Growth 18-11 (Heretical Edge 2)

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Leaving the room we’d started in, that Valdean Ecclestone guy’s quarters apparently, led to a large elevator. It was more like one of those freight versions used to transport cargo up and down somewhere than a normal office building type. Rather than having solid walls, there were bars all around us so we could see out. Ahead of us was the doorway into the room we had just come from. Behind us was a tunnel just wide enough for the elevator itself. To the left and right, as well as above, were the bronze-gold metal walls of the main vault structure. 

According to our new robot friend, Sitter, the elevator didn’t just go up and down. It also went forwards and backwards and sideways along an elaborate track system. Basically, the entire underground vault consisted of chambers that were separated by that thick metal. And the stuff wasn’t even normal metal. It was meant to ensure the privacy and safety of those within, so it was impossible to phase through, or even use vision powers to look through. Even ghosts couldn’t pass through it properly. Not that I had actually brought any ghosts along with me to check, which was another oversight that I should probably have been yelled at for. But in my defense, I hadn’t expected to be sent to a pocket dimension where I wouldn’t be able to contact the ghosts I left up on the Starstation. Even my increased necromancy power couldn’t reach them from here.

In any case, Sitter called the metal the walls were made out of orichalcum, apparently named by Valdean based on the old myths. Valdean had created the alloy himself, which made me even more curious about just how brilliant the old guy had been. Either way, this orichalcum was very strong in addition to preventing phasing and other powers from reaching through it.

“So what stops someone from using magic to go through it?” Marina asked as we stood in the large elevator. We hadn’t actually gone anywhere yet, as Sitter had been explaining what the bronze-gold metal on the walls beyond the elevator’s cage-like walls was. She was brushing her finger along one part of it while her mouth quirked a little at the sensation. Given I’d already done the same, I knew what she was feeling just then. There was a sort of low-level electric-like current constantly running through the metal. It was a little bit like very slight static electricity. 

“I am so glad you asked!” Sitter chirped. He really did seem to enjoy explaining things. “You see, this particular alloy naturally absorbs any magical power put into it, in order to strengthen and reinforce itself. Ah, in other words, you could draw the runes for your spells upon it. But the moment you attempted to empower those runes with actual magical energy, the metal would absorb that power so that the spell was never actually cast. The walls themselves devour that power quite voraciously, and become even more difficult to break through in the process. And I believe you already experienced the other side of this defense. The walls automatically erase anything written on them.” 

Marina and I exchanged a look, as the older girl quietly spoke up. “It um, it sounds like this whole place could be used as a prison as much as a vacation home. Every chamber is separated from the others, it’s in a pocket reality so even if they do get out they can’t go anywhere, and even the walls are made of stuff that traps them and blocks them from using magic to get through or even see into the rest of this place.” She sounded hesitant, like she felt a little bad about pointing out the obvious negative ways a vault like this could be used. 

“Oh, no, no, no.” Sitter started before pausing to reconsider. “Well, yes, I suppose you are quite correct. Master Valdean’s creations could be used to entrap people. But he truly desired to protect them, to keep them safe from the others of his–your–from others who would kill them. They were always, always to be free to leave if they desired. Unfortunately, the… murders have put certain protective protocols into place which supercede that. We must determine who the killer is before anyone may leave. But once that’s done, anyone inside may come and go as they please! That…” He paused, his mouth lights dimming to a very soft yellow. “That was Master Valdean’s intention. Only to help and protect the people he had done so much harm to in the past. He wished to use his gifts for good.” A note of sadness for his creator’s final fate had crossed into the robot’s voice, as he slumped just a little bit. 

“It’s okay,” Dakota quickly put in while standing next to Denny. “We believe you. I mean, we believe that Valdean wanted to use this place to help people. Right?” 

I nodded. “Right. We’re just saying, someone else could’ve used this place for… uh, worse purposes. I know he was the second one to die instead of the first, but he still could’ve been the main target. Like I said before, it could’ve been about someone finding out that he intended to help the Rebellion and they got nervous. Or it could’ve been about wanting to turn this place into a prison. We don’t know enough yet.” 

