Jump to content

Mutants & Masterminds: The Unlikely Prophets - Fists and Phantoms: Sharatur/Norman


Recommended Posts

Terry, Francis and Sharatur had gathered in her office. The Knights were tied up around one of the museum's support beams, and disarmed - Terry knew a thing or two about guns and had field-stripped their weapons. Terry was a bit shaky as the adrenaline left him. Francis for his part, was inspecting the mineral sample.

"I'm sure that this was a different color before." Francis traced a gloved finger along the fist-like formation. "I'm sure it was."

Terry coughed. "They're gonna send more. Uh, I think you're gonna be in trouble, Shar... they do bad things in jail to people who beat up the Knights."

"They attacked her first."

"They did, but you think they're gonna care? That's not gonna even come up at the trial. Shar, I think you need to - "

Sharatur's phone chirped.

"... to answer that."

A continent away, Norman stood in a phone booth, waiting for an answer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur had had some few minutes to gather herself together and deal with these changes. She still wasn't anywhere near centered, but the strange, hard place she had retreated to seemed to be receding. Which only allowed the panic to gather strength within her.

What had she just done? The Knights Watchman were here to provide stability and order to the world, protect those who cannot protect themselves. Order! So far as she could tell, she had just made an enemy of the entire Order! She had never even shoplifted before this moment, and now there were two Knights that she had just assaulted unconscious and tied up right here in her beloved museum! She was reasonably certain that was not something that The Law took lightly!

But that was utterly mundane compared to the most burning question of all: How had she done it? Teleportation! It was impossible! Yet she had done it. And there was other knowledge inside her--implanted inside her!--apparently by an inanimate geological deposit. She somehow knew that she had yet to plum the depths of that knowledge, and may never completely succeed! It was laughably absurd even to think about. But with her gaze resting on her prisoners, she found she had no inclination whatsoever towards amusement.

And then the phone rang.

She stared at Terry blankly. He wanted her to answer it? She was struggling to come to terms with the new, shocking rules of this entirely alien and radical universe she had somehow just stepped into (hur hur hur, her mind gibbered, yep not entirely centered yet)...and he wanted her to answer the phone?

Her hand reached out and flipped it open, brought it to her ear. "...Hello?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman played the conversation over and over in his mind, toying with various outcomes. Ultimately he considered skepticism and rejection the most likely, but his duty to Mr. De Vasch would not permit it. He briefly, very briefly, regretted not spending more time with the living to get his social skills up to snuff. He tried to compensate by practicing his delivery as he made the call.

"Miss De Vasch? Hi, I'm calling about your father... No."


"Greetings, am I speaking with Sharatur De Vasch? I have something extremely... No."


"Your daddy loves you! ... Ugh."


He nearly dropped the phone as the other end picked up. The part of his brain he had been planning to use for this exchange shut down entirely and something else took over. He spoke with sincerity.

"Oh, hello? Is this Sharatur? Please, don't hang up. I'm a friend of your father's."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Uh, this really isn't a good time. I don't want to be rude, but I have to go. What did you want?"

"I need to deliver a message from Alexander, your father. I'm sorry to interrupt but this is important."

There was a pause. "Uh, I hate to break this to you, but my father is dead."

"I know that. That's part of why you need to hear this. Just, just listen. I'm not crazy, and I'm not asking for anything from you. Your father needs you to know that he is sorry that he let your moving away come between the two of you. He needs you to know that he loves you very much." Norman kicked himself silently. Sane people never insisted that they weren't crazy.

Sharatur began to grow angry now. This, on top of everything else. "What is this? Who are you?"

Norman took a deep breath. "You can call me Norm. Like I said, I'm a friend of your father's. He wanted me to pass this along to you, so I did. It's not my business exactly, but I think it'd be good for both of you if you took it to heart."

Something about the way he spoke...the anger began to evaporate. "When exactly did he ask you to do this?" she demanded.

Norman was not given to deception, plus he had been charged with spreading the word that the dead were still floating around, but he was a little concerned that being frank would undermine what progress he was making. He attempted to compromise by answering very quickly, in the hope that Sharatur wouldn't quite hear him and would just let it go, "Er...less than an hour 'go."

Sharatur put her hand on her forehead. She didn't say another word, she just closed her phone.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...Or, she started to.

