A Different Kind Of Hunt 31-05

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Please note, there was a commissioned interlude focusing on the origin of King Arthur posted Saturday. If you haven’t seen that yet, you might wish to use the previous chapter button above. 

You did it! Tabbris enthused, sounding almost giddy. You got that piece of–I mean, um… him.

Chuckling a little to myself at that, I tried to push myself up before stopping with a groan. It was just too hard to be upright just then. Given the situation, I sent back to her, I think calling him a piece of shit is allowed.

I sat there like that, breathing hard for a moment while Roxa and Jazz moved slowly over, both of them limping a little. The other two helped me up, just as Sands and Gordon joined us. They were panting just as hard as the rest of us, and looked pretty disheveled. Sands had a pretty nasty looking burn all along the side of her neck and left cheek that was very slowly healing. 

“Son of a bitch,” she spat. “When he upgraded those drones, he really upgraded them. How much tech help did the Seosten fucking give him? Those things are nasty.” At her words, the other girl waved a hand back over her shoulder toward the remains of one of the drones.  

“We’ll be sure to ask,” I informed her, grimacing in pain. Ow. “Or just have someone take the things apart to figure out exactly what he did to them. Maybe they’ll come in handy somehow.”

Gordon, standing nearby with his arms folded, quietly observed, “You have a thing for taking what you liberate from your enemies and turning it against them, don’t you?” To make his point further, the boy nodded toward Jaq and Gus, who were both in their mice forms as they sniffed around the nearby Gidget. From the look of things, the two of them were making sure that their big friend was okay after she had been thrown around by Isaac’s metal manipulation power.

“What can I say?” I shrugged. “Gotta use what’s available, and there’s no sense in letting good resources go to waste. There’s too many overpowered bad guys out there for that. Besides, look at those little guys. There’s no way they deserved to have an asshole like Doxer for a partner.”

At the sound of their former owner’s name, both mice abruptly twisted around toward me. They looked almost guilty, like they were afraid that the boy himself was somehow there and they were in trouble. Wincing at the sight of their faces, I shook my head. “It’s okay, go ahead.”

Jazz spoke up then, shifting a little uncomfortably. “What about these guys?” she asked quietly, gesturing toward the ant-like Alters who were still chained along all of the walls. None of them had actually called out for help or anything. Actually, they had done nothing to attract our attention. It was like they were as afraid of us as they had been of Isaac himself. Which, I supposed, made sense. They were probably accustomed to only seeing Heretics who were being possessed and puppeted by Seosten. Plus, after the display they had just seen through that nasty fight… yeah, it was no wonder they were trying not to attract attention to themselves.

“Sands?” I looked to her. “Could you send a message to your mom, let her know what we’re doing and that Isaac’s where he belongs? Oh, and see if she can confirm with the ship that he is there. Just to, you know, make sure.” I knew Larissa had given her daughter something that was supposed to allow them to communicate, though I wasn’t really sure how it worked. I just assumed it was similar to the communication pins that we had used back at Crossroads.

She nodded, taking a small red ball from her pocket before stepping out of the way. Meanwhile, I gestured to the imprisoned Alters. “Come on, let’s free these guys. But uh, let’s try to make sure that they know we don’t mean them any harm first. It could get bad if they all panic.”

The others nodded, and together we moved over to the nearest ant-figure. He, and the others, were all watching us fearfully. They were each chained about three feet apart, with fifty on both walls. From the look of things, some of them had been beaten badly before being chained up. It was a sight that made me wish I’d hit Isaac more than I had before sending him up to the ship.

“Um.” Glancing to the others briefly as I stopped in front of the chained figure, I held a hand up to stop them before looking back to the figure in question. Clearing my throat a little, I hesitantly continued. “Excuse me, do you speak Engl–I mean, the Trade language? Do you understand?”

For a few seconds, neither the one I was talking to or any of the nearby figures actually responded at all. I was about to ask Tabbris to translate into Latin, when the figure to the right of the one I was standing in front of actually spoke up. “We’k in understanding the’k Master.”

