Against The Odds 9-01

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A minute later Gavant led us back through the building—spaceship, I reminded myself. What appeared to be most of the surviving Meregan (and I only saw depressingly few for a group that was supposed to represent their entire living race aside from the children) were cleaning up the bodies, both their own and the others. I gave a weak shudder at the dark and unwanted realization that every Meregan they’d lost in that single battle actually affected the percentage of their surviving race significantly.

As we moved down one of the halls we hadn’t explored, I forced that extremely troublesome thought aside to ask, “What can you tell us about this enemy of yours, the one who stole your children? Do you know where he comes from, what he can do, what he wants, where he set up his base, any of that?”

He gave me a brief glance before returning his attention to the corridor. He sighed. “We are knowing much of this threat, more than we are wishing. He is being one of you, Friends-Flick and Shiori.”

“Wait, what?” Shiori put in, her own eyes widening along with mine. “What do you mean, one of us?”

“I am meaning,” the big man explained, “that he is being one of the People-Heretics. He is being one.”

My mouth worked a couple times and I stopped walking for a second, staring at the man as he turned to look back at us. “This guy that took all your children, you mean he’s a Heretic? Like, one of our Heretics? And he’s got an army of Alters hanging around him, following his orders? Are you serious? ”

“This is not being something we would be making the humor of,” Gavant’s response was solemn.

“Is he part of Eden’s Garden?” I mused with a brief look toward my companion. “I’ve, umm, heard they’re a little more lenient about the whole ‘working with Alters’ thing. Still, an army? And what’s he doing out here all by himself?” I wanted to ask if he was sure, but that felt like a really stupid question.

“I am not understanding ‘Eden’s Garden,’” Gavant answered slowly, a frown creasing his forehead. “We are only knowing that he is being one of the People-Heretics, as Friend-Joselyn Atherby was been.”

“Never mind,” I waved that off with a hand. “We’ll get into that later. Do you know what he wants here, how he made up this army, why they’re listening to him, even what his name is? Anything might help.”

Gavant nodded once, though he didn’t answer right away. It felt like he was gathering himself. “The one who is their master is being called Enemy-Nicholas Petan.” Even saying the name (the first of which which he pronounced Nee-Ko-lah without the S sound) seemed to make the man flinch inwardly.

“Doesn’t ring a bell,” I admitted. When Gavant just looked at me blankly, I amended, “I mean the name isn’t familiar.” Glancing toward the girl beside me, I asked, “I don’t suppose you’ve heard of him?”

Shiori’s head shook. “Um, n-no. But then, I’ve been kind of too… occupied for extra studying. All that broo isn’t going to ding itself. On the plus side,” she added brightly, “Heretic school seems like a place that might actually have a course in that kind of thing. If they do, I am so signing up for the AP class.”

Biting my lip to cover the smile that came then, I looked back to Gavant. “I guess that’s a no from both of us. Sorry, did my mother know about him? Were they, you know, enemies before or something?”

“We are not knowing if Friend-Joselyn Atherby was been knowing Enemy-Nicholas Petan,” Gavant admitted. “She was been the only Friend-Person-Heretic we are knowing who could been help us.”

Before I could say anything else, the big man continued. “We are knowing where Enemy-Nicholas Petan was putting his base before. It maybe been changed since we were starting long-sleep, but we will be go there. If he is being there, we will being fight him to be taking childs back.” His voice was grim, and I had the feeling that he didn’t think they’d actually survive the attempt, let alone succeed.

Swallowing hard, I nudged him with a hand. “Hey, I know it’s not much, but we’re here, all right? We’re gonna help you figure this out. Maybe we can distract this guy long enough for you to take your kids and get out of there. I mean, if he’s a Heretic, maybe he’ll want to talk to us. We could use that.”

“We are not wanting to be putting Friend-Joselyn Atherby’s child and child’s friend in danger,” Gavant protested weakly before shaking his head with another sigh. “But we are being very glad for the help.”

