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ORPG Original and detailed RPs for the experienced and ambitious RPer.

 
 
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Old 04/22/2012   #16
Alex
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Thetis Alcesteos and Finn Eliot
Spencer Mansion

.oOo.


"And over here we have the door to the kitchen. We aren't really m-meant to use it without s-supervision. But nobody is ever really around to check."

Finn grinned mischievously as she gestured towards the oft used wooden doorway built set into the back of the larger of the mansion facility's two dining rooms.

"T-There's meant to be chefs there all the time. But, um, there hasn't been for a long t-time. I guess that, um, I guess that S-Spencer just doesn't mind us helping ourselves to food whenever we w-want." She looked nervously over her shoulder at Thetis, eager to impress her companion in exchange for her earlier help. The blue-haired girl gingerly pushed the door open and peeked her head around.

"There's no-one there," she turned to the younger Destrillian. "You wanna get something to eat?" It was a rhetorical question. Thetis hadn't eaten since the disasterous incident at dinner the night before. Without waiting for a reply, the blue-haired girl waltzed into the kitchen. It was a place of beauty; filled with stainless steel preparation surfaces, a charcoal oven, two industrial-sized cookers and four fridges taller than the Destrillian herself. "This is awesome!" Thetis exclaimed as she made a beeline for the fridges, flinging each one open with the enthusiasm of a child in a candy shop. Finding nothing to suit her appetite, she moved onto the numerous cupboards that lined the room. Two cupboards in, Thetis claimed her prize; a packet of potato chips. "I couldn't eat this much in a year!" After demolishing half the bag, Thetis offered the chips to Finn, who shook her head at the offer.

"Um, I don't have much of an appetite." She admitted nervously. Spending so much time passively using her power often left her feeling drained and nauseous in the morning.

"A-all the more f-for you though!" Finn added helpfully, pointing Thetis towards one of the large industrial sized freezers at the back of the room. "Spencer always makes sure that that one is alwaysfull of ice cream." The blue-haired girl nearly spat out her chips as she remembered what happened the last time her and Fiona shared an ice-cream sundae. A blush rose to Thetis' cheeks as she recovered.

"I-ice cream is cool."

Finn's grin spread wider. "We can come back and get some later, um, if you w-want. There's still lots more to see." She ushered Thetis out of the well-stocked room and back out into the expansive dining room, noting the way that Thetis bulging pants' pockets rustled with the sound of pilfered bags of crisps.

She led Thetis down elegantly detailed corridors and through elaborately decorated galleries that looked as though each contained a king's ransom in valuable treasures.

"Mister Spencer's wife was a b-bit of a collector." Finn explained, as though that would serve as sufficient answer for Thetis' curious expression.

The two reached a large spiral staircase and descended one floor downwards. The staricase halted at one large double-door, the effigies of two cast iron gladiators adorning the dark woodwork.

"This is the g-gym." Finn grunted as she attempted to forcedopen the heavy set of doors. Noticing her struggle, Thetis quickly intervened. "I-It's where the others go for um, training and s-stuff you know?" The blue-haired girl nodded and held the door open for the younger Destrillian. Smiling her thanks up to the taller girl, Finn let Thetis into the circular gym. A sparring ring sat directly in the centre of the expansive gym, surrounded by a circular running track. Treadmills, rowing machines, cross-trainers, pressing benches, exercise bikes and racks stocked with various weights dotted the perimeter. Punching bags hung in the far right corner, while a row of sparring weaponry sat in the other, paired with a line of targets and dummies for practise.

"Nice," Thetis muttered under her breath.

"I, um, I don't exactly come here often." Finn murmured, shuffling awkwardly as though trying to hide the fact that for a Destrillian she was woefully small and thin. Thetis gave Finn a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

"Don't worry," she shrugged. "Before the last couple of week, most I ever did was ride a bike." The water Destrillian caught sight of a pair in the ring. Both were Destrillians, that much was easy to ascertain, but one of them was dressed up in a suit not dissimilar to the one Kram so often wore. Thetis pointed. "Who are those guys?"

"Um, those guys?" She pointed a small, pale hand in the direction of the two Destrillians sparring in the raised hexagonal wrestling ring in the middle of the gymnasium. One of them, tall, green-haired and heavily tattooed was throwing a heavy punch at a second, clad in a sealed white containment suit.

"T-that would be Elvan and Salem." Finn explained, wincing slightly as Salem whooped with triumph as his follow-up punch appeared to slip past Elvan's guard. Looking thoroughly unimpressed, the water prototype made her way to the ring. She crossed her arms on the raised surface and stared up at the sparring Destrillians. After a few seconds, Thetis noticed something. The very pull of the element she controlled appeared to have vanished. She felt sick to the stomach.

"Do you feel that?" whispered Thetis to Finn, who seemed completely nonplussed by the whole affair.

"Feel what?" Finn asked. Sense and control over her power was a decidedly more passive affair than the other Destrillians in the mansion. As such, she barely felt anything when stepping into the proximity of the arena.

Thetis flexed her fingers in an attempt to draw on her power. "I-I can't use my power!" she stammered, stepping back from the ring.

"Well, yeah, you wouldn't be able to, Babes," The heavily tattooed Destrillian called down for the arena, to which the blue-haired girl responded with a glare. He backed away towards the edge in order to avoid a haymaker thrown by his opponent and then cursing loudly as his evasion left him open to a hard kick to the stomach.

"Have you met Elvan?" The tall, gruff Destrillian span away to the right, allowing for his suit-suited opponent to step fully into the view of the two spectators. "He is the fucking big man of making sure none of your shit works like it oughta."

Thetis scoffed and folded her arms, hiding her anxiety with an air of indifference."Don't call me 'babes'." She said, watching as the suited Destrillian ducked under a wild punch from Salem. He's dangerous, Thetis thought. There was no way she could escape without her power.

"Try not to stare at my ass then." Salem shouted back, ducking to the side to lead the fight with Elvan away from the pair of onlookers.

"You wish," Thetis muttered sourly, walking around the arena with Finn in tow.

"Um, you just h-have to get used to them. They aren't b-bad guys. Even if they are a l-little, um, odd." Finn's voice dropped to a scandalous whisper as they walked away from the arena. They wandered over to the weapons sparring corner, and Thetis cast a discerning eye over the weapon racks. There were no guns or exposives, which made sense, she supposed. A rogue Destrillian with a sword or quarterstaff wouldn't wreak half as much havoc as a Destrillian with a shotgun or AK-47. The only ranged weapons that had found their way onto the weapons racks were compound bow and arrows and military issue crossbows. Matte-black in colour and incredibly advanced for such simple imstruments of war. Thetis supposed that this cache of exotic weaponry had been bought from IRIN or manufactured by Viola for Artolia's own special forces. Thetis picked up a staff, balancing it on her index and middle finger. Steel; not unlike the one Fiona used to use in Viola. The blue-haired girl grimaced. She remembered the fire-starter's prowess first hand. Thetis replaced it carefully

"Could never get the hang of stuff like this," she mumbled, embarrassed. She plucked a spear from the rack. "And this is too heavy." Thetis sighed and turned to Finn. "Which would you use?"

Finn shrugged and her wide brown eyes quickly skipped to the floor, doing everything she could to avoid looking at Thetis'.

"I, um, I d-d-don't really know. I've n-never really..." she let her voice trail away and felt her freckled cheeks flush in embarassment. Mr. Spencer had gone to some lengths to make sure that Finn never received any kind of formal weapons training. Whether or of pity or kindness, Thetis smiled. She squatted down to Finn's level.

"That doesn't matter," she said softly. "Which one do you reckon I should try?"

"The bow." A voice rang out from across the gym, over the sound of the boys in the sparring ring. The pair of Destrillians span round. They were met with the sight of a young woman. A human, shorter than Thetis and only slightly taller than Finn, slouched against a wall opposite the punching bags. Dressed head to toe in a creased suit, the woman's eyes were set on the two girls, framed by thick-rimmed glasses pushed far up her nose, were obsucured by strands of chocolate brown bangs that had come loose from the hair tie that sat high on the back of her head. She looked decidedly unkempt. Thetis narrowed her eyes.

"What do you know, human?" Thetis sneered, rising to her feet as the human approached.

"More than you, apparently," the woman said dismissively as she offered Thetis the compound bow. With a withering scowl, the water Destrillian snatched it from her hands and reached for the quiver. With a flourish, the human produced a crumpled sheaf of papers from her leather satchel.

"'Specialising in long-range combat, Prototype Six is renown for her range and accuracy," she read, leafing through the document. "Do not attempt to engage Prototype Six from a distance.'" she paused, eyes peering over the report at the two Destrillians. "A bow would complement your strengths perfectly," she cleared her throat and smiled. Thetis' venemous glared rolled off her as water from the hull of a ship. "But what would I know? I'm only human."

"W-Who are you?" Finn asked. The question left Thetis wide-eyed. This human was a stranger to Finn too?

"Holly," the human replied. Clearly bored, she turned away and marched from the gym, raising her hand in farewell as she shouted, "Be seeing you," across the room. Confused, Finn and Thetis simply stared.

"Um, did y-you know her?" Finn asked Thetis. This time it was her turn to be on the back foot.

"Nope..." Thetis trailed off, watching as the woman slipped from the gym as quickly as she had arrived. She inspected the bow in her hands. An intricate device, rigged with pulleys and a sight to facilitate firing. Crafted from aluminium alloy and titanium, it was lighter than the cross-bow, but with a single pull of the string, Thetis could tell it was designed to pack just as much of a punch.

"M-maybe we should go and see whether or not she was right?" Finn asked, grinning devillishly. Thetis smiled as she plucked an arrow from the quiver and ran a slender finger over the fletches.

"Don't suppose there's much to lose," she replied. The water Destrillian took three steps backwards and turned to face the target. Fully aware of Finn's scrutiny, Thetis set the nook of the arrow to the string, rested the tip on her fingers and raised the bow. After a deep breath, the water Destrillian drew the string with all her strength. In a moment of utter concentration, Thetis released the arrow with baited breath. With a satisfying 'plunk' and a cheer from Finn, the arrow struck dead centre. The water prototype grinned as she stilled the shivering bowstring. "Not bad."

"Wow!" Finn gasped, "Have you ever d-d-done that before?"

"No!" Thetis was jubilant. "Always had good aim, though."

"Think you could do it two times in a row?" Finn set the challenge down and blew a few errant locks of untidy hair out of her eyes. Thetis smirked, pulled another arrow from its quiver and lifted the bow once more. She squinted down the shaft and let loose another shot. The water prototype clicked her tongue. It was an inch off the first.

"Sucks," Thetis sighed.

"It's still b-better than I've seen, um, anyone else do on their first try." Finn offered the words of encouragement with a wide smile.

"So what can you d-do, other than archery?"

"Nothing much," the blue-haired girl shrugged as she hooked the bow on the wall rack.

"What about your p-power? We've all got one of those." There was something curiously melancholic about Finn's words that didn't escape Thetis' keen ears. The water prototype nodded as she reached for her element. It wasn't there. She glanced at the boy in the suit and cursed under her breath.

"I can't do it here," Thetis said simply. As the water prototype shoved her hands into her pockets, one of the many snaffled crisp packets burst with a loud 'pop'. Thetis grimaced. "You wanna go?"

"I can take you to somewhere where you can. N-no problem!" Finn said excitedly. She had been privately longing to get to this part of the tour and she saw no harm in skipping ahead to it now. Once again, Finn gripped Thetis by the hand and bounded from the room.

Taking Thetis on a brisk run through to the Mansion's entrance hall, two black-clad members of the mansion's Department of Internal Security attempted to interrogate them as Finn stormed up to the complex's enormous front doors. But at her command, both of them gave way to the two Destrillians.

"Don't worry about the guards. Um, they might ask you a lot of questions. But they can't really stop us g-going where we want." She had explained to Thetis as the pair entered the large elevator that was bizarrely located behind the enormous antique doors.

As the elevator doors opened, Thetis flinched away from the lances of sunlight that penetrated through the decrepit old manor house that had been built on the surface. The powerful sweet smell of encroaching moss and greenery seemed to overwhelm the abandoned smells of musty woodwork and damp stone. It had been the first time Thetis Alcesteos had stood on the surface for days. It had been much longer for her companion.

They navigated their way through the skeletal remains of the old mansion, entranced by the decay of the collapsed walls and gutted roof-beams that allowed the sun's rays to illuminate the vast ballrooms and galleries.

With her hand firmly locked around Thetis', Finn pulled her tall companion out through what had once been the front door to the mansion and onto the soft, overgrown grass that seemed to extend out in every direction. The location seemed so remote to Thetis, as she let her eyes wander from the endless sea of rolling green plains to the harsh, grey cliffs that erupted out of the earth behind the mansion and the dense, dark forests that encircled the entire area. The scene seemed so unnatural to Thetis, as though nature's hands had sculpted the delicate, intricate beauty of a world around them that had barely been touched by the ambitions of mankind.

"The security g-guards have the entire area under lockdown," Finn explained bitterly, breaking the gorgeous illusion created by the environment. "Guards are watching every exit in or out of the valley and there are enough s-sentry guns and listening p-p-posts to make sure nobody arrives unannounced." She explained as she led Thetis around the manor's wall towards the towering cliffs and forcing her to follow the short Destrillian up a small rise that sharply gave away at its summit to the placid surface of a crystal blue lake, nestled as the foot of the cliff-face.

Thetis let out a small gasp. Unlike the lake where she had killed Flutwelle, these waters were not pitch black, turbulent and fraught with danger. The deep blue was utterly peaceful and transparent at the steep, flinty shoreline. Thetis said nothing, brow furrowed in concentration as she followed the surface of the lake to the other bank. Though she couldn't see them, Kerr and Ariel had made no attempt to conceal their energy markers. It was at least 400 metres away, and the sharp, jagged peaks barred passage to what lay beyond. She frowned. "No chance of running, then."

Finn shook her head violently, sending her lilac hair into even more disarray.

"N-No. Not without help."

"Hmph," Thetis sniffed, shrugging off her shirt as she peered into the deep blue lapping gently at the base of the cliff. Thetis took a deep breath, smiling as she felt the familiar pulse of her element resonating over the landscape. "You know how to swim, right?"

Finn shook her head again. "They d-don't like teaching me, um, stuff I could actually use, you know?" So much of her life had been bound to the tepid, unthreatening isolation of the mansion complex's walls. There had been so many experiences that Finn Eliot had never been exposed to. Too many decisions had been made on her behalf. Her pale, heart-shaped face screwed up into an unpleasant scowl. Thetis didn't know what to say. Her saffron eyes settled on the younger, clearly uncomfortable Destrillian.

"Hey, come on," Thetis smiled warmly at Finn. "I can't read. Or write. Swimming isn't a big deal."

"You can't read?" Finn asked, surprised at her fellow Destrillian's admission.

"Yeah, kinda worse than not being able to swim, huh?" Thetis mumbled, embarassed.

"No way!" Finn exclaimed. "I was taught to read and write b-because I'm not really much good for anything else. Swimming is just..." she waded into the water so that her feet began to sink into the shore's silt, the words that she wanted to say robbed by the water's chill way to her mouth.

"For so long," by the time she regained her voice, Thetis noted how surprisingly calm it was, "This shore here. This place has been the edge of my world. I've never known anywhere else. I've never been able to go anywhere else." She took care to try and force her telltale stammer out of her words.

It wasn't pity that Thetis felt for Finn. No, nothing as belittling as that. It was empathy. Finn was just as trapped as she was, as she felt. Thetis explored Artolia in four years. Finn had never seen past the bounds of the mansion. It scared her a little Thetis Alcesteos had entered Spencer's mansion knowing to trust no-one. Yet here she was, faced with-- a girl, really, a girl who knew nothing but the lifestyle meant for so many of them. A girl that had so easily caved Thetis' defences. A girl who understood more than the water Destrillian could ever know. Finn knew Thetis Alcesteos.

Without a word, Thetis charged into the water and hoisted Finn onto her shoulders. "I'll show you," she said, feeling the icy water reach her neck as she waded further into the lake. "How to swim, how to fight--" she grunted as Finn dropped onto her back and clung to her neck,"--and once we get out of here, I'll show you the world."

Surf foamed and split before them as Thetis pumped her arms and cut through the water like a blade, completely unencumbered by the Destrillian who gripped to her back for dear life. Finn let out a small squeal as her baggy clothes quickly became thick and sodden with the water's spray. Her hands gripping white knuckled around the neck of the water Destrillian, who seemed not to notice the discomfort one bit.

By the time the pair had reached the centre of the lake, the shore was little more than a grey line in the distance. Finn shivered. The icy water was near unbearable. She tightened her now goosepimpled arms around Thetis' neck. It had not gone unnoticed.

"D'you wanna get out?" Thetis asked shakily as the chill of the water began to take hold.

"It's so cold!" Finn yelled gleefully, any trace of a stammer completely driven from her voice by the excitement of the moment. She left Thetis to interpret the answer for herself.

"Hold on." The water prototype stopped swimming and closed her eyes. On her own, hoisting herself onto the surface was easy. But taking Finn with her, however, required a serious effort on her part. The pair of them bobbed in the centre of the lake as Thetis struggled to concentrate. What had happened with Flutwelle seemed so distant. The only danger Thetis had to be wary of here was Jason Spencer. There was no sign of the military, nothing to be seen of IRIN and, the best part of it all, no Lyverius.

The water Destrillian almost felt guilty for show-boating.

Thetis hoisted herself onto the surface with a grunt of effort. She wobbled slightly as she struggled to adjust her power to the weight of two people. After regaining her footing, Thetis shifted Finn's weight further up her back. "Pretty cool, huh?"

"That's incredible!" Finn shouted with genuine delight as she let the tips of her short legs dip beneath the surface of the water, in shocking contrast to the way Thetis' trainers stood steady and sure footed on the midnight blue waves. Every last trace of the poor, self-pitying, defeated young girl from the clinically sterile white bedroom had been washed away by the cool water that soaked her enormous pyjamas.

"Yeah," Thetis grinned and siphoned the water from Finn's clothes with a single flick of her wrist. Finn watched as the blue-haired girl drew the moisture from what seemed like thin air and moulded the liquid into hair-like strands. Boosted by the younger girl's sudden fascination with an ability that (by Destrillian standards) was fairly ordinary, Thetis pulled the water around and between her fingers with the expertise of a master seamstress threading her needle.

"You know all the tricks then?" Finn asked as she tested the dryness of her collar by rubbing a freckled cheek against it.

"I dunno," the older girl shrugged. "There's always more to learn. But--" Thetis gripped onto Finn's legs and began walking towards the shore. "The last few weeks have been good practise."

"You're so lucky," Finn laughed as the two made slow progress towards land, "Your power is so cool." Though the compliment was said casually enough, even Thetis could detect the bitterness barely hidden beneath the surface.

