Elisabet

Promise And Peril 11-11 (Heretical Edge 2)

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

A/N – if you happened to miss it, the Heretical Edge non-canon chapter was released over the weekend right here

“So, let me get this straight,” Sachael began several minutes later. “There are two super-Fomorians running around on Earth. Both empowered by Tartarus and split from the same original Fomorian. One of them is… considers himself ‘good’ and calls himself Grandfather. He’s the one who brought the first humans to Rysthael–Earth. And he’s just been sort-of hanging out the whole time, being zany. The other one, meanwhile, was trapped in Tartarus for another couple hundred thousand years until Zadkiel, who happens to be a Seosten archangel, ended up in there too. The two of them were fused together, somehow got out, and now he-they are on Earth calling themselves Godfather, Maestro, and who knows what the hell else. And something tells me he’s not nearly as sparkles, sunshine, and happiness as you say the first one is.” 

“Uh, yeah, that seems to just about sum it up,” I confirmed, giving my mother a brief look. She looked stunned by all that, to say the least. “But, you know, if you could keep the Grandfather part to yourself, I just–that’d be great?” Yeah, my voice was a bit weak at that point cuz eesh was that asking a lot. Not that we’d said anything about Bastet or especially Aylen, of course. We weren’t quite that stupid. We just spoke as if Grandfather himself had found and spoken to us. I’d clarify the truth with my mother later, once we were somewhere slightly more private. 

Sachael gave me a brief, clearly appraising look before pointing out, “Promises aside, I am fairly certain that if I were to tell my superiors, or… anyone about what you’ve said, and behaved in any way as though I believed it was more than incoherent gibberish from a human whose mind has been shattered by a year of unrelenting stress, I would be immediately stripped of all my own authority and put into forced retirement. At the very least.” 

“He’s got you there,” Tristan murmured under his breath before speaking up almost challengingly toward the man himself. “Does that mean you don’t believe it?” 

Sachael was quiet for a moment before sighing heavily. “No, I believe I do. That’s what scares me. But I can’t exactly tell the people in charge about it because even on the very slim chance they actually believe me, we know exactly what their first and probably only instinct will be the moment they hear ‘two super-Fomorians on Rysthael.’”

“Destroy it.” That was Athena, her voice soft. “They’ll bring everything they have to in order to level Earth until there’s nothing but dust left.” 

Gulping audibly, Vanessa piped up. “Right, so um, please don’t tell them about that part.” 

“I have to do some–” Sachael started to insist before catching himself with a low sigh. “Yes, I’m not about to go running to the Seraphs babbling about something that will get me locked up at best and your entire planet razed at worst. But I can’t just leave it alone either. If there’s really a malevolent super-Fomorian with Dyeusai powers added on and everything that Zadkiel knew about our society, command structure, security, and… and everything else? That’s something that has to be dealt with. And I think it’d go over a hell of a lot easier with the Seraphs if we could drag this hybrid thing in front of them instead of just promising that he’s out there somewhere. Presenting an apocalyptic problem goes better when you’ve already solved it.” 

“So, what you’re saying is,” I began, “you’ll keep quiet about the giant problem until you’ve got a solution to go along with it. Are you sure um, are you sure you can get away without warning your people about him–them, whatever they go by?” Of all the things I had ever thought I would need to worry about, the preferred pronouns of a merged Fomorian-Seosten super-creature as was not one of them. Like, seriously. What even was my life?

“I’m not sure of much right now, actually,” the man informed me. “But I am fairly certain that, out of a very large assortment of terrible options, keeping quiet for the time being is the least terrible. If what has been said today is true, this Maestro may be the most dangerous single enemy our combined people have ever seen. He possesses all the power and skill of one of the Fomorian Alphas, along with that of a Seosten Dyeus and the knowledge that comes from being very high up within the military structure of both. And, what’s more, he clearly knows how to be quiet. He has kept himself hidden for a long time now, choosing not to draw attention to his existence. One who knows how to have all that power and then not use it is far more dangerous than one who blunders about showing off their strength. Which leads to the question of what, exactly, is his endgame in that case? What is he trying to accomplish?” 

“It’s something to do with all the Seraphs,” Elisabet murmured, a frown crossing her face. “I’m not exactly positive, but he wants to do something to the Seraphim. At first I thought he intended to kill or destroy them, but that’s not it. I’m just not sure exactly…” Trailing off, she sighed. “I don’t know, but it’s something to do with them. That’s why that… Gemini pushed us toward arranging the meeting between them and the children.” She nodded toward Vanessa, Tabbris, Tristan, and me. “Whatever his goal is, getting them close to the Seosten leaders is part of it.” 

“Right, so we don’t go anywhere near them,” Vanessa put in. “Except I’m pretty sure it’ll come up when this whole truce year thing is over.” 

“A lot of things are going to come up once the truce year is over,” Athena muttered under her breath before sighing. “I suppose that means we’ll have to deal with this Maestro before then. Or at the very least discover what his actual plan is.”

Mom finally spoke up in a quiet, clearly constrained voice. “Is he the one who brought the Fomorians here in the first place?” 

The way she said it made me blink that way, before realizing just what she was getting at. She’d lost both of her parents as a child when she was younger than Tabbris. She had basically been Savvy’s age, and her father had sacrificed his life while her mother sacrificed her identity. All of that was to drive the Fomorians away. Now Mom was asking if the being responsible for them being there in the first place hadn’t even been affected. 

Wow. When it was put like that, I… wow. That just made the fact that I couldn’t tell her about Dare even worse. 

Elisabet seemed to pick up basically the same vibes, pausing momentarily before she replied. “I don’t think so. He may have taken advantage of the situation, but the indication I got was that he is not united with or connected to his people. To… either side of his people. Their people. Whatever his goals are, he seems to be working without the rest of the Fomorians. Perhaps because he believes he’s better than they are. Or because he believes they would be more of a hindrance than a help, or their goals are not aligned. Either way, I am fairly certain he has not been in contact with them.” 

Gazing off at nothing, I stopped listening for a moment while they kept talking. Something else had occurred to me, and I wasn’t sure I should actually say it. Part of me really didn’t want to. But Mom noticed. Her hand touched my arm, and when I glanced that way, she silently mouthed, ‘what?’

So, I swallowed back my uncertainty and spoke up. “Maybe you shouldn’t survive, Elisabet.” 

That got everyone’s attention. Not only that of the woman in question, but the entire group. They all blinked at me while I blanched before pushing on quickly. “Oh boy, could I have phrased that better or what? Sorry, I mean, you should survive, obviously. Duh. I’m glad you–I mean you’re–never mind. The point is, maybe no one else should know that you survived. Think about it, if this Maestro guy knows that you can tell us everything about him, it might push him over the edge. He’ll either come after you or accelerate his plans, and I don’t think any of us want to see what he’s got in mind right now. But if you died before you could tell us anything, it might calm him down. You said you already dealt with the implants he put in you?” 

Elisabet was watching me intently, though whatever she thought of what I was saying, she kept it to herself. Her voice was even as she answered. “I did. I cut the implants out. And believe me, they’re all gone. I also had our new… friends here run a scan just in case I’d missed anything. They’re a bit confused about human biology, but with a little education, they did a fine job. There is nothing unnatural within my body now. Nothing he could be using to spy on or control me.” 

The rest of us all exchanged looks, before Sariel spoke up. “Felicity may have a point. If this Maestro believes you have died, it may reassure him not to take any drastic measures. Particularly if he believes his plan is progressing as he desires.” She hesitated then, taking a breath before adding, “If he believes that Elisabet’s ‘death’ has spurred Jophiel to push onward with their plan of teaching the children enough to meet the Seraphim, it may be possible to take him by surprise. Which would appear to be the only possible advantage we might have.” 

I felt Mom’s grip on my arm tighten a bit for a moment, and was afraid of what she might say. But she took a second to collect herself before carefully responding. “What do you think that would accomplish, exactly?” 

She had directed the question toward Sariel, but I spoke up because I had been the one to start the whole line of thought. Also because I wasn’t sure there was anything the Seosten woman could’ve said that would sound like a good idea to my mother. “His biggest advantage–okay his top three advantages are the fuck you I win doom laser wings, his practically unparalleled ability to manipulate biology and create unholy abominations, his incredibly intricate understanding of both Fomorian and Seosten society and military structures, the centuries he’s had to perfect himself and his plan–” 

“That’s more than three,” Tristan pointed out. 

Blowing out a long breath of air, I grimaced. “The point is, somewhere in the top ten of his advantages is the fact that no one’s supposed to know about him. If he knows for sure he’s lost that, he’s more likely to act. Which could be an advantage if it means he acts rashly and makes a mistake, but I don’t think he will. Plus there’s all those other advantages he still has. Making him think his secret is still safe is the best way to give everyone the time they need to find him. We can talk to Grandfather again, find out more from him about his other half. We can–we can do a lot of things if we’re careful. But if he finds out we know about him and chooses to make his move? Then we’re on the back foot again and have to keep reacting to everything.” 

“And the best way to do that is to let him think Elisabet died during the rescue attempt,” Mom finished, heaving a sigh. “What, do we say the Fomorian poisoned her too and it killed her before she could tell us anything? I suppose we’re taking it for granted that he has ways of getting information out of our side.”

“I think that’s a foregone conclusion,” I agreed. “And there’s no way he knows what these people are capable of, what their technology can do. We say they couldn’t save her and leave it at that.” 

Jophiel, speaking carefully, asked, “Are you suggesting that lies and memory manipulation be brought into play to change what those on this mission already know?” 

“No.” That was my mother, her voice sharp and reproachful. “We’re not messing with anyone’s memory.” 

“Besides,” I quickly pointed out, “it’s pretty obvious that no one we brought with us is under his influence or whatever. If they were, we never would’ve gotten this far. Elisabet had plenty of chances to be umm… shut up, you know? Even if he had to turn them into a suicide bomber to do it, just to keep himself secret. I think it’s pretty safe to say this group is clear.” 

“So what are we supposed to do?” Tristan asked. “Tell everyone to pretty please keep Elisabet being alive secret and we’ll explain why eventually, or tell everyone here the whole truth about this Godfather guy? Because that’s an awful lot to get into right now. Plus, those girls from the Calendar are–um, they might have other priorities. I know they took the oaths not to talk about what happens on this trip, but still.” 

Athena was the one who answered. “We carefully and quietly tell everyone the truth about this Maestro person. Not about his other half, that’s not our secret to tell. We leave it only to what Elisabet knew at the start of this conversation. We explain why it must be kept secret, and perform the same privacy spells that were done to ensure Felicity, Tabbris, Vanessa, and Tristan did not tell anyone about Elisabet and Jophiel’s relationship or arrangement with them. But we make sure they know those spells are being performed. We do that for all of us, with a prepared safeword that will allow anyone to break the spell for themselves, just in case it becomes of life and death importance that they share this information. But doing so will also alert everyone else that they have broken it.” 

We talked a bit more about all that, but it was the best idea we had. We would pretend Elisabet had died so this Maestro-Godfather prick thought he was safe, then do our best to make sure we found him before the time came for the twins, Tabbris, and I to have a discussion with the Seraphs to show off how special we were, or whatever. 

It wasn’t a lot, but it was basically all we could do at the moment. Honestly, the whole situation was just pretty damn terrifying and it was freaking me out a lot. But putting that aside and letting the adults try to figure out how to track the bastard down and deal with him (or at least wait until we could get more information from Grandfather) at least meant I didn’t have to focus on it immediately. I was sure it would become a giant glaring problem soon enough. But for the moment, I was going to turn my attention to something I could affect right now. 

Namely, finding Alecra and talking to her as much as possible before she and the rest of her people went off to their new world for an incredibly well-earned break

******

So, that was exactly what I did. Well, Mom and me. And Tabbris. We let the others deal with pulling in each person individually or in pairs to explain that whole… situation, while the three of us tracked down Alecra and a few of the other Meregan (all of whom Mom knew by name) and just… talked. It was pretty nice, actually. Obviously I had to shove all the worries about the unkillable super-monster in the shadows out of my thoughts to enjoy it. But honestly? It wasn’t that hard to do so. After all, this wasn’t the first time I’d had an approaching deadline to deal with a psychotic, almost all-powerful monster with a god complex. And this one didn’t even have my mother as a hostage. 

Anyway, the point was that all that would be dealt with later. There was literally nothing we could do about him now. So we didn’t worry about it. We talked to Alecra about her surviving people, about what this new world was like, about what the Roenier themselves were like, and so on. We talked about the whole mission they’d been on, about the Meregan helping the Roenier to begin with, about other adventures they’d been on, basically everything they’d done. And, of course, she wanted more information about Fossor’s death. So we told her everything in as much detail as possible. 

Yeah, I was pretty sure she was going to be sharing that story with the rest of the Meregan. Good. They all deserved to know that he was fucking gone. Not even worm food. Not even dust. He was nothing. Just like he should have been. He was dead and I hoped that fact was written across the stars for everyone to see. 

I also did something else important with Alecra, as well as a few other Meregan. Namely, I summoned the few Meregan ghosts I had among those who had been at the final battle with Fossor. One by one, I let them introduce themselves, talk a little bit about who they were with these few living Meregan. Some actually knew each other and there were tearful (and temporary) reunions. Others simply promised that they would pass the names and last words of the passing ghosts on to any family or friends they could find.

The point was, they got to say goodbye. I almost felt like a voyeur, standing there bringing forth all these ghosts and spying on their last words. And yet, it gave me a new appreciation for my Necromancy. It had always been useful despite how I instinctively felt about it, but this… this felt good. It was still sad and terrible that they died to begin with, yes. But my power gave them the chance to say goodbye. Really say goodbye. Not some prayer to some invisible deity, a real goodbye to the people they loved. 

 When the ghosts were done, they would tell me it was time, and I let them go. Their energy dissipated, fading away. All save for a couple of the Meregan, who asked to stay with me until I visited the Roenier homeworld to see where their people ended up. I pointed out that I might not get there any time soon, if at all. But they were willing to take that risk. 

In any case, I… I helped these people. This power from Fossor, who was responsible for so much suffering and so many atrocities, actually helped give the Meregan, people who had been some of the most hurt by him, closure. 

Eventually, it was time for us to go. Because it was time for them to go. They had successfully retrieved every living member of the Meregan race from their own world, and the battle against the Fomorians had enacted enough losses that things were starting to get a bit dicey, apparently. They needed to retreat with the survivors, head back to their own world (their new world, in the Meregans’ case) and start the process of rebuilding. 

During that initial withdrawal, as the fleet was getting away from the Meregan world, Mom, Athena, and the rest of the adults all stressed just how important it was that the Roenier fleet make sure the Fomorians couldn’t track them to the wormhole. They had to take the long way, ensure their trail couldn’t be followed (they did say they had ways of doing that), and in general just… keep themselves safe. If the Fomorians could find them, they would. 

We exchanged details about how to contact each other, and I promised that someone would make sure to send information to Purin and his group of Meregan once the timeline caught up in a few years.

Then we were done. A mostly-healed Jophiel was released from the medical bay. With her in tow, everyone returned to the prototype ship, we said our final goodbyes (well, hopefully not final final), and boarded. The Roenier had helped patch the thing up as much as they could while we were waiting, and it was fairly spaceworthy again. 

So, we resumed our spots onboard, launched off the Roenier ship, then floated there in space watching as the fleet used their own version of hyperspace or warp speed or whatever (it wasn’t the same as the Seosten Slide-Drives, I knew that much) to rapidly vanish from sight. 

“Well,” Elisabet finally announced once our ship was alone there in the middle of empty space. “I suppose that means it’s time for me to die now, isn’t it?” 

“Don’t worry, it’s only temporary,” I pointed out. “Besides, being dead and having to hide will give you plenty of time to catch up on all the shows you’ve missed. Or books. Or games. How are you at JRPGs? The point is, you just spent months trapped on a Fomorian-infested desert world. So how bad could being quarantined in one place where you have all the entertainment you could possibly want be?” 

From the way she was squinting at me, the woman couldn’t figure out if I was kidding or not. Finally, she looked toward Jophiel. “I suppose you’re right. There are certainly worse fates. But please, I have waited a very long time, and survived through quite a lot to be able to say this. 

“Let’s go home.”

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

Promise And Peril 11-10 (Heretical Edge 2)

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

Right, so Jophiel and Elisabet had something incredibly important to tell Vanessa, Tristan, Tabbris, Sariel, Athena, Sachael, Mom, and me. For a moment as we walked through the ship corridors, I wondered what it could be. Was it about the way Jophiel had been poisoned, or–no. No, it had to be about how and why Elisabet had ended up on the Meregan world to begin with, right? It had to be about how she was cut off from the Committee. Everyone had wondered how that was even possible. That had to be what this was about. It was the only thing that made sense. Elisabet had been focused solely on making sure Jophiel made it through being poisoned, and now that the Seosten woman seemed to be pulling out of it (thanks to help from the Roenier), the time had come to finally tell us what the hell happened. 

Which was both exciting and terrifying, honestly. Because while I really wanted to know what could’ve stripped Elisabet’s Committee link and blocked Jophiel, at the same time I really didn’t. There was little chance that the answer was going to be anything even remotely positive. No, it was going to be terrifying and awful and I was going to regret finding out the truth. And yet, I couldn’t just ignore it either. That never worked out. 

Tabbris, walking right beside me, caught my hand and whispered, “Do you think it’s something new? I thought it was Fossor for awhile, but it couldn’t’ve been him that did it, right?” 

Grimacing, I shook my head while squeezing my sister’s hand. “Yeah, sorry. I don’t think we’re lucky enough to have the problem be something that we already dealt with. This is something new. Something new and bad enough to separate someone from the Committee, which…” I trailed off, not wanting to finish that sentence. It was bad, that was the point. Really bad. 

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Tristan was saying as he pivoted to walk backwards so he could face us. “We dunno what happened. It could’ve been a one-time thing, or some other kind of specialized situation. Personally, I wouldn’t put it past that Litonya bitch to be behind it. She’s been on the Committee for a long time, right? She could probably figure out how to kick someone off it if she really put her black-hearted, psychotic little vindictive mind to it.” 

“I don’t believe even she could do that,” Sariel informed her son. A moment later, she amended, “Given the chance, I believe she would do such a thing to the right people, but this seems beyond even her actual capability. Beyond which, why target Elisabet with it rather than one of the people she knows to be a rebellion sympathizer? Elisabet was acting under cover, there was no reason for Litonya to believe she would be a good target for this sort of attack, even if she was capable of it.” 

“Besides,” I put in, “I don’t think Litonya’s the type to keep quiet about what she did. Come on, she killed her own brother and people know about it. If she found out anything incriminating about Elisabet and pulled some kind of super-move to cut her out of the Committee, how quiet would she be? Especially if she could point at people like Teach and Percival and tell them to behave, or they could be next. I mean, it really seems like the sort of thing she’d use as leverage if she had it. She just–she doesn’t strike me as the type to be subtle, you know?”

“Yes,” Mom muttered under her breath in a dark tone. “Subtle is something Litonya is not.” 

