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  2. Chang rose. The chair that had been shaped to her form contracted and flowed back into her buttocks. The speakers clicked on the terminal, and the green light that indicated recording winked out. She pressed a button to upload the data onto the OpNet. It would enter a secluded corner of the OpNet, while a secondary hardcopy would be buried in a time capsule, in a place of Sakura’s choosing. In twenty years, assuming the OpNet lived that long, the speech would be released into the general OpNet and go viral inside twenty four hours. ,, She felt an irrepressible sadness. The Teragen’s dissolution fell to her, in the end, an executive decision that had to be made no matter the opposition. The snake had been decapitated. She saw no point in endless thrashing about. ,, Her speech here meant nothing to the other Terats. She had told those who needed to know in person, and stood ironclad against their objections, insults, threats, and in one case, congratulations. Count Orzais always had been a reasonable nova. ,, Another organisation would rise from the ashes, she suspected. Her call for them all to face their foes alone would be ignored. The advice was impractical. But those practical thinkers, calling themselves Terats, would fall from the path one by one. Orzais was one of the few that could walk the practical path. It seemed that was his personal expression of quantum. ,, Chang saw this as her final, desperate attempt to guide the Teragen stalwarts on the proper path. They will call me coward and traitor, she thought, nodding. It did not even arouse emotion in her. She felt so tired of it all. Nineteen years in the saddle brought very little but pain and headaches. ,, She stood in the basement of what had once been the headquarters of the Anavasi, the hidden place where Lucrezia had been in chrysalis all these years, so long that it seemed she might never emerge. But after all of this time she would finally come out. ,, Lucrezia, her body reshaped into a large, shining oval of semi-solid latex supported on a plinth of the same material, stood silent in an alcove on the far wall. ,, But the future rang in Chang’s ears. Her wife’s questions echoed back from time soon to come, and Chang drank them in. She’d missed that voice for so long. Just hearing it in whispers brought her to arousal and soothed her at the same time. ,, A sound touched her ears, in the here and now. ,, The perfect oval bulged outward, as if a face were pressing into it from within. Lucrezia’s perfect lips formed and parted. She uttered her first gasp in twenty years. ,, A bust formed, rising up out of the oval. Legs emerged from the underside, over-long, and when they touched the cool concrete, she stepped free. Lucrezia contracted to human proportions, all shining black. Then with a soft tic, she formed an impression of skin on her face and hands and feet, and her hair became glossy. ,, Chang’s shaft swelled near torso-thick at the sight of her. She shivered. ,, Lucrezia, always beautiful, now embodied a sort of divine arousal and desire that could be matched by only one or two novas in the world. Every line was perfection itself, every movement slinky and flawless. ,, She smiled at Chang. ,, “Hey, wife.” ,, They came together and kissed. Chang all but melted into Lucrezia’s arms, close to literally. She watched as more of her wife began to emerge from the oval. ,, Soon she lay in her wife’s lap, watching as dozens of her emerged from the chrysalis. They filled the room, lined up around Chang with eager faces and hungry bodies. ,, “There is over three hundred of you,” Chang said. ,, Lucrezia ran a hand through her hair. “Yes, that there is. And if you don’t mind, every single one of me needs a good fucking.” ,, ,, *** ,, They emerged from the basement a week later. ,, Chang walked with her head on one Lucrezia’s shoulder, while the rest of the army came behind. ,, “So I missed it?” Incredulity hung heavy in her tone. “It’s over?” ,, “Yes,” Chang said. Her four-toned voice resonated. “I’ve ended it.” ,, They emerged into the light of day. ,, Lucrezia’s face fell for real, then. Chang could see the expressions changing on those behind her, running back through them all like an electric current through water. ,, “What the fuck…” ,, Their once-glorious headquarters was a blast zone now, a burned-out wreck of a building with collapsed wings and fallen roofs. Devastation characterised the landscape now. A tower stood black against the sun, a desolate scarecrow speaking mutely to the island’s fall. ,, Chang stood up straight. For a moment her clothes dissolved into hair and then re-knitted as her customary hoodie. This one bore the legend that became very popular after the release of her post-imprisonment album Chains of Paradise. It read, in bold white letters ‘CHANG WAS RIGHT’, on the background of her customary white raindrop symbol. She put her hands into the front pockets. A pair of hands gripped her hips from behind. A Lucrezia rested her head against the back of Chang’s neck. ,, “Shortly after my arrest, somebody snuck an extremely large explosive device onto the mainland of the Kiribati Islands. We should have detected it but didn’t. Accordingly, we suspect Proteus involvement. They have the expertise to do something like this. Who knows, maybe it was fellow Terats. The Anavasi certainly ruffled some feathers. It doesn’t matter. We’ll never know for sure, now, though Shiv and Meh’Lindi certainly intend to discover it.” ,, “All of this, though,” Lucrezia said. Several of her filed past Chang and spread out, looking about them. All wore disbelief on their faces. “Everything you built.” ,, Chang bowed her head. The bitterness had subsided, and her tears were long since cried. In prison, when they told her, she’d thought Utopia to blame, and thought they’d told her that to break her. She took revenge in song, even when she knew that they were innocent. If she could not shoot the guilty party, the messengers sufficed. ,, “Most of it, yes. An emphatic statement on our viability, according to Shrapnel.” ,, “How many did we lose?” ,, “A lot. None of our closest friends, at least. For a time we thought Darion had died, but he happened to be away with Sakura when it happened. Still, she lives close enough, and the blast was big enough that it almost took out her home. It was that which made her militant. She’d been angry enough that I was imprisoned, but according to Darion she… well, ‘flipped her lid’, was his metaphor of choice, when this happened. Twenty five of us died. Most of the rest left. There was nobody to take over in my stead, really. The Alchemist would have been the logical choice, but she died in the blast as well. She got better.” ,, Lucrezia vibrated with anger, but some of her curled up to cry. A few ran their hands through once-fine sand blasted to glass. The islands were dead, now. Utopia would reclaim them eventually, but Chang had, through torturous court proceedings, been proven to ‘own’ them, and had refused to let Team Tomorrow erase the evidence of the Anavasi’s few glorious months. ,, It was time to let that go, too. ,, Chang’s heart felt tight at that. All dreams end. ,, Arms enfolded her. Four sets from four directions. Chang collapsed against her wife, glad to let her knees buckle, glad to be weak again. ,, Lucrezia pressed Chang’s face into the softness of her breasts, swelled and shaped them against her face. Chang shuddered and nuzzled. ,, She stopped thinking for a time. ,, Eventually she sat, with Lucrezias around her, surveying it all for the final time. ,, One of her wife, sitting nearest, took her hand. “There’s a lot I’ll need to see before I can do much of anything. I need to explore my new powers. I’ve changed quite a lot, I think.” ,, “Time we have,” Chang said. ,, They said nothing more for some time. Then she rose and led them to the blackened beach. They waited there until nightfall. ,, And then, Chang stretched. She raced across the ocean for hundreds of miles until she bridged from the islands to the nearest mainland. Then she stretched herself wide and shaped herself into a true bridge. ,, Back at the beach, she formed a torso out of the cobbles, and beckoned to her wife. ,, “Come, my love. The world awaits us.” ,, Three hundred Lucrezias smiled. And she came.
