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  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. February 3rd, 2028 ,, They appeared on a deserted island. The island had not always been deserted. In fact, by the timeline of the universe they had just entered it had only recently been a veritable hive of activity. Less than six months ago, this island had been the capital of the Exalt! Nation and the center of an entirely new nova-centered controversy. Now it was silent, the buildings dotting land like dead coral sticking up from the ocean. ,, It wasn't a grave, though; or at least not a silent one. Birds chirped among the trees and ocean lapped happily along the beaches. The air smelled of tropical fruit and flowers. Arisi decided that it was odd, but pleasant. Her body had already made minor alterations to account for the differences in the quantum field, the presence of what Puck called "that other energy I felt in the old universe" and shorthanded by Bohdi to kistha, and the variation in background radiation. She noted these changes but wasn't really paying attention to them. ,, She glanced up at the man with her. He was a friend and mentor and lover, and now her travelling companion as she became the first of Puck's children to wander outside the comfortable but entirely safe environs of his personal universe. Her loose shirt and skirt ruffled attractively in the wind and she smiled, reaching out to request information from him through the Gestalt. Her smile faltered as she remembered that the Link was a universe away now and unavailable to her, and Darrik had insisted that if she really wanted to understand the world her people came from then she would need to learn what it was like to be alone in her own mind. He could link to her, but unless there was a need for it, he wasn't going to. ,, She wet her lips and chose the language she'd been shown had been most prevalent on Earth when her father had created his own universe and brought the Family with him. "Well, is this the right place?" English is not a very concise language, she not-quite complained to herself.
  4. Date: January 2028 The newsreader directed everybody’s attention to N!’s on-site reporter. Given that ‘everybody’ were a captive audience by definition – TV being what it is – everybody paid attention. ,, “This is Mei-Hua Chang, coming to you all live from outside the Project Utopia facility in Langxiang, where a confidential document leak has sparked a maelstrom of rumours about the recent absence of Team Tomorrow’s primary lineup, and secondary questions about the presence of Caestus Pax. Three days ago, top secret documentation was leaked to the press suggesting that Team Tomorrow’s First Team, led by the young prodigy Glory, has in fact been sent into space to battle an alien threat.” Those watching were better informed. They knew the rumours to be true. Meh’Lindi lay back on the couch and sighed. Her body crackled and creaked as her bones shifted under the surface of her skin. She had been feeling nervous since Darion first spread the ‘good word’ as he called it. She preferred to be in her larger forms when her nerves were taut, but the environs here would not accommodate her. She’d bring the house down, and that would make many people rather angry. Snow sat on a cushion on the floor, her rainbow-coloured hair falling free down her front. She leaned back into the distorted mass of Prudence’s body. Her torso groaned as tentacles writhed within. Seven long, serpentine arms jutted from the mass, seemingly at random places, and seven long necks coiled. Four of her heads were focused on the TV. One kissed Snow’s neck. The other two, in conjunction with four of her arms, were reading books. “This is awesome,” Snow said, in a surprisingly casual tone. “Exciting, maybe,” Prudence answered, “but I’m now sure ‘awesome’ fits it. If Utopia are hushing it up they’re probably re-running Independence Day, or some other alien disaster movie.” Meh’Lindi let them talk. It devolved fast into a collection of movie references. She did not watch movies herself. The science of taint occupied her mind the most. That and anger at the children who had advanced everything so far and then taken all their knowledge with them when they left. Chang was right to be cynical about the potential of our progeny, she thought, with utmost bitterness. Most of the remaining Anavasi were former Pandaimonion or Casablancas. Plenty of those left with Puck as well. Few had done their time with the Harvesters, as run by Geryon, or the Primacy or Nova Vigilance. She remembered all the good talk from back then. She remembered sitting in one of the sewer meeting points talking with her fellow Harvesters about the bright future awaiting them when the children grew up. They’d been waiting for Throwback and Case to return with the next batch of humans for a game of Zip Hunters on the particular occasion she was thinking of. ‘The zips will know their place then’, had been a common sentiment. ‘No more sewers, no more hiding’ had been another. ‘The rise of the One Race’ had been a rallying cheer. She had dined on human flesh and bones that day, and dined well. What fools we were. Nobody imagined that the children might take one look at the state of the world, turn around and declare ‘we really don’t care. Bye.’ Ironic, given that many Harvesters expressed that exact sentiment themselves. And they were all half-breeds, weighted down by human memories and half-broken relationships. Mei handed them back to the newsroom, and the special continued. Speculation, mostly, mixed with some careful information leaks. Meh’Lindi suspected Starling and her friends to be behind this leak. Utopia would never want the world to know that Team Tomorrow was undermanned right now. That was probably the reason for Pax staying behind. It also meant that they were confident in Glory’s ability to fight off an alien invasion. Quite the frightening thought, all considered. “You’re being real quiet, Lindi,” Prudence said, turning one flawless bald head her way. She always wore a face that artisans would dream of. Her vanity as one of Narcosis’s fops had carried over into pride at her new appearance and form. She continued to grow more beautiful, more alien, and to expand as time passed. Meh’Lindi suspected that her form would fail soon. It took enhanced sensors to hear it, but sometimes, when Pru had stretched her tentacles out as far as she could, her flesh sounded like tearing sails. What would emerge when it did? She was looking forward to it. “If Chang isn’t around to look miserable, someone has to take up the mantle,” Meh’Lindi said. Her voice emerged as a guttural, animalistic growl. Her long, razor teeth clacked together behind her veil of black silk. “I’m just thinking, Prudence.” “About?” “The past. The present. Where the two meet. And no, I’m not developing precognition.” “You say it like that’d be a bad thing,” Snow laughed. She was quite hard to see at the minute. Prudence had shifted her tentacles to forcibly stretch her body half around Snow. Snow turned and rose up on her knees, then rested on her friend’s body. “Don’t you think it’d be interesting to see what Chang sees?” Interesting, but I fear not pleasing. Chang was more sombre than ever since she developed the ability to ‘hear’ future echoes. It no longer seemed to be a point of philosophical correctness. Though the standing theory was that she just missed Lucrezia, or even that Lucrezia had somehow ‘addicted’ Chang to her, Meh’Lindi felt that there was something more behind Chang’s malaise. Only Sakura’s children seemed to motivate her. “The phrasing you’re looking for is ‘hear what Chang hears’,” Meh’Lindi said, “and yes, but we are as we are. That is not my way, nor do I think it ever will be. I am a changer of shape, like many of us, but I am still half a monster.” At least. “Chang never was a monster.” “And me?” Snow said, and batted her long dark eyelashes. “And me?” Prudence said, turning all seven heads Meh’Lindi’s way. Tentacles licked around her lips from the inside. Her elongated throats took on a rope-like appearance from the writhing within them. Meh’Lindi rolled her eyes. “Snow is, yes. You’re still a vain, preening starlet at heart, Pru. It is indicative that your first use for seven heads was to have six of them kiss each other while the seventh watched.” Snow laughed. Prudence raised one flawless finger. “Objection! Anyone that looked this good would do the same.” “They really wouldn’t,” Snow said. The two began to bicker, though in a manner so good-natured it could only raise smiles. Meh’Lindi always seemed to grin. She had no skin around her mouth. Her long teeth were visible from the front to the back. A reminder even in this seemingly human shape of what she truly was. She thought about Sakura, and Sakura’s children. We need to raise them better than the last ones, she mused. Maybe this lot won’t abandon us. But what a problem that poses! Without a connection to the world, why would they not? And how can we connect them when they must hide? Though perhaps, with Utopia distracted, an option presented itself. Sakura’s life over the last three months had consisted of nothing more than motherhood. It was what she was born to, after all, and what her life had been building up to. But the stress was wearing her down. “We should become babysitters,” Meh’Lindi said. Snow and Prudence stopped talking. As one, they turned to her. “Excuse me?” They both said, in unison. “We. The Anavasi. We should become babysitters.” “You’re not serious.” “She’s serious.” “I’m serious,” Meh’Lindi said. Behind her veil, she smiled for real. *** ,, Darion Mográine looked between the three Novas, searching for signs of mockery. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” Snow and Prudence nodded. Meh’Lindi did not need to. In fairness he suspected they all were from the start. Prudence was walking humaniform at the minute, with the normal number of limbs, breasts and heads, and not a flicker of tentacle movement under the surface. Plus, she’d come wearing a flattering business suit. Snow, who he would normally believe needed to be nailed down with spikes and forcibly made presentable, had come dressed in a smart shirt and trousers, with a loose tie. Prudence wore the butch look better, naturally. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk. “It’s not a bad idea. Sakura’s overworked though she’d never say it. Three nova children, none of whom have their second parent around, are a handful for anyone.” “We can be their family,” Meh’Lindi said. “And perhaps correct the mistake made in the Nursery.” “Which is?” Darion studied her. “The Nursery made it so that the children were a family unto themselves. Even now, the remains of the Children of Teras are focused internally rather than reaching out to the larger Teragen. The experiment was, ultimately, a colossal error. Our children aren’t our children at all, they don’t know or care about us. The attempt to keep them ‘safe’, in the end kept them safe from viewing us as at best old people with outdated ideas, and at worst as completely irrelevant to their lives.” Darion chuckled. “A bit harsh, but in fairness, very few of them got far past their teenage years. I think we all went through that stage before we erupted.” “We didn’t found our own universe.” “Would have if we could have,” he replied, smiling. “Though I think you’re being a little histrionic, Meh’Lindi, I do think the idea’s sound. At the very least, a Nursery structure isn’t going to work because we don’t have the people to take care of it. Mal and Scripture are still dark. Bounty left with Puck. No surprise there, she wants to be with her kids. There ain’t gonna be a second generation without Sakura.” Nobody needed to state, or have stated, how grave that fact was. As a general rule people tried to avoid bringing politics up around Sakura, but she’d gone from important to critical. The Starling network was buzzing with information that strongly suggested Sakura was now top of Project Proteus’s shit list. The sterility retrovirus, so close to being removed from the board several months ago, was now doing its job again. If they put Sakura on ice, Proteus would have the nova race back at square one. He hated that all of this was falling on her shoulders. She’d been making eyes at him for a couple of months now, and probably before that, but he kept shrinking back. He felt compromised by his position. She wasn’t just a kind, gentle, intelligent, charming, beautiful, desirable nova woman… she was also a political weapon of enormous power. You didn’t seduce that sort of person. Or let yourself get seduced by them, either. You protected them. Still… when opportunity knocked… “I’ll float the idea to Sakura when I see her next.” “When will that be?” Prudence asked. Darion shrugged. “Depends on whether her kids have found a way to fold their mother into another dimension while they run riot yet.” “Aren’t they three months old?” Snow said. Darion nodded. “Yes, Snow. They are.”
