Hoc Est Bellum 34-09

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Two dozen heavily armed and armored soldiers instantly forgot that the rest of us existed, turning their weapons instead toward the newly freed Olympian who had just made her presence known. And Sariel met them in turn, taking a few running steps forward. As the first guns began to fire, chewing up the metal around her, the woman suddenly leapt high into the air.

Shot after shot sailed around and past the woman as the soldiers tried to correct their aim, while Sariel herself flipped over, putting herself upside down. Her arms snapped out, and I saw two of the soldiers’ sidearms abruptly disappear, only to reappear in the woman’s waiting hands.

She fired six shots then, three from each pistol, all while still upside down in midair. Each bullet found a different target. And more than that, each of those targets happened to be the eye-slots of the helmets that the soldiers wore. Six shots, upside down and in midair, put through six narrow slots the size of an eye, two at a time in three consecutive double-shots.

Six soldiers down, just like that. They dropped like puppets whose strings had been cut.

Sariel, meanwhile, finished her full-body flip in time to land feet first against the chest of one of the other men. The force of the impact knocked the man to the ground, while the woman, still standing on his chest, snapped the gun in her right hand down to shoot him through the eye-slot as well. At the other time, her left hand snapped out to shoot yet another man, in the knee this time. The impact made the man cry out, dropping his gun as he stumbled.  

At first, I wondered why someone who could clearly hit any target whatsoever would aim for someone’s leg rather than something vital. But the answer became clear a second later, while simultaneously helping to redefine the term bullshit. Because as the man’s gun fell from his hand with the barrel facing more or less toward her, Sariel fired another shot from the gun in her left hand. That bullet struck the trigger of the falling gun, making that weapon fire an actual laser that struck a big guy that had been coming up behind Sariel right in the middle of his forehead.

In other words, Sariel wasn’t just capable of headshotting every single one of these guys at will. She was capable of literally shooting the trigger of a different gun on the other side of the field and making that one still headshot a target. How, I ask. Fucking how?

Like I said, redefining bullshit. And I had a really high bullshit tolerance level by that point.

While I was still reacting to just how fucking ridiculous that was, Sariel was throwing one of those pistols into the face of another man who had been coming for her. He recoiled, while she pivoted to shoot yet another man. One shot, one kill. She took a quick step backward, putting herself close to the man who was recoiling. In the same motion, the woman caught the pistol that she had thrown into his face as it rebounded backward. Arms folding together across her chest so that the guns were pointed in opposite directions, she fired twice more from each gun, taking four more guys down.

By that point, her backward movement had put her directly beside the staggering man. Before he knew what was happening, Sariel trapped his raised gun arm with both of hers, so that all three of their pistols were aimed in the same direction with the man’s caught between hers. As Sariel moved her arms, the man was forced to move his as well, caught the way that he was. And move them she did, pulling the trigger on one of her guns, followed almost immediately by the other. An instant later, she gave the man’s arm just enough of a jerk that he reflexively pulled his own trigger as well while the position of his weapon was moved just a bit, apparently to where the woman wanted it. While the guns that Sariel had were using actual bullets, his fired a blue laser that shot through the air.

The two bullets that the woman had fired first struck their targets in rapid succession. The first hit a charging soldier right in his left eye, knocking his head back while the enormous metal sword that he had been holding dropped from his hands. As it fell, the second shot knocked the sword up and back a bit.

Then that laser that Sariel had forced the other soldier to fire struck the sword at its new angle, rebounding off of the metal surface to cut through three other guys who had all been lined up to take their shots.

I had no words. None. Seeing that, realizing that this woman had managed to shoot a man in the face with one gun, shoot his sword into the exact position she wanted it to be in with the other, and use a third gun (one that she was forcing another guy to aim and fire by trapping his arm between hers) to shoot a laser that rebounded off of that aforementioned sword to hit three other targets? I… I had nothing. There were literally no words.

The enemies, however, apparently did have a word for it. And that word was retreat. Even as Sariel snapped the arm of the man she had caught, throwing him over her shoulder to shoot through his helmet as he fell on the ground, the rest of the soldiers were scattering. They fled in every direction, some throwing down their weapons while others didn’t bother taking that much time. Either way, they booked it, running across the desert ground as if they were literally on fire.

