A New Leaf

The old PXC story team have been talking about old times lately -- how much we loved working together, and how much we loved our players. So we decided to write a little unofficial Perplex City fanfiction as our gift for the Restitution of the Cube. We hope you enjoy it!

Hello there! You remember me, right? Of course you do! We were great friends once, a long time ago, and we had a lot of amazing adventures together. —My name is Scarlett. Surely you haven’t forgotten me? Or us?

No, of course you haven’t. But you’re probably surprised to hear from me, after all this time. I must say, it’s a little surprising to be writing this! It brings back a lot of old memories, and not all of them so very pleasant, either.

But I have some news I needed to share with all of the people most important to me, and I know it’s been a long time, but trust me when I say you’ve been among the most important of anyone. So of course I had to find a way to tell you!

But first a bit of catching up —

I completely abandoned the idea of becoming a journalist not long after… certain events, around the last time we were in touch. You’ll understand me when I say my appetite for uncovering dark, dangerous secrets has entirely vanished, won’t you? And you won’t think the less of me for it, I should hope.

Instead, I’ve been working on a project with the Beauty Alliance. Randal Tokei is a visionary, you haven’t the foggiest what it’s like to be around him. Just standing near him makes me sharper than a week of Ceretin, I swear it’s the absolute truth!

We’re building an amazing collection of polymer balloons hovering over the ruins of Anjsbourg. They’re a war memorial, of a sort. Each balloon contains a letter to a person in Anjsbourg when the city… fell. We’re matching each person with a counterpart in Perplex City today, as best we can — children to children, bakers to bakers, and so on. Each Perplexian has written a personal apology to Anjsbourg, which we send skyward. The balloons are engineered to stay a few thousand feet in the air, no matter the weather, and at night they glow in soft colors and look a bit like ghosts.

It’s beautiful and sad and eerie, and it’s naturally made me do quite a lot of thinking about the nature of wrongdoing and forgiveness. All of those apologies floating in the clouds won’t change the past, but they can be a reminder to the future about the dark places we end up when fear and anger short-circuit our better instincts. And so I’ve found a place for forgiveness, finally, after all this time.

—It took me all this time, mind! For a long time I looked for solace and even another family entirely, which is how I met my brilliant Rory. You won’t know Rory, though, will you? He’s just finishing up his second round of Academy work — a sweeping psychosocial analysis of the collective guilt of Perplexians for war abominations long past, and how it’s shaped our self-image as a culture.

It’s… controversial, to say the least, and he’s receiving death threats already. It’s almost like old times.

Anyway, the thing is… he’s Rory Earlywine, and yes he’s the son of that Nathan Earlywine, so as you’ve already guessed, my father isn’t particularly pleased with me. But Nathan himself has proven to be the most darling, welcoming man over the last few years, when I really just needed warmth and support and… well, to be completely honest, some distance from my blood relatives.

And Rory has been just exactly what I needed. He knows when to leave me alone and when to say something sweet, and he has a way of making me laugh like and making the world brighter, instead of the dark place it had become for me. So when he asked me to marry him, of course I said yes. And then I thought you might like to know how I seem to be getting a happy ending after all.

Actually, Rory is why I’m able to get this message to you, he called in a favour through his father’s office. While I was at it, there are a few others you might want to hear from.

Look at me, talking about everything but the point! Rory is big news, of course, but to tell the truth, I wanted to write and tell you about me and Violet. We’re finally OK, and I thought you deserved to know.

She’s been in the habit of sending me a gift every few weeks, all this time — sneak previews of the latest Joya/Alejo duet, or baskets of strange, fuzzy Xia-Hifan fruits, or a pair of crystal earrings with live flowers embedded in them, created with the new technology from Viendenbourg — that kind of thing. Penance, I thought, and I gave all of these blood gifts to other people so I wouldn’t have to look at them, or worse, think about them.

But then I spent all of this time in Anjsbourg. I was often there entirely on my own, and of course I spent a long time thinking about everything that happened, and especially about her. I kept turning over what she did and what she might’ve done differently, like it was a maze I might find a shorter path through if only I tried hard enough. But I never did.

I came back to Perplex City to spend the Academy Break with Rory. I heard Violet was back in town too when Garnet said he’d spoken to her.  And then when she sent me an invitation to a private viewing of the newly redone games gallery at Deep Blue… well, I decided it was time to stop avoiding her.

She was alone at the bar when I walked in, nursing a drink and sending out waves of don't-come-near-me. She’s changed in the last three years, you know. Or maybe she’d changed before, and I never noticed. She seems taller, somehow, and faint around the edges, like she isn’t completely here, like she’s lost an important part of herself.

Vi was startled to see me, but she recovered quickly. She crossed the room and took my hands into hers and kissed me on the cheek. ‘I’m so glad you made it,’ she said. And I could tell from the shimmer in her eyes that she didn’t just mean that about spending a few hours in a jazz club.

‘Me too,’ I said. And finally, finally, my chest loosened up and I hugged her. I felt like I’ve been trapped inside the Cube for years and only just now got out. I felt like I'd been sad and lost and lonely, but that I didn't have to be anymore.

Since then, Vi and I have been talking almost every day. I… well, I have a sister again.

Anyway, since all of this has been going on, of course I’ve been thinking a lot about you. And I just wanted to let you know that we’re all OK, over here. I miss you — I will always miss you, I think — but there are sunny skies ahead for me, and I hope for you, too. May you have a solemn and very joyful Restitution of the Cube.

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