Then she hesitated. Thought about it for a long few moments, holding the phone ready to be closed the entire time.

She brought the phone back to her ear.

Her voice was cold, businesslike when she returned. She almost sounded like a completely different person. "'Norm', I'm going to say something very important to you. Whether I stay on the phone with you any longer will depend upon you giving me a response that can only indicate you must have certain key crucial knowledge it is impossible for you to otherwise have. Is this clear?"

Norman's eyes widened, now that she mentioned it it would have been a grand idea to pick up some key crucial knowledge from Mr. De Vasch for just this purpose. "Ok." He replied.

Sharatur took a deep, steadying breath. This was a surprisingly difficult step for her to take. Harder than using magical teleportation to kick the crap out of the law enforcement. It meant...truly acknowledging everything that had happened to her. That her world had changed irrevocably and radically. And it meant putting at least a little trust in a stranger's voice on the other end of a nonsensical phone call.

She was rather distantly proud that her voice only shook a little bit as she spoke two words. "The Mathemagician."

Norman paused. As usual, while his brain spun up and began to massively over-complicate the matter, his mouth got right to work. "Who are you? Why are you here?" his voice came across in a whisper with just a tinge of wonder behind it.

"Oh God." Sharatur choked out, the back of her hand covering her mouth.

"It wasn't just me then!" Norman's smile was evident in his voice, "Have you met with the dead yet? Do you know what the Order is planning to... to..." Norman's voice cut out for a moment and was replaced by a conspiratorial whisper, though the excitement was still evident, "Having this conversation over the phone network may not be the best idea in the world, given the skills of our mutual acquaintance."

Sharatur gave a shakey, slightly despairing laugh. "Met with the dead? No. No, can't say I have. I might though! Who knows what could happen? I don't! I thought I did, but I don't!" She realized she was dangerously close to babbling, and with an effort of will brought herself back under control. "Yes, we should meet," she said, suppressing the twinge of guilt as her gaze lit upon the two unconscious Knights. "Uh, I don't know where, exactly...?"

"I'm in Chicago. I have your address. I could maybe make it down to you in a couple days..." He trailed off as he began to consider the logistics.

"No! No! That, uh, that won't work. Really, I can come to you. I need to get away..." She winced. Oh yeah, she was going to do very well in her new life as a criminal.

"Okay, okay." Norman tried to speak comfortingly as it occurred to him that other people's encounters with the Netherworld might not have gone as smoothly as his own, "Whatever the trouble is, I'll help if I can. If you can get to Chicago, I'm in Chinatown. We'll be able to work out a meeting place when you arrive. Is that okay?"

"Right. Yeah. That works." It was amazing how much of a difference it made, having someone else who apparently knew what he was doing offering advice. "I'll have to buy a ticket."

"Yeah. If you think you're in trouble, if they know who you are or something like that, that could be a problem. Less paperwork driving. I could meet you half way." Norman sounded a little uncertain about that offer. He wasn't sure he wanted to skip town when he had so much work to do in his own back yard.

She winced again. Was she that obvious? Damn. "Okay yeah, I can drive it. I'll leave soon. Uh, how do I get ahold of you?"

"If you have e-mail, the safest bet is yancandig@omail.ord. Otherwise," he rattled off his cell number.

Sharatur gave him her email as well. "I really do have to go now. I guess I will see you soon."

"Yeah, take care. Oh, and the message from your dad? Do try to keep that in mind. It might help."

"Yeah. Uh, thank him for me. Tell him...tell him I miss him." Very slowly, she closed her phone, then sat staring at it for a long, silent while.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman hung up and stepped out of the phone booth, frowning thoughtfully. That had not gone at all how he had expected. He was pretty sure it was good news though. Taking on he Order by himself had never really been an appealing prospect. Though as he thought on it now, he wasn't sure Sharatur had actually indicated any interest in that. She hadn't exactly sounded pleased with whatever her current circumstances were. Maybe the ghosts in Arizona were less civil.

He found himself wandering back toward the graveyard. If nothing else Mr. De Vasch would be pleased to hear that his message had been delivered, not to mention believed. Revealing that his daughter was coming for a visit, though, did not seem quite prudent. That could prove to be an awkward reunion which he didn't dare assume either side wanted to take part in.

