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Conflict [Worm AU]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Jul 1, 2016.

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  1. Threadmarks: Index
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Changing one small event can have massive repercussions ...

    Disclaimers:
    1) This story is set in the Wormverse, which is owned by Wildbow. Thanks for letting me use it.
    2) I will follow canon as closely as I can. If I find something that canon does not cover, I will make stuff up. If canon then refutes me, I will revise. Do not bother me with fanon; corrections require citations.
    3) I welcome criticism of my works, but if you tell me that something is wrong, I also expect an explanation of what is wrong, and a suggestion of how to fix it. Note that I do not promise to follow any given suggestion.


    Part One: Divergence (below)
    Part Two: Preparations
    Part Three: Events Conspire
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2016
  2. Threadmarks: Part One: Divergence
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Conflict


    Part One: Divergence


    Hungry. So hungry.

    Chantelle had been lost in this place for three days now. She had snatched quick, furtive gulps of water from a spring in the hillside, but there was nothing resembling food that she dared eat. Worse, there were others here. Some were human. Of the humans, none spoke her language, but there were some concepts that transcended language. Hunger. Thirst. Other basic needs.

    Some of the men were … brutish. She'd had to fight off two attackers so far; belatedly, she blessed her mother for the self-defence courses which she had so reluctantly attended. Other women had not been so lucky. There had been screams in the night.

    However, without food, she would soon be too weak to fight off any of the attackers, human or otherwise. Nightmarish visions of cannibalism, of the people ganging up to hunt loners, ran through her head. She had not joined any of the groups. There was a very definite tax for pretty women joining such groups. She was a loner.

    The strange portals beckoned to her, offering a way home. But she didn't know which one was hers, and she didn't know how to tell once she stepped through. So she dithered, venturing a little way into one and then another, seeking desperately to spot a clue, a hint, as to which one led home and which were traps for the unwary.

    Of course, there were also the monsters to be wary of. As far as she could tell, they didn't want to rut with her; they just wanted to kill her, to get a head start on the cannibalism. This was the disadvantage of being with a group; you were all too likely to attract the attention of a monster, then be discarded as the rest of the group made its escape.

    Chantelle was making her way to the spring, passing by one of the groups, when she saw the girl. Not more than ten years old, with black hair and skin as pale as Chantelle's was dark, the kid wore a homespun dress. As young as she was, there was more purpose in her than in any of the dozens of people dumped here by the catastrophe. The trouble was, she was marching straight toward the crater where the thing was. Chantelle had done her best not to look at the thing after the first day. Some people had gone down there and not come back; she doubted that it was because they had found their way home.

    She stepped into the girl's way. “Sweetie,” she said urgently. “You don't want to go down there. It's dangerous.” Her words, she was almost certain, would go straight over the girl's head, but maybe the tone would register.

    It didn't. The girl just kept on going. Chantelle tried to grab her, but her hand closed on empty air as the girl dipped her shoulder at just the right moment. She tried again, but the girl stepped out of the way just in time. It couldn't have been more efficiently done if they'd practised.

    I can't just let her walk into danger alone. The girl was a new factor, one that she couldn't figure out. Maybe she knew something, or could do something. If nothing else, she had plenty of moxie, as an American friend of Chantelle's had once put it. And if the worst came to the worst, Chantelle could just pick her up and run. She was getting really good at running, usually away from something, or someone.

    The girl reached the edge of the crater and stepped over, sliding down as if on an escalator. She just didn't stop; one long slide from top to bottom, never losing her balance. Chantelle doubted that she could replicate the feat; she descended as quickly as she dared, sliding from outcrop to outcrop. She was certain that if she tried to do the same as the girl, she would end up at the bottom with broken bones at least, quite likely a broken back or neck. As she skidded toward another rock in a cloud of loose dirt, she tried to keep track of where the kid was going.

    Oh christ. She's going into the flesh garden.

    This was the thing that Chantelle had done her best to ignore. Just being monstrously horrific was not enough; the thing twisted space in ways that gave her headaches. That it was the source of the portals that had brought people here, she was sure. But she was equally sure that it was much, much more. More of what, she wasn't entirely clear about, but it was something that she had chosen to ignore as a problem that she couldn't solve and didn't want to face … until now.

    Four days ago, she had been a twenty-year-old college student with a half-finished psychology degree. Her biggest problem was how she was going to explain her failing grades to her parents after she finished her summer vacation. Now she had to venture into a place that looked like it had been painted from the nightmares of H P Lovecraft by Salvador Dali and Hieronymus Bosch, and try to save some kid from killing herself. Without, it had to be said, getting killed herself.

    Reaching the bottom in a cloud of dust, Chantelle made her way toward the same gap in the rocks that the kid had gone through. Stepping through, she found herself in a surreal approximation of Hell. In her head, she had called it a 'flesh garden', and what the grey flesh around her was trying to grow was … a human being. She could see it in the hands, arms, legs and other body parts.

    There were other things too, things that she averted her eyes from. Places where space twisted in a way she didn't want to think about. The worst part was the noise. Sounds like beating hearts and audible breathing came from all around her, making her want to curl up in a ball and scream until it all went away.

    But the kid hadn't freaked out, so Chantelle couldn't either. She could see the drab, homespun dress in the distance, and hurried to try to catch up. It wasn't as easy as it seemed; while the barriers of flesh didn't move to bar her way, she still had to walk on things that looked like bits of people. Occasionally, these twitched and moved, not with purpose, but enough to give Chantelle the screaming heebie-jeebies. Or they would have, if she didn't have a terminal case already.

    Mother wanted me to become a doctor. I am never, ever, ever going to medical school after this.

    The kid had stopped and was talking to someone. No, she was looking at something, another extrusion from this garden of fleshy horrors. This was a complete person, or at least part of one. It hadn't finished forming yet. At that moment, it was bent over, just in the process of raising its head.

    There was something in the kid's hand; Chantelle couldn't make it out. But she struck, hard and accurately. The thing convulsed for a moment, then slumped.

    Just as Chantelle got close enough to see that the kid was standing on a giant hand, of all things, everything changed. The twitching movement stopped, all around her. The heartbeats stilled, the breathing halted. The hand that the kid was standing on relaxed, spilling her to the ground. As she did so, Chantelle saw that the kid was holding a short knife.

    Did she just stab this thing to death?

    She caught up with the kid in time to help her to her feet. Pointing to the now motionless humanoid figure, she asked, “Is it dead? Did you kill it?”

    The kid considered her words for a moment. Well, duh, she can't understand you.

    But then, to Chantelle's amazement, she answered. Her voice was stilted and halting, the words accented oddly, but recognisable all the same. “Not dead, but not alive.”

    “Well, should we finish it?” Chantelle looked around at the still-nightmarish forest of body parts. She knew that she would feel much better if it was dead and gone. As it was, she would never again be able to close her eyes without seeing it in her mind's eye.

    The girl shook her head. “No. It is not dangerous any more. There is something else we must do.”

    “Getting out of this pit of horrors? I'm all for that.”

    For the first time, the kid looked her in the eyes. Chantelle saw the weariness around her eyes, the hollowness of her cheeks. “We will do that. I have no home to go to, and I need shelter.”

    “Well, sorry, kid, but I've been lost here for three days myself.”

    The girl's smile was weary. “I will take you back to your home. But there is something that we must do first.”

