REDACTED History of The Candelas was a treasure trove of potentially useful information. The chapter on our crumbling infrastructure provided a lot of insight into the motives behind the attack at Lyon Flats Hospital. This excerpt was particularly alarming:
Jefferson, the first of the Keyholders, once famously said that the tree of liberty must periodically be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Interesting how he mentioned the two in the same breath.
If we read his entire letter to Mr. Smith, Jefferson operates under the expectation of an ill-informed populace and says that the Revolution was born of ignorance, but immediately after calls for a rebellion every twenty years. And what have we seen?
The Candelas keep We the Ignorant perpetually fighting each other for scraps to distract us from the fact that they own everything – whether it’s Thomas Jefferson yesterday or Chaim Koros today.The Redacted History of The Candelas – Chapter 2: Cracks in the Infrastructure (p. 34)
Gateau goes on to talk about Christianity being under attack, and the next few paragraphs are about how Koros (a wealthy, politically-active oil tycoon) would bring about the apocalypse by destroying Israel whilst nominally pretending to be on their side. But it’s been almost thirty years since the book was written. Needless to say, the gates of Hell remain unopened, and Koros died two years ago.
Though the religious bent was a bit off-putting, the stuff he wrote about Jefferson seemed pretty plausible. Turn on the news, and even the local affiliate was trying their hardest to turn this into a bitter healthcare debate, even though the story was really about how an evil doctor outsmarted a crummy hospital. Firestone, the Candelas operative, had gotten exactly what he wanted.
Any of this ring a bell?
They worshiped me as a god, you know.
The Candelas? They did a bunch of weird rituals, but-
What?! Were you even paying attention?
Not even a bit. Electricity was too busy lamenting his own downfall. The once mighty being, whose properties were attributed to deities like Thor and Zeus – the king of the Greek gods, mind you – had become a mere commodity whose greatness society no longer appreciates. A public utility!
Or perhaps you fail to recognize your own success in the modern world.
Puh! I've been reduced to a cheap trick, and your body's the end-of-the-line.
A horrible corporeal prison... Well, good luck finding a way to escape before our date with Svetlana tonight.
On second thought...
Yep, it was already Saturday. Time flies when you’re sitting at home doing nothing. But now, every minute felt like an hour, so I decided to spend the rest of my time-distorted afternoon on the computer. I’d start by checking the Fire Alarm Bulletin for replies to stuff I posted these past few days about the Candelas and their spooky symbol.
The Fire Alarm Bulletin – General Discussion
Topic – Web of Enlightenment???
Hey, guys. Have you guys been noticing graffiti that looks like this in your town? It’s all over the place here.
inspectorsands – 2 days ago
Seen it a couple times in Boston. Damn candelas are everywhere lolhydratronixtechnician – Today
Did some reading, and it’s listed as a hate symbol. Let’s stop it with all the memes, people.EarlPonies – Today
Are you kidding me right now?
Wow, the media must really not want us to have a good laugh. Who’s using it as a hate symbol?inspectorsands – A few seconds ago
Inspectorsands, we’ve talked to you about getting political on here. This is a fire alarm website.
Topic locked due to irrelevance.MainframeFireSystem – Just now
I was about to have a meltdown. Making one crack at the media was hardly political. And even if it was, the media gets dunked on all the time by both sides. There must be more to this.
Hey, kid. Didn't the Hydratronix guy say something about Boston? They played an important role in American independence. And so did Philadelphia! Try going to some other website and asking about Philadelphia.
Great idea. Let's try Wrotit. W-slash-Philly... New tab, W-slash-Boston.
Before I had the chance to type the rest into the address bar, the strobe in my room began to flash – but no horn. Yumi must need me for something, I thought.
Sparky?! Earth to Sparky! Your attention, please!
Don't you know it's rude to flash people? What do you want, Yumi?
You've been in there all day waiting for date night, and I really don't think it's healthy...
What do you mean? I've been reading this whole time.
And talking to yourself nonstop. Some of the stuff I was hearing-
You're just jealous. If you really want to help me, why don't we talk dating advice?
Sparky, I'm a simulacrum created by a male. My advice is no substitute for that of a real human female.
You sound even more like a woman right now than you think. Come on, Yumi. It'll be fun!
Oh, all right.
I sat down in front of her display at the kitchen counter, and grabbed a bowl of cherries – and another for the pits. (You’d think we’d have pitless cherries by now, but science says it’s impossible.)