Weak in understanding? I was confused for a moment about what that could possibly mean.

Fortunately, Tabbris quickly settled my confusion by putting in, I think he said ‘we in understanding the Master’. I don’t think the k sound is intentional. Or it’s just a… um, an accent or something.

“Right.” Biting my lip, I looked to the one who had spoken. “You understand. And you think–” Inwardly, I flinched at the realization before shaking my head. “No, listen. We’re not Seosten. We’re not possessed, and neither was… neither was that guy. We’re not the Masters.”

God, how confused must these guys be? They had been abducted by what they thought was one of their Seosten masters, dragged down here into the tunnels and used to fuel a shield spell against what appeared to be more of their Seosten masters. No wonder they were freaked out.

They were all staring at us, clearly even more confused and frightened. I could hear some of them whispering down the line as the uncertainty about what we were doing or what we intended grew. By that point, I was pretty sure most of them were resigned to death.

“We’re not here to hurt you!” That was Jazz, stepping up beside me. Starting to raise her hands before clearly thinking better of it, she reiterated slowly, but firmly.  “We’re not going to hurt you.”

I nodded. “She’s right. We are not going to hurt you. We’re going to unchain you, okay? We’re going to let you out. Just… don’t run away or anything. There are bad guys out there. The Seosten. They’re out there.” I pointed back the way we had come. “So don’t run off or whatever. We’re just going to let all of you out. I promise, we are not going to hurt you.” Yes, I was just repeating myself by that point. But I figured it bore emphasis, considering how scared they were.  

“We’k good for Masters,” one of the others tried to insist. “Never go’k running from Masters.”

Right. No wonder Isaac had been able to herd them down here so easily. They probably hadn’t even tried to resist, since they thought that he was one of the Seosten. They’d just obediently followed him down here. Hell, they probably even showed him where to go when he demanded a hiding place. The ones who had been hurt… Isaac had probably just been enjoying himself.

“No, I said we’re not–” Stopping myself, I let out a breath before giving up. Better to show rather than tell, in this case. Stepping closer slowly, I examined the chain for a second. It led from the wall to some kind of metal belt that was locked around the man’s waist. Eventually, I found the seam. It looked like Isaac had taken a bunch of scrap metal bars or something and bent them into circles around these guys with the same power that he’d used to throw Gidget around.

Carefully getting my fingers under the metal band on either side of where both ends met, I tried to give ant-figure as reassuring of a look as I could before heaving at it. The band resisted stubbornly for a few seconds, before slowly prying apart with the groan of protesting metal.

Finally, I was able to pull the partially unbent metal bar away from the formerly trapped figure, tossing it aside to dangle by the chain. As promised, the Alter didn’t run. He stood there, openly trembling. If anything, he seemed even more afraid now than he had before. It was like he was convinced that he was now going to be made an example of because I had singled him out.

“Guys,” I looked back to others. “Could you help the rest of these guys get free?” I figured that between all the powers that they had, it wouldn’t be too hard to get everyone unchained.

They moved to do just that then, while I turned back to the one I had freed, trying to keep my voice as calm and reassuring as possible. “Can you tell me what your name is? And what your people are called, your species?” Maybe if I showed an interest in who they were as people, it might help a little bit. All I knew was that we really needed to calm these people down if we were going to get any information out of them about what was going on, and where the rest of the town was.

The ant-figure shifted back and forth, looking nervous as he made a weak noise before finally speaking. “We’k are the’k Kenkean, Master. This one is called Ruedu’k. It is ready for serve.”  

“Kenkeans.” I repeated the name of the race, which sounded like Ken-kay-un. It was good to have something to think of them as beyond ‘ant-people’. “And you’re Ruedu.” That one sounded basically like saying ‘rude you’, which was ironic considering how he had been acting so far. 