    “What? What must we do? What's more important than getting out of this hellhole? And what do you know about this place, anyway? What happened here? Where are we? What is this thing?” Chantelle knew that her mouth was running away with her, but it was better than screaming.

    For a long moment, the kid considered her tirade of questions. “You will see,” she replied simply. Turning, she began to climb over the various body parts in a particular direction.

    There was no more reason that Chantelle could see to go in this direction than any other, but that was the way the kid wanted to go, so that was the way that Chantelle was going to go. If this kid can get me home, then I'll walk through the gates of Hell with her. She glanced back over her shoulder at the rim of the impact crater. Oh wait, I just did.

    They didn't go far; the kid stopped at a weird nodule of flesh that didn't seem any different than any one of a million other weird nodules of flesh in this fucked-up place. It twitched as she set the knife to it; she paused and looked up at Chantelle. “I will need you to hold it steady.”

    “Sure, why not?” Chantelle took hold of the nodule. It was warm to the touch, and she could feel almost subliminal quivers running through it. Maybe we should have finished killing that thing after all. “What's this for?” If she says 'lunch' I might just throw up. If I had anything to throw up, that is.

    The knife moved surely, splitting the outer skin. Chantelle concentrated on holding her hands steady. On the next cut, a tough covering was peeled aside to reveal a red-veined white lump the size of a baseball. As she sliced more of the covering away, the girl spoke. “There is another like this one. Stronger. We must defeat it as well. It will destroy the world if we don't. Hold that.”

    Obediently, not even questioning now why she was following the orders of a girl half her age, Chantelle wrapped her hands around the lumpy protrusion. It was warm and slick under her hands, pulsating very slowly. “What is it?”

    “It is the thing that controls the powers of this godling.” The kid was concentrating now, cutting carefully, but without any hesitation.

    Controls? Powers? “Okay, what are we going to be doing with it?”

    “You are going to be ingesting it.”

    Chantelle stared at the thing that she was holding. In the kid's hands, the sharp little knife had already severed halfway through the spine or stalk or nerve plexus or whatever it was that connected this thing to the main mass. There is no fucking way I am eating that. “You have to be joking with me.”

    The kid looked up. “I am not joking with you. We will need to reduce this thing to its essence and then you will have to drink that. That is the only way to gain enough power to face the Other.”

    Chantelle shook her head. “I need to know more.”

    As she sliced away the last of the connective tissue, the girl began to explain. There were two of these … things; the girl called them 'godlings'. This one was now rendered incapable of moving. Removing this nodule meant that, even if this one was revived, it would not be able to call on its powers.

    “You keep talking about powers,” Chantelle objected as the lumpy object came free. It was no longer pulsating. “What do you mean by that?”

    The girl's gaze was direct. “You have seen the monsters?”

    Chantelle shuddered. “Yes. I have seen the monsters.”

    “These godlings are made up of many smaller parts that bestow powers. The monsters had powers pushed on to them that went wrong. This piece will let you control all the powers in this one.”

    “And by 'powers' you mean …”

    The girl shrugged. “The ability to fly through the air. The ability to destroy your enemies with a wave of your hand. Powers.”

    Oh. Shit.

    “Uh … so we're going to somehow reduce this … this thing to its essence. And I've got to drink that essence. And that essence will give me powers.”

    “Yes.”

    Chantelle looked at the girl. “You've got all the answers. Why aren't you going to be the one drinking this essence?”

    “Because I already have powers. I would reject the essence. It would be wasted.”

    “Ah.” The penny finally dropped. “All this stuff you're doing, it's because your powers told you how to do it?”

    The girl nodded gravely. “Yes.”

    “So now what do we do?”

    “We go home. Your home. There is much we must do before we can confront the Other.”

    “You mean before I confront the Other.”

    “Yes. All I can do is tell you how to defeat it.”

    Chantelle considered that. “Well, you seem to know what you're doing so far.” She paused. “Wait, I don't even know your name.”

    The girl raised her chin. “I am Fortuna.”

    “Well, Fortuna, I'm Chantelle. Pleased to meet you. Now, I believe you said we could go home?”

    “Yes.” Fortuna began to lead the way out of the now-quiescent flesh garden. “It's this way.”

    Clutching the nodule in her hands, Chantelle followed on.


    End of Part One

    Part Two
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2016
    RyzaSully, R.A.G., hillo315 and 32 others like this.
  3. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Intriguing. Alternate Dr. Mother and Contessa's first meeting?
     
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  4. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Yup. Basically, the events from Interlude 29, as told from Dr Mom's POV, with a slightly different ending :p
     
  5. Biigoh

    Biigoh Moderator

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    ......

    Unbroken Fortuna and Eden grade Doctor Mother?
     
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  6. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Mayyybe? :D
     
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  7. alethiophile

    alethiophile Shadowed Philosopher Administrator

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    ...

    Well, this will be interesting.

    Is this the same Doctor Mother from canon? If so, is Chantelle a canon name I've forgotten, or did you make it up?
     
  8. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Yes it is. She's never named, so I called her Chantelle.
     
  9. Threadmarks: Part Two: Preparations
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Conflict

    Part Two: Preparations


    A horrid smell assaulted Chantelle's nostrils as she dozed uneasily. Was it a monster, wandering near the narrow rocky cleft in which she had taken refuge? Could it see through her protective covering of uprooted bushes? She gasped as she woke all the way up, coming to a defensive crouch … and fell out of bed.

    “Ow.” Slowly, she climbed to her feet, rubbing her butt. It was disorienting to look around at her hotel bedroom, to know for a fact that she was here, in civilisation once more. In her dreams, she had still been slowly starving to death within a stone's throw of a monstrous being from the depths of some horrific nightmare. Awake, she knew better. The relief was enormous.

    Except that the smell was still very much present.

    “Fortuna,” she called, “what is that smell?” Pulling her bathrobe from where it hung on a hook, she belted it around herself as she wandered out into the kitchen area.

    There was something bubbling on the small stovetop; it was from here that the smell originated. The counter was covered with pots and pans and other containers which she was sure had not been supplied by the hotel; these held the remains of the red and white nodule which she had carried from the vast flesh garden.

    <><>​

    Earlier

    “What is your power, exactly?” asked Chantelle as they paused for a rest, halfway up the side of the impact crater. Fortuna had found a series of rocky outcrops that even Chantelle could negotiate without using her hands to climb with. However, while the girl seemed capable of climbing all day, Chantelle wasn't feeling at her best after three days of not eating. Not that I was all that fit to begin with.

    Fortuna turned to look at her. There was little to no emotion in her face or voice. “I see a need, and my power informs me of the path.”

    “But what if you get it wrong?”

    The kid – no, not a kid, she's anything but a kid. She stabbed that thing, right in the neck – seemed to think about her words. “I can't. If my path says I can, then I can.”

    Chantelle blinked. “Oh. Well then, I'm glad you came here. And I'm really glad that I followed you down here.”

    Again, that impassive gaze. “You wanted to help me. Thank you for that. I think we will work well together.” She started up the side of the crater once more. “We can go now.”

    Feeling more than a little as though she was caught up in events far beyond her control, Chantelle followed. One foot after another, stepping where Fortuna stepped. Breathe in, breathe out. Don't drop the damn lump of godling flesh. Her breath rasped in her throat. Sweat stung her eyes.

