Reception 13-07 (Heretical Edge 2)

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A/N – The monthly non-canon chapters were posted over the weekend! You can find the chapter for Heretical Edge right here

Of course, I couldn’t exactly just say a few words and magically make Motzer’s ghost appear in front of us. Well, maybe a more experienced necromancer could have, but I wasn’t quite to that level, even with the boost from having the powers from two different absurdly powerful practitioners. I had gotten better at sensing and controlling ghosts and the like, and at being much less uncomfortable doing so. But I didn’t have as much experience pulling a specific person back. I had all the power I needed, but it took more than pure oomph. You needed to direct the power correctly. Basically, if I could lock onto his ghost, I could easily pull him back. But I needed to know where and how to direct it. It didn’t matter how huge the gun you were holding was if you had no idea where to point it. 

Thankfully, we did have a few advantages on that front. First, we knew exactly where the man had died. Not to mention the fact that it had been so recent. For lack of a better term, his death energy was still very prevalent. And on top of that, we had both the instrument that had essentially killed him, and the person responsible. Theia and her knife, that was. I wasn’t exactly sure how her using the injury reflection power with the knife affected the need for the murder weapon, but it certainly couldn’t hurt to have it.

We had all those advantages. It hasn’t even been a day since he was killed, we knew the exact location, the exact method, we had his killer and the weapon used to do it, all of that. And yet, I still felt nervous about my ability to do this properly. Maybe because Doug was really depending on me to answer these questions for him. After everything the boy had helped me with and been through, I felt like I owed him this at the very least. He deserved real answers. I knew just how much the whole Whispers thing meant to him, after what happened to his family and the rest of the colony. So, I wanted to do this right.

We also had one more advantage in our corner. Specifically, the fact that Persephone was basically one of the biggest experts on Necromancy in existence. She knew exactly how to do what we wanted to do, and how to help me. 

So, playing dual roles of both teacher and cheerleader, the Revenant talked me through what needed to be done. First, however, we let the adults know what was going on and then made our way back to the bridge, where I carefully inscribed all of the runes exactly the way Persephone explained, with more than a little help from the others.

Andromeda was helpful too, providing her own advice. As I was putting minute feather details on one of the spell pieces, she explained through the nearby console, “Think of these runes as a sort of… I believe your people would call them training wheels. A more experienced necromancer with your level of power would not need them. They help guide and direct the aim of your power. With enough practice, you will learn to do that yourself, and to differentiate different peoples’ life energy correctly.”

Persephone bobbed her head excitedly. “Exactly, all you need is practice. You’re really strong, but you can’t neglect your training.” She said that sternly, giving a firm look my way. 

Sounding slightly amused, Avalon mused, “You know, I think I’m going to like her being around.”

Snorting unthinkingly, I retorted. “You would, someone else to help you crack the whip.”

Persephone, of course, brightened. “You play with whips? I didn’t expect—”

Red-faced as I pointedly ignored Doug in the corner covering his mouth trying to contain his snickers, I blurted, “Nope! Nope, nope, no. We are not talking about that. Something completely different. Never mind, just erase it, it never happened. No one said anything and I swear to god if you guys don’t completely erase it from your memories, I’ll hurt you.”

“Ah,” Theia noted, “so she’s the one with the whip.”

Covering my face while everyone snickered, I let out a long, heavy sigh before pushing on. “Anyway, practice. Yeah, that’s what Brom Bones always says.”

To my surprise, Persephone audibly gasped and faced me. “You know Brom Bones? The head-adjacent one?”

“I, uhh, I think he goes by headless one,” I pointed out. “But yeah, he’s sort of my Necromancy teacher back at the Fusion school. Why, do you know him?” 