“Why…” Denny started to speak up, only to fall silent when everyone looked at her. Flushing slightly under the attention, she clearly forced herself to continue a bit hesitantly. “Why would they kill the other guy first, though? I mean, if it was about Valdean.” 

“We need to find out more about that first murder,” Sesh noted while folding her arms with a thoughtful look. “About who the victim was, where they were when it happened, what was going on, everything.” Seeing us stare at her, she shrugged. “What? I’ve read detective stories before. Even played this short campaign in a game called Bubblegumshoe, which–err, never mind, not the point. Anyway, we need to find out more, right?”  

“Of course, of course,” Sitter confirmed. “I will take you there and tell you everything I can about the crimes and those who live here. But first, as I recall, you wished to send a message to the outside world?” 

Marina gave me a quick glance while nodding. “Yeah, we need to let our people out there know that we’re okay. Well,” she paused before adding, “as okay as we can be while trapped in a pocket dimension with a murderer on the loose.” 

“If they try to murder any of us,” I pointed out, “they’re in for a big surprise. We’re all pretty good at not being murdered.” 

“I bet Valdean was too,” Denny muttered under her breath, seeming to only belatedly realize she’d said that out loud. Her eyes widened as she glanced up at me, quickly starting to apologize. 

“No, it’s okay, you’ve got a point,” I agreed. “We need to keep our eyes open and be careful. But hey, with any luck, we can solve this mystery as soon as we get to the rooms where they were murdered. I might be able to just summon their ghosts and ask who killed them.” 

“You are a Necromancer?” Sitter focused his attention on me, sounding quite interested. “Yes, yes, excellent. Perhaps this long-festered crime may be brought to light after all. Are you–would you be prepared to attempt such a thing soon?” 

“Just point me at the rooms where the murders happened,” I confirmed. “If there’s anything left of their ghosts, I can summon them. But uhh, there’s a decent chance there isn’t anything. After all, it’s been decades. The um, energy might’ve dissipated by now. They might’ve moved on. But it’s possible.” My shoulders rose in a shrug. “Guess we’ll find out either way, huh?” 

“Could you find out who the killer is?” Dakota was asking Denny, gaze focused on her friend. “I mean, if you talk to each of them individually and… use your–” 

“I can’t,” she quickly put in, head shaking as her body seemed to physically recoil at the idea. “I can’t use that power to make them tell the truth. If I–if I do anything with it, if I use it, he’ll know. His memories will know. They’ll come back, they’ll try to–” 

“Easy, it’s okay,” I interrupted, reaching out to touch the girl’s shoulder while trying to keep my voice as calm and reassuring as possible. “No one’s gonna force you to use that power, Denny, I promise. If you don’t feel comfortable trying, it’s okay. We understand.”

Giving a visibly and audibly heavy sigh, Denny offered a weak, “I’m sorry. I– know it sounds dumb. I know he’s dead and gone and he can’t control me. But if I use his power, if I force people to do something they don’t want to do, if I take control of them, it feels like… it feels dangerous. It feels bad.” 

Dakota put an arm around the other girl, squeezing firmly. “It’s like Flick said, nobody’s gonna force you to use it. Maybe umm, maybe you could ask people if they agree to have it done, so they can clear their names? You know, then it’s more of a volunteer thing.” 

Marina nodded. “And the ones who don’t agree, maybe they have valid reasons for that. They don’t have to trust us. But they’re the ones we can focus on more. Anyone who agrees to have you use that power could clear their name.” 

“I can possess people too,” I noted. “Get into their memories that way. Anyone who agrees to that, we could clear them pretty quick and move on to people who won’t agree. Abigail would say they have the right to not have people combing through their memories if they don’t want it. Or to be mind-controlled into answering.” 

Denny still looked quite hesitant about the whole thing, but swallowed hard before agreeing. “Maybe if… if they agree to it.” 

