Another Saturday means another chapter in the Infinite Limits tetralogy. Today we join Rosa for her third and final point of view chapter in An Almost Tangent. Plans are spinning into motion for Rosa and the Human Family and gambles are being made to secure a prosperous future for humankind everywhere. See exactly how she plans to secure that future and how those plans fall out right here, right now, and don’t forget to pick up a full copy of the novel through this link if you want to support future releases in the Infinite Limits universe and beyond or subscribe to my email newsletter in order to keep up to date on when those releases occur. Enjoy, dear readers:
“What did I just do?” Olsen demanded as she rushed back through the loud humming ring.
Rosa waited for Anna to stop the noise before she responded. “I asked you not to linger,” she said when it was off.
Anna ran over to embrace Olsen. “It’s okay, child,” she said. “It had to be done.”
“What had to be done?” Olsen asked. “What did I do? That was nothing like handing food out on the streets. No one there looked like they needed anything. And I’m pretty sure I—I’m pretty sure there was someone from TV there.”
“Settle down, child,” Anna said, rubbing Olsen’s shoulders. “It’s okay. It’s all over now. Let’s go get something to eat. That should make you feel better.”
“I would like to—” Rosa started.
“A bit of food would be good for everyone right now,” Anna interrupted, shooting Rosa a look. “I’ll cook you something right up,” she added in a nicer tone, patting Olsen on the head.
Olsen didn’t respond with words. She just followed Anna out of the basement and up to the kitchen, staring straight ahead without blinking. It was evidence enough for Rosa that the girl had delivered the goods, but how could they be sure it had been the right fool to eat off of that food cart? Surely the invisible hand of their God up above would assist them for the good of the Family.
Rosa climbed up the stairs and into the kitchen where Anna was frying something up on the stove. She took the stool next to Olsen at the bar and said, “So. That was a good thing you did there, Olsen. I’m proud of you.”
“Proud of me for what?” Olsen asked, staring off into the distance, not looking at Rosa when she spoke. “I still don’t know what I did.”
“Well…” Rosa said. This is why she had told Olsen not to linger. She didn’t want to have to explain this part. If she did want to explain it, she would have just told the girl from the get go.
“You tell us, child,” Anna said, flipping the contents of the pan as she spoke. “What did you do?” And Rosa was relieved at the slight postponement, though she didn’t see how this line of questioning could go very far.
“I don’t know what I did,” Olsen said with a sigh. “That’s why I’m asking y’all.”
“You don’t remember any of it?” Anna prodded. “What did you see?”
“Well, yeah, I mean—” Olsen shook her head. “Well, I went in and put the tray where you said to put it.”
“You went in where?” Anna asked. “What was on the tray? We want specifics.”
“Well, I went into the closet—which you saw me do—then out through a hall, into a big room that was filled with lights and people and dumpsters. It looked like someone had taken everything from outside and moved it inside. And there was a food cart that said Logo Only above it so I opened the tray of cheese that y’all had given me and I put it there under the sign.”
“And then you came back to us?” Anna asked.
“Well, no…” Olsen looked at her lap and started fidgeting with her shirt. “Not exactly.”
“It’s okay,” Anna said. She put a plate of stir-fried vegetables and rice in front of Olsen. “What’s done is done, child. Not telling us what you did won’t change that. And whatever you did do won’t change how proud we are of you.”
Olsen looked at the plate then up at Anna. “I stayed to see what they were doing,” she said. “It was so interesting, I couldn’t help myself.” She shook her head.
“I understand, child,” Anna said. “I’d imagine a movie set would be an interesting sight to see.”
“So they were making a movie?” Olsen perked up. “And that was the guy from TV.” She slouched down in her chair again.
“You recognized someone you saw?” Anna asked.
“I—uh…” Olsen looked at her lap. “I think I did,” she said. “I had seen him on TV before—in a bunch of things. But he was eating the cheese I had left and talking to someone at the food cart. Then he did a speech. Then he…” She covered her face to hide her crying. “He didn’t get up, okay. Are those enough details for you?”
