chanter_greenie: a Pringles can with the words 'you can't write just one' written across it (drabbles are like pringles)
[personal profile] chanter_greenie
This is the third in the ongoing orange!verse series of stories. There aren't any familiar Schrodinger's Heroes characters in this one, but a prominent orange!verse character is introduced. For those who'd know better than I would, if I've done a glaringly obvious injustice to Galena, Illinois somewhere in here, call me on it. I'll fix it. For more info on Schrodinger's Heroes, check [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith's journal.

Trigger warnings for misogyny, homophobia and antisemitism, all in background details. Further trigger warning for background terminal illness and some thoroughly nasty implications regarding the status of Roe v. Wade in this universe.


Kendra doesn't know what an andervector is.

Kendra couldn't tell you what a plain old vector is, prefix or no prefix. Angles make a rudimentary kind of sense, but that's all. Kendra doesn't know about other dimensions, or the definition of a universe, or the concept of other versions of a person. As far as Kendra's concerned, one human is one human is one human, no more, no less. Some people might say less, but Kendra's never been able to reconcile that, no matter how many times she's heard it said. Not that she mentions that fact anymore; the teacher who kept a ten-year-old her after class the day she dared raise that question had looked so intently serious beneath her grey frizz that Kendra couldn't help but remember the accompanying lecture.

She's not a sophisticated girl. Sophistication doesn't have any place in the flat fields and glacier-formed hills of her country; anybody who tries it is branded a snob or worse the minute they open their mouth. That's not news, it's just true. There really isn't any room for high class in the tri cities, whether you're on the Cheesehead side, the Hawkeye side or the Flatlander side. There's just plain no reason for classy. High education won't get the eggs in the morning or fix the car, and when you can't survive, what use is fancy living?

Galena's home. Galena's always been home. Kendra knows, vaguely, that the town she grew up in was named for lead or lead mining. She's never been exactly sure just how you get Galena out of lead or mine, but she's also fairly certain she isn't the only one in the city with that particular puzzle unsolved. She leaves it alone and just calls the place home, whatever the hell it's name means.

She loves Galena. It's a gritty little Illinois town, it's beat to hell like almost everything else she's known, it isn't even a blip on most people's radar and Chicago could squash it flat if there was a match-up in the relevance Olympics, but for better or worse, Kendra's heart's buried in the soil. She can't do a thing about it. She's tried, and she's ached for it. Anybody with a lick of sense knows that if you take your leg off with an axe, you're going to bleed to death. Kendra's tested that sort of blade, and found it plenty sharp enough to do grievous damage if applied to the wrong thing. She's long since learned to swing the axe at targets that won't take slices out of her important parts without a damn good reason, and she's the happier for it. Hell yes, she loves Galena.

Kendra knows this town, knows the streets and the alleys and the highways long before she can drive any of them, knows the stores and the churches and the people. Sometimes, she thinks, Kendra knows the people here better than she can stand. Galena's not a big city, for all it's a lot larger than most of the one-stoplight, one-bar burgs dotting the map for fifty miles in every direction. There's Dubuque, and there's East Dubuque, for all the difference it makes, and there's Galena. Not much else. When someone breaks the Catholic church's plate glass front door and leaves the offending baseball rolling around the entryway, Kendra can narrow the list down to half a dozen possible ball owners without even trying. When Mr. Wajohaski's restaurant loses its liquor license for no discernable reason at all, Kendra's not the only one with silent mental eyes on the catty alderman who more than probably yanked a few cords to get it done. When somebody spraypaints in black on Mrs. Weber's print shop sign, covering neat green letters with BICH STAY IN THE KICHEN, Kendra recognizes both the handwriting and the spelling before Mrs. Weber has time to get a ladder and scrub the evidence off. Hell yes, she knows these people. A little too well for comfort, on most days.

Some people call the corner of the world she lives in a pretty place. Kendra supposes she can see it, what with the hills and the rivers and the farmers' fields rolling away from blacktopped roads in every direction. She can't deny that a maple tree in autumn is awfully nice to look at, or a lilac bush in May, or geese flying in formation twice a year. But the fact is, pretty hasn't always been important. Pretty's around - sure it is. Beauty exists. Impressive images exist. They just take a back seat.

