B007.e Sweet Dreams (Donation Bonus)

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Rage born of Fear

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t break your bloody arms an’ legs and lock you up in your room,” said Amy quite calmly. It was quite clear, though, that she was very nearly boiling over with rage.

“Um… because you love me?” Basil replied as she kept him pressed flat against the ceiling.

“Not sufficient, I’m afraid,” she replied, and he felt her power start to tug and press against his arms and legs.

He was not worried that she would hurt him, not even by accident, but he did not put it beneath her to lock him up without a thing to use his power on. “Um, because I would just make prosthetics? I mean, Hastur and her cronies broke nearly every bone in my body and I still killed half of th-“

Wrong thing to say. A vein appeared on Amy’s forehead, pulsing angrily. “She. Did. What?!”

“Uh, maybe you could put me down and I could tell you what happened to me today?” he asked, hoping to somehow avert a total freakout (not a good idea when someone has purely mental powers).

Amy took a deep, slow breath, regaining her composure – a little. The pressure on his limbs vanished and he flew through the hallway and into the living room, where he was unceremoniously dropped onto the floor in front of Amy’s favourite love seat.

She came in and sat down, adjusting her bathrobe before she put one leg over the other and stared down at him. “Talk.”

* * *

Love and Words and…

Ten Minutes later…

“You… you…” Amy put her left hand to the bridge of her nose, kneading it as she closed her eyes. Trying to find her center before she crushed something in the house with ten tons of force.

When she opened her eyes again, Basil was still sitting in front of her on the floor, looking up with hopeful, big eyes… but she knew that trick already, and it wasn’t going to work on her this time.

“Basil… remember the discussion we had after you fought the Spiteborn?” she asked, trying to keep her voice calm. She succeeded, mostly. At least she thought she did, but Basil flinched, though that may have been due to her words, not her voice.

She did not like making Basil flinch from her. For whatever reason.

“Yeah… I do,” he said, rubbing the back of his head.

“I believe I made it clear that you were not to fight, or in any way engage, an S-Class threat, no matter the reason!” She immediately berated herself for screaming at Basil. That shouldn’t be happening.

He tried to take it with humor, which wasn’t a good idea at all. “Well, considering that you are an S-Class threat, wouldn’t that mean breaking off all con-“

“The difference between me and other S-Classes is that I would NEVER hurt you!” she screamed at the top of her lungs as she lunged forward, grabbing him by his collar and lifting him up as easily as a ragdoll. You bloody idiot, why won’t you understand!?, she screamed into his mind as her eyes turned purple. You could have died today in a dozen different bloody ways! You could have been beaten to death! You could have been impaled, blown to pieces, ripped apart! You could have been transformed, then died along with the rest of them when Hastur died and her power failed to support her toys! You could have left me alone!

Basil’s eyes widened as she projected all her misery into his mind, her fear and –

She cut off the connection before it would hurt him, gently putting him down. “You could’ve died,” she said as she felt something moist and warm on her cheeks. “You could’ve been gone.”

“So could you,” he replied, looking seriously into her eyes. His voice fell down to a whisper. “You fought Desolation-in-Light, who is a million times more powerful than Hastur could ever be. You have fought her several times now, and I have never protested, because I knew you felt like you had to.”

“Oh Basil,” she said, realizing how he must have felt. “There’s a difference, little brother. I’m quite a bit more powerful than you, my body is way tougher, I have low-level regeneration and I don’t bloody well get into close combat with her or anyone close to my weight class!

He shook his head, as if to say that it didn’t make a difference, and she prepared a retort, but then she felt… she felt him notice something that shocked him, or rather surprised him.

“Amy,” he said, his eyes growing inquisitive. “You… you just spoke in a British accent… I think even a London accent! You’ve never done that before!”

That got her out of her current state of mind, as she went over what she’d said earlier. “Yeah. Yeah, I did. How come, I’ve never even been in London,” she mused, tapping her chin. Then she shook her head, regaining her focus. “Don’t try to change the subject now, little-“

“No, Amy, this is important!” he cut her off again, grabbing her by the shoulders. “Think. Where did you get that accent from?”

She did, thinking things through… he was so insistent, suddenly… “I don’t know, it just… it just slipped out,” she replied. “I’m pretty sure that has never happened before.”

Letting go of her arms, he turned around and took a few steps away from her, running his fingers through his hair (it had grown a bit, she noticed, and remembered that it had been a while since she’d cut his hair).

But that was not what was worrying her right now. “Basil? Basil, what is going on? Why is this so important?” she asked.

He turned back around to her. “Amy, I need an honest answer from you – on a possibly very delicate matter,” he said. “Will you promise me to say the truth?”

Now she felt hurt. “Basil, I wouldn’t lie to you!” she replied, feeling the anger rising again.

Nodding as if he’d expected that answer, he asked: “Do you know someone named Macia-“

* * *

Words unspoken, Thoughts unthought

“What were we talking about just now?” asked Amy as she found herself sitting in her loveseat again. When had she sat down? And why was Basil on the floor, looking rumpled?

“I do not… I think I was telling you how worried I was about you fighting Desolation-in-Light… did you tell me what happened?” he asked.

