Kage Baker could put up with a fair amount of distraction while she wrote. Sometimes. If she was in a good mood. If Harry was singing softly instead of making muttered threats in his Monster Voice. If I was knitting quietly enough.
What she absolutely could not cope with, however, was emotional distraction. It’s why she wouldn’t answer the phone, or read reviews first (or sometimes at all). Having to worry about the nuts and bolts and inkblots and crumbs of undigested potato and general asininity of the rest of the world rendered Kage unable to write. In defense of her writing, therefore, she had an agent to handle paperwork; and she had me to read what absolutely had to be read ASAP. And the system worked to perfection.
It’s creaking a bit lately, that system. I may soon be without representation, unless I want to spend a lot of time and effort patching things up with one of the TWO! COUNT ‘EM, TWO! agencies presently handing me a line of inexplicable confusion. They are either both committing underhanded acts, or are both incompetent. And I fear it may be the latter … which is gonna make it harder to get things right.
What that means, practically, is that I must spend a lot of time just now requesting copies of old contracts, checking the dates and terms and Parties of Various Parts notated therein, and trying to find all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle when I thought I had a completed landscape. On top of which, I have a few things I would like to have considered for publication, and at the moment I am facing the publishing void alone. This all eats into the time I spend being hopefully creative; not to mention my stomach lining.
Still: these things happen. And if they don’t, some other horrid things happen instead. One must bear up, bear down and labour regardless. So …let’s go on a bit and see where we can get.
Look at her little cerebral cortex sparkle.
That was Isis, I could tell – because I was hearing her through Eiluned’s mind, which was feeding her heart fire to me. I didn’t know, yet, that these strange people could talk in a silent way: like our heart fire, but mechanical. I didn’t even know what mechanical was, at that point. But her voice felt kinder, warmer, filtered like that through Eiluned. I relaxed even more.
That’s what makes her kind different – that sparkle, said Artur. It’s a specialized gift from gene complex ARHGAP11B.
That’s one of the Human Accelerated Regions, yes?
Yes. It builds the neocortex for all of us Homo sapiens etceteras. In this little flower’s folks, it also builds a special sensor for … feelings. Emotions. All the colouration that gets lost in spoken words, and pictographs, and writing; even in this medium, where we seem to speak mind to mind.
So Neandertals are – empaths? I thought Iris sounded embarrassed there, which was strange. I wouldn’t learn the word “empath” for some time but when I did, I was was sorry for her: because she was heart-deaf.
We were meant to be, said Eiluned. It was diminished in most of us, turned way down by the process that made us immortal.
Artur radiated such deep amusement, I thought poor Iris must be able to feel it, too.
We get by very nicely with what we have left, he told her. But we want to see what can happen if we’re more careful with some of these children. Now that we have enough Operatives like you, with the proper medical training, we can Process her more gently, and see if this little flower will bloom into a rose after all.
I – is that why you brought me here? On this run? Because I haven’t been out in the field since – well, in years. Since I was recruited.
You’re still very young, Iris. You’re barely an adult even by mortal standards, and we hoped that would make you more flexible. We wanted you to meet some of these children in their … call it their unedited state, said Eiluned. This baby is strong and clear, which is just perfect for our purposes and for yours, as well.
When I could finally understand this conversation, a few months later, I was outraged. I wasn’t a baby! I even tracked down Eiluned in the glyptodon meadow and told her so; which makes me laugh now and made her laugh then …
But Iris said, Isn’t ESP part of the Black List? Like children with epilepsy, or Crone’s, or blunt force trauma scars?
Not yet, said Artur soothingly. And this isn’t ESP: empathy is natural, though not this strong in most humans. But by the time they think to outlaw things like that up in Far Forward, we won’t be doing them any more. And if sidestepping the prohibitions with a little time slip bothers you, then I think you need to take that senior class in Temporal Mechanics again.
I’m not that young! Or that dumb, said Isis. Or that fond of Far Forward, either.
This time, I could feel all three of the grownups laughing, and that familiar sound sent me all the way into sleep.