More immediate concerns, such as how to deal with gang violence and the Order's impending Global Desecration Initiative gradually seeped back into the churning morass of Norman's thoughts. Most of the reasonable scenarios he was able to imagine ended with him getting laughed at and shot, not necessarily in that order. The gas-mask might offer some help. He had a pretty good idea of what the Tommy gun would be good for if he twisted it into existence, but he was not in the business of making new dead people to take care of. The airplane, though, might give him some worth-while leverage.

He didn't pull out the fragmented steering yoke until he reached the outskirts of the cemetery. He deliberately avoided the mortuary and the newer graves, hoping not to attract the attention of the living or the dead with his experimentation. The aura around this object was fainter than the others'. He tried to twist it as he had with the goggles and encountered resistance. Narrowing his eyes he wrapped his fists around it and brought all of his negligible might to bear, as if it were a stubborn mayonnaise jar. It didn't give, but the Necronaut was undaunted. He found a flagstone he was reasonably sure was not associated with anyone's burial and jammed one end of the yoke into the earth beneath it. Then he began to pry. He thought he felt it begin to twist in the strange nether-wise direction that seemed to lead to the essences of the departed. Then he tripped.

It wasn't like slipping on wet grass, he had done that often enough. It was like he had inadvertently pushed himself off of a window ledge. For a split second he felt himself falling in a direction he was sure he wasn't supposed to go. Then everything went dark. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't hear. He felt like his head was wrapped in concrete. He started to struggle and only after a few tense moments was he able to bring himself to his feet.

He found himself looking up at the cold grey sky. In front of him was, aptly enough, an imposing concrete obelisk, marking one of the cemetery's earlier graves. He reached out to touch it and, as he had anticipated, his hand passed right through it. He took a deep breath and leaned forward and, again as he had anticipated, the darkness and a profound lack of atmosphere returned. If he had been solid when he fell his head would have impacted the structure and one or both might have sustained damage.

He stood up straight and cast his eyes around with growing concern. Of his body there was no sign at all. Or, rather, since he was still breathing the relationship between his body and the rest of him hadn't changed. He had slipped into the netherworld, all the way this time. He tried to twist himself back the other direction but to his frustration only succeeded in giving himself an Indian burn.

"Hmm... Yeah, this could be a problem."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur looked down at her phone. "I have to leave" she realized, the implications starting to come fully clear. She looked up, around at her office, the place that had literally become her home away from home for so long. "I have to leave."

Her wandering gaze flinched off the Knights, and rested on the artifact. And in the blink of an eye she was standing before it--never realizing she had teleported to it from her seated position, never noticing Francis' and Terry's startlement. She stared down at the strange quartz with sudden loathing. She could do it, she knew. With the very knowledge imparted to her by the thing itself, it would so easy. She raised her hand. One precise strike was all that would be needed.

It had ruined her life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As Norman returned to the land of the dead, Alexander rose out of his gave. He waved. "How did it go? I thought I'd stay - the others are dispersing right now, getting the word out."

* * *


Francis coughed, as he watched her stand over the mineral sample. "They were here for that. I think they wanted it. Why, I'm not sure. Maybe they knew what it could do. But I'd rather have it in your hands than in theirs. If you're... leaving... then I think you should take it with you."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman jumped a foot in the air at Alexander's arrival, not out of fear of the apparition, but embarrassment at being caught in his current existential displacement. He did his best to appear nonchalant, but this was complicated by his failure to land after jumping in the air. His ability to hover, ghostlike, over the gray-cast netherscape somewhat occupied his attention for a moment.

"It? What? Oh! Oh, yes, Sharatur! Well, she's doing well. She took a bit of convincing but I do believe she took me and your message seriously in the end. She was thankful to have heard it. She misses you."

Norman chewed on his lip thoughtfully as previous designs on information-control began to decay. Surely it would be inappropriate to -not- reveal the impending arrival.

"She'll be coming up North, to visit, actually."

The fundamental inaccuracies implied by that statement hit Norman like a ton of bricks as soon as the words left his insubstantial mouth.

"To visit me I mean."

...no, that hadn't improved matters.

"Visit on business, though. She's had some, er, supernatural issues of her own and we thought it would be a good idea to put our heads together."

...something still wasn't quite right.