Sariel let them go, standing there in the total silence that followed that mass retreat while she breathed in, then out a couple of times. The rest of us stood as well, just as silent as we stared at the woman we had been trying to save for so long. In my head, Tabbris had gone quiet as well. I could feel her shock, her disbelief that this could possibly be real, along with fear that if she said anything, if she moved at all, she would destroy this beautiful dream and it would be gone forever. Seeing her mother standing there, live and in the flesh after all this time, she didn’t know how to react. There was this great swell of emotion, a joy that had risen far beyond what I could possibly imagine, and which just kept growing with no particular end in sight.

All of that indescribable happiness had to go somewhere, and it finally exploded, almost literally, as Tabbris threw herself out of me. She appeared in a glowing energy form before resolving into her physical body. Sprinting that way at full speed, the girl cried out with a single word that filled the air, a single word that fully encompassed all of that euphoric jubilation that I had felt in her.

“Mama!!!”

The pistols that Sariel had commandeered from the now-dead soldiers dropped from her hands, as the woman pivoted our way with an audible gasp. She immediately took to one knee, arms managing to open wide just in time for Tabbris to physically throw herself those last few feet, literally launching into her mother’s arms, which closed around her and held on tightly.  

Tristan and Vanessa weren’t far behind. Seconds after Sariel’s arms closed around her youngest daughter, the other two made it to her. Both blurted something that sounded like it was midway between the word ‘mom’ and an incoherent noise, as they threw themselves that way.

And, like with Tabbris, Sariel met her twins with open arms. She pulled them all to her, all three of her children, and held them as tightly as she could. 

Someone was sobbing. Then they all were. Half-kneeling on the ground and half-laying against one another, the four clung to each other tightly. Several times, one or another tried to speak. But it always dissolved back into wordless sobbing as the four simply held on, clinging to their family like a man clinging to a life raft through a hurricane. This time, however, no force would pull them apart.

They also weren’t the only ones who were crying. Standing where I was, I felt a hard lump in my throat before swallowing it away. Wet, hot tears flooded my eyes. But they were glorious tears. Tears that I welcomed. Tears that I wanted to count, name, and enshrine, just because of how important this single moment actually was. Blinking my way through them, just so that I could watch this reunion without that watery veil obscuring my vision, I stood in silence.

They deserved this. They deserved it so much. Their family had suffered, had been separated and put through hell just to claw their way back this far. The things that Sariel alone had gone through… the thought was almost enough to drive away the joy that I felt now.

But not quite. Because nothing could ruin this moment. This, watching Sariel finally, finally reunite with her children, was the single happiest scene I could ever remember witnessing. Hearing her choked voice as she repeatedly murmured their names, telling them how much she loved them, shattered any emotional wall I might have had. 

The only thing that possibly could have made it even better would have been if Haiden had been there too. His absence, and the fact that I wasn’t sure how we were going to get back to link up with them again, let alone how long it would take, was the only dark spot on the moment.

“Babies,” Sariel choked out while leaning back to stare at her children. Her fingers wandered through their hair, down their faces, and back again while she whispered each of their names in turn. “Vanessa, Tristan, Tabbris. Oh, my babies. My beautiful, beautiful babies. You’re here, you’re here, you’re alive. Oh, you’re alive. You’re safe. She lied, she lied. I knew she lied. You’re safe. You’re safe. She lied.”

Her shoulders were shaking violently by that point, while her voice cracked. The revelation of how Kushiel had clearly been messing with her head just to hurt her shook me to my core. For a moment, I whispered a silent prayer that Apollo had actually managed to end that bitch somehow while we were gone.

Sariel and the kids all started talking then. Tristan had clearly passed some information about what was going on to his mother when he had managed to recall to her. But now they began to really talk, and explain what had happened and why we were there. Or at least, as much as they could get into it in a very short time.