Huffing a bit, the white-haired woman objected, “Well headless hardly makes sense. He has his head, it’s just not on his shoulders. If I put a knife in my pocket, I wouldn’t be a knifeless one.” Shaking her head at the strangeness of that, she added, “And of course I know him. My Mannikuns sent me to talk to him to find out what he knew about the woman who did that to him. It wasn’t very much. But he was fun, and we had some adventures while I was learning from him. We even went on a boat together.” She announced that last part proudly. “A boat on the water. It was fun. Especially when the sailors got really excited after they saw him hold his head in his hands. They played gangplank with us. It’s sort of like airlock, only you end up in the water instead of in space. Then we got to swim and find another ship. That was fun too, except they shot things at us, so we had to make them stop. They took us back to land after we asked them, though. We just had to promise to give their guns back. But, I guess that was fair. The guns did belong to them, after all.”

Yeah, I was definitely going to have to ask Brom himself for his version of all that. Shaking my head, I managed, “Well, it sounds like you had an interesting time. Maybe he’ll want to see you again once we go back to the station.”

Persephone was smiling brightly at that suggestion. “Oh, I hope so. He was so much fun. We played a game with his head where you had to make it go in a fruit basket. We showed it to that Naismith man, and he really liked it. Except for the head part. He said they’d have to use something else. I guess it’s hard to find durable heads that can bounce like that.”

From where she was standing, Shiori blurted, “Naismith, the guy who invented… oh. Ohhhh. Boy am I gonna kill at sports trivia night.”

There was so much to unpack with that whole thing, I didn’t even know where to start. So, I didn’t. Instead, I focused on getting the rest of the spell set up. It took another ten minutes, with everyone working together. At one point, Dare checked in through a communication spell to ask if we were doing okay, and I let her know we were close to getting some answers. She said not to push it too much, and to be careful. I promised we would, before turning my attention back to the others. “Well, how does it look?” While saying that, I turned in a circle to take in the full appearance of the part of the bridge where the man had died. There were intricate runes in an expanding circular design spreading out from that spot and taking up about a quarter of the actual bridge itself. The spells essentially amounted to a combination of channeling/directing death energy to a specific spot, and funneling out anything that wasn’t the actual life we needed. I needed to focus pretty intently on exactly which energy to pull, and which to discard. Which meant standing in the middle of that spell and sensing the most recent death. And that was bound to be a fun time. 

“I’m pretty sure it’s ready,” Doug noted, brushing off his hands as he stepped away from the rune on one of the consoles he had just finished drawing under the scrutiny of Andromeda, who had been watching through the bridge cameras and offering advice. 

“Indeed,” the AI herself agreed. “The physical components of the spell are as good as they are ever going to get without far more time and effort than is either necessary or advised.”

Avalon put her hand on my shoulder. “I think what she’s saying is that it’s up to you now.”

Coughing, I shrugged both shoulders. “Thanks, I guess.” With that, I took a deep breath before moving to the center of the runes. I was standing on the exact spot where the man had died only a short time earlier. Which wasn’t at all creepy, no sir. I was doing just fine.

“You can do it, Flick!” Persephone had turned back into cheerleader mode, clapping as she bounced up and down excitedly. “Everyone watch, this is going to be really fun. Do we have any peanuts? I quite like the Earth peanuts.”

My mouth opened to say that she was out of luck, but to my surprise, Shiori reached into a small bag at her waist. It was obviously bigger on the inside, because half her arm disappeared into it while the girl rooted around for a moment before she came back out with a bag of roasted peanuts. She didn’t say anything at all, simply opening the bag and offering the end to Persephone, who took a handful and began to shell and eat them enthusiastically. 

Shaking that off, I closed my eyes and tried to focus on what I was actually supposed to be doing. Namely, summoning the spirit of the dead pirate captain, who could hopefully tell us something about why there were magic anti-Whisper/Seosten runes all over this random ship. 

Keeping that thought in mind, I closed my eyes and put both hands out. My fingers found two specific runes that had been drawn for this purpose, as I focused on feeling my own power, my own magical energy. It was a lot like channeling energy into any other spell, it was just that mine could be used for Necromantic spells without needing to be converted into Necromantic energy first, like most other people had to before they could use it that way. 

