Chapter 10: The Aftermath of Thought; (or The N’Tariel Talent)
“Ah, hello Alexandre. You have not left?” Chloe sat down across from her.
Alexandre shook her head softly.
“Did you want a curriculum vitae?”
“A CV? Like a resume? No, I know about you from the professors I trade information with.”
“A demo perhaps?”
“I, ah, don’t think that…what is a demo?” Chloe knew the word, but not the context.
“A demonstration…of my ability as a researcher?”
“Oh, well, sure I guess. When?”
“Now.” Alexandre’s expression did not change.
“I don’t, ah, I don’t…” Chloe confused herself, “I don’t think so.”
“Then, let’s go.” She stood.
“Ah!” Chloe exhaled.
Alexandre Jutt smiled, and for the first time Chloe noticed that the woman’s teeth were metal—a silvery metal. They looked heavy.
I wonder what happened?
They walked down Mash road, named because it was made not of cobble, but of mashed stone paste, hardened in the sun.
“I probably already told you this, but I study hormones. My research isn’t much in demand, so I have not private funding,” Said Alexandre.
“Oh. So who funds you?”
Chloe blushed, “I thought you did not want to work for the castle.”
Alexandre’s pale complexion brightened to match Chloe’s. “So did I.” She moved to change the topic.
“Most of it has been journal padding.”
“Journal padding?” I thought I knew all the academic jargon…
“It’s…padding the scientific journals. Adding—er, expanding on known ideas. Most of it is braindead or obvious, it rarely becomes useful unless someone is exhaustive about the process like Ar…A…Ari…” She physically grasped at air.
Chloe said, “Aristotle?”
“Anyway, aside from that there’s one thing I’m working on in secret.”
“Secret from even the crown?” Chloe gave an unpracticed, mischievous simile.
Alexander smiled back. “We have an arms-length relationship.”
“—But I guess you will find out soon enough.”
Chloe fidgeted, which made her almost trip. Alexandre caught her, by the neck and waist. “Err, sorry.”
She let go.
They made it to the Academy, and Alexandre led her to the Kemia building. Chloe looked at the schools bell tower clock. It is nearly the eighth day-hour. So, two hours before dark. We should have time.
They made it to Alexandre’s office; a tiny room that Chloe assumed was once a supply closet.
“What, ah, what is this research then?”
Alexandre let them in and shut the door. It was black as pitch for a moment, and then Alexandre lit an oil lamp. She opened a drawer, extracted a notebook, and casually launched it at Chloe, who reflectively caught it.
They were standing in a sort of individual’s lab. In fact, out of all the times Chloe had seen Alexandre, she had never looked as comfortable, as at home as she did when she entered the office.
Chloe opened the book and read the title on the first page. Epinephrine. She considered the word, surveying her brain for its meaning. She stared around the room. It was small enough that it likely couldn’t fit more than three people; not comfortably, but it seemed to be fully equipped. There was an oven-sized blacktop (acid and burn proof) table in the centre, and a counter running along the far wall. That, ah, Alexander’s back cupboards are really tall… There were two chairs, tucked under the counter. On top of the counter, there were large metal cylinders marked “biohazard,” as well as needles, tubes, measurement tools, a doublelens, and a cage with—”
“Oh,” Alexandre mumbled, “Yeah, I borrowed some…rats.”
“I’m trying to extract epinephrine—”
Chloe, excited to finally learn what she was here for, said, “So, do animals have the same sort of adrenaline as us?” She had a wild thought, “You’re not running on rat adrenaline right now, are you?!”
“No! Eww! I haven’t even successfully pulled from them yet! Eww! I’d be putting, oh my Con! Eww! What kind of weirdo are you to say something like that!”
Chloe shrugged. “What do you mean by pulled?” I thought I knew all the jargon, and yet, here comes Alexandre Jutt confusing me.
“Sorry, extracted. I kind of just say what makes sense.”
“Ah…so what have you come up with?”
“Well, I’ve extracted adrenaline in fluids from myself, but uhg, these syringes are so heavy and stupid. I can’t do anything complex or precise with them.” She stopped, and thought.
Chloe said, “What about your secret!”
“Hmm. Well, it’s really tiring, and I’m not consistent. Plus, it’s…so numbing.” Alexandre sighed.
“What! What is it!” Chloe did not like dancing around a subject.
“You know the talent of the East Metch? And the North Metch; the N’Tariel moreso?”
Chloe frowned, “And the…Elken?”
Jutt nodded. She stood straight and breathed. Nervously, she said, “Poke me or something.”