One of the first things Yumi wanted to know was the location of the date, and was dismayed to hear that it was a nightclub. Being a life safety system, she made me promise not to drink too much – which was easy, since I don’t drink. And to hail a ride if I somehow got drunk, yada yada.
Don't worry, Yumi. If I were the type to give in to peer pressure, I'd be on drugs by now.
You say that now. But when it's your crush...
The next part of the lecture covered communication. According to Yumi, females liked definitive answers. The guy should have a place in mind instead of waiting for the woman to think of one. And have a set arrival time.
Now, I was worried. It was Svetlana who suggested the nightclub. Had I been quick enough on my feet, I would’ve suggested a coffee shop or ice cream. She also hadn’t texted me back to agree on a time, something I had chalked up to being busy.
I don't know, Sparky. I ran the calculation, and there's an 86 percent probability of failure when comparing your situation to media I've analyzed.
Puh! Don't trust the media. I'm going to wait until the library closes and surprise her.
Taking matters into your own hands. Bold but risky... You know what? She might like that!
Thanks, Yumi! Best advice I've ever gotten from a computer. I'm gonna start getting ready now.
I changed out of my pajamas, and into a handsome, plaid button-down shirt which I tucked neatly into my ironed khakis. Then, I dusted off my dress shoes, and gave them a quick polish. Finally, I fixed up my hair real nice and looked in the mirror.
You call this your best? You look like a nerdy penguin with a combover. Gel it back instead, and wear something that makes you look 25 instead of 52.
I took Electricity’s advice, and decided to swap my current get-up for a blue sweater and some jeans. The transformation was shocking, and the man in the mirror was as smooth as filtered DC.
I'd date me.
I said goodbye to Yumi and hopped in the Sparkymobile, making sure everything was perfect before taking off. Fuel gauge was at half, headlights were on. Parking brake was disengaged, and the car was spotless as always.
But I’d spent so much time perfecting my appearance that it was already 10 minutes to 8 PM. And Yumi’s grim prognosis was giving me cold feet about the whole thing. Halfway down my own street, and I had gotten so jittery that I had to pull over.
Here, how 'bout I take the wheel?
What do you mean, take the wheel?!
I mean hold on tight, kid!
A tingling sensation overcame my body, and my eyes began to glow in the rear-view mirror, changing from deep blue to an icy cyan. Imagine the feeling of being a passenger in your own body whilst paradoxically driving a car.
Electricity bolted through the intersection the moment the light turned green, scaring away the car that was about to make a right-on-red while I could do nothing but watch.
I usually drive slow and steady, but Electricity drove more like my dad – with all the skill of a professional racer and a “cop radar” so sensitive it could spot a cruiser from a mile away. It was a harrowing experience, but it paid off in the end. I still had a few minutes to spare for my grand entrance.
Now that's driving, granny!
Control returned to my body, and I was able to get out of the car. The jitters were gone, replaced by a sense of chill confidence. I showed up looking sharp as a tack, and performed a quick visual scan of the premises. No crazy Willie Wedge (thank goodness), and Svetlana was in her usual place at the reference desk. Here goes nothing…
Oh, hi Sparky. Can I help you with something?
I’m not here to renew my library card, that’s for sure. Ready for the Terminal Discotheque?
Ohmygosh, Sparky. I totally forgot! I'm *so* sorry. I’m actually going out of town with my boyfriend for a few days.
Sorry, I didn't know- ... Wait a minute! Are you fucking shitting me right now? You have a BOYFRIEND?! Don’t you think you should’ve told me that before you said you'd go on a DATE with me?!
Sir, this is a library. Either lower your voice, or I’ll have to ask you to leave. (Tee-hee-hee)
Dasvidaniya, comrade. Have a nice life. (Fuck your library, and your life.)
I stormed out the front exit, probably red as a beet. I couldn’t remember whether it was me, or him in control at this point, but a Synthex 4251-30 got its glass smashed in the process, and I was just about to hit the lever.
Thankfully, we got our emotions back in control before that happened. Still, fire alarm vandalism was a serious offense, and there was a good chance I’d get caught.
Dude, what was that?
You were mad, I was mad, what’s the difference anymore?
Trying to look as normal as possible for the outdoor cameras, I walked “calmly” to the car. We really had to get back home and wait for this thing to blow over. I was already on thin ice after missing so much work, and could easily get fired if Ashton found out what I just did.