Slowly, I began to push my own power into the spell to power it. I could feel the runes beginning to warm up, giving off a… it was hard to describe in any way other than ‘cold heat’, but that’s what it was. It was cold, yet hot at the same time in a way that only magic could manage. Which may have been a bit confusing, but then, so was the entire situation. In any case, the runes began to warm up/cool down as I pushed more and more power into them. I had to be careful, filling the right runes at the right moment, without getting ahead of myself or rushing things. Every part of the spell had to have the right amount of energy at the right time, in order for the whole thing to help me get Motzer back here while avoiding any other spirit. And, given this was a pirate ship that had been stolen, I was pretty sure there were a lot of potential angry spirits waiting to be pulled back here. And quite frankly, playing the game of ‘grab the wrong one, shove it back and grab another’ didn’t sound very fun. 

So, I focused on doing what Persephone (and Brom Bones whenever he’d mentioned this sort of thing) had explained. I put the image of Motzer in my head. I focused on what his voice had sounded like, what he smelled like, what sort of words he used, everything I could remember that had anything to do with the man. I put everything about him right at the front of my mind and focused on that to the point of obsession. With my hands still touching those two runes, I channeled power through the spell while actively putting Captain Motzer in my mind. I was even repeatedly thinking his name, calling out to him mentally.  I focused everything I had on what I could remember about this one man I had only met for a few minutes.

Gradually, it started to work. I could feel the power that I was putting out start to take a distinct shape. It was, as far as it has been explained to me, essentially manipulating my own Necromantic magical energy to be a fairly close approximation of Motzer’s own life energy. Doing so correctly would essentially pull the actual remnants of his energy back and allow it to form a ghost. Again, a ghost was not actually the person’s spirit. It was the impression their magical signature, personality, and mind left within the universe after their death. Sort of like a permanent mold of who they were or whatever. When a person died, they left an impression that could be filled in using the right magical energy. Basically, when you got right down to it, I was very carefully finding the exact edges of where that personality impression was, strengthening it a bit, and giving it the energy it needed to allow his ‘ghost’ to manifest. Yeah, it was pretty complicated. 

Eventually, I was supposed to be able to do all of this without all the prep work or help. An experienced Necromancer could just point and find these signatures before filling them up with a thought. They knew exactly how much energy to fill the spirit ‘balloons’ with and could make them appear just like that. Fossor, of course, had been capable of doing entire swarms of ghosts at once, simply snapping his fingers to conjure and pull together thousands upon thousands of spirits to do his bidding. Obviously, I wasn’t anywhere near that good yet. I had the raw power and plenty of other head starts, but it took more skill.

In this case, even with the help I had, it took me about ten minutes before I got real results. Granted, part of that was because I was being very cautious to make sure I was shaping the correct ghost. Not to mention trying not to break the ‘shell’ of energy I was creating for it. It was basically the necromancy equivalent of trying to walk very carefully with a full bucket of water to avoid spilling it. 

Finally, I felt the ghost start to form on its own. I had guided it as much as needed, and the thing began to take shape without my help. Just like that, within thirty seconds, there was a soft popping sound and the ghostly figure of the old captain suddenly appeared right in front of me. He was between where I stood and where the others were. He was somewhat translucent, so I could see everyone jump a bit as my eyes opened to look that way. Whoops. He’d appeared before I could warn anyone that it was about to happen. I wasn’t prepared for just how fast it had happened once I got over the metaphorical hump. Like pushing a heavy wagon up a hill and then losing control of it as it careened down the other side. Suddenly, he was just right there. 

“What–where–huh?” Motzer’s ghost jerked, twisting around in a circle before cursing, “Why in the seven darkfells did you people drag me in here? Now you suddenly need something? How long has it even been since you killed me, a month?” 

Speaking cheerfully, Theia replied, “Maybe three hours? Has it been three hours? I don’t have a watch. I have a hat!” She pointed to it with both hands. “But it doesn’t tell time.”  

