Month: June 2020

Interlude 11A – Deicide (Summus Proelium)

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For years by this point, Austen Deleon had had one main goal in her life. There were other, smaller goals, of course. Primarily revolving around gaining more power and never being helpless again. But throughout all of that there had been one above all the others. That goal was to see her father, the man who had abandoned her mother and herself when she was a baby, dead. The same man who had eventually become Cuélebre, leader of the Oscuro Fell-gang. 

If he had been some normal man, Austen would have killed him already. It was his abandonment that had even led her mother to become mired and trapped in that evil cult of religious whack jobs. What her mother had become, what Austen herself had been put through before getting her powers, all of it, every bit of it, was because of him. She would see him dead no matter what that took. The fact that he was so powerful, both in himself and in the army that he controlled, didn’t matter. Not in the long run. It made things more difficult, but she would still kill him, someday. She just had to be smarter about it, more patient. 

Part of being patient meant playing her role not only as the leader of the Easy Eights gang in the form of Deicide, but also as a low-ranking young pickpocket member of Oscuro itself. As far as anyone there was concerned, Austen was just a teenager with no powers who hung around and contributed by stealing things here and there and occasionally providing information she heard. 

Some of that information was actually good, and had led to Oscuro hitting a couple decent scores. Nothing that would have stood out too much. Nothing that would have drawn the eye of her true father. She didn’t want to rock the boat, or make him pay attention to her until it was far too late. She simply provided just enough information that would make her an established and fairly trusted member of the gang’s lower levels. She fit in there. She was one of them, as far as they were concerned. 

They had no idea what her true intentions were. No idea that she spent night after night imagining the light finally leaving her father’s eyes as she paid him back for destroying her mother, leaving her the broken shell of a woman who barely acknowledged Austen’s existence now that she had literally killed the man Laia herself had seen as a god, as the God. 

Most of the time, Austen’s mother hated her now. There were a few times here and there when Laia would speak to her normally if the girl visited. But for the most part, she and the rest of her cultist… ‘friends’ saw Austen as what amounted to the antichrist, or something to that effect. They didn’t attack her or anything. They were too terrified of her to do that. Or, more to the point, afraid of the demon that protected her. 

Yeah. Austen’s mother and the others were convinced that it had been some kind of demon controlling those books and papers that had possessed Austen herself and killed their leader. None of them actually knew much about what was going on in the rest of the world. They didn’t know that anyone called Deicide even existed. They lived on their farm, hated outsiders, and waited for their true God to be reborn. 

It was really sad, and part of Austen still wanted to simply grab her mother and drag her out of there. She had hoped that with the death of that religious fuckjob, Laia would wake up. But she hadn’t. If anything, her mother and those around her had actually doubled down on their insane beliefs. That this was all a test, that there was no way the demon who had ‘possessed’ Austen could possibly have actually killed their leader for good. They believed he would be back, and that as long as they were faithful, ignored the outside world, and kept his home clean and prepared, they would be saved from his righteous vengeance when he finally appeared and struck down the unfaithful and yadda yadda.

Austen knew her mother was too far gone now. She knew that at best, the woman needed professional help. Help that Austen herself couldn’t hope to provide, or force on her. But she still hoped, somewhere deep in herself, that killing the man who had abandoned the two of them might somehow wake Laia up so she could be Austen’s mom again. 

She missed her mother. She loathed the men who had destroyed her. Both the man who had called himself ‘Jesus’ and the one who now called himself Cuélebre. One of them had paid the ultimate price already, and the other… the other would get what was coming to him.  

Toward that end, Austen had decided that it was time to put a plan in motion thanks to Cuélebre’s recent mistake. Specifically, his decision to team up with the Ninety-Niners in attacking La Casa while Blackjack was desperately trying to save his own daughter. Doing that, pushing the La Casa leader that far while he was focused on finding the vials that would save his child’s life, gave Austen the opening she’d always wanted. An opening to make an ally who could help her destroy Oscuro, and leave her father vulnerable. 

It was that immediate goal of turning Blackjack into the ally she needed to finally kill her father that had led Austen to where she currently was. Specifically, in an apartment next to a window overlooking an alley. The window was cracked open, allowing the girl to peek out through the darkness to see the white figure of her paper-formed armor far below. To outsiders, it would appear as though Deicide was standing in that alley. But the armor itself was almost completely empty, save for a camera positioned inside its ‘head’ that was transmitting its image to a monitor in the room, and its audio to a single earbud she wore. As she had many other times, Austen would control the empty ‘costume’ remotely, using her power to manipulate the paper armor and make it seem as though someone was actually inside it. There were also three other cameras set up nearby. One was inside the nearby dumpster and pointed behind the armor to see the mouth of the alley. Another was hidden in a higher window opposite the one where Austen hid, pointed down to get a bird’s-eye view of things. The last one was high up on a nearby taller building and pointed down to take in the roofs of the buildings on either side of the alley. All four cameras, counting the one inside the suit, sent their views to separate sections of the monitor that Austen was watching. Between those and her own in-person view from this window, she could keep track of everything that was happening. 

Movement in the camera watching the roofs drew her attention that way in time to see five figures moving closer. Three were simply ordinary Prev members of La Casa, armored and heavily armed non-Touched troops who took up a position at the edge of the roof. The other two were Cardsharp, the Touched who could alter the physical properties of herself or anything she touched, and Double Down, the guy who stored any kinetic force that hit him and turned it to his own use. 

None of the five approached any closer than the edge of the roof. They took up their positions and waited, clearly ready to jump in if something went wrong in the next few minutes. Austen considered for a moment, but decided to do nothing to indicate that she knew they were there. She did, however, make the armor that was supposed to be her shift its weight a bit, glancing around now and then to make it seem more realistic. Not that she was planning on doing anything untoward right now. This meeting was far too important. But she also didn’t want anyone to realize that she wasn’t necessarily always in the armor they were talking to. 

On the roof, Cardsharp waited a full minute before taking out her phone and saying something to it. As soon as she did, headlights appeared down the street, visible in the view of the camera hidden in the dumpster. A car that had been parked started up, pulling to the mouth of the alley. Austen turned the Deicide armor to look that way, just as a man stepped out of the backseat of that car. A man who wore a perfectly tailored suit of black slacks, a black shirt, dark bolo tie with a red gem at the collar, intensely polished black leather shoes, gold gloves, and a white duster coat. He also wore a black helmet with a gold mask, on which was the etched shape of a face. 

Blackjack. Leader of La Casa, and the man she was waiting for. He glanced briefly one way, then the other down the street before approaching a few steps. “Deicide,” the man greeted her simply, “a little bird informed me that you wanted to have a bit of a chat. And that it would be worth my while.” He paused briefly before adding pointedly, “Should I ask where your lieutenants are?” 

In response, Austen focused on making several books that had been sitting atop the nearby dumpster fly up to surround her ‘costume.’ The pages of the books flipped rapidly, landing on pages to highlight specific words or sentences, which were then spoken aloud in a feminine voice that seemed to come from everywhere at once. The books flipped fast enough that the words came with little pause between them, about as fast as a normal person talking (if punctuated by the sound of flipping pages). “Should I, in turn, ask where your own reinforcements are waiting? Or should we proceed with the reason for this meeting, absent further posturing or unimportant queries?”

For a moment, Blackjack didn’t respond. He seemed to be studying her, his gaze intent on the paper mask behind which lay the camera that Austen was using to watch him. Finally, he gave a very slight nod. “I am curious as to what you could possibly have called this meeting for, I must admit. Is this related to that favor I owe you, by any chance?” 

In response, Austen made the empty armor fold its arms, the books flipping rapidly to project her answer. “First, congratulations are in order for your successful retrieval of your property.” 

She couldn’t see his face (not the real one, anyway) behind the one etched onto the golden mask. But Austen could hear the smile in his voice even through the earbud. “It hasn’t escaped my notice that your organization was absent from any attempt to retrieve that property for yourselves,” he noted. “And as I said, I do still owe you for the return of that single vial. If this is about monetary compensation…” Even as he said it, his voice made it clear that he was very doubtful about that. 

“It is not about monetary compensation,” Austen confirmed. Of course the man knew that, but they still had to play the game, still had to do that little dance. “The favor I ask will actually be as helpful for you as it is for me. So it should not be a hard thing to agree with.” 

If Blackjack had any idea what she was going to ask, the man didn’t show it. He simply stood silent, watching and waiting for her to go on. He was as patient as a rock, apparently content to wait as long as it took. Nor did he do anything to acknowledge or note the presence of his people on the roof, who were waiting and watching as well. Austen had no doubt there were others her cameras had not yet picked up, probably keeping an eye out for her own troops. 

She continued. “Your true enemies now, the ones who fought so hard to keep you from your property or to steal it for themselves, are Oscuro and the Ninety-Niners. And they know that they are your biggest targets now. They have formed a pact to defend one another from any of your incursions. Either are very strong on their own. Together, they represent too much of a threat for you to exact the vengeance you deserve.” 

“And if I understand your intentions here,” Blackjack casually noted, “You believe that if our two organizations were to… ally as theirs have, we would be more of a match for them.” He paused pointedly, letting his moment of silence fill the air before continuing, “Some would say that I seem to come out entirely ahead in such an agreement, particularly considering I already owe you for the return of my property. Here you’re offering to ally your group with mine, allowing me to exact payment from those who have wronged me. Where, precisely, does what you get out of this potential alliance come in?” 

Obviously, Austen couldn’t and wouldn’t exactly tell the man that killing Cuélebre was all the payment she needed. Beyond not wanting to give that much of her own secrets away, the rest of the Easy Eights would never stand for it. They hated Oscuro and their leader as well and always had, ever since his power forced the eight separate, smaller gangs to band together for survival in the first place. But they also had their own goals, and wanted their own rewards. All of Austen’s troops (none of whom knew they actually worked for a sixteen-year-old girl) were ready to fight Oscuro, but only if they would actually get something out of it. She was their leader, but asking them to fight for nothing wouldn’t exactly turn out well. 

To that end, the girl replied through her books, “In exchange for assisting you in exacting your revenge upon the Ninety-Niners and Oscuro, my people will receive control of all the property and territory stolen from them when Cuélebre began expanding his gang, as well as half of the property our groups attain from the Ninety-Niners. In addition, you will pay all taxes to the Ministry that arise from this endeavor. And sign a Ministry-backed non-hostility agreement for two years.” 