  3. DISCLAIMER: This is a repost of the prior deleted RP. I thought to edit it to be less annoying, but the changes required to do that would basically gut the entire thing. so consider this an elseworlds story. Any resemblance to characters live or dead is entirely coincidental. Either way, it is my final RP. ,, --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ,, “Everybody dreams. Every dream ends. ,, “Our dream ended as it always had to; with a cold awakening to the harsh light of morn, and bitter disappointment. ,, “I am Chang Zha-Yang, White Rain to some, and a spiritual leader to others. I am the second and final Divis of the Teragen, digger of its grave, and writer of its eulogy. “This is my final testament to the hopes we had, the battles we fought, and the future that we lost. With luck, this record will survive and be of use to somebody, somewhere, and if of no use, then I hope it will at least be of historical note. Let us at least not be forgotten. Surely we’ve earned that much. ,, “Hindsight is the all-powerful, final arbiter of wisdom. So with hindsight, allow me to recount the story of our final years. ,, “Our end came from the place it began, with the philosophy that gave us something approaching unity, and something approaching identity: Teras. We all got it wrong in the end. Even Mal, I think. ,, “My place in all of this has ever been the cynic and philosophical critic. I challenged all I knew and alienated most of them out of my sheer unwillingness to leave questions unasked. It will not be easy to live with. I can never know, even with my perceptions, whether I asked the right questions or – far worse – if I misunderstood the answers. ,, “Some will ask ‘where did it all go wrong?’ ,, “The children. It went wrong with the children. ,, “In our war with Utopia, begun by their sterilisation of our people, we soon realised we were outgunned. The idea that our nova brethren would flock to us when they realised what was being done to them proved to be the fancy of idealists and cretins. The one set were blinded by the dream of a nova society free of human interaction, and the attendant belief that all novas fundamentally wanted that; the other set… just blind. Both sets underestimated the intelligence and the loyalty of our nova brethren, and the entirely human capacity to accept circumstances that are not ideal in the hope of improving them through strife and effort. ,, “It is a sign, I think, that so many of us derided them for this simple nobility of spirit. I believe we lost that somewhere along the way. ,, “Let it also stand as damning truth that in the entirety of our unwinnable battle with Utopia, the only group which hurt them was the Aberrants. It was they, not us, who revealed the existence of Project Proteus. And when they did, all of our naïve hopes crumbled to ash. Exposing flaws in Utopia did not destroy it and send its adherents flocking to our banner. It just caused the nova adherents to redouble their efforts to make Utopia into what it claimed to be. ,, “Utopiate novas were outraged, of course, and some did come to the Teragen. But most accepted their apologies, as I had cautioned they might. And worse was what came next. ,, “Let us call them the mother-hunter wars. ,, “This was an absurdity, a five-way battle between five different factions, three of whom should technically have been on the same side and all of them so utterly blinded by arrogance and ideology that working together was unthinkable. These three blighted idiot pantheons were the Aberrants, those we can loosely call Shen’s Children… and us, the Teragen. ,, “And our opposition were Proteus, the adder in darkness, and Utopia, returning to its role as world heroes, ironically and sadly trying to protect the parents from its own twisted spawn. ,, “It is insane, even to me, that we were never able to find some compromise, some way to cooperate in all of that time. But we Terats never did compromise. Nor did I when I had the power to do so. Let those words be carved on my tombstone. ‘Here lies Chang Zha-Yang’ it will say, and in post-script, ‘She never compromised.’ ,, “Perhaps it would have been a better world if I had. ,, “There were casualties in these wars, really a series of ridiculous skirmishes wherein terrified fertile – and usually married – novas, desperately and futilely attempted to protect their baseline friends and families from the collateral damage of battles fought in their name. Neighbourhoods were flattened. Thousands died. And some of the children were lost. The motherhunter wars ended with the death of the first infant, with Proteus the victor. Everything after was just salt pouring into each other’s wounds, claws scrabbling at the edge of a precipice into which we were all falling, while Utopia buried all of us in negative propaganda. ,, “Let it stand that I stood against these actions from the beginning. It was wrong to seek to hoard the children as we did. It laid the groundwork for our ultimate failure. The Aberrants were right in the petty dispute between we ‘independents’. They sought from the beginning to get those parents away into seclusion, to let them start life anew. We sought to enrol them in our war. ,, “Our war. ,, “That was what it became, after all. We had nominal allies at first. There were occasional points of contact betwixt us and the Aberrants, a few desperate alliances, one or two collusions. But once Andre Corbin had revealed Proteus – with us running some protection to ensure that he succeeded – the Aberrants had no further issue with Utopia. As for Shen’s Children, I believe they viewed us as nothing more than an annoyance… to their disadvantage. Certainly they failed to accomplish their goals, from what little I have surmised about those goals. Like us they wished to destroy Proteus, but they had no interest in working with us to accomplish that, and no interest in trades of information. I believe they killed the leader of Proteus; an act so significant that the project head was replaced within one solar day, and the group went on as efficiently as it ever had. ,, “And so there we stood, truly alone against Utopia. For our warriors it was a glorious day. Finally they could disgorge years of bile and frustration before a public whose eyes were wide open to Utopia’s corruption. ,, “They lost. ,, “One by one our warriors fell. The child prodigy, Glory, destroyed us all but singlehandedly. Where she was not, Caestus Pax was. We bloodied Team Tomorrow, but never hurt those two lynchpins of public approval and Utopian propaganda. And the public, as time has shown, will never back a loser. ,, “Mal let it all happen. ,, “Mal, the most powerful nova to have ever lived, ostensible leader of the Teragen, allowed us to be struck down and pared away to ineffectuality. Everyone that has ever met Mal likes him. I like him. But I will never trust him again, should our paths meet. ,, “He began this. He started it all. And he let it all go to hell. ,, “If that sounds as if I am shunting the blame, banish the thought. But I do not want those key fools to escape history’s scathing. We should all be remembered, we fools, and learned from, so that nobody makes the mistakes we did. My own shameful role in the tale will come soon enough. ,, “Our situation was desperate. The children were the only answer we had. ,, “Glory was too powerful, too overwhelming. She rendered us ineffectual, invalidated us by her sheer power. Shen’s Children could individually have wiped out half of the Teragen if the mood took them. More than one could have destroyed the entire world. ,, “In short; things were out of control. ,, “I can never know if my suspicions were right, if Mal and Scripture placing themselves as sole fathers, with Bounty as sole mother, of all the Teragen’s children was as stupid, narcissistic, self-aggrandising and ultimately destructive to the cause as I believe it to have been. ,, “But perhaps I am absolutely right, and that was Mal’s intention all along. ,, “He taught the children Teras from birth. They lived it from the beginning. We all came to it flawed, we foolish novas. We were weighed down by our pasts, unable to ever quite step away and see what Teras really meant. ,, “Teras… it means to go your own way. Strip away the meditation, the power, and the changes; individuality is what lies at the heart of