Rendezvous 30-04

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Please note that there was a commissioned interlude focused on Jophiel and Elisabet (with a lot of information about the Seosten in general) posted yesterday. If you haven’t seen that yet, you may wish to use the Previous Chapter button above. 

“You what?” The words accompanied a sudden rush of movement as I was yanked up from the ground. Professor Katarin had me by both arms, holding up to his eye level. Which, considering how tall he was, left my feet dangling in open air. “Would you mind repeating that?” he rumbled, the eagerness in his voice making him sound almost more like a kid in a candy store than the giant drill sergeant-like combat instructor I knew him as.

It was later that same day, and I was taking the chance to talk to Katarin about what had happened, as well as try to get past that damn memory spell.

“Um.” Dangling there, I gave as much of a shrug as I could with my arms held like that. “It was really Columbus blasting her when he did. That was what really made the difference. I just…”

“You followed up,” the man finished for me. “You took the opening and didn’t let her get away. Say it, Chambers. Let me hear those words one more time.”

“I… killed Charmiene?” I managed, blushing a little. “But like I said, I–hhhrrrk.” That last bit was because the man was hugging me. Hugging me so tightly I couldn’t breathe for a second.

“You followed instructions!” he announced after finally relenting a bit. Holding me out in front of him once more, he beamed the same way my own father had the day I’d first managed to ride a bike without training wheels. “You didn’t let up, you saw an opening and you took it! You see? You see? Doesn’t matter how strong they are, you wait for the right opening, don’t hesitate, and…” He just smiled broadly and proudly.

“Like… like I said,” I mumbled self-consciously, “Columbus deserves most of the credit. So, make sure you talk to him as soon as we get back, okay?”

Finally setting me down on the deck of the cargo bay (we were on the far end from where the refugee Alter camp was, for some privacy), Professor Katarin winked. “Oh, believe me, I’ll make sure Porter gets all the accolades he deserves, if it hasn’t happened yet. But you keep that up. You see these openings, you go for them. Got it, Chambers?”

Biting my lip, I nodded before hesitantly asking, “I… I never really got to ask you what you thought of my… my mother.”

His expression softened then. “I… didn’t have a lot of personal experience with Joselyn, to tell you the truth. I wasn’t a teacher when she was a student. So I don’t have a lot of personal anecdotes or anything. What I can tell you is that, from everything I know, your mom’s an incredible woman. And I knew her parents. Or at least… I think I did.” He frowned thoughtfully. “I met her father, Joshua, before the Fomorians were kicked off Earth. And I’m pretty sure I met her mother too, but…”

“The censor spell thing,” I finished for him. “The one that erased my grandmother from everyone’s memory?”

He nodded. “Kind of makes everything fuzzy. I’m almost positive that we met. I think she was one of the people who saved me. But…” His head shook. “Sorry. It’s just not there.”

“It’s okay,” I replied. “But speaking of things being hard to remember…”

“Right.” Straightening up, Professor Katarin cracked his neck twice before nodding to me. “Disabled the possession defense a few minutes ago. Which, let me tell you, makes me feel really uncomfortable out here. So let’s get this done, huh?”

Yeah, we were going to try to bypass that memory-erasure spell that was stopping us from remembering what Katarin knew about Manakel’s host by having me possess him and look for the memory that way. He didn’t know about Tabbris (As much as I trusted him, I was still keeping her existence as secret as humanly possible), but she would be quietly helping too.  

“Yes, sir,” I replied quickly. “And um, I promise to be as quick as possible and… not to go rummaging too much. Thanks for trusting me with this.”

With that, I took the man’s hand and focused on possessing him. A moment later, I felt much taller and a lot stronger. Seeing through Professor Katarin’s eyes, I took a second to collect myself from the disorienting feeling.

“Chambers?” He spoke out loud. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, Professor,” the man’s voice spoke again, and I belatedly realized that I had made him reply out loud. “Err–”

Sorry, sir, I switched to internal conversation. You can think at me if you want. I mean, I can kind of hear your thoughts too, but you can make it a conversation if you just sort of purposefully think in my direction.