I was also starting to recognize when the k sound was intentional and when it was just their mandibles clicking together whenever they ended a word on a vowel.

When the Kenkean gave a quick nod, I extended a hand reflexively. “Good to meet you, Ruedu, I-” Belatedly, I realized my mistake as Ruedu recoiled, looking with wide, terrified eyes at my hand. Oops. Right, when people like me could have any power imaginable, extending a hand to someone who was already afraid of us was probably a bad idea. Jazz had realized that earlier.

“Sorry, I… I’m not going to hurt you. I promise. I swear. Um. Umm…” I thought quickly, trying to remember the word that Jokai had used back when we first met him and had promised to save his people. “Sacramentum. Sacramentum, we swear. We are not going to hurt you. We… You know the Seosten, the Masters. We are not Seosten. We are… They use us too. They enslave us. They possess us. But we’re not possessed. We are… human. We’re here to help you.”

Pointedly, I gestured to where the others were working on freeing the other Kenkeans. “The boy, the one who abducted you, he was… we came to stop him. I’m sorry that you were… that he hurt your people. He was bad. He’s gone now. He won’t hurt you anymore.”

Ruedu lifted his head a little, watching me carefully. “Not… Masters? Not Seosten?” He said the name very hesitantly, like he was afraid that just saying it outloud would make them appear.

“No. We’re not Seosten,” I assured him. “We fight the Seosten. Can you…” I swallowed, dreading the answer. “Can you tell me where the rest of your people are? Where are the rest of the Kenkeans?” Quickly, I added, “We just want to know that they’re okay. That’s all. The boy that brought you in here, did he… did he hurt anyone else? Did he–” The words choked their way out of my throat. “Did he kill anyone?”

“Three’k,” Ruedu answered, crushing my hopes. “Boy’k killed three’k for making sure he’k was obeyed.”

“No,” I replied flatly. “He did it because he wanted to.” Swallowing hard, I shuddered a littled before looking back to him. “I’m sorry, Ruedu. I’m really, really sorry.”

For a few long seconds, he stared as if seeing me for the first time. His mandibles clicked together a couple times, but produced almost no sound. Then he lowered himself slightly, in something that kind of almost looked like a bow. “Other Kenkean below’k.” One of his hands pointed at the floor. “Deep tunnels. When boy’k ship crash, most flee’k to’k bottom. Only’k we’k remain above to’k aid Masters. Boy’k…. Master?”

My head shook again. “No, he’s just an asshole.” Belatedly, I amended, “He’s just a bad person. Evil.”  

Okay, so there were a lot more Kenkean below, apparently. Good. For just a second, I had been terrified that Isaac had killed a lot more than three. Hell, even that many was tragic, but it could have been so much worse.  

Shaking off that horrible thought, I focused on Ruedu. “My name is Flick. Like I said, we’re human.” My mouth almost formed the word Heretic, but I stopped it at the last second. Human. Human sounded better, somehow.

“Flick?” Ruedu repeated my name, overly stressing the kuh sound at the end. “Flick.”

By that point, most of the others had been freed, and were gathering in a group. As the Kenkean looked back to his people, there was a brief flash from the corner of the room. My head snapped that way, hand darting to my weapon.

It was Larissa and Haiden. They walked quickly over, the former stopping to embrace her daughter while Haiden himself stepped over to us.

The Kenkeans, including Ruedu, had all collapsed to the floor, hands outstretched toward the arriving adults as they frantically supplicated themselves.

“No, no!” I quickly shook my head, catching their attention. “Guys, Kenkeans! It’s okay. It’s okay, they’re with us. They’re not Seosten. They’re humans. Not Seosten.”

“Having fun, I see,” Haiden announced as he stepped over. Roxa and the others moved to join us.

“Loads,” I replied flatly. “Isaac?”

“Secure,” he assured me. “Dries says he’s out like a light. Good job.”

Nodding once, I looked back the other way. “Ruedu, this is Haiden. Haiden. He’s a friend. Good. He is good. Haiden, this is Ruedu. He’s one of the Kenkeans. These guys.”