it. Go your own way; follow the dictates of your own quantum expression. Ignore all else. ,, “And there we were, playing war with the future of children, forgetting that we were not their parents, and our wars were not theirs to fight. ,, “That was our end. Not their action, but our reliance upon it, and our lack of insight into what their action would be. ,, “We gave birth to children more intelligent than us by far, more perceptive, more insightful, more brilliant than we could dream. And they saw through us, I think. They saw the future the Teragen offered. ,, “They declined our invitation. ,, “Puck broke it all. My protégé. ,, “I cannot say that he did not learn from me, and I am proud of him. He learned from me, ever the contrarian, that going his own way mattered more than pleasing his elders. And when he gained the power to walk between worlds… that is exactly what he did. ,, “Given the option, Puck’s option, the children chose to go their own way with him. They left, one and all, and in so doing adjudged us their parents inferior, inadequate to the purpose of guiding them. They went in search of their own battles to fight. ,, “This, then, is the summation of our fatal error. ,, “We terats fought not for ourselves, as Teras suggests, but for the children. We fought for some imagined future where we would all, ultimately, become normal, respectable members of society. All our struggles, all our battles, were born from anger at our infertility and the desire to be a true species, to be able to pass on our genetic code to those who would come after. We wanted to build a place to do that. We wanted to build a society of our own, where we would be normal. ,, “It is pathetic to re-read these words. To know that we betrayed ourselves so utterly. ,, “What is ‘after’ to beings that chase the burning torch of immortality? ,, “What worth have children to those whose own legacy is not yet writ? ,, “For all our introspection, all our posturing, we never asked ourselves that most fundamental of questions. Why are we even breeding at all? What is the point of it? ,, “Our rhetoric, in retrospect, was familiar. That should have been a sign of things to come. Maybe it was. Maybe that’s why the Mathematician retreated so early, why Mal – he has no claim to ‘Divis’ anymore – became so schizophrenic in his leadership. ,, “We fought so that our children would have a future, as if they could not forge a future for themselves. ,, “Some of us arrogantly assumed the children would take up our struggle. Win our battles. Many of us banked on it, as the years wore away our numbers and our sanity. ,, “Instead they decided it had nothing to do with them, and departed for the next world along. They were Terats. ,, “As the final Divis of the Teragen, the sadness and our ultimate failure, is mine to bear into eternity. The other terats; my anavasi, the casablancas, the shattered remnants of the pandaimonion, vigilance, the harvesters… all they have to question is their own failures. Many never had the grand perspective, the chance to affect things. They can be comforted by their own struggles, knowing they tried their best. ,, “But I, through process of elimination, through purity of ideal, was elevated beyond my station. With Mal retreated and the Teragen twice broken, first by Glory, and then by Puck’s departure along with the children and many adult terats that he called friends… I was the last man standing, as it were, the only one of the pantheon who had not suffered enormous setbacks or physical injury. ,, “I believe my wife is to blame for all of that. ,, “She is in chrysalis, but she will waken soon. I can hear it coming. ,, “Lucrezia could manipulate world events in a way I never could. If only she had been with me. If only I had not missed her so much. Maybe that was all of it, in the end. Maybe I could have been the leader we needed, if only I had not missed my wife so terribly, and if I’d had her delicate, manipulative touch to reshape the world at her whim. ,, “If, when you listen to this, you live in Changtopia… well… you already know what we did later. But I don’t know what we’ll be doing when she wakens, and my story is not over yet. ,, “Shen’s Children left not too long after Puck did. I believe they loved our world, but not enough to stay. Two at least remain in the solar system. One is currently terraforming other planets. Another has made a base on the moon, I believe, or Mars. We are on reasonable terms, and she is friendly with some of my closest friends. I don’t know if she’ll be back. ,, “I will not lie; I was disappointed by most of them. I met only two, but heard little of the others that impressed me. Their surrogate father seems to have done a terrible job of preparing them for the world, and a worse one of preparing the world for them. But then, perhaps he had Mal’s view, and always hoped they would depart for greener pastures. We do not know and never will. Shen is dead, and his secrets, taunting as they are, died with him. ,, “Circumstance gave Utopia the chance it needed to become heroes again. ,, “The details are vague. Some Terats were involved in what happened, but only on the sidelines. As wanted criminals, they could not get too close to the action. Some alien force attacked us, or attempted to. Glory, along with other space-capable Utopians, met them out in the deep black of space and crushed them. The footage of those battles, shot by one of the anavasi and a dear friend, has won all of the awards you could possibly imagine. How on earth she kept calm out there, while explosions rocked the emptiness and nuclear forces shattered ships on the backdrop of the boiling sun, I shall never know. ,, “In the meantime, in my role of Divis, I took on an old enemy. ,, “Caestus Pax. ,, “Mal defeated him, and so did I. ,, “Mal turned off his node. While I, unable to face the bully when he came for me, allowed myself to be arrested. I let the world see him for what he was. Public opinion will ever lie with the – in this case literally – tortured artist. ,, “Another dear friend, Sakura – shorthand for a much longer and more complicated name – did not take kindly to my imprisonment. If I can claim a genuine piece of glory for myself, it is that she considered me a true friend, and that she temporarily forsook her innocence and her pacifism to see me freed. If any measure can be taken of a leader it is in the people who gather round and believe in them. ,, “Pax did not take well to my breaking of his public image. Mal took his image as the world’s most powerful nova. As the hero. But it was I that cast Pax as the villain, as the jack-booted representative of the establishment that cannot bear artistic freedom, that seeks conformity and crushes independence. He became a character in my songs. I made him into the symbol of all that the world had witnessed, of all Andre Corbin said of ubiquitous Utopia, of all the dirty secrets everyone wanted to forget. ,, “The children loved that. ,, “For all of this gloating – for this was a victory for me – I would be dead if Glory had not come back in time to save me. But then… I knew she would. ,, “It is not my place to write the end of Pax’s story. He lives on, after a fashion. But the world’s shining knight lies broken, his shell cracked and bleeding. Part of me weeps for him. I have felt the same despair and know how heavily it weighs on the soul. But I am aware that he walked this inevitable path side by side with us. The Teragen and Caestus Pax were like great serpents coiled about one another, trapped in eternal conflict. We had to fall together. Without us he has no purpose. ,, “So here is to Pax, the enemy we deserved. ,, “In these final years I have become Divis and Mathematician both. I hear the future in whispers, and find myself writing sheet music instead of composing. When I write, I hear my songs, sung by me in the near-future, and simply note down what I perceive. ,, “It’s all quite eerie, really. ,, “I wish I could have proven my detractors wrong. But it’s too late for that now. ,, “So how have we left the world, we gods among men? ,, “Not much different than when we arrived upon it, in honesty. Sakura has retired to seclusion with Darion Mográine, another good friend of mine. They appear to have begun a hesitant romance during my imprisonment. I hope it has flourished over these last