Moving ahead then, the man led us to a large round door that looked bronze. And that meant large for him. For Shiori and me it was positively gigantic. When he pressed his hand against what looked an awful lot like a hieroglyphic beside the enormous circular door, there was a sudden whoosh noise as it separated into sections like a pizza being cut up. The separate wedges all pulled back into the walls, revealing a dark chamber beyond. A second later, some kind of automated lighting system activated.

At a gesture from the man, Shiori and I stepped through the doorway and into what turned out to be a chamber that was even bigger than the one out in front. It stretched out almost twice as long from the look of things, and was probably at least as wide. Throughout the room there were boulders. That was the best way I could describe them. They were these huge, almost perfectly spherical rocks that were about twelve feet in diameter. Dozens of them littered the room, too uniform to be an accident.

As we looked around the boulder-filled room, I tugged Herbie from my pocket once more and held the little guy up. “What do you say, buddy? Recognize any of your big brothers? Maybe an aunt or two?”

Gavant was staring at me, his eyes lit with interest. “I am not recognizing this pet of Friend-Flick.”

“Oh, uhh.” Realizing it was kind of hard to explain, I shrugged. “It’s a long story. But Herbie’s cool.”

“He is pretty quiet though,” Shiori observed before looking back to the man. “What’re we doing here?”

The answer came not from Gavant, but from deeper in the room, behind one of the boulders. “I will being answer that.” The man who emerged with a wave toward us looked vaguely familiar somehow. Unlike Gavant, his hair was cut shorter and was a deep bronze color rather than the other man’s gray. He also seemed younger somehow, despite being bout half a foot taller, and wore a dark green uniform.

And on a sidenote, hanging around these guys too much was going to put a crick in my neck if I had to keep looking up at them like this.

It was Shiori who figured it out first. The other girl’s head tilted sideways before she asked, “Isn’t that the guy you uhh, smacked around?” Belatedly, she amended, “I mean, strategically re-positioned?”

“Thanks for that save,” I murmured sidelong at her. She grinned in response, and I shook my head before focusing on the second Meregan. “Uh, yeah, that was my fault. I’m really sorry, I, uhh, I sort of thought you were a real statue, and I was afraid the big door would close and trap us in here, and–”

“It is being well, Friend-Flick,” the new man assured me, a broad smile on his face. “I was been confused to be waking up on the floor. But it is all being good now.” That smile left a moment later and he looked away, his voice softening. “Except being for our new lost.” He lifted his left hand, ring and middle fingers outstretched with the rest tucked into his palm. Pressing his hand sideways against his chest in what looked like a religious motion, the man murmured something in another language quietly.

Then he focused on us once more, blinking his eyes a few times. “I am being Purin, master of explore.”

“Master of explore?” I echoed, squinting slightly before getting it. “Oh, you mean head scout?”

“This is not being right,” the other man replied with a brief frown. “We are not being search for heads.”

Smiling a little, I gestured for him to go on. “Never mind, I get the idea. You explore places. So you’re the one who knows where this asshole’s base is?” When both Purin and Gavant opened their mouths, the confusion written across their faces, I waved them off. “I mean you know where your enemy’s base is.”

“Ah,” Purin’s head bobbed up and down. “Yes, I am knowing this. Lord-March Gavant was being wish that I will being take you to see what the invader was been done while we were been in long-sleep.”

It took me a second to parse all of that, but I got it. “Right, we can scout it out and see what’s changed. For all we know, the big guy himself already left and it’s just some minions left behind to deal with.”

“We will be hope,” Gavant replied with obvious doubt. “But it is not being likely. I will be stay here and gathering resources, preparing our people for our fight. We must being ready to save our childs.”

“All right,” I said quietly, trying to contain my jitters. Okay, it was worse than jitters. I was kind of terrified. But I pushed on anyway, trying to ignore it. “So how are we getting there? Does it have anything to do with these rocks?” I added afterward, looking at the massive boulders curiously.