  5. “This way,” Darion said. ‘This way’ involved a great deal more complexity than you’d expect for a corridor. Sclader had been renovating. “Where are we?” “Believe it or not, the entrance corridor,” Darion said, standing upon a stair that climbed towards a balcony which in turn descended toward another. “Welcome to the Court of Mirrors, Chang’s latest, greatest offering to the world of Novas.” “It’s incredible. Where’s the way out?” “That’s the hard part,” Darion said. “Maybe you can find it. I’ve never been able to.” Some of the Anavasi were referring to this as ‘an entrance exam’. Sclader, since been afforded the honour of having his work displayed as the very first thing someone would see on entrance, had been tweaking and twisting and altering his creation ever since. Now it was a thing of beauty, not just mathematically perfect, but incorporating precise visual elements as well. Light sources were positioned so as to be warped on the fractal edge of reality, where the hidden numbers did their thing and caused the wrap around effect that made it all so confusing. Sakura’s face lit up and she ran past Darion to follow the stairs and balconies, seeking the solution to the puzzle. Darion followed, smiling. It was good to see her relax. Since returning from captivity she had been taut as a bowstring, ready to snap. Many people didn’t see it, but he did. That kept him hovering just outside touching distance, never quite sure where he ought to be. She wanted contact, he knew. Sakura was one of those people who liked to be hugged. But hugs and simple closeness were not enough when it came to matters of the soul. Her illusions had been ripped away with brutal force. Few Novas emerged from that crucible unscathed. In this case it did no good that Sakura had been through this before. If anything that made things worse, because she had erroneously believed that unpleasant, unwanted past was behind her. Darion never felt that security. The past was a track and field expert. No matter what hurdles you put in its path, no matter how long the track, it would always be racing up behind, ready to overtake and unmake you in an eyeblink. They wandered through Sclader’s madhouse for nearly ten minutes before Sakura found the way out. More precisely she found the necessary steps to open the way out. It took a precise movement between the balconies, a physical re-enactment of the mathematical formulae on which the entire work was based. Ingenious, really. “That was the entrance?” Sakura asked when they emerged from the corridor. “Uh-huh.” She smiled. “This is the house that Chang built. I can believe it. I hope it does better than mine.” “It will,” Darion said, without thinking. “Oh, uh. That was insensitive. What I meant to say is, we have a rather more cynical outlook than other Novas. The Court of Mirrors shines, but the Court of Shadows lurks below. Anybody attacks this place they’ll have horrors boiling up from the depths that’ll make their eyes boil to look on them.” Such talk did not make Sakura comfortable, he knew, but it was what it was. No point pretending. The number one rule was ‘do not fuck with the Teragen’. It was right next door to ‘do not fuck with the Congo’. Unlike the Storm King the Teragen did not have to play nice, did not have to worry about politics, and would indeed murder your family and everyone you knew if you called their bluff. Darion did not know the precise fate of Sakura’s kidnapper. He knew that Snow managed to her hands on him. That meant he would die eventually. Eaten, most likely, once she got into a monstrous mood and decided to re-enact one of Meh’Lindi’s past-times. It would be a slow death, though. She took the whole incident personally. It was not a good idea to make an enemy of a girl who could read a hundred torture manuals in an hour to aid in brainstorming a proper punishment. He brushed the thoughts away. They weren’t nice, and he did not want them on his mind while Sakura was around. If anyone needed to see some smiles it was her. Though that did raise the question of why he was taking her to see Chang. She had never been known for smiling much. “So where is she?” Sakura asked. “Oh, you’ll see. This place brings the artist out of everyone.” He gave her a wink and linked arms. “Come on.” He guided her to the heart of the Court of Mirrors, to the enormous and normally empty chamber around which all the other rooms, corridors and amenities were constructed. It was not empty now. The entirety of the interior was filled with mirrors. The floor war mirrors, the walls, the roof over their heads. A corridor opened up into many corridors. Sakura and Darion were reflected a thousand thousand times, caught on angles designed at times to make it seem they stretched out into infinity, and at others to distort their images in queer ways. “Is this…” “Chang, yes,” Darion said. “All of it’s her.” He could not keep the awe from his voice. “Other people use their bodies to make art; she makes her body into art.” And art it was. More than just a simple conglomeration of parts, a mere exercise in position and composition, there were sources of light there within the Mirror Queen’s body, fixtures and torches that sent refractive ripples through entire mirrored swaths. The maze extended vertically, too, but accessing the higher levels required negotiating the lowers in certain ways, passing through nigh-invisible doors, coming face to face with one’s own twisted image. “Chang?” Sakura called out. “She won’t answer,” Darion said, looking at one of a thousand-thousand reflections of Sakura and quite unsure where she was now. “She only talks to someone who gets to the centre and finds her. She can hear everything, but won’t interact. She’s like that a lot these days.” It took an hour to navigate the mirror maze, even with Sakura and Darion working in unison. Chang’s body wove into more and more complex mirrored landscapes as they neared the centre, no longer obeying the mundane laws that governed the shape of glass. At one point they passed through an entire separate chamber within Chang’s maze-body, an open area where short mirrored blades of glass crunched underfoot and a reflective liquid pool beckoned them to swim with half-formed arms. Chang awaited in the centre of the maze, in a simple squared chamber formed of six mirrored surfaces. She sat in a mirrored chair, but she did not wear her ‘regal’ garb. The queen within the maze was the Chang of days past, punkish, hooded, with her hair shaped short beneath the wool, her white rain eyedrop prominent, and other tattoos snaking across her skin. A sign of the woman she had become was evident, though, for her fingers were laced and steepled in a meditative posture. She looked up as they entered. “Hello, Sakura. It feels like it has been a long time.” With a soft glassy slither, a couch and chair formed for Sakura and Darion respectively. Darion settled upon the chair, wondering how he should even address Chang. He could not be easy and relaxed the way Sakura was when she flopped down gratefully on the couch. He looked at Chang and saw a being an order of magnitude different to himself. She was at a point where even the most basic thought was a mystery to him. He leaned back to let the two friends catch up.