I… my memory jumped again, I… But her concern over that was so hard to hold on to, so she focused on the easier territory of answering his question. “I didn’t… but I guess I should, shouldn’t I?”

He nodded.

“Well, it turns out… and this is strictly between us, ’cause I’m not supposed to tell anyone yet… but it seems DiL attacked another location in between her attack on Okinawa and Kansas City.”

“Huh? Where?” he asked. Surely, an attack would have been reported?

“Well… she attacked Osaka… while the Savage Six were holding it in Heretic’s sealed dimension.”

That stunned him. “She can get in there!? What the hell happened? I assume they bailed?”

She shook her head. “They either didn’t want to or couldn’t, once her Desolation Field spread throughout the pocket dimension. Long story short, she engaged Heretic and eyewitnesses – what few remain – report consistently that he was completely destroyed. Every sphere, every rod, she annihilated it all.”

His mouth fell open. “Heretic is… dead? Are you sure?”

Shaking her head, she replied: “There’s no being sure… but his pocket dimension collapsed and expelled the entire city of Osaka and whoever was still alive, as well as the Six’ base of operations and what remained of their minions. Eyewitness reports put the collapse at the same time at which the last bit of Heretic was destroyed, and there were a few sightings of the remaining four members fleeing in the real world.”

“Holy… I mean, hell…” He put his hands to his head, unsure of how to react. She knew how he felt.

Could this be it?, she was asking herself, and she didn’t need telepathy to tell that he was having the same thought. Could this be the end of the Six? Could Desolation-in-Light have finally done something good for the world?

“So… the Six are on the run… that is good… but what does that have to do with her attack on Kansas?”

“Well… she didn’t harden her Desolation Field,” she said, returning to her original point. “She… she mimicked Heretic, displacing the entire space within her field into another dimension, completely cutting us off from the real world.”

“No. Way. Desolation-in-Light… learns? That does not happen!”

She shrugged. “Well, we always had suspicions that she wasn’t as… simple-minded as most believe, so I guess…”

“No, you do not get it! She has been active for more than twenty-six years now, and she has never, ever varied her modus operandi, apart from starting to employ her Desolation Field since her third recorded appearance!”

“But she did. But there might be an upside to it,” she tried to calm him down.

“Huh? What could pos-” He stopped, thinking it over, and she could practically see him arrive to the right conclusion. “If the site of her attack was cut off from the real world… then there might not be any far-reaching after-effects, since her power wouldn’t have reached beyond the city!”

“As far as we can tell, damage was contained within the battleground… reinforcements were cut off, but it seems that ‘only’ Kansas City, or rather an area about four square miles across, was devastated,” she explained with a smile. “We still got our Superbrains watching the place, calculating possibilities and all, but it seems like we’re finally getting kind of a break with her.”

He smiled back, and they both relaxed, their earlier fight nearly completely forgotten.

After a minute, Basil slid up to her and hugged her waist. “I am glad you are safe, sister.”

“And I’m glad you’re safe, too. Now, let’s both go to bed, we’ve had a stressful day, each of us.”

* * *

Lust and Love (and Popcorn)

She’d taken Basil up and kissed him goodnight before he went into the bathroom, and she went to her own bedroom to dry her hair and get ready for bed. By the time she’d finished her hair and put on her nightgown, he was already in bed, half asleep.

Smiling to herself, she laid down on her bed, relaxed and… heard someone knock on his bedroom window.

Snapping back up, she sent her sight and hearing out into his room, expecting to see an attacker or a robber or someone else she’d need to quickly remove and brutally murder out of sight of Basil… but only found a girl in a golden armour she could not look into.

The armour was too thin, too skintight and detailed to be real, and she got ready to blast her away… but Basil looked through the window, gave a start and hurried to open it and let her in before turning on the light in his room.

What the hell?

Wait, of course! His girlfriend had manifested. Her sleepy brain supplied the details.

My my, he didn’t mention that she ended up creating a drop-dead gorgeous bombshell.

Now curious, she watched as the girl leapt in, her helmet vanishing to reveal rich dark red curls, bright green eyes and red lips she mashed onto Basil’s as she caught him in a hug.

This promises to be interesting, she thought as she watched her boots vanish before she touched the floor of the room. Sneaking out of her room (not hard to do when you can just float out) by returning her sight to herself and keeping only her hearing with them, she eavesdropped on the two as they greeted each other and got to the serious business of some more – and very heated – kissing (and quite a bit of groping on her part).

Reaching the kitchen, she took out a pan and started to make some buttered popcorn, returning her sight to the room as soon as she could.

“I’ve missed you,” Prisca said, her face mere inches away from Basil’s.

He chuckled, rubbing his nose against hers.

Hey, that’s supposed to be just between you and me!

“It’s been just a few hours. And don’t you need to recharge your power?”

Oh, interesting. He didn’t note any limitations before.

Prisca shrugged a little. “As far as I can tell… I need to be awake twice as long as I want to use my power. I spent the last four hours awake, so I’d have two hours now for… this…” And her armour melted away, leaving only smooth, supple flesh as she slid (literally slid) backwards, giving Basil (and Amy) a nice view.

Yummy.

Basil seemed to agree, unable to tear his eyes off of her. He swallowed drily. “Um… I guess you… ah.”