“Her–you bring her back?!” Motzer was not happy. He gestured that way, his voice a snarl. “You couldn’t even tell the bitch that killed me to stay out of the room while you came begging for help? What kind of pleglin shit is this? And what exactly did she mean it’s only been three hours? Are you seriously telling me that you killed me and then came back to ask for help with something in less time than it takes my kids to put together a daensneal puzzle? I don’t know whether to taunt you all about being incompetent, or weep that you were the ones who killed me. And I swear to everything that dwells in the web of empty faith, If you really did just bring me back here to toy with, I will find a way to poltergeist every last one of you, so help me.” 

Aside from that one bit from Theia, everyone else was being quiet and letting me handle the situation. Even Persephone simply stood there eating peanuts while looking back and forth between Motzer and me. She clearly wanted to see what I would do. And, presumably, how it differed from Manakel. Avalon gave me a simple nod, but remained as silent as the others.  

So, taking a breath, I spoke while reaching out with the power I could still feel connecting me to the ghost. “Hey, how about you take a… okay, not a breath. But cool it for a minute and we’ll tell you why we brought you here. And maybe you’ll even get something out of it.” 

His large figure pivoted to face me. Alive, he had been intimidating. He should have been even more so as a ghost, but considering I was the one keeping him present, his size lost a lot of its oomph. He was absolutely no threat to me in any way. It was like a man trying to intimidate you while hanging off the edge of a cliff with you as the only thing stopping him from falling. If I didn’t want him to be here, a single thought would make him disappear. 

“Get something out of it?” the man echoed in a rumbling, dangerous voice. I could feel him stretching just a little bit against my power. It didn’t really feel like he was trying to break it or hurt anyone. I had the feeling he knew as well as I did that there was no point of that. Without the tether I was holding onto, he would essentially turn into a balloon with a hole in it and go spraying out all over the room before popping out of existence. No, he definitely wasn’t trying to break my hold. He was simply testing it a bit, probably reflexively. I could feel the anger rolling off of him, anger and something like regret. But the latter was buried deep. 

“Don’t you dare try to sell me with some claim that you can bring me back,” he snarled at me. “I’ve been around the universe a lot longer than you and all your friends here put together have been alive, little girl. Believe it or not, I know how this shit goes. You don’t have anything that could stick me back in a living body. You can’t toy with me like that. It doesn’t work that way. Never has, never will.” 

My head shook. “You’re right, it doesn’t work that way. And that’s not what I was going to say. I can’t undo what happened. I can’t bring you back to life. But I think I can at least take your spirit and release it wherever you like. If you have a home planet, or even just a favorite place. And… and you said you have children. I can take you to your family and let you say whatever you need to say to them before you disappear. I can give you and them closure. All you have to do is answer some questions.” 

For a long few seconds, the man just stared at me. It felt as though he was trying to look through me, trying to gauge just how serious and real I was being about all that, or if I was messing with him somehow. Through it all, I continued to meet his gaze.  

Finally, he heaved a sigh. “Yeah, I’ve got what your people would call a family plot on a new moon, near an old cabin where my brood grew up. They’ve all moved on now, got their own broods and most of them are grown, or damn near it. But it’s still the best… closest thing to something linked to good times. You swear you’ll take my spirit there and release it, and tell my people what I want them to hear, then I’ll answer whatever questions you got.” 

I gave him my word, and I felt him once again stretching his own energy out toward me. He seemed to be deciding just how much he could trust what I was saying. In the end, he agreed. “Okay,” the man half-growled in a way that made it clear he still wasn’t exactly happy with any of us, “tell me what you wanna know.” 

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Commissioned Interlude 9 – Persephone (Heretical Edge 2)

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Against the backdrop of stars far different from any that could be seen from the surface of Earth, a spaceship drifted along on low engines. The ship was a moderately large freighter, shaped essentially like what someone from Earth would know as a sperm whale. The vast majority of its nearly two mile long size was devoted to carrying supplies from the Seosten strongholds out to various frontlines of their war against the Fomorians. 