That last bit was a separate service the Ministry provided. Groups or individuals who signed one of their non-hostility contracts were agreeing that neither of them would attack or do anything to hinder or hurt the other. If they did, the offending person or party would face punishment from the Ministry themselves that included both monetary sanctions as well as possible expulsion from the city. It had happened before. One did not make an agreement with the Ministry and then break that agreement. There was a reason they could enforce their taxes and still keep themselves so private. No one knew just how many Touched they employed, or what the limits of their influence over law enforcement was. But the answer to  both questions was simply, ‘enough.’ They had enough Touched and enough control over the cops, the judges, even the Star-Touched teams themselves, to make life incredibly difficult for anyone who crossed them. 

If it came down to it, the Ministry would invoke what they referred to as Plan Z, a powerful and mysterious Touched assassin who literally went by the name of Z. Her power apparently gave her the ability to not only become intangible, like a ghost, but also allowed her to delay the effects of everything she did while in that state. Anything this Plan Z did while intangible, from kicking a rock to shoving a door, to punching a person in the face, could have a physical effect at some later point. And she was somehow able to produce simple weapons in this state, like bows and blades.

This… Z could turn intangible, create a bow and arrow out of literally nothing, and shoot that same intangible, nearly invisible arrow through someone without any sign that anything had happened. After that, within a certain amount of time (no one knew how long, exactly), the assassin could choose to make the effect tangible, and the person she had shot (or stabbed if close enough), would suffer exactly as though they had truly been shot through with an arrow, or stabbed.

There was a reason the Ministry wasn’t challenged beyond their deep well of information and contacts within the law enforcement and Star-Touched side of things. That was one example of the forces they could put against someone who annoyed them and broke their rules too much. Which meant that breaking a non-hostility agreement after signing it would be tantamount to suicide. 

After she finished that proposal, Austen watched and waited. She didn’t expect it to be agreed to just that easily. And sure enough, Blackjack shook his head with a soft chuckle. “I owe you a favor,” he agreed, “and your aid would be appreciated. But neither extend quite that far, I’m afraid.” 

Letting that settle briefly, the man continued, “For your aid, keeping the property which previously belonged to your people is fair. And it only makes logical sense that we would sign a non-aggression pact before embarking on this sort of alliance. Those are both perfectly acceptable conditions. But as for the rest… we will share the Ministry taxes evenly. After all, this is a venture from both of our organizations. And my people will retain control of all property seized from the Ninety-Niners, as well as half of the remaining Oscuro property that was not previously owned by any gang now affiliated with the Easy Eights.” 

That was essentially the counter-proposal Austen had expected. Still, she couldn’t just agree to it. Instead, she made the paper armor lift its head as though considering that before responding through the books, “Even split of taxes, your group gets half the property taken from the Ninety-Niners, not all of it. Splitting half of the unclaimed Oscuro property is… acceptable.” 

“Half of everything, hmm?” Blackjack made a show of considering that as much as she had made a show of considering his previous offer. “Half of everything aside from the property that already belonged to your people before Oscuro’s drastic expansion.” He watched the armor, waiting until Austen made it give a single, silent nod before offering his hand. “Agreed. Your favor is paid back in allowing your people to take all of their previously stolen property. And the rest is a simple alliance. We eliminate our enemies together, with a contract to avoid any violence between our groups for two years.” 

They shook hands. Or at least, Blackjack shook hands with the empty paper armor, Austen’s power making it feel as sturdy as steel. Then they agreed to meet the next evening in order to sign a contract with the Ministry, who would remain neutral throughout the upcoming events, aside from upholding that contract. 

Once it was over, La Casa’s leader moved to step back into his car, which pulled away and disappeared into the night without any further issues. Austen then watched the roof, as the Touched and Prev troops there silently withdrew as soon as their leader was safely away. 

Then it was done with. She’d made an alliance with a gang powerful enough to help her own gang deal with her father and his own alliance. The next step of her plan to finally see the man who had abandoned her and her mother was finally in motion. 

Soon, oh so very soon, Cuélebre would finally get everything that was coming to him. And Austen couldn’t wait to make sure he knew just who had made him pay for it.

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Eighteen 6-07 (Heretical Edge 2)

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There is a summary at the bottom of this chapter for those interested, though Fossor does not directly appear. 

Finally, my mother managed to speak. “Be careful,” she said quietly, yet urgently. “If you–” Then she stopped, putting a finger to her lips while her gaze snapped over toward the door. A second later, her hand was against my face as she spoke quietly. “Keep your head down. We’ll find a way out of this, Lissy. I… I’ll get you out of here, I promise.” 

Right, yeah. Someone was close enough to overhear us, or just paying attention through some kind of spying magic. Either way, we couldn’t talk about Rahanvael. But Mom knew that anyone who was eavesdropping wouldn’t believe we were just talking about innocent things, thus saying what she did. It was an understandable thing for the two of us to be whispering about. 

Before I could say anything myself, the door opened and that tall, purple ghost with the long beard and red eyes appeared. Ahmose. The one with the torture-touch. Part of me still thought it was kind of surprising that Fossor kept a ghost around who had his own name and apparent personality. But then, I had Rahanvael, who had apparently maintained her own personality and thoughts throughout multiple millennia. So I supposed that it wasn’t exactly unthinkable. Even if it was odd because, well, Fossor.

Either way, Ahmose floated through the open door. Which, I was pretty sure, was only something he did to be… polite? That sounded wrong. But I wasn’t sure why else he would bother with the door. Maybe it had to do with the same thing that made him keep his name? Maybe he tried to hang onto as many huma–errr, living things as possible. That was… curious.

While I was thinking of my way through that, Ahmose glided over in front of us. His voice was stiff. “You will both proceed to the dining area for breakfast. Lord Fossor will not be joining you. After you eat, you will then both make your way to the arena where the lord is waiting.” His crimson eyes burned a little more brightly as the ghost focused on me. “Young Miss Chambers will be tested.” 

Right. Yeah, I’d known something like that was coming, of course. Fossor wanted to see what I could do, while also making me… making me kill people I had no real reason to. Just to show how much control he had over me and my mother, because he was a gigantic fucking piece of shit. And, of course, if I refused… well, bad things would happen. And the people he wanted me to kill would die anyway. So I was just in a fantastic position all around. Go, Team Flick. We’re doing great.

“Thank you, Ahmose,” Mom said quietly and politely. I shot a quick glance toward her, curious. But she didn’t seem cowed or anything. Given the pain touch the ghost had, I’d been… worried. But if anything, my mother seemed genuinely grateful. She gave the tall, menacing spirit figure a nod before looking at me. “Let’s go, Felicity. I suppose it wouldn’t do to keep our… host waiting.” 

Ahmose turned away, then vanished into nothingness without actually moving. With a shrug toward my mother, I quickly got dressed alongside her and then the two of us passed through the area the ghost been floating in to head out. 

On the way, I hesitated before reaching out with the necromantic senses that I’d been trying to develop. I felt… traces of ghosts. Which made sense. But I didn’t feel anything immediate. Just to check, I focused inward, trying to concentrate on the thought of Fossor’s sister. Rahanvael? Are you there? 

Unlike with Tabbris, I didn’t get a verbal answer. She wasn’t possessing me. Instead, I felt an acknowledgment and confirmation. It was hard to really explain the specifics of. It was just a certainty that she had answered me without her actually answering. She was there. But she wasn’t going to risk actually speaking or appearing. Which was fair enough, given the situation.

I wasn’t sure how much she knew or had been keeping track of things, so I informed her quickly and silently about my mother knowing about her. Then I asked if she sensed any of Fossor’s ghosts hanging around or secretly watching. The response that came back was negative. 

Thanks, I started before hesitating. Um. Can you tell the difference between ghosts that I’m consciously aware of and ghosts I don’t know about? Again, there was a positive feeling of confirmation. Okay, if you sense any ghosts I don’t know about lurking around, could you poke me about it? 

Another sense of agreement came, along with a belated and hesitant sort of… reassurance. I wasn’t sure I had the feeling exactly right, but that was the gist of it. She was trying to make me feel better about the whole situation, like an emotional… pat on the back, essentially. I did my best to send the same sort of feeling back that way, but it probably didn’t come out right. Hopefully, she’d at least get the gist. 

I didn’t have time to wonder too much about that, or to talk anymore with my ghost companion. Because in the next moment, Mom and I passed through the door to reach the dining room, which had already been laid out for breakfast. There was a veritable brunch buffet scattered across the table, and it smelled incredible. Which sucked, because the thought of dead things making the food made me think that it should’ve smelled bad. But then I remembered that the food at Crossroads had been fine for all the time that Chef Escalan had been a zombie, and that just made me depressed again. Poor Chef Escalan, even if I’d never really known him while he was alive. It was still just… just another example of Fossor being a giant piece of shit. Another life he destroyed. God damn it. 

Apparently I froze as those thoughts rushed through me, because I suddenly felt Mom’s hand squeeze my shoulder while she looked at me with obvious concern. “Felicity,” she whispered, “do you want to take a plate and sit out on the patio? There normally isn’t a problem with that.” In other words, Fossor normally allowed her to do that. I could read between the lines of her words. She’d spent so much time trapped here in this house, had been his prisoner for so long… the thought just pissed me off again. I had to calm down, had to make myself calm down. 

“Sure,” I managed, looking to her with a hesitant smile that I knew didn’t reach my eyes. I knew because her answering smile didn’t reach her eyes either. We were play-acting, each trying to make the other feel better about this. I could tell Mom was thinking about dark times in this palatial house, even as she did her best to shield me from those memories. Even now, after more than a decade of being separated, I couldn’t actually… fully relax with my own mother because of this whole evil, dark, horrific situation we were in. And the fact that we were in it while standing in a brightly lit, beautifully decorated dining room full of incredibly delicious food just made the whole thing so much worse. It was like being at a carnival run by a serial killer. No matter how bright and fun everything looked, you’d know better. Just like we knew, no matter how good the food smelled, no matter what this place looked like, it was a prison run by one of the most evil, sociopathic pieces of shit who had ever set foot on this planet.

But I pushed that aside. Because I had to. Because there was no other choice. I would shove the horror and the revulsion away and focus on surviving one more minute, one more hour, one more day in this place. However long it took to get the hell out of here with my mother. I would make it work. I had my mom. I had a secret weapon in the form of Rahanvael. I could do this. I just had to make it through breakfast first. And then, of course, the arena. 

With somewhat shaking hands, I filled a plate. Mom hovered over me. When I started to leave with only a couple things, she shook her head and stopped me. “You’ll be fighting,” she reminded me in a quiet voice that was somehow both resigned and firm. “You need energy. Don’t worry about things being too fattening or heavy, regeneration will take care of that. Just get things that will give you energy. Fill up. I know it’ll be hard. You won’t want to keep it down, but do it anyway. You understand? Do it anyway. Eat.” 