It was also very emotional, and I didn’t want to interrupt or eavesdrop too much. So, the first thing I did was make my way back onto that transport, both to retrieve my staff and to make sure there weren’t any other surprises waiting for us. Picking up my weapon, I smiled down at the blade and grapple on the ends. “Okay guys,” I whispered, “I think the fight’s over.”

Jaq and Gus resumed their mice forms and moved to each of my shoulders, while I walked back off the transport. Taking a seat on a small boulder, I took Herbie from my pocket and held him up in both of my hands, cupped in my palms.

“Hey buddy,” I murmured under my breath, “what do you think?”

What did he think? I didn’t even know what I thought. We had made that deal with Jophiel and Elisabet because there hadn’t been any other choice. But at what cost? How involved were the two of them in what was going on with Avalon? Could I have managed to talk them into giving that up somehow in exchange for what they wanted? No, obviously not. They already knew that the bargain with saving Sariel already gave them the upper hand. Why would they have agreed to anything else? Still it was a thought that pressed at me. What if they used this, or tried to use it to help those efforts?

I wouldn’t let them. I would die before I let this deal hurt Avalon like that. They had to know that, right? They weren’t stupid. They had to know that there were buttons that they wouldn’t get away with pressing.

And yet, despite all my efforts otherwise, I had still somehow ended up being forced into keeping really bad secrets from everyone that I should have been open with. The thought made me want to throw up, even as I pressed one fist to my forehead.

Jaq nuzzled at my ear, making a quiet, questioning squeak. With a little smile, I retrieved a couple of little metal washers from my pocket and third one to each of them. “You guys did great,” I assured them. “Trust me, you’re totally the MVPs of this team.”

Winking at Herbie, I reminded him, “Gotta let your brothers win sometimes.”

Sitting there on one rock, with a much better, and more handsome rock in my hand, I turned my head to look out over the desert. What planet did we we just get sent to? I wondered. And how hard is it going to be to contact the others?

Well, it actually wouldn’t be that hard, come to think of it. If nothing else, Vanessa could cast her mind to her father, or completely recall to him, and let him know where we were. As soon as we figured out where here actually was, at least.

Somewhere around five minutes passed, and I was pretty sure it would’ve been even longer if there hadn’t been the fear of a bigger force showing up. But I eventually heard my name being called, and belatedly realized that in trying to avoid eavesdropping, I had missed them saying it a couple times before that.

So, I slowly picked myself up and walked that way while tucking Herbie back into my pocket. The others were all sitting there watching me as I approached. Sariel had her arms around them, holding tightly as she gave me a soft smile.

She looked, despite the situation, like she was still right on the edge. Her face was paler than seemed healthy, and her eyes had a hard, haunted look. As a tumbleweed went drifting by in the slight breeze, I saw her gaze snap that way, every muscle in her body suddenly stiffening, as if she was ready for another fight.

It passed almost as soon as it had come, and she returned her eyes to me. “Felicity Chambers.” Her voice was soft, if a bit hoarse, and her eyes, though still haunted, took on a kind look. “I must say, I was not expecting this to be how we met.” As she spoke, the woman pulled Tabbris closer to her, while the girl herself nuzzled up against her mother’s arm.

Flushing a little bit, I coughed. “To tell you the truth, ma’am, I wasn’t really expecting to meet like like this either.” Without thinking, I added, “Even when I dreamt about meeting Artemis when I was little, it wasn’t really like this.”

Raising an eyebrow at that, Sariel’s smile grew from obvious curiosity. “You dreamt about meeting a Greek mythological figure?”

My blush deepened, as I mumbled, “I was reading this book series and–never mind. You, um. You’re….” Stopping myself, I shook my head. “I’m sorry, I guess I just never really expected to get this far. I don’t know what to say.”

“I know what to say to you,” Sariel replied then. “Thank you.” Her gaze met mine pointedly. “Thank you for accepting my daughter once you found out about her. Thank you for everything you’ve done to help her. There are… many who would not have done the same in your situation. You have been put through a lot, and you have reacted… admirably.”

My head shook quickly at that. “Trust me, she’s done a lot more for me than I’ve done for her.” After pausing briefly, I added, “I guess we just make good partners.”