"You think so?" Thetis smiled, saffron eyes fixed on her sneakers as each step forward imparted only the slightest ripple on the face of the glassy lake. Hesitant, the water Destrillian came to a standstill. Thetis' curiosity was unrivalled, and every inch of her itched to know the reason behind Finn's apparent reluctance. "What's yours?"

Finn was grateful that Thetis couldn't see the sour, hateful look that suddenly flashed cross her face. An unnatural, dark grimace that looked so out of character on her usually bright features.

"It's not much of a power. I'm not really much of a D-Destrillian, to be honest," the stutter was back, "Didn't get any of the training or the, um, the enhancements that you guys d-did." Thetis remembered the unusual frailty of the girl she carried on her back. Her sickly pale skin and never once outwardly displaying any of the easy confidence that every other Destrillian seemed to carry with them.

"A power's still a power, right?" Thetis awkwardly shifted the girl's weight, giving extra care not to elbow her in the ribs as she tried to support Finn's arms. "You're still a Destrillian, you don't need training to prove that," she mumbled, tapping her temple knowingly. "I can still sense you."

"I'm barely a Destrillian," Finn muttered. Not even trying to hide the scorn in her voice now. "You guys were given g-gifts. I'm just cursed." The answer sounded lame and did little to allay Thetis' curiosity and Finn knew it. The blue-haired girl had shown her such kindness today and helped her feel more camraderie than she had felt from any of Spencer's other Destrillians in so long. She swallowed and forced herself to say something more.

"Um, I s-see things."

Thetis furrowed her brow as her sneakers crunched on the pebbled shore. Clearly confused, she set Finn down. "What do you mean?" She brushed her bangs to one side. No Destrillian she had ever met had escribed a power like that. "You mean like, visions and stuff? Of the future?"

"Not just the future," Finn spoke grimly, "One of the first t-thing that I, um, I learned was that there isn't just a future. I see every future. Every possible way things could turn out." She sighed. "The p-past is much simpler. Still depressing though." Her voice sounded faraway and hollow, suddenly embarassed at her own self-pity. Thetis sat by her new companion and stared across the lake. A lump formed in her throat. Thetis Alcesteos was humbled by the thought. If the events of the past few week were anything to go by, the future must have been bleak. But to witness every possible outcome without the power to change it? The water Destrillian couldn't imagine anything worse.

"Guess the future isn't looking too good, right?" Thetis muttered as she flopped on her back. "Must be hard."

Finn's solemn, joyless smile said everything that needed to be said in response.

"I'm okay." Finn replied, not entirely convincingly. Thetis motioned for Finn to sit down beside her.

"I know it's rough," Thetis said slowly, "but you gotta take every day as it comes. No point worrying about the future when you don't have a present."

"It's not much of a present." Finn replied, taking the seat offered and shaking her head so that the wet tangle of hair shook away from her large eyes. "I'm sorry for ruining the t-trip outside. Its not often, that I, um, get to talk about this. You k-know?" Finn shook her head again and mumbled another apology, praying that her new friend didn't see the streaks of pink in her pale cheeks.

"You haven't ruined it," Thetis sat up, fixing Finn with a firm stare. "Don't be sorry. I don't get to talk to people much about stuff either. Isn't something to be ashamed of."

"Um, if you d-don't mind me s-saying," Finn spoke nervously. "You don't seem at all like what Ariel d-described."

Thetis' face hardened. "And what did she say? That I was weak? Pathetic?" she scowled, looking distastefully at the lake. "Ariel doesn't know anything."

"N-No, no! Nothing like that!" Finn shook her head more violently. "She just d-didn't say you were, um, this nice. This confident."

"I'm glad you're here." She added quickly, hoping to quickly scupper the awkward silence. Ariel also had failed to mention that she and Thetis were apparently no longer on good terms. Thetis remained silent. Truthfully, the water Destrillian could not say the same. Despite Finn's kindness, Thetis did not reside in the mansion of her own free will. Ariel had betrayed her and it seemed as though Kram had too. Fiona had left her to drown in the lake. And the other Destrillians? They were probably out of the country by now. Thetis sighed.

"Thanks," the water Destrillian sighed. She picked up a pebble and ran her thumb across its pockmarked surface before skimming it across the lake. The pair sat in silence for a moment.

"Am I still here? In the future?"

A hollow smile ghosted across Finn's face. She didn't answer immediately.

"Some of them." The reply was cryptic.

"And the others?"

"T-This is the thing, I g-guess," Finn started, her voice eerie and far away, "There is n-no one true future like the way you're t-thinking of. Um, a hundred things that you do today could mean a hundred different futures tomorrow, not everyone is g-guaranteed to, um, survive in every one. You, me, y-your friends."

"So I'm not here because I-I--" Thetis' voice faltered as possibilities and outcomes richochetted throughout her mind, "--die?"

Finn shook her head. "I know it's hard to, um, to understand. But just because you c-could die in the future, doesn't mean you're going to. N-nothing is predetermined like that." She added hastily, hoping to wipe the look of horror from her new friend's face.

"Thanks, you know? Thanks for today." She changed the subject quickly. Thetis smiled weakly.

"Anytime."

Last edited by Alex; 04/23/2012 at 12:19 AM.
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Old 05/23/2012   #17
Alex
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SPENCER
THE MANSION
THE GALLERY OF SWORDS

Doctor Olivia Foreman was a smart, driven young woman who had never wavered in her beliefs, nor in her pursuit of her goals. Over the years, she'd come to trust her instincts, and tonight, those instincts told her that it was high time that she did something about the situation brewing within the Spencer Mansion.

It was in this frame of mind that she found Jason Spencer as he kept his sword skills sharp as the blades themselves, alone in his hall of blades.

Whilst his sparring partner was anonymous beyond the dark, dense mesh of his fencing helmet and thick white padding of his protective clothing, Spencer had foregone such usual precautions. He wore no helmet and no protection save for the thin fabric of his vest and sweat pants. It spoke of the easy confidence that radiated from the man in battle. He had never considered himself to be untouchable in a fight, but as of this particular encounter, the old soldier knew he had the measure of his opponent.

His long sword, nearly a metre's worth of blued Midian steel, flickered up as though it weighed nothing at all to bat away his opponent's thrust. The blade should have been too long and heavy for a traditional swordsman to wield with such skill for few possessed the size and strength to use such an unwieldy weapon.

With a grunt of exertion, Spencer's right leg lashed out viciously, slamming into the inside knee of his opponent, spreading his stance too wide and sending his second thrust whipping harmlessly to the side. The next movement was so sudden and violent that Olivia's eyes barely saw the steel flash through the air, tearing a deep gouge through the neck of the masked opponent and exposing the sparking wires and irreparably damaged circuitry beneath.

The practice of using programmable robotic sparring partners was a practice that had been passionately supported by Spencer. It was rarely worth getting into a fight that you didn't mean to finish.

It was at this point that Olivia's voice, clear as a bell, broke in. "Sorry to interrupt, but I need a moment with the boss," she said with her usual cheer.

Spencer turned to her as the robotic practice partner crumpled to the floor, feigning the critical injury that had been inflicted on it by the long blade. His eyes momentarily cast themselves to the floor to avoid her gaze, as though privately ashamed of the act of savage swordsmanship that she had accidently allowed her to witness.

"It's always a pleasure, Dr. Foreman," he composed himself almost immediately, his voice calm inbetween great exhausted breaths.

"Care for a towel, sir?" she asked, one already in her hand as she proffered it to her employer.

"Please." He gratefully accepted the gift and applied it to the beads of sweat glistening under the gallery's bright lighting.

"Is there something I can do for you today, Foreman?"

"Yes, actually." She took a deep breath before plunging ahead; however unpleasant, it had to be done. Might as well make it like taking off a bandage. "I wanted to speak to you about one of my colleagues."

Spencer sighed as he mopped the back of his neck. One of the many casualties in relocating the ragged corpse of the Viola Corporation to this one facility was that of his human resources department, who would have normally dealt with these sort of grievances. But now under present circumstances, as he had learnt in the war, men turned to their commanding officer to air out their concerns.

"Speak freely, I'm listening."

Olivia could tell this was already going badly. Too late, now. She cleared her throat. "Lorelei was placed into my care, sir. Mine, and no one else's. With that in mind, I find it...troubling...that another doctor has begun to take such an interest in her." She raised an eyebrow. "Dr. Bardet, specifically."

"Dr. Bardet specifically or Dr. Bardet explicitly?" The question was posed, like a sword-stroke to cut right to the heart of the matter.

"Either? Both? Is there a difference, really?" she answered with a shrug. "I understand that her prototype isn't around, and that she wants to help, but surely there are other things she can be doing that don't involve undermining me by sitting in on checkups I run with the prototype I've been working with for over fifteen years."

Spencer sighed again, acutely aware that not only was there a difference, but that Olivia Foreman had answered the question. "Most of our tests and checkups are run by groups of two or more doctors. Prototypes are at a premium and we have the staff to spare. Surely having a second opinion proves useful sometimes?" he offered lamely, though the look on Dr. Foreman's face suggested that the issue couldn't be deflected so easily.

Olivia rolled her eyes; she wasn't going to let Spencer get out of dealing with this so easily. "When it comes to Lorelei, I don't need a second opinion, and especially not hers. You know what I'm talking about, Spencer," she said, all formality dropped. She folded her arms across her chest, determined to hold her ground. "You know why this is concerning."

"I do," he conceded, though Spencer privately had hoped that he would have been able to go a few more weeks before having to handle this particularly tricky issue. His mind was kept busy enough by the comparatively simple task of managing his tempestuous daughter, nevermind the complex labyrinth of gossip and drama woven by the Destrillians and their respective scientists.

"All I'm asking is that she be someplace else. Hardly a daunting task - a minor request at best. I will not have my prototype's stability put at risk."

"I'll see to it she gives you less trouble in the future," Spencer conceded the point. Foreman's concerns were definitely justified. The facility would be a much simpler place the less time Dr. Bardet spent with Lorelei Jaeger. "Was there anything else, Foreman?"

"No, sir," she said, relief evident that he'd agreed with her, slipping back into a more formal tone without realizing. "Not unless you'd like to give me a raise," she said with a chuckle.

Spencer returned the chuckle with a good natured laugh of his own. "I'm bled dry enough as it is, Foreman. Have a little mercy, eh?"

She smiled as she turned and began to walk away, heels clicking smartly against the floor. "I have just as much as Lorelei," she said, raising a hand in parting. "Thanks, Boss."

"Anytime, Foreman." Spencer had already turned to hang up his steel above the room's granite fireplace, though he was gracious enough to wave lazily after the doctor as she left him to his own devices.

Swords of every make, from every nation and of every design imaginable seemed to cover every free space of the long hall's wood-panelled walls. There were none of the estate's typical concessions to antiquity to be found here. It was stark, oppressing and the perfect place for the old soldier to keep his skills sharp in peace and quiet, for few could withstand the intimidating atmosphere given off by the walls of sharpened blades that flickered orange in the firelight.

He continued to practice and the pile of broken, gouged and ruined mechanical sparring machines continued to mount higher and higher in the corner of the room. He practiced until his arms burned like fire when he tried to raise them above his head and his legs were too stiff and tired to move at a pace faster than a walk. It was a good feeling, he thought. Though one tempered by irritation. He could feel himself getting older and as the cough rasped in his throat, the old soldier was reminded that he could feel himself getting weaker too.

Resigned to work for the next two hours, Spencer retired to his study. From there he conducted the laborious process of requisitioning almost ten thousand credits worth of the finest food from across the continent and beyond. Using a complicated network of shell companies to buy the food and have it delivered to a safe drop point, from which it would be ferried to the estate via the underground subway system that had once connected every Viola facility of note in Artolia. The process was dull, tedious and only seemed to aggrevate his worsening cough.

It reminded him that Abaddon would be chasing him up about that medical exam he had long been avoiding.

Deciding that keeping Malcolm Abaddon's dreary exam at bay for a few more days couldn't hurt and that the rest of the day's administrative work was better left to his team of secretaries, Spencer left the underground confines of the mansion to go walk the grounds. No matter what technological marvels had gone into the facility's construction, it still failed to accurately emulate the fresh chill of the afternoon mountain air or the tempramental warmth of the fat orange sun that hung low in the sky.

He walked until he reached the far perimeter piquet. Enjoying a short cup of tea with the pair of guards there that operated the long range radios and the automated machine gun nests hidden throughout the valley before walking back, grunting with effort as he tried to will the protests from his aching legs. Yet another reminder of the fact that he was no longer a steely, unyielding young soldier. Instead he felt as though he were iron: hard and unbroken, yet made brittle and rusty by the rigours of wear and time.

Returning the mansion in the late afternoon, he showered and changed his clothes in an attempt to throw off the noticeably uneasy quiet that had crept in the mansion’s labyrinthine hallways like a thick fog. Things had been less quiet than he had liked in between the arrivals of Kerr and Thetis and Persephone’s melodramatic return home, her head awash with the nonsense rhetoric of the Lyverius. A self-inflicted wound, he knew full well, but it was a wound none the less and it still stung. It had been his choice to send her into the care of the Sponsors whilst he dutifully accepted his fate at the hands of Artolia’s justice system and now he was reaping the consequences of that decision.

He clenched his fists.

“Hey!”

The shout rang loud in the corridor.

“Ariel,” he greeted the Destrillian. He did not need to turn to face her to tell him what the indignant shout and menacingly loud stamp of her feet said plainly. The Destrillian was furious.

“I need to talk to you!” Her voice was hoarse and breathless. Just how long had she been storming around the mansion seeking him out? He would have to double check that later, though evidently she had been at it for a while. She cut across his stride to block his brisk walk, forcing him to come to a grudging halt.

Ariel looked a mess. The usual carelessly stylish shock of black and white hair was a mess, her bloodshot eyes were ringed with red bangs and her reddened cheeks were scored by the glistening trails of fresh tears. Sleepless and upset. Whatever small flare of annoyance that had reared its head up inside broke like a wooden dam beneath the flood of anger that coursed through him. It was almost an instinctive, parental feeling. Ariel had been the Destrillian who had warded with him for the longest time, living at the mansion and personally trained to fight by his own hand. The sight of her so distraught triggered something old in Spencer. Something that had been ignored from so much time spent in prison and so neglected by the malevolent turn in his daughter’s personality since her return.

“What’s wrong?” His gruff voice was soft and fatherly.

“No!” Her shriek seemed unnaturally loud in the still quiet of the mansion’s narrow hallway. “Don’t you give me that! Don’t you fucking dare!” She jabbed her finger into his chest with such force that it nearly caused the larger man to take a step backwards.

“I need to talk to you right now!” Ariel repeated herself and Spencer, believing that silence was the best course of action at this point, stayed silent. He gave the smallest of nods and kept his sharp green eyes focused on the Destrillian. Whilst Ariel has never possessed Lorelei’s frosty, unflappable calm or Salem’s genuine ambivalence to world around him, rather her moods and emotions had always seemed to be varied; however she had never been this upset or hysterical.
Something was definitely very wrong.

“Are you even listening!” The hoarse shout ripped Spencer from of his thoughts and he realised that he had been staring at the girl.

“Maybe we should talk somewhere more comfortable,” he kept his voice low and amicable to counter her histrionics.

“No!” she stabbed a finger into his chest so hard that he was sure that it would have left a bruise. “Now!” the Destrillian slammed her hands onto her hips with such purpose that it looked like at that moment that all the powers in the world would have been unable to shift her. Spencer gave a long sigh of defeat.

“Very well then, speak.” Insisting otherwise seemed to be an unwise choice of action.

The tale she spun for him, interrupted by sobs and vicious acerbic cursing was enough to raise the hackles on the back of his head. How Kerr had found the original Destrillians Project case files in the old library and spent the night pouring over them. Taking note of every note taken by their doctors, every truth reported to the company that had been hidden behind lies spoken softly to the young prototypes. How Abaddon had recommended the fostering and the subtle encouragement of Ariel’s desire to escape the confinement of Facility 1. How much of the idea that had been so central to the fire and spirit of the Destrillian had come from the whispers of Viola itself.

Had everything been a lie?

“Who the hell am I if everything I ever believed was right came out of the mouths of other people!” She screamed full in his face, fresh tears spilling from her tired eyes.

“First Viola and then you! Wanting to escape and then buying into all your bullshit” Ariel wasn’t looking at him anymore, her gaze lost beneath an unkempt tangle of monochrome hair.

“Always telling me what to think and what to believe till I don’t know which parts are even me anymore.” Her voice cracked under the weight of an enormous sob and she wobbled on her feet, threatening to collapse to her knees. With a superhuman resolve she seemed to steady herself and then her arm flashed out to crack against the wood panelling of the wall. The volume made Spencer flinch instinctively, everything seemed so unnaturally loud in the tight corridor. He noted with some discomfort how the wood had shattered into a small crater around her fist and how sharp angry cracks had spread up and down the entire length of the old wood of the wall.

There seemed to be a long silence after that. Even the sound of Ariel’s crying seemed to be drowned out by it.

Spencer reached out a hand to place on the young woman’s heaving shoulder, but catching a glimpse of a hostile violet eye from beneath her unkempt fringe caused him to awkwardly check his advance. He used it to cover his mouth from the sudden sharp cough that escaped his throat. Ariel eyed him suspiciously.

“You’re my oldest lieutenant; you deserve the truth, Ariel.” The silence evidently indicating that it was his turn to begin speaking. Even to Spencer’s ears his voice sounded tired so he attempted to force some more of its usual steel into it.

“Nothing in those reports was a lie. Let me finish!” He held up a hand to stop her inevitable interruption. “It was a popular idea at the time, to encourage your rebellious side in order to provoke a disciplinary action from us or even to transfer you to solitary confinement. But that isn’t the course of action we ended up taking.” She had been transferred to solitary confinement in a separate facility in the end, he noted ironically, though he refrained from pointing it out to her. “It wasn’t a very popular decision. Not everybody agreed with my decision to bring you here.” His tone gave the distinct impression of exactly how much he cared for the opinions of those who disagreed with him.

“Then why do it?” Ariel snapped.

“We couldn’t encourage beliefs in you that weren’t already yours to begin with. That is all you.” Spencer continued on as if he hadn’t heard her. This time it was he who prodded Ariel in the shoulder for emphasis. She said nothing, her eyes still hidden beneath the dark hair.

“Not even Viola has found a way to implant our thoughts in other people’s heads. We didn’t brainwash you. The fact you let yourself to be convinced by my arguments here was your decision and based entirely on your own thoughts and your own feelings. Yours. Not ours.” He poked her harder in the shoulder this time and was rewarded with a savage movement of her head as Ariel flicked the hair out of her eyes.

“I want you Destrillians to be able to think for yourselves and to make your own decisions and judgements for yourself. If I had wanted to brainwash you to my way of thinking then I would have handed you over to Avidez so he could program you like one of his damn robots.” The harshness that had crept into his voice startled both of them, but he had made no secret of his distaste for the way the Sponsors had put the Destrillians to use.