“Not true’k.” Ruedu raised a hand, looking a little terrified to be speaking up, like he was confident that I was about to rip his head off for speaking. “All close. Close to’k true’k. But not he’k Ruedu’k. She’k Ruedu’k.”

I blinked twice, then realized my mistake. “She Rued–oh! Oh. You’re a she, not a he. Female Kenkean.” When she nodded, I coughed. “Sorry. I’m sorry. This is Ruedu, she is one of the Kenkeans. Isaac was…”

As I trailed off, Haiden shook his head. “We know. Sands let us know what was going on.”

“Yes, she did.” That was Larissa, stepping over to join us. “And now it’s time for us to go. Haiden and I did enough damage and left enough traps to slow them down, but they’re still coming. We’ve got Isaac, it’s time to get out of here.”

My mouth opened and then shut, as the realization came. “We can’t go,” I announced slowly.

That made everyone’s heads whip around as they stared at me. Larissa was the first to speak. “What? Flick, listen to me, there is an army out there and they’ll be down here any minute.”

“Yeah.” I nodded before lifting my staff to indicate Ruedu and the rest of the Kenkeans. “And them, and the rest of their people below, what do you think the Seosten will do to them when they can’t find us? You think they’ll just say, ‘hey, oh well’ and go about their day? Cuz I’m pretty sure they’re not the type to care that these guys weren’t involved with us. Best case scenario, they’re all enslaved and thrown into a work camp just like the one we just saved Jokai and the others from. Worst case, they just kill them all to make a point.”

“She’s right.” That was Jazz. She rubbed her arm gingerly, panting. “They’ll kill them. Or enslave them. We can’t just walk away. We can’t abandon them just because we have what we wanted.”

Haiden and Larissa exchanged brief glances and a moment of silent communication passed between them. The man smiled before looking back to me. “You really are a lot like your mom.”

“Guys,” Larissa started, walking over to us. “I want to get them out of here too. But you don’t have the power to make the kind of portal that we’d need to get all these people up to the ship. None of us do. Not in time before Radueriel’s troops get past those traps and find us here.”

Sands looked to her mother pointedly. “Then we’ll hold them off. You just said, we can’t make the portal. But you guys can. You did it before to get us down here. You make the portal to get all these guys out of here, and we’ll hold off the Seosten goons long enough for you to do it.”

“What?” Larissa’s eyes widened at that, and she quickly took hold of her daughter’s shoulders. “No, Sandoval. You can’t fight them. I told you, there’s an army out there.”

“Yeah,” the other girl replied, “a whole army out there. But the tunnels are only so wide. They can’t send everything at us at once. We don’t have to fight all of them at the same time, just the ones that can reach us. We can use that to hold them off long enough for you guys to work.”

Still, Larissa looked distraught, head shaking. “Sweet girl, it would take us hours to put together enough energy to send a portal all the way to where the ship is. You can’t hold out for that long.”

Sands opened her mouth to say something, when Gordon abruptly spoke up. “What if the ship was closer?” As everyone looked to him, he asked, “Would that help make the portal faster?”  

Haiden slowly whistled at that. “Bring the ship closer, and we don’t have to portal out as far…”

“There is an armada up there!” Larissa blurted, pulling Sands close to her chest and hugging onto her as she looked at Haiden incredulously. “And you really think that the best idea right now is to bring that ship out where they can blow it out of the sky and strand us all here?”

“No,” I quickly put in. “It’s not the best idea. But it might be the only idea. Larissa,” I pressed then, meeting her gaze, “we can’t abandon these people. Sure, we could tell them to hide in their tunnels, to run away. But you know the Seosten would find them eventually. We can’t just leave them here. I’m not saying it’s not dangerous. I’m saying it’s worth it. Because those people are only in danger because of Isaac. And he’s our responsibility. We have to protect them.”

