Saturday Noon, Half a day later
“That could have gone better.” Tim was sitting on the couch.
Dalia snorted and made some derogatory reply, then turned back to watching some tv show.
Vasiliki was stretched out, on her stomach, her head resting on the opposite end of the couch, as she recovered from another one of Basil’s emergency operations. At least she kept some emergency clothing at the hideout, so she was dressed in blue sweatpants and a green t-shirt, instead of the rags of her (once again) ruined costume.
Second one now… I need better defenses, she thought. Maybe I should swallow it and ask Brennus for a set of Dragonscale armour.
Groaning in dull pain – painkillers could only go so far without affecting her thought process, and she absolutely did not want to space out – she shifted a bit to get more comfortable.
Girls often thought having bigger boobs would be great, and boys certainly thought like that, but no one ever mentioned how uncomfortable they could be when you had to lie on them.
I wonder how Polymnia feels about that, she thought idly. By the way, me, I really shouldn’t be focusing on breasts right now. That’s Dalia’s schtick.
No answer, obviously. Sometimes, she thought it would be great to have someone on the inside to talk to. She was not the type who could go for long without doing something, and since moving was out of question, she’d need some conversation.
Dalia was out of the question and Basil had locked himself down in his workshop (he really hadn’t taken the loss well, nor them being saved again) and was working on… well, she had no idea what he was working on, but she knew him well enough by now to know that it was a bad idea to disturb him while he was working.
Which left her with Tim. She was just about to open her mouth and talk to Tim about something, when they all heard a chime.
One of the screens on the control console turned black, with the word “Prisca”, written red, at the center.
<Hello guys? Is anyone there?> asked the ill girl – even over the phone, she sounded just constantly ill – while a request for a one-way video conference appeared.
Vasiliki made an annoyed face. She never agrees to a two-way. Always just watching, not showing. It pissed her off more than it should, that it was so unequal.
Dalia accepted the request. “Hi sweetheart,” she greeted her. The two of them had struck up an easy rapport, after Basil had introduced them all. Vasiliki had no idea why, but they really fit well with each other. Does that speak for Dalia, or against Prisca? “What’s botherin’ you?”
Why can’t you finish your word? Just one more letter!
“Um, it’s about Basil…” She sounded really worried.
They all looked up. “What’s wrong with him?” asked Tim immediately.
Prisca seemed to hesitate for a moment, then she said. “He hasn’t slept.”
Vasiliki snorted derisively. “Oh come on, we all know he pulls an all-nighter every now and then.”
“He…” Prisca started, but was cut short by Dalia flying in Vasiliki’s face.
“Could you stop being a stuck-up bitch for one second, Liki!?”
“Vasiliki, you stupid cow!” shouted Vasiliki back.
Dalia opened her mouth to shout something back, but Tim whistled – loudly. Loudly enough to make both of them flinch, and Vasiliki grown as her back pained her.
“Prisca, what’s causing you concern?” he asked in a matter-of-fact voice.
“Basil… he hasn’t slept for at least two…” She stopped, almost as if listening to someone else. “Three days. Hasn’t slept for seventy-nine hours! And he won’t listen to me about getting some rest!” She was almost whining now.
Now they were all concerned. “Three days, and no sleep? Not even a nap?” asked Dalia.
“Not that I know off. He doesn’t even deny it, he just told me to let him work – he looks like he’s going to drop dead any moment!” There was panic in her voice, perhaps unreasonably so.
But Basil really can’t seem to deal with defeat… he might actually take it to the edge, Vasiliki thought.
“Alright, first of all, calm down,” she said in her most authoritive voice. Had to keep this under control. “Humans can go for three or four days without sleep before they run the risk of dying, and we don’t know how Basil’s power influences that. There are several cases of metahumans developing their powers only over time, so he might have developed some anti-sleep power…”
“But he really, really looks like he’s going to keel over any moment now! Please, you have to help him!”
“She’s right. Basil has always had a bad case of tunnel vision, and that kind of stuff tends to get worse when someone gets powers. We should at least talk to him, assess the situation. Dalia, you’re with me. Vasiliki, Prisca, watch over the cameras – if I understand this right, you have access to the workshop, right, Prisca?”
“Only if he allows it, and he’s cut me off. He never does that!” Now she was panicked.
Probably hasn’t had to deal with people being rude to her for a long time.
Tim sighed like a parent who’d had to deal with things like these for too long. “Alright, alright. Let’s go take a look,” he said, rising from his seat.
“I’m coming along,” Vasiliki groaned, slowly pushing herself up.
“Oh no, you don’t!” replied Tim, making a pushing-down motion with his arms – though he did not actually push her back down as she sat up, groaning under the pain.
“Yes, I do. Let’s cut this discussion short and have you help me get to the workshop. Now.“
For once, people listened to her.
* * *
Mindstar was doing paperwork.
She was doing paperwork for the Dark Five.