At least, that was what the ship had originally been meant for. In recent years, it had been commandeered by pirates. Now most of its interior held the various camps they had set up. What had once been a single enormous, open cargo bay had been sectioned off with various bits of makeshift walls, fences, even bits of hung curtains, to create places for each pirate and their closest companions and trusted allies to sleep and live together. Over a mile and three quarters worth of storage space transformed into a ragtag city. A city that moved through space, ransacking whatever worthwhile target they came across. Though, at the moment, there were no targets. The ship, previously known as the Seneia but redubbed Quietus by its new owners, currently had its coffers full from several recent jobs. Its occupants were enjoying the fruits of their labors. Which, in that case, meant partying from dawn to dusk. And considering there was no dawn or dusk in deep space, that amounted to near-constant celebration. There were areas cordoned off for sleeping, with active privacy spells for those who wanted to escape the almost deafening cheers, music, and rambunctious fighting to get some sleep. Others simply fell where they were, too drunk or too tired to be bothered by the ongoing parties around them. 

Of course, even a ship far away from any threats, on no particular current mission, with a load of treasure and blind drunk revelers had to have an actual (mostly) sober crew on duty. Everyone had a chance to celebrate, but the captain was firm that if it was your shift, you used whatever magic or potion needed to be coherent and alert, and you did your job properly. If not, you’d get tossed out the airlock. There were no second chances. Not aboard the Quietus

At the moment, two of those totally sober and alert crew members were in the collections chamber. It was a room located around the bottom front of the ship, around where the whale’s mouth would be. The chamber was semicircular in shape, with three duty stations, each overlooking a different magically reinforced window. Through those windows were three different enormous bare rooms, each large enough to park several Earth garbage trucks inside of. 

The central duty station was empty, with the two on-duty pirates faced away from one another, entertaining themselves (and keeping each other awake to avoid the wrath of Captain Motzer) with various stories and tall tales. Each was obviously making up the vast majority of their claims. Which was the point, of course. They knew the stories weren’t real. The goal was to be entertaining, not realistic. 

At the right-hand station sat a male Guhlben, a ten-foot-tall, monstrously overweight humanoid figure. His name, or the one the others called him, in any case, was Pocker. As with all chairs aboard modern multi-species vessels, Pocker’s seat grew automatically to match his size. Even then, rotund as he was (even more than usual for his species), the man dwarfed his chair to an almost comical degree. 

His companion was Qif, a female Bebarlang. They were a humanoid species that fed off of psychic energy from those they had touched recently. Most nourished themselves by giving harsh nightmares to those they had marked with their touch, as the terror made that energy so much tastier. 

The two pirates would have gone on for hours further, constantly one-upping each other with their tall tales, had it not been for a single, unmistakable beep from Pocker the Guhlben’s computer. The instant that sound came, accompanied by a light that popped into existence in the top right corner of the holographic screen, both of them went completely silent. 

“What?” Qif demanded, pushing away from her own duty station to move next to her massive crewmate. “What the void did the scanner pick up all the way out here?” 

Hitting a few buttons on his oversized console, Pocker shook his head. “Looks like a body.” He grunted thoughtfully, hit another button, and grimaced. “Seosten body.” 

“A Seosten body, out here in the middle of nowhere?” Qif made a face. “What do you think, teleportation mishap? You see any debris from an explosion or anything? What do the scanners say about magic signatures?” 

Pocker was already reaching out to hit the button for the intercom to the bridge. “Nothing, just the body.” He called it up to the captain, assuring the man that the body floating out there in space was definitely dead. There were no signs of life. Which only made sense, considering it had no real protective gear. Nothing aside from a standard Seosten bodysuit, red colored. The suits could protect their wearers in space for a short time, but not this long. Certainly not for long enough to be floating around in the middle of nowhere like this with no sign of how they’d gotten there. The scanners couldn’t detect any sign of debris or transportation energy that could explain the body’s presence. By all indications, it had simply drifted out here from someplace much further away. 

