B009.8 Family Matters

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Even later…

 

This looks as good a place as any, Amy thought as she dragged the half-conscious Dalia through the street. The girl had woken up after she’d gotten her out of the club, only to throw up and groan all the way.

 

Amy had no idea where Dalia lived, and something told her that it’d be stupid to risk Basil walking in on her and his drunk, sparsely dressed friend, even if she was just putting her down on the couch or something. Her reputation wouldn’t do her any favours. Though it probably would be very funny. But then again, Basil had been weird lately, especially yesterday, and she thought it best not to agitate him any more than absolutely necessary.

 

So she’d decided to get the girl someplace warm, with something to eat and drink. And the nearest place she found was the “Dionysian Grill”, which sounded quite promising, food-wise. They probably didn’t offer all the other kinds of fun the name promised. And what a shame that is.

 

She reaffirmed her grip on Dalia, one of the girl’s arms over her shoulder, and took her inside. The place was set up more like a real restaurant than a fast-food restaurant, with someone standing at the entrance, waiting to assign tables. Everything was made of wood, except for the huge open stainless steel kitchen, where a team of cooks were preparing some big amounts of food. Good thing I came hungry.

 

Their entrance got some attention from the other patrons – two gorgeous girls in party clothing – though Dalia’s state also drew frowns of disapproval. The woman at the entrance looked confused, for a moment, and before she could gather herself and throw them out or anything, Amy poked her mind with some good old pleasure.

 

It was really funny, how little it took to control most people. The pleasure signals entered the woman’s brain, and her mind worked them into her reality to make them make sense. Thus, she felt happy to see them, and was quite open to giving them a secluded corner, where people couldn’t see much of them (just in case Dalia made a scene). Amy ordered two glasses of cooled water with lemon lemon juice and sat down next to Dalia, keeping her telepathy up so she’d notice if someone was listening in on them.

 

“How’re you feeling?” she asked the dizzy girl. She only got a groan in response, as Dalia put her head down on her folded arms. Amy giggled. “First time getting drunk?” Another groan, and Dalia put two fingers up without moving her hand. “Second? But first time since… the change?” A barely perceptible nod. “Stupid you. You’re not used to this body yet, you should’ve taken it easier,” Amy admonished her, thinking back to her own first contact with alcohol after her manifestation. It had been… unique. She had been very careful not to get drunk again. Of course, she couldn’t share that, so she gently patted the girl’s bare back (she was wearing a really nice dress – if only she wasn’t such a hack with make-up, she’d have been positively ravishing).

 

Footsteps came closer, and a young girl who would not look amiss in their company came up with two glasses of water (with extra lemon slices on top) on a tray.

 

“Vasiliki?” Amy asked with surprise, looking the girl up and down – she was wearing a light blue skirt with white trim and a pure white shirt and blue tie. Apparently the uniform here, and a nice one to be sure, giving Amy all sorts of ideas…

 

“Amy? Dalia!? What happened?” The Greek girl put her tray down, looking alternatively at them.

 

“I picked her up at a club – she overdid it with the drinks,” Amy said back in a low voice – but Dalia still groaned. “I didn’t want to take her to my place, I don’t know where she lives, so I took her to the nearest place where I could get her fed and watered – and which has a bathroom.”

 

“Good thing you brought her here,” Vasiliki replied, putting the drinks out in front of them onto paper saucers, then handed them the menu. “Look through the menu, tell me what you want – it’s on the house.”

 

“Thank you very much dear. And may I say, that uniform looks absolutely fetching on you,” Amy said in response, putting just the tiniest amount of innuendo into her voice, and was rewarded with a pretty blush.

 

“I’m flattered. You don’t look half-bad, either,” Vasiliki said and hurried off with her tray.

 

“She’s fun to tease,” Amy whispered to Dalia, and got an affirmative grunt in response. “Do you know any of her preferences?” A groan, then, “Boys only.” Such a shame. “So, why the drunken party girl act? I didn’t take you to be that reckless. Who knows what dastardly villain could have picked you up!”

 

“Head hurts… no talking, please…” Dalia sighed, raising her head to take a sip from her glass, making a sour expression when the taste hit. “This is awful.”

 

“It helps, believe me,” Amy said as she took a short draft herself. “Food will help even more. And going to the bathroom. You’ve got to get it all out of your system.” She looked through the menu, picking out something to eat. I’ll have to remember this place.

 

With some prodding, her erstwhile ward picked out something to eat, and the next time Vasiliki came by, they gave her their orders. “Alright, sit tight, I’ll be back soon!”

 

They spent their time waiting, quietly, until Vasiliki came back balancing two whole trays loaded down with food, abusing her supernatural sense of balance. She put them down, and there was quite a bit more than they had ordered.

 

“I’m taking my break, and I thought I’d join you – unless that’s a problem,” she explained when she saw Amy’s questioning gaze.

 

“Oh no, no problem at all!” Amy replied, arranging her food properly in front of her. Dalia simply pulled it all close and started eating without another word.

 

Vasiliki joined them, and they ate quietly for a few minutes. It was really good. Not real five-star food, but it was better than any fast-food joint Amy knew (she knew a lot) and better than most restaurants she’d been to (she’d been to a lot), too.

 

Dalia had to go to the bathroom several times, as her body processed the alcohol faster than was normal.

 

“So, Dalia, what’s wrong?” Vasiliki when she finished her main course, and turned to her salad.

