Previous Chapter / Next Chapter
A/N – Hey guys, there was a tie for the voting on what interlude to have next, so while our wonderful donators are voting to break that tie, here’s the first chapter of the new arc!
We dropped off Denuvus and Trice without any further issues. I had been expecting her to make more problems for us before it was over, but apparently she was content to play along for now. I still wasn’t sure how that whole thing with giving her access to cloning technology in order to bring her sister back was going to work out. But that was something to handle on another day. For now, we simply left them there and took the bodies of our dead back to the station before checking in. Of course, they were surprised to see us there, let alone hear the whole story about what had happened.
They had also already sent out a group to go to Fossor’s home planet and help back when we first reported in from the asteroid base. And God did that feel like it had happened decades ago. Unfortunately, because they didn’t have the Jitterbug, we had gone through all that and they still weren’t at the other planet yet. My dad was on that ship, since he’d refused to stay behind when both Mom and me were in obvious danger. So, I was able to partially-recall over there to let them know the situation was back under control. He was relieved, to say the least. As was everyone else on the ship, including Avalon. But they were still going to meet us on the planet, since they were only a few hours out by that point. It’d be stupid for them to just turn around right then and come all the way back to Earth.
Besides, we still had to deal with the fact that there was a secret chamber with a horde of Revenants locked up inside it. To that end, we dropped the Seosten tribals we had captured off at the station as well. We’d have to figure out what to do with them in the long run later, but at least while they were all the way over by Earth there was absolutely no way they could do anything to unleash those monsters again. Everything else could wait. Plus, the Seosten here really wanted to meet them. I had a feeling that was going to be a whole thing too. Hell, maybe it would contribute to convincing the Seraphs to extend the truce. If we showed them that there were still living descendants from the original Seosten, maybe they would even be able to use that in their attempts to find a solution to their population issue? That had to earn us a few points, right?
We also left Miles and Royce there, so they could… be with their friends. With some help from Nevada, I filled up some crystal things with my own necromantic energy so the ghosts could feed off that for awhile, and Brom Bones promised to take care of them as well as the rest of my haunted mansion while I was gone.
So, after taking a few minutes to deal with all that, and promising to see the others once they got to the planet, we took the Jitterbug back there. Finally, after that whole long ordeal, we were going to do what we had set out for in the first place. Namely, meet with the people who lived on that world, let them know the full story about what happened to the man who had oppressed them for so long, and see what we could do to help the world get back on track.
As planned, we landed the Jitterbug near that city where Rasputin had last been seen, a place apparently called Peiys. It was kind of hard to believe we had gone through all that and Robin’s group still hadn’t been able to do the one thing they’d come with us for in the first place. Seriously, the fact that they had stuck with us for so long, and helped out as much as they had meant a lot. I was pretty sure–no, I was absolutely certain we would have been completely dead without them. By that point, I probably would have agreed to help them with anything they asked for.
It was the middle of the night when we landed the ship on a high ridge a couple miles from the town. We didn’t want to freak the people there out anymore than we were obviously already going to. So we would head in there after the sun came up and people had time to be awake and all that. Besides, most of us were utterly exhausted after that whole situation anyway, so having a few hours to sleep was probably a really good idea. Plus it would give the ship that Dad, Avalon, and the others were on time to catch up.
In my case, I slept for just a little over two hours before I was fresh and ready. I ended up sitting on top of a tall boulder on the edge of the ridge so I could look out at the torch-based lights of the town in the distance. It obviously wasn’t very advanced, thanks to Fossor. The town was surrounded by two layers of stone walls, with what looked like the broken, burned remains of what had once been a massive tower. It was clear that the thing had stretched high into the sky at one point. But now there was barely anything left of it. Even then it was taller than any of the buildings around it, despite the fact that the thing looked like the people of the town had torn the whole thing apart as much as they could, and were using the base of what remained for… something.
While I was sitting on that rock watching the distant town, Shiori climbed up and sat next to me. We stayed there in silence for a minute, simply putting our arms around one another. I was content like this. After everything that had happened, it was nice to simply sit here with one of my girls and relax. I didn’t feel rushed to say or do anything else besides just… enjoy her presence.
Finally, I glanced sidelong at the other girl, and smiled a little. “It’s kind of nice, isn’t it?”
She returned the smile. “You mean knowing that you’ll be able to tell all those people that they’re free now? Yeah, it’s nice. Plus, Senny doesn’t have to go hunt down the guy who erased her dad’s memories.” That smile twisted into a very slight frown. “Not since Fossor killed him.”
