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

 
 
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Old 01/26/2012   #1
Hisako
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VERONICA WILKINS, BENJAMIN ASHFORD - AUDOULA

Veronica Wilkins’ eyes gleamed, sharp with venomous scrutiny mind full of criticism as she pored over the glass panels. No detail escaped her notice as she analysed each exhibition on show down to the smallest of crystalline structures. She soaked all of it in, the technology produced by people whom she considered some of the finest scientific minds.

All of it on display, in plain sight. The most talented of craftsmanship, the most brilliant manipulations of science.

None of it edible.

“Holy boredom, Benjie, these are soooo boooriiiiingggg.” She sadly traced circles with her finger on the glass case of a finely sculpted marzipan swan several feet tall. “What’s the point of candy if you’re not allowed to eat it?”

Benjamin sat in tow, carrying a half-full garbage bag. Thankfully, they had not been able to purchase the quota of confectionary Nica had so far requested at the Intercontinental Confectionary Expo Audoula. Instead, they had gradually bought large quantities intermittently. The night (or morning, rather) was drawing to a close, and luckily his lady had sweet-talked her way into finding assistants to carry the huge bags of lollies that she had already filled up to the brim. However, barring the disproportionately large volume of sugar-based confections that Veronica was spending an absurd amount of company revenue on, everything that had happened between the Alvyssian Health Summit, the ball at the Avidez Estate and the ICEA had occurred exactly how Nica had needed it to be.

“And as if this place isn’t stupid enough, I got scanned three times tonight. Three! Those silly guards were looking at me as if I was made of guns and knives.”

“They’re only half wrong, you know.”

“Pish utter! There’s hardly anything metal in me, to be perfectly honest. It’s all composite ceramic and carbon fiber. Well, there’s the miniaturized reactors and the RF systems, and the finger claws and the man-port weapons system and so on and so on, but still. Negligible! I should have vaporized them on the spot for poking me like that. Nothing like a good vaporizing to break the ice.”

The Summit itself was not quite as dramatic as Veronica tried to make it out to be. The majority of discussion directed at the Denann Industrials booth several days back had been concerning ethics, something which she had learned to deftly sidestep more than a decade ago. The audiences had been engrossed in their work regardless; they stared at the transparent hamster in its exercise wheel with morbid fascination. When Nica picked it up and took it out of its cage to feed it, she noticed one or two walking out when the rest of them were fixated on the sight of it openly digesting its food for all to see.

Conferences had come and gone, although not without its interesting moments. Some particularly interesting pharmaceuticals had passed her notice, although explaining the intent of her applications to other people had taken some coercion. Nica preferred to keep her cards close to her chest, however, and very few manufacturers or third-party research corporations had ever been taken on board by Denann, no matter the talent. The smaller the group, however, the more likely she would incorporate it as a branch into her Research division.

Benjamin held the unmanned drone control pad for his boss as she grappled with several sherbet sticks. “So… uh, these Destrillians have been going to town lately.”

“Oh, my, yes,” Nica purred, peeking over at the monitor her assistant was holding in his other hand. “Data, data, data. Delicious. Hours of entertainment! Shame we left a teeny-tiny bit early. Would have been fun to watch right up front! Lucky the skies were clear enough. That drone did an excellent job. I would give it a pat on the back, if it were not still up there, tracking their movements. Also, it doesn’t have a back.” She sucked at a particularly troublesome sherbet stick noisily as she threw the rest into the bag.

“We just sit back for now?”

“Well, we are going to keep buying the shit out of these lollies. So good -”

“The Destrillians, Nica.”

“Oh, well there’s no way we’ll be getting a hand on any of them, so unless there’s something you think we should be going for, I think we’ll just bum around overhead and maybe see where they go from here.” Nica saw the concern etched onto Benjamin’s face, though, so she relented. “Speak your mind, Benjie. Or speak your voice. Mouth. Thing.”

“There was one thing – I’ve been running cross-checks with the known profiles we’ve gotten here and there, but there’s a few individuals that don’t match up with any databases we know of.”

“Hmm, there’s always plenty of holes in our intelligence. Even our IRIN probes are getting out nothing but trickles here and there, if you don’t count all the bullshit rumors their grunts are shooting off -”

“But then… there’s something here and there that does match up with our collated data. But it isn’t from IRIN or even Viola.” Benjamin keyed in a few strokes into the control pad, rewinding the surveillance until it scrolled over the roof of the chateau and the rest of the mansion grounds. He paid more attention to Nica than the monitor screen, though, watching her bubbly disposition go from surprise, to something else entirely.

“Hah. You think… there’s some sort of merchandise of ours, running around down there? Rampant?” Benjamin didn’t show it, but he almost shivered at the greedy look in Nica’s eyes. She palmed the remains of the sherbet stick in her right hand, slowly crushing it into a compacted ball of plastic.

“Well, I had to double-check with some of our archives for fidelity issues, but look riiiight… there. That definitely looks like Aricept-Legacy handiwork, but I haven’t got any corresponding data to confirm any of that. From the build, though, I think we’re looking at Epsilon. Minimum, Epsilon.”

“Isn’t this a prize.” Nica’s eyes gleamed at the sight, as she reached out to touch the shadows in the forest, printed on the screen. “Have the Tuatha-Threes passed the field tests, Ashford?”

“They’re just processing the paperwork now. Ma’am. Results at a first glance look very positive.”

“Good. Beautiful. Delicious.” Nica licked her lips, tasting the residue of powdered sugar and raspberry chapstick. Her voice dripped with velvet softness. “I’m not going to make the same mistake I did last time. I want to see some fucking corpses in my office before our next financial statement. I want them on my table, ready to be disassembled from balls to brains, and I want to have this struck off our records for good. Let’s give the Tuatha-Threes a proper field test, shall we?”

Nica palmed the laptop closed as she took it from Benjamin, and signaled him to follow her at a brisk pace. “Let’s go home. We’ve got some work to do, Benjie.”
__________________
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.




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Old 01/27/2012   #2
Omega
Default

========== LORELEI JAEGER ==========
Spencer Mansion, Audoula
Shortly before dawn



The lower levels of the mansion were abuzz with activity. Everyone was fussing over the new arrival, trying to fix the damage from her fight. But in the upper levels of Spencer Mansion, a young, dark-haired woman sat on the end of the banister in the entrance hall, utterly relaxed, at ease, and, truth be told, satisfied, for the first time in days. She sighed.

It was good to be home.

Lorelei did love going outside - it was good to hear the songs of the outside world, especially the wind (it was her favorite) - but there was a certain...comfort to being inside the mansion. Almost as if she was home. And, she supposed, that truly was the case. She was where she belonged, where she was supposed to be. Where she 'fit in', as it were. It was almost as though they were all one big, semi-happy, totally neurotic, completely dysfunctional family. She grinned at the thought. It last for but a moment, before turning completely serious. For now, there were more pressing matters to deal with.

She was very, very hungry.

Not having eaten an actual meal in a few days would do that to anyone, she mused. But, then again, she wasn't any normal anyone, now was she? She felt almost weak...stretched thin, she supposed, like too little butter spread over too much bread. She just hoped that Elvan had whipped something up that she could find in the refrigerator. She needed calories, and she needed them now. She could almost hear Olivia's voice in her head now: Don't forget to eat! Otherwise you'll waste away, and I'll be super sad...although it would give me a chance to wear my new black dress~...

Lorelei rolled her eyes as she hopped down from the banister, padding off to the kitchen for nourishment. She'd have to go see Olivia soon, she remembered. She'd want to fuss over the deplorable state of her prototype after being away by herself for so long. Olivia always had been slightly protective of her, even though she knew how Lorelei was about things like that. The corners of her mouth twitched, fighting a smile.

It was almost like having a big sister...if she believed in that sort of thing.


=====


Even the prey of the blind was utterly helpless when its hunter was a Destrillian.

Before she'd realized it, Lorelei had devoured half a pan of leftover lasagna, a bowl of soup, several slices of the most delicious bread (she knew Elvan's baking when she tasted it), and was now sitting on the counter eating ice cream directly from the carton. Nothing like a good feast to celebrate a job well done, she thought with a contented sigh. She was getting rather full, now, and a bit sleepy. She'd go see Olivia for a bit, and then have a nice, hot, extremely needed (and well-deserved) shower, and then get some sleep.

She replaced the carton in the freezer, then placed the last of her silverware in the sink; the quiet, but sharp, clatter of metal on porcelain made it clear that there were dishes in the sink, and she knew better than to try to wash them. She could be awfully clumsy with those, graceful as she was at practically every waking moment. She'd thought about it before, and had come to the conclusion that it was just hard to know where they ended. She still felt bad leaving this for Elvan, though...

She stood mulling this over for a moment before the click of heels against the floor some way away in the hallway brought her out of her reverie. She'd know that footstep anywhere. She rolled her eyes, making a show of sighing as one of her exasperated smiles lit up her face. "I had a feeling you'd be here," spoke the new voice, seconds before it entered the kitchen. Dr. Olivia Foreman's hearing was excellent, after all...for a human.

"Well...I was hungry," Lorelei said defensively, the growing smile on Olivia's face blossoming as she looked fondly at her prototype. She'd always been fond of an old saying: 'the more things change, the more they stay the same'. Nowhere was this exhibited more clearly than in Lorelei. It wasn't that the Destrillian fought change, or was incapable of doing so - far from it - but rather that each minor change seemed to bring her traits into clearer focus. Of course, with someone so strong-willed, some people would say she just became more stubborn. Olivia chuckled.

"Forgot to take something with you, didn't you?" Used to them by now, she did not quail under the withering stare she received in response - she'd guessed correctly, it seemed. "You know I don't like it when you starve yourself like that," she said quietly, voice full of genuine concern.

"It's not like I haven't had anything at all. Just...not for a few days," Lorelei admitted. "Besides, things turned out okay. I can handle things like this, you know." She frowned. "Or don't you trust me?"

"It's not that," Olivia replied, sighing. "Just...I read the report. I know nothing happened, but...what if you'd gotten into some action? You wouldn't have been able to protect yourself very well running on fumes." The note of worry in her voice was not missed by Lorelei.

"I could have handled myself. You know I'm not like the others," she said almost instantly...a bit too forcefully. She hadn't meant to sound so angry. "...sorry for worrying you," she mumbled.

Silence hung in the air.

A silence suddenly broken by a hearty laugh from a now grinning Olivia, as she crossed the space between them in a stride and clapped her protege on the back. "Aw, come on, now, don't be so hard on yourself! You're here now, and everything's fine! But I'm sure you know I want to check you out personally, sooo it's off to the labs downstairs!" Her usually cheerful demeanor had returned full force, as she now took up a spot behind Lorelei and began directing her to the entrance hall with the grace of a snow plow.

Lorelei allowed herself a tiny smile. It's good to be home.


=====


After an extremely long and tedious two hour exam from Olivia, who checked every little thing from the sheen of Lorelei's hair to the way her toes wiggled, Lorelei extricated herself from the labs and headed toward her room, ready to grab some pajamas and hit the shower. Lorelei did like Olivia quite a lot, but their relationship was complicated by the fact that Olivia was her doctor. It was almost as though Olivia were a very friendly and outgoing boss who didn't forget who was in charge. It was strange, but something Lorelei was quite used to. She wondered if Olivia ever took a day off to go enjoy herself - she was definitely the workaholic type when it came to her pride and joy. There was little wonder that this had rubbed off onto the young woman that was her charge.

With that said, there was something a little unnerving about the exam. One of the other doctors - Bardet, the one for number Twenty-Eight - sat in on it. It was...strange, having someone else there who was normally not even a presence in her life. She almost never ran into the rather stern woman, and so only knew her name: Dr. Trisha Bardet, apparently from someplace in eastern Alvyssia. Her speech had an accent - Lorelei knew this much just from hearing her. She'd never heard it before, though, and couldn't place it. She didn't like not knowing things that were right in front of her, but she didn't feel like asking the woman about it - blind as she was, she could feel the woman's cold stare the entire time the exam had gone on. It made Lorelei somewhat resentful - what business did she have to be there, anyway?

Not like that idiot is here, anyway, she thought.

"Now there's the face of someone whose having an inner monologue," the cheerful drawl of Salem Locke greeted her ears. "Something on your mind or do you just have gas?" The Destrillian of Gas had just exited the door to her left (the one that led down to the gym and training rooms) and had nearly walked clean into his passing comrade.

Had someone been there to carefully measure with a stopwatch and slow-motion animation, they would have seen that it took 0.3 seconds for the frown on the dark-haired girl's face to shift into a wide smile. "Evening, Salem. Have you actually been training or just peeping into the girl's locker room?" Either was entirely possible, after all. It wasn't until now that she'd realized that she hadn't seen him in about a week and a half; she was a bit surprised to learn that she missed him...though she would never admit it.

"No reason a man can't do both," Salem said proudly. "The boss sure does know how to pick the female security guards, I mean like shit, wow."

What wasn't said was that he had been training alone because Kram and Tao had been spending the evening together walking the mansion's gardens. Though he would never admit that. Especially not to Lorelei.

"He certainly does know how to pick them," she said thoughtfully, mind nowhere near the security staff. "You've heard about what I picked up, I assume?"

"Not the saucy details," Salem replied honestly as the two began walking. "Just what Elvan told me that he'd heard from Ariel. I hear she picked up a stray, too."Lorelei made a face.


"I knew she couldn't handle it. Should have left her behind," she muttered. "I don't really see what's so special about our guest, and I especially don't see why he's here now, either," she said more loudly. "Two useless traitors - two that don't even have the decency to kill each other to save the rest of us the trouble." She shook her head. "I guess Mister Spencer found a way to use that motel ruckus to his advantage, though...I guess there's that, at least."

The two rounded a corner and entered a much wider corridor, divided down the middle by a series of square pillars and whose walls were a captivating sea of classical oil paintings depicting figures from a time of myth and legend. Ignoring the watchful eyes of the portraits, Salem shrugged.

"Who the hell knows why that man does anything. He seems to know what he's doing and that's good enough for me," Salem said, his voice slightly less bombastic as they passed through this chamber. It had always given him the creeps. "They can't be nearly as bad as the two insufferable humans I had to bring in the other week."

Lorelei perked up. "Humans? What for?" She tilted her head, a quizzical expression on her face. "Was that why you were late in coming back from breaking Mister Spencer out?"

"Yeah, something like that," Salem conceded, "I had to go pick up Kram from Osea. The guy literally comes with so much bullshit baggage that it beggars belief."

Lorelei groaned. "Kram? You've got to be kidding me."

"He's not that bad," Salem hotly replied, almost a little too quickly before shaking his head. "Most of the time, I guess. When he isn't hanging around with Tao." There was definitely something frustrated in his voice. As though in spite of his best friend now being back in his company things were still not quite right.

This brought Lorelei up short. "...what did you just say?"

"You hadn't heard about that either? Shit, Lorelei, you have the gossip awareness skills of a breeze block," Salem laughed to himself, but there was a definite hollowness to his laugh. It was no secret that he would have rather Tao Hong be anywhere in the world than here under the same roof. Even after all these years, there was no love lost between the pair.

"Hey, I've been gone. What the hell is that bitch doing here?" Lorelei demanded.

"Beats the fuck out of me, Commodore Bossy Bitch, talk to Spencer about it," Salem held up his hands in protest in the face of Lorelei's unnerving scowl. "It wasn't one of our guys that brought her in though, no way." Lorelei's frown decreased fractionally.

She stared at Salem. "Those two are so annoying together." She sighed. "I guess it can't be helped. He came with humans, though?" she asked, unable to entirely mask her surprise.

"Her brothers, if Elvan is to be trusted. He is just a whore for gossip." Noticing the continued look of incredulity on Lorelei's face, Salem sighed and continued: "I don't know if they're hostages or allies or what. I don't think Spencer's made his damn fool mind up yet."

Turning another corner, past a shelf of jade urns the corridor returned to its previous, slimmer shape.

"Looks like things are going to be a lot more lively here now, huh?" Lorelei murmured. There was a lot to think about - she'd missed out on quite a few new developments, it seemed. It might be a good idea to do a little digging...probably starting with Elvan.

As she came to the passage that forked off toward her room, she stopped, turning to Salem. She hadn't missed the bitterness in his voice. "Don't worry about it so much. It's been a long time...just be glad that he's here now and get back to the way things used to be." Her expression softened before turning entirely too enthusiastic. "And if she gets in the way too much, just let me know and I'll take care of it for you," she said brightly.

"I never get worried," Salem grumbled. There was none of the usual cheerful drawl that usually dominated his voice to be found here. "But if you ever feel like pushing her into the pool or jamming her into Elvan's pizza oven then I wouldn't object." He smirked back at the other Destrillian's cheerful face.

She motioned for him to bend down closer to her and, when he did, she leaned in to whisper conspiratorially in his ear. "I'll see if I can't get you the videotape of it, too." She then took a chance and gave him a peck on the cheek and hopped back. "See you later, Salem," she said with a smile, before turning and sauntering off down the hallway.

It was not often that the tall Destrillian was taken off guard, but the sudden move had left Salem momentarily speechless. Getting out of the house for a little bit had clearly left Lorelei feeling more outgoing than usual. Clearly.

"And Salem?" she said, raising a hand in farewell. "Don't let me catch you two sniffing my panties again."


=====


One of the benefits of Lorelei's particular condition was that she always knew when the water was just the right temperature. She decided to forego the temptation of a nice, long soak in favor of a shower; she remembered what had happened the time Finn fell asleep in the bath and had decided long ago that it was an experience she did not feel the need to partake in. All the same, she could feel the knots in her muscles and knew that the water would do wonders to relax her. She'd sleep like a rock tonight, and maybe see the masseur in the afternoon.

The water felt delightful on her skin, and she spent a moment just standing under the showerhead, leaning against the cool tile in repose. It felt like an eternity since she'd left - in truth, it'd only been about a week and a half. All the same, she felt more tired than she had in, quite literally, years. All the time that Spencer had been gone, she had diligently applied herself to growing stronger and being as useful as she could be to his cause. This hadn't sent her out of the mansion often, however, and the missions that had her leaving were shorter. She felt a sense of pleasure in knowing that Spencer had entrusted her with something so important, and vowed that next time, she would do even better.

Maybe he would see that she was the only Destrillian he ever needed to get a job done right.

She began to scrub away the filth of the week, mind on the things she'd learned since her return. Salem had been sent to pick up Kram; she wondered what that meant. Obviously Spencer had something in mind for the second youngest Destrillian - that much was clear to anyone - but she was curious to find out just what it was. And Tao - she could not suppress the roll of her eyes just thinking her name - what of her? Who had brought her here, and why? If nothing else, she'd love to know who to send the letterbomb to. Lorelei was relatively indifferent to Kram, but she detested Tao; the silver-haired Destrillian had always been weak and entirely too dependent upon others. Salem was not alone in his feelings toward her - not by a long shot.

And then there was Ariel. Lorelei's gaze hardened at the thought. Before they'd even begun the mission, she had very clearly asked the Destrillian of sound whether or not she could handle this. The fact that she paused as long as she did (at all, frankly) was cause enough for concern. The fact that the very person Lorelei had in mind when she asked the question had come to Ariel and joined up with them did not sit well with the Eighth Alter - not one bit. It was entirely too suspicious, in her opinion. Lorelei doubted that this had been without some level of coercion on Ariel's part.

And, of course, she couldn't forget the other addition to their little family. One of the water prototypes, she knew, but not which one. She sincerely hoped it wasn't the one of Avidez', but only because that one was one of the brainwashed tools he used. The other one was more likely to be interesting - it'd been a long while since she'd gotten to fight someone other than the other Destrillians in Spencer's employ, and whoever they'd taken from the lakeside chateau owed her for the fun she missed out on. As she reached for the shampoo (an imported number that smelled of strawberries), a grin spread across her face.

She'd be sure to collect on that debt, make no mistake.

As her shower began to wind down, she resumed her position against the tile, letting the water cascade over her and down her lithe body. She rubbed her neck - there was some lingering stiffness there that she didn't care for. She decided to go see Elvan around lunchtime (albeit a late lunch) - Salem was right, he certainly knew the most about the goings-on inside the mansion - to see what she could find out about the humans Salem had mentioned. If they were indeed related to Tao, she held little hope for them. Maybe she'd even see what Olivia had to say, too.

As she got out of the shower and began to dry off, she frowned, her mind having wandered back to Ariel. She'd have to have a talk with her at some point, too, to see what the deal was with her...old friend. And, depending on how that went, she might talk to Spencer himself. She had no intention of ratting Ariel out - she just wanted information. She'd never been the type to tattle on the others, after all. She always took care of things herself.

Except for the last time Tao stepped out of line, she thought with a vindictive smirk.

But that was enough thinking for one day. She slipped into her pajamas and footwarmers and padded off to her room. With a wave of her hand, the stereo began to play softly in the background as she crossed the room. The decor that the others had on their walls was absent here - due, of course, to its occupant's inability to appreciate it. Instead, the room was neatly laid out and arranged, and still as immaculately clean as when she'd left it. She liked to know where things were, after all - partly so she wouldn't stub her toe on some unseen obstacle. The side opposite her bed housed her instuments - including a very old, exquisite grand piano, and the bass of one of her favorite jazz groups.

She took off her scarf and laid it lovingly on her bedside table before hopping into bed. The bed was as soft as she remembered, and a slight shudder of comfort rippled down her spine. A sigh of pleasure escaped her as her lids closed and she began to drop of to sleep.

It was good to be home.
__________________

Last edited by Omega; 01/28/2012 at 03:36 AM.
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Old 01/28/2012   #3
Alex
Default

ARIEL REGAN
THE SPENCER MANSION

With an unwilling lethargic flutter, a pair of violet eyes reluctantly opened.

The glare of artificial sunlight was streaming in through the pair of tall windows on her wall, even going so far as to penetrate the thick black curtains that diligently attempted to defend her room against the aggression of the light.

With a grumble of protest, Ariel jammed her eyes shut again and turned away from the unwarranted intrusion in her bedroom, squirming against the black silk of her bedsheets. It had been so long since she had been able to sleep in her own comfortable bed. Over the past week she had barely slept much at all, having been constantly on the move tracking Kerr’s group of Destrillians from the nightclub in the Osean sewers all the way to the confrontation at Avidez’ chateau. Opting not to sleep at all most nights, or else catching an hour or two every now and again when the group had established a base at Telran’s apartment building.

No, she told herself. She deserved this lie-in. With a great defiant gesture, she snatched one of her bed’s numerous pillows, and defiantly jammed it down over her head.

It was an ultimately useless gesture, she stubbornly conceded. She was already far too awake for any manner of pillow based shenanigans to fool her body back into thinking the seductive embrace of sleep would be waiting to welcome her back with open arms. The damage was done and the battle was lost.

With a groan of resignation, Ariel sat up in bed, the oversized t-shirt that she had worn for bed barely clinging to her slender form and thoroughly grumpy expression hidden by an unruly mop of morning hair. She had been so exhausted that getting ready for bed had literally meant getting changed and passing straight out on the bed. Something she now deeply regretted after seeing the worn, dirty clothes flung in a decadent pile on the floor, on top of the black piano that took up one corner of the room and the guitar rack that took up the opposite position.

Biting her lip with exasperation, she picked herself up and pinched the bridge of her nose. No use hanging around in bed all day. With the new arrivals loitering around, they were bound to need some supervision. She slowly made her way towards the room’s ensuite bathroom, trusting to luck that what would undoubtedly be a very trying day was not made all the more testing at the outset by finding Salem lurking in there.

Again.

.oOo.

The shower lasted at least an hour. When you had been on the road solidly over a week with barely a chance to change clothes or wash up, she was in absolutely no mood to hurry. Getting ready took another forty-five minutes, though for no particular reason, Ariel mused to herself. It wasn’t as though she was wearing anything different than the usual sleeveless hooded top and denim shorts she always wore. Just clean ones.

She took a moment to tie the silver sash around her waist, taking a small amount of pride in the fact that it had remained both intact and clean during her adventure through Artolia and that the intricate, thorny designs that had been skilfully woven into it remained as clear as ever against the misty grey fabric.

With a nod of approval in the full-sized mirror adjacent to her door, she watched as her traditional choppy fringe fell down to obscure her vision. Everything was as it should be.

Though the nagging voice at the back of her head ruefully reminded her that she should really be back in bed, she quickly dismissed it’s nagging and left the room. Kerr and Thetis would most likely still be resting, she told herself, so it was a waste of time going to see them. Though, she did smile to herself as she rounded a corner on her way towards the dining room, it would be so good to talk to Thetis after so long. Though she didn’t relish having to repeat the great resurrection debate she had performed with Kerr by the lakeside last night. But it was one ugly truth that just couldn’t be hidden. She needed to be told. After all, the last time she had checked the pair of them had been friends.

Maybe it would be a good idea to prioritise that meeting before catching up with Kerr. They had barely spoken in the car last night, a factor she was quick to attribute to Lorelei’s scrutinising presence and the shock of seeing the Destrillian of Sound alive again. Though he had seemed to have gotten over that quite quickly, who really knew what was going on inside Kerr’s head? Ariel made a mental note to find that out just as soon as she’d spoken to Thetis. Though for now, it was safe to assume that he was fine. Kerr had always been at least a bit more mentally tough than Thetis. Ariel winced again; there was no getting around how awkward and delicate that conversation would have to be.

Pushing open the doors to the dining room, she was greeted to the sight of Finn Eliot sitting alone at the head of the long, grand dining table. A simply outrageous pile of pancakes in front of her, with at least half a litre of thick syrup piled on top of it and a brave, defiant look on her pale, freckled face.

“Really, Finn? Breakfast?” Ariel asked, her dark eyebrows disappearing well into her fringe in disbelief.

“Elvan made them! It would have been too rude to refuse!” Finn insisted. Though Ariel smelt a rat here, Finn’s sweet tooth was the stuff of Destrillian legend amongst the collective who called Spencer’s Mansion their home.

“A likely story,” the Destrillian of Sound said, with narrowed eyes.

“The nerve!” Finn replied with a look of wide-eyed shock at the accusation before breaking out into a smile.

“It’s g-good to have you back, Ariel!”

“It’s good to be back,” Ariel smiled back before turning to push her way through into the mansion’s kitchen, which was currently occupied by two extremely grumpy looking breakfast chefs who looked as though the last thing they wanted to do was have another encounter with another Destrillian. Evidently Salem had already been and gone, then. Probably with Kram in tow.

She had yet to make up her mind about those two, having never met them before and only reading about them in reports. The romantic in her said that it was endearing and sweet that the two had fallen in love in spite of the rigors of the Destrillians program, whilst the soldier in her cautioned half a dozen ways that this that this would become a liability on a mission. Time would only tell, she supposed, she would surely meet them today.

Signalling to one of the chefs for just some simple toast and orange juice, Ariel retreated back into the dining room, where Finn was still heroically struggling to consume her own weight in pancakes. Rather than interrupt her personal breakfast conflict, Ariel took a seat at a small round table close to the towering windows and waited in silence for someone to bring out her food.

Her mind wandered back to Thetis and Kerr, as it had a tendency to do. Not a day went by when the thoughts of her old facility 1 comrades did not come back to tug at the recesses of her mind. But seeing her old friends in the flesh again and being in the same building as them and finally getting to catch up with them after so long...Ariel smiled in spite of herself.

Thetis probably looked a shade too skinny and Kerr looked bizarre with such brutally short hair, and both looked to be in a pretty bad way following their fight at the chateau. But they were alive and safe, for now. It was much more dangerous for their kind out there than it was in here under Spencer’s protection. It was just a shame that her other friends, the ones that she had followed from Osea: Terra, Emma, Fiona and Idris, could not be offered the same protection.

Doubtless Jason Spencer had his reasons for not including them in his orders. Probably for the same reasons that he had not included Kerr. But Ariel knew Kerr, he was a special case. One whose loyalty and skills she could personally vouch for and Spencer would trust her, more than any of the others. She had been here the longest. Last night, during the debriefing she had explained all this to him and he had agreed to give her (and Kerr) the benefit of the doubt. Though he had given the stern gaze and the raised voice for going off mission, she did receive credit for using her own initiative for bringing in a potentially useful asset.

Truthfully though, Ariel hadn’t been thinking about the mission or about Jason Spencer when she had approached Kerr. She knew this, though was loathe to admit it as she took a large bite of the toast that had been put in front of her by a large, grumpy looking chef. She had been thinking of herself and of how good it would be to finally see her oldest friend again. And of the desire to try and ease the guilt that the Destrillian of Gravity had felt over what had happened at Facility 1.

