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The Collector (Worm/Warhammer 40K Crossover)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Rapidfyrez, Mar 11, 2020.

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  1. Threadmarks: Prologue
    Rapidfyrez

    Rapidfyrez Know what you're doing yet?

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    Prologue
    Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

    “This is Armsmaster to Dispatch, I am en-route to location, ETA is five minutes.”

    “Roger Armsmaster, Protectorate Capes are making their way to the rendezvous, they’ll meet you there.”

    The armored hero closed communications and gunned the throttle on his motorcycle, the engine roaring to life as he shifted from civilian speed to emergency speed. The wind buffeted his exposed lower face, and he couldn’t help but think how the day had started remarkably peaceful; those were actually the norm now in Brockton Bay, as odd as it was to think about. Parahuman crime was at an all time low, the local economy was flourishing, and the city was slowly growing bigger than ever.

    Being known as the city that killed Leviathan had been an incredible boost to reputation and support, though it honestly was far too late. Many of the issues that support could have solved, had already been dealt with some time ago. Truthfully, Armsmaster had been planning on transferring to another city now that Brockton Bay had stabilized, but of course, nothing could be that simple.

    At approximately noon, reports had begun streaming in of a swarm of insects infesting the graveyard of ships. These had rapidly changed into calls about ships simply melting into grey goo, before panicked calls came in from across the city about the rapidly growing swarm that now blanketed the bay, and the constant tremors that shook the ground.

    A check with Dragon had confirmed that no, Behemoth had made no movements as of late, which ruled him out. Armsmaster had doubted it, but it was always better to err on the side of caution. Realistically, given the description of the swarm, he knew exactly who was behind it. The only question was what trouble she was up to now.

    Kicking his siren on, cars parted before his bike, and Armsmaster hit twice the standard highway speeds, which was as fast as he dared go through downtown. He quickly left the newly refurbished skyscrapers in his wake and sped by the Boardwalk, giving him a clear view of the bay.

    The Swarm had moved from the grounded ships out over the ocean. A flick of his eyes caused the HUD on his helmet to zoom in and confirm that many of the smaller abandoned ships were being devoured at a rabid pace. He had seen them in action before, when they had stripped Lung of his armored scales and reduced Hookwolf to a blubbering shell of a man. Self replicating small scale machines, they were dubbed scarabs by the PRT due to their beetle like appearance. They weren’t particularly durable, but they replicated fast and reduce a car to scrap metal in minutes, before devouring the scraps.

    Never had he ever seen them operate on such a scale, or so quickly. Even the super tanker, the ship that blocked nearly all of the bay entrance and had almost single handedly killed the shipping industry in Brockton bay, was visibly beginning to wilt. At the current rate of consumption, he estimated the entire ship graveyard would be cleared in ten minutes, twenty at the maximum.

    The question now, was if their creator would stop them at the graveyard, or finally let them loose on the city. Armsmaster didn’t trust her or her supposed motives. Some people might say it was a deep seated jealousy in the superiority of her technology and how it had allowed her to do in half a year what he hadn’t been able to do in almost a decade. Those people needed to learn to shut their fucking faces.

    Armsmaster shook the thought off and finally passed through the Docks to the edge of the ship graveyard. He had to skid to a stop, as a figure was standing at its edge, her long cape flowing in a nonexistent breeze. Stopping his bike, Armsmaster set it to standby and let the automated kickstand activate. With his engine rumbling to a stop, he could hear the almost deafening buzz of thousands if not millions of scarabs at work.

    He ignored it and strode towards the figure, the woman, standing before him. “Phaerakh, what are you doing!?” he had to yell to hear himself over the swarm.

    The woman turned to face him, emerald eyes flashing. Calling Phaerakh a woman was admittedly a broad assumption. Though she responded to female pronouns, the only sign of femininity was the slight curve to her legs, her wider hips, and a feminine facial structure. Her body was a dull gunmetal grey, shaped skeletal. Only her glowing eyes moved within the deep pits of her eye sockets, focusing on him in an instant.

    Her body was decorated in dress that took influences from the Egyptians, the Mayans and the Babylonians. A large cylindrical headdress of green, gold, and grey rose from her skull, a flowing shroud falling from it in an imitation of silvery golden hair. A simple golden Usekh covered her neck and chest, with larger silver shoulder pads that rose from either side of it, trimmed with more gold. A long cape crafted of a thousand tiny metal scales fell from her shoulders to her thighs. A long strip of cloth hung from the front of her waist, with a wider set falling from her back, both halves were connected by golden clasps across her waist. In a word, she could best be described as ‘ostentatious’. Or gaudy, Armsmaster preferred that term.

    Phaerakh’s eyes flashed with what he now recognized as amusement, and she thumped the glaive she held in her right hand against the stone. The emblem emblazoned where blade met half was of a single circle, with a line jutting from either end and stubbier ones from the sides. The top curved up in a U shape, the bottom remained flat with a single line cutting through it halfway down. Whatever the symbol meant, she had never elaborated and refused to do so.

    “Armsmaster!” she greeted, loudly and happily. She spread an arm wide, “I’m so glad you could make it! You have arrived in time for the grand reveal!”

    It was hard not to scowl behind his visor, the woman was… difficult for him to deal with. That she was an unashamed rogue did not help matters. The majority of her actions might have helped the city, but he knew all too well how close she had skated to disaster. She was as dangerous as she was powerful, which was a very high bar indeed.

    “What is the game this time, Phaerakh? What are you trying to pull?” he demanded.

    She paused, and thoughtfully stroked her chin, “I was under the impression that clearing the bay could only be seen as a universally good thing. Was I… mistaken, Armsmaster? Or did I stumble across another of your bureaucratic landmines?”

    He ignored the jab and gestured at the swarm over head, “Everyone knows what your swarms can do Phaerakh. Seeing them let loose could incite a panic.”

    At that, she mimed putting a hand to where her ear would be and listened intently. “Huh, would you listen to that? The city sounds quiet peaceful, if you ignore my scarabs at work.”

    Armsmaster ground his teeth together and stabbed a finger at her, “Enough! We know about the tremors, what are you pulling!?”

    She waggled a finger at him, “Ah ah ah! No spoilers until the rest of the Protectorate arrives. I want this to be as dramatically appropriate as possible, after all.”

    Before he could start shouting again, she let out a small chuckle, covering the line that represented her with a free hand, “Ah! There’s the cavalry, right on schedule!”

    A dozen armored vans came to a rolling stop in a half circle around the metal woman, doors flinging open before they had halted and troopers pouring out to surround her. The entire might of the Protectorate joined them: Miss Militia, Dauntless, Assault and Battery, Velocity and Triumph. Even the Wards had been brought to the frontlines, clearly visible on buildings overlooking their standoff: Vista, Kid Win, Aegis, Clockblocker and Gallant all stood at the ready, though they knew that of them only Aegis and Kid Win could be truly effective against Phaerakh.

    Miss Militia walked up to Armsmaster, eyes reflecting caution, “Situation?”

    “Its Phaerakh.” he replied bitterly.

    Said woman was scanning the crowd, clearly amused by the sheer size of the response she had warranted. After a moments silence, she tapped her staff against the ground three times. With each tap, a hollow ‘boom’ shook the streets and the air. On the third, the swarm halted mid air like a thousand silver stars, and silence reigned.

    Content, Phaerakh scratched her chin and let out another chuckle, “I am so very grateful that you were all so eager to show up for the grand unveiling! Truly, it is an honor to see the defenders of this city so interested in its history!”

    When no one responded, and in fact the troopers visibly grew tenser, Phaerakh shook her head and closed her ‘eyes’. “Ah, but I see you have no patience for words. Very well, then allow my actions to speak for me!”

    The sigil along her glaive blazed with brilliant light as she raised it over head with two hands and brought it down to the ground in an overhead swing that shook the earth to its foundation. Armsmaster’s armor steadied himself, and he caught Miss Militia as she stumbled. The formation scattered, and the swarm began to move again.

    In a wave of shimmering silver and flashing emerald, they crashed into the ground behind her. Clouds of dirt fountained into the air as the scarabs quickly and voraciously devoured the land behind her; and as the seconds ticked by, the tremors returned, far more violent and consistent than they had been before.

    The ground fractured and split the PRT and Protectorate forces down the middle, forcing them to either side as a chasm grew along the street. Old buildings, long abandoned by their owners collapsed under their own weight and decay. The street buckled and bent, reduced to blackened ruble as… something began to rise from the ground.

    Necrotic energy erupted into the sky, shadowing Phaerakh with its glow. Her cape whipped around her excitedly, but she remained unmoving despite the miniature cataclysm that had overtaken the graveyard. Tendrils broke off from the main swarm, devouring debris as it was casually flung aside, and then quickly returning to the main body.

    With each second, the old graveyard was gone revealing something new and utterly alien.

    Smooth geometric shapes rose from the earth, all connected to a structure that quickly revealed its size as large if not larger than any skyscraper in the city. A pyramid of empty blackness, capped with an emerald stone, rose ever higher into the air, crackling with necrotic energy. The swarm poured over its sides, rapidly clearing the dust and sealing any cracks that may have formed in its violent eruption.

    New blackstone paths connected to a colossal entryway as large as a three story building and flanked by obelisks that shadowed braziers of burning green fire. Massive stone doors groaned in protest as they were pushed open, revealing an interior bathed in faint green light.

    And like that, the rumbling stopped.

    At some point in all the commotion, Armsmaster had been knocked off his feet despite his armors best attempts at compensation. He had to push himself from the ground and gaze up at this massive construct, unable to completely suppress the awe he felt. It truly dwarfed any building in the city, perhaps any building along the east coast. The swarm that had once seemed so large and all consuming was dwarfed by its sheer size, flickering between obelisks and pillars that arose from around the building. All of them were made of that same blackstone that crackled with lines of green energy.

    The remaining PRT and Protectorate forces slowly got back to their feet, to see Phaerakh looking at them with clear amusement. She stepped to the side and gestured into the building. “If you would follow me please. You have my word that no harm shall come to you or your city whilst you are within my new home.”

    That was...tempting. On the handful of occasions that she had given her word, Phaerakh had never broken it. Her word was her bond, and if it was given out, she would do her best to fulfill her promise to the letter.

    Still…

    “Remain out here.” Armsmaster ordered the rest of the assembled forces. “Miss Militia and I will see what it is Phaerakh wishes to show us. If we don’t call in the all clear within fifteen minutes, assume the worst.”

    Trying to be subtle was pointless; Armsmaster had learned long ago that no encryption save maybe Dragon’s could protect his transmissions from Phaerakh. If she wanted to know what he said to the others, she would know whether he consented or not.

    Miss Militia stepped up beside him and the two of them walked up to Phaerakh. The iron maiden bowed her head and her eyes flashed again with amusement. She gestured for them to enter first. Armsmaster exchanged a look with Miss Militia, and then took the first step into the pyramid.

    When nothing happened, he took another step, and another. The only sound aside from the hum of the swarm, was the sound of his heavy footsteps and the crackle of energy. He turned back to Miss Militia and nodded. The two of them entered Phaerakh’s pyramid together, with her following behind them both.

    Surprisingly, the doors did not ominously slam shut behind them, but instead remained open even as they descended within its depths. The tunnel was not simply a straight line. On several occasions it split into multiple paths that Phaerakh guided them down. Though Armsmaster’s systems kept track of their route, it didn’t take long for it to become very complicated and very long. A quick escape was not in the cards, if it ever had been to begin with.

    After several minutes of silent walking, Miss Militia spoke up. “How long have you been working on this? And what is its purpose?”

    Phaerakh tapped her chin. “Six months. Most of my swarm has been dedicated to building this structure beneath the city. As for its purpose, well, it’s quite simple Miss Militia. What you are standing in is no less than the beginning of what may well be my life’s work. A monument to honor my mentor, the one who blessed me with the knowledge I possess today.”

    As she spoke, Phaerakh’s voice grew more excited and her pace sped up until she passed them both. “Though he was taken from me, I have not forgotten what he did for me, and so I have sought to honor him in the only way he would appreciate. And it is with that, Armsmaster and Miss Militia, that I welcome you to the beginning of my carefully curated collection!”

    With that, the walls suddenly… vanished. One moment they were there, the next they simply… disappeared. Armsmaster had to wonder if the long walk was necessary, or if Phaerakh had simply been building up to the most appropriate moment for, as she said, ‘a dramatic reveal’.

    Unfortunately, it worked.

    Armsmaster froze as he and Miss Militia suddenly found themselves in a truly massive… well, museum was the only way to describe it. Expertly arranged exhibits were carved into the wall in layers upon layers. Many of them were empty, but he could see a dozen or more already filled with familiar faces.

    Kaiser, leader of the Empire Eighty Eight in full armor giving a speech to an assembled band of neo-nazi’s, Oni-Lee and one of his clones doing battle against Kaiser’s twin bodyguards, and Bakuda standing over a miniature city in flaming ruin, bombs in hand. But despite all of that, what caught Armsmasters attention, and truly terrified him, was the center piece of this ‘museum’. Three plinths dominated the center of the room, two of them empty.

    But, the one closest to them, forever frozen in time, was the form of the endbringer Leviathan. And though its body could not move, all four of its eyes were clearly and plainly focused on them, alive and furious.

    A/N: Greetings and hello! You probably don't know me, which is fine as I'm new here. I'm migrating from SV, as I don't agree with their mods. A friend recommended this site to me instead, so here I am! I'll be moving all my (Active) stories to QQ now, and update them on a M/F basis. If you want the entire story now, I'll post links to where they are in their current forms down below.

    Hope you all enjoy this story and that it fits here, and have a wonderful day!

     
  2. krahe

    krahe I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Someone is a bit upset
     
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  3. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

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    It actually doesn't have emotions. Armsmaster is either projecting, or Eidolon is directing (subconsciously).
     
  4. krahe

    krahe I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Or Levi was embarrassed so hard it selflearned to emote
     
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  5. Threadmarks: Traveling 1.1
    Rapidfyrez

    Rapidfyrez Know what you're doing yet?

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    Traveling 1.1

    ‘We must not let the relics of antiquity be broken and crushed by the savagery of unenlightened creatures, for only by understanding these treasures may we conquer the future. Only we, who have broken free from the shackles of mortality and bound the infinite majesty of the cosmos to our will, can be trusted with this task. That is why we are here, on this wretched pit of a planet. Eliminate these mortals as you see fit, but do try to keep the collateral damage to a minimum.’
    • Trazyn the Infinite
    Date: Unknown. Location: Unknown

    A sea of metal, a world of unblinking emerald eyes. All stood before her, bowed in supplication to her authority. Her hands of living metal tightened, one gouging into a throne of empty blackstone, the other around her scepter. Ancient, powerful, it was her legacy made manifest, her wrath and her mercy. Those who were her enemies would tremble before it, those her allies would bow in respect before it.

    Before her.

    “Mistress.” said a voice to her right.

    Her eyes flicked towards its source, another construct of steel and iron, bowed in service just as her armies were. She waved a dismissive hand, bidding that the servant speak.

    “Your armies stand ready. At your word, they shall march upon the world. By your word, they shall scourge this land of all life, burn these wretched and hateful creatures till nought but atoms remain. Oceans will boil, the earth shall scream, and all will know your wrath.”

    She remained silent, not even deigning to look at the servant. He spoke again.

    “Perhaps then you do not desire extermination? Conquest then; bring order to the orderless, unite the warring peoples of this planet. Rule with ironclad tyranny, for your word is law. Any who would defy your authority will be dealt with like the animals they are. Would this please you, mistress?”

