The Earth Moves

on June 13, 2011 in Fantasy

They did not keep him handcuffed. It would have been a hollow gesture, as he didn’t need his hands to attack, or to escape… though he’d shown no inclination of either running or fighting from the moment that the black van pulled up in front of his apartment building and the agents with identification badges stamped “4B” had knocked on his door.

Besides, he was shackled all the same. He could feel a low hum resonating in his bones, and he couldn’t feel… it. The connection to the earth that he’d been aware of for as long as he’d been aware of anything. His power was being suppressed just by being in the building.

It made him feel uneasy. The agent who sat across from him also had powers, he was sure, because he could see something in her face that told him that she felt the same uneasiness, the same sense of being closed off from something important. That was reassuring to him, somehow.

“Listen,” she said to him. “A lot of areas of superhuman law are still… unsettled. That’s an important word, ‘unsettled’, because it also describes public opinion regarding superhuman acts. The last thing any of us should want is for the law to be settled before public opinion settles down. Do you get me?”

“But what I did was vandalism,” he said. “We have laws covering that. I did my research before I did the crime, and I’m prepared to face the penalty, the same as any human being who had defaced the statue would have.”

“We do have laws for that,” she said. “But prosecuting you under them would be a bad move, in my opinion. It would expose a lot of people to danger, yourself included. That’s why we’re going to bury this thing and bury it deep. The monument was stolen. The thieves will never be caught. The insurance wheels have already been greased so that a replacement will be forthcoming, and you will never go near it, nor tell anyone what you did to the original.”

“You think it’ll be that easy to keep me quiet?”

“I hope it will be hard,” she said. “Because the easy way of ensuring your silence is something I’d rather keep as a last resort. Matthew 25:34-40 was an interesting choice. May I ask why?”

“Hey, if they’re going to stand up and claim that their laws are based on Christianity and then cut programs that feed the poor and pass laws that criminalize giving help to strangers, I just think it’s appropriate to remind them of what their Christ said,” he said. “Don’t you?”

“Oh, I think it’s entirely appropriate,” she said. “We do have a robust tradition of free speech in this country. You could have contacted the legislators in Alabama… or your own state legislators, your own representatives… and told them as much, the same as any citizen. That would have been absolutely appropriate, compared to defacing a monument that’s associated with a former judge.”

“That would would have been entirely ignored.”

“Maybe not entirely,” she said. “It would have been one voice among many, some of which probably would have been saying the same thing. Enough to sway any votes on the senate floor? Maybe not, but who knows? The thing is you took it upon yourself to use your power to elevate yourself, to make your one voice heard above all others. And what’s more, you disguised it as the voice of God Almighty. Don’t you think that might be a touch undemocratic?”

“I never said I was God,” he said. “If the gullible chose to believe…”

“You used your power to re-sculpt the Ten Commandments monument that used to be in front of the Alabama state courthouse,” she said. “You did this surreptitiously, after having practiced for weeks at shaping the letters until you knew you could do it without actually physically being in the same room as the monument… we recovered your practice efforts, so we know that. For you to pretend that you weren’t counting on this being taken for a literal act of actual honest-to-goodness God is extremely fucking disingenuous, and continuing to do so will move me squarely from the column marked ‘your advocate who wants to resolve this with as little fuss or fallout as possible’ and into the one marked ‘uncaring bureaucrat who doesn’t have time for your bullshit’.”

“Okay. Sorry. Yes, I wanted it to look like an act of God,” he said. “But if it changed a few people’s minds…”

“Listen, kid,” she said. “We have people in this country who can literally change someone’s mind… who can just sort of reach out and put a thought in someone’s head, or remove a memory, or whatever. Does that scare you? It should scare you. It scares the shit out of me, which is both a good thing and a bad thing because it’s my job to stop that from happening, or ferret it out if it does. And the reason you’re sitting in front of me is because my bosses aren’t sure what the difference is between what you did and that sort of thing.”

“I didn’t mess with anyone’s mind!” he said. “I didn’t make anyone do anything.”