 

“Why you think something’s wrong?” Dalia asked, slightly slurring her ‘s’ and ‘r’ sounds. She only got a deadpan look in response. “I just thought I’d party a little, you know? Have some fun, now that I’m hot, you know?” Her face was an awful mess, pale and sweaty, with dark rings around her eyes making her make-up look even worse than before.

 

“Don’t be like that, I’m sure you were plenty cute before,” Amy threw in. Self esteem issues, huh? That explains a lot.

 

Dalia snorted in a decidedly unladylike manner. “I was a fat, half-blind loser with permanent bed-hair. Nothing cute about it,” she replied between two mouthfuls of salad.

 

“You shouldn’t look down on yourself so much,” Vasiliki said. “Even if you weren’t conventionally attractive, that’s no reason to have that kind of attitude towards yourself – lots of girls our age have body issues, it’s nothing to feel bad about!”

 

“Says the girl who’s looked like a supermodel even before she manifested,” Dalia snarled.

 

“You did?” Amy asked, curious. This was the first time she was meeting someone else who’d been pretty before, like her!

 

Vasiliki shrugged. “I didn’t change, outwardly, all that much. My skin cleared up, otherwise, I’m pretty much the same as before.”

 

“How interesting. Did you know that, according to current theory, the Adonis trait is sparked by body image issues? That’s why so many metas, especially women, look like they’re out of a fantasy – they adapt to their beauty ideal, meaning, our culture’s beauty ideal, as they see it apply to themselves.”

 

“Thus the big…” Vasiliki looks at Dalia’s less-than-modest bust, then back at Amy’s face.

 

“Thus the big girls, yes,” Amy affirmed. “It’s also the reason why most metahumans – male and female both – don’t have body hair anymore.”

 

“That’s about what I’ve read so far, though my books had a more long-winded way of describing it,” Vasiliki said. “What about you, Amy? You certainly look like you could already be a metahuman.”

 

“Are you asking if I’m secretly a meta?” Amy replied, a little bit uncomfortable, and a lot amused.

 

“N-no, I guess Basil would have told us, and if not, then you probably wouldn’t, either, but I mean… you certainly look the part,” she pulled back. Now, even Dalia was actually paying attention.

 

“I guess I’ve just been blessed with good genes. Or I might be one of those zero tier metahumans you hear about lately. They’re supposed to not even notice their manifestation,” Amy continued, steering the conversation away from her.

 

“Yeah, what’s up with those? I asked B-six, but his explanation made no sense to me,” Dalia said, slowly brightening up.

 

Vasiliki immediately got what Amy called the ‘Lecturing Expression’ – she saw it a lot on Basil. No wonder he likes her.

 

“Zero tier metahumans are an only recently recognised phenomenon – though they might have existed long before, unnoticed. They generally exhibit low-level enhancements to their physical abilities – not high enough justify a proper rating – as well as exceptional health, fertility and beauty – consistent with Adonis-types, and they may also share their generally longer lifespan,” she pontificated. “They generally seem to, for lack of a better word, slip into their manifestation – no known case remembers manifesting, or when exactly the changes began, as they seem to take a while to set in.”

 

“So… basically, they’re just prettier than normal, and nothing else?” Dalia summed up.

 

“And healthier. That’s about all of it,” Amy concluded. “And since we’re talking about manifestations already – I’ve been meaning to ask, how did you two manifest? Would you mind sharing? Basil insists on not telling me your stories.” He’s so… annoyingly loyal.

 

“Got bullied. For years,” Dalia said, shrugging – and wincing immediately, as another ice pick of pain stabbed her brain.

 

Let me help with that, Amy thought, gently prodding her mind, emitting a soothing sensation. She didn’t want to enter her mind fully, so this was all she could do without risking notice.

 

“It got really bad, and I… I was considering suicide, I guess. I got really low,” Dalia continued, which gave Vasiliki a wide-eyed look. But before the other girl could respond, Dalia continued, “And well, I was… I was taking a walk, thinking about stuff, and there was some festival going on, and I bought this ticket for a lottery that was going on there. I decided, if I won, I’d keep going, if not… well, you know.”

 

Wow. I did not expect this, Amy thought, feeling honestly shocked.

 

“And that’s when it happened – suddenly, everything was standing still, and then the stand exploded into light, and there was this beautiful star,” the girl continued, apparently oblivious to how her audience felt, an enraptured smile spreading on her drawn face. “I felt I had a choice to make, and I decided to… to live. I took the star, saw some weird visions I can’t make sense of – something about stars and suns and a huge snake – and then I woke up and I was standing there, and the owner of the stand called out my number! First time I ever won something! That’s how I got my leather jacket – it fell off its hook, just when I was trying to decide what prize to choose. And well, I guess you know the rest. Played the lottery, went out to kick butt and take names, ran into B-six and Vasiliki here…” She looked at the two them. “That’s my story. What’s yours?” she asked towards Vasiliki.

 

To Amy’s surprise, the girl blushed. Ohh, did she manifest due to something naughty? There might be more fun in this girl than she’d thought…

 

“I’m not sure… my manifestation seems rather, uh… trivial, compared to yours,” she said, looking down at her empty plate.

 

Dalia snorted. “C’mon, you can tell me! I won’t hold it against you, you know that!”