“Yeah, that part’s complicated,” I agreed with a sigh. “But at least he’s dead. They both are. Now we just have to get Gaia back so she can help with Tiras’s memories.”
“I miss her,” Shiori murmured, squeezing herself closer to me with a visible flinch. “I really thought we would have found her by now. She would have found any of us.”
Swallowing, I rubbed the other girl’s shoulder. “Yeah, she’s pretty amazing. But we’ll get her out of there, don’t worry. No one’s forgotten about her, especially not now. We’ll save her, no matter where they try to hide her from us. One way or another, we’re going to get Gaia back.” She was right though, it was taking so long for us to find the woman. Crossroads kept moving her around, kept changing her guards, and more, doing everything they could to make it impossible for us to mount a rescue.
I was trying very hard not to think about the fact that my mother had been held prisoner for literal decades without the Rebellion being able to save her. This was different. It had to be different. We were going to find Gaia and get her out of there, somehow.
Asenath came into view then, looking up at us before giving what was, for her, a little ten foot hop to land on the other side of Shiori. Her voice was quiet. “Sorry to interrupt. I… couldn’t help overhearing. Vampire senses.” Snorting a bit at her own words, she turned to her sister. “Flick’s right though. We’re going to find Gaia and get her away from those people. And not just because I need her. We all need her. She’s too important. Last time she had to try being subtle to keep her position at the school. But that’s over now. She belongs with the rebellion. She belongs with all of us.”
“How’re you doing with all that?” I asked after a second of silence. “I mean, the whole thing with that guy who erased your dad’s memories already being dead.”
She exhaled heavily. “I really wish he was still around to punch. Or stab a few dozen times. But I guess I’ll just have to put all my energy and anger toward the people who are keeping Gaia locked up instead.”
Snorting a bit to myself, I nodded. “Well, they’re pretty good targets for it anyway. They’ve definitely earned the full power of your wrath.”
“Speaking of power,” Shiori put in, shifting around to look at me more directly. “You really killed two of those Revenants back there?” She sounded awed, which made me blush. “What’d you get out of that? Come on, it’s gotta be something good, right?”
The question made me blink with realization. “Oh, shit, you’re right. We were just so busy in the middle of all that, and then the whole thing with… with Kaleigh, Jason, Chas, and Emily happened. I guess I just forgot about it. I don’t–I’m not sure, and since Tabs is asleep–”
“No, I’m not!” That was Tabbris herself, of course. She stood at the bottom of the boulder, looking up at us while clutching her magic fishbowl against her chest. “And I know what you got from those guys. I uhh, checked before, but I didn’t think it was the right time to… you know, talk about it.”
Exchanging a look with the other two, I shrugged before pushing off the boulder and dropping to land next to my sister. “Well,” I announced, “in that case, maybe we should go over there out of the way, and talk about it? Come on, guys.”
So, the four of us moved further away from the camp where the others were still sleeping and toward an open meadow about two hundred feet away. Once we were there, I looked back at Tabbris. “Okay, since I know the others are wondering, too, what did I end up getting from those Revenants?” It still felt weird to phrase it like that, like I was being irreverent or something. But still, there wasn’t really a better way. Besides, those things had killed our… well, not friends, I barely knew anything about them, another thing I felt guilty for. But our people. They killed our people, who didn’t deserve to die. The very least they could do was contribute something toward making sure I could stop as many others from dying as possible. It wouldn’t fix the situation, not by a long shot. But it was something.
“Okay, well,” Tabbris started as the rest of us looked to her expectantly, “the first thing is that you can umm… sort of, drain the health from corpses to make yourself stronger and tougher. Err, not the health. I mean like, you can touch a corpse and make it turn into dust and fall apart in exchange for getting one… umm, charge I guess? Yeah, one charge of a umm, corpse boost.” She grimaced while explaining that part. “Sorry, it’s really gross, but yeah. You can hold ten charges like that, but you can only activate one at a time. When you activate a charge, it uses up the energy from that, uh, corpse. And for the next… anywhere from one minute to ten minutes depending on how strong they were when they were alive, you’ll be three times as strong and as tough as you usually are. Or you can burn that entire, err, corpse-worth of energy at once and be ten times as strong and completely invulnerable to almost everything for just a few seconds.”
I took a moment to absorb that. “Okay, so I touch dead bodies and turn them to dust in exchange for up to ten charges, which I can expend to get either a short-term boost to strength and all that, or an incredibly short, almost instantaneous burst of being invulnerable and staggeringly strong. That could be… yeah, useful. Gross and all that, but then again, I’m kinda getting used to that by now with the whole Necromancy thing. And I’m pretty sure we won’t lack for corpses.”