    A sigh, a breath she did not need. In one fluid motion, she arose from her throne and stamped her scepter against the smooth floor. “Do not presume to know what I want or desire, creature. My actions and will are mine alone, and you shame yourself with these petty attempts at manipulation.”

    She gave no time for it to mutter out apologies and further pledges of fealty. A sweep of her arm, and as one the sea of metal arose. Uncountable, undefinable, thousands upon thousands of arms clapped to iron chests in gestures of fealty. Were she still capable, she would smile.

    “Today! On this day, we will not purge this world. We will not conquer this world. No, today we march in preservation of all that walks upon this world. This world is
    mine, and by my will I shall see it flourish as it is! Go my armies, march forward and let neither friend nor foe stop you!”

    And so it was, that iron and steel marched forward, as time marches forward. The world would know their power and the futility of conflict against them. After all, they were no enemy to fight; no, you could not fight the inevitable.

    ***

    Monday, January 10th, 2011. Brockton Bay

    My eyes snapped open, and I bolted straight up from the concrete and nearly slammed my head into the face of the concerned man standing over me. He yelled and stumbled back, a look of surprise and concern on his face.

    “Oh my god, are you okay?”

    I was breathing hard, my heart hammering against my ribcage, and my entire skull felt like it was on fire. Aside from that though, I felt fine. I slumped forward and ran my hands over my face. “Oh my god, what happened?” I mumbled.

    “No idea,” the man said. “I saw you rushing down the sidewalk and then you collapsed when a car went by. I think it might’ve kicked up a rock or something and smacked you in the head? No idea.”

    The man sounded nice, and I looked up at him through my hands. Plain, middle aged man, a little on the dumpy side with tired eyes. He didn’t look like one of the local gangers, but that wasn’t a guarantee for anything in this town, not anymore.

    “How long was I out?” I asked cautiously.

    The man shrugged, “Only a minute or two, you were breathing the whole time. Do you need me to call an ambulance?”

    I shook my head and slowly got to my feet while gathering up my school supplies. He was nice enough to help me gather them up and handed them to me. I smiled my thanks and swung my backpack over my shoulder. Now that I was settled, I could remember what I had been doing before… whatever the hell that weird dream was. I had slept past my alarm and missed my bus, forcing me to take another route to school that dropped me off a block from Winslow. I had been running for it, when a car passed me and… that weird dream had started.

    That was strange, I had no memory of actual passing out. Of course, I’d never been knocked out before, so I didn’t exactly have a lot of experience with it, but I figured there’d be a fuzzy memory left over or something. Chalk it up to another lie from Hollywood, go figure.

    “Are you sure you’re okay, miss?”

    I shook my head, “TI’m fine I think. Do you have the time?” I asked.

    The man glanced at his phone, “Sure, it's… about 7:27.”

    I cursed, “I’m going to be late! Thanks for the help mister, but I need to go!”

    He didn’t even have time to call after me, I was already running down the street. The pounding of my feet on the concrete did no favors for the dull ache in my skull, and I had to slow down less than a minute later. I made a mental note to visit the nurse at school when I got there; maybe I could get an excused absence for a medical emergency. Wouldn’t that be something?

    Winslow High came into view as I debated possible excuses I could add to my medical absence, and its appearance did nothing to ease my headache. It was an ugly three story building that somehow managed to look squat in spite of this. Graffiti covered the edges of its concrete edifice, the lawn was an ugly shade of brown, and some of the windows were so filthy you couldn’t even see out of them. Most of the students that were bothering to show up were already inside, leaving only me and a few stragglers to march up the stairs.

    ‘Well, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a disappointment given physical form, but this would certainly come close.’ A voice said from behind me.

    I stopped and whirled around, preparing for the worst. But aside from a student or two that gave me weird looks, there was no one behind me. Okay, I was admittedly a bit paranoid, but after nearly two years of constant bullying, anyone would have grown a bit jumpy.

    ‘At least you have some common sense.’ the voice, again, said from behind me.

    I whirled toward the front of the school, and rubbed at my head when I saw the steps now empty. ‘Get it together Taylor,’ I thought to myself, ‘you’re not going crazy. Just drop off your assignments in your locker, and then head to the nurse, get that sick leave and get the hell out of here.’

    ‘Yes,
    Taylor, the sooner the better, please.’ said the Voice.

    I pretended not to hear it and rushed inside.

    The halls were predictably crowded with students rushing to and fro as they prepared for the first classes of the day. The din of conversation was practically deafening. I thought I had learned to deal with the noise a while ago, but today it set my teeth on edge and smacked me over the head like I owed it money.

    It took an effort not to cover my ears as I slowly pushed my way through the crowds. Just get to the locker, and then go to the nurse. This was my mantra, what kept me going even while my head attempted to pull itself apart. At least I had lost the Voice.

    ‘Oh wonderful, truly this is a perfect expenditure of our limited time.’ it piped up.

    No direction to source it from that time, too many students. And to be completely honest, I was fairly certain that the voice didn’t belong to anyone. I wondered, could a concussion give someone hallucinations?

    ‘Don’t flatter yourself, child. You are nowhere near creative enough for something like that. the Voice said dryly.

    “Fuck. Off.” I hissed between clenched teeth. I could see my locker now, many students giving it a wide berth.

    I started to wonder why, when the first bell rang. Now I knew how a nail felt, because each ring was like a hammer to my skull. I clutched my head and stopped in place while students streamed around me and towards their next classes. My only relief was that the Voice had gone silent for the moment.

    But, I needed real silence, just for a minute. Getting to class on time didn’t matter, I could afford to take my time getting to the nurses office. The only motivation I had for moving faster, was the fear that they might still be wandering the halls. The Trio, the bitches, the pains in my ass since the ninth grade. Traitors, bullies, monsters, whatever you wanted to call them, I did not need nor want to put up with them this morning.

    I scanned the hallas I suddenly banked right and headed for the nearest bathroom. There was no sign of them as I reached and slammed open the girls bathroom door. I walked up to and leaned against the kitchen sink, soaking in the sweet silence. My head still throbbed uncomfortably, but it was a dull and constant pain, which was easier to deal with than the sharp spikes I’d been experiencing in the hall.

    My reflection stared back at me in the mirror. I didn’t care to lament my plain appearance, pausing only for a moment to readjust my glasses and push a few strands of dark curly hair out of my face. I took a deep breath, stood up, and turned to leave.

    I walked straight into the face of a gleaming metal skull, staring at me with intense emerald eyes that burned with some sort of unnatural energy. I screamed and stumbled back, landing on my butt and almost hitting the sink with the back of my head. Thankfully, I only had to add butt pain to my head trauma, but that was an unimportant detail.

    “Oh my, that looked like it hurt.” the Voice said, only this time I knew where it came from.

    I jerked my head up at the metal skull, and saw what it was attached to. Fear pulsed in my veins and I started scrambling backwards away from this… thing that had appeared behind me.

    It was tall, seven feet maybe eight. Either way, it had to lean significantly to get in my face like it had. Its skull wasn’t a perfect anatomical recreation of an actual skull, taking the shape of a mask more than anything else. Its body was made of gleaming metal that almost seemed to pulse in the pail light. A long cloak of interlocking metal plates fell from its shoulders, and a hood shaped structure protected its skull. It held an ornate staff in its hand but clearly had no need of it aside from decorative purposes.

    This… thing, this giant metal skeleton man, took one look at me cowering under the sink, and pinched the space between its eyes and sighed. “Child, please stop embarrassing the both of us and come out from under there. We have much to talk about and little time to talk about it.”

    I stared at the robotic skeleton; the gears in my head were slowly turning, but the emphasis was on slow. A thought finally occurred to me. The Voice, the robot, it had a british accent. I don’t know why this suddenly occurred to me, but when it did, I think I felt something snap in my brain.

    :A crazed noise, not quite a laugh and not quite a sob, broke free of my lips. “British robot.” I cracked.

    “Haha! Giant… british… robot. In my head.” I grabbed at my head, and felt my eye twitch.

    Then whatever had snapped in my head promptly snapped back into place. I promptly stood, shouldered my backpack and said, “Nope. No no no, nah ah, no.”

    If I didn’t know any better, the robots glowing eyes almost seemed to narrow. If this was a sign of amusement, insult, or annoyance, I didn’t know or care. I was so absolutely done with this travesty I called a life.

    “Nope nope nope. No. No!”

    The door to the bathroom opened. The trio walked in, they said something at me. I ignored them and made for the door.

    “No no no, nope!” I didn’t even pause, I pushed right past them. One of them grabbed at my backpack, and I let it go. I went straight out the door, back into the now empty hall, and headed for the exit. The entire time, I simply kept muttering a string of negatives; I felt like I was going to start laughing and start crying at the same time.

    I left Winslow without a second thought and headed to the nearest bus stop home. The handful of people there kept their distance from me. I in turn, kept my distance from them even as I continued to mutter, “No, absolutely not, no way, nope. No no no no no.”

    The bus came, I stepped aboard. No one sat near me either.

    “Nope, nope, nope!”

    Half an hour later, I was walking up to my house again, still muttering to myself. My home was once a nice two story suburban building. Strong stable walls painted a cheery light blur, decent front porch and lawn, even an old tree growing out front. Age and the decay of the city had not been kind to its structure, but it was still home. I followed the path to the front porch, almost tripped over the broken step, and walked inside.

    The skelebot was standing in the living room, glaring at me.

    “Nope!” I declared, and went straight up the stairs, and took a hard right into my room, and promptly collapsed face first onto my bed. I embraced sleep minutes later, still muttering my denial of what was clear insanity.

    I woke back up hours later staring at my nightstand clock. It was almost noon, I’d been asleep four a good four hours. Good news, the pain in my skull had melted away, and I could think a bit more clearly. Bad news, Skeletor was still standing in my room, glaring daggers at me.

    “You are quite fortunate that I am unable to interact with you physically, or I would have dragged you off your bed by that mess of a mane you call hair hours ago.”

    Yawn. I rolled onto my back and stretched, “Buddy, I’ve been the center of a very personal terror campaign for two years. If you’re trying to get under my skin, you’ll need better material than that.

    The skeleton loomed over me. I ignored it the best I could, until it spoke again. “You don’t quite comprehend the situation you’re in, child. I am not some figment of your imagination, I am very much a real and corporeal being.”

    I reached out and waved a hand through him. “Poor choice of words there buddy. And anyway, you could say whatever you want, but a hallucination is a hallucination. If I’ve snapped, then you’ll just say whatever crazy crap runs through my head until you start looping.”

    “The insane do not typically recognize their insanity, I would know,” said the skeleton.

    “Clearly I’m a special case.” I replied casually.

    The skeleton bent at the waist, casting that eerie green glow over my body. “Or, you’re aware on some level that I am not a hallucination. You know I am very real, and represent something that you know nothing of. This entire attitude of yours is an act, a layer of defense to protect yourself from admitting that fact.”

    I opened my mouth, but it interrupted me. “Don’t deny it. Our minds are linked now, unfortunately. My personality, what’s left of it, is occupying only a very small portion of your cerebral cortex at the moment. From there I can read your every thought, emotion, and action you take. I am privy to your deepest darkest fears, and your greatest hopes; I must say, I am quite unimpressed.”

    It wanted to play that way? Fine.

    I pushed myself up and folded my arms, glaring up at the skeletal droid. “Fine then, prove it. Prove to me that you’re not some result of my fucked up head finally snapping under the stress. Then, maybe, we can have a civil conversation.”

    At that, I could very clearly see amusement in the machines eyes. It even scratched at its chin in such a way that its fingers made a smile. “Oh, I am quite far ahead of you in that game my dear. If you would look to your left please?”

    I humored it and did so. Then I did a double take and stared at the object floating behind my window. It was about a foot long from end to end, made of that same silver metal my mental visitor was. It had six long talon like legs, three jutting from either side of its oval shaped body. A short little head with a pair of pincers emerged from one end, with a lone emerald ‘eye’ in the center of it.

    This thing looked for all the world like a giant flying beetle, and it began tapping at my window when I saw it. I got up and opened the window before it started leaving marks. The little machine floated inside and set itself on my bed with its legs tucked under its belly and looked up at me with its big eye.

    My legs felt weak and I collapsed back onto my bed. The beetle continued staring at me unblinking. Its eye followed my hand as I reached out and touched it. The metal was surprisingly warm to the touch, hard and unyielding, and yet I could feel almost a… softness to its frame, as though if I pushed hard enough the metal would mold to my hand like clay.

    “That would be a result of your connection to me.” said my visitor, making me jump. “Necrodermis doesn’t respond to the whims of lesser races, but our connection makes it more… malleable under your touch.”

    I looked at the giant metal man, with his stupidly huge staff, overly elaborate decoration and burning green eyes. Then I looked back to the beetle that watched me but made no movement. A sense of very real dread slowly filled me, and I could feel the blood draining from my face.

    The skeleton was radiating smugness when I turned back to him, shaken. “U-um… so, Mr. Skeleton. What brings you to Brockton Bay?”

    It raised a finger, “Firstly, my name is not ‘Mr. Skeleton’, ‘Skeletor’, or ‘Mr. Roboto’. If you wish for me to treat you with more respect, I expect the same courtesy, Taylor Hebert.”

    I swallowed and nodded, “Okay. What do I call you then?”

    Its eyes glimmered and it said, “I am Trazyn the Infinite. 737th son of the Solemence Dynasty, Grand Archeovist and Overlord of its many archives, and as for why I am hear, Taylor Hebert; well, that is quite an interesting story.

    A/N: As promised, here's Friday's chapter!
     
  6. Thedevil

    Thedevil Getting sticky.

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    Does your story for mature audience? if so you should put it in NSFW section.
     
  7. Threadmarks: Traveling 1.2
    Rapidfyrez

    Rapidfyrez Know what you're doing yet?

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    Traveling 1.2

    Thanatos, Necron Crownworld, 999.M41

    Allow me first to provide context, if I may. Without it, my tale my prove terrible confusing for your inexperienced minds to comprehend.

    Wait, minds? What?

    Shhh, let me speak.


    As I was saying, context is very important for why and how I arrived here in my current situation. Despite the superficial appearance of my frame to your human skeletal structure, I am not nor have I ever been human. I am necron, formerly necrontyr. Over sixty million years ago, my people shed our biological forms in the furnace of bio-transference and assumed new metal forms such as the one you see before you today. The how and why are ultimately irrelevant to my story; all that is important is that once I was organic as you are, and now I exist as immortal living metal.

    While many of my brothers and sisters of the necron have taken up arms in quests for power, territory, or a return to glory, my purpose has always been far greater and more important. For you see, I am but a humble archivist; I collect and preserve relics from across the known galaxy so that their history may be saved for future generations to learn from. The unfortunate reality of immortality, however, is that time still moves forward, and thus my collection is ever growing.

    So it is that I have spent much of my immortal existence traveling the stars and negotiating for the acquirement and storage of important artifacts. It is rewarding work, important work as well. But the eons can grow long and stifling, and even I found myself one day experiencing an emotion I have not felt for quite some time.

    Boredom.

    For you see, Taylor Hebert, I had fallen into a bit of a rut. In my galaxy, war is eternal and quite the grim affair. A hundred factions vie for control over the fate of the galaxy, including my own people. Thus this has lead to a rather predictable state of affairs. Conflict explodes in one arm of the galaxy, word reaches me upon my Tomb World, and I mobilize to acquire any relics of important value before they are inevitably destroyed in said conflict. Repeat ad nauseum for ten thousand years, and anyone would beg for a change of pace.