“Do you want to sit and have a philosophical debate about whether a ‘random’ thought implanted into someone’s head or an apparent direct command from God is more likely to result in a predictable course of action?” she asked. “If your action had been accepted as a miracle… and I have to tell you that’s a long shot, because even if you never actually approached the monument and even if your powers aren’t public knowledge that doesn’t mean that the whole human race would suddenly forget that mutants exist… but if your actions had been accepted as a miracle, would the people you were targetting your message at have any real choice but to act on the message you sent?”

“They’re still choosing to believe,” he said.

“And because they’re dumb enough to believe in an Invisible Sky Fairy, they deserve to be at the mercy of any two-bit con artist, huckster, or superhuman mutant who thinks he knows what’s best for everyone?”

“I don’t think I… look, do you honestly agree with the direction this country is headed in?”

“We’re not having a political debate,” she said. “We’re talking about the ethics of playing God. And what about collateral damage?”

“What collateral damage?”

“Let’s imagine that everyone took your prank at face value,” she said. “The politics in this country may or may not shift to the left… I mean, it’s not like everybody who votes Republican is completely ignorant of the contents of the New Testament. You think you’re the first person to throw those verses into the debate? But here’s what would happen: first of all, anybody peddling the line that this is a Christian nation has a giant trump card. Did you think of that? Did you think of what this blatant display of Christian Godliness would mean for anyone arguing against laws based on Christian beliefs? For anyone trying to get a mosque or Islamic cultural center built in the face of local opposition? I mean, were you planning on following this up with miraculous pronouncements declaring gays and Muslims to be A-OK?”

“Well, I figured that the kinds of people.. I didn’t think it would actually change anyone’s minds about God in politics, it would just give the ones who thought God should have a say something else to think about.”

“Unintended consequences,” she said. “Belief in God is a powerful thing. I don’t have any doubt that you’d have to strain yourself to think of a dozen awful, horrible things that were done or that happened in the name of God through history. Do you think that none of them were started by someone who meant well, who didn’t think anything bad would happen? As I said: superhuman law is largely unsettled, but we have one big unofficial rule that you broke: Thall Shalt Not Play God. Every time a superhuman sets himself or herself up as a god, every time someone pretends to be a god, or The God, it makes things that much worse for the rest of us.”

“So what’s going to happen to me?”

“Nothing, if you keep your mouth shut,” she said. “We’ll slap a bracelet on you. It’ll tell us where you are at all times and also alert us when you use your powers. There’s no injunction attached to it, just be prepared to explain any unusual activity.”

“You can’t do that without a trial.”

“No, but you’ll agree to wear it without a trial because if this went to trial it wouldn’t be for vandalism or destruction of property,” she said. “And it wouldn’t be a ‘trial’ in the sense you’re thinking of. When I say you broke a big unofficial rule, the emphasis should be on ‘big’ rather than ‘unofficial’. Now, the reason for the banding on paper is that your power could be used to cause devastating seismic events that would otherwise be untraceable, given the range of your abilities. I think you know that and you haven’t done so, and that tells me you’re probably pretty much okay, this lapse in judgment aside… that’s why I’m not recommending this be taken to non-trial.”

“So other than this serious infringement on my civil liberties, there’s no consequence to me? I’m free to go?”

“If you’d succeeded, you would have been infringing on the liberty of everyone who doesn’t have someway of making God talk through chunks of granite,” she said. “But yes, after the banding you’ll be free to go. Go, and find something better to do with your power. Become a sculptor and express your own words. Assist search and rescue teams. Study geology and go work for the mining or oil companies. Be a superhero. Have a good life. Do anything but play God.”

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6 Responses to “The Earth Moves”

  1. AE says:

    This is a bit long for flash, but when I started it I only expected it to be ~800-1000 words. It does take place in the Harborverse, but is not indicative of the primary form in which Star Harbor will be continued. Still, there may be more Harborverse flash in the future as my brain begins to stretch in that direction again.

  2. Chimi says:

    Love it!

  3. Luke Licens says:

    Flash (Fiction) Gordon is ALIVE!?

    PS-Major bonus points for the Harborverse. ^_^

  4. Greywalker1 says:

    I love it. I miss SHN, and the 4B’s are just so nice about what they do, don’t you think?

  5. alexander says:

    YAY! awesome short, and a good look at 4b. now… what about those that actually ARE gods?

  6. Matt says:

    SHN yay! Any way we can get the rest of the old stuff back up? Need any help?

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