“Yeah,” Shiori agreed, “besides, you’ll always be the cutest Necromancer I know.”
Giggling despite herself, Tabbris’s head bobbed quickly. “Uh huh, and that’s not all. The second thing you got was umm, I think you’d call it Corpse-Disguise?”
Senny arched an eyebrow, giving me a brief look. “Well that sounds interesting. And disturbing.”
So, Tabbris explained. It turned out that I could also use any of the corpse charges I had to transform myself into a perfect physical copy of that person. A version that would actually look like they were alive, that was. I wouldn’t actually have any of their powers, but every single test that anyone could do besides that would show me as being that person. My voice would match, as would fingerprints, retinal scans, even magical signature tests. All of that would look completely identical to the living person. Assuming anyone we were trying to fool didn’t know the person in question was dead, I would be able to fool them. Assuming, of course, they didn’t insist I use that person’s powers, or know something they would know. Biologically speaking, it would be a perfect match.
“Well,” I murmured after all that was explained, “that could actually be pretty useful when it comes to the whole getting Gaia out of prison thing. And probably any number of other things that could come up. I just need, uh, useful corpses I guess?” Saying that made me grimace. “Yup, still disturbing to think about.”
“It’s more than that,” Tabbris put in. “See, while you’re in that other body, if you die–I mean take lethal damage, you’ll revert back to your own body, but you won’t be injured anymore. Any damage you take in the other body doesn’t transfer to your normal one. But it’s a one shot deal. Once you change yourself into them, the body’s used up for good. So if you change back, you can’t turn into that person again anymore. The corpse gets turned to dust when you make the charge, and you expend the charge to turn into them. So you only get one shot with each… body.” She paused before swallowing as she clutched the fish bowl tighter. “You’re right, it’s kinda creepy.”
“But useful,” Senny noted with a thoughtful look my way. “Definitely very useful. Even if you just happen to be in a fight and you’re about to take a lethal hit, you could use up a charge to shift into one of your corpse-bodies first. And you already had the creepy thing going for you anyway, so this is just right up your alley.”
“Gee thanks,” I retorted with a snort. “Glad to know I can be the creepy one for everyone else. But yeah, you’re right, both of those things sound really useful. Thanks, Tabs.” I added that part while reaching out to ruffle my little sister’s hair. “You’re pretty cool to have around sometimes, you know?”
Giggling a little, she embraced me tightly. “Oh, and you also got a pretty big umm… well, not really a boost to your magical energy but a boost to your… efficiency. It takes less for you to do more.”
That was also going to be pretty useful, considering what we had learned about me supposedly being able to stop the Fomorians. Which I still wasn’t sure how I felt about. It was a lot of pressure, to say the least. But if I could stop them for good, I was going to, no matter what that took. If nothing else, it would be a way for Dare to reveal herself and actually be my grandmother publicly. If I had the chance to give that to her, to give her life and identity back, I was going to. But even without that, the Fomorians had to be stopped. I just still wasn’t sure how to adjust to the idea that I was supposed to be the one doing that.
After I was silent for a few seconds, thinking about all that, Shiori spoke up. “He still hasn’t told you exactly what he’s here for, has he?”
“Wukong?” I shook my head. “I tried to talk to him about it when we were coming back here, but he just said it would wait and there wasn’t a big hurry. He says he’ll talk to me about it after we’re done with the people here on this world, no matter how long that takes. Which is pretty nice, actually. I don’t think any of us could stop him if he was more demanding about whatever he wants. But I’d sure be really annoyed about it.”
The others agreed, and we ended up talking a lot more about everything. Before long, another couple hours had passed. The sun was starting to rise, as we heard something back in the camp and looked that way to see mom and Nevada standing in front of a portal. Dad was the first one through it, and he embraced my mother immediately. Then he came my way, and I met him with my own tight hug. Promising him I was okay, that we were both fine, I clung tightly for a few long seconds. Then I did the same with Avalon as she came through the portal as well. There were others behind her, but mostly I was focused on Valley. “God, I’m glad you guys are here.”
“Even if we missed the excitement?” she lightly teased, though I could still see the worry in her expression. As well as something else. I was pretty sure she had more she wanted to share with me and we hadn’t been able to talk about it so far.
But whatever it was would apparently have to wait. For now, my head shook. “Oh, trust me. You may have missed the fighting, but I’m pretty sure there’s still going to be plenty of excitement.” Saying that, I looked out toward the town in the distance.
“But in this case, I think it’ll be the good kind of excitement.”