She knew. She’d been through all this. She made herself eat to survive, to have the energy to fight no matter how horrible doing so made her feel and no matter how disgusting she found the whole situation. She forced it down, and now she was telling me to do the same thing. Because it was all she could do. She couldn’t protect me from going out there. She couldn’t force Fossor not to put me in his sick fucking arena. All my mother could do was make sure I was as ready as possible for it. And that meant making me eat, no matter how bad it felt to do so. 

So, I nodded and filled my plate better. Taking as much as possible, I ignored every thought in the back of my mind about how the food was made, where it had come from, the man responsible for it being here, everything. I shoved it down in the deep dark hole and buried it. 

Then I walked out of the dining room behind my mother, the two of us taking our plates and glasses of juice out onto the quiet patio overlooking one of the gardens. A ghost at the door appeared and stared at us as we approached, but faded when Mom paid no attention to him. 

“He’ll report that we’re out here,” she informed me while setting a plate on the table. “But as long as you don’t try to go past the wall there, none of them should bother you.” The wall she was referring to had to be two or three football fields away from the patio. 

“I guess you don’t know where we are, exactly?” I asked curiously while pulling out one of the chairs to sit down with my own plate. Part of it was simple conversation, of course. But I was also very curious. “I have… I have a power to sense how far away places that I know about are, but I can’t sense anything now. I’m not sure if that’s because we’re nowhere near Earth, or…” 

“We’re on Earth,” Mom assured me. “Fossor uses so many protection spells to hide the location of this place, that’s probably screwing up your Blemmye power. He’s a bit paranoid about it.” 

Of course he was. Because if anyone actually found this place, wherever it was, Fossor would have what amounted to an entire combined Seosten-Heretic-Gehenna-Whoever-The-Hell-Else-He’d-Pissed-Off Force coming to kick his ass all the way back to his own planet. He was powerful, but not powerful enough to fight off everyone who wanted a piece of him all at once. Maybe they couldn’t kill him because of his ability to shove damage off onto his planet of hostages, but they could sure as hell restrain him with enough people. He relied pretty heavily on choosing the battlefields and when to fight. He needed this place to remain a secret, a safe sanctuary for himself. 

With a sigh, I picked up my fork, staring at the food for a moment as I worked up the nerve to start shoveling it in. Quietly, I murmured, “Here’s hoping I can actually keep this stuff down. 

“Because I don’t think stepping into that arena and throwing up would really work as an intimidation tactic.” 

******

Entirely too quickly, breakfast was over, and we were heading for the arena. I honestly wasn’t sure which I was looking forward to less in the next few minutes, my first fight in Fossor’s stupid arena, or whatever evil little psychological torture he had in mind that was going to be my ‘birthday present.’ He’d promised it would be something good, so I could only imagine just how terrible ‘good’ in his mind meant. A lot of dark, horrible possibilities had flashed their way through my head every time the thought popped up, but I kept pushing them down, praying that whatever he was going to give me wasn’t as bad as my imagination. Because my imagination was being pretty damn horrific every time I gave it a chance. Stupid imagination. It was so fired right now.  

Mom was giving me advice the whole way there as the two of us walked through the vast, winding corridors. Mostly it amounted to telling me not to hold back, and to shove my guilt about the whole thing down until the fight was over. She promised we would talk it out, that she would be there for me when it was done and I could feel as bad as I wanted to. But for now, for this moment, I had to deal with surviving. She reminded me that it was Fossor’s fault that these people had to die, not mine, and that this was a tab he was running up. A tab that would be collected someday. Her voice was hard as she said those words, making me wonder just how high the cost already was on her end. How many people had he forced her to kill over the years? How full was the box that she had been shoving her own guilt into? Would it burst? 

I also wasn’t sure how she was dealing with the news that I had Fossor’s millenia-dead sister attached to me, wanting to help take her brother down. We hadn’t really had much of a chance to talk about that before our day had started. Obviously, she wasn’t going to say anything about it while we were out here, and seemed to trust the whole situation enough that she hadn’t immediately started an exorcism or whatever. But time would tell just how that was going to go. All I knew was that even with both of us together, we needed an edge that Fossor wasn’t ready for. And Rahanvael was that edge. We just had to find the best possible way to use that, because we’d only get one shot. Fossor would only be surprised by his sister’s presence once. It had to count. 

Promising my mother that I wouldn’t let myself freeze up during this fight (even as part of me worried if I was telling the truth), I had just asked if she had any idea what I would be fighting, when we descended a short flight of stairs to reach a cement tunnel. There were two double doors ahead of us, but before we went further, my mother took my arm and squeezed it. Her voice was quiet. “He’s been keeping me in the dark about what… or who he’s throwing at you right now,” she informed me. “But whatever happens, keep moving, keep your guard up, and try to end it as soon as you can. Don’t let them get into your head, Felicity, because some will try.” 

Right, don’t let them into my head. The question was, how would they manage it if I was already so far into my head myself that there wasn’t any room left for anyone else? My tactics were genius. Or was that strategy? I always got the two mixed. Regardless, I was brilliant. 

To that end, I took my mother’s hand and squeezed it tightly. “Mom,” I assured her quietly, “I… I don’t want to say I’ll be fine, cuz no one’s that optimistic. But I’ll deal with it. We’ll deal with it.” 

The two of us embraced tightly, standing there like that for a few long seconds. Mom held me close, tenderly brushing my hair before whispering, “I love you, Felicity. You are as brave and brilliant as I could ever have wished for. You are a wonderful young woman. All I wanted throughout this was to give you a chance to grow up, and you have. You have grown up so beautifully. Your father is an amazing man, and you are a remarkable young woman. Everything I’ve heard, everything you’ve said, it makes me so proud of you.” 

My mother was proud of me. My mother had told me she was proud of me. Was… was Fossor’s little arena fight here going to involve needing to fly? Because I was pretty sure I could right then. 

Yeah, I knew that things were about to come crashing down. But I enjoyed the moment for what it was. In a minute, I was going to have to go into that arena, see what Fossor wanted me to fight to the death against, and find out just what kind of present he had for me. So yes, I knew things would turn bad again very soon. Let them. Let that horrible thing come when it did. I couldn’t stop it, and I had this moment right now with my mother and I was going to enjoy it for another few seconds, damn it.

Or, apparently we were done. Because I sensed clothes and armor approaching from the same way we had come. Looking that way, I saw two heavily armored figures (my stolen necromancy power belatedly recognizing them as zombies) move up to the top of the stairs. They stared down at us pointedly, making a low growling sound that was clearly an order to keep moving. 

So, we did. Mom gave the two zombies a brief glance before turning back to the double doors. 

I really hoped she was right. Otherwise, this was going to be a very short turn in the arena. 

On the other hand, wouldn’t Fossor be pretty embarrassed if he went through all this trouble to grab me and I ended up getting killed five minutes into the first arena? 

Fucking hilarious. 

SUMMARY

Flick and her mother are interrupted before Joselyn can say anything about Rahanvael. Joselyn does not seem to hate Ahmose the torture ghost when he shows himself for that. Flick has breakfast with her mother out on the balcony, where Joselyn tells her that they are on Earth but there are too many protection spells for Flick’s power to tell her exactly where. With her mother giving her advice, they go to the arena to find out what Fossor wants her to fight and what Flick’s ‘birthday present’ is.

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Ready 11-07 (Summus Proelium)

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There was a commissioned interlude posted on Monday covering a look at the in-universe Sphere Online Forum. If you have not seen that yet, you might want to use the Previous Chapter button above. 

At one point when I was younger, before I was even in high school, Simon had told me that the best way to tell a lie was to make it one that still made you look bad. Basically, if you wanted someone to believe the lie, you couldn’t make yourself come out looking perfect. The best lies, according to my brother, were the ones that made the person telling them look at least somewhat in the wrong or bad. You could avoid telling the very damaging truth by telling a less damaging lie. But never try to get off scot-free. That just made people suspicious. People tended to believe you when you confessed to doing something wrong. 

Of course, these days I knew just why my brother was such a connoisseur of lying. But it was still sound advice, nonetheless. Even if the thought of what kind of things he’d needed to hide from me at the time made my stomach turn itself into knots and brought bile to my throat. 

Ignoring that, I focused on the advice itself. I’d been thinking about what lie I was going to tell my parents the whole time that I was on my way home, and preparing for it. Sure, I’d hoped I could get into the house without my absence being noted, but hoping for the best and preparing for the worst was a good motto. So, I’d rehearsed what I could say if this moment actually came, and here it was. 

Shifting and fidgeting on my feet like a little kid who was afraid of getting in trouble, but also scared in general (an easy role to play, given the circumstances), I rubbed my hand against my arm. “I umm… I was just…” Swallowing, I peeked up at the two of them, quickly blurting, “I’m sorry, I know it was stupid and everything. But I really wanted to try and I thought I could do it and it’d look really cool but then I screwed up and it hurt and I didn’t mean to stay out so long but–” I made sure to ramble almost but not quite incoherently, as though I was trying to tell the story from three or four different points and jumbling everything together. It would sound far less rehearsed that way. Which was the exact reason why I’d thought up what I would claim happened without rehearsing specifics. I was pretty sure that was my only chance to make it work. 

Mom quickly shook her head, moving her hands to my shoulders while kneeling right there in front of me. “Principessa, we’re not angry with you. My beautiful girl, we were afraid. We were so afraid. We…” She hesitated, exchanging a brief look with my father before looking back to me, her voice that same gentle, caring tone that made it so hard for me to see her as this merciless, evil supervillain. “Just tell us where you’ve been. We’ve had the police look for you, we had Simon–oh dear, call Simon.” She added that last bit with a nod toward Dad. “We asked the Jacksons if they’d heard from you. No one had. No one knew where you were.” Her voice was trembling a bit, and I immediately felt guilty about making my mother that upset. Which… was a weird feeling, given what I knew about them. What about all the people she’d upset? 

Still, I had to press on. So, I gave them the story that I’d come up with to explain my absence, in a halting, nervous, almost shell-shocked voice. “I was skating out where they’re building that water park on the north-west end of town. You know, the one that umm, the one that’s been on hold with all that union stuff or whatever?” I knew damn well they knew which one I meant, considering my father was one of the financers for that particular development. I’d heard the two of them talking about it a few times here and there. From what I knew, they weren’t exactly happy about the delays. Which made me worry about the people who were opposing it. 

Sure enough, my parents exchanged brief looks before Dad nodded. “Yes, we know it. And we also know that that’s not the north-west part of town, that’s out of town. A couple miles out of town.” 