“I can’t do it if I’m not stressed!” Alexandre yelled.
Chloe reached over the workdesk and poked Alexandre in the face.
“Your face is soft.”
Alexandre frowned. She and Chloe locked eyes for a couple of minutes. Then, Chloe spoke.
She looked away and said, “I know someone who could do what you are attempting.”
Alex sighed. “Solune Legend Salt Resz. Of course, he was N’Tariel. It’s far easier for them.”
Chloe said nothing. She studied the bits of paper and cardboard that littered the floor. She saw fabric poking out of one of the bottom cupboards.
“The Legendary Event was what inspired my research,” Alexandre continued, “I’ve been in correspondence with an N’Tariel Æsthetician about this. Controlling their adrenaline is taught from a young age there, so for him, explaining it was like explaining basic maths…”
Chloe sighed, “It also comes more naturally to those of Metch descent. I have never seen someone who did not have that ancestry take control of their adrenaline to the degree necessary to evoke any meaningful change!” She was starting to heat up, and she didn’t like it.
“What about the eldest prince Zealott? He claims to have achieved stable self-injected adrenaline rushes.” Alex countered.
Chloe stepped away, hitting her back on the wall. “My brother?”
“Wait, I forgot—”
“What if he is just deluded? He is blonde, could you really tell the difference? He’s been exiled for years! His words are never to be trusted!”
As Chloe spoke, Alexandre got an awful idea. She said, “What’s so bad about this Zealott then?”
Chloe’s eyes widened in rage. Her pupils opened; mydriasis. “Why do you think my sister left the kingdom? For fun? Abandon me? Nothing? Hate? Chase? Brother!”
Her words came out in abstract stream-of-consciousness. Alexandre rode the wave; she made a smug face.
What is she doing? “What is wrong with you?” Chloe said, “What are you trying to do?”
Alexandre Jutt’s metallic-black smile widened, “Induce a stress response! You know I get anxious when I make social missteps!”
Alexandre Dirge exhaled sharp and her hair burst white.
“Ah!” Chloe tried to jump back, but she was already against the wall. She reflexively took up an unarmed martial pose.
“Ah!” She calmed, “You—you did it! Look at you!”
Alexandre stood in place, her eyes darted around the room, just a little too fast. Chloe leaned in.
“Amazing, your hair has lost its colour. Look, ever your eyelashes, and” she looked Alexandre up and down, “even your body hair. Your almost glowing, Dirge!”
“I—I can’t…” Alexandre burst out of the small office and turn around. Chloe followed.
“Let’s spar. Come on, I saw that back there, you made a military pose, you’re trained, aren’t you?”
“Ah, my mother made sure of it; but here?”
Chloe looked around. The University hallways, with all its deep green floortiles, was empty, but it was only afternoon, so people were still there. Classes were in session.
“For research Chloe, come on. I have like seven more seconds.”
“Seven seconds…six. Fine!” Chloe grounded her feet and leaned back. She threw a kick from the side, shooting her leg up and across, toes stiff. Chloe was four-and-a-fifth-cubits tall, 6.3 imperial feet, and a majority of it was legs. The strike it light, a calibration. Chloe wound her calf all the way back. She immediately followed with another kick, in the same location.
Alexandre, taken off guard by the movement and confused by the first hit, was launched into wall. Alexandre grabbed it and rolled to the ground, landing on one knee and launching herself to her feet.
She breathed, then ran beside Chloe, twice as fast as she should have, and threw a punch. It connected and, due to where Alex was standing, pushed deep into her opponent’s gut. Chloe moved her hands inward to stop it far too late, but she kept going anyway to try and grab the arm. Alexandre pulled back and hit Chloe again, three times in a second; so fast Chloe saw only one movement.
And then, Alexandre’s hair faded back to normal, near-black. Chloe grabbed her with ease.
“I win!” She laughed. “Alex?”
The bell began to toll, the eighth hour of the day.
“Oh it’s been so long since I heard the academy bell’s toll.” She listened to the sound, counting the hours. Then, she let go of Alexandre—or, she would have if the woman hadn’t gone limp.
“Alex?” She is unconscious. “Ah, she said it was draining but…ah, wow.”
Chloe pulled Alexandre into the room, laid her on the ground, and exited. She shut the door behind her. “Ah, I think that it will be nice having her in the party. I will, ah, I’ll be right back.”
Info on Alexandre:
“The modern syringe was invented by Alexandre Dirge because, “The syringe is far too heavy, clunky, and archaic for use on smaller organs or on smaller animals.” (signed, A. Dirge, 4001).