A/N – The following is a commissioned interlude focusing on a look at the main ten prisoners of Gehenna, including Ehn, his eight lieutenants, and the Tenth prisoner, who is not part of Ehn’s group. It does not count as a regular chapter on the regular schedule. Thanks so much!
Casually using a spatula to move the meat around on the pan as it sizzled and cooked, the man once known as Wiglaf, in days so far past he could barely remember what they were like, spoke in a quiet, measured voice. “Do we know yet how many were lost on the Penmiea Moon?”
Weregeld, his guard by some measures and assistant by others, tilted his gleaming silver head to regard him briefly before answering. “Thirty-seven thousand Seosten-aligned troops have been listed as killed-in-action. Two-hundred-and-forty-three thousand civilians are assumed dead, or taken to be repurposed as Fomorian shock troops. As for the Fomorian dead–”
“I assume the numbers of their throwaway forces will be incalculably high,” Wiglaf–or Ehn as he was now known– interrupted. “They’re also pointless. The Fomorians can throw away a million and make a million more. The Zetas and Epsilons are meaningless. The Deltas barely count themselves, and only because they can count, unlike the first two. Only the Gammas, Betas, and Alphas are actual Fomorians. Tell me the numbers that matter.”
“Of course, sir,” Weregeld acquiesced with a bow. “The Fomorians lost ten Gammas in this assault, along with two Betas. No Alphas were present and thus none were lost.”
“Unlikely they would’ve been anyway,” Ehn murmured, scooping his food out onto a plate before shutting the heating unit off. He moved to the table while adding, “The Seosten didn’t have the right troops there to handle an Alpha showing up. We took Kwur’s seedling off the moon in time?”
Weregeld gave a nod of confirmation. “As you ordered, yes. Might I ask how you knew the moon would be under assault by such a powerful force?”
In answer, Ehn reached out to touch a button on the side of a handheld computer sitting next to him on the table. A series of holographic news reports, maps, files about troop movements, and more were projected upward in a jumble. “It’s all there if you read it properly. The Fomorian don’t tend to be all that difficult to predict. They’re more like a force of nature. Once they show up, they’re all-but impossible to stop. But they’re not creative or stealthy. Not as a whole, at least. There are some tricky ones. But the species in general, they’re like a flood. If you look at the environment, you can figure out where the water’s going to go when a dam breaks. The Seosten stopped them here, here, and here.” With each repeated word, he flicked through various reports of battles happening throughout the universe. “Penmiea made the most sense for them to make a renewed assault. Not a hundred percent, of course, but it wasn’t worth the risk keeping Kwur’s seedling in place.”
“I’m certain he is grateful for your foresight,” Weregeld put in. “As are the four-hundred-and-twenty-one thousand Penmiea civilians who were successfully evacuated due to your warning.”
“It’s not enough,” Ehn informed him flatly. “Between the civilians and military, almost three hundred thousand people were still murdered by those monsters. If I was ready, if my people were prepared and this stage of my plan completed, we could have stopped that. Perhaps not all of it. We could not have saved every life. But there are innocents dead today who could have lived if I was able to prepare more quickly. Every death is a failure, and I will see that each is avenged.”
Sounding curious, Weregeld hesitantly pointed out, “You are aware that there are those who believe you would not care overly much about the deaths of nonhumans, given your claims of human superiority?”
“Yes,” Ehn agreed. “Those people mistake my belief that humans should stand at the head of galactic rule to mean that I find other species inferior or in some way deserving of death. All species deserve to live free and cheerful existences, doing as they wish. My belief is that humans are capable of providing that freedom, that cheer, to everyone. Our ability to bond with other species, to gain their gifts, allows us unmeasured versatility and strength. The Fomorians created us to serve as their greatest soldiers. We, instead, will be their destroyers. We will end the Fomorian threat and usher in a new legacy of peace in this universe. A peace which we will enforce against any threat. We will rule, but it will not be a rule of terror and enslavement. We will make things right. Humans will stand as protectors and leaders. Everyone will live as they choose, so long as that choice does not harm others.”
There was a brief pause then, before the man quietly added, “Unfortunately, drastic measures will need to be taken until we reach that point.”
“Drastic measures such as allying yourself with an assortment of individuals which includes a few of what could be considered some of the most dangerous and murderous beings in the universe?” Weregeld asked after a moment of silence.
“Precisely,” came the confirmation, as Ehn met the Mevari’s gaze. “They are dangerous. Some have done terrible things and will likely do more. But keeping them here, pointing them in the direction I wish them to be pointed in, will lead to a better universe in the end. You saw what happened with Merakeul. Fossor, that is.”
“He became one of strongest Necromancers in the universe,” Weregeld noted. “If not the strongest. And he did so by committing countless atrocities.”
Ehn gave a short, single nod. “And then he died, his power taken by someone of much better character and ethics. Just as he was supposed to. And Felicity Chambers is gradually beginning to understand and utilize that power, just as she is supposed to. In time, she will become a much greater ally than Merakeul could ever have been.”
“Might I ask,” Weregeld began slowly, “does that mean you intend for those few of your lieutenants who are not already human to be replaced by a human? There is the situation with that Dakota child. Which some may believe was intentional as well.”
Rather than answer, Ehn simply smiled faintly. “Speaking of my people, would you mind bringing up the security feed for each of their cells?
“I would like to see how they’re doing.”
Twen (Two) – The Hole
The main room of the cell was circular, the walls composed of unending mirrors which stretched all the way around. In the middle of that fifty-foot diameter space was a figure who stood twelve feet in height. He was roughly humanoid at a glance, with two arms, two legs, and a head all in the correct places, as well the right amount of fingers. However, he appeared to be wearing a form-fitting black scuba suit, gloves, boots, and full head-covering mask with no visible eye or mouth holes. In fact, the face part of the mask was completely flat and blank, as though the figure had no actual nose, eyes, or mouth at all. That twelve-foot tall, entirely black and faceless figure, was reflected in every direction through the mirrors along the walls. As was the single piece of decoration in the room, a three foot metal vase-like container with a lid blocking the opening. Nothing else stood in the cell. Only the tall, black form and the metal vase.
A moment later, the tall, humanoid figure changed. He was now a six-legged dog. Then he was a snake, filling the entire room save for the spot where the vase sat. Then he was not a creature at all, but a bicycle, which rolled in circles around the mostly empty space for a few seconds before transforming yet again, into a small starfighter, hovering a few feet off the ground. Then he was a monkey, a tree, a dozen other animals and objects over the span of a couple minutes.