Cringing a little (again, not a hard thing to fake), I nodded. “Yeah, I… I took an Uber out there. They dropped me off.” 

Dad was squinting at me with narrowed eyes, finally starting to get over his initial relief that I was in one piece. “You had them drop you off to skate in a construction zone outside of the city? Cassidy, you…” He exhaled. “Didn’t we talk about skating in established areas? And being safe. I swear the words ‘be safe’ have come out of my mouth.” 

Wincing visibly under their stares, I nodded and squirmed before reaching down to grab the skateboard with the partially broken wheel that I’d bought from that guy while waiting for my cab. “I-I’m sorry, I just really thought it looked cool. You know, there’s all kinds of equipment and partially filled pool foundations, the cement pieces where the slides are supposed to go, stuff like that. It was empty and quiet, so I thought I could just skate around for awhile and clear my head. I just… wanted to try it. I’m sorry, it was stupid.” 

Mom’s mouth opened, and the way her expression twisted just a little made me think she was going to yell at me. In the end, however, she caught herself, hissing out a wordless sound of annoyance and distress instead. A few long seconds of that passed before she managed to form a coherent response. “Cassidy Sofia Evans, do you have any idea how–what… What happened?” She finally settled on the last bit after Dad put a hand gently on her back. 

“I’m not sure,” I managed, turning the skateboard over so they could see the broken wheel. Then I leaned over to pick up the dented helmet. “I was skating and then I dropped down into one of the pool foundations and… and the wheel snapped or something. I just… I just laid there for awhile. It hurt. Then I got up and tried to call for a ride, but…” After a moment of hesitation, I showed them the phone that I had smashed. “I had to walk back to the city. I used the phone at a gas station to call for a ride once I was close enough, but… but it takes a lot longer to walk back than driving, and that development is way out there so I was kinda going through the middle of nowhere.” 

Biting my lip hard, I glanced up to look at them with an added, “I’m really sorry. I know it was dumb, I just didn’t think it would be that bad. I was…” My face twisted a little as I repeated, even more weakly, “I’m really sorry.” 

My parents didn’t respond at first. Dad just brushed his hand over my hair, staring at the helmet and the board in my hands while looking almost like he wanted to snap both in half. Finally, he exhaled sharply. “That’s… that’s all? You had an accident, broke your phone, and had to walk back to the city?” 

“That’s all?” Mom started incredulously, looking at him like he’d just transformed into a green and purple bunny before hopping around on a pogo stick. 

Dad, in turn, gave her a brief, silent look. I wasn’t supposed to know what he was saying with it, but I did. He was reminding my mother that there were far worse situations I could have been in, given the things they were into. He’d clearly thought up all sorts of nasty things that could’ve happened to me. So getting this (hopefully believable) answer that I’d just been a dumb kid and hurt myself actually was a relief. 

Once they’d exchanged those looks, Dad looked at me. “Are you okay?” His voice cracked just a little as he asked that, clearly remembering the way I’d yelped when he tried to hug me, his fingers very gingerly feeling along my head for a knot or a bruise. 

Wincing a little when he did that, I nodded. “I’m okay, I swear. I’m bruised and everything, but I can remember my name. I remember what day it is, what the president’s name is, our address, all that stuff. I can say the alphabet backwards even though I think that’s more a drunk test than a damaged brain test. I’m okay. Nothing’s broken.” 

“We’re still calling Dr. Roev to examine you,” Mom declared. She gave me a look when I started to protest. “We are calling Dr. Roev, end of discussion. He’ll tell us if you need to go to the hospital. And then we’ll go from there. Don’t argue, you’re already in trouble, young lady. Big trouble.” 

“That’s right,” Dad agreed. “We know grounding doesn’t exactly hold much weight. Not with your room being everything it is, the two of us being so busy, and everything else. And you’re sixteen years old, you shouldn’t need to be grounded. But how’s this? A one month extension onto getting your car. That means instead of getting a car and driving as soon as you get your license, now you wait one month past that.” 

Wow. Not so long ago, getting my licence and my car had been basically everything in the world to me. Now, the reminder that it would be coming up fairly soon was actually surprising. Of course, I still wanted to drive. I wanted my own car and now I was being told that I would have to wait a full month longer than I was supposed to. If things had still been normal for me, that one month extension would have been one of the worst possible (still reasonable) punishments my parents could give me. But in the wake of everything, it just seemed like such small potatoes. 

Still, I had to play it up, so I made my expression fall as if that crushed me. “Whaaat? But I–” 

“No.” Mom quickly cut me off, putting a finger to my lips. “No arguing. Not now. Not…” Trailing off, she leaned in to hug me as tightly as she dared. “Oh, my beautiful girl. You’re okay. You’re safe. Grazie a Dio.” Her voice was shaking just a bit before she straightened and took my hand to lead me to the gate. “Come, we’ll call Dr. Roev and make sure you’re actually safe.” 

Unfortunately, there still wasn’t much I could do to argue about that idea. If I pushed too hard not to have the doctor examine me, I’d just make them more suspicious again. Thankfully, they were having him come to check me out and not going into the hospital for a full-on battery of tests. I’d just have to be satisfied that they weren’t doing blood work or anything like that. 

Dad stayed back to say something to the police officer and the guys in suits. I just assumed that all of them were on my family’s payroll. They’d probably been mobilizing to find out if any of their (our?) enemies had actually grabbed me. Which made me wonder briefly what they’d actually do if that ever happened. Actually, what would I do? Would I find a way to escape from someone who knew me as Cassidy without revealing my powers? Or would I wait to be rescued? 

On our way up the long walk toward the house, Mom was quiet at first before finally asking me in a gentle voice, “Do you… resent having another girl around right now?” When I looked at her, she put a hand on my shoulder to squeeze, expression worried. “If having Izzy here is upsetting you, if it makes you feel as though you can’t be here and have to go out to have privacy…” 

“What?” My eyes widened and I quickly shook my head. “No! No, that’s not it at all, I swear. I like having Izzy around. Seriously, don’t–don’t send her away or anything. I promise, that’s not it. I mean it’s nothing. There’s nothing to be ‘it.’ I just thought it’d be cool to practice my skating in a place like that. You know, with all those huge empty pools and ramps and stuff. I thought I could try some new tricks out there, that’s all. I thought it’d be fun.” 

Only after I’d said all that did I have the thought that telling them I didn’t want Izzy around might have been the better way to go for the girl herself. It might’ve gotten her out of this place and over to… to… where? I still didn’t know what that exact situation was or why she was here. If my parents had her here because they were protecting her from some other enemy of theirs or… something, having her sent away was worse than having her here. God, this was complicated.

Mom’s eyes studied me for a moment through that, clearly trying to see if I was hiding some deep-seated resentment of the girl they had taken in. Finally, she gave a short nod, her expression softening considerably as she touched the side of my face once more. “My beautiful girl. If there is anything you ever want to talk about, anything at all, you can come to me. Or to your father. We love you, Cassidy. Tell us if you need anything, do you understand?” 

“Yes, Mom,” I quietly agreed, shifting a little on my feet before adding, “I’m sorry. I… I didn’t mean to make you worry so much. I won’t go skating in a place where no one can find me like that again.” And I was really hoping I wouldn’t end up in a situation where I needed another excuse for disappearing for hours (or even longer) again. Because if it did, I was pretty sure I’d end up chained to my bedroom or something, which might make being Paintball somewhat harder to pull off. 

We made it inside, Dad joining us at the door after giving his instructions to the men. Once there, we went to the kitchen and my parents insisted that I eat something while we waited for the doctor. So, I had a sandwich. Then another one. I was actually famished after everything that had happened. Having actual food in my stomach made me feel a bit better, though I was still worried about what the doctor would say. All I could do was hope that he wouldn’t find anything that completely blew my entire story out the window. If he did, I didn’t know what I’d do.

For the moment, all I could do was sit there, eat my sandwiches, and wait to see what happened. Throughout all that, Mom and Dad asked me questions about how I felt, where it hurt most, how tired I was, and more. Part of me wondered how much of that was them reassuring themselves that I was here and safe, and how much was them wanting to keep me awake until that doctor of theirs could give me that full check-up. Probably equal parts of both, really. 

Finally, Dr. Roev showed up. He was a tall guy, almost six and a half feet, with pale skin dotted with freckles, a cheerful face with bright red cheeks, and a full head of bushy brown hair. He asked me to stand up, used his little penlight thing on my eyes while asking me to look various directions, checked my heart rate with his stethoscope, felt along my ribs, and used some kind of Tech-Touched imaging device along my head to check for any concussion or brain bleeding or whatever. He also used the same imaging device along my chest to check for broken bones or internal bleeding there, all while having me talk to him. First it was just about what happened, then about myself. He wanted me to tell him my favorite movies, books, what games I liked to play, about people I knew at school, things like that. 

Finally, the doctor straightened and addressed both me and my parents. “No concussions. She’s lucky. She’s clearly taken a bit of a head injury, but she should be okay there. Looks like she cracked a couple ribs and has a lot of bruising. Whatever she hit impacted the most right about here.” He indicated the left side of my sternum, where it hurt the most. “Ice it, get plenty of sleep, and make sure you take a really deep breath and let it out, or cough really hard at least once an hour while you’re awake. When you’re lying down, if you sleep on your side, lay on the injured one. I know, I know, that sounds odd. But lay on your injured side so you can breathe better. Don’t tape it up or anything, that’s bad. Just ice it now and then and make sure you take some ibuprofen or something for the pain. Don’t try to be a hero.” 

Oh, now he told me that last part. I managed a short nod. “Thank you, sir.” 

“Any time, kid.” He winked at me before turning to my parents. “She’ll be okay other than that. Make sure those ribs heal properly. I’d give it a few weeks before she does anything too strenuous again, just to be on the safe side.” 

Dad ruffled my hair, saying something about how I would never be skating by myself in a vacant development again. Then he escorted the doctor to the door while Mom stayed with me. She asked me how I was feeling, then told me to get some sleep and that no one would bother me. Which sounded great to me. All I wanted to do was fall down and stay unconscious for a few weeks. A few hours would have to be enough. 

When Dad came back, he had Simon with him. My brother gave me a hug, called me an idiot, and then Mom told him to take me up to bed. I resisted the impulse to argue that I didn’t need an escort. Instead, I hugged both my parents, promised repeatedly never to do anything that stupid again, and went with Simon. On the way, we grabbed a bottle of heavy-duty pain meds. 

Once we were upstairs, Simon shook his head at me. “You know, if you pull something like that again, Mom and Dad are gonna duct tape you to a chair and just have me wheel you to school. Which is gonna suck, cuz I’ve got my own shit to take care of. So don’t put me through that.” 