“Viola sure as hell didn’t tell you who you are, Ariel, and neither did I. You made your own choices, just like the rest of us.” The words were spoken bitterly.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go have a word with Mr. Nordstrom.” he continued talking as he turned away from the Destrillian and began marching down the hallway. Leaving Ariel alone with her thoughts.
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Old 05/23/2012   #18
Omega
Default

========== LORELEI JAEGER AND THETIS ALCESTEOS ==========
The Spencer Mansion, Audoula
(afternoon)


The past few days had been very tiring, even for Lorelei. Since getting home, she'd spent her time being poked and prodded by Olivia, catching up on what had been happening while she'd been absent with Elvan, and training, with precious little time for anything else. Then there'd been dinner the night before last. To call it a disaster would be an understatement of the highest order, like calling Finn's cooking edible. It had started off well enough, but the appearance of Spencer's daughter Persephone had put a match to the highly flammable air of tension that had been surrounding the party since their return to the mansion.

It had been interesting to see the newcomers' reactions to her, to say the least, but the whole incident still left a bad taste in her mouth. Lorelei had never been able to stand Persphone; she was haughty and imperious at the best of times, and the constant struggle not to call her a bitch every time she saw her was, in Lorelei's opinion, an uphill battle. She had found Kram's outburst entirely unsurprising - he seemed to be just as reckless as ever, and his acquiescence to Tao was a clear sign that the mechanics of that relationship hadn't changed. He seemed just as overly zealous to please her as ever, possibly because she kept his dignity in her pocket. And for her part, she had, predictably, run out of the room in tears, her emotions as stable as a house of cards on a moving train as it careened across the country off of the tracks.

But then she'd been surprised by the other newcomer - Alcesteos. Unlike Kram, she hadn't backed down an inch when she'd challenged Persephone, bristling for a fight, even though it was clear that she would lose. She'd even caused Persephone to drop her haughty demeanor, even though it was for the briefest of moments. As she sat now in her room, firmly upon the piano bench, fingers dancing across the keys, Lorelei smiled at the thought. Delicious. As she caressed the piano keys, the melody, once slow and soft, now swelled with the light, soaring trills of her elation, floating joyfully down the halls of the mansion, filling them with her cheer.

Thetis Alcesteos paced those very same halls, hands shoved deep in pockets and new, crystal clean hi-tops scuffing at the plush carpet. She had followed Finn's directions to the letter, yet every door in this labyrinth seemed identical; each bore the same wooden panelling as the next. A quiet, gentle refrain drifted down the corridor. Thetis stopped pacing. Quiet at first, whisper-like - almost - the melody grew, each note swelling fit to burst yet offset by a softer harmony, as if one strain tip-toed around the other. It was quite unlike anything Thetis had ever heard. Despite the two sequences being of such stark contrast, they fitted perfectly; like two parts to a whole; and even the water Destrillian could not hep but marvel at the song's sheer artistry.

Curiousity piqued, Thetis followed the music. The tune quickened and so too did her haste to discover the source. There was something to it, something that soothed her, something that made her remember what it was like to be home. After rounding several corners, the water Destrillian found what she had been looking for. A room, hidden at the far end of one of the mansion's most remote corridors, as innocuous looking as the rest. However, there was no mistaking the notes that burst through the small cracks in the door. In two minds as to whether interrupt what could only be described as a beautiful melody, Thetis simply stared at the brass door-knob, fingers nervously drumming at her side as she waited for the music to end.

Which it did. Abruptly.

A few seconds later, the door flew open, a somewhat irritated-looking Lorelei on the other side. "Yes?" she asked as she fixed Thetis with her starburst eyes, her aggressive tone making it clear that she didn't appreciate being interrupted.

Thetis opened her mouth to speak, yet no words fell out. Is she really blind? Tentatively, silently, the water prototype raised a hand and slowly, very slowly...

Waved it in the girl's face.

Lorelei's eyebrow twitched, her face somehow managing to look even angrier as her eyes followed the motion for a second before boring into those of the water Destrillian. "Is there a reason why you're doing that?"

Thetis felt red rise in her cheeks and almost immediately dropped her gaze. "I--Uh--" she stammered, "F-Finn said--" Her mouth opened and closed, as if to devour and craft new words from the painfully awkward silence. Lorelei's smouldering glare wasn't helping. The water prototype pushed her hands deep into her pockets and stared at the carpet. "Someone s-said you were blind--" Thetis shuffled on the spot. Any second now, Lorelei would reduce her to a stain on the ceiling. "I-I didn't know," she mumbled. "S-sorry."

"Well, I am blind. Now you know." She folded her arms, tilting her head to one side. "I take it you were looking for me?"

Surprised, Thetis looked up. "Um, yeah, I guess," she fiddled with her braid. "Finn said I would find you down here." In the silence that followed, Thetis wondered why she had thought this was a good idea in the first place. In fact, running back to her room and curling up in bed seemed like a much better idea. "Was kinda boring upstairs." The silence persisted. "Kiiiinnnd-a boring."

Lorelei stared, letting the silence hang awkwardly for a moment longer. She sighed before turning to head back into her room, leaving the door ajar. It was clear that Alcesteos couldn't (or wouldn't) take the hint; unfortunately, Spencer had asked his Destrillians to be hospitable to the newcomers. Something about the way he'd said it made Lorelei sure he'd been speaking mostly to her, so she supposed it was time to do her duty. A few seconds later, her voice came floating back to Thetis: "Care to join me?" Hesitantly, the water Destrillian obliged. With a careful push on the doorknob, as if she were afraid Lorelei would fling the door open before she had chance to, Thetis padded into the girl's room.

One could have said the room was bare, but that did not mean it was not beautiful. Where the main part consisted of a simple furnishings, an en-suite and a very large bed, the true spectacle lay in a small, sunken, kidney-shaped floor-space on the far side of the room. There stood the largest collection of musical instruments Thetis had seen in her entire life; violins, cellos, clarinets, saxophones, a piano; even a double bass which seemed taller than Lorelei herself.

Lorelei had settled herself back onto the piano bench and didn't acknowledge that Thetis had joined her at first. She spread her delicate fingers across the ivory keys and, before even a single note escaped from the confines of the piano, she said, "My name is Lorelei, as you might have heard. Have a seat." Obediently, Thetis sank into a squashy leather armchair. She then began to play once again, this time a softer, quieter melody that allowed for easier conversation. It meandered around the scale aimlessly, no fixed destination in mind; if anything, it seemed to cast about thoughtfully, like a person staring at the stars in the sky on a clear, moonlit night. After a moment or two, Lorelei spoke again. "What brings you to my corner of the mansion, Alcesteos? Or would you prefer to be called Thetis?" Her tone, while polite, had a slightly frosty edge to it.

"Thetis," the blue-haired girl said quietly, jerking bolt upright in the chair. Visiting Lorelei didn't seem to be as exciting or illuminating as she previously thought. The constant tinkling stream of notes wasn't helping; Thetis didn't know whether she should be whispering or shouting. "I was exploring," she paused, "And bored." It was half-true. The cushions sighed as Thetis fell back into the chair. Truthfully, the water Destrillian was curious. Even after meeting with Ariel, Thetis wasn't convinced that Jason Spencer deserved of their loyalty. Not to mention what Ariel had said about her so-called 'saviour'.

"I see." Lorelei turned her head to glance over her shoulder at Thetis. "Finn was busy, then." She turned back to the piano. "You're welcome down here anytime as well." She rolled her eyes as she said it, thankful that Thetis couldn't see her face. Spencer wanted her to make nice, so make nice she would. "You said you were exploring? I take it that means you have some questions as well?"

"Questions don't get many honest answers 'round here," Thetis blew her bangs from her eyes. She picked at a loose seam in her shirt. "Not everyone is as--" she struggled, "--hospitable... as you." Thetis stared at Lorelei. It felt like half the mansion was out to trick or trap her. The other half? She sighed, remembering Kram, Kerr and Ariel. They'd already betrayed her.

"You have no idea," Lorelei said, fighting a smile. The music, however, stopped, as she turned on the bench to stare at Thetis. "Just ask your damn questions."

"Why here? Why Spencer?"

Lorelei shrugged. "No idea. He told us to come get you, so we did." She raised an eyebrow questioningly. "Or would you have preferred that I let you drown in that lake instead of pulling you out?"

"I thought about it," Thetis stared Lorelei down, yet her starburst eyes remained impassive. "Surviving isn't such a big deal when you're trapped in another oversized basement."

Lorelei snorted. "Trapped? Hardly. All of you from the first facility made it out to be so terrible, from what Ariel told me. Did you ever consider just...cooperating?" Her expression became thoughtful. "I suppose that Perkins didn't make things any easier, though, so there's that."

"What do you know?" Thetis snapped, "I was loyal until they left us there to die!"

"I know more about what happened than you do, Thetis. You weren't left to die. That other idiot broke free. The rest of you felt the need to make a break for it." Lorelei took a slow, deep breath, calming herself. She wasn't going to chase her off by being angry. That wouldn't be neighborly. "You said you were loyal. You don't know what loyalty to Viola is. Not by a long shot." She leaned toward Thetis as she spoke, her voice dropping.

"Maybe not to Viola," the blue-haired girl rose from her chair, "but I was free to choose my loyalties--" she squared up to her fellow Destrillian, "--unlike you."

A challenge, eh? Lorelei's head tilted to one side, an amused smile beginning to play across her lips. "And what would you know about me, hm?"

Thetis' eyes narrowed. "Finn told me that you've worked for Spencer since facility two closed." She snarled. "Viola's all you know."

"Is that what you think? No wonder." Lorelei's face hardened slightly. "You think you know all about me, don't you?"

"Could say the same about you," Thetis allowed herself to smile and rolled her shoulders. "Well?"

"Well, you're wrong," she said, voice harsh as she clenched her hand into a first, staring at it as she did so, eyes narrowed. "All you need to know is that I'm strong, and it's because of all this. My blindness means nothing thanks to this. I've never had any trouble taking care of myself. I may work for them, but they gave me my independence first." She focused on Thetis now, boring a hole in her with her brilliant starburst eyes. "And if you think Spencer doesn't deserve something for that, then you've got another thing coming."

After a moment's silence, Thetis lowered her stare and shrugged her shoulders. "He still took our lives away, and the lives we had before that." She lifted her gaze, saffron eyes drilling into Lorelei's. "Don't you think you deserve freedom?"

Her hair shimmering in the half-light, Lorelei sighed before answering seriously. "I am free. I'm here by choice." She let herself fall back onto the bed. "If you're implying that I'm forced to do anything, you're wrong."

"So you pulling me from the lake was your choice?" Thetis walked over to the bed and crossed her arms. "You still have to obey orders, right?"

"It was my choice to go on the mission when it was offered to me. I wasn't forced to take it." She rolled her head to one side to look at Thetis. She wasn't sure why, but she always felt much lazier when she was on her bed; it was extremely soft and comfortable. Finn didn't like sleeping very much - she could understand that - but Lorelei felt quite differently about the subject. "But I like that I've earned that kind of trust from Mister Spencer. I walked halfway across Audoula to meet up with Ariel there. I could have flown, taken a ride with the rest of the team...but I chose to go it alone." She sighed. "But I suppose that doesn't answer the second question very well. No, I didn't have to. I could have let you stay in the water for a moment longer...but if I had, we wouldn't be having this conversation," she said irritably.

Thetis nodded and perched on the end of the bed. Pinching the bridge of her nose, the water prototype sighed. "There is one more thing."

"And that is?"

"Was there anyone else there?" Thetis glanced over her shoulder, "Another Destrillian-- a girl. Tall. Muscular. Red hair." She caught Lorelei's look and turned around."Was she there?"

"Yes, because I can really tell what color hair they have," Lorelei replied, rolling her eyes. "If you're referring to Myrwind, however, I believe Ariel mentioned knocking her out so she wouldn't follow us, yes." Lorelei frowned. "She then proceeded to...bring Nordstrom along. How delightful."

Thetis' grin spread from ear to ear. "I KNEW IT! She wouldn't leave me behind!" The water Destrillian leapt to her feet, practically bouncing off the walls with excitement. She knew Fiona could be vindicated. Her smile faded as she caught a glimpse of Lorelei's expression.

"Wouldn't she?" Lorelei asked, her tone one of polite curiosity. "Ariel had been watching you all for some time before all the fuss started. If the reports are to be believed, your Myrwind hardly seems the type to go out of her way for someone else."

Lorelei's face had become a stony mask. She would never admit it to anyone, but she felt a sense of pleasure in dashing the hopes of this one. While she'd answered Thetis' questions, it didn't change the fact that she was a traitor - that she claimed to have been loyal just made it worse. Lorelei definitely didn't like her, but her duty to Spencer meant that she couldn't be openly hostile to Thetis. She'd have to settle for this, instead.

"Reports?" The self-righteous, confident bravado had vanished from Thetis' voice. "What do you mean?"

"Ariel kept us well-informed of your situations. Yours, Myrwind's...all of you." Lorelei snorted. "Although I think the things that Myrwind did while you were still with Viola speak for themselves, don't they?"

"That was years ago." Thetis' voice faltered slightly as she caught a glimpse of Lorelei's expression.

"She doesn't appear to have changed much," Lorelei commented. "But believe what you like," she said with a shrug. She didn't see any reason to let Thetis continue to delude herself, cruel as it might be. "Does it really matter either way?"

"Yes!" Thetis snapped. "Everyone thinks she's an asshole, but she's not!" The water Destrillian let out an exasperated sigh. "Unlike you guys, Fiona doesn't have a stick up her ass. If she was here, maybe this place wouldn't be so damn lonely!"

"Would you like me to tell you what she was doing in that nightclub while you were in the back room? You might change your tune." Lorelei sat up, fixing Thetis with a stare. "And it seems to me like you're the one who can't just relax and take things as they come. You should try being more like Salem - he doesn't worry over every little thing like you seem to. You say it's lonely - maybe you should try to make it less lonely instead of whining. The strong, do; the weak complain." She narrowed her eyes. "You hang around her because you're too weak to cut it on your own. You say Viola took away your free will - how is your dependence upon Myrwind any different?"

"I'm not weak," Thetis hissed. "You might depend on Spencer, but I don't depend on Fiona."

"Who said she was reliable enough to depend on?" replied Lorelei. "You have just as much control over things with her as you seem to think you did with Viola. And I certainly don't rely on anyone but myself. Being blind doesn't mean I can't take care of myself," she said angrily.

"Being loyal to Fiona doesn't make me weak," the water prototype scuffed the sole of her shoe on the carpet. "I killed Flutwelle without her help, and I could do it again."

"And if it hadn't been for me, you would have died in the process," Lorelei scoffed. "But you're right that being loyal to her doesn't make you weak; it just makes you an idiot. Would you stake your life on her loyalty to you?"

There was silence.

"I didn't think so." The blind Destrillian sighed, remembering her orders. "Look, I understand what it's like to never feel like you're good enough. I know what it's like to feel invisible...weak. But I learned a long time ago that the only way to change that is to stand up for yourself and take control of your own life. Stop being so damn passive all the time and cut loose a little." She glanced over at Thetis, a genuine smile spreading across her face. "Like when you told Persephone off at dinner the other night. Damn, that made my day," she said with a laugh. "About time someone put that bitch in her place."

Thetis grinned. "Yeah, she deserved it." She turned to face Lorelei, crossing her legs on the bed. "Wasn't just gonna sit there and listen to her. Not like Kram and his stupid girlfriend." She brushed the hair out of her eyes and for the first time since she set foot in the room, took a good look at the blind Destrillian. She was dressed a little oddly, to say the least, but Destrillians weren't particularly renowned for their fashion-sense. Lorelei's face, slightly tanned, was framed by her violet hair which further pronounced her bright, starburst eyes. She looked younger than Thetis, shorter too. The water Prototype's grin turned into a soft smile. She was very pretty. "I take it you don't like her either."

"Just because she's the boss's daughter, it doesn't mean I don't want to drown her. And don't even get me started on Tao," Lorelei said, with a slow roll of her eyes. "There are paperweights with a brighter future."

"Drowning can be arranged," Thetis said with a sly smile.

"I'll keep that in mind," Lorelei replied with a grin. Maybe Thetis Alcesteos wasn't so bad after all.

...maybe.
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Old 06/06/2012   #19
Alessa Gillespie
Default

TELRAN, TERRA, EMMA, AND BRENT AND JEORGIA MICHAELS
TELRAN'S CLINIC

=============================

Ever since she caught word that Telran was going to help with the delivery of a baby and that Terra might accompany him, Emma had felt a bit tense about the whole ordeal. The idea that any of them would be involved in such an event at a time like this didn't seem all that practical to her. All Emma saw in her mind when she thought about it were droves of Lyverius crashing through the windows, their eyes glowing brightly with the color of blood.

Of course, this could simply be an aftereffect of the stress the past few days had put her under. She still was having a tough time processing some of what happened, not to mention that that irritating voice would pop up every now and again and she'd have to fight hard to keep it at bay.

Mostly, however, Emma was beginning to feel a tad lonely. She had spent the better part of the last four years taking care of Terra, and now the girl seemed to be doing well enough on her own that she probably didn't need any assistance anymore. At least, she didn't need any assistance from Emma, and now the redhead couldn't make head nor tail of what she was supposed to be doing with herself.

Then a thought occurred to her. She sat on it for a short while, feeling as if it would be a bit too intrusive, and that perhaps she wasn't really welcome. But the more time went by, the more she couldn't shake the idea that that she had to ask about it, so when she was finally able to catch Telran while he was awake, she approached him.

"So Telran, I heard that Terra was going to be helping you with the delivery."

"If she likes, yes," he said with a nod. Something about the way Emma phrased her comment told him there was more to it than that, however. "What about it?" he asked.

"Would you mind if I came along as well? I don't really have a lot of medical knowledge; however, I think I could be useful, maybe."

"Your choice," he replied with a shrug. "I certainly don't mind, and...it might be nice to have some life in the clinic again," he continued, voice trailing off, though it seemed more to himself than for Emma's benefit; his golden eyes seemd glazed over as he stared through Emma, mind clearly elsewhere. Snapping out of it, he asked, "Speaking of which, where is Terra? We've got to get going pretty soon."

Perfectly on time, Terra knocked on the apartment door that belonged to Telran. She'd gone for a jog to help work the muscles that she had let atrophy in the years she hadn't been able to move. "Are we ready to goh?"

Telran nodded. "I think so. Coming along, then, Emma?" he asked as he shrugged on his jacket, wincing slightly. The burn had not yet finished healing, and was still very tender.

"Uh, yeah, if the two of you don't mind." She put on her best smile, but she wondered whether or not anyone was fooled. She immediately reprimanded herself for seeming so indicisive. It was time to be confident. "Yeah, let's go."

