The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
Fiona and Harlan sat in silence in the train car for a while. The blue princess tapped her feet anxiously as she tried to think of a conversation topic that might engage the lizard scientist.
Harlan sat with her arms crossed and stared into space in front of her. She wasn’t looking at anything in particular but was lost in thoughts.
“So um,” Fiona finally said after a long quiet. She never came up with a conversation topic and instead chose to break the silence simply. The Zenotote scientist broke from her deep trance and looked at the princess. Harlan’s expression was blank, and Fiona couldn’t tell if the scientist was frustrated by being spoken to.
They stared at each other for a moment as Fiona tried to focus on something. The orange Needaimus hanging off Harlan’s shoulder became immediately relevant to her.
“So, your ability is to make things scarier… right?” Fiona asked. She had not witnessed Harlan’s use of the ability and only heard secondhand from Gwyn of what had occurred in Horizon.
“In a manner of speaking, I suppose that is one outcome. My ability allows the accessing of the future potential a given species may hold,” the Zenotote scientist explained. Fiona tilted her head slightly. She squinted her purple eyes before shrugging and nodding to what Harlan said. The green Zenotote shook her head.
“My ability can… upgrade things… like was done with the Ali,” Harlan added. Fiona’s eyes lit up like a light bulb was switched on. Then, her look became more stoic as she entered a quick thought. The expression didn’t last long, and she soon switched to a more concerned look as she spoke:
“Does it work on people too?” The Aqueenian princess asked.
“It can, although it will only affect willing participants when they are sapient beings.”
Fiona nodded to pretend she understood.
“So, if you use it on yourself, do you become Ultimate Harlan?” Fiona asked with a childlike sparkle in her eyes.
“Like a special move from one of those shows?” the blue princess asked. Harlan remained equally confused.
Growing up, neither of the two had much access to the full extent of entertainment available. Harlan had been quickly put into schooling by her father to support the Zenotote Absolutism. When she showed proficiency as a scientist, her path was set. Nevertheless, she had been allowed some free time and spent all of it learning and loving beauideals secretly.
On the other hand, Fiona did not spend much time on entertainment. She simply recalled a time when Donn had been obsessed with a show of transforming heroes, monsters, and giant machines that the heroes piloted. The show had been written and co-directed by K.A. Natos, though Fiona was unaware of any staff involved.
“I am unfamiliar with your reference, but please do not call me ‘Ultimate Harlan,’” The Zenotote scientist said calmly.
“You’re probably right; it should sound cuter. I’ll think of something,” Fiona said with an agreeing nod. Harlan bit her lip slightly as the frills on her head shuddered, though the movement was too small for Fiona to notice.
“Please do not come up with any names, princess,” Harlan said as Fiona became lost in thought.
“Harlan Mark 2? No. Neo Harlan? No.” The blue princess began to think of names out loud.
The Zenotote scientist quickly realized that she would have to come up with a change of subject. She began to frantically rack her brain for something she might have in common with Fiona.
“What is it like to be the daughter of a national leader?” Harlan continued to talk in a calm voice, but to her, she had just blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
“Oh, terrible,” Fiona bit at the new conservation like an easy-to-catch fish, “It was classes in the morning, classes in the day, classes at night…. Though, I did skip most when possible.”
“Do you dislike classes?” Harlan asked with genuine confusion; she always liked to learn new things.
“They were the worst! Like how they wanted me to learn the proper way to hold a spoon at the dinner table but would never let me eat with anyone important anyway! So, I just skipped the class!”
“Wouldn’t skipping the class just lead to being left out, to begin with? Perhaps if you learned as desired, you would have participated more?” Harlan offered.
Fiona’s mouth was wide open for a moment. Then, her face scrunched up as she pondered the shocking revelation.
“Well, that’s enough about me! What about you, Harlan?” Fiona quickly pushed her thoughts away and switched the subject.
“Me?” Harlan asked. As far as the Zenotote scientist thought, she had kept her father’s identity a secret from the others. A careful inspection of Fiona’s expressions showed Harlan that the secret was still intact. “I was… thought to be a little strange when I was born….”
“Oh, me too!” Fiona said with a nod.
“My father thought best I indulge myself in education… to counterbalance any strangeness I might have been born with….” Harlan explained.
She was careful to keep details vague. Since she had been born with a very flat face and considered very ugly to Zenototes, Mixolydian desired to train her mind to be the smartest in the whole land. Under normal circumstances, the ugly Zenotote children would be disowned and shipped to Nun for adoption if they did not have some obvious value, and the red leader was too stubborn to give up his daughter.
Her education focus from birth would eventually land her a position as a junior science officer at a very young age.
“That sounds so boring, though. How can you have fun if you’re learning all the time?” Fiona asked.
“Learning is fun….” Harlan replied in a calm but confused tone.
They stared blankly at each other for a moment.
“Is this one of those agree-to-disagree moments?” Fiona asked.
“I suppose it is,” Harlan confirmed.
The train came to a halt as their conversation reached a lull.
“Oh, I think this is our stop!” Fiona said as she jumped up. The duo quickly exited into center Nun.