Relax. Nobody was there to see you, and there were no cameras in that little annex. Forget that bitch, let's go anyway. I'll guarantee you a date.
Electricity was right. I deserved better. Svetlana may have seemed nice on the surface, but that was all an act. You know, customer service. Be polite. Smile and wave. Fake it till you make it. It was time to turn the car around, and my life with it.
Upon arriving, I was far from impressed. This girl talked about the Terminal like it was hot stuff, but the building’s exterior looked more like a burger joint than anything else. The inside wasn’t looking too hot, either. The alarms were Matchlock MT’s and Funwell Zonal Innovations MS-2 pull stations. Sprinklers instead of smoke detectors, which was fine.
In plain English, these are excellent products, but are often indicators of an old, crappy building. The one at the entrance to the discotheque was severely sun-bleached and nowhere near as pretty as the picture on the data sheet. There was also a small LED annunciator whose model I was unsure of, but it was in a “supervisory” condition (and was probably left that way for a while judging by the state the building was in).
I paid the small cover charge of $20 to the bouncer, and stepped into the somewhat dingy-looking dance hall. It was loud, dark, and crowded. Drunk people were everywhere, there was a slight vomit odor. I looked around to see if I could pick off any scraps of class from this rotting carcass, while also trying to avoid slipping on all the peanut shells.
How about that girl- Nope, that's a dude in heels.
Watch out, kid. There’s a lot of those at places like this, so be careful.
And you would know?
Eyyy... There’s one for ya.
The woman he pointed out was definitely NOT my type. She was a bit older, and if I stood next to her, I’d look like a child. I always hit up the amusement parks during the summer, and I don’t think she could fit on a roller coaster, either.
Who needs a roller coaster when you can climb those-
Let me stop you right there. I’m being practical, okay?
There’s nothing wrong with having standards, even if you’re 25 and never dated. Being able to do activities together was important to me, as was personal health. Of course, Electricity ignored me and took over my body again. And now he was talking to her. Great…
The name’s Alec Tricity. That’s a shocker, isn’t it?
I'm Uma. Uma Delas. Nice to meet'cha. How about you buy me a drink, hey?
We walked over the bar together and sat next to each other. It was a tight squeeze with all the other people, which normally made me uncomfortable. But there was something appealing about being pressed up against this lady.
Two tall glasses of Madeira, barkeep! Courtesy of this guy.
You sure you got this, bro?
Don’t worry kid. I’ve woken up with my pants around my ankles enough times that I’ll never let it happen again.
So much to unpack, but okay. A “glass of Madeira” turned out to be Portuguese wine. I hated it, but at the same time, I felt oddly at home – even though I wasn’t the least bit Portuguese.
You're not? Well, you sure look it with that hair. Want me to teach you a few words?
Hit me, baby!
Caralho. Car-ai-yu. It means "good morning".
Caralho. Am I sayin' it right?
HAHAHAHA!!!!! Dumbass! Caralho means PRICK! You’re so easy, Alec! Come on, now let's dance.
What a horrid woman. But I was starting to feel the effects of the Madeira (which could mean “sewer water” for all I knew), and with “Alec” in control I found myself dancing with her anyway.
The band that was playing was called Blue Fish. Apparently, they were an up-and-coming phenomenon thanks tho their chiptune-y music and slightly suggestive, nerd-themed lyrics. Svetlana probably agreed to the date for them, and not me. But that was old news.
♪ I mustered up some gumption and I drilled to the core Of this lovely mystery here on Jupiter Four Started probing through the seabed quite curiously When my ship got swallowed whole by a cavernous beast And now I'm trapped... ♪
The guy with the long, green hair was the lead singer, Gill Menhaden. Achilles Tang was the young, fiery-haired guitarist. The bald guy on the drums was known simply as “Eel”. He would periodically shout out lyrics as well. They were alright.
Hey, Alec - Wanna be the ship tonight?
How about I be your electric motorb-
Uh-ho! Here comes my man! Shoo, quick, before he punches your lights out!
Her man?! “Alec” and I were both pissed. I couldn’t believe this really just happened twice in the same day. It reminds me of the time we had two false alarms on April Fool’s Day in high school. Except it was January, and I was the fool.
Oh, hey, Brad. What took you so long?
