B14.2 Breaking Point

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“Commencing fifty-ninth attempt at completing the prime directive,” the Memento in front of them said, its brassy, electronic voice carrying easily across the plaza. “Assuming command of local operations as per pre-existing protocols established with the relevant Metahuman Combat Organisations.”

Irene watched the machine – could it even really be said to be a machine? – reach out and touch the pillar of tesseracts. Golden light spread from the point of impact, circuit patterns spreading over and through the tesseracts as they folded into themselves and disappeared, until only one was left, floating at about chest height above the ground.

Her power twitched, a sensory ability falling into place which traced the spatial distortions, locating the tesseracts across the entire area covered by the Desolation Field. They’d been spread out, though not uniformly, clustering closer at key areas while neglecting ones at the fringes.

“These constructs serve as nodes for a teleportation network,” Memento explained calmly. “Touching one will project a map of the nodes’ locations and the area in general into your mind, allowing you to choose a node as the destination.”

He raised a hand, which split open and retracted the fingers, forming a cannon of sorts, as Irene felt the sensory ability recede in favour of a form of defense… desolidification of some kind, but she didn’t get a chance to figure it out before it was gone, her power realising that she didn’t need to defend herself against Memento.

A silvery beam was projected out of the arm cannon, like the wave patterns on liquid mercury you dropped something into, only it was just the waves without the mercury. Where the beam concentrated, a huge metal crate… faded into view, becoming fully solid within a few seconds.

Once the beam cut off, the crate folded open, revealing hundreds of small, about palm-sized objects, looking like watches without hands or bands.

“Every combatant is strongly advised to take one of these communicators and affix them to their body by touching the flat side to whichever spot upon them that they want it to adhere to,” he explained, as people began to appear out of the node, seemingly blinking into existence out of nowhere, up to four at a time each touching a different side of the tesseract.

Irene paid them no mind and stepped forward, feeling the cobblestone beneath her feet, thanks to the sock-like bottoms of her suit that she wore in lieu of actual shoes; a choice she’d made for a variety of reasons, from having no need to walk where it would be impractical footwear, to just wanting something cute and unusual…

And she was deflecting, letting her mind drift rather than deal with the here and now. She had to focus, to get herself ready to dive back into the fight; so she took one of the watches, turning it about in her hand as she walked away from the crate – it was more of a container really, when looked at from close range, it’d only seemed like a mere crate due to Memento’s present body being so huge – and came to a stop a little apart from anyone else.

She didn’t feel up to interacting, right then and there. The last few minutes still weighed heavily on her, as she touched the contrivance to her left collarbone, just below where the cape she’d inherited from her mother was connected to her bodysuit, and it stuck to it under its own power, booting up with a barely audible hum.

Mother’s cape, Irene thought morosely, remembering the occasion when her mother had given it to her – just minutes before she’d fought the Rabid Eight in that stupid stunt the director and Patrick had cooked up to show New Lennston that the UH still had teeth, even with nearly the entire adult membership being away for several months (it had worked, of course – barring the two bizarre S-Class events which followed upon one another, and the Red Goblins’ idiocy, the crime rate in New Lennston had risen only slightly, way below the projections made by Argus Panopticos), the moment when her mother had pulled the cape off her shoulders and put it around Irene’s, followed by a kiss to the forehead, standing out far more in her recollection than the entire battle which had followed, than the entire rest of the day, even though it’d been the day she’d first met Melody.

“You will surpass us, my love,” her mother said, her words as clear as if she was saying them right now. “You are the best of me, and the best of your father, and one day you will be more than we could ever be.”

And she’d said that with such conviction, like it was an absolute truth, and yet so calmly and casually, like it was self-evident.

Her father had been there also, as he was now, when her mother was not. Just like then, now, he moved closer, wrapping his arms around her from behind, lifting her off her feet to give her a light hug; though his wraith had been more solid then, his power more present, not expended as it was now.

“What are you thinking about, zeiskeit?” he asked now.

“What your mother is trying to say is that, one day, she and I will be but footnotes in history books, our only notable achievement being that we gave birth to and raised you,” he’d said then. “Now go and show the world a glimpse of that.”

