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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B007 Hastur, Shrouded in Dread (Part 1)

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This is murder for my heart.

“He. Hehe. It’s just fun for everyone, Jay-jay,” the girl they called Hastur whispered, giggling.

“Wrraurk?” asked Nathaniel. He shook his head, still not quite able to talk again after seeing her face.

Love at first sight can do that to you.

“Nothin’ nothin’, Nathaniel. Now, since you’re all ready,” Her new friends had all gotten themselves ready. Only five of them had survived falling in love with her, but that was to be expected. They’d been bad men and women, anyway.

“And stupid. You were all stupid, too. What in Dio’s name possessed you to let me loose?” She looked around at the five of them, but only got moans and gurgling as a response. They were all still speechless.

Love at first sight can do that to you.

She looked down at herself, dressed only in some old rags left from the clothing she’d had on when she’d manifested (not much) and the shroud she’d been given (she’d pulled the hood down). “I need new clothes.” She sniffed under her armpit. “A shower, first. And a shave.”

A few blissful minutes later, she was clean again for the first time since they’d caught her. She threw her rags and her shroud away, stretching her body a little to limber up while Francine brought her a clean bed sheet she could use as a cowl until she found something better.

“Clothes, now.”

Focusing her awareness on New Lennston – she’d always wanted to visit this city, and now she’d finally get to do it – she looked for a place with nice clothes, and found a nice boutique.

Nathaniel teleported all five of them into it. He normally needed line of sight for his power, but she had line of sight to anywhere, and Francine could tap into other people’s senses and share them with others.

They popped into the middle of the small boutique – there were only three customers and two salesgirls inside. And they all started screaming in horror when they saw her new friends around her.

Before they could run or call someone, she pulled her cowl down, while Nathaniel jumped around the room, bringing them all into a line in front of her.

They looked at her face and their screaming changed. Now they screamed out of love, as it overwhelmed them.

Love at first sight can do that to you.

She threw the sheet away and went into the underwear section while the five women screamed their love into the world. Fortunately, the street outside was rather empty right now, and the window’s full of merchandise, so they were hidden.

“Those are cute,” she whispered with a giggle to the sound of one of the women – Marge – breaking her own neck. Shame, she always hated losing them. She pulled the pink panties with the dancing unicorns on. “No need for a bra, and ain’t that depressing? Getting powers is supposed to give you like, a D-cup at least. But noooo, I’ve still got apples instead of melons.”

She found a cute pair of socks that matched her panties just perfectly. The tight blue jeans she put on afterwards were nothing special, but they showed off her hips well. And she’d always liked the curve of her hips.

“A shirt now, don’t you think, Nathaniel?” He was her favourite, so far. Such a useful power, and he was the best-looking of the bunch.

“Srrrrrurrrhh,” he replied, slowly getting more control over his speech.

“Or maybe just a hoodie? Don’t want just everyone seeing my face all the time, that makes things… interesting, but not very practical, sometimes.” She nodded to herself and looked through the racks while two more of the women – the two salesgirls – fought each other in a brief struggle, until Mary dug out Jenny’s heart with her bare hands and ate it.

“Don’t you dare get blood over the stuff I might want to look through!” she told her and the other two who were still screaming.

Just then, someone kicked in the doors, and she heard two voices yell “Freeze!”.

Nathaniel and Greg took them down before they could do any more.

She stepped around the clothing rag she’d been standing behind, still topless, to see two police officers on the ground, held down by Greg’s power. They looked at her face and starting screaming, too, while they fought to break free of Greg’s power, useless though that was. Her new friends were rarely smart at the beginning.

Love at first sight can do that to you.

“Hey, Nathaniel,” she spoke up after a minute – Mary and Jenny had just killed their two remaining customers and were eating the tasty bits – while she just couldn’t decide which hoodie to choose. “What’s Hastur mean, anyway?” Maybe it would help knowing that.

“Hhhhhasssssturrrrr… loooooovecraffffft st’ries… King… in… Y-y-yellowwwwww,” he said.

“Bravo, Nathaniel!” she shouted, clapping her hands, then she gave him a kiss on his cheek. “You’re getting better!”

Then she turned back to the clothing selection. “King in Yellow, huh? Well, Queen in Yellow, now. So, a yellow hoodie, then…”

And she found one, it was a little thin, but it had a cute little heart for a zipper, so she put it on and zipped it closed. Then she clapped her hands again. “Shoes! I need shoes, too!”

Eight minutes (and one dead policeman later – poor stupid thing, he’d ripped out his own intestines only to eat them, but the others had gotten hungry too when they saw that), she’d found the cutest little black-and-pink sneakers.

Looking at herself in front of the mirror, she pulled the hood up and deep down over her face, so not even her chin could be seen.

“I look cute, don’t you all think so, too?” she asked her new friends. They’d all finished screaming and were quite fine now.

Love at first sight can do that to you.

There were various gurgles and moans of affirmation, as well as a “Of cccccourrrrrsssse.” from Nathaniel.

Great! Now, to see what the Juniors and Basil and friends are doing…

She looked into the headquarters of the heroes, but recoiled from the minds of Basil and Melody.

“Ouch. Damn, what is that?” She looked into the other’s heads, and learned all the wonders of heterodyning while Thomas explained it. “Ohhh, I wonder if I can do that, too, with someone. Something to keep in mind.”

Nathaniel teleported them all away, leaving only the bits and pieces of the poor things who hadn’t made it behind. They reappeared in the middle of a mob meeting, with her in the center of the round table they were sitting at. She pulled her hood down. “They’ll probably find out I’m free, soon. Let’s see who I’ll take now, and who I’ll play with until later.”

She let her awareness roam a little around the city – she didn’t want to reveal too much about her capabilities yet.

After a few minutes, she looked back into the workshop.

… but who’ll be the hunter and who the game?

“Oh, Irene, you don’t get it,” she giggled to the sound of her new friends professing their love in screams. “It’s a game of tag. We can alternate roles. Though, of course, if I win, the consequences will be… fun.”

She looked up to see herself in a large mirror on the wall, squatting on her heels in the middle of the room, in her new hoodie and those cutest of all shoes.

“Who ever said the end of the world can’t look cute, huh?”

* * *

…attach the power coupling here, then check for any hiccups along the power lines to ensure flawless transmission…

At the other end of the S.M.O.G., Polymnia connected it to the building’s power grid. Small, black pictogram manikin were pointing and miming what they had to do, moving to the rythm of a song he could not distinguish from the technology they were working on – like a dance.

I wonder how she normally works, he thought while following the instructions the little manakin, and the arrows and circles and crosses and numbers gave him. He felt like something had opened up – the ideas, the blazing light that guided him, it was all flowing, focused and steady, unlike anything he had ever felt before. If this is the usual result of heterodyning with another Gadgeteer, then I should see about recruiting Polymnia for my team. For the time being, though, he’d focus on the S.M.O.G. It had not nearly enough firepower yet to live up to its name.

* * *

Suddenly, the song that had kept them going cut off, and his power stuttered for a moment.

“What’s going on, mate!?” he asked in an angry tone, looking around the workshop. They’d just gotten started on the critical overload mechanism.

Gloom Glimmer was standing next to Polymnia, her hand on the girl’s shoulder. Apparently, Polymnia was just as angry as he was. “Enough fun and games, kids. The game is afoot, and we need to get ready for a fight. A big one, it seems.”