Purin laid a hand on the nearest one. “This is being Meregan pride of scouting vehicles. They are being called K’lecnahn.” With an innocent smile, he added, “But Friend-Joselyn Atherby called them Elvis.”

“Elvis?” I blinked uncertainly with a glance to the boulder. “Why exactly would she call them Elvis?”

“I am not understanding so much,” Purin replied uncertainly, his hand brushing over the stone with obvious fondness. “But she had been said it is because they are rocks and they are going rolling?”

“Rock and roll,” Shiori announced with a giggle, crossing an arm over her stomach in a failed effort to contain herself. “Your mom named them Elvis because they rock and roll.” She snickered a little more.

“Oh my god.” I couldn’t entirely help the little snicker that came, but I forced it back at the thought of what else we had to do, and the problems that still lay ahead. We still had to rescue those children.

Purin gestured for us to watch, then pushed in on a spot of the boulder that was slightly lighter than the rest of it. The spot, about as big around as his hand, lit up and moved inward. A second later, the whole front half of the boulder split apart, revealing an interior that made me blink in surprise. There was a soft white cushioned spot that looked perfectly formed to let one of the Meregan lean back against it, along with several straps to keep them in place. There were two handles to either side that their hands obviously locked onto, and the front of the boulder, the parts that had opened up, had a pair of large screens on them that were showing the exterior of the boulder. One showed the front, the other the rear.

When I looked closer, I saw that the stand where the Meregan would be positioned was slightly separate from the rock itself. Which meant that as the boulder part turned and rolled, the figure inside along with the screens and the controls he was manipulating would remain upright. The boulder could roll along all it wanted (or all the driver directed it to) without spinning the occupant over and over.

“You are being understanding now?” the younger Meregan asked with a hopeful smile. It was obvious that he loved these things, and was extremely proud of them. I wondered if he’d created them.

“I think so,” I answered slowly. “But I’m not sure either of us will be able to control one of these things, and they don’t really look big enough for passengers. Even,” I added, “if we are a lot smaller than you.”

“That is being all right,” Purin assured us. “That is why we are having Elvis for Meregan cadets. Smaller being than adult Meregan.” Gesturing for us to follow, the bronze-haired man started toward another of the boulders, touching his hand against a spot on it to open the thing up. “This is not being so small for only one you, but two you can make it as Friend-Joselyn Atherby and Partner did.”

“Wait, partner?” I blinked at that, looking up at the Meregan. “What partner are you talking about?”

Gavan was the one who answered. “Friend-Joselyn Atherby had came with other-friend. Good other-friend. But name was been gone. Meregan forget other-friend name, other-friend face, other-friend all except for being. Erased, Meregan all had been forgot. No more memory of other-friend name.”

Now I was even more confused. “So you don’t remember my mom’s partner, but you do remember her? What… does that mean?” Looking helplessly toward Shiori, I shrugged my shoulders. “They erased Mom’s memory… locked specific knowledge about things like her other kids behind more magic, but neither of those things affected people on this world. On the other hand, whatever erased the memory of her partner, did affect them, and still does. Also, if her partner isn’t Deveron I will eat every last ounce of sand in this desert until it’s empty, because that’s just every single level of duh at this point.”

“Deveron,” Gavant frowned. “This name is not being familiar to us. This is more People-Heretic magic?”

I nodded with a sigh. “Definitely more People-Heretic magic. Errr, at least I assume it is.” My frown deepened a little. “Though I definitely don’t understand why it would work so differently than the magic they used on Mom did. Maybe they used a different spell, or gave it different parameters, or something?” Shaking my head, I forcibly shut it out of my mind. It was time to focus on this situation.

“Anyway, let’s go do this scouting thing. How do we drive this big boulder?” To Herbie, I added as an aside, “You hear that, buddy? We’re gonna be riding around inside your big brother.”

Purin looked just as confused about that as Gavant had, but shook it off. He stepped aside then, gesturing at the now-open Elvis. This one was a bit smaller, obviously meant for what were probably teenage Meregan. In other words, people who were closer to seven feet tall instead of nine or ten.