 

C’mon, share, girl! Amy reached out, gently sending some relaxation her way. The girl’s shoulders visibly relaxed and she looked up at the two of them (they’d somehow ended up sitting in a triangle).

 

“It’s really… um, promise me you won’t tell anyone, alright?” she asked in a small voice.

 

“Of course!” the other two replied in unison – then looked at each other and giggled, which prompted another flinch of pain from the younger girl, followed by her emptying her glass. Vasiliki called for another one, then put her hands on the table, lacing her fingers together.

 

“It was summer, really hot, and all my friends where on vacation, so I… I kinda… sorta… got myself a joint-” she began, but was interrupted by a torrent of giggle (interspersed with groans of pain) from Dalia.

 

Y-y-you got a joint? You got high? Oh God, I think I’m either completely drunk or unconscious and dreaming, because this… this is…” She broke out into giggles again.

 

Vasiliki rolled her eyes, waiting for her friend to calm down, while Amy just watched them with amusement. They were so cute, Basil really needed to seduce them and start his own harem. It was the only sensible choice.

 

“May I continue?” Vasiliki asked, obviously annoyed. When Dalia finally got herself back under control, the dark-skinned girl (those perfect Greek features with that Mediterranean dark skin looked really yummy) took a deep breath and continued her tale, “My family has a cabin in the Abershy Forest, near the foot of the mountain to the West. I went there, set things up and lit m-“

 

“Set things up?” Amy interrupted, sensing unnecessarily complicated preparations (you learn to do that when you grow up with Basil Blake). “Do elaborate, my dear!”

 

“Uh, I fired the fireplace up, even though it was high summer, and I put an old, thick blanket over the couch I’d be sitting on, and I opened all the windows and turned on the ventilation. I stripped naked, put my clothes in a bag, the bag then under the same blanket. My plan was to take a shower right afterwards, then burn the blanket – our fireplace is big enough for that – and so avoid the smell sticking ot anything.”

 

Amy bit her lip, refusing to break out laughing and seem like she was ridiculing the younger girl. Even Dalia resisted, barely – though that might have had more to do with her groaning in pain as another headache attacked her (Amy could only soothe it, not make it go away).

 

“You know, you and Basil fit together quite nicely,” Amy said, making Vasiliki blush again. Maybe she’s interested? Well, of course she’d be, Basil is a real sweetheart! (In Amy’s mind, at least, Basil was a girl magnet. So far, she’d seen no reason to assume otherwise).

 

“I- I don’t know about that,” the girl deflected, looking away. “A-anyway, I smoked the joint and, well… you hear about people manifesting on drugs, right? Just having a bad reaction to them, or actually overdosing, or stuff? Well, in my case, I had a really good reaction to it – I mean, it was glorious,” she said, and the same enraptured smile that had been on Dalia’s face before appeared on hers now. “I… I just stood up and walked out the cabin, strolling around the forest, totally aiml-“

 

“Naked? You took a naked stroll through a public forest?” Dalia asked before breaking out into torrents of giggles again. Even Amy had to fight hard not to join in. I would’ve liked to see that.

 

Now Vasiliki was blushing from her scalp down to her throat (and probably deeper, but that outfit showed too little cleavage), but she continued resolutely, “At some point, the scenery changed – I was in a forest that looked like it came right out of a dream – vibrant colours, rolling hills, gargantuan trees with large roots – like in those Japanese movies with the wolf princess or the giant bugs – and more, and I… I come to this spring, and I kneel down to drink, and then she appeared.”

 

Now her gaze was positively blissful, and Amy leaned in closer, more curious than ever. She’d heard about people meeting strangers, fantastic and real figures during their manifestations…

 

“It was Hecate. I mean, the Goddess. She appeared as three beautiful, identical women in dark green chitons, with magnificient golden girdles. And she talked to me, in three voices, about… about some prophecy, about five lights I had to find and three suns and another, something she called the Black Sun. I still can’t make heads or tails of it, but then she asked me if I wanted to accept it, and the three put their hands together, holding out this star… and I took it, waking up back at the cabin, completely sober again.”

 

She looked at them with a smile, but Dalia seemed thoughtful. “You know…” she began. “I think, the visions I saw… there were five stars, maybe it was about the same thing?”

 

Vasiliki got a thoughtful look, and so did Amy. “There’ve been cases of people witnessing fragments of the future during their manifestation… Doctor Despair claimed he’d dreamed of DiL’s attack on Los Angeles, though it hadn’t made any sense to him at the time,” she said. How curious.

 

“I can… I can’t remember, right now, but I’m sure I’ll be able to, once I’m back to one hundred percent,” Dalia groaned.

 

“I’ll keep it in mind. We should ask Basil, too, maybe he saw something as well?” Vasiliki offered.

 

“I’m sure he’ll love a new riddle to solve,” Amy contributed. “But now, another question I’ve always been meaning to ask you two – why’re you vigilantes? Why didn’t you join the heroes, if you want to fight the good fight?”

 

They both thought it over, and Dalia answered first, “It just kinda worked out that way, and I thought it’d be fun to stick with these two.”

 

How very… you. Amy turned to Vasiliki, as did Dalia.

 

The girl looked down at her interlaced fingers again, looking… ashamed. “I… I wouldn’t make a good hero, I think. They’d probably lock me up,” she explained.

 

Amy’s eyebrows rose up. Interesting… “Why, what have you done?”