=====

By the time he pulled up to the clinic where the doctor supposedly worked, Brent Michaels was deeply worried for Jeorgia. About an hour before they arrived, she stopped making the pained noises she had been making from the hotel to the clinic. He would have taken this as a good sign if she hadn't gotten so pale and clammy. He grabbed his wife's hand and gave it a strong squeeze of reassurement, to which she only weakly squeezed back. The clinic didn't seem to be open, given how the lights didn't appear to be on from the lobby. He tried to push the door open, but it was locked. "No...please, come on, please open..."

Terra noticed someone banging on the door of the clinic. "Maybe that'sch the person with the baby..." Though she didn't see his wife, or sister, or whoever she was, she assumed that was why he was pounding so frantically on the door.

"Is he in trouble? He seems rather panicked," Emma observed.

"Only one way to find out," Telran replied, jogging toward the clinic. "Heeeeeey!" he shouted as he drew closer, waving at the stranger. As he came to a stop a short distance away, he asked, "Are you Mr. Michaels, then?"

"Y-yes, I am!" He said-- no, he shouted it, honestly. This man looked like he belonged to some sort of biker gang, and it certainly wasn't what he needed right now. "W-who the h-hell are you? I'm looking for Dr. Astra!"

"Well, look no further - you've found him," Telran replied, smiling kindly. "This is my clinic. I take it your wife hasn't gone into labor yet?"

"I don't--um, probably not, I mean, I'm not really sure, she's uh, had some pain problems and things like that, you know, uh, I just really needed to get her into the clinic to uh, see what could be done to help her. A wheelchair would probably be a good idea," he said, the words sort of falling out of his mouth as he kept it open.

"It'sch ohkay Mr. Michaels, wheel help her," Terra tried to reassure him. She felt like she had to talk to this man, probably because they had the same last name or nonsense like that.

"She's right, you know," said Telran, unlocking the front door and flicking on the lights inside before gesturing for Terra and Brent to follow. When he did that, Brent noticed wheelchairs secluded to a corner with a coin deposit for grabbing and returning them. Cursing, he dug his wallet out of his pocket, dropped a few coins in, and took off from the lobby like a bat out of hell back to his wife.

"M-Mr. Michaels, wait! Let me help you with that!" Emma called, running out after him.

"He...seemsch wohrried."

Telran glanced at the retreating figure of Brent Michaels; he was a man he'd seen so many times before - the nervous husband panicking over the impending birth of his child, worried for the new life as well as that of his wife. No matter how many times he saw it, Telran never could help feeling just a little amused by the mad scramble every time. "Mmm," he said, nodding in agreement. "I don't blame him, though. Having to place the safety of the people he loves in the hands of a stranger...it's not easy." He glanced at Terra. "We'll just have to make sure it isn't misplaced. Are you sure you're up for this? I'm still surprised to see you walking and talking."

"I'm fine. And I feel like if ahnyohne could help thisch guy, maybe I'm the persohn to doh it." She laughed at herself for that.

Jeorgia made it into the wheelchair with a good deal of help from Brent and an increasingly flustered Emma, but the rush there did not in any way damper the man's adrenaline. He started the rush back to the lobby with his wife gripping the handles of the wheelchair with white knuckles. "Brent."

"Mr. Micheals, slow down!" Emma called.

He didn't answer.

"BRENT."

"I've got it Jeorge, it's okay!"

"NO THERE IS A FUCKING CURB THERE AND I DON'T WANT TO LAND ON MY FUCKING FACE THANK YOU," she yelled, pulling on the brake slowly so that the stop wasn't as abrupt. When he went around the curb to the inclined ramp, he mumbled out an apology.

Emma ran to open the front door for them and the couple made it into the lobby without injuring anyone, Jeorgia saying, "Don't worry. I'll be fine."

Emma, however, felt like her nerves were frayed, and the delivery hadn't even yet begun. As the couple impatiently waited in the lobby she sat down in one of the chairs, her right eye twitching beneath a mass of disheveled hair after wrestling with Mr. Micheals trying to get his wife into the wheelchair outside.

She had left her senses open in order to get a feel for any pain the woman may have been in, but anything coming from her had been overshadowed by her frantic husband. Breathing deeply, the red head closed her eyes and tried to calm herself down, closing herself off from the emotions of the other occupants of the clinic.

This was a terrible idea, she thought to herself.

Telran was busy prepping the delivery room for his guest, and his voice floated out into the lobby. "Terra, let them know I'll be ready for them in just a minute, okay?"

Terra acted like she thought a nurse was supposed to act like. She'd only caught glimpses on dramas on the TV where they were usually gossiping or having sex with doctors, yet she felt fairly certain she'd also seen them try to keep patients calm. "The dohctor will see you in a mohment. Please stay calm and... practice the breathing thing," she suggested, trying to look and sound cheerful.

Brent was sincerely wondering if this girl was intended to be some sort of help staff, or if she was a stoned friend of this strange (supposedly good) biker doctor. "Isn't there anyone else working here that could give us more help than some girl with problems talking?"

The green-eyed woman looked genuinely hurt by this. Even the red haired girl seemed to snap to as she sat upright in her chair and turned to toss a look of contempt in his direction. He felt fairly certain that Jeorgia was probably also glowering at him, if she wasn't in too much pain to do so. "I'm...soh--soh--sorry..." A familiar feeling of guilt washed over him for yelling at the poor woman for something she couldn't even help. It felt strangely distinct, like he'd yelled at this lady before, yet he felt certain he didn't know her.

"Ready?" Telran stepped back out of the delivery room, now clothed in green scrubs. "Ah, and I take it you're Mrs. Michaels?" he asked, nodding toward Jeorgia.

She nodded, gritting her teeth. Brent attempted to smooth the hair on her head before she slapped his hand away and groaned.

"A-ah, I think the d-dohcter can take care of her now, Mr. Michaels," Terra said nervously, tugging on one of her sleeves. She was suddenly feeling quite tired, and took a seat in one of the lobby chairs.

Telran nodded. "Don't worry. She's in good hands," he said with a gentle smile. He turned his gaze toward his new patient. "Ready for the main event?"

Jeorgia suddenly clutched her stomach and made a pathetic wailing noise. She gritted her teeth, though sweat was dripping down from her forehead onto her stomach, and nodded at Telran. Brent reluctantly let Telran take the wheelchair. "Don't worry, it'll be over soon," Telran murmured quietly as he wheeled her into the delivery room.

It was the fact that his wife was in such delicate situation that had kept Emma from giving this man a piece of her mind after what he had said to Terra. She didn't know where he got the nerve to be so rude when she was only trying to be helpful. The redhead glanced across the small lobby toward her friend and, noticing how negatively the comment had affected her, got up and walked over to take a seat next to the smaller girl.

Emma placed a hand on Terra's shoulder. "Are you okay?"

Terra nodded quietly.

"Try not to let him get to you, the rest of us appreciate what you do." Emma gave her former charge a reasuring smile.

Brent, on the other hand, was sitting in the corner with an oddly familiar guilt. He didn't know why; it felt like an old guilt that never went away. When he snuck a quick glance back at the girl he'd yelled at, he had to admit, she did look an awful lot like his sister. If she'd dyed her hair green and brown and wore contacts, he'd even say that...

But she couldn't be her. The Destrillians were dangerous, wanted criminals who his boss warned him about. Destrillians were more likely to punch his face off for yelling at them, not be so cowed by it. Right? He glanced over at the woman he yelled at again.

He thought back to when his superior had talked to him about the Destrillians before he left Artolia. He'd seen the picture of the one who called herself Terra, who was supposedly his sister: wasn't her hair a similar shade of green? Though granted, it wasn't streaked with sporadic bits of brown still clinging to it, but still, perhaps...

Brent finally stood up and walked over to the woman he'd yelled at earlier, ignoring the redhead as she gave him an angry expression. "Um, miss? I'm sorry for what I said earlier. I'm worried about my wife, but that isn't an excuse to take it out on you."

Terra looked up at him. Despite his apology, she said nothing, offering up only a blank stare. Honestly, for a time they simply stared at each other, wondering what the other person would say. Finally, the green-eyed woman nodded. "Ohkay."

Talking to her kept his mind off of fear and worry of his wife. He took a seat a couple of chairs down from the other woman. Did she sound like Tarah used to sound? Did she have that same chipped tooth smile that she had? He honestly couldn't say. He'd pushed it out of his mind so long ago, the baggage and the guilt suddenly storming up to berate him felt out of place. If it was her, would she know him? "E-excuse me but is your name Ta--Terra?"

She raised an eyebrow at him. "Noh, my name is noht Taterra."

Goddamn it. "I meant Terra. Is that your name?"

Terra stiffened immediately. Emma clasped a hand around her own and squeezed it tight, glancing back and forth between them. He couldn't have been someone she knew from Osea; she never used the name Terra back then. Logically, the only people who should have known her real name were her friends and people who had met them, or else someone wanting to hurt them. Though honestly, who would want to hurt them and then give his pregnant wife to one of them? Unless this guy was supposed to be remarkably stupid, he wouldn't just hand over a possible hostage to the Destrillians. Even if he wasn't an enemy, how would he know her name? "Do I knohw you?"

Which didn't really answer his question. But she looked at least somewhat like that picture, didn't she? Even if she wasn't her, or she wouldn't answer what he said for fear of who knew what, he was certain she at least knew his sister. "I had a little sister once. Her name was Tarah Michaels, though she always said it like Terra," he paused. "The last time I saw her I said something very harsh to her. If you ever meet someone who calls herself Terra Michaels, please tell her I'm sorry for what I did back then."

At this point, Terra was quite confused. Terra Michaels was indeed her name, but she didn't know who this weird middle-aged guy with blonde hair was. But instead of a proper response, she simply said, "I will."

It seemed like hours went by as the three of them waited in silence, Brent wringing his hands while Terra looked at the pictures in an old magazine.

From the delivery room, one last cry could be heard from Jeorgia, and then...

The sound of a newborn's first wail came drifting out into the waiting area. It was done.

Brent was now a father.

Brent couldn't run fast enough out of his seat. He leapt up, promptly falling back onto his knees in the scramble, and hurried for the delivery room, Terra and Emma running after him.

He burst through the door to the delivery room and saw his wife sitting calmly on the bed holding a crying child in her arms. She had never looked as beautiful as she did in that moment. He hurried over to her side and wiped her forehead with a nearby tissue. "How did it go, Jeorgie?"

"Fine," she breathed, stroking their child's forehead. "It's a boy. What do you think we should call him?"

"How about Zieg?" Brent suggested, coming up with the first name that popped into his head.

"Well, I'm sure you could have come up with something worse." Jeorgia laughed, and their baby stopped crying long enough to blink up at his dad.

"Zieg Michaels...I suppose it does have a certain ring to it," said Telran, removing his gloves and wiping the sweat from his brow. "You'll be pleased to hear that he came out just fine - all his fingers and toes."

Terra smiled at the couple despite herself. She had this strange, warm feeling in her chest looking at them, like she honestly wanted to see them happy. They weren't her friends, so why would she even feel like that?

Maybe he had been meaning to talk to her earlier, like he really had made her feel bad in the past. She touched her glasses briefly, and something like the memory of a feeling bubbled up inside of her. "Mr. Mihchaelsch," she started, "I think Terra goht your message just fine."

It was probably the euphoria of the moment that made Brent hug the green eyed woman in the delivery room. Probably the joy of his new son, his wife being safe, and possibly even the fact that Tarah understood that he was sorry after all this time. "Thank you. Thank you!" he said, almost feeling like he was crushing the other girl in his arms.

"...do you two know each other?" the doctor asked, a quizzical expression on his face.

Terra sort of stiffly walked away from Mr. Michaels. "He wahnted me toh send a message toh Terra Mi--"

"She's my sister, I think!" Brent suddenly blurted out. The sudden silence stretched on for what seemed an eternity before being broken by Telran.

"Looks like more congratulations are in order."

Emma stood to the side, watching as the scene played out before her. It was true, then. This was Terra's brother. She smiled at them all, seeming to be enjoying the happy display as hugs and congratulations were given all around. It was a fake smile, of course, for it was at this moment that she suddenly felt as if she were an outsider, that she shouldn't really have been there. She was so repulsed with herself that she turned and walked out the door as quietly as she could so as not to disturb the others.

Sitting down in a chair in the waiting room, she placed her face into her hands and shook her head. Should she not be feeling happy for the family at a time like this? But instead she felt almost jealous. Even slightly bitter. She never should have tagged along on this venture. What exactly did she have to prove, anyway?

She had wanted to prove that the events that took place in the mansion hadn't changed anything. Unfortunately, that's when everything had changed.

"I've lost her, haven't I?" Emma asked aloud, the idea that one of the others could hear her never once crossing her mind.

"Of course," said the voice in the back of her mind, slowly rising to the surface. "But did you really expect her to need you to hold her hand forever?"

"I don't know, I never really thought about it. Back in Osea everything seemed so right and... and everything was going so well."

"Well for you, but do you think Terra was happy in her condition?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know? You of all people, who knows what others are feeling? You're in denial. You're so pathetic when you snivel like some human girl."

For the first time in a long while, Emma thought of Chris and Riese, and the life she shared with them in Osea. She thought of Chris's grandmother and her little flower shop. She thought of Natasha, and how deep down inside she still longed to see her again, even after all these years. She also thought of her own past and how she still hadn't regained her memories the way the others had. Emma wondered whether or not she had a brother, too, just like Terra.

It was the lonliest Emma had felt in a long time. The guilt of her emotions was starting to tug at her, however, and she decided it was time to return to the delivery room. Imagining a switch being flipped in the back of her mind, Emma opened herself up completely to the emotions of those around her as she entered the room. A feeling of elation swelled her heart as she patted Brent and Terra on the back, congratulating them all on the reuinion as well as the delivery of the baby.

Everyone was happy, which certainly felt better than the way Emma was really feeling.

Brent and Jeorgia were huddled around the baby, tickling his nose, wiping his spittle, and overall adoring their new son. So no one noticed when Jeorgia whispered to her husband, "Hon, I think these people are the ones the radio was talking about back in Osea."

Brent suddenly coughed rather loudly, pulling away from his kid. "Y-yeah, Jeorgie, that's sort of what I figured. I was... uh, sort of told by the people er, back at work what Tarah had become."

The three Destrillians in the room fell silent and stared.

"Waht about waht Terra had becohme?" Terra asked, her muscles tensing more than they had during the sudden hug. She appeared prepared to run if necessary.

"A-ah, no, I mean, it's not a bad thing! You don't seem like bad people! I mean just cause you're Desphmumm--" He was unable to finish his thought given Jeorgia's sudden hand over his mouth.

"Ah, crap," Telran sighed. "And here I'd hoped you hadn't noticed my little slip-up back there," he said, frowning as he looked at Jeorgia speculatively. He noticed Brent's glare and he held his hands up to show he meant no harm. "It's nothing like that, Mr. Michaels. I had intended just to use an epidural, but I accidentally...ah, shocked your wife with my powers." He backed up a step, catching the murderous intent in Brent's eyes. "It's nothing serious, I promise. All I did was numb her pain receptors to ease things for her." His golden eyes grew sad. "Regardless of what your news might have you think, all we want are normal lives."

"Yes, Terra and I spent the last four years living in an apartment in Artolia before everything went downhill. We had jobs, and friends, and never caused any trouble," Emma added.

Jeorgia cocked an eyebrow at the doctor, then shrugged. "Certainly don't seem much like cannabalistic terrorists to me. At least, I tend to assume most of those guys don't help women give birth with as little pain as they can manage."

Brent nodded, "I'm glad Jeorgia's alright. The fact I could tell Tarah sorry after all these years is just a bonus." Terra looked completely baffled as to why there was an apology necessary after the initial one, but didn't much want any other unexpected hugs that might occur if she asked about it. "Though, honestly, this is gonna be hell trying to explain to my superiors why we went all the way out here and with whom we met..." Honestly, that wasn't so much that he wouldn't be able to come up with an excuse so much as he doubted his lying capabilites.

Telran stiffened. "Superiors?"

The new father scratched the back of his head, "I'm part of the Artolian army. Jeorgia and I are on parental leave for now, but I was specifically warned previously to, ah, watch out for my sister."

"I would appreciate it if you let them know that you still haven't run into her." Telran tilted his head slightly, looking at Brent with an appraising glance. After a moment of silence, he spoke again. "How about this? We're going to be leaving soon for a while, and your wife is going to need a bit of looking after still. Why don't you stick around here? You can have my keys - there's everything you could possibly need here. And in return, all I ask is that you not mention any of us to anyone."

"I'll tell them we never saw you. I'm higher up and a better liar anyways," Jeorgia said with a shrug. She chose to ignore the somewhat distraught look on her husband's face at the idea that she was a good liar.

"Thank you - there's not many people that would stick their necks out for us like that," Telran replied. He glanced at Terra before turning to Emma. "Maybe we should give them some time together?" he asked quietly, before slipping out of the room and into the reception area.

"Yeah, that's a good idea," she replied.

Terra nodded, waving goodbye to her apparent brother and sister-in-law. Once they left the room, she sighed quietly. "That wahsch tiring."

Telran glanced at her sidelong. "And we haven't even gotten to the hard part yet."
__________________

is daddy still a good man?
like a shotgun needs an outcome

don't trust the ones who shake with their left hand

ACKY: IM NOT A TURIAN I CANT MAEK BABBIES WITH GARRUS

Joe: NOT WITH THAT ATTITUDE


can you fight a legendary creature?


i was a TEENAGE CLAIRVOYANT

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Old 06/07/2012   #20
Bex
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THETIS ALCESTEOS, ARIEL REGAN, SALEM LOCKE, LORELEI JAEGER
Spencer Mansion
The Gym



There were far worse ways to start an afternoon than having the full and undivided attention of three attractive young ladies, Salem Locke thought to himself as he reclined casually against the ropes of the sparring ring. Lorelei stood to his side, arms crossed and with a mischievous smile on her face, staring down contemptuously at the other two Destrillians who stood with a similar easy confidence opposite them.

"So, ladies," he deliberately drew out the last word, prompting a triad of scowls from three sets of eyes. "Are you sure about the teams?"

"Are you sure you wanna get your ass kicked?" Thetis scoffed and rolled her shoulders before throwing her hooded top over the corner post. With a sideways glance at Ariel, the water Destrillian smirked. "You've got nothing on us."

"Remind me again, Facility 2 is where they sent all the second rate Destrillians, right Thetis?" asked Ariel in feigned ignorance. Thetis sniggered and began to flex.

"Yeah, you guys have a bad track record."

"So bad that we're the ones they wanted to keep?" Lorelei taunted in return, thoroughly enjoying the smack-talking that was taking place before the sparring session.

"Don't forget that I was here first!" Ariel called back with a broad smirk.

"Bitch, please. Getting lost on the way to the damn infirmary doesn't count." Salem shouted back, thoroughly enjoying himself.

"If you guys didn't miss me so bad, I wouldn't be standing here!" Thetis said smugly. She leant against the ropes, a wide grin plastered on her face as she folded her arms and turned to Ariel. "How long d'you reckon it’ll take to wipe the floor with them?"

