Interlude 22B – Asenath and Lincoln

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“Now that,” Lincoln Chambers announced while sitting back in his seat at the kitchen table, “was a good gyro.” Tapping his cleared plate, he winked at Asenath, who was sitting across from him. “What do you think? They just opened last week, think they’ll stay in business?”

Senny nodded with a slight chuckle. “If they keep making food like that, for sure.” She winked at him then. “Now we just need some ice cream. Or are we supposed to go with Greek yogurt just to keep up the theme?”

“Actually, before we get to dessert, there was something else I wanted to try,” the man replied. He reached under the kitchen table, lifting up a metal box with a padlock on it to set on the table between them. After putting in the combination, he carefully opened the box to reveal several guns inside. The man silently ran his hand over the weapons with an almost reverent look before withdrawing a nine-millimeter pistol, turning it over in his hands.

Shifting slightly in her seat, Asenath raised an eyebrow curiously. “Sorry, Mr. Chambers. I don’t think there’s a gun range that’s still open this late.” She smiled faintly. “At least, not in this town.”

He chuckled, head shaking. “I told you, it’s Lincoln, not Mr. Chambers. And it’s okay. I don’t need the gun range. What I want…” He paused, looking up to meet her gaze. “… is to test a theory.”

With those words, the man abruptly raised the pistol to point the thing at his own head. His finger tightened on the trigger as Asenath’s reactions kicked her up and out of the seat. She didn’t know what was going on. She didn’t know if he had been enchanted, possessed, or if Ammon had gotten to him somehow, impossible as that seemed considering how much she and Twister were watching. But she couldn’t let this happen. She couldn’t let Flick lose her father, whatever it was.

With a blur of motion, she went up and over the table. Her hand snatched the pistol out of the man’s hand an instant before he would have finished pulling the trigger. The girl went from sitting in her seat to standing on the opposite side of the table with the gun in her hand in a split-second.

It wasn’t until then that Asenath felt the weight of the weapon that she was holding. The weight was wrong. It was light–too light. There was… Pausing as the realization came to her, she held the gun off to the side before pulling the trigger, once, twice, then a third time. Every pull resulted in a simple, definitive click. It was empty. There were no bullets in the magazine or the chamber.  

“Yeah,” Lincoln announced calmly as her eyes moved up to him. He hadn’t moved from his seat except to turn his head so he could watch her. “I kinda figured something like that would happen.”

“You… you were testing me,” Senny realized as she carefully laid the empty pistol on the table. Her stare never left the man. “Why? How did you–what?” For once, the vampire-girl was in uncharted waters. She’d never seen anything like this, not from an ordinary human, a Bystander.

In answer, Lincoln first reached into his jacket pocket before producing a small notebook. He tossed it onto the table and flipped the thing open, revealing that it was completely full of scribbled notes. As the man flipped through the pages, Asenath could see where parts had been scratched out, erased, amended, and more. She saw words and phrases like, ‘Immortal’, ‘Time-Traveler’, and where ‘Hostage’ had several lines drawn through it, with ‘Protected’ scrawled in beside it.

There were more, clearly the result of the man hurriedly scribbling notes here and there, every time a thought came to him. It was stream-of-consciousness writing, from a man who was clearly aware that he could lose his train of thought any moment. Or have the thoughts taken from him.

“I kept forgetting,” he announced quietly, patting the notebook. “Things I saw, stuff I noticed here and there. Conclusions, guesses, whatever you want to call it. It kept  going out of my head. But I’ve been a reporter for a long time. And when you’re a reporter, you know what you learn to do real quick if you’re gonna  be any good at the job? Write stuff down. Oh, and–” Again, he reached into his pocket, withdrawing a silver voice recorder. Hitting the play button, he held it up as his voice emerged from the thing to say, “Flick sent Asenath to protect you. She is on your side.”   

Pressing the stop button, Lincoln quietly added with a glance at the gun. “Guess I was right.”