The memory of it instinctively caused Ariel’s arm to flicker up and scratch the old scar just above her right breast. It was a physically painful memory. Getting shot hurt. Though in the long run, Ariel had come to understand that Kerr had probably suffered more than her in the years following the incident. She had grown up as a proper Destrillian, fully trained, independent, knowledgeable about the world and its various threats and absolutely capable in every situation thanks to Spencer team of specialist’s personal training. Kerr, Thetis and all the others had been left to grow up in the wild, in a world that they were ill equipped to comprehend or even live in. Ariel took another thoughtful bite of toast. It was hard to blame Kerr with the benefit of hindsight. She had long ago given up entertaining the idea of being angry at him.

What had happened; had happened. And she was a better person because of it.

Now she just needed Kerr to wake up so that she could tell him that herself.

That probably wasn’t going to be a very pleasant conversation either.

Finishing off the toast and drinking the glass of pulpy fresh orange juice in one mouthful Ariel decided to leave Finn to her pancake crusade and stood up to leave the room. She briefly wondered where Lorelei and Elvan had gotten themselves off to, she hadn’t seen the latter last night when she returned and Lorelei had promptly disappeared off somewhere following their debriefing with Spencer. Odd, but not unheard of.

She left the room and crossed the stone-flagged floor of the grand entrance hallway, heading in the direction of the lounge. It might be a wise idea to go see the Boss this morning and see what the plan for today would be. Not that there was much speculation about what that would be, given the events of the previous day. Integrate the guests into life here at the mansion, make them feel comfortable whilst Spencer’s Destrillians laid low, beneath the inevitable crossfire between the remaining Destrillians on the outside and the retaliation of the Sponsors.

Pushing open the door on the opposite side of the grand entrance hall to the main dining room, Ariel found herself in the plush crimson interior of the vast semi-circular lounge that comprised the entranceway to this particular wing of the complex. Like every aspect of the mansion, it was lavishly decorated, deep scarlet wallpaper set in between faux pillars of pristine white marble that were inlayed into the walls. The windows were smaller in here than in the dining room, and half hidden behind great sweeping velvet curtains, casting the whole room in a sleepy darkness that was only enhanced by the smell of the leather from the myriad of old furniture and the old books that stood in tall, shadowy bookcases that stretched all the way to the ceiling.

Ariel liked this room. Despite its prime location, it was so large that even during a flow of heavy traffic it was possible to sit down in a dark corner and be alone with your thoughts, completely cut off from the rest of the world. It was comfortable and homely. The slow-moving and dusty sort of place where one would rarely the type of place where one would encounter any surprises.

So when Ariel pushed her way through the thick mahogany doors into the room, the sight of Kerr standing in front of the eight foot wide, four foot tall crisp white marble fireplace. An enormous oil painting was spread across the fireplace, but that was not what Kerr was staring at. The angle of his bleach-blonde head suggested that one of the photographs that adorned the mantelpiece. He was dressed in a simple pair of grey sweatpants that were not dissimilar to the clothes that they had been forced to wear whilst imprisoned in Viola and a plain black hooded top that must have been picked out of the wardrobe in his room. It was rather impressive that he had found his way down here without getting lost in the labyrinthine corridors and galleries of the estate.

“Good to see you up and around,” Ariel called to him, navigating her way through the maze of comfortable armchairs and old wooden tables towards the grand fireplace.

Kerr turned around and gave a curt nod of welcome to the room’s new arrival. He looked to be in a substantially better state than yesterday after an encounter with the mansion’s medical personnel, yet still a dozen candy red livid cuts were visible on his lean face and a deep angry scar still leered out in a crescent around his right eye.

“What were you looking at?” she sauntered over to the shorter Destrillian, who motioned towards the small photograph in the worn, burnished silver frame at the corner of the mantelpiece.

It was a picture of a much younger Spencer, as evidenced by the deep black mane of hair and full beard, standing at the top of a photograph with a wide smile that struck Kerr as being most uncharacteristic of the former Viola president. Standing beside him in the photograph stood a smartly dressed woman with thin features and auburn hair. Definitely tall by the fact that she stood just inches shy of Spencer’s own massive build. At the foot of the photograph sat two children, a boy and a girl. Both were very young and had their father’s characteristic dark hair.

“It’s hard to see him as a family man,” Kerr responded slowly, evidently intrigued by the photograph of his commander posed in such a personal manner.

“It’s easier than you expect,” she replied gently, placing a hand in the crook of his arm to steer him away from the photograph. She didn’t like it. Spencer never talked about his wife or his son, or their disappearance. The haunting presence of them in these old photographs gave her the creeps.

Kerr gave a momentary resistance to her soft touch, before allowing himself to be led away. She gave a small prayer of thanks that he was feeling cooperative this morning.

“So you found your way down here okay?” the Destrillian of sound asked her stoic companion. Kerr, for his part just shrugged.

“It wasn’t hard.”

She took her hand away and felt Kerr flinch slightly as her hand brushed against one of the numerous cuts and scrapes that were hidden beneath the loose-fitting top.

“Serves your right for being such a dumbass,” she chided, prompting an unpleasant look from the Destrillian of Gravity. “You were the one that put yourself through a window,”

Kerr just shrugged, both of them had been through worse during their training at Facility 1. Besides, it couldn’t possibly have hurt as much as getting shot, but there was no way Ariel felt ready to open with that joke. She knew that she wasn’t quite ready to have that conversation, let alone how Kerr would react. He was never very good with jokes.
Or feelings at all, for that matter.

“Have you spoken to Spencer yet? He’ll probably want to brief you in person,” the pair hadn’t had a chance to speak yet. Their return to the mansion last night had been dominated by a lengthy debriefing for her and Lorelei, whilst Kerr and Thetis had been shepherded straight away down to the infirmary for treatment and a lengthy barrage of tests.

“Not yet, I haven’t seen him,”

She noticed that Kerr was avoiding eye contact with her. It was obvious that he still felt uncomfortable being around her. Understandable, given her apparent recent resurrection. It was easy to mistake Kerr’s icy stoicism for an inability to articulate or even thoroughly comprehend such a radical revelation. His pitch black eyes swivelled to meet hers.

“Are we going to be okay, Kerr?” a slight edge of impatience marring her words. Whatever was going on inside Kerr’s head it didn’t make him any less frustrating to deal with when he was being even more stand-offish with her than she remembered.

“Fine,” Kerr confirmed for her with a short nod. She narrowed her eyes suspiciously and Kerr turned away to gaze out of the partially obscured window. Ariel placed her hands on her hips. Surely he hadn’t always been this infuriating.

“Ariel!”

The pair of them spun around to face the inquisitive young face of Finn Eliot, largely obscured by her messy mop of hair, poking around the edge of the large doorway.

“Mr. Spencer, uh, he wants to see you in the dining room,” her large brown eyes flickered towards Kerr, “A-alone,”

“Okay, Finn, I’ll be right there,” Ariel responded, looked at Kerr with an apologetic shrug, “She’s shy.”

“Ariel, we’ll be okay,”

The sentence caught her off guard. He had ignored Finn completely. It had been delivered in Kerr’s usual flat monotone and his face hadn’t changed in expression. But she couldn’t help but take note of the vein of sincerity that appeared to run through the gesture of reassurance. It was unmistakeable. But so subtle that only she would have picked up on it.

For the first time since she had been reunited with her old friend, Ariel genuinely smiled at the wave of nostalgia that broke somewhere within her.

“I’ll catch up with you later, okay? I have to go meet the Boss first alright?”

“Alright,”

Grinning in spite of herself, she turned to leave Kerr alone with his thoughts and strode off to go meet Jason Spencer.
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Old 01/29/2012   #4
Bex
Default

THETIS ALCESTEOS
THETIS' ROOM- THE SPENCER MANSION
==================================


"Excuse me, um, y-you have to wake up."

The voice floated into Thetis' head like a whisper. With a groan, she pulled the bedcovers tighter around her. Fiona had never been this polite before. Why didn't she just shake her awake like usual?

"Can you even hear me?"

In fact, the voice sounded nothing like Fiona's. Yellow eyes snapped open and stared into the face of a stranger. A teenager, no older than 16, leant over the half-conscious water Destrillian. Her eyes, pupils centered with a surreal swirl, stared fearlessly into Thetis' own. Cogs whirred in the water Prototype's brain as she struggled to come to terms with the facts. A) This girl was not Fiona; B) She was neither back in the Orange Zone nor in the Winnebago; C) The last time she had woken up in a strange place, the 'strange place' just happened to be Viola.

Swatting away the girl with unnecessary force, Thetis nearly tripped in her hurry to leave the bed. It was only when she was on her feet did the water prototype remember why she had been unconscious in the first place. Nausea rose in the pit of her stomach. All of her wounds had been treated. Her left shoulder was bandaged and placed in a sling, gauze taped to the base of her skull where Flutwelle had cracked it and even the most minor of lacerations had been dressed. She had been washed, changed into a set of pajamas and even put to bed. Then there was the gaping absence of Fiona and the others in her head. The rush of information made Thetis feel dizzy, not to mention the thought of being changed while she was unconscious.

"What do you want?" Thetis could barely hear herself, her voice still hoarse with the dregs of sleep.

"Are you alright?" the other girl asked, the original purpose of her visit temporarily put to one side and replaced by cautious concern for Thetis.

"What am I doing here?" The water Destrillian swayed on her feet and rested a hand on the nearest wall for support.

"Um, I've been sent to come get you." the stranger's voice seemed slightly faltering and nervous as she rammed her hands into her oversized pyjama pockets, and tried to avoid matching Thetis' gaze. After staring the stranger down, the blue-haired girl pushed away from the wall. Her head hurt. Nothing made sense.

"This is one messed up dream," the water Destrillian groaned and buried her face in her hands. The last thing she remembered was sinking. Limnades; those Lyverius; the fight-- it was all a blur.

There was a moment's silence between the pair, and Thetis didn't know quite what to say. It hardly seemed possible that this child could be a threat, though she definitely wasn't human.Thetis sighed. Why couldn't things just be simple? All she wanted was to be back in her damp-ridden, mouldy, messy apartment, back on the lumpy mattress, back in the shower that only ran with cold water, back on the squashy green couch with a hole burnt into the left cushion. All she wanted was to be back home. The water Destrillian tucked a bang behind her ear and padded carefully over to the lilac-haired girl.

If anything, the girl with the big brown eyes seemed to understand the reluctance of the water Destrillian to accompany her. She didn't seem irritated or confused by Thetis' bewildered expression, instead she just waited patiently and in silence for her to make up her mind. After a moment’s silence, Thetis inhaled deeply. She paused. With barely a hint of water clinging to the air around her, the air was dry, arid and lifeless. It made Thetis uneasy. She certainly wasn’t in Audoula anymore. The thought made her insides curdle.

Rolling her shoulder, Thetis spoke with a sigh. "Well?"

Blushing slightly at the jibe, the girl in the pyjamas walked past Thetis and out of the door, doing her best to hide her reddening cheeks beneath her messy fringe.

With Thetis now following her, the two left the blue-haired girl's new bedroom and started their walk down a long corridor with a high white marble ceiling. The walls too were inlayed with narrow pillars of polished black marble and occasionally featured small alcoves for obviously ancient statues.

Her guide didn't even need to turn around to know that the scale and expanse of the building that began to spread out around Thetis was unlike anything she had ever seen before. The impact was as real and visceral as a blow to the head and the caustic attitude of the water Destrillian was washed away instantly, drowned out by the change in scenery.

"Hey!"

Thetis whipped around to find that she had been so distracted by following the intricately interlaced web of patterns cut into the high ceiling that she had failed to turn the same corner that her escort had.

"This way."

By the time that the pair of them had descended the grand staircase in the entrance hall even Thetis had considered murmuring an apology to the girl in the pyjamas for the amount of times that she had accidently made a wrong turn or walked straight into the back of her, entranced by a particularly awe-inspiring painting or photograph that had been hung on the walls.

"He's in there." Thetis' guide pointed to the first big set of polished mahogany doors. The faint but unmistakeable sound of the piano being expertly played resonated through the thick hard wood. With a nod of gratitude to her guide, the water Destrillian reached for the doorknob. Before she felt the touch of polished brass against her skin, Thetis instinctively drew away her fingers. After a moment's meditation, the girl turned to face her guide; only to find that she had vanished into one of the numerous winding corridors. Suppressing a click of the tongue, Thetis took a deep breath and entered the room.

Although this room would technically have been considered the smaller of the mansion's two dining rooms, it still dwarfed anything that Thetis had ever seen before. Illuminated by wide windows that covered the entire far wall, there was a large but inactive fireplace set against the right hand side, surrounded by comfortable looking leather armchairs. Taking centre stage in the room was a small dining table, big enough to seat four or five and already perfectly laid out. Near the windows was the source of the music, a grand piano the colour of polished ebony played by a tall bearded man, his hair liberally streaked with grey.

Expressions of surprise were followed by confusion, frustration and finally panic. Water licked at her fingers, and it seemed as though Thetis' power had recognised the figure of Jason Spencer before she had seen his face. Hands clenched into fists, and the blue-haired girl glared at the man sat by the piano. It could have only been the sheer stupidity of humans that had convinced Jason Spencer to bring her here. A floorboard creaked underfoot as the water Destrillian took a step backwards. Not again. The desire to flee was overwhelming. Her entire body trembled. The terror of being trapped in a stainless steel and concrete prison was not something Thetis Alcesteos ever wanted to relive.

The music stopped.

Jason Spencer looked up from the piano and his deep green eyes met Thetis'. He didn't say anything at first, his roving green eyes sizing up the potential threat that this new arrival posed to him. Without rising from his seat, he raised his eyebrows questioningly.

"I'm glad you decided to join me,"

Thetis shrank away from the deep timbre of his voice. This had only been the second time she'd heard Jason Spencer in person. The water Destrillian felt the mahogany door panels against her back and tensed her limbs; ready to run at the slightest hint of hostility. "I didn't decide anything," Thetis snapped. It wasn't often that she didn't have a chance to don the usual emotional armor.

"Would you like to take a seat and listen to what I have to say?" the faintest trace of a smile twitched beneath Spencer's grey beard.

"No, I'd like to leave."

Spencer shrugged, letting Thetis' hostility roll right off him. "That isn't an option right now, Thetis. I'm afraid I have to insist,"

"You're going to keep me here again, aren't you?" she took a step forward, her footfall muted by the heavy thatch of the carpet. "I'm going back."
Yet Thetis Alcesteos found herself walking forward.
Drawn by what, the water prototype didn't know, yet drawn to him she was as the former CEO of Viola came into view. Maybe it was revenge, or perhaps curiosity. Curiosity at why, why Jason Spencer would want her, of all Destrillians, to return to his side. As she approached, Thetis couldn't help but notice how old Jason Spencer looked. Crow's feet smiled at the edges of his eyes, his hair seemed more grey than she remembered and wrinkles softened the harshness of a battle scar that once could have been intimidating.

"I think you should listen to what I have to say before you make up your mind about that," he stood up from the piano and gestured over to the rows of seats at the dining table, "I'm not going to keep you here, Thetis. I'm hoping you'll choose to stay on your own,"

Hesitantly and without a word, Thetis took a seat at the table. As Spencer sat down beside her, the water Destrillian could barely resist the urge to move a few chairs down. Being so close to the towering CEO of Viola was more than a little frightening.

"Would you like anything to eat or drink?" he asked quietly, shoulders shaking slightly as he suppressed a small cough.

She stiffened at the question. "No."

"Suit yourself," Spencer responded gruffly, pouring himself a glass of water from one of the finely decorated jugs of water that were positioned up and down the long table, "I want to apologise that you had to arrive here in the way that you did. In between the Lyverius and the military out for both you, and me, I had to be careful."

"I imagine you have some questions?"

Thetis laughed wryly. "None that you'd answer honestly," the prototype felt a familiar wave of heat wash over her, one she so often felt before vomiting. "Aren't you gonna kill me for what I did to your precious prototype?" her voice was hoarse and trembling. A realisation struck her like a blow to the head as the words slipped from her mouth. She remembered Kerr, how he was so loyal, so cold, so murderous in Viola. Four years didn't change him. How was she any better? She had murdered now. Not humans, they didn't matter; but her own kin. Guilt spread like a frost over her skin and goosepimples skittered over her arms. Even if it was to protect the others, maybe they didn't want Flutwelle dead; doll though she was. Is that why they had left her? Bile rose in Thetis' throat and white hair matted to her forehead in a cold sweat.
Was that why Spencer wanted her?
"Jamelyn Halevy was one of my prototypes. Flutwelle was not," he explained candidly and with an indifferent shrug. "What you killed wasn't a Destrillian any more. It was an abomination. The Lyverius wiped out all trace of who she used to be a long time ago. You did exactly as I would have expected of you," he said with a small smile, hoping that Thetis would understand the genuine appreciation he had for her display against one of Avidez' dolls. "You don't need to justify the need to survive to me."[/color]

"I survived to be brought here," Thetis snapped bitterly at the former CEO. "You're the one who needs to 'justify' things."

Spencer nodded his head and finished the glass of water, wiping away the stray droplets that had caught themselves in the greying hair of his beard. "What would you like to know?"

"Why did you bring me here?" Thetis asked gruffly. He had a lot to answer for. She felt frustration bubble in the pit of her stomach. "Or, you know, where I am, where the others are, how I'm alive and what the hell were you thinking when you set the whole of Artolia on us with that dumbass move at the supreme court?"

"I understand your frustration, Thetis. My actions at the courthouse exposed you all to incredible danger from the Artolian military. But I had confidence that you would all survive and most importantly, get out of the country," he paused again and cast a look down at the indignant face of the water Destrillian. His features were unreadable.

"I brought you here, Thetis, for your own safety. Everything I have done has been in the best interests of you and your friends,"

"She told me that we were kept in basement five for our safety," the blue-haired girl hissed at Spencer, knuckles white on the seat of her chair as she struggled to remain calm.

"Do I look like a doctor? Does this place look like Basement Five?" the former head of Viola quickly replied back.

"You look like the guy who put us all down there," Thetis growled.

"I understand why you would blame me," Spencer answered in a sincere voice that seemed nearly devoid of its usual gruff, authoritative tone. "But we all have to answer to someone," his voice was cut off sharply by a loud, racking cough that prompted the former CEO to pour himself another large glass of water.

There was a moment's silence that seemed to stretch on for eternity. Finally, a frightened voice broke it. "She's not here, is she?" Thetis whispered, fingers knotted in her lap as she remembered the doctor with a cold voice and a disapproving stare.
"Fiona?" he asked, after another big gulp of water, "No, she isn't here, Thetis."

"How do you know about Fiona?" Thetis asked quickly. The confirmation of her absence didn't shake the water prototype as much as she had expected. What did Fiona care what happened to her? Fiona had left her to drown in the lake. Thetis swallowed the saliva that thickened in her throat.

"After Viola Corporation was destroyed and you Destrillians escaped, I made a habit of making sure what security forces were still loyal to me kept an eye on you and your friends. Even from behind bars I was receiving regular reports on how you were all doing," Spencer answered her honestly. There was no reason to lie here.

"So we were never free," Thetis laughed mirthlessly, but she didn't smile. If he knew everything that had happened for the last four years, perhaps he had known this would happen too. Jason Spencer ran Viola for years, had overseen their development from human to Destrillian, not to mention the complete and utter destruction of his own company. Even so, everything suddenly seemed incredibly timely and convenient for the former CEO. A chill ran up Thetis' spine. The helplessness of not only her own position, but that of her fellow Destrillians, had become soul-crushingly apparent.

All of this had been inevitable.

"If I try to leave here, will you kill me?"

"No," Spencer replied softly, "But I would have to stop you,"

"So I'm supposed to just sit around in here while everyone else is out there?" Thetis scoffed and crossed her arms, eyes set dangerously on Spencer. "What's the catch?"

"No catch," Spencer replied, meeting Thetis' steady gaze with a smile that twitched at the corners of his beard. "I want you to stay here, where it is safe, until I can find the rest of your friends."[/color]

"Bullshit," Thetis scowled, caught of guard by her own expletive. The blue-haired girl leapt from her seat and knocked the carved antique chair to the floor as she strode to the door. "I might be dumb, but I'm not stupid. There's always something."

"We have both common interests and common enemies, Thetis, and I hope to have your help in dealing with them," Spencer replied in his deep, calm voice as he rose from his chair to continue holding Thetis' wide-eyed glare.

"We have nothing in common," the blue-haired girl scowled. "And if you don't wanna lemme go, whatever," her lips quirked into a grim smile. "You taught me that patience pays off."

"We have a lot in common," Spencer responded in a voice that seemed to be almost too understanding. His bottle green eyes breaking their intense stare to flicker over towards the doorway, recognising that there was another presence in the room.

"You wanted to see me, Boss?"

"Don't worry about it, Ariel. I think we're just about done here," he turned back to pick up the old hand-carved chair that Thetis had knocked over, "I trust you'll make our new houseguest feel at home?"[/color]

Thetis' mouth turned dry as caught a glimpse of the all too familiar stranger. Her heart leapt into her throat. There she stood. Saffron eyes followed the gentle line of the girl's jaw, her high, sculpted cheek bones, the lips that were always quirked into that kind smile, the streaks of white in her jet black hair that swept across her forehead yet still framed those bright violet eyes. Ariel Reagan never died in the halls of Viola.

Turning to face Jason Spencer, Thetis' heart palpitated with so much force that she thought it would burst from her chest. Every emotion she had ever felt hit her with the intensity of freight train; relief, elation, joy; guilt, confusion, fear, sadness, and pure, unabated anger. Thetis felt sick as she saw the slightest of smiles tugging at Spencer's lips. He had always known; Ariel was the ace up his sleeve. She had started everything; she was their swan song, their revolutionary, their inspiration, their martyr.

Ariel was the guilt that kept them shackled to him.

And now, number twelve was Spencer's greatest weapon.

"She's dead," Thetis breathed heavily, fist clenched by her side and jaw set into a snarl. No one spoke, yet Ariel took another step closer. Bile rose in Thetis' throat as she felt Ariel's touch on her shoulder. Slapping the hand away, Thetis stumbled out of the sound Destrillian's reach. Waves of nausea washed over her. "Stay away!"

"I told you that I wanted to do this my way," Ariel's voice was equal parts indignation and concern for the water Destrillian, shying her gaze away from Thetis' wide eyes, instead fixating on Spencer's impassive face. Thetis' insides churned as she heard the girl speak.

"There's been a change of plans," he shrugged back, folding his arms on the tablecloth. "I need you to take Thetis back to her bedroom."

Sunlight slanted through the window and each temple throbbed as the blue-haired girl struggled to find fault in the authenticity of her words, the movement of her lips and the soft lilt of her accent. It was Ariel. There was no mistaking her. "No one is taking me anywhere!" Thetis snarled, repulsed rather than reassured by the comfort of Ariel's presence. As the extent of Spencer's true intentions set in, Thetis felt very suddenly and very acutely afraid. Even after Viola, she had underestimated the depths to which Jason Spencer would sink to ensure the Destrillians would remain his. With Ariel by his side, he had the perfect bait. Number Twelve, who once inspired a rebellion, was Spencer's restraining influence.

"Ariel is dead," spat Thetis, the brass doorknob rattling in her grip. "Ariel is dead and she sure as hell wouldn't work for someone like you!" Wrenching the door open with all her might, Thetis Alcesteos stormed into the dark corridors of Spencer's mansion.
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Last edited by Bex; 01/29/2012 at 06:28 PM.
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Old 02/04/2012   #5
Baldy
Default

MEANWHILE - Various People; Various Locations


The lights in the apartment flickered slowly to life, hesitating a moment before snapping to their full brightness. There was a faint buzzing noise that accompanied their light, which would go unseen to for another month or so before it was finally fixed. The woman at the front door carefully hung her jacket and her scarf up together on the coat rack, shook the borrowed umbrella out a little on the welcome mat, and then leaned it against the door. It wouldn’t disturb the door; nobody would be opening it again this evening. The woman slipped her shoes off, placed them on the mat beside the coat rack, and then finally stepped from her arrival ritual and into her home.

The apartment was of a decent size, furnished neither sparsely nor lavishly. Up-to-date appliances, and a beige DIY paint job; a modest kitchen but no dining room. A living room which had just recently had the windows resealed, and a washroom complete with a his-and-hers sink counter—with only one place well-worn.

It was an average place. A place that signified the financial security needed to live unconcerned about the basics, but without much past that. A place designed for two and housing one.

The woman walked across the carpeted floor to said bathroom, took a towel from the linen closet inside, rubbed her hair down to rid it of the rain that has stubbornly refused to yield to the umbrella. Stood at the used sink and faced herself in the wall-length mirror.

Cynthia Schmidt. Age: thirty three. Wispy blonde bob cut, watery blue eyes, and visible worry lines that only deepened as she frowned at herself. A bit of muscle gained from walking to and from work, and a bit of fat gained from bingeing on red velvet icecream at two in the morning every other night or so for the past two weeks.

She flipped the towel back over the rod to dry, picked her blue toothbrush up from its place in the holder, and got to work cleaning her teeth. She'd heard from someone that brushing your teeth after meals was bad for you - something about the acids in the food weakening the enamel and making it easier for the bristles to strip it away. The only someones she knew were in the medical community, so they ought to know.

Swish, spit, rinse. Cynthia left the bathroom, switching the light off as she went.

Ten minutes later, she settled down at the small table beside the big window, with her microwaved macaroni dinner and her mug of carefully brewed, imported tea. She plucked the remote control for the stereo up from the other side of the table, switched it on, and let the CD he had burned for her play in the background as she ate, and drank, and thought.

It was only a few months. It wasn't so bad.

She wrapped her fingers around the mug to ward off the damp chill in her bones, as she went through the same routine she had forced herself through every night for the last sixteen days, now. Six days ago, she'd counted them on her fingers every evening. She'd cried a little when she ran out of fingers to count on. But only a little.

Because again, it was only a few months. And after those months, Aaron Morrow would return from his deployment to the capital and, for maybe a month or two, they would resume life.

Sometimes she stopped herself on these morale-boosting escapades, thinking she sounded too much like a wife. She and Aaron weren't actually married, or even engaged, but they had cohabitated for just over half a year now and, being a woman and knowing these things, she could sense the proposal waiting somewhere in the vague but not-too-distant future.

Maybe Aaron would come back from Osea with the ring, she thought wryly.

The macaroni suffered a vindictive stab as a new, previously unexplored train of thought swept over her: it wasn't like the people in Osea were more important than the ones here in Mileston. The town might have been much smaller than the capital city, and it might have made less of an impressive dent in the economy, but still. There were supermarkets, and apartment complexes, and hospitals. Well, one hospital. Hers. But Mileston wasn't some backwater hamlet with nothing to it but four houses and a bridge—and it had that, too, a nice, well-constructed, two-lane sort, spanning a thick river that ran snakelike to the northeast. Mileston was established. It had history. And the population here was worth every bit as much as the posh, highbrow busygoers in the big city.

So why, Cynthia fumed, chewing a bite of her dinner, had all the local military personnel been dispatched to integrate into the main force in Osea? It was of 'utmost importance to keep everyone protected', according to the radio, during the 'uncertainty of the next few months' while the whole Destrillian thing was worked out—but she supposed they meant "everyone" in a more specific sort of way.

A heavy sigh escaped her—and much to her private embarrassment it carried a lone piece of macaroni that she hadn't swallowed, which landed on the table. She swept it up with her napkin, her mind already elsewhere.

Destrillians.

She shook her head, leaned it against the cold window pane, knocked it against the glass once when the cold didn't help to clear her thoughts immediately. Six months was a long time? Four years was even longer, and it still wasn't enough to bury the past completely.

Maybe there wasn't enough time in the world, she mused, to do that.

Cynthia Schmidt and Aaron Morrow lived in the small town of Mileston, a day from the Damascan border. They had jobs as a nurse and as a soldier. They worked, ate, slept. When they were feeling ambitious, they went out to see a foreign film at the little dusty theatre in the town kept exclusively for such things. They were ordinary, easily overlooked people. But their past – and the story of their meeting – was far from plain.


.oOo.


In another part of Mileston, on a sunnier autumn day, a public school sat snugly in between the neighbourhood it served, and the little woods behind it. A shrill bell had sounded mere minutes before, and out from the building had poured an excited flock of children. They ran to catch school buses, or to meet parents in their cars, or if they lived close enough they simply walked off the premises in chattering groups. A few hung about the school’s playground, a jungle gym of plastic and metal – the old playground, wooden, dangerous and much more fun, had been replaced last year. Now all the edges were sanded, the corners rounded, and everything bolted firmly to the ground. But the children, resourceful as children are, had found ways to exploit even this new, bland architecture to get a good thrill.