  6. (Continued from Forbidden Fruits) Sakura woke up reluctantly. Her body felt slow and clumsy, and carrying the triplets was actually uncomfortable. Groaning, she sat up slowly, noting that she was still in her club gear. Blearily, she glanced around the room, her green eyes blinking uncertainly. The room she was in was comfortable bedroom. A window on the wall showed an idyllic scene of a high mountain lake. The room was well-furnished with carpets and plush bedding. Awkwardly she rose and went to the door. It led to a hall which opened to a hallway. There were three bedrooms on the right, each designed for a child. The other side of the hall held a bathroom and another room, also comfortable and with a computer. The hallway ended in a large room with an open floorplan. The windows, Sakura realized, weren’t windows. They were computer screens, each showing her a different image. It wasn’t until she looked up that she saw her first true window; an overhead skylight that showed her a field of stars. She went perfectly still, panicking but doing so in her quiet way. Her mind was still piecing together the last hazy minutes at the club. Mostly all she could remember was laying down on a couch and then a sting in her leg. She reached around her, feeling for Nature just to confirm the dread she'd felt growing when she'd figured out the "windows" and seeing the starfield. Only the microscopic colonies of life, mostly hers, answered her. There wasn't any plant or creature living within....within a far distance. She slid down the door frame, fighting back tears as she panicked a second time - flashes of Scrambler's attack on the Crèche spinning through her mind despite the lack of any overt attack on her. It took several minutes for her to pull herself together again and make a second prowl through the space she was confined in. There was a door in the living room that she couldn't open, giving her the dubious respite that this wasn't an entirely enclosed "apartment" with only warpers or teleporters able to come and go from it. The three children's room told her that who'd ever taken her intended her to stay put for at least past her due date and most likely much farther than that. Eventually she stalked into the office room, figuring that the computer wouldn't be of much help but might at least give her some clue as to her abductors and their reasons or plans for taking her. There was no internet connection on the computer. Sakura found games, books and all manner of entertainment, but there was no internet or useful programs - useful to her escape. A calendar told her it was the same day that she'd opened the club. The clock told her it was a few hours after she'd been at the club last. There was a program on the computer for changing the windows, and she found that one didn't respond to her commands at all. It remained an idyllic scene of a tulip-filled field despite every effort of hers to change it. Hours passed with little to do to occupy her. Sakura's fear abated in time; she couldn't sustain that reaction in the face of nothing happening. When she grew hungry, she raided the kitchen to find plenty of food in storage. She thought about not eating, but rationalized that if they'd meant her harm, they would have already have done it to her. All indications where that she was meant to be comfortable here for a long time. After she'd eaten and cleared away the dishes, she noticed that the main screen flickered once. Then the image settled into that of a backlit form. "Ms. Konohanasakuyahime. How do you feel? Have you recovered from your ordeal?" "Konohanasakuyahime is titular," she snapped, her English clipped in her anger. "Adding 'Ms.' to it redundant. Insulting, technically. And as my 'ordeal' is hardly far from over, I cannot yet be recovered from it." She leveled a glare of imperial haughter even her father would have been impressed by. "And how I feel is not your privilege to know. Who are you and why have I been kidnapped and imprisoned in this place?" “Who I am is unimportant, clearly. We have met before. You do not recognize me.” The voice did seem vaguely familiar to Sakura, but she still couldn’t place a name to it. “I’m not a powerful nova, so I’m not surprised that I failed to make an impression on you.” The shadowed form shifted then spoke again; Sakura was growing more confident that it was a Dutch accent. “As for why you are here, it is because you turned down my proposal, and I am not a man who takes no well. I asked you to aid donor novas in becoming pregnant. You denied my request.” “Were you trying to become a father to a bunch of supermen or just make an army?” Sakura asked with a twist of her perfect lips. “An army. Ah, I see you’re still self-righteous about that,” her captor said. “My offer has not changed. Agree to do as I wish, and I’ll pay you well in addition to giving you freedom.” Rage seethed beneath her smooth, calm demeanor. "No." It was said with the finality of death, no room for negotiation and only the faintest touch of her anger deepening it to bone-chilling timbre. "You have made an error in judgement, one that most likely will cost you your life. I abhor violence and needless death, but I cannot say the same of many of the friends that I have made over the past year. They tend to be...protective...of me to a vicious degree." Images of Shiv flashed through her mind, the bound woman's easy violence against any perceived threats to the Crèche, Lucrezia or herself in the days after Scrambler's attack. "This is the only warning I will give you. Return me to my club and I might be able to keep you alive. Keep me here against my will and you will die. Most likely very unpleasantly at the hands of people I've likely never met. This is not a threat. This is an offer to try to help you survive your mistake." She studied the shadow on the screen pulling out details at a pixelated level and committing it to memory, searching for more clues to give her an identity. "You have a decision to make: cling to your pride and a plan that will never be fulfilled by me and be a corpse in short order, or return me with all the speed and secrecy you can muster and then spend the rest of your life hiding that you did this. The better you become at hiding, the longer you will live." The words were cold, calculated, and delivered with the all the calm certainty she could muster; she even believed most of it. That didn't keep the trickle of fear and adrenaline from dripping down her spine in coiling in her gut with a mounting pressure of panic. She clamped down hard on any sign of weakness, though. If she gave this man any hint that he was in control, she'd lose any slim hope of ending this without pain and bloodshed. That she wasn't completely sure of who's bloodshed added acrid heat through her body. “I will take my risks. You see, I feel that there is much more at risk here than my life. A reward worth my time and effort even if I die.” “An army.” Sakura said the words with a derisive twist of her lips. The form shook its head. “A defense force. The humans are starting to see the future. They’re starting to realize that they are losing and if they don’t act soon, they will be removed from the world. To that end, novas need to have a unified force that will defend them. Not the Teragen or Utopia or anyone with their own agenda. An army of defense.” He paused before adding, “I want your help with that. I need your help with that.” "Then hire elites." Her tone was as acid as the fear curled up in her heart. The man sighed in annoyance. "Elites are loyal to money. I will not be...outbid...in a war for survival-" "Then leave." Sakura cut in without sympathy. "Novas aren't going to be wiped out by baseline humanity. At the very worst for novas, Earth becomes irrelivant and not worth the constant friction to remain on the planet. At. The. Worst. There are other worlds....a whole universe to go live in away from Earth. You say you want a defensive force? Then hire or find some novas that will take you and yours away from baselines. That's defensive. You want an army to win a war that evolution - Nature Herself - has already declared the outcome of." She crossed her arms, "So cut the self-deluding crap and at least take responsibility for what you're really doing, and why." “I am. Regardless of what you’re too pacifistic to acknowledge, Earth is the home of novas as well as humans.” The man was still a shadow to her but she could see his hands as they rose and clasped in front of his face. “Why should I leave because small-minded people won’t accept their own irrelevance? Defense can be as much about offense as defense. Is that really what you want for your children? That they’ll have to find a home among the stars because the creatures that share their birthplace won’t accept them? I want more for my children: the right to choose whether they can live here in peace or among the stars.” The man fell silent again, waiting to see what her response would be. "Peace?" she huffed her contempt even as she took in every minute detail she could discern from the play of shadows over his hands. "With your defensive offense force of nova children brought into life not to be the next generation of nova children but to be your personal quantum army? If you don't want better for you children than that, you don't deserve to have them." "You call others 'small-minded' and 'irrelevant'. You're scum. A man who kidnaps a pregnant woman to coerce her into unconscionable acts. Who threatens by preparation to keep her and her children confined until she does as you bid. You are no architect of the future and certainly no man fit to be a father. You are a coward too afraid to do yourself what you would demand of children. You are a hypocrite that casts derision with words and fear with actions. If these enemies of yours are irrelevant, then they areirrelevant. Your own actions elevate them not only to equals, but to superiors that you dread." "Earth is a cradle. A seed. A beginning. It is not the sum of all any of us are and we need not kill our brothers and sisters, our cousins and progenitors, over a bit of dirt.Evolution isn't just about a node or oposable thumbs. It's about growth beyond the smallness from which we start. Earth is becoming too small for the power of Her children. Leaving isn't a retreat, it's a vanguard. An acknowledgement of the quantum gifts that propel the nova race beyond the seed of a single planet. Baseline humanity does not have that privilege. They must either come into the greater universe as our guests and partners or wait until their technology can match the quantum powers a nova is gifted with." She sat back, green eyes tight and disdainful. "So stop your whining, find a different hobby, and let me go before you find your own life cut short by this stupid and useless stunt. I will never do what you want and you have no way of forcing me to. You can threaten me, you can even threaten my children, but you cannot do what I do. In the end, that is my power and I will never choose to use it as you desire." She placed a hand over her womb, "My children will have their choice. It is a simple fact of nature. They are novas and they will be powerful enough to choose whatever they desire. The question is not if they are capable of living on Earth, but if they will choose to. How they live, who they are, these are choices they will have as they grow into themselves. They are not tools or weapons to be used at the whim of their parents. I am their mother, not their god or master. They were not conceived out of cold, uncaring calculations of a warmonger." She chose her next words with precision, setting them with all the venom she could muster to shame this man who had not even the courage to show his face to her. "I will not be raped of my free will by the likes of you." "Then you will find these accomidations merely adequate. I am the only way you're leaving, the only chance you have to see living things other than yourself and your children. Think on it." The screen blackened, leaving her alone again. Sakura investigated some more, but there was nothing else for her to find or see. She did notice that the reading materials had shrunk, or she thought it had. Beyond that, there was nothing for her to do. The only thing that she noticed was a banging noise; following the sound, she saw one of the cabinet doors move. When she opened it, there was new food there. Somethinghad just replenished the food for her. She wasn't completely alone. Either it was a robot- Or there was someone here she couldn't sense. She frowned at the thought and decided that she was not in a sharing mood. She took the plate of food and sat down at the kitchen table, enveloping herself in a bubble of quick time while she worked. She made a mental list of all the spores and bacterium on herself, the food, and her surrounding furniture, and picked out a small micro-lifeform closest to her needs. It grew at levels too small to see, using the energy Sakura fed it to grow and divide and grow and divide until the Blossom Princess had what she needed - a close approximation of micro-algea. The plant rooted on her meal and quickly spread, devouring every speck of organic material in less than a minute thanks to Sakura's alterations. She sighed, then began in on the now protein-rich salad, tucking the meal away with inhumanly swift and precise movements. Then went to the plush cream-colored couch and laid down, for all purposes appearing to take a post-meal nap. Curled up around her children, she focused inward, producing her silk as quickly as she could but keeping all of it save her clothes completely translucent. The