    Most recently, my attempt at negotiating for an ancient relic from a group of warriors known as ‘the Salamanders’,(yes quite creative wouldn’t you agree?) had ended in abject failure. I rested and recuperated my thoughts upon the bridge of one of my many smaller starships as I began the long return back to Solemence. Recovering this artifact, which you may call the Speak of Vulkan, had been a very long process, several centuries in the making. Negotiations had broken down at the last minute, and the warriors had sent me away with a fresh hole in my chassis for my trouble.

    Rest assured, my body is more than durable enough to recover from such a trifling injury. But my mind, my mind lay battered and tired. For eons I have followed this repetitive pattern, hunting for artifacts to expand my collection. I could never truly abandon such an important quest of course, but that did not mean that I wished to recover relics that were only suited for war, or all came from the same source.

    Thus, I came to a revelation of sorts. I was in desperate need of a holiday, a change of scenery from the humdrum everyday life of war and death that my galaxy has devolved into. It was such an obvious solution in hindsight, that had eluded me for so long! Already, I felt reinvigorated simply for coming to this conclusion, and immediately ordered my fleet to alter its course to the necron Crownworld of Thanatos, home of the Oruscar Dynasty.

    Understand dear child, that those of the Oruscar Dynasty are amongst the few of my brothers and sisters that I would truly count as equals. Instead of seeking war and glory, they had sought to leave their mark on history through the advancement and betterment of their people. Their world is one of miraculous technology, even by our standards. But there was only one treasure that interested me, the crown jewel of all the Oruscar Dynasty has achieved.

    The Celestial Orrery.

    The Orrery is quite simply, the greatest achievement any race could possibly lay claim to. It is a perfectly accurate rendition of the galaxy. Let me explain, it is not simply a meticulously accurate map or model. No, the Orrery’s accuracy and attention to detail is to a level that defies any and all mortal imagination. Any changes brought upon the Orrery will be reflected upon the galaxy itself, and the reverse is true as well.

    That sounds made up.

    Quiet, it’s not.


    Obviously, such power if abuse could very easily destroy the galaxy, and so the Oruscar have dedicated the entire might of their dynasty to its defense. Few have ever seen the Orrery in person; only the mightiest of Overlords could ever hope to be granted an audience with it and only under the closest of supervision. So of course, they would have no complaint about allowing myself a chance to view it.

    In fact, they were delighted by my visit to their many orbital docks. Why, the Phaeron himself met me as I exited my ship with his entire personal guard in tow! I must say, I have received many warm welcomes, but this was certainly unexpected, even for one of my reputation.

    I of course bowed respectfully, as such an important Phaeron deserved my respect. He was though, a very terse fellow, not prone to pleasantries, which was a pity, but given the duty thrust upon him by his dynasty, it was not unexpected.
    “Trazyn the Infinite.” he said. “You’ve brought yourself to Thanatos without invitation, without warning. Why?”

    If there is one flaw to the state of my current being, it is the lack of proper facial features. A reassuring smile can do wonders for assuaging the fears of others you see. I had to make an effort instead to spread my arms and remain bowed as I spoke. “Why, my noble Hakmephet, I have come with a simple request; a favor, if you will.”

    I must say, Hakmephet had turned his stoic mannerisms into an artform, I could barely read him. It was clear though that I had peaked his curiosity. “The Oruscar do not deliver ‘favors’ to anyone, Trazyn. Especially not thieves and scoundrels such as yourself.”

    I held a hand to my chest, conveying the hurt I felt at such an insult. “My dear Phaeron, you wound me. I am many things, but scoundrel? I am nothing but polite and courteous to all that I do business with.”

    Hakmephet stabbed a finger at me, quite rudely I might add, and retorted with, “Wherever you go, trouble follows. I will not allow you to curse Thanatos with your presence; begone!”

    Oh yeah, you seem to have a lovely reputation.

    Must you interrupt me constantly with your ceaseless commentary?

    Yes.


    “Hakmephet, at the very least hear my request? One as mighty and wise as yourself could surely spare but a moment to hear the words of a humble Overlord? All I wish is to seek your assistance in finding world untouched by the current conflict. I’ve grown bored with the galaxy as is you see and wish to, temporarily, retire from galactic politics.”

    The Phaeron stiffened, and I could hear power thrumming around him. Clearly he had not considered that someone as studious as I to require a break from my work. Such is the downside of cultivating such a legendary reputation I suppose.

    After a moment of silence, he spoke again, quieter this time. “You… wish to leave the galaxy?”

    I shook my head, “No no no. I wish to remove myself from galactic politics; for a decade or two. If I enjoy my holiday, I may even consider a century. It is a bit of a spur of the moment decision I admit.”

    Amusingly, this truly seemed to stun the Phaeron. He rested a hand on his head and looked at me, visibly dazed. The gears within his mechanical brain were clearly working overtime at my words.

    Finally, he resumed his original posture, and clapped his hands together with a metallic clang. One of his high crypteks, a master of the scientific arts you see, materialized beside his lord in a flash of emerald light, bowed in proper supplication.

    “Yes, Phaeron Hakmephet?”

    “Bring Overlord Trazyn to the Celestial Orrery. Assist him in finding whatever it is he is in search of, so long as it does not disturb the natural order of the galaxy. And ensure he is under constant guard at all times. These are my orders to you Cryptek, am I understood?”

    “Completely, my master.”

    The cryptek turned to me and bowed, “Lord Trazyn. This way, if you would.”

    I will spare you the details, as the distance traveled from docking bay to Orrery is quite dull. Needless to say, with the weight of Phaeron Hakmephet words hanging over them, the Cryptek and their guards spirited me to the Orrery at a refreshing pace. I found myself within its incredible lattice within hours of my initial arrival at Thanatos.

    There was just one problem. For as vast as the galaxy is, in its billions upon billions of star systems… it was impossible to find a singular world within it that was both worthy of note and not embroiled in war. Oh sure there were planets free from the chain of battle, but such worlds were dull and unimportant to begin with! I briefly toyed with the notion of retiring to one of the Imperium’s agricultural worlds and setting myself up as an enigmatic ghost to haunt the primitives legends for generations to come, but found that such a gambit would only be mildly amusing and hardly worth spending an entire vacation on.

    It was frustrating, in the worst possible way. We spent days, under careful guard, cataloguing a thousand known worlds with none living up to my standards. By the seventh day, my patience had worn thin.

    “You have done well in serving your master, Cryptek.” I know not what it’s name was, as such details were only important to those within the Oruscar Dynasty. It did not seem to mind, but did seem disturbed by my statement.

    “Lord Trazyn, I am certain we can find what you are seeking. Understand, the breadth of the galaxy is truly astounding and there are many, many worlds to sift through. The process will simply take time to…”
    I ignored the Cryptek as it spoke, thinking over what else I knew of Oruscar’s treasures. There was the Glyph of Dominance of course, a powerful seal of power and one of the first examples of Oruscar’s technological might. An important relic that certainly needed preservation. But not what I was looking for.

    The Quantum Loom, the Gravity Sling, none of these relics would fulfill the purpose that I desired. But then, insight struck! There was one relic, completed at the same time as the Orrery and thus forgotten by many as its purpose paled in comparison to the sheer power of the Orrery.

    The Window of Worlds, an open door into a thousand parallel realities. If I could not find that which I was searching for within my own galaxy, then perhaps another reality would bear more fruit. The Cryptek was aghast of course when I initially suggested such an idea, but when I reminded him of his lord’s orders, his tune changed quite quickly.

    This is all starting to sound rather convenient

    To your young and uneducated mind, perhaps. To one who has lived for millions of years, you learn that coincidence is quite rare.


    Thus, I was brought to the Window of Worlds and… admittedly disappointed. Window was an apt description, as the portal would be quite impossible for any necron of reasonable stature to fit through. It was easy to see how the Celestial Orrery could easily overshadow such an… unassuming device. Yet it was here that I may have finally found the cure to my boredom.

    I let the Cryptek operate the Window, I was under no illusions of my expertise in the field of parallel manipulation, and merely observed the myriad of catalogued realities. It was through this window, that I eventually discovered your world, Taylor Hebert.
    A world on the brink of collapse, but untouched by the true conflicts that wrack my own. A world were men and women play at god, with no heed of their consequences or understanding of the past. A world doomed to destruction one way or another. The perfect world for my holiday.
    ***​

    I stared at the ske- at Trazyn long and hard, debating if I had gone nuts again. A small part of me felt insulted by the way he described my home. The rest of me was trying to wrap my mind around everything he had just told me.

    “So, let me get this straight.” I said. “You’re a 60 million year old, extra dimensional alien robot, you run around stealing things and throwing them into museums, and your idea of a vacation is heading to a world you describe as ‘doomed to destruction’. Is that about right?”

    Trazyn chuckled, “That is indeed what I said, yes. You are, at the very least, observant.”

    “I try.” I folded my arms and sat cross legged on my bed. “Okay, that explains why you’re here. But why are you in my head?”

    Trazyn lifted a finger, paused, and then, I swear to god, somehow managed to look embarrassed. “Ah, well. As I mentioned, the Window of Worlds is not a large construct. I could not have properly fit through into your realm. So I improvised. Which is where you come in my dear. I do apologize for this next part.”

    “What part-” I started, and then shuddered. A tingling sensation started at the back of my head where my headache had started, and ran down my spine and through my limbs, leaving goosebumps in its wake. I shook myself and blinked stars out of my eyes.

    “What… what just happened?”

    Trazyn stared at me, and I felt another tingle. I shuddered and glared at him, “Stop thaaat~! It tickles!”

    “Oh dear, that’s not right at all…” Trazyn rubbed his chin while staring at me.

    I glared at him in return, “What’s not right? What are you trying to do?”

    “Well, I suppose now it’s not-”

    “Don’t pull that with me!” I interrupted before he tried to weasel his way out of an explanation. “What did you try to do to me?”

    Trazyn folded his free arm under his cloak and glared at me. “Your memory would suggest that you wouldn’t be this stubborn. You certainly never stood up to that awful ‘trio’ you hate so much.”

    “They can physically hurt me. You’re a hallucinated metal skeleton that likes the sound of his own voice way too much.”

    “Fair enough.” Trazyn growled. He sighed and shook his head. “Fine. If you must know, when I realized that I could not physically enter this world through traditional means, I copied my personality and implanted it into a swarm of mind shackle scarabs. This swarm was supposed to find a suitable host, allow my consciousness to temporarily override it, and allow me to build a proper body here. In a few decades, the original me would return, I would fuse with my originator, and I would be able to relive and reminisce over this holiday at my leisure, should I ever become bored. But, something has clearly gone wrong, because my attempts to seize control are failing.”

    On one level, pure rage felt like a pretty appropriate response. On another, horror and terror at the thing living in my head also felt pretty good. I think those two trying to come together cancelled each other out. All I could muster was a glare at Trazyn, and a sneer.

    “Well I’m sorry to tell you, but my body isn’t something you can just take, asshole. If anything, this serves you right.”

    Trazyn rolled his electronic eyes, “Oh please, you would have been perfectly fine. A little worn out and tired when I was done, but I wouldn’t have intentionally killed you.”

    “Uh huh. Right. Well now you’re stuck in my head with no control. How’s it feel having your sick little plan blow up in your face?”

    “Annoying.” he said.

    Then his head perked up, which immediately made me worry. “And, intrigued.”

    I leaned back on my bed, slowly putting distance between myself and him. “Intrigued… how?”

    Trazyn clapped his hands together and chuckled, “My dear, I believe we can come to a proper arrangement to deal with this situation. How does the idea of playing hero sound?”

    I paused, and blinked, “Pardon?”

    Trazyn gestured at the scarab lying next to me, that I had completely forgotten during his little story. “While I am no Cryptek, I do keep an encyclopedic knowledge of necron technology on hand in case I ever find myself in a situation separated from my forces. With a single scarab, I could feasibly build whatever I needed, with enough time. I was able to call the scarab here, but I can’t control it, much like how I can’t control you.”

    He laughed, “But, if you accept this deal, Taylor Hebert, I can teach you. Teach you how to use our technology for whatever means your heart desires. On one condition. Help me expand my collection. Your world is ripe with living history; it would be a pity to see it lost to the sands of time forever.”

    My mind was racing. There was no way he was serious. He went from trying to take over my mind to offering to work with me way too fast, this felt like a trap. On the other hand, Trazyn’s entire goal seemed pretty simple and basic. Fulfilling my end of the bargain might not be that difficult. I mean, come on, he came from a race that could apparently build models that could manipulate reality itself; who knew what other toys he had!

    Okay, calm down Taylor, don’t let yourself get distracted by the shiny things. It seemed like a good deal, but I needed more details before signing off on it.

    “That depends. What would I be collecting?” I asked.

    Trazyn shrugged, “Anything honestly. Technological wonders, landmarks, religious artifacts, examples of your ‘heroes and villains’. I’m not particularly picky to be completely honest.”

    I nodded slowly, “Okay. Then I have a few ground rules. I’ll accept your deal, on these conditions: No killing, no going after heroes, and no kidnapping political figures. I don’t want to piss off a dozen nations just because you decided you ‘had to have’ their leadership for your museum.”

    God this situation felt surreal. Wasn’t I supposed to be in high school taking an algebra quiz right now?

    Trazyn rubbed his chin again, and chuckled, “Oh, very well. Given the circumstances, I can’t really afford to argue, can I?”

    “No, no you can’t.”

    “Haha! Then it’s a deal!” he offered me his hand. Which I noticed had very long and pointed fingers, almost like claws.

    I reached out and passed my hand through his a few times and looked at him, brow raised. Trazyn shrugged. “Good enough for our purpose. Personally speaking, I think we may have borne witness to a very lucrative partnership, child.”

    A pit of dread formed in my stomach. What had I just signed myself up for?

    A/N: Sorry for the delay, this virus shit is fucking with my schedule.
     
  8. Rhyne

    Rhyne Making the rounds.

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    Can't wait for the next chapter!
    You didn't threadmark the prologue
     
  9. Saltade

    Saltade Verified Salty

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    There are more chapters up on Spacebattles. The author is no longer posting the story on Sufficient Velocity because mods, so they're now posting here.
     
    Acerrrr12 likes this.
  10. Threadmarks: Traveling 1.3
    Rapidfyrez

    Rapidfyrez Know what you're doing yet?

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    Traveling 1.3

    Monday, January 10th, 2011. Brockton Bay

    There were benefits to having Trazyn living in my head, I won’t deny it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he was a rude, presumptuous, selfish, sarcastic asshole that was in love with the sound of his own voice. But, he was apart of a packaged deal; so yes, I had to put up with him, and in return I gained access to all the shiny toys he had at his disposal.

    For the moment, this was limited entirely to the lone scarab that he’d summoned to my house. I named him Khepri, and he was kind of adorable even if he (or it as Trazyn insisted, though I didn’t hear any complaints about the nom de plume) was just a basic machine. Apparently though, he was some sort of deconstructor/constructor drone that could theoretically recreate anything that the Necrons had made, so long as he had access to sufficient energy.

    I had been skeptical at first when Trazyn told me that they had apparently mastered the art of converting energy into matter and vice versa, until he had given me an example, and guided me on how to direct Khepri. This was where our alliance became necessary; Khepri was a simple machine and should, supposedly, be easy to control. But he required the proper interface to function, which I obviously lacked.