 

“It’s not what I’ve already done, it’s what I’m going to do. What I plan to do, once I get the chance… and the power to do it,” she continued. Before either of the others could dig deeper, she explained, “I have… had a cousin I was very close to. She was a superhero – well, more like a super-environmentalist – and she… she was murdered.”

 

Ahhh… “And you want revenge?”

 

Vasiliki nodded. “She was… like a sister to me.” There were tears in her eyes. Dalia surprised them both when she slid over to her, putting an arm around Vasiliki’s shoulders.

 

“It’s alright, teacher. We understand. And for what it’s worth, I’ll help ya get your revenge, when the time comes,” she said, trying to be comforting (though her breath probably ruined part of the effect, judging by the way Vasiliki was trying not to breathe in.

 

Oh, this is so much fun.

 

“Th-thank you.”

 

“Now, can you tell us who your sister was? And what asshole killed her, I need a name if I’m gonna help you track him down!”

 

“It wasn’t a man. And my cousin’s cape was Lupa Maior,” Vasiliki explained, her voice wistful. “She was a really sweet girl, just barely an adult, and she only really patrolled forests and nature parks, hunting poachers and the like.”

 

Oh. Crap. Amy knew that name.

 

“And the monster who killed her was Mindstar, that twisted bitch,” the girl continued, her face twisted by raw hatred. “And someday, I’m gonna twist her face back onto her neck, like she did with Estephania!”

 

Awwwwwwkward!

 

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B009.7 Family Matters

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5th November, Early Morning

The morning had actually turned out warmer than expected – Basil still had to wear a jacket and a scarf, but at least there was not any new snow. Not that he disliked snow – far from it – frozen surfaces were bad for his grappling hooks and, subsequently, bad for him.

And I will have a lot less protection than before, once I have reworked my armor into something lighter and cheaper. He really had to get more money. Maybe I should have asked Mister Karlson for a job, he thought with a smirk no one saw.

He walked on past a fast food restaurant as he thought about yesterday evening – he had tried to talk to Amy, but she had been in a weird mood, and he had decided to wait for a better opportunity to take his first step in… well, he did not know if it could be called redeeming, but perhaps reigning her in? He should have talked to her at once, made his position clear, set boundaries…

Except the mere idea of getting into a fight with her made him physically ill. Just looking at Amy at breakfast had made him feel both ashamed, angry and wistful, all once, remembering the good old days.

I wonder if this is how Lady Light feels, every time she looks at the Dark. Was that what he was doomed to do? Spend the rest of his life trying to reign a mostly insane – and he could not deny it, Amy was not all right in the head (but neither was he, so he could not really throw stones) – supervillain in, always trying to preserve those beautiful memories of better days, trying to bring them back to life?

Maybe he was assuming too much – there probably were other, better reasons, more noble ideals and goals, maybe even something tied to Point Zero and their powers involved – but that would explain a lot of things. He only had a few years of those really good memories, and they were rather normal – Lady Light had a full score of years, an entire lifetime of being together with him, through an entire world war even before they got powers, and everything since then… Maybe that was the reason for conceiving Irene? A desperate attempt to draw them closer, to pull him back onto the side of the angels? It certainly seemed to work, he had never been as mellow and restrained as during the past decade.

Or perhaps a weapon to stop her older sister… because there certainly seems to be no other way besides bringing overwhelming power to bear against her.

But that, too was just speculation.

I would sure like to talk to them both. First, though, I need to stop distracting myself from the issue at hand. Amy.

He walked by the alley next to the restaurant just as he finished these thoughts, and caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. A trash can’s lid had moved.

I found Grimalkin in a place like this, he thought, and suddenly he hoped… maybe he would find him again? He sure missed that crazy red-brown eyed furball of a cat. Despite what it had done to Amy’s underwear drawer. Or maybe because of it. It had been rather funny, after the horror had worn off. I could keep him in my hideout now, so Amy could not object.

Reaching out, he lifted the trash lid – and a rat jumped out and scuttled away. So not Grimalkin. He put the lid back down and walked on towards his hideout.

I wonder what happened to him – where he is by now.

Shaking his head, Basil continued on his way to his hideout. There was a lot of work to be done. And maybe, tonight, he would feel up to confronting Amy.

 

 

* * *

 

The lift went down into the lair, and Basil was not surprised to find Vasiliki already there, in her winter school uniform, sitting on the couch.

“You know, your perfume is nice, but you wear too much of it,” he said in lieu of a greeting.

She looked up from her book (she was always reading something) and gave him a deadpan look. “It’s supposed to be noticable,” she said as she closed her book and stood up. “And I didn’t come here to discuss cosmetics.”

He shrugged, taking his jacket and boots off. “Why did you come here? You don’t usually come in the morning.”

“Since I don’t have school this week – again – I’ll be working in one of our restaurants, and I drew the afternoon shift,” she explained, brushing a few stray strands of hair behind her ear. “Anyway, I wanted to try an experiment with y-“

His head whipped around from where he’d been switching into his labcoat. “Experiment! Tell me more!”

“Weeeeeeell… you know how they say, Contriving and Gadgeteering can’t go together? I thought, maybe, there’s a way to get around that. Here’s what I was thinking…”

 

 

* * *

 

“Oh God, I think it’s alive!”

“Muhahahahaha!”

“What in the name of God are you doing!?”