Oh God, he’s so adorable, Amy thought as she snapped her sight between Basil’s room and the kitchen, buttering the popcorn just a little before glazing it in honey. She almost considered not being a peeping tom when her little brother lost his virginity. She wondered who was going to-

“I want you to have sex with me. A lot.”

Ah. Well, she’s nicely forward. Then again, she probably knows you need to, with Basil. He can be a little slow.

“I, uh, I see,” said slow person managed to say, still fighting to tear his eyes off her magnificent rack.

“Enough talk, let’s get to the fun part!” she said, grabbing him and pulling him into a tight hug and the kind of kiss Amy had just recently shared with Lamarr… though this one had far less skill and far more… fire involved.

It took them nearly three minutes to part their lips, and by the time they did, their faces were flushed and they were both breathing heavily (even though she could not possibly feel tired already). Their eyes were dilated, too.

“Let’s get you out of these stupid pajamas and get to some f-“

“No,” Basil suddenly said, his face growing serious as he put her at arms length… though his hands remained on her shoulders.

“What?”

What?

He looked at her with something like… sadness in his eyes. “Prisca, love, how do you feel?”

She blinked, her mouth open as she tried to switch mental tracks. “I feel… great. I mean, I’ve never felt this good and I’m whole again and strong and healthy and I can really feel you and why in God’s name are you not in bed with me having sex already!?”

Smiling sadly, he said: “Look, I am not exactly an expert when it comes to people-“

Ain’t that the truth, Amy thought as she put the popcorn into a large bowl, still hoping for some entertainment. Some more entertainment, because this was already promising to turn into one hell of a show, with or without sex.

“-but even I can tell that you are… that you are quite literally high on your power right now.”

“What does that have to do with anything!?” Prisca asked in an indignant voice, trying to wiggle out of his grip and get closer to him – but though she was quite obviously physically superior to him, he evaded her easily by taking an almost dance-like step around her, so their positions only reversed.

“Because sleeping with you now, when you are for all intents and purposes intoxicated would be a real sleazebag move… and we both deserve better than that.”

Oh God, is he seriously letting morals get in the way of teenage love sex? Perhaps she should nudge him in the right direction? No. Don’t even think about that. You swore to yourself that you’d never do that to Basil, whatever the reason.

“Basil, that’s stupid, I might be a little euphoric – big surprise! – but that doesn’t mean I’m not in control or anything!”

“Can you look me in the eyes and say honestly that you would even have considered just getting into my room at this time and jumping my bones before getting your power – if you had been physically capable of it?”

“Look, I’m just trying to get the most out of my new body, and you’re a big part of that!”

“Prisca, I have known you for months, and I am telling you – you are not acting like yourself right now.”

“Well, big fucking surprise, I just cut out my own eyes hours ago, got superpowers, fought a giant monster made of shit, helped take down an insane teenage monster girl-“

“And you expect me to believe that you are not in the least bit influenced by those events? Look, Prisca, I really, really want to… to make love to you… but right now, it would just be sex. And probably not the good kind, either, because neither of us has any idea what to do, I am tired and you are probably not yet in full control of your b-“

“GOOD GOD BASIL, why won’t you just fuck me?!” she shouted at him. “It’s sweet that you’re so concerned about morals and doing it right the first time, but I want it now and you’re seriously pissing me off right now!”

He actually seemed to relax when she said that. “I can live with that. Because tomorrow, or maybe the day after tomorrow, you might hold it against me if I took advantage of you here, or if we did it and it turned out wrong in any way, we might both hold it against each other for a long time… maybe forever. I would rather live with your anger now than with th-“

“For the love of FUCK, could you stop being so rational and considerate and shit and just fuck me!? Why are you even thinking about it so much!?”

Yeah, why aren’t you just having fun with the super-beautiful sexbomb who’s throwing herself at you?

Basil looked sadly at her. “Look, thinking is pretty much my superpower, even if it is usually limited to technical stuff. And besides, there is another reason why I… why I want to wait. Until we are both ready.”

“Oh? Do tell, and it better be good!” she said as she kept standing in front of him, stark naked.

“I would much rather… have our first time with your real body, after I have hea-“

“This is my real body, Basil!” she screeched, her composure blowing away for a moment. Both Basil and Amy reeled back in surprise at her outbreak. “That… that piece of shit back in the hospital? That hasn’t been my body since Dusu had her way with it! She twisted it, broke it, turned it into… not me!”

Hm…

“This is how I see myself… how I should have been, had that monster not fucked up my life! As far as I’m concerned, the piece of meat back in the hospital is just there to project and recharge this form… and I know that every. Single. Moment I spend in it to recharge my power will be pure hell, waiting to get out of that prison again!”

“Prisca, look, I know this projection feels great, but you shou-“

“No, Basil, you don’t get it!” Prisca replied, cutting him off. “This is me. The me inside of me, the one you always said you saw in me when I asked what you saw in me! Why won’t you take it now?”

“Because neither of us is ready, Prisca, and I’d rath-“

“Agh!” She threw her arms up and turned on the spot, wrapping them around her head. “Why are you so… so responsible and considerate? What kind of teenage boy says no to… to sex?

He giggled. “I am not a normal teenage boy… and I love you enough to wait for as long as it takes for us both to be ready. You are worth it, and I am sure our first time will be worth it, too.”