The woman sighed a little bit. “There is so much more that we need to talk about,” she muttered under her breath, “so much more that I want to say. But that will come in time. Right now, we must find out where we are and get a message to… to Haiden before the soldiers return in actual force. There will be coordinates listed on the transport.” When she said her husband’s name, there was an aching in both her voice and gaze that gave me a faint idea of how much she missed the man. 

Vanessa’s head bobbed up and down quickly. “And as soon as we know where they are, I can let Dad, Uncle Apollo, Aunt Larissa, and Athena know.”

I thought that Sariel sucked in a little breath at that, her gaze dropping a bit with a look of guilt. “Apollo… Larissa…” She swallowed slightly, clearly a lot more troubled than she was actually letting her kids (who were mostly blinded by the joy of actually being with their mother) see. “Yes, yes, we… we need to re… um, regroup.”

There was obviously a lot of complicated feelings there. Feelings that we, as usual, didn’t have time to get into. Instead, together (very together in the others’ cases, since it didn’t seem like Tristan, Vanessa, and Tabbris wanted to get very far away from their mother any time soon), we moved quickly back to the transport. I was really hoping that we could get Athena’s people here quickly enough to move all these pods so that we could free everyone in them before too many of Kushiel’s people (or other Seosten forces) showed up. Either way, we needed to hurry.

Thankfully, Sariel knew where she was going. The woman stepped right up to a console at one end of the transport tube. Her fingers danced over it, and she seemed to be putting in some kind of override passcode. I caught a glimpse of the woman inputting not her own name, but Puriel’s.

Before I could ask how she’d managed that, the woman spoke quietly. “The transport was a one-way trip. There’s no way to send it back or go through again. But where…” She started a bit then, eyes widening. “That… can’t be right.” Quickly, she input the same thing, staring the words on the screen for a moment before trying for a third time. “No, that has to be wrong.”

“What is it, Mama?” Tabbris, holding onto her mother’s waist, blinked up at her. “Are we in a bad place?”

Tristan’s head bobbed at that. “Yeah, just how deep in Seosten space are we?”

“We’re not,” Sariel answered, shock still filling her voice. “We’re not deep in Seosten space.”

Frowning, Vanessa asked, “What do you mean? If we’re not deep in Seosten space, where are we?”

Turning away from the console, Sariel answered her children. “Earth.

“We’re on Earth.”

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38 comments

  1. So, about that whole ‘I like the space arc but I hope concludes soon so they can get back to the Earth stuff’ feeling that’s been going around…. 😉

    And I know, this raises so many questions. Thankfully, a lot of those will be answered in the next chapter! Because we will have an interlude focused on Jophiel, Radeuriel, Abaddon, and Kushiel having a little discussion, which should establish things such as… why the hell was the transport pointed at Earth?!? And other things. So yeah, expect a few answers then.

    We will also have another interlude after that, which, as usual, will be voted upon by donators. So if you ARE a donator and are not on the interlude voting mailing list, feel free to email me at ceruleanscrawling@gmail.com.

    Beyond that, nominations for the favorite joke tag contest continue until Friday! You have until then to email me your nominations. So far, this is what we have:

    1: ‘Gaia Casually Manipulating The Meregan Teleporter Is Like A Tiger Casually Strolling Into Space-X And Piloting Their Rocket.’

    2: ‘Damn It Flick Turn In Your Protagonist Badge You’re Not Allowed To Actually Communicate With People.’

    3: ‘Whoever Asked If I Would Ever Reuse Joke Tags – There You Are.’

    4: ‘Fear The Power Of Me Finding Out (IE Being Told) How To Use Commas In Tags’

    5: ‘Entirely Too Few Answers’

    6: ‘Something Something Dirty Joke About Harper Looking For Arthur In Avalon’

    7: ‘Avalon/Shiori/Flick Relationship Development Be Damned. Let’s Talk About This Sick And Twisted Love Affair I Have With Cliffhangers.’