“I always swore to myself I would laugh madly if this happened! I have been practicing the laugh ever since I got my powers!”

“Are you c- Oh shit, it’s trying to escape! Quick, we have to stop it before it gets out!”

 

 

* * *

 

“Let us never do this again,” she sighed, falling down onto her butt.

“Agreed.”

“Let us never speak of this to anyone,” she added.

“Agreed. I guess there IS a good reason why people do not do these experiments anymore. Though I have to say, it was rather… sporting, do you not think so?” he replied, sitting down next to her, looking very deliberately away from her.

“Well… yeah, but… how come I always end up indecent after these things!? Thank God I wasn’t wearing my costume, because I only have one left!” she replied, glad that he was not the peeping type (sometimes she thought he didn’t have a sex drive to begin with).

“Here, take my coat,” he said, giving her his labcoat. Of course he’d gotten out of it unharmed – though Vasiliki had to admit, his reaction time was insane to begin with. In fact, they should probably test him sometime, in case he had some kind of secondary power that sped them up.

Because it was either that, or being a grizzled veteran with finely honed instincts in disguise. And that was too ridiculous to consider, really.

Basil was many things, but not grizzled.

“Do you want a dragonskin suit? I should have enough material for one more,” he offered.

She thought it over. She really didn’t want to impose on his fading resources, but… her current costume was basically just fabric – she could only enchant objects she’d customized to meet her standards, and doing that to a fullbody skin-tight suit took time.

“I’ll take it. I insist on paying you back, though. If only in rates,” she said, giving him a look that dared him to give it to her for free.

To her surprise, he just nodded, his expression understanding. “Alright. We will work something out. How about you pay me in meals at your restaurant? Haven’t ever been there, but I hear the chain’s great. And I love Greek food.”

She shrugged. “Suits me. I’ll give you a card, then they’ll be putting it on my name.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You actually have a system for giving out free meals to people?”

She raised her nose up. “Paying people with food is common Hellenic family tradition.”

“Think I can join your family?”

She looked away. “D-don’t be ridiculous!”

“Huh? Why are you blushing?”

 

 

* * *

 

Around Noon

Melody stumbled back into her room, yawning. She really shouldn’t have gone drinking with Irene. They were too young! And she’d never even touched alcohol before, except for a sip of wine during Christmas or such. Of course, her body could take it – she’d emptied half a bottle of… something Irene had given her, and had barely felt her fingertips and toes prickle.

But still, they’d really lost track of time, and she’d never even considered the damage Irene might have caused if she got drunk – but she turned out to be the most pleasant drunk Melody could imagine (it turned out her power didn’t protect her from alcohol at all unless she wanted it to, and sometimes not even then). She’d just gotten quieter and quieter, and then fallen asleep.

Of course, that meant they were stuck in Italy, two underage girls without passports or anything. And Irene wouldn’t wake up.

She could have gone to the local United Heroes chapter, but… somehow, she really didn’t want this to become official.

Finally, she’d done something she never thought she would – she’d taken Irene’s cellphone and called her father (she didn’t want to disturb Lady Light at work, and something told her the Dark would be more understanding of the situation – besides, anything to distract him from doing Evil).

And… well, travel by Darkwraith was definitely not something she ever wanted to do again. He’d been a perfect gentleman, even seemed to find it funny what had happened – apparently, he already knew how Irene reacted to alcohol – and had taken her straight back here, dropping her off in the nearest alley, out of sight, telling her to ‘be a good girl’.

Look who’s talking, she thought as she pulled her sticky clothes off – the first half of a bottle hadn’t done much, but the following nine bottles of Italian spirit had done a number on her senses.

She stumbled out of her room in a bathrobe and into the showers, passing by a disgustingly chipper Aimi (who began to say something, then saw how messed up Melody was and wisely shut her mouth), and all but falling under the first showerhead, turning it on to ice-cold.

Brrrrr! Now, that helped better than any other remedy against a hangover… or whatever one would call her state. Not her field of expertise.

How did we even get the idea to try out Italian alcoholic drinks? Had it been Irene’s idea, or hers? She couldn’t quite remember…

Maybe Irene would remember, whenever she woke up. Her father had said it might take time, though.

I should probably go to sleep, she thought. No school this week, anyway. She turned the shower off, put the bathrobe on, and walked back into her room, wet and dripping. There wasn’t much chance of her catching a cold, but… she still sat down to dry her hair.

Turns out, she shouldn’t have, because someone knocked.

“Melody? It’s me, Sarah!” her handler said in a soft voice.

Oh, please don’t tell me I have an appointment. She at least couldn’t remember one.

“You have an appointment with Mister Patrid and Mister Gerden, from the Board of Directors.”

Dratz, why can’t they let me- wait, the Board of Directors!? What do they want with me!?

 

 

* * *

 

Later that evening

Dalia raised her glass high, shouting along with the other people in the club. The band had gotten a call-response thing going, and though she couldn’t, for the life of her, tell what she was supposed to say in response, she just shouted along with the others. The intervals were just big enough to take another draw from her drink, or call for a new one, and it was awesome.

She never could have gotten into a place like this! No way, even if she hadn’t so obviously been underage. Now the bouncers didn’t care if she was underage or not – she was hot, she was dressed up and obviously up for a party, so she was just waved in.