I’m going to think the identity of Manakel’s host to you, the big man’s voice came into my head. Ready? And…

I waited. Waited another moment. Then, out of pure desperate hope, I waited a little more. But in the end, all I could do was sigh. Well, that didn’t work. Um. Let me try looking for it myself. What were you doing when you found out?

Walking through the jungle, he replied. I thought that I saw….

You thought that you saw what? I–oh. I sighed inwardly. It won’t let me know who you thought you saw, because that’s the person that’s possessed. Great. This memory spell is seriously annoying, Professor.

We kept going like that for another twenty minutes, trying to come after it from every angle we could think of. We tried getting me to see his memory, and even tried having Professor Katarin think about every person it wasn’t so that I could fill in the blanks. It didn’t work. Even Tabbris couldn’t figure out how to get past it. The moment I had the idea of who it could be, the spell erased everything. Basically, Katarin would think every wrong name at me, and the second it was obvious who he wasn’t thinking about, every name he’d already thought at me would disappear. The spell would not allow us to get the name even indirectly.

It was, as I had already said, seriously annoying.

Finally, I stepped out of the man, shaking my head. “Sorry, Professor,” I mumbled.

“Not your fault,” he assured me, rolling his arms back and forth now that he had control of them once more. “And like we said, don’t count us out yet. Dries has some idea about breaking through it with help.

“Yeah…” I mumbled, glancing down while frowning. “I just hope it works.

“I really, really hope it works.”

******

“You really have no idea what this anti-possession thing that your wife put into her vault was?”

It was the next day, and I couldn’t quite keep the disappointment out of my voice as I stood next to Dries on the Liberty Bell, watching the Alter camp through the open hatch.

In the distance, I could see most of them sitting attentively in a large circle, watching Katarin as the man led them through some basic self-defense instructions. He’d basically jumped right back into teaching just like before. Not only was the man offering to help any of the Alters here learn how to protect themselves, he’d also insisted on having all of us students run through regular exercises and combat training as if we were still at Crossroads. Avalon would approve.

Dries gave a slight shake of his head at my question. The thin man’s voice was still rough and hoarse. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. “I think Liesje started her work after I was imprisoned.” As he spoke, the fingers of his left hand scratched at his beard while the fingers of his right hand rubbed his left wrist. Occasionally, he would bite his knuckles or look around suddenly.

Biting my lip, I hesitated before starting slowly, “I know this might be a little, um, forward, but–”

“–Why did I kill Hieronymus?” Dries finished for me. He was looking away, watching the Alters with Katarin. Rather than answer, he said, “They told me about you, about your mother and what she did. What she tried to do. They told me about the rebellion and everything that happened.”

I didn’t say anything. Instead, I just watched the man silently, letting him go on at his own pace.

Eventually, he did, lowering his head a little to look at the floor while speaking quietly. “Liesje and… and I, we knew something was wrong with her father. We knew something was wrong with Hieronymus. Eventually, we found out he was–” Swallowing hard, Dries jerked a little, twitching to look over his shoulder as if he had heard something. He stared at the empty ship behind us for a long moment before continuing. “We found out he was possessed, that… that he wasn’t this genius inventor, that it was really a Seosten behind everything.

“Liesje, she confronted him. Tried to force the Seosten out of her father. It–” Again, he hesitated. This was clearly hard for him to remember, let alone talk about. “It didn’t go well. The Seosten would have killed her, would have killed her with her own father’s hand. I couldn’t–I didn’t have a choice. I had to save her. I had to save her, so I just- there was so much blood and–and I…”

Quickly, I shook my head. “It’s–it’s okay, you don’t have to go on. I get the picture. But why did they keep you alive after that? Larissa said that they found you imprisoned in a tower and had to go through all this stuff to break the spell that was holding you there. Why did the Seosten go through all that instead of just killing you, or possessing you for their war with the Fomorians?”