Flushing a bit despite myself, I nudged him with my foot. “Thanks, Simon. Love you too.” 

He left me there, and I checked on Izzy next door. She was asleep in her bed, so I went back to my own room, downed a couple Ibuprofen without bothering to turn the lights on, and then sighed while flopping down onto my bed. 

Ow, that was a mistake. There were things in my pockets. Reaching down, I tugged out those two toy planes and the action figure. I’d shoved them in there while changing clothes without even thinking about it. Now, I pulled them out before blinking a bit. In the dark like this, a bit on each toy was glowing. It was glow-in-the-dark paint. Just a little bit on each toy, enough for two small numbers. On the action figure was a six and a two. On the normal fighter jet was a three and a nine, and on the alien-painted fighter was a four and a weird, yet somehow familiar symbol. It looked like a capital E with a diagonal line from the right end of the top horizontal line down to the inside of the bottom corner, crossing through the middle horizontal line on its way. I knew that symbol, but I couldn’t remember from what. I had seen it before, and recently, but… where? Six, two, three, nine, four, and then a weird symbol. It was a combination or a code, or something like that. 

But… a code for what? And why was that crossed through E symbol so familiar? I knew I’d seen it recently. But where?

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Commissioned Interlude 2 – Sphere Online Forum (Summus Proelium)

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The following is a commissioned interlude focusing on a look at the most popular online web forum for discussions about Touched, known as Sphere. It is written in the format as though one were reading the forum itself from the point of view of one character in particular. 

Welcome, Gepetto’s Lad (click here to log-out) to the Summus Proelium HERE forums, or SPHERE. It has been (three hours sixteen minutes) since your previous log-in, and there have been (0/Zero) rule clarifications or updates and (1/One) administrator announcement. Click here to read them, and be aware that the system will not allow you to post any replies or make any new topics until you click the button at the bottom of any announcement(s) and rule update(s) acknowledging you have read and understand them. 

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<> Topic — Update On Relief Efforts For The Collision Point In Salt Lake City (Boards – Announcements – Current Announcements)

Razoev (Administrator – Original Poster)

Posted on April 4, 2020:

On behalf of all of the Sphere administrative and moderating team, I’d like to thank every last one of you who has already donated to support the efforts to repair the damages and provide food, water, and medical treatment to the several hundred people who were injured during the recent Collision Point in Salt Lake City last week, as well as sadly, support for the families of the forty-nine who were killed. At this point, we’ve raised a little over eighty-seven thousand dollars in the span of only seven days since the event itself. That’s incredible! Thank you all so much. Your efforts put us ahead of schedule for our goal of providing one hundred thousand dollars in the first two weeks. But remember, every little bit helps and while the Collision in Salt Lake wasn’t as bad as some, there’s still a lot that needs to be done to take care of all the people and families who were affected. 

So let’s pitch in a bit more and try to get to two hundred thousand in two weeks! That’s a bit of a stretch, but we can make it happen. Sphere has more than that many active members, so if every one of you donates only one dollar, we’ll blow past that goal. Donate two dollars and we’ll obliterate it. Also, Sickstalker promised to do another round of show tunes in a livestream this time if we pass the new goal, and who wants to miss that? 

Remember, all proceeds beyond what are needed for this situation will be added to a general Collision Point relief fund, so your donations will never be unwanted. You can click here to reach the direct donation page (remember to put Sphere in the referral space) or here to see a list of other related charities you can donate to if you’d like to choose your own. 

As an announcement, this thread will be closed. But you can discuss everything revolving around the Salt Lake CP in the appropriate thread here

Thank you all so much, and just be good to one another. Because the Abyssals sure won’t. 

——–

Click here to acknowledge that you have read and understand this announcement. This thread has been closed to further replies. You will be unable to post new replies or topics until this announcement has been acknowledged.

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<> Topic — La Casa Thread Twenty-Seven (Boards – Places – United States – Michigan – Touched-Teams – Villains)

4D-Daniel (Moderator – Original Poster)

Posted on July 10th, 2019: 

Time for another fresh thread, now that the other one was locked down thanks to a few people who didn’t know how to follow the rules against trying to guess Touched public identities. Remember, those discussions are not allowed anywhere on Sphere. You could put Star-Touched or their families in danger, and Fell-Touched could react badly to even an attempt to out them. Not to mention, a lot of information that people use for those efforts comes from when Fell-Touched cooperate with authorities to assist in Collision Points, and they might just stop doing that if it leads to people attempting to reveal their identities. Sphere does not allow that kind of discussion. 

Anyway, use this thread to discuss the Detroit-Based villain team known as La Casa, founded and currently led by the Fell-Touched known as Blackjack. Everything about their membership, powers, altercations, crimes, etc should be relegated to this thread.  

The archive of previous discussion threads can be found here, and the Sphere-Wiki entry for the gang is here

(Showing page 196 of 197, displaying ten posts per page)

—> StarOfImps

Replied on April 3, 2020

@Tzon Yeah, it’s definitely safe to say she turns lizards into other animals considering no zoo has reported a bear, gorilla, or a panther missing. Monkey or eagle might be more easily missed, but I’m pretty sure those first three tend to be noticed. Besides, it makes more sense from a hiding and deployment perspective if she shrinks them back down into normal lizards. I haven’t seen anything about a huge moving van (or whatever else it might take to move those kind of animals around regularly) near all these appearances. 

Does anyone remember what she’s called them? I think the bear is Snickers and the gorilla is Twinkletoes. Others ???? How long do you guys think it’ll be before she adds in another one? And what’ll it be, lizard and combined animal? 

—> Tzon

Replied on April 3, 2020

Sorry, I think we were talking past each other. You’re right, Pack definitely turns regular lizards into other animals. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Except maybe manifesting them out of nothing, but the fact that they’re ‘lizard-like versions of other animals’ makes me pretty sure it’s the former. 

Anyway, I wasn’t questioning that. I was asking if anyone thinks she has to touch or look at the animals she wants to turn her lizards into. That’s something she might be able to do at the zoo. Especially with someone like Blackjack behind her. You know he’s got the pull to get a zookeeper or whatever to look the other way while someone visits the animals. And needing to touch the animal she wants to turn a lizard into would be a pretty normal limitation. I wonder if the Stars and Shields are looking into that. Not to stray into ‘theorizing on people’s identities’ territory (sorry mods), just wondering if maybe they’ve upped security or something to stop her from expanding her arsenal, as it were. 

As far as Pack adding to her menagerie, I wonder what kind of limit she has. I mean, I doubt she could just make unlimited numbers. 

(Edit) Oh and I don’t think the bear is Snickers. That doesn’t sound right. I think the panther is Christmas. 

—> Flaboran

Replied on April 3, 2020

I’d like to know more about Broadway. Her armour costume’s pretty awesome. Does anyone else think Blackjack might’ve outsourced to Braintrust for it and that there’s a few surprises still hidden in there for anyone who thinks they’re safe from her sound power? Or Eights maybe. He’s got a techy power, right? 

—> VotMoon

Replied on April 4, 2020

@StarOfImps and @Tzon Pack’s bear is called Mars Bar, you just had the wrong candy. And the panther is Holiday, not Christmas. 

Personally, I’m pretty sure she does have to touch the right animals. That power is just way too OP otherwise. What’s to stop her from combining a lizard with a dinosaur or something? Or even more terrifying, a moose! 

I hope the next lizard-animal she adds is another flier. The eagle needs a wingman. Or maybe something like a wolf. 

—> OnceWereWarriors

Replied on April 4, 2020

@Flaboran No way is Blackjack contracting costume work out to Braintrust. They don’t get along. Something about him yoinking one of their people a couple years ago. Some guy from my old Alma Mater used to minion for them. Couldn’t believe it when I saw him on the news, but yeah. There’s an interview with him about the Braintrust thing right here. Besides, Blackjack can afford to have his own Tech-Touched employees, even if they’re not the kind who run around in costumes being obvious about it. Not all of them do, you know. Lots of Touched just stay as private as they can and use their powers more secretly than that. 

But anyway, what kind of supersoldier do people think he’s trying to make with those vials now that he’s got them back? 

—> Dehny

Replied on April 4, 2020

He’s not trying to make a supersoldier. The vials were medicine for someone suffering from Rot Bone. Probably his wife or child. Or some other family member. Someone he cared enough to go to war with a bunch of other gangs for. You should check the thread for that. Try page thirty-seven through thirty-nine for the best info from a few Shields who were around. 

As for Pack, maybe she can only have so many of her lizards active at a time? I know we’ve seen a lot of different ones, but have we seen all of them up together in the same situation? I can’t remember. 

—> FullBass

Replied on April 4, 2020

Wait someone remind me what a Shield is. I thought it was another word for Star-Touched??? But Tzon said ‘Stars and Shields’. :/ 

Oh and all glory to the orbs! Our orb leaders will guide us through these troubled times! Hail! 

—> SpeakerOfFables

Replied on April 4, 2020

@FullBass Shield means cop or anyone like them. FBI, ATF, any non-Touched law enforcement. Stars and Shields means ‘Star-Touched and police’ 

@Flaboran I think Eights has some kind of ‘control computers’ power, nothing about building them. Though I suppose he could just be keeping that in reserve or being subtle. But I’m fairly certain he’s a technopath, not a Tech-Touched. He controls technology, he doesn’t build it. 

—> BrightGold

Replied on April 4, 2020

So is Eight’s full name Crazy Eights? That’s the gambling thing he went with? What does that have to do with his power? 

Oh, and if he’s really a technopath, I imagine Braintrust doesn’t want any of their equipment anywhere near him. Wait, who do you think would win, Eights or Braintrust leader? Doesn’t Glitch have some kind of manipulating technology power? Or is the whole ‘glitch’ thing just about breaking them. 

—> MarsSpider

Replied on April 4, 2020

@BrightGold It’s just about breaking them, I think. I mean, her whole Tech-Touched shtick is improving other people’s tech, yeah. But she also has some kind of Field-Touched power to make tech screw up or just not work at all while she’s around if she doesn’t want it to. She fixes and she breaks, she fixes and she breaks. 😀

Point is, she doesn’t really manipulate it like that, she just makes it not work right. Or knows how to improve it. I think she might copy Tech-Touched designs or something too, not sure. 

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<> Topic —  Gangwar! (Boards – Places – United States – Michigan – Events)

Constructicon (Original Poster)

Posted on March 25, 2020: 

Okay, to consolidate everything we know from the fifteen other threads that popped up about this in various places, let’s go over the basics. 