“I’m thinking about Bree,” she said softly, feeling his body stiffen briefly, a flinch she could only notice because she was pressed so tightly against him, half engulfed in the wispy mist of his wraith. “I tried to… to reach her.” Her eyes watered, though she managed to blink the tears away, moments before her power offered and then withdrew a power that’d deaden her emotions. “She didn’t even notice me.”

She’d been so proud, back then. To finally be stepping up to the task. To finally have enough control over herself and her power that her parents trusted her to put on a costume and go out and do good.

To finally be able to start working on the one thing she knew would delight her parents more than anything, perhaps even more than answering that question – to recover their firstborn, so their family could finally be whole, without Bree’s spectre always looming over them.

To prove to the world that no one was beyond redemption.

To save her big sister.

And on a more selfish note, to prove that she herself didn’t have to follow down Bree’s path and even if she did, that she could still be saved even then.

She used to have nightmares about becoming like Bree, about killing those near and dear to herself – first her parents, then those like Gruncle Jake or Uncle Neil or Journeyman. Later, others had joined them in her nightmares, Thomas, Harry, Aimihime, even Goudo and Jared. Even Basil and his teammates, though she knew them so little. Prisca.

Melody.

“She is beyond saving, Irene,” he spoke softly, as he put her down and gently turned her around to face him, lowering himself down on one knee to look her in the eyes as he put a hand on each shoulder. “Please, please, if you must fight here – and believe me, if I thought I could enforce it right now, I wouldn’t let you take part in this – then you must not try to save her. You must not try to reach her. The only way you can go if you want to stay here is to see her as the enemy she is and work to mitigate the damage she does… and protect yourself.”

He pulled her into a hug again, the mist-like shadows wrapping around her, engulfing her face as she was pulled tightly against his hard chest, his arms warm and strong around her.

Even as she felt her body relax a bit, even as she focused on him to center her thoughts a bit, to keep them from continuing to fly apart, she couldn’t help but remember and consider…

You’re her father. Shouldn’t you, above all, believe that she can be saved? Do everything possible to save her? If not you, then who?

“How can I be more than both of you, if I can’t even do this?” she asked instead, her voice barely audible even to herself, catching hold of a different line of thought.

“Maybe one day you will be able to do what we couldn’t,” he replied, his voice soft in spite of the manifold distortions worked into it. “But that day is not now. Please, Irene, promise me. Promise me that you won’t try to save her, not today. Promise me that you’ll prioritise keeping yourself safe.” His grip on her tightened, as if he was trying to pull her deeper into his shadows, restrain her so she wouldn’t be able to join in the fight. “If not for your sake, then for mine. I could not bear to lose you.”

Unbidden, powers rose to prevent even that. High-speed teleportation, gaseous desolidification, a crude yet immensely powerful form of telekinesis…

No, she didn’t need those. She pushed the powers back, preventing them… herself… her steward… whomever from lashing out at her father or escaping his embrace.

Still, it served to illustrate his point well. Perhaps, if he hadn’t spent himself fighting Marchosias, then the Gefährten, he might have been able to restrain her, but the way he was now…

All he could do was plead with her and she would be lying if she denied that his heartfelt plea – for it truly was such, there was no doubt as to the sincerity of his emotions – didn’t make a part of her want to just curl up in his arms and leave, abandon the fight and just shut out the world for a while, regardless of the consequences…

But that part of her wasn’t the part that was in charge.

“I’ve got to fight, daddy,” she said softly, as she pushed her hands against his chest.

He resisted, briefly, but then he let her go, his six-eyed ‘face’ completely expressionless as he remained on one knee, briefly, before standing up again. He remained quiet.

Looking up at him, she felt her heart break a bit as she admitted to herself that he was right… to a point. “I… I promise you… I won’t try to save Bree, today,” she said, knowing that if she tried, she would fail and most likely die… “Today, I will fight to protect others from her, and I’ll do my best to keep myself safe as well, as far as that’s possible.”

And if Irene died, then who would save Bree? Who would save everyone else?

Who would answer the question she’d been born to answer?

He looked her in the eyes, six red ones to two blue ones, and nodded. “Thank you, zeiskeit.”