“Oh, yes, child.” Anna came around the counter and patted her on the back. “That’s all we needed to know. You did splendidly. I think you’re ready for new responsibilities in the kitchen after this success.”
Olsen shrugged her off. “Why?” she demanded. “What does this have to do with cooking? What did I do?”
Rosa had stayed silent for long enough. Anna had comforted the girl and gotten the information they needed, but now Olsen wanted more. She wanted to know what part she had played in the Family’s matters—or at least she thought she wanted to know, but Rosa wasn’t so sure the kid really did.
“Child,” Rosa said. “Do you know what we do here at the Family Home?”
“No,” Olsen snapped. “And I haven’t read your stupid pamphlets, either. I just want to cook!”
Rosa shook her head. The poor girl thought that was news to them. “I know you haven’t,” she said. “But you’re a good human worker who does what’s asked of her, no questions asked. And that’s why we keep you around.”
“Are you saying you don’t want me asking questions?” Olsen asked.
“Oh, no, no, child.” Rosa smiled. “Let me start over if you will. We here at the Human Family have one mission, given down to us from God up above. Do you know what that mission is, child?”
Olsen shook her head. “I told you I didn’t read the stupid pamphlets.”
“We seek to reestablish human dominion over technology. Do you know what that means?”
Olsen furrowed her brow and shook her head.
“We, Olsen, are humans,” Rosa said. “Humans created technology. Technology advanced, and now androids are displacing humans. I know you’re from a different world than we are, but I come from a place where every single one of our jobs were made obsolete by androids. And you know what our previous employers did after that happened? They kicked us out to the end of the worlds where they thought they could forget about us, hoping we’d just rot and die.”
“But technology makes our jobs easier,” Olsen said.
“Until it replaces us,” Rosa said. “No one thought the servers, maids, and mechanics would be replaced but look at them now. They’re all fighting to survive while society crumbles because robots took their jobs.”
“So what?” Olsen said.
“So why do you think you lost your job?” Rosa asked. “A poor Sixer took it because a practically free robot already took theirs. It’s an incessant drag on every human, pulling the furthest down first then the rest down after. It’s coming for everyone, too, child. You can ignore it if you want to, but it won’t ignore you. We, as a Family, choose to fight against that drag. And we’re getting stronger with every successful act.”
“But what does any of that have to do with what I did?” Olsen asked.
“You performed another successful act,” Rosa said. “You struck another blow for the Human Family. You are a member of this Family as much as Anna or I, and you did your part.”
“I—I—” Olsen was having trouble saying it. “I killed a movie star.” She finally blurted it out. “What good is that?”
“You didn’t kill him,” Anna said. “You fed him. And you didn’t know what you were doing.”
“So I did kill him!”
“You didn’t,” Rosa said. “If anyone is responsible for his death, it’s me. And I’ll gladly take that responsibility, child. Because it was for the good of the Family.”
“How could killing a movie star be for the good of the family?”
“You don’t understand how big this is,” Rosa said, “how huge this machine we’re fighting is, how intricate and complex. There are many, many parts to it, and Russ Logo was a lynchpin in several particularly vital ones. That’s how it was good for the Family.”
Olsen scoffed. “You haven’t said anything,” she said. “You’re talking in riddles on purpose. All you’ve convinced me of is that I killed that man.”
“I killed him,” Rosa snapped a little too angrily. She took a deep breath to calm herself and tried to go on in a calmer tone. “I killed him because he was the most popular star in the pro-robot propaganda machine. I killed him because he taught humans to give in peacefully to their robot overlords. Most of all, I killed him because he was one of Lord Walker’s most valuable assets.”
“Who’s Lord Walker?” Olsen asked.
“The owner of the largest android producing corporation in existence. The reason we keep losing our jobs. The number one enemy to the Human Family. And that’s why we destroyed his property. Do you understand now, child?”
Olsen stood from her chair, shaking her head. “I—no,” she said. “I don’t—I have no—I have to go.” She ran out of the room.
“You didn’t even touch your food,” Anna called after her.
“Let her go,” Rosa said. “She’s done enough for today.”