Some wandered away into the woods.

The woods were light and friendly, with sunlight filtering dappled through the canopy above; the turning of the leaves made the place glow gold and copper and ruby in the afternoon. The smell of sweet, damp, musty decay filled the air, whisked into a light breeze now and again. The neighbourhood was the sort that a person could walk through these trees barefoot and not risk harming themselves – there was a soft, springy carpet of moss and grass and healthy earth underfoot, with nary a broken bottle shard in sight.

In fact, to the casual observer, the woods seemed almost as tame and child-friendly as the new playground—but walking those trails, you could tell the trees were old. They were the children of the great forest lying just a mile or so further in, dark and wild. Their roots tangled with those of their parents deep underground, and in this way they shared their knowledge. Shared their wisdom. And if you were of the right mind, open to the fantastic and the imaginary and the impossible, you could close your eyes, and breathe in that air, and hear the falling leaves whispering you secrets by the thousands.

It was on one of these trails that, laughing and shrieking as they shoved and tugged and playfought with one another, a small group of seventh- and eighth-graders were making their way home.

“Hey!”

A boy scrambled back to his feet after having been shoved to the ground, glaring indignantly. The girl – his adversary – grinned a wide, wicked grin, her teeth startlingly white against the dark smudges of dirt streaked across her face. The only girl in the group, her dainty hands balled into loose, casual fists, held near to her chest. There were twigs and leaves in her dark brown hair; a little scratch from catching herself against rough tree bark a minute or two earlier was just beginning to clot in tiny little bumps on one of her palms. She was grass-stained and windblown, and her mother would be exasperated beyond belief when she got home—but her mom was always exasperated with her, so there was no point in trying to avoid the unavoidable.

“Come and get me if you’re so mad about it!” A pink tongue appeared between those teeth, sticking out defiantly against the boy.

He needed no further invitation. Him and one or two others broke from the main group and started after her. Feeling adrenaline rush through her, she turned on her heel and sprinted down the trail, with her friends close behind but never quite catching up.

She whooped with joy as she galloped down an incline in the path, feeling the wind resist her force. One of the children, blond and freckled, finally caught up with her and launched himself at her slim, spry frame, and they both tumbled to a halt. The girl disentangled herself, still laughing, and then stuck her muddied hand out to help the boy up. “Nice one,” she said, nodding sagely in approval.

“We all have moments.” The blond boy pulled a clump of dead leaves from his hair. He gestured to her bare knees, which were just as dirty and scraped as the rest of her. “You okay?”

She nodded again, and then looked past her friend to a path branching off of the main trail. Seeing as the main trail itself was already small in stature, this was more like a footpath, a mere sliver of grass and fallen branches that had been flattened by many feet passing many times back and forth. The girl tried in vain to wipe some of the dirt off of her skin, and then looked up with a grimace. “I’ve gotta get home – mom’s bringing me for another appointment.”

“Another? Man, you must get tired of those.” The boy shook his head and started towards the little path with her. “I’ll walk with you for a bit.”

They twisted around to wave goodbye to their comrades, and then set off single-file (the only way to walk on this path was single-file, the foliage grew so close together) towards the girl’s home. It didn’t take long for them to wind their way down the footpath before the trees thinned and they had arrived at the edge of the woods. A little park lay before them, with a row of houses just across the street. They each took a drink of water from the park’s water fountain, and then the boy said goodbye and turned back into the woods to find their group of friends again.

The girl wiped her mouth in a long streak down her arm, leaving a line of pale flesh peeking out from the accumulated dirt. She took her shoes and her socks off and held them in her hands while she walked barefoot through the sand of the park and across the road to her house. She opened the door, and—

“Felicia Rosenfeld, we have ten minutes to get to Mileston General; I told you you had to get home quickly today and… you’re completely filthy!”

She rolled her eyes and put her shoes and socks down by the door.

“Where’s your backpack?”

“Left it at school. It’s not like I need it, Mom. It’s Friday.” Felicia’s tone held unmistakeable amounts of the trait every parent on the planet could universally pick out as ‘attitude.’ She wandered into the kitchen and stuck her nose into their fridge, rooting for a snack—well. For her version of a snack. Ignoring the fruit, the cheese, even the container of cold pizza, she pulled one of the bottles of grape juice from the fridge and poured herself a glass. She turned around just as her mother walked in to look her daughter up and down with as much disapproval she could manage to compact into her brown eyes. Felicia rose the glass to her lips and took a loud gulp, unfazed.

“You can’t go to the hospital like that—”

“Sure I can,” Felicia replied, her voice muffled and distorted as she spoke into her glass. She put it on the counter of their little kitchen island. “What’s the problem?” She knew what the problem was, of course. She just wanted to be difficult.

“It’s a hospital, Felicia. I’ve told you this a thousand times: there are people who are seriously ill there. You don’t walk into a place like that covered in dirt and germs!” Felicia’s mother, intensely practical to the unending irritation of her daughter, placed her hands on her hips. “Go clean yourself up—but wash that glass out first.”

“I thought we had ten minutes to get there?” Felicia shot back, snatching the glass and draining what was left in it before putting it in the sink to wash it out. Her mom never let her get away with anything; not one little smudge of dirt in the hospital, not one little glass left on the countertop.

“I’ll call ahead to tell Cynthia we’re running a little late,” was the reply, emphasized, pointed, aiming to shame and missing its mark. Felicia had not felt the need to be obedient for years, now, and this time was no different from the others. Trying to guilt her into anything had proven quite useless.

“You say it like it’s gonna cause her sooo much grief, Mom. She’s never busy anyway.” She was being petulant, but it was true. Felicia’s nurse was a specialist for atypical cases, and because there weren’t too many of those around these parts, she was never hurried or harried when Felicia and her mother showed up ten, twenty minutes late.

“Being on time is just good manners.” Her mother pursed her lips as she plucked the phone from its cradle and pressed the button to speed-dial the hospital.

“Dad was never on time, and people were fine with that.”

The dust motes hung shimmering in the sunlight coming through the kitchen windows. Nessa Rosenfeld looked at her daughter as the phone dialed a waiting tone in her ear. “Don’t bring that up now, Felicia.” Her voice was sharp, tight, but with the mastery that comes from long years of practice, it flipped smoothly over to easy and polite as soon as someone picked up on the other line. “Hello? Yes, I’m calling just to…”

“Whatever,” the girl snapped, turning and leaving the kitchen and her mother and going upstairs to wash her skin and clean her cuts. At least it was a useful tool, mentioning her father – it always guaranteed an end to an unpleasant conversation.


.oOo.


Far away, up at the very northern edge of Alvyssia, amidst the pine forests and the knee-deep snow and the isolation, a small cabin nestled about a hundred meters from the edge of the icy bluffs overlooking the arctic sea. It was a modest thing, built to endure, but curious in the details.

For one, there was a large pile of firewood leaning against the side of the cabin, covered with a tarp to prevent snow from melting into the wood and making it damp and useless. But the pile never diminished, although days passed in the freezing cold—and perhaps it was just obscured by the little crop of trees growing close, but the chimney never seemed to emit any smoke. For another, there always seemed to be voices coming from inside the cabin, although it was common knowledge that only one person lived there, and kind though he was, he did not take guests. Most curiously, if you stood within a certain range of the little modest cabin, you could feel a very thin, faint rumbling in your boots. As if there was something below the ground.

But houses and cottages and cabins in Kurban didn’t have basements, so that made no sense.

Inside the cabin was a different story. It was clear from the décor that although it was a home, it doubled as a research centre: photographs of Svarog seals and molewhales adorned the walls in chains, accompanied by charts and graphs and endless amount of little colour-coded sticky notes. There were other photographs, more grainy in quality, of darker and more sinister creatures, those that inhabited the deep of the arctic sea. They, too, had clusters of notes surrounding them, many of which were sprinkled liberally with question marks. So many questions to answer.

The pantry and the fridge were stocked half with food and half with work: leftovers from the night before shared shelf space with beakers of clear or slightly off-coloured liquids, all of them with little tags introducing them so as not to be mixed up with the many more that they resembled so closely. The freezer held creatures aplenty, and to a stranger it would be difficult divining which fish were due for dissection and which fish for dinner.

The man that lived here was called a hermit by some, shy by others, and arrogant by still others. “Damn foreigners, thinking they’re too good for us,” they’d grumble. “We invite him over for lunch like any good neighbours should—people need to stick together around here, and there ain’t much to do besides. And what do we get? No, thank you!” The debate over whether the man’s anti-socialism was out of city-boy obnoxiousness or good-natured introversion had continued for a long time; it gave the people in their cold, dark, closed-off and close-knit town something to talk about, after all.

But after long enough, the tall man had begun to fraternize a little. Never anything big or extravagant: no potlucks or parties for him. But a visit to the town’s only café once or twice a week did both him and the scattered, wary townspeople some good. They had something of an anomaly to marvel at from across the street, something new and unexplored—and he had people to keep him company, if only for a while.

After four years of this, the people in the tiny, secluded region in northern Kurban came to simply accept the tall, bespectacled man as their local mystery. He didn’t mind at all. He figured, considering who he was and what he had done, and what he was even now doing, being a mystery was probably a good thing.

It meant he couldn’t be found by them.

It meant he could keep an eye on them.

It meant, Dr. Cedric Rosenfeld thought, as he opened what was disguised as a closet door and descended the steps, that he could prepare for those two different “them”s in two different ways, and he had the time to do it on his own terms. He looked around at what lay under his cabin, and chuckled.

In a way, his basement days were far from over.
__________________

Disappear with the stars and come back alive.

Last edited by Baldy; 03/03/2012 at 09:34 PM.
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Old 02/07/2012   #6
Mantichorus
Default

~=~ VILLNORE, AUDOULA ~=~
THETIS ALCESTEOS, TELRAN MIARA, FIONA MYRWIND, KADEN WYNDHAM


Kaden took in the battle across the estate. Despite the rampant chaos, he was sure it was running to someone’s plan.

“I take a fucking nap, and you get in this much shit?” Fiona said.

Kaden dispassionately noted the scents around: assault rifle discharge, attack drones, sweat, blood, burnt flesh…

“They knew we were coming,” Thetis said, her voice soft but full of anger.

…Food, humans, several Destrillians, things similar to that Lyverius…

“The others are still alive,” Telran said. “If we move fast…”

…!

“Right, but what do we do about… him?” Thetis began to ask, before turning to find the space that Kaden had occupied was empty. The three Destrillians stared.

“That’s his choice. We did say we’d split up after we got out of Limnades,” Telran said with a shrug.

“Please,” Fiona sneered. “If TV’s anything to go by, the moment we think we’ve seen the last of the fleabag, he’ll come running over the horizon, or we’ll find him on one of our beds, or some stupid shit like that.”

“As long as it’s not my bed,” Thetis mumbled.

“We don't have time for this,” Telran said decisively. “We need to get going. Let’s find the others.”

=====

Kaden ran headfirst threw a thicket of hedges, following his nose. His strides were eating up the ground in a way he had almost forgotten. Begrudgingly, he admitted to himself he might owe Doc. Ozone.

For the moment, though, Kaden was happy to let the Destrillians deal with their inescapable past while he tracked his own. The unmistakable scent of another Lykaon Animus was on the air, and too close to be coincidence. The wind was with him, bringing him the scent of his target and taking his away from them.

As he advanced, Kaden was able to get a better picture of what he was tracking. The Lykaon was female, and while he recognised the scent, he couldn’t put a name or face to it. Accompanying her were two humans -- their identities were hidden by the scents they had put on. However, it made it easier to follow them, and the potency of the scents suggested they were male.

There was also the smell of food. Lots of it. Kaden snarled in disbelief. Apparently, the ‘disguise-yourself-as-a-caterer’ trick still worked. And of course, there wouldn’t be any gene scanners in use as who knows how many minor enhancements the higher classes had, there were these Lyverius hosting it, and they wanted to trap Destrillians.

“Well? Were there any Destrillians there?”

Kaden recognised the voice as one of the handlers who had worked with the Animus during his time at Setanta. Baring, he thought the man’s name was.

“Sir, I have no idea how I would recognise a Destrillian. However, there were at least three types of enhanced humanoids in attendance. One was amongst our hosts, another was amongst their security, and both were also amongst the guests.”

Kaden bared his teeth. The voice was so near whimpering and whining in its wheedling desire to please, he couldn’t help but feel disgust. That was the female Lykaon, he knew it.

“As well as a third sort?” Baring asked. Kaden noted the second male hadn’t spoken yet - obviously one of Volsung’s human pet killers. Either muscle or a gunman. The aftershave the men were wearing made it difficult to tell.

“Yes sir,” the Lykaon said hesitantly. Kaden knew he was getting close enough for her to notice his scent despite the wind.

He heard the sound of two pistols being primed. Obviously the handlers were experienced enough to pick up on her hesitance.

“What is it?” Baring asked.

“I-- I don’t know.” The Lykaon sounded flustered. “I-it almost smells like another Animus…”

“Think they sent another team out?” Kaden was almost surprised the other man had a voice. Their awareness presented him with a problem. He began to slow his advance and angle leeward around to one side.

“It’s circling,” the Lykaon said. Her tone was now clipped, almost a command itself. He heard the men shift in response, a slight strain on the trigger of their guns.

“Leeward?” Baring said. Kaden could tell from the sound of his voice that he had already turned that way. Frak, of course. He couldn’t have been the only wayward Animus they’d encountered, and besides, he knew he fell back on too much instinctive behaviour. Any idiot who watched a wildlife documentary knew that predators tried to keep downwind of their prey.

“I see him,” the other man said. Kaden suppressed a derisive snort, seconds before a bullet hit a tree trunk a hair’s breadth from him. There was a muffled curse, and the sound of another bullet being chambered.

“Next time, we find a way for me to bring my rifle,” the man hissed.

“I’ll ask Hartnell to get them to look into it, Moran,” Baring said. Kaden’s face twisted in a silent snarl. Moran, the big game hunter. Of bloody course. If it hadn’t been him, he might have tried coming to a halt to draw his own pistol and try a pot-shot. As it was, he’d probably get shot himself the moment he stopped moving.

He scented the food cart they had as part of their cover. He could probably improv something from there as a short distance projectile. After all, they’d been taught that anything could be used as a weapon. All he needed was an opening.

There was a loud sound from the direction he’d come, along with a flash of light. Kaden hesitated briefly, wondering if he was under attack. He then grinned and dashed towards the Chulainn party. Obviously Fiona had attacked something. She’d gone full body pyro before, right? Or maybe one of the flames that was there at their arrival had reached something flammable.

Animus adrenaline acted more aggressively than human adrenaline. The handler and hunter would still be turning to face the potential new threat. It would take a few more seconds for them to realise they only had him to deal with.

“Don’t--” It was the female Animus, trying to warn them. Kaden leapt into the clearing they were in, next to the food cart. His eyes fell immediately to two items.

“--get--” She was still trying to warn them vocally. She could have thrown them out of the way by now. Or just let out a warning howl. Kaden grabbed his ammo from the food cart as the humans started to turn to face him.

“--distracted!”

Moran screamed as the porcelain plate shattered on the bridge of his nose, small fragments embedding in his eyes. His gun was forgotten as he clawed at his face. By the time it hit the floor and discharged, Kaden would have moved.

He’d misjudged Baring’s arc, however. Kaden had hoped that the laminated business card would cut across his neck as he turned, slitting his throat. However, Baring was fully facing him as the card reached its target.

Kaden sidestepped, drawing his pistol from a pocket as Moran’s gun hit the ground and fired a bullet through the space he had previously occupied. He had no idea that could happen, he thought. Baring was coughing blood, with more running from where the card was lodged in his throat.

He chambered a bullet and fired two-handed in one smooth motion, another being chambered almost too fast for the gun to keep up with. The second bullet was fired a heartbeat after the first, meaning that Moran’s wailing stopped before Baring’s body hit the ground.

The female Lykaon stared at him. Kaden stared back. Her hair was cut short, but the ragged style suggested it had recently been shorter. It was hard to tell in this light, but how stark it seemed to the rest of the world suggested to him that it was dyed a particularly vivid colour.

Watching her carefully, he shifted the pistol to a one-handed grip to grab a leftover from the food cart. She took a half step backwards. While serious fights between Animus of the same type had been rare, getting in the way of food had always lead to a scuffle. Kaden chewed on whatever it was, the remnant being too refined for him to know the taste. His more pressing concern was identifying the girl.

As he swallowed, she finally spoke. “No… Orthrus?”

“Medea,” he said, having finally recognised her. “Interesting hair.”

“But, you’re dead,” Medea said. She said it without much conviction. The Animus would fall into human speech clichés, but were more inclined to believe the evidence of their senses than what they ‘knew’. She glanced at the two downed humans. “And… why did you…?”

“Take it you stayed at the complex, then,” he said. It was the only explanation why she was whining over her masters’ corpses.

“What…? No, they… they repatriated me…” she said. Now her bewilderment over his identity was gone, she was obsessing over the dead bodies he’d left around her. He took it that being ‘repatriated’ meant they caught you and brainwashed you.

“What do Chulainn want in Audoula?” he asked. He put command into his voice, and weight behind his pheromones. He couldn’t remember where Medea had fallen in their play hierarchy, but in her current state playing the alpha wolf should work.

“Observation…” she answered distantly. “They, uh, heard that… there was a chance to get more intel about, um, these… Destrillians…” Her cheeks flushed with anger at his domination, and turned on him. “WHY did you kill them?!”

“I’ve run into plenty of Setanta kill teams after my hide,” Kaden said. “Didn’t fancy having to face some more.”

“No. No, they wouldn’t do that,” Medea said. However, she didn’t seem to believe herself.

“Oh, get a grip!” Kaden snarled. “They’re humans. The ones who created us, and then put us to one side in case we came in use!”

“Of course they kept us in case we could prove we’re of use to them!” Medea snapped. Kaden took a half step back. There was grief in her eyes, but also maniacal fervour. “Don’t you see? They created us so that we have the glory of being the new Hounds of Chulainn.”

Kaden recoiled as if slapped, and stared at her in disgust and disbelief. She was saying it like it was a good thing. The glory of the Hounds of damn Chulainn? More like the glory of dying first in battle.

“You have to come back,” she said. The fervour was still there, as was the grief, but she seemed almost… pleased. And she was being deferential to him. “The return of another Animus… They’ll overlook you murdering those agents! And you’ve changed. There’s something about your scent. You seem stronger.”

Kaden shook his head in disbelief. He was considering what to do with Medea, when her stream of speech registered.

“Nemesis will be pleased to see you. She, she thinks she killed you. She doesn’t say much about it, but it’s obvious it bothers her--”

Medea made a strange sound as the air was forced from her lungs as her back hit a particularly sturdy tree trunk. Kaden had his right hand wrapped around her throat, making her stand on tiptoe. Belatedly, he realised he’d dropped his pistol in his rush to grab her. His shades had been dislodged, too.

“Lani… Nemesis, she’s alive??” he asked. “But, I--” His mouth snapped shut. What could he remember, really? They’d been spending the evening together, away from the others. Too young to have any desires but each other’s company. Then the screaming had started outside the room. He’d gone to see what it was… then the screaming began in his head and his gut… He had awoken outside the compound, the Volsung combat suit ripped, leaving him almost naked. He was covered in blood, as was…

“They’d have known I was alive, right?” he asked. “The doctors and professors?”

Medea was cowering in his grasp. “I-I-I…presume so…” she gasped.

“But they let her think she’d killed me?!” he snarled. Spittle sprayed from his lips over Medea’s face. For some reason he couldn’t name, this angered him more than anything else.

Medea’s eyes had shrunk to little more than whites and pupils. Something in Kaden’s bestial eyes clearly terrified her. “What…are you gonna do…?” she asked.

Kaden had remembered something about Medea. “You liked those philosophy books way back when, didn’t you?” She merely nodded in response. “Well, Damascus was so keen to create Overmen, weren’t they? I’m going to remind them that with the coming of the Overmen, they’re not needed any more. ‘Mankind is something to be surpassed’, right? The Earth is a bitch, and now she’s whelped us. Homo sapiens have outgrown their use.”

“No…” Medea groaned and started struggling. Kaden was speechless, as he instinctively realised how she was trying to fight him. He could feel her muscles cording and writhing beneath his grasp. She was trying to bring on the transformation. But something was going wrong. Maybe she was just weak from Chulainn’s influence, or maybe they’d drugged her. Maybe his hand around her throat was denying her enough space to shift.

His hand started to tighten around her throat. The muscles underneath started to relax and shift back to the default state. As the oxygen was being starved from her brain, her struggles were becoming weaker. Kaden squeezed harder, and heard a dull sound like something bursting in the vicinity of what he guessed was her larynx.

He dropped her as her thrashing became even more violent than it had previously been, taking a step back. After a dozen or so seconds, she lay still. Kaden stepped forward to check her vitals. He could hear her heartbeat slowing down. Her pulse was ebbing, and her eyes were empty, growing dull. There were flecks of blood in the spittle that surrounded her mouth.

Kaden collected his discarded pistol and sunglasses, before staring at the body for a while. The thought that he should take down Setanta had occurred to him before, but to do so in Damascus would be near impossible. Opposing armies tended to treat Volsung facilities as sacrosanct. But now, he was out of Damascus. There were so many forces out looking for the Destrillians, what would happen if one of them came across the corpse of an unknown type of humanoid?

Kaden walked over to Baring and rummaged in his pockets. It didn’t take long to find the pager. He knew it was programmed to automatically tag any message from it with Baring’s ID code. He pulled out his dog tags from beneath his top. From there, he copied his own ID code onto the beginning of the message. He wondered how to word it, then he remembered an exercise they’d done in translating phrases into Caraban cipher. As the Animus were fond of cartoons, they were given many catchphrases of different cartoon characters to translate. He could just remember a suitable one.

Kaden hit the message in, and sent it to the Setanta facility. He looked at the dead humans and after taking their guns and spare clips, decided to let things take their course. He stooped to pick up Medea’s corpse and slung it over his shoulder. A quote from the philosophy book he’d mentioned earlier sprung to mind.

“Come, you cold and stiff companion,” he muttered. “You dogs must have got here somehow,” he added.

He took in the impressions in the dirt that showed their line of advance, and walked in the opposite direction to the way they had come. Before too long, he came across a moored speedboat. He recognised it as a Volsung model, possibly a Barracuda. It was charcoal grey, apart from the thin navy blue line that ran around it.

Kaden grimaced, recognising the colour scheme as that of the combat suits that had been all the Animus had ever worn while in captivity. The colours of Chulainn. He leapt into it, and dumped Medea on the floor. He gave the controls a once-over, the limited vehicular training the Animus had been given slowly returning to him. He picked up the operations manual to be on the safe side.

=====

~=~ INTERLUDE ~=~
VOLSUNG FACILITY CODENAME “SETANTA”, CHULAINN PROVINCE, DAMASCUS


Grant “Doc” Richardson smiled boyishly across the table. His host, the communications array operator Victor, looked troubled. Lieutenant July Finnbar of Setanta’s covert action team had the perfect poker face, and gave nothing away behind her stern gaze.

Richardson put his cards on the table. Victor scowled and threw his down. July suddenly laughed and put hers down.

“Relax, Vic,” she said. “It’s not like we’re actually playing for anything.” She linked her hands behind her head and stretched.

Victor risked a brief glance at how the combat suit stretched in response to her movements. Then he said, “Just as well, or I expect I’d be owing the two of you next month’s wage packet.”

A light behind them turned on, bathing them in blue. Victor sighed and pushed back from the table, his wheeled chair scrapping across the floor to the control panel.

“The blue light means it’s one of our own operatives, and that we’re not eavesdropping on someone else’s signal,” July explained to the doctor.

“That must be whoever Medea’s with,” Richardson said, his voice a slight drawl. “She’s the only Animus that I know’s on active assignment. Where were they going, Audoula?”

“Not my place to know. Sir,” July said, slipping back into parade ground mentality.

“It’s Baring,” Victor said. “And, uh, there’s an Animus ID attached to the message, too…”

“It’ll be little purple-haired Medea,” Richardson said, waving expansively. He looked at July. “You see, the Lykaon aren’t as good at discerning colours as us. Something to do with canine monochrome vision intermeshing with human colour perception. So, it’s only vivid colours they really notice as, well, colours. It’s why they like cartoons so.”

“No…sir…” Victor said. “This ID is pre-repatriation. Uh, I’ll have to run it through the system to get a match…”

July stood up and snatched a directory from the wall. “Bring it up,” she said. “Both the ID and the message.” She opened the directory to a list of Animus identification codes.

Richardson stood and walked to behind Victor. “Don’t bother, I recognise that code. I’m certain it’s Orthrus. The missing Wyndham… They must have found him.” He reached over and tapped July on the shoulder. “El-tee, I’m sure that’s in Neo-Damascan. I’m afraid I don’t know the language much without a phrasebook.”

“It’s, uh,” Victor said, breaking in. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…”

“‘I hope you realise, this means war’?” July read out, incredulous. “We’re being threatened with a cartoon slogan?”

Richardson grabbed a phone from the desk and stabbed in an extension. “Doctor Hartnell? Sir, it’s Richardson, up in the communications centre. We’ve just got a message, it’s quite…troubling… Sir, I think Baring’s dead. Probably Moran, too. They were with Medea, so… I expect if they’re dead, she is too. It’s Orthrus. He’s alive, and…unhappy.”

=====

~=~ CRAWSUS, AUDOULA ~=~
KADEN WYNDHAM

After a near miss with a mass transport ferry, Kaden eased up on the throttle and tried to make sense of where he was. Disabling the boat’s IFF beacon had been simple enough, but it also meant the navigational assistant was frakked. Kaden pulled the boat into the lee of an islet, and reached for the map book.

Thankfully, someone had marked the location of the mansion -- or should he call it a chateau, as this was Audoula? -- on the map. Kaden had pointed the compass southwesterly into the main shipping lane, and headed away from Villnore as quickly as he could. It had only been minutes before another city loomed on the horizon, which the map now told him was called Crawsus. There was also a stylised “O” drawn by the city, which he recognised as the Omnis Freight logo.

There was a box out by the Omnis logo, which showed Crawsus’ harbour side. Kaden noticed the text “OMNIS FREIGHT” in small type by the key. Flicking his eye across it, he found it listed various wharves and which concerns licensed them. It seemed that Omnis had the rights to one of them. Kaden frowned. What was the connection between Omnis and Volsung? Wait, Omnis had as their catchphrase “importing the best of Damascus”…

Ah, cute. Kaden understood now. Omnis was used by one Volsung group or another -- from its appearance here, plus the Carabas employed Duman he encountered before, he’d guess at least Carabas and Chulainn -- to move materiel around incognito. This boat was probably housed there. He made a mental note of the location of the wharf, and a quick comparison of his current location before stowing the map.

A brief flare of pack instinct had made him wonder about the Destrillians, but he was confident they could handle themselves well enough without him. Even if he hadn’t been, the molten anger he had felt before was now a cold rage. About the only thought in his head was injuring Setanta -- Volsung was too big for him to decisively wound it, even in its faded state.

Dealing a blow even against the Chulainn facility was beyond him directly. But the Animus had been trained as infiltration experts, to gather intelligence and carry out assassinations. To tear the enemy apart from within. He knew how to play the shadow game. If an organisation such as IRIN International were to find an Animus, and trace it back to Setanta…

Volsung prided themselves on how limited knowledge of their super soldiers was. For a facility to be found out was shameful, but to be caught by a foreign agency? Kaden doubted it would be enough for a deathblow, but it would be enough to cost them prestige. Good enough for an opening shot.

Kaden pushed the boat into life again, and threaded it cautiously through the short chain of islets. It seemed basic to him to make use of the cover. As he reached the end, he put on a burst of speed, and pulled parallel to the shipping lanes. Most of the water traffic was headed into a harbour directly ahead. He peeled off towards the channel that lead towards the Omnis wharf.

Kaden couldn’t remember the last time he’d used the hood on his jacket, but he pulled it up now to hide his face from potential witnesses. He slowly steered the boat down past the -- thankfully deserted -- wharves.

As he was nearing Omnis’ wharf, his head shot up and his nostrils flared. It was an old scent, but it was there: Destrillian. He sniffed the air cautiously. Some of the Destrillians he’d scented at the mansion but not met, Thetis, Fiona (with the putrid scent she’d had when he’d first met her), but most ingrained was the scent of Telran. Kaden hazarded a guess that the doctor lived nearby.

The Omnis logo caught his eye on the side of a shack. Kaden gently turned the boat towards it. As he edged around the jetty, he noticed that there was a gate at water level. Beside it was a keypad. After a slight hesitation, Kaden grabbed a rope and leapt onto the jetty, roughly mooring the boat. He advanced towards the keypad, fingers flexing subconsciously.

