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Aberrant: 200X - Gods of War: Victims of Circumstances


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"We should just kill her," someone said, voice thick with fear. The soldiers were trembling as they held their guns. She could feel the fear radiating from them. These men had seen what Novas could do when they went to war. No doubt they had thoughts of fire and unholy energies blazing in their minds.

Little did they know that if faced with such things she would be more likely to comment on how pretty the shades and colours were than to erect some great force field or gird herself for battle. Oh she had practiced a little in the distance past, with Scrambler. He had always been eager to teach her how a shapeshifter could defend themselves.

Chang had never been interested in it, though. She had learned, as she tried to learn everything about her own limitations and every possible use of her abilities. But faced with a Nova who trained in such things, she would be as defenseless as... well... as she was right now.

Her node ached, it felt ill. She could feel quantum energies dripping from it, swirling jerkily in it. It felt like a heart in palpatation. If they opened fire, she would die.

They did not, though. Every time one finger twitched on a trigger, it relaxed at the last moment. She could see reluctance in their eyes. Not born out of kindness, but lust. Oh she had a cock all right, but she had other parts, too, and she was more comely than the women they had seen.

These thoughts writ themselves large on the men's faces. The dilated pupils, bulging trousers, tongues running across lower lips. Rape then murder, they were thinking. But what could she do to stop me?

A thick-set man wearing the camouflaged green uniform and red beret of the Congolese army jumped down from a jeep and approached. He bore more sigils and signs on his breast than the others, and a pistol rather than a rifle. Chang believed that marked him as an officer. He did not seem happy to see her, nor eager to murder her out of hand. It seemed a marked improvement on the demeanour of the rank and file, at least.

He looked her over, face expression curdling in distaste as he viewed her member. She doubted he often ran into wounded, naked, beautiful and tainted Novas even in his line of work. "Who are you?" He asked, every word laden with demand.

"May I dress myself?" She asked.

At first it seemed he would repeat his question. But then he frowned, and his eyes darted around her, at the plane, at the blood, at the wreckage around her. "I see no clothes."

"I am a nova. I bring my own." She clenched her teeth. The pain was not lessening, but she was getting used to it.

The man nodded.

"This may be somewhat alarming. Please don't shoot me."

Chang waited a moment for another nod, and then her hair came to life. She began to wrap it around her body, while the soldiers gasped and started talking loudly about killing her. The officer, though, held up his hand for them to wait.

Her hair wrapped her body and tightened like a cocoon, then morphed into a thick camouflaged jacket and black cargo pants, with many pockets. She left a hole where the wreckage had penetrated her right leg, so the shard of steel could be removed later. At the same time, she formed a loose sling underneath her jacket, for her broken left arm. With a few adjustments of angle, she felt her arm was appropriately supported. That said, how could she tell? Her biology had transformed enough that Chang could only tentatively be defined as human. Ordinarily that pleased her, but it did cause a few quibbles when medical issues arose.

"My name is Chang Zha-Yang," she said, "otherwise known as White Rain. I am not an elite, but an artist." The truth, she thought, might not help her much in this instance, but she prefered to be honest with the world and herself. Nonetheless, her words choked in her throat for a moment. These men were carrying many guns. "I came here by accident, as I'm sure you must have realized."

The officer looked her over, focusing on the wound in her leg, assessing how much danger she posed. "You yield?"

Chang nodded.

"Bring me the cuffs," he said, extending his arm towards his men. "Your left arm is broken?"

She nodded again.

"So much the better. Expose it."

Chang unwound her hair from her arm, made a momentary split in her jacket, and winced as her arm fell free.

The officer received a pair of glistening manacles and approached. She knew of these. Shock cuffs, she had seen them used on Novas in the past. Hyper tough and capable of delivering an agonizing electric charge when needed, they were generally enough to keep a hyper-physical Nova from being a threat.

They were not much of a danger to a flexible shapeshifter like herself, though.

Nonetheless, she gasped when he seized her wrist and yanked her left arm straight. Stars exploded in her eyes, and she breathed heavily as she manacled her wrists together, then violently threw her arms down at the ground. When her left arm collided with her body, Chang let out a long hiss of pain and pitched forwards.

For a moment she thought she may have lost consciousness, for in a flash her eyes were full of the molten texture of the fire-blasted earth. Some of it had been scorched near to glass.

A new pain, but tolerable, filled her being as the officer grabbed her by the hair where it melded into her clothes and yanked her upright. She looked up in time to see the butt of his pistol as he whipped it into her head.

The air filled with mocking laughter as she pitched backward onto the ground, a gasp no more dramatic than a baseline's escaped her lips.

