lot of that in the past ten years.”

“Did you also….were you also like that?” There was hope in his eyes, and Sadie’s heart ached for him. The guy wanted a connection so badly. And they had one, based on his medical records, but it wasn’t the one that he was probably guessing.

Sadie shook her head and stood up. “What happened to me was a different inexplicable thing. But they hated that too.” She walked across the room, but motioned for Remi to keep sitting. Something was nagging at her, making her think about the conversation she’d had with Glitch when they last spoke, a whole decade ago. Sadie reached out, and touched Remi’s chest. He initially jerked back, clearly alarmed by the unexpected touch. “Please,” she said, unable to explain what she was thinking, or needed, or was doing. But somehow, he understood, and stopped.

Their heartbeats were entirely in sync. Not an impossible occurrence, but also not a common one. And as she sent a short pulse of her powers through him, it echoed back immediately. “Oh,” she softly said, “I see.” She withdrew her hand, and gave him a quick nod before walking towards the door. “I’ll go ahead and let the Colonel know you’re cleared for this. I hope you’re able to get all your affairs in order tonight, I suspect they won’t give you much more time than that.”

“That’s okay,” he said quietly, “I think I’m ready to leave this planet.”

Sadie stopped at the door and turned back to Remi, once again taking him in as a person, not as a set of test results. “I think I’m going to be the first person of many to say this, but there is something very exciting about you.” She paused, trying to decide how much she could get away with saying. “Once you’re on Olten, if you get a chance to meet Glitch,” assuming she hadn’t left to explore the rest of the multiverse, “tell her that Sadie and Daisy send their love.”

“Glitch?” Remi asked, slightly desperate. At least he had a lot of things to read about on the flight to Olten.

“Trust me when I tell you that you’ll know her when you see her.” She turned the handle, fighting the urge to say more. They were definitely under surveillance right now, and she had so many things to bring up that she didn’t want the government to have on record.

But on the other hand, it wasn’t fair to hide that information from Remi. So instead, Sadie took a deep breath, and then slowly breathed out. Magic flooded the room, short circuiting the cameras and microphones in minimally suspicious fashion, and left her eyes sparkling with multi-chromatic hues that she knew wouldn’t go away for the next few hours. Worth it.

“Last thing,” she said, as Remi scrambled to his feet in confusion. “Based on your medical records, I do want to make sure you’re aware of an unrecorded side effect of Slyten. The AOSE is aware that it can have interactions with a few different medications, none of which you are taking. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be going in the first place.” Sadie raised a finger. “Except, I can confirm from personal experience that it does have some pretty….inexplicable,” she shook her head as she used the word, “interactions with medical hormone therapies.” The confusion had been replaced, now with curiosity, and maybe a hint of mortification. “I don’t want my bosses, or the people putting these missions together, to be aware of this because I don’t think there’s any ethical outcome from this line of study, but between my wife and I, I have reason to believe that it should affect you regardless of the type of therapy.”

“As in HRT plus Slyten makes you develop psionic powers? Or as in Slyten makes you transition faster?” Remi’s voice was full of excitement and disbelief.

“I don’t have a full sense of all of the things that it does, since I haven’t really studied it in a professional capacity.” Sadie bit her lip. “But unfortunately, it isn’t that fantastical or cool. Think more ‘vivid dreams nearly indistinguishable from reality’, ‘irregular tinnitus’, and ‘atypical hostility from xenofauna.’”

“You’re shitting me.”

“Trust me, I know it doesn’t make any sense, but that’s pretty much to be expected out of Slyten. And if you don’t experience this, let me know when you get back, and I can tell my wife it was just a weird coincidence.” Sadie brushed her hair out of her eyes, and giggled slightly. “Hopefully, it won’t impact the mission too much. You’re going to do great up there, Remi, I’m sure of it.”

“Thanks, I guess?” Remi replied, shaking his head.

Sadie left the room, somehow aware every step of the way that their heartbeats were still in sync.

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