Yeah, I had a feeling my mother wanted to go a few rounds with the bitch for being the one who suggested killing Abigail and Wyatt. That wasn’t going to be something she just let go. Mom obviously still had issues with Sariel, yet her whole thing hadn’t actually been intentional. She’d suggested to Ruthers that he abduct Deveron, yes. But at least Deveron was a combatant, and Sariel’s whole intention had been to stop the war from escalating to the point that her people stepped in directly before she managed to finish fixing the spell to open the Tartarus universe again. Sariel had always wanted to use that as a bargaining chip to make her people back off, or at least negotiate, and it would’ve been much harder to do that if Mom’s rebellion had gotten to the point that the Seosten were sending troops to deal with the situation. Her efforts to delay the rebellion hadn’t been intended to stop it entirely, only to manipulate it into slowing down long enough that she could put her own game-changer into play without anyone else knowing what she was doing ahead of time. 

Yes, her actions had backfired, but she’d had decent intentions at least. And Mom knew that, even if she still harbored completely understandable anger at Sariel for it, which would take her quite awhile to get over. If she ever did fully. Litonya on the other hand had no such excuse. Given the opportunity, I was almost certain that Mom would, to put it mildly, cut a bitch. 

But all those thoughts were pushed aside thoroughly as we reached the secondary medical area where Jophiel had apparently been moved once she was out of immediate danger. They were still keeping an eye on her to be certain that the poison wouldn’t get worse again, but at the moment the combination of the healing that Elisabet had done to her and the Roenier’s efforts were apparently keeping it pretty thoroughly at bay. Enough, at least, that it was okay for her to have visitors.

Our Roenier guide stayed outside, while the rest of us moved in through the doors into… well, the hospital room, I supposed. Though it was different from most I had seen. There was no visible bed. Instead, Jophiel was sort of floating in the middle of a tube-like forcefield in the middle of the room. She wore some kind of skintight hospital clothes similar to a Seosten bodysuit, but clearly fashioned on this ship given the way it had a dozen cords leading out of it, through holes in the forcefield and into various machines that appeared to be monitoring her. She was conscious though, and apparently deep in conversation with Elisabet, who stood beside the tube with one hand on it. As soon as we all stepped inside, they waited for the doors to close before the (former?) Committee woman beckoned us closer with an urgent look. “Come here, all of you,” she quickly insisted. 

Yeah, it was definitely serious. Glancing briefly toward my mother and getting a nod in return, I went with her and the others over to the tube. As soon as we were there, Elisabet began activating more privacy spells than I had ever seen in one place. It was obvious that she’d been preparing them for a long time. Just one after another. In the end, the air was practically vibrating from the overlapping bits of magic that were working together to make sure no one overheard. 

Mom was the first to speak, her voice quiet (though sort of echoey, which I assumed was also a result of all the privacy spells). “Elisabet, I’m starting to suspect you don’t want anyone to know what you’re about to say to us right now. If you cast any more of those spells, you might not hear it yourself.” 

As if seeing her for the first time when she started to respond to that, Elisabet gave a brief double-take. “Joselyn Atherby,” she breathed. “You are quite–” She cut herself off, glancing toward me and offering a very faint smile. “All other things aside, I’m glad your daughter managed to rescue you from the Necromancer. Jophiel tells me he met a rather satisfying end.” 

I was pretty sure there was a lot Mom wanted to say to that, starting with the fact that Elisabet and Jophiel had been instrumental in having her imprisoned and erased the first time, as well as everything else that had been done to stop the Rebellion from making things right. But she set all that aside, visibly swallowing them back before simply replying, “Yes, Fossor did meet his end, finally. An end that was a long-time coming. And I hear you have been busy instructing my daughter, her sister, and her other siblings in a great many things, which you believe will help in the long run?”

“Yes…” Looking thoughtful for a moment, Elisabet eventually shook that off. “But that is of lesser concern right now.” 

“Actually,” Vanessa put in, “I do have one question. When you were dying, why didn’t you just possess Elisabet and take the free healing that usually comes with it? We were all sort of lost in the moment at the time, but seriously, couldn’t you have just done that? And even if it didn’t heal you, at least it should have paused the poison’s effect on you while you were possessing her.” 

It was Elisabet who answered. “She refused, because the Fomorians… trap their poisons that affect Seosten.” 

With a nod, Sariel added in a grave voice that made me think she was speaking from experience, “When we possess other beings while poisoned, it transfers the poison to our new host and spreads that way. The result is… bad. Any poison powerful enough to incapacitate a Seosten will do horrific damage to most hosts, including humans. Particularly, while the poison primarily affects the Seosten’s body, during possession it initially targets the brain for a host.” 

“It drives the host mad,” Sachael put in. He also sounded as though he had personal experience with what they were talking about. “Irrevocably. It… creates a level of paranoia and terror that we can’t do anything to fix, making the host see all friends as nightmares and turning them homicidal. It makes them forget who they are, makes them go so far as to tear their own eyes out to avoid seeing the things the mind-poison is making them witness.” 

“Wha–but–but–that’s ridiculous!” Vanessa looked personally offended by that explanation. “How could a poison that affects the Seosten’s body also affect the mind of someone they possess?! How does the biological element even–how–what?” She continued to sputter for a moment, clearly personally offended by the idea. 

“Truly, it is a question for the ages,” Elisabet agreed. “However, at this particular moment, the thing we need to discuss is Maestro.” 

The way she said the name, with that dark intonation, made all of us look at one another as if we expected someone else to have some idea. But other than Jophiel within the forcefield, everyone seemed equally clueless. Finally, it was Sariel who spoke up. “Who, or what, is this Maestro?” 

So, over the next few minutes, Elisabet began to explain what had really happened to her. And boy was it a doozy of a story. Apparently, waaaaaay back when she and Jophiel had first been getting close, they were stranded on some lost alien ship. Jophiel had gone to get help while Elisabet was trapped there. But she wasn’t alone. There was a… a creature there with her, a being who called himself Maestro, who had chased the trapped Elisabet through the ship. She had known he was too powerful for her, and that he would fuck with her memories. So she created some kind of failsafe system to restore those memories and block out the artificial intelligence he was planning on inserting into her. Basically, she used spells on herself that were cued to go off when this Maestro guy was close to his goal and when the inserted AI was projecting itself out of her mind. And then she not only erased her own memory of having performed those spells, she erased her memory of ever knowing them in the first place just so that the implant wouldn’t have any warning at all. Not only that, but apparently whatever spell she’d used had been enough to stop Jophiel from noticing that anything was different about what magic she knew. 

No wonder the Seosten woman had been attracted to Elisabet from early on. Young Elisabet was a badass.  

Mom was shaking her head once Elisabet got that far. “But I don’t understand something. What exactly is this Maestro’s goal, and how did he get close enough to it for your spell to trigger? And what happened to make you end up trapped on Aiken’te’vel with no link to the Committee?” 

“That’s where the whole thing gets more complicated, and more terrifying,” Elisabet replied simply after she and Jophiel exchanged a brief, yet very intense look. A look that made me realize I definitely didn’t want to hear what else they were going to say. Actually, what I really wanted to do in that exact moment was turn around and walk out the door. Would it be that bad if I just left right then and let other people deal with whatever the real problem was? Seriously, hadn’t I done enough? Actually, I could grab my mom and my sister and just–

And just what, exactly? Leave Tabbris’s siblings (and my friends) and mother to solve the problem? Refuse to be involved even if it got Sariel and the twins hurt or killed? What was my endgame with that plan? Oh, and how did I expect Tabbris to go along with it and not have any opinion of her own? Or was I just going to abandon her too? 

No, much as I hated it, I had to stand here and listen to whatever horrific information was about to come out of Elisabet’s mouth. Because I couldn’t leave the people I cared about to deal with something that was bad enough to make her and Jophiel openly worry. I just couldn’t. 

Instead, I stood there and listened, knowing that this would be something we would have to deal with. But at least it was something I could deal with alongside my mother. That–that was what had made this entire rescue mission so different, honestly. My mother was there, and even when she wasn’t right beside me, I knew she was close. I was fighting near my mother, the mother who had been torn away from me (and the rest of her family) for so long. My mom was here on this mission with me, and that made all the difference in the world. I could handle whatever this was. And really, how ba–

Nope, nope, nope. Abort. Launching that thought through the torpedo tube and into the sun. You hear me, universe? I did not finish that thought. I did not finish that thought! 

Once everyone had made it clear we were as ready as we would ever be to hear what they had to say, Elisabet continued. “This Maestro, he’s a… a hybrid of sorts, but not like your children, Sariel. He’s an unnatural hybrid, an abomination. He was once two distinct beings who were fused together somehow, I don’t…” She grimaced, shaking her head. “One of his halves was one of your archangels, one of the Dyeusai.” 

That made both Sariel and Sachael do a sharp double-take, almost completely in sync. Their mouths opened, but Jophiel interrupted. “Yes, it’s who you think. It’s Zadkiel.” 

Sachael looked like he had been physically shoved, reeling backward a step. Seldom had I seen a Seosten look so thoroughly stunned. Sariel, meanwhile, also looked surprised, but recovered faster. She spoke aloud, explaining to the rest of us. “Zadkiel was the first of our people to enter Tartarus, long before the Summus Proelium project. He–his power as one of the Dyeusai meant that it was believed he would be as safe as possible, that he could handle any threat that presented itself. But he was–he was left in there. They lost contact and he was cut off.” Swallowing, she added, “They tried to find him. They did everything they could to pull him out. Believe me, I–we… Apollo and I researched everything they did back when we had to get Chayyiel out of there. We pored over everything they tried, and they tried everything. But it was like–it was like Tartarus refused to give him back. Like it had a hold of him and wouldn’t let them find him.” 

There was a brief pause as she glanced away, clearly reliving some very emotional moments from the days when they had been focused on saving Chayyiel. How could that have made them feel, to have ideas about saving her, then read through the notes to find out that their idea had already been tried and failed? Then to have that happen over and over again, knowing that there was an innocent little girl lost out there that time rather than a battle-hardened archangel? 

“It tried to do the same with Chayyiel, but we got her out,” Sariel was saying. “And now–now you’re saying Zadkiel made it?” 

“No.” That was Jophiel, head shaking. “No, he’s not Zadkiel anymore. He’s nothing like–he’s worse. Like she said, he’s been fused with another being. Probably while he was inside Tartarus. He was fused with–” 

My eyes widened, as I blurted, “A Fomorian. He was fused with a Fomorian.” 

The outburst made Jophiel, Elisabet, Sachael, and my mother twist to look at me. Not the others though. Vanessa, Tristan, Tabbris, and their mother had already gotten it, and were exchanging looks of their own. 

Meanwhile, I continued. “There was a damaged Fomorian there already, one that… that had been in there for a long time. For hundreds of thousands of years by then, probably. Or whatever was left of him by then. He must’ve come across this Zadkiel and that place… fused them together.” 

Elisabet, who was staring at me intently, slowly continued. “You’re right. The Fomorian that was in there was split in half. One of his halves escaped and the other was left behind, until he met Zadkiel and they fused. This twisted hybrid, he doesn’t just call himself Maestro. He goes by other names too. Names like Godfather. He likes that one because his other half, his brother–” 

“Goes by Grandfather,” I finished for her. “His other half calls himself Grandfather.” 

“Felicity,” my mother was saying, “how do you know all this?” 

Biting my lip, I glanced to Sariel and the others before exhaling. “Right. 

“I guess we really do have a lot to talk about.”

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

Promise And Peril 11-08 (Heretical Edge 2)

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

It wasn’t long after I’d made that announcement before the alien guy who had been talking before came back on the communications network, still being translated by the computer voice. “Having troubles with connection to Friend. Fomorian attacks rendering communications difficult. Take landing in open port, will guide if follow.” 

With that, one of the fighters pulled ahead of us. It waggled back and forth a bit as though to get our attention before beginning to fly closer to the much larger Meregan ship. Now that we took a closer look at it, I could see how it was a Meregan vessel. The thing really was huge. The space between the front of the pyramid-like shape and the back was enough to fit at least thirty or so decks comfortable for the ten to twelve-foot tall Meregan. 

Which also begged the question of just how many people those command vessels for these new aliens carried. Because they were a hell of a lot bigger than the Binsayeac, and judging from the much smaller fighters that were escorting us, their people weren’t giant like the Meregan. Put in that context, those command ships really were incredible. The jellyfish structures themselves were big enough that they could have had a dozen of the Meregan ships land across the top without filling it up. Staring that direction, I realized they were further away than I’d first thought, it was just that they were so big they looked closer. The dome parts of each command ship had to be a good ten miles across, and given the shape, about three-quarters of that tall. Not counting the miles-long energy tendrils that acted as their main weapons. 

They were big ships, that was the point. And that was just the main command vessels. They had a lot more. No wonder they were capable of fighting the Fomorians head-on. Though that, of course, left a hell of a lot more questions. Like who they were, where they’d come from, why the Seosten had never heard of them, and how the Meregan had found them. Which I hoped we were about to get answers to once we landed on this ship.

As promised, the fighter escorting us led the way to an opening around the back of the Binsayeac-Two. I could see the docking bay beyond, as well as a handful of familiar giant figures. Well, generally familiar. I didn’t actually recognize faces of course. Especially not from this distance. But they were definitely Meregan, standing out of the way while waving as we approached. 

Finally, the ship landed, Sariel expertly setting it down in the middle of a pretty empty-looking docking bay (I assumed most of the ships that should have been there were out fighting). After a brief pause, Athena spoke. “Most of us should stay here. Take care of Jophiel or just be ready for whatever happens. But we need answers, and we need to see if they have a medical center that can do more for her than we can.” 

There was a bit more discussion for the next few seconds. In the end, it was decided that Tristan, Shiori, and I would go out there, since we knew the Meregan the best, along with Athena, my mother, Vanessa, and Sariel. The rest would wait back here to see what happened, and to be ready to go if we needed to take off quickly. Which was what we would do if they had nothing that could help Jophiel. She was stable enough for the moment, apparently. But she needed help as fast as we could get it. 

I expected Elisabet to have an opinion about us taking the time to stop for this, but she was too busy focusing on keeping the other woman stable. The only thing she said, as we started toward the back door, was a simple, pleading, “Hurry.” Her voice was strained and desperate.

Tristan and I exchanged brief glances, then moved quickly to the back of the ship with the others right behind us. As we approached, the door slid open and we moved down the ramp. Just as we reached the bottom, a voice called out, “Friends-Shiori and Flick! Friend-Tristan!” 

The voice made all of us look over, just in time to see a tall (naturally) Meregan woman approach with a wide smile. She also had long, dark-green hair and a very familiar face. The name jumped to my mind, my mouth opening. But Shiori beat me to it. 

“Alecra!” she called, moving that way quickly. 

Yeah, it was the Meregan woman we had met a year earlier during our first visit to their planet, the one who showed us how their special transport thing that had brought us to their world in the first place worked. Alecra had explained that we ended up in the desert above the ship because she had forgotten to shift the beacon’s transport location to account for the ship being underground at the time. 

Shiori was already hugging the woman’s leg, leading Alecra to gently pat the top of her head while looking over to Tristan and me. “Friend-Tristan! You are…” Frowning, she leaned closer. “You are being bigger than you should being.” 

“Alecra didn’t go with us on Grandpa Nick’s ship,” Tristan informed me. “She was one of the ones who stayed behind on the planet, but… but how are you here?” 

Before the large woman could respond, Sariel quickly spoke up. “I’m sorry,  but we have an emergency. Do you have a medical room we could use? And preferably someone who could help. It’s… it’s some kind of Fomorian poison.” 

Instantly sobering, Alecra gave a quick nod and gestured for two of the other Meregan who were waiting in the background. “Yes, yes, whatever any of yours are being needing. We are having not as much as we would be liking for the monsters who have been taken our world, but what we are having you are having.” 

Vanessa and Sariel quickly led the other Meregan over to the ship to let them know they could bring Jophiel down, and the next few minutes passed very quickly. Elisabet emerged with her lover on a magic stretcher, already snapping information at the Meregan about what she’d tried and what sort of condition the other woman was in. The Meregan, in turn, took down everything she said while calling ahead for their medical bay to be prepared, promising that their doctor was waiting. 

Together, we ran out of the docking bay and through a winding series of enormous rounded corridors. Like the first Meregan ship we had been on, this one was very rock-like. Instead of looking like it was made of metal, the interior appeared to be more of a cavern, carved out of stone. We had to go down an elevator (which turned out to essentially be a floating boulder held up by… something, and through two more twisting corridors before finally reaching a large open room full of various consoles where a tall (even by Meregan standards) man with a shock of dark blue hair sticking out in every direction Einstein-style stood waiting next to a slab of stone. 

The doctor Meregan didn’t bother to introduce himself, of course. He ordered that Jophiel be put up on the slab, then started to examine her while listening to everything Elisabet was saying. In between her words, the man quickly snapped more directions to his assistants in the room to bring him various instruments and tools. 

“We should being stepping out,” Alecra whispered. “Giving them time for working.” 

She had a point. Of course, Elisabet wasn’t going to leave Jophiel’s side even if an entire army tried to make her. So we didn’t. And Sariel stayed as well, to help as someone closer to the right size who wasn’t as emotionally compromised as Elisabet was. 

But Athena, Mom, Tristan, Vanessa, Shiori, and I left the room with Alecra. Once we were in the hall and a large stone slab had rolled into the way to give the doctor and others some privacy to do their jobs, I shook my head at Alecra herself. “Looks like you’ve been really busy,” I managed that unbelievable understatement in a quiet voice. 

Belatedly, Shiori, Tristan, and I introduced Athena. But when we got to my mother, who had been quiet, Alecra took a second look before we could even speak. It was the first time she had really focused on Mom since we arrived, with the whole Jophiel thing. And the moment she did, the green-haired woman’s eyes widened dramatically. “Friend-Joselyn!” she blurted out loud. Without wasting another second, she immediately reached down to pick my mother up from the floor, voice delighted as she pulled her into an embrace. “Friend-Flick has found you!” 

A noise escaped Mom that was half-gasp and half-laugh. “Yes, Alecra, it’s very good to see you too.” Her words were soft and gentle, with… with a lot of emotion behind them. She returned the embrace slightly awkwardly, held off the floor as she was. “I’m glad you’re safe.” 

That, of course, prompted a lot of questions from the Meregan woman about how Mom was here and what had happened. So, while we were waiting to find out what happened with Jophiel, we all gave an abridged version. When we got to the fact that Fossor was now dead, the large woman took a knee in front of me. Her expression was intense as she carefully put my hand up to touch the side of my face with a couple fingers. “Are you be speaking true, Friend-Flick? The monster is truly being dead forever?” 

Right, long before the Fomorians had ever gotten here, it was Fossor who first destroyed the Meregan civilization. He turned them into his slaves and basically broke their people to the point that they were vulnerable enough for everything that came after. No wonder Alecra was so invested in wanting to make sure he was actually dead. This meant a lot to her, to all of them. 

So, taking a deep breath, I nodded. My voice was quiet, yet firm as I carefully assured her, “I promise, Alecra. He’s really and truly dead. He’s never coming back and he’s never going to hurt anyone again. He’s dead. Totally and completely dead. They took his body apart and disintegrated every bit of it separately just to make absolutely sure. There’s nothing left. He’s gone.” Reaching up, I put both hands on one of her enormous arms. “Fossor is dead.” 