Suck on that, Zara! Bet’ya you never got to skip the line just for being hot! she thought in triumph as she emptied her glass and put it back on the counter, calling for a new one. Another advantage of being her, she could take a lot. As in, she was on her ninth drink, and she barely noticed a buzz – when she’d tried some alcohol back then, she’d dropped after just one drink! Now, her vision was a little weird and unfocused, but she could still tell where everything was and all!

And the guys. They were all looking at her when she danced by them, looked her body up and down, feasting on every bit of skin she was showing off… It made her feel so much more like a woman than she ever had before!

And, as if she wasn’t feeling good enough already, just then, she saw her. Good God, was she hot. She’d known that before, of course, but she’d never seen her dressed up for partying before!

Grabbing her new drink – something blue and gold and sparkly, with a name she couldn’t even pronounce – she danced her way through the crowd – I fucking love this – I don’t even need training to dance, it just works and towards her. There was already a throng of guys around her, trying to dance her up, but she just danced by all of them, teasing, playing.

She’d already taken the dancefloor over, as people began to dance around her, she had that much presence.

I should hate her for stealing my thunder. But she had to admit, she still had to learn a lot, and here was a chance for some of it.

“Didn’t ecssspect to find yyyyyou here,” she said, not noticing the slur in her own voice. “How come yyyyou can dshuust come in here and make everyone pay attentschion like that?”

She turned, looking at her, eyes and lips sparkling brightly. “I just do it!” she replied. “And aren’t you a little young for a Fleur de Lune?” she asked, taking Dalia’s drink and emptying it in one draft!

And yet, I just want to kiss her. How does she do that? “I can take ik!” Dalia said proudly. “I lick alcohol! Never knew it wash thish goot!” she continued, giggling.

She smirked, and took her hand. “I think I can do better than some alcohol! Come, let’s dance!”

Dalia was so focused on the warmth and softness of her hand, she barely noticed when she pulled her onto the dance floor, held her hand up in hers, put her other hand on her hip and started to move.

It started slow, in tune with the slowly winding up song the band was just getting into, and then sped up along with it.

And Dalia was keeping up. She’d never have believed it, but her every step was perfect, keeping up with her as they whirled around the floor, two unbelievably hot babes dancing in a way that was just barely out of the realm of indecency.

She was so warm, and she smelled so nice, and the room was so hot and loud and full and just…

The world whirled around them, and Dalia couldn’t even really tell what they were talking about, just that she felt so… fuzzy…

 

 

* * *

 

“Well, this is awkward,” Amy whispered as she twirled with the barely conscious girl, getting her off the dance floor without making a scene. She was emitting gentle waves of don’t notice us, and once she was sure they were unobserved, she picked her up like a baby (she weighed about as much to her) and carried her out of the club through the backdoor.

“Basil would kill me if I didn’t take care of you now, you know? What a bothersome girl…” She looked down at the pretty face with the badly applied make-up. “A cutie, though.”

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B009.6 Family Matters

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Prisca loved her new power. It was pretty much the second-most awesome power she could have gotten, as far as she was concerned. The only thing that could have topped Gilgul would be something to truly fix her up, some powerset that got rid of this wretched piece of shit Dusu had made altogether.

But after spending the better part of a decade bedridden and in constant pain, just having the ability to sleep painlessly would have been an improvement – and now she even got to live while sleeping painlessly.

If only Basil would finally give in have sex with her, she’d probably even stop caring about having to return to this body… for a while. But no, he has to be all… moral and sweet and all that crap! And it’s not even like there’s any risks involved!

The machines started to beep, and Prisca forced herself to calm down. Basil had… he’d really done miraculous work. The doctors had been putting her through scans and tests for more than a week, and they still could barely understand half the procedures he’d performed on her to save her – and that didn’t even factor in the machines that her life now depended on. Sure, she was blind, couldn’t risk getting worked up, in constant pain while awake and could barely move her hands, but she was alive. When the doctors said she should be dead.

And the girls wonder why I put up with Basil, she thought, amused. Even putting aside the fact that he’d stuck with her for weeks before she ever got her power and actually became attractive, showing interest in a crippled scarecrow of a girl, he’d now saved her life twice over. She could take him being scatterbrained, or blowing up on her once. He’d earned more than enough BF points to last him a lifetime by now. And then some.

She heard her tablet’s ringtone – Basil had reconfigured it remotely, for her, reworking it to work acoustically, now, and with signs drawn on the screen. The ringtone now announced a call. A clear, pleasant woman’s voice – a little like Eudocia, but stiffer – announced ‘Basil Blake’ to her. Tapping the screen twice in succession, she accepted the call.

<Hello, Prisca,> he said, more subdued than he usually was. <How are you doing?>

Slowly, Prisca wrote her reply on the tablet with one finger. She couldn’t talk much in this body, not anymore. And it sounded like a toad croaking, anyway. <Hello, Basil,> came the synthesized answer, modelled after her old voice.

There was a short pause. <I just wanted to apologize for blowing up at you all earlier. Especially you.>

<Why me, especially?> she replied. That was mean. She knew the answer, she just wanted to hear him say it again.

<Because you are my girlfriend. I like you most of all of them,> he replied as if it was completely obvious (it was), giving her a warm feeling. She was a horrible person for being so needy, but she wouldn’t miss it, either.