process took hours even outside of her personal bubble of time, but once she was finished she was surrounded by meters and meters of a fine net that moved at her command. She concentrated on the space outside her bubble, slowing down the time there to give her one more edge in the seconds to come. Then she unleashed the silk. It rippled and flowed over every surface, invading each room of the apartment until it covered everything. And anything above a microscopic level that moves would find itself bound under the living blanket. Now, let's see if I've caught anyone or just wasted a perfectly fine meal. Through her web, Sakura learned a couple of interesting things. First, there was more to her complex than she had seen. Many of the cabinets through which she was supplied had false backs, allowing someone to restock goods without entering her area. The second interesting thing was that once her webs had worked their way through the false backs, they trapped someone under them. The problem was that Sakura couldn't get to that person - he or she was in the other area, which was unavailable to her. She stood, moving her web as she moved her body to keep the areas saturated as well as to bring whomever she had ensnared to one of the upper cabinets in the kitchen, pulling up a stool the counter before using the leverage of her silk to pop out the back of the cabinet. She maneuvered her temporary prison until she could see them through the back of the cabinet. Her eyes flashed briefly with triumph, even if was only a small victory so far. "Now, I believe you and I have some negotiating to do." “I really can’t negotiate much.” The man seemed chagrined and somewhat resigned. “I don’t have any power here over your fate. The best you can do is ensure you don’t get new food delivered to you.” "What is that you do here? I would hardly think my captor would put a nova here merely to stock cabinets." She regarded him cooly, weighing him with calculating eyes. "What is your name?" “My name is Conrad.” He smiled, his teeth white against brown-tinted skin. “I’m here to keep people from finding you, as well as making sure you’re in good health.” She smiled in return, "So, you do have some power over my fate. You could stop whatever it is that keeps me from being found." There was an undertone to her voice, not a direct command but a subliminal insinuation that reverberated through whatever means it was that she was holding him bound that not doing so would be dangerous for him. "Were you listening to my conversation with your....employer?" “Not at all, ma’am.” Conrad was still smiling. “You can kill or terribly injure me if you’d like. It won’t get you released any faster. It might help you be found, but I’m the redundant system beyond the quantum dampners.” "Unlike your employer, Conrad, I do not engage in such barbaric actions against others. The most I would do is render you unconscious so that your powers might relax." She sighed, "You do understand that you are in danger from this? Like I warned your employer, the people looking for me do not share my dislike of violence and will hold you as responsible as him unless you assist me in escaping." There was complete honesty in her words, tempered with a weary and sad conviction that this entire situation would lead to pointless violence and death. “And I understand ma’am, that I live a life full of danger and risk. If your friends kill me, my children will prosper.” Conrad sighed though he was still smiling. “If your friends destroy me… I knew that was a possibility, and it is every time I sign the dotted line.” "You love your children?" She asked softly. He paused a beat. “As much as I can, yes. I’m away a lot, providing for them. Making sure that they can have a good life even if they are baselines in a nova world.” "You understand that the people looking for me are Teragen?" She let that begin to sink in and pressed on with, "They're not known for their self-control when it comes to matters like this. Or for restricting the battlefield to those that 'signed the dotted line'." “They have no reason to come after my family if I’m dead, especially if you’re not dead.” He shrugged awkwardly against the bonds holding him. “They’ll not feel the need for vengeance then, and I’m supposed to keep you alive.” Sakura lowered her head, amazed at his naitivity in this. "Conrad, if I'm alive I'll be lucky to talk my friends out of killing everyone involved or that might have been involved. I have no hold over Geryon or Shrapnel or any of the other Terats that follow their creeds. Do you think they will let your baseline family live or profit from your death?" She looked back up him, intense green eyes conveying only utter sincerity. "This was not the line to sign. Save yourself, save your family, by helping me escape. I have a chance to protect you and them, then." He swallowed at that, though she still wasn’t sure if he believed she was right, or just needed to believe she was wrong. “I can’t let you go. I literally can’t release you. I can’t let you go or help you escape. I don’t have that power or the way to communicate. This is a one-way trip for me, until you agree to do whatever it is that he wants.” "You didn't even ask?" Her question was half-whispered and almost angry. She put a hand to her womb and took several deep breaths to calm herself before stating, "He wants me to create an army of nova children for him use as a personal army against baselines. He's holding me and my unborn children hostage, with the intention of keeping me here until I capitulate. Imprisoning my children with me and no doubt intending to use them to leverage me if I refuse past the point of giving birth to them." She sighed, "I am not asking you to snap your fingers and free me, Conrad. I am asking you to save yourself by trying. By telling me everything you know and doing everything that is within your power to get us both out of this mess." “And I’m telling you that there’s not really any way I can help. I’ve told you what I know. I didn’t need to know more.” He sighed. “And yeah, this is the standard way a mission is run.” He felt the bonds around him loosen until he was gently set on his feet. "I suggest you think, very carefully and very well, on what you can do, Conrad. For the love you have for your family, if not for any compassion towards me or my own children. I will not do what he wants. Ever. And those that promised to protect me, they will come, even if they think I'm dead, just to ensure that anyone responsible or involved in this shares that fate." She let her silk go limp through the entire compound, leaving it where it was for now but allowing Conrad to move around. An image ran through her mind, of Scrambler in the Creche and everything Chang had told her of him. He would be one to track down Conrad's family and kill them as a warning to any others against touching a fertile, pregnant, and fertility-bestowing nova. She moved away from the kitchen, laying back down on the couch to rest and think. It was a clever, careful trap, but no plan was perfect once people were involved. She just had to find the right leverage, the overlooked crack in Eikenboom's plans. Idly she began teasing at the bits of life and organic material in her prison, debating what she could make that might prove useful; eventually she drifted off. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ “Just open the ‘lock?” Conrad asked warily several days later. “Yes,” Sakura insisted. “Open the air-lock, just like you were getting a shipment. Wait until everything’s outside – you’ll see it once it’s in the sunlight – and then come back in. That’s all I’m asking.” He took a breath and let it out slowly, debating what to do not that she’d actually put the decision squarely in front of him. Finally he crossed his arms and shrugged. “Okay, but I don’t see what good it will do. We’re not even facing Earth.” “Baby steps, Conrad. We do what we can.” She heard the hiss of the air-lock as he opened the first door and directed all the microbial lifeforms she’d engineered over the past four days into the small room with him. After a moment she heard it seal again, and then silence. It took Conrad nearly five full minutes to come back inside. He glanced over at her only once and muttered, “That’s ‘baby steps’? How…it’s hard vacuum out there!” Sakura just smiled. (Continued in Losing Sakura)
  7. Many people received it. An OpNet email, and the news was also communicated by word of mouth. It was a message that some thought would never appear into existence. Undoubtedly, despite the private communiques, it would get out into the world at large and spark a frenzy. The brides and groom in question were busy trying to plan things out and convert the unused Exalt island into a top-notch place for their ceremony and reception- and responding to comments, queries and news intrusions was the last thing on their mind. The two nova paparazzi that showed up were unceremoniously disoriented by quantum force and dumped into Bangkok whorehouses, with charges to their accounts. For once, Darrik did not want the world in on this private time. There's A Party Here In Agrabah Anyone who is Darrik's family, friends or otherwise have good reason to be invited to the marriage, PC or NPC, can come. Clear it with me if it's ambiguous. And go ahead and post reactions.
  8. Gabe Walters was a patient man. It was one of the reasons his mentor, Dr. Abraham Nightside, had selected the young man as an aide all those years ago. Walters had learned much in his tenure in the Directive, but no skill had proven quite as vital as his ability to learn which ass to kiss and for how long. It was an art, and combined with Gabe’s natural talent for reading human behavior, had gotten him into some pretty high places in the world. All of those talents had helped shape him for the future he was shaping. Today, he was debating his Plan again. He’d come up with it ten years ago and had worked on it since that day. Staring out the windows of his modest cabin in the Catskills, he considered the Plan once again. He’d run it over and over; torn it apart in his mind and rebuilt it hundreds of times. It was the first thing he thought of when he woke up, the thing he was thinking about when he went to sleep and the thoughts that he pondered while in the shower, eating or on the toilet. Any time his brain wasn’t occupied with something else, it was going over the Plan. One of his earliest conclusions about the Plan was this: the most irritating thing about the Plan was that no one had done it years ago. They’d just followed Thetis blindly, letting her make all the calls and decisions, even when they were morally repugnant – even when they were just awful. Gabe laid all the blame for Proteus’s current predicament at her feet. But today, he was going to change that. It was time for the Plan to be started. Drawing a deep breath, he checked to be sure that the voice scrambler was active and that his signal shredder was working. It was the standard kind of precautions one took when dealing with excessively powerful, paranoid and impulsive novas. Then he teleported to Wapusk National Park in Canada. As the cold waters of Hudson bay lapped at the shore at his feet, he dialed the number he’d looked so long for. Three rings; then it picked up. “Coraline Boehm, please listen. Proteus needs to stop. Tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, you can find Thetis at 40° 23' North and 105° 45' West. That’s her getaway cabin at Arrowhead Lake.” With that, he hung up, quickly. For a heartbeat time, he stood on the bank, wondering what Cora was doing. He hoped she'd take the steps he'd foreseen. Then he teleported away, preparing for the next step.
  9. Time Period: After events in Chapter 6. The universe, a grand and magnificent place, filled with beautiful and frightening things, it was from the viewpoint of many nova's, their birthright, but there were dangers in the universe that few humans realized, as of yet, and now, at last they had managed to stir up forces that they had no idea about, forces that were likely to change everything. Uploaded with ImageShack.us It came upon them swiftly as the groups of humans were at last moving into the stars, they encountered something they hadn't encountered yet, another alien species, and one that moved swiftly to capture Star and her allies, shutting down quantum energies as best they could, but nothing of yet appear within earth's solar system, the aliens wanted to know more about this new space-faring race before they took things further. Their ships made use of quantum energy as a power source, some of them the size of mountains, and those were the smallest of them, the largest were the size of Ceres, huge and massive..though there were less then a half a dozen, smaller ones hanging around the largest one as they moved against the human inhabitants... but the mix of traits from the warriors left it appearing as though this might be a group of different species rather then just one, the warriors appeared to be using quantum to shift shape to adapt to the situation as they moved to take the humans, baseline and nova, captive if possible, dead if not. Weapons that fired quantum disruption fields, that completely drained away a nova's quantum energy were used to capture the novas, but groups of the warriors used a kind of spiderweb to capture the more ordinary humans... then a sort of spider like creatures moved behind the warriors, using some sort of construction and deconstruction ability that seemed very like matter manipulation as they moved to support the warriors, but didn't directly involve themselves in the fight.