The keypad had ten keys on it, set in three rows of three, and a fourth row with two larger buttons. In large text were the numbers one through nine, with zero and a shift key comprising the larger buttons. In smaller text under each key were two or three letters. A quick perusal confirmed what Kaden had guessed; the letters O and I were missing -- too easy to mistake for a zero or a one. The dim backlight revealed that a four digit combination was needed.

He smirked. During one tactical exercise, the differing groups of Animus had been presented light guns, and special chest plates that responded to being ‘shot’ by one of the guns. Anyone who was ‘tagged’ in this manner was considered ‘dead’. The Wyndham pack had scored one hundred percent completion by breaking the electronic lock on the control centre. From there, it had been easy to toggle all the other teams’ chest plates to ‘dead’ without a single casualty. Their ingenuity had been praised.

Kaden frowned. He, along with Cerberus, the pack leader, and Chimera, had kept the other teams at bay while Lani and Orpheus had worked out the code. Orpheus had bragged about how easy it was to figure out later, until Chimera had tickled him into submission. While it wasn’t a given that it would be the same code, Volsung tended towards insular codes and passwords.

Volsung… Kaden carefully pressed two-zero-shift-delta-shift-uranium. There was a click, and the gate began to quietly whir upwards. The date of Volsung’s official founding, twenty years after the Unification of Damascus. He didn’t know whether to view such a simple code as a sign of cunning or overconfidence.

Kaden released the mooring and leapt back into the boat. He eased out the clutch and gently steered it in. Once inside, he switched off the engine and jumped out of the boat, before mooring it up again. He left Medea’s body where it was for now. He jammed a button set into the wall, and the gate clattered slightly, before quietly whirring downwards.

It had been left without maintenance for a while; obviously, an out of country safe house wasn’t high priority in a civil war that blew hot and cold. There was a terminal on the wall, set the reverse side of the keypad. Kaden woke the machine up and browsed the files. It was merely a log history for the keypad. He went to wipe the record of his use, when he spotted something. It seemed to be the programming that controlled the password.

Kaden called it up, and gave it a quick once over. It didn’t take long for him to decide on a new password and program it in. He climbed back into the boat and went over his small armoury. He decided to keep the Manticore knife and one of the pistols on him. He also took the time to make sure the pistol had a full clip, and took an extra clip for good measure. The rest he chose to leave in the boat, in case he needed it. He slipped the shades back on.

After a momentary pause, he decided he’d take Medea with him. He wasn’t sure yet how he’d get her the attention he wanted, but leaving her here to retrieve later might prove difficult. Kaden lifted her as if she was an unsteady or unconscious companion in need of support, rather than a dead body. He practiced a few coaxing phrases to be muttered every so often as they travelled.

They wouldn’t be happy to see him, but he was aware he needed numerical strength. He was going to see the Destrillians.

=====

It had only taken Kaden about ten minutes to discern where Telran’s apartment was, and a further fifteen to get to the building in question. During that time, whenever he noticed people getting close to him -- or noticed a closed circuit camera -- he’d put a bit more of a stagger in his step, and stage whispered coaxing phrases to Medea. If any of the people lingered, he’d fix them with an idiotic grin. It seemed enough of his true nature was apparent for people’s hindbrains to recognise it as a threat display and not a sign of good humour.

Kaden studied the exterior of the tenement building silently for a moment, running through the options. He could walk through the front door, but going door to door would quickly get noticed. Kaden walked around the outside of the building with exaggerated care. With each step, he tried to work out which side of the building the scent of Destrillians was strongest from.

His head whipped up towards the building when he came around one corner of the building. There was definitely a smell of Destrillians to this side of the building. Fortunately, there was a fire escape on this side of the building. Kaden hauled Medea’s corpse towards it and climbed it as quietly as he could. Unfortunately, it was almost impossible to climb up the metal grill walkway quietly.

Kaden had only got to the second floor, when he paused. He sniffed. The trace scent of Destrillians seemed to be coming from this floor. Cautiously, he moved along the walkway. It didn’t take long to find the apartment the scent was coming from. Carefully lowering Medea to the floor, he tried the first window. He grunted in annoyance. There was a deposit there, like a scent fingerprint, that suggested someone had been through this window not too long ago. However, he couldn’t get it to budge now -- at least, not without risk to the window.

He tried the next window along, which appeared to lead into a dining room. Kaden smiled grimly when he was able to get the window open. He went back to Medea, and pulled her up to the window, before pushing her through. Once he was certain she was in and he wouldn’t step on her, he swung himself through the window, before closing it carefully behind him.

He looked at Medea for a while, trying to work out where to put her. It idly occurred to him that Telran might have a bathtub. After trying doors at random, Kaden finally found the bathroom, and there was a small bathtub inside. Leaving the doors open, he went back to Medea, and all attempts at subterfuge abandoned, dragged her by her armpits with her heels dragging on the floor.

Kaden grimaced as he headed back from the bathroom, closing doors behind him. Despite what he’d taken from the food cart, he was still hungry. Taking a few breaths, he was able to locate the kitchen. Over the course of the next five minutes, he cleared the fridge of any meat he could find. After that, he wolfed down a few chocolate bars. He took a glass from a cupboard, and filled it with some milk. After gulping that down, he rinsed it out and refilled it with water.

Kaden walked casually back into the front room. With little ceremony, he tracked down the remote controls for the television, and flicked it on.

“--Such a clever little beast. I HATE clever beasts--”

Kaden blinked at the programme that was on the channel the set had defaulted to. Some channel surfing quickly found a rolling news channel. He sipped at his water, taking in the headlines. Of course, the breaking news was the pandemonium surrounding that mansion in Villnore. The slight frown already on his face deepened when the newsreader said there was suspected Destrillian activity behind it.

He flicked the set off with a contemptuous wave of the remote. He drained the glass, and returned it to the kitchen. Some human niceties had rubbed off on Kaden in his years of avoiding the authorities, and he left the glass in the washing up bowl in the sink.

His jaw almost unhinged, as a yawn rose up. With a sigh, Kaden found a bed and climbed on it, kicking his shoes off as he did so. He made sure he knew where they were, in case the Destrillians saw fit to chase him off the moment they saw him.

With that he huddled on one side, keeping his face towards the door. He pulled out some dogtags from his pocket. He gazed at them.

“I’ll bring these back to you, Lani,” he murmured, before returning them to his pocket and drifting into a doze.
__________________
I work all day and I think all night
I break my body, but that's all right
Cos it'll take all my mind and all my might
To keep one step ahead of you
L.E. Modesitt, Jr wrote: Sometimes cynicism is the last refuge of the idealist.
As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn't measure up.
You think water moves fast? You should see ice. It moves like it has a mind. Like it knows it killed the world once and got a taste for murder.
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Old 02/18/2012   #7
Bex
Default

THETIS ALCESTEOS AND FINN ELIOT
SPENCER MANSION
=============================

In one of the many corridors that weaved through Spencer's mansion, Thetis Alcesteos swayed on her feet, lost, confused and trying to control her slurred motor skills while fighting the leaden, liquid fear that churned in her stomach. It was warm, yet the water prototype shivered. She stumbled to a standstill and dug her pale toes into the deep plush of the forest green carpet. It had been over an hour since the silent, inspeakable impact of Ariel's resurrection gripped Thetis like a claw. The musty scent of stone and oil paintings forced its way down her throat like a tracheotometry tube. Not even the deep colours of Spencer's galleries provided comfort to her corrupted memory. There was no preparation, no grace period, no slow-burn fuse to the powder keg of Ariel's miraculous recovery. Could Ariel be recreated? Could she be conjured up, intact to the smallest detail? Could she deny ever knowing what had happened?

It had only taken an hour or two to beat Thetis' hope to a stump. Her white, slender fingers began to tremble more violently than before. An all too familiar heat flushed into her face, and a cold sweat matted the hair to her brow. Saliva thickened in her mouth, and Thetis felt a fist pound in her chest. Not now. Even the smallest of whimpers echoed through the high ceilings, bouncing off the marbled walls as if to taunt her. Without a moment's notice, Thetis hurled herself at what looked to be a Xi-Qinese vase made of priceless jade green crystal, flung off the lid and vomited. After one, two more convulsions, Thetis was left wretching into the vase, staring through eyelashes that were wet and bunched together at the faint, hairline cracks in its interior. The watery bloated feeling still hadn't left her stomach. She fell back, hardly wincing as her shoulder crashed against the marble wall.

"A-are you okay?" a small, stammering voice asked from behind the Destrillian of water. To Thetis' ears, it seemed to be faint and very far away. As though the question as being asked from the other side of a thick window, or from the other side of some great expanse. Thetis span round and instantly regretted it as she felt yet another wave of bile bubble in the pit of her stomach. Blinded by the high, bright lights of the mansion, the water Destrillian brushed the sweat-sodden hair from her eyes and squinted at the intruder. It was the younger Destrillian who had walked her to Spencer.

"I'm fine," she lied.

The new Destrillian raised her eyebrows so that they disappeared beneath the untidy tangle of soft lilac hair. "You, um, you don't look fine." There was slightly more force to her voice now, but her large brown eyes betrayed a genuine concern for the mansion's distressed new arrival.

Thetis paused for a moment and cast a discerning eye over the girl. "Neither do you." It was true; her soft, hazel eyes were rimmed with red and underpinned with grey, while her skin appeared pale to the point of translucency. Like Thetis, she was skinny, and, upon closer inspection, her limbs shook with a nearly undetectable tremor. While the blue-haired girl initially attributed it to nerves, the younger Destrillian was clearly unwell.

The faintest ghost of a smile flickered across the young Destrillian's face. She was aware of how ill and unkempt that she looked. But she was used to looking and feeling like this, moreover, she wasn't upset and Thetis clearly was. And she knew all too well how upsetting some meetings with Jason Spencer could be. He had developed delivering news that you didn't quite want to hear yet into a subtle but consistant art form. At least, that had always been the case with her.

"I, um, just wanted to check on you, I guess," the small Destrillian's eyes fell to the floor, suddenly very aware of Thetis' scrutinising gaze.
"My name is F-Finn, by the way, I didn't get a chance to say so before."

Thetis smiled weakly. There was something in the way that Finn spoke, the way she shoved her hands in her pockets and cast her eyes to the floor that was very familiar. The water prototype dropped her gaze and propped herself against the wall. "I'm Thetis," her smile faltered for a second, "but you probably knew that."

Finn shrugged nervously, her eyes whipping back up to meet Thetis' saffron orbs. A small, faltering smile crept its way onto her face.
"Yeah, I've known about you f-for a while," Finn spoke up nervously as Thetis narrowed her eyes in suspicion. She had known the blue-haired Destrillian's name for a long time now. Through both the application of her power and the stories that Ariel used to tell her about the friends she had left behind in Facility 1. Neither topic of conversation was liable to improve relations between the pair of them at this point, so she racked her brain for anything to change the subject. "This place is kinda weird at first, huh?"

"I guess," Thetis shrugged, then winced as a sharp pain shot through her shoulder. She sighed and slumped against the wall. The sling, the gauze, the bandages; all of it was just a reminder of how careless she had been. Careless and stupid and weak. Careless for fighting beyond her capabilities. Stupid for letting herself be brought here. Weak for only half-wanting to leave. Thetis swallowed nervously, grimacing as the taste of vomit passed over her tongue. "There's not a way to leave, is there?" she asked half-heartedly. She already knew the answer.

Finn moved to the opposite side of the corridor and slumped against it, her own pose mirroring Thetis'. She shook her head so that the mess of thick, untidy hair shook violently. "N-no. There's not," she thrust her hands into the pockets of her ill-fitting pyjama pants. "The others sometimes get to, um, leave. B-but, the new arrivals?" she shook her head again. Her normally faint, faltering voice strengthened somewhat with something that what might be described as bitterness.

Thetis let out a small "oh" before drifting into silence. So it was hopeless, after all. But wasn't the outside world just as bad? All the fighting, the running, the arguing; maybe Spencer was right. At least in here it was peaceful, even if she had noone, even if she was alone. Her thoughts strayed, and a single, inextricable truth tightened around her chest. Despite her freedom, Thetis Alcesteos had always been alone.

The silence hung thick, awkward and uncomfortable in the air as the truth of her captivity sunk in. Finn opened her mouth to speak, but she checked herself. She let the moment of silence pass, as though in mourning. Thetis had just witnessed the death of the freedom she had struggled so hard to attain, the very least she could do is give the Destrillian a moment to let that sink in.

"They don't let me leave, either," Finn wasn't looking at Thetis, but down at the forest green carpet of the spacious corridor. It wasn't exactly a helpful thing to say, she reckoned. The words had just tumbled out of her mouth in a mixture of despair and frustration that she was finally able to admit to the only other person on the estate that might be able to relate to how she felt. Thetis tilted her head slighty, allowing for a better view of the dishevelled Destrillian.

"Huh." Thetis didn't know quite what else to say. She brushed the dust from the knees of her cotton pajamas, took a deep breath, and tried to ignore the pain in her head and chest as she struggled to rise to her feet before slumping back against the wall. "So, what now?"

"I, uh, I could show you around, I guess? I mean, if you aren't doing anything else." It was a comment born out of habit. Salem, Lorelei, Ariel and Elvan were always too preoccupied these days. Thetis shook her head. The thought of exploring the vast confines of her prison made her feel dizzy.

"I just wanna go back," she mumbled. The blue-haired girl fumbled for the lid of the vase before delicately replacing it.

"Back to your room?" Finn asked carefully, unsure of the exact meaning of Thetis' ambiguous remark.

"Yeah," Thetis paused to contemplate her options. It wasn't as if she had anywhere else to go. "Sure."

"Do you, uh, do you want me to w-walk with you?" The question was asked nervously. Finn knew well enough that when you were ill or upset, sometimes the last thing you wanted was to spend time with another person. But she couldn't help herself, there was something about the thin, pale Destrillian that seemed to be calling out for company and for a hand to hold. The lilac-haired Destrillian could recognise this feeling well enough too.

Despite the fact she had known Finn for less than an hour, the water Destrillian felt an odd sense of kinship with the girl. There was something about her, something vulnerable, some deep sense of loneliness that not even Thetis could ignore. The blue-haired girl smiled and offered Finn her hand. "You're gonna have to help me up."

Finn gave a small smile, clasped her two small pale hands around Thetis' outstretched wrist and tugged. Raw strength had never been her forte, so she gave a sigh of relief when the pressure gave and Thetis pushed herself the rest of the way up on her own. She felt her cheeks redden slightly, acutely aware of her distinctly un-Destrillian levels of strength. Finn tried not to catch Thetis' wide, curious eyes as she got to her feet and patted the dust from her pajamas. The water prototype mumbled something that sounded like 'thanks' under her breath before wiping away the dry crust of saliva that circled her lips. She cast a guilty sideways look to the priceless vase that now housed the contents of her stomach. "Sorry."

Finn continued smiling and shrugged, "I-Its okay, um, I kinda thought it was ugly a-anyway," she kept one hand firmly clasped around Thetis', slightly concerned that the blue-haired Destrillian would keel back over without any support. "Your room is back this w-way." She gave Thetis' hand a small tug and led her back down the way they had come.
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Old 02/27/2012   #8
Omega
Default

Emma, Terra, Fiona, Idris, Stolz, Nova, Lokka, Castiel, Kaden, Jettison, and Telran
Villnore, Audoula
(The hours before dawn)



The ferry slid quietly through the whispering river, the only light breaking the absolute grip of the night being that of the soft orange guide lights on the banks and the cold stare of the twin moons. Just as they were during their last trip from Villnore, a somber mood had fallen over the group, who had scattered about the stolen ferry with the matters on their minds known only to themselves.

Idris was lying stretched out on the back seats of the sports car, in the quiet and the dark of the lower deck. It had taken a real beating before the fight had broken out, thanks to Kerr's unceremonious introduction to the window, but Lokka had managed to keep the essentials working all the way to the ferry. Although she was being left alone, she could hear the assorted rumblings of the others as they moved and spoke up above. It was enough.

She sighed inwardly. She'd not been the only person to get a thorough beating from Avidez, if she was able to go by the few minutes she'd been able to get a good look at Telran before the group had kicked back into action. Maybe they could compare notes later, she joked to herself.

The group themselves had had a bit of a... shocked, reaction to seeing her as well, she thought, smiling a little. The smile quickly faded as she ran back through the memory. It wasn't just that she'd been hurt, or even how badly she'd been beaten. It was that this was Idris Savage, the Gunmetal Glint, and not once in anybody's lifetime had they seen her lose so utterly. It was a blow to her ego and to their reality; this wasn't playtime back in the Viola training rooms. This was serious.

And moreover? They had lost Thetis. Idris scowled-- and then winced when the muscles sent a sharp reprimand straight to her nervous system. This was the second time in just a few days that one of their comrades, one of her friends, had been taken.

Maybe if I'd been stronger--

She clapped down on the thought with as much force as she could muster. Stop it. Don't think about it now. Just keep moving.

She forced her thoughts to another area: Fiona. The girl had completely lost it when she'd heard Thetis was gone-- and, if Idris was right, when she'd been informed of the catalyst behind the motel fight. Idris had seen Kerr for about ten seconds before he'd walked into the forest and never returned, but she'd seen the injuries. Fiona had really laid it on thick.

On the upper deck, said firestarter was glaring out at nothing in particular. The aches and pains that still riddled Fiona reminded her of all that had happened just the day before: finally waking up from what seemed to be a never-ending nightmare, fighting and running from all sort of new enemies (plus meeting a werewolf) and ultimately losing Thetis. It was only the last bit that really mattered.

After her tantrum lakeside, only more frustration met her in the form of a very persistant and perverse Destrillian (yet another new one she'd never seen nor cared to know). If it weren't for the freaky shapeshifter holding her back, the crimson-haired queer might have lost some teeth and the use of his legs.

She brushed the pestering thoughts away and focused on how she'd get Thetis back. Kicking in the front door with guns blazing always seemed the way to go, but with Jason Spencer on the other side of it--not such a good idea. Fiona gritted her teeth behind pursed lips as she slowly pounded a large dent into the metal wall beside her.

Castiel, meanwhile, was standing in the cabin of the ferry and staring through the side window at the body of the red haired Destrillian. She was hot by all accounts and even though she had threatened to rip out his throat for his earlier comments, Castiel couldn't help but be attracted to her fiery temper.

A little out of the way, Emma sat in silence, watching as the shore grew closer and closer to the group as the stolen ferry approached the landing. Beside her sat Terra, and on the other side of her, Telran. The redhead wanted to remain close to the girl, yet also wanted to give her space now that she seemed to be fine again. Well, as fine as Terra could be. The doctor, for his part, lay entirely unmoving, chest barely rising to take the most shallow of breaths, wounds still bleeding slightly.

She looked around at the others, glad that everyone who was there had made it back and was now safe. Considering all that had happened, just the fact that they were all still alive was a good thing, right?

If Thetis is still alive, a familiar voice said in her head.

Please go away, Emma thought, speaking to the voice in her head. There was no response. However, it was then that a light on the dock washed over the group and she glanced down at her arm, remembering how she had suddenly become more well off than the others. She almost heard someone laugh, but knew it was only in her mind.

Shaking her head, Emma decided to close herself off completely. She couldn't feel what the others were feeling, or sense the energy of anyone nearby. It was risky, and probably very irresponsible - Emma might need her sense just in case anyone had followed them from the chateau - but it was the only way Emma could think of to just make the voice shut up.

Terra sat quietly next to Emma, staring off into the distance. Thetis was gone now, just when they'd gotten her back. Now this Destrillian who she barely knew, Telran, had gone into a coma because he had tried to help Terra. She felt almost sick with the guilt of it. She would have almost rather they'd left her, instead of losing Thetis and getting themselves so hurt. And yet... she flexed her now usable right hand. She was glad she could move around as she used to, considering how much trouble she'd been in the past. Not that it happened soon enough for her to be able to keep anyone safe...

She looked distantly to where she knew Idris would have been. The strongest, the toughest of them, the one who always won-- beaten and broken. If the earth Destrillian had even attempted to face them, she would certainly be dead. Idris didn't need to fight alone, but what choice did she have? Everyone else was so occupied, or sick, or something that they would have been no use in the fight.

She frowned, and glanced over at Telran. Even though she knew he wouldn't be able to hear her, she whispered to him, "I'm sorry," just above a breath.

Stolz was unusually quiet, seated in a corner and not once looking away from Emma. This behaviour was starting to disturb Virtue to a point where she had to say something.

You know it's not nice to stare.

"Busy."

Busy doing what? Being a stalker?

"No, it's something else," Stolz replied in an oddly focused tone. "When Plant Lady Emma went off to fight the guy who is like the scary fire lady but not, something happened. I'm not sure what but ever since then I've been fixated on her, trying to figure out what it was."

And you're the only one who sensed this? If something really happened, wouldn't the others all be joining in on your creepy little stare-fest?

"I don't think our merry band of misfits did, no... but--"

But what?

Stolz's pupils suddenly shifted to the long slits. "I believe the other Lyverius did."

Lokka stood with his arms resting on the handrail of the ferry, staring out across the land as the rest of the group slowly began to unload themselves. The night had been kind to him tonight. This time his mind had not been engulfed by the waves and the moons, looking down on him as if he were capable of nothing. No, this time he felt victorious. It didn't make any sense really; they'd rescued Terra but lost Thetis. From a logical standpoint they had achieved nothing. But Lokka's mind was calm, perhaps even numb. He was letting his body rest but there was a part of him that had enjoyed the fight, or rather the chance to fight for something. The young man glanced up at the larger moon, let the light that reflected off of it sink into his own eyes as he took a long, steady breath.

Content, he let his eyes flicker toward the front of the ship. Castiel was removing himself from the captain's position and making his way down on to the deck. The boy had volunteered to drive the ship - having successfully prised it from its owners - and taken them the whole way here. Lokka didn't hate him. More than anything he was just trying to be cautious. Recent developments had shown there were enough rogue Destrillians scattered about the place. Castiel was an individual that would pass that specification with flying colours. Still, he seemed to have a more important agenda.

Lokka shook his head as images of Kram, the would-be superhero, filled his head, reminding him of his friend's departure back to Osea. With a quiet sigh he pushed himself off the railing and headed to the slowly forming group of individuals he called allies.

Castiel dropped down from the wheel house with a thump. Looking towards Lokka, he motioned that he wanted to speak to him in private. The white-haired man followed, moving in the opposite direction to the rest of the group without much hesitation. It was probably because he was tired. With any luck this talk would be a little easier than the last.

"I left the captain tied up in the wheel house. It would have been easier just to kill him-- you realise that?" spoke Castiel as he moved to the port side of the ship before leaning on the railing, looking onto the water.

"I've had enough violence for a few days," Lokka solemly replied. He missed the days where any fighting was voluntary.

"Heh, if you say so." Castiel sighed heavily. "So what now? Besides having a smoking hot babe threaten my life, we haven't really established what our next move is, have we?"

Lokka was surprised. "You're staying with us?"

"I don't see any reason why I shouldn't; my track record around humans isn't exactly the greatest now is it?" Castiel replied, his vision kept solely on the motion of the lake.

His green-eyed 'partner' refrained from pointing out that said record wasn't exclusive to humans. "Weren't you looking for Kram?"

"From what you told me earlier it seems as if he is okay. I've been on ice for the last decade...what's a few more days?"

"Well," Lokka began, "I don't know where we're headed next. If anything we have more than a few issues we need to take care of. No doubt some of us will want to run after the one we've lost."

"Speaking of, what's the deal between the chick with the quiff and the one that got nabbed back at the mansion?" Castiel asked slowly, glancing sidelong at Lokka. The other Destrillian shot him back a look of what seemed to be genuine confusion.

"I don't know what you mean."

"Don't play dumb Lokka," Castiel laughed. "It's plain on everyone's faces that she cares about this chick far more than everyone else."

"Maybe. I didn't notice. She seems pretty angry that Thetis was taken though."

"Hmm, fair enough. What about Idris? Is she okay? Those injuries looked pretty severe."

"She'll heal up fine." Lokka thought for a moment. "She took a harsh beating though, so she's resting in the back of the car. I better go get that now."

"Good. The girl has spunk, that's for sure." Castiel laughed as he remembered their first conversation.

The green-eyed Destrillian gave a simple nod as he walked towards the stairs that led to the lower deck. He pushed open the door and calmly made his way to the car, ready to get on the move again.


.oOo.


Some time later, they were back at Telran's. Lokka had driven ahead, with Idris and Telran loaded into the car so as not to weigh down the rest of the group-- who had to walk. It was an immense relief to all of them to see the little building just in reach.

Emma slowly went up the stairs, half sideways, half backwards, trying to assist Terra in lifting Telran up to his apartment. She had insisted on carrying him by the shoulders, the heaviest place to lift. It wasn't out of a need to be there for Terra as maybe it would have been in the past, but more along the lines of suddenly feeling like she needed to do more for everyone.

Certainly, she could play up the helping Terra bit to cover what she was really feeling, but she didn't want to think about that right now. The redhead simply told herself to concentrate.

Lift your right foot, Emma. Now the left. Right again, left again, she told herself in her mind.

The real truth of the matter was that, if she let her mind wander off, that voice might return.

When the two girls finally reached the second floor, Lokka appeared and, reaching for the key above the doorframe, unlocked and then held the door open for them. After they had squeezed by, the two made their way down the hallway to Telran's bedroom and...dropped him on the floor.

Someone was in the apartment.

Sprawled across Telran's bed was someone that the two girls didn't recognize.

Emma quickly gasped and cupped her hands to her face, first at the shock of a stranger in the room, then at the shock of having actually dropped Telran.

Through his light doze, Kaden was suddenly aware of eyes on him. He sat up sharply, ignoring the slight nausea that accompanied the action. Belatedly, he realised that he'd also bought the pistol he'd been hiding under the pillow with the same motion. He blinked at the two young women in front of him and lowered the pistol carefully.

Both smelled heavily of the Destrillian scent. But along with that were more... comforting scents. One, who had brown hair, had a petrichor scent. The other girl, who had long red hair -- a more vibrant shade than Kaden's own -- smelled of what he could only think of as life. There was also another scent there, something he couldn't quite grasp...

Between the two on the floor was a figure Kaden recognised by scent and sight. For a moment, he struggled for words.

Terra broke the silence. Fairy tales had been on her mind recently. "What big eyes you have."

Kaden blinked. "Um, all the better to see you with. You're friends of the doc's, right? What happened to him?"

Emma, recovering immediately from the shock of a new face (and a strange one, at that), rushed to pick Telran back up. "We... there was a fight." She looked at the stranger. He seemed to know Telran, but exactly how well?

Mentally reprimanding herself for being so irresponsible, Emma immediately opened up her senses to the world. It seemed like this new arrival wasn't human, Destrillian, or Lyverius. He was closer to Jettison and Nova than anything: more than human, but a class all to himself.

There was something strange about him. Almost...feral. Wild. Emma bit her lip for a moment. It was definitely there...but what was it? It almost seemed...but no, that's not possible, she thought to herself with shake of the head. How much did this person know? "He's badly hurt," she said, deciding to play it safe for now.

Kaden moved off the bed, pocketing the gun. A thoughtful frown creased his brow. "I see... Ah, I hope no-one needs the bathtub." He scratched his face with a finger for a moment. "I kinda left a corpse in there."

"I do not need this shit right now," Fiona chimed in as she followed the distinct odor of mutt that invaded her nostrils. She nearly knocked Emma over as she pushed her way over to glare at the Animus. "I knew it was you. No Destrillian could smell so bad, even on a shitty day."

"You weren't smelling so good yourself not too long ago," Kaden muttered.

"You know him, too, Fiona?" Emma asked, genuinely curious as to what was going on.

"Another fuckin' freak Mohawk and Thetis ran into while I was knocked out," Fiona said, ignoring Kaden's comment. "Dipshit here claims to be a werewolf," the fire Destrillian said as she sarcastically displayed air quotes for the last word. After a pause, she added grudgingly, "At least the mutt can fight. Got a few hits in on Vargas' tinker toys."

"I... see," Emma said, somewhat hesitantly. As Fiona turned and left the room, the nature prototype looked to Kaden for clarification.

Kaden flicked her a brief look that carried an unspoken question -- is she ALWAYS like this? -- before he spoke.