    8: ‘Meanwhile – Shiori And A Reluctant Avalon Are Telling Choo A Heavily Rewritten Three Little Pigs Story Involving Ninjas – Lasers – And One Sorry Wolf’

    9: ‘Somewhere Snidley Whiplash Is Looking At Ruthers And Going ‘Maybe Tone Down The Obvious Evil A Bit Dude’

    10: ‘Normal People: “Flick You Can’t Possibly Piss The Seosten Off More Than You Already Have.” Flick: “Hold My Beer.”’

    As a reminder, you can find an alphabetized list of joke tags (aside from the past couple of chapters) on the Spacebattle forums right here, and if you’d like details on how this contest works, check my comment right here!

    Tags for this chapter are: Felicity Chambers, Flick, Gus, Herbie, Jaq, Sariel, The Fact That Puriel Hadn’t Changed His Password In All That TIme Is Probably The Most Appalling Offense He’s Ever Committed., Tristan Moon, Vanessa Moon, You Guys Have No Idea How Happy I Am That No One Guessed That Twist.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. >At first, I wondered why someone who could clearly hit any target whatsoever would aim for someone’s leg rather than something vital.

    Actually, Flick, the leg has a number of blood vessels running through it, and they don’t typically react well to damage (ie you can bleed out quickly).

    >Because as the man’s gun fell from his hand with the barrel facing more or less toward her, Sariel fired another shot from the gun in her left hand. That bullet struck the trigger of the falling gun, making that weapon fire an actual laser that struck a big guy that had been coming up behind Sariel right in the middle of his forehead.

    Oooooooooor, that can happen too. Damn, that’s impressive.

    >How, I ask. Fucking how?

    Sariel landed the title “Goddess of the Hunt” for a reason, Flick. The above is why.

    >Someone was sobbing. Then they all were. Half-kneeling on the ground and half-laying against one another, the four clung to each other tightly. Several times, one or another tried to speak. But it always dissolved back into wordless sobbing as the four simply held on, clinging to their family like a man clinging to a life raft through a hurricane. This time, however, no force would pull them apart.

    So, 2 primary objectives were met here, free Sariel and reunite her with her family (even if it involved Jophiel putting a poison apple of sorts into the deal). Job’s not done though, they need to get back to the facility and free any other prisoners, if applicable, and then escape. A highly desirable secondary objective is ganking Kushiel. For the moment though, time to bask in the enjoyment of watching something loooong overdue.

    >“We’re not,” Sariel answered, shock still filling her voice. “We’re not deep in Seosten space.”
    Frowning, Vanessa asked, “What do you mean? If we’re not deep in Seosten space, where are we?”
    Turning away from the console, Sariel answered her children. “Earth.
    “We’re on Earth.”

    …Wait, wat? Why was Kushiel planning on coming to Earth, and with a Stasis’d Sariel? I have a suspicion we’re not going to like that answer.

    Great update Cerulean.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well I definitely did not see that coming.

    It actually drove thoughts about the reunion from my head too. It was a great reunion (I have to wonder the precise reason why Sariel stiffened upon seeing Flick, because she thought Flick might be angry about getting pulled in or something else?), but the question of “what?” Is pretty big right in my head right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Fact That Puriel Hadn’t Changed His Password In All That TIme Is Probably The Most Appalling Offense He’s Ever Committed.

      Honestly, I’m more curious about why his password grants access to the computer on an experimental transport ship he has no apparent involvement in.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, the ship IS at his wife’s blacker than black rape lab rather than at a naval research facility … so who the knows? Maybe it was one of his projects before Haiden gave him PTSD by accident?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Single Sign In protocol could, in theory, grant admin access to a cached group, and if someone set that group’s credentials to replicate or propigate through the network…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Extremely unlikely. No casual time travel in HE.

      Especially not to dimensions you’ve been to before. Being in the same dimension as your past or future self causes you to never have existed.

      Like

      1. Uh. Tristan, any? From Earth, time traveled relative Flick and company’s timeline to get to Earth (where we know he was born) and we already have an interlude where Flick herself requested help time traveling back to Earth.

        The primary restriction is time traveling to time periods where you currently exist.

        Like

  4. WHAT? I mean, I was wondering how a random desert planet happened to have tumbleweeds, but to find out they’re in the American Southwest… Also, how could Sariel possibly be here with the banishment? And why would Kushiel want to send her prisoners to Earth? I’m actually not 100% convinced this isn’t an alternate Earth or something. Dang, can’t wait for the next chapter now.

