There were giant pink clouds floating above Randidly. They seemed profoundly puzzling. As he stared up at them, they seemed to wiggle and wave; despite the strange fogginess in his brain, he recognized this as strange cloud behavior. Very slowly, Randidly blinked. He sat up and brought a hand to his forehead.
Everything was… fuzzy. Why-
“Ah, good, you came awake quickly. It’s good to see you again, Randidly.”
Randidly twisted around and the surrounding space buzzed with his aggression. Simon, who was looking quite a bit older than when Randidly saw him previously, took several steps back. “Careful! The dream will tear if you think about it too much. Or experience too violent emotions. Or… well, I can sense your Willpower. Someone like you could tear it apart accidentally. Please allow me to deliver my message, and then I’ll be on my way.”
Randidly nodded slowly. The hills around him were more like waves, rising and falling as if there was a deep beast sleeping beneath-
“Hey! Don’t go thinking too deeply about things,” Simon interrupted Randidly’s thoughts worriedly. “This is your dream, so things you believe will come true. The ground was growing teeth there.”
Randidly considered the ground. It truly had grown teeth. They were sharp and yellow. But as he watched them, they morphed into candy corn. Randidly wrinkled his nose and dismissed that immediately; he hated candy corn.
Perhaps sleeping beneath the ground was a rabbit warren. Full of soft bunnies and nothing dangerous.
Thinking back, Randidly did remember deciding to sleep during the night before leaving to help Neveah with the things she hadn’t been able to do while she was in the South. Mostly, he could feel the strain of keeping Helen here start to wear on him and decided sleeping would alleviate that pressure.
Hopefully, she hadn’t immediately been transported inside himself when he fell asleep.
Slowly, Randidly’s gaze focused on Simon. Clarity returned to the core of his mind, while the edges remained blunted by the dream. This was a young man Randidly owed a great debt. But much of that goodwill had been squandered when Simon had seized the mantle of the Champion without consulting anyone. At the time, it was mind-boggling.
Now it just seemed foolish.
It was a desperate move of an idiot kid with a crush. But from small conversations that Randidly had with Alana, the powers Simon as Champion gifted the people of the Zone were rather useful. There had been a push for the recreation of the internet until people realized that a little practice with illusion could create even more immersive and useful tools for presentations. Besides, stats gave most humans enough processing power that they didn’t need computers in order to handle calculations.
They were more popular in Zone 1, but the other areas didn’t really see the need to reconnect into the worldwide web.
Those memories and emotions of Simon’s seizure of the seat of Champion set the surrounding hills to trembling once more. Wincing, Randidly forced himself to calm down. Slowly, the rumblings ceased. That was in the past. Time did a lot to give her perspective on the experience.
It was those sudden impulses that shaped history. Rather than being upset, Randidly now felt indifferent.
Simon sighed. “I can understand what you are feeling. Even through your dreams, it was clear to me that… you were still angry about my actions. I can do nothing but apologize; you were right. It was a dumb decision. I didn’t understand… how difficult this role would be. And I started out very poorly… there were times I didn’t understand the power I now wield.”
Randidly remained silent, feeling at the fuzzy edges of his mind with detached fascination. But he willed Simon to continue talking; he was right so far, there was nothing on which to comment.
Luckily, Simon obliged. “Which is why I came to you right now; I haven’t felt your dreams for… well, ever. And your dreams are very powerful, so I could come here in my entirety. We need to talk about Earth.”
Randidly frowned. Even with the fuzz of the dreamscape numbing him, that made his hackles rose. Why was Simon the one who wanted to come to talk about the fate of the Earth? Randidly supposed his ability was uniquely disposed to allow information gathering to be a breeze, Randidly was wary of Simon’s interference.
More sudden impulses from different sources…
Too many self-righteous cooks spoil a pot… Randidly thought sourly. But on the other hand, he wasn’t aware of much that was going on across New Earth. Alana had told him some things, but he had informed her that he would stop by Donnyton on his way through to join Neveah. Therefore, he advised her to just wait for that debriefing.
Were there other problems just as pressing as the ogre invasion…?