For a second, the woman just stared at me. Then she reached a hand out, touching my face briefly. “You are… a beautiful girl,” she murmured before straightening with a sigh. “Call them.” She was looking toward Haiden. “Call the ship. They’ll have to be really close and really fast. We’re gonna have to time this perfectly. We have to know exactly how close they can get and exactly when they’ll get there. They get the ship as close as they can, we open the portal the second they’re in position and send all these people through.” Her eyes snapped to the rest of us. “And you use those badges the second we get them through the portal. You understand?”

“They’re coming.” That was Roxa. She had stepped over nearer to the chamber entrance, her head cocked to the side as she listened. “It won’t take them much longer to get here. If we’re gonna keep them far enough away for you guys to focus on the portal, we need to go now.”

“Be careful.” Larissa reached out, taking my arm with one hand and Sands’ with the other. “Just… just don’t take risks that you don’t have to. The tunnels are narrow. Use that. Don’t let them lure you out. Hold them off, make them keep coming to you. Be…” She swallowed. “Be safe. Be smart.” Looking up to Roxa, Jazz, and Gordon, she added, “That goes for all of you.”

“We will,” I promised before looking to the others. “Come on, guys.

“Let’s go hold off an army.”

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28 comments

  1. See, guys? Now I’ve got a chance to show Flick and her group fighting the Seosten troops *after* showing them fighting Isaac. I didn’t have to pick and choose which scenario to have them be a part of, I get to have my cake and eat it too! 😀

    Mmmm, cake.

    Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed the little *actual* introduction to the ant-people/Kenkeans. And, of course, Flick wouldn’t be Flick if she was okay with just walking away from them. Not that Larissa or Haiden were gonna take off and abandon them without saying anything. But their original plan fell more along the lines of telling them to run into the wilderness until the heat was off and taking a few potshots at the Seosten to encourage them to chase rather than stick around to torment the Kenkeans.

    Tags for this chapter are: Felicity Chambers, Flick, Gidget, Gordon Kuhn, Gus, Haiden Moon, Jaq, Jazz Rhodes, Larissa Mason, No One Point Out To Flick That There’s An Entire Planet Beyond This One Town‚ Or They’ll Never Leave., Roxa Pittman, Ruedu, Sands, Silly Flick‚ Tabbris Swearing Is Never Allowed. She Is Too Innocent For That., Tabbris

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well, time for a whole bunch of new powers!

    This definitely isn’t the smart play, but it is the Flick play.

    Although I can’t imagine all the Kenkean will be entierly happy about leaving their home behind. Assuming this is their home and not another work camp, that is.

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    1. The only part that strikes me as excessively reckless is putting the mining ship in danger by bringing it closer. Even that might be mitigated by using teleport magic instead of a portal. Then the adults can charge the spell while the ship hides. The ship uses FTL to warp into teleport range for ~30 seconds, then warps away full of passengers on a random vector.

      Aside from that? Flick decided some time ago that she needed more power. And now she’s putting herself in a situation where she can start slaughtering an army without letting them all attack her at once.

      I suppose that the only monkey wrench we’re likely to see is if Raduriel shows up. But even he will have trouble here. His biggest advantages are mobility and and numbers. Neither will be worth as much if his troops can’t phase through rock.

      The important part, is that so long as the ship doesn’t get captured/destroyed, Team Stranded can still run like cowards if they find themselves over their heads.

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  3. You know, this is the kind of idea that would only end well in a story.
    I mean, our ship is a mining ship. If we get close enough for the Seosten to notice us there is no way we would be able to outrun military ships. Of course it’s going to work anyway because narrative convenience, but just thought I would point it out.