Asenath was still reeling as he continued. “But I guess the thing that really made me wake up was probably this.” Picking up his nearby cell phone, the man carefully cued something on it before holding the phone up for her to see. On the screen, a video began to play. It was clearly an ancient video, at least as far as human technology was concerned. There were dark lines running through the screen and there was no sound in it. Even then, however, the view it was showing was clear enough. There was a hospital waiting room full of people watching a news report of the Kennedy assassination. And there on screen was a woman holding two infant children. Joselyn Chambers. Or, to be more accurate at that point, Joselyn Atherby. She was there, clearly shown in a video that had to have been taken at least ten years before she had supposedly been born.

“So like I said,” Lincoln went on once Asenath had seen enough of the video. “This is the one that really got me thinking. I started recording things, thoughts, ideas, everything. Then I kept forgetting them, but I’d find my notes later and remember. I started using this thing,” his hand indicated the voice recorder, “just to keep track of every thought I had. Started leaving notes for myself on my pillow, in my car, everywhere that I’d run into them. Thought I was going crazy for awhile. I mean, how could Jos be… how could she be that old a decade before she was born? It didn’t make sense. It was obviously fake. Obviously. Had to be fake. But I couldn’t figure out why. What was the point? So I sent it to a friend of mine in LA, a computer guy. I figured he’d tell me how it was fake, maybe pull some actual information off the video that might lead to answers about Jos. Like maybe she sent it, maybe she was trying to tell me something. There could be a message in it.”

He paused, raising his gaze to her again.  “But you know what he told me after he looked at it?”

After a moment of silence, Senny answered, “He said it was real, that it wasn’t tampered with.”

Lincoln gave a faint nod. “Yeah. He said he went over the whole thing backwards and forwards. And trust me, if there was anything fake in it, he would’ve found it. He’s good. Really good. So if he said it was real, it was real. Which is just…” his head shook quickly, “insane. It couldn’t be. Couldn’t be real. Joselyn could not have been there in 1963. It just–it was wrong. Impossible. So how could the video be real? How? It couldn’t be real, because she wasn’t alive then, let alone that old. Back and forth, I just kept going back and forth. It couldn’t be real. But it was. It was. It was real, so I had to accept it. And to accept it, I had to figure out why. I had to figure out how.

“Then I started thinking that’s why she disappeared, you see? I figured that’s why Jos vanished, because she went back in time. She time traveled.  Yeah, I know, insane. That’s what I thought. But…” He waved the phone with the video on it. “It’s real. The video’s real, so there has to be an explanation. Time travel. It explains why she disappeared, why no one’s been able to find her.”

“You think your wife… went back in time?” Asenath asked slowly, her brow furrowing a bit.

“No.” Lincoln shook his head. “Not anymore. See, even then there was just too much that didn’t make sense. I mean, not that time travel itself made sense, but even within the context of that, there were too many questions. Too many things it didn’t answer. Especially when it came to you.”

“When it came to me?” Asenath echoed, head turning slightly as her curiosity rose even more.

He nodded. “You see, I know when Flick is keeping things from me. I know when she’s upset and won’t talk about it. I know when she’s… lying. She’s been getting better about it, but I can tell. I know my daughter.  And every time she talks about that school she’s going to, she’s lying. She doesn’t want to. I can tell that too. But she is. She’s lying about a lot of it. So if she’s lying, why?”

The man pushed himself back from the table then, finally standing as he let out a breath. “And the thing is, what are the odds that some mysterious school on the other side of the country suddenly recruits my daughter, full scholarship, she starts lying about it, and it’s not related to this video? I’ve seen her teacher, talked to her. I’ve seen all the pamphlets about this Crossroads, seen the website all about their campus. So if my kid is lying about it, then they’re all lying about it. And that kind of conspiracy, convincing Flick to lie, faking all of that, it’s too big not to be connected to this video. You see? Two things that big, an entire fake school and my wife being in this video, they had to be connected. Had to be. Because two things that big, that insane, couldn’t be separate.”

