I hadn’t thought about Ashnod until I saw the XWF Broadcast. I’m certain my jaw was open during the whole speech. I mean, I’d seen tapes of her before, OpNet videos of her many speeches and appearances. But they were viewed in the knowledge that this was in the past. It’s different, a lot different, to watch events as they are occurring live.
Live life as a Nova, she told me all those weeks before. Discover what it means to be part of the One Race. Was I doing that? I did not know then and I am not certain I know now, either. I watched the XWF Pay-Per-View because I thought it would educational. A little bit of culture, maybe. It was, after all, the highest-grossing sports industry in history. I don’t know what I expected. Something like professional wrestling, I guess. Something more orchestrated. Fake, even.
Gods, it was barbaric. Brutal and disgusting. There wasn’t anything fake about it. These people were honestly trying to wound each other. I remember flinching several times throughout it, wincing as one combatant was injured or another knocked unconscious. Strange, to think that I, with all the violence I have seen and all the fights I have been in, would be squeamish at such a display. Nonetheless, I was revolted and appalled at it. These were my people, right? This is what we were doing for money?
I couldn’t believe anyone would do this. Since my eruption, I’ve had to pay for very little. I go to get ice cream, and a simple smile gets me it free. I don’t even try to do this, I just smile as I’m getting it, and the clerk tells me there’s no charge. I mean, expensive stuff, my house, the furniture, I still have to pay for all that. But not as much as most people. Or the salary they offered me. Oh my word, I almost fell out of my seat. That much money to be a part time columnist? Several times what I would have expected or even asked for.
Oh yes, but they wanted to know my “Nova” name. After all, it would be a Nova column, written by a recent eruptee, they wanted a public image their readers would instantly recognize. I’ve tried to avoid using a Nova name after the way Ashnod told me it would be some kind of liberation, or baptism, for me to do so. I mean honestly…Ashnod…Narcosis…Splash…Lotus Infinite…these are hardly names that grown women use. I told them I’d get back to them.
Travel expenses. Paid trips to Ibiza to get into the Amp Room and give the skinny on that. Get interviewed by Project Utopia as an applicant and tell what I could of that experience. Everything. Amazing how you can convince others to pay you for things you wanted to do already. And with so little effort! If I could do this, why were all these others sacrificing their bodies to the XWF like that? I wonder just how much they were getting paid to do it. It had to be a literal fortune.
What I’m trying to say is this: even though I’m not getting paid anywhere near what those Novas employed by DeVries, Utopia, or the XWF get paid, my financial well-being is certainly better than the average baseline. Enough to live comfortably and not have to worry about late bills or emergencies in the future. And if I can manage that for my writing alone, you have to ask if it is worth it to put your life on the line in the “squared circle” for the chance to be decadently wealthy. I suppose the legions of loyal marks are part of it. Merchandising too; I can’t imagine what it is like to have several action figures modeled after you. I’d imagine it gets addictive after a while, and you become as dependant upon the attention your are getting as your fans are upon getting to observe your every move.
I watch the early matches. The ones with the new names trying to establish themselves. If anything, they are even more brutal than the well-known faces, having to prove themselves. They do all the truly dangerous moves, the deadlier maneuvers, trying to become recognized and beloved by the fans. Then comes the main event, this “Last Nova Standing Battle Royale.” They are all there: Crater, the Shadow Serpent, the Untouchable, Mutilator, and several others who I can tell by the crowd reaction are big names though I’ve never heard of them.
Then they vanish, and a few minutes later, Ashnod is on the screen addressing the crowd. The media is calling that speech Ashnod’s Declaration now. Not quite the Null Manifesto, but still memorable enough to those that follow the growing transhumanist movement.
I remember experiencing that, not just viewing it. Experiencing it. The butterflies gathering in my stomach, the constant shifting of my posture and position as the cameras zoomed in and out on this woman I considered a friend. And for the first time, the conversation we had months before made sense to me. Ashnod made sense to me. Clarity had been bestowed, and while I still don’t agree with everything Ashnod has said, I suddenly glimpsed the ever-widening gulf between what it means to be a Nova and what it was to be a baseline. And it was far vaster than I ever let myself believe until then.
I was baptized.
Now I needed a name to signify this.
Regardless of what you might believe, coming up with a name is not something a Nova takes lightly. Or at least, not something this Nova did. How exactly does one come up with a simple one or two word label that will stick with you from that point on?
You can go the route of many Novas, and use a name that describes your powers in some fashion or other. Splash, Skew, Fire Fox, and Firefly are all examples of this. But I did not want to use that methodology. My abilities are subtle enough that I wished to keep them as unknown as possible, and I did not want my name giving hints to any potential threats. You have got others whose names mean absolutely nothing except in some personal sense. Geryon, Totentanz, the Ragnarockette…you get the idea. Or the Novas who simply use their known names: Sophia Rousseau, Raoul Orzaiz, Ana Gracia Texeira. Then you have the fanboys (and fangirls) whose names might have well been taken from the world of comic books. But I didn’t care for that at all.
So the second option seemed best, something personal that didn’t really apply to my powers, but might apply to my outlook or my behavior. Or it might not. That is the beauty of such a name.
Of course, then comes the rather difficult task of choosing one if you don’t have one in mind.
Finally, after dwelling on it for some time, it finally arrived. Of course, it waited until I had stopped concerning myself with it, and merely came to me upon a whisper or a memory. Which was, of course, as it should.
Sherazahde. A teller of tales.
I know I’m supposed to register this name so that no one can claim right to it, but screw that. This isn’t a copyright, and I’m not a piece of merchandise. It’s who I am now and anyone wants to dispute me for it, you are more than welcome to.
Just don’t expect to see me in any gaudy costume anytime soon.
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