Brennus bit down a harsh reply – he was slowly, emphasis on slowly, coming down from… from whatever he was feeling. He felt like his brain was raw and open. “L-let’s go then.” He put the tools he’d been working with (she had actually come up with a Sonic Screwdriver, though unfortunately, it could only drive screws… yet. He would offer to help upgrade it) aside and went to slip back into his suit. The process wasn’t exactly fast, but it at least took less than a minute. If barely.

With a last, longing look at the S.M.O.G. – fifteen meters and forty-six centimeters of gorgeous, straightforward destruction (no fancy tricks there, just firepower. Lots and lots and lots of firepower) – he fell into step next to Polymnia (she took a few seconds longer to tear her eyes off their creation), following Gloom Glimmer out of the workshop.

“Where are we going?”

“War Room. Hastur somehow got out, and she’s started killing people, so we have to do something,” she replied, sounding quite wound up.

<Irene, what’s wrong? You don’t seem well… and besides, why are we supposed to do something about this? I thought we weren’t allowed to deploy against an S-Class!>

She remained silent for a few seconds as they made their way to the elevator. Brennus had all but given up on getting an answer.

Then, Polymnia put a hand onto her shoulder, gently squeezing it. For just a moment, he thought he saw Gloom Glimmer’s expression of calm crumble, before she caught herself.

“Desolation-in-Light appeared over Kansas. They’re fighting her right now. Only Amazon is left – even Patrid went to help.”

<Wait, Patrid? What can that creep do, apart from try and talk her to death?> asked Polymnia in sheer surprise.

“He has three doctorates, one of them in medicine, and he’s a crackerjack EMT on top of that. That can be worth more than any power, and that doesn’t even account for him having a God Tier Physique,” she replied, her voice barely above a whisper. “Not that it’s going to help anyone going up directly against her.”

Polymnia pulled her into a hug from behind, while Brennus just… stood there.

Am I supposed to hug her, too? Would that be too intimate?

If you ain’t sure how to to act, mate, go with the option that involves DOING SOMETHING.

He carefully put his arms around the two girls, hugging them as tightly as he dared with his armor on.

* * *

They’d sat down at the circular table again. Everyone left – the Junior Heroes, Amazon, Widard, Hecate, Tyche and himself.

Once more, the mood around the table was… bad. Guess you should not expect anything else from a War Room.

He almost slapped his head. His thoughts were frayed. Probably a side effect of the Heterodyning. Not a good time to be below one-hundred percent.

“The situation is getting worse by the minute, everyone,” began Amazon.

Not very smart, eh? To start off on a note like that, you’d think she was a beginner at this.

It is suboptimal.

She is only interim leader, because everyone else is at the Wall right now.

Still, it’s a bummer way to start.

“Define ‘worse’ in relation to an unknown S-Class getting loose in the USA’s third-most populous city at the same time at which most of our ability to respond is tied up due to the world’s only S+ deciding to pay Kansas a visit,” he asked.

Amazon and Widard exchanged looks.

“They may as well know, before we get to the situation at hand,” the older man said to his nominal leader.

“Know what?” asked Gloom Glimmer. “What could possibly make things wo- Did something happen to-“

Amazon raised a hand. “No, nothing like that. But… the Protectorate was attacked, and despite Lady Light’s intervention, one of them managed to break through the defenses and into the Protege’s range.”

Ember! Not Prote-bla, Ember!

Dude, whatever your problem, calm down. You are kind of screaming inside my head.

“How the fuck did they get past Lady Light?” asked Outstep, taking his eyes off Tyche’s rack for the first time since Brennus had entered the room (not that she didn’t enjoy the attention). “And anyway, so what? Whoever got through is probably bonkers now, but Lady Light was there to put’em down, right?”

“The how is not an issue now. The problem is that the woman who got through was a particularly powerful supervillainess. She brought a dead baby into the Protectorate, and somehow, don’t ask me how, managed to get within five feet of the Protege.”

EMBER!!! His fucking name is EMBER, you twat!

Keep it down! Is the Man in the Moon not supposed to be just an observer? Where exactly does commentator fit into that?

Bugger off, mate. I can’t stand this Prote-bleh business. He got a name, one he chose for himself!

I can not bugger off because you are in. My. Head. Shut up.

Gloom Glimmer was throwing him strange looks, which he absolutely did not like right now.

<Did Ember… did he?>

Good Girl. I’d like her for a mate.

She is female. A mate is usually a male sa-

Bugger off.

Amazon nodded, which immediately charged the mood in the room even worse.

“Sean O’Sheannan has become the newest member of the Returners – and while the Protege seems to have returned to dormancy, well…”

“No one is going to accept that. If he could wake up once, he can wake up again. If he’s even been asleep in the first place,” commented Brennus. He certainly did not seem asleep when he talked to us.

Well mate, Henry was always a little strange, but he’s definitely not the kind to just sit around and do nothing.

Wait, ‘Henry’? You know him personally?

Focus, mate. Focus.

“It’s not important,” Tartsche said. “We have far more immediate problems to deal with. One of them being this Hastur. What do we know?”

Everyone focused back on Amazon, then on Widard when she turned to look at him.

“Hastur… well, look at this.”

He called up a video file that the table projected into the air above it in six screens arrayed in a circle to let everyone see it.

They all watched the recording, apparently taken by a security camera within a clothes store. Two salesgirls, three customers. Then, suddenly, a figure cloaked in a… bed sheet… stood in the center of the room, flanked by… five blots of blackness, as if the camera had refused to record them.

The civilians screamed and tried to flee, but one of the blots vanished and reappeared all around the place, until it had collected them and lined them up in front of the shrouded figure.

She reached up with thin, slender hands and pulled the sheet down. Her position only showed silky, freshly washed dark brown hair that fell to her shoulders.

But whatever the five civilians saw, they started screaming in raw, unhinged horror. Hastur – she had to be – walked among the clothing racks, apparently looking for clothes, while her victims screamed and clawed at their eyes – one of the customers broke her own neck… and then, one of the salesgirls turned into another blot on the camera, fell over her colleague and, after a brief struggle, ripped her heart out.

The other girl convulsed, then almost fell before turning into another blot, along with one of the customers, just when two policemen stormed the shop. They were quickly subdued and exposed to Hastur’s face – it looked like her power worked through her face, or maybe just eye contact – just as the blots that were the salesgirls descended on the two remaining customers, one of whom had turned into another blot.

They kept watching, until Hastur, dressed now like a normal teenager, stepped over to the eight remaining blobs of blackness, and they all vanished.

Spellgun summed up what Brennus was thinking: “Well, shit.”

* * *

After twenty minutes, they had reached a few conclusions.

One, they had identified two of the blobs Hastur had entered the shop with. The teleporting blob had to be Panthera Avis, the new leader of the Black Panthers’ West Coast Division. Or rather, he used to be that. Now he was Hastur’s flying monkey, it seemed. The other one was most probably CrushUp, gravity manipulator and notorious terrorist.

Two, they had decided that Hastur had to have some manner of Control power, triggered by seeing either her face or making eye contact (which was mostly the same, all things considered), and some manner of power boosting, because Avis should not have been able to teleport them beyond his line of sight.

Three, they needed to find them. Fast. And take Hastur into custody or six feet under – most probably the latter.