Twitching a little, the man responded, “They need me alive. Something… something they did to Hieronymus. I don’t know, still don’t know. Something they did to him that had to do with the Reaper, the one that gives Bosch Heretics their power. They did something to Hieronymus, and when I killed him, I inherited it. So they need me alive. I don’t… I don’t know more than that. Just that they need me alive, but don’t really care what condition I’m in. It’s been so long since they shut me up in that tower, I just… I don’t know.”

I blinked at that. Why would the Seosten need him alive? What could they have done to Hieronymus that had been passed to Dries when he killed the man? And why wouldn’t they just kill him in order to pass it on to someone else? Clearly, we were missing something important.

Do you know anything about what he’s talking about? I asked Tabbris curiously.

I could sense her confusion and uncertainty as she quickly replied, Nuh uh. Mama never mentioned anything about it. Maybe… maybe she didn’t know about it. Or maybe she just didn’t think that it would, you know, um, come up? She didn’t have time to tell me everything, I mean–

It’s okay, Tabbris, I assured her hurriedly. I know. The fact that she told you as much as she did is still really impressive. It’s okay if she couldn’t give you every answer. We’ll figure it out.

Deciding to change the subject then, I asked, “But you can really break the spell that’s stopping Professor Katarin from telling us who Manakel is possessing?”

His head gave a quick jerk of a nod. “Yes. We couldn’t before, because we didn’t have enough power. But with you… you students and all those people out there supplying power, we can do it. It’s uh, it’s not elegant, but I can break it. Just needed more power.”

“Right.” I nodded then. “Well, they’ve been collecting energy from volunteers ever since you guys arrived. Last I heard, they’ll be ready for it tomorrow.”

The man gave a little crooked smile then, the awkwardness of it making it obvious that it was not an expression he was accustomed to making. “Then tomorrow we will break the spell.”

A motion caught my eye then, and I looked out through the open hatch to see Professor Katarin waving me over. He already had the others with him, though Isaac was wrist deep in one of his drones. The boy had been obsessively working on them pretty much since we’d left the planet, and especially over the past day since Katarin, Dries, and Haiden had shown up. I had tried to get him to tell me what he was doing, but he insisted it was a surprise and that I would be, to quote, ‘so fucking surprised.’ Honestly, I just hoped he didn’t end up blowing himself up. Or us.

“Oh,” I started while straightening. “Looks like I’ve gotta go work with the others. Do you, uh…” I looked over to Dries, who was already shrinking back from the open hatch. No. He wouldn’t be coming out with me. The man did not do well around crowds. He was barely functional enough with just the few of us all together. Situations like this, where we were one-on-one, were better.

“Never mind,” I quickly put in, giving him a smile. “I’ll be back later. Thanks for talking to me.”

“Thank… thank you,” the man hesitantly spoke. “And… next time, maybe you could tell me a little bit more… about the girl.” His eyes raised to look at me, and I saw the shielded hope there.

“Avalon,” I murmured, nodding quickly. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll tell you anything you wanna know.”

With that, I hopped through the open hatch and headed down the ramp to join the others. On the way, the hatch behind me closed, leaving Dries alone again.

Honestly, I really hoped that we could get the man back with us. Because I kind of had the feeling that he needed Avalon as much as, if not more than, she needed him. It seemed like they really could help each other through a lot of their issues. They both needed family.

All we had to do was get everyone back to Earth in one piece.

******

“Hey guys!” I called while stepping up onto the Liberty Bell the next day. As Isaac, Roxa, Jazz, and Professor Katarin looked up from where the man had been teaching the other two something about the ship, I waved. “They’ve got the stuff all ready to get rid of that spell.”

“Great,” Roxa announced, jumping to her feet before reaching down to pull Isaac up. “Let’s do this.”

“How is Dries doing?” Katarin asked, hitting a button with his closed fist to turn off the console that he had been using. “I haven’t seen that guy leave this ship since we got him onto it.”

Yeah, there hadn’t been enough open space on this ship to set up the spell. It had taken a little prompting and a lot of patience, but Dries had slowly, gradually made his way off the ship. They had to set up a private little temporary corridor for him with Sands’ construction mace and some other powers so that he didn’t have to be right out in the open with all those other people, but he made it.