"Get her up, put her on the back of the wagon, and keep your guns on her. But don't shoot unless she attempts to escape. The commander will want her interrogated first."

Chang cried out when they grabbed her by the arms and dragged her to her feet. The cry earned her nothing but a kick to the wound in her leg, and now tears of pain formed in her eyes. She had never weighed much. Now her feet dragged as she was carried to the wagon and tossed on it like a sack of potatoes.

The metal felt oddly forgiving underneath her. Oh, it was hard enough, but she could feel miniscule cracks in the metal. An old vehicle, this, one weighed down with use and stained with blood.

Lying on her side, she was surrounded by the scuffed boots of a dozen soldiers. Whatever fear they had felt being in the presence of a Nova had melted away and been replaced with contempt. They shoved her with the muzzles of their guns, else kicked her when they liked. Her flesh bent oddly, betraying her unnatural flexibility. That amused them, and they kicked her harder.

She endured, stayed as silent as she could. But that enflamed them, and when the hardest of their kicks took her in the eye she cried out and curled on herself, while their commanding officer told them to lay off.

It seemed a sad way to meet her end. A small, pathetic thing. It would not do.

Chang thought of Shae, the beautiful changeling who had cavorted for her, taking different forms for the camera to drink up, of Sunshine with his music and aura, of Edward and Bombshell and Scrambler who had plunged her into this situation.

So much potential. So much to come that she had not experienced. Good reasons to live.

She tried to rest. For now she had no power, and no opportunity to escape.

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An hour passed, the jolting grumbling progress of the truck never seeming to slow or get any faster as it wound its way to whatever destination the owners had in mind. Chang felt some of her portion of strength recover, but it seemed pitifully small against these men and their guns and their hard, merciless temperaments.

She'd never really spent all that much time around dangerous people. To be sure, Scrambler and his clique fancied themselves as dangerous. But for all his neo-anarchistic posturing, her old mentor had been raised in the First World, his baseline life spent in relative comfort and security in a society that promoted the value of life. Here, looking at the faces of the soldiers, Chang saw that these men placed no value on life at all except theirs, and even that value was a crabbed, stunted thing. The law of club and spear making right had given way to the law of the gun and bomb - art wasn't valued. Nor was philosophy, or literature, or any non-practical form of training or education. Soldiers were the most valued in this land, men who would kill, mutilate and rape to gain and keep power ruled here. She wondered if there was a parallel between the baseline monstrosity that the men staring at her embraced and the Monster of the Teras path.

That thought was cut off at the sudden, ominous whistle that cut across her sensitive hearing like a knife. The truck jerked a split second before the *boom* of the explosion and the cries of men in shock reached her ears. All around the suddenly-stopped truck, from the trees on both sides of the trail came flashes of light and sharp crackling sounds of small-arms fire.

The convoy was under attack.

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A thousand new sounds assaulted her person, enough to make her eyes roll back in her head and for her to make a low, keening sound that might have been fear or excitement or a mixture of both.

The crack of bullets, the slip-slide of mortar shells into their launchers, the sound of bullets tearing flesh and blood spraying like rain... all new.

All dangerous.

Chang only gave herself a few seconds to drink in the sounds before she turned to her own survival. The soldiers in the wagon were piling out, ignoring her now they had to concentrate on their own survival.

Yet for all that, she had no idea what to do. Her knowledge of combat was non-existent, her experience likewise.

How did one avoid getting killed in this situation?

The wagon would be the target of explosives. She knew that intellectually, and then physically when the vehicle rocked alarmingly and she felt every bit of it rattling and breaking underneath her. If a mortar shell landed on the back with her, that would be it.

Chang flushed herself with some of the meagre energies remaining in her node. She had felt some returning, and the ride had given her time to meditate, to relax a little and open her node up to absorb more.

She softened herself more and more, until the woman-shape she usually adopted flowed and dripped like cream. She poured herself up the side of the wagon and slopped onto the bullet-ripped road, flattening and spreading herself out as best she could, running in rivulets into explosive-born ditches and around fresh-made corpses.

The battle raged around her. Orders and shouts and death screams assaulted her. She drank it all in, and stilled herself in the center of the battlefield, equidistant from the vehicles where the soldiers were clumped up, and a distance from all of the survivors.

It seemed a reasonable theory that if she avoided the living people were less likely to shoot in her direction by accident.

Regardless, this could be where she died. Right here, beneath a foreign sky, surrounded by baselines who cared nothing for her and would likely care less when they learned a few details.

Even though her death could go unsung, Chang would not die a hypocrite. She would not hide from that truth, if it had come to find her. She would take in every detail, every sound, every sight and smell and vibration and horrible detail.