    It was almost a surprise when she reached the lip of the crater. Pausing to catch her breath, she looked around. One of the larger groups was just wandering away. Did she wait to let them leave? Huh. “Where to now?”

    “This way.”

    <><>​

    'This way' turned out to be a winding path through some of the narrow gullies that seamed the landscape. Chantelle knew one or two of them, having used them for shelter. At one point, Fortuna stopped and gestured for silence. They both froze; a moment later, there was a snuffling sound and a large creature – probably a monster – moved away from the gully.

    Once more, Chantelle felt herself wanting to throw up, but there was nothing in her stomach any more. In any case, there wasn't the time; they moved on again, but this time for only about twenty metres. She was puzzled when the girl stopped next to a rocky outcrop and reached into a crevice. What could possibly be in there?

    A moment later, her question was answered when Fortuna produced a battered handbag.

    “Christ, I wondered where I'd lost that!” At the last moment, she remembered to keep her voice down. “I blundered around in the dark a lot. I remember putting it down for a moment, but I could never find it again. Thank you so much.” She looked around. “Is the portal home around here somewhere?”

    “Not any more.” Fortuna pointed. “The portals have moved. The one you came through disappeared, and another opened. We have more walking to do.”

    <><>​

    They walked on, wending their way, as far as Chantelle could tell, more than halfway around the perimeter of the impact crater. She had long since ceased questioning Fortuna's choice of routes; if the girl decided that they had to go a certain way, they went that way. She chooses the Path. I follow.

    Eventually, they came to a portal that was half-concealed in a hollow. Chantelle was almost certain that she'd already checked this one out, that it didn't lead to anywhere she found familiar, but she wasn't about to second-guess Fortuna. The girl stepped through, and she followed.

    It was just as she recalled; a different landscape, but still no signs of civilisation. She'd climbed to the top of a nearby hill and stared in all directions for nearly an hour without seeing anything of note. Eventually, she'd returned back through the portal in order to search in a different direction. What does she know that I don't?

    She found out in short order; Fortuna led her downhill into a hollow overshadowed by a scrubby tree. And there, almost totally concealed between two boulders, was another portal.

    The revelation was intense. Chantelle wanted to slap her forehead, but she was carrying the nodule and her handbag both. “I was looking in the wrong place, the whole time.”

    “Yes.” Fortuna stepped through the portal and disappeared; Chantelle, clutching her treasures, followed her lead.

    <><>​

    And that one led back here. Chantelle looked around at the hotel room. I'm just glad I had it paid up for the week. Nobody questioned an absence of three days. And it's been another day since then. Chantelle had bathed, slept, eaten voraciously, bathed again, slept again … civilisation was heavenly.

    The toilet flushed, then there was the sound of running water. Fortuna emerged a moment later. “You're up,” she observed without surprise.

    “Well, yes.” Chantelle smiled ruefully. “I had a nightmare. Your smelly concoction brought it on. Is that …”

    “That is the essence, yes,” Fortuna told her. “That is what you must drink in order to gain the powers of the godling.”

    Chantelle grimaced. “Please tell me that it tastes better than it smells.”

    “No.” Fortuna shook her head. “Worse.”

    The smell was truly, astoundingly, baaad. “And there's no other way.”

    “There's no other way.”

    She trusted the girl, she really did. But the stench made her want to vomit. Drinking it would be … “Is there any way to make it not so vile?”

    “I'm sorry.” Fortuna almost sounded as though she meant it. “Altering it in any way will alter its potency.”

    “All right then, can I drink or eat something that will numb my tongue so that it's not so disgusting?”

    Fortuna shook her head. “It needs to be absorbed immediately. The process will be slowed down if you've eaten or drunk anything in the last few minutes.”

    “Of course. How silly of me.” Chantelle eyed the concoction balefully. “So I need to drink it right now?”

    “No. We need to let it cool. And we need to find an isolated location.”

    Chantelle frowned. “Letting it cool I can understand. Why an isolated location?”

    <><>​

    Because I'm going to get powers, duh. And I have to learn how not to use them. As in, not destroying the hotel in the process.

    Chantelle stood in the middle of a wide expanse of dirt. They were several hours out of town, at a location that Fortuna had deemed 'safe' to drink the essence. The four-wheel-drive that she had hired for the occasion was situated some distance away; Fortuna waited with it.

    She looked at the jar in her hand. It held the noxious liquid that Fortuna had quite literally cooked up in her hotel room kitchenette. The stuff looked off-brown with streaks of silver through it. I have to drink this shit.

    Looking up, she glanced all around, then over at Fortuna, a tiny figure in the distance. The girl waved her arm. Get on with it.

    Grimacing, Chantelle shook the jar vigorously. Make sure it's well mixed. Some parts might settle out, she said. She didn't want to know what 'parts' they were. Then she unscrewed the cap.

    Despite her best efforts not to inhale through her nose, the smell hit her immediately. Closing her eyes, she brought the jar to her lips. She nearly hesitated, but to stop now would be fatal; she'd spent the last hour psyching herself up for this moment. Abruptly, she tilted the jar and let it flow into her mouth.

    Fortuna had been right. It did taste worse than it smelled.

    Convulsively, she swallowed it, if only to get the stuff down her throat and out of her mouth as fast as possible. There was so much of it, a good solid coffee cup full. At the back of her mind, she was screaming get this stuff out of me! But she kept drinking. She had to.

    At long, long last, she reached the end of it. The final vile mouthful slithered down her throat; she threw the jar to the ground and spat, trying to get the taste from her mouth. Her stomach rebelled, trying to eject the horrific brew, but she repressed it. If I am to get powers, this is the only way.

    And then the pain hit. White-hot fire exploded in her stomach and spread to her limbs, up into her head. She could feel it branching out, searing its way through her nervous system, reaching every last part of her body. Falling to her knees, she screamed her agony to the sky.

    She never said it would hurt this much.

    I never asked.

    Falling on to her side, she convulsed in the dust. Spasms wracked her body. One moment, she was curled in the foetal position, while the next, her back was arched in an impossible bow that had her heels nearly touching the back of her head. Flayed by invisible knives, impaled by immaterial skewers and torn apart on a molecular level, she couldn't even scream any more. Even thought fled before the sheer blinding agony that engulfed her entire being.

    After an eternity of suffering, each level higher and more grotesque than the last, she found herself lying face-down. There was the taste of both blood and dirt in her mouth. Raising herself on to her elbows, she hacked and spat several times. When she explored with her tongue, she found where she had bitten her lip. There was still pain in her body, but it was the pain of overstretched muscles rather than the hellish torment of before.

    “Ow.” Gradually, she opened her eyes and pushed herself back into a sitting position. “Wow. Did it work?” I hope so. I'm never going through that again.

    Fortuna spoke from behind her. “It worked. Look.”

    Turning, she looked at where the girl pointed. The four-wheel drive lay on its side. A grove of trees had been stripped bare of their leaves. Even the dirt beneath her felt warmer than it should. “Was that … was that me?”

    “It was.” Fortuna smiled. “Congratulations. You have powers.”

    Chantelle stood, a little unsteadily. “I have powers?” At the word, at the very thought, she felt the awareness unfolding at the back of her mind. The capabilities. The options that were now open to her. She picked one of them at a whim, and a moment later, her feet left the ground.