After a brief pause for consideration, Captain Motzer told them to haul the body in. There was always a chance that a Seosten corpse could have something valuable on it. Even the organs of dead ones were worth something to some people. And if nothing else, the Seosten themselves sometimes paid a handsome bounty to be sent back the bodies of their fallen. Particularly if they were someone important. 

Using the controls at his station, Pocker extended one of the smaller mechanical arms from the side of the ship. There were larger ones, used for grasping industrial cargo crates, smaller ships, and the like. These ones were meant for more precise jobs. The hand closed carefully around the body, sensors allowing its controller to avoid ripping through the body in the process. As soon as the corpse was enclosed, a hole in the arm opened up, and the body was sucked through a portal. Simultaneously, an identical portal appeared in the holding room through the window in front of the duty station, and the Seosten corpse tumbled through before lying there. 

The corpse was female. To a human, she would appear to be in her very early twenties. She had deeply tanned skin, a slim figure, and long, snow-white hair. Her eyes were closed, and the entire body was covered in a layer of frost that made it look as though the corpse would shatter under the slightest pressure. It was like a delicate ice sculpture. 

“Right,” Qif started while staring at the body’s frozen face, “Scan the body for parasites, bacteria, anything we don’t want to pull out of th–” 

In mid-sentence, she stopped talking. Because the Bebarlang realized that she was staring into pale green eyes. Pale green eyes that had been closed a moment earlier. The… corpse had opened its eyes and was staring at her. “Wha–” 

The corpse stood up. No, more than that. It bounced to its feet like it had been loaded with springs. A wide smile was stretched across the Seosten woman’s face, as she gave a violent, full-body shake, like an animal getting water off itself. The ice crystals on the not-corpse went flying, while two pirates simply stood in open-mouthed shock at what they were seeing, more frozen than the body that had just been retrieved from open space. 

Snapping out of it relatively quickly, Pocker’s hand lashed out to hit the alarm. But before he could reach it, the formerly dead body in the holding room took a running start. Both Pocker and Qif reflexively jerked backward. But that was pointless, because the window was layered with thin, yet powerful forcefields on either side and the glass itself was reinforced with magic. It was as strong as steel even before those protective forcefields were added. There was no way that a Seosten, even a powerful one boosting as much as possible, could even put a dent in the thing simply by lunging against it. 

And yet, against all logic, the window shattered under the impact of the body slamming into it. Both layers of forcefields flickered and dropped, as shards of glass went flying. The ‘corpse’ landed in the control room, directly in front of the two staggering pirates. 

Straightening, the white-haired figure offered the pair a bright, dazzling smile and an enthusiastic wave. “Hello! I’m glad you finally picked me up, I was getting bored out there! I mean, I have a really good imagination, but you can only talk to yourself for so long before you kinda go a little nuts, you know?! O’course you know! You’re space pirates!” The words came out in a rush, leaving the pair even more stunned than they already were, each reeling backward figuratively and literally.

“You… you can’t be alive,” Qif managed, staring at the figure in front of them. 

“Well, of course not, sillybuns!” came the immediate, brightly cheerful response. “I haven’t exactly been what you’d consider alive for a long time, but that’s never slowed me down before!  Now!” She clapped both hands together. “I’m looking for a crystal. It’s about yea big.” She held her index finger and thumb up in a rough circle shape. “It’s purple near the base, black in the middle, and red along the top. It’s a present for my wonderful, brilliant husband! Oh, he’s just going to be so happy that I finally found it! He asked for it over a hundred years ago, you know. I don’t think he knew just how much of a right bother it was going to be to find that darn thing. Anyway, listen to me, just gabbing your ears off. Gab gab gab! Hah! Well, let’s see, did I describe the crystal? Yes, I did. So, whoooo do we talk to about that? Do you have an official crystal holder? Oooh, does he have a special hat? I hope he has a special hat!” 