1: For several hours last night there were a series of incursions throughout the area of the city the Fell-Gang known as La Casa claims as theirs. These incursions/attacks were performed by members of the Ninety-Niners and Oscuro gangs, who appeared to be allied. 

2: No territory seems to have changed hands (though an unknown amount of resources/supplies were destroyed and/or looted), as the incursions themselves appear to have primarily been distractions. 

3: The primary situation these incursions were intended to distract from appears to have been an altercation at the Huey’s Grocery on Park West. 

4: The Huey’s altercation centered around the retrieval of certain medical vials stolen from La Casa at some point (Edit: they were probably stolen during the bank robbery a few weeks ago, but the bank denies it). The Star-Touched known as Paintball possessed the vials as well as the original thief and was located inside the Huey’s. 

5: Members of both Oscuro and the Ninety-Niners attempted to forcibly retrieve the vials from Paintball. He resisted and was assisted by the Minority and members of La Casa (including Blackjack), whom the Star-Touched appeared to have formed a temporary truce with to allow the medical vials to be returned to their owner. Reports of the reasoning vary and stray too much into rumor to get into here. 

6: The altercation at the grocery store eventually spread to surrounding neighborhoods, as Oscuro-leader Cuélebre left the scene with at least one vial. He was chased by Paintball (yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds) and appeared to be chasing someone else in turn (possibly more vials). 

7: Paintball managed to take back the vial that Cuélebre had and was in turn chased through the city. See that footage from several different cell and security cameras put together here (the second time that’s happened, see the original video of the first time here and the Yakety Sax remix here). At some point, Paintball evaded Cuélebre, who then engaged with Silversmith. See footage of their fight here). 

8: At the end of the night, La Casa were allowed to leave with their stolen property. Many arrests were made, but none were Touched, as all Fell-Touched were extracted by the Ninety-Niner known as Longhaul. 

Those are the main points of what we know right now. I tried to verify things as much as possible and avoid reaching too far into conjecture. 

(Showing page 32 of 32, displaying ten posts per page)

—> One22Eighteen

Replied on April 2, 2020

Do you guys really think Blackjack’s got some sick mom or whatever he’s trying to save with those vials? Cuz I’m pretty sure he’s using them to beef a few of his soldiers up. Come on, what kind of medicine out there is gonna make people go through a whole gang war over it? I bet those vials turn whoever drinks them into Steve Rogers-like supersoldiers. Five of ‘em? Or however many there were? That’d be a huge boost for whatever group used those. 

—> Obscurist

Replied on April 2, 2020

@One22Eighteen Not that any gang would object to having a bunch of supersoldiers, but I’ve seen way too many people saying the vials were medicine either for Blackjacks’ child or wife to discount all of them just like that. I think the potential benefit of holding that kind of medicine over Blackjack’s head, particularly for a terminal case as people have said, is enough incentive to drive Oscuro and the Ninety-Niners to those lengths. No reason to reach further for a motive. 

—>  Mach3 

Replied on April 3, 2020

What I still wanna know is how Blackjack convinced Paintball and the Minority to work with him through all that. Hell, even the older Star-Touched just let La Casa leave in the end. Isn’t that kinda weird? I mean Paintball maybe. We don’t know much about him or his whole deal (I’m still on Team He’s A Sapient Comic Book until something better comes along), so being talked into helping one of the bad guys with a sob story makes sense. But what about the rest of them? 

—>  Ravenjoy 

Replied on April 3, 2020

The Minority are still teens too, they could’ve been talked into siding with Blackjack. And frankly, bad guy or not, if he really was using that medicine to save his kid or whoever then all the more power to them. There’s other days for focusing on bringing him and his people in, not one where someone’s life is at stake. Especially if it was his kid. 

And the fact that the adults honored the truce later would seem to imply that it was for a good reason, wouldn’t it? Sure, they’re all tight-lipped now, but read between the lines. They accepted the truce and let Blackjack and his people leave. No way they do that without solid reasoning. 

I think the better question here is why isn’t Paintball joining the Minority yet if he’s okay with working alongside them? And why aren’t they pushing the issue more? This kid’s like twelve and he’s already pissed off Cuélebre twice. At this point, the Conservators or Spartans might need to take him into protective custody. 

—>  RobertR

Replied on April 4, 2020

Paintball should totally join the Minority, they’re the best place for him. I mean not every teen Touched (is it me or is that a weird phrase I mean it’s the right one but IDK) is on the Minority but it feels like Paintball should be on there cuz he’s worked with them already before so why wouldn’t he want to join them I don’t understand. I’m confused, has the Minority stopped taking new people? 

—> HiddenAxiom 

Replied on April 4, 2020

Probably a good idea to keep the strictly Paintball talk to his thread, @RobertR. But for the Minority, I don’t think they ever stop taking new people. I mean, it’s not like they’re that large now, right? 

But to be on-topic, does anyone else think the whole temporary truce thing might be a way of trying to lure Touched like Pack and Eights away? Sure, they’re Fell, but not like that kind of Fell. They’re still young, you could totally put them on some kind of probation. Eights and Pack and even Broadway, they’re all new. They’d make really good additions to the Minority. 

Okay, that and I think Broadway and Wobble would make awesome armor buddies. And powers! She makes soundwaves and he makes like… vibrations or whatever. They could totally do some kind of power combo!

—> Darth01110

Replied on April 4, 2020

Does anyone think Oscuro and the Ninety-Niners might keep working together? Sure they’ve got totally different membership reqs (Latino vs having family living here before 2000) but still. Especially given how much they obvs pissed off Blackjack. They might need to team up for survival once he turns to start attacking them. 

—> GuruOfZeal 

Replied on April 4, 2020

I don’t know, La Casa’s good but if Oscuro and the Ninety-Niners teamed up would Blackjack really have a chance? I feel like they’d need to team up with someone too. But who? Not Braintrust. As @OnceWereWarriors pointed out in the La Casa thread here, they don’t get along. But one of the others maybe? How’s Blackjack with plants? Okay, maybe Easy Eights? Oh damn, does anyone think this is escalating into a big war between the main four Fell-Gangs (Oscuro and Ninety-Niners vs La Casa and Easy Eights)? 

—> 98Pontiac

Replied on April 4, 2020

Maybe. Easy Eights hate Oscuro, remember? They were eight little gangs that had to join up and work together because Cuélebre almost smashed them into pieces. I can see them taking the chance to get back at him and his gang by working with Blackjack.

End of Page. 1, 2, 3 30, 31, 32

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<> Topic — Paintball  (Boards – Places – United States – Michigan – Individual Touched Discussion)

Berryonalake (Moderator – Original Poster)

Posted on March 9, 2020:

There’s been a few different sightings of him now, so here’s an official thread for the newest Touched in Detroit. As soon as there’s a known name for him, the title will be fixed (edit: there we go, apparently it’s Paintball). But for now, feel free to discuss him, his powers, what he gets up to, whether he’s going to join a team, whatever. Just keep things civilized and remember this is an obviously underaged Touched we’re talking about. I already had to banhammer three different people in the That-A-Way thread between last night and this morning. 

(Showing page 56 of 59, displaying ten posts per page)

—> MostAmazingFinalGuiderOfCults

Replied on April 2, 2020

Look, I’m telling you guys, Paintball came out just as Starfade disappeared from the Steelwards in Indiana. What’s the difference between their powers? Starfade made light that made people stronger, faster, whatever. Paintball makes paint that does stuff. Obviously, some kind of Tech-Touched device deaged Starfade and changed his power a little bit. Now he’s posing as Paintball to get close to Braintrust and find a way to restore his real age and size. No way does some brand new Touched just stumble into all this stuff. He’s obviously experienced. 

I’m saying it right here and now, Paintball = Starfade. 

—> SirAnthonyWatcher

Replied on April 2, 2020

Dudes he’s right. I met Paintball earlier and he said he needs our help getting a meeting with Braintrust does anyone have their phone number lol? 

No but for real, Paintball’s totally Caishen’s lost son she had when she was still a teenager. It makes perfect sense though, like his paint makes stuff faster and slower and stronger and stuff and her power changes the value of things to make them faster and slower and stronger and stuff. I bet his dad is Silversmith. That makes sense, right? Smith sprays his silver stuff everywhere and shapes it and stuff and Paintball sprays paint. 

Edit: No wait I’m totally wrong! Lucent’s his father! 

—> Cthuwood 

Replied on April 2, 2020

O_o Lucent’s a bird, man. Sure he’s Touched so just as smart as a human, but how’s a raven gonna have a human kid? 

—> SirAnthonyWatcher

Replied on April 2, 2020

That’s why Paintball always wears a helmet! To hide his birdlike face with the beak! 

Show us the beak, Paintball, show us the beak! 


—> Gepetto’s Lad (You) 

Replied on April 3, 2020

Paintball isn’t Fumikage Tokoyami, come on. Granted, that would be cool. But he’s not. 

—> IcebirdLives

Replied on April 3, 2020

Well that’s mean, Gepetto. Why do you think Paintball isn’t cool? 

—> Gepetto’s Lad (You) 

Replied on April 3, 2020

What? No, crap. I just meant he’s not Tokoyami, not–he’s cool. I mean I assume he is. He’s never done anything to make me think he’s not. 

—> Dungeon-N-Doing

Replied on April 4, 2020

@Gepetto’s Lad You never showed up at the RP server last night, dude. Everything okay? 

On Paintball, does anyone know exactly how many different paints we’ve seen and what they all do? Red is the pulling one and blue is the one he uses to jump real high, right? 

—> Gepetto’s Lad (You) 

Replied on April 4, 2020

@Dungeon-N-Doing Sorry, had an emergency and couldn’t get out of it. Hope you guys managed without me and that I don’t have to roll up a new character again! *heavy sigh* 

Anyway, for the paint thing, purple is strength, orange is toughness, black makes things quiet, white makes a bright flash, green makes things fast, yellow makes them slow. With red and blue, that’s it, right? 

Edit: Wait, no, I think he’s used pink before. What the hell does the pink paint do? 

—> March

Replied on April 4, 2020

Watcher’s right, the pink paint hides the beak! Show us the beak, Paintball! 

End of Page. 1, 2, 3 55, 56, 57, 58, 59

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<> Private Messages From RingAroundARosie:

RingAroundARosie: You got the ball back though? 

Gepetto’s Lad: I had a little help, but yeah. Sort of… took it from his office. :/ 

RingAroundARosie: I think I’m supposed to tell you that stealing is bad, but it was yours. Sorry your rents are so wrong. You think they’ll ever come around? 