For a moment, there was no reaction. I saw the words penetrate, as Alecra simply met my stare. Gradually, the true realization of everything that meant appeared in her gaze. The emotion, the relief, the… release of everything Fossor had done to her people was visible right there in her face, before she ever said anything. There were tears that never physically formed in the seemingly bottomless green wells of her eyes. It was a pit of emotions that I knew well, the immeasurable relief that the evil creature was forever gone, mixed with the realization that that still didn’t fix everything he had broken. Fossor was dead and would never hurt them again, but that didn’t actually help her people, it didn’t change everything he had done to them or bring back the ones he had killed and enslaved. It was a moment to be celebrated, but it didn’t fix things. Everyone Alecra and her people had lost would stay lost. Which, of course, reminded me that there was even more loss than the woman actually knew. 

So, cringing a little, I told her about Gavant and the other Meregan who had ended up at Fossor’s fighting arena while I was there. It was hard. Especially when I saw her expression. But I pressed on. She needed to know. Mom helped, stepping in to take over when it was obvious that I couldn’t stand to say anything else. Her gentle voice filled the silence, as she told Alecra about how brave her people had been, and that there were still living members back on Earth who had survived that whole thing. 

That gave me the time to collect myself before adding that Purin and still other Meregan were still with Nicholas Petan and would still be there several years into the future. Which kind of seemed to help a little bit, I thought. But again, it didn’t fix everything. Alecra still had a heavy weight of sadness, which was fair. Her people had been destroyed so many times, had been through so much already. How could they go on after all this? And their world was still…

“Wait, what about you?” I suddenly blurted. “How are you here? Who are all these people? You–you went out and found a fleet to come back and help you fight the Fomorians here. You–” There was a thick knot in my throat that I swallowed back. “You found friends.” 

That made Shiori quickly pipe up with, “Yeah, who are all these people? Where’d this fleet come from? How did…” She trailed off, looking uncertain about how to actually ask the next part. 

Tristan took over. “How did you convince them to come help fight the Fomorians?” 

Alecra took a moment to collect herself, straightening up and stepping back. She glanced toward the boulder covering the entrance to the medical bay, seemingly lost in her own thoughts before finally speaking up. “Those who were remaining after many took left with Lord-Nicholas were be fixing the Binsayeac. It was requiring much working, much fixing. Then it was becoming much different ship. More pieces. We did be naming it Binsayeac Two. Then we did be going to do what we were be doing before. Finding friends.” 

Over the next few minutes, the woman explained that, for what turned out to be several months, the new Binsayeac had basically wandered around aimlessly. Apparently several times they were almost destroyed, found nothing but people who wanted to kill them or take the ship. Or use them as weapons, given their size and strength. Alecra and her people had almost given up. She didn’t get too into it, but I could tell from what she did say that the mood on the ship had been pretty dour, at least as far as Meregan went. They were afraid they would never find the allies they were looking for. 

Then they found it. Not another planet, not even another ship. They found a wormhole in space. A wormhole leading to some other universe entirely. And, being the insane explorers they were, the Meregan actually went through it. Yeah, they had no idea where it led or what they would find. But Alecra and her people still went through that wormhole just to see what would happen. 

Apparently what happened was that they found another ship on the far side, a science vessel that was examining the wormhole from that end. There was a bit of a miscommunication, considering this other species and the Meregan didn’t understand each other at all. So they initially fought, but when the science vessel was damaged and started to lose atmosphere, the Meregan risked their lives to save them. 

Athena, who had been silently observing this whole situation up to that point, spoke up finally. “That changed things. They knew you weren’t a threat then, once you saved their ship.” 

Alecra started to nod, but before she could respond, a different voice spoke up in that completely indecipherable alien language that was belatedly translated. “Yes, our captain knew the Meregan intended no danger to us, and that the fighting had been a mistake.” 

The voice (or voices, considering the overlapped alien words) made everyone turn. And that was when we got our first actual look at the people the Meregan had made allies with. 

My first thought was that the being in front of us looked like a humanoid scorpion mixed with a butterfly. The upper torso was definitely fairly human in basic form, though covered in a blue-green exoskeleton and with four arms rather than two. The lower half was more shaped like an ant with a thorax and abdomen that were horizontal to the ground as opposed to the torso’s vertical position. Sort of like a centaur’s human torso compared to the horse part. There was a long scorpion-like tail coiled behind him. His face, meanwhile, was also fairly insectoid, with large dark-blue compound eyes that took up most of either side of his head, and mandibles that were the source of the clicking sounds that came as his people spoke their language. 

Then there was the butterfly part. Yeah, the guy had two enormous, beautifully detailed and delicate-looking wings that were spread out behind him, attached to the horizontal part of his body rather than the torso. The wings flickered a bit, glowing briefly as he spoke before he tucked and folded them in tight. 

“Apologies for interruptions,” the alien continued. “We are known amongst our people as the…” He trailed off. “It is impossible for your language to translate, we believe. The nearest would be Roenier.” He pronounced it like row-near. “That is, we believe, close enough. I am privileged to be known as First Liason Officer Kernek.” 

“First Liason Officer Kernek,” Athena repeated before introducing herself. “I have to say, your people are incredibly generous for coming to this world to help a species–a people you’ve only just met.” 

Kernek, however, clapped his mandibles together twice and made a guttural sound, which the translator (I now saw that it was a small collar thing around his neck with a glowing gem attached to it which pulsed different colors with each word) interpreted with a vocal, “It is nothing less than what is deserved.” 

He went on to explain that the Meregan on that ship had been incredible allies with the Roenier for those few months, aiding them in over a dozen incredibly important battles to take back their own homeworld from other enemies. Over those months, the two species became–to put it simply, best friends. They were unshakeable allies, to the point that an entire section of the Roenier homeworld had been set aside for the Meregan to live on. 

“That is why we are being here now,” Alecra put in. “Friends-Roenier are being here with their fleet to help take our people.” She paused. “All who are remaining, anyway. Every Meregan will going to our new Friends-Roenier.” 

“You’re not here to fight the Fomorians to take back your planet,” Tristan realized. “You’re here to evacuate everyone who’s left and take them to a new world, a safe world.” 

Quietly, with clear sadness in her voice, Alecra explained that while it was a very hard decision, they knew that they couldn’t hold their planet anymore. After everything that had been done to it, there wasn’t enough left to save. But their people could go on. They were going to take every last Meregan they could find, from all the hiding places on their world, and get them to the safety of the Roenier’s world, where they could finally have some measure of peace. And, of course, time to recover from everything that they had been through as a species. 

“Is it being wrong?” That was Alecra, her eyes on my mother as she hesitantly spoke up. “Abandoning our home.” 

Mom, in turn, shook her head, speaking in a gentle voice. “No, Alecra. It’s not wrong. Take your people. Recover. Grow. Survive. You deserve that and so much more. Take everyone you can and be with your new friends. Build back not to what you were, but even stronger. Become more than you were, with your friends. You and the Roenier are much more together than either of you ever were apart. 

“And I, for one, can’t wait to see what you become together.”

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

Promise And Peril 11-07 (Heretical Edge 2)

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

It wasn’t exactly a pleasant stroll to get back to the ship, even with everyone we had. The Fomorians had clearly had a long time to build up their forces on this planet, and it seemed like they were sending every fucking ground unit they had at us. Any hope I’d had that whatever was going on above us in orbit would distract the monsters enough for us to slip in and out had vanished a long time ago, of course, but still. This was pretty ridiculous. They were obsessed with taking us down. 

Worse, we still couldn’t just teleport back, thanks to whatever was blocking transportation powers. Sariel was pretty sure it had been seeded recently in the atmosphere by the Fomorians ahead of our arrival, possibly because of whoever those ships they were fighting belonged to. Whatever the reason, we had to resort to taking the long way.

We moved in a wedge formation. Mom, Deveron, and Lillian were at the front, with Kohaku and Elisabet down one side and Haiden and Larissa down the other. Jophiel was on the stretcher that had been summoned, being carried by Dexamene and Shiori so the adults could focus on fighting. Meanwhile, Avalon and I (with Tabbris riding shotgun within me once more) were backing up Kohaku and Elisabet on the left wing, as Vanessa and Tristan backed up their father and Larissa on the right. Sariel was bringing up the rear, working both to cover our retreat and help thin out the herds with her long range shots. 

Which also, I couldn’t help but notice, worked to keep Mom and Sariel as far away from each other as possible through this whole thing. I was pretty sure that wasn’t an accident. 

But in any case, despite any lingering issues they had and despite everything the Fomorian monsters threw at us, we made steady progress. We weren’t exactly sticking around to fight everything, of course. We were mostly just charging straight through, punching a hole in the Fomorian line and rushing onward. Like they’d already said, there was no way to save the Meregan world from this occupation. Much as it made me physically ill to think of these poor people getting the shaft again, there was literally nothing we could do about it, or for them. 

Instead, we just had to keep going. Jophiel was still completely out of it. She moved now and then, muttered something that took Elisabet’s attention or just groaned (which also drew brief looks from Elisabet), but nothing coherent. Whatever the Fomorian had hit her with was keeping her down and out of the fight. And, for some reason, she wasn’t just possessing Elisabet to avoid the poison effect. I just hoped that, whatever the full problem was, we could deal with it once we were somewhere safer, without a horde of incomprehensible nightmares lunging out of the sand at us. 

Not that the nightmares were all entirely against us. Elisabet had also brought what remained of her own co-opted monsters and sent them ahead to take the brunt of the damage. That was one of the things that allowed us to progress as quickly as we were. Another was the fact that every time I saw (or felt) one of the monsters die, I sent a burst of necromancer-energy into the thing with a single command to attack any other monsters around it. They didn’t tend to last long before being ripped apart, but it was a bit of a distraction. It helped slow our attackers down just a little more, and every second they wasted focusing on their already-dead companions was another second we could keep running. 

So yeah, between Elisabet and me, we helped turn some of the enemy force against itself. Between that and the fact that my mother and the rest of the adults around us were really good at killing things that got in their way, we made progress.  

In any case, those next few minutes were basically a completely incomprehensible blur. I killed a few more things and sent more dead things to kill their former allies, but mostly I just ran. There was blood and gore everywhere, all from things that tried to block us, things that tried to capture us. No one was taking the time to make this a real fight. They–we were just killing and running, killing and running. It was like throwing a bunch of animals in a woodchipper and then sprinting through the haze that filled the air. 

It was the stuff of nightmares, but I didn’t have time to think about such things. All I could do, all any of us could do, was shove it aside and try not to worry about what our dreams that night would be like. Step one was surviving long enough to have dreams. Then we’d fret about details.

There, there it was. The ship. I never thought I’d be so fucking happy to see a simple tube of metal. It was sitting there, still surrounded by monsters. But Athena and Sachael were dealing with the bulk of them. It looked like the others had already run onboard, leaving the two Olympians standing by the ramp to keep it clear enough for the rest of us. And boy were they doing a good job of that. 

I’d already seen what Athena could do, of course. When I’d first met her, she had completely destroyed a small army of Radueriel’s troops without even pulling Excalibur from its sheath. Then chased the man himself off just by putting her hand on the hilt. She was a certified badass, and calling her a war goddess had not been exaggeration on Apollo’s part whatsoever. And right now was no different. She wasn’t using Excalibur (actually, I wasn’t exactly sure who had that sword at the moment), but had one of those Seosten laser swords instead, along with some kind of enchanted shield. Not that she seemed to need Arthur’s personal weapon to slaughter everything in sight. There were so many dead creatures surrounding her that it was hard to see the woman herself. She was basically a whirling dervish of death. That woodchipper analogy I’d used earlier? Yeah, she was the real one. Nothing got within twenty feet of the ship and survived.

But then there was Sachael. I had never seen him in action, given I’d just barely met the man. He, of course, had been Poseidon. God of the oceans, named because he was one of the most powerful hydrokinetics in the universe. But we were in the middle of an enormous desert. That should have meant he was all-but useless as far as his power went, right? After all, what exactly was a man whose entire thing revolved around controlling water going to do in a desert? 

As it turned out, quite a fucking bit. Bodybuilder Santa was standing right at the bottom of the ramp. Dark clouds had filled the air high above, and rain was–well, it wasn’t quite pouring. It was barely a drizzle, probably all that even his power could summon to this place. But that wasn’t the point. No, the point wasn’t the water, it was the rest of what came with a storm. Namely, the wind and the lightning. At a gesture from the man’s left hand, a miniature tornado tore down from the sky, lifted half a dozen monsters into the air, and catapulted them off into the distance. A sharp sweep of that same hand sent three more whirlwinds to catch half the visible creatures between us and the ship, collecting all of them into one group. And once they were there, pummeled and tossed by the wind into a single location, Sachael brought his other hand down in one swift gesture. That motion brought down the biggest, loudest bolt of lightning I’d ever seen in my life. It was like the finger of a god, colliding with the stack of monstrosities with so much force that the concussive force nearly knocked me off my feet. I was briefly deafened by the thunder that echoed off of it. And as for the monsters? There was nothing but charred remains left. Charred remains which were immediately blasted to either side in order to make a path by two more gusts of wind. 

But he wasn’t done yet. Thrusting both hands forward, the powerful Seosten brought down a double line of more lightning bolts leading up toward where we were, a dozen on each side with a roughly fifteen-foot space between them. They all came down one after another, hitting like a series of bombs dropped from a passing jet. Almost thirty bolts all-told. Not as powerful as the main one he’d used a moment earlier, but still enough to utterly destroy everything they hit. 

With that opening, he created another series of whirlwinds. But these were different. I could see frost and snow collecting within them, little shards of ice being whipped around in a circle. Those ice shards within the whirlwinds were spinning fast enough that they cut through chunks of the next set of approaching monsters as the twisters were sent that way. 

And with those ice-filled tornadoes, the man dug an enormous trench all along either side of the path he had cleared for us, leaving two huge pits. Digging out all that sand served two purposes, of course. First, it left holes the monsters had to find a way over or around. And, just as importantly, the sand that was torn up into the tornadoes themselves served to block the monsters from seeing us, creating a shield wall of sorts on top of the ravines. A shield wall consisting of bone-crushing wind filled with ice shards and sand, both of which were being spun and propelled fast enough to sheer through bone. 

On top of everything else, that light rain I’d noticed had turned into a thick fog, covering the air above us and filling in the space behind as we passed through. Just to make it even harder for the things to keep track of us. 

Yeah, I… I was starting to see why Poseidon was considered to be part of the Olympian leadership alongside Hades and Zeus. Which, come to think of it, begged the question of just what sort of damage was Puriel capable of if he was the guy who had been in charge? 

Actually, considering he was still supposed to be a pretty nasty guy, I was hoping I wouldn’t find out. Not really counting on it, given my track record, but still hoping. 

Either way, the path was clear now. And we took advantage, sprinting all-out to reach the ship. There were more of the unending waves of monsters falling in toward us from all sides, but they wouldn’t get through the ice-and-sand whirlwinds in time. Waved onward by Athena while Sachael continued to cover the area all around the ship to keep them back, we ran straight up the ramp. It was long-past time to get the hell off this planet. Especially given I was pretty sure the longer we stayed, the more of their ground forces the Fomorians could point at us. This was one war of attrition we would never win. No, it was definitely time to get the fuck out of Dodge. 

The second we were aboard, Athena followed and Sachael followed us on. Out of the corner of my eye, however, I saw the man toss what looked like a canteen onto the ground. He just left it there, lying on its side in the sand as the door closed. Apollo, already in the pilot’s seat, called out to find a seat even as he was hitting the controls to lift off. So there wasn’t time to ask about it. 

Instead, I fairly dove for the nearest seat and buckled myself in. All around me, the others were doing the same. I could feel the ship shake and shudder as things hit it from either side. These things were all over us. They leapt up to the ship from the ground, and fell out of the sky to land on top of it. They were going to rip the thing apart to get to the juicy insides (us) before we could go anywhere. And we couldn’t use the special jump drive at all. Not only would it leave a trail for the monsters to potentially use to bypass the banishment spell, but with these minions literally on the ship itself, we might just take some back with us. 

“Can’t fire the weapons,” Apollo announced, “need all power for the engines, and we don’t have a lot of that to begin with.” 

Lillian was talking quickly. “We can use a magnified force spell in a three-sixty range, shove everything out of the way and–” 

She was abruptly interrupted by Athena, who simply announced, “Sachael, use your ace card.” 

“Gladly,” the man retorted. His eyes went blue then. I didn’t mean just his pupils, which were already kind of blue-gray. No, the entire eye went blue. As they did, I saw the image on one of the nearby screens suddenly shift. It showed a view from behind us, back toward the ground itself. There were dozens of monsters in view, but that wasn’t what the camera was focused on. Instead, in the center of the screen was the canteen Sachael had left behind a few moments earlier. 

We saw that, and the second we did, the canteen exploded. Not with fire, but with water. Not just some water. Not a few gallons, or even a few hundred gallons. Not a swimming pool of water. All of the water. Where the canteen had been, a lake had suddenly appeared. Seriously, it stretched out to fill a huge portion of the area we’d just been in. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say that a lake appeared, because that was exactly what happened. Filling up that portion of the desert, turning it into a beach, was what had to be literally hundreds of millions of gallons of water. It didn’t just create some small pond, it covered that section of the desert with a roughly oval-shaped lake ten miles across from end to end and thirty to forty feet deep. 

By the time we had taken all that in, Sachael  had raised his arms above his head. His hands closed into fists, and  I saw a slight smile touch his face. Then, with a grunt of effort, he brought both arms forward and down. And as he did so, that lake he’d created out of a canteen exploded upward. Yeah, all those millions of gallons of water were suddenly spraying up toward us. 

Every last drop flew upward in a violent geyser. Every creature that was on the ship, every monster around us in the air, everything the Fomorians had sent to us, was slammed into by a lake’s worth of water hitting it at speeds faster than a car could reach. Millions of gallons of water hitting these things at hundreds of miles per hour. Many of them simply exploded, bursting apart from the force. But even those that managed to survive through various enhancements were still knocked out of the way. They were all carried upward by the force of the geyser. 

Meanwhile, the ship was left entirely untouched. Not a single drop of water came any closer than a few inches from it. Sachael’s power tore everything away from the ship, sending all that water upward to utterly destroy everything surrounding us, without so much as getting the ship itself a little damp. 

All of that was amazing enough on its own, of course. But, as it turned out, the man who had been considered master of the oceans wasn’t done yet. With a slight snarl in his voice, he spoke a single word. 

“Fulmen.” 

Thunderbolt. He said thunderbo–

The lightning came. Another dozen strikes, but these were each as powerful as that single one from earlier. They tore down out of the sky and through the water that was currently carrying all of our attackers upward. Nothing survived it. They were all dead, bodies burnt to a crisp. And, with every single one dealt with, the water stopped rising. It dropped back toward the ground, taking those hundreds of corpses with it to rain across the ground below. 

Blinking twice as his eyes returned to normal, Sachael announced calmly (though I could hear a hint of exhaustion in his voice that he was clearly forcing back), “Now we can get out of here.” 

And get out of there we did, as fast as possible. Sariel took her seat back before punching the engines. We climbed rapidly, rushing out of the atmosphere and back into–

Oh… right, there was still a battle going on out here. And it didn’t look like it was any closer to ending now than it had when we first arrived. If anything, the battle was even more intense. Yet, something was different this time. Even as Sariel and Apollo were plotting the escape course, a pair of what looked like fighters approached. They definitely weren’t biological, looking a bit like gleaming silver and blue metal manta rays. 

