Cappa and Zima from The Z-Tech Chronicles interview Seg Holton from the Timeless Keeper Saga.
This is the first of hopefully many cross-series character interviews from the diverse universes and timelines that my books span. They're standalone and spoiler-free, so even if you haven't read a single one of my books, hopefully you'll still enjoy these improbable and entertaining exchanges.
CAPPA: Seg Holton! Thank you so much for joining us today.
SEG: S-sorry, who are you? And how did I get here?
CAPPA: Oh, it’s a long story involving interdimensional rifts, possibly destroying both of our timespace continuums, and a twenty-dollar bet. But I won’t bore you with details. Would you mind telling us a little about yourself?
SEG: Destroying our what? That sounds important!
ZIMA: It is irrelevant for the purposes of this conversation. Please answer the question.
SEG: Are you Feds? Look, if this is some strange new inquisition format, just say so. I won’t make any trouble.
ZIMA: We are not Feds. Answer the question.
SEG: You sound like a Fed.
ZIMA: (draws a pair of automatic pistols from her jacket) Answer the question. I will not ask again.
CAPPA: Zima! Behave! Ahem. Sorry about that. She can be a little… focused at times.
SEG: You don’t say.
CAPPA: You don’t seem as intimidated by her weapons as, say, anyone who knows her should be. (whispers) Zima, put those away!
ZIMA: Not until he complies.
SEG: Feds with guns are nothing new. Their weapons are usually bigger than hers. At least she isn’t pointing them at me.
ZIMA: (aims pistols at Seg)
SEG: Whoa! Okay, okay! I-I’m twenty-eight years old, single, and a Provider in Holtondome. There, happy?
SEG: Odin above! What more do you want?
CAPPA: Perhaps you can tell us what it means to be a Provider.
SEG: You must be City folk. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you don’t know anything about Provider life.
CAPPA: Sure… Let’s roll with that.
SEG: Fine. Providers live a simple life, as free of technology as we can be, in accordance with the Pact agreed upon by our ancestors. In exchange for basic goods, like food and raw materials, Cities provide us with the technical services to keep our dome and equipment operational, creating mutual dependence, and steering us away from the self-destructive thinking that led to the Fall.
CAPPA: My, so much to unpack there!
ZIMA: Why do you live in domes?
ZIMA: (fires a warning shot at Seg’s feet)
SEG: Gah! All right! The dome initiative was conceived four hundred years ago by Grand Chancellor Chang I as global safe-havens from the deadly weather systems resulting from the Fall, sheltering the few who survived.
CAPPA: Few? How few?
SEG: Five percent of seven billion people.
SEG: Are you okay?
CAPPA: No, I… I need a moment. Zima, would you please?
ZIMA: (aims between Seg’s eyes)
CAPPA: (bats Zima’s hands aside) Ask questions, not finish him off! For Christ’s sake, there aren’t many humans left in his universe!
ZIMA: We have too many. They should take some of ours.
SEG: Wh-where in Freyja’s green fields am I? Hel? Valhalla?
ZIMA: This is our interview. We ask the questions. (holsters weapons) Describe the nature of these deadly weather systems.
SEG: (grumbles) That isn’t a question. (louder) Most common are lightning storms. Being caught in one means being struck, possibly several times. Acid storms are less common but just as deadly. They’ve polluted every natural water source, and killed all the animals and vegetation. Well, except for sharpgrass, which isn’t affected for some reason. Everything else inside the domes were grown from world seed supplies or bred from domestic animals who were already sheltered during the Fall.
ZIMA: You have mentioned Providers, who produce raw goods, and Cities, who presumably consume those materials and fabricate them into crucial technologies and services. What role do Feds play?
SEG: They maintain the peace and make sure everyone adheres to the Pact. By force, if necessary. Kind of like you.
ZIMA: I am beholden to no organization, governmental or otherwise, but that is irrelevant. Tell us about your romantic relationships. In detail.
SEG: Relationships? What kind of messed up interview is this?
ZIMA: (reaches for her pistols)
SEG: For Freyja’s sake, all right! I… I don’t have any, for obvious reasons.
ZIMA: (cocks her head)
SEG: My blind left eye? The one that’s completely white? It’s a birth defect. Doesn’t exactly make me ideal breeding stock.
ZIMA: I do not understand how that relates to romantic interest.
SEG: You mean you don’t find it… off-putting?
ZIMA: I find it neither attractive nor repulsive, merely a curious anomaly.
SEG: Well, you’re one of the few. Your directness is refreshing, in a way. Most girls in Holtondome just whisper behind my back and try to avoid me. Except for one, that is, but she… never mind.
CAPPA: Oh no, no, no! You aren’t getting off the hook that easily. Not after dangling such a juicy morsel. Tell us about this girl who sees past the superficial to the strapping man you are. Why haven’t you hooked up?
SEG: It’s, um, complicated.
CAPPA: Try me.
SEG: Er… okay, sure. What the heck. See, we’re childhood friends who—
CAPPA: Sqweee! I adore childhood friends-to-lovers stories!
ZIMA: That is unsurprising given—
CAPPA: Hush! Ahem. Seg, please continue.
SEG: Riiight. Anyway, we were best friends growing up. She’s built like… well, let’s just say she attracts a lot of attention. Enough to have her pick of any man in Holtondome.
CAPPA: And she chose you! Oh God, I’m going to melt!
SEG: Not exactly. We did… you know. Once. But that was it. I couldn’t bear the thought of holding her back, so when we were eighteen I… I let her go.
CAPPA: You… what?
SEG: Let her go. She married soon after. End of tale.
CAPPA: End? End? That can’t be the end! You’re both still young! Anything can happen, Seg. Anything! You have the foundations for a perfect relationship. Perfect, I tell you! Giving up would be absolutely criminal!
ZIMA: Cappa, you are becoming overly—
CAPPA: What am I going to do? Is that why he hasn’t made a move yet? Is he trying to protect me out of some misplaced sense of chivalry? (sobs) Am I really doomed to a lifetime of unrequited love? To die as a pining spinster? That’s horrifying! Horrifying!
SEG: Is she going to be okay?
ZIMA: Eventually. However, I believe that signifies the end of the interview. Farewell.
SEG: Wait! I have a few quest—
ZIMA: (pushes a shiny red button)
SEG: (disappears in a flash of energy)
CAPPA: (sniffles) It’s hopeless, isn’t it?
ZIMA: Probably, although I am hardly an expert on relationships. Perhaps a shopping trip will lighten your mood.
CAPPA: You’ll… go shopping with me?
ZIMA: As an emergency measure, yes.
CAPPA: (trumpets loudly into a handkerchief) Will you finally let me buy you a dress?
ZIMA: Purchase one if you wish. I will not wear it.
ZIMA: Come, before they close for the evening.
CAPPA: (pouts) Spoil sport. All right…