Ohh, how sweet.

Finally, Prisca relaxed and looked over her shoulder, her eyes misty. “I hate this. You’re right, but I don’t care, I still just want to… to jump you.”

“Maybe you would rather go out with me – a nighttime stroll, to burn off some energy?” he asked, relaxing now that she was calming down.

“No… no, you’re right. You’ve got to be horribly tired, and I need some me-time to… to cool off. And get to know this body.” A simple dark green bodysuit appeared on her, looking a lot like standard hero wear, skintight and smooth. “At least I don’t need to ever worry about clothes,” she added.

Basil nodded, stepping forward to pull her into a far more tender kiss than before. When he let go of her, they were both flushed again, but the… tension from before was no longer there. “I am sorry I am being so stubborn right now, but I hope we will both look back at this and laugh, later,” he told her.

She nodded, her eyes more than a little wet. “I… I guess we will. It’s sweet, at least. But now I should go, or I might just jump you nonetheless.”

Smiling, he wished her good night and closed the window behind her.

Good Lord, that was not what I expected, at all. What did I make this popcorn for, now?

She watched as Basil pulled the curtains shut, then walked over to the one free wall in his room – well, more like the one part of his walls that he could easily stand in front of – and started to headbutt it.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

Rolling her eyes, Amy walked to his room and went inside without knocking.

“Feeling stupid?” she asked with a smirk.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

“You watched.” It wasn’t a question.

“Of course I did – for a moment, I was ready to blast her into the sky before I remembered that she was your girlfriend’s projection.”

“A wee little more than that, it seems. At least to her,” he replied.

“Yeah, well, about that. What did you expect? She’s been trapped in a body that was deformed by forces completely out of her control and now she suddenly gets her perfect dream body… it’s really a common problem for Spawners who actually create remote bodies of some kind. Think there’s a scientific term for it…”

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

“Multiple Body Disorder, kind of the opposite of Fluid Disorder, or a close cousin to it, depending on the theory you adhere to. People with multiple or changeable bodies often have trouble with their physical identity, to say the least… often followed by a complete disintegration of their former identity,” he rattled off as he kept hitting the wall with his head.

“But that’s not why you’re hitting that poor wall with your thick head, is it?” she asked playfully.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

She smirked. “No, it’s because you just passed on what was surely going to be passionate, unrestrained and most probably mindblowing sex… all for the possibility that it might make her feel bad in the future… even though she’d most probably love it.”

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

“C’mon, everyone’s an idiot sometimes – come here.” He looked at her with a questioning look.

Winking, she said: “How about we watch a movie before going to sleep? Come on, I made popcorn, and you need some distraction.”

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

“Alright.”

“And please stop punishing that wall. Now, come on, my dearest little idiot.”

He snorted and turned away from the wall, before stopping in his tracks and looking at her. “What the hell did you make popcorn for?”

* * *

Memories forgotten, but not lost

They’d ended up watching a Disney movie (The Lion King, it had always been great at distracting him from whatever was weighing down on him) and emptying the bowl before going to bed.

Amy laid down in her queen-sized bed, the strain of the day catching up to her as her eyes closed…

“Are we there yet?” she asked her big brother.

“Not yet, Amy,” he said as he carried her on his back by a few straps he was using to hold her there and dangle the sack with the… pieces from.

“Amy? Why Amy?” she asked as she rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. “I thought my name was Amanda now?”

“Well, Amy is like, a nickname. A short form, right?” he replied. “Amanda can be your full name, and Amy the name your friends and family use.”

“That’s stupid! You’re the only one that matters, so why do we need names in the first place? And why do you call yourself Macian, anyway?” she asked, giggling as he threw her an annoyed look over his shoulder. This was nice, distracting her from the pain of the missing pieces.

“Well, first of all, it’s not an actual name, but a cape. Means ‘Maker’, which is just bloody fitting, don’t ya think?”

She tilted her head to the side, confused. “A ‘cape’? But it’s a word!” she replied, indignant that he was violating common sense now.

He chuckled now, which she thought was nice. He did it so rarely. “It’s slang. A kind of technical term. A ‘cape’ is a superhero’s whole identity – costume, name, modus operandi, stuff – and a ‘cowl’ is the same, only it belongs to a villain.”

“So you’re gonna be a superhero? Cool!”

“Yeah, Ember really left an impression,” he replied, blushing a little. “Especially considering I barely got to know him before we were seperated again by that bugger’s spell.”

“He sounds nice. And he helped you pick a name for me! So I wanna meet him, can we do that?”

“Of course, as soon as we get out of here. We’ll go to the sea and have a bath, we’ll get our own house, and friends, and family…”

She giggled, imagining all that before the pain of… before it made her flinch again. She tried to surpress a cry of pain, but she knew he’d noticed, and it always made him sad when she was in pain, even if it wasn’t ever his fault…

“What about you? Don’t you need a real name, too?”

“Hm, I do. Forgot to ask him for help with that. Got any ideas?”

“You’re asking me!?” she asked, delighted.

“Well, of course,” he said as they rounded a corner and he looked over his shoulder at her. “I picked yours, so it’s only fair if you pick mine.”

She would have clapped her hands in glee if she could. “Hmm, a name, a name… something with a ‘B’!”