Her flesh-pool self rippled and quivered as explosions and screams ripped the air, as shrapnel tore through bodies and spattered the ground. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Just a roll of the dice and a fragment of hope between herself and her end.

She clung to it, and waited.

Click to reveal..
Spending 3 QP to activate shapeshift and rolling [3,8,2,2,5,8,5] for 2 successes and 2 levels of density decrease.

QPool: 10

Health levels: 4/7

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The soldiers seemed to be holding their own. Though taking massive casualties in the first few seconds of the ambush they quickly adapted and fell back on their training, moving in fire teams to cover and picking off any targets that presented themselves. Chang was wondering if it would be enough, and who the attackers were, when suddenly the battlefield changed.

From the haze of mingled smokes caused by burning vehicles, men and propellant a form coalesced, a tall African man with skin that of a grey hue and roiling, shifting consistency as if he, too, were made of smoke. The figure breathed in and expanded, becoming huge as though feeding on the burning particles that stung the eyes of the baselines around him. A living cloud now, he made straight for the large knot of troops around the officer whom had ordered Chang taken prisoner and engulfed them.

Choking screams emerged from the cloud, along with a couple of soldiers who staggered out, coughing and trying to breathe past the grey haze that trickled from their mouths and nostrils, unmoved by their frantic efforts to shift it until they fell to the ground dead, all clean air forced from their lungs. The smoke billowed forth then, rejoining the larger mass of the cloud-nova who lifted from his position into the air revealing a dozen more dead men, the officer amongst them.

"Moshi! Moshi!" the Congolese soldiers screamed, pointing at the intelligent cloud of smoke that began to swoop down on them. From the forest around the ambush site, the rest of the attackers evidently took fresh heart from this new ally, the noise of their firing redoubling along with their shouted exhortations to one another.

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She knew danger when she saw it. The new Nova could be anything. An elite, a Terat, probably not a Utopian unless he was on a holiday, or some random would-be god-king. It was easy to become such out here.

Chang had a need to breathe, just as those men had. She found herself thinking of what would be the worse way to die, asphyxiation or gunshots.

Most like, both were as bad as the other.

She looked at the expression o the officer's face. He had struck her. Hurt her. An hour ago he had been the one in power, she his captive and at his mercy. Now he was dead, and she was free. But free to what?

Though it hurt to move even in this liquid state, Chang flowed slowly across the ripped-up ground. The gunfire had slackened, the explosions had ceased. There was no reason to suspect she would be in danger.

She made sure to flow underneath any corpses she came across. Her many fleshy rivulets slid under them like an encroaching carpet, and she spread herself as wide and thin as she could to avoid detection as she made her way towards the treeline, a living, wounded puddle slipping away from a battlefield.

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Click to reveal..
Node ping. grin
Einherjar *rolls* 5d10: 5+8+1+10+1: 25
2 succs

The fight didn't take long. As Chang made her slow, stealthy progress towards the trees her senses clearly picked up the dying cries of men behind her, the triumphant shouts of the attackers, and the hollow voice like rushing wind that could only be the strange nova, issuing orders in a bastard mixture of French and native tongues.

She was ten feet from the trees when the shy darkened overheard, the billowing form of the smoke-nova arcing overheard in a swirl before coalescing on the ground before her. Solid, he still looked as though his substance was firm smoke rather than flesh, his skin roiling and drifting in the breeze. He was tall and well-built, possessing the classic nova physique though tending towards lean muscle rather than bulk, and dressed simply in an ash-stained loincloth. All of him was shades of smokey grey and black, save his eyes, which simmered like two hot embers as they looked her way.

"Do not flee." he said in French. "We know you are no friend to the pigs of Kinshasa. But we would know who you are, that is so easily overpowered by mortal men. We who ask you this are called Ifu."
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She had heard victory cries a thousand times. In movies. On TV. At least, before she stopped watching one and then both. From time to time she had made short films, but they were not really her medium, nor where her interests lay.

Hearing that sound, she wondered if they had any value at all. For this was so different, so much more real and more savage and more glorious than the recorded shouts that the movie industry liked to call victory. It was a feeling in the air, a feeling that only came from people who had just fought for their lives and to claim the lives of others, and mingled relief and satisfaction and hunger and other things she could not quite name.

At the same time she had felt sure her escape was complete. The men had no interest in searching for something they had almost certainly not seen in the chaos, and would be busy picking the dead for ammunition and supplies. No doubt they would need to be gone soon, too, in case reinforcements might arrive.

Those thoughts came to an end when the sky darkened, when the living smoke cloud drifted over and coalesced into the tall smoke-man, looking on her with his burning eyes.