“I told you she wasn’t ready,” Anna said, taking Olsen’s seat.
“I’m not sure that’s exactly what you said,” Rosa said with a grin.
“It’s what I meant to say.”
“Anyway,” Rosa said, putting an arm around Anna, “she set the cheese on Logo’s cart, he ate it and didn’t get up. It sounds to me like she was ready.”
“I don’t know,” Anna said, shaking her head. “She said he was talking to someone at the cart.”
“So why didn’t that person end up the same way?”
“Maybe they didn’t eat the cheese,” Rosa said, shrugging.
“Maybe it wasn’t Russ who did.”
“She said he gave a speech,” Rosa said. “That he was a movie star. It was him. I know it. And we’ll know for sure soon enough. Now c’mon.” She kissed Anna on the cheek. “We should be celebrating. We’ve been having one success after another.”
“Success?” Anna shrugged Rosa’s arm off of her. “Rosa, did you see it out there after the protectors came through?”
“I—uh…” She hadn’t.
“I did,” Anna said. “I carried the Family members we could save over the corpses of those brothers and sisters who we couldn’t. You can’t even know how many of them were out there, from Five and Six alike, and every one of them humans.”
“I know, dear,” Rosa said. “I—”
“Well I don’t call that a success!” Anna interrupted, standing up. “That’s the opposite of success. That’s failure, Rosa. Those monsters murdered members of our Family because we were giving them the food they need to live. I don’t see how we can keep going against these demons if that’s how they keep responding. I don’t want to step over any more human bodies, Rosa. I won’t.” She shook her head, crossing her arms.
“They will keep responding like that, though,” Rosa said. “They’ll get worse, too. They’ll kill us until we give up, and then they’ll kill a few more to be sure we never try to protect ourselves again. But that’s all the more reason to fight back, don’t you see? Otherwise we let them win. You’ve been at this long enough to know what we’re up against and why we can’t stop fighting it.”
“I’ve never known anything like this,” Anna said, shaking her head. “I’ve never seen so many dead and dying brothers and sisters. And I don’t know how we can go on fighting the Devil himself in these protectors.”
“With everything we’ve got,” Rosa said. “You’ve been piecing together more transporter rings, haven’t you?”
Anna shrugged. “I’ve got two more up and running, but I need new consoles if you want more. The pieces for consoles aren’t easy to come by—even with a printer.”
“Okay, well, three should be enough to get me to Three. While I take care of that, can you start putting rings together without a console?”
Anna scoffed. “Sure, but they’ll be useless until we get the consoles. I don’t know why you need so many anyway.”
“Well, come on, then.” Rosa stood and grabbed Anna’s hand. “I’ll show you.”
They went down to the basement where the supplies had been pushed further to the side and stacked higher to make room for the two new rings, which were attached to the same console by long snaking wires. It was still to this day amazing to Rosa what Anna was capable of.
“We’re here,” Anna said, shrugging. “So?”
“You’re amazing,” Rosa said, kissing her cheek.
“Stop it.” Anna rubbed the kiss away, but she was smiling and blushing when she did it. “What do we need so many for?”
“Well,” Rosa said. “You can set each ring to go to a different location, right? Even though they’re all hooked up to the same console or whatever.”
“Yeah, I can do that.”
“Good. So we set one of them to the destination I actually need to go to, right. Then we set the other two to two different destinations. You see where I’m going? We open them all at once, right, then I step through the correct one, giving the Scientist less of a chance to intercept the doorway I actually use.” She smiled. She was proud of herself for coming up with the idea before Anna had while knowing so much less about the technology than she did.
“A one in three chance,” Anna said, nodding. “That’s still not great, though.” She frowned and tapped her chin.
“No, well,” Rosa said. “It’s better than one hundred percent, though. Right?”
“And I could cycle through different locations while you’re gone, too,” Anna said, hurrying to the console and flipping the switches. “Wait,” she said. “I’m going to cycle through a few before we get to yours. The chances go down with each new destination we add.”
