New York Minutemen 27-01

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“You sure keep yourself busy, don’t you, Miss Chambers?”

Turning away from the weight machine that I had been working on (having twelve hundred pounds stacked on it was still enough to make me do a double take whenever I look at the thing), I replied, “I only need an hour of sleep a day, Mr. Atrean. Gotta keep myself entertained through all my extra time. And I told you, it’s just Flick. Especially in the middle of the night.”

Not only was it the middle of the night, about 12:30 in the morning, but it was also Saturday night. Or Sunday morning, depending on how you looked at it. It had been about two weeks since we found out that Columbus was the one who was possessed, and it had been a completely torturous two weeks. I had absolutely no idea how Shiori was lasting this long, though she said having people to talk to about it made it a little easier than when she had been keeping her vampire mother secret. Still, having to act normal while knowing that her brother had been enslaved by that bitch was obviously awful. I had been trying to make it so that she didn’t have to spend that much time with him by monopolizing her time myself. Which, to be fair, I actually enjoyed. Or at least, we enjoyed it whenever we could stop thinking about why I was monopolizing her time. Sometimes we spent as much as an hour forgetting the specifics of our situation.Then one of us would inevitably start thinking about it again and go quiet.

Now, the Committee’s stooge raised an eyebrow at me before clearing his throat. “And I believe I told you, it’s October. Maybe we can make a deal and both try to be a little less formal.”

“Are you sure your partner’ll be okay with that?” I asked idly while picking myself up from the machine. Stretching my arm out, I rubbed my bicep while watching him. I knew he wasn’t possessed now (or hadn’t been, at least), but I still didn’t trust either of them as far as I could throw–you know what, that wasn’t a very good figure of speech anymore. I didn’t trust them.

“Eh,” October gave a shrug, stepping back to take a towel off the nearby rack before tossing it to me so I could wipe off. “If Patrick ever eased up, he wouldn’t know what to do with himself.”

“I feel like a broken record,” I admitted with a look at the blonde man, “but do you know anything about my dad yet? I mean, I don’t suppose you were coming in here to tell me that you guys finally found him and there’s a squad of Heretics on their way to rescue him as we speak.”

He had the grace to wince a little before shaking his head. “Would’ve opened with that, I promise.” The man met my gaze. “Just like you’d tell us if you ever hear from your dad?”

“I’d say you’d be the second to know after me,” I replied flatly, “but quite frankly, I’d probably tell my team first, and Gaia, and… maybe someone else. You’re probably in the top ten though.”

October squinted at me briefly before his head tilted as he considered. “Well, at least you’re honest about it. Yeah, I can’t blame you for that. But seriously, if you hear from your father, please don’t try to handle the situation yourself, all right? Whatever or whoever took him, they might have done it so that they could use him to get at you. There are–” He paused, seeming to take a moment to consider his words. “There are people out there who would love to get hold of a promising young Heretic student and twist them. I don’t want to see that happen to you.”

Now see, that I could actually believe. I just didn’t think that my idea of ‘twisting a student toward bad things’ and his were in the same ballpark. Because quite frankly, ‘make sure that the person you’re killing has actually done something to deserve it beyond being born’ didn’t exactly sound like evil brainwashing to me. But what did I know? I wasn’t a Committee Representative.

“Believe me,” I replied with total and one hundred percent complete honesty, “I have no intention of running off by myself to go attack whoever has my dad without telling you about it first.”

“Good to hear.” The man watched me for another moment, probably trying to test if I was lying (which, thanks to Gaia’s ring, he wouldn’t be able to) before inclining his head in a nod of satisfaction. “I know you probably don’t like us being here that much. Honestly, I’d probably feel the same if I was you. But we really are trying to help, if you let us. Just… think about it.”

He left, heading heading out of the room. I let him go, waiting a minute to make sure he was actually gone before tapping a finger on the water bottle beside the weight machine. “Okay.”

An instant later, Sands appeared next to me, popping out of the bottle as she stopped possessing it. Shaking herself off, the brunette looked to me. “That was kind of close, huh?”

We’d barely gotten the alert that the man coming in time for Sands to hide and leave it looking like I was the only one in the room when October came in. Luckily, the other girl had actually worked out a pretty neat little alert spell and placed it in the corridor outside. It wasn’t anything big that would attract attention. It just had a very simple effect of changing a little ball that we had set up from red to blue whenever someone passed near it. Apparently she and Scout had had a noisy alarm variant of the spell used to keep them out of the treats when they were little.