Standing there, he folded his arms across his chest while watching Asenath. “But if they were connected, then you had to be connected. You were here because of Flick.” He raised his chin to her. “But see, that’s what didn’t fit for a long time. I thought you were here to keep me in line, make me a hostage while… whoever’s behind that school convinced Flick to keep lying. But that didn’t make sense. Because she likes you. She really does, I can tell. And Shiori, Columbus, all of them. Even that professor of hers, the one that visited. She likes all of you, but she’s still lying.

“None of it made sense. She likes the school, at least, some of the people in it anyway. She’s obviously learning how to take care of herself. She’s stronger than she was. But she’s lying to me. Doesn’t want to, but she is. And then I figured it out. I realized why she’s been lying. It’s because she can’t tell me the truth.” His finger moved to touch his own head. “Because I’ll forget. Hell, for all I know, she has tried to tell me the truth. Me forgetting and her lying, they’re connected.”

The man let that sink in for a moment before he went on. “So the school, her teachers, her friends, all of that couldn’t be connected to time travel. But you know what it could be connected to?” He paused briefly, meeting Asenath’s gaze before answering his own question. “Immortals.”

That made Senny’s mouth open and shut a few times. “… immortals?” she managed weakly.

“Virginia Dare,” the man replied. “She’s not named for the girl at all. She is the girl, the woman. And the reason Jos can look like she’s the same age ten years before she was supposedly born as she was when I knew her, is because she is the same age. Dare, Jos, probably everyone at that school, they’re all immortals. Or, if not immortal, they live a long time. My guess is so that they can fight people like you.” He paused, his eyes taking in her reaction. “… vampires, that is.”

Before she could even start to form a coherent thought, let alone reaction to that, Lincoln continued. “Super speed, you’re really strong, and an allergy to sunlight? Yeah, even with the doctor’s note, that one wasn’t hard to pick up on. So the way I see it, there’s these people that Jos comes from. Immortal or just live a long time, I don’t know. Whatever it is, she was part of them. And they fight, well, people like you. Vampires, maybe other things, I don’t know. Only bad ones. Jos was part of it, but she ran away. I don’t know why, but she left. She took off. Maybe the kids she had back then, the ones in the video… maybe something happened to them and she couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know. Either way, my guess is that she came here and made a new life, the life she had with us. But one of those people she used to fight found her. They took her away.

“Fast forward a few years, and those people, Jos’s people, they come and recruit Flick. They take her into their school, start teaching her how to take care of herself. And they tell her about her mom. They tell her that this bad guy has her. That’s why she’s there. That’s why she’s so much stronger now, because they’re teaching her, they’re training her. And that’s why she’s suddenly… that’s why she’s not mad at her mom anymore. Because she knows that Jos was abducted, that she didn’t choose to leave. So Flick’s there because she wants to save her mom. And she’s not telling me about it because she thinks I’d just forget all of it. That’s why she’s been lying about it.”

Slowly, the man reached up to the nearby fridge to take down a newspaper article that had been clipped there. “And you’re here… because of this.” He showed her the article. It was about the supposed ‘terrorist attack’ in the city several months earlier. “Flick’s birthday. It’s her birthday, she’s back from that school, and something like this happens? It had to be connected. Had to be. So the way I see it, it’s this guy.” From his pocket, he drew out another picture. It was the picture that Senny and Flick had seen pinned up on the board in Lincoln’s office, the one that had been taken from the bad surveillance footage that showed Fossor himself.

“That’s the guy who took my wife,” the man announced flatly, confidently. “And he came here on Flick’s birthday to threaten her. All those attacks, those were warnings. Telling her to back off. And that’s why you’re here now. You’re part of the school, whatever it really is. You’re part of it, and Flick asked you to come and stay with me. You’re not keeping me hostage. You’re protecting me.”

It wasn’t perfect. There were holes in his assumptions, yet other conclusions that he had reached relatively correctly with very little to go on. And yet, none of it made sense. He shouldn’t have been able to remember any of what he was doing. It shouldn’t have been that easy. The shock of it, the utter confusion of a Bystander being able to both retain enough information to know that something was off and to put it together as close to accurately as he had, was enough to stun the two-hundred year old vampire into silence. For a moment, Senny just opened and shut her mouth. “What–how did… how…”

“I told you,” the man replied simply, “I’m a damn good reporter.”