"Oh, and I'm sure she'll want to come see you, too. If that's all right."

Norman resisted the desire to sink into the ground, since he was pretty sure he would actually do so if he made the effort.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur lowered her hand. Even if Francis hadn't spoken, she wouldn't have been able to go through with it. Probably.

"I'll be right back" she said, and then stepped to her home.

...And nothing happened. Hrm. She thought about it for a while, and realized that for no logical reason she could fathom, her teleportation thing had a relatively short range--a few hundred feet or so. "Looks like I'll have to do this the normal way." she muttered.

Then she looked up at Francis and Terry, chagrined. "Oh God. What are they going to do to you two when they wake up? Are you going to be okay?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Uh... good question." Terry look at the Knights, and sucked in a breath. "You're gonna need to hit me. Just hard enough to give me a shiner. And don't tell us where you're going, either. I'll tell them we tried to talk sense into you and you laid me out flat."

* * *

Alexander smiled, and started to fade away. Indeed, for half a second Norman thought he'd vanished, but then he slowly faded back.

"... maybe I'd better stick around a little. You know. To help you with all of this. So, her own supernatural issues, you say? Interesting."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur stared at Terry in horror. Yes, she had been practicing martial arts for years--but that had been exactly what it was: practice. Fun. She had never so much as threatened anyone physically since she started. And now she had to hurt her friend.

She stared at the cursed artifact with fresh loathing.

"Oh, Terry. Then this really is goodbye." There was a sense of pressure--how much time did she have left before they woke up and the entire Knights Watchmen came after her? But screw it. Some things were worth the risk.

She walked up to Francis and solemnly shook his hand. "I'm going to miss you. I guess you were right. About...all this. Oh God, I'm going to miss this place."

She then walked up to Terry, and held out her hand. "You too, Terry. This just sucks. And I'm really sor--" as she shook his hand, midword and without giving any signals, she struck him with her other hand just hard enough to knock him out.

That was too much for her, and as she gently lowered Terry to the floor, placing him in the 'recovery postion' just in case, the tears forced their way out. She couldn't look at Francis, but at least her voice was steady if grim. "It was better to do it like that, when he wasn't expecting it. That way he wasn't all tense anticipating it. He's going to hurt for a few days, but he'll be fine." She did look at Francis then, unashamedly displaying her tear tracks to him. "Just please tell him how sorry I am. Him--" she stepped behind Francis, and quickly struck him from behind as well, carefully knocking him out and catching him as well. "--and you" she whispered. "Oh God, I'm so, so sorry."

She stared down at the four bodies, two in the recovery position, and the other two...screw them.

She grabbed the loathesome artifact, some minor personal effects she wanted to take with her, and walked out of the museum to her car.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She tossed the thing into the back seat, and drove home.

The tears came freely now, silently tracking down her cheeks. Just over an hour ago, her life was on track. She was expecting yet another day in her endless comfortable routine, where her biggest conflict would be struggling to keep the museum open in the face of an only slightly interested public. Or perhaps maintaining her smile in the face of a particularly obnoxious guest.

Now she was a hunted criminal. Her entire past life was over, as if it had never happened. She didn't even know if she would make it out of the Canyon alive. And her one hope was a stranger on the other end of a single phone call, who claimed he could speak with the dead and apparently had his own reasons to be wary of the Order. She realized she didn't even know his name; she was running away from everything she knew to "Norm from Chicago", who was a phone number and an email address to her. And she had just violently assaulted two of her closest friends.

"This better be worth it," she snarled, glaring into her rearview at her back seat.

Once home, she quickly scoured the place from top to bottom, taking everything she couldn't stand to part with, packing the remnants of her former life away. She discovered a new ability that helped her, and what should have taken hours was completed in mere minutes as her movements and mental processes accelerated dramatically.

She used her laptop only long enough to send a quick email to "YanCanDig" asking him where to meet, then transferred everything she was taking with her to her car. The last thing she grabbed was her bo staff she used to practice with--she knew instinctively that it had suddenly become a very lethal weapon in her hands.

With the staff in one hand and the artifact in the other, she left her home, driving away forever.

She didn't bother to lock her home behind her.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Thanks, I really appreciate your input Mr. D."