“Why a B?”

“Because mine starts with an A, so yours should start with a B… how about… uh…”

She thought about it real hard as he went into an empty room and gently put her down. “I need to think some more, I think,” she said as he unpacked the sack, and took his tools out of his belt.

“Take your time, I’ve got plenty to do,” he said as he began to clean the pieces and her up and started to clean his tools, too.

“Hmm…” She thought about it some more when he started to work, and it even distracted her from the pain… a little. “B… Basil? Bart? What about Balthasar, that was someone in one of those books you read me before. About that old king, and that Daniel boy.”

“Bart is a short form for Bartholomew, I think. And Basil for Basileus,” he said as he made his stitches. It hurt, but she was used to it.

“Hm, Basileus, or Bartholomew, or Balthasar… they’re all nice, and they fit you, I think. Feels right. But which one, I can’t decide!” she complained, trying to ignore the pain in her leg as he finished and made her try it out.

“Well, why not take them all? Greed is good. So… Basileus Bartholomew Balthasar… Basil short. What should be our last name?”

“A last name? You mean… like a real family?”

He nodded.

“Hmm… Black!” she said as she looked into his eyes. They were so pretty, and bright and black…

“Black… Blake, then. It means ‘Black’, but sounds more interesting than just black,” he said as he went to work on her other leg. “Should we have a double last name, too? You know, like, our parents married but decided to keep both last names?”

“Sure! But then you choose the other name!” She flinched a little when he finished and made her test it, but neither of them commented on that.

“Okay… hmm… a little difficult… how about… Brant?” he asked, trying to smile while he worked on her left arm.

“Why Brant?” She tried to smile back.

“Just because. So, Basileus Bartholomew Balthasar Brant-Blake it is!”

She giggled happily. It was so silly. She liked it. And when she started to smile, he smiled too, for real this time, and that made her smile some more…

And then she got careless and cried out a little when he finished the left arm, making them both flinch.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…” he started, but she shook her head vigoriously.

“It’s alright. I’m used to it, and you’ve gotten way better,” she said, trying to calm him down. Her silly brother always took everything so serious…

“I need to finish the other arm, and your right eye, so please relax now,” he said as he took one of his knives and approached her empty left eye soc-

Amy literally flew out of her bed, almost slamming into the ceiling before she caught herself.

What? What!?

She was drenched in sweat, her heart beating like crazy as she floated down again, rubbing her rough arms.

Another one of those dreams… if only I could remember… I need a shower…

Going to the bathroom, she immediately got into the shower without even turning on the light, throwing her nightgown into the laundry basket and turning the water on hot.

Rubbing herself vigoriously with the sponge, she tried to get the clammy sensation of sticky sweat off of her, and wash off the… the remnants of that dream. Whatever she’d dreamed about, it always made her all sweaty and worked up and feel so rough.

Getting out of the shower, she stepped in front of the mirror, sopping wet, and turned the light on with a thought…

And she screamed for a second before cutting it off.

Oh God, what happened to me!?

Her whole skin was covered in scars. From her scalp down to… she looked… down to her toes, scars everywhere, making her look like a leathery carricature of a woman… as if she’d been cut and torn apart thousands of times, and someone had put her back together, again and again and now she remembered the dream, twinkle twinkle little star, she saw the boy with the blazing black eyes, it was Basil but he was older than her, how I wonder what you are, that made no s-

Amy stepped out of the shower to dry herself off in front of the mirror. Her skin was no longer sweaty and clammy, but back to its usual softness. She could barely remember what had happened, only a bad dream, and now a lingering sense of… unease. A lack of safety.

What is going on wi-

She went to Basil’s room, not bothering to clothe herself, and slipped under his blankets, hugging him close.

The feeling vanished as she felt… safe.

Here she did. Only here, really, with her brother, did she feel… safe and whole… as if he was the only thing holding her together, putting her together…

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B006 Big Game Hunt (Part 6)

He left the bedroom (after checking that he was still clothed – Amy liked her pranks way too much) and all but burst into the control room, ready to ream Amy a new one…

Only to find her and his friends sitting in a loose circle, talking amicably. And fully clothed.

Amy looked up and winked at him with a split-second wicked grin – she probably knew what he was thinking – and then her face turned to worry. “Should you be up already?”

The others turned around and looked at him with varying degrees of worry on their faces, and Prisca greeted him happily, though with concern in her voice.

Eudocia said they were being influenced… but there’s no way she could affect Prisca from all the way over here, so it couldn’t have been anything too bad or obvious without cutting her connection.

“I’m fine, really. Had the weirdest dream, though,,, can we talk? Privately, I mean?”

She nodded and stood up. “We’ll continue later on,” she said to the others, then followed him down to his workshop.

* * *

He shut the door behind them, then made sure to lock the workshop down – he didn’t want anyone to listen in, not even Eudocia.

Amy had walked over to near the center of the room, where his current project lay, and was now looking at the parts.

“They thought you were building a new suit… but this looks more like an android,” she said after a few seconds.

He stood behind her, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “I figured it might help to have another body in the field, especially one that is expendable. But it’s not really workable, at least not yet.”