"With the two of us? I don't know. Not enough time for Elvan to get back here with a celebratory cake." Ariel commented with a shrug.

"What, one that says 'better luck next time' in giant letters?"

"Besides, our team is just better looking," Salem drawled, speaking as though his voice was an undeniable fact lifted straight from the gold-spun pages of the gods' own dictionary. "Sucks to be you."

Looking Salem up and down, Thetis snorted. "Yeah right," she bounced off the ropes and strode to the centre of the ring. "Are you losers setting down some ground rules or are we gonna get started?"

"I'm guessing Ariel will insist on the usual," said Lorelei, with a roll of her eyes. She glanced over at her scruffy partner. "Got anything?"

"Speaking as the minority here: no shots below the belt please. That shit got cheap months ago and my left nut still hasn't recovered." Salem piped up helpfully.

"The usual?" Thetis glanced at Ariel before turning back to their opponents. "I guess that means no powers, right?"

"Right." Ariel confirmed for her blue-haired companion as she took her head in her hands to crack her neck.

"Okay," Thetis stepped back to join her team-mate, rolling on the balls of her feet with rhythmic deliberation.

"You guys ready to lose?"


.oOo.

Silence. The Destrillian focused and nocked her arrow. With a deep exhale, she curled her fingers around each fletch. The bow’s limbs groaned under her draw. Thetis remained perfectly still, the soft rise and fall of her chest almost imperceptible. Finally, the arrow took flight, silent save for the whistle of the bowstring and the pleasing thump as it sunk squarely into the centre of her target. The water prototype smiled. Training at the gym certainly had its advantages. As the others had before, the twenty-third shot had been accurate to within a single centimetre. With a satisfied a sigh, Thetis reached into the quiver and withdrew another arrow.

Thump

She caught another arrow between her fingers, completely ignoring the sound.

Thump-Thump-Thump

It sounded like meat pounding against a wall. She knew what it was and who was responsible, but she didn't look around to check.

Thump-a-Thump-a-Thump-a-Thump-a-KRRRRRRRNCH

The unnaturally loud sound of the steel harness screaming in protest made her flinch as she began to draw back her next shot. Ariel had been wailing away at her punching bag on the other side of the gym for well over an hour now and had already torn one from the wall completely. If anything, Thetis reckoned she had nearly tuned out the sound completely. As another arrow sailed serenely through the air and buried itself into the bull’s-eye, Thetis sighed. Ariel's constant stream of curses was more difficult to ignore. She turned to face the sound prototype, who had hooked up and was currently pummelling into yet another punching bag.

She nocked another arrow and furrowed her brow. Ariel didn't even look herself right now, her black and white hair plastered behind her ears with sweat that ran down her neck to stain the grey training top. Her padded white gloves, once pristine, looked crack and pummelled flat under the abuse she was inflicting on them. Her flushed face, completely visible with her hair pulled back away from it, was hard and determined. There was no light, no twinkle in the deep violet of her eyes.

Sand spilt to the floor as the carbon fibre arrow shaft ripped through the leather lining of the punching bag.

Ariel gave the bag one last punch, a massive overhand strike that made the steel harness wail in protest.

"Something you're trying to tell me, Thetis?" Ariel growled.

"Yeah, shut up," the water prototype responded curtly as she turned to face her target once more. "Can't concentrate with your anger management issues. It's distracting."

The two locked eyes from across the gym. A lock of lank black hair had come lose and now swung like a pendulum across Ariel's face as she raised her fist.

Thump

"Did I stutter?" Thetis snarled. She flung down her quiver and bow and stormed across the gym.

"Whatever. If I'm too loud for you, leave. Nobody's stopping you." Ariel's words sounded grim, as though whatever passion she had originally intended to imbue them with had died on the way to her lips. As Ariel swung for the bag again, Thetis caught it on the rebound. The sound prototype looked terrible, that much was obvious. Her eyes were red-rimmed and exhausted.

"What is up with you?" Though her tone was admonishing, her words held the slightest trace of concern.

Ariel laughed. It was an empty, skeletal sound. "What do you care? 'Ariel is dead', remember?" She made another swing for the punching bag, but even this gesture was half-hearted.

thump

"She must be," Thetis wrested the bag away from Ariel and gave her a hard shove to the shoulder. "Because the Ariel I knew wasn't like this."

"'The Ariel you knew'," she repeated numbly, apparently unaware that she had done it. "Stupid me. I didn't even know I'd changed." Her face was half-hidden beneath a fresh cascade of damp monochrome hair.

"You didn't know?" Thetis scoffed and pushed the punching bag towards Ariel. "Come on. Last I checked, you were more likely to kill Spencer than work with him."

"Last time you checked I was a silly little girl who let myself be convinced by the stupid idea that we would be better off out of our cages."

"Who says we weren't? You wouldn't know," Thetis said bitterly.

"Were you?" There was something sincere buried at the core of Ariel's bitter comment. Something genuinely curious masked beneath the layers of sullen depression.

"That's a stupid question," Thetis growled and walked over to her bow. "It was better than down there."

"Yes, it was." Ariel snarled back almost immediately. She seemed to take herself by surprise at how quickly and harshly she had spoken. It didn't last long, the momentary wide-eyed stare soon collapsing into a gloomy frown. Thetis paused as she picked up the bow.

"You ever tried to escape?" the water prototype spoke quietly, cautiously.

Ariel's gaze almost instinctively narrowed and bristled with hostility. Though that too was a fleeting look that gradually seemed to slip away from her features. "Yeah, sure. I tried to escape for the first six months I was here. I reckon I could do it now, if I wanted to. It was harder back then, there were a lot more guards."

"Then I started asking myself why." Thump "What the hell was I trying to prove?" Thump-Thump "What was I trying to escape to? There's no life out there for people like us. For people like me." Thump-a-Thump-a-Thump-a-Thump

She turned away from her punching bag to stare at Thetis, brushing the hair from her face to stare hard into Thetis' eyes. "Sometimes I think Kerr had it right, you know? We're meant to follow Viola's, no, Spencer's orders. After that sunk in I stopped trying to run. I live with my choice."

"By kidnapping your friends while they're unconscious?" Four arrows sunk into the target in quick succession. "What else?" thunk-thunk-thunk "You'd kill us?" [/i]thunk[/i] "For him?" thunk-thunk "We followed them for long enough."

"Spencer isn't Viola. His goals are different." Ariel repeated doggedly and Thetis rolled her eyes. It was not the first time she had been spoon-fed that line.

"Then what are they, Ariel?" Thetis turned to face her former friend, "Tell me. Tell me what makes Spencer right and me wrong."

For the first time, Ariel began to look nervous. Her teeth biting down on her lower lip and her eyes doing a quick scan of the gymnasium to make sure the two Destrillians were alone.

"You aren't wrong," she breathed "But you, Kerr, everyone else. You're all in his way."

"He's working on something. Something to kill all of them." It was taking a great deal of effort to force the words out. This level of information was probably kept out of the reach of the new arrivals. Thetis stopped plucking arrows from the target and tip-toed closer. Her walk soon quickened into a trot as she caught the look of anxiety on Ariel's face.

"Kill who? Us?" This was not a conversation to be overheard.

"No! The Lyverius." Ariel hissed back at her.

"I don't get it, why get rid of us?" Both Destrillians were speaking in hushed tones, as if trading secrets in their old recreation room.

"He has a plan. The last thing he counted on was a Destrillians reunion acting on their own and taking the fight to them." She shrugged, suddenly a little angry and sensing that she was perhaps saying too much. "This is his way of ... adapting."

Thetis frowned, deep in thought. Was that it? Surely there was more. Bringing her, Kram and Kerr to the mansion would have needed months of planning, especially with their sporadic movements and the chaos they left behind. Besides, last she checked, Thetis could have sworn they'd been running from the Lyverius. "You sure that's it? It seems a little... much."

"Don't let the little pissing contests you've had against these clowns fool you, Thetis. That stuff leaving Osea and the skirmish at Avidez' chateau. That's nothing compared to what the Sponsors can do if they put their minds to it. Nothing is too much to stop that." Her voice shook slightly, but not from fear. There was something fiercely sincere about her words that couldn't help but check her fellow Destrillian.

"I wouldn't stop him killing them," Thetis admitted begrudgingly. "But there's no need for us to be here. We met one in Limnades and I've never run faster. I saw what they can do. I felt it. We couldn't beat something like that if we tried." The water Destrillian sat on the floor beside Ariel, crossing her legs and resting her cheek on her hand. "I wouldn't have got in his way."

"For now it's just better that you're here." The smallest of smiles plucked at Ariel's lips.

"Because knowing all that wouldn't stop you guys from trying, would it?"


.oOo.


Lorelei fell into her favourite defensive posture. "Bring it on, weakling."

Thetis grinned. Without the slightest indication of a plan to her partner, the water prototype rushed Lorelei. Close-combat had never been her forte, but there was no way Thetis could back down from a challenge.

Almost immediately her path was blocked by Salem, who moved quicker than Thetis would have given him credit for. Locking his tattooed arm out straight and lunging with a feral snarl, hoping for Thetis to collide headlong into the obstruction hurtling towards her. Wide-eyed, the water Destrillian felt her bangs brush Salem's arm as she barely ducked under his clothes-line. She swore under her breath as she skidded to a halt, momentarily thrown off course by the obstruction. Sneakers squeaking on the sparring-ring floor, Thetis turned her attention to Salem, missing the low kick heading in her direction, courtesy of Lorelei.

Ariel wasted no time in following her partner. Pausing for the exact right moment as Salem's eyes briefly looking over his shoulder to watch what had become of Thetis. Ariel instantly made him regret the momentary distraction, planting a viciously powerful right-hand straight into the side of the large Destrillian's face. She saw his eyes briefly glaze over and his jaw shudder under the force of the impact. A lot of pent-up, unsent things had gone into that one blow. It was going to leave a mark. Despite having been sent hurtling to the floor by Lorelei, Thetis quickly scrambled to her feet and dropped into stance. "You gonna just hide behind your boyfriend?" she shouted at the blind girl, unable to surpress a confident smirk.

"Little baby mad because she fall down?" Lorelei said mockingly, a quick curl of her fingers beckoning Thetis come closer. The water Destrillian's grin vanished. With a quick nod to Ariel, she darted off again, weaving around Salem as he lunged towards her. As soon as she was in striking distance, Thetis swung for Lorelei's cheek, a wild punch that the blind girl instantly dodged. Thetis, however, was unabated. As Lorelei guided away her second strike, the water Destrillian used the momentum to her advantage and snapped her leg into the blind girl's side.

Not standing idle, Salem was already baring down on Ariel. He couldn't have been stunned for more than a handful of moments. The Destrillian of sound was reminded with punishing certainty exactly how tough her opponent could be in a scrap. He moved intelligently across the ring's surface, trying to keep himself inbetween Ariel and Thetis, cutting off their line of sight from one another.

Salem threw a hard body shot at Ariel, hoping to catch her square in the chest. It was a shot that would have broken the sternum for any regular human, but one that Ariel had seen coming and instinctively rolled away from. She stamped down hard with her heel onto Salem's foot, drawing a predictable wince of pain and muttered curse. He tried to counter with an enormous overhand punch aimed directly for the top of her head, but once again Ariel proved to be too fast, ducking low and pouncing to the side to avoid the wild punch. With the same motion she brought up a straight high kick aimed straight at her opponent's back.

She was grinning. Salem was still too slow.

The grin disappeared as he spun to catch her dramatic kick and then with stunning ferocity, used her own momentum to hurl Ariel across the ring where she bodily hit the canvas mat.

On the other side of the ring, Lorelei found herself knocked back against the ropes by a relentless Thetis. After the side kick, Thetis had followed up with a punch straight to the face; Lorelei had only partially managed to dodge it, avoiding a face hit but instead taking the hit to her collarbone. She fell back against Thetis' assault, having never been much good in a straight fight; she was defensive in hand-to-hand, but she knew it took more than a solid defense to win. Eager to press her advantage and throw her opponent from the ring, the water Destrillian hurled another right hook at Lorelei. Only this time, the blind girl was ready. Lorelei slapped the punch away as if it was nothing and followed with a sharp elbow into Thetis' chest. The water Destrillian stumbled backwards and nearly tripped over Ariel, who lay crumpled in the centre of the ring.

"Smooth moves, Team Pizza and Angst. You're really bossing that mat." Salem laughed, absent-mindedly rubbing the bruise that was already darkening on his cheek.

"You ain't looking too hot yourself," Thetis growled as she helped Ariel to her feet.

"So not only did Perkins not teach you how to fight, she skipped the lessons on insults, too?" Lorelei jeered, rolling her shoulder on the side that Thetis had hit. She'd never admit it, but it actually hurt just a little more than she'd have liked. Seemed Thetis had more spunk in her than she'd originally thought. "This is going to be more fun than I’d thought," she muttered to herself.

Ariel cast a glance over to Thetis and their eyes met briefly. There was no hidden meaning there. Neither wanted to speak volumes about the turbulent years that the two former friends had spent apart. There was only one message that needed to be conveyed. Thetis gave the slightest of nods and a small smile spread across Ariel's lips.

The two moved as one. Heading towards Salem, noting the way that Lorelei preferred to stay close to the ropes whilst the larger Destrillian advanced towards the centre of the ring. Ariel ghosted in front of Thetis, knowing intuitively where Salem's first punch was going to come from and where she should go to avoid it. Hours of sparring against the tattooed Destrillian had taught her that Salem was lazy in a fight, preferring to use all his massive strength to end it as soon as possible in one great haymaker.

Like clockwork the enormous punch swung out and whistled over her head as she ducked low and rolled off to the side towards Lorelei. Standing back, Thetis caught Salem's wrist as the punch reached the apex of its swing, all power having been exhausted as it threatened nothing but empty air. Her hands locked around Salem's wrist like a vice as she used his momentum to roll effortlessly on her back, bringing the tattooed Destrillian with her before both of her legs shot into his chest like pistons. Salem was sent flying into the ropes as the water prototype smoothly leapt back to her feet. Thetis watched, brushing herself down as Salem finally struggled to untangle himself from the ropes. She didn't wait for Salem to get back up before dealing him a roundhouse kick with enough force to eject the green-haired man from the ring.

Salem would have shouted out in protest if all the breath hadn't been driven from his lungs. Instead he let out a rasping wheeze as his body sailed over the top rope to land with an audible crash outside the ring as he hit the ground and instantly rolled into a rowing machine, knocking it over. It took the Destrillian a few seconds more to pick himself up this time. Inhaling great lungfuls of air to replace that which had been so violently forced from his chest.

Meanwhile, Lorelei now found herself backed into the corner by Ariel's exertions. Having spent so much time around Salem and Lorelei definitely gave her an edge in combat against them, especially without the use of powers. Lorelei, on her part, found defence easy enough, but had been forced to back up so far that it was impossible for her to gain any momentum for a counterattack. Thetis had re-joined her team-mate, throwing feints left and right in an attempt to support Ariel's tactic. Now Lorelei's defence would be tested until Salem could find his way back to the ring. It would only take him seconds. But one wrong move could have the fight over in just as little time.

With Ariel and Thetis bearing down on her, Lorelei had little chance to recover. She dropped her guard low to prevent a hard swinging kick from Thetis only to see too late the two handed blow from Ariel, her fingers interlocked into a blow designed to act like a cannonball. Falling back on her training, Lorelei began to roll her head away from the punch. But much too slowly. She felt a momentary fog descend as the fists glanced across the top of her skull, spinning her into the ropes.

Thetis seized the opportunity. She leapt onto the ropes, using their elasticity to further propel her into the air directly above Lorelei. The force of Thetis' heel as she drove it into Lorelei's shoulder, paired with the velocity of the fall, sent the blind girl hurtling towards a painful looking face plant on the canvas mat. With a grin on her face as she regained her footing, Thetis offered her fist to Ariel. "Bump it."

Before Ariel could oblige, the ring began to tremble.

Lorelei was furious - not with Thetis and Ariel, but with herself. She wasn't a great hand-to-hand combatant, but felt herself competent enough at CQC that a direct hit to the face shouldn't have happened. Angry and humiliated, Lorelei had finally lost her temper. She slowly rose to her feet, the ring still trembling from her fury, and wiped a trickle of blood from her nose.

"No more kiddie gloves."


.oOo.


What the hell was I thinking?

Lorelei wandered the lower floors of the mansion, on a walk to clear her head. She'd spent the past hour admonishing herself for her uncharacteristic display of niceness toward the mansion's other blue-haired guest. Why was it that she was being all friendly and chatty toward her? She wasn't any different from Nordstrom, after all - they'd both decided to leave Viola and then return because it was convenient for them. She still didn’t like Nordstrom, so why did she feel any differently about Thetis?

There wasn't any reason for it, she knew, shaking her head as though it would clear out the confusion. Thetis seemed like so much wasted potential - she'd heard what Perkins thought of her precious Number Six, but after seeing her in action at the lake, she could only conclude that either the doctor had lost it or Thetis had. And then from everything she'd witnessed since Thetis came to the mansion, it seemed pretty clear that the latter was the case. She'd grown weak...soft. And so it was very surprising that Lorelei felt anything other than contempt for the last water Destrillian. There were few things she despised more than weakness. And that brought her up short, coming to a dead stop in the middle of the hallway.

Maybe it was because they had more in common than Lorelei cared to admit.

Damn it, she thought, slamming a fist against the wall. Lorelei had always had something of an inferiority complex - a need to prove herself, a need to show that she wasn't weak - that she wasn't useless. It gave her life meaning; it defined her; it made her who she was to know that she was strong and independent and needed no one - but sometimes, when she was alone, left to her thoughts, a quiet voice told her that the strong didn't need to prove their strength, didn't need to impress anyone. And it shamed her, made her sick to realize just how weak she truly was.

Maybe she didn't hate Thetis as much as she thought she did because she knew they were no different.

The blind Destrillian wrapped her arms around herself, hugging herself tight as she bit her lip, fighting back the feelings that threatened to overwhelm her. And then her eyes flashed open, as something new tickled at the edge of her consciousness, startling her out of her gloominess - someone was in the gym. She frowned, tilting her head slightly. No, that didn't seem right. No...some two... And then it clicked. Ariel and Thetis were in the gym together, probably looking to do some training, and maybe even try to patch up what was surely a rocky relationship. A stray thought crossed the young woman's mind...

A wicked smile began to creep across Lorelei's face.

She turned and ran in the other direction, reaching out with her senses to try and find the one person that could help her. She found him in one of the mansion's larger lounges, and raced there at top speed. She veered around one last corner and was there, racing straight toward him.

"Salem!" Lorelei practically shouted with joy as she flew toward him, spread out across the black leather of the room's largest couch and watching the vast television screen that hung in between the dozens of exotic weapons that adorned the walls.