    However, Trazyn could act as a translator. What I mean, is that he could use the… implants that he’d augmented me with, to transmit my thoughts to Khepri, until we built a proper interface, which was the first thing I ‘ordered’ him to do. The only reason Trazyn couldn’t do this himself, was that he lacked the ‘processing power’ to send more complex commands. All of my implants were dedicated to storing his personality and archives. My wetware was going to have to provide the extra boost to send anything more complicated than a ‘come hither’ command. Well okay, it was more complicated than that, but that was the basic gist of what he told me.

    For my first command, I opened up the side of my PC and ordered Khepri to get work upgrading it. The computer was practically ancient by modern standards, and I rarely used it save for browsing PHO forums and typing up the occasional paper. Trazyn assured me that he Khepri could upgrade the systems quickly, and that I’d be able to understand whatever software it was that Necrons used.

    Khepri perked up when I gave the order, made an affirmative chirp, and fluttered over to the exposed innards of the PC, his little legs wriggling with movement. A bright beam of green light shot from the underside of his little head, and wherever it touched, the internal components simply vanished. A faint green glow emanated from the edges of where the spotlight touched, but it moved surprisingly fast.

    It took less than a minute for the scarab to strip the entire case of components, leaving only a bare metal box behind. Then it settled itself down inside with its legs spread, and emitted a darker beam. I jumped in surprise when tiny bolts of lightning crackled from the emitter, and something new took shape.

    Unlike the deconstruction process, the construction time was far longer. What appeared to be some sort of smooth black stone was taking shape beneath Khepri’s brilliant light, but it was at a pace significantly longer than the initial destruction had taken.
    I leaned back on my bed and glanced up at Trazyn. “How long should this take?”

    He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.“Converting matter to energy is quite basic, if one knows the proper way of doing it. But converting energy to matter is a bit more of a delicate process. If either fails, it could create quite the spectacular explosion. So, best not to rush it.”

    I gulped, and found Khepri a little less cute now. The little robot paused, chirped, and then resumed building. Okay, only a little less cute. I folded my arms and legs and thought for a moment. Given what Trazyn had told me, a Necron computer of equivalent size to my old one was probably going to be faster and more powerful than literally anything on the planet. Which raised the question of what exactly I was going to do with it.

    Again, I looked up at Trazyn and asked, “So, your tech. It is compatible with human technology right?”

    Trazyn sighed and rolled his eyes, “As compatible as one can be with a rock that’s been tricked into thinking, but yes.”

    “Okay, good,” I said, ignoring his sarcasm. “So, could we use the computer Khepri is building to… I dunno, make some sort of Necron virus that could mess with a database?”

    He paused, and his eyes grew distant, a sign that he was in thought. Despite the lack of a real face, he could be surprisingly expressive with his eyes and posture. When he spoke again, his voice had taken on an almost mischievous tone, “Yes, yes we could. Why do you ask, child?”

    I rolled my eyes, “First, it’s Taylor. If we’re going to be partners, we should at least show some respect toward one another.”

    Trazyn stared at me blankly. I returned the stare, and my room was silent save for the hum of Khepri and the clicking of his metal legs against the computer case. Finally, Trazny chuckled and said, “Fair enough, Taylor. I suppose common courtesy is only fair. Now I repeat myself, why do you ask?”

    I gestured around me, “Well, the way I see it, if we’re going to actually going to make any real progress, I can’t be wasting my time at that hellhole Winslow. But I can’t exactly just drop out either without my dad knowing and I don’t think I’m quite ready to tell him about the alien robot living in my head.”

    “I’ve interrupted enough family engagements in my time to know I have no desire to interrupt another,” he agreed.

    “So, we obviously need a way to get me out of Winslow without anyone knowing I left. I don’t have much of a presence there, so all I need to do is make sure my grades and absences are consistent for the rest of the year. Could we make a virus that does something like that?”

    Trazyn laughed, “With the pathetic excuse for computer science your species uses? Absolutely. It may take some time to fabricate the virus, as again, you lack the implants for proper-”

    “We’ve been over this, I’m not adding anymore implants to myself.” I interrupted.

    He waved a hand, “Yes, yes, I know. My point being, it could take a few hours, even with my guidance, for you to code a virus that could do as you’ve suggested. It will be a very boring process.”

    “Great!” I clapped my hands together, “Then when Khepri is finished, we can get started!”

    It took Khepri about thirty minutes to ‘build’ my new PC. The result was several large ebony blocks arranged in neat rows inside my computer case, each one perfectly lined with glowing green lines of energy. A tiny hollow cylinder was based at the bottom of the PC case, about as wide around as the palm of my hand. According to Trazyn, that was the ‘reactor’ and it was generating enough power to keep my entire neighborhood lit up for a week. Or to run the equivalent of a necron PC for a few hours. Necron power and how they got it was… weird, and I didn’t understand it. Trazyn insisted I eventually would, but at the moment it was gibberish techno babble mixed with poetry. So utterly alien.

    Regardless, with Trazyn’s help, I was able to power on my new PC with but a thought. Two emerald screens flashed before me, one the size of my old monitor and the other forming keys in the Necron language. That I immediately understood and recognized.

    I glanced from my chair up at Trazyn, “Is this because of you?”

    He nodded, “I am in your brain. I can directly upload certain knowledge to the appropriate portion of your mind. Of course, this is a slow process, and I am being very cautious about it. It’s easy to impart basic knowledge like this, but something more complex could risk damaging your more delicate components.”

    The thought of being rendered brain dead by the alien equivalent of an outhouse blueprint being uploaded to my brain certainly would rank high on the list of embarrassing ways to die. So I nodded silently instead, and reached out to the holographic keyboard. To my fingers it felt real and solid, like it was actually there. I almost instinctively knew that the keyboard was being projected by the computer, but that I could only see or interact with it because of my connection to Trazyn. Without him, it would just be a really large fancy paperweight.

    Necron coding was just like human coding it turned out. In that it was complicated, confusing, and made my brain hurt. The difference was that I had that innate understanding as a result of Trazyn feeding me information as he taught me. I learned the ins and outs of how their computer technology functioned, how to start work on the virus, and even how to issue commands to Khepri via the interface. With a little practice and advice from Trazyn, I set the little robot to work again while I worked on that virus.

    Honestly, what Khepri was working on was far more interesting than the lines and lines of code I had to assemble. If I got good enough at this, Trazyn insisted, I could eventually create simple intelligences to handle things like this for me, but he was fairly certain that that wasn’t going to happen any time soon. So for now I was stuck tediously typing at my haptic keyboard, stopping only for the occasional bathroom break and snack.

    About two or three hours after my lunch break, Khepri made a chirping sound that signaled he’d completed his task. I let out a sigh of relief and rolled away from my computer to him. When I had set him on his little task, I’d given him an appropriate amount of mass to construct the device that Trazyn had suggested. A few old clothes that I had long grown out of and some old boxes had gone into the thumb sized talisman that I rolled between my fingers.

    “It looks rather… plain.” I said. It was made of the same smooth black stone as my pc (I was noticing a trend) and a single green line ran around its thin edge. A rune flashed faintly along its surface, pulsing at my touch.

    “It is the equivalent of a child’s trinket.” Trazyn explained, “But, a phase shifter will certainly be useful to you in the event of an emergency. This one can only hold enough energy for about a solid minute. You won’t be able to use it again for another 24 hours afterwards.”

    “What’s the maximum one of these can last?” I asked. A phase shifter, if the name wasn’t obvious, was a device that shifted someone into another ‘phase’ of reality, and rendered them completely invulnerable, and ethereal. Necron constructs used them to make repairs to delicate machinery, so there was no need to remove panels or machinery to get at a broken part. The obvious usefulness of such a device had not been lost on me.

    Trazyn shrugged, “Oh one minute believe. The larger the surface area it has to cover, the more power required obviously. But the larger ones can recharge within a few minutes, so long as they are connected to a quantum network.”

    Right, another item to add to my long list of things to build. A quantum network was basically a Necron power grid, only using quantum technology, duh. Their reactors would naturally form these networks over insane distances, and could use them to amplify their individual power. The more generators in a network, the greater the range and the greater the overall power. It was a quadratic effect, not a linear one, and was much higher on the list than other items, as cool as a ‘Doomsday Ark’ sounded.

    I folded my hand around the talisman and stood up facing the mirror hanging from my door. Despite the bags under my eyes, I was smiling. My grin grew a little wider, “Right then! Well, let's test it so I know how to use it in the future.”

    “Of course.” Trazny agreed. “If you wish to use the talisman as you are, you simply need to make contact with it and say ‘phase’ aloud. Just the word, if you say it in a sentence or as part of another word, it won’t work. Otherwise one could accidentally activate it simply while in conversation.”

    Seemed simple enough. I held up the talisman and focused on its smooth edges. My heart hammered in my chest, from nervousness, excitement, from both! The computer had been cool, but this was something far more unique.

    “Okay, here we go. Phase!” Emerald light flashed in the palm of my hand, and a tingling sensation like goosebumps ran over my entire body, making me shudder. And then my clothes promptly fell off me in a pile on the floor, leaving me standing naked in the middle of my room.

    I screamed and covered my bits, while Trazyn clucked his tongue, “Oh my, that wasn’t supposed to happen.”

    “No shit!” I shrieked, and fumbled for my clothes.

    “Taylor, wait-” Trazyn started, too late.

    My hand passed through the floor, and I tumbled through my room’s floor and landed on the front porch in a heap. Oh right, phase technology. I groggily got to my feet, wrapped an arm around my chest and tried running into the house through the wall, and faceplanted into the front window and fell back on the ground.

    “Minute time limit, remember?” Trazyn said as he appeared beside me.

    “Fuck off!” I hissed while scrambling off my bare ass and running for the door. My face was flushed a brilliant shade of crimson and I sincerely hoped that no one in the neighborhood had seen that. Also, thank god dad was still at work, I had no idea how I’d even begin to explain that to him.

    I ran back inside and slammed the door behind me before scurrying back upstairs into my room. It took all my willpower not to chuck the damn talisman out the window in frustration.

    “Okay Trazyn, what the hell?” I demanded. This time, I was much more cautious about picking up my clothes, until I was sure I wasn’t going to fall through the floor again.

    Trazyn reappeared in front of me as I pulled my underwear on, and said, “The talisman’s effects only work on what it considers to be a part of your ‘body’. Your clothing is not, therefore it phased through you when you activated it.”

    “And you didn’t think to mention this before I used this?” I snarled while hopping into my pants.

    “Taylor, I have not had to get dressed in over 60 million years. The thought literally never occurred to me.”

    I grumbled and glared at him, but couldn’t argue with his point. Instead I sighed and rubbed my temples, “Okay, fine, that's fair. How do I keep it from happening again?”

    “Have the scarab build you proper equipment.” Trazyn said simply. “Honestly Taylor, it’s not that complicated.”

    If looks could kill, I would’ve reduced that skeletal asshole to molten metal.
    ***​
    Tuesday, January 11th, 2011. Brockton Bay

    So, that was a problem that I had to nip in the bud real quick. The phase taliman wouldn’t exactly be that useful if I was left nude in the middle of the city in the middle of winter. As mild as Brockton Bay’s weather was, that was only relative to the rest of the north east. We may not have gotten any snow in the past few days, but it was well below 50 degrees on a warm day.

    Thankfully, there was an easy solution, but it wasn’t a quick fix. The metal that necrons used for their bodies, creatively called necrodermis or ‘living metal’ was easily replicable by Khepri, and could function as clothing that would properly phase with me when I activated the talisman. The reason for this was a bit more uncomfortable than I had expected.

    To start with, I’d had Khepri get to work on some basic under clothes while I finished coding the virus. Living metal was evidently a bit more complex and energy intensive than the materials used in my computer or the talisman’s construction, and took longer for Khepri to manufacture. I hid him under my bed to work for the rest of the day, until dad came home late that night.

    Dad’s work at the docks kept him busy even if business on the docks was slowly dying day by day. Sea trade was risky enough with monsters like Leviathan running around, but the fact that half the bay was filled with sunken ships had all but killed the industry. Dad still fought for it, but I was half convinced that he fought as hard as he did so he didn’t have to come home. It was easy to forget about how quiet the house was sometimes since… well anyway, that’s not important. Dad came home late at night, he hadn’t heard anything about me skipping out on classes that day (thank god), and went to bed a little later.

    I finished my virus shortly after dad turned in, finally, and was able to take a good look at the clothes I’d set Khepri to work on. Like I said, they were underclothes: the result was a simple silvery grey tank top and short shorts that would at least preserve my modesty. Satisfied, I had tossed them on the bed, and promptly collapsed into said bed.

    An entire day’s worth of coding had drained all the energy from me. I had at least been smart enough to set my alarm half an hour early, and snuck out of the house the following morning with a note for dad telling him I was heading to school early to talk with a teacher about a project before class.

    The truth was, in my excitement I had stupidly forgotten to design the virus so I could just use it from home. I could fix it, but that would’ve taken several more hours of work; as annoying as it was, sneaking into the school’s library to use one of their computers for my virus was easier. All I had to do was connect the virus via USB, and let the program run itself. Don’t ask how I could store an alien computer virus in a USB drive, I didn’t quite get it either.

    Once I got one of the computers booted up and running, I plugged it in and just had to wait for it to peel apart Winslow’s shitty security systems. The significantly weaker processor slowed the hack to a crawl, and I was left fidgeting in my seat. My necrodermis underclothes weren’t uncomfortable, they were in fact too comfortable. I had been more than a little disturbed to find that they basically conformed to every nonexistent curve of my body on their own accord, and it felt like I was wearing nothing at all under my normal clothes. Thus, I fidgeted in my seat while the progress bar slowly inched its way across the screen.

    I was nervous of course; every minute it took, was another minute I risked getting caught. There wouldn’t be a lot of kids in the library; hardly anyone used it except to get high, or sneak in a few makeout sessions (typically a mix of the two) but the risk was still there. I might’ve been able to wait until my computer science class, but that was the third period and I never wanted to sit through another day at this hellhole if I could help it.

    Finally, after ten minutes of waiting, the screen flickered and shifted, taking on the familiar green glow of the necron ‘os’. Trazyn had been very insulted when I called it that, but didn’t deny that it was an apt if primitive translation of what it actually was.

    As I got to work, I whispered quietly, “Trazyn, do you have any sort of enhanced senses?”

    The self proclaimed curator appeared beside me, “I am, unfortunately, tied to all your sensations. I can only see what you see, and hear what you hear.”

    His eyes flashed with annoyance, “I can also feel what you feel. Stop squirming.”

    “This necrodermis underwear you suggested is incredibly uncomfortable,” I hissed while typing.

    “That’s because its temporarily bound itself to your skin. Its less clothing and more of a second skin.”

    Great, that was why I was so uncomfortable, I’d gone commando in silver body paint. I rolled my eyes and grunted in annoyance, “Anyway, can you keep watch in case anyone comes this way? This should only take a few minutes.”
    Trazyn sighed and glanced skyward, “So this is what I have been reduced to, a glorified watchdog? Very well, Taylor. I will keep watch.”

    “You’re the best.” I chirped cheerily, ignoring the glare he shot me.

    I paused and added, “Do I have to talk to you out loud, or can I just think and you’ll hear me?”

    Another glare.

    “Right, getting to work!”