Norman surreptitiously tried to twist himself back to reality as he spoke to the affable apparition. He was not successful at dimensional transition or subtlety and ended up looking more like he was trying to pop his back.

"Just, you know, don't feel obligated. I wouldn't want you to be stuck in the netherworld any longer on my account."

"Oh, and I might be jumping to conclusions but it sounds like your daughter experienced something very similar to what happened to me just before I found myself with one foot in the grave. Actually, she said she hadn't spoken with the dead yet herself. She seemed a bit worried about something though. Eager to cover some ground, anyway. I guess getting interrogated by the Mathemagician could be enough for that though."

He paused as his lab-coat began to buzz and pulled out his PDA. "Oh, and speaking of Sharatur, it looks like wireless works beyond the grave."

He diverted his attention from Alexander's ghost to type the historical first e-mail ever sent from the realm of the dead. It consisted of the address of a small park in Chinatown a few blocks from the cemetery and the words:

"Good to hear from you Miss D. Have you had any supernatural issues aside from M's questions? Was there music? Travel safe! -N"

Norman nodded, satisfied. "Well, that should shed some light on the subject."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman's historical e-mail wasn't. Sharatur's message had gotten through before he'd fallen into the netherworld, and his attempt to reply was met with a 'no signal' error. So the Netherworld didn't get wireless after all... all the more reason to help its occupants move on to whatever came next. Hopefully somewhere with a decent wide-area-network.

He nodded apologetically at Alexander. "Anyway I'll need to get back to the land of the living if I'm going to meet her when she arrives. Hopping back and forth like this isn't as easy as..." He trailed off as it struck him, his method probably was the easiest conceivable way to get there. The alternative (dying) was notoriously unpleasant.

Perhaps he could get out the same way he went in? He tried driving the yoke into the colorless netherworldly soil and twisting himself around that. The ability to ignore gravity, or gravity's temporarily ignoring him, made it easier. He felt himself on the edge of something. With a final spiritual shove he came tumbling back into reality while the yoke flew out of his grip. He pressed himself flat to the ground as something massive twisted out of the depths of the netherworld and followed him to earth with a distant, creaking rumble. The flying yoke was now embedded firmly in the cockpit of an imposing spectral WW-1 era bi-plane. The ghost-plane's immaterial bulk swirled and flickered in the gray afternoon light. One of the wheels rested gently above the grass, just a few inches from Norman's head. He studied it thoughtfully as a grin spread across his face.

Even as Norman scrambled to his feet he pulled out his PDA and composed a somewhat different message to Sharatur. He would be coming to her. By air.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur pulled in to an internet cafe before leaving town to check for responses--and was glad she did! He's flying to me now? Odd. And he wants someplace secluded to meet. Hmmm... Suspicion sparking in her, she sat there thinking for a while. After all, what did she really know about this guy?

She nodded to herself, and described a very specific, out of the way spot along the Canyon. She then parked her car quite a distance away, took her bo staff, hid the artifact, and marched out to her chosen meeting point. She had one more trick she knew she could do that she was going to use to wait for him. If this was some kind of trap, she promised herself she would make him regret it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some of the workers at the mortuary might have heard the eerie wail of an an ancient, spectral air plane engine coming from the cemetery. Some of them might have seen a ghostly bi-plane soaring over the headstones before turning up and roaring through the clouds. None of them would be likely to comment on such observations, because it was a liability to be considered crazy when entering the job market.

The Necronaut was glad he had thought to don his gas-mask before taking off. He was sure the altitude and speed of his flight would have frozen his eyeballs otherwise. Frozen-eye was a condition he was resolved to avoid if at all possible.

He was certain that flying an actual plane, let alone an archaic model like this, could not be so simple. But the ghost-plane, like the gas-mask, carried only the idea of its physical past. It embodied plane-ish-ness (it was a noisy winged machine that went through the air very fast) and ignored the details (dials, mechanical failure, aerodynamics and fuel for example).

It was only a little more than an hour before he saw the antediluvian gash of the Grand Canyon spread out below him. Sharatur's directions had been clear enough and eventually he spotted a deserted patch which looked like the right place. He began a slow descent to keep what he guessed was the landing spot in his sights.

The ghost-plane howled like a 28-cylinder banshee as he set it down from an angle that would have resulted in a fiery wreck for any kind of corporeal aircraft. It didn't kick up so much as a speck of dust.