  10. Location: Planet New Hope, somewhere east of New Hope City Date: August 17th, 2027 Partisipants: Dan Hawkins, Sarah Hawkins Sarah had needed this. Getting away from everything, nearly everyone, exploring a strange, new, *clean* world on foot with nothing but the sword on her back, a few extra changes of clothes, the golden power in her 'node', and, thankfully unneeded so far, a comunicator if she ever got in trouble. It had been a... relief, being able to drop the mask entirely, scream out the strange collosal unfairness of it all beneath these alien stars. Spend a day or two doing nothing at all. Push herself to her limits in a way she couldn't even back home till she collapsed, drained on the physical, mental, and 'quantum' levels. The sizeshifter had done some of her best thinking after those runs. Dan. Sonja. Kamiko. The wonder children. Motherhunting. Elites. DeVries. GNS. The 'other' her. Home. The Z. Whether she could, would, or should go back. Earth. All of it tangled together yet somehow making perfect sense for all too few minutes at a time. Still, there was only so much she could unravel on her own, particularly in regards to a certain former Marine who she knew all too well and barely at all. So she made a call back to New Hope City. Invited Dan and Sonja to a stretch of perfect, white sand beach. And was unselfconsiously relaxing on said beach while she was waiting at 656 feet from head to toe, sunning her back with her face in her arms, feeling the waves beat against her left side, enjoying the freedom to express her power without worrying about causing a stir.
  11. June 27th, 2027 Exalt! Headquarters Puck returned from the Congo to find his home as busy as ever and happily running itself in his absence. Negotiations with the Storm King were going… well, they were going. He was confident that it would work out in the end. He knew that Eden was not in the building inside a few seconds of entering it, but assumed she was somewhere in the city, shopping perhaps. That was odd, though, because Eden did not often go out alone. At first he put it down to a breakthrough on her part, on confidence grown from proximity to people who loved her for the first time in her life. That ended when he went to his room, and found the message waiting for him on his OpNet station. The title read, quite simply, ‘Goodbye.’ A frown that would have broken a thousand hearts flickered on his flawless brow, before he opened the message. A video file began to play. Eden appeared on the screen, fiddling with the camera on her Terminal. She sat back and peered into the screen. “Ah think y’all are workin’ now.” She took a deep breath. She seemed more withdrawn than usual. “Hey, Puck!” Brute waved at the screen. “Ah guess if you’re listenin’ to this then ah went ahead an’ sent it, an’ that means ah’m gone. Ah don’ know if ah’m comin’ back.” Brute lowered her gaze for a few moments. “Ah guess you wanna know why. Ya might wanna pause this an’ get a sandwich or somethin’. This could take a while.” Puck did pause the playback, just long enough to soak up her tone and the words, to sense the emotional upheaval she was going through. He did not fetch a sandwich, however. He hit play again. Eden scratched her head. She squirmed in her seat, as if she could feel Puck’s eyes on her. She picked at her front teeth with her thumb nail. “Honestly ah don’ know if ah even have a good reason for this,” she said, “all ah really know is that ah don’t belong there no more. If ah ever did, an’ ah’m not sure ah did. Ah know, ah know,” she held up her hands as if to defend herself. “We been over this. Yer home’s mah home an’ all that.” She paused, and sighed. “Only… sayin’ it don’ make it so. Ah’d be lyin’ if ah said you an’ Starseed didn’t have a whole lot to do wit’ this. Infinity had a bit, too. Ah ain’t never felt right since me an’ her had that bust up out on the island. Ah keep thinkin’ about those words ‘power hater’. They’re stuck in mah craw, an’ ah cain’t make no sense of ‘em. Maybe ah’ll have that out with Infinity one day. Ah guess y’all wanna know about how you an’ Star feed inta this, right?” Eden smiled then. It was impish, the way her smiles always were, and mischievous. That was when Puck felt nobody could fail to see the family connection. They smiled the same way. “It don’ feel fair, Puck, what’s happenin’ right now. Ah’m still tryin’ to get my head around havin’ a brother ah never knew ah had an’ now ah got nine months before ah got fifty nephews and nieces ta take care of, too. An’ what if they grow up fast as well? Everyone’s so dang happy about this. All them women, it’s like this is the greatest time o’ their lives, like… like they’re fulfilled or somethin’. They keep botherin’ me now, too, like they need mah approval or somethin’, only they never did that before. Ah figure it’s because o’ the auntie thang. God, they’re so happy, Puck,” Eden broke off and looked away. She drew her legs up and hugged them, and shook her head. “Everybody’s happy… ‘cept me. An’ that ain’t right. There’s somethin’ wrong wit’ me. Ah’m… Ah’m broke. “Ya know it’s true, even if ya hate ta say it. Ah needed time, Puck. But you’re too fast for me. Exalt!’s growin’ inta this monolithic thang that’s everywhere an’ now yer gettin’ yer own nation an’ who the hell knows what else? All ah know for sure is that ya ain’t tellin’ me everythang. An’ why should ya? Ah’m jus’ yer broken big sister, though ah’m sure if anyone saw us they’d think it were the other way round. Yer the grown up here, Puck, the guy in charge, an’ the guy with the plans an’ the gumption to make ‘em happen. Heck, by the time ya get this message maybe Exalt! Galaxy will be on the table somewhere.” Even though her words hurt, Puck smiled a little at that suggestion. It didn’t sound like a bad idea to him, anyway. “So who am ah?” Brute shook her head. She sniffed and wiped at her eyes. She frowned deeply. “Ah’m jus’ another broken person in Exalt!, with one little difference: Ah ain’t gettin’ better. Ah’ve talked with jus’ about everyone in Exalt! by now, an’ ah’ve heard their stories. How meetin’ you changed their lives, how you made ‘em into better people an’ fixed everythang, how meetin’ you is knowin’ what love is an’ what god sounds like an’ all the rest o’ it. An’ the problem is ah feel some o’ that, too. The god bit, mostly. The way ya talk, the way ya can just click yer fingers an’ ah feel like everythin’s better.” Eden’s face twisted up, then, as if she were chewing on something bitter. “But that’s the problem… it don’t get better. Not fer me. ‘Cause ah’m not one o’ them. Ah’m less than they are. What’s broke in them… it’s different than what’s broke in me. Ah’m not tryin’ to be all dramatic ‘n’ stuff. It’s jus’ true. Even yer friend Scripture couldn’a fix me, an’ you acted like he could do anythang. Ah’m special, jus’ like ya always said. Only it’s not good special. Maybe it’s ‘cause ah’m yer sister. Maybe yer special thangs don’ work right wit’ me. Like… um…” she clicked her fingers, “Cyclops! Cyclops an’ Havoc outta the comics. They’re family so their powers don’t work none. Kinda handy when ya can knock a house down, ah guess. Where was ah? Oh yeah. “It all seems okay when yer talkin’ ta me, but it don’t last. Every time ah get mopey along ya come with ya silly grin an’ ya spiky hair an’ ya make me feel good an’ special for as long as ah’m around ya,” Brute offered a genuine, warm smile, but it quickly faded. “An’ then ya go flyin’ off ta sleep with Darrik an’ infinity and Starseed an’ who knows who else an’ ah’m left wit’ Mr. Bear an’ ah’m jus’ as confused as if ya never talked ta me in the first place.” She ran a hand through her hair, in a manner unconscious yet eerily similar to Puck’s own nervous tic. “Ah’m not really part o’ yer life, Puck. Not really. Ah ain’t part o’ Exalt!, ah ain’t one o’ yer lovers, ah’m yer sister. Ya said it yerself; ya don’ know what to do wit’ that. S’ somethin’ ya never really thought about. Me? Ah’m still a virgin, surrounded by people who seem ta agree that sex is the cheaper way to stay warm. “An’… that bugs me. Even ‘fore ya went inna mah head an’ made me smarter, ah wasn’t that dumb. Ah knew what was goin’ on around me, even though everyone liked to hide it. All them ladies didn’t get pregnant through immaculate conception, right?” Puck ran his hand through his hair. He had been pilloried by just about everybody over his indiscretions. The only person who could have who had not yet was Chang, because he always mysteriously forgot to bring the matter up around her. It was another blow, and a hard one, to hear this from his sister. She was one of the last people he wanted to hurt. “‘Sides, ah can pick up someone’s body heat s’long as ah’m in the same buildin’ as ‘em. People havin’ sex put off more ’n usual. Guess ya know that. Ah know ya like it an’ ya need it, an’ ah got no business sayin’ nothin’ about that. An’ y’all have been real nice around me. Ya always tried to keep it under wraps, an’ ah appreciated it. Ah’ve learned a bit about them Terat friends o’ yours an’ what you do. It’s a real sacrifice to pretend around me, an’ it’s not one ah should’a forced on ya.” Her eyes grew hooded and sad. She bit her lip, in that way she did sometimes when there was something on her mind that she felt needed saying but didn’t want to. Finally she fixed the camera with her deep, liquid brown eyes and said, “Ah guess this is where it all goes wrong, for all the right reasons. “Nobody else ever played nice, Puck. Every time Infinity was around it was all makin’ googley eyes at ya, every time Darrik was around it was all innuendo an’ makin’ eyes an’ ah could never think straight around him anyways. It jus’ made me feel like so long as ah wasn’t there everyone’d be havin’ a whole lot more fun. Ya remember when we went out on that island? They wanted ta jump yer bones, an’ they sure would’a if ah wasn’t there.” Brute shrugged and shook her head, seeming helpless and lost. “Ah don’ know, Puck. Since when did ah ever know anythang? An’ then Star showed off an’ ah went an’ lost mah head right there in front o’ everybody. That must’a been embarrassin’, even though ya were both nice about it. “Either way, ah don’t got no right to tell ‘em how they oughta behave. So if ah got a problem then mah options are to have no friends at all, or leave, because they’re your friends, an’ ah ain’t gonna see ‘em when you’re not there. Given yer listenin’ to this, ah guess ya can figure what ah decided ta do. It feels like ah’m doin’ the right thing, the moral thing. It ain’t right to try an’ make everyone else act the wrong way ta make yerself feel better, an’ ah’m talkin’ that exact thang!” She threw her hands up and gave a great, shuddering sigh. “Ah don’ wanna be a bad person, Puck. Ah really don’t. You Terat folk