It’s been a couple of months since everyone’s transported themselves to the future, and Roxy is determined to do something that she’s been putting off for a while. It’s been a busy time since they arrived, filled with a bunch of excitement and celebration from the population of Earth C. Roxy’s time has been filled with being crowned as a member of the fancy new faux-monarchy. Even though none of them in the Carapace Kingdom actually have real roles as leaders it still involved a lot of publicity these first few months back. Everyone was so excited to meet the “creators” that Roxy thought she’d never find the time to get to sleep again!
But things had finally settled down and she’d been more than happy to settle down in the same home as Calliope. Even though their apartment in one of the busier sections of the capital city is a lot cozier than what she’s used to, it still gives her a kind of nostalgic feeling whenever she goes outside. She never thought back on the old Earth that she’d get to see so many carapaces around that didn’t have to scramble for food and supplies, who weren’t anxious about their future.
It was great, honestly. But it made her all kinds of wistful about home.
Which led her here, to the Town Hall slapped square in the middle of the city. She was surprised when she first saw it that it was still the one everyone had chipped in to help with back in the beginning of Earth C. It was a lot bigger, though, with a bunch of add ons she didn’t remember being there in the first place. That probably says more about how intense politics have gotten since they left more than just how fancy building’s gotten though.
It’s a pretty dreary day out and a weekend besides, so she’s able to enter without too much fanfare. The inside has carapaces bustling around all over. Only a few greet her and most just give her quick nods before heading on their way. She can appreciate that, honestly. As cool as it is to have so many people interested in her, even a social butterfly like herself can get exhausted after a while. And she kind of wants to keep this meeting on the downlow.
She walks down the stone halls until she comes to the Mayor’s office. No, wait. Upon further examination it’s been adjusted to say High Mayor, now. Huh. She guesses that means that whoever’s in charge of coming up with these political names really likes anything that sounds super grand. Have any of them met the High Mayor? Or is this a recent thing? The Mayor for sure, but...Hm. Well she’s about to find out.
She knocks and realizes immediately after that she should probably be prepared for whoever’s in that office not to be who she expects. After all, as far as she knows carapaces’ life spans are pretty long, but not five thousand years plus some time travel bullshit long. She hopes that if it’s a new mayor they’re as cool as the old one was. He never really made a big deal out of them when they’d all met him, and had been really funny whenever Roxy had talked to him.
Just as she leans against the wall to wait for a response the door opens. She turns and is greeted by the sight of the Wistful Visionary. He looks...actually pretty much like how she remembers him. Coming up to about her shoulder with a bright smile already on his face when he sees her. Though now he’s got some new, impressive duds to match his cool office, including a pretty ring on his finger. Roxy also notes that his shell is a bit duller than it used to be though that’s pretty much to be expected. It would be fucking incredible if he was still in perfect order after so long.
“Miss Roxy!” He says in delight. “This is such a surprise! Come in, come in!” He gestures her into the room and backs up, grinning behind his shoulder. “PM, look who’s here!”
Roxy walks inside and is...admittedly a bit intimidated when she sees who else is in the room. The Peaceful Mailwoman is taller than her and has always had a certain kind of darkness behind her eyes that was more than just their color. She never really probed or interacted with the Prospitian more than a bit just because she always made her nervous. She’s known plenty of serious carapaces but none that have had the same looks about them as PM does.
Then she notices that PM is wearing a matching ring to WV and suddenly the carapace seems much less intimidating. Wow, go Visionary.
“So, Roxy, what can I do for you?” Visionary sits behind his desk and gestures at the sturdy chairs in front of it. Roxy sits and twiddles her thumbs in thought.
“Well, Mr. Visionary, I’ve got what might seem like kiiind of a silly thing to request. Maybe. Depends on your outlook?” She’s stalling and she knows it. Logically this is something easy to talk about but her emotions are screaming.
“I’m sure that we’ll be able to help you! Is it a problem? Something you’d like to see change in the city? I always love to hear what my citizens are interested in.” He says eagerly.
“Well, uh, it doesn’t really have to do with the city as a whole…” Roxy hesitates. Sure she’s been building this up and thinking about it for weeks but...Well, shit, she’s really gotta just say it before she wimps out completely. “Okay, so, like. I was raised by a carapace commune back on our old Earth. And see, I’ve looked all over since coming back but I don’t think any of them are alive anymore. I mean,” She gestures a bit without knowing what she’s going for. “Obviously this is a pretty big world! But since none of them came by during my coronation and I haven’t heard anything from them…” She trails off and frowns. It still hurts. They were her only family for a really long time and she misses them.