I had seen the shame on Dries’ face, his agony that he couldn’t stand to be around people. He fought it, had tried for the past couple days (and probably long before then) to get over it. Yet, as powerful and knowledgeable as the man clearly was, the simple act of standing in a room surrounded by others was too much for him. After everything that had happened, after he had spent hundreds of years trapped in a tower, he couldn’t do it. His agoraphobia was too encompassing and powerful.

“He’s… doing a little better,” I confirmed with a nod. “Once they got him in that other room away from the cargo bay, he started opening up a little bit. And he said it’s all ready to go.”

“Well,” Professor Katarin gestured while starting to move. “Let’s go, then.” The man paused on his way past, clapping me on the shoulder. “I heard you spent some time with him yesterday, Chambers, that you talked with him about Avalon. Good. He uh… he’s been through a lot. Keep doing that, okay? He might not always show it, but he really wants to know about her.”

He was right. Even in the short conversation that I’d had with Dries the day before, telling him about how I’d met Avalon, I had been able to tell that he needed it. He had been like a dying man in the desert, desperate for even a drop of information about his descendant, his family.

Avalon’s family. I still couldn’t believe that was a thing. When we got back home, she would meet her ancestor, a male blood relative who actually wanted to know her.

Professor Katarin moved on, heading down the ramp while Gordon, Roxa, and Jazz followed suit. They seemed just as impatient and excited as I was to finally deal with this spell and learn the truth.

“So it’s really that simple?” Isaac asked curiously from behind me then. “We just use the spell and Katarin’ll be able to tell us who the big bad guy’s possessing?”

I nodded, pausing in the hatchway to look back at the boy while the others finished stepping down. “That’s what they sa–oh hey, looks like one of your buddies doesn’t wanna leave.” I gestured past the boy to where one of the orb-shaped drones from the boy’s flail was hovering next to one of the ship consoles. “You think he’s got a hot girlfriend or some–wait.” In the middle of my joke, I saw the screen itself. It looked like a view of the cargo bay behind me, with targeting reticles. “What’s that thing doi–”

That was as far as I got before Tabbris screamed a warning in my head. I felt my body jerking backward as she took control, but it wasn’t fast enough. A sledgehammer blow took my breath away as Isaac’s suddenly metal-covered foot slammed into my chest. I was sent flying off the ramp, crying out in surprise as I hit the deck hard, rolling onto my side. I couldn’t breathe for a moment. I couldn’t even think. The strength behind the kick, it felt like he’d broken a couple ribs, at least.

Even as I hit the floor, a deafening, high-pitched shriek of power filled the air, and a blinding green light shot over my head. My eyes snapped that way just in time to see an emerald laser as wide around as my body literally vaporize three Alters who happened to be standing in its way. One instant they were there, and the next, they were gone. Dead. Atomized.  

But the laser didn’t stop there. Everything seemed to slow down dramatically, as my horrified gaze took in the sight of Katarin surrounded by the others. I saw the man’s eyes as the enormous ship-powered laser shot directly at them. He had half a second to react. And he reacted by throwing both arms out. An invisible force picked up Jazz, Roxa, and Gordon, hurtling them away. In that instant, Katarin’s immediate action saved all of their lives.

But he paid for it with his own. Unable to protect himself, the laser ripped through the big man, burning half his body away just like that. The remains were charred and burned beyond recognition, blown apart by the incredible force and heat of the laser cannon.

I saw Professor Katarin die. I saw his realization that it was going to happen, and that his first and only reaction had been to save his students. He could have thrown himself out of the way or done anything whatsoever to protect himself, or he could focus on saving them. In that brief, tiny window, he chose the latter. He sacrificed himself to save their lives. In my head, I heard Tabbris scream, her own terrified cry of shock and horror matching my own.