"Oh, Lorelei, I love it when you call my name." Salem replied lazily, his eyes transfixed on the television. He was watching a news report which was somewhat predictably covering the Destrillian terrorists.

"Watching the news these days, you'd think that nothing else ever actually happened in the world, y’know?" The comment was made to no one in particular. It wouldn't have shocked Lorelei if Salem spent a decent amount of his time alone talking to himself.

"Can you blame them, though?" she replied, leaning on the back of the sofa. "We are the biggest thing to happen to them since that one sitcom got cancelled."

"Don't you be talking shit about Cherry Honey, Jaeger. I hear that there's a new three season deal in the pipeline." Salem turned to speak with a hawkish hostility that checked Lorelei's advance, before breaking into a sly grin.

"Something you want me for?"

Lorelei's face lit up as she spoke. "Indeed there is, Locke. You up for a bit of mischief?"

Salem's mismatched eyes seemed to sparkle with joy at the prospect.

"Always."

The devilish grin returned to the blind Destrillian's face. "You know, it looks like Ariel and the new girl are about to do a little sparring in the gym." She leaned over the couch toward Salem. "I think they could use a little...help. Don't you?" she purred.

"Shit yes, I think they do. I've seen Ariel fight." Salem replied cynically.

"I haven’t, and I can still tell she's awful," Lorelei replied. Perhaps it was simply lingering resentment on her part, though, considering their history. "The other one...Thetis...she beat Jamelyn, but only barely. Almost killed herself in the process." She looked at Salem seriously. "We can take them. I would've thought you'd want a little payback for how she treated your 'bro' at dinner the other night..."

Salem didn't correct Lorelei. Ariel was a more than capable hand to hand combatant, even for a Destrillian. But Lorelei's scorn and competitive edge was too privately amusing not to indulge.

"My bro is a big boy, he can take the new lass' heat. Unlike his silly bitch." Salem shrugged, suppressing the instinctive rising disgust that came with the memory of Tao.

"Jamelyn was never that tough." Salem spoke gravely. His voice held none of his particular levity. None of the Destrillians stationed here liked to think too much about the grim fate that had befallen four of their comrades at the hands of Spencer's weird acquaintances. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind.

"Frankly, dude, neither were most of the others at our facility." She ticked them off on her fingers. "About the only ones that could really take care of business were, what, you, sometimes Kram, and maybe Deyn?"

"Sometimes, aye," Salem mused, temporarily lost in thought. "Too many piss-poor weaklings and nutcases that needed a good goddamn smack before they could handle shit more fierce than dressing themselves." He smiled brightly at the memory of sparring with the Destrillians of his facility. The vacant look of shock that wiped Mileina's psychotic grin or Celia's expression of pure disdain from their faces when they were caught with a straight right hand that would have put a regular human in the hospital. Playing by the rules and pulling your punches was for chumps.

He pulled himself up from the crisp black leather of the sofa with a show of supreme effort that made Lorelei roll her eyes.

"So, what? You want my help handling a pair of hot women?"

She clapped her hands together as she stood up, beaming up at him. "Thank you, thank you, thank you! I owe you one for this, Salem!"

"Normally I'd just sit back and let this steamy threesome carry on. But I'd feel bad turning down an official invite, wouldn't I?" He sneered.


.oOo.


"Jeez," Thetis laughed off Lorelei as Salem climbed back into the still quaking ring. "I knew you were all talk." She didn't notice Ariel making a retreat to the opposite end of the ring as she fell back into stance. "You guys really do suck at this!"

"The realness of this shit, man. You don't even know." Salem spoke casually enough as he pulled himself back into the ring, but it was plain to see that his swift dalliance with the floor and subsequent ménages à trois with the rowing machine had hurt. Though he took care not to show it. All of them had been trained to compartmentalise their pain, to stow it in the back of their minds and only indulge its existence once the battle was over.

Which, had Thetis been thinking, she would have realized her blunette opponent was doing.

Lorelei lunged toward Thetis, lashing out with a swift kick to the midsection, which Thetis dodged. Before the water Destrillian could take advantage of her opponent's back being to her, however, Thetis found herself flying across the ring and crashing into the corner turnbuckle.

The ropes were still shivering from the force of impact as Thetis struggled to her feet, clearly outraged. "What the hell was that?" She winced slightly as something in her back clicked back into place. "We said no powers!"

"Whoops. Looks like I just changed the rules, Sappho," Lorelei said with a sneer. "You think you're such hot shit right now? Let's see you back it up!"

Thetis shot her blue-haired counterpart a glare and dropped into stance. "You're gonna to regret that." With a sideways glance to Ariel, Thetis flexed her power and fixed her gaze on Lorelei as ribbons of water threaded and writhed through the sparring ring ropes. Before she could rush the blind girl with everything she had, Salem barred her advance.

"Is this how we're rolling out now or what?" Salem cocked his head to one side to ask Lorelei. His tone of voice was extremely casual, but the ploy was obvious. A vicious grin spread was his only reply.

"Thetis, watch out!" Ariel called, sensing the impending attack. Thetis didn't hear the warning until after the explosion had thrown her into the ropes. Ears ringing, Thetis struggled to her feet. The explosion had erupted out of the palm of Salem's hand, releasing a small but forceful blast as the air ignited the space between the two Destrillians. Salem lowered his hand and cracked his knuckles.

"Dance, Water, dance!" Salem shouted the challenge as the arena seemed to disintegrate around Thetis. Then came the fire, erupting out of the canvas floor as the series of explosions ripped the foundations apart beneath her feet. Thetis didn't have time to stare as she dived from the ring and crashed into the gym floor, followed by a far more graceful Ariel.

"How the hell do we match that?!" The water prototype's anger was tangible as Ariel helped her to her feet.

"You alright?" Ariel asked, bizarrely unfazed by Salem and Lorelei's liberal disregard for the rules. Thetis brushed herself off, shook out her limbs and furrowed her brow as she watched their opponents laughing.

"I'm fine," she said curtly before raising her voice, "real funny, guys!"

Lorelei smiled sweetly. "Perhaps dear Ariel forgot to mention that Salem and I have gotten that whole 'tag team' thing down pat, especially when it comes to fighting with powers?" She laughed again at the look of animosity on Thetis' face. "But I can take you on solo, if you'd prefer," she offered. Salem simply let out a barking laugh and sat down on the lip of the arena, now gutted with smouldering craters.

Thetis' response came in the torrent of water that bubbled from the ruins of the arena. It churned and vomited splinters of wood as it burst from the base of the ring. Thetis felt power ripple through her as the attack devoured the canvas floor and roared towards the pair of smug Destrillians...only for the roaring cascade to explode outwards as it approached Salem. Billions of water droplets shimmered as they momentarily hung in the air amongst the steamy mist that had once been Thetis' first volley.

"Well shit, now I'm all wet." Salem quipped, the smirk had not left his face. That was, until the steam that hung in the air vanished and exploded outward. A sheet of water erupted outwards and caught the tattooed Destrillian by surprise. It slammed into him with the force of a brick wall, lifting him clean off his feet and sending him careening over the far edge of the arena's ruined corpse and crashing into some unidentified piece of gym equipment.

"Sucks, doesn't it?" Thetis turned to Ariel with a grin plastered over her face. She inclined her head slightly towards their opponents. "You gonna show 'em what we're made of?"

"With great pleasure." Ariel snarled, narrowing her eyes at Lorelei. She dropped into a fighting stance, allowing herself to give in to her mind's latent power. Sensing the vibrations in the molecules around them and grinning savagely as she became more attuned to the environment.

She threw both hands out in front of her and watched with satisfaction as a violent ripple tore through the misty air in the direction of her blue haired opponent. Such physical movement was totally unnecessary for the actual use of a Destrillian's powers. But they had all long since been taught that their powers worked best if they corresponded to some manner of physical cue or motion as it gave the mind definitive focus and direction.

Lorelei raised an eyebrow. "You know that won't work," she said, almost confused, as she focused for an instant, feeling the vibrations tear through the air. While far from the best in terms of close quarters, hand-to-hand combat - she was easily one of the weakest - when it came to using their unique powers, Lorelei was the strongest of all the Destrillians.

Just like Ariel, she didn't need any physical movements to use her powers, but all the same, with a wave of her hand, Ariel's attack was rendered harmless and the Destrillian of sound was hit with a powerful concussive force to her midsection, doubling her over and knocking her several metres backwards as she clutched her rapidly bruising stomach. Thetis didn't waste any time watching her sparring partner recover. She sprinted towards the ring and, drawing water from its centre, pulled each strand into a flurry of jets which criss-crossed and weaved towards Lorelei.

Ariel had recovered quickly, and was sprinting past Thetis' side, hurdling treadmills and bearing down on Lorelei's position as the threads of water began herding her towards the vengeful Destrillian. She knew from experience that her powers wouldn't be enough to stop the blind Destrillian, and so she rapidly closed in on her while Thetis ran a diversion with her powers. Lorelei could feel Ariel's charge, but was unable to focus her attention on Ariel under Thetis' barrage. Ariel's fist collided with her face, whipping her head violently to the side and she followed it up immediately with a savage head-butt. Their heads came together with a resounding crack sending her skidding across the ruined arena.

During the jubilant aftermath, neither of the facility one Destrillians noticed Salem getting to his feet. That lack of foresight was swiftly corrected once Salem decided to make his presence known by way of a colossal explosion at the heart of the arena, cutting Ariel off from Lorelei and instantly evaporating Thetis' dangerous tendrils of water.

The heat from the blast was sweltering and the shockwaves threatened to throw Thetis back to the floor, but the Destrillian held her ground. Ariel however had no problems withstanding the violent pulse of air generated by Salem's explosion. The rippling shockwaves were simply calmed and their effects nullified as the Destrillian of sound ensured that the rapidly vibrating molecules in the air slowed down. She felt little more than a hot gust of air buffeting her face.

As her powers were hopelessly outmatched against Lorelei, so too were Salem's against hers. Thetis, the sole wildcard in the deck, would be the one to decide the outcome of this encounter. Said Destrillian, however, appeared to be having difficulty with the sheer force of Salem's power. Drenched in the water that had barely shielded her from the tattooed Destrillian's attack, Thetis pushed herself from the turnbuckle and staggered over to Ariel

"Nice," she said simply as she bumped into her partner with a grin. it was the first genuine compliment Ariel had received from Thetis since she arrived in the mansion. The water Destrillian turned her attention to Lorelei who lay in a crumpled heap in the corner of the arena. "Not so smug anymo--"

Before she could finish, the object of her attention spat the blood from her mouth and got back to her feet, an elated glint in her eye; she was clearly the type to enjoy the thrill of battle. "Needed some help, did you?" she asked with a grin.

"I was about to ask if you needed a hand, Lorelei. You did well to pick yourself up after getting knocked that hard on your ass." Ariel spat back, neither girl bothering to hide the enmity that existed between them anymore.

"Unlike some people, I have to hold myself back in training," the some epithet or other Destrillian returned, shucking her jacket as she turned and walked a few paces away, placing it and her muffler down lovingly on a bit of the arena's remnants. "But if you want..." she trailed off.

"Yo Salem!"

"I'm still alive, yeah," Salem wheezed. The dense mosaic of tattoos over his arms did well to hide the red scrapes and bruises that he had accumulated throughout the fight, though there was no disguising the bar of angry red skin that had erupted across his face where it had crashed into a barbell. "Don't let my beauty mark fool you, love, I'm actually feeling pretty good."

Like Fiona, Salem had been the kind of Destrillian bred to endure punishment as well as deal it out with extraordinary ferocity. They were berserkers. Viola's shock troops.

"What do you think? 'Big bang'?"

Salem smiled wolfishly. The two facility one girls had no idea what they were fucking with.

"Big bang." Salem nodded in agreement and cracked his neck from side to side.

He concentrated, closing his mismatched eyes and focusing hard. Causing small scale explosions was as natural to Salem as breathing. Indeed the constricting and releasing of air pressure to generate just a blast came so naturally to him because of the hours of dedicated practice he had done to sync up his own breathing with the use of his powers. He needn't even gesture with his arms anymore, such was the level of mastery over that aspect of his power. The Big bang was a different animal entirely.

It was often assumed that Salem Locke was simply the Destrillian of explosions. The Destrillian of making things go bang and then beating whatever survived into oblivion with his own considerable strength. It was what most saw. It was what came easiest to him. But Salem Locke was notoriously lazy. His power extended over all gas, not just the base molecules of ordinary air, and as he focused those molecules began to rend themselves apart. The chemical elements themselves were changing, ripped apart into smaller and smaller molecules by the full force of the Destrillian's will.

He visualised a sphere in his mind's eye, hovering just above head height and no more than a few feet in diameter. He could only perform this trick in such a localised area because of the strain it took on his mind. However, this would still be more than enough to suit his needs. Probably much more than he would need actually. But Salem had always been a show off.

His mismatched eyes opened as he began to compress the sphere, inhaling a great lungful of air. Crushing it down to hundreds of times its original size. The strain was incredible, having to maintain the unique composition of gas to stop it reverting to its original state as well as having to perform his usual technique.

He breathed out.

A violent inferno of writhing red and orange flames roared into life as Salem's miniscule ball of pure compressed hydrogen exploded outwards. The air itself was on fire.

This, however, was only one half of the 'big bang'.

Feeling the blazing sphere beginning to expand, Lorelei then began to channel her own powers, stretching her arms toward it, hands splayed. Knowing the powers of her opponents as well as she did, she originally had no idea what coming; but seeing them combine their powers, Ariel caught on to what was about to happen.

Too late.

The raging inferno exploded with many times the usual force of Salem's typical explosions, their force amplified by his blind comrade. It was a column of raging, terrible fire, stretching from the floor to the vaulted ceiling of the gym, the shockwave being enough to haul the two first facility Destrillians from their feet before they disappeared from sight behind the blinding white-hot flames that seemed to fill the entire cavernous room.


.oOo.


It took Thetis a good ten minutes in the shower to scrub the soot and dust from her body, and a good majority of her time in the locker room was spent in the silence of defeat. With a resounding clang, the water Destrillian slumped against her locker. If Elvan hadn't butted in where he wasn't wanted, she could have liquidised those facility two losers. Then again, Ariel and Thetis would have been burnt to ash if it wasn't for that last burst of water she had pulled from nowhere. But after a whole lot of shouting and glaring, Elvan had put a stop to all of it and called it a draw. Not before most of the gym had been turned to rubble though. Thetis sighed and began to towel her hair dry. Still feels like we lost.

"Yeah. It does." Ariel replied bitterly, responding to Thetis' thoughts. Thetis' frosty eyes met with hers. The intrusion clearly had not been welcome and Ariel shrugged an apology. She had showered before Thetis, storming out of the room in an indignant fury. Now she sat on the locker room's bench wearing a simple pair of black sweatpants and a matching hooded top. The standard training uniform for security personnel was comfortable and clean on her sore skin, though it did little to tend to her wounded pride.

"Next time we'll win," Thetis pulled her shirt from the locker and began ramming her feet into her already tied sneakers. She turned again to Ariel. "We had them beat."

"Next time I'll beat that bitch to death," Ariel spat venomously. She shook her head at the visceral display, as though ashamed of it. "It's good to finally have a partner who can keep up with me. Normally they just stick me with a damn robot or whatever."

"Yeah, it's good to be just sparring for once," Thetis said with a grim smile. She wasn't sure if there was any truth to that statement. In fact, Thetis felt that fighting with the other Destrillians was more taxing than facing the army of humans Artolia and IRIN had on their tails. There was too much to prove, not to mention that every one of them took any form of competition to the next level. She threw in a compliment as an afterthought. "You weren't bad yourself."

"That's kind of you to say," came the voice of Lorelei as she entered the locker room, still covered in the detritus of the ruined gym. She'd spent the last twenty minutes listening to a dual scolding from Elvan and Olivia, and had finally managed to break away to clean herself up, after also making arrangements to have the rubble cleared out. The chief of staff had also been rather unhappy with her; if it were possible for a person to give a long, internal sigh, she would be doing just that.

"What do you want?" Ariel asked rudely, immediately back on her feet at the presence of her rival.

"...a shower?" she said, the words somewhere between a question and a statement of the obvious.

"Whatever." Ariel replied clumsily. She opened her mouth to say something else, but the accumulated wounds inflicted on her pride from the past few days had thrown her so far off kilter that she could summon no more insults to hurl.

"I'll see you, Thetis." Ariel muttered as she stalked from the room, taking care to smack her shoulder into Lorelei on her way out and knocking the Destrillian noisily into the row of lockers. Much to Thetis' chagrin and confusion, the blow hadn't seemed to knock Lorelei's confidence whatsoever. The two stood in silence until the water Destrillian found the courage to break it.

"I-it was a good fight," Thetis mumbled. She was unable to muster the motivation or sincerity to apologise for Ariel, not least because watching Lorelei being slammed into the lockers had very much amused her. Despite Lorelei being blind, the way she fixed Thetis with another of her smug looks put the blue-haired girl on edge. "Cool power, by the way," Thetis said absentmindedly as she teased a loose thread from her tee.

"You don't know the half of it," she said, hanging her jacket and muffler inside her locker and pulling out a towel. "You weren't half bad, yourself," she said, slipping off her trainers and tossing them inside as well.

"Thanks---" Thetis' hand slipped on the locker and she cursed as another loud, metallic clang echoed through the silence. Flustered, the water prototype swore under her breath. "Though you haven't seen much of what I can do either, I guess." She pulled on her shirt and adjusted the collar before shooting Lorelei a confident smirk. Although she would never admit it, the fight had been more fun than she expected. "You're just got lucky Elvan was there before I got to show you."

"Funny, I was about to say the same thing to you," Lorelei replied, chuckling. "And it was good to see you...step up to the plate like that. Maybe you're stronger than I gave you credit for." She fixed Thetis with a stare, starburst eyes twinkling. "Maybe next time, it'll be one-on-one. Just me...and you," she finished with a grin.

"Any time, any place," Thetis gave Lorelei a genuine smile. "I look forward to it." The water prototype rolled up her sleeves and brushed down her jeans. For once, she was grateful to have the company of another Destrillian her age. Sure, Lorelei had started off as a total bitch, and all evidence seemed to support that fact, if Ariel was anything to go by. But, more than Ariel, Lorelei seemed to be the only person prepared to make her feel welcome here. A blush rose in Thetis' cheeks as Lorelei began to unbutton her shirt. Apparently, blind people had no concept of modesty.

"Not the only thing you're looking forward to, it seems like," Lorelei said teasingly. "Between the water, the dust, and the sweat, it's incredibly uncomfortable right now."

Thetis couldn't quite find the words to express her very own discomfort. She coughed hoarsely and cleared her throat. "I-it's cool," she stammered and shuffled on the spot before realising she was still staring. If Fiona could see her now, water, dust and sweat would be the least of their problems. "Y-yeah, I should, uhh--" Thetis dropped her gaze as Lorelei peeled off her shirt. "Go."