Once the plane was down he took the steering yoke and twisted it just so. The swirling mass of aircraft flickered and vanished back into the nether. Norman dropped to a crouch and secreted the physical remains of the plane in his lab-coat as he shakily regained his footing.

Norman Yan was about average height, but thin bordering on gaunt. The archaic, flickering swirling gas-mask over his face was just transparent enough for an excited smile to be seen underneath, though it was difficult to say much else about his features. His medium length, black hair had been thrown into a chaotic mass of tendrils by his hour long open-air flight. His lab-coat, not quite tattered but thoroughly stained and wrinkled, completed the mad-scientist effect.

He waved out at the rugged landscape happily. "Sharatur!" He cried out, and waited for the echo. He started to reach for his PDA, but realized quickly that there wouldn't be any service out here. Hopefully Sharatur had noticed him landing. He didn't mind waiting anyway. The Necronaut had always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur watched--and listened to!--the...thing...arrive, from her concealed spot. She realized she had been standing frozen for entire minutes in open-mouthed shock while she tried to process what she was seeing. It was impossible. The plane was surely an image somehow projected onto the sky. An image that was Oh God about to crash! Then it landed--if you could call what should have been a devastating smashup a 'landing'--and simply...vanished. Leaving the man she had vaguely noticed inside it behind.

It was impossible, she repeated to herself. She wanted to gibber, she wanted to curl up and make this bad dream go away. This sort of thing didn't happen. Then she had to laugh at herself. It was that or just sit and cry. And she had already done way too much of that already.

She had a hunch she would be seeing and thinking impossible things for a long time to come.

At least she had had some time to think about things while she waited for him. She had regained her center--mostly--and done all the standard tests she could think of. No, this wasn't a dream. She was reasonably sure she wasn't insane. This wasn't some drug induced hallucination. And every once in a while she kept doing the impossible to prove that her memories weren't deceiving her. If she could teleport and kick holes in cliff walls (she still felt a little guilty about that. Her Canyon!) then why couldn't someone talk to the dead, or make wierd-looking plane things that flew...sort of? Still, the world shouldn't be like this. It should follow all the nice little rules and regulations she had learned all her life.

Apparently, the world didn't care what she thought.

She watched him approach her chosen meeting point as calmly as if he were just out for a stroll through the Canyon. This was the man who was going to help her? She half expected to see Igor limping along behind him! She waited for the right moment, then quietly teleported to about fifteen feet behind him. She waited a few moments longer, took a deep breath, and said "Uh, hi." dramatically. And winced. She had intended a more dramatic first greeting!

She had had everything prepared ahead of time. She was going to take control of the situation, asking questions and demanding answers. Once she had learned what he knew, she would decide what to do from there. But then he turned to face her, and she got her first good look at his mask. Or whatever the hell that thing was!

Norman saw a pretty, athletic brunette with vulnerable green eyes, who looked to be in her mid-twenties, and stood about five feet two inches as his best estimate. It was hard to tell her height exactly however, since she was standing about a foot off the ground.

Staring at him--no, at his flickering mask--in silent, growing horror.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman blinked as he caught sight of Sharatur. He wasn't sure what he had expected. Maybe that she would take more after her father, in terms of being monochromatic and transparent. Her borderline normalcy and the concern evident on her face made him wonder, briefly, if his own response to recent events of interest had been a little too enthusiastic.

His eyes were drawn to the foot of empty space between Sharatur's feet and the ground. No, he was pretty sure childlike wonder was appropriate. If there was any part of his brain still trying to assert this shouldn't be happening it was being thoroughly drowned out by the other parts clamoring about how awesome it was and how much work he had to do.

The Necronaut's debatably nightmarish gas-mask kept these thoughts thoroughly opaque to Sharatur. He began lurching forward, still trying to kick the circulation back into his legs. It took him a moment to place the new expression crossing her face. He took a cautious glance behind himself, in case something disturbing had moved into her field of view. No, he was the only possible object of attention. He straightened himself up slightly and regretted not finding a fresher lab-coat before taking off.