She looked around, noticing the irritation in his voice. “That… that’s the reason you were pushing yourself like this, isn’t it? You couldn’t get it to work, and you couldn’t accept that,” she said with a mixture of exasperation and mirth in her voice.

He blushed a bit, but frowned back at her. “No. Yes. Not really. I’ve been pushing myself for days. The loss, and the wall I hit working on this only made it worse,” he explained reluctantly. Looking back at it, he really should have paced himself, but… “Nice one… changing the subject by talking about my work. What were you doing up there!?

She shrugged. “What I do whenever I can. Helping you,” she explained, as if it was all just obvious.

“What. Did. You. Do to them?”

Raising her hands in a placating gesture, she replied: “Calm down, baby brother. Nothing bad, I swear. I was just… helping them focus, and think over what happened. Especially the girls. They need to improve, you need to improve, or you’ll die or worse. If it weren’t for those lovely twins, you’d be dead or slaves!”

A deep breath, then two. Not… not good. But not nearly as bad as I feared. “You didn’t do anything else?”

Her whole stance changed into a more serious one, straighter. “Nothing, baby bro. I wouldn’t mess with your friends, I promise! Though Dalia is awfully cute…”

He snorted and walked past her to look at the beginnings of what was supposed to be a combat android. I’ll have to deconstruct it. Use the parts for something that actually works. And still, he was sure he could make it work, if only he had the time.

“… and either way, Prisca is all the way over in the hospital, and I’d need to fly over fast enough to delete her short-term memory before it became a long-term memory…”

He gave her a deadpan look. “You’ve really thought a lot about messing with my friends’ heads, haven’t you?” She just gave him an unconvincing innocent smile and he turned away to look at his work again.

“Basil?” She wrapped her arms around him, resting her chin on his shoulder. “Why did you push yourself so hard? Honestly, now.”

“It’s always there. Always blazing,” he whispered. Suddenly, he didn’t sound half as self-confident as before.

“What is?”

“My power. It’s like there’s a lamp, a sun right behind my eyes, shining out of them with a blazing light. I can’t shut it off. I can’t even ignore it.” He shivered.

“Oh Basil, why didn’t you tell me?” she asked with a pained voice – she could feel his distress.

“What for? It’s my power, there’s nothing you can do about it,” he replied. “It’s… it’s…” just like in Macian’s memories. He couldn’t stop, either “it’s just a part of me, I guess. I’m sure I can learn to deal with it.”

“I could have helped. I can help you. Help you keep tabs on it, help you sleep when your power won’t let you,” she replied, sounding slightly irritated… and really, really worried.

“That… might help. Maybe you could look into my head, try to talk with that damn sprite?” he asked, hopeful. Maybe, if he could somehow force the ‘Blazing Sun’ to talk things through…

She nodded, her chin rubbing against his shoulder. “We could… organize a session. Take some time off, both of us. Sit down, and I’ll get into your head. Look for a solution. We should have thought of this sooner.”

“Yes. We do that. But first, I need to finish up here. There’s another reason why I got so out of control after the battle.”

“What is it?”

“I’ll tell you along with the others. Let’s go back up. And no using your power on them anymore, alright?”

“Alright… for now, baby brother. I won’t stand for them dragging you down through incompetence or stupidity,” she replied.

He knew he was not going to get her to agree to more.

* * *

They returned to the main control room, where the others were in the process of discussing something, but stopped once they came back up.

The girls, as well as Tim, all turned to look at them, but no one really said anything. Tim looked as calm as ever, Vasiliki looked thoughtful, Dalia was… blushing?

He walked until he stood next to them, then said: “First, I’m sorry about earlier. You wanted to help me, and I just went mental on you guys.” He gave a slight bow.

“Nonono, you were right, really,” replied Vasiliki. “I mean, you didn’t have to be a jerk about it, but we did survive solely due to blind luck – if the twins hadn’t shown up, we’d have been screwed.” She stopped, thinking it over, then looked at Dalia. “Which kind of makes your power real creepy – just how far does it reach?”

“Uh, I, well, no idea,” stammered Dalia, tearing her eyes off Amy.

What the hell did you do to Dalia? he asked angrily in his head. He knew Amy would pick it up.

Nothing, really. Want me to take a look and see what’s going on?

No! Stay out of her head! All of their heads!

Jeez, you don’t need to flip out like that! I’ll be nice, scout’s promise!

Didn’t you almost blow up the local scouts’ headquarters last month?

Never said I was one of the good scouts.

The whole exchange took less than a second (speed of thought was handy that way), so Basil could respond without a noticeable pause: “Still, I shouldn’t have gone on like that. But I’m afraid we have bigger problems than me being unable to handle defeat.”

“And what would those be?” asked Tim.

He sat down at the console, turning the chair around to look at all of them. “I broke the code on the Black Panther’s files. Remember, from the video, how he threatened to sell us into slavery?”

They all nodded, and he heard Amy chuckle inside his head.

What would you have done, had he tried to sell me to you?

You mean before or after I made him eat his own genitals?

Ah. Nevermind.

“Well, they bought someone. A girl. A metahuman.”

“What?!” shouted an outraged Vasiliki. “That’s disgusting!” Dalia nodded in agreement.

Prisca continued: “And why is it always girls, anyway?”