years. Both have seen too much suffering, and it’s time that the karmic wheel pays out for it. They contact me from time to time, but I rarely answer back these days. She is too good of heart and too easily drawn into these battles, and Darion is a charming sucker for duty, all too moral a man to leave a call to arms unanswered, no matter the cost to his own soul. ,, “Let her raise her children with a man that was once a father. Let them grow up in peace. Let them find their own causes. Let them live as we wanted the children to live all along. ,, “They will be nearing twenty, now. Perhaps we will see them soon, those three darling girls. ,, “For me, the world will always be my muse, friend and enemy. Though today I plant the Teragen’s gravestone, the battle goes on. Teras will not die with the organisation. I may not be Divis in name after today, but I will keep that belief system alive and I will spread it as far and wide as I can. But from now on we all fight it our own way. We will fight and fail and fall or thrive as terats should; alone. Let there be no more grand alliances, no more schemes for power over all Novas. Let us stand with our close friends and lovers and none other, and shape our own corners of the world to our own devising. ,, “And if that makes us weak, if that makes us too easy to pick off… so be it. This was the sword we picked up. ,, “The prospects are not terrible. ,, “Project Utopia are on good behaviour thanks to Glory, another child of the future, but one who has chosen to reshape our world instead of finding her own. There are none in this world to oppose her, now. ,, “I hope Glory lives up to her name, and that one day we will not all be bowed underneath her wing, praying for gods that walk among us, forgetting that we long since drove them away to walk elsewhere, among more fitting company. ,, “But Project Proteus still remains. For all her power, Glory has not crushed that organisation. ,, “No longer attached to Utopia like a suckling parasite, it writhes and grows in the dark corners of the earth, forever perfecting the techniques they’ll need to bring us under heel for good and all. ,, “They were the wisest, those quiet leaders. ,, “Proteus survives. ,, “The Aberrants survive. ,, “We lambasted them for years, those Aberrants, called them fools and cowards, refused their occasional extended hand and took umbrage when they refused ours. Yet in the shadows they still remain, untouched by the events that have gutted the Teragen and handed absolute victory to Utopia. ,, “Those of us who remain militant have nowhere to go. Shrapnel and her idiots are little better than petty terrorists now, easy photo-ops for Glory and her new, revitalised Team Tomorrow. Geryon, still admirably leading Vigilance, has a little less to do than before. He likes to pop up on television and let Glory know he’s watching her, like an overbearing uncle. James was always one of our brightest minds. He knows the future is hers for now. But she’s looked the other way for him once or twice. ,, “Glory has come to me twice in recent months. I believe there are the bones of an olive branch being extended towards me. Perhaps I will accept, and see what she envisions for me. I believe that Pax’s fall has left her without guidance, without a parental figure. It may be she seeks that in me. I have a reputation for wisdom that I have not earned. Still… I do miss Puck. It will be nice to have someone to teach, to watch them grow until they surpass me. ,, “But that is the future. And if you are reading this you already know what has happened to me, where I stand. You do, I say, because whatever happens I refuse to be forgotten. ,, “And so, in hindsight, that final arbiter of wisdom, you stand as the judge of my decisions. I hope I made some good ones.” ,, -Chang Zha-Yang, Divis, November 20th, 2046
  4. I wasn't aware there WERE any other players. There haven't been any posts here made by anyone but me, Mala and Darrik this year. Regardless, I'll delete it. this has already been more trouble than its worth.
  5. ,, The point of this thread was to let others know the state of things as well as state my displeasure. You claimed that your thread was the conclusive ending for CoQF, without talking to any of the other players about it and getting any feedback from them. That was impolite, at best. All you needed to say in your fiction was "this is the way I see it ending" and I think that most of us would have been fine with it. To use the words "not just to be my final RP as Chang Zha-Yang, but as a summary, history and ‘conclusion’ of sorts, to the entire Children of Quantum Fire setting" was a step too far, in my opinion.
  6. It's my ending. Which is really the only one I came back to write. I incorporated the other scattered bits and pieces to give a more complete roundup. If its dissatisfying to you, write your own. And no I don't mind if it contradicts anything or indeed everything in my RP. ,, I presume the point of the thread was just to voice your displeasure? Or were you after something else? ,, Edit: If that wasn't clear, there's no more to come. Just those two posts.
  7. For my part, I love your writing WhiteRain and look forward to reading more. Yeah, QF ended with a fizzle, but I'm glad to see someone still cares enough about it to continue writing for it. ,, Had many more things I'd have wanted to write for and with Bombshell, just never got around to it. Wished we could have more deeply developed the relationship between Bombshell and Chang, whatever it would have turned out to be, that started way back in 200X. ,, If you plan on writing more for your closure of QF, instead of ending it with the legion of Lucreszias traipsing across Chang bridge - which is a fine ending on its own - feel free to use Bombshell in whatever capacity you wish.
  8. I concur with everything Long said. I understand the desire for closure but you're not the ST, and as far as I'm concerned, your story is not the future ending of CoQF. I will continue to read it with interest and appreciate you sharing it with us.
  9. WhiteRain, while I acknowledge you are a far superior writer, you make many incorrect statements, and assumptions within your new thread. ,, This is not said as disrespect, but as one player to another. You do not control my character's fate, none of them. There were Terat children who stayed on Earth, a fair number actually. Glory was not as absolutely powerful, and before the game ended Proteus was dealt several major blows, in a buildup to eliminate it all together, which had the game continued, happened. ,, I want closure for this game, I always have, but it was never to be. I've been content to let it lie unfinished, untended, because it needed to remain so. The game was grand, a test of what play at the highest levels of power was like. ,, You do what you like with your own characters, but you alone cannot decide how the story closes for everyone.
  10. Arisi glanced between the mirror-nova and Darrik, biting her lip in dismay at the contention between the two. She gave Darrik what she hoped was an encouraging look. ,, "Well, she did say something, that's good....right?" she asked hopefully in Bodhi, slipping into her native language out of habit. Looking around, she closed her eyes and oriented, then took Darrik's hand and started off in the direction of 'away from where they started'. "Let's see if we can find the center of the maze and then the two of you can talk more and figure out what's going on and what you want to do about it." ,, She made pretty good progress through the maze, though Darrik had to guide her away from areas he could feel were dead ends and occasionally pull her back from making faces and generally playing around with her own form and repeated reflections. Focus, Chang could easily tell, was not a superhuman ability of the young nova. She was easily amused and easily distracted and apparently lacked Darrik's depth of concern of the current state of the Teragen on Earth. For her, the maze was an amusing puzzle with a new friend to be made once she managed to wander all the way to its/her center. That she was another shifter was a pleasant surprise, though she hadn't yet shown the extreme facility most of Chang's inner circle possessed. ,, She was an enigma, wrapped in a labyrinth and laughing her way through.