The machines started humming. Rosa didn’t bother to respond. The idea that she had come up with was refined by Anna and perfected. Just like Rosa knew it would be. That’s why they made such a great team. She couldn’t imagine doing any of this without Anna. She turned to say that and realized that Anna was yelling at her and waving with her hands, telling her to go through. Rosa nodded and gave a thumbs up. She stepped through the center ring and it fwipped shut behind her. She felt the breeze at the back of her neck as it did. A shiver went up her spine at the thought of what would have happened if she was still passing through the door when it closed. She took a deep breath and wiped her face with a sweaty palm. With a sigh, she set off toward the park.
The roads on the way there were as empty as last time. Three seemed to be unaffected by the uproars infecting the rest of the worlds. Life went on as usual. She sat on the park bench and stared at the bar door across the street, with its shining Indywood sign, wondering what time it was and if Cohen would be late. She almost jumped out of her seat when he tapped her on the shoulder from behind. She stood fast and turned with a gasp.
“Shhh!” He held his finger to his mouth then waved for her to follow.
She crouched and snuck behind him, spooked by his caution. She had expected him to come from the bar, not from nowhere. Maybe life here had been affected.
He led her into a dark alley before he stopped sneaking and composed himself. He sighed. “I’m sorry,” he said. “We shouldn’t be out here at all, but I had no way to tell you. This is the best I could do.”
Rosa nodded. “Do the protectors have you under curfew?”
“Pffft.” He scoffed. “And more than that. So we have to make this fast.”
“I understand,” she said. “Has your crew come to a decision?”
“Well, yes and no.” He looked at his feet, breaking eye contact.
Rosa waited for him to go on.
“My writer’s still making some edits, but we’ll do it,” he added hastily.
“Edits?” Rosa frowned. She didn’t like the sound of that. She herself had written every word of that script with love and intent, and she didn’t think there was a single change that could make it better.
“Oh, no no,” Cohen said, waving his hands. “It’s nothing. Just some minor tightening of the syntax plus the addition of a few side characters. You know, minor. The underlying message will still be exactly the same, but our writer…he’s very…hmmm…he’s very specific.”
Rosa rolled her eyes. “Do you have your list of demands?”
“Uh, yeah. Here.” He pulled a stack of paper that was thicker than the script out of his inside jacket pocket and put it in her hand then chuckled. “You said anything, right?” he added with a shrug.
“And you need all of this in order to film our movie?” Rosa asked, flipping through it with her thumb.
“Yeah, well…” Cohen shrugged. “We’re a shoestring crew at the moment.”
“Until you get this?” Rosa waved the stack of papers in front of him.
He smiled. “Right,” he said. “You got it.”
“Well you won’t be getting anything until you give me your edits and I approve them,” she said. “Do you got that?”
“I, uh… Yeah,” Cohen said. “I told him—I’m sorry. I’ll—”
“Child,” Rosa cut him off. “When I first gave you this offer, time was less of a consequence, but now we have to get this ready and out as soon as possible. There’s no more time to waste.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll—”
“You’ll be ready tomorrow or I’ll find someone else to give the gear to,” she said. “You got it?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He nodded.
“Good,” Rosa said. “Now go and tell your writer. And please don’t waste any more of my time.”
He didn’t even waste it with words. He nodded and ran off at full speed, heading deeper into the dark alley. Rosa shook her head as she made her way back to the costume closet, sticking to the shadows now that she knew there was a curfew. You could never trust a lower-worlder to do what you asked of them. She knew that kid and his friends didn’t care at all about androids—or even the humans in Five or Six, for that matter—they only cared about making their movies, but she hoped they cared enough about that to make hers first—and without excessive edits. Who were they to—
A big gloved hand grabbed her arm from behind and jerked her around. It was a protector and there were two more, in formation, pointing their guns at her. “What are you doing in the streets, citizen?” the protector who was holding her by the arm demanded. “Identify yourself.”
“I—uh…” Rosa stalled. With all her worrying about the new threat of the Scientist, her respect for the protectors had waned, and now she was paying the price for it.
“You are out after curfew, citizen,” the Protector said. “Explain yourself.”