“Friend-Flick, you will be coming in here,” Purin announced while reaching for my hand. When I gave it to him, he hoisted me up and set me down on one side of the spot where the driver was supposed to stand. A moment later, he deposited Shiori beside me. It was kind of a close fit, but even a teenage Meregan was big enough that we mostly fit side by side.

Crouching, Purin showed us where our feet went, into these marks that looked and felt like pedals. “You must be working together,” he informed us. “Push pedal down forward to be going forward, push pedal down backward to be going backward. Friend-Flick be squeezing handle here,” he showed me where my left hand should go. “To be turning left. Friend-Shiori be squeezing handle here,” he moved Shiori’s hand up to the other handle. “To be turning right. Both be squeezing handles and pulling back to be making tunnel underground, then be pushing handles forward to be going back to surface. You are understanding?”

Closing my eyes briefly, I worked it through in my head before nodding while looking toward the other girl. “I think so. We’re gonna have to practice though.”

“That is not being bad idea,” the Meregan replied with a nod. “We are to be taking K’lecnahn to surface and allowing Friends-Flick and Shiori to practice before we are to be going to scout Enemy-Nicholas Petan.”

“All right.” Forcing my nerves to calm, helped by Shiori’s nearness, I nodded. “Let’s do this then.”

Both of the Meregan gave us a brief wave before they started to close front of the boulder again. The screen lit up, showing us the front and back view, and I had to wonder where the cameras were since the surface of the boulder had looked perfectly smooth.

“Oh my god,” Shiori announced before starting to giggle. Honestly giggle. It was kind of adorable. And amazing. “I just thought of something.” She turned her head slightly to look at me, and I found myself lost briefly in her smile.

“Err, sorry,” I managed after a moment. “What? What did you think of?”

With a broad grin, the other girl spoke, her voice full of incorrigible delight. “This thing we’re in right now. It’s a rock that spins around and around to take us places.

“You could say… We’re riding a Ferrous wheel.”

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33 comments

  1. All that broo isn’t going to ding itself. On the plus side,” she added brightly, “Heretic school seems like a place that might actually have a course in that kind of thing. If they do, I am so signing up for the AP class

    What exactly does this mean?

    Like

    1. broo… ding. Brooding. She spent the last couple months brooding, and is saying that Crossroads seems like a place that would actually have a class for said brooding. A class she could do very well in after all her practice and so would fit into the AP (Advanced Placement) class.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. *facepalms* I didn’t get the “broo – ding” thing myself but it’s so obvious now.
        Shiori is much better at puns than I’ll ever be.

        Like

  2. Just a quick note. If you haven’t read the donation-fueled bonus chapter interlude that came out on Wednesday, you’ll probably want to do that too. 🙂

    A very sincere thanks, as always, for everyone’s votes, reviews, and those same donations that let us have that chapter on Wednesday. You guys rock, every last one of you.

    I’m going to start working on getting some kind of banner to put both at the top of this site and a smaller version to appear on the topwebfiction results. So expect that relatively soon, hopefully.

    Like

    1. Hi Cerulean,
      Thought you might want to know that the new Heretical Edge banner at the top of the site isn’t playing nice with mobile. It’s (guessing, since I’m shit at parsing code) centered and wider than my screen, clipping it down to “etical ge”and “seeing the ligh is only the”. It’s a little better in landscape mode, but still probably a bit of a turn off to new readers (who aren’t on mobile and whose phones aren’t the newest). There’s probably a scaling or reflowing option somewhere – I wish I could tell you where.

      Oh! Thanks for making the tags visible on the main page, I rather enjoy them.

      – Wargonzola

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I’m sorry. I really have no idea why it’s not scaling to mobile. It might have to do with the fact that I have MUCH less customization options using the free wordpress plan, and am reliant on the free themes available and their limited customization.

        I’ll probably dig around and see if there’s a theme that actually plays nice with mobile while still doing what I want it to, though finding one even this good took a couple hours of trial and error yesterday. :/

        I’ll also look through the options again asap and TRY to see if there’s a setting to help that, but I’m not hopeful. The free settings are very basic.

