Legends Of The Multiverse #3 - "Welcome Home"
Threads of dust floated in mid air, pushed around gently by the bass rumble of the van's antiquated diesel engine. Samantha watched the effervescent swirls in silence as the driver carelessly hit every pothole. The other ten year olds in the pen enjoyed the ride and chattered optimistically.
"First thing, my mom's gonna make lemonade. She grows lemons!"
"My dad has a truck that's bigger than this one!"
"You guys won't believe how big my parent's house is. I could tell you but you wouldn't even believe me."
Samantha's shoulders rocked steadily to the rhythm of the road as she listened. Her spine hurt, as it had for as long as she could remember. The scars were gone somehow, but the pain of the needles lingered along with the memories of extraction.
The van came to a sudden stop and the excitement of the other children reached another crescendo. The sound of a door opening and slamming shut. Gravel shifting under heavy boots. A silhouetted figure walking past black tinted windows. A key turned in the lock.
Bright light flooded the space once again, followed by a waft of heat and dust. The glare was sudden and overwhelming. Samantha could barely see. Only the shadow of a man taking hold of the shadow of a child, and then the door was shut again and Samantha's eyes began to readjust. One less child remained - the rest wore frowns of disappointment.
Soon more footsteps, the opening and closing of a door, and then the renewed grumble of the engine, and they are moving again. The children's spirits rose with the pitch of the strained pistons.
Samantha allowed herself to breath. She watched the other children and wanted to throttle them, scream in their faces. How could they not remember? What were they excited about?
Samantha remembered everything: the extractions; the feedings; calibration exercises; and discipline - so much discipline.
She also remembered the final procedure - the shot in the arm, the large pill, and the electrical shocks. She couldn't talk afterwards, not for a couple of days. But she could hear.
"What do you think? Cows or sheep?" The attendant had asked the nurse.
"Personally, I vote sheep. Much cuter." The nurse had responded.
"Sheep it is."
Then came the strange, awful non-pain in Samantha's head, along with images of a dusty farm and two strangers. A violative slideshow played right behind her eyes. The images came and went and afterward she just remembered seeing the pictures, along with everything else.
A particularly excitable young boy across from her raised his voice and was going on about his parents.
"They have a lot of money. They're farmers! They have a giant farm. And all these big machines that drive around by themselves and grow stuff. It's crazy!"
Samantha couldn't stop herself. "Your parents aren't farmers." She didn't mean to raise her voice, but she did.
The boy looked at her angrily. "They are to farmers. I've been to the farm, I do all the chores."
"It's all fake. It's just a fake thing put in your head! You've never been to a farm."
"I have so! I do all the chores, I rake and I dig holes and I can even fix things when they break!"
Samantha looked the boy in the eyes "If you work on a farm how come your hands are so soft?"
This put the boy ill at ease. He looked down at the palms of his hands. "My hands aren't soft."
Samantha reached over and grabbed his wrists and held them out for everyone to see. "They are, they're soft - no callouses, no blisters, nothing. You've never even seen a rake."
The boy's eyes searched for help from the other children, but none came. He looked at his hands in a desperate bid to understand and then back at Samantha. He had tears in his eyes. "But, I did. I worked on the farm. I did."
Samantha let go of the boy's wrists. The other children had gone silent, their faces consumed with doubt.
Then the van stopped again.
The sound of a door. The drag of boots through gravel. A key in the lock. The blinding light and the shadow of a man. Samantha felt pressure on her wrist, pulling her out of the van, into open air.
The sun hurt her eyes. The air was redolent with dust and animals. Two expectant strangers stood on the stoop of an old farm house. In the near distance the vocalizations of sheep could be heard in some number.
A soldier in a full EV suit towered over her. Samantha looked up at him and saw the great expanse of blue she had seen only once before, when it was forcibly inserted into her mind.
The soldier spoke into his respirator and it emitted an electronically augmented voice.