    Too startled to be frightened, she soared skyward. The power exhilarated her, washing away all the pain and suffering that had led to this point. She could see forever, to the far blue horizon. Another power joined the first, and she could see further.

    As she flew, she examined the other powers that she now had access to. There were hundreds. And she could take on more than one of them at a time. A smile creased her lips.

    I can do this. I can really do this.

    <><>​

    Chantelle came in for a landing next to Fortuna; she stumbled a few steps, but didn't fall over.

    “You did that well,” Fortuna observed. “You are getting a grasp on your powers.”

    “Yes,” Chantelle agreed. For someone who had been flying for all of five minutes, she thought the landing had been very good indeed. “My god, the powers I have access to. It's amazing. When do I fight the Other?”

    “Not yet,” Fortuna advised her. “You're not strong enough.” She turned to walk back toward the four-wheel drive.

    “You have to be joking with me.” Chantelle walked alongside her. She picked out a power; raising her hand, she fired off a glowing green beam that disintegrated one of the trees in the grove. “That didn't strain me at all. I feel that I could level a city and not be out of breath.”

    “The Other could level a continent without much in the way of effort,” Fortuna stated flatly. “Its kind routinely blow up worlds for the energy before they move along. We need more preparation.”

    Not for a moment did Chantelle doubt her words; a chill ran down her spine at the thought of challenging a being with that level of power. “What sort of preparation?”

    Fortuna's voice was matter of fact. “Allies, for the most part. If we excise certain parts from the godling we have, they can be made over into mixtures for other people. They won't be nearly as powerful as you are; each one will get just one powerset. For these, we will use those powers for which you have duplicates, or otherwise have no use for.”

    Chantelle frowned. “You want to go back there? I know you're good, but those monsters -”

    “- will stand no chance against you,” the girl replied. “In fact, it's time we claimed that area. Bought the land. Could your powers create a building around it?”

    As the question was posed to Chantelle, powers flickered into her awareness. Building, creating, rearranging matter … “I … yes, I think I can. I could even put people back in their home worlds.” She nodded slowly. “Maybe I could even close the portals. Yes, I think that's possible.”

    “Good.” Fortuna's voice was definite. “We don't need anyone else doing what we're doing. That would introduce unwanted elements to the Path, and that would be a bad thing.”

    “I think I see what you mean.” They reached the four-wheel-drive. Chantelle acquired a power that let her lift the vehicle and place it gently on its wheels, then she pulled up the one that had suggested itself to her before; the dented bodywork repaired itself, the shattered windows reforming into a seamless whole. She even touched up the paintwork while she was at it.

    They opened the doors and got in. Fortuna expertly fastened her seatbelt, despite the fact that she'd never seen one before that day. In fact, mused Chantelle, she'd done it up perfectly when she'd gotten into the vehicle that morning as well. "Your power must be so useful."

    "It is." Fortuna turned to her. “You're going to need a name, you know.”

    “A name?” She wasn't sure what the girl was talking about. “I have a name.”

    A shake of the head. “Not your name. A name to share with the world. If someone asks who you are while you're using your powers, you do not tell them Chantelle Thierry. You need another name, one that encompasses what you are now.”

    Chantelle frowned. “I had not imagined that I would even be talking to people. I am here to destroy the Other, right?”

    Fortuna chuckled gently. “There are many people in the world. It will be hard to avoid encountering someone or other before we've finished our job, yes?”

    “I suppose you're right.” Chantelle tilted her head. “Perhaps Singer?”

    “What your name actually means?” Fortuna looked thoughtful. “I'm not sure. I was thinking of something more … dramatic. Perhaps Legion, because you have many powers.”

    “It also sounds as though I am many people.” Chantelle wrinkled her nose. “I am just me. Maybe Infinity?”

    “You don't have an infinity of powers.” Fortuna's tone was dry.

    Chantelle rolled her eyes. “Details, details. Do you have a better one?”

    Fortuna rubbed her chin. “Eternity. It's strong and dramatic.”

    “I like it. No, wait. Eternal.”

    “Eternal?” The girl raised an eyebrow. “That's … not bad, actually.”

    Chantelle raised her chin slightly, deepening her voice dramatically. “I am … Eternal.” Then she giggled for perhaps the first time since this entire thing had started. “I sound so pretentious.”

    “Trust me,” Fortuna said as Chantelle turned the key, “with the power that you wield, there is no way that you could actually sound pretentious.”

    “I suppose.” The engine hadn't started. Chantelle turned the key once more. There was just a dry clunking sound. “Uh, I think I may have damaged the car when I blew it over. And while my powers could probably fix it, I don't know how.”

    “Well, I could fix it, given a toolbox,” Fortuna replied. “But why should we bother? It's not as if we actually have to drive anywhere any more.”

    “Huh.” Chantelle shook her head. “You're right.” Taking hold of the steering wheel, she riffled through the powers at her beck and call. A moment later, she had the right one. “Hold on.”

    A green flash enveloped the vehicle, and they went.

    <><>​

    One Day Later

    First off, close the portals.

    Monsters still roamed the landscape below, as did a few groups of humans, although Chantelle thought there were less of those than there had been before. She ruthlessly quashed the vague feeling of guilt. Maybe I could've come back as soon as I had powers, but I had to figure out how to use them first.

    She concentrated, locating all the portals. Now that she had control over them, she simply turned them off. Opening one of her own, she stepped through to another version of the world, this one lacking the crater and the flesh garden. More portals existed here; she closed them off, as she had the original ones. Another portal, another world; carefully, she combed through the sheaf of parallels until she was sure that there were no more portals to be shut off.

    Now, deal with the monsters.

    This was the fun part. She had hidden, terrified, from these twisted abominations for three days straight. They had killed people as she watched from a distance. Now it's my turn.

    Ruthlessly, she hunted them down, swooping over the landscape, locating them via the powers that had been forced upon them. As she came upon them, she unleashed a destroying beam, disintegrating them where they stood. Again, guilt tried to creep over her. These were once human. It was the powers that sent them crazy, drove them to attack people. Perhaps I could withdraw the powers from them, make them sane once more?

    Pragmatically, she shook her head. Even if I could do it without killing them, they've hunted and killed their own kind. Either they enjoyed it, in which case they deserve death, or they would have to live with it for the rest of their lives, in which case they would beg for death. What I am doing is a mercy.

    The last of the monsters dealt with, she began to herd the surviving people together. I have to send them all home. They resisted, being as terrified of the figure swooping over their heads as they were of the monsters. Merely flying toward them achieved little; they screamed and scattered in all directions.

    Sighing, she closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. Humans. When she opened them again, she possessed a new power. Walls of force, glowing a dull orange, surrounded each contingent of humanity, moving inward, herding them toward the same area.

    They attacked the force fields with rocks and sticks, to no avail. Some of the more enterprising ones tried to climb over, until she roofed it in. She wasn't sure what they thought was going on, but they were certainly attempting to resist it. Maybe they think I'm some kind of alien invader, here to take them away to be dissected? It didn't matter. These people were a mere detail, but one which she had to deal with.