Behind me, a moan of pleasure reached my ears. My head jerked back that way in time to see Isaac. Isaac, the traitorous, murderous, fucking evil piece of shit who had just murdered three Alters and Professor Katarin, was all-but collapsed there in the hatchway, his orange kill-aura glowing almost blindingly bright. He gave me a thumbs up then, winking just as the hatch whooshed closed, cutting us off from each other.

Why? Why, why, why?! Why was he doing this?! What the hell?! Was he possessed? Had we missed something? Was Isaac actually possessed and I’d somehow missed it? Had another Seosten managed to get on the ship somehow? No. No, I knew that wasn’t it. It couldn’t be, because I knew Roxa was wearing the choker. She had been wearing the choker when she helped Isaac to his feet just a minute earlier, and she had said nothing about him being possessed. Which meant that he couldn’t be. So what the hell was going on?! What… what…

An instant later, a glowing blue forcefield appeared around the smaller ship. The shield. He’d activated the shield, or one of his drones had, more likely. Which meant that no one could teleport onto the Liberty Bell. No one could stop what was about to happen, what was about to keep happening.

Because the ship wasn’t done firing. Lifting off its landing struts, more of its cannons finished popping up into place. And they all opened up. Blinding emerald lasers flooded the cargo bay. I saw three, four, five more Alters torn through. Alters who should have been safe. Alters who were supposed to be free and protected now were suddenly gone. Dead. Murdered by Isaac, an Isaac who wasn’t possessed. No one was forcing Isaac to do this. He just… was.

Chaos reigned. More blinding shots from the ship’s cannons filled the cargo bay. I saw one heading straight for Karees. Karees! My mouth opened to scream a warning, knowing it was too late.

Except, while it was too late for me, it wasn’t too late for Jazz. The other girl literally slammed into the tree-man, knocking him to the ground. An instant later, that laser tore through the girl… except she had turned into her mist-form. I saw her turn, staring at the ship with a look of complete horror, mouth open as she screamed a name. Isaac. She was screaming Isaac’s name, a look of rage overtaking her face.

I pushed myself up then, ignoring the pain in my ribs, only to be knocked to the floor once more as Sands came out of nowhere, tackling me to the ground an instant before another massive laser tore through the air where I had just been. I felt the heat of it burn part of my skin.

Sweeping her mace up as we landed, Sands created a short wall. It didn’t matter. The next shot from the ship’s cannon tore through it like it wasn’t even there. We had to move!

Getting my staff out, I grabbed Sands, wrapping an arm around the girl while pointing the staff backward. Lying there on my side, I triggered the boost, sending both of us rocketing along the floor. An instant later, three more laser shots utterly destroyed the spot where we had just been.

The Liberty Bell was floating backward toward the open cargo bay doors, firing its lasers the whole time. Screams and death filled the air along with the heat and light of those deadly cannons. In those few seconds while I was picking myself up from the floor, I saw a dozen more die, snuffed out just like that.

Jazz, Gordon, and Roxa were all trying to help, trying to get the Alters behind what little cover there was, or out of the cargo bay entirely. The problem was that there was so much open space. A lot of them were trying to hide behind the metal shipping containers, but there were only so many of those, and there was too much open ground to cover to get to them. 

It felt like hours had passed, but I knew it had actually only been a few seconds. A few seconds, and Isaac had already done so much damage.  

Just as the other ship reached the exit, the cannons all pointed toward the biggest cluster of terrified Alters who were running for cover. I screamed a warning, the force of the words burning my throat, even as those cannons opened up one last time. An armageddon-worth of deadly light tore through the air, straight at all of those innocent people.

At the last second, Haiden Moon appeared out of nowhere. His arm jerked up, and I saw a dark red forcefield appear, surrounding both the man and the clustered group. Seven, eight, nine enormous, pulverizing lasers collided with the shield, which barely held. I could see the strain on it, and on Haiden himself as he kept it up, protecting the people behind him.

Then Larissa was there. She appeared beside Sands and me, both arms outstretched. Her right hand jerked to the side, while the left glowed red. I saw two of the laser cannons on the other ship literally torn free of their housing, ripped off the ship. At the same time, another one literally melted into a heap of molten metal.