are a bit too hardcore for me in the end.” Brute smiled faintly. “Ah don’ belong is what ah’m getting at. Ah’ve been thinkin’ like ah should go an’ have sex. Like that’d make me fit in more. Dr. Sellas told me that don’t make no sense an’ ah know she’s right but the feelin’s there Puck, an’ it don’t go away jus’ by sayin’ so. Everythin’ feels like it oughta be an orgy when you’re aroun’. That works for everyone else, don’t it? So why not me? What makes me special?” She shook her head and sighed again. When she looked up, she raised her hands and let them drop. “Most o’ this ya know already. Ah’m really jus’ goin’ over it for completion’s sake so ah’m not leavin’ anythang out. Ah don’t want’cha ta feel like ah jus’ up an’ left ‘cause ah got upset one day. S’more like thangs have been goin’ that way for a while an’ ah only just realized. Learnin’ that there’s gonna be five kids for Star… ah guess it was the ol’ straw that broke the camel’s behind, after knowin’ there were all these other ones comin’ too. “Anyways… so here ah am tryin’ ta make sense o’ all this, tryin’ ta figure out what ta do an’ who an’ what ah’m meant ta be… an’ then suddenly ah gotta be an Aunt? Fifty times over? An’ you, the only damn person ah can rely on, ya gonna go be a father. Ya gotta! Ya got children now. Ya cain’t let ‘em go wrong. Y’all can do what ah cain’t. Ya can raise yer kids right, an’ stick it to dad.” “He’s still wit’ me, Puck. What he said ta me. What he did. He wasn’t nice ta me, he never gave me a chance. But ah’m broke now, an’ ah cain’t never prove him wrong by bein’ what he said ah couldn’t. Maybe ah wouldn’a been able to anyhow. That don’ matter no more. What’s done’s done. Whether it’s nature or nurture, ah’m made ta break things. But you,” she looked up, pointed at the screen and smiled, “y’all were made ta build things. Ta make ‘em better. It’s all over everythang you touch, everythang you try for. An’ that… that’s great. But yer life’s gone and got complicated, Puck. An’ ya don’t have room in yer life for all o’ that an’ yer big broke sister.” Puck almost opened his mouth to reply. Instead he rubbed his eyes and sat back in his seat. He hated seeing her like this, heart on her sleeve and bleeding all over. “Ya can teleport to the end o’ time an’ space, ya can set up yer own nation… but ya cain’t make the day have more hours than it’s got. Yer life’s gonna get more busy from here on out, Puck, not less. Ah’m gonna lose ya one way or t’other. An’ ya won’t even notice, ‘cause you’ll have fifty kids ta take care of an’ a nation ta run. S’ alright. Ah can hear ya objectin’ already. But ah think we both know ah’m right on this one. Ya went an’ got yerself some bigger issues ta attend to than me, an’ ya cain’t take care o’ me an’ Exalt! an’ yer kids an’ yer lovers all at the same time. Y’all gotta pick, Puck…” a few tears crept down her cheek. “Ah cain’t make ya do that. An’ ah cain’t let ya try an’ balance all these plates at once, in case they all come crashin’ down. What yer doin’ here,” Eden pointed up and gestured around her in general, “it’s more important than me. So that makes the process o’ elimination real easy. “Ah didn’t take much. Mr. Bear didn’t think it’d be right ta. There’ll be other girls comin’ in who need nice things, ah mean really need ‘em. This ol’ node done gone made me self-reliant, yessiree,” she said, tapping herself on the temple. “So all ah took was mah new backpack an’ Mr. Bear an’ mah clothes. Ah guess the clothes ain’t mine neither, but they remind me of ya, an’ ah don’t wanna forget. Ya know how mah head is. Sometimes ah’m a bit absent-minded, an’ ah ain’t takin’ no risks on this one. Anyhow, ah figure nobody’d mind. Oh, an’ ah’m takin’ mah escrima sticks. Tell mah teacher ah’ll keep practicin’. Don’ know how much it’ll help, but ah’ll work on what he told me.” She rested her chin on the back of her hand for a few moments, staring into the camera as if looking for something else to say, or having too much to say and finding no way to say it. Finally she nodded. “Thanks, Puck. For everythang. Ah know there’s no ‘good’ way to do somethin’ like this, so this is it. Ah’m done. Bye.” Eden reached out, and the message ended. *** As Puck was listening to Brute’s farewell, she was far away and walking further. The evening was coming on with an azure sky fading to purple. It looked like it might be a bright night. Cars and trucks zoomed by her, racing to wherever the road went. She didn’t know, and she hadn’t checked. Brute didn’t know where she was going and had not set out on any destination in particular. Only this was different to when her father cast her out like the trash. This time Brute walked for her own reasons. She did not know where she was going or if she would ever get there, but she had a good idea who was waiting for her at the end of this road. It wasn’t someone she knew well, or even someone she knew of up until recently, and it wasn’t someone who mattered much to anybody but her and Puck. It was a girl she might have known, but forgot about long ago, a girl named Eden Klitzkow. Brute paused at the roadside and screwed up her lip. It was well out of fashion, but she figured she might as well give it a try. She put on her best, Puck-brand silly grin and stuck out her thumb in the direction of the traffic.
  12. Time Frame: September though October As things in Congo heated up and unfolded into full war, the children of Teras picked out one of the isles in the pacific that Puck was willing to sell, and began to move their entire body of nova's there, youngest to oldest, with Bounty being heavily involved. Much like the club in Ibiza, however, they had decided that the entire Isle would be open to nova's only, no baselines allowed, and already Surge had created a electromagnetic barrier around the isle. Now, they had a number of building projects in progress, including a new dance/nightclub that was intended to be even more remarkable then the one in Ibiza.. Their building projects were carefully designed not to interfere with much of the Isle's beache, and as much as they went up, they also went down into the water around the isle and deep under the earth as well.. but they also were not that far from the Isle that the Anisvasi had taken, so that members could easily move between the two places, and it was a different isle then the one Puck was moving Exalt too.. but that one was also not far away. In fact, the isle's were rabiding drawing further attention from the world due to the shear number of Nova's that were begining to move in this area, enough that it could be considered a super power in it's own right.
  13. With Shen returning from training his new students, Maia once more back and active in matters, and Alex at work in her mobile lab, the rise of the conflict going on in Congo had those of Shen's wards returning to discuss and decide what they were going to do in the rising conflict, as they had in the past, to see if they were all going to do something different, or if they would gather together and work toward a single goal here.
  14. Time: October 3 Tensions continue to rise between Angola and Congo, accusations made and discounted, and some of the preparations being made by the King of the Congo were to be useful for what was to come. Attacks were made on the border at both sides, but by the time anyone arrived on location, the attackers were gone, vanished into the jungle, or wherever they might have gone. The final straw however, was as the leaders of Angola gathered in the capital to speak to the matter, whatever it was that they were about to call for, a huge lightning storm and dozens of tornado's devastated the city. The surviving members of the Angolan government accused Einherjar directly attacking their people and their capital, and declared war on the Congo, demanding the immediate surrender of the King to justice for his crimes against the people of Angola. Immediately, payed by the Angola goverment and their backers, about 12 nova elites attacked the border in retaliation for Einherjar's direct attack on the capital city of Luanda. Of course, those closest to Einherjar knew that this was contrived, that someone was manipulating the country of Angola to attack him, but outside of Congo itself, plenty of folks believed the story about his actions.
  15. This fiction is a continuation of Forbidden Fruits... The first three hours passed without much news pouring in to Darion. Then he started to get returns of information, some good, some bad. The good was that the information Star had found out about Van Hout was solid. The bad was discouraging: Ibiza authorities hadn’t found Sakura on any departing vehicles yet. The Congolese embassy had received his message and passed it along, but there was no Storm King full of fury, heralding his arrival with a raging storm. Darion found that curious – and infuriating. And Puck, Darrik’s great hope, had done a cursory search, said that he was having trouble finding her on the planet because he didn’t know her signature. He would keep looking and had been granted access to go into the Creche to search through lingering signatures to learn hers. But information and help was coming in. Geryon and other factions of the Teragen were responding with affirmations of help and the corners of the globe were being searched for her. His old allies in DeVries were donating their time to do their own searches and press their contacts for information. The best was that Snow and the lion-nova had woken up. Darion had gotten information from Snow, who was coherent long before ‘Tahir’ was. Even now, the odd nova seemed to have trouble taking a human form, which Darion found interesting – if a puzzle for later. Snow had told him about the attack. It was exactly what he had feared – careful and coordinated. Someone had planned this carefully. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Five Stars descended on Van Hout Elites’ offices in Taiwan. They occupied a small office complex on the outskirts of Taipei in the Wugu District. It was a quiet building among other quiet buildings and only the sign out front gave any hint to what was inside. Star didn’t bother with the door, instead ghosting through them. She did the same to the secretary’s office, moving past the woman without pausing, silent forms in quintet. The woman didn’t try to stop her, instead reaching under her desk. No doubt to warn someone. That was fine with Star. She was here to talk. The man in the big office was baseline-unassuming. She had heard him speaking in Mandarian before she passed through the wall. The man was hanging up, after telling his caller that he had to call back. There was a smile on his plain face as he rose and bowed to her. “Ms. Starseed. Welcome to Van Hout Elites. What may I do for you?”