Visionary looks vaguely upset and it takes her a moment to realize he’s probably upset for her. She’s not used to that in general let alone about her old family. This is the first time she’s ever talked about it to someone who wasn’t in some way feline, so maybe that’s why.
“I...I have to admit though that’s upsetting I don’t really know what you’re asking for.” WV says. “If you could clarify we’d be able to help!”
“Well I guess I just kinda wanna… Remember them. Like, publically. I know my memory isn’t always that great ‘cause of...reasons...so I wanna have somewhere where I can’t forget’em.” She says with as much confidence as she can muster. WV nods after a moment and gives her another smile.
“That is more than possible Roxy! After all, even though I’ve never met them, I’m positive that any carapace that helped to raise one of the Heroes into such a fine young woman is worthy of remembrance. Now, let me think…” He lapses into silence and Roxy can’t help but to be amused. It sounds like he’d rehearsed that, but that’s pretty much impossible. Is that just how he talks normally? That’s got to be pretty harsh on everyone’s ears eventually. Maybe that’s just what happens after being a mayor for five thousand some years.
“I don’t really need anything big! Just enough to remember them by. It doesn’t even have to be, like, a statue.” Roxy says as fast as she can the moment WV starts taking out pictures of statues from a drawer in his desk. Almost dejectedly he puts them back.
“No that’s fine! I just get a little excitable over this kind of thing. Let’s see...Something not too grand, but enough to respect them…” He sits back in his chair and looks deep in thought until PM clears her throat.
“Wouldn’t it be appropriate to let Miss Lalonde add onto the memory tree, Visionary?” She says. Her voice is soft spoken but carries an intensity to it that Roxy can’t help but to admire. “After all that’s what we made it for.”
“Oh! Of course!” Visionary stands up and hugs PM, who looks a bit startled. “PM you’re as much of a genius as ever!” And now she just looks bashful. Roxy watches them with a grin before what PM said actually sinks in.
“The memory tree? That sounds, uh, actually pretty big and important.”
“It is big.” PM says. “But it’s relatively unknown. I think that since you’re looking to pay respects to your family, you should be allowed to add onto it.”
“Well, shit, sign me the heck up. So long as you’re sure it’s okay?”
“We wouldn’t offer if we weren’t sure! Just give me a minute! PM can you show her to the transportalizer?” WV stands and heads to the door. Pm nods and stands as well, and Roxy follows her when she starts moving. She can’t help but to look backwards at wherever WV is going, though.
“Isn’t Mr. Visionary coming along?” She asks. PM opens a previously hidden door in the wall and nods. Wow, Roxy thought that sort of hidey hole was only in old Earth fiction.
“Yes, but only after he warns his aides that he’s going to be out for a while. We’ve left other times without telling people and let’s just say a city wide search is not a good thing to come back to after a date.” There’s a small smile on her face as she says this and Roxy feels her delight grow.
“Omigod. That’s so cute!” She giggles a little and it only increases when WV comes back into the room. He gives PM a baffled look but the woman simply turns to start punching co-ordinates into the transportalizer.
“Whatever she told you, she is a terrible liar.” He says with the gravest of expressions. It is somewhat ruined by the lovesick look he gives PM.
“Oh right totes. I guess that means you two are totally not in super goopy love.” She says and grins when WV nearly turns red. It’s always harder to tell with Dersites but she bets if she put her hand on his cheek he’d be burning up.
PM steps onto the transportalizer and gestures for them to follow her. THe moment they’re all on the platform she presses the button and there’s the familiar whooshing sound of the machine activating.
Roxy’s always a fan of this kind of travel. It’s not as cool as her windows and it’s not as fun as flying but it’s got its own sort of charm. For one, they get there nigh instantaneously and Roxy is shocked to realize it’s taken them to a giant forest. She’s really only ever seen trees like this before they left to the future and in some of her old books back home. She would have figured all the big trees would have been long since cut down for lumber but apparently not.
“Woah… Wait. The memory tree was talking about a real, literal tree?” She steps off the platform and tries to see the sky through the tops of the trees. It’s impossible from how densely packed the leaves are but it’s beautiful anyhow.
“This is one of the protected forests! Everyone kind of realized how sparse the planet was getting after a while, so we decided that some parts were going to have to be cordoned off to keep things alive.” WV explains as he and PM start walking. “We figured that it would be a good idea to keep the memory tree in one of these forests, since there’d be no chance of it being cut down.”