So now, Brennus was sitting in the war room, coordinating his ravenbots while they searched the city. The others were preparing for battle. Amazon and Widard were informing the supervillains of the city and the police, respectively; both Spellgun and Hecate wanted to work on their respective equipment, Polymnia had to finish her newest armor, Tartsche was making sure his boyfriend did not forget what he was supposed to get ready for, Bakeneko and Osore were in the Juniors’ common room talking, Tyche and Outstep were stroking each other’s ego by way of making small talk and Gloom Glimmer was nowhere to be found.

Brennus knew all that because he had not been able to resist accessing the surveillance system of the place. It was not like his ravenbots needed much in the way of coordination, not with their programming and Eudocia keeping an eye on them.

“You like keeping tabs on people, too?” asked a silken smooth voice from behind him.

He turned around and looked at Gloom Glimmer standing right behind him.

“Call it paranoia,” he replied without any embarrassment. “You do, too?”

She shrugged. “Indirectly. My power takes paranoia to an artform, I guess.”

She is awfully open about her power around me, do you not think so?

No response. Strange.

“It is not paranoia if they really are out to get you.”

She actually giggled at that, even though he did not think it was all that funny.

“Papa always says that.”

“Well, I guess you would have to be paranoid to survive that long in this business… Is Mrs Whitaker like that, too?”

She shook her head. “No, not really. She is very… aware of her surroundings, but she’s far more relaxed about it than Papa or me. Or you, it seems.”

He shrugged. “Well, it might come in handy now – my ravenbots are spread all over the city, and I have ordered them to patrol. Coupled with the city’s surveillance system and the police cars and helicopters on patrol, we should find Hastur the moment she goes outside or near a window. Speaking of which, why are you not out there searching? With a power like yours, this should be rather trivial. Not that I do not enjoy talking to you.”

She blushed. What the hell? I was just being polite.

“My power is too unreliable. I might need to be here for defense, if she attacks us here – we don’t know to which extent Panthera Avis’ teleportation has been boosted – and I don’t want to leave it up to chance. Not even with Tyche’s power on our side.”

She knows? How? “You know? How?”

“I’m very good at figuring out people’s powers. Seems to be something that comes easy to my own power. Don’t worry, I’ll keep quiet about it, unless it becomes important.”

He nodded, then suddenly called up one of the video feeds from one of his ravens. “What is that?

A blob of darkness had appeared in the Jaunt Memorial Park. It was at least twenty meters tall.

“My gut is telling me it’s nothing good,” Gloom Glimmer remarked.

Previous | Next

B005 An Ember of Hope: Little Giants (Part 8, Final)

Again, Henry’s mind reeled at the impression of Macian’s world, the endless activity of his power. No wonder he seems unhinged. His power alone is completely out of control.

This time, however, he noticed a system to the madness. All the pictographs were showing… well, inventions. Or rather, the process of inventing. Most of them were dropped pretty quickly, but there was always something that came of them, even if it was something different than what they’d started out inventing. Sometimes, they’d split into several lines of invention, sometimes merge into one. And there was a source to it, as well as a destination. They all moved in a kind of loop around the strange reality, whether they were black pictographs on white ground or white pictographs on those black geometric forms – they all flowed from a central core and fed back into it, a blazing sun at the centre of Macian’s world, the source of all of its light. A light which did not cast any shadows, as Henry noticed.

“Well, this explains why I always feel like I’ve got a flashlight behind my eyes,” commented Macian, making Henry jump. He hadn’t even noticed the other boy standing right in front of him, looking around within his own world.

“You recognize this?”

“Sure thing. That’s how I always work out my inventions. Pictographs and stuff.” He was looking around as much as he could while having Henry’s hand on his shoulder. “Sure looks crazy, huh?”

Henry nodded.

“So, this is the second world. I guess everyone has their own?” Macian asked, his face focused on the scenery. Henry noticed that two pictograph-lines had collapsed into one as Macian’s eyes focused on them.

“Yeah. How did you know?” replied a startled Henry with another question.

“You said that you pulled people into the second world and that you could move within it. I doubt that my world is the whole second world. So there must be other places, or even several distinct worlds. And why the hell can’t I focus my power on this?” he suddenly shouted with an annoyed expression on his half-face.

“What do you mean?” asked Henry, startled from the sudden outburst.

“I mean that I can’t analyze this with my power! I was trying to figure out how to make an invention that messes with this, but it runs into the same blindspot I had when I tried to figure out how to bestow powers!” He was actually pulling at his own hair with his good hand, frustrated as several lines of pictographs just cut off without feeding into anything else. “I hate it when that happens!”

“Calm down! Let’s focus – this is about my power, remember?” Henry tried to bring him back on track.

Macian nodded, rubbing his temple. “Yes. Right, right. You said you can see in both worlds? This and the real one?”

Henry nodded. “Yes. I can see both at the same time.”

Macian seemed to think about it, closing his eyes and opening them again. For a moment, Henry could tell that his senses weren’t in the second world anymore.

“I can see either the first or second world. If I try to see both, I just get dizzy. Your power must compensate for the added strain to your mind due to the doubled sensory input.”

He just nodded.

Macian went on: “You said you have control over whomever you touch? Try and turn my hair white.”

Henry nodded, concentrating, picturing Macian’s hair turning white.

Nothing happened.

“Won’t work,” he said.

“Alright. Two possibilities, in my opinion. Keep in mind that I can’t use my power on this, so no super-science support. Either you can only affect peoples’ powers, or you can’t affect me inside ‘my’ world. Can you pull me into ‘your’ second world?”

With a mere thought, Henry did so, and they stood in a far more colorful place, his wide plain of grass and flowers. The sun was still down, so they could see the starry sky above.

“Woah! Can’t feel my power!”, shouted Macian, staggered. Henry felt a profound feeling of emptiness, of calm, which simply hadn’t been present before in Macian. From one moment to the other, the turmoil of his mind just lessened down to the point where he was just merely off, instead of completely deranged.

Macian looked around, curious, and got hung up on the stars above.

“Man, I’ve never seen stars before, not unless you count my manifestation,” he whispered.

Henry’s eyes widened as he heard that. What? “How could… no way. No way, Macian.”

The boy looked at him with a sad eye, reflecting the emotions Henry could feel from him. “Did I say that out loud? Damn.”

Henry thought furiously. The minions that tried to take him knew and feared Macian. Fire Burial and Heretic were familiar with him. And he with them. With all of them, judging from his comments. Henry was sure he’d been mutilated by Fire Burial. He had extensive combat experience, as far as Henry could judge something like that. And he had never seen the stars before.

“You’re with them. The Savage Six,” said Henry, careful to only speak in the second world.

The young boy’s right eyelid twitched, as did his good hand. Anger, Indignation, Loathing. “I’m not one of them. I’m just… stuck dealing with them.”

“How long have you been in this place? And why?”

Macian, still looking up at the stars, started to say something, hesitated, then said: “Can we not talk about that?” His voice was soft, sad, even though there was a storm of emotions inside him.

Henry would have loved to skip this conversation, but he needed to know who he’d been travelling with. “Please, you can trust me. Just tell me…”

The cyborg boy turned to look at him, his eye sad and yet… relieved? Henry couldn’t begin to figure out the feelings behind the face. “I warn you. This is dangerous knowledge. With Mindfuck around, they’ll probably know I told you. Do you want to take the chance?”

He thought about it. Worried, hesitating. Then he remembered a line he’d heard, or maybe read, once.

Macian seemed quite put off when he started smirking. “What is bravery, without a dash of recklessness?”, he asked.