As they approached, Sachael started to say something about defenses, only to stop as Athena interrupted. “Wait. They’re hailing.” 

Roxa and I exchanged glances, since the two of us were across from each other. I saw the other girl mouth, ‘Who?’ and shrugged back at her. 

By that time, Apollo had hit the button to answer the hail, and a voice filled the ship. The words were completely alien and incomprehensible, and came with repeated clicking sounds. But they were accompanied by a robotic voice that was clearly translating. “–say again, is the one known as Felicity Chambers aboard this ship?” 

Well, that definitely made everyone look at me. Not that I blamed them. If I could’ve taken my own eyeballs out and turned them in my own direction, I might’ve. As it was, I simply reeled a bit in confusion before unthinkingly blurting, “That’s me!” 

That could have been dumb if those guys turned out to have a grudge against me for whatever reason (and there were a lot of possibilities). I saw that on everyone’s face, even as the translated alien-speak came. “Will escort behind battlefield. Friends. Follow for safety.” 

With that, the two fighters finished swooping around us, coming in on either side in escort formation. Which left everyone still staring at me. 

“I dunno,” I managed, shrugging in confusion. “Never seen or heard of these guys before.” 

“Boss?” Apollo asked, looking toward Athena. 

For her part, the woman considered for a moment. She looked to the ongoing battle, then to the screen that showed the fighters pacing us, then to me. With her gaze locked on mine, she finally answered. “Stay with them. I believe it’ll be okay. But everyone be ready, just in case. This ship is held together with what the humans call duct tape and prayers. Even with the recently revealed secondary combat mode, we can’t afford an actual fight.” 

So, with basically everyone still looking at me while I helplessly shrugged and insisted I had no idea, we were escorted along the outskirts of the battle. Some of the Fomorians tried to give chase, but other ships fell in to block them. Before long, we were away from the central fighting. Ahead were what appeared to be the main command ships of the unknown aliens. They looked–well, they looked like metal jellyfish, really. There were gigantic dome-structures surrounding a central orb thing, with dozens of energy-coils drifting under them, which occasionally fired hundreds of lasers off into the battle to rip through various Fomorian monstrosities. 

Our escorts called back then. “Hold for connection to friend.” 

“Connection to friend? Who–Flick, who are they talking about?” Sands demanded. 

“I dunno,” I started. “I don’t–” 

“Flick.” It was Tristan. He was standing up from his seat, pointing toward one of the screens that showed the various views around us, his eyes wide. “Look.” 

Turning that way, I saw what he was looking at. It was another ship, one closer and smaller than those big command jellyfish (but still enormous). This one looked sort of like a pyramid if you cut the top third off and replaced it with an enormous opaque glass dome, then also cut the back corner of the pyramid off in order to put in the engines. 

But Tristan’s attention wasn’t on those details. They were on the name stenciled across the main body of the ship. A name that… I couldn’t read. The symbols were clearly meant to be letters, but I had no idea what they meant. 

The blond boy read the name aloud, for me and for everyone else. “Binsayeac Two.”

“Binsayeac? Wait,” Roxa blurted, “What does that mean?” 

But I knew. I remembered the name as soon as Tristan said it. “It means that guy before wasn’t saying he was going to connect us to a friend, he was going to connect us to the Friend, the name of the ship. That name, it means Friend-Finder. The… second Friend-Finder. And it means they did it after all. That’s why this fleet is here. It’s why this battle is happening. They finally did it. 

“The Meregan found friends.” 

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

Promise And Peril 11-06 (Heretical Edge 2)

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

A/N – The non-canon chapters were posted over the weekend. If you haven’t seen the one for Heretical Edge yet, you can find it right here

“If we’re going back to the ship, we need to hurry,” Avalon announced, her voice tense as she looked around. “I don’t know how long it’ll be before those things down there make their way up, or another group finds us.” 

Jophiel was already nodding. “Yes, the… she’s right. We need to be quick, but also careful. We’ve already tried transportation magic and it’s still not working, so we’ll have to go the long way. If everyone ca– down!” 

In mid-sentence, the woman interrupted herself, suddenly diving toward me. Her hand snapped up, throwing some kind of round, ping pong ball-sized object over my shoulder. In the next instant, the ball exploded, but almost all of the force and heat of the grenade (I supposed that’s what it was, anyway) went in one direction, away from me. One more instant passed, and I half-felt the presence of something there before Jophiel was yanking me out of the thing’s way and shoving me over toward Elisabet while leaving herself in the spot where I had just been. 

“Go!” she was shouting, “get ba–” Then she stopped talking. Or rather, her words turned to a gurgling sputter. A figure, previously invisible either through magic or through some other genetically tinkered camouflage, rose up behind her through the heat and smoke of the explosion she had just set off. It was a good seven-feet tall, its bulbous head an awful grayish-green color. The thing’s black eyes were much too large for its face. There were six arms on the thing’s torso, each a slightly different size and length, with different numbers and types of fingers or claws. One of those arms had a jagged sawblade attached to it, and that blade was currently shoved into Jophiel’s back as he tore her backward away from us.

“Why leave so soon?” the actual, full-strength Fomorian demanded. With a contemptuous toss, he hurled Jophiel to the ground, where she lay, still alive but horribly wounded. Elisabet was right there on top of her an instant later, using some kind of power or spell to stop the bleeding. 

The Fomorian continued in a voice that sounded darkly amused. “It seems to me that you just got here. And we have so been anticipating entertaining guests.” 

Sariel, Tristan, Vanessa, Avalon, Shiori, Elisabet, and me. Those were who we had to face this Fomorian. Oh, and Jophiel, though given the wound she was suffering from, I wasn’t really counting her in this. And Elisabet was iffy too, given it looked like it was taking all she had to keep the woman she loved alive. There must have been some kind of special poison on that blade of his, because it had clearly done a lot more damage than a simple stab should have. I could hear the woman stammering about how her healing power wasn’t working right. 

So basically I couldn’t really count Elisabet or Jophiel (especially since apparently neither of them had access to the Committee-level powers, which would’ve been pretty useful then). Which left Sariel and us teens. Yeah, not exactly a winning combination against a full-strength, fully-aware Fomorian. Especially considering we’d already been told in no uncertain terms to run the fuck away if we ever saw one of these guys. Specifically, we were supposed to use the escape spells to get back to the ship (or, failing that, the ones that would just send us away). Or even the rock Mom had given me that was supposed to take me to her if I got in trouble.

But would they even work? We’d already established that transportation magic was down. That had to mean the emergency escape spells too, right? And if they did work, would we have actually listened to that rule? Would we really have abandoned Sariel to fight the Fomorian practically alone? Would Tristan and Vanessa, or Tabbris inside of me, have accepted that in this particular situation regardless of what we had agreed to earlier? 

I didn’t know, and we didn’t have the chance to find out. Before any of us, even Sariel herself, could move, the monster slammed two of his hands together. The instant he did, what looked like large boils or something on his palms, like enormous zits or puss-filled… bubbles were popped. Instantly, the air was filled with a thick cloud that smelled sickly-sweet before I even thought about holding my breath. At least it wasn’t poison, according to my power. But what did it–

“No magic,” the Fomorian was saying. “Let’s have a clean fight now. No cheating, with–” 

A knife abruptly appeared in his eye, where Sariel had thrown it. It didn’t penetrate the eyeball itself, which I was sure was protected somehow. Instead, the blade found the space between his skin and the ocular orb, embedding itself in that infinitesimally small area. It still didn’t seem to do a lot, but it shut him up for a second. 

“Kids, get out of the way now!” There was absolutely no room for debate or argument in Sariel’s voice. It was so forceful, so commanding and intense, that we were already moving by the time she finished speaking. But we weren’t just running away. By mutual, silent agreement, we threw ourselves to where Jophiel and Elisabet were. Tabbris was screaming in my head about not leaving her mother alone, while Vanessa and Tristan were saying the same thing outloud. 

“We’ve got her!” That was Avalon, snapping at the hysterical Elisabet. She reached out, grabbing the much-older woman’s arm to get her attention. “We’ll keep her alive, I promise. But everyone’s going to die if you don’t help Sariel!” 

Meanwhile, the Fomorian had rocked backward, hand snatching up to yank the knife out with a scowl at being interrupted. Even as we were diving over to where the two women were, he crushed the knife in his hand, snarling something in Latin that my still-not-perfect understanding (Tabbris wasn’t auto-translating for me) said was something like ‘if the prey insists on stinking.’ 

Elisabet didn’t respond immediately. She’d only just been reunited with the woman she had loved for so long and now this happened. Plus, if that gas stuff really had stopped magic in the area from working, it probably wasn’t doing any favors for trying to keep Jophiel alive. 

But the Fomorian wasn’t waiting for her to work through her shit. Annoyed by Sariel’s attack, he’d already cracked his neck (by turning his head in a full three-sixty) and was stalking toward her. Beside me, Tristan tensed and started to pick himself up, but Vanessa grabbed his arm. “We’d get in the way,” she snapped, sounding like she was pissed at herself for even saying it. 

“What’re we supposed to do then?!” Tristan blurted, while Sariel back-pedaled a few steps from the Fomorian. She was pulling him just a little bit further from us, making every step count. 

“Trust our mom,” was Vanessa’s retort. “And get her some help that’s actually help.” 

Unfortunately, she followed that up by suddenly calling, “Uh, and speaking of help, we might need some!” 

Sure enough, looking the way the other girl had turned, I saw a dozen or so Fomorian creations coming our way. Of course, the monster wasn’t content to just let us sit here and deal with the wounded Jophiel. He had to sic more of his pets on us. 

My mouth started to open to say we had to cover the injured woman. But my head abruptly snapped back toward Jophiel and Elisabet. Shiori, Avalon, and even Dexamene (who had spent more time with her over these past months) had been trying to talk to her to no avail. But they suddenly got some help, as a glowing figure appeared in front of me. Tabbris. She stepped free, form solidifying just as her small hand lashed out to slap Elisabet across the face. 

“Hey!” the kid blurted. “My mama’s fighting the guy that hurt Jo right now, and those other monsters are coming! If you don’t help, we’re all gonna die! Now pull yourself together and go do something useful!” 

It was enough. Finally, Elisabet’s frantic gaze seemed to focus. She looked over to where Sariel was seemingly effortlessly dodging and avoiding everything the Fomorian threw at her while equally unable to actually do damage to him. He clearly wasn’t kidding about halting magic in the area. Whatever that gas was, it really did the trick. Sariel was fighting without any spells, while the Fomorian still had all his bio-tricks. Only the fact that the Seosten woman was really hard to hit, thanks to her accuracy power extending to making her own body move, was keeping her alive.

“Watch her. Do what you can.” Elisabet’s voice was strained, but far more in control than it had been a moment earlier. “Please.” That was the last thing she said before pushing herself up, gaze locked on the Fomorian who had done so much damage to the woman she loved. Without another word and without glancing their way, she gave a dismissive wave of her hand toward the incoming monsters that were bearing down on us. 

In response to that wave, the ground seemed to open up around us. Several massive holes appeared, as more Fomorian horror-show creatures clambered out. Which panicked me briefly. Yet there was something different about these ones. They weren’t totally biological. Rather, pieces of them were covered in gold. It wasn’t just golden armor, it was like parts of their skin, shells, or scales had actually been replaced with gold. The altered Fomorian creations rushed to meet the incoming regular ones, both small armies colliding. 

Elisabet. Somehow–she’d taken control of some of the Fomorian’s own monsters, and had them buried under the sand waiting to ambush them. 

As that realization came to me (and the others), the woman was already launching herself at the actual threat, the full Fomorian himself. 

Which left the rest of us sitting there with a critically wounded Jophiel and no idea what to do about it. Well, most of us anyway. Dexamene and Avalon both seemed to be more ready for this, each checking the entry and exit wounds. Avalon produced prepared and medicated bandages from somewhere, while Dex had a small vial of liquid that she hurriedly said would slow and dilute any poison. They worked together to apply both, while Shiori and I carefully held the limp Jophiel up. Elisabet had already torn the shirt open to reveal the wound, right in the stomach and back. It was… it was awful. It was terrible. Without spells to heal, and or regeneration, or… it was just bad. 

Speaking of bad, my gaze kept snapping over to see what was going on with the fight. Sariel and Elisabet versus a full-strength Fomorian. If Elisabet had been connected to the Committee, it really would’ve helped. As it was… with Sariel cut off from using spells, I had no idea what was going to happen. 

“Tabs,” I started, looking that way. 

“C-can’t,” she answered my unspoken question about her wings. Her voice was weak, the intense fear she was feeling written across her face. “Too soon. I can’t… I can’t do it yet.” She sounded miserable, as though terrified that something was about to happen to her mother, something she couldn’t stop just because she was too weak to use her wings again. 

She couldn’t use the doom wings, and the rest of us–the adults were right, we’d just get in the way. Which meant the only thing to do, the only thing we could do, was sit here and try to do what very little we could to keep Jophiel alive while Elisabet and Sariel faced that monster by themselves. 

Which was exactly what we did. Kneeling there around the too-still form of the Seosten woman, all of us stared that way, taking in the scene.

The Fomorian lashed out with one arm, the saw-blade on the end cutting through the air just as Sariel ducked under it. He was trying to follow up by lashing out with every other arm together to force the woman backward, where a scorpion-like tail that had simply popped out of his back was already lashing downward, right where she would need to retreat. 

But Sariel didn’t retreat. Instead, she lunged upward out of her duck, somehow managing to twist her body just enough to barely slip through an incredibly narrow space between two of his arms. Her foot planted against one of those arms as she drove a knife sideways into his opposite eye. Again, she hit the space between the skin and the eyeball itself. It looked like she was attempting to cut the whole eye out or something. 

Either way, using the foot she had against his arm, Sariel abandoned the knife there and hurled herself up and over the monster. She caught his bladed tail as it lashed out, using her own momentum to pull it over and down with her as she landed behind him. 

The Fomorian started to turn. More precisely, his upper torso simply rotated to face behind him a hundred and eighty degrees while he reached up for the knife still in his eye. Before he could grab it, however, an invisible force seemed to grab the knife and shove it in even deeper. That made him reel, though he gave no audible sign of pain. 

It was Elisabet, marching that way while holding her hand out as she took control of the knife and used it to carve all the way around his eye socket. With her other hand, she kept punching the air. And with each motion of that fist as she slammed it forward, I saw a distortion shoot that way before slamming into the creature, along with the sound of miniature sonic booms. They hit with enough force that each strike literally sheared little pieces of skin and muscle away from the monster. Not that it seemed to slow him down at all, though he did pivot to react, snarling a little as his mouth opened far wider than it should have to reveal a miniature spear-like construct inside where his tongue normally would have been. That spear shot outward with lightning-speed toward Elisabet. Fortunately, Committee-level powers or not, she was faster, snapping her arm up. Instantly, a wall of gold rose to block the spear, catching it with a loud clang. On impact, the spear disintegrated into a cloud of gas. But the wall of gold had already reshaped itself into an orb around the gas, containing it before any damage could be done. 

Even as the glittering orb fell to the ground and rolled away across the sand like a giant beach ball, Elisabet had drawn that golden sword. With a sharp swipe of the blade, she summoned a four-foot tall gold vice-structure out of the ground. It clamped onto the Fomorian, pinning three of his arms tightly. At the same time, the woman thrust her free hand forward, palm out. The sand itself reacted to the gesture, rising up into the shape of a battering ram. An instant before colliding with the briefly trapped Fomorian, it visibly hardened and was sheathed in gold. Then it slammed into the monster with enough force that the entire thing shattered apart. As did the vice holding him. 

It was enough to draw a hint of blood, the Fomorian staggering back a step just as an arrow clipped past his neck. Sariel. She had her bow drawn and had sent the shot directly through one of the tiny wounds that Elisabet’s earlier sonic-boom air punches had created, opening it just a few more millimeters. 

Now the Fomorian had Elisabet on one side of him and Sariel on the other. But if he was worried at all, he didn’t show it. Which was fair, considering these guys were supposed to be able to take on a lot more than just a single high-end Heretic and one Olympian Seosten. The Hiding Man back at Koren’s house had needed Deveron, Nevada, Katarin, Dare, and (a secretly-possessed by Manakel) Kohaku to deal with him. And he hadn’t even been geared toward straight combat at the time, but rather stealth. This… this could be bad. This was bad. 

At least Elisabet’s stolen and controlled creatures were holding their own against the ones the Fomorian himself had sicced on us. A quick glance that way revealed that fight was still going on, but was under control. 

Sariel was already moving, sprinting forward toward the monster as she loosed three rapid arrows from her bow, one after another. At the same time, Elisabet closed the distance from the other direction. As she ran, the ground tore itself away from him, leaving a deep pit everywhere aside from the exact spot where he was actually standing. Then even that vanished, dropping out from under him. 

The arrows that Sariel had fired sailed past the monster without even touching him. Because they weren’t supposed to. Instead, as Elisabet threw herself right over the open pit, she did something to freeze each arrow in place, walking across them like they were steps. While the Fomorian was just starting to fall as the ground opened up under his feet, Elisabet lashed out with her sword. And it wasn’t just a normal (though gold) sword at that point. In mid-swing, the blade suddenly began to glow brightly. So bright it almost hurt to look at. It sliced through two of the monster’s raised arms, cutting all the way through them. 

Elisabet kicked off that last arrow, launching herself upward over the now-plummeting Fomorian as one of his hands narrowly missed her leg. But she wasn’t in the clear, as a little… slot in the creature’s wrist opened up to shoot out what–well it looked like a thick, dark-green tongue. Yeah, a tongue from his wrist. Either way, it acted like a rope, wrapping around her ankle to start dragging her down into the pit with him as he fell. 

But Sariel was there. She had just reached the edge of the pit on that side, loosing a quick shot from her bow before launching herself up. The arrow cut through the tongue-rope thing to free Elisabet. Sariel, meanwhile, had clearly boosted herself because her leap took her a good twenty feet into the air. As she crossed the middle of the pit, the woman inverted herself to face downward. There were already three arrows nocked and ready, and she shot them straight down toward the still-falling monster (all of this was literally happening in the span of time it took him to fall out of sight into the pit). 

Those three arrows shot downward, but they weren’t alone. In mid-flight, Elisabet abruptly did something with her hands, and three suddenly became a hundred. All followed the same path as the ones Sariel had loosed, cutting through the falling Fomorian over and over again. Arrow after arrow after arrow, like an entire storm of sharp hail, sliced through him.

By then, he was mostly out of sight, falling into the pit. But that wasn’t enough for Elisabet. As a glowing forcefield appeared under both her and Sariel’s feet to hold them in the air, the woman snapped both arms up. In response, the sides of the pit rose a good ten feet. I caught a brief glimpse of the Fomorian perched between two eight-foot tall gold spikes that had clearly lined the bottom of that pit. In the next moment, the walls were covered with those same spikes, and all four sides of the pit came together to slam shut on the Fomorian. It was like an iron maiden device closing in on him, spikes hitting that monster from every side and angle as the pit itself closed to trap him within. Once closed tightly, it left a fifteen-foot tall, six foot thick pillar sticking into the air. A pillar that was sheathed in gold to hold it steady and firm against the Fomorian’s attempts to escape. 