"As a generalisation, it's accurate. The specifics are largely unimportant. Got infected by something designed to, uh, counteract my genes," Kaden said. Under Emma's questioning gaze, he felt decidedly uncomfortable holding anything back. "Damascan scientists spliced animal and human DNA at the fetal stage using a cryptovirus. They called us Animus. I've got lupine DNA, so I'm a Lykaon Animus. I got hit with something that interfered with the cryptoviral bond." Mentally, he was directing a hundred shut ups at himself.

"My name's Kaden; think I should've started with that," he mumbled weakly, shuffling his feet as he stared down at them.

The two girls managed to awkwardly lay Telran across the mattress as the newcomer spoke, after which Emma brushed her hands together and replied, "I'm Emma." She wasn't sure whether or not she should extend her hand out to the stranger, so instead she merely gestured to to her left.

"And um...this is Terra."

Terra gave a tiny wave but, unsure of what to say to Kaden, remained silent.

Emma glanced at her before turning back Kaden. "So... I take it you're going to be staying with us for a while?"

"I'm...not sure. I guess it depends on if you'll have me in your pack, and if there's any reason for me to stay."

Emma raised an eyebrow but did not comment on this response. "Would you like to meet the others?" The newcomer merely nodded in reply.

Emma led Kaden out of the room, Terra in tow. The rest of the group were all gathered in the living room, their curiosity piqued by Fiona's tirade announcing the newest addition to their ever-growing group. All eyes turrned to the trio that had just exited the bedroom, making Emma feel even more awkward than she already had before.

"I guess you all already know, but we have a guest. This is Kaden. He's a friend of Telran," Emma knew she shouldn't say it but the prospect was just too tempting, "and Fiona." She had to fight hard to keep from smiling at the glare she received.

As he exchanged greeting with the rest of the assembly, Kaden thought he heard a faint sound from somewhere in the apartment, ears pricking up. "Does anyone else hear that?" The looks on the Destrillians' faces was reply enough that he knew an explanation was necessary. "It's like some kind of...vibration, I think?" He frowned, muttering to himself. "The doc's room...?"

With that, Emma, Stolz, and Nova broke off from the others, warily approaching the room and this new potential threat. As they did, Kaden turned to Terra and asked, "It's...Terra, right? Do you think love can bloom on the battlefield?" The voice of Stolz, who was down the hallway but had clearly heard the question, floated down the hallway in response, making a comment about how it sounded like one of their shokakan animes. But the room was quiet...peaceful. The otherwise total silence was broken by the sound of a muffled vibration accompanied by something soft and jazz-like. Recognizing it as the ringing of the unconscious Telran's mobile phone, Emma gently removed it from the pocket of his jacket which had been casually , peering at the number on the caller ID.

Before she could comment, the phone had disappeared from her hand. "Yo!" Nova boomed as he answered the cellular phone. "The chief ain't available right now--"

"What are you doing? We can't just answer his phone!" Emma protested indignantly.

"Yes we can, it's right there in his hand!" Stolz interjected.

Emma quietly glanced at the device in the larger man's hand. "Wouldn't that be an invasion of privacy? Besides, we don't know who could be on the other end!"

"Get that stick out of your ass, Chubbs!" Fiona shouted from the doorframe, exiting the apartment.

Emma narrowed her eyes and gave an indignant "hmf," as Fiona retreated out of the door. "I am not chubby!" she whispered under her breath.

Meanwhile, Nova was busying himself with the person on the other end of the line.

"Whooo, that sounds pretty intense." The large man slowly began to gather the audience of the others as he continued. "I don't think the doc' is in any fit shape to help right now."

The man paused for a while.

"No, he ain't booked solid or nuthin'."

There was some more talking coming from the phone. Nova frowned. "Well, I mean he's out cold!" Pause. "No I didn't do it you cracka mothaf- ...W-who am I?!"

"I'm the man, baby!"

"Yo?"

"Helloooo?"

Nothing but the faint, tinny sound of a dial tone greeted the burning ears of every other member of the group. Nova dropped the phone unceremoniously onto a table.

"Some dude's having girl troubles."

"What kind of troubles?" Emma said, through gritted teeth. It was one thing to answer a phone that wasn't yours, but answering a phone that belonged to a doctor typically meant the caller was in some sort of distress.

"His wife's havin' a baby - and not the good kind." Nova announced, shamelessly.

Silence greeted this revelation, broken only a full minute later by Stolz:

"What's the bad kind?"
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Old 03/03/2012   #9
Alex
Default

VARIOUS
THE SPENCER MANSION, DINING ROOM


"...but it's okay because she was deaf!"

The thick silence that followed in the wake of the anecdote was awkward, stifling, and had precious little to do with the lewd, disturbing tale that had been spun for the dinner party by Salem Locke in between noisy mouthfuls of the roast lamb.

Whether or not Jason Spencer was aware of the tension in the room, he seemed oblivious to it. Sitting at the head of the table, making polite conversation with the near half-dozen Destrillians that had been invited and turning a blind eye to the frequent scathing glances that seemed to have taken the place of small talk. While the mansion's regular residents appeared perfectly content to be sat at the long mahogany table, the new arrivals were showing obvious signs of discomfort.

Kram arrived after being summoned abruptly, sporting a simple white shirt with a red polo, black gym pants and sandals. staring around at the entire round table until he caught a glimpse of Salem, waving at him and giving him his well known smile. He saw a girl with strands of white and black hair before greeting her with a wave, turning his attention to the all too familiar face of Lorelei Jaeger. He was half tempted to stick out his tongue at her to fool around with her blindness, but mustered enough decency to refuse such a childish gesture. He caught sight of Kerr and nodded in politeness.

Then his eyes widened at the unbelievable sight of Thetis present at the table with all these familiar individuals.

It took him a while to register that she was even there or if she was just another hallucination of sorts, but judging from the others present, she was indeed the one he had discovered to be of a blood relative a few weeks ago. Dropping his goofy behaviour, he took his place at the far end of the table. Their last talk had not ended well, and he did not want to grab her attention all of a sudden.

How did she make it here?

Tao entered the room, this time dressed in a simple set of lilac shirt and pants, brown sandals and Kram's scarf wrapped around her shoulders. She was surprised that another dinner was held for all of them (having instructed Lei to be with Zao tonight, which he complied gleefuly in his own twisted words: "Tao-Zhang, under a certain circumstance my driver the ability. Is I to going carry the meet with brother." ), even more flustered by the amount of guests who are present. The sight of Salem brought a slight air of fear to her. Before long, she caught sight of Lorelei before turning the other way, not wanting to indulge in any form of conversation with her. Finally, looking at the girl with white and black hair, she gave a friendly wave before taking her place next to Kram before slightly cringing at the presence of a dark eyed Destrillian sitting nearby. Tao had noticed that Kram had been trying to subtly grab the attention of the newcomer, a girl of blue and white hair. She was slightly puzzled as to why he was doing so until she began to notice the slight physical similarities the both of them have (chin, eyes and nose), save for the fact that the woman appeared to be ignoring his attempts.

"Still yourself, Kram. What's wrong?" she whispered.

Kram didn't answer, continuing to press for Thetis' attention. Tao gave a humble sigh as she tried to quietly dissuade him from making an unwanted scene.

Thetis seemed to be pre-occupied with pushing food around her plate, seemingly oblivious to Kram's (frequent) attempts to catch her attention. Kram let out a sigh until the nudging from Tao had given him the vibes that she was not in the mood. Her knife sat ignored; she had quickly become frustrated by the immobility of her sling. She had spent much of her time around the dinner table the same way she arrived; shoulders slumped, eyes downcast and in complete silence. For the first time in four years, Thetis Alcesteos had lost her appetite. Flinching slightly as her fork scraped over the china plate, the water Destrillian gingerly stabbed at a stray potato. Salem's ice-breakers didn't make her feel anymore at home.

"I could go on to tell you the story about the pharmacist's daughter," Salem began. A wide smirk crossing his unshaven face as though he was thoroughly enjoying the thick, unpleasant atmosphere.

He received a round of grimaces in response, many of the Destrillians avoiding eye contact with him completely and staring absently into the plates of food that were stacked high on the centre of the table. Kram merely shot Salem an awkward stare, trying to his his smile.

"Do us all a favour, Salem, and shut up." Ariel spoke up from her seat across from the silent and taciturn Kerr.

Lorelei spent her time scrutinizing the "guests", each in their turn. She could hear Kram and Tao further down the table, and could feel the one she and Ariel had brought in, but her attention was first focused on what was clearly the greatest threat to them all - Kerr. She'd heard the reports, of course, about his behavior in the original facility - knew all about how he had 'killed' Ariel - but something about him rang false. Why would such a model Destrillian suddenly go rogue? And why then, after so long, would he come back without a word of explanation? Why was he being welcomed with open arms? It made no sense, and filled her with a sense of deep mistrust; Lorelei knew that she would have to keep an eye on him.

As though he could read her thoughts (though she quickly reminded herself that the medical evaluation had proved that he no longer that this ability), she felt Kerr's pitch black eyes flicker across the table to her. His expression was cold and utterly unreadable. The look lasted a moment before he turned his attention back to his food.

"So, Thetis," again it was Ariel that broke the silence, though her voice was cautious, "Have you had a chance to look around yet?" The water Destrillian lifted her gaze ever so slightly and shook her head.

"No," Thetis said bluntly as she shovelled a chunk of lamb into her mouth in a desperate attempt to avoid small talk with her former companion. Ariel appeared to deflate in response, her hopes for drawing the Destrillian of water into a conversation had been quickly dashed. She gave a patient but pronounced sigh as Thetis returned to skewering innocent carrots with her fork.

"Shit, well aren't you guys a chatty bunch." Salem grumbled, ignoring the dark reprimanding glance of Spencer at the head of the table. They had all been briefed beforehand not to do or say anything that might breed any trace of conflict within the group. The dinner was the first part of integrating the four new arrivals into small team of Destrillians. That was the mission objective.

Alcesteos, then. I see... Lorelei thought to herself. Her attention flicked to Ariel now. I wonder what she's thinking... The corners of her mouth twitched upward. A reunion? My, how sentimentally nostalgic. She spoke as she cut off a bit of lamb. "Not everyone is as natural a storyteller as you are, Salem," she said, attention still on Ariel, with a smile.

Ariel did her best to ignore Lorelei's lingering gaze, returning her focus back to the meal. She had never supposed that this reunion between herself and her fellow Destrillians from Facility 1 would have been easy. But Thetis' uncharacteristic fear and resentment in the face of her enthusiastic good intentions was beginning to frustrate her. Had what had happened to her really been that traumatic for Thetis and the others? They were trained to be soldiers afterall, and soldiers suffered casualties. She made a note to herself to ask Kerr later. Though since his enigmatic admission to her earlier in the day, the Destrillian of gravity had barely said a word to her.

Was he embarassed? The uncertainty only served to compound the frustration, and she stabbed a renegade slice of lamb with pointed ferocity. The sound of cultlery scraping and screeching on plates undercut the silence.

Finally, Thetis mustered the courage to look around the table. She had been able to feel Kram from the start, and had never been able to sense Kerr in the first place, but the number of fresh energy signatures was overwhelming. Every person seated at the table (save Jason Spencer) was a Destrillian. She cast a curious gaze over a white-haired, magenta-eyed girl sitting a little too close to Kram. Facility Two must've been messed up. As the tattooed Destrillian with the arsenal of bad jokes cracked a grin at her. Thetis wrinkled her nose and returned to her plate. The younger Destrillian, Finn, was strangely absent. The water prototype put down her knife and fork, sighed and swallowed her pride. "Where's Finn?"

Silence again. The mansion Destrillians cast a brief glance towards Spencer, who calmly placed his knife and fork down and levelled a calm stare at Thetis. He weighed up his response for what seemed like several minutes, causing the Destrillian of water to squirm uncomfortably beneath the unblinking gaze.

"Finn Eliot is ill, Thetis, and can't attend tonight," he paused, aware that the explanation was far from satisfactory, Spencer forced himself to say something more.

"You can go visit her in the morning if you want, no doubt she'd like that that."

"Destrillians can't get sick."

Spencer and Thetis swivelled towards the voice of the accusation. Kerr was staring directly at the former president of Viola, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. It had been the first time he had spoken all meal. Spencer didn't seem to have a response to the comment and shrugged casually, as if to suggest that Kerr shouldn't concern himself with such details. Thetis glanced from Kerr to Spencer, and for the first time, agreed with her fellow Destrillian.

"Must be real sick," Thetis said with a hint of contempt as she looked round the table, eyes resting on another blue-haired Destrillian. As the words came from the newcomer's mouth, Lorelei's head turned as she glared at Thetis, an unmasked look of contempt on her face. How dare she be so insolent? She was lucky that Spencer wanted her and Lorelei hadn't gotten to have her way with her. The second she was hit by the full force of the girl's glare, Thetis lowered her gaze.

"She will be fine..." Tao called out to Thetis. "She's a strong girl; I know she wouldn't succumb that easily," she assured. Kram simply took a fork and started digging at his meal, unsure of what to say to his cousin. He was never prepared for such an abrupt reunion after his bitter parting with her. In truth, he thought that he wouldn't even make it this far until Salem came to Osea. Thetis let out an indignant 'hmph' and returned to her meal.

Kram looked up and began to notice an empty seat across from his side, getting Thetis' attention would have to wait as he was still unsure about what to do or say. His only possible solution was to simply begin some sort of idle conversation to keep the tension of the dinner table at a comfortable pace. Looking at Spencer, he tapped the table with his fork. "Hey old man, are we expecting someone else other than this Finn kid?" he asked.

For the briefest of moments, an expression flashed across Jason Spencer's craggy face that wasn't the calculated austerity he had been exhibiting all evening, a slight crack in the armour of composure that sealed itself up again almost as soon as it had appeared. Buried back beneath his cool, unmoving exterior.

He idly swirled the wine in his glass.

"I had asked my daughter, Persephone, to attend dinner with us. It seems she chose to decline my invitation." He downed the glass in one and gave another small shrug, as though the matter was of little genuine consequence.

Thetis' jaw dropped, Kram's eyes widened and even Kerr was now giving Spencer his complete attention. Tonight was full of surprises. "Huh? You have a daughter?!" Kram exclaimed as he pointed the fork in surprise at Spencer. Tao gave an awkward tilt before continuing to dig for her meal, struggling not to giggle at her man's childish outbursts. Was he this boisterous when the Faiz family woke him up from the facility those years back?

Lorelei rolled her eyes.

"Yes...I did meet her a few nights ago," Tao told Kram as she ate. Kram's shock was only intensified by this claim. "What!?" was his only outburst.

"You surprise me, Kram," Spencer started, the corners of his greying moustache twitching slightly in a small smile. "You of all Destrillians should understand the importance of family." He ignored Thetis' seething glare.

Kram gave Thetis a brief stare before turning back to his own business, not wanting incite her fury and nodded. "Yeah...I do, old man," before sitting back in silence. He never knew that Spencer was the type to be that of a family man. Once again a testament to Kram's basic understanding of the former Viola President. His disillusioned beliefs became more apparent this time at this revelation from the man himself.

"And the rest of your family?" Kerr asked Spencer, his monotone voice once again interrupting the niceties of polite conversation.

The effect the words had on the room was instantaneous and chilling as Spencer fixed his cold green eyes on Kerr. The Destrillians living in the mansion knew that he had never made any secret of the fact he had a family. There were more than enough pictures of him, his wife and his children adorning the walls and mantlepieces of the sprawling mansion corridors and cavernous lounges. But the forlorn air that surrounded Spencer whenever their curiosity had been aroused and long since warned them off asking any further questions.

Such subtlty and nuance was totally lost on the Destrillian of gravity.

"They're gone." Spencer answered, his voice echoing unnaturally loudly in the vast dining room.

"Dead?" Kerr enquired further.

"Gone."

Spencer spoke with such finality that Kerr seemed to check his next question (though the fact Ariel had had the presence of mind to give him shin a sharp kick might have helped). His face creased into a frown and the blonde Destrillian returned to his meal.

The room seemed cold all of a sudden. A frosty, unspoken tension that made every passing moment labourious and difficult.

"So," Salem spoke up, his mouth somehow negotiating its way through a thick wadding of mashed potato. "An Artolian, an Audoulan and a Canctran enter a bar and-"

"I heard that one already, Salem," Kram called out. "You should tell them about the one with the priestess and the molewhale. That one had all the guards in stitches," he reminded his friend before smiling at him. Tao grumbled at the two young men's capacity to thaw such a dark moment out of the rest of the guest's hands. As expected from the two troublemakers of Facility 2.

"So Ariel," Lorelei began, before taking a sip of her wine, "how does it feel to be reunited with your old...friends?" There was the briefest of pauses between her last words. "I'm sure the two of them will fit right in with you here," she finished, the expression of polite curiosity on her face a mask for the wheels turning in her head.

"It feels good, thanks Lorelei," the words came out in an irritated tumble. Things had been going anything but 'good' so far and she was sure that Lorelei was already well aware of that.

"I'm really looking forward to catching up with you guys," she spoke to Kerr and Thetis, forcing composure back into her voice, inwardly cursing Lorelei for stirring the pot. If Spencer had noticed the attempt at troublemaking, he didn't show it, continuing to eat and observe in silence.

"Not much catching up to do with a dead person." Thetis mumbled before she drained the wine from her glass. She felt sick again, and it was hardly helped by the passive-agressive bitching. Or the alcohol, for that matter. The water Destrillian picked mindlessly at her new shirt before offering Ariel a mirthless, strained and totally unconvincing smile.

Ariel had heard Thetis' muttered jibe and looked apologetically towards the impassive water Destrillian, but didn't say anything to argue back.

Kram shot Thetis a confused look. He was not sure why she had expressed such bitterness towards Ariel; she seemed to be a sweet and charming lady. "I don't think that's the way to talk to her after all that's happened," came his response. "I don't know what happened back then, but at least it doesn't hurt to--"

"That's right, you don't, so shut up Kram," Thetis snapped, her yellow eyes fixed on Kram's, challenging, daring him to say another word.

"Sorry..." he responded in defeat. Not willing to infuriate her any further, he went back to what he was doing with his meal with a pained look on his face. Tao remained silent by his side but shot Thetis a dark scowl, one that she usually reserved only for Salem or Lorelei. How dare this blue haired beauty treat her own blood-kin with such resentment. The Destrillian of Speed had come to realize that Kram and this other Destrillian were relatived in some way after this confrontation, a theory that was further supported by Kram's passive and docile approach to her.

And here you thought this was going to be boring, Salem. Lorelei glanced down at the tattooed Destrillian, her expression muted but unable to keep the satisfied smile she was fighting out of her 'voice'.

"I finished the berry tarts!" Elvan said as he wearing his awkward space suit entered the room with a tray of small pastries. He realized quickly that his enthusiasm was incredibly out of place at the dinner, considering how everyone else looked at the very least slightly sullen. Thalidomide and Baby T were present, along with Sappho, and his actual friends. "Oh. Maybe I should just leave them here with everyone."

Salem didn't respond to Lorelei immediately; he was momentarily distracted by the welcome intrusion of Elvan's pop-tarts. It was a welcome distraction from dividing his time between glowering at Kram and Tao, sitting together at the far end of the table and glaring at Thetis, obviously in two minds about whether or not to step up and respond to Thetis' belittling of his closest bro.

Whatever. the eventual reply was sulky and sullen. I started getting bored when the melodrama reached a thicker consistancy than the mash. He shot one more glance down the table at Thetis, but said nothing.

Spencer had stopped eating and watched the small conflict develop, as silent and unmoving a sentry in the night, keeping his thoughts to himself. Much like Kerr, whose black eyes flickered between the incensed Thetis and the increasingly more defeated looking Ariel. Even when Ariel's violet eyes met his, issuing a silent plea for an intervention, he kept his mouth shut.

Movement in the corner of the room served to as a means to distract the awkward glances and venomous stares. The far door to the dining room cracked open and in strolled Persephone Spencer. Her father's green eyes set in a face that an artist would have captured in oils or marble, a beauty as flawless as it was frosty. Despite her eyes being the same startling shade of green as her father's, that was where the similarity stopped. There was none of the warmth and vigour of Jason Spencer in his daughter's eyes.

Even the calculated way in which she sauntered across the room was made even more elegant by her height and slender waist. Her long hair dyed a gaudy, shocking pink that she had left to flow in an ostentatious cape behind her, a hand casually resting on the scabbard of a rapier that hung by her waist and shapely legs visible through the tight-fitting riding overalls and high brown leather boots. It was immediately apparent that Persephone knew not only how to make an entrance, but how to present herself as well.

Without so much as saying a word, she strolled to the empty seat opposite Spencer at the foot of the table and slid into position.

"Glad you decided to join us, Persephone." Spencer said gruffly, his voice slightly scored with disapproval. Despite being oblivious to Spencer's disdain, Thetis wore a look of utter scorn. The clothes, the expensive, outdated sword, the hair, the self-entitled swagger with which she waltzed into the room-- it all screamed one thing. Persephone Spencer was a snobby, stuck-up bitch. And she hadn't even opened her mouth yet. Thetis wrinkled her nose. Typical.

Persephone caught her gaze and let it linger for just a moment, a harsh, contemptuous look danced fleetingly across her face.

"Interrupting your dinner, sweetheart?" she sneered at the Destrillian.

A wry smile flashed across Thetis' face. No way was she letting Spencer's spoilt kid talk her down in front of all these people. "Your hair's a little distracting."

Persephone snorted, taking a generous sip from her wine glass. "I find being the presence of so much filth to be a little distracting," she made an exaggerated show of looking around the various Destrillians sitting at the table "But rising above life's little challenges is what makes us special isn't it?" she asked Thetis in a tone that suggested she didn't see the blue-haired Destrillian as a challenge or special in any capacity whatsoever. Thetis scowled at Spencer's daughter before shovelling a forkful of potatoes into her mouth.

"That's enough." Spencer's voice dropped like a hammer on an anvil. He had barely raised it, but the natural authority of an old soldier seemed to become more pronounced.

Kram's expression changed into an enraged glare as he found himself unable to stand for what Persephone had done. Ignoring Spencer's order, he breached his authority to call his daughter out. Some sweet kid this one was.

"She's no filth, lady!" Kram snapped at Persephone, eyes burning with rage as he rose up from his seat. Whisps of darkness began to slowly bleed from his hands as he made ready to challenge this woman; he would not mind rising up to her for a fight in response for disrespecting his blood relative. Tao suddenly tugged Kram's sleeve with a disapproving look, which made Kram realize that this woman was still Spencer's daughter. Even he knew what would happen if he were to raise a hand against Persephone. With a nod, Kram took a seat and gave Persephone a seething glare for belittling them all.

Do not incite Spencer's wrath this time, Kram... Tao urged telepathically, with a pleading look on her eyes.

I know, Tao. But this bitch needs to learn her manners... Kram responded as he dug back into his meal. He was confident that he was still of value to Spencer and would not hesitate to call his rather rude daughter out on her disrespect.

"That is just positively adorable," Persephone spoke off-handedly, her attention now pointedly turned towards her food, not even bothering to meet the challenge posed by the defiant Destrillian. Thetis felt the familiar bubble of anger in her stomach.

"Its rude to raise your voice at the dinner table," she continued, inbetween a delicate mouthful of food, "Do try and learn some respect whilst you're here. If there's anything you lapdogs should know how to do by now it's to learn from your betters."

"Shut up!" Thetis rose to her feet, sending her chair screeching backwards against the floor. Enough was enough. Lorelei raised an eyebrow, interest beginning to pique. The blue-haired girl's chest rose and fell as she struggled to contain herself. As she caught Persephone's lips curling into a smug smile, Thetis' nostrils flared and her knuckles turned white on the cutlery. Fiona would have smashed her face in by n--

"Apologies, Ms. Spencer," Tao said with gentle grace and fear, in an attempt to keep a passive air against the child of Spencer. Kram gave an indignant 'hmph' and stabbed his meal with his fork; he did not owe Persephone any form of apology whatsoever, but went along with Tao's kind gesture.

Wine rippled in every glass as Thetis slammed her fist on the table. Her hands trembled with anger. The apology was worse than the insult. "Why the hell are you apologising?" Thetis spat, her glare still set on Persephone. "Don't fucking apologise!"

"Thetis, please..." Tao said softly.

Kram patted her in response. " There's no need to say anything..." he whispered to Tao.

"Are you gonna listen to her?!"

"I don't have to! I was just trying to stop this!" Tao responded, her face pink with embarassment and beads of tears slowly forming around her eyes. Kram merely muttered "shit" under his breath and offered her a glass of water. Tao refused the gesture and faced Thetis. "I know you hate being degraded like this! I understand! But I see no need to cause such a commotion!" she said, breathing heavily with frustration. Realizing what she had done, Tao sat down and remained silent, her face pink with humiliation at her own sudden impulse to respond to Kram's relative. Kram merely shot a venomous glare at Persephone for humiliating both of the women he cares about the most.

"Speak for yourself," Thetis growled. Persephone hadn't given the water Destrillian a single glance since she called her out. It infuriated her. Today was not the day to test Thetis Alcesteos' patience.

"God damn it, Thetis! Enough already!" Kram snarled at her as he slammed his part of the table with his fist. For the first time ever since realizing their relation, it was he who was angry towards her. He shot her a glare that turned into a look that begged her to stay silent until the episode was over. He shook his head in frustration as he sat down and reached whatever drink (alcoholic or not) he could find within his reach, unable to tolerate this any longer.

Realising there was no way she could get a rise out of the ice princess, Thetis begrudgingly took a seat. Brows furrowed in anger, the water prototype looked down at her plate. Kram and Ariel may have been lapdogs, but she would never sink that low. She tried to calm down, reminding herself that; no, she wasn't here by choice, and; yes, it was entirely possible that Persephone Spencer may have been raised to be a total bitch by her stupid father. Thetis prodded a piece of lamb with her fork. She had never been much good at rationalising.

Persephone's eyes snapped up to meet the pair of Destrillians and a wicked smile tore across her glacial features, pleased with the petty chaos she had brought to the occasion. She turned to look at her father with a gloating look of satisfaction. Spencer said nothing, but returned her gaze from behind hands steepled in front of his face. None of the old guard of Destrillians, ones used to Persephone's unpleasant presence interrupted the confrontation, instead choosing to sit in uncomfortable silence. Lorelei took in the proceedings, grudgingly approving of Thetis' response; she stared at the water Destrillian appraisingly, but did not speak. Even Salem had swivelled his mismatched eyes up to the ceiling and was now counting the number of lightbulbs that adorned the wrought iron chandelier.

"Sometimes you just need to know how to put these creatures in their place, father." Persephone remarked coldly. It was undoubtedly a challenge, but not one Spencer was willing to be drawn into. He kept his gaze steady and harsh, though his eyes seemed to betray another emotion besides reluctance to be drawn into this conflict. But not one that the more observant Destrillians were able to discern. The only hint that Thetis was seconds away from another explosive outburst was the slight twitch of her set jaw.

Kram gritted his teeth at those words; they heavily reminded him of how Zao treated him during his time in Osea and how he despised every moment of it. Persephone's opinion towards Destrillians was no different from Zao. He was half tempted to tell her to watch her damn mouth, but for Tao and Thetis' sake, he held his predictable approach in favour of his meal and the wine he was lucky enough to acquire.

"Frankly, I'm not even sure why you even bother," Persephone continued, oblivious to the turgid, awkward silence, "Some of this dross don't even look to be worth the trouble." She threw a dirty, condescending look at Thetis' noticeably ragged, patched-up form, a look the water Destrillian didn't miss.

"Watch." Kram suddenly rose up, his glass ready to be thrown at Persephone. "Your. Damn. Mouth. Woman," he said coldly from between gritted teeth, forgetting everything civil in exchange for his overprotective instincts. This tone was dangerously dark compared to Kram's childish outbursts or angry tirades from days past. To him, no one disrespects his loved ones. No one. His face was noticably red, wether if it was from the liquor or from his emotions remains to be seen. "That's my cousin you're talking to..." Tao could only hide her fears of retribution under her silent consumption of her meal. Noticable beads of tears continued to form around her eyes. This was not going to end well for the both of them.

"I don't like you. Talk to me again and I'll kill you where you sit," Persephone spoke to Kram in a perfectly civil tone, but her high, cold voice sounded much more threatening than before, as though a cutting, icy wind had suddenly whipped through the room that made the hairs on the back of the Destrillians' necks stand on end. Unbeknownst to the others sitting on the table, Persephone's free hand had dropped to the hilt of her sheathed sword.

"Persephone, I am warning you. Stop this, now." Spencer spoke up, his voice the low, powerful rumble of a coming earthquake. Spencer's sudden intervention forced Kram to back down in primal fear, not realizing that he was tempting fate by starting a quarrel with the man's daughter. The aura emitted by both father and daughter made him rethink future vendettas against either.