The other boy paused, thought about it too, turning the words around in his head as the feelings behind the face changed, though they were still too convoluted for Henry to truly define them. Then he smirked back. “Alright, Mister Proverb. Listen close, I’m not going to repeat this…”

* * *

They entered the building once Dunstkreis gave them the signal, Macian a bit out of balance due to carrying both his artificial arm and the other implants in his arms, trying to get used to the changed weight.

“Was zum- What happened out there!?” asked Dunstkreis when he saw the changed boy.

Even his hair was back and he looked, for all intents and purposes, like a normal eight-year-old boy. Even the madness behind his eyes had lessened, though it still made everyone who looked at them uneasy. He looked up at Dunstkreis, grinning a most boyish, normal grin. “Seems like Henry over here could be the most powerful healer ever. By my humble estimation, that is.” His voice had changed, drastically, sounding far more like a humans, without the electronic intereference or what Henry now knew to be off-sounds due to a burned throat.

Henry blushed, rubbing the back of his head as he looked around the room they were in. A back room of a tailor, judging by the equipment. How I’d love to work on a new coat. His old one had vanished together with Fire Burial.

There were seven more people there. The two adults – terrified, more for their offspring than themselves – and four children – just plain terrified, crying if they hadn’t fallen asleep from exhaustion, as well as a dark-skinned lady with an eye-catching pink-and-green peacock-pin on her strapless red dress. He remembered seeing her for just a moment back during the gala. Right now, she looked rather dishevelled – physically. But her face only showed composed interest, as she was holding a young girl’s head in her lap, softly stroking the child’s hair.

“Henry!”

He gave a start, turning to look at Dunstkreis, who’d been trying to catch his attention. “Yes, Sir?” He noticed that the older man was holding himself awkwardly, and remembered that he’d been wounded earlier. “Do you want me to heal you?”

Dunstkreis nodded.

“Alright, just relax, ’cause this is going to be a bit strange…” He put his hand on the older man’s forearm.

Dunstkreis looked around at the serene scenery of Henry’s world, but said nothing.

Henry concentrated. They’d found out that he couldn’t just imagine someone healed – the effect would be reversed the moment he let go of the other person (though he didn’t seem to have the same limitation in regards to non-attended objects, but to stuff like Macian’s gear) – but just like with the punch he’d delivered to Fire Burial – negating her powers as well as enhancing his own strength – the results of his power’s use remained.

After some very uncomfortable (for Macian) trial and error, they’d figured out that it worked best with symbolic effects. In Henry’s case, he imagined a golden ember that set fire to his patient, healing them – the healing effect faded after he let go, but Macian’s body remained healed (Macian had also insisted to make it so the fire first expelled foreign bodies from the patient’s body, so he’d retain his equipment).

And it worked. It worked exceedingly well, far better than any of the other effects they’d tried to manifest. Macian had only a few ideas as to why his power worked so much better with healing, since he couldn’t apply his power to the subject. One of them was that his power was simply primed for healing, another that it was Henry who was primed for healing, or rather for positive applications, and finally because humans naturally wanted to be whole and since his power was interacting with the “worlds” of other humans, they might be reinforcing the healing effect. Either way, it worked and Henry had been able to heal his friend, even regenerate his arm.

And now his fire spread over and into the older man’s body, burning the pain and the damage away, making him – within the second world – glow like a soft, warm bonfire.

The experience was thoroughly strange to Henry, so much so that he couldn’t even feel Dunsktreis’ emotions while doing so. There were no real words to describe it, apart from ‘an all-encompassing feeling of freedom and companionship’ mixed with ‘a strange eldritch (Macian’s word) touch’ unlike anything he’d felt before.

When the fire began to die down, Henry let go and stumbled backwards, still dumbstruck by the intense emotions of the process. When he looked up, he felt like fainting – Dunstkreis looked like he’d aged several decades – backwards. Not to the point where he was young again, but… twenty, maybe thirty years had been taken off by Henry’s estimation.

“Wha- what did you do, my boy?” the rejuvenated man whispered, looking at his hands in wonder. More than half of the liverspots that had covered his body were gone, and he looked closer to mid-fifty now, his hair having partially turned brown, his face, his entire body, gained muscle and strength. Fortunately, he’d been wearing rather wide clothes, so they still fit, if barely. He’d been an extremely fit man.

Maybe one of these Adonises?

“His power probably identified the degradation of your body due to aging as ‘damage’ and thus did its best to reverse it,” explained Macian with an audible smile in his voice, even as he was reconstructing his Kinetic Repulsor, having deconstructed the mechanical arm in less time than it had taken Henry to heal Dunstkreis. And he’d already reworked his eye into one-eye goggles that attached to his left ear. “Congratulations, you look like you’re literally thirty years or so younger.”

Everyone in the room save for Macian (who was quite pre-occupied) and the peacock-pin lady (who just looked intrigued) was staring at him.

“Umm… I…,” he turned beet-red, reaching for an excuse to get out of the spotlight. “I… I’m tired! Need to sit down after this…” Not even a lie.

He scrambled over to sit so Macian was working in between him and the others, while Dunstkreis was stretching, wondering at his newly rejuvenated body.

“I’ll keep them off your back. You just relax, mate,” whispered the young gadgeteer as he was reconfiguring his former arm into an armored glove.

“Yes… relax…” He knew some tricks for that, though he usually needed his coat or one of his self-made blankets. Still, it should help at least a bit, and he now had his power as well…

* * *

Henry opened his eyes, focusing almost entirely on his second world. Meditating was far easier when you could literally retreat from the world. He just kept some of his focus on the first world, so he’d react if anything happened – he couldn’t cut himself off, even if he’d wanted to.

Now he took a deep breath, taking in the fresh smell of clean air, green grass and fresh water. He was sitting under a tree, leaning against the trunk, with a small spring right next to him, coming up from between the roots of the tree and forming a thin stream down the hill it stood upon.

Looking up, he could see the brilliant night sky, filled with all the beautiful stars of mankind. No matter how many times he saw them, the sight still enchanted him.

I wonder…

A thought caught him. Everything in this world was his – but everything outside of it, all that was part of the firmanent, was from other people.

So what’s the sun stand for?

He focused on turning his world, until the sun stood in the skies, blotting out the stars around it. And there was something more…

Two suns. There are two suns. One was barely visible, a sun barely different from the surrounding blue of the sky. A sleeping sun. As bright, as massive as the main sun, but not awake, not shining.

He imagined a giant magnifying glass above him, to take a closer look. And, for the first time, he noticed something that he hadn’t before.

Turning the world around again to look at the normal night sky, he saw what he only now noticed, because it was so omnipresent, he hadn’t even noticed it before. They’re all connected.

A network of glowing tendrils connected the worlds of humanity among each other… and he was reasonably sure they represented relationships. And the reason he was noticing them now was because…

He turned the world around again, to look at the two suns. … because that one… it doesn’t have them…

The bright sun had none. No relationships, no connections whatsoever. It was brighter enough to blot out all the other worlds save for the sleeping world, unless he interposed his world to take a look at the others.

Could that be… Desolation-in-Light?! Zooming in closer, he could see the haze of light that accompanied DiL’s attacks – he’d seen them on TV often enough – only a million, billion times more concentrated. She’s… so alone…

But he couldn’t reach her world, not without touching her body, first…

* * *

It was many hours later, after they’d all slept in shifts (save for Henry and the other children, who had been allowed to sleep through and Macian, who it turned out never needed to sleep, at all), that Henry was suddenly woken from his reverie of exploring his second world and the firmament above it.