“That makes sense…” Roxy says and can’t stop from looking all over. It’s only now occurring to her how little she’s been able to explore the planet since settling in. She’s mostly stuck around the city and the main cities of the other kingdoms. Now that she’s started thinking about it she can’t really say why. She’s going to enjoy this as much as possible now that she’s out here, though. “So how long do we gotta walk? ‘Cause let me tell you I was not prepared for a five mile hike, even through the prettiest of woods.”
“It shouldn’t be too far, actually! We don’t like walking very far anymore.” WV says and then doesn’t get to elaborate on that particular tidbit because a tree even bigger than the others comes looming out from between the bushes. Roxy doesn’t think that anyone could cut it down if they didn’t have at least two weeks just to get halfway through the trunk. She didn’t even know trees could grow this big. It would make a sickass treehouse.
“Holy shit.” Is really all she can think to say. She walks up towards the very base of the tree without being prompted and isn’t surprised to see that names come into focus as she gets closer. The tree’s bark is actually smooth which has made it perfect for carving names into it. There are a lot of names. Like a lot.
Regretful Scout. Writ Keeper. Aimless Renegade. Windswept Questant. And hundreds of other names. Roxy wonders if the two carapaces did this all in one go or if they’ve been coming here over and over again in the thousands of years they had?
A noise from behind her makes her jump and she turns to see PM opening a box hidden in the base of one of the tree’s roots. WV is watching her with a sad little smile on his face.
“So, um! Feel free to carve in any of the free spaces. We kind of gave up on organization after the first couple dozen.” An awkward laugh that really doesn’t match his expression. PM hands Roxy a sword as black as night that brings to mind chess pieces for whatever reason. It takes her a moment to realize that this is what they expect her to use to carve out the names.
“Oh, holy shit.” She says, having basically given up on acting like she has any sort of clean mouth. These two have probably heard it all, anyhow. “What is this thing? I’ve never seen anything like it.” The scientist side of her immediately urges her to test just how sharp it is. That’s a ridiculous idea though, of course she’d never whoops she cut her finger. Wow that is incredibly sharp.
“It’s a- Oh Frog.” PM hurries over to roxy and pulls a bunch of gauze from...somewhere. WV looks a little green around the gills which is impressive for a carapace. Roxy looks sheepish as her finger gets wrapped up tight. “You humans are absurdly squishy, did you know that? You’re lucky so many of my coworkers cut themselves on the letter openers at work.”
“Haha, oops! At least it wasn’t too bad, right?” She looks at the sword with awe. “You must have a helluva time keeping this thing that sharp.”
“It’s specifically designed to stay sharp no matter what, actually.” PM says. “I carried it over many thousands of years and it’s served its purpose well.”
Something in her voice sounds a little tight so Roxy pushes down her curiosity and looks at the tree again. She reaches out and runs her fingers against the names. The bark gives way ever so slightly under pressure and it makes sense as to why they chose this tree. Especially with this particular carving “knife”. But that just means that she’s going to have be more careful than ever if she doesn’t want to slip and cut herself again.
But that’s fine. Careful is her middle name when it comes to handling fancy weapons, previous cut notwithstanding. The only real problem she can see is she doesn’t even know where to start. Should she go from the most to least important to her? But then how would she even line them all up like that? What if she went for the ones that were closest to her first… But now that she tries to remember specific names of course her memory is coming up blank.
Well fine then, if her brain isn’t going to cooperate then she’s just going to do whichever names come up first.
She latches onto one name: Diligent Leader. Right, the main organizer for half the commune. They’d always been really patient with her, and helped her learn how to communicate in the unique carapacian clicking language. She feels a pang in her chest as she starts on the first letter. She needs to find a distraction as she works, stat. Crying in front of important people is so uncool.
“So, uh. Who were all these carapaces?” She says, and glances back behind her. PM and WV have sat down on one of the huge roots and look surprised when she talks. Whoops. Hopefully she didn’t interrupt anything important.
“What do you mean?” WV asks.
“I mean, like, who were they??” Roxy rolls her eyes at herself for just repeating it again. Duuuh, they already know that! Jeez Lalonde you’re messing up tons today. “As far as I know people don’t really remember others who weren’t important. So I wanna know who they all were. If that’s cool with you!”
“What, all of them?” PM sounds a little incredulous, but not necessarily upset. That’s a good start.
“Sure, why the heck not? I’m gonna be here for a while and it’ll be super boring to just sit here in silence.” She says. “...Besides! I know this is like, a big important place but...It’s good to remember more than just the names, right? Since they were more than names and all.”
Wow, super eloquent, she thinks. Jeez louise, is this how Dave feels all the time?