She nodded to him, lowering her eyes again. “What about mom?” she finally asked, after a few quiet seconds passed, while around them the capes and cowls were moving out. Most of the junior heroes had left her alone to talk to her father, but Melody was still there, waiting, watching her with those big, soulful eyes of hers.

Probably hearing everything they said, too, not that Irene minded that.

“I’ve sent a messenger to recall her as quickly as possible,” he replied calmly, back to a more business-like demeanor. “Unfortunately, she had to move beyond the reach of most forms of quick communication… it may take a while for the message to reach her, and even more to make her way here. For the time being, we will have to deal without her.”

She nodded. “What about you?”

He shook his head. “I spent too much. The way things stand, I can’t even provide communications with my wraiths,” he admitted, his anger over his own impotence evident even through the distortions of his darkwraith. “I’ll stay in the back, use Memento’s network to help coordinate and guide our forces.”

“Alright.” Deep breaths. “I’ll… be getting ready, then.” Her power was roiling, as active as she’d ever known it, like a pond or a small lake over-filled with fish fighting and striving to rise to the surface. She turned around to move away, but he took her by the shoulder.

“Irene, I am all but powerless right now,” he said, his voice soft. “But you know there’s a way for me to recharge rapidly.”

“A monstrous way,” she replied without turning around or even looking over her shoulder, her voice less than a whisper.

“Nonetheless, if I deem it necessary to protect you, I will walk that way, no matter the price to me… or others. Do you understand?” he countered, his voice as hard as it had been soft before.

A shiver ran down her spine as she contemplated what he was talking about… and the real meaning of his words.

To openly use, perhaps even publically reveal the true nature of his powers, kept secret for almost a century, just for the sake of protecting her.

You’re my daddy, after all, she thought, not without some wistfulness. I just wish you’d feel the same way about Bree.

Then again, perhaps you did try, and that failed, too.

She reached up with one hand and squeezed his hand where it lay on her shoulder. “I understand. I’ll make sure it won’t be necessary, I promise.” She squeezed his hand again, then she moved away, letting it slide off her shoulder as she walked over to Melody, quietly taking her friend’s hand.

Her father looked after her for a few more moments, then he turned away and moved over to Memento’s instance.

“I’m sorry,” Melody spoke softly, using her vocoder. Irene’s power wasn’t volunteering any telepathy right now… rather, it seemed to be building up to something big, by the feel of it.

“It’s alright,” Irene replied, squeezing her friend’s fingers tightly enough to be felt through her thick, rigid gloves. “Everything will be well, you’ll see.” She tried to give Melody a reassuring smile, but it clearly didn’t work well, judging by her expression.

Melody didn’t press the point, however, and Irene averted her eyes, looking out over the plaza again just in time to see Basil… calling him ‘Brennus’ just felt wrong to her, somehow, like it was missing something… approach the node, looking over his shoulders at the two of them – they were the last ones of his fellow teenagers still on the plaza, everyone else having moved on.

Another lost one, she thought, feeling a wave of sympathy wash over her. She knew about Prisca’s death, of course. She had cried when she heard, and she would likely cry more and grieve properly, once she had the time, but right now, others needed her more.

Others, like Basil. Something about him… he’d always felt different to her. Not in any way related to powers, but in a far more primal way.

It was like she’d thought moments ago.

He’s lost, like I am, she thought quietly, watching him touch the node and disappear, then she looked up and into the distance, seeing lights flash and dustclouds rise in the distance where the fight was even now going on.

We all are, really. Capes and cowls, the lot of us. Basil and Prisca, Vasiliki and Amanda, Dalia and Bree, all the others and foolish little Irene, all of us, here in the city where it all began, all the lost ones.

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35 thoughts on “B14.2 Breaking Point

    • You should make that vote link bigger. Maybe even turn it into a button or put it into the first comment after a paragraph asking people to vote for you (and tell them that they don’t have to login/register).
      srsly, every time I see it I think its a link to the table of contents.

      • Hm, I really should, shouldn’t I?