As a soft, polite chime echoed through the enclosed space, the figure transformed back into his tall humanoid shape and turned to face one part of the circular room. Nothing about that spot stood out any more than any other spot, yet he had been here long enough to know precisely where the opening to this cell was. And, as expected, the chime ended as that part of the mirror shimmered like liquid. A rifle appeared, followed by another, the two men holding them very clearly standing side by side. They were ready for him to make a move. Not that he would. Not that he had any desire to.
His master had not requested it.
Instead, the being known as Twen simply watched impassively as the rifles stuck through the mirror were trained on him, before a crate was tossed through. It was a gray animal-carrying crate, like one that a human might use to carry a large cat or small dog to the vet. There was a handle on top, and a cage-like door in front.
Once the animal crate was delivered, the rifles withdrew, and the mirror shifted back to normal. They were done. Probably off to celebrate. After all, dinner had been successfully served once more.
Rather than approach the cage and its squeaking occupant immediately, Twen silently pulled the lid from the vase and held his hand over the opening. As he did so, black, tar-like liquid began to fall from his hand. His hand itself remained intact, as did every part of his form. But it shrank. The more of that dark liquid that fell into the vase, the less of him there was. He gradually shrank down until he was closer to six feet in height, halving his size. Yet despite the vase clearly not having room to hold that much, it was not overflowing. He didn’t need to put part of himself away to change size, as evidenced by his bout of shifting a moment earlier. But it did make things more comfortable. Shifting his size while containing or expanding part of his mass was like holding his breath. Putting part of that mass away, or pulling some out, was far more comfortable.
Only once he had halved his size did Twen step toward the cage. Still displaying no facial expression (nor face at all, let alone a mouth of any sort), he knelt in front of it. His hand moved, undoing the latch so the door could swing open.
After a brief moment of nothing, a greenish-gray pig-like animal emerged. It sniffed the air, snorted twice, then stepped fully out onto the metal floor with all six of its legs. With a huff, it surveyed its surroundings, looked curiously toward its own reflection, then stared up at the black figure kneeling over it, and gave a tentative squeak.
As though in response, Twen put his hand out, palm down. He lowered it as though to pat the animal, but only rested the hand on its head. For a moment, there was no response. Then the animal jerked once, gave a sharp squeak of distress, and immediately froze. Its greenish-gray body was rapidly overtaken by black lines that spread out from the spot on its head where Twen’s palm was touching. The lines widened and lengthened over the span of a couple seconds, until they had enveloped the animal entirely. It gave one last pitiful squeak, before beginning to dissolve. Within another moment, the entire shape of the animal had collapsed, becoming a bubble of more tar-like liquid. Which itself was slurped up through the kneeling figure’s hand and arm, disappearing within his body.
Yet he didn’t stop there. Once the animal itself was gone, Twen’s hand moved to touch the crate. That too was quickly transformed into the same black goo before being absorbed. Only then, once there was no trace of anything that had been added to the room, did he rise to a standing position once more. The animal and crate together had provided enough mass for him to gain a foot of height, returning him to a respectable seven feet.
Now properly fed, the figure moved back to the center of the room, just beside his vase. He stood there, motionless as a statue. It was how he would stand for the rest of the day and evening, until his next meal was delivered. Day in and day out, his routine was the same with no variation. Yet he was not bored. Far from it. Throughout those long hours stretching into long days, years, decades, and centuries, the being known as Twen experienced hundreds of thousands, even millions of lives worth of memories.
In point of fact, to be specific, he experienced billions of lives. Three billion, four hundred thousand, eight hundred and ninety-two of them. One life for every person on his original homeworld, before an experiment had turned him into this. Before he had absorbed them. All of them. Every single member of his species. Three and a half billion lives, all taken as his body had grown larger and larger, gradually encompassing the whole of his world.
But now, almost the entirety of that world-worth of extra mass was stored in his vase, leaving Twen standing mostly alone, allowing only a few voices into his head at once. Only a few sets of memories.
For months, years, and centuries, he alternated between standing silently and random fits of shapeshifting, allowing the voices of the dead to speak to him, to share their memories so that he would not be entirely alone. And he waited for his master to give the word. The word that would mean it was time to put himself together and be whole once more.
Drawing all of his absorbed mass from the vase would allow Twen to grow to his full size, something more akin to a small moon. A moon he could shape and move however he wished. Thus, when he did so, he would not be a man standing at his master’s side.
He would become the living flagship upon which Ehn and his armies rode to war.
Kwur (Three) – The Growth
At one point, the thirty foot by thirty foot cell had been a blank square room with nothing inside other than a series of sprinklers hanging from the ceiling, four bright sun lamps in the corners, and a single small sapling tree planted in the exact center of the room. The walls and ceiling were metal, while the floor consisted of about six feet worth of dirt before reaching the metal there. But over the course of centuries, through various favors, threats, gifts, and more, various other plants had been added. Now, the cell belonging to the being known as Kwur was a small, densely packed jungle. It was impossible to see the walls through the vines, moss, and other foliage, while the four separate sunlamps were given just enough space so that their light could reach all the planets that needed it. Below the canopy, darkness-loving moss and mushrooms grew along the floor, along with a thick carpet of weeds and other hardy plants that could survive in nearly any conditions.
A single small path from the doorway to the central tree still existed, though to call it a path was a bit optimistic. In truth, it was simply a narrow space where fewer plants had grown, an area where it was possible for a human-sized person to carefully walk through without being forced to hack and cut their way with a blade or laser. That was the deal made with the cell’s occupant. He could spread through all the plants in the room, but he had to leave space to reach his primary tree.
It was through that small path that the young (though not nearly as young as he should have been) Heretic named Sean Gerardo made his way, carrying a wooden box under one arm and a heavy canvas bag in the other. He wore a pair of protective goggles and a gas mask over his face. His cyberform dog, Vulcan, trailed after him while sniffing the various plants curiously.
Reaching the seven-foot-tall young tree waiting in the center of the room, Sean spoke up. His voice came through almost robotically thanks to the electronic distortion of the mask he wore. “Special delivery. Hope you’ve got something for me, cuz I wouldn’t want to have to take all this stuff back.” In demonstration, he shook the box he was carrying so the contents could be heard rattling around inside.