Sariel, by that point, had produced what looked like two small metal orbs. She flicked her thumb against either, and they abruptly started to glow. Just as the thought ‘more grenades’ came to mind, she chucked both together. They arced up and over, falling toward the pillar. At the last second before they would have bounced off, Elisabet opened a tiny slot, allowing the two bombs to pass through. 

They detonated then, exploding with so much force that the pillar itself blew apart in every direction. The Fomorian’s burning body was sent flying, hitting the ground and rolling several times before it lay there smoldering. 

And… and then it got up. With a grunt, the creature put two of his remaining arms down, pushing himself up to a kneeling position with a cough. He was burned, charred, bleeding, but it wasn’t enough. He rose, giving a soft chuckle. “This…hehe… this has been fun,” he informed us all. Despite his words, it was clear that he had been hurt. Very hurt, not that he really seemed to care that much. I had the feeling the concept of pain didn’t mean much to these guys.

With a glance toward the spot where what remained of Elisabet’s captured creatures were finishing off the last of his own creations, the Fomorian gave a low snarl. “Very fun indeed. But I feel it’s time to tell you I’m not here alone.” His eyes (well, eye, the other one still had the knife embedded in the side of it) narrowed. “Your turn.” 

He said those two words dramatically, yet… nothing happened. I could see Elisabet and Sariel tense, watching for the incoming threat. The rest of us twisted around too, scanning warily. But there was nothing. 

After a brief pause, the Fomorian spat some kind of acidic blood at the ground and raised his voice. “Take them!” 

Again, there was nothing. Well, almost nothing. After a few long seconds, there was finally a response, but it clearly wasn’t what he was expecting. 

“I’m sorry,” Larissa suddenly spoke, appearing from behind one of the nearby dunes. She was bloodied, bruised, burned all along one side of her face to the point that it hurt just to look at her. Her voice sounded strained, yet… cheerful. “Were you talking to this guy?” She was dragging a figure behind her, abruptly snapping her arm forward to hurl what turned out to be the massacred, dead figure of another Fomorian out in front of her. 

“Cuz I don’t think he’s gonna be answering you anytime soon.” 

“Yeah, you might need to get him to a doctor or something. He doesn’t look so good.” That was Haiden, who came into view following her, looking just as beat. He too, however, sounded cheerful despite his appearance. And Kohaku was right with him as well. All three emerged together, having clearly killed that second Fomorian while he was waiting to ambush all of us. 

“Neither does this guy!” Lillian Patters called. She, Deveron, and my mother came out from the opposite side, the two women dragging another body of one of those monsters behind them before dropping it unceremoniously. 

Now the already-injured Fomorian was left staring at two of his dead brethren while he was surrounded not only by Elisabet and Sariel, but also Kohaku, Larissa, Haiden, Deveron, Lillian, and my mother. 

Suddenly, he didn’t exactly look quite as confident as he had a moment earlier. Which was a look he kept for the rest of his life. All three seconds of it, before every single adult Heretic there hit the monster with a barrage of fire, lasers, ice, blades, and everything else they could throw at him. 

Finally, he was down. The Fomorian collapsed in a broken, half-melted heap before being thoroughly disintegrated by one last blast of energy from a vindictive-looking Larissa. 

With one quick glance my way to assure herself that I was okay, Mom called out, “Someone conjure a stretcher for Jophiel! 

“We’re getting the hell off this planet.”  

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

Promise And Peril 11-05 (Heretical Edge 2)

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

“Flick, on left!” 

With Columbus’s words ringing through my ears, I spun that way, the bladed end of my staff lashing out and extending to be long enough that it cut through the head of the snake-creature that had been lunging toward me. The body (with its long, sharp talons) was still coming forward, however, so I sent a burst of concussive power from the end of the staff to blow it backward.

At the same time, I felt several of those enchanted quills from the boy’s cyberform porcupine, Amethyst, fly just behind the back of my head to collide with the chest of the enormous, six-armed monstrosity that had been charging up from that side. The quills activated as soon as they hit, summoning a cloud of intense acid that literally started dissolving the ten-foot tall thing’s flesh while it bellowed and staggered. It was like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the guys melted. Soon, he was little more than a rather-disturbing puddle fading away into the sand.

A moment later, the ship behind me let loose with another barrage of shots that cut through more of the larger creatures. They were still mostly focused on fixing the thing so it would be spaceworthy, but every once in awhile they managed to find the time and power to fire off the newly-revealed weapons. It was enough to keep the swarm of monsters from totally overwhelming us, at least. 

But it didn’t completely take care of everything, as evidenced by the fact that two more creatures were already coming at me from either side. One was a four-legged… almost dog-like thing except for the rhino head and the prehensile tongue it was already lashing out my way. The other, meanwhile, looked like a gorilla with no fur and three different heads, all stacked on top of one another. The top was where the real head should be, with the second in its chest and the third in its stomach. And the worst part was that they looked like human heads. They looked like the faces of people I would see just randomly walking down the street on Earth. 

Tabbris and I didn’t have to confer, or even actively say what we were doing. We were too connected for that. We knew, our thoughts, our impulses, all of it linked. Instantly, I snapped my left arm, with the staff gripped in it, toward the gorilla-man (men?). At the exact same time, Tabbris directed my right arm to snap out toward the dog-thing while summoning Herbie from his spot in my pocket. The rock went flying, growing into a much larger stone thanks to my object-growth power. Suddenly, he was about the size of a boulder, sailing through the air. 

While Tabbris was getting the true hero of Earth into the fray, I was sending a burst of concussive force into the legs of the ape-men-thing. The blast knocked the thing tumbling heads over heels with a roar, before I launched myself that way. Flipping over the monster, I drove the blade of my staff into the back of its neck, landing on its back to drive it into the ground as it died. 

Herbie, meanwhile, was frozen in mid-air. Tabbris had used the power from that Lemevwik I’d killed in Fossor’s arena to pause the enlarged-stone. Frozen like that, it remained completely still while the dog-thing went plowing straight into it. Oh, and it also burned half its face off, eyes boiling apart. Apparently Tabbris hadn’t just enlarged and frozen the stone, she also used the super-heating power on it. Now the dog-rhino monster was blinded and its horn (as well as the rest of its snout) was basically a half-melted mess. It looked horrific, and sounded even worse. 

Thankfully, it didn’t exactly last much longer before Avalon was there, cutting the monster’s head off with a casual backhand from one of her energy-bladed gauntlets while simultaneously snapping her other hand down to touch the thing. Under her grip, the creature’s body disintegrated into dust, which then flew toward yet another monster before bursting into flames. 

Yeah, I really had to ask her what the deal with that power was. I’d seen her use it before, back at the fight with Fossor’s army. But later. Right now, there were far more problems to deal with. 

A thought snapped Herbie back to his small size and summoned him into my hand. At the same time, I triggered a burst from my staff to send me flying over to where Shiori was, slamming into one of the humanoid-things she was busy struggling against. Between the two of us, the thing finally went down, leaving us to collapse on top of its body just as Roxa, in wolf form, flew over our heads to rip out the throat of yet another monster. They were everywhere. No matter where I looked, there were more of the things, a never-ending tide that kept slamming up against the wall that was… well, us. And this was a wall that couldn’t last forever, even with help from those new cannons or whatever they were.  

As far as I could tell, none of these kills were giving anyone any kind of power boost. That was a thing with Fomorian creations, of course. Sometimes they gave power boosts and sometimes they didn’t. This time, it appeared that they wouldn’t. Which was both good and bad. It was good considering that distinctive burst of pleasure at the wrong time could have been catastrophic for someone who didn’t have a Tabbris to mute it (which was why we were supposed to be covering one another in big fights). But it was also bad in that it meant we weren’t actually getting anything out of each kill.  

It wasn’t enough. All of this, all of us including the ship itself, and it still wasn’t enough. The Fomorians just kept coming. No matter what we did, no matter how many we killed or how powerful we were, they kept coming. There seemed to be no limit to either the Fomorian numbers, or the depths of the horrors they could think of. Every monster, every single one of their abominations, was a nightmare. And they seemed to have one for every grain of sand on this entire goddamn planet. 

In the distance, I could see my mother and Deveron, back to back as they destroyed the monsters descending upon them. Lillian was there too, the three falling right back into their same teamwork to deal with everything the Fomorians sent at them. But again, they were only so many people and there was only so much they could do. We had to finish this. We had to get out of here. Preferably before we had to face any legitimate Fomorians rather than just their creations. Their army of monsters was bad enough, but a real, full-scale Fomorian? That could very easily tip the scales. It was already all we could do to stem the tide of these minions. 

We didn’t give up, of course. Even as the thought of how bad this could be flickered through my mind, I was already driving my elongated-staff through another pair of monsters, yanking it back, and spinning to hurl the weapon into the face of a third before summoning it back to my hand. 

Yeah, giving up wasn’t even the slightest hint of an option. We would keep fighting, keep killing these fucking things, for as long as we could move. But not all of us had the kind of stamina that I did. We all had various boosts to it, but I knew for a fact I could keep going at full strength for a lot longer than someone like Shiori or Sands could. We had to finish this, one way or another, before they started to falter. Because that would start a domino-like collapse that none of us were going to survive. 

Then it happened. A flash of Vanessa’s face appeared in my mind, along with the words ‘Surrounded – McGillicuddy – Help.’ 

It was my taboo-word power, one of the other things I’d gotten during my time with Fossor that allowed me to designate any word and know when anyone within a quarter mile said that word, along with a single word before and after, and their face. Right now, that word was McGillicuddy. That was what I’d called out for Vanessa to remember as she left with the others. Now she was using it to let me know that they were surrounded and needed help. Which was just fantastic, because the rest of us were doing so well. We were downright bored right now. 

But that didn’t matter. We had to help. Because until Vanessa and the others managed to get Elisabet and Dex to the ship, none of us could get the hell out of here. And time was clearly not on our side. Hard or not, I had to get over there. 

“Jophiel and the others need help!” I shouted over my shoulder toward Shiori, even as the two of us were pressed back-to-back. 

“How’re we supposed to get there?!” Shiori blurted, while Choo came charging in to collide with one of the monsters. And considering he was so big his shoulders were taller than I was, anything that warthog collided with knew they’d been hit. In that case, Choo slammed into the creature with enough force to send the thing crashing to the ground, wide-open for Shiori herself to sever its head with a toss of one of her discs. “I don’t think these guys are gonna listen if we call a time-out!” Even as she said that, her enormous Jekern partner sent a blast of electricity into the air that turned a descending pterodactyl monster into what amounted to a barbecued corpse.  

Avalon was already right there, along with Sands, Sarah, and Columbus. The latter spoke up while shooting a blast from his goggles. “You three go! We’ll cover you.” He vanished briefly, appearing directly behind what looked like a two-headed centaur before bringing it down by ripping both of its necks in opposite directions with enough force to nearly rip the heads clear off. 

Sarah was nodding, raising her rifle to fire three quick shots that took a trio of bat-like monsters that had been in mid-dive directly behind the much larger thing Choo had killed. “We have you. We’ve got this. With the ship’s help, we can handle it.” she informed us flatly. 

It was going to have to be enough. As an idea jumped into my head, I blurted, “On me, let’s take a ride!” To Sands and the others, I added, “I’ll open a path, you keep it open and stop them from following!” With that, I began to shift into my werelion form, using a quick boost to speed the process into taking only a moment before I was running on all fours.

Quickly, Shiori summoned Choo back into his ball and stowed him. At the same time, Avalon caught her hand and tossed her up onto my back. A second later, the other girl landed right behind her. 

There we were, me in lion-form with my girls perched on my back as I ran straight at the nearest wall of Fomorian monsters, all of whom were very eagerly waiting for our arrival. I could put on an incredible burst of speed with my boost, which was why I’d wanted the girls on my back. Unfortunately, in that instant, all it would do was make us slam into that wall of monsters faster

But as I’d said, I had a plan. And I put it into action in that moment, focusing not on the monsters standing there eagerly waiting for us, but on the ones that were already dead. I focused on the piles of shattered, broken, eviscerated Fomorian creations that all littered the ground around their still-living companions. Instantly, using barely more than a nudge, I felt the dead things respond. Dozens of them, dozens, tore themselves upward, half leaving body parts behind as they basically mindlessly and awkwardly threw themselves against the living versions. 

Yeah, it wasn’t pretty. It looked janky as hell, not to mention horrific, with half-destroyed bodies just sort of dragging themselves up with whatever limbs they had left and bodily lunging at one of the other creatures. But it worked. Horrible and awkward as it was, it worked. I’d managed to force the dead Fomorian creatures to create a hole in the middle of their line by shoving their living companions to either side. The hole was basically just big enough for me to fit through. 

I took advantage of that instantly, shoving all I could into my boost for those few seconds. Suddenly, I was running a hell of a lot faster. It was like being back on that freeway in Vegas. I tore across the sand, blowing through the open hole just as Sands, Sarah, and the others opened up on the monsters to make sure they didn’t follow us. My control over the dead ones fell away as all my focus went toward getting to where I could still feel Dexamene through her blood. 

There! I could see a big hole in the sand, like a crater. My power was telling me that’s where Dexamene was. Which meant it was where they all were. Pushing myself harder, I made my lion-self into what amounted to a blur, a furry rocket-engine screaming across the desert. It wasn’t far, of course. But every second counted. Every moment it took for us to get there felt like an eternity where Vanessa and the others could be overrun. So I pushed myself harder, shoving everything I could into moving just a little bit faster. 

Finally, we reached the edge of what turned out to be a thirty-foot deep, eighty-foot wide pit. Sure enough, Dexamene and Elisabet were down there, basically directly in the middle along with Jophiel, Sariel, Tristan, and Vanessa. 

And they were surrounded by even more monsters than I could count, including one that looked like a twelve-foot tall octopus using its tentacles to stand. A large, pulsing blue gem thing took up most of its head, which seemed to give off little sparks of energy now and then. It was in the middle of the group, apparently being protected by everything around it, if my split-second glance was right. It looked like everyone down there was trying to aim for the thing, but their attacks were intercepted. 

Vanessa must have seen us right there on the edge, because suddenly I saw her face again, and heard three words. “Octopus – McGillicuddy – Trapping!” 

Right, yeah, my first impression was correct. That big thing, with the giant pulsing gem in its head, was somehow trapping the group down there. Blocking teleportation or movement powers somehow? I wasn’t sure. Quickly, I shook myself just enough for the others to get off, then shifted into my normal (hah, as if anything about me was normal) human form and blurted that we had to kill the octopus. 

Unfortunately, Avalon quickly revealed the real problem and why the others couldn’t escape by reaching out. Her hand stopped in midair, blocked by a shining, glimmering forcefield that disappeared once she drew back.

 “What’re we supposed to do?” Shiori quickly asked, staring at the group below. “It’s the gem thing, right? That’s making the shield, but we can’t get through the shield to hit it, and those guys can’t get to it because of all the monsters! I don’t think we have enough firepower to overload it.”

“Actually,” I corrected, “that’s exactly what we have. I knew it was a good idea to save this. Ready, Tabs?” 

Uh huh! came the almost-feral sounding response. Of course, her mother and siblings were down there. She was damn sure ready to blow this shield to hell in order to get them out.  

Realizing what I was talking about, Avalon and Shiori both backed up, as those bright energy wings erupted from my back. The wing spread out, even as I shoved everything I had into boosting their power. Tabbris did the same, and an instant later, all that power erupted into a blinding blast that slammed into the shield… and shattered it. I was left staggering, blurting, “Kill it, kill the thing now!” 

Neither Avalon nor Shiori needed a written invitation. Both of them were already moving, leaping out over the pit. Valley produced something that looked an awful lot like the same small silver ball Shiori used to store Choo. Only when she threw hers out and it popped open, a majestic white stag with silver antlers and blue wings emerged. Salten. He flapped hard once just as Shiori and Avalon landed on his back, then carried the two straight over to the octopus thing where they dropped off him to land on either side of the gem. Even as I was recovering from that brief moment of exhaustion, the other two were hitting that gem with everything they had. There were monsters attempting to swarm them, but it was too late. The giant crystal thing shattered, sending power flying in every direction. Power that knocked Avalon and Shiori to either side. Thankfully, before I even had a chance to worry, both were caught in mid-air by Salten doing some pretty impressive midair acrobatics in order to get to each of them. With the monsters below throwing acid, blades, spines, and all manner of other things, Salten flew back up. He was followed by Sariel, Jophiel, and the others as Elisabet used some kind of floating power to raise everyone up. More attacks were being thrown at them, of course, but Vanessa had both hands out and had created some kind of big…red gooey gel ball thing from her palms. It was about ten feet in diameter and she held it with no apparent problems, so it couldn’t have been that heavy. Yet everything that hit it was just absorbed into the ball like some kind of freaky jello mold. Either way, it was weird. But probably not as weird as certain powers I had. 

Before long, everyone made it. Salten landed, and Avalon only waited until she and Shiori were both off him before returning the Peryton to his ball. I couldn’t blame her for wanting him to be out in this hellhole as little as possible. Emergencies only. If anything happened to him here, with these things? Yeah, best he just chill out in his ball. 

“Flick!” Suddenly, Dexamene was hugging me. The Nereid’s grip was tight. “You came!” 

Flushing a little, I nodded. “Told you I would.” As I squeezed tight, my gaze found Elisabet. “I… hi.” She looked very different than I remembered, wearing what was obviously hand-crafted leather armor. That long, luxurious-looking black hair had been cut down to barely reach past her ears. She also had a line of golden daggers attached to one arm and a golden sword at her hip.

“Thank you, Felicity.” The woman was clearly ragged, barely keeping herself upright as she half-leaned against Jophiel. “We had no idea those things were so close. They were waiting for us to get help, they knew–” Shaking that off, she managed, “We need to go, now.” 

“Yes,” Jophiel agreed. “There will be time to sort all of this out. Now, we get back to the ship. 

“Before this entire world turns itself into a portal to the void just to spite us.”

Previous Chapter / Next Chapter

Homeward Bound 8-02 (Heretical Edge 2)

Previous Chapter                                           Next Chapter

So, there I was, years in the future on some death trap space station or whatever. And who turns out to have apparently put this whole thing together? Elisabet. The woman who had already been missing for awhile back in my real time, had actually set up everything on this space station specifically to kill all the other people (whoever they were), give me access to my powers again, and release me. Just… what–how? Well, maybe she just showed up back home at some point in the intervening years and… found out I was gone? Or maybe I went back to the present before she showed up and told her where to go, eventually, to help me right now? But that–ow. Fuck. Yeah, figuring out time travel still sucked.

“Felicity.” The voice of Elisabet grabbed my attention once more, and I glanced up from where I’d been gazing off at nothing to find her waving her hand. “I need you to pay attention.” 

“Wha–are you–” I started, confused about this being a recording. Then I stopped. Time travel. Wait, if she did know how I reacted to this, didn’t that mean–nope! Nope, nope, not getting into that line of thought. I didn’t have nearly enough ibuprofen packed away to handle that pain.

Again, the hologram of Elisabet waited until I was done reacting before she continued. “First, yes, this is a recording. Right now, you are roughly four years in the future from where you were. Which is quite far off from Fossor’s intentions. His spell was meant to send you five years into the future, and directly to his stronghold planet, where you would have been met and restrained by an army of his personal minions, who had been given those five years to prepare for every possible action you could have taken in an attempt to free yourself.” 