    School security, even by human standards, wasn’t exactly top of the line. Since the Necrons were quite literally millions of years ahead of us, breaking through was a breeze. I had full access to every record Winslow had filed in the last decade, and could change it all at my leisure. It took me only a minute or two to setup a constant static loop that would mark me as still in attendance and keep my grades at a steady C and B average. I had debated pushing myself up to straight A’s, which is what I definitely would have without the Trio constantly sabotaging my school work, but decided that might attract too much attention.

    As I was setting this up though, a thought occurred to me. I had access to everyone’s records, not just mine. That included Emma, Madison, and Sophia’s. It included the entire staff of Winslow. With a few keystrokes, I could punish them for everything they’d done. I could end their academic careers forever if I wanted to, or severely hamper them at the least.

    “Well, I would certainly argue that they deserve it.” Trazyn said from over my shoulder.

    I jumped in my seat and glared at him, “You’re supposed to be keeping watch!” I hissed.

    He shrugged, “I can multitask my dear. As I was saying though, your tormentors have certainly earned your wrath. However, I would suggest that if you are going to act on such an impulse, be subtle in your vengeance. So many have fallen prey to grand designs in an attempt at avenging a perceived wrong. I’d rather not suffer should you follow suit.”

    I raised an eyebrow at him, “You of all people don’t seem like the type to ‘live and let live’.”

    Honestly, Trazyn seemed like the kind of guy that would tear an entire person's life apart to get back at them. But then again, reading him and his motives were was difficult. The necron chuckled darkly, “There is certainly nothing inherently unwise about righting a wrong. But, one must keep in mind to temper their wants with the reality of the universe they occupy. Arrogance is an insidious killer.”

    I listened to what he said, and stared at the computer screen silently. His point was clear enough, I thought; if I was going to get back at these people, I needed to be smart about it. Yes I could absolutely destroy their records… but that would only be the digital copies. No doubt they had hard copies somewhere. At dad’s office, everything important that came through the computer’s was given a hard paper copy in case something happened to the digital copy. Winslow was full of incompetent people, but I didn’t think they were that incompetent. Someone could put two and two together, and if they did, then there could be a whole investigation into the school network, which could eventually lead to me.

    Obviously no one would ever find the virus, but that might actually make things worse. A normal hacking attempt would be one thing. A tinker trying to break in would catch the attention of the PRT and Protectorate, and then I’d have a serious problem to deal with.
    So, like Trazyn said, I had to temper what I wanted with what I could realistically achieve. I couldn’t turn them into flunky drop outs, but maybe I could at least expose the truth on what they had been up to.

    After nearly two years of constant bullying, I had long since given up on telling the school about what was going on. Simply surviving day by day was easier than being turned away at the principal’s office again. Unfortunately it also meant that the trio had grown creative in their methods. Even at home I hadn’t been safe, they’d spammed me with hate filled emails from a dozen different false addresses. There was nothing I could’ve done at the time, but now with my full access to the school network…

    Yup, there it was.

    I couldn’t track and go through every email sent to and from the network, but I was able to isolate their specific accounts, and from there it was easy finding the false accounts they’d made and taking a catalogue of all their hate filled emails they’d sent me. I debated what to do with them, if I would send them to the school or maybe even the police.

    But no, that would be too safe and simple, and they might be able to weasel their way out of it. If I wanted them to pay for what they had done, I needed to make it far more personal, a twisted mirror of their twisted minds. That was going to take time to setup properly, but thankfully time was on my side. I made copies of what I needed and started the process of downloading them. This would take longer than it had for me to ‘erase’ myself from the records, but it was only 6:45; I had time.

    “Oh my, what timing.” Trazyn said.

    My eyes flicked up toward the library entrance and my blood ran cold. Emma, Madison and Sophia had just walked in, casually talking to one another, Emma cackling at something Sophia had just said. They hadn’t noticed me yet, which was good, I might be able to-

    No, no no!

    The download, it was still in progress! The bar moved at what felt like a glacial pace, inch by agonizing inch across the screen. Two or three minutes at least to finish, stupid public school computer’s! That was practically a lifetime at the moment.

    They noticed me. Emma of course, her pale eyes flickering toward me and a wicked smile crossing her lips. I froze, and sank slowly into my chair. No, no no! Why!?

    Trazyn made a disgusted sound, “Pull yourself together, child. Is that any way for you to act in the face of your inferiors?”

    I spared him a panicked glance. He stabbed his staff against the ground and I swear the room grew darker. “You are above these cretins, Taylor Hebert. They exist only to destroy and undo the work and the power of their betters. Starving beasts too weak to fight on their own. You have endured them for two years, a large portion of your considerably short life. Yet still you stand, and you no longer stand alone.”

    He leaned forward, emerald eyes blazing intently, “And I will not stand as an audience to this travesty and endure childish insults. So pull yourself together, Taylor. Bide your time, strike back. For two years they’ve torn you down. You want to do the same to them? Now is the time to start.”

    We both glanced at the computer screen. “You also have two minutes of waiting bar minimum, and I would rather you not be caught doing this. To be placed in a human prison is one experience I would rather avoid in my unlife.”

    Right, okay. Stall them, I could do that. This was my last day after all, and I’d built up plenty of things I would say on the last day I’d be here. Of course, those were fun fantasies, or imaginary arguments I had in the shower (that I always won, of course). It was one thing to win an imagined argument, it was quite another to actually have to live your fantasy.

    I swallowed the pit in the back of my throat, felt it crash into my stomach, and forced myself to my feet. My legs were trembling, my throat was dry, and I felt on the edge of tears. I didn’t want to do this, I really didn’t want to do this.

    Madison whispered to Emma as they approached me and the two of them broke into conniving giggles. Sophia wore a sadistic grin on her face, that only grew wider as they approached. Starving beasts, yeah right, more like hungry wolves. Wait, that was the same thing.

    “Hey Hebert, we thought you’d finally snapped. Daddy force you back here so he wouldn’t have to look at your pathetic face?” Emma sneered. “I don’t blame him of course, considering what you did to your mom.”

    Funny thing. Rage is a hell of a motivator.

    My terror and worry immediately evaporated, and I put on my coldest smile as I clapped my hands together and said, “Actually, Emma, Madison, Sophia, I was just about to come looking for you three. See, I wanted to congratulate you all.”

    That made them stop, if only out of confusion. I don’t think they knew how to comprehend me being nice to them.

    “You won,” I said. “That’s it. Congratulations, you won. I am done at Winslow, I am leaving and never coming back. I just thought you might want to know that, since you all so obviously need a win in your lives.”

    “Wha-”

    I interrupted, words pouring from me in a river, “I mean, look at yourselves. Emma I know you’ve always been insecure, but this is sad even for you. You spend all your time with a brainless thug that only hangs around you so you give her an excuse to hit people, and a vapid airhead with so much brown on her nose its racially offensive. I know I wasn’t exactly the best friend, but this is almost as pathetic as you dying your hair red for, what, ten years straight now?”

    Oh, that was the wrong thing to say. That was really the wrong thing to say.

    “Wow!” Trazyn said, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human turn quite that shade of purple before. Your species truly astounds me with its versatility sometimes.”

    “You’re dead Hebert!” Emma screeched.

    I bolted for the library’s emergency exit, ripping the USB from the computer as I did. Chairs went tumbling aside as the trio broke after me into a run. They’d catch me if I tried shoving the heavy metal door open, but I didn’t plan on actually using the emergency exit. At the last second, I juked left, slamming my shoulder into Madison. I wasn’t the heaviest person out there, in fact I was more bone than skin, but I was very tall for a girl my age, and Madison was very short. I practically barreled through her and went sprinting for the normal exit.

    “Get her!” Emma screamed.

    I stumbled out of the library into the hall, and sprinted for the stairs. The library was on the second floor, and thankfully the halls were mostly empty. Winslow wouldn’t start to fill up with students for another ten or fifteen minutes, which left plenty of open space for me to run through. Unfortunately, that applied to my pursuers too.

    The library door behind me banged open three more times behind me, and I could hear the squeak of sneakers and the clack of boots. Sophia was probably the main one chasing me, I thought as I gasped for breath. I was not in great shape, and she was a track star, it was not a matter of if she could catch me, but when.

    The stairs loomed ahead, thank god, and I shot out an arm to grab onto the handrail. The sudden stop felt like it was trying to jerk my arm out of its socket, before I curled inward and started stumbling down the stairs. I could hear the trio getting closer behind me.

    “You can’t run forever Taylor!”

    That was true, but I only needed to outrun them. I hit the bottom of the stairs and took off to my left, my sneakers squealing on the linoleum. My legs nearly went out from under me in surprise; Sophia was coming from around the corner, sprinting hard at me with murderous intent. I scrambled backwards and went sprinting in the opposite direction, hanging a right toward the rear of the school.

    If I wasn’t running for my life; I might’ve thought more about how the hell she beat me downstairs, but that was a minor problem at the moment. It was obvious to me that I wasn’t going to outrun the trio, they were going to catch me if this kept up as is. Thankfully, I had my own ace in the hole.

    I reached into my pocket as I ran, and felt the smooth surface of my phase talisman. Khepri had made another along with my new clothes, since the original was still charging. I was so thankful I had been smart enough to bring it, now I just prayed it would work with the living metal undies I was wearing.

    An upcoming alcove between the walls of lockers came into view, and I ran straight at it. At the same time, I hissed, "Phase!” and passed straight through the wall. Darkness enveloped me as I passed through the dusty internals of Winslow high, interrupted by the occasional flash of light as I ran through several empty classes. Then I emerged into empty frigid air, and fell face first into the dirt.

    “...Ow…” I grumbled. Pain filled my body, a sore aching pain that ran up my legs and my core. I rolled onto my back, panting hard trying to catch my breath. “Pain… so much pain.”

    “Oh, my apologies.” Trazyn said. “It’s just, your body is in such poor shape at the moment… I may have temporarily suppressed your sense of pain while we fled from your aggressors. My control over you is limited, but that was simple enough. Alas, I could only maintain it for a few minutes.”

    “I can tell.” I gasped, and slowly pushed myself to my feet. That was a painful process, as my legs didn’t quite bend how they were supposed to and I stumbled about like I was on stilts until I was finally standing up. New addendum to my plan, daily exercise was a must. If I was going to be a hero, a quick sprint should not leave me breathless.

    I looked down at myself once I was standing, and saw that my silvery undergarments had remained firmly attached. I raised an arm and let out a tired cheer, “Whoo, I did it.”

    “Yeah, you go girl!” a voice called behind me. I whirled to see a group of sophomore boys walking along the street toward the school entrance, all of them hooting and hollering at me in my state of undress.

    They cheered even as I flushed and ran straight for the locker rooms. I had a spare set of clothes in there, I could get changed and go home. The sooner the better, I’d only been outside for a few minutes and already the cold air had sapped all the warmth from my body. I hugged myself and my teeth were starting to chatter.

    A thought occurred to me as I moved out of site of my abhorrent admirers, and it made me stop and curse.

    “Fuck!”

    The USB, the one with all those files I could use to get back at the trio, what I had risked a severe beating for? Yeah, it was a normal USB, no living metal or real modifications. Which meant when I activated my phase talisman, it dropped with the rest of my clothes. Which meant after all that, I still had to go back inside to get it.
     
  11. Greatazuredragon

    Greatazuredragon Well worn.

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    Very interesting idea.
    Nice start, good work.
     
  12. Threadmarks: Traveling 1.4
    Rapidfyrez

    Rapidfyrez Know what you're doing yet?

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    Traveling 1.4
    Tuesday, January 11th, 2011. Brockton Bay

    No no no!

    This was my mind as I ran barefoot through the halls, and resisting the urge to cover myself. I was modest even if my new choice of fashion showed off more than I was comfortable with, but everyone I passed stopped and stared as I ran by. Honestly, if I was still planning on attending Winslow, this would basically have destroyed any semblance of normalcy I might’ve hoped for.

    That was at the back of my mind though. I was mostly focused on scolding myself for being so stupid and short sighted. Yes, I had easily lost the trio using the phase shifter, but without the USB drive, all that work was for nothing! Stubbornness and panic had driven me back into the school to grab the drive before someone else found it, and my clothes.

    It was only as I reached the hall where I had phased, that it occurred to me that it might not be worth the effort. If the trio caught me, I was definitely dead. Metaphorically at least, but literally wasn’t exactly off the table either.

    I shook my head, and focused. Finding the alcove where I had phased wasn’t hard, and more than a few students stared at me as I ran up to my pile of clothes and started sorting through them. My vision came back into focus when I found my glasses and slipped them back on, then I quickly fumbled through my clothes and found the USB in my pants pocket.

    Good, that was one more problem solved. I grabbed my clothes and shoes, electing to run first and get dressed later. Every second I spent was another second I risked-

    “What the- What are you doing Taylor?”

    -Getting caught.

    Fuck.

    I whirled around to find Emma standing in the hall, staring at me with a bewildered expression on her face. Oh god! I jumped back against the wall, nearly dropping my clothes in the process. There was a loud clacking sound, and my face went pale. The phase talisman had slipped from my grip and bounced across the floor, coming to a stop at Emma’s foot.

    Trazyn materialized behind her, peering over my former friends shoulder while stroking his chin, “My my, this is an unfortunate development.”

    Emma looked down, cocked her head to one side, and picked up the talisman. She rolled the stone between her fingers a few times, and I saw a slow dawning realization on her face. Eyes went from me, to the stone, and back again, each time her expression grew more and more shocked.

    This was the worst outcome, the only possible way it could be worse is if the rest of the Trio showed up. I would’ve looked, but I was frozen in place, shivering from the cold but unable to move otherwise. Emma looked at me one more time, and I was surprised by the expression on her face. Worry and fear, along with a perplexing relief.

    Then, without warning, she shoved the stone back into my hand, grabbed me by the shoulders and hauled me out of the alcove and shoved me towards back down the hall. I stumbled and almost fell over when I heard what she said.

    “Run Taylor! Get out of here before the others circle back around!”

    I looked back at her, now completely confused. Her expression hardened and she pushed me again. Not a shove, but an urgent frantic push towards the exit, “Did I fucking stutter?? I said, run!”

    The gears clicked, and I took off down the hall, feet slapping against the tile with every step that I took. The entire time, I couldn’t get the image of her face out of my head. Why had she helped me now? She knew the truth, it was obvious she had put two and two together and at least assumed I had powers now. Why would she tell me to run like that if she knew? Fear I had expected, maybe even disgust at me not even being able to use my ‘powers’ right. But concern?

    No, something was up, she was working an angle on me or who knew what, and I would figure out what it was one way or another. As soon as I had gotten away from the school. And was wearing pants, of course.
    ***​

    “Are you fucking kidding me!?” I kicked my desk hard enough to send me rolling back in my chair.

    When I had gotten home (not a fun walk even with my clothes back on by the way), the first thing I’d done was plug the drive in to see if everything had come out intact. Turns out, I hadn’t given anywhere near enough time for the stupid thing to finish downloading, so most of the data was either missing or corrupted.

    After all that, I was understandably angry. Sitting in front of the TV all day eating ice cream sounded a bit appealing, even though I knew I wouldn’t. There was too much to do and not enough time to do it. I would have to deal with Emma and company later, when things stabilized and I had the time to waste on them. Until then, focusing on building up a base of useful necron tech was the best and most pragmatic use of my time.

    I ignored Trazyn’s reappearance as I stood up from my chair and stomped downstairs, into the basement. It was a dank, dark place filled with spiders that had once been used for the house’s boiler. Now it was mostly just used for storage; old clothes, nick-nacks… mom’s things from before the accident. Neither dad or I really ever came down here, which meant it had been the perfect place to let Khepri loose.