“I—No,” Rosa said. “I didn’t know I couldn’t—”
“Do you have a permit?”
“I—uh. No. I—”
“Citizen, you are under arrest.” The protector spun Rosa around again and cuffed her arms behind her back.
Rosa didn’t protest. She knew it was pointless. She could never escape three armed protectors, even without cuffs. She stumbled along, wondering how Anna would react when she didn’t make it back through the portal on time—Anna would probably never let Rosa go through a ring ever again—and the protectors pushed her into an elevator which took them to a long white hall. They opened a door a short way down the hall and removed her cuffs before throwing her in. The room was tiny and white with a metal bed and a toilet. They must have thought she was from Three. They still didn’t know who she was. It would work in her favor like this until they realized their error, then it could only make things worse. Still she had no choice but to live with whatever happened now.
She hopped up onto the bed, her legs dangling off the edge, and as soon as she got comfortable, the door swung open. The Captain stomped in and slammed the door behind her. “What the fuck are you doing here?” she demanded.
Rosa chuckled. Maybe they did know who she was after all. “Taking care of business,” she said.
The Captain scoffed. “Like you were supposed to take care of my problem for me?”
Rosa smiled. “Oh, we did though,” she said. “Isn’t it on your news? I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m here right now. Isn’t it? Out after curfew.”
“You wouldn’t.” The Captain shook her head.
“We did,” Rosa said, smiling. “I told you we’d take care of your problem.”
“That wasn’t my problem you ignorant Sixer. That only made more of a problem, as a matter of fact. Do you know how many protectors it takes to enforce a stupid fucking curfew?”
“Well, Lord Walker took a big hit to his net worth, didn’t he? That helped solve one of your problems.”
The Captain shrugged. “You’re right about that,” she said. “He’s no Lord anymore. And we already took care of our other problem anyway.”
“And still the worlds turn.” Rosa smiled.
“I’d wipe that grin off your face if I were you,” the Captain said. “You got lucky today. If I didn’t see them bringing you in, they’d know who you really are and you wouldn’t be leaving.”
“Does that mean I’m free to go?” Rosa said, hopping off the bed.
The Captain scoffed. “You’re awful confident for someone who’s behind bars.”
“I’m not the one who’s behind bars,” Rosa said. “You’re the one who’s stuck here day in and day out. The only difference between you and a prisoner is that they pay you more to be here.”
“And I can leave,” the Captain said.
Rosa scoffed. “Then let’s see you try.”
The Captain didn’t answer. Rosa knew she couldn’t. She had nowhere else to go to make anything of herself, and to leave the force would be to throw away any chance of a life of value.
“No,” Rosa said after she had let the realization sink in. “I didn’t think so, but I’m free to go. Right?”
“I—uh…” The Captain recomposed herself. “This is a onetime deal,” she said. “The next time we have you here, you won’t be able to leave. Do you understand that?”
“Oh, sure sure.” Rosa smiled and gave a thumbs up. “I’ll be sure never to come back here again, child. This place is a bit depressing anyway, if you ask me.”
The Captain scoffed. “You think this is a game and you’re ahead,” she said. “But you’d be surprised how many players there are.”
“You’re half right,” Rosa said. “This isn’t a game, and I know I’m ahead. Shall we get going then?”
The Captain showed Rosa all the way to the elevator and lifted her up to toss her in. “I don’t want to see your face again,” she said as the doors closed between them.
Rosa got up and brushed herself off—cursing the Captain under her breath—then ran at full speed—not very fast at her age—back to the Family Home. The conference room was full of people when she burst through the doors. She paused, taken aback at the sight of it, then slipped down to the basement before anyone could see her.
Anna was behind the console and a group of three others were about to jump through the rings when Rosa yelled, “Stop!” at the top of her lungs.
Anna looked at her wide eyed, shut the machine off, and ran over to hug and kiss Rosa. “I thought she had you again,” she said.
“It was probably worse,” Rosa said. She looked at the others and said, “Could we have a minute, please?”
They nodded and shuffled up the stairs, then the sound of cheering came down after them.
“Worse?” Anna asked, raising her eyebrows.