    My first thought of what to do now is that Flick should have Tabbris possess her and then call Gabriel Prosser. I’m not sure if Sariel would be okay with that, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, then. I was expecting crazy awesome aiming, but I was not expecting you to pull Ariadne-style stunts, Cerulean. (an impression not remotely helped by the insane number of eye shots) It makes sense, I just wasn’t expecting that.

    Anyway, Earth, yay! So, I wonder how long it will take for everyone else to get back, and whether or not they’ll beat the people looking for Flick.

    Also, I find myself really, really looking forwards to Larissa and Scout reuniting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Both Flick and Sariel are currently banished from Earth, so, unless these time travel theories work and going into the past fucks with the banishment, something’s not quite right.

    Like

    1. The orbs Charmeine used to send Flick and everyone else to Seosten space didn’t anchor them to a planet like the one that scatteres the Moons and Puriel. They were teleported, not full on banished.

      And Sariel was presumably prepped for transport since she was being sent off by the people who made the banishment orb in the first place. That’s also why Puriel is back on Elohim instead of wherever he was sent, the Seosten can disable the anchor thing that’s still affecting Tristan.

      Like

    2. For Sariel, I think it’s safe to assume that Kushiel has some way around the banishment orb, especially since Sariel was the intended target and actually reached the original destination. As well as that, they needed a way to prevent Sariel from just recalling to her last host on Earth, so they probably had a stronger
      version of the banishment orb that had spells on it that prevented the person affected by it from leaving the planet they were banished to.

      For Flick, the banishment orb wasn’t broken, so the spell itself wasn’t affected adversely, and the only effect it had was sending her to the other side of the universe. The orbs were meant to transport students that were incapable of fighting back, so there would have been no need to take extra precautions. Otherwise, they would have run into that problem when they tried to leave the space station in the first place.

      Like

  7. They’re back on earth, but, are they back on the HE version of earth, or are they in a Marvel/DC/whatever version of earth? Could it bebe a wuxia or System enhanced earth? Will Herbie get a Status page?

    Like

    1. Thanks, I genuinely have NO IDEA why it’s so hard for me to remember to tag her specifically. I’ve sat here trying to think of why I simply cannot remember her when it comes time to listing the tags, and I’ve got nothing.

      Like

  8. Regarding Sariel’s fight, here’s some actual footage from that altercation:

    Also: This was heartwarming and it was about god damn time! Finally Tabby gets some of those hugs she so deperately needs…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. >Shot after shot sailed around and past the woman as the soldiers tried to correct their aim, while Sariel herself flipped over, putting herself upside down. Her arms snapped out, and I saw two of the soldiers’ sidearms abruptly disappear, only to reappear in the woman’s waiting hands.

    Alright, that is a nasty trick. Especially if it isn’t limited to firearms, since that can probably get melee weapons out of opponents hands so that they aren’t aimed at colleagues. Also it is probably a right pain to actually keep Sariel disarmed, handcuff her, and I’m betting she was banned from poker night alongside Apollo on the Olympus. Since it would be very difficult to prove that they weren’t cheating. Just really, if Sariel didn’t know sleight of hand before she got that power, someone made it a priority to teach her it afterwards.

    >While I was still reacting to just how fucking ridiculous that was, Sariel was throwing one of those pistols into the face of another man who had been coming for her. He recoiled, while she pivoted to shoot yet another man. One shot, one kill. She took a quick step backward, putting herself close to the man who was recoiling. In the same motion, the woman caught the pistol that she had thrown into his face as it rebounded backward. Arms folding together across her chest so that the guns were pointed in opposite directions, she fired twice more from each gun, taking four more guys down.

    Something that is put into perspective here is that Sariel probably absolutely hated it when she couldn’t do anything. Given a little room to maneuver and she becomes a threat in very short order due to her ability to commandeer an opponent’s weapon. (And while she prefers range, the ability to perfectly aim something is probably handy for blocking in melee as well.)