That was enough. The ship stopped firing, instead throwing its engines into reverse before shooting out into open space.

And just like that, as suddenly as it had started, the carnage was over. The ship was gone, with Isaac onboard. And in his wake, he left… devastation. Bodies, or pieces of bodies, filled the cargo bay. At least a quarter of the Alters that we had saved and spent the past several days with were dead. Professor Katarin was dead.

“Girls!” Larissa was facing Sands and me, her eyes wide. Alarms blared, the survivors screamed and sobbed, as she blurted in total confusion and horror, “Girls, what happened?!

“What the hell happened?!”

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31 comments

  1. Yeah… well, there we go. I’m sure most of you knew that SOMETHING suitably terrible had to happen, given how long Isaac has been built up as being in their ranks, being crazy, and them having no idea just how dangerous he was. It was just a matter of time. And well, time ran out.

    Thank you all very much for reading. Tags for this chapter are: Dries Aken, Felicity Chambers, Flick, Gordon Kuhn, Haiden Moon, If Nothing Else – Isaac Gaining Credit For Those Kills Raises Interesting Questions About A Heretic-Manned Deathstar., If You Thought Trying To Scream Warnings That Were Too Late Was Bad – Flick – Imagine How All The Readers Feel After The Past Several Arcs., Isaac Acosta, Jazz Rhodes, Karees, Larissa Mason, Professor Katarin, Roxa Pittman, Sands, Tabbris

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    1. If one ever has to kill someone, it must be done quickly. Torture must only be used if the subject needs to be kept alive. Taking time in killing someone only gives them avenues of escape.

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      1. “If You Thought Trying To Scream Warnings That Were Too Late Was Bad – Flick – Imagine How All The Readers Feel After The Past Several Arcs.”
        Did I miss something? When did Flick kill an Alter with 4th-wall-breaking-powers? x)
        (That WOULD be awesome, though. I am imagining an alternate version of Deadpool for this. Like, for example, Dogpool.)

        Concerning other, more serious matters… Weeeeeellllllll…. DAMN. :/
        I hope Flick gets her hands on Isaac – literally, so she can possess him, get full disclosure on the scale of his treason and treat him accordingly.
        And about Ulysses Katarin. Well. Not much to say here. That’s basically the textbook definition of heroism.
        RIP Professor… :/

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  2. Well shit, Isaac we know you just want to kill things but damn, if you defected you could have gone killing in secret for way longer now they are going to interrogate and probably kill you.

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  3. >“Right.” Straightening up, Professor Katarin cracked his neck twice before nodding to me. “Disabled the possession defense a few minutes ago. Which, let me tell you, makes me feel really uncomfortable out here. So let’s get this done, huh?”

    This is indeed an enormous level of trust imo, especially deep in Seosten space. Also, Professor Katarin’s joy at Flick having taken his teachings to heart is great.

    >The spell would not allow us to get the name even indirectly.
    It was, as I had already said, seriously annoying.
    Finally, I stepped out of the man, shaking my head. “Sorry, Professor,” I mumbled.

    Well, damn. I suppose it couldn’t have been that easy anyway. I suspect Manakel himself will have to take it down, most likely by being forced to do it.

    >I don’t know, still don’t know. Something they did to him that had to do with the Reaper, the one that gives Bosch Heretics their power. They did something to Hieronymus, and when I killed him, I inherited it. So they need me alive.

    Ah, things are becoming clearer, just a bit. They need the ability he acquired from killing Bosch, perhaps to replicate it and no longer need him alive.

    >That was as far as I got before Tabbris screamed a warning in my head. I felt my body jerking backward as she took control, but it wasn’t fast enough. A sledgehammer blow took my breath away as Isaac’s suddenly metal-covered foot slammed into my chest. I was sent flying off the ramp, crying out in surprise as I hit the deck hard, rolling onto my side. I couldn’t breathe for a moment. I couldn’t even think. The strength behind the kick, it felt like he’d broken a couple ribs, at least.

    Well. I wasn’t expecting Isaac to actually be able to land a sucker punch on Flick-Tabbris. He’s been sandbagging quite a bit I suspect this whole time. Clever, if unwanted.