Someone had just appeared out of nowhere within his range. A world that had been too remote to feel before, but now he could sense it, and extending a thought, he tried to feel her out…

He was shaken awake again. “Mate! What happened!?” Macian propped him up against the wall, one hand shaking his shoulder. He still preferred to use his right hand for this, it seemed.

“Wu-what?” asked Henry, groggy and with a headache.

“You just bent over, retched and passed out!” said Macian with worry in his tone.

“I… Someone dropped into my range… it was… it was awful. Demented,” whispered Henry with a tone so serious, so fearful it made the gathered civilians flinch back.

“What? Tell me what you felt! It’s time for the next round, who did you feel!? I described them to you, remember?”

Henry nodded. “Yes, yes, I know. Let me… let me concentrate.” Macian pulled his hand away and Henry straightened, closing his eyes to concentrate on the second world.

He found the demented world again, a twisted, wrong star, oozing with greenish-black ichor, dripping instead of shining – seven tendrils extended from it, five of them to remote worlds, which Ember recognized as those of the other Six, one to a faded one… and one to Macian, an asymmetrical, but intense relationship. Black on Macian’s side with just a little red, and lots of red and green on the other worlds side.

Which one… He thought back to Macian’s descriptions.

“Heretic you’ve already met”, said the young boy, looking up at the brilliant starry sky. “He’s their security, in a fashion. The most powerful and versatile member in direct confrontation, a nigh-immortal nightmare. He’s smarter than you’d think, but willingly follows Hemming’s lead, mostly due to their friendship.”

“Fire Burial is their mad dog, a wide-area combatant and master of guerilla tactics, even if she’s usually too stupid to fight smart. She obeys Hemming because he’s good at manipulating her, but mostly because Mindfuck does, and she’s pretty much addicted to her father’s power. More of a pet-owner relationship than a daughter-father one.”

“Mindfuck is… pathetic. Massively powerful telepath, the strongest one ever. But he’s stuck, a nine-year-old in a thirty-year-old’s body who’s reenacting what his father did to him, over and over and over. Prime case for high-level mental powers completely messing up their owner. He follows Hemming because Hemming knows how to push his buttons just right and because he’s smart enough to know that he wouldn’t survive in the real world. He needs the Six, so he’s loyal and reliable. So long as none of them get between him and his new target boy.”

“Pristine is their heavy hitter, their first and major line of defense, apart from Heretic’s spells. She’s long gone insane from sensory deprivation and just does whatever Hemming tells her to, simply because he’s installed himself in her mind as the one person who understands her. Her power is the same as the one DiL uses for defense, only weaker. She’s untouchable, but she can be moved against her will, as well as restrained – if you can overpower her. And she’s really strong.”

“Hemming is… a mystery. He was Britain’s prime superhero, until he and his right hand, Hermetic, just switched sides all of a sudden. Massively powerful shapeshifter, most people think he’s also a probability manipulator, because things seem to always go his way – but he’s actually a perception-type. Super-smart. Smart enough to set things up so it always looks like luck, but it’s all planned. He’s a master at finding peoples’ psychological weakpoints and exploiting them, preferring to break people by talking instead of by physical force.”

“Finally, Atrocity… she’s a monster. Completely and utterly insanely evil. Even Hemming can’t really control her. Even Mindfuck is disgusted by her. She doesn’t have nearly as much combat power as any other member, she isn’t as smart as Hemming, she doesn’t have any kind of game-breaking technology or something… but she’s adaptable, incredibly fast and utterly unpredictable, to the point where even Hemming just cuts her loose and hopes for the best.”

Henry opened his eyes. “Atrocity. She’s coming.”

* * *

They left the building minutes later. Macian had insisted that staying in an enclosed space with Atrocity on the loose was no different from suicide.

“I hope we’ll get a chance for another ice-cream-and-chips-orgy,” said Macian as they walked away from the direction Henry felt Atrocity move in, flinching every time she reached another human and started to… do things to them. She didn’t kill, but they quickly wished she’d had.

“Me too…” replied Henry, tears in his eyes as he was forced to try and block out the mental screams of what felt like a little girl.

“Have you thought about a codename?” asked Macian casually.

Henry looked up, eager for a distraction. “Hm… I did, actually…”

Macian turned to him without stopping. “So, what is it?”

“Ember. Call me Ember,” said the newly minted superhero. “It fits on so many levels, it would just be wrong to take anything else.”

The other buy chuckled. “Well, it fits you, anyway. And… Ember & Macian vs. The Savage Six! Sounds like a good title for a comic book!”

Ember grinned back. “Yes. It does.”

B005 An Ember of Hope: Little Giants (Part 7)

There were billions of worlds in the vast expanse of the second sky. More than Henry could really take in, more than he could count – it was only thanks to his power that he could get even a rough estimate (that being the aforementioned number of billions).

Of all these worlds, most were just dots in the sky, shining brightly but still in the background. He was coming to associate those with normal humans, since all the metahumans he had seen yet – his mother, Macian, Dunstkreis, Fire Burial, now Heretic – belonged to the second and third group of worlds.

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B005 An Ember of Hope: Little Giants (Part 6)

He did not burn. Despite its brilliance, the star was not hot, nor was it cold. It didn’t seem to have any temperature at all. Nor did it have any mass, his body moving through it without encountering any resistance. The only thing he saw, the only thing he heard, and tasted, and smelled, and just felt was pure, unspoiled light, strange though that may sound. It entered his body without encountering any resistance, saturated him in a way he had not words to describe, saturated his mind as well as his body, until he himself was light. He saw every painting he had ever made, or even considered, he saw every smile he ever put on his mother’s face, every smile he ever put on anyone’s face, heard laughter and joy. He saw the tears in the lives of those close to him, saw his mother and his grandmother cry together when they thought he wouldn’t see or hear.

And he saw Macian, the first real friend he’d ever made. He saw him, whole and unspoiled by any scars or machinery, a young boy much like himself, with a cute little girl with long black hair and even blacker eyes clinging to his arm. That has to be Amy. She looks so happy. But he also saw another Macian, scarred and crippled, his left arm and eye gone, operating on himself while madly muttering gibberish Henry could not begin to understand, rebuilding his own body with metal and plastic as a naked Amy was curled up in a corner, crying as she nursed a painful burn on the palm of her left hand, smeared with a yellow paste. Henry saw and he understood, as well. He protected her with his own body.

He saw himself, standing on top of a hill, underneath a large oak that was ladden with golden apples hanging from its branches, the scenery around himself right out of one of his paintings, all green fields, blue sky and snow-capped mountains. And he saw himself, alone, older and thin like a skeleton, sitting on the edge of his hometown’s fountain, covered by a threadbare raincoat with a heavy hood.

He saw a large city, with old-fashioned cars moving on its streets, despite the late hour. The stars shone bright over this city, which he recognized as Old Lennston. His gaze swerved around to a building on an elevated cliff over the sea, an old mansion. And he knew what was about to happen. Point Zero.

The mansion came alive with a bright light, golden and white and every colour imaginable – and billions more even he had no name for – as it literally disintegrated before his eyes, a pillar of light spearing towards the sky, clearing the sky from what few clouds there were in a large circle for miles, the night turning as bright as day as the pillar’s top began to give of circular emanations of light that spread towards the horizon. He knew that they would circle the entire world, had read the accounts of that night. Everyone read them.