The thing is--the thing is. Kendra knows the rough side of this lead-mining, field-tilling country of hers. Mr. Kaplan puts displays up in the library windows in autumn, maple leaves and corn cob dolls, little paper lanterns and real silver bells, but the library's front door's barely holding onto its nails, and it rattles whenever you swing it open. People call Mr. Kaplan things, Jew and queer and other words Kendra can't bring herself to say out loud. Mrs. Oosterberg's tomatoes are the talk of the county fair every August, big pink-red mortgage lifters you need two hands to hold on the average. One day in November, Mrs. Oosterberg starts wheezing. Then she starts coughing. Then she can only get half a breath, and walks hunched over, even for an old lady. She dies, gasping, in April. Kendra doesn't see it. Then again, her parents and teachers always did say she had imagination enough for two people. They're right.

Kendra grows up exactly that way. She learns, early on, to take the pretty with the gritty and not think anything of getting one with the other. It's just how it's always been. She learns what every other kid in Galena learns: Two and two is four, keep your trap shut about things you might hear your people say at home. The subject of a sentence is the thing the sentence is talking about, like the cat is black, or the bird is yellow. If you stare at a boy, you get a reputation and a name that you won't understand until you're older. If you stare at a girl, you get a fat lip and a name the pastors and the priests say means you're going to hell. The last few presidents were Nixon until 1976, Ford until 1980, Reagan until 1988, then one Bush, Quail and another Bush. Iodine stings when you use it on a cut finger, but it works. If you don't have your training wheels off your bike by the time you're ten, you're a baby. Bicycle spokes have lots of uses, and so do coat hangers. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Hell's got lots of entrances, and sometimes you're born standing on a few at once and you can't get off, no matter what you do.

But the thing is--the thing is.

Kendra's parents met working at the telephone company. That's where they stayed, and they're still there three children later. Kendra came first, then Bradley--"Brad, dude, it's Brad."--and Kathryn. Kathryn's all about school plays and trashy celebrity magazines, Brad went quiet and started milking cows for Old Man Eberhardt once he was old enough to haul himself onto a stool. Their mother's a charmer on a switchboard and a terrier with an idea, and their father's got a sparkle in his eye and a steady hand with a wire cutter. Ma was a nurse in the Army. Dad can still fix crazy ass military tech if he has to.

And the thing is.

Kendra keeps a chicken scratch journal, scrubs coffee shop tables, scrambles eggs and wears her hair simple. Kendra comes home with a black eye in the eighth grade and won't say why she got it, holds her head up just a little but breaks out in cold sweats for three days just the same. Kendra lies awake nights trying not to think about an old woman dying for want of air, or about the girl from her science class who's been missing for two weeks coming back with blood on her skirt. The thing is--the thing is. Kendra's got an obvious stubborn streak and a big imagination, and sometimes the two qualities collide.

She knows exactly where she got both troublesome parts of herself, and she's hardly alone in the knowledge.

One fall day, Kendra's father comes up the stairs, drops a battered piece of Army surplus and a page of handwritten notes in her lap and takes half a step back. "Happy birthday," he says, and for the first time she's ever seen directed at her, the sparkle in his eyes looks more like furtive hint of a conspiracy. "You use it well," he tells her, and points to the button that says ON. "But don't let anybody know you've got it. I mean anybody." Then he pauses, starts to leave, turns back again. "Try ninety-four ten first, and sixty-one sixty-five later tonight,but don't stay up too late or you'll be tired tomorrow and falling asleep at school. Sixty-one sixty-five though, kid," he emphasizes just a little, "and ninety-four ten now, but that one might not come in. The other one will, later on tonight. So... happy birthday. Be careful." And he walks out of her room.

Kendra's eighteen. The radio in her arms has a dangling antenna, a scuffed case and a tuning dial with an iron nail's scratch across its surface, one edge to the other. The notebook page thrown atop that radio's display is in her dad's own writing. Kilohertz, waves, what the buttons on the panel do in combination. 9410, it says, and 9590, and 6165. Square peg, it says, round hole. Square can be good, kid. Take it from me.

Kendra's got a big imagination, and the boldness in her heart comes down from both sides of the family.

She hits ON with one finger. She doesn't hold her breath - that would just be stupid - but she's plenty tempted, for a second.

In her lap, a faintly foggy display screen starts glowing, and a speaker crackles to life.