<Aha. So, are you going to tell me why you’re in such a bad mood?>

<Not over the phone. We can talk about it the next time we meet. There is also another matter I wanted to discuss with you today, but well…>

She wrote her reply quickly. <Didn’t go so well.>

<Let us talk next time. I need to call the others and apologize, then… well, then I need to start working on the reason for my mood today.>

<Good luck.>

<Thank you, and goodbye. I love you.> And with that, he hung up, without even giving her a chance to reply in kind.

Sometimes, he really was a jerk.

She loved him anyway. And she couldn’t wait to actually be with him again.

 

 

* * *

 

Ten minutes to midnight

“I’m ho-o-ome!” she sang as she slipped into their flat, locking the door behind her.

After a few seconds, during which she started taking off her boots, a reply reached her. “Wellllllcome ba-b-back,” came the stuttering, slurred reply.

Dalia frowned, throwing said boots off along with her jacket. “Mom, have you been drinking again?” she asked, stalking to the living room – it was really more of a penthouse, all things considered. She’d won another lottery since winning her powers. A small one, only a million bucks, but still. Enough to set them up for life, along with everything else she’d won so far.

You couldn’t tell that from looking at the state of the living room though, much less her mother. The room was seriously messed up, worn clothes, dirty underwear, half-eaten pizza and Chinese takeout lying around.

Also, lots of empty bottles. And stains on the expensive carpet, where contents had been spilled. She didn’t smell any vomit, though. That was an improvement, at least.

And, of course, her mother. Jana Fitzhampton had, once upon a time, been quite the beauty (some of her older pictures made her look nearly metahuman). Dalia could, barely, remember a time when she’d dreamed of someday being as beautiful as her mommy.

You couldn’t tell that from looking at her, though. She’d put on some weight. Not really overweight, just enough to make her look a little shapeless, a lot unkempt. Her red hair was tangled, dirty and lacked any luster and her cheeks were red and constantly puffed up. Her fingers were covered in bandaids, from disastrous attempts to make food, or from shattered bottles or glasses, or from slipping…

Well, from lots and lots of bad luck, really. It was… disgustingly ironic – Dalia got all the good luck in the world, and her Mom stumbled from one dogpile to the next.

There’s something there…

Some days, Dalia felt like there was something there that didn’t click. Something she should get, but didn’t.

For now, all she could do was clean up the place, talking with her mother all the while.

“How was your day?” she always asked, just so she’d know what had gone wrong this time.

“Shitty,” Jana groaned, turning on the couch. “Ow, not again,” she sighed, twisting to pull an empty bottle out of the cushions, where it was sticking out just so it’d dig into her back when she turned. “I tried to cook, but I just burned myself.” She showed a cooling patch she’d slapped onto the underside of her right forearm. “Ordered some Chinese takeout, but I think it was spoiled, because I spent an entire hour vomiting into the toilet.” She fumbled around, trying to find a bottle she hadn’t emptied yet, but Dalia was faster, taking them away. “Hey, let me… Let me drink! It hurts without it,” she complained, slurring her ‘s’ sounds.

Dalia ignored her, went to the fridge and got a cooled water bottle out, then helped Jana up, holding the bottle up to her lips. Her good luck usually cancelled out her mother’s bad luck whenever they were together, but any time she went out…

Either way, she could help her drink, and then she ushered her into the bathroom, taking a good long shower along with her. Safer that way, for Jana.

“Nice girl… you’re such a nice girl…” Jana whispered, already half-asleep. She rarely slept anymore, unless Dalia was with her. Too much risk of something bad happening in her sleep.

“Let’s get you fixed up momma. I got no school tomorrow, so we can sleep in.”

Her only reply was a sigh of relief.

Guiding her mother through all her bathroom ministrations was quite the role reversal compared to the year she spent in depression, before she got her powers. Towards the end, she had even needed her mother’s help to go to the toilet, on the bad days.

On the good ones, she’d been able to eat one meal a day by herself.

Don’t go there, Dalia. Don’t go there. Look forward.

She dried her mother’s hair – Jana flinched when she turned the hairdryer on, probably remembering the occasion where it had actually gone up in flames in her hand a few weeks ago. Then she worked on her own, put them both into pyjamas, reapplied creme and bandaids to her mother’s wounds and walked carefully to bed, keeping an eye out for anything sharp her mother might accidentilly step on.

Yeah, it had been that kind of week. Jana’s feet showed more bandaids than skin by now, especially below.

“C’mon, let’s go to sleep,” she whispered after checking the bed over. She lay down with her mother, clapping her hands to turn the lights on (it never seemed to work for her mother) and went to sleep.

“Sssssuch a good girl,” Jana whispered, hugging her. Dalia replied in kind.

If only she knew why her mother was being haunted by so much bad luck.

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Shameless Promotion: Goodfae

Hello dear readers,

I just want to shamelessly promote kspam’s Urban Fantasy Web Serial, Goodfae.

It’s a story set in the late twenties and early thirties of the 20th century, centered around Alfonso, a young mafioso just inducted into a mafia family who’s out to make money for the sake of treating his sick sister.

The twist is that, during World War I – or The Great War, as it was known at that time – the supernatural world went public, and now the mobs and policemen both use all kinds of magic in their war, too!

The story has just entered its second arc, and it’s shaping up to be one of the good ones, so check it out!