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    1. Oh yeah, lol. Though to be fair, I established from the start that it’s super-heavily shielded because it’s a mining ship meant to go inside gas giants and withstand those kind of pressures. And they’ve had Dries, Haiden, and Larissa upgrading it a bit. It’s not gonna stand and fight, and has no weapons, but it’s definitely shielded enough to stand up to some punishment.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, I absolutely realise that all the right conditions will appear, and the plan will work. That is how narratives work. You need risk to keep it interesting, but in real life if you consistently tried plans that had a 50% chance of succeeding, half of them would fail. And this has a much lower then 50% chance. That’s one of the things I like about fiction, “never tell me the odds” right?

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  4. >You did it! Tabbris enthused, sounding almost giddy. You got that piece of–I mean, um… him.

    Chuckling a little to myself at that, I tried to push myself up before stopping with a groan. It was just too hard to be upright just then. Given the situation, I sent back to her, I think calling him a piece of shit is allowed.

    Heh. She’s showing her youth again. Anyway, calling him a piece of shit is rather mild Tabbris.

    >Gordon, standing nearby with his arms folded, quietly observed, “You have a thing for taking what you liberate from your enemies and turning it against them, don’t you?” To make his point further, the boy nodded toward Jaq and Gus, who were both in their mice forms as they sniffed around the nearby Gidget.

    It’s a classic hero staple, Gordon: Gotta get that loot. And Flick’s reasons are well-thought as well imo.

    >“We’k good for Masters,” one of the others tried to insist. “Never go’k running from Masters.”
    Right. No wonder Isaac had been able to herd them down here so easily. They probably hadn’t even tried to resist, since they thought that he was one of the Seosten.

    Hm. Another servant/slave rave of the Seosten I suppose then. And yeah, I can see Isaac enjoying exercising his assumed authority of them.

    >My mouth opened and then shut, as the realization came. “We can’t go,” I announced slowly.
    That made everyone’s heads whip around as they stared at me. Larissa was the first to speak. “What? Flick, listen to me, there is an army out there and they’ll be down here any minute.”
    “Yeah.” I nodded before lifting my staff to indicate Ruedu and the rest of the Kenkeans. “And them, and the rest of their people below, what do you think the Seosten will do to them when they can’t find us? You think they’ll just say, ‘hey, oh well’ and go about their day? Cuz I’m pretty sure they’re not the type to care that these guys weren’t involved with us. Best case scenario, they’re all enslaved and thrown into a work camp just like the one we just saved Jokai and the others from. Worst case, they just kill them all to make a point.”

    Oh dear, Flick’s doing the Heroic Cause thing again. Admirable, but I question if this will turn out well for everyone…

    >“We will,” I promised before looking to the others. “Come on, guys.
    “Let’s go hold off an army.”

    Easier said than done, Flick. I hope you really understand what you are about to face, because I have some doubts here.

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  5. In response to the tag: Hah, innocent? Tabbris isn’t any more innocent than Flick is (well, except for certain couple activities she’s deliberately ignored.) She’s just young.

    I agree with those saying this is a really bad idea. If I were there, I would be suggesting something safer. On the other hand, Flick IS coming from an admirable place, and I would totally support her if I couldn’t change her mind. Still, the best plan might have been to leave them all tied up and hope they’d be interrogated or possessed, letting the Seosten see they actually were loyal to their Masters. Like others have said, they don’t even know if the Kenkean want to go. It would be kind of shitty if they don’t ask before just deciding to put these people in terrible danger and take them from their homes because they are morally opposed to what essentially seems to be serfdom for these people.

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  6. I get that they can’t evacuate the planet to save everyone from the Seosten, but how do they know they can fit everyone that’s hiding underground on the ship? Otherwise Flick really might actually try stick around to save the planet.

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      1. Oh, I actually haven’t more questions regarding Heretics and planets. Is there a reason that the Heretics don’t power level their students, beyond the whole issue that they wouldn’t have the experience to handle so many new powers effectively? I mean they go to other worlds, what’s to stop them from handing each student the remote control to a drone bomber and letting them lose over the civilization populations of alien worlds? Sorry if this has been asked before elsewhere

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      2. No worries! Yes, I’ve answered it before, but there’s a lot of scattered answers all over the place, so I don’t blame anyone for not catching it. I should set up an FAQ, if I could think of enough questions…

        Anyway, yes, there is a reason that they don’t do that. Basically, Heretics who get kills too quickly/don’t earn them through actual effort tend to go a bit… serial killer crazy. You see Isaac? He was a killer already, but all that shit he did made it worse. Basically, they become literally addicted to killing, and not doing it builds up and builds up.

