This article is part of the Reading Time series.
Perhaps the Instructors taught Stevie too well. He did as the generals asked, the poor brute, until he started seeing the truth about the "aliens" he dispatched, details wrought vivid in his mind as if on the printed page. He had experienced a lot, so much that I hesitate to finish this sentence for fear I've forgotten something, but nothing had prepared him for these visions. He no longer trusted his superiors, so he went into hiding, taking refuge in the dry-rotted timber of an old fort. He encountered a withered crone, her facial features angled with age, her glaucoma-ravaged eyes sparkling with menace like cloud-shrouded suns. He approached without fear.
Hepzibah: Be gone from this place, you ape! Never in all my years have I seen such a lumbering abomination. Why, don't you know who I am? I will smite you with -- get out of Nuggetville, you have the face of a child!
Stevie: I am Stevie. You are an elderly! I read about you. You are fragile. I must be gentle if we are love way.
Hepzibah: My stars, a youngster with respect for his elders! Confide in Hepzibah, for I am wise about all things.
Stevie: What is the purpose of the Facility? Why do we do Reading Time tasks? What does Stevie look like?
Hepzibah: What?! Unless... yes, of course. So it has come to pass. In time, you will learn. Patience, my child.
Stevie: Are you my father?
Hepzibah: Insolence! Just wait, young man. I have a story that will answer everything. Let us begin. Are you comfy?
Stevie contorted his bulk into an awkward seated position. His mountainous knee-peaks grazed the sagging ceiling.
‘Toad coin?’ wondered the traveler as he examined the pebble. It did not look all that different from any other pebble, and certainly nothing like a coin. ‘What manner of coin has no head or tail, and bears no seal or flag? Who backs this toad coin, the toad bank? The toad treasury!?’ The traveler laughed, but the toads croaked sternly back at him.
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Raised and trained in a mysterious facility, piteous brute Stevie seeks answers.