  11. She heard every word, of course. Chang could hear every word spoken for miles around, determine and differentiate every sound. And as Darrik guessed, she'd heard the accusation already. More important, though, she'd heard accusation from others, and from those she'd known and cared for long before she met Darrik. Darion had come to her with accusations, Meh'Lindi had. There was an odd timbre to Shiv's silence. Only Cyndi - always in love with her - trusted that she did the right thing. And Lucrezia... she wished she could be accused or criticised by her. ,, In truth, Chang herself did not know yet. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, she thought. ,, Darrik did not understand the rules, she supposed. And he had returned to the island after a long lay off, far longer for him than them. It warranted at least a little response. ,, Chang focused her consciousness away from the part of her in the centre of the maze, shaped into her humanoid form. She left that extrusion and focused instead on the winding, complex corridors and chambers of mirrors that made up the mass of her body. ,, A mirror near Darrik and Arisi bulged outward with the sound of crackling glass, and the mirror surface slowly took on the shape of her own naked female torso. She never dropped the mirrored appearance, though, so that the light entering through the doorway caught on her slight curves and refracted in rainbows and in bright, star-like glints. ,, "Twenty years away, and that is the best you have, Darrik Reynolds?" She shook her mirror-self's head. "I see you have wasted your time. That is disappointing. Were I so easily provoked, the Teragen would have ceased to exist by now. I assume this form to think, so as not to be disturbed by fools. If you wish to speak with me, navigate it to the heart, and we will talk. If you cannot find your way there then I have no time to soothe you and no interest in your ignorant, egotistical babbling." ,, She looked away from him, to Arisi. Her tone, coolly dismissive to Darrik, warmed significantly. His words did not upset her. That he thought so little of her to believe they would, disappointed her. Arisi, though, was an enigma, a new Nova come before her from a land she would never see. That made her happy. "I do not know you, Arisi, and I apologise if you find my behaviour towards you discourteous. I assure you it is unintentional. There are many matters for me to consider, and I am in a tenuous position, balanced on the point of a dagger. If you have not the patience to seek out the heart, then I hope my Anavasi can entertain you in a more fitting manner." ,, Chang reabsorbed the mirrored torso, letting it melt back and flatten into the mirror. She spread her focus out through herself, concentrating on the inrush of sensations experienced by her gigantic, transformed body. And from there she transitioned back to thinking through the problems before her and - most painful of all - her own role in them.
  12. Darrik sniffed and put his arm around Arisi, walking in with her. "I suppose you'd best lead the way. I'm sorry I haven't filled you in more earlier, but I do need to discuss the state of the movement with Chang. But I know you'll start picking up as we go along." ,, They entered, the glimmering off mirrored surfaces, flesh truthfully underneath. Chang was all around them and Darrik closed his eyes. Words were more important than anything now, and he needed to present his case. "Hello Chang. The island isn't quite what I was picturing after a twenty year departure." ,, Everyone could pick out the edge of disappointment present in his voice. "I'll be right there to admit Puck let his fear get ahead of him when the attack occurred. But it happened, regardless - so why is the Teragen just deciding to roll over and die?!" ,, Fine, there was a hint of accusation. Was Chang really letting this occur on her watch? "We may be at square one, but we could easily regain what ground we lost. But what I see, is a bunch of fatally depressed novas who have given up. Have you given up? Is that it? You're a leader Chang. The leader... and that means: when the backs are to the grindstone, you tell the people what to do so the threat of annihilation is not looming over us! They need someone to inspire the energy and will to live..." ,, Darrik laid a hand lightly on the mirror-flesh of a wall. "Maybe your future-hearing covered this conversation long ago. And you've thought about it for the equivalent of years in your head. But nobody has that kind of insight like you do, so if there's a chance to still succeed - either you get out and seize the moment OR I WILL!" ,, Shoot to wound and to provoke a reaction, then? "I'm really disappointed Chang. I can only imagine the depths of Lucrezia's feelings on your inactivity."
  13. She came at him with the tough question, this beautiful, kind, and somehow moderately innocent nova... and mother. Darion could not face her. He wiped imaginary dust from his silver eyes, studied the ground below and the sky above. He sighed. "No." ,, He saw the tiniest flinch. She hoped for the other answer, for trust. ,, Darion put a hand on hers. She did not pull back, but studied him intently, searching. "Sakura... I... have secrets. We all do. If I tell it, I'd have to leave things out. Important things. Life-changing things. I have to lie a lot. More than you can know though not more than you can imagine, I'm sure of that." Starling, and her gallery of victims, his mind flashed through war zones in the middle east, of flying bullets and men falling dead at his - or her - hand. Part of why he always looked male today was that he always looked female then. Even Darion's combat suit had been fitted for the female figure. ,, She smiled, a sad smile, but a beautiful one nonetheless. "You can tell me something, though, surely? After everything we've been through. You can trust me a little." ,, "I do. It's the unseen eyes I'm unsure about. And when you live around Chang Zha-Yang for long enough, you start to appreciate how damn hard it is to truly have your shit kept to yourself. Alright, here's the innocent bits, at least." He leaned back, resting his elbows on the ground behind him. ,, "I was born in the US of A, grew up to a fairly normal family. Had me one of them sports scholarships, not football like my father wanted, but basketball. White men - you see - can actually jump. I was a gymnast, too, but never got too far with that. Not until much later when I'd erupted. Like most people I was a Nova fan, wasn't much into the Teragen. But by and large I left them alone and they left me alone and that was good. I ogled the stars, and tried to avoid running into them in the workplace. Novas get a lot of trouble there, you know." ,, "Taking people's jobs?" ,, "No, but a lot of layoffs happen when the right nova signs up. One of the Anavasi - a painter - she can paint an entire canvas in about one point three seconds. Has to be one colour, can't do detail work, but she can do it. If you were running a house decoration company, would you hire five to ten guys to do a mansion, and pay them for... fuck... a month, maybe? Or would you hire one nova who could do the entire job inside a day? Price is higher, yes, but the work turnaround is so much astronomically higher as well. And that's the problem. From the top to the bottom, novas make things so efficient that the little guy gets squeezed out." ,, "So what did you do with yourself?" She warmed up now. Maybe this had been all she wanted in the first place, and he misunderstood. ,, You, sir, need to lighten up a little, he thought. "Oh bits and bobs. I started teaching martial arts. Novas don't touch those kinds of roles, normally. Too low key, too low paid, and honestly if they've erupted, ninety per cent chance that they'll find teaching baselines either banal or too difficult because of the differences in their body. The nova physique is just plain more efficient than a baseline's, much more resistant to wear and tear. After a while all novas suffer a little mental slide away from the baseline. It's impossible to avoid. So I did that, got into personal coaching at a local gym." ,, "You mentioned an enemy." ,, She said it softly, but it was still a prod. Yeah. You're making this sound altogether too innocent, killer. "School friend turned not-so friend. We ran into each other at a few different points in our lives. Mostly in the martial arts, but it started out on the basketball court. I got the scholarship he wanted. Beat him at the gym. Beat him at the gradings. Maybe it was fate. We just kept running into each other. Craziest shit imaginable. Two guys living in cities in the same state, yet somehow our paths kept crossing. For him it was business travel. He went into steel manufacture, not that much of that happens in the States anymore. And at some point, he got that special ego, the one that says 'I'm rich, and nobody gets one up on me.' Only I kept getting one up on him. And he did not like that. ,, "I'd already met my future wife. She was living in the States and we hooked up fast. I always had a thing. Charisma, I guess, that special type that gets women interested. When my old friend turned up the knob too much, I fled. Went back to her home, made it mine. Figured enough water between us would cool off the feud. Took ten years to find out I was wrong." ,, He felt dirty for the lies. But he told the first big one and he had to follow through. The enemy was real enough. But the two of them buried the hatchet before Darion left the States and they'd had no contact since. Still, the cover story needed to be told in its fullest, the better to bury the dead down deep. ,, "So there you have it, thereabouts. I told you earlier how I lost my family." ,, "How did you come to the Teragen?" ,, Vengeance. "Good old idealism. You see the cause differently once you're looking at it from the other side. And, uh, you know. I could sympathise with novas that wanted to have them some kids. It's a nice feeling, been a father. It's not right that so many never got to know what it's like."