Okie dokie, that sounded bad. Hearing that, I swallowed hard, trying to think of how that would’ve gone. Badly, for me. A bunch of Fossor-troops given half a decade to prepare for me and anything I could do? It wouldn’t have been pretty, that was for sure. But on the other hand, I wasn’t there. I was… wherever here was. And a year early. 

“As you’ve noticed,” Elisabet was saying, “you are not on Fossor’s planet. And, as I said, you were only sent forward four years rather than five. That’s because at the exact moment that Fossor triggered the spell intended to send you forward, I used a spell of my own, intercepting his spell and redirecting the energy. One year of the time portion was put instead toward altering your final destination to be what it is now. Which, of course, makes your immediate question…” 

“Why wouldn’t Fossor have people waiting here for me?” I promptly asked aloud. “He’s had four years to figure out the destination and time were wrong too. Unless he had to be right there at the place he sent me off from and my friends kept him away?” 

“Your allies being at his old home was likely helpful,” Elisabet’s recording agreed. “But that is not all of it. I included obfuscation spells to mask your exact destination, providing over a dozen possible locations and many possible dates across that full five year span. If Fossor had been able to study your exact departure point for long enough, he almost certainly could have worked his way through those deceptions. But he was forced to employ other methods of checking your destination. Methods which were successfully masked. His only option was to prepare for your arrival in any of the possible locations on any of those dates. Hence positioning these stations, such as the one you are on, exactly where you could possibly have arrived, full of mercenaries in his employ, with magic specifically intended to leave you personally trapped with no powers. The people on that station, and all the others like it, will have been waiting years for your possible arrival.”

She went on a bit more, explaining that this station that I was standing on had originally been positioned to watch the Meregan homeworld. That was part of how Fossor captured Gavant and the others. And the Meregan homeworld was where Elisabet herself had been trapped. Apparently that was a long story that she wasn’t going to get into right then. The point was, she had made her way to the station with some help from, in her words, ‘a friend of yours’, and had secretly placed the poison gas spells and the hints to me about what to do, programmed to activate only at the exact minute I showed up. She’d also left this recording. 

“Right now,” Elisabet continued after explaining that much, “you’re probably wondering exactly how this could have happened, how I knew precisely how to do this. That is because of–” 

The hologram cut out briefly, and suddenly I was staring at the image of a much different figure. It was a teal-skinned, white-haired teenage female. A Nereid, I realized. She popped up into frame, waving. “Hi, Flick! It’s Dexamene. Wait, you don’t know me yet, huh?” 

Except I did know the name. Dexamene the Nereid. Tristan had mentioned her. She was a friend of his from back on Nicholas Petan’s ship. His best friend from those times. And, if I’d been reading his expression right, potentially more than a friend. She’d meant a lot to him. But he’d had to take his chance in getting back to his sister and the rest of his family. He’d known it would be five years before he could see her again, after he was sent back. 

And yet now I was seeing her in this recording. Wait, now… now for me would be five years since Tristan was sent back to Earth by Petan, wouldn’t it? 

Dexamene was snickering. “Yup,” she informed me, “it’s been a long time. Anyway, here’s my side of things. You make it to Lord Petan’s ship, and you tell us about how you were sent into the future and that we need to send you back. Except you sent me to Aiken’te’vel, errr, that’s the Meregan homeworld, to help Elisabet here so that she can help you by redirecting the first time travel spell. See? You showed up where you are now so that you could end up on Lord Petan’s ship, so you could send me to Aiken’te’vel to help Elisabet, so you could end up where you are now. It’s a loop.” She twirled her finger around in a circle a few times. “But umm, as Tristan would say, don’t think about it too hard, or you might go cross-eyed.” 

Too late, I was already thinking about it too much. Did that mean I’d always ended up here? But that didn’t make sense, because there had to have been a point when I ended up on Fossor’s world, right? The loop had to start somewhere. I must have ended up there at some point, escaped or something, and somehow created this loop. There had to be a point where I… or someone else, had set this whole thing up to work this way. 

Ouch. Yeah, I was going cross-eyed. I should’ve listened to the advice. 

“Told you,” Dexamene’s recording teased. “Don’t think about it so much. You’ve got other things to worry about.” 

“Yes.” That was Elisabet, apparently doing something to push Dexamene out of the way so she could appear on the hologram once more. “You do have other things to worry about. According to your future self, we cannot tell you very much if this is going to go the way we all need it to. You need to act on instinct, not by following a script. But it was important that you know what kind of situation you are in. Your arrival will have triggered whatever measures Fossor prepared for sending reinforcements to collect you. If you don’t wish to meet them, you must follow the steps I’m about to give you for leaving the station. When this recording ends, a bag with a keycard, magic tools, and a diagram of a spell, complete with specific notations and instructions will appear. You must follow this guide to create the spell that will take you off of that station, where you will find yourself in a… hazardous situation. That is all I can tell you. Be prepared, act decisively, and you will eventually find your way to Nicholas Petan’s ship, where you can set these events in motion. With any luck, you will then be able to transport back to the time you left from. But remember, for this situation to exist, you must send this Dexamene girl to the Meregan homeworld on a specific date a couple months earlier than the one you were sent away from.” 

There was a moment where it looked like Elisabet was going to say one thing, before she seemed to reconsider. Finally, she spoke in a quieter voice than before. “Unfortunately, every bit of power I’ve been able to store up went toward enacting this, and now… now it’s all I can do to avoid the Fomorians. I won’t have the ability to reach out to Jophiel or anyone else on Earth before all of this comes to a head. Felicity, you have to make it back to Earth. You have to warn the others and stop the Necromancer.” She paused before adding, “And I would appreciate it if, when you are done with that, you could send a little aid this way. There are other things to deal with once Fossor is no longer an immediate threat.”  

She gave me a few more details about what I should do. But, as promised, kept quiet about most of the details. Eventually, Elisabet finished with, “I… hope you manage it, Felicity.” 

“Yeah, good luck!” Dexamene piped up. “And I’ll see you soon. Oh, right, when I meet you, tell me that the tueln is under my bed. That umm… will and did really freak me out.” 

The recording ended then, the hologram going dark. Staring at the spot where it had been for a long moment, I exhaled. Finally, I whispered, my own voice startling me as it cut through the silence. “Okay, this is a lot.” My hands covered my face, as I mumbled against them, “A fucking lot.” And wasn’t that just the biggest understatement in the universe? Really, how was I supposed to deal with all this? There was just so damn much. Time travel. I was in the future, and future future me had apparently set a whole thing up to have Tristan’s old friend travel to the Meregan world in the past in order to find Elisabet and have her set up a spell that intercepted Fossor’s spell, altering it to send me to this place, which Elisabet then prepared ahead of time for me. 

That was enough all on its own. But now I was apparently supposed to go find Nicholas Petan’s ship using only hints (from myself, apparently) about where to go. No idea what might be between that ship and me. No idea what would come afterward. Except that I somehow had to get myself sent back to Earth, shortly after I’d left it. And I had to get there not only to save my mother, but everyone. Every Bosch Heretic was going to be killed and turned into Fossor’s slaves if I didn’t get back there in time to stop it. Mom was still his prisoner. Nobody else knew what he was planning. If I didn’t get back there, Fossor would have a literal army worth of enslaved undead Heretics to play with. And that… fuck. That would be the end of the Earth. There was no way he’d bother hiding out or being patient at that point. He would have the Seosten over the barrel, forcing them to take Heretics from him to fight their war with the Fomorians in exchange for allowing him to keep Earth for himself. He’d turn the entire planet into the same thing as his own homeworld. He’d turn not just all of humanity, but all of everyone who lived on Earth into his slaves, just like he’d done to his own people. And with every Bosch Heretic under his control, nobody would be able to stop him. Unless I got back there in time. 

But, you know, no pressure or anything. 

“We’ve gotta go,” I said out loud, looking toward my ghost companion. “Elisabet was right, Fossor’s reinforcements are gonna show up soon. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be here when they do.”

“Yes,” came the dry response, “something tells me my brother is rather unhappy with both of us. And if he has succeeded at his ploy in this time, he will have very dangerous threats to throw around.” 

That was a point that made me blanch, pressing a hand against my stomach briefly. No. No, I didn’t even want to think about that. If he had that kind of power to throw at us–worse, if he had my friends to throw at us, my… no. I was going to move on and make sure I didn’t have to deal with anything like that. 

But in any case, those thoughts were another reason why getting out of here right now was the best move. Quickly, I turned to open the bag that had appeared, as promised, when the hologram disappeared. Inside was a field-engraver for spells, a red and violet keycard, a piece of paper with a long series of symbols written on it that were all connected by an intricately swirled line (along with notes about how to make this spell work), and one of those enner things, the coins that held spell energy. Sliding all of those into my pockets, except for the field-engraver, I moved quickly out of the room I was in. Time to go, time to go, beyond time to go! 

Running by that point, I went straight for the same room I’d originally appeared in. I had to ignore all the bodies, had to not think about them at all. Not right now, there wasn’t time. Not if I actually wanted to avoid any confrontations with… anyone. 

Reaching that first room, I moved to the middle and knelt down before grabbing the paper from my pocket, dropping the field-engraver for the moment. Instead, I touched my free hand to the floor and used my inscription power to copy over each symbol in the sequence one at a time. I would stare at the symbol being copied, touch my hand to the right spot on the floor, and focus for a second before it appeared. So much faster than actually drawing all those things. 

But I did still need that field-engraver that Elisabet had provided. According to the notes written on the paper, each of these symbols had to be connected with that intricate line that was on the paper as well. And they had to be connected in a certain way. First, I touched the engraver to the enner while murmuring the activation word the notes mentioned. As soon as I did that, the power from the enner drained right into the engraver, and it grew somewhat warm in my hand. It was ready. 

Touching the tip of the empowered field-engraver against the first symbol, I carefully drew it up and out, checking the paper before making a small loop, doubling back on the line slightly. Then I angled it downward to barely touch the next symbol, angling across in a sort of underline motion. 

Telling myself not to get into a rush, I followed the line through the rest of the symbols at the specific speed and path the notes had been crystal clear about. Careful, I had to be careful. If I got into a rush and fucked it up… yeah, that would be bad. Do it right, Flick. Just calm down and do it right. 

Of course, thinking that just made me remember all the times in the past when I had believed I was thinking to myself, only to later find out that it was actually Tabbris secretly giving me advice. 

I missed my sister. I missed everyone. Fuck. If Fossor succeeded in his plan back then, what had happened to Tabbris? What had–

No. Stop it. Just stop it. Focus right now. Do what you have to do right now to make sure then doesn’t turn out like that. 

With that firmly in mind, I finished the connected symbols. According to Elisabet, the spell had to be drawn right here because of its distance to the station’s various power sources. I looked over the whole finished product hurriedly, comparing it to the paper. Good, good, right, it looked fine. As perfect as I could make it. 

Finally, I produced that keycard and moved to the console that was nearest the door. Crouching, I felt around behind it until I found the slot that Elisabet had described. Shoving the keycard in that slot, I waited just long enough for the console to light up purple before blurting the last command that had been carefully written on the paper, “Execute Evac Elisabet Nine Nine.” 

Instantly, every bit of power the station had was drained. The actual lights dimmed down to near nonexistence, and I was floating as the artificial gravity disappeared. But right there in the middle of the room, the symbols of the spell that I’d been instructed in making were glowing bright green. Then, one by one, they all shifted to be silver. At the very instant that the last symbol changed color, a glowing silver-blue portal was projected into the air above the spell. 

Also at that exact moment, I heard voices. They were coming from the corridor, through the hatch I hadn’t bothered to close. There were people out there. Fossor’s back-up minions. They were here. Were they random thugs, or people I knew? Were they–

Fuck it. Shoving every doubt, concern, and worry I had deep down into the pit of my stomach, I shoved my feet against the nearby wall and hurled myself at the portal. From the corner of my eye, I saw figures start to come through the hatch. I heard a shout. Was it–was that my name? Was–

Then I was through the portal, and gone. 

Previous Chapter                                           Next Chapter

Homeward Bound 8-01 (Heretical Edge 2)

Previous Chapter                                     Next Chapter

Okay, apparently when Fossor decided to get someone out of the way for awhile, he didn’t go in for half-measures. Fuck. I’d really pissed him off this time. Now I was stuck somewhere far away from Earth. And worse than that, I had also been hurtled several years into the future. Years. He’d gone all out to send me pretty much as far away from him and his plans as physically possible. Which, in some ways, was almost flattering. It made me realize how angry he was, how much I’d actually gotten to him that he was willing to go to those extreme lengths. 

But this was bad. Really bad. Years–how many years? How long had I been gone exactly? How far ahead had I been thrown, and how far away? Where was I and when was I? And in the time that had passed, how much shit had Fossor gotten up to? What had happened on Earth in the time that I was gone? What had happened to my friends and family? Had Fossor… had he carried through on his threat? Was everyone I knew now the undead slave of that monster?  

Those thoughts and more, a rush of panicked terror, blew through my mind in those few brief seconds while I was coming to terms with what Rahanvael had said. I was in the future. Everything I’d been trying to stop had already happened. Or been stopped without me, hopefully. But… but years. Years had passed and I was nowhere near Earth. I had been gone. 

For a brief moment, I considered using the Seosten possession recall ability. Now that I wasn’t trapped in Fossor’s place, the default recall should link me to my dad. I could recall there and… no. No, anything could’ve happened back there. If Fossor had gotten his spell off and me recalling back to my dad triggered it for me… yeah, it would all be over. And I didn’t trust my own skill not to accidentally send my whole self there even if I tried just connecting mentally. 

Or maybe I was simply terrified of what I would see if I peeked. If I used the mental recall, connected to my dad, and found out the whole… that everyone was dead, I wouldn’t be able to control my reaction. I would probably fully recall without trying. Then I’d either be Fossor’s dead puppet slave like the rest of them, or surrounded by all the people I loved who already were. 

Worse, my dad could be dead entirely. What if trying to recall linked me to someone like my Grandpa Arthur? What–would I even recover from that? Even knowing I wanted to go back to stop it, how would I get past knowing my father was dead?  

Anything could’ve happened back there. Everyone I knew, everyone I loved, could be a dead and risen necromantic slave for that evil, despotic piece of shit. What if… what if they were…

“Felicity.” The pretty, yet eternally sad face of Rahanvael floated in front of me, hovering over my head as I lay there on my back. “Stop. You’re panicking too much. Breathe. Close your eyes.” 

“Close my eyes?!” I stared at her, blurting, “How the fuck can you tell me to close my eyes when–” Then I stopped myself as she held up a hand. She was right. I had to calm down for a second. I was already in the future. It wasn’t like I could get any further in the future.

Wait. No, yeah, I got further in the future with every passing second, sure. That was the whole thing of how linear time worked. But still, the point was that the damage had been done. A few more moments wasn’t going to make any difference at all. I had to stop and collect myself. 

So, I closed my eyes. Folding my hands against my stomach to ward off its violent, uncomfortable rolling, I took a long, deep breath. It was shuddery, and I could feel the terror, confusion, and anger in myself as I let out the breath. I did it again, then a third time. Breathing. I had to breathe. Panicked, horrified, desperate as I was, I had to make myself think straight. 

After another moment of that, I stopped breathing so heavily and just laid there, eyes closed. Okay. I had it. I was together. Oh, I was still freaking out, of course. No way would that disappear so easily. But I had something of a fence put up around that panic, and had basically designated one corner of my mind to focus on that while the rest dealt with the situation at hand. 

And speaking of the situation at hand, my eyes opened. I stared up at the white, spotless ceiling over my head before pushing myself up to a seated position. Right. Now I could breathe and focus, so I had to deal with the situation that I was actually in. I had to take this whole thing one step at a time. And the first step of that was to figure out where I was, exactly. Also when I was, but that could come after I established my physical location. And just how much trouble I was in.

To that end, I slowly looked around the room once more, taking in details. As with the first time, everything was gleaming silver and white, immaculately clean. The room was about twenty feet across and forty feet long, with three control panels along the narrow end opposite me, a sealed metal hatch of some kind behind me on the opposite narrow end, and a handful of viewing ports or windows (or just video screens, possibly) showing a selection of stars. 

The problem was, thanks to my time at the Aelaestiam base that had become the Fusion School, I knew that seeing stars didn’t necessarily mean anything. Again, those could be holographic screens showing a view of stars that were several trillion miles away. Or further.

“Do you know where we are?” I asked quickly, glancing toward the ghost figure hovering in the corner before I moved to look at the nearest console. On the way, I glanced at the stars. Yeah, I wasn’t an astronomer or anything, but I was pretty sure none of those stars were anything like what I would see from anywhere near Earth. “Any of those look familiar to you?” A second later, I blurted, “Wait, are we near your planet?!” Yeah, that thought had suddenly struck me. Of course it made sense that Fossor might hurl me toward his own planet. Where else did he have more control of the situation? On the other hand, if he did send me to his own world, why had I ended up here, in this place, all by myself? That was… wrong. Something was wrong about all this. Beyond the obvious point that I had been teleported years into the future and far away from home. Why was no one here? Wherever I was, there should’ve been somebody ready to meet me, right? Fossor would’ve had all that time to get ready for my arrival and either be here himself or have someone else waiting. Was the fact that he wasn’t a sign that he’d lost? Did I dare hold out that kind of hope? The idea that Fossor had been beaten while I was gone flared up in me and I just… wasn’t sure what to think of it. It would be an unbelievable relief in almost every way to believe that Fossor had actually been beaten and that I didn’t have to do anything. 

But on the other hand… I didn’t believe it. I didn’t know why he wasn’t here, or why there wasn’t at least one of his people here waiting in this exact spot for me after he’d had years to prepare, but I was almost positive it wasn’t because he was gone. I honestly didn’t believe I was that lucky. 

Wait, time travel. How did that work? Was–was it possible that I would go back into the past, help everyone beat him back then, and that was why he wasn’t here to find me now? That was possible, right? That could be how this whole time travel thing worked, if it was–ergh. Headache. My head hurt. Time travel was annoying. On top of all the other horrific atrocities he’d committed, Fossor had to make me think about the mechanics of time travel? Bastard. 

Rahanvael’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “No,” she answered firmly, no trace of uncertainty in the words. “We are nowhere near my homeworld. The stars are different. I don’t recognize them. I know we’re very far from Earth, but how far, or where… I’m not certain. I’m sorry.” 

“So, we’re somewhere else,” I muttered under my breath, before focusing on my item sense. 

Or rather… trying to focus on my item sense. Nothing happened when I did. I couldn’t even sense the stuff I was wearing, and I was pretty damn sure I wasn’t naked. A quick glance down confirmed that. Yup, definitely not naked. I had all my clothes and everything. I even had my staff. It was lying a few feet away on the floor, with Jaq and Gus sitting on top of it, watching me. I couldn’t sense them either. 

One by one, I tried several other powers. Portals, infrared vision, nausea liquid generation, and more. None of them worked. Nothing worked at all. 

“There’s a magical field within the room,” Rahanvael informed me when I blurted that out. “It’s possible that the field is blocking your powers somehow. I am still here because I’ve bound myself to you. Try to force me to move.” 