    >Sariel let them go, standing there in the total silence that followed that mass retreat while she breathed in, then out a couple of times. The rest of us stood as well, just as silent as we stared at the woman we had been trying to save for so long. In my head, Tabbris had gone quiet as well. I could feel her shock, her disbelief that this could possibly be real, along with fear that if she said anything, if she moved at all, she would destroy this beautiful dream and it would be gone forever. Seeing her mother standing there, live and in the flesh after all this time, she didn’t know how to react. There was this great swell of emotion, a joy that had risen far beyond what I could possibly imagine, and which just kept growing with no particular end in sight.

    What isn’t mentioned here is that while the focus here is that Tabbris is in shock, and her growing happiness I’m thinking that Sariel was basically stuck in combat mode. This section here makes it apparent that everyone was staring at Sariel. Sariel meanwhile:

    >“Mama!!!”

    >The pistols that Sariel had commandeered from the now-dead soldiers dropped from her hands, as the woman pivoted our way with an audible gasp. She immediately took to one knee, arms managing to open wide just in time for Tabbris to physically throw herself those last few feet, literally launching into her mother’s arms, which closed around her and held on tightly.

    Only reacts once Tabbris begins calling her, but was staring out into the distance from where the enemy had disappeared. I think her children is what is grounding her right now.

    >“Babies,” Sariel choked out while leaning back to stare at her children. Her fingers wandered through their hair, down their faces, and back again while she whispered each of their names in turn. “Vanessa, Tristan, Tabbris. Oh, my babies. My beautiful, beautiful babies. You’re here, you’re here, you’re alive. Oh, you’re alive. You’re safe. She lied, she lied. I knew she lied. You’re safe. You’re safe. She lied.”

    >Her shoulders were shaking violently by that point, while her voice cracked. The revelation of how Kushiel had clearly been messing with her head just to hurt her shook me to my core. For a moment, I whispered a silent prayer that Apollo had actually managed to end that bitch somehow while we were gone.

    I hate to be the one to say this, but there are decent odds that this wasn’t the only way that Kushiel was at least attempting to mess with Sariel’s head, or whether it was successful in any way. Just that this was the one that was doing the most damage, that Sariel was worrying about – and thus the one that she’d be talking about.

    And unfortunately not, though I am still hoping he at least broke a few bones. Maybe a crooked nose?

    >She looked, despite the situation, like she was still right on the edge. Her face was paler than seemed healthy, and her eyes had a hard, haunted look. As a tumbleweed went drifting by in the slight breeze, I saw her gaze snap that way, every muscle in her body suddenly stiffening, as if she was ready for another fight.

    >It passed almost as soon as it had come, and she returned her eyes to me. “Felicity Chambers.” Her voice was soft, if a bit hoarse, and her eyes, though still haunted, took on a kind look.

    One of the better things about the group being on Earth is that it gives Sariel less time to recover enough to start hiding the damage she endured with Kushiel. It’s very noticeable, which means that instead of hiding it and not actually getting the help she needs because of her guilt and self blame, someone will actually notice and hopefully healing will occur. Or the start of healing as this is going to take a long time to recover from. And the Seosten memory does no one any favors here.

    If they’re really lucky they might even figure out that this was an ongoing problem before Kushiel entered the picture.

    One of the worse things is that… twitchy Olympian. When Tabbris is known as possessing Flick and nothing else. When Kushiel’s torture of choice was telling Sariel that her children were dead, possi probably in graphic detail. That might become a tense situation as Sariel will probably react first to any threat, even if she would normally know better.

    >The woman sighed a little bit. “There is so much more that we need to talk about,” she muttered under her breath, “so much more that I want to say. But that would come in time.

    Yeah, that definitely sounds like her original intention to waking Joselyn Atherby up was to apologize. For what, there’s a whole list of possibilities.

    >I thought that Sariel sucked in a little breath at that, her gaze dropping a bit with a look of guilt. “Apollo… Larissa…” She swallowed slightly, clearly a lot more troubled than she was actually letting her kids (who were mostly blinded by the joy of actually being with their mother) see. “Yes, yes, we… we need to re… um, regroup.”