“You’re right!” WV says, surprising her. “But only on one condition.”
“You’ll have to share as well! After all, we never had the chance to meet any of these carapaces. And if they’re going to be on the Tree, then I want to know more about them!” He says, and grins at Roxy. She grins right back and gives him somewhat clumsy finger guns, what with the sword in her hand and all.
“You got it, Mr. Mayor!” She sounds thrilled, and she is! She hasn’t ever really talked about her family with the other humans since she knows they won’t get it, she doesn’t really know the trolls all that well, and Callie is the best but really doesn’t understand a whole lot about family let alone carapacian culture. But these two definitely will, even if it’s another universe’s culture.
As she starts to carve WV walks up behind her and gazes at all of the names for a long moment. Then he touches one of the names and begins to speak.
It takes a long time to carve even into soft wood, Roxy quickly finds out. But it takes even longer when you’re half distracted by the stories of people you’ve never met but wish you could, now. She gets to learn all about the way that Visionary helped lead a revolution, and the carapaces that assisted in building it up. And the ones that died because of their help.
Eventually PM stands as well and approaches them. WV has been babbling but the moment he gets to Aimless Renegade, his voice cracks like a teenager’s. PM puts a hand on his shoulder and talks in her soft but strong voice about the third member of their relationship, and his sacrifice. About the previous King and Queen of Prospit, who were cut down before anyone knew it. About all the things that led up to the tragedy in the Beta session.
More than once Roxy finds her vision obscured by tears and has to blink them back so she can continue to work.
But it isn’t all sadness, which she’s grateful for. WV talks with laughter about how much of a mess he, PM, and AR made of their first meeting. PM reminisces about a Painter she’d known back on Prospit who’d always apologize for the size of her paintings, despite the fact that it was always a delight to deliver something beautiful. Then they both do their best to tell the single story of them falling in love with and figuring out AR. There’s a lot of laughing and stumbling over each other in that story.
Eventually Roxy has to take a break because her hands are aching. But since she’s been mostly silent during the carapaces’ stories, it’s her turn to talk. So she cracks her knuckles and takes a deep preparation breath.
It’s a lot easier than she thought it was going to be. She stumbles a bit at first but then she’s telling tales about how being a tiny human among a bunch of baffled aliens. About Leader who basically adopted her the second they saw her. About Cheerful Weaver who was teaching her how to make her own clothes and patch up the ones her mother had left her before she was even able to talk. Quiet Carver who had spent years teaching her how to communicate with the carapaces who couldn’t learn English through the universal series of Skaian Morse Codes. About how tough it was to help feed an entire commune until she found all of her mother’s old machines that made it possible to grab pumpkins directly from English.
Before she realizes it it’s getting dark around them. She can’t tell if it’s actually late or if it’s just the effect of the densely packed trees. Either way there isn’t going to be any more carving today.
“Oops! I didn’t mean to stay out here all day…” WV looks a little guilty as he stands, his carapace creaking slightly from him staying in one position for so long. “I hope no one gets too mad at us.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine. You didn’t have any important meetings today.” PM smiles slightly at him and also stands. She holds out her hand towards Roxy and without thinking she hands back the sword. PM stares then actually laughs and offers out her other hand and Roxy realizes that, oops, she was offering help up. It’s probably a good thing they’re leaving now, because her brain might just get more addled from working for too long.
She takes the offered hand and hauls herself up, stretching and grimacing when her bones pop back into place painfully. Ugh, and here she’d thought she’d be active enough now that that wouldn’t happen anymore… Guess that means she can’t judge Dirk for his sedentary shit anymore.
The carapaces have already started off towards the transportalizer again and Roxy jogs to catch up to them. She goes over the names she did manage to get down and feels a slight moment of sadness at all the ones that she wasn’t able to get to. Oh, well. At least she was able to get through a whole lot! That’s better than the nothing that was there before.
“So, when do you think you’ll be back?” WV is asking before they’re all even on the transportalizer. Roxy blinks at him.
“Wait, you want me to come back? Forreal?” She grins and can’t stop herself from clapping her hands. She doesn’t know why she thought Visionary of all people would refuse her the ability to come back. Especially after today.
“Oh, of course! You’re wonderful company Miss Roxy!” He smiles as PM inputs the coordinates for home. “And something tells me that you didn’t make it all the way through your family, correct?”
The transportalizer goes off and they’re in the small room off of WV’s office again. Roxy feels a little woozy and remembers very belatedly that there wasn’t anything to eat or drink out there. Whoops. Callie is gonna scold her ear off for that, probably.