Gepetto’s Lad: I’m not holding my breath. But that’s okay. I’ve got my own family now. 

RingAroundARosie: Just don’t miss game night again without dropping some kind of warning in the chat. I’m the one who does that. 😉 

Gepetto’s Lad: True, flaking at the last second is kind of your thing, haha. But you guys were ok last night? 

RingAroundARosie: It’s cool, Dynn kind of controlled Lloword for you. Hope that was okay. He kept you alive, anyway. 

Gepetto’s Lad: Good! I’d hate to be dead. 

RingAroundARosie: But you’re seriously ok? It’s not like you to just disappear without any warning at all. One second you were in the chat, then nothing. 

Gepetto’s Lad: Sorry. I had issues. But what about that history project you were working on? You guys went with Laura Cereta, right? 

RingAroundARosie: Yup, presented it and everything. Thanks for pointing me to her before. But don’t think I didn’t notice you change the subject about whether you were ok or not.

Gepetto’s Lad: No worries, I got your back, in and out of game. ^_^ And believe me, I just need a little rest. I’ll be good for game next week. 

RingAroundARosie: Better be, we’re hitting the third tower and god knows that’s gonna be a nightmare. We need Lloword in top shape. 

Gepetto’s Lad: Thanks, Rosie

RingAroundARosie: (New Message) Hey, we’re friends. 

Previous Chapter                             Next Chapter

Eighteen 6-06 (Heretical Edge 2)

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As with all these chapters, there is a summary of the events in this chapter at the bottom. But for those who are only avoiding direct interaction with Fossor, he does not appear in this chapter. Also, for those who read Summus Proelium, there will be a commissioned interlude for that posted in a few hours. 

Mom was waiting for me out in the hall when I was done in the bath. Rahanvael assured me she would be sticking around and could let me know when and if Fossor had ghosts watching us any time I summoned her. But for the moment, she would mostly fade away until I reached out for her with my power again. Apparently, she would use that time to further anchor herself to me, and thought it was safest to do that with as small of a presence as possible in case her brother happened to notice anything. She was fairly positive that blind spot of his that she existed in would cover it, but there was no sense in taking chances. Not when we needed every possible advantage. 

I’d also firmly resolved not to tell my mother about the ghost. Not yet. It was going to be hard enough for one of us to keep her secret with Fossor’s Writing Room, and two would be worse. I didn’t even really know what that place was like yet. I had to think of a way to avoid spilling the secret about Rahanvael to Fossor before I could think about sharing it with my mother. Telling her right then would just double the chances of the truth slipping out if Fossor asked the right questions. Although there was a tingling in the back of my head trying to tell me that I had a safe way of explaining it to her, I wasn’t sure what my subconscious was trying to point out just yet. 

So, I kept quiet for the time being and walked with her all the way to her room while the two of us were escorted by a couple ghosts. Part of me wondered what Fossor was doing through all this, something about the fact that he wasn’t sticking around, hovering and gloating sticking in the back of my mind. Yes, we weren’t his only focus. He had a lot of balls in the air, obviously. But he’d been waiting for this day for a decade. Sure, he’d taken the time to talk at me when I first showed up, and we had that forced ‘birthday dinner.’ But honestly, I’d expected more from him by now. The fact that he was leaving us alone like this felt… odd, in a way. Just like with the whole telling my mother about Rahanvael, it felt like there was something I should have realized by now, but I just didn’t… I was tired. I was too tired to deal with it. 

In any case, we reached my mother’s spacious quarters, both of us dressed in comfortable-looking sweatpants and tee-shirts that had been laid out for us. They were identical save for the sizes, which was just… strange. And creepy. It was really fucking creepy. 

Still, she assured me once more that we weren’t being watched in the room. And we were tired. So we each only hesitated a moment before crawling into bed. There, Mom gently brushed my hair while telling me a story about one of the first cases she’d worked as a deputy back in Laramie Falls, before she was sheriff. Before any of this had happened. Maybe it was bizarre for the two of us to be here in this situation talking about something as mundane as that, but… honestly, it helped. It reminded me of how much I’d missed my mother, how much I needed her. How much I loved her. It helped me just… lay there in that absurdly comfortable bed and focus on her voice. 

Still, it was a good thing that I didn’t need much sleep. Because comfortable as the bed was and as soothing as listening to Mom talk to me was, I sure as hell wasn’t going to get it while I was here in Fossor’s place. I was pretty sure the only reason I had any chance of sleeping at all was the fact that my mother was there. My… my mom. After all those years without her, she was here, and we were sleeping in the same bed. I was suddenly a kid again. In a moment after lying down in that bed, tense and alert, I was transformed into a child curling up against my brave, strong, untouchable mother after a bad dream. I could almost let myself imagine that time had been rewound and that I was totally safe and protected once more, a child with no responsibilities. 

But my dad wasn’t there. I could never have relaxed fully, could never have actually let myself forget where I actually was, with my father not there. The brief, oh-so-pleasant daydream that I was a child safe in my parents’ bed with my mother’s arm around me vanished as I put a hand out to feel the empty spot where my father should have been. 

And that was the thing. I wasn’t safe here. I wasn’t a child and I never could be again. That was the entire point of what day it was. My birthday. Today was the date of my eighteenth birthday, the day I was supposed to officially be an adult, even if I wasn’t physically that age yet. I couldn’t hide behind my mother’s metaphorical skirt. She had been trapped here too. And we were alone. We couldn’t wait for anyone to come find us. The only way we were getting out of here was together. My mother and me (with help from Fossor’s dead sister) had to be the ones to save ourselves from this evil son of a bitch. Mom needed me to be there for her. 

Still, for a little while, I let myself try to put that aside. I was exhausted from everything that had happened in such a short time. Just that morning, as far as my body was concerned, I had first met the people of Gehenna. Getting that story, meeting Dakota, searching Vegas, destroying Kwur’s body, all of that had been just one day. And now, I was here with Fossor and my mother.

So yeah, I was beat. Beyond beat. I had to sleep. With Mom there, her arm around me, I let the weariness take over. My brain was in the middle of informing me of just how stupid I was for thinking I would sleep at all, when I simply passed out from exhaustion. 

Then I was in the forest, the same mental construct where I had trained with Shyel for so long. My virtual teacher, still looking so abnormally innocent and small, sat on a stump watching me as I looked around. Her voice was quiet. “You’ve had a long day.” 

For a moment, I just stared at her, my mouth opening and shutting. Then I covered my face with my hands and slumped while mumbling, “You have no idea. Err…” I blinked up at her then. “Actually, I guess you do have an idea, huh? You know what’s going on out there, what happened. You–” Pausing, I added, “That time travel thing wiped out the umm, real you’s ability to potentially jump back to me too, didn’t it?” 

Offering me a short nod, the mental echo of Chayyiel replied, “I know everything that happened to you. And yes, my real self no longer has an anchor here. Nor does your sister. There is the other anchor connecting itself to you, however.” 

“Fossor’s sister,” I noted, watching her nod once more. “Is she… I mean, I know you can’t really be certain or anything. You’re just… memories in my head given form here like this. No offense. But from what you know, from what you’ve seen, do you think…” 

“She does appear to be genuine,” Shyel confirmed. “I have had some history with Fossor, and I would say the odds of him using his sister like this in some long-running trap are… low. She is a weakness for him. Her memory, his own… love for his twin and the guilt of what happened to her, makes it very unlikely that he would use her this way. Particularly now. You are already here, already under his thumb. Had he used her to lure you into an opening, then perhaps it would be more suspicious. In this case however, that seems doubtful.” 

Despite myself, I raised an eyebrow. “Guilt? You’re saying he feels guilty about killing his sister?” 

“A small part of him nurses that guilt, yes,” she informed me. “A very small part that is buried deep. Though the vast majority of that feeling has morphed into the blinding rage toward his father and all of his people, his entire society. He has shifted that blame toward them for preventing him, in his mind, from restoring Rahanvael to life moments after her death.” 

“The death that he caused,” I pointed out. “She would’ve been fine if he hadn’t murdered her to begin with.”

“Yes,” Shyel agreed. “But he spent years in prison solidifying his twisting of that moment into hatred of his father and their people. And has further spent millennia under that same thought, those same feelings. The fact is, between his rage and the buried guilt, Fossor using his own long-dead sister in this kind of game is extremely doubtful. I believe she can be trusted to not be one of his ploys. How much help she will be beyond that, I couldn’t yet say.”

Listening through all that, I stepped over to the nearby tree and put both hands against it. My head lowered, and I stared at the ground while my fingers clawed the tree. I let my nails grow out and harden to dig deep into it, clawing that virtual mindscape tree while quietly speaking. “I’m sorry. We tried all summer to get me ready to face Fossor, and when the time came I just… I couldn’t hurt him. I couldn’t do anything to him. I just… I didn’t even have a chance.” 

There was a brief pause before I felt the Seosten girl (or my virtual recreation of her) step up behind me. Her hand rested against my back, as she spoke gently. “Are you an idiot?” 

Blinking twice as the question settled, I turned from the tree to squint at her. “Um. What?” 

“I said,” she repeated, “are you an idiot? Do you have any idea how long Fossor has been doing this? Do you know how often he’s beaten or at least escaped from the most dangerous people in the universe? You’re surprised you couldn’t smack him down in a one-on-one fight in his own home? Of course you couldn’t. You are never going to beat him in a straight fight, not on his terms. And all of that was his terms, Felicity. He chose the battlefield, the time, the condition you’d be in, he chose all of it. You couldn’t lay a finger on him because he’s stronger than you at the best of times, and he created a situation to make sure you were as weak as possible. He took away every single one of your allies, your friends. He waited until you were exhausted, he threw you off balance with all the time travel, grabbing you weeks ahead of time. He manipulated the entire situation to give himself every single advantage. So no, you couldn’t beat him.” 

She let that sink in for a few seconds, before squinting at me. “But does that make everything we worked on useless? No. Of course not. Did you just forget everything we did? You were never going to beat him in a straight fight even without Fossor absurdly stacking the deck. You are an eighteen year old child and he has been around for thousands of years, facing and beating a lot more than you. Think about all those people you’ve beaten who should’ve flattened you. Did you beat them because you were stronger than they were? Did your friends always beat their opponents because they were stronger?” 

I thought about Charmeine, about Manakel. I thought about Theia with Kushiel. I thought about everything that had happened over the past year before shaking my head. “Mostly we got lucky.” 

