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Tracked

Marie Zelaya lives in the Midwest with her family and a small zoo of domestic animals. In her spare time, she plays fiddle, piano, and guitar, reads, and cooks reasonably delicious vegan food. This is her first (and quite possibly last) work of science fiction to be published.
Albert Twining knew it was just a kid sitting on that throne, even if you couldn't tell at first glance.
Sure, her body was nearly identical to a full-grown woman's, but then again, that didn't mean anything. Like always, it was the little things that gave her away.
Her eyes darted back and forth, like someone had stuck the Crab Nebula on the end of a pendulum; her hands grabbed at the throne's sleek edges, leaving tiny smudges on the glaringly shiny glass. If you looked close enough, you could probably see a few beads of sweat slipping down her newly inlaid Tracks.
He couldn't blame her. He'd seen plenty of new Queens crack under the pressure of the Tracks, the first time on that throne. The Willard P. Gray Antechamber for Planet Tracking and Demolition wasn't built for comfort, it was built to impress.
The two were certainly not the same.
Her Majesty MMCCLIV, Supreme Ruler of the Laniakea Supercluster, Purveyor of All Known Clusters, Galaxies, Systems, and Miscellaneous Stellar Phenomena preferred being called Peanut, which was what her father had called her before she had to become the blasted Queen. For some reason, that's what she was thinking about right before they activated the Tracks. It probably had something to do with the fact that she'd probably die in this room, all lit up.
I'm never going to be called Peanut again, Her Majesty thought.
It was a privilege, her parents had said, to be crowned Queen. It meant you had a special mind. A special brain. It was stupid, in Her Majesty's opinion. It was an insult.
Listen, your brain is amazing, so we'll use it as a computer. The process might kill you.
How she felt didn't matter. The Tracks always got turned on anyway, for the greater good.
Albert had Recorded nearly fifty Track Initializations, but the first scream always got to him. Even from behind the control console in the far corner of the Antechamber, he couldn't seem to escape the sound. It was grating and piercing and still childish. It bounced off the walls and the high ceiling until it was deafening. It was like all the other screams made by all the other Queens; one that could haunt you for the rest of your life, if you let it.
Still, no one could ever look away, or cover their ears. That's humans for you. Everybody's eyes would eventually wander back to the dying kid in the middle of the room.
Queen MMCCLIV wasn't dying yet, but she would be soon; her whole body was shaking--almost vibrating--from her fingertips to her toes. That was the sign she was going soon. Albert would know, because that's the way it always went.
He watched silently as the Tracks on her arms, her legs, in her hair, grew brighter and brighter, until there was only a girl-shaped blur of light sitting on the throne. Albert realized her screaming was getting louder.
He coughed quietly, and pulled up a crossword puzzle on his Infotab.
Her Majesty heard something, but it took her a while to realize it was her own screaming.
It was probably having all the information in the known Universe stream through your head. Having power over the entire Emp. It didn't hurt, exactly, but it wasn't a pleasant feeling. She certainly didn't understand why she was screaming, though. The sensation wasn't bad enough for that.
Maybe her body knew something she didn't.
Queen MMCCLIV felt three star-systems self-destruct in the Leonid Cluster, then six more in Eridani. Maybe they were going to be ground-zero for an outbreak of plague or something two months from now, or a year. Maybe some Plebe was going to fuel an uprising.
Nobody knew how Tracking worked, exactly, they just knew it did. The human subconscious was one of the most sophisticated computers known to the Emp; a female's could pick out sources of trouble way before the conscious mind even realized something was up. Something about instinct.
Her Majesty wondered how long she could keep it u--
"She lasted a bit longer than all the rest, didn't she?"
Albert turned to the short little woman walking beside him. She was probably younger than he thought she was, and she didn't look like she'd lugged a dead kid out of the Antechamber a few minutes before. Morticians were always like that.
"I guess so," Albert kicked at a pebble that was on the path in front of him and looked up into Mars' ochre sky. "I never really paid attention before."
"Yeah, it's morbid stuff, isn't it? Overloading some kid's brain."
"Price we pay for safety, I guess." Albert chewed a bit at his lower lip. Walked a while in silence. "I wonder what the next girl'll be like. Not as young as this one, I hope."
"They're always young. But they're mostly smart." The Mortician smirked. "The Emp likes to get rid of the ones who could make a difference, I think."
Albert kicked at another pebble and looked closely at the Mortician.
"I was thinking of getting some coffee," He mumbled, jittery about more than just asking the Mortician out for a drink.
"I'll go with you, if you want," she said.
They walked on.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 21st, 2020


To be honest, there isn't really any specific agenda or idea behind this piece. I would prefer the speculation be left to you, the reader, since isn't that the joy of reading science fiction? The seed of endless possibilities is planted by the writer, but watered and grown by the reader's own imagination. As for what inspired the first inklings of this story, I would say it was a slumber party that took place a very long time ago, in which a friend wove glow sticks into her hair.

- Marie Zelaya
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