"Do not flee." he said in French. "We know you are no friend to the pigs of Kinshasa. But we would know who you are, that is so easily overpowered by mortal men. We who ask you this are called Ifu."

Tribal, was her instant thought. To call him dressed down would be a drastic understatement. He seemed to have no need of clothes, for certain, but even those Novas who had no need of them wore them out of habit.

He certainly did not sound like an elite.

Chang drew herself together, rising up out of the ground. Her face formed first, as she pushed her liquid self up and formed the famliar curves and angles the world knew. Her head came, then her hair, forming right out of the pool, her shoulders, chest and its three prominent breasts, then the beginnings of her cock and hips. The process stalled a little when it came to putting her legs together, though, for her injury still remained, a bloody hole right through her thigh.

After reforming, naked and glorious before him, Chang wound her hair around herself and molded it into a simple white buttoned shirt and trousers, and pinned her shaft up against her body as usual. She held her left arm, which still hung useless, and could not quite stand up straight, as her right leg would not properly support her.

"I am Chang Zha-Yang," she said, answering Ifu in French, "known to some as White Rain. I am an artist and musician, and my eruption was far more interested in making me more so than preparing me for war. Nonetheless, I believe I could have evaded them if not for my injuries. Suffice it to say, I'm no threat to you, and I did not come here by choice."

She took a deep breath. Now came the most important question. She asked it without fear in her voice or on her face, for reality was rarely as fearsome as possibility. "I am at your mercy. What will you do with me?"

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Ifu's reaction to her was one of keen interest, Chang saw immediately as she reformed, followed by a slight double-take at her exaggerated maleness, followed by pensive consideration. The other nova plainly saw no need or had no ability at hiding his responses, and despite his forbidding exterior it made Chang wonder at how old he really was. It was certainly hard to tell when his features shifted like smoke.

"Artist. Musician." he mused aloud in a voice that carried a faint crackle of burning wood, the orange glow of his eyes on her. "Can you travel, White Rain?" he looked at her injuries as though they answered the question for him.

"Not fast." Chang answered, nodding in agreement with the plain evaluation stamped on his face. Ifu nodded and turned to his men, the bulk of whom were gathered at a respectful distance whilst others roamed the battlefield, dispatching the enemy wounded and forming litters for their own. He pointed at her and said a few words in a tribal dialect of some kind, and six of the men broke off from the rest and jogged to the treeline. Five minutes work with evil-looking hatchets, some of them still blood-smeared, and a litter was being lashed together.

"You will come with us, Chang Za-Yang White Rain. My men will tend your wounds and we will talk of why you are here. But later, for whilst the helicopters and planes of the army are few, the gods who fight for gold are more plentiful." Ifu gestured for her to climb onto the litter. "My people will bear you comfortably enough."

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There was something oddly heartening about seeing that intimidating smoke man straighten up a little when he first saw her cock. Everything around her had become so foreign, so unfamiliar, so new. Not that, though. Her endowment outdid anyone, and it made people react.

How did Scrambler phrase it? Taint Pride? Maybe this was what he meant.

She looked over at the litter that had been made for her, feeling somehow... lessened by the fact she would lie upon it rather than be it. Yet her node still ached, and the universal forces it drew upon leaked in but slowly. There were moments when philosophical perfection needed to be settled gently in the corner to glare sullenly at her while practical concerns took center stage.

Chang did feel guilty when she edged into the litter. She could almost feel Scrambler's disgust. But this Ifu seemed welcoming enough, and this small show of trust seemed unlike to come back to hurt her.

She lay down and folded her hands atop her central breast, and tried to relax. She supposed that at least they hadn't kicked her in the eye yet.

However she looked at it, that sounded like an upgrade to her transportation arrangements.

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  • 2 weeks later...

These people were plainly tribal, though they carried modern weapons with the ease and familiarity of much use. With bundles of goods looted from the military caravan lashed to their backs they followed Ifu into the hilly terrain without complaint or hesitation. And Chang was taken along for the ride, not as booty but as a guest.

Ifu flowed along beside the litter carried by his men, as graceful as the wind even in his solid form and trailing little streamers of ashen smoke. He didn't speak beyond the occasional terse command, but two more of his men paced the litter on the left side, now and then offering Chang water or dried strips of meat to eat and generally ensuring her comfort. They conferred quietly over her wounds at the first rest stop, then with her permission bound them, packing the bandages with some manner of poultice. Plant-based, from what Chang could taste through her skin, and a mild opiate at that. Not that mild opiates could have an effect on a nova, but it was obvious that these men were trying to ease her discomfort.