“Protectors,” Rosa said.
Anna hugged her tighter. “They let you go?”
“The Captain did.”
“She said it was the last time, though,” Rosa said, “that she couldn’t help me again.” She looked away from Anna. “I think it’s time to end our relationship with the protectors.”
Anna slapped Rosa lightly on the arm and broke the embrace, stepping back. “Now you do,” she said. “Not after they killed all those humans, but now.”
“No,” Rosa said. “It’s not like that. I had planned this already, that’s why we still need more rings, but this only made our need to act more urgent. We don’t have any more time to waste.”
“What are you proposing?” Anna asked.
“That we do what they least expect of us. You said it: We can’t fight back with what we have. Not even with our numbers. We need better weapons.”
“And how can we get them?”
“By taking them from the only people who have them,” Rosa said, “the protectors themselves.”
“That would be suicide,” Anna said, shaking her head.
“Doing nothing would be suicide,” Rosa said. “Not fighting would be suicide. This is our only chance at life. They’ll never expect it, and we’ll overrun them with numbers in their surprise. They won’t know what hit them. And once this is successful, it’ll make future operations easier.”
“But they wouldn’t just sit there and let us take their weapons,” Anna said. “They’ll fight back. We’ll lose more Family members.”
“But we’ll be preventing future losses,” Rosa said. “Things are set in motion now. We can’t wait any longer to act, and this is our best course of action.”
“I don’t know,” Anna said. She shook her head. “I don’t want anyone else to die.”
“We’re dying in the streets every day,” Rosa said, grabbing Anna’s hands. “People go hungry and homeless and all for what? So some fat cat owners can employ cheap robot labor. We’ll be complicit in those deaths if we don’t do something to stop them while we can.”
Anna sighed. “Okay,” she said. “Whatever you think’s best. But we have to ask the Family first. They’ve been waiting for you to come back, you know. Every single one of them up there volunteered to go through those rings and search for you. Let’s see if they think it’s a good idea.”
“Let’s,” Rosa said with a smile. She led Anna up the stairs to the still full conference room and didn’t let go of her hand until she was behind the podium, staring out onto the quickly silenced crowd.
“My Family,” Rosa said, “it is a dark time for us all.”
“Amen!” a voice called from the back of the room.
“Many of us here lost our closest loved ones in the senseless massacre brought upon us by those who were intended to protect us, and all of us lost our Family members.”
The crowd responded in agreement, rage, and sadness.
“What did we do but take what is rightfully ours as the human species? Who did we harm with our actions? Nothing. No one. And yet they gassed and cuffed and killed us. And only one question remains.”
She paused. She let them remember again what had been done to them. She let the anger build up inside of their souls until they were mumbling and grumbling and yelling obscenities.
“What will we do about it?” she finally asked.
“Kill them!” someone yelled.
The crowd roared in agreement.
“Now, now,” Rosa said, waving with her hands to calm them. “I agree that they deserve retribution for what they’ve done to our Family, but we have no weapons to match those that they possess.”
The crowd mumbled to one another. “So what!?” the same voice who had spoken before yelled again. This time to no response.
“So what if we could defend ourselves?” Rosa asked. “What if we did have weapons? What if we could use the protectors’ own weapons against them? Who here would volunteer to protect our Family?”
The whole room yelled their agreement.
“Even if we risked death in our pursuit of justice?” Rosa asked. “Even if we were forced to take our fight to the protectors directly? Even if we must do it before we are armed? To become armed?”
The crowd roared again.
“And how many of you have friends and relatives and colleagues who would risk the same death to put an end to the reactionary tyranny that plagues us every day?”
The response was deafening. Rosa turned to Anna and smiled. Anna shrugged and nodded her on.
“Then gather them all,” Rosa said. “Tomorrow we reclaim our destiny.”
# # #
And there it is, dear readers. Rosa and the Human Family have had enough. They’re ready to take their lives into their own hands. Keep following along on the blog here in order to see how that plan turns out for them, or purchase the full novel today to skip the wait. Thanks again for joining us. Have a great weekend.