        Isaac going off and murdering all those Alters on the ship after shooting Katarin? That was partly a result of his reigning in his addiction for the past couple weeks.

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      3. Have you decided on a specific name for it yet or is it still just extreme homicidal tendencies induced by overindulgence in the life force of others? Afterglow Madness? Light Fright? Kill Carnage? Eat Defeat?

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      4. As long as we’re talking about FAQs, what about my question about their failure to exploit humanity’s natural power stealing abilities.

        For example, why doesn’t Crossroads just jam a syringe full of alter blood in the arm of every new student? It wouldn’t be addictive the way mass murder would be, and the powers increase over time, so you wouldn’t even have to worry about them suddenly getting something they couldn’t control.

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      5. Have you decided on a specific name for it yet or is it still just extreme homicidal tendencies induced by overindulgence in the life force of others? Afterglow Madness? Light Fright? Kill Carnage? Eat Defeat?

        lol, great suggestions. But in this case, they call it Hang Fever. Because it’s similar to what turns a Reaper into a Hangman. Same idea.

        As long as we’re talking about FAQs, what about my question about their failure to exploit humanity’s natural power stealing abilities.

        For example, why doesn’t Crossroads just jam a syringe full of alter blood in the arm of every new student? It wouldn’t be addictive the way mass murder would be, and the powers increase over time, so you wouldn’t even have to worry about them suddenly getting something they couldn’t control.

        First, because Natural Heretic creation like that doesn’t always automatically work. It’s fairly rare, depending on the exact Alter we’re talking about. And the ones that aren’t rare, like Akharu creating vampires, are seen as turning the human into the ‘Stranger’, rather than creating a Natural Heretic. Even though vampires are essentially just Natural Akahru Heretics who are affected by the same curse, it’s not seen that way by Edge Heretics.

        Anyway, you’re basically rolling the dice when you try to make a Natural Heretic. For all the examples we have of Alter blood getting mixed into humans and turning them into Natural Heretics, there’s a lot more times that nothing like that happened. Think of all the times Nocen (evil Alters) have fought with humans without those humans turning into Natural Heretics.

        The bonding tends to have a better chance of working either in intense emotional situations, or when there is some kind of actual emotional/mental bond between the Alter and the human receiving their blood or whatever. For whatever reason, the human having a connection of sorts to the Alter, even if it’s a bad one, makes it more likely to work properly. Which means clinically injected people with blood one after another in a factory-type setting has basically the worst chance of working out the first time.

        With that all said, the Torchbearers (Jazz’s group) DO tend to create Natural Heretics to suppliment the Edge Heretics they get. They take their time and try until they make it work, or until the person being turned changes their mind/gives up.

        But the real answer is… why would they? Natural Heretics are seen as inferior to Edge Heretics in many ways. Naturals are limited to just what they, err… ‘naturally’ progress to in a single path of abilities. Meanwhile, an Edge Heretic could just kill a few of the same type of Alter that the Natural is connected to, get all those powers, and still be able to go kill anything else.

        Think of it as an RPG. Natural Heretics are limited to one skill tree, which they progress through at a steady rate without any input from them. Their powers come gradually from a very select and limited pool. Meanwhile, Edge Heretics basically keep jumping all over through dozens of skill trees, taking new powers or improving old ones whenever they kill something, AND any benefit the Natural Heretic might have had over them is negated just by killing a few of the same type of Alter that they’re bonded to.

        Or that’s how they see it, anyway. Plus, they’re selling themselves as better than Strangers, so stressing the idea to their new students that they’re sticking Stranger blood in them to make them similar wouldn’t really work that well, optics-wise.