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    2. Weird that they’d make mobile tricky, thought mobile readers were basically their core audience. Whatever you changed works perfectly, looks great on my phone.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, It’s too late for me to leave any meaningful commentary on the chapter. Here is something interesting instead: ‘Elvisz’ (pronounced basically the same as Elvis) in Hungarian can be translated as ‘takes (somewhere)’. So when you ask “What does this rock do?” saying “Elvis.” is perfectly valid.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Why are Shiori’s puns so glorious? Seriously, she has yet to make me roll my eyes. Not even once. Flick and Joselyn’s puns do, though Joselyn calling the vehicles Elvis is much better than Flick’s sandwhich crack.

    Are you sure the shippiness between Flick and Shiori this past arc was unintentional Cerulean?

    I actually googled the name Nicholas Petan because I thought he might be another historical character. I was wrong.

    Between this chapter and the previous one, it appears that my theory that Deveron was one of the Heretics that killed Twister and kidnapped the twins is wrong. Or he was a mole. I was probably wrong. Maybe he really is the father of the twins.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Are you sure the shippiness between Flick and Shiori this past arc was unintentional Cerulean?

      The chemistry between them was totally coincidental and not expected. Since then, I’ve just let it go where it wanted to. 😉

      Liked by 4 people

  5. “I gave a weak shudder at the dark and unwanted realization that every Meregan they’d lost in that single battle actually affected the percentage of their surviving race significantly.”
    Me: That”s an unfortunate truth. I wonder about diversity as well.

    ““Is he part of Eden’s Garden?” I mused with a brief look toward my companion. “I’ve, umm, heard they’re a little more lenient about the whole ‘working with Alters’ thing. Still, an army? And what’s he doing out here all by himself?” I wanted to ask if he was sure, but that felt like a really stupid question.”
    Me: The Eden’s Garden question is a good one. Were this Nicholas a Crossroads Heretic those children would already be dead most likely.

    ““Master of explore?” I echoed, squinting slightly before getting it. “Oh, you mean head scout?”

    “This is not being right,” the other man replied with a brief frown. “We are not being search for heads.””
    Me: The language difficulties are rather reasonable, and can lead to amusing exchanges like this. Heh.

    ““Rock and roll,” Shiori announced with a giggle, crossing an arm over her stomach in a failed effort to contain herself. “Your mom named them Elvis because they rock and roll.” She snickered a little more.

    “Oh my god.” I couldn’t entirely help the little snicker that came, but I forced it back at the thought of what else we had to do, and the problems that still lay ahead. We still had to rescue those children.”
    Me: Hahaha, the punnery is hereditary. I love it!

    “With a broad grin, the other girl spoke, her voice full of incorrigible delight. “This thing we’re in right now. It’s rock that spins around and around to take us places.

    “You could say… We’re riding a Ferrous wheel.””
    Me: …Oh dear. If the rocks are magnetic then the multi-layer pun is complete.

    Nice characterization from everyone here, Cerulean.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Me: That”s an unfortunate truth. I wonder about diversity as well.

      That’s a good point too. They have obviously lost a good deal of diversity.

      Me: The Eden’s Garden question is a good one. Were this Nicholas a Crossroads Heretic those children would already be dead most likely.

      Indeed.

      Nice characterization from everyone here, Cerulean.

      Thanks! This chapter was intended to get further (all the way out to the enemy base), but I realized there was more interaction going on than I expected, and they still have to practice with the Elvis and all that.

      Like

  6. “All right.” Forcing my nerves to calm, helped by Shiori’s nearness, I nodded. “Let’s do this then.”

    and

    “Oh my god,” Shiori announced before starting to giggle. Honestly giggle. It was kind of adorable. And amazing.

    just give into it Flick. There’s nothing wrong with it. At least she’s not in denial about her feelings.
    I don’t think I’ve mentioned it but I really do like how you avoid or outright subvert some of the more common Tropes Cerulean while playing the rights ones just right and giving your own twist to others.