    At last, they were all in the same general area. Chantelle had never worked with cattle or any other sort of domestic animal before, but with Fortuna's advice she had worked out a way to draft off the people into areas corresponding to each Earth that they belonged to. The walls of force shifted, forming narrow corridors, down which each person had to walk single file. Some clung to others; more walls of force slid down, separating them. If they are from the same world, they will meet again.

    One by one, the people ventured – or were shoved – down the corridors. Her power could determine which world they were from, and so she opened a portal to the appropriate Earth as each person approached. Again, some people were reluctant to step through, but she didn't exactly give them a choice in the matter.

    After the last of them had been drafted into their appropriate reality, she did one last sweep of the surrounding worlds to ensure that nobody had been left behind. There were a few stragglers; she dealt with these quickly.

    All right, that's done. Now to enclose the flesh garden.

    Stepping back to that world, she began to reshape the very ground upon which the godling lay. It became stonelike and smooth. The walls of the crater became walls in truth, the entire chamber assuming a rectangular shape, vast enough to encompass the entire bulk of the godling. This was not the true size of it, she knew; there were extensions into dimensions which undoubtedly held far more of the godling than what lay here on this Earth. She didn't understand how this aspect worked, only that it did.

    With a grinding noise, the roof closed over the chamber. It was dark inside, until she created patches of glowing stone for light. The walls and ceiling were tens of feet thick; she added vents to allow air in and out, then a series of chambers that would allow Fortuna and herself to rest in comfort while visiting their captive godling.

    <><>​

    “Well, that's done,” she sighed as she stepped back through space into the hotel room. “I sent the people home, and the thing is now enclosed it its own private vault.”

    Fortuna looked up from where she had been watching TV. “Good,” she said. “Have you been looking more at your powers?”

    “Yes, and you were right. There is a very interesting power there.” Chantelle shucked off the hooded robe that she had been wearing, and sat down on the sofa. “It allows me to access … some kind of semi-autonomous beings. I have to set them to build bodies for themselves, but once created, they're self-maintaining. They're quite powerful. I'm thinking I might activate one for the fight against the Other.”

    Fortuna shook her head. “No.”

    “No?” Chantelle concentrated, and a chilled drink appeared in her hand. “What do you mean, no?”

    “Don't just activate one. Activate them all. It's the only way you'll even stand a chance.”

    Chantelle's eyes widened. “But … there's twenty of them. And they can devastate entire countries. If they slip from my control …”

    Fortuna looked at her seriously. “Build in commands that prevent them from attacking anyone that's weaker than themselves. Make it so that their only viable target is the Other. We cannot hope to win without them.”

    Slowly, Chantelle nodded. “You make a very good point. I'll activate them all now.”

    “One needs to be a shape-shifter of some sort,” Fortuna advised. “And another needs to be able to manipulate emotions. As well as the rest of what they can do. When it finds that its fellow godling has been neutralised, use of that godling's image will be key in keeping it off balance.”

    Chantelle smiled. “I like how you think.” Closing her eyes, she sent out the order for each of the twenty super-weapons to activate and begin building itself a body. “It will take some time. Months, certainly. Perhaps a year or more. I could go faster if I activated them one at a time.”

    “We don't want them one at a time,” Fortuna said. “We want them all at once. The Other will not strike at this world immediately; it will take it a few years to decide that it wants to destroy everything. We must strike before then.”

    “And in the meantime, you will be treating more people with your vile concoctions. Good luck getting volunteers.” But Chantelle's voice was teasing.

    “The other vials of essence won't be nearly as bad as the one you had.” Fortuna's voice was earnest.

    “And how is that fair?” Chantelle grinned even as she voiced the complaint.

    “Because they won't be getting anywhere near the same level of power as you have.” Fortuna spoke over her shoulder as she got up and went to the kitchenette. Chantelle heard the fridge open.

    “Oh, well, that's all right then.” Chantelle sipped from her chilled fruit concoction. It was delicious. “That stuff was horrific.”

    “I know. But it had to be done.” Fortuna returned from the kitchenette with a bottle of soda. She held it up in a toast. “To the future.”

    Chantelle clinked her glass against it. “May we see it through together.”


    End of Part Two

    Part Three
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2016
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  10. Biigoh

    Biigoh Moderator

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    Cauldron with unlimited PtV.... and Doctor Eidolon.
     
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  11. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Interesting. Quite a different Path here, I think.
     
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  12. alethiophile

    alethiophile Shadowed Philosopher Administrator

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    I am amused.

    Though, it seems the potential in this story, at least for these protagonists, is limited. It looks as if the trajectory is going to be kind of like 1. prepare for battle, using PtV; 2. fight Scion, using PtV; 3. win, using PtV; 4. ??? Not clear how much story that arc can really support. I suppose it could be a short story.
     
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  13. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Heh.

    Heh heh heh.

    Mwahahaha.

    We shall see.
     
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  14. Samantha_von_Enzenberg

    Samantha_von_Enzenberg Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    Wait. Doctor Eidolon can control the Endbringers?
     
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  15. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Why yes, yes she can.

    Why do you ask? :p
     
  16. Linkstore

    Linkstore Brightest star in the sky... Literally!

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    Wouldn't it have been obvious? but onto other questions. Will Cauldron exist in anywhere near its canon form? How will Ack approach a mini-Entity vs Entity battle? Will any of our favourite characters from canon appear? Will Ack actually give definitive answers to these questions before they come up in story?
     
  17. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Maybe.
     
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  18. Threadmarks: Part Three: Events Conspire
    Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Conflict


    Part Three: Events Conspire


    Three Weeks Later
    Sunday, May 18, 1980


    For all of her newfound power, returning to the godling's semi-corpse gave Chantelle the creeps. The thing itself, the mass of flesh with ten thousand hands and arms – not necessarily connected to each other – as well as eyes, feet, ears and other body parts, had not changed. It was still as freaky as fuck; this was not helped in the slightest by the fact that the glowing stone ceiling and walls ensured that shadows didn't look like they should.

    Did I trap any monsters inside the vault? Hovering over the grey mass, Chantelle picked out her ability to detect powers and brought it online. She was pretty sure that she hadn't. But 'pretty' sure isn't 'totally' sure. She wanted to be absolutely, one hundred percent certain that nothing was going to jump out on her and Fortuna while the latter was doing her impression of an insane gardner in an even more insane garden. “How long are you going to be?”

    Fortuna's voice floated up to her from below. “It will take me a little time to cut the appropriate parts from this mass. I will be here for at least two more hours.”

    Chantelle silently groaned. She had an immense amount of respect for Fortuna. The girl had literally saved her life and given her super-powers. Fortuna's own powers had also proven invaluable in acquiring the resources that they would need for the confrontation with the Other. But sometimes, she could be so unbelievably finicky. Chantelle loved the girl to death, but it still irritated the crap out of her.

    “I have the list that you made up, of powers that you don't want or need,” Fortuna went on. “I know where to cut. You don't have to wait around if you don't want to. I'll be fine. Just leave me a portal back to the base.”

    Chantelle did one final sweep, her ability picking out only Fortuna within the vast vault enclosing the godling. “All right then,” she called back. “I'll be watching TV or something.”

    Turning in midair, she flew at a leisurely pace down to the doorway leading into the chambers set aside for Fortuna's laboratory. Chantelle only had the vaguest idea how the girl converted bits of flesh-creature into a formula that conferred powers on to a person, but so long as it worked, she had no complaints. Every power that she gives to someone else is a power that I can't use any more, but it's not exactly like there's a limited supply. Even after only three weeks, Chantelle had found dozens of powers that she'd never use, if only because there were even better powers on offer, powers that did the same thing but more effectively or more efficiently.