“What do you wish to talk about?” Randidly said softly.
Simon’s form was slightly amorphous in Randidly’s dream, but he could see the younger man press his lips together. “You don’t trust me. I suppose that’s understandable. But I wish to talk about something that… I believe is a problem. In our current world with the System… we are heading toward a time where those with political power possess personal power as well.
“The leaders of our world are capable, and by the same token, charismatic. That’s one of the benefits of a meritocracy; the leaders are respected. But I see laid out in front of us a slide from a meritocracy toward an established oligarchy of power. Aging no longer holds the promise of death that it once did… it is likely we will die eventually, but Stats extend that time frame.”
“You don’t need to beat around the bush; what are you asking for?” Randidly said slowly. But he could guess what Simon was getting at.
“They will not listen to me, but the will listen to you,” Simon said. “Currently the power in Donnyton is held by a privileged few. Most others are moving up beneath them, rising in position and influence simply because the influx of population is scaling up the entire organizational structure. But that influx will soon cease. The wildlands exposed to us now possess no people… or if there were people, the monsters were too high a Level for them to survive. What will these capable assistants and managers do when suddenly they find no other ways to advance?
“They will suffer for a while, but then they will begin to harbor dark dreams; I have felt the rumbles of it already. So I ask you to encourage those at Donnyton’s head to… step down. To create elected positions that run Donnyton. To give these dreamers hope.”
For several seconds, Randidly considered Simon’s proposal. Without baggage, Randidly examined the proposal. He was somewhat hampered by his limited mental capacity in the dream, but he could understand where Simon was coming from. There was a certain sort of internal logic to what Simon said.
Seeing the resemblance to truth inside of the statement but being unable to consider it fully in the dream, Randidly answered. “I’ll think about it.”
Simon frowned. “You aren’t taking me seriously, are you? I guarantee I have sensed these dreams-”
“Simon,” Randidly interrupted, looking at the young man. Truly, he was a child wearing the mantle of dreams fit for a man. But there was nothing that Randidly could do; sometimes fate thrust people into weird roles. “I understand what you are saying. I think you make a fine point about preparing Donnyton for the future. But all choices have costs.”
Because he could see in Simon’s comments that although unintentional, Simon was aware of the importance of an image of Donnyton moving forward. That was something that Randidly had given some thought to, and this other perspective was valuable to shape what Randidly understood about Donnyton. But this… this shift that Simon suggested possessed just as many problems as the future he warned against.
Besides, continuity and stability were more important now than ever. They were preparing to face the Calamity, and that should take their full attention.
Isn’t that always the excuse of those in power? Some snide part of Randidly commented. That change must be made but it cannot be now; the risks are too great. If not now, when will the change occur?
“The main issue,” Randidly said, interrupting his own thoughts. The hills were once more rumbling as Randidly shook off the trappings of sleep. “Is that part of this plan is based on the assumption that capable individuals who are disappointed will begin to conspire to take what they believe they deserve, regardless of rule of law. I would counter that even this plan will just shift the cohort of individuals who are disappointed; there will be just as many losers with an election system as there are now.”
“But they would have a chance,” Simon insisted.
Randidly felt strangely tired hearing that. His Crown buzzed in disappointment. “People may dream about the things they wish to have, but people mourn the greatness that they almost seized, most of all. Perhaps even more damning for your proposal, eventually, there will be a response from the elected officials. Rather than being capable, the winners of the election will be those that are capable to those that have Skills related to being elected.”
Simon winced. “I remember some of the world leaders before the System arrived. But I think-”
“Worst of all, and the reason that I will not suggest it,” Randidly finished. “Is that inherent in view of the future is that people are petty children that will spoil from disappointment. Maybe some change should be made to Donnyton’s command structure, but it will not be premised on some worry that capable and respectable people will sour over time. It will be made to shift Donnyton into an entity capable of meeting the threats that continue to pile up. So-”
There was a dull crack and the world exploded.
Randidly woke up. Then he sneezed and shook his head.
Seriously? Losing an argument isn’t a reason to blow up a world… even if it is just a dream…