CEDRIC 025: Better Half
Approximately one year ago, in CEDRIC: ELIZA, CEDRIC was tasked with delivering the news to BOB PANCAKES that his wife, ELIZA, had died. Foul play was suspected but never confirmed. It seemed that BOB was simply interested in remembering his wife as she was, before the grey clouded their livelihood.
ROXANNE is introduced shortly there-after in CEDRIC: WARMTH, where CEDRIC takes MANDARC to meet her and her dog, EDWARD.
The VAMPIRE VLADISLAUS STRAUD is loath to gossip about his converts but CEDRIC suspects there is something unique about ROXANNE; the VAMPIRE had a reason for each of his conversions and seemed to become more and more selective with each passing year.
I was thinking of checking in on Bob. It's been about a year since his wife passed.
Ah yeah, that's right.
Well, he's out a lot, I suppose that means good things.
Not out now tho.
I don't see him much; he doesn't stay up late.
No, he never did.
Are you coming over?
I don't know. I was going to send him a text first to see how he was doing.
It's been a while since I talked to him.
I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.
No pressure, but Edward would love to see you too.
Mangy mutt. That's just 'cause I smell like cat.
Aw, that's not all of it.
I'll text Bob to see if he's free.
Hey Bob. How's it going?
He doesn’t answer for some time. This is one of the consequences of using traditional communication with the Mortals. Granted, he uses a texting client within the shell of his private (w)IntraNet to simulate texting – No one on the other side can see the difference – but it’s fully encrypted, end-to-end.
CEDRIC waits, impatiently. Vampires rarely had anything better to do.
Hey man. What's up?
Was this the part where he was supposed to wait to send another message? The required pause some kind of chivalric acknowledgement of life’s hectic schedule. Or was it something about not seeming desperate?
Nothing much, just wondering if you're free today.
CEDRIC hadn’t seen BOB in weeks. Or had months passed?
Yeah sure. See you in a bit?
See you in a bit.
You walking? Weather looks great.
Yeah that was my plan.
See you soon.
BOB PANCAKES lives just a few blocks away in another of the MARSCAPONE’s holdings. BOB now paid rent to KEVIN MARSCAPONE; KEVIN had managed to get the assets into his name shortly before his mother’s unexpected death. It had been fortuitous as the woman had fixed up no formal will. Despite her depression and flirtation with retirement, she had lived as if she would never die.
CEDRIC reflects on the passing of the CRONE as he walks through the suburban streets. She had a tendency toward favoritism that he could never quite stomach. Many of the Magicademy students felt she had spent attentions upon her sickly son that they longed for, but CEDRIC had felt her addiction to the doting attitudes of the orphans excessive and even at times grotesque.
There had always been something strange about the old woman, and yet, there was no way he could change it now. Her life song finalized and laminated.
…He reminded himself that he, too, had weaknesses.
He continues to walk.
The townhome is split into two halves; one done in a grey, almost silver stone, the other in a green-ish blue tint. The windows are flat and plain in the simple style of a modern home. One half belongs to BOB, the other houses ROXANNE SCHWARTZ.
He has a key for the side designated for the CLUB. When the metal scrapes against the innards of the keyhole, ROXANNE’s dog EDWARD can be heard approaching the door. He barks:
ROXANNE walks up to answer the door. She’s wearing a bathrobe and all-together looks stressed.
Is this the same woman he’d just talked to on the ‘NET?
CEDRIC. NICE TO SEE YOU. COME IN.
He bends down to pet the scruffy, hairy dog. EDWARD is wagging his tail in greeting, long curly hair flapping about. If he remembered correctly, the dog was a Portuguese Water Dog. His hair is waxy and warm.
BOB’S UPSTAIRS. I’M SURE IT’LL BE GOOD FOR HIM TO SEE YOU.
HE’S BEEN OKAY LATELY.
CEDRIC stands up, trying to put the dog at ease.
CEDRIC had secured ROXANNE a place on the internal network but she’d made few appearances. He’d chocked it up to typical shyness; she was a deliberate personality. Private.
OH, YOU KNOW.