Sincerely,

Tieshaunn

Brennus Files 05: Threat Classifications

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Threat Classifications are a tricky thing – they are difficult to assign, and prone to change over time. Not to mention that they don’t necessarily have anything to do with combat ability or raw destructive power – in fact, of the four known metahumans to hold the highest possible rating, only half have outright destructive, combat-focused powers. There are even a few baseline humans, typically those who associate heavily with other metahumans and thus gain influence over them, who are given these classifications.

Official Classifications in America are assigned by the Department for Supernatural Affairs (DSA), though the United Heroes and the Police usually give a lot of input, and may assign temporary classifications.

Internationally, the United Supernatural Committee, a part of the PATO, handles these classifications.

Generally, these descriptors are only given to villains and vigilantes, but many heroes, as well as powerful metahuman political figures also carry one.

Note: A classification may be given a “+” or “-” descriptor, identify the individual as especially dangerous within that threat class, or less dangerous than most of said class.

E-Class

Also known as the Kitchen Sink Class, this classification is the minimal class assigned to all metahumans, simply due to the volatile nature of powers, the impossibility of perfectly analyzing and predicting them. It is of no real importance, in the great scheme of things, and few bother ever mentioning it, as calling a person an E-Class threat is the same as saying “not dangerous enough in any way to qualify for the real classifications”.

D-Class

This is the second-most often applied classification, describing mostly metahumans (as well as a few very successful baseline operatives). It describes individuals who can threaten any baseline human, physically or mentally, by virtue of their power alone, without factoring in training, as well as the opposite, highly-trained individuals that can threaten any baseline human by virtue of training alone (as such, it can apply to a lot of baseline criminals, soldiers and policement, though it is very, very rarely applied to exceptional cases).

C-Class

This is the most common classification applied to metahumans whose power alone or power and  training combined can challenge entire groups of professional baseline fighters – be they military, criminal or any other professional unit. Usually, all superheroes and villains rate at least a C- rating.

B-Class

Now we get into the meat of things – those metahumans who really give the powers that be a headache. Of the three high classes, B-Class is by far the most common, comprising more than seventy percent of all classified metahumans above C-Class. Metahumans in this class are beyond the ability of anything less than a small army of baseline humans to take him or her down, or has some manner of connection or influence that allows them to defy baseline attempts of being taken down, as well as the willingness to use said abilities to cause damage to society in some way. It can also be applied to metahumans whose powers are, in and of themselves, going to cause low- to mid-level trouble (like most gadgeteers, limited mind controllers or power enhancers). Metahumans from this level and up are generally kept under close scrutiny by the government, though generally not to the point of antagonizing them – and, in fact, are treated very favourably when it comes to using their powers for the “good guys”. For example, a B-Class combat-focused metahuman who joins the army will generally make five to seven times the wage of any other personnel of the same rank.

A-Class

This is where things get really problematic. For the longest time, A-Class was the highest class assigned to metahumans, applying to all those individuals judged impossible or extremely unlikely to take down without using metahumans of comparable power, or several metahumans with fitting powers. Lady Light and the Dark were both among the first to be given this classification, when they were first introduced in the mid-thirties. An A-Class metahuman in government employ generally makes ten to twelve times the wage of baselines of the same or similar function, and that doesn’t even factor in what some can do in the private market (such as as part of Private Security Companies – metahuman bodyguards are sought after to incredible degrees).

S-Class

Here comes the big one. Well, second-biggest, but that’s a recent development. S-Class metahumans are the nightmare of every democrat or socialist – individuals who, by dint of power alone, power and training or connections are capable of threatening entire cities or even countries, threats on a global scale. They are generally capable of shrugging off anything but concentrated metahuman attempts at taking them down, either through sheer toughness, mobility or obfuscation, capable of causing massive damage to or subvert either material, mental, economic or social structures of society. Universal telepaths, for example, are usually rated as such due to the many, many ways in which they can cause said subversion, but it also applies to nearly all so-called ‘broken’ metahumans – monstrosities such as  Hastur, Weisswald and Queen Bee.

It also applies to such persons as Lady Light, whose cultural weight and influence on the hero community (not to mention connections to the Dark and leading politicians) would allow her to cause incredible damage to the world, rivaling even her daughter Desolation-in-Light, should she go bad – or die (one shudders to think how the Dark or Gloom Glimmer, not to mention the Shining Guardians – two of whom are S-Class threats in and of themselves, and all of whom consider her a kind of mother to themselves – would react to her death).

Another special member of this classification was Lara Appleton, Ember’s mother. Even though the mere thought of her threatening so much as a cripple in a wheelchair was laughable, the simple fact that she was the mother – and the closest confidante – of Ember bumped her up to this level.

S+

This classification was originally created for Desolation-in-Light alone, but soon thereafter, Emyr Blackhill (also known as The Godking of Mars) was raised to this level, and they were soon joined by Ember.

S+ metahumans – and this classification applies solely to metahumans – are those few individuals whose mere existence is a threat to global security, and whose every action is unlikely to do anything other than make things worse.

They are also, one and all, considered effectively immortal, or at least so close that it makes no difference – the only member of the group that was killed, Emyr Blackhill, could only be killed by a power that is pretty much unique in its unrestrained lethality, and which was lost during that last, barely known battle on Mars. And yet, to this day, the repercussions of his none too brief rule are still being felt all across the globe.

And one can make a pretty convincing argument that the man who single-handedly conquered the entire planet Earth in five days was, overall, the least dangerous of the three S+ threats known to the world.

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