    When Trazyn had first explained how his canoptek scarabs worked, leaving them alone to work had seemed out of the question. After I had gotten my new computer up and running though, my tune on this had changed; being able to program Khepri to operate within very specific parameters gave me a measure of control that was surprisingly calming. So, I was able to leave him alone while I was at school to work on my next project: a better undersuit.

    My unfortunate test that day had at the very least confirmed that necrodermis was compatible with phase shifting, which meant I would need something a little more modest than a tanktop and panties - and pockets. Khepri had been working on it all morning, a full body suit that covered everything except my hands and face, and which could be completed with gloves and a mask.

    Like my previous outfit, it was a shiny silver that was soft to the touch and nearly weightless compared to what I usually wore. As I pulled it on to test the fit, I asked aloud, “You’ve been vague about this Trazyn. How durable is this stuff?”

    The necron archivist appeared at the foot of the stairs, back turned while I got changed. He didn’t care about me being undressed, of course, but he had made it clear he had no interest in dealing with me when I suffered a ‘hormonal outburst brought on by alien sensibilities’. Whatever his reasons, I appreciated the gesture regardless.

    “The layer is thin and only skin deep. Most knives won’t be able to cut you, and you could probably suffer small arms fire from those primitive weapons your enforcers carry with only bruising. I would not recommend trying to withstand anything more powerful, not without a thicker layer of Necrodermis, though.” he said.

    The suit immediately tightened and clung to my body once I had it on all the way, until I was basically wearing a second skin. God that felt weird. I tried pulling it free, but only succeeded in pinching myself; the suit would only come off if I tried to remove it at the neck; I made a mental note for modifications if I needed to take a bathroom break.

    “Well, I hadn’t planned on running around in spandex anyway,” I said as I pulled my clothes back on. I paused, and pat Khepri on his little head. The scarab let out what I assumed was an appreciative chirp, and let me pick him up.

    “But we’ll get to that when we get to it. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

    Trazyn turned around to face me, “Indeed. I feel there is much more for us to discuss in regards to the functions of my technology. In fact, it may be prudent that I mention this now:here is a very low chance that anyone could’ve been able to read anything on that primitive storage medium had you not gone back for it.”

    I froze as I pulled my shirt on over my head. “What?”

    He shrugged, “We had to modify it, remember? Without proper preparations, your flash drive couldn’t read let alone hope to store anything remotely resembling a complex program written from necron technology.”

    I stared at him for a long minute, making a conscious effort not to scream at him. Instead, I ground out through my teeth, “Why. Didn’t. You. Say. Anything?”

    Trazyn’s glowing eyes gleamed, “Because, it was funny to me.”
    ***​

    It was very disappointing to learn that I couldn’t strangle Trazyn physically or mentally. The damn alien robot deserved it after the stunt he’d pulled. Instead, I had to settle for the next best thing, giving him the cold shoulder while I worked. Slight problem with that, Trazyn was a 60 million year old robot; his patience was a lot deeper than mine, and he still had control over what I could and could not learn from his archive.

    When I inevitably hit a roadblock on reprogramming my virus to function remotely, I caved long before he did and had to apologize. That would’ve been bad enough on its own, but the bastard had to act all smug about it, too. Less than a day had gone by, and I was already starting to regret this partnership.

    Once he started helping again, time flew by. While I coded, I set Khepri into overtime again. Yesterday had been test day, pushing the ropes to get a feel for the basics. Now that I had a general understanding of those, I was itching to push things along further. This started with me ordering Khepri to start multiplying.

    Along with being able to make anything in Trazyn’s archive, Khepri could also duplicate himself, at an alarming rate, I might add. Five minutes after I gave the command, he’d built three copies of himself, and a dozen smaller ones the size of my fingernails. Since each scarab was tied into the quantum network, I only had to dedicate one or two to accumulating mass while letting the rest get to work.

    Khepri and one of his equally sized clones got to work constructing more phase talisman for me, while I set their smaller counterparts to work on a new set of glasses. Consulting with Trazyn had helped me put together a basic user interface I could integrate into a pair of spectacles that would let me interact with the scarabs and anything they built. Technically, Trazyn could simply transplant a UI straight into my eyes, but it took less stress off my brain and implants to let external necron technology handle that. Besides, I was able to add a zoom feature to them too, so they acted like miniature binoculars!

    It wasn’t anything that would change the face of Brockton Bay, yet, but it was a strong start. It also kept my mind occupied and calm as I slowly worked my way through the appropriate modifications I needed to send my virus back to Winslow. Right as I was finally finishing up though, the house phone rang.

    That wasn’t too odd, we got calls from telemarketers all the time, so I barely paid it any mind. But when it went to the answering machine, I froze at the person speaking over the line. Emma’s voice was clear as day. I stopped typing mid stroke, and barely even paid attention as Trazyn chuckled in amusement.

    “Hey… Taylor. If you’re home right now, I don’t blame you for not picking up the phone. I’ve done a lot of stupid things over the last two years. A lot of terrible things to you; if you hate me, I wouldn’t be surprised. But, I… things changed today. If I had known you had… if you were different, I would’ve called sooner. God, I’ve thought about how to say this for a while now, but it’s a lot harder to actually say it.”

    There was a pause; the only sound in the house was the hum of Khepri and his children working, and me attempting to crush the edge of my desk with my bare hands.

    “Look, I know you probably hate me now, so I’ll just say this. I’m sorry for what I did, so, so sorry. And, I know you have no reason to, but… please, if you can. Meet me at the… at the cemetery after school today. We need to talk. Calling you like this… there are lives at risk now. I… sorry, I need to go.”

    Her voice broke at the end, and the phone hung up. My jaw hurt from clenching it so tight, and I glared venomously at Trazyn, who was doing his stupid chin stroking thing again. His eyes were filled with machiavellian glee, and I had no desire to entertain whatever scheme he was already planning.

    I focused on my screen and said, “I’m not going.”

    “It sounds like a fascinating opportunity.” Trazyn replied.

    “She doesn’t deserve anything from me except my contempt.”

    “Which you can give to her in excess if you meet her there.”

    “It’s entirely possible she’s bringing the trio, in which case I’m walking into a trap.”

    Trazyn looked at me with dry amusement. “Taylor, if that concerns you, bring the scarabs. They exist for more than just building. Even if you have no desire to kill your tormentors, which frankly you should, the scarabs are quite effective at rending flesh even without using their particle slicers.”

    I stared at him, and started to realize just how different our views on morality were. I shook my head and said, “Maybe. But I still don’t want to see her. You can’t make me.”

    At that, Trazyn laughed, “Oh ho ho! Child, I may not be able to control you, but making you do my bidding is far easier than you would like to believe. You do like understanding and knowing how to build and control my technology, don’t you?”

    I glared at him, “You’re really going to pull this again.”

    The necron shrugged, “In all honesty, Taylor, you seem to be under the impression we share the same goals. This is a partnership to ensure we fulfill both our wants. You want to bring order and safety to your home; a fair and noble cause, inspiring even… if you can achieve it. I, on the other hand, merely wish to add to my collection and, of course, be entertained. This is, after all, my holiday. And what good is a holiday if you spend the entire time working?”

    At this rate, I was going to break something if I kept clenching my jaw like I was. I eased off and folded my arms, “It’s not a fair partnership if you blackmail me every time you want to do something you know.”

    “You could of course, simply resume your normal life and try to outlast my patience.” Trazyn replied, obviously amused, “But, then again, we’ve seen how well that has panned out for you thus far, haven’t we?”

    I turned back to my computer screen, a sneer on my face. “Fucking… fine. If we go, will you at least stop with this blackmail?”

    “I will limit it… for now.”

    The sad part was, I had a feeling that was the best deal I was going to get.
    ***​

    My first time to the Brockton Bay Cemetery had been three years ago, following what could only be described as the worst day of my life. Losing mom had destroyed my family, and eventually my friendship with Emma; at least, I had assumed that had played a role in it. The funeral we had held had been one of the last times I could genuinely remember her friendship. How fucked up was that?

    I had to take a bus to the northern end of the city. This graveyard was at the base of one of the mountains that surrounded Brockton Bay. As far as graveyards went, it was generic. Old greying stone walls that stretched over my head, a wrought iron fence, and several acres of headstones, some too faded to make out anymore, others disturbingly fresh. Mom’s was near the back on a nice hill that gave a sobering view of the city.

    Trazyn hadn’t said much on the busride up, for which I was thankful. This was clearly a personal matter; if I’d had the ability to, I’d have let him stay at home. As it was, his respectful silence was appreciated.

    Khepri and his clones comfortably fit in one of my spare backpacks, and I kept playing with the new bracelet hanging around my wrist. The phase talisman's biggest flaw had always been how long it took to recharge. So now, I had a bracelet made of nine of them hanging from my wrist. Nine get out of jail free cards, I would still need to be careful about using them. I had one more spare in my jacket pocket, but that was purely last ditch. I wasn’t going to take any more chances, though a part of me said that coming at all had been a mistake. I tried to lie to myself, to think it was too late to turn back now though. It sort of worked, anyway.

    The graveyard was mostly empty: I saw one or two mourners, possibly there to pay their respects, but not many besides that. I stopped at the gate, and after checking to make sure no one was nearby, I zipped open my bag and let the scarabs loose. All four lifted high into the air with a soft hum of anti-gravitic engines, and sped off to scout ahead.

    Obviously I didn’t trust Emma to have come alone. I expected Sophia or Madison or all three of them to be here, waiting to ambush me. A small part of me hoped this wasn’t the case, that naively hopeful side, but I knew better than to risk it without checking first. The only reason I was here, was the same reason it seemed Emma had called me there. I had powers now, I could defend myself.

    My glasses lit up with necron runes, feeding me information on what Khepri and co. had found. A few more mourners, a graveyard worker, and Emma. She was standing by my mother's grave wearing a thick jacket with her hood pulled up. The scarabs completed a sweep three hundred yards around, and as far as they could tell, she was alone.

    So far so good.

    I set off into the cemetery, following the path with slow steps. There was no point in rushing things, Emma could damned well wait. While I walked, I could use that time to think of what to say to her, how to act. She’d caught me flat footed for years, her and the others, but now I had the element of surprise on my side.

    But when I reached her, all of those words died in my throat. Expectations vs reality, reality won out. Emma straightened up when she saw me, but didn’t say a word. Neither did I. Instead, I approached moms grave and knelt in front of it, reaching into my backpack to pull out a simple note I’d written. It wasn’t anything special; just a reminder that I loved her, and I missed her. I heard Emma shifting uncomfortably behind me.

    I clenched my jaw and didn’t look at her when I said, “What do you want Emma?”

    More anxious shifting, but she still remained silent. I didn’t hide my annoyance when I stood up and turned to glare at her. When I saw her face, I paused, shocked. Emma had pulled her hood down and her makeup was gone.

    I hadn’t realized how thick it must’ve grown over the years, because she barely looked the same pretty, hateful girl I’d grown accustomed to. Heavy bags hung under eyes, which gave her face a gaunt expression. There was a bruise on her chin, and I could see a few very faint scars running along the right side of her cheekbone. They were barely visible, but stood out in stark contrast against her pale skin.

    Emma looked at her feet with obvious shame, “I’m sorry Taylor. I should’ve… I’m sorry.”

    My surprise evaporated, replaced with anger. “Sorry doesn’t cut it Emma. You think after the last two years you can drag me out here, apologize, and expect things to be sunshine and rainbows?! How stupid do you think I am!?”

    She bit her lip and refused to meet my eyes. I snorted and shouldered my bag, “If this is because of what happened today, then you’re even more pathetic than I thought.”

    “Sophia’s been threatening to kill me.” she suddenly blurted.

    Another pause, another moment for me to digest my surprise. That… was unexpected. From the way they acted, I’d always assumed Emma was in charge. And she certainly hadn’t acted like her life was in danger. But then again, Emma had literally been wearing a mask of makeup for who knows how long, so nothing made sense anymore.

    I scowled behind my glasses, ordering them to zoom in on her scars. Even though it could be a long time before I used it properly, my glasses had been built with rudimentary crime detection software and hardware. Basically, they could identify simple injuries and date them if necessary. I hoped I would never have to use them, but I wanted to be prepared. If they were accurate, then the scars on her face were around a year old at least. The bruise was from at least two days ago.

    “Explain.” I said, firmly.

    She nodded, “Remember after the… accident, when you went off to summer camp?”

    I did. Right before we started at Winslow, I had gone to summer camp to get my mind off of what had happened at home. Dad’s idea, it had helped, until I got home. Emma had been distant when I returned, avoiding me at first at Winslow, and then slowly turning around to make my life hell. Snide comments first when I tried talking to her, then flatout insults, and then she and the trio had actively started hunting me down. So yes, I remembered summer camp.

    Emma continued, “While you were at camp, dad I were… we got mugged by the ABB. Dad and I were separated, and the things they said they were going to do, it… well, we were saved. Shadow Stalker got involved, and things fell apart. I was panicked, I wanted to escape, to find dad and go home. One of them came after me as I ran, and I… killed him. Using one of the bolts Shadow Stalker had fired.”

    What.

    Emma saw my expression and paled, “I didn’t mean to! It was an accident, I just wanted him to let me go and I hit something important. He died, but the police never mentioned him; I found out why later that night. Shadow Stalker found where we lived and came to my house, snuck into my room. At first she acted friendly, trying to praise me for… that. I wanted nothing to do with her, I was terrified. When she realized, she got angry. Started threatening me, threatening to tell the police about what I had done. She had hidden the body you see, and that was the only reason they didn’t know. I freaked, I panicked and begged her not to.”

    She shrugged her shoulders, “She held it over my head. Used it to blackmail me. Money, clothes, food. It started small, then it got worse. More and more she wanted, pushing a little farther each time. Eventually she had me start helping her on her runs, acting as her ‘mission control’. That was when I tried telling her I was done.”

    I was starting to put two and two together, and I felt my anger returning. “Shadow Stalker is Sophia, isn’t she?”

    Emma nodded wordlessly, and I cursed. That explained why the school had become even less responsive to them in the last year. Shadow Stalker was a fucking Ward. She worked for the Protectorate, the government sanctioned super team in charge of dealing with parahumans across Brockton Bay and the United States as a whole. The Wards were their teenage underlings, trained to use their powers and eventually become members of the Protectorate themselves when they became adults. If Sophia had been a Ward, then Blackwell had probably jumped at the chance to get ahold of some cold government funding. It explained the metal detectors that had been installed at the beginning of the year at least, for as much good as those had done anyway.

    Emma continued, “When I told Sophia I didn’t care about her blackmail, that I wasn’t going to help her do what she did, she didn’t take it well. She threatened my family, threatened to reveal what I’d done.. Threatened you.”

    I stared blankly at her, trying and failing to buy what she was selling. It all sounded far too convenient, even if some of it made sense.

    My anger hadn’t died though, and I folded my arms, “So what, now you’re going to tell me she blackmailed you into bullying me?”

    Emma shook her head, “No. I tried staying away from you so Sophia would think you and I weren’t friends anymore. So she’d leave you alone. Instead she thought I was ‘taking her lessons to heart’ and wanted to go after you too.”

    She covered her face, “I’m not clever Taylor. I was afraid to tell you anything because if Sophia found out she could’ve hurt you.”