There was no way to tell how long it took for the pillar to vanish, except that it was still night when it shrank and vanished. For just a moment, the night was dark again, then he saw two figures stand up, just a few feet away from the center of the pillar. One of them, a rather spindly woman with thin blonde hair began to glow in a light not unlike that of the pillar, only hers only showed white and gold, her body coming alight as she rose from the ground, breaking into a laugh that was filled with unrestrained joy, making him wish to join in and laugh with her. The second figure, a hawkish man with dark hair, a hooked nose and a well-muscled, but slender build, screamed in pain and despair, a sound that made his ears hurt, as the shadows gathered around him, forming an abomination of darkness with glowing red eyes.

Again, a different vision. The future; no, countless futures. Some bright, some dark, but all different. He zeroed in on one, a future filled with darkness unlike anything he had ever seen, darker even than the shadows that had enveloped the Dark. But not all was darkness there. He saw light. Five Points of Light. Five people, five hopes.

The Shaper, unbound from anything but imagination.

The Maker, mad and yet sane, rising ever higher.

The Dreamer, a gilded knight that glowed like the sun.

The Defender, another era’s fallen idol, given a second chance.

The Lover, wielding the primordial power.

The vision dissolved and Henry hit the ground running, charging towards the park. But he wasn’t running over the plaza alone anymore. It was as if he had two sets of eyes, two whole sets of senses that worked at the same time. One was in this world, showing him what he already knew. The other was in a whole new world, an even plain of grass with colourful flowers growing in random patches, a bright sun and clear blue sky above. He could hear the wind sing in that other world, could feel it on his skin – the skin that was in that world – his world, he knew, his and his alone – could smell its freshness with his second nose, could see it carry flower petals with his second eyes. He felt the soft earth and grass underneath his feet, even through his shoes, as he ran towards the building in between himself and the park where another explosion lit up the sky of the normal world.

But there was more. The sky in his world, it was a clear blue, but he had a feeling that there was something behind it. Concentrating on it, he made the sun go down in the second world, revealing the gorgeous star-studded sky he had seen earlier – only this time, he could not see his own star anymore. Duh, I’m inside it, I think! All those stars, all those worlds, the were singing. Each of them sang their own, individual song, yet they formed a symphony nonetheless. And there was another sound, as well. A deep, deep thrumming, like the beating of an impossibly huge heart, pounding in the background of this sea of stars, always there, but never quite in the foreground.

There were two stars that were closer to him than any others. Reaching out, he could feel them. From one, he felt a deep, desperate fear and longing, mortal fright – for someone else. Mama…

From the other, he heard a mad gibberish, as if someone were constantly murmuring so loud it spanned the space between that world and his own, a deep pain more intense than anything he had ever imagined and a wholly different kind of fear for another – but there was also a quiet, cold determination, an indomitable will that cut right through the pain and the madness and the fear, a will to move forward. Macian.

He shook his head. There was no time, he had to help the people in the park. He felt them and could single out their worlds. Two of them shone brighter than the others, as bright as his mother, though nowhere near as bright as Macian did. Metahumans. The bright ones are metahumans. Fire Burial and whomever she’s fighting. Fire Burial was mad, angry beyond belief and screaming (at least in her mind) as he could see her world flare every time she used her power to attack. The other one was angry as well, an older man. Frustration, anger, disappointment… he had been retired, a veteran of at least one big conflict, but he was fighting again to protect innocents. His powers… steady, strong, simple… some manner of Earth-related power. Whatever it was, he was getting the feeling that it wasn’t enough. There were also six other worlds close, four children and two adults, none with powers. Their worlds were farther away, more muted. But he still felt their fear. He needed to go help the old warrior, needed to save all of them. But there was still a five-storey building in between him and the park, and running around would cost some time.

I wonder if I can run through it, he thought. There was nothing in his way in his second world, maybe he could just run through it? He charged towards the building, two sets of feet pounding over two different earths as he ran past the tables on the outside and into the glass doors.

Ouch, he thought as he landed with his butt on the ground, rubbing his hurt face. His second self had bounced back even though there was nothing in the second world. Still connected. But my nose only hurt, it isn’t broken. It should be, as fast as I ran into it. Had he become invulnerable, somehow? He pinched his own arm, and it hurt. Slamming into the glass hurt as well. Something different from normal invulnerability?

But he didn’t have time for this now. Another explosion shook the ground, and he decided to try something out. I can control my second world. Maybe… He called the wind in the second world, made strong and steady, blowing upward to lift his second self up.

It worked. The wind caught his second self and pulled it up, which also lifted him in the real world – strange, the second world feels just as real – above the coffee bar. Unfortunately, he hadn’t considered that the wind would grab different parts of his body with different strength, so he was thrown around badly enough that he would have thrown up if there was still anything in his belly. He caught himself as he rose high enough to see the entire park, as well as the location of the battle. It was extraordinarily complicated to keep himself steady with wind – so he instead stopped the wind and nullified the gravity in the second world. For just a moment, it seemed like the gravity of the first world – a better name than ‘real world’ – would pull him down regardless, but he concentrated on pushing more of his second self into his first self – transferring his second self’s weightlessness into his first self. And it worked, again, letting him hover in place. Only he couldn’t move like this.

Now, the wind. He called the second world’s wind again, making it simply push him towards the battle. He shot forward, having far more control now that he was only pushing against his own back. Not the most dignified way to fly, but at least he had control.

Here I come.

* * *

He shot towards the flickering form of Fire Burial as she was hovering above the park, switching forms to fire off fireballs as her enemy hurled rocks and compressed earth at her.

When he thought he was close enough, he aimed with the gun Macian had constructed for him, pulling the trigger while trying to line the barrel up with the pyrokinetic supervillain. Unfortunately, his aim was bad, as he was both unpracticed and flying around in a most unstable manner. So when he pulled the trigger and a blue-white beam shot from the gun – filling his nose with the smell of burned ozone – it shot just past Fire Burial’s shoulder, alerting her to his presence without causing any damage.

“You little fuck, you actually got powers!” she shouted and threw a fireball at him just moments before a mass of rock and soot forced her to disperse into fire.

Time seemed to slow down for a moment as the fireball raced towards him. Push me away, push me away. The air in the second world turned, pushing him violently aside and out of the fireball’s path. But Fire Burial had reformed and guided the fireball around, making it speed up even as it slammed into him.

I won’t burn, I’m made of ice, I won’t burn, I’m made of water, I won’t burn, I’m made of stone. His mind raced, working through every inflammable material he could think off – even if he didn’t know where he got the idea – and, again, it worked. His second self became ice, it became water, it became stone – and his first self did not burn, the fire failing to singe even his patchwork cloak.

Fire Burial just stared at him in surprise as he hovered in place, free from the bounds of gravity. He himself was just as surprised as he looked down at himself. Well, my cloak is dry, at least.

“What the fuck,” she cursed, just to disperse into flame as another projectile slammed into her head.

Right. I don’t have to do this alone, Henry thought as he turned towards the old warrior. He looked truly old, at least eighty years, with a bald, spotted head, a long white beard and thin limbs, though his posture was still proud. His thin face had heavy cheeks, a short, stubby nose and rimless spectacles. He was dressed in a very old-fashioned shirt and pants with suspenders, as well as dirty brown leather shoes. Hovering a few meters above the ground, he was circled by nine spheres made of earth and rock that circled him the way the planets circled the sun – they were even of various sizes, roughly corresponding to the planets of the solar system. There was also a circle of dust and loose dirt around him as well, though it thankfully opened to let Henry through as he carefully approached the man, redirecting the wind in the second world to stop his movement in front of him.