In response, the ground at the base of the tree in front of him lit up as a purplish-blue moss began to glow. At first, the whole four foot wide, two foot high patch glowed all at once. Then most of the glow faded, leaving behind glowing letters that spelled out, ‘Don’t damage my reward.’
Reading that aloud, Sean nodded. “Sure thing, don’t worry, it’s all safe. But like I said, I hope you’ve got something good to trade for it, because I was given full permission to retract the deal if I don’t think you’re paying your fair share. And given how much you fucked with my friends, I’d be pretty happy to tell you to rot in your boredom for awhile.” Though his tone was fairly light, there was a hint of seriousness behind the words, his eyes narrowing into not-quite a glare behind the goggles. “I may be the new guy as far as Gehenna goes, but they don’t seem too concerned about playing nice with the cabrón who tried to escape this place a few months ago. So I’m pretty sure I’ve got some broad leeway as far as that goes.”
His words were met with a brief pause before more glowing letters appeared in the moss, spelling out, ‘Show me my DVDs.’
“Show you? Oh yeah, sure, I can do that.” Setting the box down in front of him along with the bag, Sean glanced toward his cyberform partner. “Hey Vulcan, send VJ up to check on that north-east sunlamp while we’re in here, would you? It’s been giving some weird readings, probably power fluctuations.”
Immediately, the small backpack-shaped attachment linked to the metal dog popped free and flew up out of the foliage to examine the lamp in question, which had been reporting a few minor errors over the past day. On its way, the little drone produced two small grappler arms, one containing a screwdriver and the other a tiny blowtorch.
Once VJ was on his way to check that out, Sean opened the box and began to pull out several DVD cases. “We’ve got the full box set of I Love Lucy, seasons eleven through fourteen of Gunsmoke, seasons nine and ten of MASH, the Annie Oakley collection, the full Babylon 5 series, and volume one of the Laurel and Hardy collection. Should be enough to keep you busy for awhile. You know, if you earn it. So what’ve you got on your end, buddy?”
In response, the glowing moss spelled out, ‘Ulken’s gang on Prondena planning assassination in one week.’ A blue rose grew just below those words. Then the words shifted to, ‘Rogue scientist living on Xyatl Station creating plague to unleash and spread via refueling ships.’ A red rose grew next to the blue one. And finally, the words shifted to read, ‘Prisoners in Caternal Seven holding facility plotting riot and escape by taking warden’s daughter hostage when she visits for religious services.’ A dark green rose grew next to the red one.
Opening the heavy canvas bag, Sean carefully took out a pair of gloves and several small metal boxes. Pulling on the gloves, he plucked each rose and set it into a separate box before sealing each. When the flowers were pressed to one’s face and inhaled, they would convey all the facts and overheard details related to each reported situation they were connected to. Kwur’s smaller plants were each allowed to exist in various areas throughout the universe, too disconnected and few for him to exert any real influence through, but capable of allowing him to overhear conversations others tried to keep hidden. He traded the information he gained from that spying for certain benefits here in the Gehenna prison.
Once the flowers were secure, Sean put the boxes away and then nodded. “Right, well, assuming that all pans out I won’t have to come back in here and take your new shows away. Here you go.” He pushed the box of DVDs forward, watching as several vines extended to take it, exposing a large television monitor and various electronic device players from a bunch of different species and worlds. The vines immediately popped open one of the cases, carefully extracted the disc inside, and shoved it into the player. Soon, an episode of Gunsmoke was playing on that television.
“Right, well, enjoy.” Sean turned, looking up as VJ reappeared. “You get that fixed, buddy?” A chirp from the small drone was met with a thumbs up. “Good job.” That said, he pivoted and began to walk back the way he’d come, before pausing to address Kwur once more. “But hey, just so you know, don’t fuck with my friends again.
“Or I’ll show you some real gun smoke.”
Seur (Four) – The Expanse
Unlike the past two cells, this one was decorated appropriately and rather thoroughly. It consisted of three interconnected rooms with their own doorways. The first couple were a relatively modern Earth-style kitchen and living/bedroom area. They looked like they could have come straight out of the set of one of those 1960s and 70s sitcoms that Kwur enjoyed so much. There was even a bowl of fresh fruit on the table just waiting to be enjoyed. The third and final area was an elaborate bathroom. This one seemed even more modern than the other two, with an expensive and state-of-the-art whirlpool bath that was large enough to almost do laps in, along with a separate shower.
The human woman who occupied this particular cell was not a product of the eras represented by either the kitchen and living room or the bathroom. On the contrary, she came from a time long before either of those. Known now by the prison moniker of Seur, she was born in ancient Rome under the name Clelia.
In this particular moment, Seur stood in her kitchen, quickly and methodically chopping onions and carrots for the soup she was making. Her black hair was cut short, more like a traditional male cut than that of a woman. She wore blue overalls and a red checkered shirt, another sign of her distaste for holding to the traditions of the people she had come from. She wore what was comfortable, and what she liked. Seur held little to no attachment to people and the society she had come from. Not since they had experimented on her to create what she now was.
At one time in her life, all those centuries ago, the girl then known as Clelia had been a street urchin, a homeless child with an eternally-empty stomach and no prospects. As such, when a collection of fairly unscrupulous scientists had abducted her along with several others in the same situation, no alarms had been raised. Very few, if any, had cared.
The scientists had been attempting to perfect a sort of incredibly powerful teleportation magic, one that would have allowed entire armies to be moved vast distances in the blink of an eye. The young Clelia, only seven years old when originally abducted, had spent years in a small cell, much worse than this one, watching those around her be mutilated and indescribably destroyed by those experiments one by one. Deemed too small and frail to be useful for their experiments at first, she was often forgotten in the corner, left to watch older subjects come and go. She ceased making friends with them, calling those who came through ‘the doomed.’
And yet, she did not stay too small forever. After six years of this, at the age of thirteen, she had finally been considered ready to join in the very same failed experiments that she had spent more than half a decade watching the tragic results of. But by that point, the scientists were least better about keeping their subjects alive. She was lucky in some ways, yet not in others. They kept her alive, but cared little for how much pain they put her through. For another four years after that, they worked their experiments, still trying to perfect their original intention of enhancing soldiers with the ability to transport instantly anywhere their commanding officer sent them. She was cut open repeatedly, had various enchantments etched into bones and organs, was forced to swallow all manner of potions and various power-enhancing minerals, had magical stones grafted to her insides, and countless more procedures.
