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Across All Skies

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Red trails through the streets of a forsaken Alexandria and sows crimson seeds of destruction in her wake. In this strand the city has been built and razed to the ground and built again more times than anyone not of the Shift can count, and, Red must admit, there is a certain kind of fierce beauty that can only be found in a city built on the ashes of its predecessors — she has watched other versions of this Alexandria crumble to dust before, has in fact had to torch down several of them herself, but it’s always a delight to find herself in a strand that clings so meticulously to it.

The Agency’s touches in the history of this Alexandria are as subtle as they are pervasive, but Red intimately knows the intricacies of how her former side works, and so their little changes and adjustments are easy to spot. With a touch, she spooks a ginger horse that would have later collided with a cart, killing the driver upon impact and causing the horse to be executed as compensation to his family; downthread, one of the horse’s descendants now feasts on grass in the shade of a tree, and distractedly kicks a rock exactly where it needs to be. A brief smile at a blue-eyed child chasing after a ball, and the child is distracted long enough for the toy to vanish amidst the crowd of the marketplace where, that evening, it will be found by the young girl’s future wife.

Small things, all of them. Small changes. But on such subtle shifts does the future hinge.

Red weaves her letter into the very bones of the earth, into the twisting roots of the trees lining the streets, along the gusts of wind that caress the sky. Her words are in the clouds gathering up on high, and they are embedded into the rain that comes crashing down in a heavy torrent only hours later.  Red makes each and every little part of it count. The curls and twists of the lines she writes are harsher than they would be if she were Garden-grown, and too soft by far for the Agency, but they are unchangeably, irrevocably hers, and that’s all that matters.

Because wherever she sows them, her words are met by Blue’s. They are the pressure that forms the bones Red writes on; they are the leaves taking life from her roots, the rays of sunshine beating down and the grass given life by the unexpected downpour. Blue provides the groundwork for Red’s most daring schemes and when they bear fruit, she is there to take the seeds and sow them out again, to scatter them to the winds and watch their flight unfold. Her touch is softer still than Red’s, but with the sharp underlying edge to it that Red has so come to love. Without breaking stride, Blue counters the Garden’s attempts on this Alexandria’s history as decisively as Red did for her own former side.

Together they weave a tapestry of intent around the city. They hide their letter within the very core of this Alexandria, so intrinsical to its being that the words are omnipresent, sown into the very fabric of time in this strand.

It's a declaration of love, for the two of them.

It's also a proclamation of freedom to all who would read it. 



Far downthread, as it must, Alexandria burns again.

Red and Blue watch, from the centuries following its destruction, how the Garden makes its first tentative excursions back into the city, how its tendrils root through the ashes of history to see whether the seeds they had sown there have taken root. They have not, and the Garden recoils, perplexed, and turns back upthread to regroup. Blue and Red watch, too, as the Agency, already drunk on its own perceived victory, swoops in afterwards to pull the metal of its flame-forged blade from out of the city’s embers. They do not find it, and before their rage can mount the Commandant orders her Agents away, points them at other targets, tries to direct attention away from their failure.

From their perches further downthread, Blue and Red follow along with smug satisfaction as both Agency and Garden declare this strand of time wholly unusable.

For out of the ashes of this Alexandria has risen another city, untouched by Garden and Agency. Trees bloom on the banks of its river, and birds populate its rooftops. Given time — and what do they have to give, if not time? — the streets will be traversed by the sleek mechanical descendants of a horse that didn’t die, and up high in the sky, the children of a love that was given the opportunity to grow fly on wings of thought-steel.

And in a café on the edge of a plaza that, in another strand, might once have housed a library, Red will pour tea for two.