I coughed at that, nodding emphatically. “Yeah, which is one reason why you staying out to work with me is a bad idea. Plus, there’s that thing where you need a lot more sleep than I do.”

For the past couple of weeks, Sands had insisted on spending at least part of several nights a week doing extra workouts with me, whenever I wasn’t with Gaia. Not only that, she was also now training with Avalon, Deveron, and me early in the morning and in the afternoon. Before all of this had come out, Sands had mostly slept in until the last possible moment. But now? Now she was like a woman possess–shit. A lot of old phrases had been ruined lately, apparently.

Still, Sands shook her head. “I can’t sleep anyway. I just lay there and look at the ceiling, Flick. I might as well do something useful with it. I… “ She paused, biting her lip before looking at me imploringly. “I have to do something. If we’re right and–you know, then just sitting here feels…” She cringed. “I just have to get out of there. Doing this stuff helps get me tired enough to sleep.”

“Trust me,” I replied after wincing, “I understand. I get it. But right now,” I glanced to the clock on the wall, “it’s almost one o’clock. If you’re gonna get enough sleep to function, it’s time.”

“Yeah…” Sands straightened. “Plus, Scout gets worried if she wakes up and I’m gone. Thanks.”

She jumped back into possessing the water bottle then, which I picked up before making my way out of the room and back across the grounds to the dorms. Passing a couple of the security guards on the way, I gave them a wave. They knew me by then and simply waved back before continuing on their patrol. No one was really going to question why I was carrying water around.

After dropping Sands off at the room she shared with Scout and paying a quick visit to my own, I found myself back outside. But I didn’t go anywhere else. Instead, I stood there in the space between and slightly in front of the two dorm buildings. This, right in the spot I was standing, was where Professor Pericles had been murdered in cold blood, his body eventually found by security more than an hour later.

Opening my special notebook that I’d retrieved from its hiding place, I scribbled in it while looking at the ground where Pericles’ body had been found.

We knew a lot more than we had at the start of this whole thing. We knew why Pericles had been killed: because the murderers thought that killing him would undo the spell that protected Avalon. And they thought that because when they used a spell to determine the identity of the spellcaster, it returned the name ‘Zedekiah’, which they thought referred to Zedekiah Pericles.

We also knew who had done the killing, or at least who was responsible for it: the Seosten and whoever they were possessing. This Manakel guy, he was probably the one who had done the job. He-or she depending on who he was possessing- had walked right up behind Pericles and-

Huh. According to everything I’d heard, Professor Pericles had been killed by being stabbed in the back, literally. But how could someone– I turned slightly, positioning myself the way that Pericles had apparently been before he was stabbed. According to what everyone said, based on the position of the body and the fact that, as far as they could tell, he hadn’t been moved, Pericles had been facing the boy’s dorm when he was murdered. He was standing here, facing the boy’s dorm. From that position, the front of the girl’s dorm would still be in his peripheral.

The fact that he had been stabbed in the back… Yes, Manakel was obviously possessing someone, clearly someone that Pericles wouldn’t have reason to suspect. And yet, they had stabbed the man in the back. That kind of said that Manakel wasn’t confident in his ability to take Pericles in a one-on-one fight. Or at least, not quickly enough to avoid attracting attention.

And yet, how would someone, even a Seosten possessing an adult Heretic, sneak up on someone like Pericles and avoid being seen? Would they rely entirely on their own stealth, or…

Again, I looked over toward the boy’s dorm, frowning a little. Pericles had been facing that way when he died. Would Columbus have been possessed back then? God, I really hoped not.

I was speculating too much. It could’ve been nothing. Maybe Pericles was just distracted by something else. Or maybe whoever Manakel was possessing was just that good at avoiding detection. Or maybe… any number of things. I kept half-expecting the same magical intuition that had made me realize that Sands’ and Scout’s mom had been friends with Tristan and Vanessa’s mother to pop up again to give me the answer to this. But nothing happened. I thought there might be something to the fact that Pericles had been facing the boy’s dorm, but maybe there wasn’t. I just… didn’t know. With a sigh, I closed my notebook.

