Olympias Prana: A Biography (III)

Chapter X: Anyone

With the final destruction of President Tadpole behind her, Olympias found herself obligated to look to the future. Resuscitating the city meant, much to her chagrin, allying with former adversaries and building political alliances. For a woman who never quite matured past her cosmic girlhood of chaotic orbits and blood-colored stars, and who nursed emotional wounds exceptionally poorly, this was easier said than done. Olympias was, at her core, a rebel, and never a diplomat.

But, in the beginning, when rebuilding in the literal sense was more essential than politicking, New Matanzas fared well under Olympias’ guidance. The extensive underground network of bunkers built by the Lamb family meant residents had minimal need to loot critical infrastructure for supplies and could rely on bunker inventories for baseline survival. While hardly luxurious, the bunkers performed the key role of ensuring the survival of non-survivalists, which is to say, ordinary civilians with peacetime-relevant skills. In virtually all other would-be metropolises across the continent, only preppers and low-power androids made it through the Black Decade and, with paranoid survivalists at the helm, the urban fabric in these locations quickly and irreparably tore apart. Preppers, the New World quickly learned, do not often make strong civil servants.

New Matanzas also benefited, in a twist of irony, from the interventions of President Tadpole. While Tadpole’s policies had been inexorably linked to the AGI’s eventual goal of ending the existence of humanity based on the precepts of its Artificial Gospel, Tadpole’s AGI had nonetheless managed to rebuild the power generation network, run integrity checks on all main buildings, and purify the water supply. These tasks were completed with its own longevity in mind: power, shelter, and water (for coolant) are all necessary for an AGI’s server farms. But they also were instrumental to the survival of the human residents of New Matanzas, a fact which did not escape Olympias’ notice. “It may have tried to torture and kill me,” she wrote in her diary. “But it knew what it was doing.”

In the generation following the ascent of Olympias to leadership, New Matanzas prospered, becoming the first true capital of the New World. For the entirety of her known mortal life (with one notable exception; see “Chapter XI: Desert exile”), Olympias was the city’s exclusive political representative and spokesperson, though she vehemently refused an official title and was known instead by varied and unconventional appellations, many of which she tried to disavow with limited success. Most famously, during a brief period of religious fanaticism, she was known as the city’s “divine mother” and then its “guardian angel”. Olympias publicly repudiated use of both names but could never fully dissuade her followers from using figurative language that rendered her perplexing humanity in maternal and angelic tones. The relationship between Olympias and her followers (“Olympians”) is a case study in the fundamental unknowability of a God by her devotees. When it comes to apropos names for Olympias, Polly Trunk’s preference is a favorite among chroniclers of the era; the poet famously noted that Olympias was “nothing more and nothing less than this city’s hidden spirit”.

Mapping Olympias’s moods, as chronicled in her diary, it is possible to see the city and the woman as mirrors of one another. Whether by fate or coincidence, when Olympias was in a fiery, creative period, New Matanzas flourished. When she fell into depression, the city languished. When, in 22XX, she went missing outside the Boundary, chaos took over to such an extent that Baby Blood did the unthinkable and fled the city, taking refuge in the inhospitable dunes. On Olympias’ return, the city’s turmoil was pacified so promptly and decisively by her mere presence that the prior destruction seemed nothing but “a tantrum,” in Baby Blood’s slightly mollified words. Olympias opted to publicly pardon the rioters who had sought to exploit the vacuum of power during her absence, an apparently impromptu decision which was subsequently elevated to sacred rite and legal act—the phenomenon of Public Total Reconciliation (PTR). Olympias, infamously prone to holding grudges and best-known for a bloody war against a murderous AGI, became in this way an unlikely symbol of forgiveness. Annoyed, though fully aware of the advantages of this image, she wrote: “Now I’ll never get them to stop calling me Mother.”