She was assigning work schedules for her subordinates, organizing the next few capers, signing off on wages, explaining expenses…
I never, ever thought being a big-league supervillain would involve this much fucking paperwork. When I was flying solo, I at least didn’t have to do paperwork!
Mindstar leaned back on her seat, stretching. At least she’d taken her costume off before starting to work on this, or it’d smell by now. Nine hours of non-stop paperwork could do that even to a high-quality supersuit.
I should stop delaying this kind of work, she thought – and just then, her cellphone rang.
Normally, she’d ignore it right now, but it was Basil’s ringtone. Specifically, the one from his “lair”.
She picked it up. “Hey bro, how’re you going? I could really use a distraction right about now!”
<Uh, Hello Miss Blake?>said a girl’s voice.
Amy immediately droped the nice attitude. “Who are you?”
<This is Vasiliki Parapagadou, you may know me as->
“Hecate, yes. Why are you calling me? Did something happen to Basil!?”” She almost screamed the last part. If something happened to him, I’ll tear your-
<We… he hasn’t slept for more than three days, and we just tried to talk to him, and he just blew us off and got back to working on his new project.>
“Three days? You’re sure?” That sounds too much like Basil.
<Yes, Ma’am. As sure as we can be.>
“Alright, first, if you ever ‘Ma’am’ me again, I’ll get impolite with you. You don’t want that. Second, sit. Tight. I’m coming over.”
* * *
“You think she can help him?” asked Prisca.
“If not her, then no one can. I mean, she’s his older sister,” replied Vasiliki, trying to calm the frantic girl as she herself sat on the couch, refusing to lie down again before this was resolved. She hadn’t taken it well when they’d come back up only to tell her that Basil had blown them off.
“Well, at least we’ll finally get to know his uber-hot big sister,” leered Dalia.
“Dalia, behave. Prisca, calm down. Amy’s always been able to bring him back to reality,” Tim interjected.
“But why does it take so long?” Prisca continued.
She was really, really grating on Vasiliki’s nerves by now. She could understand the girl being worried about her boyfriend (or, as it seemed, her only friend), but her whining was getting bad.
“Probably because she doesn’t have any superpowers to fly over or teleport or anything, so she’s coming over by car or something,” replied Tim in as soothing a tone as possible.
And just then, they heard the elevator come down from the container.
“Dudes, how can she get in without setting off the alarms?” asked Dalia.
Vasiliki rolled her eyes. “Probably because Basil gave his sister the same kind of key he gave us.”
And then Amy arrived.
For the first few seconds, Vasiliki and Dalia just stared – the picture they’d seen had so not done her justice. Even though Vasiliki didn’t go for girls, she just couldn’t tear her eyes off of her.
And she wasn’t even wearing anything special, just a pair of not all that tight jeans, high heels and a white jumper.
Walking forward in a kind of natural power walk, she ignored them and went down to the workshop.
* * *
Amy came back up, carrying Basil in her arms without any visible effort.
It struck Vasiliki how drawn out, how pale he looked. Maybe Prisca’s worry was more justified than she’d given her credit for.
Without a word, Amy took him to the small bedroom, closing the door behind herself with one foot.
“Damn, that lady’s hot with a capital H!” gushed Dalia.
Of course you’d focus on that…
“I wonder how she got him to calm down? She didn’t hurt him, did she?” Prisca was still not calming down.
“Probably one of those brother-sister things. I know my siblings know how to push my buttons,” replied Vasiliki, who was this close to snapping at her.
Fortunately, they were all distracted as Amy came back into the main room.
“Alright, talking time. What the hell went on here?” she said. She was obviously angry.
* * *
They spilled all the details. Even though they were quite tired, it turned out to be quite easy to explain everything.
In fact, Vasiliki had never felt more clear, more focused.
It feels nice talking with her…
Amy turned out to be great at this. She’d sat down on a stool and talked them through the last night and the morning.
“So, you got beat down by a guy way out of your league, the two of you passed out. Then, when only Basil was left, two other metahumans showed up and one of them took Panthera Rex out in a few seconds. Basil got you both back here and treated you,” she summarized.
“Pretty much, yes, Miss,” replied Vasiliki. The others were quiet, focusing.
“Show me the video from the ravens.”
Vasiliki hurried over to the console, calling the video up and also giving Prisca permission to watch as well, all the while asking herself why she hadn’t yet thought of watching the records herself.
She sat down on the couch with Tim and Dalia while all of them watched the battle again.
Once the twins – and they so looked like twins, despite the featureless costumes, it was almost eerie – showed up, things got strange.
Bluebell’s a teleporter and that other one, Glik… holy shit.
No obvious power, nothing at all. She just moved, and she moved perfectly. Not a wasted movement, not a single strike that didn’t hit perfectly – and she only struck him three times, twice to break up his guard and then a single strike to the neck to finish him off.
It was terrifying, seeing someone take someone else apart so easily, so casually.