“Well, nearly seventy percent of all metahumans are women. Theories abound, but the most commonly cited one is that the still present discrimination against women leads to…”

Prisca cut into his starting rant: “What he’s trying to say is that the man is putting us sisters down, so we get powers more often.”

“Finally, someone who talks English!” shouted Dalia in relief. Basil just grumbled something unintelligible.

Fortunately, Amy moved them back on track. “So, about this girl? What’s so special about her?”

“Well… according to the messages I intercepted, she’s estimated to be a new S-Class threat… and they think they can use her to wipe out their competition, as well as threaten the UH into staying away from the fighting.”

You could have heard a pin drop in the silence that followed.

“Uhh, how is that our problem?” Prisca asked with a desperate note in her weak voice. When everyone turned to look at the camera, she continued: “I mean, apart from the fact that you guys almost died – or got sold into slavery – just yesterday, an S-Class threat is way, way out of your league. This is Cabal business!”

“The Shining Guardians are quite preoccupied right now. The local heroes won’t call them in unless they have definite proof of the threat,” replied Amy.

“True. But either way, we need to warn the United Heroes. At the very least, we could use their help in tracking down the girl and getting her into protective custody. They can secure her, we can’t,” continued Basil.

They nodded. “So, we contact the heroes. How, do we just call their hotline?” asked Dalia.

“I got all their phone numbers. Best to call Amazon, instead of going around her, I think,” explained Basil. “After all, she’s the leader now.”

“And she’s got experience. Few metahumans in her class have taken part as many S-Class events as she has. She won’t dismiss you out of hand, if only because she knows how bad things can get with S-Class metahumans,” Amy added.

I guess you’re sure?

Of course. And shut it, I could have known this simply through research. Her resume is available to the public.

“Then do it, Basil!” Vasiliki said, all but shouting.

He nodded and turned around to the console.

* * *

First, calibrate the microphone, so it will only catch what I say. Then, initiate the voice changer. Now, set up anti-tracing measures – all of them.

Basil worked through his mental checklist, to make absolutely sure they could neither be overheard from his side, nor he himself traced back by them.

It took him almost three minutes before he felt completely safe to initiate the call to her UH phone. And he put on a pair of headphones, too. If only because it annoyed Amy.

Amazon picked up on the third ring.

<Who is this?> she asked with sleep in her voice.

She just woke up – it’s nearly afternoon!

“This is Brennus. Good… afternoon, Amazon,” he replied.

<How did you get this number!?> Now she was awake.

“Not important right now. I have bad news. The really bad kind.”

Someone spoke on the other side. A man… and he recognized the voice, even if he couldn’t understand what was said. Amazon shushed him with a few affectionate words.

Way to go, Jake.

<Alright. Tell me everything.> He thought he heard her stand up.

“Me and my team got into an altercation with the Black Panthers last night. During it, Panthera Rex attacked us, but was killed when an unknown third party intervened.”

<Did you identify the third party? Do you have proof of their involvement – proof that it wasn’t you?> She remained calm.

“I have a video recording of the battle. If you want, I can send it to you.”

<Please do. Dammit, this is gonna be chaos pure.>

“Panthera Rex’ death is not the bad news. Or rather, it’s just one thing that makes it worse.”

<Oh, what could that be now? If you tell me there’s some S-Class involved somewhere there, I’ll call bogus on you. It’s already bad enough as it is.>

“You might want to take that statement back.”

<No. No way.>

“Yes. I was able to hack into their computers and access their communication records. They purchased a newly manifested, female S-Class metahuman from a metahuman trafficker. They were hoping to use her as a deterrent against the competition and the local heroes. But, according to some other mails, Panthera Rex was pretty much the last individual holding the more extreme members back from using her offensively.”

<And he’s dead now.>

“Quite so.”

<>

“How do you wish to proceed? I think I speak for my entire team-” He looked at Tyche and Hecate, mouthing his question – they both nodded. “- when I say that we’re willing to fully cooperate with you, provided our identities remain secret.”

<Shit, shit, shit, shit. And I can’t call in the Shining Guardians without definite proof. Send me the video and e-mails.>

He did so. It took her a few minutes to read through everything and speed through the video.

<Alright. I’ll con- Wait a minute, I’m getting another call. Hold the line.>

“Yes ma’am.”

He turned around, pulling the headphones off. “She’s getting another call, but it seems she’s taking this very seriously.”

Dalia grinned and said: “I knew she looked smart.” Vasiliki and Timothy nodded.

Prisca spoke up again. “Are you going to fight… that girl?” She sounded terrified.

“Not if we can help it. Our goal should be to save her. And take down the assholes who buy others to use as weapons.”

They all nodded at that (except Amy, who just looked thoughtful), and Prisca sighed audibly.

Then Amazon came back on the line and this time he put her on the speaker. <We just got a threat from the newly minted leader of the local Black Panthers, Panthera Avis. He wants the murderers of his former boss delivered to him alive or dead, otherwise he’ll unleash an S-Class threat on the city.>

“Even if I was willing to barter their lives away, I wouldn’t know how to contact or where to find those two to begin with,” he replied with a tone that allowed for no discussion.

Amazon seemed offended. <The United Heroes do not negotiate with terrorists, nor do they sacrifice anyone at the demand of a madman. We need a war council, and we need it now. Are you in?>

“Where and when?”