    Well, I do hope that Tristan still has his memory from his Heretical Edge Vision since I think it covered Sariel’s interlude. Which given that it’s unlikely that anyone present besides him will know that Sariel does have a history of mental health difficulties if he doesn’t know – well that is somewhat important right now.

    And Apollo we’ve known for a little bit now that Sariel felt bad about, but of course she’s blaming herself over Larissa.

    On top of all this is the fact that I’m not sure if this is that Sariel is worrying through her composure, or that she just doesn’t have the energy to pull composure/mask up right now. Sariel is a very good liar given that she was evidently stealing her superior’s password for her own purposes, holding her tongue about Apollo’s Raduriel go away one time use trap, and I’m sure there is a litany of other lies.

    Sariel is attempting to not let the Moon children know that she’s anxious about those reunions. How good is Flick at catching liars? Especially since she doesn’t know that in general Sariel is prone to holding her tongue when she possibly shouldn’t be? The better that Flick is the less bad her catching Sariel is, the worse she is – well, a three millennia plus spy getting caught by a seven teen year old at lying. That doesn’t look good.

    >Thankfully, Sariel knew where she was going. The woman stepped right up to a console at one end of the transport tube. Her fingers danced over it, and she seemed to be putting in some kind of override passcode. I caught a glimpse of the woman inputting not her own name, but Puriel’s.

    Why hello there – that Sariel has that override says a lot. A) Puriel is terrible with password security. B) Depending on when she got it, she has information that the Empire might not know she has.

    Which of course leads to the question of what information has Sariel learned that she hasn’t told anyone. Since while she has the override she still never learned that Athena had escaped over a thousand years ago. So there are things she definitely doesn’t know, on the same hand the fact she has the override is proof that she has information that she isn’t supposed to know.

    >Before I could ask how she’d managed that, the woman spoke quietly. “The transport was a one-way trip. There’s no way to send it back or go through again. But where…” She started a bit then, eyes widening. “That… can’t be right.” Quickly, she input the same thing, staring the words on the screen for a moment before trying for a third time. “No, that has to be wrong.”

    Yeah, Sariel’s composure is absolutely shot right now. And given that she was able to hide the reality of Kushiel’s lab from Larissa without any slip ups, that has me severely concerned.

    >Turning away from the console, Sariel answered her children. “Earth.

    >“We’re on Earth.”

    Really it says everything about this story that getting a free express trip back home would be more problematic than being left stranded on a desert planet.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. To borrow a meme from a Worm fanfiction I can’t remember the name of…

    *Clockblocker’s voice in the distance durring the ‘fight’* “Bullshit!”

    Welp, lot of forces on Earth are going to be moving really soon, let’s hope Gaia’s group is the first to get to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Once the Goon Squad ran for the hills, I kept waiting for someone to comment “hey, weren’t WE supposed to be rescuing HER?”
    Of course, it would have jarred with the emotional reunion scene, so I understand why no one said it. But I still have to shed a tear for the lost snarkage opportunity…. 🙂

    “She lied.” Oh, Kushiel, every time I think you’ve checked every box on the “reasons you need to DIE” list, you go and add a new one.

    Aaaaand, the special emergency transport from Kushiel’s black site goes to… Earth. And is met by a short platoon of Seosten soldiers, operating OPENLY. This… this has IMPLICATIONS, and none of them are very good.
    They almost have to be someplace that’s not in Heretic-domincated territory. It’s desert, so Canada is out. And I doubt they’re near Vegas. Trying to remember my Heretic Geography 101… Australian outback? Gobi desert? Africa?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure openly is the right word. I mean, it is true that they’re out in the open, but they’re also in a desert in the middle of nowhere with no signs of civilization in sight. I doubt they’d have come out this openly if the transport had landed close to a settlement.

      That said, a couple of details have come out on the Heretical Edge Discord chat:

      1. They’re in the Sonoran Desert in North America (hence the tumbleweed and sagebrush).

      2. They’re a few thousand miles away from Kushiel’s intended destination. The troops waiting for them were just what the intended base was able to transport out to the place the transport actually landed. So they might actually be close to Vegas.

      Like

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