I took a big fat dump. *BUUURRRPPP!!!* Now who's dis lil' nugget?! HUH?!!! Why you be talkin'a muh gurrrrl, BOIII?!!!
The beefy lad got close enough that I could smell the alcohol on his breath. He was clearly schwasted out of his skull and ready to throw some punches. Him getting in my face like this really knocked the confidence right out of me, and I was back to dorky little manlet Sparky.
You win, dude, I’m really sorry. You win! I'm gonna go do something else.
Das whut I thought, BEYOTCH!!! Git outta here before I slap yo ass so hard you be wearin' it fo' a hat.
I had to leave this place before the situation escalated into a bar fight. Plus, if Uma Whatshername was taken, I could extrapolate that everyone else worth talking to would be taken as well.
Lighten up, kid. Let's stay for another hour or two and get that alcohol out of your system.
Well, I didn’t want to leave my car here, that’s for sure. I guess I’ll pretend that nothing happened and listen to the concert. The songs were pretty catchy, with talk of space fleets, jelly creature warriors, and UFO’s.
♪ Trapped in a distant place From which I can't escape But that's okay, I guess, it wasn't quite a mistake I kinda hoped that this would happen I'd gladly give up bein' captain To live out my life mappin' This precious gem, they call Callisto... ♪
The doubly-entendrous finale was paired with a dazzling fireworks display meant to symbolize you-know-what. The romantic themes definitely resonated with me, but the lingering flames were cause for concern. And they were really lingering. The band stopped playing, and people started panicking.
The fire was spreading to the acoustic paneling, filling the room with thick, black smoke. Everyone went for the exits at once, and the crowd was bottlenecking at the doors. I began to fear for my life.
Okay... There are way too many people here.
My power of conductive reasoning kicked in just in time, giving me a jolt of lucidity as I struggled against the overcurrent of people. The guest exits were all blocked, but there was a door to the right of the stage that was wide open. The window for escape was narrowing as the flames had now engulfed the whole stage. I made sure to move diagonally, and look for pockets of empty space so I didn’t get crushed.
Sir, this exit's for the band only.
But this is an emergency!
The stagehand reached out to try and grab my arm, but I was able to reflexively pull my arm away. That’s when he lunged toward me to try and tackle me. I dodged.
Please, I'm begging you! Just let me through!
What was I doing? Any time I spent trying to be nice and reason with him could be better spent evacuating. I grabbed one of the big speaker stands and whacked him square in the head, knocking him unconscious. The rush I got from vanquishing this petty villain more than made up for the humiliation of being chased away by that drunk.
As I ran toward the exit, I caught a glimpse of the FACP (a Funwell FZ-2224 two-zone panel) having a practical meltdown, with every light lit up on its display. I looked back to see that the fire had hit its flash point. The whole ceiling was up in flames, and the thick smoke was making it hard to breathe.
Where the hell are the sprinklers when you need 'em?! *GASP*
The supervisory! Somebody must’ve closed the sprinkler valve, causing the fail-safe tamper switch to activate. Right before the door snapped shut, I opened it back up, took a deep breath, and went back inside.
Are you crazy? You're gonna die!
Maybe so, but the fire trucks were still pretty far away judging by the faintness of the sirens. I turned on my flashlight, knelt on the ground, and found the valve in a corner, around ten feet away from the panel. That might sound like a short distance, but all the smoke and falling debris meant it could be a death sentence.
With that in mind, I went from crouching to completely prone, where the air was still relatively clear – hoping nothing would fall on me besides the ashes that were constantly singing my clothes. The thick metal valve had gotten really hot, and having to grip it tightly was excruciating. But it paid off, and water began raining down like the wrath of God from what was left of the ceiling, suffocating some of the flames.
I slithered frantically toward the exit like a lizard, to find at least four fire trucks waiting outside, spraying water from their cannons and offloading an army of menacing-looking firefighting robots sporting tank treads. Police cars were arriving on what looked like a scene out of a movie, and felt equally unreal.
A huge, red pickup truck pulled up right in front of me, beeped a couple times, and stopped dead in its (very thick, muddy) tracks. Out strutted the angel of death herself. She was a tall, very serious-looking woman, sporting a cross-shaped badge on her uniform, and a handgun at her hip. It was the fire marshal, and she was pissed.
Are you just gonna fucking stand there? Either find me that leaseholder, or get out of my way! ... Oh, great. It's you.