"Yeah, Persephone," Thetis said mockingly, completely oblivious to the threat of both Spencers. "'Learn from your betters', right?" The corners of the blind Destrillian's mouth twitched, fighting a smile.

Persephone seemed to take no notice of her father's instructions, turning her malicious, smirking gaze back to Thetis. For the first time, Persephone properly examined the scarred and bruised face of the pale, blue-haired Destrillian. She let out an exaggerated snort.

"It looks like one of your betters certainly taught you a lesson, Destrillian."

The resounding 'BANG' as Thetis slammed her fork into the table was swiftly followed by another as the water Destrillian stormed from the dining-room, her ears ringing with the sound of the long, low whistle coming from Salem Locke in the wake of the confrontation.

Tao's tears streamed down from her face as her irises began glowing bright, grieved with the events that transpired, decided that this was her limit. She could not bear to stay and watch the rest of the night turn upside down due to everyone's disdain for each other. Kram softly nodded as she took the initiative to leave next. There was nothing the both of them could do as of now.

"Goodnight, Mr. Spencer - Good night, everyone..." she said gently, dismissing herself in a civil tone.

Within a second a soft gust blew across the room and Tao vanished from her seat. A noticable cry can be heard a great distance from the halls outside the dining room, slowly fading away after a brief period. Kram gave one final glare at Persephone and rose from his seat. He gave a respectful nod towards Spencer before he left, It was the least he could do to not get on his badside. "Sorry about what I said to your daughter, old timer. I'm out," those last words were filled with bitter resentment towards Persephone.

Spencer waved away the concerns and dismissed the pair of Destrillians, his attention fully focused on Persephone, who shrugged her shoulders innocently as Kram casually strolled out of the room with a wave of thanks to both Jason Spencer and Salem. He dug his hands in his pockets as he vanished into the depths of the mansion. His face still furrowed on his reckless words to Persephone. He did not know what Salem or the others would say; nor did he care. All he wanted to do right now was comfort Thetis and Tao after such dreadful events not within his control. At least he knew what to do for the rest of the evening.

"You and I will talk later; get out of my sight." Every word was spoken with such controlled fury that the cocky smirk was wiped immediately off the face of his daughter.

"But-"

"Get out."

Spencer's tone indicated that it would not in Persephone's best interests to argue the matter. Standing up with such force that she sent her polished wooden chair crashing to the floor before turning on a spurred heel (making sure her rapier's scabbard knocked her wine glass from the table in the process) and marching from the dining room.

As if to mirror the overall mood of the dinner, the dark false sky beyond the vast windows gave a rumble of thunder and the heavens opened in a torrential grey downpour that caught Spencer's attention.

"I'm sorry," he started, not looking at any of the remaining Destrillians, who waited in silence, watching their leader intensely.

"The rest of you are dismissed."
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Old 03/17/2012   #10
Alex
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Ariel Regan
The Spencer Mansion


It had been just days ago when everything had been so simple to Ariel Regan.
She had a place, a role, a function; friends, allies and comrades that would back her up in battle and in whose company she could enjoy her off-mission time with. She had felt confident, competent and respected, armed with the certainty that the path she had trod from Facility 1 to make it to this point in her life had been the correct one.

Now nothing was simple, the armour of certainty was cracked and broken, it had left her exposed and unprotected. She had never supposed that reuniting with Kerr, Thetis and the other Destrillians from her former training facility would be easy. The decisions that she had made following her encounter with Kerr had ensured that her survival would remain a secret from the group that she had trained with and befriended for so many years beforehand.

She had felt so anxious and upset when she had been informed of the blood-soaked tragedy that had befallen her old facility; worried when news had come to light that so many of her old acquaintances had escaped out into a world that they were not properly equipped to live in and elated when she had first seen the bloody, dark-eyed face of her former closest companion.

The one that you have been required to deceive and lie to for so many years.
After he put a bullet in your chest
Imagine what would have happened to your life if it hadn’t been for that bullet.

So the debate had played itself out in her head, resulting in a tumultuous night rest of lying awake and restless in the dark, occasionally dropping into a series of lucid dreams where the unrecognisable, unforgiving faces of those she had once known scowled all around her.

Choosing to become Jason Spencer’s personal bodyguard following Kerr’s attack had opened her eyes to the necessity of the presence of a group such as the Destrillians. The old President of Viola had confided in her about the presence of Lyverius, his own concerns about the self-destructive nature of mankind and the futility of the many wars he had seen play out in his own time. Everything she had been rebelling against during her time in Viola had seemed so petty, so selfish and so unimportant in the face of the old soldier’s concerns.

She had opened herself up to the rigorous training and education that came from his private advisors. Whilst the Destrillians had been fighting for their lives against each other during their dramatic escape, she had been fighting Spencer’s enemies, preserving the fragile sense of balance that existed between the murky, unseen forces that existed just beneath the translucent skin of the world.

It had to have been the right decision.
There had been no alternative.

Then she remembered the hateful pair of betrayed yellow eyes whose force had sent shivers up her spine from across the dinner table and the look of glacial, uncaring apathy that she had received on the rare occasion that she had caught Kerr’s eyes and it felt as though her insides were filled with ice water.

There was no certainty in her past actions anymore. Not when what she had left behind was sitting so close, yet looking so thoroughly hostile and alien. Thetis and Kerr had been scarred, literally and metaphorically, almost beyond recognition, by her absence. Both gave off the distinct impression of being betrayed and the thought was nearly enough to bring tears to her violet eyes. It had never been her intention, but she felt it as clearly with every glance as she had when Kerr’s bullet had torn through her shoulder.

Nothing was simple anymore.

It was five in the morning when she finally gave up the pretence of trying to sleep and stalked out of her room. With so much weighing on her mind there was simply no way she would get any rest before she had the chance to air out her feelings to someone. Anyone.

Except maybe Lorelei. There was no way that she could ever admit her feelings about anything to Lorelei and expect to survive the crushing sense of defeat in their competitive passive-aggressive battle royale.

Even Salem or Elvan might do, but there was no telling where they would be at this hour.

The thought of confiding in Jason Spencer fleetingly crossed her mind as she stormed down the chilly mansion hallways, thoroughly ignoring the frightening faces made by the oil paintings and marble busts in the twilight shadows. She quickly dismissed it. Spencer had more than enough on his plate right now to bother dealing with the childish, unprofessional grievances of one of his most trusted lieutenants.

A half hour of roaming the castle hallways eventually took the Destrillian of sound to the grand library. A great four-story cylinder, ringed with ornate heavy wooden bookshelves that marked the end of the mansion’s westernmost wing. The room itself was colossal and high-ceilinged, roofed by a large circular skylight that was programmed into the same holographic projector as the rest of the mansion’s artificial windows. Currently it was displaying shining light of the planet’s two moons, wreathed in smoky grey storm clouds. The silvery light gave the room an ethereal illumination that was eerie to behold, she thought to herself as she walked to edge of the first floor balcony. Allowing her to clearly see the three concentric circles that made up the library’s four floors, each one hovering over the other supported by columns of black marble and clearly see the wooden work tables that were positioned between every bookshelf on every floor. Each one swallowed by the murky shadows cast by their adjacent bookshelves, unable to find solace in the moons’ wintry light.

She had never liked the grand library. Even for the Spencer family’s ostentatious tastes, it seemed like an overly elaborate design. More suited to a university or scholarly inner-city facility than one family’s private collection. The result was compounded by the ground-floor’s centrepiece, an ancient marble sculpture now discoloured and worn over the course of its long life. It showed two figures wrestling in combat, supposedly the ancient gods of night and day, though the details were lost from the height of the balcony. The statue seemed to be little more than a raised labyrinth of shadows and highlights, whose finer points were all but impossible to determine.

As Ariel circled the balcony, she was reassured by the sound of her bare feet on the stone-flagged floor and quietly thankful that her mind had given her other things to think about than this room’s deathly silent, oppressive atmosphere. She imagined that if she were to ever see the inside of some ancient temple or mausoleum, then this was what it would feel like. Much like those old, forgotten places, there was knowledge buried here that was best left in these books, undisturbed by the vain curiosity of mortals. She doubted that even Spencer had read every book in this library.

Wait. There, on the ground floor. She saw the distinct smudge of orange light illuminating one of the alcoves between bookcases. Her keen ears heard the tiny but distinct flap of loose paper as somebody turned through the pages of a book. Her mind reacted almost instantaneously and on pure instinct, reaching out to scan the area. Another Destrillian was up and camped out in the library!
Naturally, that ruled out Salem.

Ariel hurried down the enormous spiral staircase that coiled through the circular floors of the library like a great serpent until she reached the bottom floor. Flinching slightly as the bare marble of the floor sent a chill up through her legs that automatically caused her slender, pale arms to cross over the plain black vest that she had been wearing to bed; she stalked towards the light, and pointedly ignored the weathered faces of the marble gods whose presence dominated the entire room.

It was unusual for this room to get much use at all. Even from Spencer or from the former high level staff at Viola that were quartered here at the mansion facility. Whilst it wasn’t locked down and she had never even seen so much as a verbal warning cautioning the employees from entering, to see someone actually using the library was a rare event.

Especially at this early hour in the morning, even every Destrillian was usually asleep and every security guard was usually on sentry duty.

“Kerr?” the word exploded out of her, not even trying to keep any semblance of surprise out of her voice.

The Destrillian of gravity was hunched over one of the work tables, surrounded on all sides by heavy books, both open and closed. The sheer amount of tomes had left no room left on the table for anything else. Evidently the Destrillian had been sitting here for a while, as some of the piles were beginning to be stacked higher and higher as he had ran out of room.

Kerr’s head snapped up from his studies, a scowl of impatient annoyance darkening his features in the orange lamplight, though they seemed to soften when they saw who it was who had interrupted him.

Though that could just be wishful thinking, she reminded herself grudgingly. Not letting herself forget the reason that she had dragged herself out of bed to begin with.

“What do you want?” Kerr asked rudely. His voice was quiet and very slightly slurred, indicating to Ariel that the Destrillian had not slept one wink all night.

She chose to ignore the hostility for now. Despite her inner plight she was more entranced by the intensity with which Kerr had thrown himself into whatever research he had been furiously conducting in the chilly library.

“What are you doing?” she ambled towards him, suddenly very acutely aware of the biting cold of the marble floor. As she approached the table it became clear that a lot of what she thought were books that Kerr had been looking through were in fact extremely large heavy ringbinders, filled with what appeared to page after page of hand-written notes scrawled into templates.

Kerr shrugged and Ariel supposed he was weighing up whether or not to tell her the truth. He could be so dense and obstinate even if all the evidence was right in front of her, something that she found consistently charming even despite the uncertainty of their current relationship.

“I’m learning about us,” he answered at last, as Ariel pulled up a seat on the opposite side of the table. For the briefest of moments, she misunderstood his words, had Kerr been down here thinking about the awkward tension that had existed between the two since he had first dragged himself out of the lake.

It was then that she snatched one of the open files from the top of relatively lofty perch and began reading the tiny, elaborate handwriting.

Day XXXX, Year XXXX
Incident Report: The following is an addendum to Friday’s incident report filed by Dr A. following 005 and 011’s altercation in the training room and the subsequent effects on facility personnel. Whilst it initially appeared that 005’s unprecedented display of power was just the standard ‘hard darkness’ constructs that we had believed was the true nature of his power, psych. Reports conducted 24 and 48 hours later on affected personnel have raised some new and troubling information based on the statements of those affected. Namely the development of seemingly random panic attacks, night terrors and a general feeling of paranoia or ‘being watched’. It is my recommendation that we...


“Kerr, what is this?” she asked quietly, her voice slightly awed at the comprehension of what the small mountain of documents that Kerr had been pouring over all night.

“It’s us.” He answered obliquely, his attention momentarily captured by something on the present page he was reading. As if sensing that Ariel’s lips had pursed in irritation, he pulled his slim face away from the file to meet her wide-eyed gaze.

“As far as I can tell, these are photocopies of all the original Destrillians project reports.”

“Everything is in here?” Ariel asked, looking through the stupendous volume of research that he had been reading she could believe it.

“No, not everything,” Kerr’s voice was sour. “Several key reports are blacked out, a lot of things near the beginning. Some files are just missing completely.”

“I never had any idea all of this was here...” her voice trailed off as Kerr’s suspicious eyes once again locked with hers. “Really! I had no idea, Kerr.”

“Not just our project,” the Destrillian of gravity mumbled, using his power to suspend one particular tower of folders in place whilst he retrieved a much thinner box file and threw it across the table. Her reflexes allowed for her to easily catch the folder and flick it open. It was full of old, yellowing newspaper clippings from the Artolia Financial Times, preserved behind plastic envelopes that made up the folder’s ‘pages’.

Opening it up, she read the headline: ‘YOUNG HERO SPEAKS OUT: Jason Spencer speaks to the media for the first time about the harrowing years spent in Vaul before his return to Artolia.’ She was intimately familiar with the article. It was hard to find somebody on Alvyssia that was not familiar with the story of how twenty-one year old Jason Spencer had stumbled out of the eastern wasteland to rejoin his affluent Artolian family, seemingly back from the dead.

“You’re reading about Spencer?” this time it was Ariel’s turn to sound suspicious. Kerr shrugged again, indicating that she could continue reading.

She flipped through the next dozen sheaths, each one indicating a particular moment during the rise to prominence of Mr. Spencer. Questions were etching themselves clearly into her mind, questions that temporarily superseded her own need for her own personal answers. Why was Kerr doing this? Why all this research? Why was he looking into Spencer’s past like this?

She flipped the page and assumed she had found what Kerr had been looking for, a dark, haunting echo of the brief flare of consternation marked between Spencer and the Destrillian over the night’s dinner.

‘INDUSTRIALIST ELEANOR GREY KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT, WAR VETERAN HUSBAND TO TAKE HER PLACE AT HEAD OF MULTINATIONAL CORPORATION.’

“Why are you researching his wife, Kerr?” her tone was dark and accusatory. Spencer had risked a lot bringing in Kerr, and moreover, he had trusted Ariel’s word that Kerr was on their side, one of the good guys. The fact that Kerr had gone behind his back to research all of this left an unsavoury taste in her mouth. All thoughts of finding her own closure now definitely pushed to the back of her mind as she felt herself tense up at Kerr’s potential act of disloyalty.

“I wanted to know more about us,” he reached across the table to snatch the leatherbound book of newspaper clippings out of Ariel’s hands. “And the man who built us.”

“He saved your life, that should be good enough for you right now,” Ariel reacted instinctively, aware that she was getting too defensive but not completely caring right now, even as Kerr’s look hardened into an unpleasant scowl.

“That might have been good enough for you. It isn’t for me.” He spat back.

“That is not what happened, Kerr!” His reply was a precision strike and she knew it, though she hadn’t expected the violence or venom with which he had struck out. “I didn’t sign up for this just because he saved my life, from you.” She hissed back, not hesitating once in reminding her fellow Destrillian exactly why she had ended up working directly for Spencer to begin with.

Kerr wasn’t listening, instead he had turned back to his pile was threading through it in search of something in particular. Ariel sighed in irritation; this was not the way she had wanted to approach this topic.

“Why did you, then? ‘Sign up with him’?” his voice was distracted and his imitation of her own words was unpleasant to listen to. It gave the Destrillian of sound the distinct impression that she was on the back foot of the argument, she didn’t like it.

“Because he’s right Kerr!” Ariel snapped. “What we’re fighting for here is right thing to do. I was wrong in Viola.” If she had hoped that the admission of her own personal misguided judgement so many years in the past would have been enough to draw Kerr’s attention, then she was mistaken as he continued rooting through the piles of folders and reports.

“Didn’t you hear me, Kerr? I was wrong to try and escape! Spencer had me realise that. He convinced me, he told me I could come back and train at the facility with you whenever I wanted, but I chose not to-“ breaking off mid-sentence, she had to work much harder this time to catch the file flung towards her.

“What the hell is this?” Ariel demanded angrily, but Kerr once again said nothing and simply glowered at her, his expression unreadable in the new morning light that was beginning to flood through the library’s grand skylight.

With no other choice she flipped open the plastic folder to the first page. There were only a few pages worth of reports in here and it was substantially less thick than most of the other voluminous tomes, Kerr had been absorbing himself with all night.

DATE XX/XX/XXXX

Memo to all senior staff: Acting on the advice of several of our most senior doctors, trained psychoanalysis experts and the findings of third party studies into alpha convict behaviour in three Artolian maximum security prisons, it is my recommendation that effective immediately we begin preparations of the live transfer (if possible) of subject 012 away from Facility 1.

Observation of her general behaviour and extrapolation from comments made during daily personal evaluations has shown that 012 is a toxic influence on the other subjects. 012 has stubbornly retained several extremely human characteristics such as independence and idealism, which might give her the edge as a natural battlefield leader, also make her thoughts and opinions difficult to control. She is without a doubt far less malleable than the other subjects and if this continues to go unchecked could potentially spread to the others.

It is my recommendation that we remove her ASAP from interaction with the other Destrillians at any cost before we can consider continue her training. I am willing to listen to any alternatives before resorting to outright termination. Several of you have already forwarded some suggestions to me about how to approach the issue: Lennox has brought the idea of electro-shock memory control to my attention, but I’d like to hear out everyone first, but given the potential damage to the brain I am of the opinion we should leave this as a last resort.

-Dr. M. Abaddon


“Kerr?” Ariel croaked, she could feel the tears beginning to well up in disbelief in the corners of her eyes.

“Kerr?” she repeated, looking up, for any kind of response, but the Destrillian of gravity wasn’t there. She had been so engrossed in the report that she had not even noticed him leave the room. Ariel felt very alone, left in the company of nothing but the copious memories and echoes of events long past. There was no one to talk to, she suppressed a small sob and continued reading.

Addendum: I was having a word with Caitlin, the resident chief of our psychoanalysis team. She had the idea of encouraging 012’s innate independence and idealism during their next meeting with the intent of driving her to stage her own escape attempt. I think the idea has some merit, especially if we can tightly control the scenario. It could provide the perfect cover for transporting 012 to the private facility. What do you think? I’m going to bring it up with Spencer at the next fortnightly review.
-Alison.


Just days ago, everything had been so simple to Ariel Regan.

Now it seemed like her world was coming apart at the seams.
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Last edited by Alex; 03/18/2012 at 12:37 AM.
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Old 03/25/2012   #11
Sheva Alomar
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Lokka, Telran, Idris, Fiona, Stolz, Jettison, Nova, Terra, Emma, Castiel and Kaden (plus his dead plaything)
Telran's Apartment



Even though she had nearly murdered Kerr, Fiona still wasn't quelled of the rage that had been radiating from her. The fire Destrillian felt a sense of emptiness. The image of Thetis shouting from the Audoulan lake had been one of the the last memories she could remember before being mysteriously knocked out.

“YOU’RE OUTCLASSED!”

It had echoed in the firestarter’s mind as she recalled the heavy feeling of unconsciousness that settled in soon after that moment.

Fiona only reinforced her sense of fury with the shaky recollection. The search for her counterpart afterward also played over and over again in her mind. She had nearly drowned when she went in search of the water Destrillian in that deceptively placid lake, but that was beside the point. Fiona needed to find Thetis. What pained her more was that she was in possession of Thetis' shirt. It felt and smelt like her and that drove her all the more mad with frustration that she didn't know where her counterpart was. For certain, the water prototype wasn't dead. Corpse or no, Fiona just knew.

Here she sat, among the rooftops of Audoula, alone. The redhead's sober orange gaze carefully scanned over the lantern-lit landscape stretched out before her. Being up so high and in the open air would give Fiona the clarity to seek out Thetis' mental signature.

As plain as it was to see that the water Destrillian was nowhere nearby, the flame prototype carried on seeking her out in vain. Fiona knew that in order to get Thetis back, she'd need help. Not that she wanted it, but it was necessary in order for them to both get out alive. As reckless as the fire starter was, she did have her moments of realising when a bit of strategy was required. She recalled a vague plan from Kerr. As much as she loathed to bother even listening to the sound of his voice, the Destrillian of gravity was her only hope at this rate to get to where Thetis was. The reasons for putting fragile trust in him swirled around in the fire starter's head and she still couldn't get her head around everything. The only thing she needed to remember was contact by radio.

Shaking her mind clear of Kerr and the stress he brought, Fiona stomped back into the doctor's apartment. "What the fuck are we doing, shitheads?"

While Fiona had been brooding on the rooftop, the others had taken to a slightly more practical pursuit: cleaning and bandaging their wounds. They had rooted through every available cupboard and cabinet for Telran's medical supplies-- thankfully, what they needed had not been in the locked ones. Idris and Telran had been seen to first, their larger wounds stitched and the rest of them treated with cool water and burn ointment before being wound up in gauze.

Telran was laid down in his bed after Kaden had vacated it - the odd new addition to the group leant against a doorframe, watching the goings-on with quick, bright eyes. Idris had opted to collapse into an armchair in the living room, so she could rest while still being able to participate in the discussion. The others had taken up various places where they sat, cleaning and disinfecting and wrapping their cuts and burns. Emma, curiously unscathed, was busying herself helping others with injuries that were too difficult to manage alone.

She looked up now, mildly startled at the rude interruption of the quiet that came from being intensely focused. "We're taking care of ourselves. What have you been doing?"

"Listen you t--"

Before it could turn into yet another argument between Fiona and another member of the party, Lokka stepped in.

"The sooner everybody is back up to working order, the sooner we can get mobilising."

"I do hope by 'we' you don't mean everyone," came Idris' voice from the armchair. She cracked one eye open in time to see Lokka's face turn mildly puzzled. She sighed, letting her eyelid drop again. "We went to the chateau with a group half the size of this one, we spent days refining our plan to go unnoticed, and we still drew way too much attention. Do you think this will be any different?" She shifted, getting more comfortable. "We need to actually be discreet this time."

"If discreet means taking our sweet-ass time, then piss off!"

"I agree," one of the newcomers chirped up from the back. Castiel was sitting in an armchair with his feet up, resting his mostly unscathed limbs. "We can just take them on head-on; no need for this crappy tip-toeing shit."

"That's not very smart," Emma replied, her brow creasing. "Jason Spencer is the sort of person you'd need to be careful around, right?" Her question mark was there only to allow others to agree or disagree - in truth it wasn't a question, but a statement.

"I don't think he's the only one we have to worry about, either," Idris added, eyes still closed. "There'll be at least one or two more Destrillians thrown in the mix to greet us if - when - we saunter on in."

"Then what the fuck are we supposed to do? I can't just sit on my ass and wait for Bones to radio me whenever he damn well pleases!"

There was an uncomfortable silence. It was Terra, still settling into her own vocal chords, who broke it: "We cahn't ahll goh to save Theetis; thaht's what you're saying." She frowned, thinking. "We need to find soemthing ehverywon else cahn do to help."

Another pause.

"...the Lyverius," said Lokka, surprising even himself. "They are part of every problem we have, and we know almost nothing about them. Fighting them like we have so far has proven useless for the most part." The information-hunter in him was waking up a little. "They know everything about us and that gives them an edge. We need to equalize it, somehow."

"Pfft, I handled mine pretty well," Fiona said, and with an effort a faint smirk rose to her lips. Just thinking about the purple-haired bitch she'd floored during the escape made her feel slightly better. She was still in control. A little.

"She's still alive and you were catatonic for a long while. I wouldn't say you handled it well at all," Lokka said, directing a calm look at the fire Destrillian. Overconfidence would get them all killed. "You're more than lucky to be alive right now."

"What the hell is a Lyverius?" the newest Destrillian addition shouted, disliking the fact that a long word was being thrown around and he was in the dark.

"Don't know the details myself," Kaden said. "The one I had the misfortune to meet had some kind of umbrakinetic..." He broke off at the looks the Destrillians gave him. "...shadow control power."

Stolz, noticing that all the attention in the room was suddenly directed at her, looked back and forth in confusion.

This is the part you tell the Lyverius story, Stolz, Virtue reminded the girl.

But, but umm...scary me isn't really wanting to show up right now.

Oh boy, well just tell them what you know like you did to Kerr the other night.

Finally the small Lyverius spoke up. "Okay then, well let's see. First thing for all of those who just tuned in: Lyverius are for the most part not good people. They are kinda like you lot...well, except you, you, and probably you, whoever you are," Stolz said as she pointed at Jettison, Nova and Kaden. "They have magical powers too; however they've had them since birth, and they're usually very bizzare like the shadows and toxins I noticed some of you have already encountered. Also I should mention at this time I am a Lyverius too, but not a bad one because I don't like bad things."

"Nice to know," was Idris' lazy reply. She'd found a particularly comfortable position in her chair and was getting quite preoccupied with how nice it felt to just curl up.

"So, to our next lesson, class! These particular Lyverius you have met are part of this eeeeevil group known as 'The Sponsors'. If I remember right they were giving monies to Viola back when Viola was Viola-- as opposed to not being anything now. These people will also stop at nothing to kill all of you; sorry other persons, but these guys tend to kill people for looking at them funny, so helping Destrillians is high on their no-no list."

"That hardly surprises me," Kaden said drily.

"No talking during class! Now to...to...ummm...oh yeah! The bad people who are in the bad organisation. Back in Osea some of you met the Trio; they got that nickname because there are three of them. I hope you're taking notes on this because it WILL be on the test. The leader of the three is Vanagloria. She loves herself...like reaaaallllly loves herself. Personally I find it very creepy. Her power is plasma...at least I think that's what it is, it's like this purply-energy-stuff that goes 'wooosh' in big streams of prettyness.

"After her we have Vol...Vollll...Vollerei! He is the one who made fire lady sick, and he likes guns and rocket lauchers and grenades and...actually that part of him isn't so bad in my opinion. His power does stuff with toxic stuff like poisons and acids, and I recommend not hugging him."

"Ass," Fiona muttered under her breath as Stolz paused.

"And then there is Inveja, she is kinda nice...well not really, but of the three of them, she's the only one who isn't that mean to me. She has a sword and wears a UTC G-900 XR series personal computer interface visor, although I think hers is modified. She has this power over these things called 'Strangelets', which, according to theoretical physicist Vincent Lamont in a paper he published in 7013 AS, are a new kind of a hypothetical particle consisting of a bound state of roughly equal numbers of up, down, and strange quarks. Apparently this particle will convert any matter it comes into contact with into more strangelets and so on. Inveja pretty much proved that but she can also make them go away."

The fact that Stolz, who was usually so unhelpfully vague, had gotten so in-depth on the specifics out of the blue threw most of the assembled. Oblivious to this fact, she carried on.

"And finally, the other ones. Most of you met Avidez; his power is electromagnetism and he is a Viscount here. Solaris is a very scary lady; she's the one with the shadows and she also talks funny. There's also this big muscly guy named Tragheit who might have been with Solaris last night-- I dunno what he does, I've never seen it. Lastly there's Luxuria but she tells me to call her Luzu, which personally I think is cuter. She hangs out in Osea somewhere doing something and her power is REALLY AWESOME! She can shoot lasers out of her fingertips and she has them coming out of all of them at once like some kind of energy claw things you'd see in a video game. Seriously it's really cool!"

"So, who's in charge of them all?" asked Emma.

Stolz shrugged. "I dunno, some guy. I don't really know much about him, what his name is, what he does or where he is. If you wanted to know that stuff you'd probably have to ask someone in the Sponsors... but err, most of them are the Lyverius I mentioned...hrmm, I think there's a bunch of business guys in Osea that work for them too. Guess you could ask them or something. For starters, I know the company that made Inveja's visor develops machinery for them."

"Can you get any more specific?" asked Lokka. Nobody was sure whether he was being sarcastic, or simply asking for clarification.

"Boy you guys are really asking me to remember a lot today...let me check here." The girl withdrew a phone from one of the pouches attached to her belt. "All right, let's see here," she muttered as she scrolled through the device's interface. "Okay, the visor place is called 'United Technology Corp.' There's also 'Bank of Artolia', 'Multinational Exports' and finally the TV company IBC, which I believe that Kram person who we parted ways with a while ago did a number on during the Osea shenanigans. Think that's all the important ones."

"Any idea whether they've had any involvement with Volsung?" Kaden asked. After considering how disjointed the ice girl's thought processes seemed to be, he decided to add a clarification. "Or any businesses in Damascus? Cos chances are, any Damascan business will be a Volsung affiliate."

"Hrmm...Volsung...Volsung. Don't recall them having anything to do with Damascus that much. Pretty much all the companies I mentioned are run by their Artolian puppets so if Volsung has strong leadership they will probably avoid them. It's kinda like with IRIN, they don't like Mr. Vargas because he is, as Inveja would put it, 'a snake that poisons anything he touches... and an asshole to boot'."