Again, her mouth opened. But before she could actually say anything, something else caught her attention. Footsteps. They were coming from outside, yet from more than one direction. The house was being approached from both sides. A moment later, her nose caught the scent.

Werewolves. At least four of them, maybe more. They were approaching the back door and the one at the front. And from their pace, they weren’t exactly planning on stopping to knock.

She moved. Even as the terrible crash came as the two sets of werewolves kicked either door in, Senny was already in the front hall. Her foot caught the door there, slamming it back the other way just as the massive figure there tried to stomp his way inside. The door took him in the face, making him snap backward. It only gained a couple of seconds, but seconds mattered right then.

“Twist!” she shouted while blurring her way back through the kitchen to the back door. “Code fur!”

Two werewolves were there, already pushing their way in through the shattered door. One of them saw her and snarled, “Vampire bi–”

That was as far as he got before Senny reached the kitchen knives. Her hands snatched two from the wooden container, and she gave them a quick toss that left one embedded in the scraggly-haired man’s shoulder and the other in the arm that he was reaching for her with.

He screamed, jerking backward with a look of disbelief at the knives embedded in him. Knives that were actual silver, since Asenath had spent her time in the house gradually replacing the old stainless steel knives with new ones that would actually get the job done if they needed to. Just in case.

“You got real bullets for that thing?” she snapped over her shoulder at Lincoln. “Load it!”

Even as she finished talking, one of the other wolves behind the one she had put the knives in shoved his companion out of the way. He gave her a brief smile that showed a mouthful of fangs before lunging forward. At the same time, fur began to sprout up over the man’s exposed skin, and he grew taller, shifting into his half-man, half-wolf form.

By that point, Senny had two more knives in her hands. She met the werewolf’s charge by leaping up and backward onto the far side of the table. An instant later, she kicked it forward, sending the table into the werewolf’s stomach with enough force that the table itself was broken. But it also doubled the man over enough that she was able to drive one of the knives up through his throat and into his brain.

Four deafening gunshots, all fired in rapid succession, filled the air then. From the corner of her eye as the wolf she had killed collapsed, Senny saw the one from the front door standing there in the kitchen entrance with four bullet holes in his chest. Unfortunately, the bullets themselves weren’t silver or magic (she really wished they had some Heretic bullets right then), so the wounds were barely enough to make the big werewolf pause. Then, with a snarl, he started forward.

That was when the bear showed up. Taking up most of the front entranceway, the enormous shaggy creature lashed out a furry paw that caught the wolf across the face and sent him flying sideways.

Twister. She was up, which made this whole thing a little easier. Survivable, at least.

Another werewolf from the front, this one in actual wolf form, joined in the attack, rushing in to save his partner even as the Twister-bear turned to face them both. At the same time, two more wolf-men shoved their way in. They saw their dead partner while the one with knives in his arm and shoulder bellowed, and came for Senny.

One werewolf dead, one injured. Two more there at the back. At least two at the front. Six werewolves. This was a full scale assault. They were there to either kill Lincoln, or take him.

Senny wouldn’t let that happen. Even as the first wolf reached her, she jerked sideways to avoid his claw-filled hand as it lashed out. A quick swipe of the knife drew a line of blood from the arm, as well as a snarl of pain from the wolf himself.

The second wolf went for her from the other side, forcing the vampire to keep an eye on both of them. They were fast, impossibly so. But so was she. And she had far more experience than either. Probably more experience than both combined.

But they were still werewolves. And she had to keep half an eye on Lincoln, making sure he was behind her. One of the wolves, after a flurry of blindingly quick swipes, managed to smack the girl upside the head. It was a glancing blow, but from the wolf, it still knocked her back a step. And that was enough for the second wolf to nail her in the stomach with a kick that knocked her right into Lincoln. Both stumbled, falling against the counter.

“Werewolves?” he blurted, staring at the girl while catching her arm. “And is that a fucking bear?!

