Pyro could be found one of two places. In the mechanics head office or in the mess hall. Unlike other committee members, Pyro still felt some kind of need to venture into the mess hall. Everyone else thought of it like it’s namesake – a mess. Pyro, though, was different. Everyone said this. Pyro had something else, something strange, something alluring. As if being a committee member had not infected Pyro like it had infected the others. Infected? No, achieved equilibrium within.

Committee members were the top of the top. They were the holders and crafters of the keys of industry. They were the golden idols of the past and the shining beacons of the future. They were stars in a constant state of supernova. No Committee member ever became a black hole.

The Committee held the responsibility for, at this point: thirteen bases, three medical facilities, and a newly opened research laboratory; one of the thirteen being Pyro’s residence for the last five years. A promising spot, it offered the company plenty in the way of future endeavors and current income, owing to it’s close relative proximity to the main three resources currently being pursued.

If you asked Pyro what these three were, you’d get an answer similar to any official company business one felt compelled to ask Pyro.

“That’s officially not your business,” with a smirking little half grin.

If you persisted, Pyro would invariably get a very conspiratorial look and lean in, quite on purpose. “If you come to my office, we’ll have a talk.” Always, a talk or a conversation or luncheon.

This would never come to fruition. If asked, Pyro denied everything. If pursued, Pyro avoided everyone.

And so, it was in the way of things that the change happened. The moment of supernova going black hole. The moment when Pyro, for the first time, could neither avoid nor deny, nor escape. It came in the form of a package sent directly to Pyro’s personal residence – sender unlisted.

Eyes narrowed and fingers gently lifted the package. It wasn’t a usual event to have anything delivered at all, let alone something larger than scrap of paper with a quickly printed note. Pyro carefully felt the weight of it, judging before jumping in. The package seemed remarkably lighter than it appeared. Unsettling.

A white hot moment of real decision here. How many of these do you get, Pyro? Burning, tingling in your fingers? A fire raging in your head. Could it be? Is it possible? No way. Time to see.

And before another second can pass, Pyro is inside with the package held straight out like it might explode. Well, in all honesty, it might. After all, this could be an attack, you fool. But, oh no. Pyro knows better than this. It’s not against, but for you. All for you. Time to let the supernova blow.

The wrapping is remarkably easy to break into. A tiny line of coding that withholds your fingers from the edge where the paper’s wrapped. You break that with the tiniest tear and in your in. But, you had better know to look for the code. Pyro – of all Committee members – remembers the days of revolt, remembers the fire that burned in the hearts of people, knows.

Fires had raged in the walks in those days. Fires had consumed whole sectors, had ravaged fields, torn down bridges made of steel somehow, broke the confidence of those governments. Those times had won something and lost something. There had been successes and failures every moment. Every action had encapsulated both until everyone had thought there could be no true end, only death and ruin for all, especially the innocent sidelines. Pyro remembered how many people claimed to have been on the sidelines, to be truly neutral.

For the record, Pyro had been truly indifferent back then. Ten years old – by Earth terms, which is an idiotic gauge, but still the one we use – and completely taken care of. As the fires raged, Pyro simmered in the warmth and indulgence of the good life. A tepid existence once the senses are dulled by overindulgence – but that comes so much later that you hardly suspect it of yourself. Yes, of course, you see it in your masters, in those above you, in – if you are odd and rich enough to be born of woman – your parental figure heads.

Pyro was one of those. Strangely born in blood. It was a rarity when the company paid to have the clean, artificial insemination process taken care of by lower wage personnel. But then, if you weren’t such a fan of the freak shop – you could keep your genetics under your own control.

These days things had somehow calmed down, though not in some hearts. To most eyes, the fires had raged until they seemed to fall away of their own tiring spirits. A dreadful smoky pallor had come over the cities then, where there were cities.

The modern world was made of districts and stars. Companies owned it all, of course. The controllers of resources. It had always been this way. Pyro had no reason to suspect otherwise. And so, there was no great response to it. Nothing to do except accept it. Nothing to holler or light fires over. Either you were on top or you were underneath. It appeared so self explanatory.

Yes, yes. Of course. Then, why are we holding this package here and not taking it to security? The reasons are limitless. It might be personal. A personal threat. It might be the real revolutionaries – in which case, this is a grand bet worth risking. What would be the price on each of their heads? Monumental. Pyro could quit the Committee, recede from the system entirely, not have to think about it ever again. A few dead and a life worth living.

Pyro carefully unfolded each layer, watching for more coding: the first few were obvious to these seasoned eyes, though doubtless many missed what had been plainly marked on the address box. This package had slipped right through all the security checks and scanners because of those mere charcoal lines. Pyro still could be amazed at the resourcefulness apparent in this tiny group, somehow still holding on to this old spark. An ember left buried under leaves, staying barely alive, tiny wisps of smoke curling around the new companies’ doors, something mostly unnoticed. Pyro had noticed, always knew, it felt like. But that couldn’t have been true?

It was time, wasn’t it? Pyro thought and carefully split the tape of the box. As if there had been a section buried somewhere inside the brain that had somehow gotten devoted to this idea. As if somewhere along the line, Pyro had figured something like this was going to happen. A glint from inside the box sparkled and made Pyro almost jump back, in spite of steeled nerves and a ready temper. Laughing, Pyro reached in and pulled it out.

The statue stifled the laugh in a second. A dull bronze color and awkward posed figure. Walking? Shuffling? Pyro set it down standing up on the desktop. It had no clear facial features. It had no clear motivation. It had no clear anything.

Pyro looked into the box again and pulled out a tucked up handwritten note.
“From your friends in Organics, thanks for all your work and effort on our part.”

Unrecognizable signatures and a stamp.
Pyro looked over the box again. Codes? No, tiny decorations. Fancy trimming. Posh additions to a senseless appreciation.

Pyro looked up from the package out into the empty space ahead. The structure had crumbled. The careful balance between mass and gravity had failed. What was that about black holes?

Time falls apart in them?

Flash fiction by Rei & Ori, timed 3 minutes per round.


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