In the end, they had both succeeded and failed, leading to the seventeen-year-old Clelia’s escape. Right after she had killed all of them, every person responsible for imprisoning and torturing her for a decade. For some time after that, she had wandered free before being approached by the man now known as Ehn. Under his guidance (to say nothing of his Dragon boosting ability), she became even stronger, and he had inspired an incredible sense of loyalty in the young woman.
Thus, she allowed herself to be imprisoned once more, at his request. Her cell this time around was at least much more comfortable, and updated whenever she wished. She stayed here, waiting for Ehn’s word to make their move.
Once the onions and carrots were cut, the woman held her hand out over them. As she raised it, vegetable pieces lifted from the countertop, hovering there in the air. A flick of her finger made them rise in front of her hand rather than underneath it, and then she shoved her palm forward. The carrots and onions flew over, stopping just above the prepared soup pot. She lowered her hand from where she was standing a good seven feet away, and they dropped into the pot obediently.
The ancient Roman scientists who had tried so hard to create perfect teleportation inside her had failed at that. But they had created something else. Rather than moving her body to any location, Seur was capable of manipulating what she called ‘distance space.’ This allowed her to do multiple things. First, space within about six inches of her own body was permanently bent and elongated. Anything entering that space would immediately, from its own point of view, have to travel several thousand miles before it would actually reach Seur. From the outside, it was six inches of space. But that six inches became nearly five thousand miles simply through the automatic bending of space within it.
Bullets fired toward her would drop to the ground long before reaching the woman, their energy easily expended within the extended space. Powerful enough lasers technically could have reached her, but they were slowed so much that she could simply step aside from them. Gas as well had no effect unless it was capable of filling several thousand miles worth of space. And even then, she could easily leave the area before that became an issue. Living beings attempting to make their fists, tentacles, or other non-sensory body parts cross that ‘six inch’ gap without assistance would find it rather impossible unless they threw their whole selves into it. And when they did that, they disappeared entirely, their minds experiencing deep psychological damage from what amounted to living through an MC Escher drawing of twisted space. In time, they would be spat out of the space from a random direction, never reaching their target.
She was, of course, capable of selectively allowing anything through her field instantly. This allowed light and oxygen to reach her, gave her the ability to pick up objects, and so on. It even allowed her to touch people normally. But those were exceptions, which were manually allowed by Seur herself. Anything else attempting to reach her had much more trouble.
Beyond that simple protective field, as demonstrated in her movement of the onion and carrot pieces, Seur was also capable of a certain form of telekinesis. This was done by focusing on anything she could see and deliberately affecting its distance and position relative to her own body. She had moved the vegetables by changing their distance from her hand, forcing them to rise into the air to be closer to her, then pushed them further away to reach the pot. Which was a very minor, almost inconsequential use of that ability. At its higher strengths, she was capable of sending entire star cruisers thousands of miles away with a gesture, or of making a small army worth of soldiers fly across a countryside by flicking her finger.
These were her gifts, after spending so many years in the hell that those now-dead scientists had created. And when the time came, when Ehn said the word, she would use them to help him change the universe.
Dah (Five) – The Bruiser
Like the previous cell, the one belonging to Ehn’s fourth lieutenant was properly furnished. In this case, it was in the style of a modern twenty-first century Earth home, as its occupant deliberately kept track of styles and had her belongings updated as necessary throughout her stay. She wished to have some connection to the world she had left behind, a world she hoped to return to and experience in person someday.
A world she had been born on hundreds of years before the earliest histories of human civilization.
She’d been born with a name she no longer remembered, though it could not have been much more than a specific sort of grunt, had lived in what amounted to a cave with a family or tribe she could hardly remember more than brief glimpses of. A family who had all died within the first decade of her life. Half taken by hunger directly, while the other half fell to hunger of a different sort. The hunger of predators.
Left alone, the tribeless girl had struck out to find food, to find others of her kind. Too young at the time to even remember her full decision-making process these days, she had hiked through fields and mountains, searching for a new home. In truth, she should have died a dozen times over in those first days. Yet somehow, the child survived. She gradually made her way through a narrow mountain pass, evading predators by mere inches in some cases. She survived on stream water, as well as berries and the meat of a small rodent she had managed to bash with a stick. Nights were spent curled in a ball and covered in leaves in the hollows of trees to live through the harsh cold.
Even then, it was clear that she would have died. Left alone and with no real supplies, to say nothing of any actual directions toward others of her kind, the girl of barely one decade in age would never have made it were it not for… the gray man.
These days, she could not picture him clearly. But she knew he was gray. Grayish green, with large eyes. Lying there early in the morning after a particularly cold night, she had seen him approach through the darkness, the sun still an hour away from rising. Illuminated only by moon and starlight, he appeared in front of her, spoke kindly in her own language, and gave her clothing made of heavy furs to ward away the cold. He gave her clothes and a blanket. Then he did… something, and she had fallen asleep.
When she woke, the child was within a short walking distance of a small tribe of other humans, many days walking distance away from where she had fallen asleep. Other humans who had taken her in. And for five years afterward, she had thrived as much as it was possible to. Their tribe grew, merged with another, continued traveling to hunt, and engaged in several territorial battles against other tribes.
It was during one of those battles that the girl, known to her new tribe as Mekkta, was separated from the others. Chased by several males from a rival tribe, she fled through the underbrush. The fifteen-year-old girl had borne one child already, and was in no particular hurry to carry another so soon. She managed to lose her pursuers, but also lost herself. Wandering in an attempt to find the rest of her tribe while staying hidden from their enemies, she came upon a small cave hidden far from sight of any trail, nearly invisible behind a gnarled old tree. Hearing pursuit, Mekkta squeezed her way into the tiny hole, barely managing to fit herself.
Once inside, the cave had opened up quickly into a chamber almost ten feet across. In the center of that chamber were the remains of an old skeleton. The skeleton of something decidedly unlike Mekkta herself. The figure had to have been ten feet tall when it was alive, and had more arms than her people did. The skull was similarly oversized.
When the young Mekkta curiously touched the bones, they had instantly disintegrated under her touch, turning to dust. At that moment, a terrible earthquake had struck, collapsing the cave. But through the course of the quake, the dust from those disintegrated bones had filled the air. Air which Mekkta had inhaled.
She survived the collapsed cave with no particular injuries or negative effects. Whatever the creature whose bones had been in that cave might have been, inhaling the dust from them had provided the girl with strength beyond comprehension. Her body became unbreakable, she had no need for food, air, or water, and she was capable of felling and carrying enormous trees with little effort. A single blow from her fist could shatter a human’s head, and none of their weapons could harm her.