    >Isaac, the traitorous, murderous, fucking evil piece of shit who had just murdered three Alters and Professor Katarin,

    Let’s not forget that he just likely got a significant power boost with his murder of Professor Katarin. Damnitall.

    >“Girls!” Larissa was facing Sands and me, her eyes wide. Alarms blared, the survivors screamed and sobbed, as she blurted in total confusion and horror, “Girls, what happened?!
    “What the hell happened?!”

    Isaac just killed one of your partners and over a dozen Alters, hijacked your ship, and accomplished his mission of preventing the memory spell from being undone. Fuck you Isaac, I hope your death is slow.

    Quite a downer ending this time, Cerulean. I suppose Flick’s luck couldn’t hold out forever, but what a time for it to fail.

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  4. okay…
    let’s say that at least, THAT is out of the way…
    now… I believe that some peoples are motivated to tear a new one on some a-hole…

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  5. It’s probably lucky that normal humans don’t have any powers to steal. People in control of any war machines from a machine gun to the Enola Gay would be the rulers of our world otherwise.

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    1. Only if they had Reaper-type absorption. Full spectrum absorb-on-kill is a very, very rare power.

      And seeing as Cerulean said that Heretics were involved in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki way back when, and that they tried nuking Fossor and it didn’t work, I’m pretty sure someone DID get the (smaller) powerup from wiping the various non-human denizens of one of those cities off the map.

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  6. Well. I’m going to withhold judgement on Isaac until I see what his plan was. I mean, he clearly was planning, I just don’t know how smart he was about it.

    At first, his betrayal like this surprised me. I mean, he just dumped the most powerful group out here that didn’t want him dead. Then I realized that it was probably the plan to rescue Sariel that set him off. He was probably fleeing that danger on the horizon.

    Trying to kill everyone before he fled? That struck me as a high-risk, high-reward maneuver. Yes, he got a lot of power out of it. He also made a lot of powerful enemies. It feels slightly out of character that he was brave enough to do something that left him with powerful heretic enemies, yet at the same time he was too cowardly to join a powerful team that was going to be doing a LOT of killing.

    Then again, maybe Isaac thinks that the Seosten are his allies. He might honestly believe that he’ll be welcomed back into the fold once he makes contact. That would make his actions make more sense to me. It’s still stupid, though. Mostly because that would mean putting a foolish amount of faith in the Seosten.

    My guess? Isaac’s going to end up as someone’s meatsuit. I think he’s too much of a loose cannon for the Seosten to trust him to work without supervision. And he got all those nifty powers from a professor, too. That’s probably going to be a worse punishment than anything Team Stranded can think of to do to him.

    Or maybe… Maybe Flick will end up possessing him. The personality conflict alone would make that an awful punishment for him. And I can see Flick doing that, mostly because it’s about the only safe way to keep him contained until he can face some sort of trial.

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    1. The thing is, Isaac had no real choice at that point, for a couple reasons. Mainly, he knew that the second they used that spell to let Katarin tell them who Manakel is possessing and they passed that info on, Gaia would take Manakel and then ISAAC would pretty much immediately be thrown under the bus. If Manakel was exposed, Isaac would be exposed. He was going to be revealed either way. This way, he kills Katarin to preserve the secret which means that the Seosten owe him, AND he gains a bunch of power in the process.

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      1. I see. One of the things that bugged me was that Isaac could have just taken the Liberty Bell, without killing anyone. He wouldn’t get the powers, but the others would also probably not be planning to kill him.

        I only just now realized that Gaia can probably summon him by reversing that banishment orb, which means he HAD to kill Katarin to make sure she wouldn’t find out that she needed to do so. Of course, now he’s committed hereticide, so she still has a very good reason to drag him back.

        I don’t think Isaac thought his plan through. Now that I’ve thought for a bit, his only real solution was to fake his death.