But Olympias’ compassion had its limits. Public forgiveness never came for Andie Lamb. During the reconstruction of New Matanzas, her name was hardly spoken; she remained entirely at large. Her disappearance from the record is so total so as to be suspicious. Particularly in the earliest days of the New World, no one could have left the city without encountering certain death, given the extreme conditions of the surrounding desert. That Andie could have submitted to self-exile—and therefore suicide—following the destruction of Tadpole is a possibility, but testimony from Chimonix DuPont suggests a different path for this erstwhile companion of Olympias. Though there were various attempts to discredit him, including a legal inquest, DuPont insisted to his deathbed that Andie was captured, and possibly interrogated by Olympias, following the end of the war against Tadpole. From there, she was disappeared into the desert—but not to her death, but to an oasis known only to Olympias. His claim rested on his eyewitness account of Olympias visiting Andie at the edge of the city, one night in 20XX. Record of any such meeting flowers only in secret. All evidence of it has been carefully pruned from the garden of history.

Olympias did not herself speak of Andie Lamb except once, very obliquely, in a private conversation with Baby Blood (see Annex 10, “Baby Blood tapes”).

BB: You don’t share your feelings very often. With the public, that is. 

OP: I disagree. I communicate my feelings often.

BB: I mean, your true feelings. Is there anyone you can tell the truth to?

OP: Anyone I can what?

BB: Tell the truth to. 

OP: There was.

BB: And where is she now?

OP: Careful. Be very careful where you tread now.

BB: Was she good or bad?

OP: It’s not about whether she was good or bad.

BB: How could it not be about that? 

OP: Nothing is ever about if someone is good or bad.

Though Andie vanished from New Matanzas and from public life, she continued to live on in Olympias’ writings. Her impact there was meteoric. “If I never lay her [Andie Lamb] to rest,” Olympias wrote in scarlet ink. She was prone to unfinished sentences—especially incomplete hypotheticals—during times of emotional distress. “If her [Andie Lamb’s] body never comes home.”

During her last days in the city, the incidence of Andie Lamb in Olympias’ diary pages only increased in number and in intensity. In Olympias’ total refusal to trust Lalita Howard, in 20XX, many historians have observed the specter of her past negative experience with Andie, a one-time friend. But by failing to schmooze vainglorious Lalita, Olympias showed her fundamental and fatal inability to succeed as a political operative of the New World. She let emotion be her guide, which this time lost her the city she had rebuilt. Making an enemy of a Howard earned her, after a lifetime of service, only an ignoble exile in the vast desert beyond the Boundary.

So Olympias went back to the dunes a second time. She was thirty-nine, still in the summer of her life, but she did not protest, and, unlike her first journey into the desert, this time she did not return. This was a shock to her supporters and even to Lalita Howard, all of whom had assumed Olympias knew of a secret bunker between New Matanzas and the faraway coast (perhaps due to DuPont’s prior testimony of Andie Lamb’s continued survival in such a location). Howard, charismatic but lacking the courage to lead, failed to hold onto to power for longer than a year, and a belated search party was mounted by Olympians. Improbably, given the constant winds of the dunes which reliably decimated any trace of activity, they found the remains of a bolt of shiny fabric, possibly part of a tent, and a silver locket, half-buried in the sand. Logic dictates that these remains could only have been planted by an overeager Olympian—possibly Chimonix DuPont—itching to show proof of messianic return, though it remains difficult to explain how the locket fell into their possession in the first place. It was Olympias’ last token from her mother, and not something she would have parted from without reason.

Two hundred years later, failing to occasion the return of their champion via cloning or resurrection (only the DNA of Lizzy Prana was found in the locket), the Olympians redirected their energies toward the commissioning of a third painting, thereby turning the Brave Olympias duology into a triptych. In Brave Olympias Returns, now a lost artefact of which only half-done sketches survive, Olympias is kitted out in an olive-green explorer’s outfit, an indeterminate weapon across her back. She is standing atop a dune, her body language speaking to the viewer of a curious, investigative attitude, as though she were scouting the surrounding territory for habitable land. The sand around her is painted in shades of ruby-red, possibly in recognition of her Martian heritage. She holds one fist aloft. Her face is so illuminated by rays of light that her features are completely erased.

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