Shortly after gaining this gift, Mekkta had been attacked by a tribe of others like her, those who had gained powers through the bodies of those who were not-human. In the course of that battle, strange magics were thrown through the air. One of those magics struck the invulnerable, strong girl, sending her to another world.
She had not set foot on Earth again. Instead, Mekkta had traveled through the Seosten Empire as an oddity, learning what she could. For years even before the Seosten had heard of Earth, she lived among their backwater worlds, learned their language, their culture, their history. And when she had been approached by the man now known as Ehn, she had joined him with one caveat. Someday, she wanted to go back to Earth. She wanted to go back home and live among her people.
Ehn had agreed. And here they were, waiting for the right time. Thanks to the boosts his dragon powers gave her, Mekkta was even stronger than she had been before. They had tested her thoroughly, and not even the force of a Seosten capital ship main cannon was capable of so much as bruising her skin. Meanwhile, her strength had been magnified to the point that she was able to exert well over one hundred thousand tons worth of force. Exactly what she had bonded to with the dust of those bones in the cave all those millennia ago was still a mystery, but between that and the dragon boosts she had received, very little in the universe was capable of standing against a single serious blow. In most cases, she barely had to exert herself to overwhelm any defenses. She was so strong, in fact, that a simple, light tap was enough to put the vast majority of foes down for the count. Which, honestly, she often found annoying. Half the reason she was looking forward to Ehn’s war, beyond wanting to go home, was that she might finally find someone who could present something resembling a challenge.
And yet, here she stood, a black woman of precisely five feet, three inches in height. Her long dark hair was worn in elaborate braids, as she flipped through the channels on her modern television. At her request, her ‘video box’ received all the channels it would have if she lived in modern day Brazil, the area where she had been born and spent those first years of her life.
In time, the woman who went equally by the number moniker of Dah and by her human tribal name of Mekkta would return to the land of her birth. She would set foot on Earth once more. She would see her descendants, her species, rise to a true place of galactic importance and leadership. Nothing and no one would stand in the way of that.
Nihkta (Six) – The Surgeon
Not only was the cell of Ehn’s fifth lieutenant far different from the previous two, it was different from what most who saw the man himself would have pictured. In meeting the human known now as Nihkta, Six in that long-abandoned alien language used by Gehenna, the very first thing most noticed was his height. Or lack thereof. The Asian man, who appeared to be in his mid-thirties, stood only five feet tall. His head was shaven bald, and he had a tattoo of an owl in flight across it, properly visible only if you were standing over him. Which, given his slight stature, many did. He was quite thin in addition to being short, and tended to wear oversized clothing that made him appear to be even smaller. Jeans that had to be rolled up and belted on, along with long-sleeved shirts that made his hands disappear like a child.
Adding to this appearance of youth was the fact that Nihkta very rarely stopped smiling. He was always quick with a joke, and often went through great pains and effort to cheer up not only his companions, but any strangers he saw who appeared to be going through rough times.
And yet, despite this, when one walked into Nihkta’s cell in Gehenna, they would find what appeared to be a room belonging to someone entirely different. Posters of heavy metal rock stars and bands lined every wall. The lighting was kept dark, illuminated almost entirely by neon strips along the edges of the ceiling. One wall was taken up almost entirely by an elaborate stereo system, with speakers that were constantly pumping brain-rattling screaming death metal. Not only from Earth itself, but similar styles of music taken from other worlds as well.
A couch lay in the middle of the room, surrounded by various blankets and pillows. In front of it was a television that usually played either music videos or various video games and their equivalents, taken from alien civilizations as well. Through one door next to the television, a small, mostly ignored kitchen could be found, while a bathroom was accessible through the opposite door, behind the couch.
Then there was the last door. Located to the left of the couch and just to the right of the elaborate stereo system, the door was always kept shut, unlike those leading to the kitchen and bathroom. Because to pass through that door, was to enter a space entirely unlike the others.
This room, the last of his prison territory, was still not what those who only knew Nihkta’s personality would expect. But it was what those who knew his skillset would expect.
This room, unlike the others, was kept silent. The walls were soundproof. The room was also pristinely clean. In the middle was an examination table, like what was found in a modern hospital. The three walls not attached to the door were all lined with glass cabinets and countertops. Various medical tools of every time period, culture, and even species imaginable were kept in those drawers and cabinets. Four different powerful microscopes and other medical and scientific instruments were dotted along the countertop space. A rolling chair (he liked to spin in it) sat in one corner.
It was in this room, next to that chair, that Nihkta stood at the moment. He had one arm resting on the counter, palm up. The arm itself had been cut open from wrist to elbow, though Nihkta showed no discomfort for that fact. He had long-since installed a switch to disable his own body’s pain response, though he found it useful to turn on whenever he wasn’t actively working on his own body or otherwise in need of ignoring physical trauma. It was far too easy to accidentally injure himself with a muted or absent pain reaction.
During his mortal life on Earth, around what was now seen as three hundred AD, he had been obsessed with traveling the world, learning medicine and magic. Though the latter, by that point, was very much a disappearing art when it came to the human world. Nihkta had been what would in modern times be called an Adjacent. He could see through the still-burgeoning Bystander Effect as though it wasn’t there, without being bonded to anything.
In the course of those travels and studies, he had learned from dozens of experts of all different species. He did this for over fifty years, until he himself was considered an old man, and learned many secret and forbidden medical techniques. Putting several of those medical disciplines together had allowed Nihkta to transfer the knowledge of others into his own mind directly in order to enhance his own intelligence. He only did such a thing with those who volunteered, those who were old or broken in some way and wished to share their knowledge in a quite literal sense before they passed.
With his enhanced mental ability, the equivalent of what became dozens of brilliant medical minds all working together, Nihkta eventually learned to reverse his own aging process, as well as give himself various upgrades. First simply by enhancing his human body, and later by taking parts of other (already dead or volunteer) species in order to grant himself their abilities.
In truth, Nihkta wasn’t sure what he was now. He certainly wasn’t an ordinary human, given a solid three-quarters of his body parts under the outer skin were either advanced technology (such as bones replaced by a material that would stand up under several tons of pressure and deflect blows from one of those laser swords) or literal alien organs granting him their gifts. Yet he wasn’t quite what would be considered an ordinary Natural Heretic either. He wasn’t bonded to one Alter, he put dozens of pieces of them into himself and somehow made it all work. Dozens of different Alters powers, all of them boosted by Ehn’s dragon power, resided in him.