“Hello!” he greeted, quite intimidated now that he was so close. The man had presence, even without all the extra stuff he was picking up from the old warrior’s world. His eyes are like steel.

“Guten Tag, mein Junge. Ich bin ‘Dunstkreis’. Wer bist du?” he asked with a rather thin, scratchy voice.

“Um, sorry, do you speak English? I don’t understand German,” Henry replied, flinching as an explosion rattled him from behind. Turning around, he saw that the sphere that corresponded to Jupiter had absorbed the hit and was currently reforming from soot and rock drawn from the ground.

“I do, young man. Call me ‘Dunstkreis’.”

Henry turned back to him, rubbing the back of his head. “Umm, my name is… my name is Henry, Sir. I don’t have a codename yet, I got my powers just seconds ago,” he explained.

Dunstkreis raised an eyebrow. “Seconds? And you already have a gun like that?”

“Oh, sorry, no, a friend gave that to me. But he had… he had other things to do.” He didn’t want to put any blame on Macian, if he could avoid it.

“I see. Well, I’m glad that you’re at least fireproof, young man.” Another explosion destroyed one of the pseudo-planets just Henry saw the Mercury-sphere fly towards Fire Burial, forcing her to disperse again. “Can you somehow protect the children back there?”

He pointed at the group of adults and children (he probably sees all of them as children). They were huddled together on the ground, with Dunstkreis hovering between them and Fire Burial.

“Sorry Sir, I don’t know if I can. My power doesn’t seem to affect anyone other than myself, I think. I don’t know,” Henry replied, blushing. Then he flinched as another fireball was intercepted by one of the pseudo-planets.

“I see. Could I have that gun, at least? I think I’m a better shot than you, even at my age,” Dunstkreis continued, taking the admission in stride. Henry handed him the gun without a word. “How does it work?”

“Um, it’s only supposed to stun. I don’t know how many shots it has. Don’t shoot at children, he said,” Henry explained. Dunstkreis nodded. “I think that I’m immune to anything she can do to me. So, I distract her and you shoot her?”

The old warrior clearly didn’t like the plan – Henry could feel his concern for him, which touched him more than he would have thought – but he nodded. “We have to be quick. I don’t know how long I can maintain my power nowadays. It’s been two decades since I last used it on this scale.”

“Alright. Godspeed, Sir,” Henry replied and flew straight up out of the orbiting pseudo-planets, then turned to approach Fire Burial.

“Damn, what… kind of… power did you… get, boy? Flight… and invulnerability?” asked Fire Burial, flickering pretty much in place.

“Don’t know, really. But everything looks much prettier now,” Henry said before charging at her. But she just turned into flame, letting him pass through without meeting any resistance.

For a moment, he could see her fire even in his world, but then it was gone. Strange. Something to keep in mind, I guess.

Fire Burial reformed, only to disperse again as she was shot in the back by the stun gun. “Hey! Beat it… old fart!” she screamed as she reformed, only to disperse again as Dunstkreis fired first a stun shot, then his mercury, venus and neptune spheres, each forcing her to disperse before even reforming completely.

“Oh, fuck it. Burn!” screamed Fire Burial as she began to form a gigantic fireball above her head, even as she dropped down. “NO!” she screamed as Henry flew through her again, dispersing her body and the fireball both.

He and Dunstkreis continued this, Dunstkreis using the stun gun to keep up the assault in between throwing his spheres, as it took some time to reform them (and he always kept at least half of them for the sake of defense). The civillians took their chance and fled from the field of battle, as Dunstkreis kept reorienting himself to remain between their group and Fire Burial, who was all but frothing from her mouth as she kept being forced to disperse into flame.

She can’t control it. She automatically disperses upon attack, even if she can turn into flame at will, Henry realized as he flew through her again. And again, for just a moment, he could feel her flames in his world. In fact, he felt their worlds touch for the briefest of moments, as their bodies were in contact. I wonder what I could do if I could touch her.

But then the battle turned, as the stun gun clicked empty, which Fire Burial used to break open their rhythm by throwing a massive fireball into the surprised Dunstkreis. The old man reacted immediately, pulling his four largest spheres in between himself and the fireball, but the explosion was still violent enough to throw him backwards.

“Now let’s… see how much… you can… take, little… boy,” Fire Burial said with menace in her voice as she turned to face him. She landed on the ground and shot a fireball at Henry with one hand, another one at Dunstkreis with the other. Since she didn’t need to turn into flame in order to fly, she could focus on keeping them both contained, evading Henry’s charges on foot while trying to whittle down Dunstkreis before he could recover them.

They were being slowly worn down, or at least Dunstkreis was, being unable to reform his spheres in time. Henry remained untouchable, making himself completely fireproof in his second world, which somehow translated to making his first world body fireproof as well (and his clothes too, thankfully), but her blasts were blinding him, making it impossible for him to make contact with her.

Mr Dunstkreis won’t hold out for much longer, I need to come up with something, he thought desperately.

And just like that, he felt help coming. Macian’s world was suddenly singing louder, which he took to mean that he was approaching quickly. Quicker than Henry had flown earlier.

He didn’t abandon me, he didn’t abandon me, he didn’t abandon me! Henry thought, ebullient, as a giant projectile slammed into where Fire Burial was standing, dispersing her as the shock of its impact caused an explosion of soot and rock.

Henry saw a mass of metal in different colours – he could make out parts from cars, a bus, a firetruck and at least one laundry machine – shaped like some kind of rocket. Three makeshift legs folded out of it as Fire Burial reformed further up, aiming the tip towards her. Macian was inside the contraption, Henry could feel him inside, as he aimed and then activated the weapon – a watergun, probably constructed from the firetruck, shooting balls of water at Fire Burial, forcing her to evade in her flame form.

If he hits her, we might just win, Henry thought as he flew towards the staggered Dunstkreis, who was reassembling his pseudo-planets.

“That your friend, Henry?” the old warrior asked.

“Yes, that’s Macian!” Henry almost screamed, beside himself with joy that his friend had returned. Then he noticed Dunstkreis’ singed clothes and his pained expression. “Oh no, are you hurt?”

“Don’t worry about me. I survived Weisswald, I won’t be killed by a little girl with some fireballs”, he replied, emanating a sense of old pride and self-confidence.

“Alright. Listen, Macian says that Fire Burial’s powers shut down if she’s drenched in water. We need to distract her, so he can hit her. Then we win!”

“Good. You continue as you did before, and I’ll go on the offensive now that the children are safe,” Dunstkreis agreed, then flew upwards.

Henry followed for a second, then broke off to charge at Fire Burial just as Macian geared up for another shot.

“You little fuckers… I’ll burn you all… to ashes!” she screamed as she was forced to abandon another attempt at detonating Macian’s makeshift robot, Henry charging through her again.

“Henry! Come here!” Macian’s voice rang out of the loudspeaker of the former firetruck.

Henry complied, flying down to the contraption as a hatch opened and Macian rose out of it, his left arm connected to countless wires that led down into the machine. There were no control elements Henry could see, so he was probably controlling it through his arm. I wonder how he managed to build that so fast. And how did he make it fly at such speed?

“What can you do? Quick summary!” Macian said, a sense of relief emanating from his world.

“I can fly, I’m invulnerable if I want to be, I can feel people, tell what they feel and whether or not they have powers. I can also get a general feel of their powers.”