“So, what time can I come on by and hang again?” She asks as they all step out. Thankfully it seems like no one else is in the actual office. That would probably start a bunch of awkward questions.
“Well, I have a pretty busy week of meetings…”
“And our anniversary is this weekend.” PM says in the tone of someone who’s had to make this reminder before. The bashful look that makes its way onto WV’s face only confirms that suspicion.
“Y-Yes! Aha...So, um, you should perhaps give me your contact information and I will call you as soon as possible!” He hurries to his desk and before Roxy can even get over there he’s already sliding a pen and paper across to her.
“Gotcha. I’ll keep my schedule wiiide open.” She scribbles down her Pesterchum and actual phone number. She doesn’t think a big shot public servant would have a chat client but wouldn’t it be awesome to have the mayor on her friends’ list? She hands it back to him and is about to bid them both goodbye but pauses before she does. “...This was really nice of you to do. And it was a really great day! So, thank you!”
“It was our pleasure, Miss Roxy!” WV beams at her. She smiles back, but jumps a little when she feels a hand on her shoulder. PM is looking down at her with a slight smile.
“And thank you for choosing to share your family with us, Miss Lalonde. I’m sure they would be happy to know that you still remember and think of them so highly.” Her smile widens and then immediately turns concerned when Roxy just starts crying. She can’t help it, she’s been holding back the emotions for hours and now that one kindly sentence is enough to break through her totally patented Strilonde calm. Maybe that’s because she’s basically never practiced it as much as the rest of her family..
“Are you okay??” WV sounds more alarmed than anything and Roxy waves her hand as she tries to catch her breath to speak.
“I’m fine! I’m fine, really- Just, uh, a lil overwhelmed I think. I’m gonna go home, get some hot cocoa and chill out with my kitty cats.” She laughs a little and is relieved when it doesn’t come out hysterical. “Yeah, please call me when you can Mr. Visionary!” She makes the typical sign of a telephone up to her ear as she backs out of his office before he can get really worried. She would feel bad if she took up anymore of their time, anyhow. The average citizen can have a terrible sleep schedule but it won’t do if the mayor falls asleep in the middle of a speech!
Since it’s nearly nighttime almost no one is around now. Which is great because Roxy is tough in the “showing emotions” department but crying in front of everyone is something even she’d have trouble dealing with. Once she’s outside the cool night air calms her down a bit. It also chills her face but that just perks her up.
Just as she’s getting into a brisk pace towards her apartment her phone goes off with the cheery jingle that is Calliope’s ringtone. Oh, shit. She picks up immediately and sheepishly.
“Oh, thank goodness! Roxy where have you been? I haven’t seen you all day, I got worried.” Calliope sounds relieved and Roxy feels guilty.
“Oh shit, I’m sorry Callie! I totally lost track of time today, I didn’t mean to leave you high and dry!” She says. “I was hangin’ with some new friends. Hey, did you already have dinner?”
“No, I was simply too worried to concentrate on getting anything…”
“Then hey, how about I pop by the market real quick and grab us something? I’ll tell you what I was up to today once I’m home, that sound good?” She hopes Calliope isn’t too mad at her. That would suck, especially since it was unintentional.
“Well...I was feeling a bit cross but I’m sure that’s nothing a good meal couldn’t perk up! I’ll simply consider it to be payment for leaving Mr. Snagglepuss and I alone all day.”
“You got it Callie. Oh man, tell Mr. Snagglepuss I’m bringing him home something good too! Can’t forget my favorite kitty cat.”
“Roxy, dear, every cat is your favorite.” Calliope sounds more fond than she did a moment ago, and Roxy is relieved she doesn’t sound stressed out anymore. “I look forward to your speedy return, then!”
“You got it Callio-snowpea.” She makes a kissy noise into the receiver and hangs up. She adjusts her route to the only place that’s going to be open this late at night and hums as she walks.
Today was an unexpected pleasure, when she thinks about it. What she’d thought would happen would be just a note in the newspaper but what actually went on… Well. She can’t wait to get home and tell her current family all about how she’s maybe-probably bffsies with the mayor now. Maybe she’ll leave out exactly what they did, though. The tree is a special place, and she wants to leave it that way for now.
She can only hope that her old family, whether they’re alive or not, is happy wherever they are. And if they can see her, they aren’t too mad about her telling all those goofy embarrassing stories about them. Because honestly, she’s not going to stop any time soon.
It’s the only way that she can keep their memories fresh and as true to their real selves, which is the most honorable thing she can think to do for them.