  16. Name: Sun "Sunny" Kay Nova Name: Holmes Concept: Teen2Morrow believer in Teras, not the Teragen. Nature: Critic Allegiance: Teras, Utopia (in that order) Evolution: Secret Terat 2nd Gen, First Stage Archetype: Portent Theme: An intensely critical analyzer/profiler/detective in effect. HT: 5'8" WT: 140 lbs Hair: Black, fuzz crew cut. Eyes: A strange sort of reflective brown. Age: Born November 14th, 2009, age 17 Aberrations Minor: Aberrant Eyes: Sun's eyes are a shade of brown, that strangely is reflective. Minor: Anima Banner: When the banner activates, people nearby get a low-level instinctive sense of Sun's eyes on them, even when they aren't, staring and taking them apart. Minor: Eufiber Rejection: Sun's body simply won't take eufiber, much to his disappointment. Medium: Analytical: Sun would rather prefer to collect and consider extensive information before making a move. Medium: Vulnerability (Strobe Attacks): With Sun's enhanced perceptions so finely-tuned, dazzling attacks of one sort or other can unbalance them more readily. Background The product of an unexpected dalliance between a taint shifting Sin-Eater and Caroline Fong celebrating her release from Bahrain, Sun was naturally brought up in the Nursery. He did not seem to fit in with the rest, when he got older. He showed a deeper interest in the outside world than most, and was not content with the simple acceptance of the lessons given. To be truly sure that he could make a true decision, he left the Nursery for a fair time, several months after Puck's arrival. He traveled, explored, dared to see and swim in the nature of the different factions. And though he believed deeply in Teras, in a personal manner, Sun was disgusted. The malicious hunting that Leviathan's group of Harvesters did for fun, the schizophrenic horror shop of Heartland at times, the atrocities that the artistic members of the Pandaimonium committed in the name of "art", or the average abuse heaped on baselines by Pandemonium narcissists under Narcosis (Sun did not have a direct aimus against baselines) - the infighting, the schisms - the Teragen was simpy incapable of living up to the expectations of Teras and heading for self-destruction. The cruelest cut of all, weeks before Tarik and the Apostle had made any sort of move whatsoever, Sun had discovered their intentions. Horrified by the evidence of senior Pantheon members turning on the movement and the children- the proclaimed precious core of the future, he went to Jeremiah Scripture- and was paternally ignored, under the circumstances that Sun didn't have anything sufficiently tangible for proof. With the last straw, his faith gone, Sun disappeared before the attacks, and spent some time analyzing his options in seclusion. With the path of anihilation facing the Teragen, he needed to side with an organization that would side with novas within reason. It seemed contradictory to join Utopia, but the main body of the organization did not support Proteus, the true culprit, and would not accept those hooks any more. Having spent time and effort to craft a blank past and data trail, Sun eventually showed up as Sunny Kay, presenting himself as a young 1st generation nova to Utopia and being cautiously recruited into Teen Tomorrow. He spent several months in training and active work before his existence as a Utopian agent became first noticed in the public eye. The backlash will come from the Teragen, but Sunny accepts it. After all, it was the Bible, a baseline work that was well known to comment about how easily criticism comes unaccompanied by balancing self-comment. (60NP build) ATTRIBUTES Physical (Tertiary) STR: ●● DEX: ●●●● (Coordinated) STA: ●●●● (Determined) Mental (Primary) PER: ●●●●● (Observant) INT: ●●●●● (Discerning) WIT: ●●●●● (Ingenious) Social (Secondary) APP: ●● MAN: ●●● CHA: ●●● (3 NP spent) Abilities: Brawl: Might: Athletics: ●●● Drive: Firearms: Legerdemain: Martial Arts: ●●● Melee: Pilot: Stealth: ●● Endurance: ●●● Resistance: ●●● Awareness: ●●●●● Investigation: ●●●●● Navigation: Academics: ●●●● Bureaucracy: Computer: ●●● Engineering: Intrusion: ●● Linguistics: ●● (Chinese, Hindi) Medicine: Science: ●● Survival: Arts: Biz: Rapport: ●●●●● Intimidation: ●●● Style: Diplomacy: Interrogation: Streetwise: ●●● Subterfuge: ●●● Carousing: Command: Etiquette: ●● Perform: (4 NPs spent) Backgrounds: Backing (Utopia) ●● Node ● Contacts ●●● Cipher ●●●●● (4 BPs spent, NP spent) Merits: Iron Will - 6 Flaws: Secret (Really a second generation former Terat) - 1 Enemy: The Teragen - 4 Quantum: ●●●●● Quantum Pool: 50 Willpower: ●●●●● ●●● (10 BP spent) Taint: Chrysalis: ● Resonance: Mega-Attributes Mega-Strength Mega-Dexterity Mega-Stamina ● (Adaptability, Tireless) Mega-Perception ●●●●● (Estimation, Quantum Attunement, Electromagnetic Vision, That Creepy Feeling, Analytic Taste/Touch, Hyperenhanced Hearing) Mega-Intelligence ●●●●● (Investigative Prodigy, Analyze Weakness, Discern Weakness, Discerning Mind) Mega-Wits ●●●●● (Hypercognition, Lie Detector, Multitasking) Mega-Appearance Mega-Manipulation Mega-Charisma (44 NP spent ) Quantum Powers Farsight - ESP (Distant Scan Extra) - ●● Inviolate Truths - Psychic Shield - ●● Just the Facts, Mam. - Empathic Shield - ●●● (9 NP spent) Combat Stats Base Soak: 5 Bashing / 3 Lethal Health Levels: Bruised x2, Hurt x1, Wounded x1, Injured x1, Crippled x1, Incapacitated x1 Initiative: 11
  17. Time: August 1 Location: Kinshasa Over the last few weeks, just as Shen had warned him, Einherjar got increasingly tense messages from Angola, the ambassador himself refused to actually meet with the king, instead sending messages. With someone of Enherjar's intelligence it was easy to see why, they were looking for reasons to be unhappy with the Congo in general and him in particular, what was more, Einherjar had reports from his spies that the Angolan goverment had hired the nova mercenary company lead by the woman known as the Blood Katana, a warrior just about as powerful as Einherjar. It was still a couple of weeks, ironically it was looking like the first few days of October was the time period the enemy was planning to make their move, whatever it might be, so there was time for the Storm King to prepare, overtly, and subtlety as he desired... there was also time to see to a talk with the woman who he was asking to oversee Morri's issues, it had only just been about a week sense they had that talk.
  18. STOP WARNING This fic contains all kinds of nastiness of various kinds, and the squeamish is encouraged to come get the synopsis from me in chat. There are scenes of extreme sex and violence and sexual violence in this fiction. You have been warned and proceed at your own risk.
  19. July 25th, 2027, 1:00 p.m. The Congo Einherjar had a meeting with Evo. Morri was torn between intruding on that meeting so she could remain close to Einherjar, or staying away from what was sure to be an angry meeting. Evo had seemed upset and after last night’s maelstrom of tears and hope and renewal, Morri really didn’t want to take another emotional roller coaster. Instead, as she and Einherjar ate lunch together, she said, “I think I’d like to go for a run while you meet with Evo.” He’d been relaxed until she’d brought up her run; it was subtle and he tried to hide it, but she knew he didn’t want her out of his sight right now. She could understand and even agree with the feeling but she couldn’t tie herself to his side forever. It had taken her years of pain and fear to learn to feel anything other than anxiety when he wasn’t around. She had no desire to do that again. And Einherjar was far stronger than she was, for he simply said, “Alright. Take care of yourself. I’ll see you when you get back.” Morri nodded in agreement. “How long do you think the meeting will take?” Einherjar snorted. “I’m not sure. Depends on how long he decides to yell at me before calming down enough for me to explain, and then how long it takes to explain and appease him. At least an hour, I’d guess.” “Sounds good.” And then they had spoken of other, lighter things; of his plans for the Congo and her expectations for the therapy she’d agreed to take last night, of good memories and future hopes. It was very delicate between them still, their new understanding of each other still uncertain. They walked together toward the meeting; when they came to the intersection where they were parting, he leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Enjoy your run,” he said, even if she knew that he wanted to tell her to stay there with him, where he could protect her. “Enjoy your meeting,” she told him with an impish smile to break the somber mood coming from him. Einherjar fixed her with a cool gaze before chuckling. “How do you always get to wiggle out of these things? I could make you come, you know.” “You could,” she replied. “You won’t.” She smiled at him and he sighed. “I’ll see you soon.” He gave her another hug, this one tight and holding for a few seconds longer than a normal hug. Then he released her and turned for Evo’s office. Morri went for the exit and the outdoors, moving at a slow run through the palace. She went to her room, looking for Tahir, frowning when she realized he wasn’t back yet. That was concerning but he was a big lion and infatuated with Sakura. He likely wrangled an invitation to stay with her. I hope they didn’t have sex, Morri thought. That would likely cause issues. Either way, there was no Tahir to invite and she headed for the jungle. She really needed to stretch her legs out and run.