Every so often the column halted and sought cover in the dark spaces under fallen trees and in the shadow of giant roots as Ifu gave a silent hand signal. They waited tensely, eyes on the small patches of sky visible through the thick canopy. Twice on these occasions, Chang's hearing picked up the distant *whup* of helicopter blades, but on several more times there was no sound at all. Ifu seemed to have cause nonetheless for calling these halts.

Finally they rounded a high forested hill and came upon a cave system dug into it's side. There the men relaxed and laid down their burdens, digging over the old firepits and making camp for the night. From the snatches of conversation she understood, White Rain gathered that they would make it 'home' tomorrow.

Ifu disappeared, but the two men who'd been tending to her brought her food aplenty and gently washed her wounds with spring water from the back of the main cave, before re-bandaging them. Chang felt better now, her reserves having restored themselves during the restful travel. The wounds were still painful, however, as the Terat's exploration of control over her own flesh had not yet led her to the fantastic regenerative powers others of her kind possessed.

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It felt odd to be treated this way. She could not say why, really. Novas were supposed to be used to being waited on hand and foot by baselines. Not her though.

She had had her moments, yes. At the charity event she had happily been served wine and cake by baselines. But she never asked for that, nor arranged it. They were menials, and that had been their purpose.

Among these tribesmen, for the first time, Chang saw the depth of her own indifference. It was not simply that she had not grown accustomed to baselines fawning over her, it felt uncomfortable.

When the baselines addressed her she responded with her usual soft courtesy. That much came to her on instinct. At times she knew they had failed her, usually when her lusts were enflamed and her usual thought patterns were unsettled. But when calm and in control, they came as easily as breathing.

Chang studied the bandages around her wounds, considering. She had seen Novas heal even the most fantastic wounds in moments, shrug off wounds unthinkable, laugh in the face of death in myriad forms.

Not her, though.

To be laid low by such a tumble was a base and humble thing, but a worthwhile reminder of her place in the world. War and her did not blend well.

By the time the tribesmen laid Chang down in one of the caves, she had begun to settle. To be so firmly 'among' baselines felt odd, but she no longer felt so out of depth, so lost. Her tumble from the skies had thrust her into danger, but Ifu seemed a lucky find. He saw weakness in her but had chosen not to take advantage as yet. She did not doubt he had some thought in mind for her, perhaps to assist his people?

That seemed a right fit for the situation. A tribesman who erupted in the war, perchance? Such a Nova would rise to power fast. He could protect his people from baseline predators for certain, and if he could contest with other Novas...

Chang did what she did best. She watched. She listened.

Whatever vile substance Scrambler had dosed her with seemed to have worn off. She felt energetic again, alive and thrumming with power. She used it now to open her body to the world. To listen and feel and smell the world.

The soldiers clustered and drifted hither and thither. They remained alert even at rest. She could hear them talking. Many talked about her, but none indicated what would be done with her. They said only that Ifu would decide. Ifu himself said little and less. He was quiet enough that even her perceptions struggled to pick him out, and he said nothing to his men save for soft-spoken oders. This Nova kept his own council, it seemed.

Perhaps that in itself might provide a clue to his intentions. A little companionship. An ally where allies were sorely needed.

She listened most to those on watch, their soft chatter of enemies faced and mumbles about politics and war. She listened and absorbed it all. Information could decide her life before long. It would not do to be unprepared.

Chang slipped into a sort of 'soft' meditation. A practical sort rather than her Teras-imposed introspection. She considered her wounds, her body, and how she might heal herself. Control was at the heart of Teras. Chang had felt herself growing steadily more flexible as she pushed herself to stretch further and still further over time.

It had been there at the beginning. She had discovered it by accident, when painting some time after her eruption. A rare misstep had caused her to drop a paintbrush and, vexed, she had thought to pick it up. But she dared not take her eyes from the canvas, from the spot she had been focused upon. The quantum had blazed through her, and that strange stretching sound had been heard for the first time, and all the odd and pleasant sensations that came with it. Her arm had reached the ground and the brush easily enough, and she had gone on with the work.

That had been years ago, though, and she had pushed herself near every day. At first she had spanned the distance between couch and television. Now... in truth she had not tested her limits of late. Her focus had been on creation, not on the raw power she possessed.

After this ended, if it ended, she thought she would put some time aside to test. She could not afford to lose sight of what she was. Where she stood, after all, indicated where she might be going. It did no good to walk blindly on the path of Teras. That way led to doom.

So she waited, and thought about healing, and pain, and how perhaps she might will her body to knit itself back together. It had taken years to become as flexible as she was today. If it took that long to motivate her body to heal itself...

Well. She supposed she had best get started with the encouragement.

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