    “You could say… We’re riding a Ferrous wheel.”

    That’s only true if the “stone” is mostly iron Shiori. You’re stretching a bit on that one and a stretched pun is a bad pun.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’m sorry. I just can’t take someone named Purin seriously. I was laughing everytime I read his name. (For those who don’t know, Purin in Japanese is something like pudding or a creme caramel and it is typically a cute-ish name for a little pet or a girl.)

    It’s also heartwarming to see how much Shiori is opening up and expressing herself after how depressed we saw her in her Interlude. And I’m loving the puns. Although the Ferrous wheel one was a bit of a stretch.

    Typo: “It’s rock that spins around and around to take us places.” I think you are missing an a before rock.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry. I just can’t take someone named Purin seriously. I was laughing everytime I read his name. (For those who don’t know, Purin in Japanese is something like pudding or a creme caramel and it is typically a cute-ish name for a little pet or a girl.)

      *snickers*

      Typo: “It’s rock that spins around and around to take us places.” I think you are missing an a before rock.

      Ahh, whoops, yes, thank you. 🙂

      Like

  8. Shiori.

    I have said this once, and I will say it again.

    STOP. ARREST YOURSELF. THOSE PUNS ARE ILLEGAL.

    (But seriously don’t stop you’re really rocking them I REGRET NOTHING)

    On a shipping note, you need to stop giving me Flick/Shiori feels I am not going to start having my OTP be Avalon/Flick/Shiori. Madison is the Lesbian Harem Conedy Protagonist, not Flick. Flick isn’t even a protagonist, goddamnit, she talks to people about their problems!

    And now for my first serious note of this comment, the Meregan can remember Jocelyn, but not Deveron, and Flick can guess it’s Deveron (that’s interesting; I guess they couldn’t figure out a way to make the spell make you forget even if you deduced without knowing for certain; unless they did and it’s somehow not Deveron). And they’re being raided by a guy who’s probably an Eden’s Garden Heretic, who probably has three times as many powers as Flick and Shiori combined, plus an Alter army.

    Oh dear.

    (inb4 Gaia BIG DAMN HEROES moment in the ‘boss fight’)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. (But seriously don’t stop you’re really rocking them I REGRET NOTHING)

      You have nothing to regret. That was great.

      (inb4 Gaia BIG DAMN HEROES moment in the ‘boss fight’)

      I really hope this is what happens, because I want to see Gaia in action. Afterwards though, I want Shiori to call Gaia out on putting her in the position she did (and maybe Flick as well when she finds out that Gaia has a good idea of what happened to Joselyn and didn’t tell her).

      I’m pretty firmly on Gaia’s side in this story, but her actions are still manipulative (by necessity, but still manipulative) and I want people to make their displeasure clear. I’m also hoping for a Jiao-Gaia scene much further down where Jiao does something similar.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. So I recently reread The Mortal Instruments, and I noticed some similarities between that series and this story. Both have the main character’s mother, whose name sounds like Jocelyn, have been involved in the past in a revolution, while the main character herself is completely ignorant of her mother’s past, partly due to memory alteration. Both have a secret order devoted to protecting humanity from monsters, and there is considerable debate over just what beings actually count as monsters. Both have the protagonist learning she is not an only child like she thought, and at least one of each’s siblings is quite morally deficit due to his father’s influence. What I’m asking is, have you ever read The Mortal Instruments, and if so, were any of these parallels intentional?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nope, I haven’t read it, though I did have some vague knowledge of what it was about (mostly from half-seeing the movie at one point awhile ago and hearing people talk about it). But I wouldn’t say that it has any more specific influence over the story than all the other influences like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and the Dresden Files.

      … though the Joselyn/Jocelyn thing IS a pretty weird coincidence, along with the rest of that of course. For most of it, I can say ‘common themes’ but the Joselyn/Jocelyn thing is a little freaky.

      Like

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