  20. The invitation had come to the Open Flame not two days after the meeting; the new and improved Infinity was nothing else if not prompt. Dropped off by a burly nova who’d left the letter with a tip, Surtr was amused that she’d sent it on fine paper; someone had made this for her, because he could see a stylized flame watermark and it was colored a pale green. She'd apparently been having fun when thinking about how to invite him. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- The Huxton was lovely but old. Infinity didn’t say much, but Ragnarok, the head of Calling of Development asked a lot of questions and peered closely at everything. The group that looked at the back ways of the hotel was only made up of a small portion of the assembled meeting-goers. Most of the Cultists were wandering around, checking out the regular rooms. Though people had looked askance at Surtr, they hadn’t protested his presence. “What do you think?” Infinity asked the group once they’d assembled in the largest meeting room. It wasn’t quite large enough for them to be comfortable; there were already mutters that they’d have to tear out a wall to make a larger meeting room. “Plumbing’s going to go,” Ragnarok immediately said, “and in an ugly way.” “Is that a no?” she asked raising an eyebrow. “That’s a factor that into the cost, as in lower it several thousand, unless they want to do the work before they sell,” he said. “Two hundred and eight rooms is a great start for a school. Plenty of places to stay and live, if the instructors want, or for students to live.” Infinity felt rather than saw Surtr’s slight start of interest. The meeting was unlike most Teras meetings Surtr had seen. There was a lot of energy in the room; the Cult had truly mobilized behind their leader and right now, things were rolling forward. There was mention of the school as the primary focus, but also recruitment and something called ‘Callings’. Surtr remembered nothing of this from his lessons on the Cult from before, and he remained silent as the terms were thrown around rather than interrupt with questions. He was sure that Infinity could answer them. The meeting started with updates, then a general discussion about the hotel and whether it suited their needs. The meeting ended with a decision to buy the hotel; Infinity got a good asking price to start the bidding with, as well as the top price they would pay. She closed by assigning activities to each of the Callings over the next two weeks. Then she dismissed and everyone filtered out. Several people stopped to talk to her some more, and Surtr patiently waited. Finally, they were alone, and Infinity led the way out to the hotel’s bar – which had been a definite selling point for some of the Cultists. A few words with the staff got them a seat in the corner, where they would be left alone and unheard. “Thanks for coming, Surtr,” Infinity said, her fingers resting on her glass of Irish Coffee. He heard her shoes hit the floor and she shifted like she was drawing her legs up under her. Steam rose from around melting whipped cream as she gave him an expectant look and asked, “What’dja think?”
  21. Name- Yokiko Hideyoshi nova name Stargazer Age 16 Height 5’8 Hair black Eyes blue Bloodtype AB+ Mass 52kg Sometimes Even powerful pretercogs cannot see the future that awaits as a consequence of their actions. For Angela Waters, Known as the Terat Timeslip, this happened only twice in her life. She was beautiful in a unique way, In that her entire body, eyes, hair, skin all looked as if one was gazing into the far reaches of space. No one could tie her down, no one could even tame her. Letting her hair down in the Amp Room, She Enjoyed the company of an Elite that night, as he proved to be more than a tool of the monkeys. Long, The Elite looked like someone who could easily be a member of the Harvesters. Standing eight feet tall and covered in fine white and black fur, he looked much as if a Tiger had decided that it would walk on two legs. His head was that of a tiger, complete with powerful pointed fangs and teeth, and retractable claws tipped his hands and feet. He even had a long stripe-furred tail, something he used to great effect to arouse Timeslip as they sat, drank and spoke. What followed as they left the club together was a night of not quite drunken but certainly more relaxed sex than either expected. She was capable of accommodating him fully, and for all his more feline quirks she grew only more aroused, stating his abandonment of humanity only aroused her more. As dawn came, the two of them lay on a deserted beach on some forgotten island in the South Pacific. She left him after that, after looking to his future. He saw some pink haired nova at a wedding, and smiled. He’d not tame her, though as she thought of her bruised anatomy and their evening together, He had certainly proven his mettle. He would be remembered, in case she felt the desire for his companionship again, at least until the pink haired nova showed up. She would never look him up again. Indeed, she would curse him, and herself, for more than anyone else, he HAD succeeding in tying her down, just not in a way either of them expected. Nine weeks later, Timeslip gave birth to a healthy baby girl, thanks in large part to her understanding and manipulation of time. She named the young girl Yokiko Hideyoshi, after her father, and truly intended to turn her over to him then and there. Still something within her caught, as she turned to leave his home, and she kept Yokiko after all. What followed was a more whirlwind childhood than any child should know, as Timeslip traveled to other realities on a whim, taking her daughter, but not really making precautions for her. She was not the best mother, but she did try to provide some warmth for the unexpected addition to her life. Yokiko proved to be a very intelligent child, easy to teach with a inhuman intelligence. Still she was a constant reminder of a failure of Timeslip’s. She had a human body, but was covered in the same fur as her father, though her hair and the black areas of her fur were resplendent with the same starfield pattern as her mother. Her eyes too were like this, though if you focused on them you could see there was a lot of blue there that formed into vaguely feline-like eyes. Five years, countless worlds, and a lack of vision later, Timeslip took her daughter to The Nursery, leaving her there without a single word to her, and vanished from the world altogether. She had seen, or rather hadn’t seen something in regards to Yokiko’s future, and it spooked her so badly that she could no longer bear the strain of raising her, instead, she abandoned her to the movement, scarring the child nova deeply. Without hesitation Bounty took her in, and Scripture took a marked interest in her upbringing. She was more than slightly remarkable, conceived without Bounty’s aid, and noted for being a beautiful young girl in addition to her intellect. For her the night sky offered great solace, as she wished to see her birth parents. One, her father, she’d never known. Her mother, she wished to see to ask why she’d done this to her. In time she came to enjoy the company of a few others there, Infinty and Norman led the list of the children she would call friends, but she knew others, sure. Her powers weren’t the kind given to showy demonstrations, but she reveled in their usage, walking the path of a Marvel. She was known for her innovative ways of using her powers, mending broken things by reversing the flow of time, She could even heal wounds with it. She had great versatilility, developing as one would expect from a daughter of parents such as hers. Perhaps most surprising was her relative innocence in sexual matters, stemming largely from a proclivity for enjoying female company more than male. This did bother some of the boys. When she turned fifteen, She thanked Bounty and Scripture, and of course, Mal himself, and set off on a journey of her own, into the recesses of space. This trip was something few expected, as she’d shown such promise, coming out of her shell more and more as of late. Her journey took her across the stars, beyond where any human had traveled, and finally it returned her home, to find the world was simply not as she knew it to be. She arrived in time to get the invite to the grand meeting of the Teragen, and hastily made plans to go, not even having the time to reconnect with Norman, Infinity, or her mentor before hand. Powers Yokiko’s powers are somewhat like a person took a quantum shotgun and fired at her signature. Blessed with superhuman perception, intelligence, wits and appearance, she is far beyond the aspiriations of baselines. Her main power as such is the ability to control time in its many facets. She can manipulate space as well, though most notably this manifests as her ability to open warps between worlds and star systems. A power she’s found more than slightly useful to accomplish many things at once is the ability to create temporal copies of herself. Working in tandem with other great intellects, each tasked with thinking a different way about a problem has helped her thus far, and served to amass a significant fortune for herself, before she left on her journey. Possessing only the most rudimentary combat ability, She focuses more on understanding fundamental forces and phenomenon. Personality Yokiko is a quiet studious girl most of the time. The Stars are her passion, and she spends considerable time studying them intently. Aside from that, she enjoys weaving and sewing. More than one tapestry hanging about the nursery came from her nimble fingers. She has a pleasant voice to sound hear her sing, while not on the level of a Novox singer, she’s seldom told to stop. Aside her quiet nature, the things she’s passionate about can and do excite her, as she can ramble on about many scientific theories, engineering procedures, and the use and study of quantum fueled abilities. She’s quite protective of her tail, only allowing a small handful of people to touch it, and almost always only women. Generally her tail indicates her mood, it’s activity serving as a noticeable and noted tell. This is part of why she dislikes gambling, she can’t bluff worth a damn because her tail betrays her.
  22. The storm followed them back to the Congo. Morri knew that Ein didn’t mean it, that the storm was an expression of his disappointment in her. Evo had come out of the club and, seeing them in the air, had followed. The beating of his wings had been a loud hum as he had joined them, keeping pace with King of the Congo as he flew to his palace. For a moment, it seemed like he’d be as quiet as Ein and Morri, but he wasn’t able to hold his tongue. “Well?” The question was quiet, but somewhere between expectant and accusatory. “Can this wait?” There was no anger or bluster or Ein’s usual casual joviality in the king’s voice. “How long did you have in mind?” Evo queried, his tone carrying a warning. That stirred a mild reaction from Morri; she had been resting her head in the cleft of Ein’s shoulder, but now she opened her eyes to give Evo a faintly annoyed look. Scarily, it was a milder version of the same look that Einherjar gave him. “As long as it takes,” Ein said, some of his vigor returning to his voice. Then he amended, “We’ll talk tomorrow.” Evo scowled then said, “Fine. I’ll be expecting you in the conference room off my office at one in the afternoon.” “Fine.” When nothing more was said, Morri’s eyes drifted shut once again. She curled in closer to Einherjar, making herself a little more comfortable, and dozed off to sleep. When she awoke, it was because their speed and angle was changing. Like a passenger who’s realized the car has slowed and turned into the driveway, she realized they were nearing the end of their trip. She stirred sleepily, then remembered last night. Remembered the fight. Remembered that Ein was upset with her. Subtly, she took a sniff of him. He smelled very sad, and Morri shuddered as she realized it was her fault. Einherjar flew into his gardens and set down next to the entrance to his rooms. Evo had followed, only to have his king politely state, “I will see you at one, Evo. Morri and I have to talk first.”
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