“Oh sure,” Senny retorted. “You’ve figured out I’m a vampire and you think your wife and daughter are some kind of immortal hunters, but the bear startles you.” Pausing, she added, “Anyway, the bear’s on our side.”

“Look, vampire bitch.” The wolf that she had injured had entered the room then, making it three werewolves facing her. “We’re taking the Bystander. You can let us do it and keep breathing–or whatever you cunts do, or you can–”

“I think that’s enough.” The voice came from the open doorway at the back. As everyone’s eyes turned that way, a lone figure stepped through. A figure that sent all of Senny’s danger senses about Heretics into a screaming fit.

She was an almost achingly beautiful black woman, who radiated power as she stood there. “You may run,” she informed the gathered werewolves, “or–”

They lunged for her. With a collective howl, all three of the werewolves there in the kitchen went for the woman as one pack, rushing her together.

Unfortunately for them, all that meant was that they failed together.

The woman pursed her lips and blew out a white cloud that enveloped the wolf directly in front of her. In an instant, he was frozen solid, a statue of ice.

At the same time, she moved, her form flowing as smoothly as if it was water flowing through a river. Gracefully sidestepping the second wolf, she brushed a hand over his side. At her touch, he turned to stone.

By that point, the third wolf was leaping up and into the air with his claws raised. The Heretic gave a quick nod of her head, and the figure was caught by an invisible force that sent him flying backwards. Just before he would have hit the wall, a half dozen sharp, clearly silver spikes emerged from it. The wolf-man gave a pathetic yowl as he was impaled through on all of them.

Impossible as it seemed, through all of that, the first werewolf hadn’t yet hit the ground. Frozen solid, he was still in mid-fall at the moment that the third wolf was impaled on the wall.

The Heretic turned, catching the falling, frozen wolf by the back of the neck before using her considerable strength to slam him into the counter. He hit with enough force that his frozen head exploded.

It was at that moment that the wolf who had been turned into stone at her touch landed on the floor. In the same motion that she had used to turn while shoving the frozen wolf-man’s head against the counter, the Heretic brought her foot down hard on the stone-wolf. The blow shattered the figure into dozens of pieces.

“Or die,” she finished her earlier statement, the entire ‘fight’, if it could even be called that, having taken roughly two and a half seconds.

“Wolves at the front are done!” Twister announced, having shifted back into her human form as she came into the kitchen. “How are we–” She paused, taking in the sight around them before her eyes found the woman. “What… the he–oh shit!” Jumping back, she shapeshifted into a squirrel before landing on Asenath’s shoulder.

“Uhhh…” Lincoln was shakily holding the gun up, pointed at the woman. “Okay. Okay, those were werewolves. Werewolves. And you–you’re…”

“Heretic,” Asenath finished for him, her eyes on the woman. “And not just a Heretic. You’re…  you’re a…”

“Part of the Committee,” the woman confirmed. “My name is Calafia. And you are Asenath. And Twister, I presume.”

“Flick,” Lincoln quickly put in. “You–you’re part of Flick’s school, part of Jos’s people, the immortals.”

“So close, Mr. Chambers,” the woman spoke easily. “You are so very close right now. I’m impressed. I thought it would take you longer to reach these conclusions, even with the weakened Bystander Effect.”

“Weakened Bystander Effect?” Asenath’s gaze snapped that way. “How do–wait… you. You did it. It’s you–you’re the reason he’s remembering. You weakened it, you let him… you let him remember, but why? What the hell are you doing?”

The profoundly dangerous woman simply inclined her head. “Let’s just say I owe Joselyn Atherby a great deal, and leave it at that for now. But yes. I was the one who informed Gabriel Prosser of where he could locate Joselyn to begin with. I also sent him the video of Joselyn in the hospital from our secure archives and asked him to make sure that Mr. Chambers received it.”

“But… but…” Asenath was floundering. “You’re–you’re part of the… you’re one of… you’re…”

“As I said,” Calafia spoke calmly, “I owe Joselyn more than I can ever repay. But to start, allowing her husband to learn the truth, that was something that was within my capability. Yet, to ensure that none of my… colleagues recognized what was happening, I could not break the Bystander Effect. I could only weaken it. He had to work through the rest of it himself, on his own. As I said, I expected it to take longer.” She turned slightly to look at the man. “You are a very surprising man, Lincoln Chambers. Joselyn chose well, even under… her circumstances.”