What I did know, was that I had missed out on a lot by not getting the chance to have Zedekiah Pericles as a teacher. Manakel and Charmeine had taken away a lot when they killed him. And I was pretty sure they’d also taken away a lot when they put Tangle in that coma. I had the cure for it, but the second I actually used it, they’d know that we knew more than we should. Given that we had no idea who in the hospital might be working with them, it… felt safer to wait. Even if it was yet another reminder of how much the Seosten had taken from us.

I just hoped that, one day, we’d have a chance to take a lot away from them in return.

******

“So let me make sure I’ve got this right,” Columbus’s voice intoned skeptically. “You guys went out in the regular world for almost an entire day, and nothing bad happened? Nothing at all?”

It was about a week after I’d had that conversation with October in the middle of the night, making it late February. We still had no idea who Manakel was possessing, and it was all I could do not to sarcastically retort that ‘Columbus’ would’ve known if anything had happened.

Three weeks. It had been three weeks since we started looking for Manakel and there was still no sign of who he had possessed. I’d even had some of the others test people when it made more sense for them to do it. Hell, even Gaia had done a couple, working her way through her staff. Though she did say that she didn’t want to tell anyone else what was going on. Not even people she trusted. There was too much chance of them being possessed at some point in the future. She wanted to keep this as small as possible until we’d actually identified Manakel.

But again, it wasn’t like we were having any luck at that. Which was why we had to sit here and keep pretending that we didn’t know that Columbus was being puppeted by that Seosten bitch.

Thankfully, it was Avalon who spoke up while I was still swallowing back that comment. “Yes, Porter,” she answered simply, “six whole hours in the Bystander world and nothing went wrong.”

We were standing out on the grass near the Pathmaker building. And by we, that was the entire team, Deveron included. The seven of us were waiting for Dare to show up with Paul, Rudolph, and the rest of Roxa’s former team. Because it was finally time for that trip to New York. Yeah, wouldn’t that be fun? A whole weekend with people who were convinced that I was somehow responsible for Roxa’s disappearance (okay, I kind of was, but not in the way they were thinking) sharing a hotel, transportation, and everything else with us. That wouldn’t be awkward at all.

Thankfully, we already had a plan for that. Once we were up there and were given free time, Roxa was going to join us. I’d meet up her privately, pass her the choker so she’d be safe, and let her come visit with her old team. Then they’d see that the girl was okay, that I wasn’t some psychopath that had her trussed up in my basement or something, and it’d all be hunky dory.

Shut up, I could pretend to be optimistic for a little while.

Deveron was smiling, arms folded over his chest as he watched us. “So you guys actually went on a real date, huh?” he asked, in a way that made me feel like he was just barely suppressing the urge to reach over and ruffle my hair or something equally embarrassing and weird.

‘Columbus’ spoke up then. “So, how did it go? I mean, you two and Shiori out on a date together? Didn’t that get… you know, weird?” If I hadn’t already known that Charmeine was the one pulling his strings, it would’ve sounded like the boy was just being a protective brother. As it was, the question just made me feel nauseous. She was obviously poking for sore points and seeing if there were ways that she could get Columbus to screw with us if need be. Probably so that they could cause a problem and isolate Avalon in the future whenever they needed to.

Somehow, I made myself smile, winking at ‘him’. “Sure, but it was more like two separate dates. Gaia sent us out in the middle of some city in California. She and Professor Dare were the only ones who knew where we were. They picked the city at random. We didn’t even know where we were going until we got there. And we had Wyatt and Dare shadowing us, playing bodyguards, just in case. They were pretty good about staying out of the way though.”

Sean, kneeling next to Vulcan while letting the mechanical dog munch metal nuts out of his hand, raised an eyebrow. “Two separate dates?” he asked curiously. “How’d that work?”

I shrugged. “Shiori and I spent a couple hours together first. We went to play laser tag, visited this cool little train museum, and did some shopping. Avalon did uh, whatever she did, with Professor Dare watching. Then we switched. Professor Dare and Shiori went out to do something while Avalon and I went and did our thing. Mostly we took this boat out on this lake in the park and did some fishing. It was pretty cool. Plus, we actually caught some fish.

“Then we all went to dinner together, and saw a movie.” I smiled, glancing toward Avalon, who was blushing while looking away from all of us. Obviously, she was thinking about other things that had happened during that movie and immediately afterward. “It was pretty great,” I finished.  