Most of the assembled Facility One Destrillians smiled. They knew.

Kaden smiled too, a wry mixture of disgust and pride. "They'll steer clear of Damascus, then. It's a nest of vipers, each out to screw everybody."

"Well," Emma said, "going back to Osea to investigate the Lyverius does seem like the more logical course of action.” She didn’t specify that she was mainly speaking for herself rather than anyone else. She didn't have to. “However,” she added, seeing the furious look on Fiona's face, "I couldn’t bear the thought of not rescuing Thetis first. So, I guess the question is, which of the two is the bigger threat? Which decision would help Thetis more? If the answer is going after the Lyverius, then you can count me in for that."

Fiona called her bluff. She was too angry not to. "Uh huh," she snorted. "Chubbs, you're just crawling back there because that sack of quivering meat you call a boyfriend is there."

Emma quickly rounded on the fire Destrillian, a feeling of rage flooding her insides. How dare she...

"Aren't you doing the same thing?" Jettison piped up from somewhere near the back. She wasn't intentionally trying to offend Fiona, only attempting to get her facts straight. Unfortunately, Fiona did not take it as such.

"Fuck off, Grunge! You don't know shit," she snarled.

"Come off it, Fiona!" Emma snapped, having finally had enough. "You know she's right, but at least you'll be getting what you want! You actually think that I would be stupid enough to try to contact anyone I left behind back in Osea and risk dragging them into this?"

It was then that Terra tactfully cleared her own throat, and the group was so unused to that that they all quietened to let her speak.

"I'm going with you Ehmma." She looked around at her assembled friends and companions. "I wohn't be much use to anywon yet, especialy if wee have to goh up against Spencer." It hurt her to say it - she was getting stronger by the hour, but she still didn't trust herself to be the right girl for the job when Viola's former president - and most of his Facility Two Destrillians - came into the mix. She needed more time.

"I'll go with Fiona," Lokka said as he nodded in courtesy to Terra who had just finished speaking. "If Spencer has Destrillians from my facility with him, then I want to talk to them. A word with the man himself wouldn't be struck from the agenda either. Besides-" he added, glancing toward Telran's room, "somebody needs to look after the doctor."

"What makes you think he'll decide to go with you?" Jettison asked, again purely out of curiosity. She really was far too impartial to everything going on to care past a certain point.

"Because anyone who looks like that doesn't say no to a good shot at a fight."

"I don't," Lokka said to Jettison, ignoring Fiona. "But I have a good idea. I suppose we'll find out when - if - he comes to."

"Fair enough." Jettison shared a mere flick of a glance with Nova - the latter immediately broke out into a massive grin. "We're going to Osea."

Everyone waited for her reason. She didn't see fit to give it.

Kaden quietly considered things in the silence, before he spoke up: "If either group needs a tracker, I guess that'll be my cue. But really, I'm wanting to head westward. Got a few accounts to settle back 'home'." He paused again. Really, the only ones he knew were Fiona, the doc, and the absent Thetis, but the scents of Emma and Terra were speaking to instinctive parts of his brain. There were people he could 'trust' on both sides.

"So you'll be coming along with us, then," Jettison said simply.

Kaden shrugged. "So be it," he said. His eyes passed across the assembled group, his immediate plans coming to mind. "But before we go anywhere, I'll be needing the help of... someone destructive," he added, his eyes lingering on Fiona for a moment. "I have to do something. If it's done right, it could act as a distraction. Give IRIN at least something else to consider."

"And just what is that?" Emma asked, cocking an eyebrow.

Kaden paused for a moment before clearing his throat. "Does anyone not know about the dead body in the bathtub?"

There was another pause. Idris might have snored once. After a moment, with infinite grace, Lokka spoke: "Well now we do." Someone snickered - nobody was ever quite sure who.

"She was like me. Only...tame," Kaden said. The disgust in the last word was palpable. "The people behind our creation are truly spook show. Even rival Damascan installations figuring out what you're really up to loses major face. There's a safe house a short walk from here. Plant the body there, blow something up there, have some suggestion that Destrillians were involved, and watch IRIN pull her out and puzzle over her. They poke at shadows for a while, and Chulainn craps itself."

"Right well, most of the people here have made up their minds save for Red Hair Guy and Miss Sleepy Head," Stolz chirped up, gazing towards Castiel and Idris as she spoke. "Me, I think I'll go along to visit this Spencer guy because I am preeeetty sure there are people in Osea who will be very angry at me now."

"As much as I want to rip Jason Spencer's throat out through his asshole," Castiel said casually, "I have a promise I need to keep and that involves heading back to Osea. If you guys need some help along the way, then I don't mind lending a hand." He looked at the group with a look that said he didn't want to talk about his decision anymore.

That rounded off the discussion. No one was in the mood to give a peppy closing speech, or even a word of advice. They all just nodded absent-mindedly, each thinking their own thoughts, some getting up and wandering off after a time. There was no final word.

Somehow, that was all right.


.oOo.


Fiona had not slept but for twenty minutes that night, playing out what happened to Thetis constantly in her mind. She wondered what could have happened if she'd done this a different way or went without doing that. The brief series of events racked her brain mercilessly.

The fire starter knew the sun would be rising shortly and knew that now was the time to speak to the only person she had the patience for.

You're coming with me, Fiona relayed to the still healing Destrillian of metal as she lifted her small body up from the chair where she had been left from the night before. Rise and shine, she thought flatly.

Idris tensed momentarily as she felt warm, strong arms haul herself up off the mattress. Always been an early bird myself, she said back, figuring she'd been more than stupid to spend all that time in the forest talking to Lokka and making a mess of her throat when she could have done this and saved the pain. Maybe she'd been too exhausted. Maybe it was just easier - more familiar - with someone she'd known for years.

Don't start about how we're more alike than I think and how one day soon we may just all shit rainbows and sing happy songs all night and day, Fiona scoffed mentally as she walked up the stairwell of the apartment building. There's more important shit to talk about right now.

Let me guess. You wouldn't bother with me if there was a certain someone else here to talk to instead? Idris should probably have cushioned the point a little more, but if Fiona was going to pick at her sore spots, then she could very well do the exact same right back. To a point, anyway - she didn't want to be dropped, and there was no real telling with Fiona when she was in this much of a mood.

The flame Destrillian snarled and shot a glare to her metal-wielding comrade. "You know damn well that I wouldn't. Keep talking shit and see if I don't throw you out one of these windows," she said, not having the control to telepathically communicate.

They both knew it was a hollow threat, but if things were different, it might have been closer to a promise. So up they continued until the two Destrillians reached the roof access. Instead of another set of stairs leading straight to the door, there was a ladder that lead to a hatch in the ceiling. Fiona grunted as she threw Idris over her shoulder and began to climb the ladder. Better hang on with what strength you have, Baldy.

Idris didn't reply - she was busy doing exactly what Fiona had said. Despite the fact that she'd now become numb to a lot of the pain in her body, physically exerting herself in any way brought it back in fresh new waves. Clenching her hands to Fiona's shoulders was agony, but it was that or fall off. Finally, they reached the relative safety of the roof.

The fire starter set Idris down and propped her up against a half-wall so that she was facing the horizon. Fiona paced uneasily next to her, placing her hands behind her head and not saying anything for a few moments. Idris just watched, following the other woman's movements with her eyes. Like a caged lion.

"I'm getting Thetis back. You're helping me." The redhead turned on her heel as she looked the metal Destrillian square in the eye, her arms tensely returning to her sides and jaw clenched. Fiona would not take no for an answer today.

Idris looked at Fiona for a good, long moment. She took in all the details of the Destrillian's posture, her expression, how hard her blood was pumping.

Of course she was going to help.

But actually saying so could wait just a moment longer. "And you're asking me, why?" Idris carefully inserted 'asking' in place of the more appropriate word, 'telling'. Score one for framing.

The corner of Fiona's eye twitched ever so slightly. She knew that the small, clever Destrillian was looking for a specific sort of answer for a question so vague. Idris was challenging her to say what she wanted to hear. If it were anyone else, Fiona wouldn't have bothered properly replying and instead bullshitted as she normally did. A soft breeze blew in, rustling the dead leaves amongst the trees that littered the area around them, breaking the silence that sat between the two Destrillians. The fire prototype knew what had to be said.

"You're the only Destrillian I can trust."

Satisfaction.

"Do we have a way to follow her? We did sort of wreck our modes of transport."

"What happened to the piece of junk? The one we could all fit inside?"

"Do you really think the Keris is going to survive another of our roadtrips?" Idris gave a wry smile. Bullet-ridden and ramshackle, their mobile home had survived by the skin of its metaphorical teeth. Bringing it along for a second adventure was probably more than it could bear. "We don't want it breaking down midway."

''Whatever. I can nab us a couple of better cars anyway." Fiona stared into the distance, her mind heavy with thought.

"That'd be preferable." Idris followed the fire Destrillian's gaze across the cityscape. Crawsus was small, by Osea's standards, but it was compact. She sighed. "Seems whenever we're not looking, one of us gets snatched up. I'm tired of having capable people get kidnapped."

"We've been doing a good job of keeping our numbers up and we'd better not start slacking now. And," Fiona looked back to Idris and slowly walked over, "you're gonna go back down there today and make sure everyone else knows that, too. Because if someone doesn't, I'll have to teach them a very hard lesson. I won't even need to use my powers, either."

Even though the redhead was focusing her pre-emptive anger on the others who were not so committed to her cause, she still managed to get right in Idris' face. "You do realize that-- and this has always been the case," Idris said, cutting herself off in midsentence before continuing, "that the more you blow smoke like that, the less anybody wants to help you at all. You do know that, right?" She stared shrewdly at Fiona, unblinking. "Because sometimes I think it's somehow blindsided you."

Fiona snapped out of her haze and took a step back from her metal counterpart.

"And something else, Fiona." Idris, weak and wounded, sitting slumped against the low, sturdy half-wall, shook her head just a fraction as she looked up at the woman who had, for as long as Idris had known her, gotten her way by being louder than everyone else. "The reason why you need me to make sure they know? Is because by now, nobody is going to listen to you."

"Viola made me this way."

"Liar." The pale girl almost smirked. Almost-- but the conversation was too serious, too critical, for even Idris to smile. "Viola gave you the ground and YOU, Fiona, you ran away with it. I thought you were above blaming the unreachable."

"Don't think you know what my time in there was like! Your doctor put you on a goddamn pedestal while I was treated like the animal they thought I was! I never got a break to be treated and cared for in the early days. No. They fucking threw me into the gauntlet before my skin could even heal from the burning! I didn't have a fucking square foot of ground. I had a pit. A giant fucking pit to fall into and rot in until the doc and that cunt Spencer were happy with what I turned into."

Still, Idris looked at her. Something under the surface of her face twisted, a little - some memory too far away to be significant but still very much present. She took a breath.

"You made fun of me when all my hair fell out."

She gave a little shrug, and luckily the movement didn't elicit any pain. "Why?"

Fiona looked to Idris once again, the natural glow from her eyes dimmed. "I already told you more than you need--"

"No." It was such a small word. Such a strong word. And it carried the same sort of power behind it that she'd had in her voice the night of the escape from Osea-- only this time, she was in control of herself. "No, you haven't. And even if you had, people generally tell their friends more than strictly need-to-know."

A weary grin sprang up on Fiona's face. She coughed out a chuckle. "Friends. You're funny."

"Only when I'm wrong." Idris scraped the dust from the rooftop, let it blow away from her fingertips. "By my standards, I've been wrong a healthy amount of the time. But not this time. I said nobody listens to you-- probably hurts, but the truth does that sometimes." Her head inclined up a bit to meet Fiona's gaze. "But I'm listening. So," she said, and closed her eyes. "Why did you do it."

"You're the smart one, Baldy. You figure it out," Fiona said in a half-sarcastic tone.

"You just DID it, didn't you." Idris had grown impatient with how Fiona was trying to skirt everything-- and especially after she'd started to look like she would let it go, just this once. "You never had a reason. You still don't. You did it," she continued, "because you FELT like it. And because maybe fifteen seconds of seeing some other little girl be hurt and mortified would make you feel better." She snapped her eyes open, exhaled sharply. "Behaviour self-perpetuates. They thought of you as an animal? Well you certainly never did anything to discourage that thought, Sparky."

"Told you, you could figure it out," Fiona said through clenched teeth. "Happy now? You have me all fucking figured out. If you want a prize, you'll have to ask someone else."

"And do you like acting that way?"

"It's the only way I know how! I don't get sappy, I don't open up to people and I definitely don't care about anyone else's problems!"

"You care about Thetis' problems." Idris had her there. She knew it, too-- so she didn't bother to let it sink in. "So being angry and tetchy and rude is the only way you know how to act? Change." Another small, powerful word. It almost seemed to take form in the air around them, frightening in its endless possibility. "It's what the rest of us are doing."

Fiona stared at Idris for what seemed like an eternity, the wind picking up once more. "We're done here."

"Run, run away," Idris said, managing a little grin. Her heart wasn't in it.

The flame Destrillian carelessly scooped up her metal counterpart and went back down to the apartment. They remained in silence until Fiona had the last word just before they reached the door: "Even if I could change, can't expect anything out of me for a while."
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Old 04/03/2012   #12
Bex
Default

THETIS ALCESTEOS
THETIS' ROOM - SPENCER MANSION

Thetis’ return to her quarters came with an ear-splitting crack as her foot splintered a mahogany door panel. Dark clouds blotted the light of the two moons as it filtered through the window, casting long shadows across the plush carpet. The room was still with a strange, lifeless silence; something Thetis had become accustomed to during her stay at Spencer's mansion. She stormed into the bedroom, ripping off each piece of bloodied gauze as she went. For all the humiliation, the pain and the hardship – Thetis had never quite hit the level of fury she so often saw in Fiona. But this was different. Unlike Fiona's palpable, physical rage, this was an anger that bubbled and blistered under Thetis' skin. One that itched as it lay dormant, festering as it waited for her fragile masquerade to crack. For the past four years, over the last couple of weeks, Thetis had kept her anger in check. One interaction had changed all that. A low growl tore from the water prototype’s throat as she caught a glimpse of her bruised, swollen face in the mirror.

"It looks like one of your betters certainly taught you a lesson, Destrillian."

"SHE WASN'T BETTER THAN ME!"

Her sling fluttered to the floor, the soft elegance of its fall beset by the shards of glass that crashed over the dresser. They scattered before washing to the floor, carried by the remnants of her power. Thetis glared as water smothered the carpet, each fibre prickling and growing as it rose for air. In Osea, the promise of security and freedom was ahead of her. Spencer's mansion was little more than a gilded cage. And the others? Thetis snorted. House-trained, all of them.

A sharp exhale of breath forced the frustration from Thetis' body, and she collapsed onto the bed. She stared into the panel of light above her, unsure as to whether it was anger causing the spots in her vision, or the white neon that lit the room brightly as a containment cell. Thetis turned onto her side, wincing at the sudden stab of pain in her left shoulder. All she could do was wait and hide amongst the other Destrillians until an opportunity arose. At best, a chance to escape would present itself. Worst case scenario? Thetis sighed. Then there was Finn. Young, yes, but something about her screamed that Finn had experienced more than Thetis could ever imagine. But Spencer had said that she was ill. Bullshit, the water Destrillian thought to herself.

Finn was the best shot she had at getting out of here.

.oOo.

MALCOLM ABADDON & JASON SPENCER
THE STUDY - SPENCER MANSION

“She’s completely out of control, she constantly damages the dynamic of the current team and I haven’t even had time to calculate the psychological harm she might have inflicted on your new recruits!”

Spencer said nothing. One hand was raised to his forehead and his eyes were cast towards the ancient wood of his study desk.

“If you continue letting her strut around like this she is going to set back the cohesion of the teams by at least six months!” Abaddon fumed. He strode across the length of the study and back, venting his frustration at his employer, who sat as motionless as a statue in the amber light of the small room.

“What do you expect me to do about it, Malcolm?” Spencer didn’t look at his irate chief scientist. His words were spoken tiredly.

“Send her back to your Sponsors,” Abaddon spat venomously, “I don’t care. But I can't build you a damn army with that wildcard here."

"Watch how you talk about my daughter." Jade green eyes flashed warningly, betraying a rising fury hidden at the heart of his weary speech.

"You know I'm right, Spencer." The former president of Viola pinched his nose and shut his eyes as Abaddon said it. "She can't be allowed to continue on like this."

"Is there something else you wanted?"

Abaddon rammed his hands into the pockets of his lab coat and glowered at Jason Spencer through tired brown eyes. There was little more he could do without risking his boss' temper. He had thoroughly dug in on the issue of Persephone, and Abaddon had to concede that for now there was going to be no way of shifting that position. He had known Jason Spencer long enough to know that much.

"There is, actually," he replied testily.

"I'll come to your damned medical exam later," Spencer muttered glumly and Abaddon's look soured.

"Subject Thirty-one has produced twenty-three dreams in tonight's session."

Spencer's undivided attention was now on his chief scientist.

"Twenty-three? In one session?" He repeated, and Abaddon nodded.

"The precognitive technicians are working on assembling them for analysis now, but the number is unprecedented," Abaddon explained gravely.

Spencer said nothing at first, the flames in the fireplace were dying and the room had become ensnared in a shadowy gloom.

"What does it mean?" he spoke out loud, but more to himself than to Abaddon, who simply shrugged. He was well aware of Malcolm Abaddon's dislike of the over-reliance on the prophetic properties of the thirty-first Destrillian. Such things were too vague and often too uncertain for a staunchly empirical scientist and Spencer understood that. Abaddon's skills were better utilised in areas where he did not need to concern himself with foggy visions of the what had been and the what might come.

"I want to see them by tomorrow night. If something is going to happen then I want to be damn sure that I know about it beforehand, am I understood?"

"Yes sir."

"Good."

.oOo.

FINN ELIOT
FINN'S ROOM
THE NEXT DAY

The first thing she felt when she woke up was the headache.

Then came the exhaustion. The limb-numbing, foggy-headed, dry-mouthed exhaustion that came with a sleepless night. Yet here she was, waking up in the familiar comfortable expanse of her double bed. A digital clock ticked loudly from her bedside table and Finn Eliot let out a groan.

She wasn't aware of how many hours of sleep she'd had, but experience had taught her that she only usually felt like this after getting less hours sleep than hours spent exercising her power. It left her feel drained, ratty and thoroughly sleep deprived.

Finn jammed her big brown eyes shut and rolled over in bed with a low groan, determined to steal a few more hours of sleep. With any luck, the doctors wouldn't be in to check on her for a good while yet.

"I should think not, Subject Thirty-one."

It was a sound plan in theory, provided the doctors weren't already in the room with her. Finn scowled, but didn't turn to face the sound of the soft voice coming from the other side of the room.

"Are you going to get up?" the voice asked delicately, but Finn could tell that was a farce masking the cold, clinical precision that dominated so much of her doctor's personality.

"No!" she snarled, trying to sound intimidating, still refusing to turn and face the corner of the room that she so detested.

The room fell into a calculated silence and Finn squirmed uneasily. The mind games, the carefully asked questions, the silences, ugh, it never stopped. Her doctor knew exactly how to push her buttons. She suspected that among the half dozen doctorates that he possessed that there was probably some variety of psychology degree in there. Something that allowed him to know exactly what to say when and then when to drop into uncomfortable silence.

"So how long was I out for?" she spoke bitterly, unable to endure the lasting, bitter silence. The old man was very good, she had to admit grudgingly.

She heard the scrape of a chair pushing itself back against the glass floor and the gentle clicking sound of smart shoes.

"We have just under six hours of recorded data, Subject Thirty-one." Finn spun around in bed to face her doctor, her face aghast. Six hours? She was usually only out for an hour or two at the most.

"Y-You're sure?"

Doctor Warren Smiley just shrugged. He was not paying any immediate attention to the Destrillian, instead choosing to furiously scribble notes onto a clipboard by the other bed to the right of her large, comfortable double bed, the one that rested on the cold glass floor she hated so much.

But not nearly as much as she hated Dr. Smiley.

Due to the exceptional nature of her powers, her condition and her age, she was the only Destrillian that still had a doctor watching over her full-time. Finn was never intended to be a weapon, once the nature of her precognitive power surfaced, so the job requirements for her personal doctor were staggeringly different to what was required of the other twenty-nine that had been recruited to specialise in augmenting and training their subjects. They were required to have been experts in biology and chemistry in order to physically alter their Destrillians to become the best soldiers they could possibly be.

Subject Thirty-one was no soldier.

Dr. Smiley, before he had been recruited by the Viola Corporation, was regarded as one of Artolia's foremost minds. Holding two separate doctorates, one in psychology and another in quantum mechanics. When Jason Spencer's headhunting team approached him with the offer to work on Subject Thirty-one, he had been heading up research on Artolia's massive supercollider somewhere underneath the mountains in the north of the country. The government had never even allowed Viola to be privy to the kind of research he had been conducting there, explaining matter-of-factly that it was above and beyond top secret.

Regardless, Dr. Smiley proved to be the ideal candidate for Finn's personal doctor. Going as far as to come up with the design for the very device that allowed for the recording and viewing of her visions in the first place. The device that Finn now glared at with disgust.

"We are going to need to go over the visions this afternoon. I suggest that you clear your schedule today." Narrow, condescending eyes swivelled towards Finn, as if to suggest that the very thought that she had other plans this afternoon was a despicable act of insubordination.

"W-whatever," Finn grumbled, scratching the back of her head and further adding to the messy catastrophe unfolding on her scalp.

It was a stark contrast to the immaculately dressed Dr. Smiley. A man in his early sixties, he was dressed in a pristine grey suit beneath his immaculate white lab coat. Even his platinum-coloured hair had been styled smartly, drawing attention to his sour, lined face. His nose wrinkled at the insolence of the sullen Destrillian.

"Depending on how useful the interview will be, Subject Thirty-one, we might need to manually trigger your abilities in order to make better sense of the situation." His eyes glanced towards the machine built into the floor and Finn gulped. There were few more calculated threats that the doctor could have made. They had managed to do this before, after all.

The machine itself was not unlike the stasis pods the Destrillians had been kept in at their respective facilities, according to what Ariel had told her at least. At least it was the same in principle, aesthetically it looked very different. A fat, white sphere inside of which Finn would be placed during the activation of her powers. The sphere would then be pumped full of viscous gel via the myriad of pipes underneath the plate glass floor. The gel had been engineered to mimic the properties of human skin and thus also mimic Finn's own ability to share visions with another person through direct skin-to-skin contact. Given the impracticalities of using such means to record Finn's visions, the gel served as a substitute for the other person, recording the dreams and then transmitting the recordings to the octet of computer monitors situated next to the device. These were used for viewing and arranging the disjointed and foggy visions into an order that made sense, not unlike the way in which a film editor would do their job.

Recalling all the times she had woken up confined to its pitch dark innards and gagging on the thick gel that filled her airways made Finn shudder involuntarily.

"That w-won't be necessary," Finn spoke quietly and bitterly, not daring to break contact with her blankets.

"I thought as much."

A river of language only fit for the most mean-spirited of Salem Locke cascaded through Finn's mind when she felt tears threatening to prickle at the corners of her eyes. It was at times like this that she felt so helpless. She jammed her eyes shut, refusing to admit defeat in front of the menacing scientist.

Images from the night before burned into the backs of her eyelids.

Falling headfirst through the empty sky, feeling the hard wind crash against her skin.

A demon made of white light that left nought but ruin and ashes in its wake.

The prodigal emperor sitting on his throne of blood.

She shuddered and her eyes snapped open. Dr. Smiley was watching her steadily, his harsh gaze stern and intense.

"What was that?" his voice was sharp and curious.

"Nothing," Finn admitted in an equally harsh tone, the feeling of being watched like a test subject made her self-conscious and she instinctively drew her knees up to her chest. "I'm just remembering the visions, that’s all!" She mostly believed that. Those had just been memories, hadn't they? She remembered the vivid sensation of the wind beating at her skin and shuddered again.

"Are you sure?" Smiley continued to pry. "If your power is beginning to activate whilst you're still conscious then I'd have to conduct some tests. It would be quite the breakthrough." He mused quietly, suddenly quite enraptured by the thought of new phenomenon to study.

"I'm sure!" Finn shouted back at the thin, grey-haired doctor. Her lilac coloured eyebrows descended and her wide, milk chocolate eyes narrowed in anger. The only time Smiley ever seemed concerned with her was when there was something new to study. No, she thought, that was a lie. Smiley never once seemed to be concerned with her, only with studying her, as though her body and her personality were simply annoying obstacles that needed to be worked around in order to conduct a proper study.

Both Doctor and patient were rudely interrupted by the clatter of a trauma kit crashing to the floor. As Smiley's assistants scrambled to salvage the mess of wire and metal, Thetis Alcesteos teetered awkwardly on the threshold. She frowned, more irritated by the swarm of staff than her destruction of hundreds of credits worth of equipment. "Is Finn here?" It was a redundant question - any Destrillian could've sensed Finn miles away - but one that needed to be asked. The water prototype scowled as several confused faces stared up at her.

"I'm here!" the voice of the young Destrillian pierced through the stony, disbelieving silence.

With a satisfied smile, Thetis padded further into the room; if it could be called that. Lit by harsh bars of neon, its white-washed walls were covered in progress charts, while each stainless steel surface was hidden by notes and monitoring equipment. Its clinical sterility was eerily reminiscent of basement five. The smell of antiseptic flooded Thetis' nostrils as she picked her way through the group of junior doctors. As the crowd dispersed, the water prototype caught sight of Finn, looking a little worse for wear, hunched over at the end of a bed. A doctor, brow furrowed in concentration, stood opposite. She twitched her fingers in something that could be called a wave. "Hey."

Finn returned the wave with a nervous grin, her eyes flitting towards the face of the doctor, whose eyes had not left Thetis' impudent face since her intrusion.

"Something I can do for you, Destrillian?" Smiley asked acidly. He had plainly made no attempt to know the names of the most recent arrivals to the mansion facility and his crass disinterest showed.

"No," Thetis shot him a withering glare before turning back to Finn. "D'you still wanna show me around?" The Doctor's look of utter ire was not lost on her; she simply chose to ignore it.

"Absolutely!" Finn said breathlessly, leaping from her bed to scamper over towards Thetis. Dr. Smiley looked as though he was about to open his mouth and object, but seemed to think better of it, noting the curious display of enthusiasm from his usually sullen subject.

"This doesn't mean you're excused, Subject 31. I expect to see you back here at 3 o'clock on the dot." He growled, keen watchful eyes following the small Destrillian as she grabbed Thetis by the hand and led her quickly out of the room's thick, oppressive atmosphere.

.oOo.

"What's his problem?" Thetis growled as Finn pulled her from the room and rounded the corner at neck-break speed.

"Didn't you ever have a doctor?" Finn replied bitterly, squeezing Thetis' hand tighter as she marched her away from the room, grateful beyond words at her new friend's impromptu rescue.

"Yeah." Thetis mumbled. She hadn't thought about her since that nightmare in the pod. She trailed off. "A long time ago."

"Come on," Finn responded, forcing cheer into her voice that she wasn't entirely sure that she felt. "Let's get out of here."
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Old 04/15/2012   #13
Alex
Default

THE IRON BORDER
ARTOLIA

To any passer-by the wall seemed to stretch on forever.
But as was common knowledge to the four thousand strong military garrison that manned it, the great iron wall stretched on all seventy-three miles of the former Artolian border with the nation of Vaul, from the vast inland Fell Sea to the frigid northern harbour city of Midian.

It had since become common practice to say ‘former’ when referring to the notion of Artolia’s easternmost frontier, because whilst this massive metal expanse did mark the Artolian border, that border no longer connected the nation to neighbouring Vaul. For all intents and purposes, Vaul no longer existed as a sovereign nation. The Iron Border stood as an immovable, impassive giant witness to its ravaged remnants, a lifeless wasteland composed of nothing but valleys twisted wreckage and jagged mountains of scrap metal. Very little of the original landscape could be seen beneath the Artolian government’s final insult to Alvyssia’s eastern neighbours. No land army could hope to traverse the demilitarised zone or hope to pass the titanic fortification that had been erected to bar their path.

There could never be any hope for a successful retaliation for the nations beaten bloody by Artolia in the war fifty years ago. The largest army in the world could throw themselves against the Iron Border's towering metal bastions and be broken utterly and completely, shredded by the cannons and missile launchers built into its sheer face without the enormous garrison of infantry ever needing to set foot outside of the wall.