“Mostly,” she corrected, “you took advantage of one single shot. That’s all you need, one shot. I wasn’t training you to beat Fossor straight up. That’s never going to happen. Not in any reasonable timeframe, anyway. I’ve been training you so you’ll be ready when that moment, that single shot, comes. Whatever it happens to be, something will happen. An opportunity will pop up. It may only last a second. That’s what I’m training you for. Not a straight up fight, but for that single moment. I’m training you so that whatever happens, whatever that moment is, you’ll be ready to grab it. 

“And,” she added a little more quietly, “I’ve been training you so that you’ll be able to survive when he throws you in that training arena of his.” 

Folding my arms across my chest, I winced. “He… yeah, he’s definitely gonna do that, isn’t he?” Swallowing hard, I muttered, “He knows I don’t believe all Alters are evil. So he’s going to fuck with me by throwing me into an arena with his hostages in a kill-or-be-killed situation. Because that’s just the sort of thing someone like Fossor thinks is so god damn hilarious. And because making me compromise my beliefs to save my own life is probably something he thinks would help break me down into something closer to what he wants me to be.” 

“It does seem fairly evident,” Shyel agreed. “What are you going to do when it happens? What are you going to do when you’re faced with someone who is only fighting you to protect themselves, because Fossor will kill them if they don’t? Can you kill someone like that before they kill you? And if you do, can you live with yourself?” 

I didn’t answer at first. Instead, I turned to look off through the facsimile forest. My thoughts wandered a bit, through everything I’d been through, over what she’d asked, over the type of person I wanted to be. Finally, I turned back to her. “I’ll defend myself. I will kill if I have to. But I won’t blame them for it. And I won’t blame myself for it. I’ll blame the person responsible. Fossor. Whoever is in that arena is there because of him. Because he put them there. I… I can grieve. I can be sorry it happened. I can be sorry that I’m not strong enough to make it stop. But blame? The blame goes where it belongs, right to that fucking bastard. Those people are going to die either way. Letting them kill me wouldn’t accomplish anything. So yeah, I’ll do what I have to do to survive. And I’ll keep track of every single thing that I owe Fossor. I’ll remember all of it.” 

A faint smile touched Shyel’s face before she gave a short nod. “Good. Just keep that in mind. Because you’re right, he’s going to try to use that to break you down so he can remold you into something more useful for him. Keep the blame where it belongs, and keep waiting for that opening.” After a brief pause, she added, “You have a chance, Felicity. You have your mother, you have your training, you have a secret weapon in Fossor’s sister. But don’t blow it. If you make the wrong move, if you reveal her too soon, or just at the wrong time, you will never have that surprise again.” 

“Right, Skywalker with the Death Star, one shot at the reactor. Rahanvael is my torpedo, I get it.” Turning to glance off into the forest again, I quietly asked, “So, are we gonna do more training?” 

To my surprise, her head shook. “Actually, I think you’ve had enough training right now. And with everything that’s about to come up… what you really need is rest. Your body needs it, anyway. But your brain is too wired. You’ll keep waking yourself up in a panic.” 

Hesitating, I slowly guessed, “So… I’m here so you can keep my brain occupied while my body rests?” 

“Essentially, yes,” she confirmed. “Think of this as something closer to a dream than the training we’ve been doing before. All of this is something of a lower form of your normal mindscape. I’m going to keep your mind occupied like this, in what amounts to a dream, so that the rest of you can get all the sleep you actually need, without nightmares or constant interruptions.” 

Taking all that in, I nodded. “Okay, so you’re helping my body get the sleep it needs. I need. Whatever. What are we gonna do in the meantime, tell ghost stories? Cuz that might hit a little close to home right now.” 

“Good point,” my virtual teacher agreed. “So no, I think right now, maybe I’ll tell you a different kind of story. How about a story from back when I was still a child–a real child, during the time that the Olympus was exploring the edges of known space.” 

“Yeah…about that, I’m pretty sure Apollo was feeding notes into a certain Roddenberry’s brain,” I murmured thoughtfully before shaking that off. “But yeah, that… that actually sounds okay. 

“Let’s hear some of your stories.” 

******

Four hours later, I was awake. It felt as though I had slept a whole twelve hours, my brain snapping to complete alertness. Maybe it was only four, but for me, that was a lot. Especially in this situation. I was awake, rested, and… well, a little more knowledgeable about certain events on the Olympus. 

As I shifted a bit, Mom’s arm tightened around me. Turning my head, I found her staring at me, still lying there in the same position. “Mom,” I whispered, “have you been awake this whole time?” 

She offered me a faint, humorless smile. “You’re not the only one who doesn’t need as much sleep these days.” 

Right, she had a point. Still, I pointed out, “It’s okay. You can sleep now. I’m good.” 

Her head shook a little. “If… if something…” She hesitated before quietly lamenting, “You’re my child. I have to protect you.” 

Shifting, I turned to face her, keeping my voice low. “Mom, I love you. But if we’re going to get through this, I have to be more than your child. I have to be your partner. That’s how we survive this, that’s how we get out of this. You have to let me help. And that means letting me watch over you while you sleep. I promise, I’ll wake you up if anything happens.” 

For a few seconds, Mom didn’t say anything. She just watched me with a sad gaze, as though lamenting all the years that we had lost. Finally, she leaned in and kissed my forehead. “My Felicity. So big now. I missed you so much.” 

“I missed you too, Mom,” I quietly agreed, forcing the words past the lump that had formed in my throat. “It’s okay though. We’ll get through this. You just… just sleep now. Cuz I’m pretty sure tomorrow’s gonna be pretty busy.” 

So, my mother slept, and I watched over her. By the time the sun rose the next morning (or later that morning, technically), something had occurred to me. I didn’t leave the bed, afraid that any movement would wake up my mother when she really needed her sleep. But my eyes moved around the room, picking things out while I planned for what to do in the time we would have before things really got busy. Because I was positive that Fossor wouldn’t leave us alone up here for long. He’d get right to being awful.

To that end, as soon as my mother’s eyes opened, I asked one very important question. “Is anyone spying on us?” Yeah, it wasn’t exactly an innocuous question, but fuck it. Fossor had to know that I’d want to know that at any given point. Especially after a whole night of sleeping. Mom blinked once. I saw her glance past me briefly, shifting before she reached a hand out to touch a rune that had been etched into the headboard of the bed. A moment later, her head shook. “One of the ghosts looked in on us every twenty minutes last night, for about two minutes each time,” she informed me quietly. “But they were here five minutes ago, not right now.” 

Well that was kinda scary. I hadn’t noticed anyone check in on us at all, even with my own necromancy powers. Sure, it made sense that Fossor would make certain to send ghosts that were strong enough to avoid my fledgling skill, but still. The idea that something had been peeking in to look at me now and then all night long made me shudder. I really did need to work out that system with Rahanvael. According to her, I could reach out to her without her actually appearing for any of them to see. But the problem there was that I really wasn’t sure about whether Mom would sense her or not. Or if her presence would set off any of Mom’s spells and wake her up. I was afraid of how she would react if she did sense the ghost attached to me without having the situation explained first. Besides, I’d just… wanted to be alone with my mother, at least for a little bit. So much for that, I supposed. 

Either way, being spied on by ghosts was really disturbing. Enough so that I had to resist the urge to curl in against my mother and hide under the blanket. No, this was too important for that. 

Quickly getting to my feet, I moved to the nearby desk and took the pad of paper that I’d seen there while waiting for my mother to wake up. There was a pen next to it, which I took before moving back to sit on the bed, offering both to her with a whispered, “Are these safe to use?” 

Again, Mom took the question completely seriously. She tested the notebook and pen in some way I couldn’t follow, making sure there were no spells or anything on it that would let someone else know what was written there. Finally, after a minute of that, she nodded and passed them back. There was a curious look on her face, but also one of pride. She… she was proud of me for being careful, and curious about what I was doing. She–my mother was– focus, Flick. 

As soon as my mother reported that the paper and pen were safe, I quickly picked them up and wrote on the paper. Mom watched, but I didn’t let her see what I was writing, not yet. I tried to write as quickly as possible, just getting the bare bones of the information before hurriedly drawing in the rune for the spell to one side. It was just the way Gabriel Prosser had shown me that one night way back during my Christmas trip, a diagonal square like a very simple diamond shape, with a smaller square diamond inside that one, and then a dot at the center of it.  

Once I had all that done, my hands brought the paper to my lips and I whispered, “Ugatahahee.” The small rush of power charging the spell rushed through me, before I passed the notebook to my mother with an urgent, expectant look. I didn’t explain the spell, she had to know all about it. 

Sure enough, Mom pressed the notebook to her head and spoke the same command word. As soon as she did, the information that I had written down would transfer over, while the paper itself turned to ash. The note had been about the existence of Rahanvael, how the ghost of Fossor’s sister had attached herself to me, that all those people had determined she was not connected to Fossor himself nor was she lying about what she wanted, and that she was back. I also noted that she could sense the presence of other ghosts if I summoned her. I included the bit about her being a blind spot to him, and that she wanted to stop him to save her world. 

It was a hell of a lot of information, that was for sure. Maybe too much. I saw Mom flinch and give a soft gasp of pain. Yeah, the amount of info being downloaded into someone’s brain determined how painful the spell was, and that was a fair amount to push onto her. But it was all necessary. More importantly, Prosser had assured me at the time that anything shared with that spell was completely safe. He’d specifically said that no magic, power, nothing supernatural at all could force anyone to share the information gained through that spell. I just had to hope that included Fossor’s Writing Room and any other special method he might try to use. 

Yes, before, I’d come to the decision that I had to keep Rahanvael to myself. But that was before I’d remembered that I had this method of sharing information with my mother that would be completely safe. Later, if we ever–no, when we got out of this, I was going to have to thank Prosser for teaching it to me. Again. 

Once the message was fully downloaded to her brain and she had recovered from the burst of pain, Mom snapped her gaze to me. A brief sound escaped her before she stopped, eyes wide. For a moment, she had clearly lost her voice. I had taken my mother completely by surprise. In some weird, complicated way, I was almost proud of that. Which was probably bad.

But hey, now she knew that Rahanvael existed. 

And what girl doesn’t like introducing their mother to their new friends?  

SUMMARY

Flick spends some time listening to her mother tell a story about being a deputy in Laramie Falls (before she was sheriff) and then falls asleep. She has a conversation with Shyel, the Chayyiel copy in her head. Shyel informs her that she was training Flick to be ready to take advantage of one single chance/opportunity whenever it shows itself, not to fight Fossor straight-up. And training her to survive in his arena. She keeps Flick’s active mind buried while telling her stories so that her body can rest. Then Flick takes a turn being awake for a few hours while her mother sleeps, before eventually using the secret-sharing spell that Prosser taught her last Christmas to tell her mom about Rahanvael. 

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