    I scowled, “So you decided to turn into my worst nightmare instead? Why not tell me, come to me and we could’ve stood against her together!”

    Emma at least had the decency to continue looking ashamed. “Like I said, not clever. I was still scared of the blackmail she was holding over me at the time. From there it just… got worse. After a while, if I spoke up, Sophia would… hurt me. And then she’d go after you.”

    She rubbed at the scar on her cheek. “She’s not gentle about anything. She’s insane Taylor, completely off her rocker.”

    I sneered at her, “Well, that’s terrible isn’t it? Being at the mercy of someone you can’t even fight back against? I wonder how that feels. Oh wait!”

    “What do you want me to say Taylor!?” Emma yelled, “That I’m an idiot!? That I was a stupid scared kid, that I’m a terrible person!?”

    She grabbed at her hair and let out a long sigh, “I know… things will never be the same between us. Ever. I can’t undo what I did, I fucked up. All I want is your help.”

    “My help?”

    “Your help.” she nodded, “You have powers now. You can do things that I could never do. You’re my one hope of beating Sophia, of freeing me from her. Please!?”

    I stared at her, long and hard. At about this time I wished I’d picked up that damn phone so I could at least ask Trazyn what he thought. My thoughts were racing, I could barely think clearly. If what Emma said was true, and that was a big if, I wasn’t sure if that made the last two years better or worse. But, with that said, if what she said was true, I couldn’t leave her at the mercy of someone like Sophia.

    Now, I hated Emma. Even with what she told me, I couldn’t shake my disgust and anger at her. If anything, they both felt magnified at the moment. At the same time, I had already decided what I was going to do with the technology Trazyn gave me. I was going to be a hero, someone that helped those that couldn’t help themselves, despite the cost to myself. That was what heroes were supposed to do, right?

    But I wasn’t going to be stupid about it either. I shook my head and said, “All I have is your word to go on Emma, and that doesn’t mean much right now.”

    Emma swallowed, and I swear to god there were actual tears in her eyes. “I-I have proof! Look, see! I’ve been keeping recordings of my conversations with Sophia on my phone, I’ve even kept all the text’s she’s sent me!”

    She held out her phone, scrolling through a chat log that detailed a… pretty horrific picture. I felt flashbacks to the past two years, of times when Sophia had been particularly vicious, and Emma quieter than usual. Times when Emma’s insults had been particularly dull, or even… weak spirited. I had a queasy feeling that if I compared the dates to her phone to the ones I’d kept in my journals, there’d be a disturbing correlation.

    After a minute, I pushed her phone back and said, “Okay, I believe you, but…”

    Emma held up a finger, “Hold on. I know you’re still mad, so let me at least give you this back before you decide on anything.”

    She reached into her own backpack, pushing papers aside and mumbling to herself, before pulling out a long slender case. I felt my heart halt in my stomach as Emma held it out to me. There was a weak smile on her face.

    “Sophia went after it, but I held onto it. I told her I was going to sell it, but she’s… kind of an idiot when it comes to technology.”

    I gingerly reached out, and took the box in my hands, that were already shaking. I slowly opened it, and suppressed a sob. A silver flute, my mother’s flute, rested inside, untouched and unmarred. Tears started filling my eyes, I opened my mouth, and-

    Pop!

    I paused, and my eyes flickered to the side. Trazyn was casually leaning against a nearby grave, emerald eyes practically dancing with amusement, and an honest to god popcorn bag in his hands. He occasionally grabbed a few kernels and flung them at his face were they exploded into little bits of emerald mist.

    He caught my expression, and shrugged, “Oh, don’t mind me. By all means, continue. This is the most drama I’ve borne witness to in an eon.” Complete. Asshole. I barely managed to keep from saying anything.

    I shook my head and closed the case before looking at Emma. “Okay Emma. I’ll help you, but I need two things from you. First, you confess to everything you did to me. I don’t care what your motives were, you were incredibly stupid for handling things like that and you’re not getting off scot free for this.”

    She nodded eagerly, making no attempt to hide her tears “Yes, of course! I’ll do anything!”

    Trazyn cackled, and I felt my lip twitch. “Secondly, call Sophia to your home tonight at about Seven PM. I’ll meet you beforehand and ambush her when she shows up. I have a few toys that should be able to take care of her easily enough.”

    Already, I had started running through the devices I knew of, debating what to use on her. The tachyon arrow sounded tempting in a morbid way, but I didn’t want to reduce half the city to a smoking crater, so I shelved it. There were plenty of other options, but I’d need time to prepare them.

    Emma swallowed, but her demeanor had changed, she was bouncing on the balls of her feet now and there was palpable excitement in her expression. It only then occur to me that I hadn’t seen a genuine smile from her since before summer camp. What else had I missed over the past two years?

    Questions for later.

    I reached into my pocket and produced a phase talisman, “Now, before I go, I’m going to give you this. It’s a phase talisman, it’ll make you completely intangible when you use it. All you have to do is hold it, say ‘phase’ and you’ll be untouchable for sixty seconds.”

    Emma took it from me and raised a brow, “This is how you got away from Sophia this morning, isn’t it?”

    “Maybe.” I said, and grinned, “Go ahead, try it, its perfectly safe.”

    Behind her, Trazyn coughed and started laughing madly, shouldering his popcorn and clapping his hands together. I kept focused on Emma, but felt my grin widen.

    She eyed the talisman, then me, bit her lip, and finally shrugged, “Okay. Phase!”

    You know, sometimes life has a funny way of working out for the little guy. That was without a doubt, the hardest I laughed in a long time.
     
  13. Greatazuredragon

    Greatazuredragon Well worn.

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    Interesting way to develop the situation.
     
  14. Dukem

    Dukem Making the rounds.

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    I would like to point out that the threadmarking is out of order.
    • 1.1
    • Prologue
    • 1.2
    • 1.3
     
  15. Rapidfyrez

    Rapidfyrez Know what you're doing yet?

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    Thank you, fixed
     
    Dukem likes this.
  16. Threadmarks: Traveling 1.5
    Rapidfyrez

    Rapidfyrez Know what you're doing yet?

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    Traveling 1.5

    Tuesday, January 11th, 2011. Brockton Bay

    What surprised me, after I was done laughing at Emma, was that I didn’t feel that much better. Sure, after the literal years of abuse I suffered at the trio’s hands, a little turnabout definitely felt appropriate. But after hearing Emma’s sob story, what I did, felt… childishly petty. No, I wasn’t forgiving her, but stooping to what I had once thought to be her level certainly didn’t suit me either.

    When I saw her bent over and scrabbling for clothes, all while trying to hide the small handful of scars on her body, my unease turned to flatout guilt. There weren’t many, but a handful of small and faint scars ran along her ribs and legs, and even her stomach, and those were only the ones I could see. I didn’t feel like I’d gotten my revenge, however small; I felt like a bully. I tried looking away from her, only to look at mom’s headstone, and my stomach twisted itself into knots.

    Damn it.

    I crouched and scooped her jacket off the ground and draped it around her bare shoulders. She pulled it tight around herself and looked at me. I looked away, “Look, I… we’re not going to be friends Emma. Not like how we were at least. But I’m sorry, that was uncalled for.”

    “No, no.” she slowly started getting dressed as she spoke, “I deserved that. Hell, I would do the same in your position.”

    I flinched, “Don’t… don’t do that. I’m having a hard enough time processing this, don’t start acting like you’re a puppy I’m kicking with my every word.”

    Emma stood up, pulled her top on and zipped her jacket up, “Okay then, I guess. You said seven, right?”

    I bit my lip, “I’ll be there at seven. Once I show up, we’ll figure out how to deal with Sophia.”

    She nodded, and paused, “Should I do anything while I wait?”

    “Yeah, work on your confession.” I said, in a harsh tone. Kicked puppy or not, I wasn’t going to let her get off for what she did.

    Emma swallowed and paused, looking at me with very clear fear in her eyes, purse in one hand, shoes and socks in the other. “Do you want me to confess everything that I did?”

    At that I paused; I wanted Emma punished for what she had done to me, sure. But if what she said about killing that gang member was true, she could get into far, far more trouble than she would for the bullying, as merciless as it had been. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to condemn her to whatever fate confessing to it would bring.

    Trazyn paced behind her, staff insistently tapping against the ground as he did. I don’t know how he did that, we were on soft grass, but he pulled it off. He met my eyes, set his staff aside, and held his wrist up while tapping it pointedly. It took a lot of self control not to glare at him.

    I focused on Emma again and said, “All I want Emma, is justice for what happened. For you turning your back on me and those years of pain you, Sophia, and Madison inflicted on me. I don’t care what you say or do with the rest of your dirty laundry, that’s your choice.

    Relief flashed across her features, and she reached out to hug me, stopping herself before I shoved her away. She looked at the ground awkwardly and shifted on her feet, “Thank you Taylor. I’ll tell the school the truth about what happened. I’d do anything to make it up to you for what I did.”

    Yeah, make it up to me, or get Sophia off your back? I thought bitterly.

    Trazyn chuckled, “My my, such tension, it’s practically palpable!”

    I pointedly ignored the peanut gallery, and turned back the way I came. “If I find out you’ve been lying to me Emma, there’s… well it’s not going to end well for you, understand? I don’t know why, but I’m trusting you on this, so consider yourself lucky if you’re telling the truth.”

    She was silent, and I took that as my cue to leave. I left her there, by my mother’s grave, and didn’t look back.

    ***​


    The bus ride home was uneventful. I sent Khepri and his siblings on ahead of me to start gathering mass for the equipment I was going to need. My library of necron tech was growing ever larger, and Trazyn made a point to direct me towards a particular favorite of his, apparently.

    It was called a tesseract labyrinth, and when I read up on what it could do, a thousand possibilities sprang into my head. They were small pyramid shaped devices that apparently operated similarly to my phase shifter, by using extra dimensional forces. Unlike the phase shifter though, it could trap an entity fully within its own personal pocket dimension, and almost nothing could escape from it. The almost on that last part worried me, but Trazyn claimed he was simply avoiding absolutes, and that for our purposes it would function perfectly.

    They came in many sizes, ranging from the size of a deck of cards to larger than the warehouses down by the docks. The one constant between these varying sizes though, was that they all required a lot of mass and a lot of energy; and we didn’t have enough time to accumulate the latter.

    “We can’t draw power from the main grid,” I told Trazyn when we arrived at home and I closed the door behind me. “If we did, someone would notice if we start to use that much power from one location, and I’m not going to repeat what happened at school just because you’re impatient.”

    Trazyn materialized in the kitchen shaking his head, “Taylor, you made a promise my dear. And while the details of that promise are certainly up to interpretation, your time of arrival is not. Reputation, my dear, will be your greatest weapon in the coming days. Do you wish to be known as an oath breaker?”

    I walked into the kitchen, leaned on the table and scowled at him, “Pushing my deadline back by an hour isn’t oath breaking, Trazyn. You’re just impatient.”

    He waved a dismissive clawed metal hand, “Yes yes, but you’re missing my point. If you cannot even keep as simple a promise as this, then you should not go around making promises you know you cannot keep!”

    I rolled my eyes, “I said I would be there at seven, I didn’t promise anything.”

    Trazyn stared at me, emerald eyes unwavering and body entirely still. It was unnerving as hell, he was always animated in some way, but I was very quickly reminded that technically, Trazyn wasn’t alive. Not in the traditional sense.

    I suppressed a shiver and added, “Besides, if I don’t have the tools to deal with Sophia, then I won’t be able to help, which is what I actually promised to do.”

    The necron stared at me hard, then shrugged, “Fair enough. Given your physical capabilities a prolonged struggle would likely end poorly for you anyhow.”

    “Hey!” I said indignantly.

    “I merely state the facts, child.” Trazyn said, graciously.

    It was my turn to glare at him, but it was already clear my glares had no effect on the necron. I folded my arms and huffed. My HUD flickered across my glasses and I mentally pulled up the status of Khepri and his clones. Mass wasn’t a problem, and our generator, while small and weak, could produce more than enough energy to at least build the frame of a tesseract labyrinth.

    A thought occurred to me and I turned back to Trazyn, “I know the labyrinth draws its power from that reactor in my computer. If I’m reading this right, even though we don’t have enough power for it to work traditionally, could it work temporarily before failing?”

    Trazyn rubbed his chin, and thought. I felt a tingle at the back of my skull, the telltale sign that he was consulting the information directly. After a moment, he nodded, “Two of your hours, at the maximum, from completion. Which means you would have two hours to arrive at your friend’s home-”

    “She’s not my friend,” I interjected.

    “-Friend, girlfriend, whatever it is you humans call each other,” Trazyn dismissed my complaint and ignored my sputtering, “Regardless, you would need to operate quickly, unless you want this psychotic child to break free in your pocket. Which admittedly would be quite amusing.”

    Two hours, okay, I could work with that. I broke Khepri and his tiny cousins off from their work and had them start on the tesseract labyrinth. It would take several hours for them to put something that complex together, leaving the two of us plenty of time to plan.

    The hours passed by quickly. While we waited, I browsed online real estate for abandoned buildings in Brockton Bay. I’d had a good start at home, but Khepri and company had already carved a sizeable hole in the old coal chute, and I had no intention of causing my house to collapse on itself. We were going to need a proper lab. Trazyn insisted on calling it a crypt, and I insisted on telling him to shut up. We agreed on secret hideout, and he provided ‘useful’ feedback on each building I brought up.

    After several thrilling hours of real estate shopping and a quick bite to eat for dinner, I was ready to see if I could in fact strangle him, when Trazyn suddenly and swiftly changed the subject.

    “When this is all over, Taylor, I believe we are going to need to expand your court.” he said.

    I paused what I was doing, and glanced at him over my glasses, “Come again?”

    Trazyn gestured with his staff, “A court, servants, minions, those to do the busy work! While this has certainly been an interesting change of pace, it is already growing quite monotonous. I cannot speak for you of course, but I would rather not spend months upon months building and testing technology that I already know to work. Only the drollest of the droll could find such monotony entertaining.”

    I blinked and looked at the kitchen table. The labyrinth was nearly complete, Khepri’s smaller cousins swarming over its surface and putting the finishing touches together. I looked back at Trazyn, “So, you want… minions. Don’t the scarabs count?”

    Trazyn laughed, “Oh my, that is adorable. No, my dear. The Scarabs are tools. Though the difference could be considered semantic, a court could actually think and adapt, and handle even tasks as mundane as directing your scarabs. You and I, as we are now, exist as two halves of a whole. We are the Phaeron, or I suppose Phaerakh considering, of this world. We are above this busy work. Let those beneath you busy themselves with the minute details of your work. Your, no our plans are so much grander and wider than this, we-”

    “You’re just bored, aren’t you?” I interrupted.

    He paused, and set his staff back down with a sharp tap. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought he looked sheepish, “My point stands nonetheless. There is strength in numbers.”

    Before I had time to consider his words, a ping sounded on my glasses, informing me that the tesseract labyrinth was done. We both turned to it eagerly. The scarabs flit from its edges and vanished into hiding with a single thought.

    I suppose pyramid wasn’t quite accurate. The labyrinth had a four sided pyramid atop it, but it had a square base rounded at the edges. It was a deep black along its surface, a deeper black than ever I had seen. Endless, soul sucking, light itself poured into its depths, a promise of-

    A shock at the base of my skull jerked me to my sense, “Ow! What was that for?”