“Good,” Deveron announced. “You all deserved a break, and a real date. Or two real dates.”

Sands reached out to poke me in the forehead. “Yeah, we all deserve that kind of break. But some of us aren’t lucky enough to have one person that likes us like that. Let alone two.”

From his kneeling position, Sean teased, “I dunno, I’m sure Zeke would love to take you out.”

The other girl made a face at that, leaning over to kick lightly at him. “Don’t even start with that. Our parents used to make us play together as kids and he was a selfish jerk then too. Now he thinks I should be his girlfriend or something just because we spent some time in the sandbox when we were five. I ate worms back then too, and you don’t see me doing that anymore.”

Snickering despite myself, I reached out to pat the girl on the shoulder. “At least he actually likes you. Even if he’s got a weird way of showing it. I’m pretty sure he still thinks I’m crazy.” From my pocket, I produced my favorite little rock, letting him perch on my palm. “Doesn’t he, little buddy?” Pausing for a moment to listen, I nodded. “You’re right, you’re right. We shouldn’t talk about people behind their backs. Truly, you are the most noble of us all, Sir Herbie.”

“Believe me, Flick,” Sands informed me then, “I’d rather date your rock than that jerk.”

Before we could say anything else about the (amazing) date that Shiori, Avalon, and I had gone on, Scout nodded past us. I turned, to see Dare heading our way with the other team. Right. It was time, I guessed. Time for our trip to New York.

This was going to be… interesting.

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26 comments

  1. Whelp, I’m sure this trip is going to go just fine, with absolutely no unexpected problems or anything. Yup, clearly nothing of importance will be happening here.

    But hey, at least Sands is getting extra training in now too, huh? And we have the first hints of a possible Sands/Herbie bit. 😉 What would that portmanteau name be, I wonder…

    In any case, thanks for reading, guys! You’re lovely people. And you know what needs more lovely people? The Heretical Edge Subreddit! You guys really should check it out. There’s currently a challenge up for spooky HE fanfiction snippets for anyone who might like to try their hand at that kind of thing. It’ll be fun!

    Hope to see you all around, and we’ll, uhhh, see how this little trip to New York goes. Because something tells me, it won’t go the way Flick is planning…

    Tags for this chapter are: Avalon Sinclaire, Charmeine, Deveron Adams, Felicity Chambers, Flick, October, Sands, Scout, Sean Gerardo, Vulcan, Yes Originally The Date Day Was Going To Be Onscreen – But I Figured You Guys Waited Long Enough For Plot Advancement Already., You Know – In A Lot Of Stories Zeke Would End Up Being Flick’s Love Interest. Just Saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a good thing you skipped that date. It would have been sweet, but we just had something of a breather arc and it’s good to get things moving again. I know things won’t go according to Flick’s plan, but I really hope it won’t go according to Manakel’s either.

    Anyway, I really liked the conversation with October too. I’m not sure if it was him playing good cop to coax something out of her or a genuine attempt to reach out, but it was well done.

    The image of a thousand year old woman like Sophronia setting up playdates for her five-year-old son tickles me. It shouldn’t, but it does.

    Like

    1. Yeah, it was best to skip the date. If someone wants to see it later, that’s just fine. But for pacing purposes, the main story needed to move on.

      And I’m glad you liked the bit with October. It helps humanize him a bit.

      The image of a thousand year old woman like Sophronia setting up playdates for her five-year-old son tickles me. It shouldn’t, but it does.

      Oh, I dunno. I’d say it should. 😉

      I know he’s not in control of himself, but Columbus isn’t tagged here. Have you been doing that in every chapter they’re in recently, is it a goof, or is he unconscious right now?

      I THINK my thought was to stop doing it because they know it’s not Columbus. But that probably doesn’t help people trying to find every chapter he ‘appears’ in…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m currently filled with this unspeakable dread that SOMEHOW, Gaia is shortly to be deposed as Crossroads Headmistress in favor of a Ruthers-Stooge. (AKA: The Delores Umbridge Maneuver)

    I really, REALLY hope I’m wrong. The deck is already so stacked against Team Flick that if Flick were the biblical David, instead of being David Vs Goliath, it would be David Vs The Goliath Legions.