“My wife.” Lincoln took a step that way, the pistol falling to his side. “You know what happened to my wife. You know the man–you have Flick, you have–tell me what–tell me–” He seemed choked up, frozen and incapable of deciding what he wanted full answers to first.

“I’m afraid I cannot stay here,” Calafia informed them. “My presence will be noticed before long. You need to leave. The wolves will return, in greater numbers. I’m afraid Felicity has… angered them. They were retaliating, and it’s not a retaliation that will stop any time soon. You need to leave this place, stay on the run until the pack and those behind it are dealt with.”

“But I need to know!” Lincoln snapped. The poor man’s face was red as he fought to cope with everything he was seeing, everything that was being revealed to him. “I need to know about my wife, about my daughter, about what’s really going on! I want to talk to Felicity.”

“Go,” Calafia repeated, before her eyes fell on Asenath. “And tell him the truth. He’s close, but he hasn’t quite gotten there yet. You can tell him the rest of it. He’s broken through the Bystander Effect enough to retain it by this point.

“Tell him everything.”  

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28 comments

  1. Well, sorry for a completely uneventful chapter where nothing of note or consequence happened and no new information was revealed, guys. Better luck next time, I guess!

    *cough* In any case, I hope you enjoyed it. Clearly there’s more to the story there. And now we can throw the mystery of ‘Why Calafia owes Joselyn so much’ onto the pile, because it was totally getting low. 😉

    Next time, we’ll see the first big fight with Joselyn after she became as powerful as the Committee members. Which happens to have been at the same time that Ruthers was promoted into their ranks. So that should be fun to see, huh?

    And speaking of which, you know what else is fun to see? The ranking of this story on Top Web Fiction if you click here to vote! Thank you very much.

    Finally, tags for this chapter are: Asenath, Calafia, Damn It Lincoln – You’re Messing Up The Whole ‘Clueless Parent In A Magic School Story’ Thing. We’re Gonna Get Fined Or Something!, Lincoln Chambers, Twister, You Know How You Can Tell These Wolves Were New? Cuz The Poor Dumb Bastards Didn’t Run Screaming The Second Calafia Showed Up.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Huh. I am genuinely surprised Lincoln worked around the Bystander effect to some degree. He’s probably not the first, but most of the others in the past who may have done so were likely either silenced by Crossroads/EG Heretics or by hostile Alters they ran afoul of. Judging by Asenath’s pure shock though, is this the first time it’s happened to her?

    “Again, her mouth opened. But before she could actually say anything, something else caught her attention. Footsteps. They were coming from outside, yet from more than one direction. The house was being approached from both sides. A moment later, her nose caught the scent.

    Werewolves. At least four of them, maybe more. They were approaching the backdoor and the one at the front. And from their pace, they weren’t exactly planning on stopping to knock. ”
    Me: That’s all too (in)convenient timing to be coincidence. Someone planned this attack, but the question is “Who?”.

    I do like the Crazy-Preparedness of Asenath replacing the regular steel knives with Silver.

    ““Look, vampire bitch.” The wolf that she had injured had entered the room then, making it three werewolves facing her. “We’re taking the Bystander. You can let us do it and keep breathing–or whatever you cunts do, or you can–” ”
    Me: Uh huh, I was close. Pace’s work?

    “It was at that moment that the wolf who had been turned into stone at her touch landed on the floor. In the same motion that she had used to turn while shoving the frozen wolf-man’s head against the counter, the Heretic brought her foot down hard on the stone-wolf. The blow shattered the figure into dozens of pieces.

    “Or die,” she finished her earlier statement, the entire ‘fight’, if it could even be called that, having taken roughly two and a half seconds. ”
    Me: Ooookay. Bonafides confirmed, this woman is very, very strong.