Macian’s good eye widened. “Cool. And that has to be Dunstkreis. Read about him once. I think we might be able to win this, if we can just keep her from destroying my little toy here – and hit her before my water reserves run out. Now, go! I’ll try and come up with a way to take her down for good!” He sank back into the robot and Henry charged towards Fire Burial again.

At the same time, Dunstkreis took up attacking the once again flying Fire Burial from above, to keep her from attacking.

This won’t work. Macian can’t hit her if she’s flickering around as a flame, but if we let her stay solid for too long, she’ll blow his gadget up. It won’t work out like this.

He decided to try out an idea he’d just had.

Charging her from behind, he aimed to punch her in between the shots of the other two, while also imagining her to be in his second world – and her second world self was solid, and unable to turn into flame. If it works like it does with me, hitting her in one world, will hit her in both.

She turned around just in time to see his fist fly at her face. For just a moment, his skin and hers came into contact, and once again he could feel their worlds intersect, with her appearing in his world – but she turned into fire and his punch went through her, making him fly on. Her second world body had appeared in his world next to the one he had imagined, but it was separate from it.

No. I need to focus more. I’ll imagine her being powerless when her second body is in my world, and make that one powerless, not a copy of her.

He called the earth in his world up, creating a pillar that caught his charge, turning the tip into rubber to bounce back towards her.

This time, the moment he came into contact with her body, he was ready.

He imagined her second self to be vulnerable, solid and human as he hit her – and he also imagined himself stronger and harder, making his second self’s fist as hard as rock.

His punch caught her in one cheek, making her eyes go wide as he could feel her jaw shatter. Henry flinched as he felt her fear and pain, as well as her confusion. The punch threw her head back; he could feel her world grow dimmer as she passed out, plummeting towards the ground. She’s gonna die if she hits the ground!

With another act of imagination, he made the wind throw him towards her, grabbing her by one ankle so he could have the second world’s wind catch her second self, floating both of them down to the ground.

Putting her down gently, he took off his coat and covered her torso and crotch with it, to finally satisfy his sense of modesty. If only partially.

“Mate, that was mighty awesome. How did you do that?”

Turning around, Henry saw that Macian had climbed out of the robot, disconnecting his arm from the contraption, and now stood right behind him. Dunstkreis was also floating closer, though he kept his nine pseudo-planets in orbit around himself.

“What… what happens now? Does another one take a turn?” asked Henry, suddenly feeling very weary.

“No. If one of them is defeated, it means we get a break until the day is over,” Macian explained.

“Good,” replied Dunstkreis. “What do we do with her?”

They all looked at the defeated villainess, her broken jaw already swollen and turned a purplish-blue.

“She needs a doctor. I broke her jaw,” Henry explained.

“No way, mate!” shouted Macian as his arm shifted into a gun-like configuration. “We finish the crazy firebitch off. Simple as that.”

“No!” shouted Henry, grabbing Macian’s mechanical arm and pulling it away.

As before with Fire Burial, the moment he touched Macian, their worlds intersected. Only the effect was deeper, stronger, now that he had an actual grip on him.

Henry was pulled into Macian’s world, seeing a giant, vast white plain. It was nothing like his own world. Instead of grass and trees and mountains, there were black pictographs so complex Henry could not even begin to decipher them, racing across the endless white expanse. There were several geometric shapes floating within the white void; pyramids, spheres, dice and many, many others, blacker than the night with white pictograms moving over their surfaces. The whole chaotic scene was so complex, so erratic it made his head feel like it was going to explode.

The young artist staggered back, away from his friend, as his mind began to spin. The vision vanished the moment he broke contact, but it had still been enough to stagger him.

“Henry! Mate, what happened?!” asked Macian with worry in his voice and world, taking a step towards him, his attempt to murder Fire Burial forgotten.

“My power… strange…” Henry said while trying to get himself under control again. “Don’t… touch me… please.”

Macian nodded and they both waited for a few seconds until Henry was feeling better. Then, Dunstkreis, who had been observing them silently, spoke up.

“I agree with you, Macian. She needs to die, if only so she can never hurt anyone again. But it shouldn’t be a child who does this,” he said with a calm, cold expression. “I, on the other hand, already have a lot of blood on my hands. I’ll finish this. Please turn around.”

“NO!”, screamed Henry as he took a step forward, but Macian interposed himself between him and the other two, blocking his sight as well as making him hesitate, as he didn’t want to feel Macian’s world again so quickly.

Nonono, this isn’t right, we’re supposed to be heroes, not like them! he thought desperately as he saw the faux-jupiter slam into Fire Burial’s prone form, the force of the impact throwing both him and Macian to the ground.

“Was zum Teufel!?” shouted Dunstkreis in surprise.

Both boys looked around frantically, only for their gazes to fall upon Fire Burial’s body, now floating above them in the air, unharmed. Henry’s coat was still on her, as well.

“Nonono, not you! NOT YOU! It’s not your turn yet!” screamed Macian as Henry saw a large red sphere as big as himself approach, trailing a tail of golden rods of various sizes and several other, smaller red spheres.

The large sphere stopped above the three of them and Dunstkreis opened fire, aiming at Fire Burial.

But his shots were deflected as reality itself seemed to bend and twist, making them miss. The red sphere gathered the other pieces around itself, then reformed.

The largest sphere formed the gut of the contraption, with another, slightly smaller sphere as the chest, with four rotating golden rods in between. More rods formed the arms and legs, with small red spheres for the joints, while the head was formed by the third-largest sphere, which was slightly larger than Henry’s torso, joined by twelve short rods that circled it like some kind of halo. Seven rods, each longer than the whole body and legs, formed some kind of cape, or perhaps wings, behind its back.

The barely humanoid shape moved its “head” to “look” at them.

Macian spat out a single word, though Henry really didn’t need to hear it to guess who he was looking at. “Heretic.”

B005 An Ember of Hope: Little Giants (Part 5)

Macian stopped in his tracks and turned around, his arm shifting configuration, the fingers turning into stiff rods as the repulsor was replaced by a crystal disk much like the one within Henry’s force-field generator. It lit up just as the fireball closed in on them, creating a hazy field of distorted light in between them. The fireball slammed against the field, some parts of it penetrating deeper into the effect, some dispersing at first contact – but none pierced through.

As the fireball faded, Macian deactivated the field just as he turned around again, grabbing Henry to run further down the alley as Fire Burial gave chase, switching between flight and ranged attacks. Macian stopped to block her any time she fired off a particularly large fireball, but otherwise trusted the force-fields both he and Henry possessed to keep them safe.

“What are we gonna do?! She’s going to keep chasing us until the batteries run out!” he said to the young cyborg running just ahead of him.

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B005 An Ember of Hope: Little Giants (Part 4)

“Coming from you, that means I was a very good boy, doesn’t it?” Macian replied as his arm shifted form, the fingers folding back onto the arm as the kinetic repulsor slid out of the palm until it extended about five centimeters out of it.

Fire Burial put a hand on her hip and raised the other for a gesture to reply – but she closed her eyes for a moment and Macian reacted immediately, slamming his repulsor into the ground at an angle, discharging it. The floor split and burst, a fountain of concrete, wood and carpet that slammed into Fire Burial. It immediately caught fire as she burst into flame, but it served as a distraction none the less.

Macian fired his repulsor off, striking the ceiling above the pyrokinetic supervillain to collapse it on top of her. Before his hand had even been reeled in, Macian turned around and ran back out of the house, Henry following close on his heels.

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