        Problem is, I have trouble figuring out wordpress’ new interface. It used to be so simply to make buttons and even tie graphics to them. Now…

      • The problem is that as far as I know WordPress.com won’t let you mess with CSS. So we can’t use that to simple make the link bigger and add a border. Intead let’s fake it by using an image of a button and linking it to the vote side. (Google wordpress com image link).
        You can use the following website to design you button. Once you have a result you like just make a screenshot of the preview.
        “livetools uiparade com/button-builder html#” (replaced . with spaces to make sure that wordpress doesn’t block the link)

      • I would make it a bit bigger and maybe higher res. I fiddled around with the settings and created the following:
        imgur.com/a/262uZKC

    • its brassy, electronical voice —> electronic
      strongly advised to take on of these communicators —-> one
      half engulfed in the whispy mist of his wraith. —-> wispy
      as she was pullsed tightly against his hard chest —-> pulled
      a crude yet immensily powerful form of telekinesis —–> immensely
      with those big, soulfull eyes of hers. —-> soulful
      For the time being, we will have to deal with out her.” —-> without

  1. So, did the doctor Contrive an AI for the specific purpose of bringing Bree down, or did he upload his own brain in order to keep fighting?

    Also in the absence of actual evidence I’m going to assume that The Dark’s secret is every one of his shadows is the ghost of somebody he killed, with the first one being his own. The mundane or monstrous ones were probably normal people, the powered ones are probably supers he took down, possibly with a little tweak or distortion of their abilities to obfuscate things.

    • I don’t think the proportion is exactly 1 to 1 but i think you’re right about him recharging his power by killing.

    • Actually, could you delete my prior post, as I accidentally used my real name? I would appreciate that, thanks! I’ll repost it again under my user name.

    • I don’t know. You have a lot of good points, but it honestly seems rather tame for something that the Dark seems to take so seriously. I think it probably involves murder, but has some additional level of f***ed up. Like the death is slow and painful or that the wraith’s are still somewhat self-aware and trapped in eternal torment. Or just massive devastation. Any way, I think that the method of quickly recharging is going to be seriously messed up.

  2. Nice update, I like seeing Gloomy’s PoV for this and how she wants to save her sister which is quite understandable and quite frankly I hope someone at some point manages to do something for poor Bree(I know she killed a lot of people but still it is not really her fault).

    Also nice bit about Memento who SEEMS to be a construct from this so like Weisswald’s Spiteborn surviving their creators’ death(discounting my own theories about the latter)I wonder if that’s the case would that mean that things made in the last moments of a Contriver or Spawner remain around if the emotion attached to them are powerful enough(Weisswald’s sheer hate for everyone, Doctor Despair’s desire for revenge/Justice for Bree’s destruction of LA…)

    interesting tidbit about the Dark too and how he might recharge his power fast and how it has a price…As pointed out before I wonder if this involves killing people and converting them into Wraith, or worth not killing them but turning them into those and having them still aware in some way while having no control at all, and it would explain where the powered ones come from, metahumans the dark dealt with their power being twisted versions of the original IE something else the tenant might have given them at manifestation a bit like how the Dark’s original choice resulted in him having this power instead of something else or how Vra got her current power as opposed to other possibilities offered.

    Also too bad Lady Light is too busy in Russia, I would have loved to see her there and interact with the cast, especially Basil…bah that can still come, so yeah good stuff Tieshaunn can’t wait to see what’s next!

  3. And the battle shall commence. In Videogame terms, I guess this would be like when the Final Boss/Secret Boss shows up way early in the story when you are like 70 levels below it. Godspeed Basil, Godspeed Irene, and Godspeed The Dark

  4. So I’ve been thinking. The world is going to shit. Between DiL and the Six, and all the other S-class threats running around, major cities are getting picked off one by one. Whole islands are just not there anymore. And this has been happening for decades. The heroes haven’t been holding ground against destruction, just slowing down the steady and inevitable fall of humanity. Then the war over the Protectorate starts up, and the Sleeper is stirring, and things are just accelerating the heck out of the doom clock. There’s nothing on the board yet that can turn it around; Lady Light and The Dark are totally overwhelmed.

    But there is one person in play with the power to fix it. One person who is not evil, and who could take down any villain, any monster, no matter how invincible. Bree Whitaker.

    I think that Irene’s quest to find a way to save her sister is probably the pivot point for the fate of all mankind.