“Really?” Sesh was blinking back and forth between us. “I mean, I get it, sure. Just seems like it’d be really easy to just get everyone in one room and say, ‘Hey, raise your hand if you killed these people.’ It could be done and over with in two seconds. Sure, they’ve got rights and manipulating people is bad. Trust me, I get that. My dad’s a giant piece of shit and I don’t wanna be anything like him. But don’t the dead people and the innocent ones in here have rights too? It’s not like ‘raise your hand if you murdered these people’ is gonna hurt them. I–” She stopped abruptly, blanching. “I–I’m sorry. I’m not trying to guilt trip you or anything, I swear. I understand why you’d be hesitant about it. I’m just…” 

“Put them in a room,” Denny very quietly murmured. When everyone turned to her, she closed her eyes briefly before straightening up. “She’s right. If I say… if I say ‘If you’re the person who killed these people, raise your hand,’ then the only person it’s affecting is that person. And that person deserves to be made to raise their hand, at least. Right? We could solve it really fast that way. If it turns out to be that easy. I mean, we might as well try.”

For a moment, I exchanged a look with Marina before turning back to the other girl. “If you’re sure you’re comfortable with that. No one wants to force you to use your power.” 

Sesh was nodding hurriedly. “Yeah, totally. I’m sorry I said anything. I mean, I still believe it, but–” 

“It’s okay,” Denny insisted, though she was trembling a little bit. “I can do it. Just–I just need a minute to um, to be ready.” 

“Sure,” Marina gently assured her, “take all the time you need. We can go send the message about being okay first. Then we can look at the crime scenes. If Flick can contact their ghosts, we might not need you to do anything at all.” 

“Exactly,” I agreed. “We’ll send the message, then check for the ghosts. If we can’t find any, then we’ll… talk to everyone else and you can test them.” 

“Please make it be everyone at once,” Denny quickly put in. “I don’t want to use the power over and over again. Just one time, all together in one room.” She still sounded hesitant about doing this whole thing at all, but determined to at least try, no matter how hard it was for her. Clearly the idea of intentionally using her inherited power at all, even for something like this, was hard for her. Which, given my own hesitation about the whole necromancy thing despite everything I already knew about it, I couldn’t really blame her too much for. We both really needed to accept that it wasn’t the power that was evil. 

Well, I mostly had. It just still wasn’t my first instinct to use it, even after all this time. I had to work on that. Having Fossor and Manakel’s necromancy was a strength that I really needed to exercise more. I had to get better at it. Not just in training, but in everyday life. I needed to make it second-nature. 

Meanwhile, Sitter seemed to consider Denny’s words for a moment before giving a short nod. “Of course. I will unlock the time stop and request that everyone proceed to the main theater for an important meeting. That should be a large enough space to greet and test everyone.” 

First, of course, we needed to let everyone outside know we weren’t being murdered or tortured or anything. And then see the murder scenes, so I could check them for ghosts. Which was really just such a wonderful thought. I definitely couldn’t wait. 

Soon, Sitter was manipulating the control panel that rose from the floor near the exit, and the elevator began sliding backwards away from the door into Valdean’s main chambers. I could hear the mechanical whirring as the thing moved almost like a subway car, over what seemed to be actual tracks. It continued on for about ten feet that way, before stopping. Through the bars to the left and right, I could see more tunnels, as well as closed doors set up against the walls on either side. The elevator could roll in either direction to slide into position in front of any of them.  

Or it could go up like a normal elevator, given the ceiling was open right here as well. And that was exactly what it did. The whole thing just rose past several other tunnels that forked off in various directions. We went up about four levels, then moved left past several more doors and tunnels before settling on one leading backwards once more. For the next couple of minutes, the elevator snaked its way through the maze of tunnels before finally stopping in front of a simple metal door with no apparent handle.

