A Tale of Daylight, by Brother Grimace
"Just don't try to read my mind."
"Why? I think that anything that would be interesting before this all happened is, like so, not important anymore."
Daria Morgendorffer looked up from the seven-pound industrial-size roll of sausage she held in her hand as Sandi Griffin, triplicating the carton of a dozen eggs she held and setting them down easily on a huge table in the main cafeteria. "Like, so what if you like Tom – like, you like him like him? So what? You should, like tell both him and Jane, so you don't have to deal with that along with everything else."
Daria looked at the Mark 5 modulator cuff that she wore, glanced over to the identical one that Sandi wore, and then used Sandi's power to triplicate the sausage roll. "So, where are we going to put all of this stuff?"
"You mean, like, after we have breakfast for all of those people in a couple of days? That cadet guy that came in with Quinn's new friend Danielle – the Mexican guy who does stuff with machines? He's going to make a giant freezer out of one of the new caves that trampy Sidney Simon's making under the Tower."
The Legionnaires looked up as a boy about their age, dressed in fatigues and wearing sergeant's stripes, came into the cafeteria. "Hello there, Miss Sandi."
"Hi, Jackson." Daria looked at the other girl with surprise; there was a tone of warmth and friendliness in Sandi's voice that she had never heard before, not even when she spoke to Quinn. "What did Amy give you?"
"A bunch of seedlings for different fruits," the boy said, his accent making Daria's ears perk up. "Right now, though-"
The boy placed the large bag he carried with him on the table, and Daria looked with wonder at the shoebox-sized box made of what looked like a single, huge sapphire that he drew from the bag. "She didn't tell me what she placed inside. Said that it was a surprise for the kids."
Sandi actually laughed – Daria almost backed away from the table in shock – as she opened the crystal box and drew out a banana, an orange, a sweet potato, and a pear. "Amy said that it'll be about a week before the groves and fields she planted bear fruit. She could have made them blossom faster, but that would have meant that we'd only get a single harvest from them. This way, she can use her powers to keep the plants viable for months, and get more food from them before she needs to replace them."
Daria looked at Jackson in total surprise. "What fields? I didn't know that – what are you talking about?
The boy looked at Daria with a confused expression, and then glanced back to Sandi. "Oh, I'm sorry – you have to excuse my manners!" He wiped off his right hand in a manner that screamed 'out of the boonies' and then held it out. "Jackson Shelby, ma'am, of the Spartanburg Shelbies – for three generations, producers of the best organic fruits and vegetables the South has ever seen."
"You're a farmer." Jackson nodded at her. "How'd you end up at the Academy? I'd think you would have tried to go to an agricultural college."
"The ag colleges wouldn't have taught me how to use my powers." He smiled at Sandi, and gave her a little wink. "Got time to give me enough fruit to take out to the people?"
"Sure," she replied, and as Daria watched, she spent the next twenty minutes placing fruit into the seemingly bottomless box.
"How is she able to do that?" Daria finally asked; she had gone back to duplicating sausage rolls, and had moved on to bags of flour. "There have to be hundreds of pieces of fruit in there!"
"I can create a pocket dimension inside any crystal objects I make," he said, smiling back at Sandi, who returned his smile as she kept placing pears into the box. "You should see the farm I have inside –makes my dad jealous every time he sees it."
The smile suddenly disappeared from the boy's face. "Every time he saw it. My family went down to Houston for my cousin Gina's wedding, and it was also the family reunion – everybody with the Shelby name from across the country was there, except me. I had to miss the wedding because I had to take the FASE Boards with my cadre."
"Federal Advanced Skills Exam," Jackson said automatically, responding to Daria's question. "A whole lot of tests – academics, powers, that God-awful Level One physical exam – I couldn't get out of taking them, because it meant that I'd only get one chance at a make-up instead of two. You can retake any part of your FASE Boards twice if you don't score high enough, because you have to have either a certain score in each phase or a combined overall score in order to get into the Elite Academy."
He looked down at the box. "I was going to go down for the last day or two of the reunion; it was a whole week, with Gina's wedding on Saturday, on the third day... Eva flew over the Gulf Coast. She said that it looked like Hell split open and you can see it from up here. It's supposed to be as bad or worse than Alaska... Houston is a pit of fire." Jackson looked over at Daria. "Eva Connarubias – she's in my cadre; she's a 'flying brick' like your friend Tom Sloane."
Remembering what Julia Carlyle had told them about seeing Alaska (before heading off to USAES and going to look for the other members of the Alliance), both Legionnaires shuddered. "Jackson – my friend Stacy, like, knows how to cook and bake and, like, other stuff. Why don't I take a few of these sweet potatoes, and, like, have her bake you a couple of pies?"
Jackson smiled. "That's real sweet of you, Miss Sandi. I'd appreciate that very much."
Sandi reached out and grasped his hand. "If you ask nicely... and promise to take me for a walk later... I might ask her to fix some whipped cream for that."
"Make it some cold milk, and you've got a deal." He touched the side of the box. "That's plenty for now; if I need more, I know where you are."
Jackson left, a bit of a smile on his face. "I don't ever think I've ever seen you being nice to someone before," Daria said, moving five-pound bags of flour out of the way so she could see Sandi.
Before she could catch herself, Sandi spat out telepathically, <<"Well, then - you're, like, one up on me. I've never seen you being nice to, like, anyone.">>
Regret crossed her face; it was too late to take the comment back.
Daria's eyes narrowed; she turned her back to Sandi, who looked at her with remorse, but then shrugged. She went to the freezer, took out a bag of frozen hash browns, and began to fill a large crate that sat beside the table with bags of the potato product.
The silence in the cafeteria seemed to go on forever.