    Oh, so she’s one of the Committee. And she weakened the Bystander Effect specifically on Lincoln. Interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How likely is that Calafia doesn’t owe Jocelyn anything and is just Seosten-possessed? I mean, her dad knowing about Heretics is sure to distract Flick away from any shenanigans she might be cooking up, plus now that he’s no longer a Bystander, he’s a viable hostage without breaking the Masquerade.

    You aren’t paranoid if there are invisible, body-hopping demons out to get you.

    Like

  4. I’m so happy that we ended up getting this interlude. I really really liked it!

    I know there’s been various references to it through out the story, but, it really hit me how Flick gets her bad-ass credentials from both sides of her family. Even though the bystander effect wasn’t running at full strength on him, the fact that Lincoln managed to put as much together as he did while not being able to trust his own memory while doing it is amazing.

    Asenath’s reactions/confusion to Lincoln putting it all together were also great.

    On a somewhat related note do we have any idea how much blood is required to turn someone into a natural heretic? Lincoln has mostly gotten around the bystander effect and according to Calafia he’s broken through enough to remember the truth of the world but they are being hunted by a pack of murderous werewolves so having the additional juice that would bring would be very convenient, and there are two friendly alters there to help out. Would it be a valid option to have Asenath/Twister bleed on him or would require too much blood/time? As a follow up question do we know if natural heretics can get powers via the blood of multiple alters or is it more of a one and done sort of thing (excluding going though the Edge or eating an Apple). Also related, when Lincoln finishes breaking through the bystander effect on his own would he be able to remember Scott? If not would becoming a Heretic do it or are those memories gone forever?

    A minor nitpick.

    “You’ve figured out I’m a vampire and you think your wife and daughter are some kind of immortal hunters, but the bear startles you.”

    I don’t think it’s wrong, but, there is something about the use of immortal hunters instead of immortal monster hunters here that bugs me.

    Also a quick heads up, your link to vote for Top Web Fiction in your first comment appears to be broken.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so happy that we ended up getting this interlude. I really really liked it!

      Glad you liked it!

      I know there’s been various references to it through out the story, but, it really hit me how Flick gets her bad-ass credentials from both sides of her family. Even though the bystander effect wasn’t running at full strength on him, the fact that Lincoln managed to put as much together as he did while not being able to trust his own memory while doing it is amazing.

      Yeah, he’s pretty impressive in his own right.

      On a somewhat related note do we have any idea how much blood is required to turn someone into a natural heretic? Lincoln has mostly gotten around the bystander effect and according to Calafia he’s broken through enough to remember the truth of the world but they are being hunted by a pack of murderous werewolves so having the additional juice that would bring would be very convenient, and there are two friendly alters there to help out. Would it be a valid option to have Asenath/Twister bleed on him or would require too much blood/time?

      Turning into a vampire would be an option, but it would mean losing the ability to go out in the sunlight AND it would reveal him as an Alter to every Heretic, including people he might want to interact with around Flick. Which could be a bad thing, to not have the ability to talk to any Heretic that isn’t in on the conspiracy.

      As a follow up question do we know if natural heretics can get powers via the blood of multiple alters or is it more of a one and done sort of thing (excluding going though the Edge or eating an Apple).

      One and done, unless they become Edge/Apple Heretics later.

      Also related, when Lincoln finishes breaking through the bystander effect on his own would he be able to remember Scott? If not would becoming a Heretic do it or are those memories gone forever?

      If he becomes an Alter or a Heretic, he’d remember. Manually breaking its effect would only let him retain future memories.

      “You’ve figured out I’m a vampire and you think your wife and daughter are some kind of immortal hunters, but the bear startles you.”

      I don’t think it’s wrong, but, there is something about the use of immortal hunters instead of immortal monster hunters here that bugs me.

      He specifically didn’t say ‘monster hunters’ because he didn’t want to call Asenath a monster. And wasn’t sure about the proper term.

      Also a quick heads up, your link to vote for Top Web Fiction in your first comment appears to be broken.

      Oops, not sure how that happened. Thanks, fixed!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Okay, my shift is over and I can reply in detail! Bunch of points to go over so I’ll number them.