    Calling up one of these powers, she caused a portal to form in midair, linking the godling-vault to what they had started calling their 'base', for want of a better word. Consisting of one entire floor of a mid-rise building in Manhattan, it had been acquired using a dummy corporation, a set of false identities and a small fraction of their money.

    This money had been amassed using Fortuna's powers in Monte Carlo, Caesar's Palace, Baden-Baden, and other places; the ease with which this had been accomplished was almost terrifying. If we weren't trying to save the world, we could easily break it. Financially, if not literally. And she wasn't too sure about the latter; with each new power she explored, she became more and more convinced that nothing short of the Other could actually seriously challenge her. Once the super-weapons finish building themselves, we'll see about that.

    Stepping through into the base, she fetched a soda from the kitchen, then wandered over to the picture windows. The view, she had to admit, was stunning. Early morning over Manhattan meant that the lights were beginning to go out as the shadows attenuated. Before all this started, she had been to Paris and several other large cities with tall buildings, but it seemed to her that Manhattan was made up of nothing but tall buildings. In the distance, she could even see the Twin Towers, standing proud above all the others, shining bright as they caught the first true rays of the dawn.

    With a thought, she sent the empty soda bottle from her hand to the trash can in the kitchen. The dull thump of it hitting the bottom of the can reached her ears as she strolled into the living room. Settling herself on to the sofa, she picked up the TV remote. A press of a button caused the wall panels to slide aside, revealing the 84-inch screen for the Advent VideoBeam TV display. Another button turned the floor-mounted projector on; she stretched and made herself more comfortable while the mechanism warmed up.

    It's six in the morning. What am I going to watch? She didn't want to just go to bed while Fortuna was still in the godling vault. A flight of the New York skyline was something that she'd done before, but only at night, when the chance of being seen was minimal. Maybe I should go out for real, start stopping criminals or something. It's not like they'd stand a chance.

    She seriously considered that for a few moments as she flipped from one channel to another. Mostly it was just test patterns and early-morning shows, though she did catch the last few minutes of a late-late movie, which she watched for want of something better to do. It finished and she was about to change the channel again when a news logo filled the screen.

    The headline was MIAMI UNREST; Chantelle sat up a little as the newscaster began to speak. His expression was serious and his tone sombre as he explained that the 'protests' had begun on the previous day, following the acquittal of several police officers from charges related to the death of an African-American man named Arthur McDuffie. The 'unrest', he stated, had gone on all night and was still continuing.

    Chantelle could read between the lines. Despite the soft-soaping and the downplaying of the situation – no doubt at the behest of the local authorities – this sounded like a full-fledged race riot. Especially given that, as the news report admitted, the National Guard had been called in to deal with it, and had so far failed to do so.

    Tossing the remote to one side, she stood up. Now this is something I can deal with. The hooded robe she had created with her power lay over one end of the sofa; putting it on, she tied the belt around her waist. Frowning, she paused. She didn't want to cover her face, but neither did she want her identity broadcast far and wide. One of those stupid little masks that they wear in the comic books just won't do.

    Taking a deep breath, she reached for a concept that she had briefly tried out before. It wasn't exactly a single power; instead, it used elements from several powers to create a unique effect. The field created by the power covered her completely, mapping to her body – clothing, skin, even hair – as if painted on, but didn't stop there. Activating it caused a portal effect to somewhere out in space, she presumed; looking at herself in the mirror just showed a starfield with distant galaxies. It was even three-dimensional; someone walking around her would see the starfield changing.

    But it wasn't just pretty, although she liked it for that too; the real trick was that anything hitting the field over a certain level of force went to where the other end of the portal was. How Chantelle could actually see or breathe with the field in place was beyond her, but that was powers; it worked, so she didn't bother too hard with the how or why.

    Visualising where Miami was in relation to New York was surprisingly easy; she concentrated and triggered her teleportation power. A green flash lit up the apartment and she was gone.

    <><>​

    “Why can't they just let it be?”

    Patrolman David Corcoran looked over at his partner as their black-and-white rolled down the street. “Excuse me?”

    Brad Tomlin gestured expressively, keeping one hand on the wheel. “Just let it be. The guys went to court, got found not guilty. Why are they getting all up in arms about it?”

    David shook his head. “You do know it's about one of their own getting killed, right? By half a dozen cops.”

    “Yeah, but they had their day in court. The judge found the guys not guilty. Case closed, move on.”

    “Hey, if it was a cop got beaten to death by six black guys, would you be happy with a not guilty verdict?”

    Brad looked disgusted. “You taking their side now?”

    “No, but we're supposed to be impartial in this. Would you accept a not guilty verdict?”

    A snort. “Fuck, no. There's no legal reason for black guys to be beating on a cop. Cops subduing a suspect, that's a whole different thing.”

    David shut up. It wasn't as simple as Brad was making it, but he didn't know how to express it. It wasn't like he thought the blacks were doing the right thing by rioting, but he was pretty sure this wasn't supposed to be the way things were done.

    A green flash far up in the dawn sky caught his attention. What the hell was that? Leaning forward, he peered upward through the windshield, trying to catch another glimpse of whatever it was.

    “Hey!” Brad broke into his thoughts.

    David brought his eyes down from the sky to see someone running into a side-street. He couldn't be sure, but he thought the guy was black. “What?”

    The patrol car accelerated as Brad tromped on the accelerator. “He had a knife. What's the bet he's been out robbing someplace?”

    “I barely got a look at him,” protested David. “You sure it was a knife?”

    “Sure as hell,” Brad said. “Call it in.”

    “You got it.” David grabbed the microphone and called in a code 38; 'Suspicious Person', hanging on as Brad took the turn into the side-street.

    The first indication that something was seriously wrong came as they finished the turn; ahead was a derelict car, turned sideways to block the street, with its wheels and one door missing. There were people standing around it; each of them held some sort of weapon, and they didn't look as though they were out for a pleasant morning stroll. “Oh, shit.” That was Brad.

    “Shit!” echoed David. “Back up. Back up now!”

    “No shit!” shouted Brad as he slammed on the brakes. “Backup! Call for backup!” The gears ground as he tried to shove the car into reverse.

    That was when the TV came in through the windshield.

    <><>​

    Hovering far above Miami, Chantelle reached for a power that would show her where to go. There was one that showed danger; she took it on. A network of lines sprang up all over the city, visible only to her inner eye. If I went down there, where would I be in the most danger?

    Nothing showed up. A moment later, she realised why, and dropped the starfield portal-shield. With that on, there's very little down there that can hurt me.

    Immediately, spots and specks of colour began to spring up all over the city. These designated places where it would be unsafe for her to venture in her current vulnerable state. Large blotches, however, showed up in one area, showing deeper and deeper shades. That's where I want to be.

    Singling out the closest splotch of 'danger', she swooped down, throwing out a light air-shield to cut the wind-rush without attenuating the power that she was using to sense potential danger.