I focused on that for a few seconds before exhaling when nothing happened. “Right, so I’m trapped here in this room. Can you get out? I mean, on your own.” 

She tested that, putting a hand against the nearby wall before shaking her head. “The magical field seems to be keeping me here as well.” 

“Right.” My eyes rolled. “This is definitely feeling like a Fossor thing. He knew you were with me, and he’d want to keep you here. But if so, where is he?” 

“Do you really want him to have been here waiting for you?” my ghost companion pointed out.

“Fair,” I muttered before punching my own palm. “Okay, if Fossor set up this trap or whatever but something’s stopping him from being here, let’s see if we can get out before he gets back.” 

With that, I focused on the nearby consoles. The holographic controls meant nothing to me. There were what looked like words on some of them, but they were in some alien language. “Do you understand any of this?” I asked, gesturing that way a bit helplessly. 

Rahanvael floated over, squinting at the controls for a moment before answering. “No, it’s not a language I understand. Wait, look.” She pointed to one of the other nearby control panels. 

“What?” Moving that way, I looked down. What was she–wait. Felicity. One of the holographic levers had the word ‘Felicity’ right above it. That… couldn’t be a coincidence, right? Every other bit of language around here was made out of completely alien symbols that didn’t look anything like the English/Latin alphabet. The odds of that ending up with an exact copy of my name was just… astronomical. If I ever got back home, maybe I’d ask Vanessa what the exact odds were. 

When. When I got back home, damn it. Because whatever it took, I was going to get back home. I was going to get back to my family. Whether that would be in the now time or after managing to get sent back to the past… err… present, damn it, past-present was up in the air.

“Okay, it says Felicity,” I murmured aloud, squinting at it. “But do I trust that? I mean, obviously it’s supposed to tell me to pull the lever. But why would I do that? It could be Fossor or one of his people. Maybe I pull this lever and some kind of inescapable forcefield pops up or something. Or it summons a bunch of ghosts or zombies or something. Can you imagine how much he’d laugh if he actually managed to trick me into pushing the button that ends up trapping me again after all that? Seriously, that’s something he’d do, just for shits and giggles.”  

“You’re right,” Rahanvael agreed in a quiet murmur before looking over to me pointedly. “He would. But on the other hand, you are already trapped here. We are years in the future, on some far side of the universe, trapped in a room that is shielded by magic to stop you from using your powers to get out of it.” She offered me a shrug then. “Besides, remember, your friends were all right there when you were sent away. They’ve had years to figure out where and when you were going to end up. It could be them somehow extending help.”

Considering that briefly, I grimaced. “Yeah, I guess you’ve got a point. I’m stuck here already. But… damn it. But if I pull this thing and I’m wrong…” I trailed off, trying not to dwell too much on just how bad it could be.

If I had my powers, I could just leave. The hatch wouldn’t have stopped me. Not for long anyway. I could’ve just gone through and taken my chances with seeing what was in the rest of the station. But no, I had to deal with it this way because some asshole put up a magical field blocking those powers. Which I didn’t even know was possible, so fuck. 

Either way, I had to pull this lever. There was no other choice. Yes, it could be a trick from Fossor, but at that point, what did I have to lose? Besides everything that I had to lose. 

“Fuck it,” I finally blurted, reaching out to grab the lever. It was made of solid-light, warm under my grip as I yanked the thing down while holding my breath. I really wished I had my powers right then so I could’ve pulled the lever through a portal from the other side of the room. 

The lever went down, and… there was no visible trap. Fossor didn’t pop up to laugh at me or anything. Better still, a very low hum that I hadn’t even consciously noticed abruptly stopped. 

“It’s gone,” Rahanvael quickly informed me. “The power-negation field. It’s not here anymore.”  

Instantly, I tested that by using my item-sense. She was right, I could feel everything around me again. I could feel my staff, my cyberform mice, my clothes, the hatch, the electronics in the consoles in front of me, everything. 

I could also sense that there was no one beyond the hatch. Well, no one my power could detect anyway. They could be shielded, or just be a creature who didn’t wear clothes or armor. Still, it was somewhat encouraging. Actually, just having my powers back was encouraging. 

“Let’s get out of here,” I announced, heading for the hatch. My hand reached out for it, then I stopped. Wait. Just because my item sense couldn’t pick out anything didn’t mean everything was hunky dory. Time to be smart about this. Especially since I still didn’t know anything about where I was or who else might be here. 

To that end, I touched the hatch and focused on one of the powers I’d picked up recently, from that car chase in Vegas. It was the power to designate an object, then see and hear through that object. In this case, I designated the door as my object and focused on seeing through it. 

Okay, now I was looking at myself. But by essentially mentally pushing my vision around (it felt like turning my eyes in a circle, which was weird) I was able to shift the view to see through the other side of the hatch. There was a short corridor leading away from the hatch. It was only about ten feet long before it reached another door. To the left from my hatch, there was also a small alcove area where an enormous figure with gray fur and a warthog-like face was lying on his side. A huge axe lay nearby where he had dropped it. Belatedly, I realized there was also a smaller Rakshasa figure next to him, also lying motionless. 

“What the hell?” Shaking my head, I figured the only thing there was to do was go out there. Luckily, a stray neuron fired in my brain at the last second as I was about to do that, and I suddenly stopped myself. “Wait. Two guys—at least two guys out there are down with no visible wounds. This room is sealed. What’re the odds there’s…” As I was saying that, I focused on creating one of my small portals with one hand while still seeing through the hatch to make the other end of the portal out there. Quickly turning off the object-vision power, I turned to look at the portal and sniffed. 

Yeah. Poison. There was poison coming through the portal from the other room into this one. Thanks to one of the guards on the ship back when I’d been trapped in Seosten space (possibly the first time, depending on where I actually was right now), I could smell the poison. Good thing the same power that allowed me to smell the poison gave me a brief immunity to it in order to do so without being affected by it. 

Quickly shutting off the portal before too much of the gas or whatever could come through, I backed away from the spot where I could still smell it. “Okay, that poison smells really bad. And if it was able to put that big guy out there down, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t last very long with it. I can hold my breath for ten minutes or so, but the second I open that hatch, if I don’t have a plan to get rid of the poison, that’s–wait.” Pausing, I looked to Rahanvael. “You can go out there, huh?” 

The ghost girl smiled just a little, giving a short nod. “Would you like me to?” She’d obviously been waiting patiently for me to work my way through all that. When I gestured for her to go ahead, she passed right through the hatch. With a thought, I made myself see through it again, watching as Rahanvael looked at the downed figures before floating right down the short hall to pass through the second hatch there. 

She was gone for a few minutes, but I could still sense her. Things seemed to be fine, so I just waited until she came back. Floating through the hatch, the girl looked to me. “There is another console in a room on the control deck of this small station that is also labeled with your name across several buttons. And there are more bodies, all apparently killed by the same gas.” 

I considered that. “Another console? Right, gonna guess that’ll either totally secure this trap, or vent the poison. Only one way to find out. Let’s go do this.” 

Yeah, there was poison out there. But that was okay, because thanks to one of the other guards on the same ship, I could hold my breath for a full ten minutes. Which would be plenty long enough to get to that lever. 

So, I stooped to grab my staff before moving back to the hatch. Jaq and Gus jumped to my shoulder together, and I reached up with one hand to pat both of them. “Let’s go spring this trap and/or rescue, guys.” 

The hatch was locked, but that didn’t last long. The second I pulled at the manual release, it resisted for just a second. Then my pass through locked doors power kicked on, and the hatch slid open. Just as it did, I took a deep breath and held it. The poison gas was already seeping in, as I moved through the hatch, glancing toward the two bodies nearby. But I didn’t slow down, heading quickly down the corridor. 

Rahanvael led me through the short maze of corridors on this station, around a corner, up a narrow flight of stairs, and straight to the control deck she had mentioned. There were more dead bodies there. Bodies I tried to ignore for the moment while hurriedly stepping over to the console my ghost companion was pointing to. 

There it was. My name was on the console. It was Flick this time, rather than Felicity. But it was also scrambled. The console was covered in buttons, with F over a button in the top right, an L in the bottom left, an I near the middle, C just under the F, and a K in the upper left. Obviously, I was supposed to hit the buttons in the order of my name. 

So, I did just that. Quickly, my fingers hit the buttons in that order. Once I did, the holographic controls vanished before being replaced by the image of a floating hand. After a second, I realized it was the exact size and shape of my own hand. So, I touched it. 

The moment I did that, the very instant my own hand touched the hologram hand, a new sound filled the room. It was the sound of rushing air. The poison was being vented out of the room, out of the entire station or whatever this thing was. A few seconds later, it stopped, and all was silent. 

Well, silent for as long as it took me to exhale and take in a new, fresh breath now that the poison was gone. As soon as I did that, a voice suddenly piped up. “Hello, Felicity.” 

Jerking that way, I found myself staring at a hologram. A hologram of a familiar face. 

“I imagine you have a few questions as to how we brought you here. Hopefully, this recording will help answer enough of them,” the hologram of Elisabet informed me.

A/N: The chapter setting up Elisabet being involved in this was Interlude 2B – Elisabet for Year 2, which can be found right here. And the chapter from several years ago that introduced future Flick in the first place is Interlude 15 for Year One, which can be found here.

Previous Chapter                                     Next Chapter

Interlude 2B – Elisabet (Heretical Edge 2)

Previous Chapter                             Next Chapter

The enormous maw of the Fomorian-bred monster loomed wide, its four rows of jagged teeth lining a mouth that was large enough to drive a van into. Two pairs of eyes set at diagonal angles to one another lay both above and below that mouth on either side for a total of eight black orbs. Beyond the mouth and eyes was a creature that looked like a hook-nosed pig crossed with a frog, with a tripod of three smaller legs in front and two much larger legs in the back giving it a hunched over look. 

Those large legs had most recently been used to make the creature leap half a mile before it came down, mouth wide open, toward its quarry. A sound like thunder accompanied the creature, shaking the ground ahead of its arrival in an act of intimidation meant to terrify those whom it hunted. 

This particular quarry, however, was far from impressed. At one time, that quarry had been elegant and impeccably dressed and groomed. Now, after months of being on the run across this godforsaken wasteland of a planet, Elisabet was far different. She was clearly leaner, her previous clothes long-since destroyed or abandoned in favor of leather armor crafted from various creatures. Her once long and flowing dark mane of hair had been cut down dramatically. She wore a golden sword on one hip and a line of small, matching gold daggers all around her opposite arm. Dried blood and dirt in equal parts covered her face and other bits of exposed skin. 

Now, the long-lived Spanish woman stood in place, watching that wide, eager mouth descending toward her. She made no motion to either escape or attack. Not at first, anyway. Instead, she stood perfectly still, allowing the creature to descend closer and closer, an instant away from swallowing her whole. 

Finally, at the last possible instant, she made her move. Or rather, the ground beneath her did. Elisabet herself remained completely still, while the ground under her feet pulled back and down, taking her with it to reveal a large hole that the thin layer of sand had been covering. Elisabet was actually simply standing on a layer of sand a couple inches thick. The hole beyond was large and deep enough for the monster to fall directly into. Over a hundred feet below the surface, it squealed in surprise and pain upon driving itself onto the dozen large, gleaming yellowish spikes that had been erected at the bottom. A golden trap, literally. 

A wider section of ground opened up, providing a safe spot next to the gold spikes for the woman to lower herself down to. She stepped off her sand platform and stood next to the dying monster. Her hand rose, touching the thing in its wounded side. With a thought, she pulled the gold spikes down out of it while the thing gave a pitiful whine and twitched. 

The two powers she had displayed in these past few seconds were those of the creature she had originally been made a Heretic of, in the days before she was part of Crossroads. The days before Jophiel. Terrakinesis and aurokinesis. Mental manipulation of earth and gold, respectively. Though many heard aurokinesis and thought she meant the manipulation of some kind of aura. Clearly, they needed a lesson in the difference. 

Either way, there was another power that had been part of her original set. She used that power now, healing the damage that had been done to the creature with one hand against its heaving side. Gradually, the wounds closed and the blood flow ceased. This was the third power she had inherited in her days of being a Natural Heretic, a healing gift. 

Yet, there were two aspects to this gift of healing. One allowed that healing to be given freely. The other, however, came with a cost. A gold cost, as Elisabet had called it so long ago. And it was that latter method of healing that she invoked now. She inflicted the gold cost upon the creature she was healing. Which meant that across all of its wounds, everywhere her power touched, the creature was covered in a gold-like material. In truth, all gold touched by her power became as hard as the toughest steel, hence her ability to use it as spikes and weapons. And to line the interior of her leather-looking armor. Her gold was stronger than the gold that Bystanders knew.

A dozen holes in the creature’s body were patched over by this gold, and as it suddenly reared up, the eight eyes, once a dull greenish-brown, were gold as well. 

Without a word, Elisabet turned to the nearest wall of the pit. The ground obeyed her whim, forming a wide ramp for her to walk up and out. Just as she reached the top, the creature at the bottom gave a great leap that carried it high into the air to land nearby with a loud crash. But it made no move to attack her. Its golden eyes watched the woman as she exited the pit. 

Standing there for a moment, Elisabet watched the creature before giving a low whistle. As she did so, several other monsters of various sizes and shapes emerged from the sand where they had been previously hidden. All of them were covered in various gold plates, their eyes matching. They were each originally Fomorian creations, scouting monsters sent to kill inhabitants and track down Elisabet or anyone like her. Each had been mortally wounded before being healed by her power. But those healings were accompanied by the gold cost, giving her control over them. That was the cost, their free will, such as it was. If she saved a creature’s life with her power and inflicted the cost, it would become loyal to her alone, obeying her orders, both spoken and unspoken. 

These were what remained of the creatures she had managed to turn to her side over these past few months. They died often, torn apart by the unending legion of beasts or even by the Fomorians themselves. Not that there were many of those actually on this world, but they did make occasional appearances. Elisabet had killed a couple of them already. Mostly, however, she avoided them as much as possible. It was never fun to fight an adult Fomorian. Figuring out what might be able to kill it before it tore you apart was terrifying, even for someone like her. 

At least with these creatures of hers, she had cannon fodder to throw at them while she escaped. That was the only reason the woman was still alive and free right now. That and the fact that even the Fomorians couldn’t search an entire planet that easily. But they kept getting closer to catching her. The attacks were coming closer together as the genocidal monsters continued to press constantly, never letting up. She was going to have to do something, and soon. Any day now, one of them was going to get lucky, or she would be sloppy. And that would be the end of her, before she could tell anyone the truth about Maestro. 

That, almost more than anything else, was what kept her going. When all she wanted to do was collapse from exhaustion, Elisabet told herself that the monster called Maestro had to be stopped, and no one else seemed to know he even existed. 

She had to get back to Earth. She had to stop that thing. Whatever he wanted Jophiel or some other powerful Seosten to do, it was apocalyptically bad. If she died before she could tell anyone about it…

Besides, she was too damn pissed at the thought that that Gemini thing inside her head had been manipulating her for so long to just lay down and die now. Planetful of Fomorian monsters or galaxyful, she was going to get home. Whatever that took. She was going to get home and make absolutely certain that humanity was prepared to deal with the threats in front of them. Both the Fomorian one and the Maestro one. No more half-measures. It was time for humanity and the Seosten to get on the same page and end these problems. 

Unfortunately, it was taking the woman a long time to actually get back to Earth to start any of that, given the handicaps she was working with. The invaders had already thoroughly swarmed over the Meregan transport areas. She was pretty sure that those humanoid giants weren’t all dead, but they were deep in hiding and she couldn’t find them anymore than the Fomorians could. It being a big planet to search worked against her as much as for her in that particular case. 

She couldn’t get to the Meregan transports. She was cut off from the Committee link, and blocked from using any of the transport powers or spells that could have taken her off this planet. Her options for getting out of this were few and far between, and getting worse by the day. But she refused even the thought of giving up. She was a survivor, damn it. She just had to keep going, keep living, keep escaping.  Either Jophiel would find her, or one of the others. Perhaps Felicity would accidentally trip her way into ending up here again. That sounded like something the girl would do. Or Elisabet’s own risky, haphazard plan would actually end up working. Either way, giving up was not an option, ever.

She would get home, help or no help. If no one showed up, Elisabet would do it herself. She just had to resort to another method, a more… unique and slow way of returning to Earth. A way that was almost more hypothesis than anything else. She and Jophiel had talked a bit about the possibilities of it, but as far as she knew, it had only been attempted a handful of times with mixed results. And none of those had been working from the kind of handicap that Gemini had inflicted on her. 

What it amounted to was residual energy. Any time magic was used to transport to anywhere, it left behind residual energy. Energy that had already been shaped toward transportation. The amount of that energy varied depending on how powerful the original spell was, lasting longer with more energy the further the transport and the more people involved. But even short transports that took place centuries earlier would leave a tiny, almost undetectable trace of power. And the more transports that took place in that same general area, the more of that energy would build up. That was why many large organizations tended to create specific buildings or rooms devoted to transportation. Because the more they were used for that, the easier it was to shape the magic in that area toward portals and other transportation spells.

But that same energy that made creating transportation spells in the area easier could also potentially be used in another way. The idea was that if one gathered enough of it, they could create a new transportation spell without actually casting it. The residual energy could be pointed in a new direction. That way, someone who couldn’t actually cast transportation spells would still be able to use one. 

Again, however, that idea had only been tested a few times that Elisabet and Jophiel knew of. And only a couple of those had been successful. None of which had been used to jump to another entire world, let alone one in a different universe. This was completely uncharted territory. 

Beyond the simple fact of it being untested, there was also the logistical issue. Namely, the fact that she needed a lot of this residual energy if she was going to make it work. And, considering the energy would be lost once it was used, there wasn’t room for any mistakes. She had to be absolutely certain that she had enough energy gathered before she even started on this. 

So, for the past couple of months, Elisabet had been doing more than simply surviving and escaping. She had been using her own magic to point her toward places where transportation magic was used. She would make her way to each site and use the crystal she had created to absorb the tiny trickle of power in that area. 

With that thought, the woman looked down while summoning the crystal to her hand. It was about the size of a softball, and appeared to be made of clear glass. Light blue liquid-like magical energy filled up the bottom half of the crystal. Half. She was halfway done filling this thing up. Once it was full, she would have enough shaped transportation energy to attempt a real escape. 

Unfortunately, it was getting harder to find decent pockets of this stuff that weren’t near heavily patrolled areas. She had to venture further and further out, and take more risks just to get a few more drops to fill her orb. It was the equivalent of wandering a post-apocalyptic Earth, scrounging the last vestiges of gasoline from random stations along a broken freeway.

Willing the storage crystal back into its pocket dimension where it would be safe, Elisabet pushed off to continue walking across the desert. Her converted monsters, cut off from their previous masters and controlled by her, trailed behind. They spread out around the woman, taking up guarding positions just in case another threat presented itself. Or rather, for when the next threat presented itself. Because it would come. They always came. For months, Elisabet had been hunted across this world. And they would keep coming until she either escaped for good… or they caught her. 

As she shook off that possibility, Elisabet felt something grow warm against her thigh. The leather pouch that hung there was hot. Frowning, the woman opened the pouch and looked inside. The rock that she had enchanted to lead her toward transportation magic was glowing. Which was… odd. The only reason it should be detecting that much energy would be from a truly powerful transportation spell very nearby. 