        That would be a difficult feat, but perhaps not impossible. Maybe manipulate Haiden into accidentally triggering an explosion that would kill all the alters in the room, and blast the Liberty Bell into space. Haiden has so much power that he might not notice that he didn’t get the powers of a first-year heretic.

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      2. I just hope he’s unlucky and gets only one crappy power from killing Katarin, I mean it’s random right…

        But well, chances for that to happen… plus he gets all those Alter powers…

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    2. I don’t think Isaac will get possessed by the Seosten. He knows the antipossession spell. He probably has a drone (which is “spiritually” linked to him) set up to autocast it once an hour just in case. And he probably casts it on himself every morning and evening, just in case.

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  7. You’re usually better at avoiding tropes like this.

    “Oh, tomorrow will be the time this one single character can finally reveal a really, really crucial piece of information! Oh noes, he died a minute before the big reveal! What a shocking development!”

    I really, really hope they break this memory blocking spell soon, because it has run its course from being an interesting plot device to pace the information reveal to just being a thoroughly annoying and tiring plot device which feels its only there to pad content.

    I’d rather go back to having the characters plan and execute bad ass actions, instead of being railroaded by a plot they seem to have no control over.

    This was an immensely unsatisfying chapter to read.

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    1. And your opinion is definitely respected and appreciated. But here’s the thing… Isaac had been built up as a potential threat for months at this point. Not having a big payoff for that, letting that plot point just fizzle without anything bad happening after the suspense with his presence had been building for so long would have been pretty terrible in its own right.

      I totally understand wanting the characters to win. But sometimes, they have to lose in order for things to feel interesting. They can’t always be in control of every situation, or there’s no real tension.

      And in many ways, Isaac was railroaded into his action. He had to expose himself then, or he would have been exposed once the memory spell was removed.

      And this way, they have to go after Isaac to get that information, which gives his character a reason to exist.

      Basically, I totally understand being frustrated, but there are reasons for it to happen this way that you might not have considered. It’s not just ‘padding things out’. The characters need to take losses sometimes and not constantly win.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not taking issues with the drama, I’m taking issues with the way Professor Katarin’s death was telegraphed. Mostly because it’s such a break from the usual subverting of expectations.

        Guess your writing is too good and you raised the bar too high. 😛

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  8. I have a LOT of questions concerning natural heretics.

    For one, natural heretics get their powers from mixing their blood with an alter. So lets take a hypothetical werebear heretic and say, he, maybe, mixes his blood with another type of alter. Like a reaper or something. Would that heretic gain the absorption powers on top of the werebears? Would both power sets disappear, leaving the heretic human? Would anything happen? And if something did happen, could this go both ways, like say an edge heretic mixes their blood with an alter’s? Would that make them a natural heretic as well, or just some weird kind of hybrid? And if this did work, then could the edge erase their powers, or would it just erase the reaper skill set and leave them a natural heretic with their memories intact.

    Whew, lots of questions there. And one final one; if heretics are technically alters as well, then would a human mixing their blood with a heretic make them one too? And if so, what would happen?

    Thanks for reading this incredibly long and boring comment! I’m loving this story so far, and this chapter was a sock in the stomach for me. I usually can’t find it in myself to hate a young villain, but right now I just want Flick to hurry up and kill the son of a bitch. (What i’m saying is that it’s a compliment to your AWESOME writing that you can make me hate a teenager when I never have before. (Excluding Ammon, but when I wrote the previous sentence, I forgot about him.) The point is YOU ROCK!!!)

    Looking forward to the next update! I’m sure it’ll be just as good as this one. 🙂 😀

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  9. “An instant later, that laser tore through the girl… except she had turned into her mist-form.”

    How in the world did Jazz survive that? Turning into mist wouldn’t do jack shit against a huge, anti-ship laser cannon. It’d atomize that mist with ease. And if Jazz could do it, why couldn’t Katarin?

    Like

    1. Well, for starters, turning into mist would keep an actual laser from triggering a steam explosion in the body, massively reducing the damage dealt. Just dispersing the portion of the mist that was within the beam proper wouldn’t necessarily be fatal.

      And who says Katarin had that precise power?

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