Footnotes are like this:

*9410, 9590, and 6165 are actual shortwave frequencies. 9410 is used by the BBC Worldservice, 9590 by Radio Australia, and 6165 by Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

*Jij Bent Zo, translated literally from Dutch, means 'you are so'. To put it another way, 'you're like that'.

Wow!

Date: 2013-03-16 08:49 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This is fascinating and haunting, a very plausible look at how the world might have gone.

*chuckle* And yes, that sounds like Galena to me.

Re: Wow!

Date: 2013-03-16 08:48 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
>>Yay! Glad it went over well. I was desperately trying to show rather than tell here, and I succeeded rather better in some places than in others.<<

A little wobbly here and there, but overall very good. I think you'll grow into telling this side of the storyline very well. And it's nice and sticky.

>> It was intended to be both haunting and realistic, not hell, but clearly darkly-shaded in some ways. I just hope the plainly haunting aspects didn't overshadow the realism. <<

They didn't; you hit a good balance.

>> As for Galena, heh. I don't know it personally, but I like that area just by reputation. It might not obviously show in Kendra's take on it... or maybe it does. :) <<

It shows.

Loving a place like that is like loving a bad boy, or pesky relatives. You can see the flaws, but it doesn't stop you from loving them. Just might mean you need to make certain accommodations or limitations to avoid going completely bugfuck.

Re: Wow!

Date: 2013-03-17 08:07 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
>>The latter half of this fic kind of... sprang up on me last evening and said 'you will write me!' <<

Those are usually the good ones.

>> I didn't intend this to be a true identity snapshot at the outset, but it refused to happen any other way. <<

Eh, let a story be what it wants to be.

>> I admit I had fun playing with the axe symbolism surrounding that subject, heh. <<

Very well done.

Re: Wow!

Date: 2013-03-17 04:41 am (UTC)
thnidu: painting: a girl pulling a red wagon piled almost to her own height of books along a sidewalk (books)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
It...might have gone?

Oh. My first reaction was, "It isn't?" Because (I don't know the Midwest really at all) everything sounded real enough, given one young person's POV, until Dad's secretiveness. And even then, there could've been plenty of reasons for that. Not until comments 2 and 3...

Oh, ye Gods, thanks loads, yet another series I want to follow!!

Re: Wow!

Date: 2013-03-17 04:52 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
>>It...might have gone?<<

Yes. This dimension is further along a specific vector: for every political issue, that vector took the radical neocon fork instead of the progressive fork. In our dimension, there's a mix of results, so some things will be similar and others different. In theirs ... well, it adds up to a pretty ugly picture, aside from the awesomeness of the Resistance.

>>Oh, ye Gods, thanks loads, yet another series I want to follow!!<<

Yay! I'm glad you like it. I really love seeing someone else play with Schrodinger's Heroes and develop a different dimension in more depth. This is the kind of thing that this series really offers opportunities to do, that most don't, and it's just so exciting.

Re: Wow!

Date: 2013-03-17 10:17 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
>>You two are giving me the warm fuzzies! :) <<

Give fic, get fuzzies. Thus does fandom function.

>>I admit, some of the aspects of this Midwest are pretty spot on for our own universe, but some are much altered to fit the setting.<<

That's the key to writing alterfic, whether it's interdimensional stuff like this or alternate history or whatever. You start with the base material and use concrete details from that to establish verisimilitude. Then you define the points of divergence and show how those affect the life experience of the characters. It's that delicate balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar that makes this type of storytelling work.

Date: 2013-03-16 11:35 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
You know, if the corporations and governments get their way and the internet turns into cable Tv with filters... it is pretty much going to be down to ham radio and people's stubbornness to get information out.

Date: 2013-03-16 05:03 pm (UTC)
rix_scaedu: (purple me)
From: [personal profile] rix_scaedu
Interesting that they're all other governments' news services...

Re: Wow!

Date: 2013-03-17 04:43 am (UTC)
thnidu: painting: a girl pulling a red wagon piled almost to her own height of books along a sidewalk (books)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
It...might have gone?

Oh. My first reaction was, "It isn't?" Because (I don't know the Midwest really at all) everything sounded real enough, given one young person's POV, until Dad's secretiveness. And even then, there could've been plenty of reasons for that. Not until comments 2 and 3...

Oh, ye Gods, thanks loads, yet another series I want to follow!!

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