    • I am actually not 100% sure that the world is “going to shit” as you put it. As far as I can tell most major metahuman threats (DiL, the Six, major villains) should be limited to the bigger cities. And sure, a couple of them might get destroyed every year, but when there are people that can literally redesign the infrastructure of half a continent in just one or two decades (looking at you Sovereign) it shouldn’t be too difficult to rebuild a couple cities. (T once mentioned that there is a contriver that can rewind time for non living matter in a wide area)
      Given how long this all has been going on so far I think it’s reasonable to assume that over time some form of balance has formed.

      Bree could play an important role, but I don’t think it’s going to be Irene who is going to save her. A Ember/Macian/Amy team up sounds more likely in my opinion. Ember has already expressed his wish to help Irene in a past chapter and since T has confirmed that he is the strongest power null (given physical contact) he would be a prime candidate to restrict Bree. Macian (Basil managed to pull memories out of his own mind) and Amy (one of the strongest telepaths in canon) would then have to somehow transplant a (preferably sane) personality into Brees body.

      Assuming of course that Bree really has no personality of her own. Which I doubt a bit since it has been confirmed that there is some kind of pattern to her attacks.

    • The Savage Six don’t usually destroy entire cities. They generally cause huge amounts of property damage and a significant death toll, but the cities are usually able to return to working order within a reasonable amount of time – not accounting for all the traumatised people, broken hearts and human (and metahuman) capital lost.

    • I think people in the Brennusverse already know the worlds gone to shit. The sheer devestation by the various S-class threats, things like the spiteborn just popping up in various cities, hell the Godking of Mars literally took over the world for a while. But at the end of the day if the world doesn’t end then you still have to be at work at 9 tomorrow. When you’re just a normal person, what else are you going to do but hope your heroes will be able to protect you?

      • I think one of the greatest indicator for the people of that world that it had gone to shit was their version of WW2 and its consequences, so yeah they probably have known that for quite some time.

  5. I’m a little surprised nobody has commented on that final paragraph. Cause those were some specific names.

    • Well, it’s our familiar B-Six gang – the misfit hero squad – plus Bree. Clearly not simply who Irene is attached to or else she would have said Melody. Prisca’s in it despite being dead. It almost makes more sense to the reader than we imagine it might be to a character in the setting…except not only does Irene’s power gather secrets for her, but she’s also perceptive in a way that goes beyond that. Clearly she’ll become at least as sharp-witted as her dad and mom, and wits is everything in this setting, it allows you to pick up on weakness and either exploit it or cover for it.
      Don’t have any other astounding comments on it but what’s brewing in your mind, that guy?

      • Not quite sure, but to me it just feels like it alludes to something else (although my feelings usually seem to be nothing). Probably not the whole title thing with unless Ember is either not a part of that, or somehow teleported to new lenston. But yeah, when I read it, it just feels important. Rereading it the whole feeling probably came from the lines “all the others” and “all the lost ones”.

    • Specifically, that’s seven names. And there are only five points of light. One’s already dead… So who is next?

      • Not to disappoint you all, but Irene is just listing some people whom she considers to be “lost” and, basically, in trouble. Prisca is obvious, Basil’s issues should be obvious as well. She knows about Vasiliki’s vendetta against Amanda, and about Amanda’s issues. She knows about Dalia’s power problems now and she considers them comparable to Bree’s, from her point of view (both at the mercy of powers they can’t control – though whether this actually applies to Bree or is just wishful thinking on Irene’s part is another matter).

        And Irene herself… I think this chapter illustrates well why she considers herself “lost”.

  6. HeHe yay your back! i was so scared i would never get any of my burning questions answered… also that something really bad happened to you.

    Uh oh The Dark better watch out im sensing some burgeoning teen angst. Irene seemed like she was holding back some resentment over The Dark’s lack of effort in bring Bree home.

    • Oh as an additive. I really hope we get to see GG Meet Aap soon. i feel like this overall arc might be a good place for that, but understand if that isn’t in the cards right now. i just really would like Gloomy to have at least one sibling that doesn’t immediately try to kill her. Though with the Monkey’s resentment toward Lady Light that might not be possible. Still here’s hoping!

      • That’s a relief, Aap might be my favorite charecter in the series, but i would have a hard time liking him if he held a grudge against a kid who had nothing to do with any of his baggage. then again it IS Aap, so he would probably win me back fairly quickly.

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