    1. Holy shit did I not see this coming so soon (for a given value of “soon”). Sure, I was expecting Lincoln to get clued in to what’s going on eventually, but to have broken free of the Bystander Effect without becoming a vampire or other Heretic? Wow. So now he’s free from the BE? Does this mean he can learn how to use magic now?

    2. Lincoln’s going on the run to avoid Lemuel’s pack. I feel like this can go one of two ways: Either he keeps up the pretense of a road trip and a new masquerade begins; or the Heretics notice his sudden disappearance and it comes back to Flick that her dad is “missing” (at least until he and Asenath call her). Given the way Calafia was talking, I can’t help but think it’ll be the latter, and I wonder what kind of heat that could bring down on Flick.

    3. Lemuel’s pack is now actively targeting Flick as something of a priority. When i think about the Wonderland attack, it seems like Flick’s presence there was a coincidence more than anything else. Their primary motive was the kids, right? Sure, Pace said that thing about Doxer finding people, but I doubt they followed Flick all the way to San Jose from Wyoming and then immediately came up with a coordinated assault to abduct the children. But this was an intentional assault upon Flick’s home, even if it was just some grunts. But why exactly? Still out for revenge for the two pack members Flick has killed? Pissed off that Doxer’s Dullahan power is now lost to him?

    4. Calafia is on Joselyn’s side. Delighted for that prediction of mine to be correct. I suspect that Joselyn saved her from Seosten possession, though that’s just a guess.

    5. TWISTER CAN TRANSFORM INTO A BEAR AND THAT IS AWESOME.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That chapter actually made me wonder: why didn’t Flick ask Asenath mix some blood with her father and tell him the truth? Same for other bystander for that matter?

      Like

      1. Just to copy what I said above:

        Turning into a vampire would be an option, but it would mean losing the ability to go out in the sunlight AND it would reveal him as an Alter to every Heretic, including people he might want to interact with around Flick. Which could be a bad thing, to not have the ability to talk to any Heretic that isn’t in on the conspiracy.

        Plus turning her father into a vampire against his will seemed unfair.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I would presume nobody wants Lincoln to be hunted down by Heretics for being a vampire, or die in sunlight.

        Also, it’s pure Akharu blood that turns humans into vampire’s. There’s been no indication that mixed blood like Asenath’s can do it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Also, it’s pure Akharu blood that turns humans into vampire’s. There’s been no indication that mixed blood like Asenath’s can do it.

        That’s quite true, I had a brain fart on that. Which is bad, because it was my whole reasoning for there being limited numbers of vampires.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. But mixing in alter’s blood with humans make them heretics. If vampire would be a bad idea, cause it’ll make him vampire instead, then pooka blood should work.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, he was/is married to a former Sheriff. It’s possible that the guns are Joselyn’s and he’s kept them for the last decade. Otherwise, Flick did mention that he started carrying a gun back in his LA days after someone followed him home. Hang on…

      A LITTLE BIT OF GUIDANCE 3-03:

      Before he moved with my mother to the much smaller and quieter Laramie Falls, my father’s work in Los Angeles had sent him to a lot of disturbing scenes. He wasn’t a cop, but in some ways, his job had been almost as dangerous. He had investigated serial killers, arsonists, child abductors, and worse, all without the benefit of a badge. He’d carried a small gun for protection after an incident where a man followed him home, but for the most part, it had been up to him to keep himself out of too much trouble.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. At the same time, the “box of guns” kind of comes out of nowhere. It’s just suddenly there in… the kitchen? Where does he usually keep it?

        Like

      2. At the same time, the “box of guns” kind of comes out of nowhere. It’s just suddenly there in… the kitchen? Where does he usually keep it?

        *blinks and rereads*

        Urgh. There was more to that but I think it was lost to editing. Edited in an explanation for the box’s sudden appearance. Thanks. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. well…
    there could be many things said about apples and tree or cats and dogs… but there is ONE thing of note: Lincoln will totally be the dorector of the FBI (the Flick Bureau of Investigation)

    Liked by 1 person

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