    There. A police car in a side street, with what looked like a TV set embedded in the windshield. There were two people, a man and a woman, on a fire escape above the car; this explained how that had happened. Ahead of the car, a derelict vehicle set to trap it. Behind the car, a dumpster had been pushed into its path with the same aim in mind. The vehicle was already surrounded; as she watched, a window was smashed inward, then a door was wrenched open. There may have been shots, but she couldn't be sure.

    All right then. The protective field flowed over her in an instant. She discarded the danger-detection power, pulled up another one. On the fire escape, the couple looked up and saw her. The man raised a pistol. She gestured in their direction; a mass of crystals grew up over the fire escape, encasing both of them, trapping his arm.

    Dropping down toward the car, she switched out the crystal power for aerokinesis; a great wind blew up, blasting the attackers from either side of the car, from on top of it, tumbling them down the side-street until they fetched up against the derelict car. She kept the aerokinesis, using it to keep herself airborne as she swapped out her flight for another power; the asphalt grew up over their arms and legs, trapping them as they lay there.

    Chantelle landed beside the car. Within, one officer was still moving, checking on his partner. She saw blood, and pursed her lips. Losing the asphalt power, she switched it out for a wide-area regeneration ability. The aerokinesis made way for a more hands-on healing capability.

    “Are you hurt?” she called out.

    The officer, startled, turned around and stared at her. “What – what happened?” he demanded. “What the fuck's going on? Who are you?”

    “I am Eternal,” she said simply. Walking around the car, she approached the open door. The driver of the car had gotten a face-full of shattered windshield when the TV hit, and then he had been brutally assaulted when the door was opened. He was covered in blood, and she was sure she could see at least one stab wound.

    “Can you help him?” The police officer leaned across and looked up at her. “Get him to the hospital?”

    “He won't need a hospital,” she corrected him. Placing her hands lightly on the wounded man's chest, she exerted the healing power. It required conscious direction and she only had the vaguest idea of the wounds that she couldn't see, but it worked well enough; contusions smoothed out, blood vessels closed, torn flesh healed over. He would have some scarring, but that was better than nothing. The process was assisted and accelerated by the regeneration field that she was currently emanating; this also helped to heal the other officer of any injuries that he might be suffering.

    A cracking, crunching sound from overhead warned her that the fire escape was about to give way. Whoops, didn't consider the weight of the crystal. She had just enough time to swap out the healing for telekinesis before the fire escape came free altogether. The invisible force caught it as it began to swing in toward the wall, swivelling on the part that was still connecting it to the building.

    Chantelle exerted a little more force, pulling the fire escape away from the wall and placing it on the ground. The couple, still trapped in the crystal like flies in amber, stared at her in horror and awe.

    With a gesture, she moved the dumpster aside as well, then looked at the police officers. The one she had healed looked to be coming round, if still a bit groggy. She looked at the other officer. “You. What's your name?”

    “Uh, Corcoran. David Corcoran.” His eyes were wide. “How did you do that?”

    “You wouldn't believe me if I told you,” she replied, smiling at the look on his face. “Now, we'll need to take all these to the nearest station. I don't know the way.”

    “Uh, how are you going to do that?” asked Corcoran.

    By way of answer, she swapped her regeneration back to the power that let her treat asphalt like silly putty. A solid band of it wrapped around each of the perpetrators, but they were free of the street, at least. Her telekinesis let her pile them all together, along with the two still trapped on the fire escape, and she bound them into one mass using excess asphalt. Then she swapped out the asphalt manipulation for levitation and hefted the lot into the air, herself included.

    The officer who had been hurt was now out of the car, staring at the ton of material, living and otherwise, that was floating in the air as if it had been given a special dispensation to ignore the law of gravity. Which, in a way, it had. Corcoran was explaining matters to him in a low tone; this didn't take long, given that Corcoran knew essentially nothing about what was really going on.

    When Corcoran was done, the other officer turned to Chantelle. “Uh, I'm Tomlin. Brad Tomlin. You're … Eternal?”

    She nodded, once. “I am.”

    “And you want us to show you where the precinct house is?”

    “I do, yes. Unless you want me to just release these people?”

    He grinned. “Hah, no. But it might be hard to drive with this fu … with this TV in the windshield. Don't suppose you could fix it?”

    “Easily.” She swapped out the telekinesis for a more specific version, one that moved silicate materials only. The TV pulled itself out of the windshield and fell to the ground; a moment later, the windshield popped back into shape, the hole closing and the glass fragments melding together to form a seamless whole. Even the pieces that had come free leaped back into place. The whole process took less than thirty seconds.

    “Oh, man,” David breathed, looking at the pristine windshield. “You could send every windshield repair place broke in weeks.”

    Brad grinned. “Days, more like.” He started the engine and looked over his shoulder so that he could reverse out of the side street. “I'll drive, you follow?”

    “I have a better idea,” she said. Moving the perpetrators over toward the police car, she extended the levitation field toward the car, lifting it six inches off the ground. “I'll drive, you give directions.”

    <><>​

    Miami TV Enterprises wasn't exactly a multi-million dollar concern. Started by a couple of would-be television moguls, the company possessed exactly two vans, three television cameras, and a dilapidated building sporting a broadcast tower on the roof. Stumbling along from month to month on a shoestring budget, the fact that they managed to keep the cameras rolling and the lights on could be attributed more to a string of minor miracles than good management on their part.

    A significant part of their revenue stream came from getting good footage of events and incidents around Miami, which they would then sell on to the big names. This meant that any time anything dramatic threatened to happen, such as hurricanes, sports events or riots, the MTVE vans would be out and about, a camera crew in each one, ready to capture on film anything that looked vaguely like news.

    Today was just such a day. Both vans had been sent out late the previous evening, but Van One had suffered a double puncture from broken glass on the road. One tyre changed, they had set out to limp back to base on one flat tyre, leaving Van Two to roam the city alone.

    Van Two held three men; Joseph Monaghan, Larry Constanzo and Paul 'Buck' Rogers.

    Joe was the sound tech and driver in one; soft-spoken and burly, he was also black. This last quality, more than anything else, had squeaked them past more than one potentially nasty incident over the last eight hours.

    Larry was the cameraman. Florid, overweight and balding, he was a genius when it came to framing shots and capturing dramatic atmosphere. Unfortunately, unless he was carefully supervised, he was also likely to end up viewing the world more through the bottom of a whiskey bottle than through the lens of the van's beat-up Arriflex camera.

    Paul was the reporter in the crew. No sci-fi fan, he nevertheless resembled his namesake somewhat in looks if not in height; he was only five feet tall. A master of the incisive question and the snappy comeback, he tended to announce the news from the studio. But tonight was all hands on deck, so he was out with the crew in Van Two.

    At this moment in time, they were cruising down a back street in a neighbourhood that had seen some heavy action the night before, if the rubble that Joe was dodging was any indication. The sky was beginning to lighten, but they weren't interested in the sunrise. As they rolled down the street, Paul had the passenger side window open and was leaning out, listening for any sounds of shooting or other disturbances.

    “Uh, Paul, we're gonna need to get some fuel soon,” Joe pointed out. “That gas needle, she's showin' mighty close to empty.”

    “Sure, okay,” Paul decided. “But let's swing past that tyre place again first. Larry should be able to get some good shots of the smoke against the sunrise.”

    “Can we get a drink too, Buck?” asked Larry from the back of the van. “Awful thirsty here.”