What he did know was that working with Ehn would give him the opportunity to accomplish his life’s dream of eliminating mortality and upgrading all of humanity to reach the potential he knew they were capable of.
And maybe, just maybe, he could make them laugh along the way.
Steth (Seven) – The Maker
If the past few rooms had been relatively different from one another, they might as well have been identical compared to the next. It was less of a series of rooms, and more of a large swamp. Measuring two hundred feet by two hundred feet square, with a roof thirty feet high, the area was covered in dank, dingy water that was several feet deep and swarming with various creatures and plant life. Several short yet wide, vine-covered trees were scattered throughout, rising out of that water. A single dirt embankment lay against one side of the room with just enough space for a single crocodile to rest itself like an old log.
In the exact center of that swamp was what looked at first glance like a rickety wooden raft. Yet attached to the top of that raft was a series of nozzles, projecting a sort of anti-gravity force which kept the far sturdier looking metal platform hovering six feet higher in the air, over the raft. The metal platform was twenty feet by fifteen feet, and had a set of wide metal stairs leading up out of the water to reach it at one end. Stairs that were much too wide and far apart for an average human to use.
Atop that hovering platform sat an old hoverbike belonging to a species that had long-since been absorbed by the Seosten. It was technically obsolete technology by modern standards. Or it had been, before the being now known as Steth got to it.
At first glance, she appeared to be a large plump frog, with a slightly narrower head and eyes that were attached to long stalks. Her body was eight feet wide, ten feet long, and six feet tall. Unlike ordinary Earth frogs, her back was covered in what appeared to be hair, but was actually hundreds of thin tentacles. Right now, dozens of those tentacles were hard at work, holding an assortment of tools as they worked on the old hoverbike, souping it up. Her eye-stalks extended, one growing to a full ten feet long as it moved around the bike to study it from every angle, while her other eye-stalk moved independently up to examine one of her tools critically, checking to see that it was working properly.
In her old life, before being recruited by Ehn, Steth had created such beautiful machines. Her crowning achievement was an army of war-robots which had decimated the armies of the world she came from. In her anger at what she saw as a population who belittled and dismissed her, she had sought to prove her worth by decimating their defenses and putting her own robot army in their place.
Unfortunately, she had done a bit too good of a job. Her mechanical monstrosities had indeed done what she wanted… at first. But they ended up growing what amounted to consciences and sided with the people they were supposed to destroy. They had, in essence, turned on the maker who wanted them to take over the world and helped to drive her from that world to protect the people who should have been their victims. Which was quite frankly unfair.
For decades, she had been at war against her own creations. Then Ehn had come, convincing her that she should side with him and aid in raising humanity to their full potential. While others of their group would do so either as physical enforcers and direct damage dealers, or in upgrading humans themselves in the case of Nihkta, or even as a living spaceship who could absorb any and all attacks thrown at him in Twen’s case, Steth’s job would be to design and create the weapons and armor used by Ehn’s future armies. And she had spent the past millennia in this prison perfecting those designs. Which included building things and shoving it all into crates which were taken to other parts of the prison and put into storage.
Most might have questioned how she was able to gain access to equipment for such work, being a prisoner as she was. But most didn’t understand the specific situation Ehn and his people were in. Prisoners though they might have been on paper, things weren’t quite that cut and dry. So long as they stayed put and didn’t make a fuss, they were generally allowed whatever they requested. There were multiple reasons for that, but she didn’t really focus too much on them. It didn’t really matter in her day-to-day work. All she cared about was that her job was to create these beautiful weapons, and that was what she did.
Finally satisfied that her tool was working properly, she extended it to the underside of the hoverbike. One of her eyes joined it, twisting around to see up into that small space. It was dark, but she could see in near-black conditions just fine. She was able to push the tool up into that space alongside her extended eye, and carefully tighten a single loose bolt. There, that should stop the zero point zero zero one three percent power loss. As well as the slight tug to that side. Most wouldn’t have detected it. She was not most.
With Ehn’s dragon boosts enhancing her already-considerable mechanical and technological abilities, Steth was one of the most advanced weapons and robotics designers in the known universe. She would use those gifts as Ehn requested, to aid him in arming his people to advance his own goals. When the time came, everything she built would be put toward universal conquest, to put things in order and allow Ehn’s species to rise to their natural place as leaders and protectors.
And once that was done, once Ehn had everything he wanted, she would take a piece of those same armies, go back to her own world, and teach those rebellious machines a lesson for not conquering the world for her the way she had told them to in the first place. Oh, and this time, she was being very careful not to give her creations the capacity for free-thought.
That was a mistake she would only make once.
Rahn (Eight) – The Unwritten
Most who were at all aware of the circumstances revolving around the creation of the Bystander Effect believed that it had first been tested on the city of Athens. A test which had horrifically devastated the city itself, as former friends and family were instantly turned on one another. Thousands were left dead in the chaotic fighting as humans forgot everything they knew about Alters, yet were still capable of seeing them for what they were. Half the city burned almost overnight. To say nothing of the damage that was done from the fact that the humans forgot how to use and maintain the magical spells that kept the city itself running.
It was, in a word, tragic. But it was not, in fact, the very first instance of testing what would become the Bystander Effect. There was another test, an earlier… more focused one. So focused, in fact, that it involved only a single person. A young man, barely old enough to serve in their military and drawn from the general population of Athens itself.
That young man’s true name, at the time, had been Linus. He was a nobody, an inconsequential son of an inconsequential merchant. One of several such sons, neither the oldest nor the youngest. He was neither handsome nor ugly, a slender figure of average appearance in almost every way, from his short brown hair to his height of several inches under six feet. Which was all by design. Those responsible for the Bystander Effect had not wanted to take anyone whose abduction would be particularly noteworthy, for someone who was noteworthy might attract unwanted attention. The more average the better, and Linus had been incredibly average. Few had taken the time to search for very long after he disappeared, taken for the experiments of the Seosten.
In point of fact, he was not the only person taken that way and experimented on. He was simply the first and only one those experiments had worked properly on. For a certain definition of the word ‘properly.’