  14. She had smiled back, amused that he'd thought it was the violence she'd spoken of that usually spooked people and not the fact that she was technically a hermaphrodite, but then he did follow Chang, so he might not have really even noticed. The smile faltered when he asked about Shen; she shook her head. "I didn't know he was dead," she said softly, "and after he found people to leave me with, I never heard from him again. I only heard about him from Coraline and Darrik. He," she sighed and lifted a shoulder in a half-shrug, "he started raising novas sometime after getting r-...after me. I don't know what changed, but they - those two, at least - they seemed to love him like a father and look up to him." ,, "And I don't know how my mother was able to shift between worlds. She...she was kind of like this world's Divis Mal or Pax, the way people looked at her and the greater power she had than any of the other novas over there. That was part of why the Emperor was so insistent about her marriage into the Imperial Family. It was expected that her children would allow Nihon to stand above the United States, even if it meant allowing non-Japanese blood into the line. He was...a thoughtful leader. A planner, much more so than his son." She hadn't understood these things when she'd been a child, not completely, but sifting back through her memories with an older eye and the enhancements of her apotheosis, she could see them now. It didn't make her love or hate him more, but she did understand better. ,, "What about you, Darion?" she asked after a moment of quiet between them. "Would you tell me your story?" He was a friend, even a confidante, but of all the Anavasi she knew, he was the most adept a keeping attention - and questions - off of himself. Lucrezia could probably run circles around him when it came to outright intrigue, but she did have an advantage of numbers. He was trusted mystery, but still a mystery, and after half a year of knowing him most of what she could say about him would sound like a besotted teen or N! sound-bites.
  15. Darion smiled. The sun caught and danced in his silver eyes and hair. "I'm a terat, Sakura. Half of my friends have either violently murdered someone in cold blood or worse, for one reason or another." And let's not get into what I've done personally. "No, you haven't run me off. Funny that we both have a history in Japan though." ,, He put his hands behind his back as they walked, and enjoyed the feeling of the wind on his skin. He could feel it in ways most couldn't, because of his almost unique control over the forces of momentum. The wind did a lot in that regard. Over there it tugged upon loose grass, further on upon stones, far off to their right, sand on the beach. Back when he was a young nova, still bleeding from the wounds of his loss and trying to learn about his power without going into a facility, he'd gone all wushu and trained on beaches. Between wind, sea and sand, he'd quickly begun to learn a lot about momentum and the fun one could have with it. ,, "So, a different world?" He looked back at her, smiling. "That's interesting. Do you know how you got here? How your mother did it?" He shook his head. "Actually, forget it. If Puck can do it, why not your mom? Novas, novas, novas. Fucking the rules and each other in equal quantities. And yes I do mean that multiple ways." He grinned. "Shen... I've heard the name before. Never met him. He was connected with Coraline Boehm. Something to do with him dying, I think? Chang asked me about it once. Do you know what happened there? Did you keep in touch?"
  16. "Chang sees those perceptive enough to see her," Shiv whispers. ,, The Alchemist gives her a wan smile and turns to you. "Cryptic, but not far off the truth. Come along, if you're so eager to get shot of us." ,, You are led to the entrance of the building she showed you both. The doorway is constructed of a queer, luminous stone that, though once natural, has clearly been altered by an unknown method so that it possesses its own eerie illumination. The light is soft blue, like will o the wisps from fantasy depictions, or faerie lights at a distance. Beyond the doorway you see nothing but a corridor of mirror-shine glass, reflecting itself into infinity from above, from the sides, and from below. ,, "There you go," she says, and gestures with one delicate, pale-skinned hand. "I can't show you the way, it changes. When Chang goes into meditation, she only sees those who are sharp enough to find their way through the maze without assistance. She'll hear if you call out, but she won't respond. It's all her, but 'she' waits in the heart of the maze. as for her," she gestures to Arisi, "why would I care whether or not she goes with you? You might need her help, after all. I'll catch up with you later, Darrik. I had been doing something when Chang gave me a buzz. Come on, Shiv. Let's go cut you up." ,, The pair walk away, shoes crunching on the gravel around the entrance as they proceed to the main mansion.
  17. ....This wasn't right. Darrik had never exactly gotten the time to try to communicate to Puck about thinking things through before he made the global scale offer to so many people - and dragged along many more on a whim. Mainly because Puck had already made this offer before Darrik even knew. By the time he truly had the chance to assess things, Puck had locked the way back and set the clock running like Mercury, so to speak. Under the circumstances, Darrik had acknowledged it would be best to use the time dilation to learn being a parent by experience - but in no way had the shadow manipulator decided to forsake the commitment he'd made to the Anavasi. ,, Now, he'd come back, hoping to break the grip of unbearable taffy reality and stasis (Arisi first), but Darrik, listening to Cindi unwinding her tale of woe and downturn, felt his mind race and frustration mount. He had not come back to see this die! There were a multitude of options, but it seemed like a malaise of resignation had set in. Even Chang, who Darrik always believed to have commitment unrelenting, seemed to be succumbing. ,, Arisi couldn't follow, like Darrik knew she wouldn't, but Darrik needed to show her an example first, tell second. "Things may not be going well, but they CAN be changed." The firmness in his voice was undeniable. "I want to see Chang, and Arisi comes along."