    Trazyn shook his head, “Don’t stare at it for too long, lest you be lost forever within its depths. A tesseract labyrinth functions on a fundamentally different level than most of what you have used so far. Treat it with care and respect, or it will destroy you. Understand?”

    I swallowed, put off by the seriousness of his tone. “Yeah, I understand.”

    Of course, I had been aware of this when I had ordered the damn thing be built, but looking at it in person, it was very easy to forget about that. Which was why I had ordered Khepri’s clones to build proper equipment for handling it.

    Necrodermis gloves, a mask of the same material, and a simple breastplate to go over the skintight suit I was wearing. The gloves were the same thickness as the bodysuit, but the mask was a quarter of an inch thick, with integrated glasses that stopped at my hairline. There had been no time for detail, so I had left the face fairly plain. Instead of the skull theme Trazyn was going for, I had adopted an Egyptian pharaoh look, which resulted in a woman’s face seemingly carved from shimmering platinum with eyes that pulsed a pale green.

    The breastplate I thought at first was purely flat and practical, but when I looked more closely at it I noticed very slight bumps along its edge. I lowered it and glared daggers at Trazyn. He looked genuinely oblivious.

    “What?”

    I grunted and looked away from him, putting it to my chest where it adhered instantly to my bodysuit. Like the rest, it was disturbingly light despite its thickness, but felt sturdy. Though I knew my bodysuit was tougher than it looked, having some actual armor equipped made me feel much more confident about myself.

    With that equipped, I pulled on a shirt and a jacket over it, grabbed my backpack, and slipped my mask and the labyrinth inside. Being mindful of Trazyn’s earlier warning, I carefully pulled it over my shoulder and headed for the door. I paused as I reached for the handle, and rushed back into the kitchen to scribble out a quick note for dad in case he got home before I did that night. I took great pride in not lying, too!

    Then, with that settled, I opened the front door… and started for Emma’s house.

    ***


    I didn’t live in a bad neighborhood, but it certainly wasn’t nice. Emma, coming from a rich family, certainly did. She lived in what our parents called, a mcmansion. One of those cookie cutter fancy houses that is really expensive and nice, but also tacky as hell and identical to the dozen houses on either side of it. As I approached, I released the scarabs to take stock of the area. They told me what I already knew for the most part.

    It was a two story house with a half circle driveway, dual garage, and oversized front entrance on a granite patio. This community was where the increasingly small handful of successful inhabitants of Brockton Bay called home, for the most part. The truly successful lived downtown with personal private security. Everyone in Emma’s neighborhood had to settle for consistent patrols from the BBPD and the occasional visit from the PRT.

    I had gotten an autograph from Armsmaster there once when he was on patrol. It was still hanging from my wall.

    We arrived at her front door at seven on the dot, much to my chagrin and Trazyn’s smug glee. I reached for the doorbell and hesitated. Of course I hesitated, why wouldn’t I? Emma may not have been willing when she said and did what she did, but she still spent two years bullying me and making my life hell. That was hard to forgive and even knowing that she had suffered Sophia’s wrath, I had to stop and ask myself, was I really going to help her?

    The answer was yes.

    I was a hero now, and heroes helped people. Besides, if Sophia was as bad as Emma said, I was probably saving a ton of innocent people down the line from when she inevitably snapped and went villain. That helped my mood considerably, and I finally rang the doorbell.

    The door opened and there was Emma, eyes sunken, and wearing what she had on at the cemetery. She’d pulled her fiery red hair into a ponytail and removed her earrings, but she looked the same otherwise. Again, I saw that palpable relief in her eyes and my stomach twisted itself in knots.

    “Let’s get this over with.” I sighed, and stepped inside.

    Her house was big on the inside, big foyer with smooth stone (I had no idea what kind) floors, fancy ‘avant-garde’ paintings hanging from the wall and a staircase leading from the foyer to the second floor. We used to slide down that staircase in laundry baskets when we were little.

    I clenched my eyes and forced the memory away, then gave Emma a level look, “I take it the family isn’t home?”

    She shook her head as she closed the door behind us, “Mom and dad have date night, they won’t be home for a few hours hopefully.”

    I put my hands on my hips, “Okay, that gives us time… um, do you know how to call Sophia here?”

    Emma paled, “What? I thought… I dunno honestly. I just… does she have to come here?”

    “That would be easier.” I said, “I don’t know where she lives, and if she comes here, I can set a trap for her. She won’t hurt you or anyone else, if we do this right.”

    Throwing a tesseract labyrinth at her head and hoping it worked didn’t seem like it had many ways of going wrong, but I didn’t want to risk it. Emma’s face had gone from pale to green. “O-oh. Okay. Y-yeah, I have her number.”

    She pulled her phone from her pocket, and typed something up. When she held it up to me, I read ‘I’m tired of working for you, it’s time for the truth to come out.’ I peered at her over my glasses, “This’ll get her to come here?”

    Emma swallowed and nodded, “Yeah. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried breaking away. She gets… excited when I do.” she casually brushed at the scar on her cheekbone.

    I narrowed my eyes, folded my arms, and took a deep breath. “Okay then. Does your room still have that big walk in closet with the grate?”

    She nodded, and I smiled, “Then we’ll meet Sophia in your room. You get her attention, and I’ll ambush her and deal with her from there. Simple, very few ways it can go wrong.”

    Unless Sophia decided to just snipe Emma with those stupid crossbows I knew she carried with her. Shadow Stalker and those bolts of hers were infamous on the PHO forums. Rumor had it she kept steel tipped ones for when the PRT went lethal, but of course no one had confirmed it.

    That ate at me as we marched upstairs to Emma’s room. It was almost identical to how I remembered it. The pink had been painted over with a soft cream color and her bed had lost what was left of the girly girl decoration that had already started fading last time I had been there. Some of her old posters were gone, notably the Armsmaster ones, but her desk and computer were still where they were, and her giant closet still had that slit grate with a perfect view of both the door and the window viewing out.

    I looked around at this place where so many good memories had been formed and couldn’t take it. “Emma, wait.” I said.

    She turned to me as I started stripping off my clothes and her eyes went wide, “Taylor!? What- oh.”

    My face flushed even as I shoved my clothes into my backpack and stood in my bodysuit. I peeled off my breastplate and handed it to Emma along with a new phase talisman. “The old phase talisman I, er, gave you, is drained, it won’t work. This one will. The armor will protect your chest at least if Sophia gets… violent.”

    She took both from my hands and marveled at them. “You’re really going to help me? After everything I’ve done?”

    I shrugged, “It’s what heroes do.”

    Trazyn made himself known with a groan, “Can we move this along already? I personally would like to get back to more important matters before the night is over, if at all possible.”

    I ignored that.

    I pointed at the closet, “I’ll wait there, you send that message and get changed. When Sophia shows up, I’ll handle her. I promise.”

    Emma bit her lip and nodded. I walked past her and slid into the closet with my backpack in one hand. While Emma changed, I pulled out my mask and put it on. The necrodermis immediately adhered to my skin, and there was a brief panicked moment when I couldn’t breathe, before the airways cleared and the panic subsided. My vision through the mask was as clear as without it; I definitely didn’t need my glasses while wearing it. I folded them and slid them into my backpack, then reached for the tesseract labyrinth. Its surface was chilling to my touch, even through the necrodermis, and I felt a brief pull on my skin that quickly subsided. I decided not to grab it until it was absolutely necessary.

    I peered back through the slits in the closet in time to see Emma sitting on the bed with her shirt back on, and no sign of the breast plate she wore. She was clearly and visibly trembling, and even from the closet I could hear her phone furiously vibrating. Sophia wasn’t taking well to what she said apparently.

    With the bait set, all I we could do now was wait. Trazyn, thank god, kept mercifully quiet during this period, save for a reminder to turn off the glow in my mask. After that, all three of us waited in tense silence, hoping that Sophia would be angry and stupid enough to come straight for Emma.

    We didn’t have to wait long.

    The light switch in Emma’s room flicked off, plunging it into darkness. Emma suppressed a shriek and shot to her feet while my masks night vision mode activated and I saw her. Shadow Stalker had Sophia's build, I could see it now, and was a few inches shorter than Emma, maybe 5’4? Despite that, she had presence, her dark costume and ethereal appearance making her appear like a spectre that easily passed through Emma’s door and slowly marched toward her.

    Emma swallowed and backed toward the window. Shadow Stalker spoke in a chillingly calm voice I didn’t expect from her. “No Emma, don’t stand there. I might not be able to resist throwing you out of it.”

    She surged across the room and slammed into Emma, pinning her against the wall and snarled, “Do you really think you can get away with that, you stupid idiot? That I would let you get away with it?”

    Sophia was in a prime position for me to ambush her, but I waited. Not to make Emma suffer, no. See, in my mask I had a built in recording device, and I could see what my scarabs saw and record that as well. So I had setup one of my scarabs outside Emma’s window to record their entire exchange and wait for Sophia to confess to what she did. I wasn’t entirely sure on how legal this was, but I figured if the PRT didn’t do anything, I could leak it online. See them deal with her then.

    Emma whimpered and seemed to shrink; she was clearly larger than Sophia but seemed positively tiny compared to the girl. Sophia shook her and snarled, “You are mine bitch. You can act brave all you want behind a computer screen, but you’re a dog, and I own you. If I tell you to jump, you ask how high, if I tell you to shit, you ask what color. Do you understand me!?”

    “N-no.” Emma whispered, trembling like a leaf.

    I didn’t see Sophia hit Emma, but I saw the aftermath. Emma collapsed against the wall, cradling her cheek and tears welling up in her eyes. Sophia let out a cruel laugh, “Oh my god, you gonna cry now baby? Is that it? Poor little white rich girl gonna cry to momma and dadda?”

    Okay, that was enough of that. I grabbed the tesseract, ignoring the chill it sent up my arm, and touched my phase bracelet.

    “Phase.” I whispered, and silently passed through the closet door and into Emma’s room. I turned up the glow on my mask and looked directly at emma. Her eyes met mine, and understanding passed between us.

    Her fist tightened, and she whispered, “Phase.”

    And then she was gone, leaving only her clothes where she had been. Sophia cursed in surprise, jumping back and whirling for the door. I smashed that goddamn tesseract labyrinth into her stupid mask. There was a brilliant flash of light that lit up the entire room. Sophia screamed, and for a brief moment I saw her entire body fold in on itself like paper sucked through a vent.

    As quickly as it happened, it was over. Shadow Stalker, Sophia, was gone, with only one of her crossbows laying on the floor. The tesseract was covered in frigid ice, and while it was cold and unpleasant, it didn’t hurt my hand. Thank god for necrodermis I supposed.

    The light turned back on, and I turned to see Emma slowly peeking around the corner. “Is… is it done? Is she gone?”

    I peeled off my mask and held up the tesseract for her to see while grinning. “She’s trapped in here. I’ll be dropping her off at the PRT with video of your little encounter. You’re free of her Emma, we all are.”

    Emma practically sprinted into the room and tackled me with a tight, tight hug, sobbing tears of joy. “Oh thank you thank you thank you!” she cried, over and over again, tears rolling down her face as she sobbed and hiccuped. It was very ugly, and very human.
    I returned her hug, and had to suppress a few tears of my own. That was it, the biggest problems in my life, dealt with in a single day. I felt a warm sense of relief, of weight being lifted off my shoulders. It felt nice, her hug felt nice, -

    Trazyn made a gagging sound, spoiling the moment again!

    “Lets cut this short, please? Do remember that I can ‘feel’ all that you feel. Blasted organic impulses.”

    That was when I immediately remembered that, oh yeah, Emma was naked. My face flushed and I released her from my hug and slowly pushed her away from me. There was a slow rip that almost sounded like peeling plastic off a new tv, followed by a pop and a heavy thud against my chest. We both looked down to see that the breastplate I’d loaned her had readhered itself to me, and uh…

    I looked up, red in the face. Emma folded her arms over her chest and started laughing through her tears, “O-oh my god this day is so weird!”

    I turned around, scooped her clothes off the ground and threw them at her, “Put your clothes back on, you’re not that kind of model.” I told her, which only made her laugh harder, even as her face turned an even brighter shade of red.

    That seemed like a good time to duck and run, but I stopped myself when I saw the crossbow on the ground. Without thinking, I scooped it up and took it over to my backpack in the closet, slipping it in along with my mask.

    Trazyn materialized beside me, and spoke with a clear smile in his voice, “I never took you for the sentimental type, Taylor.”

    “That makes two of us,” I muttered, and zipped up the backpack.

    At that exact moment, there was the sound of the front door opening, followed by the familiar voice of Alan Barnes, Emma’s father, announcing, “Emma, we’re home early and we brought leftovers!”

    We both shot up and exchanged a look, frozen in shock.

    “I thought you said they’d be home late!” I hissed.

    “I thought they would!” she replied.

    Oh this would look very bad if he caught us as is. Emma ran to her door and almost slammed it shut, pausing only to shout, “Don’t come in, I’m not decent!”

    Also a technical truth, she hadn’t had time to get dressed.

    She then ran over, grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to the window, “Come on, go!”

    “Wait, what?” I hissed as she pushed me up to the window sill and flung them open. I grabbed at the edges to keep from being immediately pushed out the window.

    “You’re a cape, you do this stuff all the time!” she replied in a hushed whisper.

    “I just started a few days ago, I haven’t started jumping out of two story windows yet!” I tried stepping back inside, only for Alan to knock at the door.

    “Everything okay sweety?”

    “Yeah, I’m fine!” Emma yelled back, then whirled to me and said, “I’ll bring your clothes back tomorrow, okay!?”

    There wasn’t really time to argue. I shouldered my backpack, took a deep breath, tried not to look down, and attempted to gracefully jump out her window and land in the grass yard below. I instead succeeded in slipping and crashing face first into the lawn with a thud and a flash of stars.

    “Ow…” I moaned and rolled onto my back.

    Emma peered out over her window sill at me, concern on her face. I reached up, felt my face and found all my teeth intact and no broken nose. Good enough. I gave her a thumbs up. She smiled in relief, waved silently goodbye, and disappeared inside. A small part of me was thankful her neighbors seemed to be asleep, or they would’ve seen all of that.

    I rolled back onto my stomach and slowly stood up, ignoring the aches and pains in my body. Trazyn greeted me as I stood up and began limping toward the sidewalk. I idly slid the tesseract back into my backpack and pulled my mask back out and slid it onto my face. Without my normal clothes, walking around in costume without my mask was just asking for trouble.

    Trazyn glanced at me and chuckled. I groaned, “What’s so funny you stupid skeleton?”

    “I’m simply enjoying my vacation, Taylor.” he replied, then thought for a moment, “I’ve also given some thoughts to my earlier suggestion, and decided to collect a list of possible candidates, for tomorrow of course. You’ve had quite the adventure today.”

    I sighed, and looked over my shoulder at Emma’s house. An adventure was one way of putting it. Like I said, I wasn’t going to forgive Emma for what she had done, not immediately. But… well, maybe I was willing to start. Things would never be as they were, but maybe that was for the best. Neither of us were the same people we had been two years ago, for better or worse.

    I turned back to Trazyn and smiled behind my mask, “I have a little energy left in me, give me the list and I can skim it on the way home.”

    He did so, and I opened it to the first page. I stopped in my tracks when I read it, turned to Trazyn and said, “No. No way, absolutely not.”
     
  17. Greatazuredragon

    Greatazuredragon Well worn.

    Joined:
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    Heh, this was fun, and the aftermath will be even better.
    Good work.
     
    BloodWolf752 and Zhen_Electric like this.
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