Now, at this point, the young Athenian man sat in his comfortably-appointed cell in Gehenna. There was nothing all that unique about the space. He had a soft padded floor, a decent bed to sleep on, a small monitor on one wall to watch entertainment next to a shelf full of books he enjoyed reading, and a small kitchen and bathroom on opposite sides.
And he had a robot. Well, not his robot. Gehenna’s. Named Krix, the robot looked like a metal human with a visor running all the way around his head. The visor contained his visual receptors, allowing him to see in a full three hundred and sixty degrees around the room. Between that and the assortment of cameras in every corner, Krix was capable of observing the boy now known as Rahn one hundred percent of the time. Which was important, given the moment he ceased observing the boy, the robot would have forgotten he existed.
That was the effect of the Seosten experiments that had been performed on the boy. Every few seconds, his body projected a magical pulse in every direction, which forced everyone who knew about his existence and was not actively observing him to forget about him. No matter what he did to them, no matter how obvious his existence, if they were not actively focused on him and glanced away, the pulse would erase their memory. When they looked back to him once more, they would have no idea who he was. The effect worked on computers and artificial beings just as well as it did on living people. His very existence was erased not only from memory, but from records as well, electronic and otherwise. Everything with his identity written on it would be erased by those pulses of magic that came every few seconds.
That was why it was so important that Krix observe him at all times, either through direct eyesight with his three-hundred-and-sixty degree vision, or through the cameras. The robot was connected to the prison’s primary power core, allowing him to run constantly with no rest. Even then, there were several redundant systems, smaller robots the size of Earth dragonflies hovering around the room. If Krix’s memory was erased, they were programmed to attach themselves to him and restore the back-ups. Beyond that, the robot had been given full authority over this area. Guards often appeared to ‘clean out the empty cell,’ only to be turned away by Krix as he explained the situation for the seven millionth time.
Not that Rahn was actively trying to leave. Not at this point. Ehn’s promise, once he found the boy wandering the streets of a small city shortly after his escape from his captors, had been that he would have his chance for revenge against those who had abducted and tortured him with their experiments. And that Ehn would fix him so that he could be with people and not have them forget his existence.
It was fair to believe such a promise, given Ehn had been the only person to find any way of getting around Rahn’s power. First, his own Dragon Heretic powers rendered him immune to any magic he didn’t want to affect him. Which included the memory-erasing effect. Beyond that, every person enhanced by his dragon boosts also retained their memory of the boy. Ehn’s lieutenants could remember him. Which made them his family, and he would do anything to protect them. And, given Ehn’s boosts not only halted his aging but also made him much stronger and faster than he should have been, protecting them was something he was far more capable of these days.
Whatever it took, whatever they had to do and whatever forces were arrayed against them, Rahn would see Ehn’s vision come to pass. When the time came, they would raise humanity to become what Ehn saw them as being.
And damn whatever Seosten or other force tried to stop that.
Mehtra (Nine) – The Light
The set of rooms belonging to the last of Ehn’s primary lieutenants appeared to be almost empty at this particular point. A scattered assortment of books lay on the floor in one corner, the monitor of a television was sitting in an opposite corner, a pile of various food supplies and a blank, featureless sink was in the kitchen. Other than those things, as well as a toilet, sink, and shower in the bathroom, the area was entirely empty. The walls, floor, and ceiling were blank metal. There was absolutely nothing to show that a person had been living in this space regularly.
It looked as though the tall, beautiful blonde woman who stood in the middle of the main room was just moving in. Yet nothing had been further from the truth. She had actually lived in this cell for many, many years. The absence of any furniture, cupboards, or indeed almost anything to make this place a real home wasn’t because she had just arrived. Nor was it due to some wish to live in squalor.
It was because Mehtra was redecorating.
She hadn’t been born Mehtra, of course. Her name through the first part of her life was Osyth. And she was, in actuality, the very first of Ehn’s people to have joined him. She had been more of a daughter than a soldier to the man, having been taken in by him long before he ever started using time travel to recruit his other people. To the point that she had accompanied him on each and every one of those recruitment sessions. First as a child accompanying their parent, and later as his partner, his reinforcements, not that he needed such a thing. She watched his back and served as his voice in times when he could not appear personally.
But first, before that, she had been an ordinary human girl. A girl who had been out picking berries to sell in her village when she ended up accidentally caught in the middle of a battle between the man who would become known as Ehn, and another man of incredible power. Their fighting would have erased the small, inconsequential child from the map entirely. But Ehn, then named Wiglaf, had noticed and protected her. His protection had resulted in his quarry escaping, yet not before that man’s blood had been spilled across the girl’s face.
The blood on her face was the first of two things that would change Osyth’s life forever. The second was the righteous fury of the man whose battle against Wiglaf had been interrupted. So angry was, in fact, that by the time Osyth returned to her village, it had been wiped off the map. The furious man had known where the girl came from and took his anger out on the town. Every building was destroyed, every person killed. Including her family and friends.
With Wiglaf/Ehn’s help, Osyth had hunted down the man responsible for that massacre and made certain he died. It had taken well over a year to find him, but that was time well spent. And from that point on, she was as devoted to her new father-figure as anyone ever could have been.
Standing in the middle of her cell now, the woman now known as Mehtra (or Nine), glanced around the empty room before focusing on a single wall. Or rather, on a point far away from that wall. She focused on the power she could feel coming from the prison’s primary reactor. And with a thought, she gently pulled just a bit of that power to her. Not enough to cause any issues, though that would not have been that difficult. Just enough to do what she needed to right now.
With that power humming inside her, Mehtra’s right hand gave an idle wave. Immediately, the four walls of her main prison room went from being blank metal, to being a soft yellowish color. She paused, head tilting before the walls turned to more of a light blue. Immediately afterward, the blank metal floor under her feet became a fluffy white carpet. A plush armchair and couch appeared in front of the television, which was lifted up inside an ornate wooden cabinet. Next to that, a large bookshelf appeared, as each of the books themselves were lifted out of the jumbled pile and arranged carefully within it. A beautiful ceiling fan lowered itself into place and began to lazily spin.
Meanwhile, those same things were happening inside the kitchen and bathroom. Tile floors appeared, along with a mirror, cabinets for all the food, a table and chairs, a wall clock, a long dresser with various knicknacks, and an enormous bed to sleep on complete with mattress and blankets.
The man who had killed Mehtra’s family, who had massacred her village, the man whose blood had been spilled across her face, had been a fully-powered Stardrinker. And when that blood entered her mouth, Mehtra had become a Natural Heretic of him. Between that and Ehn’s boosts, she was capable of drawing energy from vast distances and turning it into destructive blasts, weapons, blinding speed… or this, more creative and sustained use.