Lightning flashed through the storm-darkened sky as a lone helicopter descended towards the imposing structure. It was the greatest man-made defence on the planet and it entranced the small detail of clerks and security personel. Such was its size that it even managed to draw the attention of the helicopter's occupants away from the awe-inspiring devastation that the Artolians had wrought upon the landscape of the demilitarised zone. All except for one man situated at the front of the helicopter, who studiously poured over the ream of papers on his lap.

A coarse bellow of thunder scarcely caused his narrow, appraising pale blue eyes to flitter between his reading and the rain-lashed window to his right.

He scowled.

"Shouldn't we be coming in to land?" The precise, disapproving voice of Magnus Nordstrom seemed to fill the vehicle's cramped interior.

"We're just getting clearance now, Sir." The pilot's reply was short and impatient at such a distraction during a thunderstorm. The fact that he was escorting the second most powerful poltician in the entire country (or the most powerful, depending on who you asked) momentarily forgotten during the nervy descent.

The Vice-Chancellor didn't like the answer. This excursion had set back the week's agenda by a whole twelve hours, but even still, the necessary arrangements should have been taken care of by now. If not before he left Osea then at some point on the uncomfortable four hour flight from the capital all the way to the very edge of the country. However, he decided against pressing the issue.

"Starting our descent, Sir. Approaching landing pad three."

"Good."

Another crash of thunder sounded from outside the helicopter's rainswept windows as the cumbersome vehicle manoevered into position. The bright searchlights from the top of the vast wall were startling white against the sky's bleak darkness indicating a marginally raised prominence that would serve as the landing strip for the helicopter.

God, it was a desolate place out east, Magnus thought to himself. The austere, Spartan military life was as far removed from the sumptuous wealth of Osean high society as it was possible to get. The nearest big city was that of Midian to the North, a haven of vice and the capital of Artolian industry whose smoggy skyline and glitzy supercasinos held little appeal to the Vice-Chancellor. Located three miles behind the Iron Border was an even more depraved scrap of civilization in Bordertown; a sprawling slum of canvas tent brothels and ramshackle bars that was kept almost entirely afloat by the constantly shaky discipline of the garrison of men manning the border. Men who needed women and drink when they were on leave, and both were in plentiful supply in the dark labyrinth of Bordertown’s twisting streets.

It would have been a small task for the army to evict and demolish the grungy settlement and bring its residents up on all manner of charges for the blatantly illegal activities that it had to offer the homesick soldiers who manned the Border. But, and Magnus had given this a good deal of thought, keeping the settlement intact was worth far more. The soldiers were kept happy and in a deal kept secret from most of the government, extortionately heavy taxes were imposed on the use of Bordertown’s plentiful services. Money that went straight back into the Artolian treasury straight from the soldiers’ pay. Every once in a while some young, idealistic upstart politician would attempt to wipe the scummy metropolis from the map. But the government was never in a position to turn away the opportunity to make money, and so every request to extinguish the sinful fires of Bordertown had been conveniently lost or ‘misfiled’.

It was a good system, Magnus reminded himself as the helicopter’s skids touched down and the door slid open to the night-time thunderstorm. But, God, did he ever hate the East.

He turned up the black fur of his dark greatcoat's collar and stepped out onto the wall's soaking concrete firestep and, along with his delegation of secretaries and personnel security, was ushered through a door in one of the Border's numerous raised citadels and descended down into the hollow bowels of the structure's interior by the office of the day and a squad of grizzled, tired soldiers.

The exterior of the Iron Border might have been considered an engineering marvel for its sheer scope and scale. But it paled in comparison to the complex beehive of barracks’ armouries, offices, missile silos, kitchens and barber shops needed to house its four thousand strong garrison. And all connected via a series of lifts and pneumatic tunnels that allowed for reasonably swift navigation along the Border’s colossal length.

For Magnus Nordstrom, the walk was not far. His own quarters were still being prepared down in the safest part of the fortifications, deep in the foundations, alongside other notable dignitaries and the Border’s commanding officers. So until then he had an eager, fat-faced young Lieutenant direct him to the office of one of the senior staff officers for this particular stretch of the Border.

To most not in the know, it seemed awfully peculiar that one of the most important individuals on the entire continent would decide to pay a lowly Staff Captain a visit. That was, of course, until they noted the particular name of the young Staff Captain.

Magnus Nordstrom didn’t bother to knock as he strode through the unremarkable metal door at the end of the gaunt, concrete corridor.

“Father!”

The bluff, jubilant reply did not surprise Magnus Nordstrom. He barely permitted more than a thin, icy smile to cross his skeletal, lined face as a young man in the pristine slate grey dress uniform of the regiments assigned to watch the border stood up from behind a desk stacked tall with maps and papers.

The Captain was taller than the politician by at least a head, with a barrel chest, muscular arms and a lantern jaw that stood out prominently from his clean-cut, handsome features.

“Reissner.” Magnus nodded the greeting to his son as he took off his rain slicked, black kid-skin gloves.

With a disarming smile and a casual flick of the combed bluff of his golden brown hair, Reissner Nordstrom strode across the length of the room to shake the hand of his father.

“Please, please, have a seat. You want some wine? Have you eaten? I can have some cheese and dinner sent up for us,” Magnus smiled through the onslaught of good manners and allowed his son to direct him into the chair directly in front of his desk and order up an elaborate supper of the military’s finest rations.

“Needed to get out of the capital, ey?” Reissner asked, grinning widely as he cut a large helping of mince pie for himself.

“That’s right.” Magnus answered quietly. He picked at his food and ate little. Reissner pretended not to notice.

“What with what happened to the Supreme Court I can’t say I blame you. I’d wager the political situation is in turmoil right now.” Two glasses of wine were poured.

“It is.” Magnus spoke bitterly. It had not been his decision to leave the capital. The decision had been forced on him the Chancellor and several members of his private council. Whilst he would never be brought up on charges for it, his involvement and the involvement of the Artolian government of the time in the collusion with Jason Spencer and the sanctioning of the Destrillians Project would cast a very poor light on the country’s increasingly fragile government and might even force his resignation. No, it had been the stern recommendation of the Chancellor that Magnus Nordstrom distance himself from Osea and every connection to the Destrillians Project, no matter how slim.

None of this needed to be said to Reissner. He had grown up at the epicentre of Artolian politics and could read between the lines as well as most professional analysts and commentators.

Though it was only Reissner personally knew the very personal involvement that Magnus Nordstrom had had with the Destrillians Project; he had stopped smiling. The files recovered from Spencer’s Supreme Court hearing had been given to army high command and disseminated down through the ranks so that the identities of all thirty Destrillians were known to the army’s senior officers.

Till the day that he died, Reissner would never forget the picture that had accompanied number eleven. He had changed a lot since childhood. His face had become more pointed, the cheekbones more hollow, but he had looked healthy and angry. Even through the grainy black and white photo capture that had caught his picture, he could make out the scowl of contemptuous indifference.

He had seen for himself that Kerr Nordstrom, his little brother, was alive.

Reissner was no longer smiling. Piece by piece he had put the story together in his head. How Magnus had spirited away his sickly little brother and told the family and indeed the whole world that the illnesses that had long since waged their war on little Kerr had finally claimed his life. The tide of public sympathy had steered the ambitious politician through a particularly wintry year of public unrest.

“You could have told me the truth, Father,” Reissner said gravely, with an exaggerated shake of his head.

“No, I couldn’t.” Magnus scoffed derisively. “For all intents and purposes your brother is dead.”

“He didn’t look dead to me!” Reissner replied earnestly. He could only recall pale, vague memories of spending time with his brother during their short childhood together, but the principle of the lie was what offended him. That his father had lied to both his family and the entire country.

“He looked dead to me.” The reply was scathing.

“You mean you’ve seen him?” Reissner sounded awed, but Magnus refused to comment further on it. His gaze seemed hard and distant, as though he himself had not quite come to a conclusion on how that fateful meeting had made him feel.

"What was he like?"

Magnus ignored the press of questions by taking a generous drink from his glass of red wine. He suspected that despite the quality Audoulan label it was in fact a cheap Artolian concoction, for it lacked the characteristic crisp, sweet taste of the southern nation's red.

"Father, please,"

"As I recall, you never had much interest in Kerr to begin with. Why are you so curious now?" The voice was a sneer. Reissner might have been too young to accurately remember the bitter animosity that had existed between the Nordstrom siblings but the memories had not dulled with time. He remembered Kerr; quiet, sulky and cruel, and Reissner: boisterous, loud and attention-seeking. There had been no brotherly camraderie there. No childhood lost.

"He's still my brother! Part of our family!" Reissner insisted, his voice was loud in the small office.

Magnus let out an exaggerated sigh, visibly growing impatient with his son's persistant moral outrage. If he was being sincere, then it was just displaying his ignorance of the facts. If it was a deliberate attempt to put Magnus onto the back foot to try and force a sign of humility and weakness - then the ploy was both clumsy and pointless. Magnus Nordstrom had been playing the game far too long to be trapped by such an obvious tactic.

"How did you even find out about your brother?" He asked, a plan of attack burned into his mind.

"Through the army of course, Father." Reissner said with a note of suspicion. "All of the senior officers here at the Border where given full access to the Destrillians files handed over to the government. In case any of them attempted to escape out East."

Magnus only appeared to half-listening, he was swirling the arid wine around in the glass. His expression was utterly unreadable and despite Reissner's best efforts, his father's eyes wouldn't raise themselves from the glass of swirling red liquid.

"All the senior officers," Magnus repeated slowly. His voice was dangerously soft. "You do enjoy your rank, don't you, son? From what I hear you have served admirably." The threat was clear. Reissner opened his mouth to protest, but no words would come.

"I ask you not to forget how you were fast-tracked to your present station." He remarked. Loaded words that despite their small volume seemed to dominate the tense atmosphere of the small office.

"Do not involve yourself in my affairs, Reissner, and I will endeavour to ensure that nobody involves themselves in yours. I'm sure neither you nor your fiance would appreciate the consequences."

They finished the meal in silence. Neither man made the effort to call up anything for desert.
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Old 04/18/2012   #14
Omega
Default

========== TELRAN MIARA ==========
Crawsus, Audoula



The assembled party that the apartment now played host to found themselves set in a frustrating holding pattern. As the groups had made their declarations the previous day, they found themselves separated from the others, each by their own intent; the group traveling to Osea found themselves spending a good deal of time researching their route back to Artolia, while the others, determined to bring back Thetis, found themselves with little to do but wait. In fact, that was all any of them were really capable of at this point, because all there was to do was patch up their wounds, get a meal in, and rest when they could.

The time ticked by slowly.

Small squabbles broke out from the restless tension, the only action great enough to punctuate the relative quiet of "normal" life - or, rather, the events of the past several days. Stolz flipped channels through the television listlessly. Fiona spent a good deal of time on the roof, fuming. The others milled about with an equal level of moroseness as they went about their mundane activities, things which would not have been at all out of place in the day to day lives they'd left behind, but which, now, after all they had been through, were thoroughly unsatisfying and left them wanting for...something.

And as they waited, a new dawn rose. There was little to note about the morning's events, and the group had their regular meal and continued to wait. But then, sometime just after midday, something finally happened that, in the end, were they honest with themselves, no one expected to happen.

Telran woke up.


=====


The doctor had definitely had better days.

Having been trapped in a series of dreams, each worse than the next, he'd been sure that he was dead and had found his way to the blackest depths of hell. Now, though, he was just in pain - a different twist on the dream, he figured. His eyes struggled to open, lashes crusted together with sleep and dried blood; the first crack of light appeared like the blazingly bright glow of the sun, his vision too blurry to make sense of anything. As he brought his hands to his face to rub clear his eyes, there was a sharp pain on his right side - his neck. He flinched, a weak gasp escaping him. Every part of him was sore; his muscles felt like jelly; there was a terrible odor in the air, too, from something he couldn't quite identify with his muddled senses. But the one thing he was determined to do was clear his eyes and get a look at where he was.

At last, success.

He realized that he was staring up at the ceiling of his own bedroom - an interesting choice of location for a dream. As he slowly stretched his left arm across, he could feel some kind of clothlike substance covering his neck - a bandage? The fight came back to him in a rush - Mileina, Avidez, and...

TERRA!, he thought, bolting upright, wincing from the pain.

It seemed that he'd managed to survive the confrontation with a Lyverius and come out alive after all. But what about Terra and the others? If he'd woken up in his room, someone must have gotten out okay. Only one way to find out, he thought as he slowly clambered out of bed and shakily rose to his feet. Someone had taken the time to remove his charred shirt to dress the angry burn on his neck - he'd have to thank them. If injuries like that were left unchecked, it could have some very nasty consequences. At the moment, he was more concerned about the slight shaking that had developed throughout his entire body. It was very slight, almost unnoticeable, but it felt like he didn't quite have full control over his body. Residual effect from Avidez, maybe? He'd have to keep a close eye on that to make sure it wasn't permanent damage.

He slowly trod to the door, opening it quietly so as not to disturb anyone else that might be around. He wasn't even sure what time it was, but Destrillians had always run on their own time. He padded down the hallway and reached the living room, finding it clustered with people - everyone had made it out okay. Even Kaden was here.

"What a relief," he croaked, before falling facefirst to the carpet. The exertion had been exhausting and a nap sounded very good about now.


=====


Later that evening, Telran found himself a bit more functional. Now that he'd gotten some food and water into his system, he felt much better (though that, too, was truly relative). He was still a bit weak, but a little time to recover and he'd be fine in no time. It was rather fortunate that Destrillians found themselves with accelerated healing properties, because it seemed like they'd be off on another rescue mission again soon enough.

Thetis had been taken.

What was it about Destrillians that gave them such a propensity for being kidnapped? First Terra, now Thetis...even he himself had had an attempt made on him not too long ago. It seemed that the group was now splitting in two, with one group going to take back Thetis - by force, if necessary - while the other was headed back to Artolia to try to find some information on the Lyverius threat. He supposed it was necessary - especially if all of them hit like Avidez, damn - but he felt as though bringing Thetis back should be their first priority. He wasn't sure why - he barely knew her - but it seemed like the right thing to do, and so he'd thrown his lot in with the recue party.

He wasn't quite sure what they were sitting around waiting for, but it seemed that the others did and didn't feel the need to clue him in. That was fine - he'd figured a few things out on his own, and what they'd told him was probably enough for him to figure out most of the rest, anyway. He was concerned most about the mention of Thetis being taken by other Destrillians - because that meant that others from the second facility would likely be involved. The rescue party would need all the help they could get - especially from Destrillians who knew the capabilities of their former comrades-in-arms. The coming battle was bound to get very ugly; it was not a pleasant thought.

It seemed, however, that, in the meantime, there was another matter to deal with.

Nova's information about someone who was having Telran's baby (or else someone was wanting his help with birthing another baby) had not gone unheard by Terra. Something about it made her want to come with, a gut feeling about it, she supposed. Not to mention in the time they'd been at the apartment she frequently exercised the strength of her now-working muscles, which might even make her helpful in the situation. "Telrahn, the ohther day, Nohva said that someone was cahlling about a baybee. I think sohmeone needed your dohctering help, probahbly."

The whole situation made her feel like she had ants in her legs. She wanted to ask Telran if she could come, since she felt like she needed to be there. But considering all of the planning that had been going on, it made her feel guilty to want to accompany him to where he worked.

On the other hand though, maybe it'd clear her head and help her decide what to do.

"If it's noht a big prohblem, I'd like to cohme too."

He nodded. "Sure, sure. I might even need your help," he said, forehead creasing slightly as his mouth turned downward in a tiny frown. His first medical procedure without his assistant...this wasn't going to be a pleasant experience, to be sure. But what would be, would be; he'd get it done. His patient was counting on him, and he wouldn't fail her as he had done before, regardless of whether or not he felt up to it.

The nightmares had been just as unpleasant as ever. For a human, Alessa had left a deep, permanent mark upon his soul. He missed her greatly, and he now found himself rather unexpectedly wishing that he'd never found this new family of his. It was nice to be among his own kind again but...the price of it, the cost of finding what he'd always been looking for, ever since he woke up in that pod and had to break his way out of it, had been far too high.

He never thought he'd value human life so much.

He made his arrangements with the patient's husband; they'd arrive at the clinic tomorrow. From the sounds of things, the man's wife could go into labor at any time; he set his phone to ring at its loudest volume while vibrating - hopefully it would be enough to wake him should things come to a head sooner rather than later. It was strange, though, he thought; having spent two and a half days unconscious, one might think the last thing Telran would want to do is sleep. The truth, though, was that he was more tired than ever. There truly is no rest for the wicked, is there? he wondered as he stared out of his bedroom window into the night sky. He could only see the smaller of the two moons as it gazed down upon him, hanging in the night sky like a great pale gem of infinite brilliance and beauty. He sighed. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

Telran sighed.

Running a hand through his hair, it settled limply back down as he crawled into bed. He shut his eyes, rolling onto his side, wondering idly as he did so, just before he fell into unconsciousness, why it was that Terra wanted to come along to a birth. Fervently hoping for a dreamless sleep, the day came to an end for Telran Miara, now asleep.

The dreams, however, did not.

And the sun rose on a new day.

Last edited by Omega; 04/20/2012 at 05:09 AM.
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Old 04/20/2012   #15
Sheva Alomar
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Kiera Boreas - Cerlo's Spectacular Circus, near the border of Artolia/Audoula


“And now, ladies and gentlemen, may I present,” a dramatic drumroll echoed through the tent, “Nina, the Sky Dancer!”

A spotlight appeared over the figure of an energetic girl with jungle green hair. She smiled excitedly and waved to everyone, and the crowd attending Cerlo’s Spectacular Circus roared with cheers and applause.

Kiera leapt from her small platform near the roof of the tent and dove for the trapeze bar thrown toward her. Just before grabbing on, the green-haired Destrillian performed a rapid double flip and the crowd gasped in kind.

The wind prototype’s performance was one of the highlights of the Spectacular Circus, generally guaranteeing a large crowd; that is, unless Kiera decided to vanish for an evening or two to go “exploring”. “Exploring” was her way of explaining away the fact that she wanted to exploit her abilities and go flying (literally) through the nearest town on her rollerblades and take in the sights and sounds.

The ‘sky dancer’ wove through the air effortlessly, causing the audience to “oooh” and “aahhh”. Most times it seemed that the bars were summoned into Kiera’s hands rather than her falling toward and catching them. The stunts, as well, dazzled and mystified the spectators; a great deal of the motions seeming impossible with gravity threatening her every move. Nevertheless, the acrobatic girl spun and twisted in the air with the greatest of ease and danced around her trapeze comrades.

~~~~~

“Another flawless performance, Nina,” said a large man approaching as the ‘Sky Dancer’ finished up taking a photo with a few young fans. He was dressed in nothing but blue and white striped pants, matching top hat and some worn leather boots.

Kiera beamed at him, “Thanks, Vin! I think you should amp up my act, though. I mean, I’ve done this stuff a million times in my sleep. Oh, I know! Maybe there can be swinging chainsaws and explosions!”

Vin Utroque looked at her with a hint of disbelief, then chuckled , “Always full of fantastic ideas, eh, Nina?”

“Well it would be really cool! And then we can have a pit of spikes underneath and the some of the bars can be rigged and, and…!”

The bare-chested ringmaster laughed once more and ruffled Kiera’s hair, “C’mon kid, we have to be ready for tomorrow’s show.”

~~~~~

Kiera Boreas was the 24th Destrillian prototype who escaped as the others did of Facility Two. Although, instead of finding asylum, or running back to Jason Spencer or becoming an urban super hero; the wind Destrillian stumbled upon the circus.

Not long after wandering away from the Viola lab, Kiera fled with no objective in mind once she was able to leave the Destrillian project behind her. It was curiosity that seemed to pull the young wind Destrillian in any particular direction. Several miles to the east was bright, loud and exciting venue known then simply as Cerlo's Circus. Kiera, upon reaching the circus, wasn't actually paying attention to it. What the green-haired girl was focused on was a passing pair of airplanes doing all sorts of tricks way up in the air. All the wind Destrillian wanted to do was fly up there and do fancy moves just like them. The one thing holding her back (other than a great deal of people around to see her taking off) was how ill she felt at the time. It was her own fault, though. No one should eat questionable food left out for who knows how long. But she was hungry and Kiera Boreas is never one to leave her tummy empty.

As she stared up in awe, slowly dragging her feet forward, the wind Destrillian failed to notice the large sheppard stick that fell to the ground in front of her. Before she knew it, Kiera was eating dirt and flailing her arms about as if she were drowning. A strong hand gripped her shoulder and pulled her up almost as quickly as she fell. The green-haired girl continued to throw her arms around, her face scrunched up and stuck her tongue out repeatedly to relieve her mouth of any sand. The firm hand that pulled her up was attached to an intimidating figure of a man that, if anyone knew any better, was a regular grunt of the show. He was, in fact, the ringleader of Cerlo’s and work blue and white striped pants with a matching top hat. The scruffy master of ceremonies looked over Kiera with concern and spoke to the crowd that had followed him away from the small stage he stood on several feet away, “It looks like in my excitement, my prop fell away from me. My performance will continue shortly. Please listen for the Bonkers Brigade to signal when we’re ready to entertain again.”

The crowd understood, but was visibly miffed that their wonderful presentation had been interrupted. The spectators dispersed while the ringleader carefully helped the wind Destrillian to her feet.

“I’m very sorry little miss. Are you okay? I hope my stick didn’t go rabid on you,” he said with a dry laugh. “The name’s Vin, Vin Utroque, and I run this crazy place you see around you. If there’s anything I can do to make this up to you, just tell me.”

Kiera rubbed her eyes and blinked rapidly up at the bearded face of this Vin person. He looked like a nice guy, even if he looked like he could throw one of the dwarves clear away from the event grounds. “Umm, do you have any food that I can eat and won’t make me feel like poop? And can I sleep here?”

It was certainly not the most polite pair of requests, but Vin obliged. The next few days came and went with this girl bouncing around the circus grounds with more interest than even the young children that came to see the events. The ringleader didn’t think much of it since she caused no trouble and seemed to put a smile on his face that he thought was only for performance nights. There was one thing that nagged at him and he decided to address it with the young girl.

“So, young lady, for all I’ve done for you, you still haven’t given me the courtesy of telling me your name,” Vin said as he placed a cold mug of root beer down on the table for the green-haired girl.

“Oh,” Kiera said with nervous surprise, “my name? Well, I, uh, didn’t think I needed one since no one asked!” Her voiced cracked on the last word as she failed to contain herself. The wind prototype knew what her full, real name was along with her Destrillian identity, but was lost for what to present herself as now that she stumbled onto a small nomadic village of regular humans. Her mind raced with ideas of what to say, half-afraid that some big scary man with a creepy mask would show up if she gave away her identity. Kiera’s eyes shot down to stare at her jittery legs. Vin sat there, bewildered by his new acquaintance’s strange (more so than usual) behavior. “Knee…Nina! Yup, my name is Nina and that is totally my real name because I have had it all my life! I guess you want my last name too since all of us totally normal and not super-powered humans have those too. Well, it’s a long story and I really have to pee…Piáta! That’s my last name, Piáta. Long story behind why it’s that, but it’s boring and I still really have to pee so I’m just gonna go now and I’ll see you tonight. Bye Mister Vin!” With that, Kiera bolted off to the farthest restroom on campus.

The muscular MC raised an eyebrow, but didn’t want to press ‘Nina’ for any other questions, so he let out a sigh and sipped the root beer as he wondered what he should do with his new friend. It was clear to Vin that the girl had nowhere to go, especially considering the thin set of clothes she arrived in (those being her own possessions).

Another handful of days went by and today was the ringleader’s inspection run. Vin checked up on all of his workers and friends among the circus to ensure that morale was up and all of their props and performances were in good condition. This was also a good time for any improvements to be made both from any new circus folk to join a crew or on acts during showtimes. The bearded leader had just finished bringing a couple of new recruits to the Juggling Jesters when he heard a commotion going on in the acrobats’ tent. One of the seasoned performers, Norton, ran up to Vin with a gleam in his eye, “Boss, you’ve gotta see what Nina can do!” Norton ran back over with the other acrobats that were watching in amazement. Vin trailed shortly behind, immediately training his eyes on the trapeze.

Two of the trapeze veterans were on the bars, but there were up there for back-up more than anything. It was Kiera, with reckless abandon (to say the least), just flipping and flying around up there as if she’d been doing this for years. One of the new trapeze artists chimed in from the crowd on the ground, “We thought we’d show her a thing or two about what we do for the shows. Next thing we knew, she was swinging around with us—and even better!”

By this time, Vin’s mouth was agape, not knowing how to process what he was seeing. Then it struck him and he beamed with a pride he’d never felt, “Looks like we’ve got ourselves a new star.”

~~~~~

Kiera plopped onto her bed face-first, letting out a satisfied “umph”. She snapped her head up from the feather-filled pillows and quickly changed into her blue PJ pants and over-sized white tee with a faded character from a classic cartoon on the front. She floated over to her modest pantry and pulled out an un-popped pan of popcorn. The wind Destrillian wisped the TV remote her way and flicked on her screen as she tended to preparing her post-performance meal. “Boring, boring, seen it, boring, that looks uncomfortable, that’s gross, blah, no I don’t want a Butt Super Scrubber Mark IV,” with a sigh she reached the last channel that could provide anything remotely entertaining, “Guess I’ll watch the snooze news.” Kiera topped off her now popped popcorn with her special imported Thalassan hot sauce, threw it into a bowl and plopped back onto her bed where she sat to see what was going on in Alvyssia (and hopefully not be bored to sleep before she finished her high-quality dinner).

There was a story about some petty Artolian politics, theories on what the shady nation of Damascus was up to and the daily weather for the local area—nothing worthy of keeping Kiera’s attention. That was until after the commercial break.

“Welcome back to LNN: Late Night News, the news network that keeps you up to date on all of the latest from the proud nation of Artolia and its allies. We bring you now to Mal Yerol, reporting live from the Avidez Estate in Audoula.”

“Thank you, Teri. What you see behind me if the aftermath of disastrous outbreak of violence that occurred the other night during a major event for Mr. Avidez’ pharmaceutical company. It seems that the pleasant affair was interrupted by a brutal outburst of select individuals. Eye witness accounts suggest that these individuals are part of Viola Corporation’s Destrillians and were sighted both within and on the surrounding grounds at the time of the gathering. Early deductions imply the group of terrorists wished to bring harm to Mr. Maruca Avidez, himself, and several known associates. We’ve also been told that damage done to this well-respected establishment coincides with destruction found at what is now confirmed and referred to as ‘Destrillian Ground Zero’. The Audoulan and Artolian governments, along with a few unnamed private firms, are united in gathering more clues and hopefully tracking down these extremely dangerous terrorists. We can only pray that the chaos will end sooner rather than later. Mal Yerol, reporting.”

Kiera had forgotten how to blink and spilled more than half of her popcorn on the floor as she stared at the television. The green-haired girl struggled to process what she had just heard and the depictions of some of the Destrillian suspects that now littered the screen. There were a number of faces she didn’t recognize, but then she saw Kerr’s visage. Her mouth fell a bit more as she studied his even dirtier appearance than when she bumped into him. Kiera craned her neck back slightly and scrunched her face in disgust, “Boooo! Evil dickhead!” She threw some of her leftover popcorn at the screen. “Maybe he’ll get a taste of his own medicine,” she jeered as she stuck her tongue out.

She ignored the rest of the news broadcast to devour what was left of the spicy popcorn that didn’t escape her bowl and cleaned up the rest of it. As she finished scrubbing up what stains she could, Kiera nearly flew to the ceiling of her trailer as she jerked up with an idea, “I’ve got to find those guys. Even if pooface is still out there,” she added that last thought with a flat tone.

Now, it wasn’t a great idea, nor a well-devised one; but the wind Destrillian had a feeling that compelled her to meet up with her kin—even if she had never seen or met most of the one shown on TV. A great sense of excitement bubbled in Kiera’s gut as she threw on her favourite outfit and rollerblades with painted wings on the sides. Shoving a few special and necessary items into a small pack along with a credits card, the green-haired prototype wasted no time in racing out the door and zipping over to Vin’s trailer to say goodbye.

She only had to knock enthusiastically once and the door nearly swung off its hinge. Poking her head in she saw the ringleader sifting through papers. They stared at each other dumbly for a moment before Kiera unleashed her word vomit on her father-like figure.

“IknowthisseemssillybutIhavetogoseesomepeoplethatIdidn’tknowwerestillaround I’m
reallysorrytoleavebutIgottaIwillexplainwhenIcomebackwhichIwillbecauseIwouldnever justleaveyouandeveryoneelsebehind,” she stopped for a moment to take in a large inhale, “Byeeee Vinnnnn!!”

And she flew away.
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