“The communications room,” Sitter informed us, just as the door slid open with an almost silent whoosh. It revealed not some high-tech command center or anything, but a cozy-looking den-like space. There was a fireplace with an actual fire in it, wood flooring, a series of shelves full of various books, a comfortable-looking armchair and couch set in front of the fireplace, and a simple wooden table with an old rotary phone sitting on it. 

As a group, we filed off the elevator, then stopped and stared at the phone, as well as everything around it. Marina was the first to find her voice. “So um, do we just pick up the phone and dial? Does this thing get an outside line?”

Offering a bright blue-glowy light smile, Sitter shook his head. “I’m afraid that with the lockdown in effect, it’s not quite that simple or efficient. Whichever of you would like to do the speaking should sit in the chair and pick up the phone. Think very intently about who you would like to contact, then hold the phone to your ear. You will see the person appear in the flames there, and be able to speak to them. But I can only give you about thirty seconds worth of communication, at most, before the system will adjust and block this avenue. Master Valdean was quite thorough and insistent when it came to locking out communications, though I do believe he always intended to unlock them much sooner than this. He was simply angry at perceived abandonment.” 

“Because he didn’t know everyone’s memories around the rebellion had been erased, and everything about this place got caught up in that,” Marina muttered before looking at me. “I think it should be you.” 

Denny, standing out of the way near Dakota, nodded quickly. “Y-yeah, you should be the one who… umm… calls?” Her voice near the end rose into an uncertain, questioning tone. “But if you can only talk to one person, who?” 

No one else seemed to be objecting to me being the one who did it, so I moved to sit in the chair while thinking about that question. My first instinct was to talk to Tabbris, or even Avalon, who had to be freaking out right now. But I had a feeling I should make it an adult, just to be on the safe side about people listening to them. “Uhh… I’m not exactly sure who they’ve talked to yet. But I know one guy who deserves to know we’re okay and who they’ll listen to.” 

Decided, I picked up the ancient-looking rotary phone, holding it up to my ear while thinking very hard about my father. I pictured his face, his voice, everything about him. Meanwhile, Sitter had moved to a corner of the room, opening up a hidden panel there to reveal a bunch of wires and switches. He was doing some sort of complicated work there, temporarily bypassing the block, apparently. I just hoped it would last long enough for me to explain what was going on. 

I felt a very slight electric jolt from the phone. It didn’t hurt at all, though I wasn’t sure how much of that was because it wouldn’t have hurt anyway and how much was the power that gave me protection against electricity. Either way, the fire ahead of me flickered briefly, before resolving into a hologram-like image of my father from the shoulders up. He looked stressed and was in the middle of a sentence. “– to both of their–” Abruptly, he jerked, eyes widening. “Felicity?!” 

“Hi, Dad,” I quickly started, “I don’t have time to explain, just thirty seconds, so listen.” In as fast of a rush as I could manage while still being comprehensible, I gave him the gist of the situation. I told him the names of Valdean Ecclestone and Ashby Banks. I told him about this whole pocket dimension vault system and why it was here, and about the murders. I also told him that we had to solve those murders before the system would unlock and let us out, but that we weren’t in immediate danger. 

Dad was silent through all of that, clearly taking my warning that I only had about thirty seconds seriously. He absorbed everything while apparently keeping a mental count, then simply said, “Be careful. I love–” 

Then he was gone, the flames returning to normal. Sitter’s mouth-lights shifted to dull orange as he turned away from the opening in the wall, his hands full of wires that he had apparently been working with. “I am very sorry. That is the best I could do.” 

“It’s okay,” I assured him. “At least we’ve got the message out. Now let’s check these uhh, murder rooms.” I grimaced at how flippant that sounded. “I mean… yeah. Let’s go.” 

So, we piled back onto the elevator. As the doors closed, Dakota looked at me. “Do, um, do you think your dad can take care of things out there?” 

“Unfortunately, he has a fair bit of practice when it comes to dealing with me disappearing unexpectedly,” I replied before putting a hand on her shoulder. “Sorry about this, Dakota. You too, Denny. We were supposed to just give you guys a fun afternoon and then…” Grimacing, I glanced around the moving elevator. “Then we ended up here.” 