Every object she created this way was, technically, a hard-light construct. Yet Mehtra’s skill with this power was so complete that she could control exactly how soft each object was. Blankets felt like blankets and were both fluffy and warm. The mattress functioned as a mattress. The carpet was soft under her feet, while the walls, tables, chairs, and such were firm and solid.
Not only could she make these dozens of different hard-light objects feel exactly the way they were supposed to, she could maintain them nearly indefinitely without actually focusing on them. She created them and so long as she stayed within several hundred feet (not a problem in this place), they would remain intact even as she slept.
This was one example of the power of a Dragon-Boosted Stardrinker. A tiny example, really. And when the time came to show the more destructive side of her gift, she would do so once more.
For Ehn, for the man she saw as her adopted father, she would do anything.
Those eight beings made up the entirety of Ehn’s lieutenants, his most loyal enforcers and advisors. Together, they were nine of the reasons for Gehenna’s creation. And yet, there was one more whose existence and actions had necessitated the formation of such a prison. A single being, entirely unconnected to Ehn or any of his people and with absolutely no loyalty to them, who was seen as being as much of a threat to continued order as the other nine combined. One figure who required an intergalactic private prison force merely to somewhat contain.
Zahl (Ten) – The Victorious
The rooms belonging to this last of Gehenna’s primary prisoners were, in no uncertain terms, a disaster. Larger and more numerous than any of the others, Zahl’s quarters were more of an estate than a cell. Thirty-six rooms in total, including no less than six bathrooms and four kitchens, as well as twelve different bedrooms, all decorated differently. There were also several dining rooms, living areas, libraries, and so forth. Far more than any single person really needed to live in, yet very necessary to ensure Zahl stayed put and didn’t decide to put too much effort into leaving.
They did have a habit of getting bored quite easily.
That quick boredom showed not only in the extensive amount of rooms that were necessary to keep them occupied, but in the way those rooms were such a mess. Random toys, books, bottles, statues, blankets, video games, puzzles, lamps, clocks, painting supplies, and dozens more random objects littered every clear spot of every room, as the being known as Zahl put some time into entertaining themself, then simply tossed whatever it was aside and moved on to the next thing. Or they would be thoroughly occupied in one activity, notice something else, and immediately jump to that. They were not only easily bored, they were also easily distracted. Which itself was something of a boon for Gehenna in keeping them locked up for so many years. Though that was something more whispered about far from Zahl’s earshot, because if they understood what was being done, they might just get angry at the manipulation and leave on their own anyway. Which was a potential situation that would very easily and quickly spiral completely out of any semblance of control.
After all, it took quite a bit to so much as give pause to the being known as the Monkey King.
It was hard, or even impossible, to refer to something like a ‘normal life’ for the creature most commonly named Sun Wukong. Nothing about him had ever been ‘normal,’ from his mysterious birth atop a mountain, seemingly created from a stone, all the way through his many misadventures throughout first the Earth itself and later every world he could reach with his considerable power.
Many would have said that the (mis)adventures and feats of Sun Wukong had been exaggerated. In some ways they were correct, in the sense that the beings he met and places he went were not quite gods, nor heavens and hells, but incredibly powerful beings and other worlds. Where he came from, who his own people really were, and so forth were questions to which he had no answers, despite many journeys to find them. All he knew was that he appeared to be a man-sized monkey, complete with fur and a tail, though his skin was as hard as stone.
In the course of his attempts to understand his origin, or simply entertain himself in a world which so often stubbornly insisted on attempting to be boring, Sun Wukong had gained power beyond nearly any comprehension. He became immortal several times over, gathered weapons and tools that could shatter entire armies, became the most skilled combatant across many worlds, and was even capable of shaping the very hairs from his body into duplicates of himself.
He was, in no uncertain terms, one of the strongest and most dangerous beings who had ever existed. Not only for his immense power and skill itself, but also for his tendency to act first without thinking anything through. If he had been named the god of anything in particular, it would have been impulsiveness. He was not, generally speaking, a bad person. He simply did whatever came to mind without thought for what the negative effects could be. Between that and his temper, it was easy for the so-called Monkey King to do far more damage than he ever intended.
The red headband he always wore had at one point been intended to curtail this habit, as it was capable of, with a single spoken word, causing intense, direct pain. Enough to cripple even one as strong as him. Yet over so many years, Sun Wukong had become strong enough that use of the headband did little more than slow him down.
Yes, there were other beings who were stronger, or smarter, or faster than he was. But in the end, he always came out on top. One way or another.
When it came right down to it, he was here, in this prison, because he chose to be. They entertained him, gave him whatever he wanted, and helped to ensure his impulses didn’t hurt anyone else. Yet given an excuse, it would not take much for Wukong to decide he had other places he would rather be, other people he would rather talk to.
He feared no enemy. But boredom terrified the Monkey King. He would do anything to avoid it, to ensure that there was always a challenge, always something new and exciting waiting around the corner. It was that very dislike of being bored that had led him to, over the past few months, agree to speak with the man who called himself Ehn. Though he owed no allegiance to that man, it was at least something new. And in those discussions, Wukong had found himself agreeing to perform a favor, at some point in the future, for the man. A favor which promised to be very interesting indeed, and provide him with brand new entertainment.
Now, he stood in front of a mirror in one corner of one of his thirty-six rooms. Reaching out with a hand, he brushed a blanket away from it, revealing his own reflection. The reflection of the tall, handsome, furry Monkey King. He held his nearly eighteen thousand pound staff casually in one hand, smiling at his own appearance before casually making the staff shrink down to the size of a toothpick, which he stuck behind his ear.
And then that appearance changed, as he used one of his many gifts. His form shifted, shrinking down somewhat and becoming slightly more thin, while the hair on his head lightened and extended and the hair everywhere else vanished. Within barely more than a blink of an eye, he stood in the very form he would use to provide this favor for the Dragon-Heretic.
Watching his long tail, the only thing he was incapable of shifting away in his transformations, swing back and forth briefly, Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, Zahl, or whatever else he chose to call himself, turned his attention to the face of his new figure. He spoke in her voice, addressing the form of the human girl whom he would, at some point, replace. At least temporarily.
“Don’t you worry, Felicity Chambers.
“I’m gonna have so much fun while I’m being you.”