    “I'll think about it.” Paul leaned out the window for one last scan of the surroundings. A movement caught his eye and he turned to look back down the street behind the van. “Holy shit! What the good goddam was that?”

    “What was what?” asked Joe. “You see something?”

    “Turn the damn van around,” Paul ordered him. “Larry, get the camera ready. Open the sunroof. Go go go!”

    “What?” asked Larry. “What'd you see?” He had to grab for a handhold as Joe pulled the van into a tyre-squealing turn. “Hey, watch it! Working back here!”

    “Yeah, what'd you see?” Joe straightened the van out again. Without needing to be told, he pushed his foot to the floorboards. The aged engine sputtered, then picked up again with a roar.

    Paul hung on as Joe swerved around the pieces of rubble that he had carefully picked his way around before. Curses floated forward from the back of the van; Paul ignored them. Larry would be ready. “I saw … I saw …”

    “What?” That was Joe.

    “Fuck it, I don't know what I saw.”

    “Well, what did you think you saw?” Joe slowed down for the corner. “Left or right?”

    “Turn right. What I think I saw? A UFO shaped like a cop car, abducting a bunch of people. Floating by about five storeys up. That's what I think I saw.”

    That got him an incredulous stare from even the normally unflappable Joe. “A flying cop car. Abducting people. You sure you saw right?”

    “No, I'm not. But I'm sure of one thing. Whatever it was, has gotta be newsworthy, right?”

    “Uh, Buck, you ain't been drinkin', have you?” That was Larry.

    “Not a drop.”

    There was a meditative silence, broken only by the roar of the engine as Joe pushed it to its max. “Maybe you should start.”

    As Paul leaned out the window, scanning the skyline, he couldn't help but wonder if Larry was right.

    <><>​

    Dave Corcoran had done a few odd things in his life, but this one topped them all. For a start, the patrol car was flying, or floating, or whatever, at the behest of a talking piece of night sky shaped like a cloaked person. So, too, were the perpetrators, trapped in their bonds of asphalt and crystal. He couldn't even tell if Eternal was supposed to be a man or a woman; there was no texture or detail to go off, except the outline. There was depth, however; when he looked at Eternal, he was sure that he was actually looking at stars millions of miles away.

    I don't even know how that's supposed to work.

    Nor was Eternal's voice much of a clue; there was tone there, but it was echoing and somehow distant, as if transmitted from far away. All he knew was that the mysterious being had saved Brad's life for sure, and his as well.

    With a grin, Brad motioned to the radio. “Call this in. I wanna hear what they say.”

    David shook his head. “You have to be kidding. There is no way they're gonna take this seriously.”

    Brad's grin widened. “Come on. You know you want to.”

    He was right. David did want to. Picking up the microphone, he cleared his throat. “Uh, you're not gonna believe this, but …”

    <><>​

    Paul heard the cop's voice over the police scanner. “Larry! Recorder!” he yelled. Leaning forward, he turned the volume up as high as it would go. Intently, he listened to the conversation between the officer and police dispatch. They didn't seem to be taking the officer too seriously, but Paul took in every detail, especially where the officer said they were taking the perpetrators.

    “Precinct house!” he shouted to Joe over the roar of the engine. “Get us there!”

    “Buck!” called Larry from the back of the van. “Did you want me to get the camera ready or not?”

    “Yeah!” Paul replied. “And get the sunroof open. If Joe can get under them, I want all the footage you can get, got me?”

    “Gotcha,” Larry said. Paul heard the sunroof slide open.

    The van swerved to avoid a car that was stopped in the middle of the street, angled across two of the four lanes. Paul didn't want to think about what might have happened to the driver, especially if he was white. Clutching a notepad, he began to scribble down what he recalled of the radio conversation. Larry may have gotten a recorder operating in time, and it may have captured the exchange between Officer Corcoran and his dispatcher, but there was no time to check. Of course, because it was police radio traffic, they couldn't actually use it on air without official permission, but with any sort of luck, he'd be able to use it to ferret out other information.

    The van took a corner on what felt like two wheels; Paul grabbed for a handhold, then swore as he dropped his pen. It rolled about in the footwell, but his seatbelt prevented him from retrieving it. And there was no way he was undoing the belt at this point in time. So he just hung on and searched the sky for the anomalous floating object.

    <><>​

    Dave had been right. They didn't believe it. Right up until the point that the car – with Brad hamming it up at the steering wheel – settled into a parking spot at the front of the precinct with barely a jar. When they first came into sight of the building, there had been half a dozen officers out at the front. By the time Eternal put them down, the crowd was a dozen strong and growing fast.

    As the patrol car settled on to its springs, David unfastened his seat belt – old habits died hard – and scrambled out of the vehicle. Eternal lowered the dozen imprisoned perpetrators into the next parking spot, to the jaw-dropping astonishment of basically all their colleagues.

    “Would you like me to free them of their restraints so that you can arrest them?” That was Eternal, of course.

    “Uh, yeah, sure,” David agreed. “That would be good. Uh, one at a time, if you can?”

    “I can.” Eternal proceeded to be good as his (her?) word, the asphalt binding each criminal falling free, one after the other, giving Dave and Brad the chance to cuff them and hand them over to their somewhat-stunned fellow officers before the next one was freed. Even the chunk of crystal binding the two to the fire escape melted away like morning fog once Eternal decided that it had served its purpose.

    “So, uh, what happens now?” asked Brad once the last one had been led inside. “Do you want to come meet the Captain? Or do you -”

    The sound of a roaring engine and screeching tyres became suddenly audible; everyone reacted, turning toward the noise. Dave drew his service weapon, as did three or four others. A van was barrelling down the street, swerving toward them. Eternal seemed to put up one hand – it was hard to see what the enigmatic being was doing, based purely on outline – and a faint green shimmering haze appeared between the officers and the oncoming vehicle.

    And then the van slowed, jolting to a halt. The engine was left running as both front doors burst open. A big black guy and a short white guy jumped out; Dave relaxed just a little as he registered that neither man appeared to be armed. They were joined by a fat white guy in a Hawaiian shirt, holding something that was worse than a gun. It was a television camera.

    “Oh, shit,” groaned Brad. “It's the media.”


    End of Part Three
     
  19. Asheram

    Asheram Know what you're doing yet?

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    Hehehe. Now this is Fun.
     
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  20. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Definitely fun. First appearance of a superhero! On TV!
     
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  21. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Let's just say, her encore will be earth-shaking.
     
  22. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    ... oh shit. Behemoth.
     
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  23. pepperjack

    pepperjack A Variety of Cheese

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    No, Behomoth is hers. And still being grown.

    The name you want is Scion.
     
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  24. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    On the Richter Scale, I'm thinking it'll rate as a "YES!"
     
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  25. Linkstore

    Linkstore Brightest star in the sky... Literally!

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    On the Richter scale, I would rate it as 10 AIs/10.
     
  26. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Nope
    Nope.
    Actually, 5.1.
     
  27. edale

    edale Versed in the lewd.

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    Ah, so a Tuesday morning in Cali then?:D
     
  28. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Nope. :p
     
  29. Linkstore

    Linkstore Brightest star in the sky... Literally!

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    Maybe it's an actual earthquake!
     
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  30. pepperjack

    pepperjack A Variety of Cheese

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    Can't fault that logic.

    ...
     
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