Almost to himself, Pocker muttered, “Sounds like the thing on the captain’s scept–” He was interrupted as Qif kicked him. 

“Captain! Of course the captain would have it.” The strange, supposedly dead figure’s smile widened, a bright, exuberant grin. “Let’s talk to him then, I’m sure once I explain just how much my honey bunny needs it, your captain will sell it.” 

“Sell it?” Qif piped up, suddenly intrigued. 

“Well, of course, goofy-goose,” the woman playfully replied. “You see?” Reaching into the pocket of the red bodysuit, she produced a marble-sized orb. “There’s enough energy stored here to fuel this ship of yours for a full year without any other help. That should be a good trade for the crystal.” 

The two pirates exchanged brief glances, before Pocker spoke up. “In that case, let’s go right up and talk to the captain.” 

So, eyes shining with the thought of not having to worry about fuel for a whole year, Pocker and Qif led the strange figure to the bridge. On the way, they attracted several followers, and once they were finally to their destination, there were no less than thirty people surrounding the supposedly-dead woman, counting everyone on the control center itself. As for that bridge, there were two levels to it, and the room was shaped a bit like a rounded triangle, with the higher rear section being where the executive officers stayed. 

Captain Motzer was an enormous figure by human standards. Standing slightly smaller than Pocker at a solid nine feet, he was covered in very fine metallic blue fur, had four arms, and six fur-covered yet insect-like legs in an even circle around his waist. Once Qif explained the situation in a hurried whisper, he and the rest of his assembled crew (those who weren’t still partying in the main living area) all focused on the strange woman. Motzer demanded, “Now who are you, and how aren’t you dead, exactly?” 

“Ohhh, it’s just like I told your little friends there, I am dead. I’ve been so very dead, by your standards, for a long time!” The response was just as bright and happy as everything else the woman had said up to that point. “As for who I am, well, I prefer the name Persephone right now. But maybe if we become friends, you’ll be able to call me Percy! I really hope we can be friends. All I need is that crystal right there.” She pointed to the scepter in one of the captain’s four hands. “Then I’ll give you this, and we can all be happy!” In two fingers, she held the power-filled marble. 

“Yeah… about that…” Motzer smiled, though his version of that expression was far less cheerful. “I kinda like my crystal just where it is. And I want your stone there. So here’s what’s gonna happen. We’re gonna take it from you, then toss you right back out the airlock. If you’re lucky, maybe whatever magic you used to survive out there’ll last until some other ship comes by.” 

“Aww.” Pouting, Persephone lamented, “But I really have to take that crystal. My love nugget wants it sooooo much! And I promised him I’d scour the whole universe until I found it. Like I told your friends, it took a long time! Now I found it! So I’ve just gotta take it to him. I can’t play airlock right now.” 

“Yeah, well…” Motzer drawled, before one of his hands abruptly snapped upward, pointing a pistol. A single shot sent a blindingly powerful blast of energy directly through the woman’s forehead. 

Or rather… against her forehead. The blast, which should have been enough to punch a hole through several feet of solid steel, barely left a singe mark against the woman’s tanned skin. Her head snapped backward, then simply righted once more. Her smile never wavered. 

“Oh, now that’s just all kinds of rude, that is,” she informed them, sounding no more put out than if the captain had made a demeaning gesture toward her.

“The fuck?” Motzer fired several more times, hitting the figure in the head twice more, in the neck, the stomach, and the chest. “What the fuck are–” Then he understood. “Revenant! It’s a void-damned Revenant!”  

None of the new shots accomplished anything more than the first had. Nor did the dozen extra that various confused crew members put into her. And the burst of fire, shot of electricity, and two different acidic gases that were added into the assault were equally useless. 

The attacks finally stopped, revealing that none had accomplished anything. The woman still stood right where she had been, utterly unphased. “I’m sorry,” she informed them brightly, as if they were only having the slightest disagreement. “But I feel like you’re being a bit unfair about all this. I mean, yes, I am a Revenant. But you don’t have to be all dramatic about it.” 