“It’s… it’s okay.” That was Denny, clearly hesitant to say anything. “I mean, if… if we can stop a murderer, that’s good, right? I think I’d rather stop a murderer than just hang out watching a movie or whatever. I can’t stop Ammon. I couldn’t save myself from him, or anyone else he killed. You guys did that. But maybe I can help stop a different murderer.” She stopped, considering that briefly before giving a firm nod. “I want to do that. I want to stop this person from hurting anyone else.” 

“Me too.” Dakota sounded just as certain, straightening up. “I can’t like… make the murderer reveal himself or anything, but I’m here. I want to help. Um, somehow.” 

Looking back and forth between them, I found myself smiling a little. “Well, in that case, maybe we can all be happy that we ended up here after all.” 

“Let’s just hope everyone involved can all say the same thing when this is over,” Sesh muttered quietly, turning to glance down the tunnel the elevator was taking us through. Then she amended, “Well, maybe not everyone.

“I’d be just fine with the murderer being very upset that we showed up.” 

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11 comments

  1. There we go, now the people on the outside can find out what’s going on! Which might mean there could be something left of the surrounding landscape once Flick and company finally get out of there, which would be nice. But hey, hope you all enjoyed that and you’re looking forward to seeing where it goes. In the meantime, if you’d like to boost this story on Top Web Fiction, you can do so right here! Thanks so much, and your tags are: Can’t Let Lincoln Talk To Flick Too Much Cuz He’d Somehow Manage To Solve The Murder In Like Two Minutes, Dakota Coalbright, Denise Cartland, Felicity Chambers, Flick, I Mean‚ You SAY You’re Not Strong Enough To Summon Ghosts Across Dimensions But Have You Really Tried?, I’d Joke About The Fireplace Bit Being Like Harry Potter‚ But The Biggest Joke In That Series Was The Author Pretending To Care About Human Rights For 7 Books, Marina Dupont, Sesh, Sitter

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Is everyone thinking what I’m thinking ?
    Orichalcum android loaded with Scifi goodies for Andromeda to pilot around? Anyone?

    I am really happy Flick is coming around to Necromancy.

    Is Shyiel still with Flick?

    I also had the thought for Flick to summon Sitter’s creator’s ghost. Surely with him being a former Committee Heretic , something will remain to be summoned because if Olympus could contain the ghosts of the Olympians all this time ,then surely, Same thing could also apply.

    But then again, the killer could posses a power that would conveniently do some to remove their Ghosts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ghosts are magical imprints so i reckon any Ghosts got wicked up by the Orichalcum walls. The murderer is clearly Sitter. Possession and the Denuvus power won’t work on it and it’s a classic AI taking things too far trope.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It is not that Sotter is an A.I. they are the killer because they are a butler equivalent.
        And we all know that The Butler Did It.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. “Orichalcum android loaded with Scifi goodies for Andromeda to pilot around? Anyone?”

      That would be quite interesting. 😀

      “I am really happy Flick is coming around to Necromancy.”

      Yeah, she’s getting there.

      “Is Shyiel still with Flick?”

      She’s mostly a ‘visit in dreams and talk about stuff/get advice’ sort of thing, but yeah she’s there.

      “I also had the thought for Flick to summon Sitter’s creator’s ghost. Surely with him being a former Committee Heretic , something will remain to be summoned because if Olympus could contain the ghosts of the Olympians all this time ,then surely, Same thing could also apply.”

      A fair point. We’ll just see what happens. 😉 Do note Taelel’s response as well, which is a fair point as well.

      Like

  3. I understand Denny being hesitant to use Ammon’s power but it’s nice that she’s willing to overcome that hesitance for the right reasons.

    And like Flick I didn’t default to necromancy, completely forgot that summoning up a ghost could be a viable option. But, well, not so much now because of the magic absorbing wunder metal.

    Just have to wait and see how things go.

    Thanks for the chapter Cerulean.

    Liked by 1 person

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