  18. The honeysuckle smell briefly returned and he could feel her tense, but after a moment she relaxed again. The smell wasn't de-stressing tulip this time, though, it was darker, more like orchids. They stepped out onto a long stretch of pale yellow sand; it could have been a postcard or commercial for that 'paradise vacation': the breeze rifling through their hair, the ocean rolling in and out of the beach a dozen yards away, and the pair of nova's to make the whole scene entirely surreal. ,, "I wasn't born here," she said quietly as they walked. "On this Earth. I came from a different one, one where novas started appearing earlier. Between the World Wars. My mother, she was a powerful nova, maybe the most powerful nova, but she was a woman. So when she started fighting, she got in trouble with the government. She was American. They locked her up for three years and when the war was over they let her out with a pat on the head like some puppy that had misbehaved because she just couldn't know any better. So she left, went to Japan to help with the rebuilding there. The people there loved her. In the States, they'd called her Lady Victory, for the victory gardens women were supposed to grow to help with," she waved a hand, "y'know the food stamps and that sort of thing. She could grow entire crops in days....anyways, in Japan, they called her Freedom, because she made it so that all the restrictions and laws the States put up to keep Japan pacified didn't matter." ,, She stared out over the waves for a moment, lost in the dim memories of her childhood. She hadn't been educated, not formally, but she'd learned how to listen and pay attention and she'd always been smarter than everyone around her, so it hadn't been hard to learn about the wars and about her mother. Not that knowing about her mother was any replacement for actually knowing her mother. She shook the thought away and continued on, "So the Emperor, he decided that he wanted the blood of the Kami no Nigen, novas here, in the Imperial bloodline. He told his eldest son, the heir, to court Freedom and marry her. He did. He didn't love her. He thought she was a gaijin freak, but he would not disobey his father." She drew idle lines in the sand, following them with her eyes and not looking up anymore. "He was good at lying or my mother was terrible at understanding people. Maybe both. She fell in love with him and they were married. When she was pregnant with me she found out about his mistress and my half-brother. He was four at the time." ,, "She changed me, to spite my father and grandfather. They'd wanted a Kami no Nigen to take the Chrysanthemum Throne some day and make Japan a powerful nation again. So she'd made sure she conceived a boy when she got pregnant. When she found out about Mutsuko and Daichi, she changed me to look female. There's a condition, um, complete androgen insensitivity syndrome. It means that you're male, but your body is completely immune to testosterone, so you develop like a female, only sort of more so, since women have some testosterone in their systems." She shrugged a little, still not looking up. She didn't know how much, if anything, Chang or Lucrezia had told the others about her, but she knew that gender and sex were very touchy subjects for most people and she didn't want to see if she was creepy Darion out right now. "She was pretty much full term when she found out, so she induced labor and then left. Without me. She'd given her husband the male heir he'd wanted so much and the daughter he wouldn't be able to use that way." ,, "My family hated me. They couldn't deny I existed, but the Emperor granted Father a divorce and Mutsuko was...I'm not sure the word for it. Cleansed, I guess. Her family history was altered so she would be acceptable as Father's new bride and Daichi was recognized as his legitimate first-born son. He might not have been Kami no Nigen, but he didn't have flowers growing out of his hair or weird colored lips and he wasn't a useless girl-child." She snorted at the memory of her father's ignorance and added, "I only learned what CAIS was here, when I was older, so everyone there just thought I was a girl. I was moved to a room right next to the servant's quarters and the Empress, my grandmother, she made it quite clear that she hated me, mostly by beating me whenever she was angry about something she couldn't change. The servants, they learned that no one would care if they hit me, too." ,, The pain was old and tempered by years of loving adoptive parents, but there was still that little girl inside her that lived in a world of hate and pain and fear; it was that little girl that had formed the seeds of her kindness and her protectiveness, though. "When I was six, the Emperor and Father finally found a use for me. They betrothed me to a cousin. He was....an insult and a way to keep Kami no Nigen blood in the family. He had just enough royal blood and just not enough pull to get out of it. He also had a mistress and several illegitimate children. The arrangement was that I would go to his household when I was thirteen and be kept there until I produced a proper heir for him, then I'd be exiled to some country estate where no one would have to deal with me anymore. And he'd keep his family the way it was, marriage or no." ,, She shrugged, still not looking up, but continuing on. He'd asked for the whole story, after all. "My mother heard about it somehow and came for me then. She...I didn't see everything, but I heard the screaming. I'm pretty sure she killed my father, maybe the rest of the Imperial family as well. Then she brought me here, to this Earth and to a man named Shen. A Eastern-style monk-like man. She left me with him and then disappeared. When she didn't come back after a while, Shen found me a new family. They were baselines, but their son had erupted. He was killed by Michael Archangel fanatics, so I guess I was like a second chance for them. And they became Mom and Dad. We lived pretty far out in the country, in the mountains, because there wasn't a way to really hide what I was and I didn't always have control over what I could do. Or I did have control, but I was a little kid and I threw tantrums just like all little kids do. So we were out where I couldn't hurt people on accident and they couldn't hurt me on purpose." ,, "When I got old enough that I would just be another erupted nova, if a teen one, and I'd learned enough control not to be a danger just because something annoyed me or I got startled, I started going into the small town closest to our house." She smiled a little, remembering her first excited forays into the village, riding the bumpy truck with her dad and watching the people watching her. "I met a boy there, Willem. We became friends - he was the only kid there really close to my age and that would actually get over my strangeness enough to come talk to me. He asked me out on my sixteenth birthday. He was going to propose to me after he graduated high school, but when we slept together on my eighteenth birthday...." She sighed, "It triggered my Apotheosis, which gave me an understanding of what my mother had done to me as a fetus. I could change myself, make myself just the girl I'd always looked like, and go on without telling anyone, but...but that wasn't fair to me or to Willem. He'd never be able to get over the truth if I ever told him, and I didn't want to destroy a part of myself. I made it so I was actually female, too..." She waved back in the direction of the house and the children, "Obviously. But if I told him what I've told you, he'd never see me as anything other than a boy pretending to be a girl, and we lived in a....less than progressive....backwoods. So I left." ,, "Not the most brave move of my life," she admitted, "but it's what I did. I went home long enough to talk to my folks and tell them I needed some time to figure myself out. They gave me the money they'd been saving up for college, if I'd wanted to go, and told me to keep in touch. I sent Willem a letter a few weeks later, just to say that I cared for him but I wasn't able to be the woman he'd want in his life. And I started wandering. Figuring out my powers, helping people where I could, learning about the world beyond the mountains and woods I'd grown up in. I met Anteus, and Caroline, and Andy. Eventually I decided I wanted a family just like all the people that I helped get pregnant..." Her scent wilted into a burnt petal smell, "Then the motherhunters came for me and I fled to the Congo." ,, She did finally look up at him again, the anger-pain scent fading back to neutral buttercups. "The rest I'm pretty sure you know. You were there for most of it," she teased with only an undertone of pensiveness. "So, now you know nearly all my secrets, Darion. All the interesting ones, I think. Have I run you off yet?"
  19. Darion walked at Sakura's side. One of the most beautiful women in the world, all to myself. Oh, temptations temptations. Of course, lust was hardly far away as one of the Anavasi. Between knifing the Pandaimonion in an alleyway and stealing its lunch money, and raiding some of the Casablancas, the group had plenty of pretty to go round. But Sakura was in that rarified upper tier, the ones who broke the ceiling and stood above the pack. You never got used to being around men and women that perfect, that beautiful, though you could get used to the taint. But you did learn to hide your reactions. It was hard around Sakura. His nostrils twitched, drinking in her scent. ,, "I don't really know your story," Darion said. A partial lie. He'd looked extensively into Sakura's past via Starling. There were gaps, though, things nobody knew. She'd more or less popped up out of nowhere, and without many friends, there wasn't anyone they knew of and talked to that knew Sakura's whole story. "Want to share?" ,, Sakura did not reply immediately. He figured that she trusted him, liked him. They'd been wrapped up in events for half a year now, and that was hardly slowing down with Chang being so hands off of late. You need to get out of your hall of mirrors, Chang. We don't need a new Mal. The old one was annoyingly distant enough for a hundred Terats. We need a friend, a leader, and by god we need inspiration. That especially. ,, They walked some distance away from her chosen home and began to circle the island, taking in its untamed, natural scenery. Or was it tamed? Who knew how much Sakura might have sculpted when nobody was looking.