“That–that–how… you… “ Motzer opened and shut his mouth, reeling physically and mentally. “A Revenant possessing a Seosten? You’d run that body out in… in… days!” 

“Well, normally, yes!” came the cheerful response. “Revenants like me burn out the dead bodies we possess really quick, especially ones that use a lot of power. And once we burn out the corpses, they fall apart. And that’s really sad, cuz who wants to walk around with a body that’s falling apart? But I’m lucky! The dead Seosten I found was what they call an Olympian! Actually, I found my husband first. He controls dead things! His name is Manakel, and he is sooooo dreamy. He’s really great. I hope you find someone as smart as him someday. Anyway, he controls dead things so I just had to get to know him. There was a Seosten in their sick bay who was hurt. They couldn’t save her. So, I slipped inside as soon as she went kaput and I’ve been here ever since! It’s been a few thousand years now and we’re still going strong!” 

“Olympian–those… fucking, super-soldier Seosten,” Motzer managed, while a collection of confused voices arose around them. “Those upgrades of theirs. They’re… they’re keeping that body going. It should’ve worn out in a few days of being possessed by a Revenant like you, but the upgrades, they keep the body going.” 

“You got it!” Persephone held her right hand up sideways, back of the hand outward, with her index and middle finger extended and touching while her pinkie, ring finger, and thumb were all curled in against her palm. Then she gave her wrist a quick snap up and down, the whole gesture essentially amounting to what humans would know as a thumbs up. “I’m so glad we’re on the same page now. So, I’ll just take the crystal, and you can think about how you should treat guests in the future. See? It’s all good now.” 

“I told you before, I’m keeping the crystal,” came the growled response. “So I think we’ll see just how much that body can really hold up. Light her up!” 

With that, everyone on the bridge opened up, unleashing everything they had on the woman. None slowed her, as she took several steps forward. Motzer scrambled backward, but one of Persephone’s hands grabbed his nearest leg, yanking him closer with inhuman strength. Her free hand casually caught his extended arm, the one with the scepter, tearing it off with no more effort than one would use to crush an ant under their feet. As the man howled and a panicked frenzy of shots and deadly powers flooded into the woman, she tore the crystal from the scepter, dropped it, and gave a nod of satisfaction when the attacks finally ceased at a frantic wave from the injured captain. “There we are. Now you think about what you did. You don’t deserve being paid for this. It’s what you get for being very bad hosts.” With a firm nod, she pivoted to walk away, paying no attention to the people who had been shooting her. However, before she could reach the doorway, a pleasant chime emerged from her pocket. 

“Whoopsy daisy,” Persephone giggled, staring at the device she had tugged free. “Looks like I had a few missed messages while I was out there. It just connected to your system and…” Trailing off, her head tilted. “My Manakel, he’s dead. He’s gone. A human girl killed him and took his power. Chambers. Felicity Chambers. A girl named Felicity Chambers killed my Manakel and took his power.” 

There was an extended moment of silence so complete that a sweatdrop hitting the floor would almost have been audible. Finally, the snow-haired woman put the device away. “Well! I guess it turns out I can’t leave your ship just yet. I need you to turn this thing around and head to the border so I can go to Rysthael.” She used the Seosten name for Earth.  

“Go to Rysthael, just like that?” Holding an enchanted cloth against the stump of his missing arm that stopped the bleeding, Motzer stammered, “You gonna kill this girl for murdering the guy you loved?” 

“What?” Persephone looked genuinely perplexed for a moment, before her head shook. “Oh, no, no. You don’t understand. He controlled dead things. That was his power. That’s why I loved him, my little smoochie-bear. This… Felicity Chambers, she has that power now. She took it. It’s her power. And I guess that makes me hers too.

“Oooh, I can’t wait to meet her! I bet she’s a better kisser than Manakel.” 

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