Fomorians. It could be the Fomorians sending a massive army almost directly on top of her. With a thought, she summoned a different enchanted stone to one hand, touching it to her forehead before using the spell on it to render herself completely invisible. Meanwhile, her own converted monsters burrowed into the sand while spreading out, ready to counterattack anything that appeared.

But nothing happened for some time.  The transportation magic detector she had made was still warm, though it had faded a bit to simply point in the correct direction. The spell it had detected was off to the east and had completed. The Fomorians weren’t jumping an army on top of her, so what were they doing? It could still be an army coming her way, or it could be something else. 

Either way, she had to find out. It would be dangerous, but worth it. If this transport wasn’t intended for her, or even if it was and she could evade them, the energy left behind would be enough to fill up at least half of the remaining crystal. And that was entirely too tempting for her to resist. Which was another reason it could’ve been a trap, technically. But she doubted they knew what she was doing. 

She had to get to that spot, see what had arrived, and gather the residual energy before too much of it dissipated. A massive transportation spell right nearby just as she was heading that way? With any luck, this could cut down on the time it would take her to get home by months. 

But it could still be a trap as well. So she took as many precautions as possible, rendering herself undetectable with multiple spells that she had stored up for emergencies. Then she moved that way, the converted monsters spreading out. Some moved ahead, while others trailed behind. 

As one further deterrent against possible attack, Elisabet triggered her decoy spell. It manifested a fake copy of herself up ahead that was fully visible and would draw any attention. If this was some kind of ambush, they could jump the decoy instead. She could also switch locations with the decoy at any point, appearing where it was and vice versa. 

Only once she was fully satisfied that she had taken as much care as possible to avoid potential devastating consequences for investigating this new energy, did Elisabet pick up speed on her way toward it. 

Five minutes later, she arrived. Crouching on the edge of a sand dune, she peered down below. Ground zero of that transportation magic was right there. At first, she saw nothing but some scattered rocks. It looked like a large boulder had exploded. The energy reading from her enchanted stone was off the charts.

So where was the army? Where was anyone? They had to be here, unless they had already moved out in the completely opposite direction from where she had come. Which would be rather useful for her own purposes, but she didn’t want to think she was that lucky. That was entirely too naïve. 

Wait, there. A figure was picking its way out of the sand where it had been partially buried. Humanoid, but too covered in dust, dirt, and sand to really identify. It also set off Elisabet’s Stranger sense, somewhat. 

It was also the only one. A quick scan of the area with her own non-Committee powers confirmed that. This figure was the only one in the area. So why had they used so much power to get there? 

They weren’t Fomorian, that much was clear.  The response from the Stranger sense was entirely too mild for that. This was an Alter, but not an extremely powerful or dangerous one.

It was also… throwing up. The figure literally turned over onto its hands and knees and lost its most recent meal. Which did a lot to convince Elisabet that this wasn’t some kind of trap. Looking around once more, she rose and slowly descended, while leaving her decoy up on the ridge for the moment. If this turned out to be dangerous, she could switch places with it and escape. 

The figure noticed her approach, quickly scrambling to its feet. 

Her feet. The figure was female, with teal skin and white hair underneath all that sand and dirt. 

“Elisabet?” she blurted. “You’re Elisabet, right?”

Pausing, the Spanish woman slowly demanded, “Who are you? How do you know my name? What do you want?”

The young girl, a Nereid, Elisabet realized, drew herself up. “It’s okay, I’m here to help you get home. 

“My name is Dexamene. Nicholas Petan and Flick sent me from the future.” 

Author’s Note: The most relevant chapter to understand a bit more of what just happened at the end there is Interlude 15 which was posted three years ago. 

Previous Chapter                             Next Chapter

Summer Epilogue 15 – Elisabet (Heretical Edge)

Previous Chapter                                          Next Chapter

“So, you’re saying this… supercomputer… thing calls itself Maestro, and he created you to serve as a guide or babysitter of sorts to ensure that I didn’t allow things to get out of hand given my relationship with Jophiel?”

Once again, Elisabet had been left behind in the private offices that she and Jophiel jointly used, while the woman she loved so much had gone to have certain discussions with Cahethal. And once again, her secret mind duplicate who called herself Gemini had appeared to run through her tests. 

“And now we’ve been through it three thousand seven hundred and twenty three times,” Gemini teased before adding, “Damn, I’m getting good at streamlining this. So, what do you say we go through the list and make sure everything is still above board and hunky dory, then you can get on with your day?”

Elisabet’s mouth opened to reply, just as a word written in what looked like blue flames appeared in the air above Gemini’s head. Liar, it read. 

Blinking at her clear distraction, the projection of her younger ‘twin’ turned to look up. From her reaction, she clearly didn’t see the word that was still hovering there. She frowned, looking back toward Elisabet. “I know this is still a lot to take in, especially since I keep erasing your memory, but—”

The word had changed. Now it read, Festemuelkan. 

Without quite knowing why she was doing so, Elisabet interrupted Gemini by blurting out that word. Somehow, the correct pronunciation jumped right to her head, along with exactly how much power she needed to put into it. Because it was a spell. How she knew the word, how she knew it was a spell, how she knew any of this, and where the word had appeared from, she had no idea. Nor could she explain exactly why she had simply blurted it out. 

What she did know was that the moment the word left her mouth, a pale yellow forcefield of some kind abruptly sprang into existence around her. It was only a few feet wide, and looked weak enough to fall apart at a firm touch. Yet she could sense an indescribably enormous amount of power behind it. This forcefield would take someone of even her own power a good ten minutes to break through. 

Gemini, for her part, looked completely taken aback, simply staring at the forcefield with an open mouth. It was almost amusing. Or it would have been, if Elisabet herself hadn’t been just as confused. 

“Where—” Gemini started before suddenly lunging that way. Her hand smacked against the force field, colliding with it before stopping as the defensive shield held even against her. “Where did you learn a Kortean mind-level shield? And how did you keep it from me?”

Before Elisabet could answer, she saw more blazing words appear in the air. To most, they would have looked like complete nonsense. But she recognized it as a sort of truth spell. A bit of magic that would force the person subjected to it to answer absolutely truthfully. Its weakness was that it could be counterspelled. But, if the subject couldn’t use magic for whatever reason…

“Hey,” Gemini spoke up, “I don’t know what kind of trick Jophiel’s managed to leave in your head, but you need to stop. I can’t get back to you. Take down the shield. I can’t reach you from here. I can’t do anything. We knew you couldn’t really trust the Seosten. That’s why I’m here, remember? Take down the shield and then we’ll figure out what happened.”

Instead, Elisabet spoke the truth spell. She had no idea whether this really was something from Jophiel or from something else, but she did know that it felt right. 

“Wait,” Gemini started, “what are you trying t—”

More words appeared in the air.  These weren’t any spell, but Elisabet spoke them aloud anyway. “Are you really here to protect me from Jophiel going too far or enslaving me again?”

Her younger-looking mind twin pursed her lips briefly before exhaling. “This won’t do you any good, you know. You’ll forget all of this soon enough anyway. But fine, no. I am not here to protect you.” The words came out mockingly, Gemini’s tone and behavior having changed drastically under the new situation, like a mask had been ripped off. 

Elisabet didn’t need the prompting of new words to ask the next question. “Why are you here?”

Again, there was a brief pause before Gemini rolled her eyes and answered. “Why am I here? I’m here to use you to control Jophiel. Well, more to manipulate, for now.”

Squinting at the image of her younger self, Elisabet demanded, “What are you talking about?”

Sighing dramatically, Gemini waved a hand dismissively. “Right, maybe we should start at the beginning so you can keep up. First of all, the story about the lost ship? That’s true. You did go to that ship with Jophiel for new powers. You did get trapped, and she did go to get help before life-support ran out. Hell, you even met someone named Maestro. But the details there are a little different.”

She went silent for a moment, walking back-and-forth in front of the forcefield as though gauging how strong it was. Finally, she sighed and continued. “Maestro needs a powerful Seosten to do some things for him eventually. Things they’d never do on their own. His chance for that came when he met you, and found out about your relationship with Jophiel. He put me into your head, and I’ve been using that to worm my way into hers so I can take control whenever I need to. It took a long time to do it without being noticed. I had to be so careful, so subtle. Especially given everything I had to do to you to make it fit.”

Elisabet’s instinct was to reach out for her connection with Jophiel. But she couldn’t do that with the shield up this way. It cut her off from everything in the outside world, including her beloved. And if she took it down, Gemini would be able to jump right back into her. 

So, she instead demanded, “What did you do to me?”

Gemini’s answer was blunt. “Rewrote you. Memories, thoughts, personality in general. Not overtly at first, but more as time went on and I got better at making sure you and Jophiel didn’t notice any changes… well, I nudged a bit more.” 

She smiled while continuing, clearly enjoying explaining herself, “I mean, first of all, you were a little too accepting of the whole ‘Seosten enslave everyone for their own good’ thing. I mean, you grew up in the time of the Spanish ‘colonizing’ the Americas. The idea of a more powerful, more advanced people taking a firm hand over the savages and raising them up? Come on, that fit in your worldview perfectly. Unfortunately, Maestro needed you to be closer to the human side of things, more sympathetic to the slaves. Or, more to the point, he needed you to like the Seosten in general less than you did. He needed you to be a bit more ready to side with the humans.”

Elisabet’s head shook as she demanded, “Why?” 

With a low chuckle, Gemini replied, “Because that allowed me to start sowing some doubts through you into Jophiel. Which will make her easier to control when the time comes. Not that you should be complaining. I mean, would you believe that to pull this off we had to make you nicer than you actually are? Like I said, we had to make this change gradual so Jophiel wouldn’t notice what was going on until we had enough control to adjust her memories too. But if the new you saw the old you, you probably wouldn’t even recognize her. Or you. Whatever. The point is, you were all in on this ‘enslave for the greater good’ thing. Except you wanted to be a little more open about it. You were trying to convince her that the Seosten should do away with the whole Bystander Effect thing and just openly control humanity. Teach them to reach their potential, yada yada. You were convinced that your people would thrive and be raised up to eventually stand equal with the Seosten if Jophiel and her people acted openly. Which didn’t really work for Maestro. He needed all of you to be a lot more subtle than that. That’s the other reason he needed you to be… adjusted a little. It’s been a long road, let me tell you. But worth it. Especially since it lets me reach into Jophiel’s head now and then and… adjust her. Sometimes I do it just for fun, like taking pointless little shots at Lancelot back when you met. You know, those little verbal attacks that did nothing except make the situation more tense? It’s a good way of testing just how much control I have.”

Exhaling, Gemini actually smiled, her eyes watching the expression on Elisabet’s face. “It’s kind of fun actually explaining all that for once, you know? Especially since there’s nothing you can do about it. The second that shield goes down, I’ll be back in your head. And you can’t contact anyone while it’s up. Maybe I’ll do this again another time. Seeing that look on your face is worth it.”

She frowned then, as a thought clearly occurred to her. “Even if I’m still not sure how you pulled this off. I’ll find out when I’m back in your head. Whatever kind of oversight that was, I’ll fix it.”

For the first time in several minutes, more flaming words appeared above Gemini’s head. Raising her eyes to read them silently, Elisabet realized that she had no idea what these ones did. They were a spell of some kind, but of what, she had no idea. 

On the other hand, whoever her mysterious benefactor in all this was, they had yet to steer her wrong. So, taking a breath, she spoke the words. 

There was an immediate reaction from her mental twin. Elisabet may not have known what the spell did, but Gemini certainly did. Her eyes widened, and she immediately went back to trying to break through the shield. “No! Stop it!  You’re endangering both of us! You’re going to kill yourself! You—”

Elisabet didn’t hear anymore. Her ears were filled with a deafening loud buzzing sound as she fell to her knees, clutching her head. It was the worst pain she could ever imagine, and it seemed to go on and on. Only belatedly did she realize that she was screaming at the top of her lungs, her shrill, terrified and agony-filled cry filling the room. Gradually, her vision went dark, and she collapsed. 

A few, long seconds of silence passed before the woman abruptly jerked up right, sucking in a long gasp of air. Her eyes were wide as she stared at the ceiling while panting heavily. 

“Well,” Gemini started in a low voice, “you managed not to kill yourself. Congratulations, I suppose.”

Ignoring her for a moment, Elisabet took another deep breath and looked down at her hands, turning them over both ways before smiling just a little. “Si, I survived. And now I remember.”

Gemini rolled her eyes. “Not surprising, considering what you’ve just used was a hidden consciousness spell.”

A hidden consciousness spell was a way of blocking off and hiding entire segments of one’s memories or thoughts. There were several uses for it, including enabling one to lie successfully by blocking off the incriminating knowledge with a note to oneself to use the spell later, or even as a way of blocking off addictions or inappropriate behavior. The spell could only be used by the person it was targeting, and would not work at all if it was being forced. So it had to be consensual. 

The downside of the spell was the pain associated with unlocking that part of the mind once more. It was usually only a brief flash of headache that lasted for a second or two when the mind lock was undone within a year. Most were undone within a few days at most. No one kept a mind lock going for longer than a decade and then risked undoing it. But this one… the only time it could possibly have been made was…

“Before Maestro put me into your head,” Gemini realized. “You prepped a mind lock spell to shove your memories away, to hide them. Memories of how to restore yourself, how to… reboot, so to speak.”

Elisabet slowly pushed herself up to a standing position, meeting the eyes of her mental clone through the shield. “Yes. I left myself instructions about how to protect myself from you and how to restore my real memories and thoughts. I did not have a lot of time, as you know. All I could do was set it to trigger at a time when you were out of my body, and your… Maestro was close to his goal.”

Her eyes narrowed. “It’s the hybrid children.  Something about them meeting with the Seraphim. It’s a trap of some kind. Maestro wants to use the children to destroy the Seraphim.” She paused, head tilting. “No, not destroy…” 

Gemini waved a hand dismissively once more. “It hardly matters. As I said, you can figure out all you like in there, but you have no way of contacting anyone. And the instant that shield goes down, I am going to erase it from your mind. This entire endeavor was useless. You can do nothing to stop the Maestro AI from completing his goal.”

“You forget,” Elisabet sharply reminded her, “I remember things now. Including what happened back on that ship. I know he’s not an AI. And neither are you.” She pointed to herself. “This thing in my neck, it’s not a computer. There may be electrical and magical components in it to keep it hidden, but the main part of it is not a computer. You are not an artificial intelligence and neither is Maestro. 

“He’s a hybrid. A hybrid of a Fomorian and the Seosten who was once known as Zadkiel.”

Gemini gave a slow, soft clap while shrugging. “Goodie for you. Yeah, he goes by a few names. Maestro is one. His… brother of sorts calls himself Grandfather, so he sometimes goes by Godfather. God. It’s appropriate, don’t you think?”

“He’s the one who trapped me on that ship,” Elisabet murmured. “He was chasing me after Jophiel left to get help. I knew he would catch me. I knew I didn’t stand a chance. So I set this up to give myself another try when I was stronger. That was another reason why I deleted it until now. Because I had to believe that I was strong enough to defend myself from whatever he did to me. Strong enough to defend myself from you.”

With a soft snort, Gemini raised an eyebrow. “Well, you kind of screwed yourself on that one, didn’t you? By my count, that shield of yours is going to last about another minute, at most. Then all of this goes away and you’re back to being a nice little puppet.”

Meeting her gaze evenly, Elisabet replied, “That’s the thing. You see, that reset didn’t just restore my memory. It also removed my little prohibition against hurting the little sack of wires and Fomorian biotech stuck to my neck.” She smiled dangerously. “I can hurt you.”

With wide eyes, Gemini blurted out something that seemed midway between a threat and a plea. But Elisabet was already raising her hand. A blade made of electricity that crackled with power appeared. As the protective shield preventing Gemini from taking control again flickered and vanished, Elisabet stabbed that electrical blade into the base of her neck. Both she and Gemini screamed, the sound once more deafening within the room as dozens of books, tables, chairs, glasses, paintings, and everything else was hurled in every direction as though a tornado had struck it. Ice, fire, and more whipped throughout the room, burning, freezing, and generally destroying everything it touched. 

At the last instant, Elisabet felt a sudden rush of movement. The world spun around her, leaving the woman dizzy in a way she had not been in many years. Darkness enveloped her vision, as her senses of direction, orientation, time, and everything else were sharply cut. In the end, she blacked out, her last thought being a hope that she had actually managed to destroy the thing inside her. Because she wouldn’t get another chance. 

*******

She was lying on sand. Eyes opening, Elisabet once more found herself staring into the face of her younger self. 

And then the image flickered, disappearing entirely for a second before returning. Gemini scowled at her. “Congratulations, murderer, I’m dying.”

“Not fast enough,” Elisabet retorted. 

The scowl on the other her’s face brightened somewhat. “You’re right. Before you managed to cut me out entirely, I had a couple seconds. That might not be much for most people, but for me it was enough.”

“It would’ve been an eternity if you were actually a computer,” Elisabet couldn’t help but goad while looking around. She was trying to orient herself. Where was she? All she could see was desert in every direction.

The image of Gemini flickered again before stabilizing somewhat. “As I was saying, I had a few seconds. You killed me? Well I fucked you over too. See, I had centuries to build spells into you, carved into your actual bones. And now that I’ve used them, they’ll be active until I turn them off. Which, given I’m about to die, I guess will be never.”

Elisabet slowly stood up, watching the rapidly flickering and fading image. “What spells?” Even as she spoke, the woman focused on contacting Jophiel. When that failed, she held her hand up to create a portal. That too failed. 

“Not gonna work,” Gemini taunted. “See, those spells I was talking about? One of them blocks you from any contact with Jophiel. She can’t sense you properly, she can’t come to you, she has no idea where you are. As far as she’s concerned, you’re alive but she has no idea where. And another of the other spells, it shuts down your connection to the Committee. They can’t sense you either. And you can’t use any of the Committee powers. Nor can you use any transportation powers. I’ve shut those down too. It was supposed to be a way of trapping you for Maestro when the time came, but this is good enough.”

Slowly looking around the desert before returning her attention to the image of Gemini, which had faded almost to the point of being invisible, Elisabet noted, “Shall I just assume you’ve sent me further away than the Sahara then?”

Gemini gave her one last smile, her mouth being the most visible part of her nearly completely vanished form. “Welcome to Aiken’te’vel, the Meregan homeworld.”

Raising an eyebrow, Elisabet noted, “I already know there are ways back to Earth from here.”

Gemini had faded completely by then, only her voice remaining. “Of course, but the question is, can you find the way back before they find you?”

Elisabet started to ask who they were, only to look up and see a familiar and incredibly chilling sight. Swarms of Fomorian bioships were descending toward the planet, so many that they blocked out the sky. 

“Fomorians have been looking for a way back to earth for decades,” Gemini’s fading voice informed her. “This happens to be an alternate Earth, in another reality. And would you believe they’ve detected humans here recently?  They’re quite interested, let me tell you. I would imagine they’ll scour every inch of this planet. And they’ll be very curious when they detect you. I imagine you’ll be quite the fun little rabbit to chase, especially without the Committee link or any transportation powers.”

Her last words before fading from Elisabet’s mind entirely as the Fomorian ships descended were a mockingly sweet,  “Good luck, murderer.

“You’re going to need it.”

Previous Chapter                                          Next Chapter