ROXANNE had been converted by VLADISLAUS STRAUD at least a year ago but he couldn’t be completely certain of the event’s date. Five years ago? Ten? Maybe he’d educated her in secrecy, not wanting to introduce her to the rest of the team for whatever reason.
At any rate, the education she’d been given had likely been cut short when VLADISLAUS welcomed MANDARC as his assistant.
Any difficulty she’d had in accepting the conditions of the afterlife were kept a mystery from him. But he could not help observing that she always seemed gloomy and tired. And yet, it was preferable to MANDARC’s frenetic attempts at competence; at least ROXANNE was honest.
YOU’RE STILL WRITING?
ROXANNE had mentioned a love of poetry at one of their previous meetings.
LESS THESE DAYS.
WELL, IF EVER YOU WANT TO PUT SOMETHING UP ON THE ‘NET, JUST LET ME KNOW.
I THOUGHT AVAEL WAS RUNNING THINGS NOW.
WELL, SHE SORT OF IS.
WELL I’VE BEEN TRYING TO KEEP THINGS EASY ON HER LATELY.
SINCE THE CLONE SHOWED UP AT KEVIN’S DOORSTEP.
IS THAT WHAT HAPPENED?
‘SHOWED UP AT KEVIN’S DOORSTEP’?
YEAH. APPARENTLY SHE LAPSED INTO SOME KIND OF MEMORY FUGUE, FUGUE STATE, WHATEVER.
WENT WANDERING ACROSS LONG ISLAND, TAKING THE BUS.
SHE SHOWED UP AT KEV’S PLACE OUT EAST.
YEAH. GOT ME. I’M SURPRISED SHE GOT THAT FAR.
AVAEL KNOWS… JUST…
SHE’S NOT SAID MUCH. I JUST…
THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE YOUNG ONE. HER MEMORY HASN’T RETURNED YET AND SHE’S JUST… WEIRD. I DON’T KNOW. WEIRD IS THE BEST WAY TO PUT IT.
SHE DOESN’T SEEM TO BE CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH. SHE’S SPACEY, DISSOCIATED.
SHE HAS AMNESIA?
YEAH. DOESN’T SEEM TO REMEMBER A THING.
ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT TV.
THAT, SHE SEEMS TO REMEMBER IN GREAT DETAIL.
SHE WAS PROBABLY BEING MEDICATED BY LENARD ET AL BUT WHO KNOWS WHAT SHE WAS ON, OR EVEN IF SHE SHOULD BE ON IT.
I DON’T WANT TO PRESSURE AVAEL TO GET INVOLVED UNLESS SHE WANTS TO.
THAT’S HER OLD LIFE.
SHE’S STAYING OUT WITH KEVIN?
YEAH, FOR NOW.
DON’T KNOW WHERE ELSE TO PUT HER.
OR WHAT TO DO WITH HER.
I THINK SHE’S A LIABILITY.
SHE’S JUST A CLONE, AND AN INFERIOR ONE AT THAT.
SHE’S SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO WORK MAGIC, RIGHT?
HER LINE’S ONE OF THE LAST OF THE REDS?
ONLY IT SEEMS LIKE IT’S GOT WORSE OVER TIME.
BUT WHEN THE DAX COME, THEY COULD BE ABLE TO RECONSTRUCT THE ORIGINAL BASED ON A COPY.
EVEN A COPY AS FAULTY AS HERS.
CEDRIC pauses, ROXANNE seems uncomfortable at the turn of conversation. Is it his mention of the DAX or is it his refusal to grant personhood upon the clone?
He has to take a step back, realizing the severity of the implication.
Didn’t they have enough hangers-on? Dependants?
With AVAEL safely in their custody, they had no need of her modern copy with its scrambled code. A xerox of a xerox of a xerox.
He couldn’t help feeling guilt at wishing her gone.
Or was this just a guilt he felt he should have because he’d admitted his resentment aloud?
I… THINK BOB IS COMING DOWN THE STEPS.
YOU SHOULD PROBABLY GO GREET HIM.
HE’LL BE HAPPY TO SEE YOU.
EDWARD walks over toward the door, waiting for one of the humans to let him through.
in which Trente Gagarin suggests the obvious given the apparent evidence
in which Roxanne tries for the first time in a long time to talk to a journal