    Beyond that, I really dig Gaia as a character. She’s such a cool Headmistress that Dumbledore should be the trope-derivative of HER. The scenes where she has “Mom moments” with Avalon are so incredibly well done. Those scenes always feel very genuine and emotionally evocative.

    The OTHER reason I want Isaac to fail to banish Flick and whichever others he’s targeting is we know sometime in the next eight months or so Flick is going to be transported through space and time. The Meregan children-rescue, the EG Debacle (where Roxa got lycanthropy), and the space/time hop pre-Fossor’s Attempted Hereticide will be three surprise transportation incidents in less than a year. Getting banished would make it four…an average of being whisked off every 90 days or so.

    While it WOULD be cool to have Team Flick meet up with Team Haiden, the ensuing fallout…::shudders::

    Which is not to say this whole New York thing hasn’t/isn’t being well done. It definitely is. The tension regarding the outcome is intact due to we readers being left to wonder “Is Cerulean going to lean into or subvert this time?”

    As Flick said, it will be interesting.

    Like

    1. I still think Flick is going to intentionally teleport to Nicholas in the future. I don’t see why anyone would send her away then. Fossor will be the threat then, and he wants her for himself.

      Plus, let’s be honest, the characters haven’t had a “loss” yet. There’s been intense conflict, and obviously things have gone wrong, but it wouldn’t be realistic for Flick to come out on top every time. Flick being exposed to the Committee would be a major blow though, and seeing what it would mean for the future would be interesting. Plus, Flick working with Roxa’s team in Seosten space sounds like a whole lot of fun.

      Like

      1. remember the interlude where flick shows up ass kicking with possession powers? she being sent away to space is a given. But she’ll also have at least on angel on her trophy board

        Like

  4. It isn’t going to happen how Flick expects it too? You mean that nothing bad is going to happen at all and it’ll all be rainbows and sunshine and everyone makes up with no drama whatsoever?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So question if one of the most common things they get from killing stuff is strength why would they ever work out? Why spend months on end lifting weights when you could go on one mission and get the same benifit? Or does training work better post powers. For instince pre powers you bench 100 pounds and work up to 150 but if you had powers that same workout regimen would bring you from 500 pounds to say 750 (50% increase). Is that how it works? Because if not working out normal is kind of pointless.

    Like

    1. Yes, powers with exercise is better than powers without exercise. Maybe not as much of a jump, but it still helps. Basically, think of things like strength, agility, etc as having tiers or ranks that both raises your current level of it AND your max level of it. Getting a power boost is a good shortcut, but working out also helps, just slower.

      It’s pretty much like you said, as in… say you get a minor strength boost. It immediately grants you the ability to lift about 400 pounds. But by working out, you can gradually raise that by another 100. Again, just as an example.

      Plus, it helps them learn to control their strength properly as well. And working out is a sure thing, while you have no way of knowing when you’ll get another strength boost.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I don’t think enhanced strength is as common as you’re implying. Of the main team, only two out of six students have gotten enhanced strength, and Flick really shouldn’t be used as an example because her rate of power-gain is abnormally high compared to the majority of students. All of her strength upgrades have come as a result of extracurricular activities. Even if it is common and, say, seventy-five or ninety precent of students eventually get it, the rest of the student body can still weight-train.

      I think Flick’s use of the weight training equipment here has as much to do with testing her limits as actually training.

      Like

  6. well… no way murphy doesn’t involve himself in this little trip… especially with Roxa appearing in front of at least 1 seosten spy (Paul) while not being seen as a stranger… (hmmm, does a “Fetch” playing an heretic sense stanger as well), because he will of course notice the others reactions…
    well… I guess this will allow them to spot this one spy due to some reaction he will have…
    that, or the meeting doesn’t happen for one reason or another…

    Like

  7. Yes Originally The Date Day Was Going To Be Onscreen – But I Figured You Guys Waited Long Enough For Plot Advancement Already.
    GRAAAAH
    THIS ANGERS ME

    Like

  8. “Sometimes we spent as much as an hour forgetting the specifics of our situation.Then one of us would inevitably start thinking about it again and go quiet.”
    This has to be rather exhausting mentally to keep up; I have a feeling of skepticism that the group will be able to keep up the ruse indefinitely.

    “That kind of said that Manakel wasn’t confident in his ability to take Pericles in a one-on-one fight. Or at least, not quickly enough to avoid attracting attention.”
    Probably the latter, imo.

    Like

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