  20. The Alchemist smiles at both of you, and nods. "Yeah, I can handle that. Come on." ,, Shiv falls in behind, walking with that strange, back-bent gait that is all her own, halfway between torture and seduction. The Alchemist walks at Darrik's side. ,, "You haven't been gone that long. Six months thereabouts. But a lot's changed. Puck ripped the heart out of the Teragen when he left. Between the loss of everyone that departed with him and Team Tomorrow beating the shit out of Geryon, Nova Vigilance and the Harvesters we're on life support. Even we're in a right mess now, and we were the faction least affected by his departure. The Nursery's non-existant, of course, the Pandaimonion is far weaker than it was, the Casablancas are messed up, and when Infinity left she gutted the reformed Cult of Mal, too... it's grim. We're getting new whispers out of Project Proteus, but we don't have the information networks to get even as much as we used to. The movement's not back to square one, we've just had to kick the king over and start a fresh game. ,, "Mal's gone back into seclusion and took Scripture with him. They're probably chilling out on Jupiter or something, trying to figure out what to do next. Meanwhile," she turns a smile on you both, "Chang Zha-Yang has become the de facto leader of the Teragen remnants." ,, You walk in silence a while, as The Alchemist leads you in front of the huge central building, and into the approximate middle of the central part of the Anavasi island. ,, "The main building is pretty much what you remember. Lots of wackiness everywhere you go, plenty of new work and alterations to old works as people have experimented with everything from dimensional bending to fire sculpture. That annex is new, it's for Chang, and Chang alone." ,, The building she gestures to is huge, almost as large as the main building, at least five stories. ,, "She just goes in there to be alone. It's hollow inside, but she fills it up with herself. We've come to refer to it as the hall of mirrors, because that's what she turns herself into. A massive, winding mirror maze that goes on forever. All made of her. And she..." her eyes narrow a moment, and her left hand clenches. "She spends a lot of time in there these days. Guess she's taking her role as new Mal seriously." ,, Cyndi turns and points at the various sunken compounds and towers. "These are all the homes of various Terat artists. The sunken compounds are for communal projects and art groups. After you bugged out all of the basic Mad Lab ideas went kaputski, but there's been an influx of capital nonetheless. I've begun funding projects, but nothing like what we dreamed back then. It's a smaller, meaner world for us now. And that's a pretty grim prospect. Project Utopia's riding higher than ever. The Aberrants are still around but they seem kinda toothless these days. They exposed Proteus, Utopia cut ties. What else can they do? Utopia's recovered from that little hiccup thanks to Glory, and now it's recruiting better than ever before. Pretty much the only chance we've got is that we don't have too many Terats with violent pasts, but we've got enough in the Anavasi that it's only a matter of time before they find an excuse to drop the hammer. When that happens, we're kinda screwed. Without Vigilance, the Primacy and the Harvesters, the Teragen's got no scary muscle anymore. So, too long didn't read version? Sorry, kid. We're a bit fucked. Trying to live the dream as long it lasts, and stringing out its dying days as long as we can."
  21. "It's all right," Cyndi assured her, though Shiv was a bit more neutral in her expression. After all, given their long experience with Puck, this display was a bit unexpected, but not really surprising or shocking to them. "You'll learn, Arisi." Darrik nodded with an amused, yet comforting smile to Arisi. "It's a whole new world. Mistakes aren't that bad." ,, "So," Darrik observed, turning his attention back to their greeters, "I'm glad Chang heard we were coming and still rolled out the welcome wagon. This place has changed quite a bit. Do you mind giving us the tour and filling us in on how long it's been here since The Great Puck Escape?"
  22. Sakura watched the girls for a moment, trying to figure out how to respond to Darion's story and seeing how well the little ones and bigger ones were doing together. Her expression softened as she watched Zara make friends with Prudence in a way she never would be able to with Sakura herself. She nodded to Meh'Lindi and decided that leaving the room might be better for Darion, at least for now. Old wounds bled deep, especially with matters of family. ,, "Perhaps we could take a walk around the island, as a test-run?" She wasn't ready to be out of at least earshot of the girls yet, but she was trying. ,, Darion had to put an arm around her waist and actually lead her to the door to get her to leave, but they made it all the way outside and even got the door closed. He could feel her vibrating with nervousness, her nova-level perceptions still zeroed in on the house and her children. He took her by the hand and led her away, down the path towards the beach. "They'll be fine, Sakura," he said softly as they passed the treeline and stepped out onto sugar-fine sand. "And An will let us know if anyone's unhappy. Especially her." ,, He smiled and she tried to relax. "You're right. It's just..." She closed her eyes and sighed, visibly making herself relax. "My mother abandoned me. Twice. And my father hated me. All of his family hated me. I guess....I just want to make sure things are better for them. That they have a real family, like my mom and dad gave me after...." She let her head drop onto his shoulder. "Sorry, I can't seem to get out of....of, I don't know, the past and the future, all mixed up together." ,, She was starting to relax now, he could tell by the change in her scent from cloyingly, overpowering honeysuckle smell to a light, airy tulip-like smell. Some people have mood rings. She's got mood flowers.
  23. Arisi smiled at both of them, stepping forward before Darrik had the moment to remember how different life could be between Puck's personal playground and 'the real world'. The beautiful young nova engulfed Cyndi in an exuberant hug, then kissed her deeply, sparks and entire bolts of pleasure spiking through Cyndi in a manner so perfectly reminiscent of Arisi's father as to make her parentage absolutely unquestionable. The Alchemist made a surprised noise, but before she could really respond herself, Arisi was on to Shiv; the red-clad bondage nova leaned back away from the girl. Arisi blinked in confusion and stared at her for a heartbeat. ,, Darrik chuckled. It was amusing and Arisi's predicament was sort of adorable. She was just being friendly, greeting the two novas how most everyone did where she had grown up, and Shiv's reticence had startled her. She'd tried to reach out through the Link to ask Shiv what was wrong, and there had been nothing. No mental contact, no comforting assurance that everything was fine or explanation of why she didn't want to engage in a proper greeting. The Shadowmancer stepped forward and clapped his young lover on the shoulder. "Things are different here, remember, Arisi?" he prodded her memory gently. ,, The girl flushed bright red and babbled something, little pulses of quantum washing over the group with her words before Darrik cleared his throat again, she flushed even deeper red and remembered to switch over to English. "I am so sorry, Cyndi, Shiv. I didn't mean to..." she glanced at Darrik, wondering if she was finding the right words and frustrated at the silence in her mind, "intrude? That's the right word?" She fidgeted, obviously distressed that she'd already made so many mistakes and they hadn't even been here for longer than a conversation.

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