<Our headquarters. Guaranteed privacy and right to leave at any time. An hour from now.>

“We’ll be there.”

* * *

They arrived at the United Heroes’ headquarters fifteen minutes early. And they weren’t the only ones.

A man who identified himself as Jason Widard, Chief Mission Control, led them up to a war room.

There was a trio of chinese men, all in red robes, with heads shaved save for a single long braid each. Representatives of the local Dancing Dragon Triad, probably, though Brennus did not know them. He did take pictures of their faces, for later research.

Also present was a dark-skinned man in a three-piece suit. Elrik France, a known mob associate.

And finally, to his surprise, a brown-haired man in a white suit, with a blue shirt, white tie and silvery greaves and bracers engraved with flowers and trees. Rising Tide, the leader of the Foresters – a group dedicated to Weisswald’s ideals.

Amazon, Jason Widard, Mr Patrid, Gloom Glimmer (sitting side-by-side with Polymnia, whom Hecate greeted with an ecstatic wave) and the other junior heroes made up the United Heroes contingent.

Opposite of them sat the Dark, alone. He looked at Brennus, Hecate and Tyche and gave them a brief nod of acknowledgement.

Ah crap. This is getting out of hand.

B006 Big Game Hunt (Part 5)

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.

* * *

Neverhere

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.

Negation.

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?”

Affirmation.

“Why am I here?”

Curiosity.

“Am I here because you are curious?”

Negation.

“Are you curious about why I’m here, then?”

Negation.

“Am I here because I am curious?”

Affirmation.

Basil thought it over.

“Do you know about my memory problems?”

Affirmation.

“Do you know why I’m having them?”

Indecision.

“Are you indecisive about whether or not to tell me?”

Negation.

“Are you unsure about the reason for my issues?”

Affirmation.

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?”

Affirmation.

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?”

Affirmation.

“How?”

Refusal.

“You don’t want to tell me?”

Negation.

“You can’t tell me?”

Affirmation.

“Why not?”

Time.

“You mean it’s not yet time?”

Affirmation.

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?”

Affirmation.

“Are they good?” Keep the questions simple.

Affirmation. Affection.

“You know them personally?”

Affirmation.

“Are they good for me, too?”

Affirmation.

“Should I try to find them?”

Negation.

“What am I supposed to do then!?”

Indecision.

“This is getting us nowhere, Ember. I’m allowed to call you that, right? Not Protégé?”

Affirmation.

“Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

Affirmation.

“What?”

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.>

Ah crap.

B003 Forbidden Garden (Part 7)

“Are you sure you want to do this? You are hurt“, Amy said.

Basil just nodded and stared at his mobile phone – tracking the movements of the so-called Switchbitch.

Amy’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. “The Hemogoblins…”

“…are a C-to-B-Class gang, mainly due to their leadership consisting entirely of metahumans, with their actual leader being a B-Class Contriver”, continued Basil. “Their metapowered members are…”

“Alright, alright, so you’ve done some research on them”, Amy cut him off before he could launch into an exposition-rant (not that she didn’t like to do that once in a while. Just not as much as he did). “Still, do you think you can do this? You. Are. Hurt. And your teammates are certainly not up to this – leave it to the heroes! That’s what they’re for!”

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B003 Forbidden Garden (Part 6.2)

Getting to the Hospital did not take long – before the reconstruction of the city even began after DiL’s attack, it had been decided that the new public transport system was going to be the most efficient in the world – and they had succeeded (at the time). And while Washington had managed to snatch that title away during their 2001 reworking of their public transportation system, New Lennston’s was still one of the world’s finest. The magnetic trains moved almost soundlessly through the city and one needed half an hour at most to reach any station from any other.

So he entered Prisca’s room just as Mrs. Smith was leaving with the food tray. She did not even notice him, as she had to hurry to bring the tray to the kitchen and then run along to the next patient needing help with eating. And then the next one. Plus those who needed help with going to the toilet – a problem which Prisca wished she had, because it would mean that her bowels still worked well enough to actually process food – and so on.

Which meant that he and Prisca would be undisturbed for at least an hour and a half. Perfect.

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B003 Forbidden Garden (Part 6.1)

They left the house in casual clothes, though Amy was, for a change, dressed appropriately for the weather in jeans, boots and a shapely black jacket (though only because she was wearing her costume, minus the high-heeled boots, underneath).

Since she absolutely insisted on him being fully equipped for visiting the house on the mountainside – even if his ravens had already scanned it and designated it as abandoned for years – they had to go to his lair first.

Fortunately, the girls had left to go home to their worried families and they would not be back until later in the afternoon to watch the TV special. So they were free to enter and suit up.

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B003 Forbidden Garden (Part 5)

Amy closed her eyes and concentrated on the connection to Basil. It was like a thread, connecting them. She let her mind wander along the thread and fall into him…

She opened her eyes, taking in her surroundings. She was in the air, surrounded by a scenery out of a painting – or maybe one of Basil’s fantasy games.

It looked like giant islands, floating freely in the air, some high above her, some deep beneath her. When she looked down, she noticed that she was actually clothed – in a very flattering, but all-covering lilac dress. Leave it to Basil to dress me up ‘decently’, even with only his subconscious mind active…

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