"Like you didn't just see even more of Ariel," Lorelei laughed. "No need to blush - we're all adults here."

"Ariel showered before me," Thetis mumbled as the room temperature rose from hot to sweltering.

"Whoops. My mistake," Lorelei replied, though her tone didn't quite match her words. "I figured that after the first facility and sparring and all that..."

"I-- uh, no--" Thetis was clearly growing more flustered. "We, um, wore clothes," she cleared her throat. "I-I never saw anyone n-n-naked."

"I still haven't," Lorelei quipped. "Well...not really. Not that that's anything new."

"'Not really?'" Temporarily forgetting Lorelei's state of undress, Thetis glanced at the blue-haired girl before immediately dropping her gaze again. "You are blind, right?"

"Oh yeeeah, I forgot how much you don't know about my powers," Lorelei said, more to herself than to Thetis. "I am blind, but my powers more than make up for it." She glanced over at Thetis, the beginnings of a smile playing across her face. "I take it you noticed when I threw you across the ring?" Resentful, Thetis didn't respond.

"I'll take that as a yes," Lorelei continued. "Well, that's what my power is. Energy." Still seated, she stared at one of her hands as she spoke. "I can take any kind of energy and turn it into...well, I suppose humans usually call it 'telekinesis'? Moving things with your mind?"

"That explains a lot," Thetis murmured. She had not forgotten her painful introduction to the turnbuckle.

"And because of that, I can feel all the energy around me. Between that and my hearing, that's how I know where people are and so on. And my music, too." She shrugged. "It's hard to explain, but you get the idea." Thetis nodded.

"For example," Lorelei said softly as she rose from her bench, a more wicked smile breaking across her features, "I could feel your body heat go up a moment ago, when I took off my shirt. I wonder what would happen if I...came closer to you," she said, taking a few steps toward Thetis, who stood still, upright and in absolute silence listening to the pulse throbbing in her ears. Lorelei was just tormenting her now, and it showed in the deep flush of scarlet in Thetis' cheeks.

"Ooh, not bad. Not bad," she almost purred, coming even closer, just within arms' reach, "at all." In all her time as a Destrillian, Lorelei had only really connected with a few people - Olivia and Elvan. Things with Salem were a little...different. Their relationship was some kind of flirty almost-friendship that she couldn't really quantify. But Thetis? For someone she barely knew, it shouldn't be just as confusing, she thought. She was weak; she was a traitor; she was everything that Lorelei hated. But at the same time, she wasn't anything like what she'd expected. She was new to the mansion; she was stronger than Ariel had led her to believe; she wasn't impossible to get along with. Lorelei wasn't sure if she was pushing Thetis' buttons now because she enjoyed it, or because she meant it.

Thetis was similarly confused. Lorelei, the very picture of hostility when she first arrived at the mansion, appeared to be thoroughly entertained with the notion of teasing her. It made Thetis beyond nervous, but at the same time she very much enjoyed it. In a way, she felt guilty; had Fiona been here, Lorelei would have been turned to ash in an instant. Independent, confident and beautiful, Fiona and Lorelei had a great deal in common; especially in the ways they caught Thetis' attention. But Lorelei was so very different. She took notice, gave compliments and most of all, seemed to respect her. Thetis scolded herself as she let her gaze linger on Lorelei's near-bare torso. She was grateful the blind girl couldn't read her thoughts as well as her energy signature. "W-what do you see?"

"I can hear your heart racing. And I can feel," she said, now coming far too close to Thetis, "your body heat rising." And as she leaned in toward Thetis, Thetis came even closer on her own, almost without realizing it --

-- only to be interrupted by the locker room door slamming open as Finn appeared, wide-eyed in the doorway.

"A-am I, um, am I interrupting?" She asked nervously. Her quiet voice seemed unnaturally loud in the narrow room's tense atmosphere.

"Not at all, Finn," Lorelei replied, cursing internally. She should have been paying more attention; she would have felt Finn coming. "Just telling Thetis about how useful my powers are. What can we do for you?" she asked.

"Um, M-M-Mister Spencer s-sent me to, um, to find out what happened to his, um, gym."

"Sparring got out of hand," Thetis said quietly, never taking her eyes off Lorelei's.

"My fault, Finn. I'll grab a shower and go see him after," Lorelei said, staring a moment longer at Thetis before turning and heading off to the showers, not even glancing in Finn's direction. The water Destrillian watched as Lorelei disappeared. With a steady exhale of breath, Thetis padded over to Finn.
"Mister Spencer w-w-wants to know if, um, if you've seen Kerr t-today?"

Thetis shrugged and shook her head. "Let's go."

And as the door to the locker room opened to permit their exit, Thetis could hear the water beginning to run and a voice spoke softly inside her mind.

This isn't over, Thetis...
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Old 06/10/2012   #21
Hisako
Default

WOLFE’S PACK
OSEA

“If you’d be so kind, officer, I have planted a series of bombs from Oceania street to a series of buildings connecting The Orange Zone and the main city. You’d best hurry to evacuate all civilians lest I detonate it…”

The temperature of the van dropped several degrees. That voice. No-one spoke a word, as Arctos played the tape over and over again. The voice of a man who cut a swathe of murder and madness through a city, the voice of a man that they had in their sights just hours ago.

“Chaos. Fucking chaos. Spontaneous bombings, chemical threats. And a Xi Qinese dipshit in the centre of the whole goddamn thing. As if this city needed any more trouble, some foreign asshole has to terrorize everyone. And we had him. We fucking had him-”

“Sir, I told you already, I -”

“Stow it, Amuro. We’ll have that heart-to-heart later. We have a terrorist to beat.” Arctos ran his hands through his air, an incoming headache on his mental horizon. The entire night had gone, in his opinion, quite poorly despite the bodycount they had raised for themselves. He put his ego down to the feeling of resentment that they had fought to a stalemate at the end.

“Don’t forget his pet brother. Gotta love a family business.” Ted tried to keep it light, but his pained tone belied every mood in the van at that moment.

“How is the military holding?”

“They don’t like it, but they need the cops. And even that’s a losing battle. They’ve barricaded most streets with something already, so the riots are progressing slowly, but pacifying the crowds are proving tough without resorting to lethal measures. The usual gas and rubber is doing the job, but there’s too many people for them to disperse out properly, and even then they’re just moving to other streets. When the pressure’s on, someone is going to snap, and there is going to be a bloodbath.”

“Just what that prick wants.” Arctos toyed with a strap on the gas mask in his lap. “Have they pinned down the source of the chemical threat?”

“Not exactly, although they’re cordoning off regions and systematically sealing areas they think are a threat. This is all the military, by the way. AED doesn’t have the resources to do that.” Madison sighed, balling her fists in frustration. “This whole thing stinks a million miles sideways. We’re going to have half the city intact, at most. Almost makes you glad the military’s here.”

Almost. Don’t you see? This is where we have to step in again! Everyone else is too busy trying to put out these fires, too busy to spot who’s behind all this shit! But we know, right? We have to take the fight to them!” It took a moment for Arisa to realize she had gotten up out of her seat, staring down the rest of the group.

Ted quickly picked up on what she was trying to do, barely missing a beat. It was times like these that he saw how much they needed her.
“She’s got a point, boss. No-one else really can do a thing right now. Gotta hit the ground running, I say.”

Arctos lifted a corner of his mouth in reply. His own failsafe plan, to have a subordinate pep-talk everyone else. What was he coming to these days? “Yeah, sure, Amuro, but where do you think we start?”

At that question, she faltered slightly, feeling a little stupid standing up in the van but too awkward to sit down again. “Well, I was hoping we’d sort of, you know, work from there.”

“IRIN.” Ted snapped his fingers in a moment of thought. “Destrillians came from Viola, but that IRIN attack came out of the blue. They probably know something. Plus, sifting through those Viola profiles, those big-wigs are exactly the same, right? We have to find something from them. And hey, if we can pin that Dark Rider down, he has to lead us to these Hong shitheads.”

Arctos furrowed his brow in thought, but Ted’s suggestion rang out the loudest, the clearest and the most sane out of all of his ideas.

“Let’s go find IRIN then.”


***


JETTISON BRAND, DANIEL NOVEMBER

TELRAN’S APARTMENT


“Yo, Brand? Hey, where the fuck ‘chu go?”

Nova stomped around the apartment building without much care for the décor, pulling doors from hinges to search for her. She was pretty damn tricky to find, at times, and although Nova found the hunt impossibly entertaining (as he did most things), shit just had to finish sometime.

“Hey, Brand, don’t keep your main man waiting - oh. Whatchu doin’ here, kid?” He poked his head out through a window, ignoring the shower of glass he sprayed all over the floor as he spotted Jettison leaning over a secluded balcony. With her back turned to him, Nova could only see the slight frame of her profile, fidgeting around with her shoulder. Giving a downwards glance at her feet, he could see the wide pool of blood congealed on the floor, along with the paltry linen scraps for bandages that Nova had managed to pilfer from the first aid kit on-board the ferry.

Even for a man of his size and nature, Nova could put one and one together with the best of them. He split the windowsill in half as he pulled himself through the tight spot, and setting himself down next to her, gently prised the needle from Jettison’s fingers. Nova’s smile never faltered, but he could feel the chill from her skin.

She felt colder than ice.

Over the years, both Nova and Jettison had been in rough-and-tumble with the other gangs, with plenty of shootouts and knife fights, with plenty of scars to show for it. They stared death in the face – or rather, Nova laughed at the motherfucker while Jettison eyed it like a bored cat. Even when bleeding out somewhere in the gutter, they found it in them to pull themselves together, piece by piece, and soldier on even as the heat bled from them during the winter chills.

But this was something else entirely. Jettison was still alive, still standing, but death had been standing right behind her. The gaping maw in her shoulder was already half-closed, but between the way it wept, and the amount of blood it had shed, Nova guessed she had been at it for almost twenty minutes. And when she turned to face him under the light, he could see that her skin was as white as a corpse.

Nova barely skipped a beat as he got to work on stitching up the wound. “The shock doc jus’ woke up, y’know. You ain’t goin’ to ask bones to do the dirty work? It looks like a new asshole from here, except you gonna need to stop that shit from comin’ out of this one-”

“I’ll live. Wound is aseptic.” She turned her head to the side, staring up at the clouds above them, seemingly fixated on something. Nova paused to lean back, and spotted a bird high up, unnaturally pirouetting, with a glowing sheen trailing away from its body as it shimmered effortlessly through the sky. He knew it to be one of Jettison’s meditative forms, her powers an easy outlet to focus on to shut distractions out.

In moments of weakened defense like this, the only distraction present was her nervous system, nociceptors fighting to be heard as they screamed excruciating pain to her brain.

Jettison licked her lips, feeling the cracked and dried skin smoothing out as she watched her apparition perform a particularly acrobatic dive before swooping upwards again. “When I escaped from Denann,” she began, but her trailed off momentarily. It took a few seconds for her to refocus, starting again with a hoarse whisper.

“When I escaped from Denann, fishermen extracted me from the water.” She delved deeper into the memory, shutting out as much sensation as possible. Faces of men swum around her in the air, faint tricks of the eye.

“They saved me from multiple gunshot wounds to the thorax and a scalp wound that would have caused terminal haemorrhaging. They may have had questions, but they didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell. I didn’t know. Not at the time.”

For the first time in a long time, Nova said nothing in reply, simply fixing an even stare on the task at hand.

“They took me in as one of their own, taught me to fish and hunt. I could already hunt. They said I had a gift. I think they knew that it was not a natural gift. Denann imprinted skills into data chips, which integrated into muscle memory. The ability to hunt deer at five hundred feet was the same as the ability to hunt an armed hostile at five hundred feet. Search, acquire, compensate for variables.”
She clenched her hands in reflex as Nova dug the needle out through the flesh of her shoulder and across the opening, the bird in the sky letting out a silent cry for no-one to hear. “Execute.”

Iridescent feathers floated away from the wake of its wings and turned to smoke as they fell on the two standing on the balcony. “On one of my last trips out with the trawler, we spotted an albatross flying through the usual flock of seagulls we’d attracted, the biggest we’d ever seen. White underside, white wings, white tail. One of the crew men brought out a hunting gun to take down all the gulls. Top break coach gun, low-spread shot. The gulls had gotten unusually aggressive with our catches lately, and we weren’t going to risk fighting thirty-pound giant seabirds.
“Rick told me the name of the albatross species; I don’t remember what it was. I asked him where it was going. He told me, “as north as north can go.”

Nova gently sunk the needle into her skin again, slowly letting the hardened fibers woven in her flesh give way to the simple steel tip. “Sounds like a home, huh.”

Jettison didn’t reply. “I didn’t even ask him where that north was. I asked him why it was going that way, and he told me it was ‘part of what made its existence’.”

She tracked her bird’s movements up above her, circling lazily above the hotel, ignoring the way Nova pushed the needle out through the other side as beads of blood bubbled out, caught by the thread. Another inch and he would be finished. Already, she could feel the familiar tingle as the impact gel implants wrapped in between her musculatures reshaping, rebinding and pulling the flesh taut.

“It looked like it was on top of the world. Free of worries. Free of everything. Sometimes I -”

Jettison suddenly stopped, catching herself in the moment. For a second, it seemed she urgently wanted to say something, but something got the better of her and she stopped.
She fell silent again, sullenly looking downwards at her newly-stitched wound on her shoulder, absently tracing the sutures with her free hand. Another one for the records. “Let’s go. I need this bandaged.”

“Sure thing, babe. So, y’all end up gettin’ that pesky motherfuckin' bird?” Nova grinned.

Jettison didn’t answer, shrugging her old jacket back over her bound chest, quietly padding past him back into the hotel. Behind them, the albatross gave a last silent, mournful cry, and plummeted down to the earth into a smoky, invisible nothingness.
__________________
死の果までも追い掛けます、 探し出し
奪われた物全て取り返して見せる

RIP in peace old sig lolol 04/2015




Don't believe your eyes? Don't be surprised.





Last edited by Hisako; 06/10/2012 at 09:01 AM.
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Old 06/16/2012   #22
Alex
Default

SPENCER
THE MANSION ESTATE

The mural was vast. A great oil tapestry that stretched five feet up and nine feet across that dominated an entire wall of the gallery. It depicted an ocean of midnight blues and deepest violets, occasionally speckled with the faintest pin-pricks of white paint. Stars twinkling against the depths of a night sky that writhed and twisted above the heads of the thousands of slumbering humans beneath it. Hunched over as though in prayer, their faces placated and serene. The very image of a calm, dreamless sleep.

To Kerr Nordstrom they looked like corpses, and the skeletally thin man who robed himself in the ripples of the night sky was the very image of death itself. Utterly transfixing and frightening. Only the ghost of his features could be seen from beneath the starry cowl.

A sudden creaking groan made the Destrillian jump involuntarily. He hadn't heard the door open.

"I wouldn't have taken you for someone who appreciated the arts, Kerr." Spencer kept his tone conversational as he emerged out of the curiously dark hallway and into the well-lit gallery, but there was no warmth there. The Destrillian might have picked up on this hostility straight away, though it was difficult to discern for sure. His squared shoulders and surly expression were the same as ever.

He didn't break his silence and Spencer let out a sigh of obvious irritation.

"Is there some reason you've come here, Kerr?"

"Not really."

Spencer pinched his brow. Whilst Kerr had always been an obediant soldier, having to apply any sort of conventional approach to a conversation with him was an almost impossible task. Unlike Kram or Thetis, there were no emotions to trap and guide into desired responses. He was almost uncomfortably blunt and obtuse. It was what made these types of engagement so problematic.

"I don't mean this room Kerr. I meant here." His voice seemed unnaturally loud again and he became acutely aware of the beady pale eyes on the oil canvas behind Kerr were boring into his forehead. He hated the feeling of being watched. Yet it had been one he had been forced to endure for almost as long as he could remember in one way or another. The unpleasant sensation twisted something in his stomach and he gave an involuntary shudder. If Kerr had noticed anything then he didn't react to it.

Not that he would have reacted even if he had.

"Kerr, I am starting to get impatient. Will you cooper-"

"I've always been loyal to Viola," Kerr interrupted. His monotone deliberately loud and forced. it came across as the well-rehearsed. The voice of a robot.

A flash of anger crossed the old soldier's face like lightening across a stormy sky.

"I am not Viola." The phrase had been so oft repeated lately that he did not bother to hide the naked anger in his voice. If anything this seemed to check Kerr. His gaze, whilst it did not soften, became more curious than hostile.

"Explain," he replied slowly, folding his arms across his chest. Spencer continued to frown, keeping his face as unreadable as he could. He suspected that Kerr was much like Persephone once removed from Facility 1's chain of command. Too used to demanding his way into getting what he wanted and getting others to see his point of view.

"No." Spencer's voice was like a brick wall - heavy with solid, unquestionable authority that made Kerr's posture awkwardly shift, as though he was battling against his instinct to stand at attention in the face of his commander-in-chief. "You do not make demands here. I might not be Viola, but that doesn't mean we don't have a chain of command. Do you follow me?"

"Sir." The overriding command to stiffen to attention won out, but was quickly waved away.

"I will tell you what you want to know. But first you will tell me what I need to know."

"Yes, sir." Kerr parroted.

"Good. I'm glad we understand each other." There was a scratchy feeling somewhere in Spencer's chest and he frowned at his inability to alleviate it. It must be stress.

"Now, I'll ask you again. Why are you here? I did not send for you like I did Thetis and Kram. Ariel brought you of her own volition because she thought you might be valuable to our mission. Only time will tell whether or not there is any merit to that statement." He crossed his arms and gave Kerr a long, searching look. It was the first time he had gotten a close look at the Destrillian of gravity since he had been in the care of the corporation.

There was undoubtedly something different about him. Beyond the superficial changes of his short, badly dyed hair or the dark crescent of puckered scar tissue that curved around his eye. It was in the way he carried himself. He was still the small, lean, hard soldier that he had raised in Viola. But something he could not put his finger on had changed the young man. Something hidden behind the resolute lines and fading pink cuts of his narrow face. Something hiding infuriatingly just out of focus.

"I need to know if I'm going to be able to trust you, Kerr."

The Destrillian didn't respond immediately. His mouth hanging slightly open for a moment as the wheels in his head began turning. Spencer wasn't even sure if there was a correct answer to the question. But there needed to be more than blind loyalty to a dead company and ideals that were never his. On its own this made the Destrillian of gravity no different than IRIN's beloved robots or Avidez' creations that were no more than mannequins. It wasn't enough to simply be a weapon. It wasn't enough to simply be a tool. Kerr had already shown he was capable of being exceptional at both when he acted to kill Ariel back when she was attempting to mount her escape from the facility.

Kerr finally gave up trying to cobble together some kind of response and gave the slightest of shrugs.

"I came back because there's nothing for me out there." He answered slowly, as though he was totally unused to being forced to acknowledge this question. The undoubted result of being able to do as he liked without fear of reprisal for so long, Spencer thought. He did not take his eyes off the Destrillian as he shifted uncomfortably.