She threw a look at the other two next to her – they were equally terrified. But Amy…
Amy looked aroused. She was loving th-
Vasiliki shook her head. Huh, what?
She looked at Amy – she was as shocked as the others, as herself.
They continued to watch while the girls and Brennus administered first aid to them, then their way out, the ravens flying after them.
Finally, they caught that strange question, and then the girls were gone.
“What the fuck was that all about?” asked Dalia, putting to words what they all probably thought right then.
“Amen, gal. Amen,” said Tim.
Amy just looked pensive.
* * *
He was walking through a scenery right out of a fairy tale. One of the nice ones, or at least he hoped so.
The forest looked like it had jumped right out of a Ghibli movie. Lush flowers, gigantic trees, clear streams of water…
Man, this looks nice. I hope it’s not like Mononoke’s forest, though. Not in the mood for giant boars and wolves right now.
He took a few steps forward, then noticed that his feet were bare on the soft, warm ground. Looking down, he found himself dressed in a pair of jeans and apparently nothing else.
Shrugging – this was quite obviously a dream, and there was no use arguing with dreams about the state of one’s undress – he went on towards a rise, searching for an elevated viewpoint.
It was quite a bit easier than he’d expected, the terrain not being nearly as treacherous as it looked, considering how wild the forest was.
Up on the hill, he stopped. There was a small town in front of him, mostly overgrown by the forest, but still recognizable as a town.
And something told him that he had to get to the center of the town.
It didn’t take long, but on the way, he found himself distracted by the scenery.
The buildings had been partially broken down by trees growing through them. Every flat space available was covered in breathtaking paintings – if they even were paintings, they seemed to be part of the material.
They covered a wealth of scenes, from abstract swirls of colour to photorealistic pictures of what he recognized as London and some heroes like Lady Light. Also, a thin, scared-looking woman with bright red hair, surrounded by glowing protectors.
I’m sure I know who drew this, but I can’t quite remember…
He walked towards the center of the town, reaching the marketplace.
There was a working fountain at its center, with a magnificent tree growing above it, its roots drinking from the water.
A lone figure was sitting on the edge of the fountain.
Basil couldn’t tell whether it was a boy or a girl by sight, but he finally recognized the style of the pictures.
“Pro- no, Ember.”
The figure looked up. It looked like it was literally made of light, diffuse, flickering. Like he doesn’t know how he’s supposed to look.
He was dressed in a cloak with wide sleeves and a deep hood, made out of a patchwork of memories, each patch flickering through various images, never the same twice, but always fitting, part of the greater, harmonic whole of the cloak.
Ember didn’t respond.
“Can you talk?” asked Basil. This was surreal. He was dreaming of talking with what was widely considered to be the single most powerful being on the planet, and he was quite sure this was more than just a dream. Also, it felt eerily comforting just being in his presence.
Basil shook his head as the answer hit him. Not a word, an idea, projected right into his mind.
“We can communicate another way, though?”
“Why am I here?”
“Am I here because you are curious?”
“Are you curious about why I’m here, then?”
“Am I here because I am curious?”
Basil thought it over.
“Do you know about my memory problems?”
“Do you know why I’m having them?”
“Are you indecisive about whether or not to tell me?”
“Are you unsure about the reason for my issues?”
Well, great. And he doesn’t seem capable to communicate in any complicated fashion. If this isn’t just a fantasy in the first place.
“Do you know about Macian?”
He almost fainted (if that was even possible in a dream… or whatever this might have been) at the wave of emotions he felt. Ember so knew about Macian.
“Do you know how we’re related?”
“You don’t want to tell me?”
“You can’t tell me?”
“You mean it’s not yet time?”
Basil threw his hands up, running them through his hair. Yeah, so our resident godling knows the answer to my questions, but ain’t gonna tell me.
“Is there anything else… do you know Bluebell and Glik?”
“Are they good?” Keep the questions simple.
“You know them personally?”
“Are they good for me, too?”
“Should I try to find them?”
“What am I supposed to do then!?”
“This is getting us nowhere, Ember. I’m allowed to call you that, right? Not Protégé?”
“Is there anything else you want to tell me?”
Ember raised a glowing, flickering hand, reaching out with his index finger. Curious, Basil bent forward, and the boy touched his forehead.
All the world went white.
* * *
<Father? Father, are you awake?> asked Eudocia’s electronic voice. <Father, you need to wake up.>
I need to improve her voice program.
He moved, flinched. Then he rose up.
I had the weirdest dream.
Stretching, he wondered about how good he felt. Flinching, he looked at the clock. Just two o’clock… Amy had come to him around half past twelve, so he’d just slept about one and a half hours.
Not a dream. I really did meet Ember. How else could I be so… rejuvenated.
Then he remembered the urgency in Eudocia’s voice.
“What’s the problem, Eudocia? And please, stop calling me father.”
<Father, Amy is still here… she’s been talking to the others for more than an hour, and they are obviously being influenced by her.>