        That’s the long and short of it. It’s complicated to make work and they’d likely have to try repeatedly, it’s seen as not as useful as Edge Heretic and far more limiting, and the idea of making the students more like Strangers by deliberately putting Stranger blood in them is counter to pushing the idea that humans good/anything not-human bad. There’s a reason that they use the lighthouse/eat apples. It’s removed from just ‘jam Stranger blood into their arm’. It ‘looks’ better for them.

        But that said, that is their reasoning for not doing it, not necessarily the full, factual truth. Realistically speaking, a Natural Heretic turned Edge Heretic *will* be stronger in more than one way. They don’t just gain powers naturally, they also tend to get bonuses to powers when killing either the same type of Alter that they’re bonded to or that are similar enough to count.

        Basically what I’m saying is ‘yes, you’re right, it would be better if they took the time/effort and didn’t care about how it looked, but the preceding is why they don’t’. I hope that makes sense.

        Like

  7. “You have a thing for taking what you liberate from your enemies and turning it against them, don’t you?”
    Funny thing is, Gordon, it’s not just Flick. This is basically what Heretics do in a nutshell, if you factor in powers. ^^

    On another note, I can’t help but getting the impression that Flick is building some kind of slave army here. First the work camp, no this mining town… If she adds more people to the team on the next planet as well, I’d say that three make a pattern. She is basically becoming Sparta-Flick. The evil slaving empire even has latin as their official language. xD
    Can’t hurt, though. She has too much on her plate as is to handle it all on her own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is basically what Heretics do in a nutshell, if you factor in powers. ^^

      Good point!

      On another note, I can’t help but getting the impression that Flick is building some kind of slave army here. First the work camp, no this mining town… If she adds more people to the team on the next planet as well, I’d say that three make a pattern. She is basically becoming Sparta-Flick. The evil slaving empire even has latin as their official language. xD

      She is making it a habit at this point.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey! I just decided to come here and say that this is by far one of the best stories I’ve ever read. Especially in how it tries to avoid the ‘miscommunication’ tropes. A trope which I really don’t like. But yeah, I love your work. Definitely in my top five.

    Now to give you a scale of what my top five looks like, I read a lot. A lot. Imagine someone depressed, unemployed, and reading sixteen hours a day (around that) for five years. Well, that’s me. So yeah, I’ve read hundreds of novels and yours is definitely top five. So I appreciate you continuing your work at a steady pace. I also appreciate your work in general. I love your characters and their relationships and interactions between each other, and I just want you to know that I believe you do terrific work.

    Now, I don’t know if you’ll read this, or comment on it. I’ve had pretty shitty luck in authorial feedback. I’ve commented twice on the works of others, only those whose writing I really enjoyed (such as yours)(although there was that time Wildbow had that terrible two-year timeskip in Worm and I almost commented, but never did), and neither time have I gotten a reply back. Which is really a bummer, but hey, maybe the third time’s the charm huh?

    Also I just want to say I believe Gabriel Ruthers is possessed by Seosten and Peterson Neal is Fossor’s dead meatpuppet. I’ll explain later.

    But anyways, have a good day and keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, hey, thanks, man. 😀 That’s awesome to hear, seriously. I’m glad you’re enjoying it, and that is a lot of reading.

      I really dislike the miscommunication trope myself, so yeah, I understand where you’re coming from with that. Particularly the whole thing where there’s some huge problem that springs up just because Person A refuses to listen and Person B doesn’t just blurt it out before Person A storms off so terrible things happen. Scenes like that annoy me.

      Sorry you’ve had bad luck with responses before. Your theories there are interesting. Clearly I can’t say more than that just yet, but still… we’ll see. 😉

      Seriously though, thanks for leaving such a detailed comment. Glad you’re enjoying the story so much, and I hope you enjoy the chapter that’ll be out tomorrow!

      Like

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