"I belong here. I'm a Destrillian." He was having trouble trying to express his thoughts, a promising sign that they were probably genuine.

"You don't belong with the others? The ones you have been travelling with since Osea?" The bite was gone from his words now. Though there was still no hint of the fatherly warmth he had displayed when Ariel had confronted him. It was beginning to feel a bit like an interrogation and it was obvious that Kerr was beginning to suspect as much too. Though with the firm establishment of authority there was considerably less risk of him becoming evasive or hostile. The thought was relaxing to Spencer. This encounter would hold few surprises. He hated surprises.

Kerr made a scoffing noise. "I stand a better chance of survival here." He grunted and then pointed up to the thin livid red marks that marred his face and neck, the barely healed wounds of where he had propelled himself through the glass screen doors of Avidez' chateau. "Every move I made with them put me in harm's way or got me injured through their incompetence."

"You object to being in harm's way?"

"I object to being in harm's way for pathetic reasons."

Spencer couldn't help but give a miniscule, humourless smile beneath his grey whiskers. It was the first sign of life he had seen from the normally stoic Destrillian.

"Is that why you were doing so much research into the project, Kerr?" He chose his words carefully this time. This time it was genuine interest motivating his questioning, not a desire to interrogate the Destrillian. No response, just a shrug. Infuriatingly typical. "You needed to judge whether or not our goals weren't as 'pathetic'."

"Something like that."

A rattling cough escaped Spencer's lips, interrupting the sigh. "You could have simply asked me, Kerr. When I told you I was not Viola I meant it. I need your kind to trust me as I trust you. Nothing you could have found in those old files would have helped you find the answers you sought."

"I found them enlightening." Kerr replied as acidly as his monotone would allow.

This time it was Spencer's turn to shrug. "Truthfully, Kerr, there were parts of those files I'd rather you hadn't seen. The mandate at the time to attempt to keep the Destrillians as calm and controlled as possible. The methods we used to implement that policy are not something I had ever intended to share with you." He spoke wearily. In hindsight, having all the project files simply lying around the library had been an oversight. But he hadn't counted on curiosity ever getting the better of any of the Destrillians, either.

"You'd have lied if we asked?" Kerr asked accusingly.

"No. I wouldn't have lied. I would have just preferred that you hadn't asked in the first place. But we're getting off topic. You were looking for my reasons, yes? The point of the project? That is why you were rooting through your history, isn't it?"

"Yes." Kerr spoke forcefully. He wasn't wrong about the Destrillian searching for answers.

"Very well." Another cough. Irritating. "You will have to give me a few days to prepare. There's a lot that needs to be covered after all."

"Fine."

"But then I'll tell you everything you want to know."

Not quite exactly as planned, but close enough.
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Old 06/29/2012   #23
Tennyo
Default

----EMMA & STOLZ, THE MORNING AFTER THE BABY DELIVERY----

Despite not having much sleep, Emma was up early the next morning. She felt agitated; she couldn't stay asleep no matter how hard she tried. After rolling around for a good twenty minutes, she finally decided to get up, take a long shower, and go for a walk.

It wasn't very long after that the redhead found herself walking down the street, her wet hair airing out in the light breeze, taking on a messy wave she would worry about later. It seemed like such an odd occurrence for the sky to be so clear this morning, considering everything that she was feeling. It was still a welcome sight, however, as the open sky served to make her feel much smaller and more alone than she really was as she walked the empty streets, ruminating to herself about the events that had transpired over the last few days.

A wrought iron fence with staggered spears across the top that she had been walking past gave way to a large gate, next to which hung a sign written in three different languages indicating that it was a wealthy private residence turned public park. The gate stood open and welcoming, beckoning her to rush in and find comfort in the one thing she knew could take her mind off of everything: trees.

Passing a large house now labled as a museum not yet open for the day, Emma made a beeline for a cluster of old oak trees, so old they were almost as tall as the buildings.
Emma sat down on the ground, leaning up against one of the trees. She tilted her head back, looking up into its branches and sighing. It was a beautiful specimen, and more than that, it was just what she had been looking for in her distress.

Turning her body to the side, Emma wrapped her arms as far around the oak as she could. She closed her eyes and concentrated, reaching deep within the large plant and feeling its life force. It was such a simple organism. Simple, yet so strong. It had no emotions to taint the flow of energy. The tree was just alive, nothing more than that.
Emma put her whole being into feeling the flow of energy. In her mind, she could trace its path all throughout the tree; she became consumed by it, no longer aware of the world around her, no longer afraid, or in pain. Her mind became completely clear, like the tree.

So consumed was she by her need to feel nothing that she did not sense the presence of a certain blonde who had followed her. The girl in question stood there for a few minutes, watching as Emma sat hugging the tree.

Squeak was the first to notice Stolz standing there. He had been quite content, curled up in the hair on Emma's shoulder, reveling in the sense of calm that had come over his master. It was a bit of a fluke that he even opened his eyes, but he did, and there stood the small girl. He stood up on his tiny feet, sniffing the air and wondering why the blonde was staring like that.

The rodent turned and placed his paws on Emma's cheek, attempting to rouse her to face the newcomer. It worked, for even though Emma's mind was absorbed by the stillness of the giant that she clung to, her body was not impervious to physical touch.
Slowly rousing herself out of her stupor, the nature Destrillian pulled herself away from the tree and turned her head, noticing the young Lyverius standing there. Emma looked her in the eyes.

"Oh, hi, Stolz. I didn't see you there."

The small girl giggled in response. "Silly Emma lady. You shouldn't be napping out here." She shot the woman a sly grin--and her pupils shifted into the pair of long slits that Emma had seen her bear in Osea.

Now, just like before, she spoke in a tone that was mature, serious, and very out of character: "If you let your guard down now, it might just get you killed...or worse."
Emma's eyes grew wide as she tried to process the meaning of the comment. Very slowly, she pulled herself away from the tree and stood up so that she would have to look down at the girl. A breeze blew through the trees, rustling the leaves and blowing strands of her hair around as the pair stood there in silence, studying each other.

Was Stolz--no, it was'n't the real Stolz, was it?--threatening her?

"Why are you here?" Emma asked, not quite sure just who it was she was addressing. The question wasn't really about why Stolz was in the park.

"Because you are hiding something, Emma Johnson. Something happened at the chateau, didn't it?" Stolz pressed, her grin now dropped into a cold stare. They Lyverius remained completely still save for her eyes, which tracked even the slightest movement the Destrillian made.

Emma had no idea how to respond. How would she know? How could anyone have known? Did she dare speak of the final moments before she blacked out? Of how when she awoke, the wounds on her arms had been gone?

Judging by the look in this still-unfamiliar persona's eyes, the Destrillian knew she would be hard pressed to get away with a lie. "What is it that you think happened?" Emma asked slowly.

Stolz's eyes narrowed. "If I knew that, I wouldn't be asking. What I do know is whatever you did, I sensed, and sensed it on a massive scale. So I would ask you to tell me anything and everything you recollect of the event because it is a safe bet that the Vizcount and that woman you met at the ball sensed it also."

Her stomach tied itself in a knot. Whatever it was that had taken place that night, these were things that did not even occur to Emma. Even still...

"Why would it matter if they did? I don't even remember everything anyway."

The blonde Lyverius shattered her stillness by stabbing an accusatory finger at Emma's face. "It would matter because you have done something only very few can do - you have attracted a Lyverius' attention, and the important thing to factor in here is that is a very, very bad thing. They are going to be curious about what they sensed, and they know it was you it came from. How they will act on this, I do not know, but what is certain is that they will be after you now more than ever, and if they find you, the outcome will certainly not be a favourable one."

This should have scared her, but more than anything, Emma felt a twinge of annoyance. "And just why do they care, anyway? Who was that woman I spoke to at the ball, and why did Avidez go out of his way to tell me to go speak with her? You'd think a man of his stature would be above being some random woman's errand boy."

A small fire had been lit in the pit of her stomach now, and Emma almost laughed before she continued. "I'm just a Destrillian. A Destrillian from facility one. We're just flies to these people, right? They want to kill us all off anyway. I'm not even that powerful! I control plants. Do you get that? Plants! That's probably the least useful power there is. Even Terra, before she got better, could do more than I could. Compared to the others I'm virturally useless!"

Emma folded her arms and looked away, feeling almost smug about what she had just said-- which, on another day, she may have found odd, seeing as she was doing nothing but degrading herself.

"Unless it's in normal hand to hand combat," she continued after a pause. "I've tried really hard to excell in that. But honestly, it doesn't amount to much when Idris can pull metal vehicles apart and Fiona can burn everything on a whim, when Kerr can control gravity and Lokka can conjur barriers to protect everyone. And what about Thetis? You had to have seen what she did that night. Isn't that more impressive? Maybe that's why she got captured."

The sudden outburst seemed to have caught Stolz off-guard. Her pupils shifted back to normal and with a small start, she turned her head to look away from Emma.
Suddenly, the thought seized the Destrillian of how, back in her days at Viola, Natasha had warned her to be on her guard about who she revealed her true potential to. The red-haired girl simply shook her head as she looked down. What was there to hide anyway? Emma truly did consider herself less powerful than her comrades.
So why was she feeling so defensive now?

"There's nothing special about me. I can't understand why anyone like them would take notice."

In her normal voice, Stolz replied, shakily, "Be-becuase that woman, Solaris, she once said you're not like them...and that...and that you were only at Viola because they wrote you off as being of no use to them. I dunno what that means I'm not a rocket scientist but she definitely said you're something that's not like all the other things!"

Stolz hesitated a bit, chewing on her lip before continuing. "I've known this all along but I really don't know what it means, even dark scary me doesn't know and if she does, she's not sharing! B-But now that this thing has happened I'm worried the bad people are going to come for you because whatever you did, it..." Stolz took a sharp breath before the words tumbled from her mouth: "It wasn't normal! It confused me and I just can't shake the feeling there was more to it than anybody realizes!"

Emma's heart sank. Now that Stolz had returned to normal, she began to feel bad about her outburst. The small girl seemed to be genuinely upset and concerned for Emma's safety. The taller of the two girls gave a sigh and closed her eyes. It was risky, and she probably wouldn't like the answer, but she should probably talk to someone about what had happened, right? Stolz might be able to make sense of it. Besides, Stolz was trustworthy, right?

Is she? a voice in the back of Emma's head asked.

"I'm sorry, Stolz, I shouldn't have lost my temper with you. I know you're just concerned for my safety."

Those words made Stolz perk up again to her usual self. "Hehe, I know scary me can be a little overbearing at times. But it's the one with all the important information that I really can't get my head around." Then the girl changed her pose to one of contemplation. "Now then, about this mess that has gotten very messy...where to start...where to start...start to where...hrmm. Maybe it'd help if I tell you about what exact-a-mally Lyverius-usses are and where the others claimed they came from, if that would help you?"

"Yeah, that could help a lot, Stolz."


The Lyverius closed her eyes before slowly opening them a couple of seconds later, once again showing the slitted eyes.

"If I were to start anywhere, it is that my kind are not in fact the original race. We are hybrids that resulted from the Lyverius of old interbreeding with humanity. The true Lyverius no longer exist; the last of their kind died long ago, and they have been completely forgotten by humanity save for vague tales and myths in various cultures and religions. Are you following all this so far?"

Emma nodded. "Go on."

"Very well."
The entity Emma decided to call 'Dark Stolz' cleared their throat, and then continued their story. "Thousands of years ago, the Lyverius had complete dominion over this planet and all who inhabited it; they were seen as gods. Their powers were that of gods, so the connection makes sense. They were far stronger and stranger than the powers Viola gave to humans." She paused for a moment, as though reflecting on something else.

"Then, something happened. I'm not going to discuss it, but suffice to say the world changed because of it, and now a place called the Shattering lies to the south, where the Lyverius Empire's capitol once stood."


"The Shattering. I've heard of that," Emma replied. "I don't really know much about it, though."

"Hrmm...I guess it isn't something that has been particularly well-documented, so it's not surprising you don't know anything."

"But the Shattering, does it have anything to do with current events?" Emma replied, tilting her head a little to the side. How could something thousands of years old have bearing on things happening right here, right now?

Stolz' answer was less than helpful. "Humanity is a self-destructive species--this world you see before you is evidence of that. Their very nature drives them to war with and annihilate each other. Even the divine guidance of the gods could not quell that nature, and so as I've stated the once-grand civilization has not only been erased from this world, it has also been forgotten."

"So why are you telling me this?"

A look of discontent clouded the Lyverius' face. "Is that all you can say when I provide you with a generous wealth of knowledge? I wonder if perhaps telling Miss Savage would have proved more productive." She then closed her eyes and gave a weak smile. "No matter, If you are in fact different like the others have said, then I predict you will see change in yourself, and what I have said will help you not to fear that change. To come to terms with it. Just remember, Emma Johnson, to always listen to that voice. It will guide you."

The words stung more than Emma would care to admit. Tell Idris? Why? She had nothing to do with this. She's not the one who might possibly be...

Her words sounded choked when she spoke. "I want Stolz back, please."

"So you're turning tail and running when you hear something you don't like? Well, I guess one cannot expect a frog at the bottom of a well to have knowlegde of the outside world."

"Would you just give me Stolz back?"
she snapped.

For a moment, Dark Stolz seemed genuinely shocked at Emma's tone. Then, she simply replied with, "Fine. My interest here has long expired anyway. I used to be desperate to fix this broken world...but I've grown tired now. This world is going to end soon, but never you mind. Just keep doing your best to survive." Her expression went blank. After a moment of silence, her eyes returned to normal.

It took a second for Stolz to register what was going on, but then she became aware of her surroundings--as well as the unhappy-looking Destrillian in front of her. "Whoa! Scary me wasn't being mean was she? I'm sorry if she said stuff to upset you!"

Emma closed her eyes and shook her head, trying to hold back tears. "No. No, she's right. But I don't want to tell her that. I want to tell you."

Stolz' eyebrows disappeared under her messy bangs. "Tell me what?"

She reached out and took Stolz by both hands, leading her closer to the tree; she sat down in the grass, gently pulling the smaller girl down with her. "You want the truth, Stolz? Here it is. Something did happen the night of the ball. Something that really scares me."

Stolz placed one finger on her lower lip. "Scares you?"

"I almost died. That other fire Destrillian had me. But then, I don't know, I lost control. Something...else, took control of me."

Suddenly the blonde child's expression sank. "Oh...oh I see. Umm...that, that uh, is something different. I think 'not good' is also a term to use there."

"Yeah, not good. I don't know whether the other Destillian is dead or not, but what...whoever it was that came out of me came very close to killing him. And it's not so much that as the way she did it that scares me..."

A concerned look came across the Lyverius' face. "This...this is starting to sound creepily familiar...so umm, what did she...it...whatever this is...do?"

Emma became distracted for a moment. She had given this new entity a gender, which isn't really something that she had thought about until that point. But she supposed it made sense. If she was female, then why wouldn't this other thing inside her be female as well?

She swallowed the lump in her throat and continued. "It tried to suffocate him using my powers." She winced. "Slowly. It turned his own airways against him."

"Wow...that's what I classify as cruel and unusual. This is definitely very not good because that is the kind of stuff the three bad people you met in Osea do, although they tend to do it for general amusement."


Emma shook her head. "It's more than that. It's like...well, with how I can control plants. I can make them grow or sprout extra limbs. I can make them twist and turn any way I want. Imagine...imagine if I could do that to people." At this remark, Emma saw the image of a dark form smiling in her mind's eye.

"So what you're saying is you can make plant people?" Stolz replied, entirely missing the point.

The red head looked up at her blonde companion and blinked. At first she didn't know what to make of the comment, but after a moment she managed a chuckle. Good old Stolz. "If only it were simple like that."

Stolz tilted her head sideways. "No plant people then, but you can apparently strangle people with your mind. Well now...that could always come in handy. As long you remember that stuff about power and responsibility and so on and so on." The child shrugged one shoulder. "Because something like that would be very scary in un-good hands, but at least you are not un-good. No, I think you are a very good and bouncy person." Her last sentence was particularly cheerful.

The Destrillian gave a small smile. "Thank you, Stolz. That means a lot coming from you. But I'm not as good of a person as you might think." She sighed. "There's something else. The other night I lost control of myself. This other part of me... it was like the scary you that comes out. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"I think so."


"I can read people based on the energy in their bodies. Their mood, their gender, how they will react in a fight. I can tell how many people there are in a room without ever walking in, if it isn't too crowded. I can sense if someone is sick or dying... I actually feel it when someone does die. Being around Fiona when she was poisoned made me feel ill if I didn't close myself off." Emma tried to suppress the shudder that went through her at the memory, and failed. "And so you Lyverius, I'm still trying to figure you out. But I can sense you are different. You feel different--and ever since I met you Stolz, I've had my suspicions, but I was in denial because I didn't know how to process it.

"I don't know why I was in Viola. I don't know what the point of having me go through the Destrillian program was, because I'm not a Destrillian at all, am I?" Emma's hands were shaking gently. Stolz looked up at her, but the woman was talking to herself, now. "No, I'm just like you. And you're sweet, and friendly, and I trust you, but I'm beginning to not trust myself and I'm scared. I'm scared that I'm not like you but more like all the other Lyverius."

The once-but-not-really-ever Destrillian let go of Stolz' hands and sat up straight, looking out across the park. "There, that's the first time I've actually admitted it. Even to myself."

"Well you know what they say, admitting it is the first step!"
Stolz replied, beaming as she did.

Emma looked out over the people that had slowly begun to gather throughout the park as she and Stolz had been talking. She closed her eyes, reaching out to feel the familiar sensations that would allow her to read them.

"That man, over there, with the white shirt and red shorts, the one jogging. He's feeling agitated about something. Probably went for a run to clear his head. And that blonde woman wearing purple, reading? She is so intensely focused on the book that her energy waves really aren't projecting much. I wonder what would happen if the story became suspenseful."

Turning her head back to Stolz, Emma gave a small smile. "And that's...only a small part of it. I was always told by my first scientist to keep it a secret. I never thought to ask why. I guess--"

Emma cut herself off, eyes growing wide with fear as she looked at her companion.

Stolz cocked an eyebrow. "Everything okey-dokey there?"

Without any answer, Emma stood up abruptly and turned around. Stolz followed suit, gazing out over the park to try and see what had her friend on the defense.
"No. No, no, no, no, no!" Emma hissed, clenching her fists and stamping her foot in a fit of rage very unbecoming of her. "How in the world did they get here? Are they here together?"

There was a young man approaching them from a ways off. He called out for someone named Tina, which at first confused Stolz. She stepped forward to be level with Emma, looking up into the taller girl's face to see her eyes narrowed in anger as the man grew ever closer.

"Oh hey, isn't that your boyfriend?" Stolz finally asked.

Emma slapped her forehead with a sigh. "Fiona is going to have a field day."
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