"Ah, Miss De Vasch I presume? I am Norman Yan. It is good to meet you!" His voice was just slightly muffled. It sounded like it was coming from somewhere far away. "I hope I have not kept you waiting."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur blinked, and focused on the strange man's eyes. And the near manic light within them. Oh God, he's mad as a hatter. Yep. And until I figure out what to do with myself, he's what I've got.

Sharatur hopped lightly off nothing to the ground, and eyed Norman a little warily. It was so hard to get a read on him, with that mask on! "Just about long enough, in fact. And, uh, likewise. So...what happens now?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Necronaut was actually painfully curious about what all had happened to Sharatur, how she had come to her present situation and what sort of trouble she was in. A proper introduction, even, seemed to be appropriate. But he wasn't about to get off on the wrong foot by failing to answer her question candidly.

"Ah, to business then. Excellent. I gather that you don't work with the dead directly very often? So you probably haven't heard the bad news. The Order, specifically the Druid, is mandating a phasing-out of grave yards and traditional funeral business in favor of more 'ecologically sound' procedures."

He paused, looking for a glimmer of recognition in Sharatur's face.

"This is very very bad. Even for the order. So what happens now is we figure out how to stop it from happening, and save the netherworld from a fate worse than death."

The Necronaut delivered his bold declaration of intent with a completely straight face. Or, at least, a straight voice. If he was crazy, he hadn't noticed yet.

"Of course, the Order has more than just that to answer for..." He added as an afterthought. He didn't want to assume Sharatur shared his sense of responsibility for the dead. Yet.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur flushed a bit. She had been rather abrupt, now that he had so respectfully pointed that out to her. Her excuse was everything that had happened to her was...a little overwhelming, to say the least.

Then the rest of his words registered on her. "Wait, what? You're going up against the Order to--" She managed to keep herself from blurting in disbelief help a bunch of corpses and funeral guys?!?. She was rather certain that would not have gone over well, and this guy had that manic cheerfulness that often--though not always, and hopefully not in this case!--seemed the hallmark of the completely crazed. Not to mention his appearance! Could he possibly not realize how he looked?

All this flashed though her mind in a momentary hesitation that he might not even have noticed if he weren't very perceptive. Parroting a person's words back to them was often safe enough, so she kept her incredulity to a minimum and said only "--stop them phasing out graveyards and funerals?"

Oh God. The only person I know of who claims to have inexplicable abilities-- The mask. The plane. --Okay, definitely has inexplicable abilities, and he's quite probably a raving lunatic!

"How do you plan to stop them?" she asked, already dreading the answer a little.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman thought he detected just a hint of skepticism. Or at least a bit of trepidation. He frowned thoughtfully, but found himself primarily concerned for Sharatur. Obviously she had a tougher time of it than he had. "I know this is a lot to take in. I was lucky. Your father helped me to understand what I need to do."

He paused. This was a subject that brought him back down to earth very quickly. His tone took on the concerned sincerity he had used when they first spoke on the phone. "Death isn't the end. The netherworld, if you haven't seen it yet, is sort of next to ours. People who pass on can't move to whatever comes next until they release whatever attaches them to our world. Graveyards and places like that give them a place to rest while they let go. Without those places everyone who dies, everyone who's already there, will be stuck in the deep nether. This effects everyone. Not just the people alive now, but everyone we've lost. The Order has got to be stopped."

He stopped for a moment, reaching up to adjust his mask. It twisted weirdly and folded into itself, leaving just the glass lenses on a fringe of ancient rubber. He pushed them up over his forehead, exposing his face. His youthful features were clearly Asian, Chinese to be specific. Only striking blue eyes stood to suggest a more diverse heritage. His expression matched his concerned intense tone.

"As for how, we start by revealing that the dead are still with us and that they need our help. People are scared of the order, but they might stand up for this. If the Order won't listen to reason, when it comes down to physically standing in their way we can do that too. The important thing is it's not just me. I was sort of worried about that before. But since there's me and you, there could be more. I don't think it's a coincidence that this is happening now. I think we can do this." He cleared his throat and looked down at his feet to mumble, "...and I'm sure there are some other matters that could benefit from our attention."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur tried to keep her growing and growing incredulity from her expression. There's no such thing as ghosts!

Oddly enough, it was that thought that brought her up short. There was no such thing as teleportation either, or magical planes and masks. And yet. It was a terrifying thought: this new universe she found herself in didn't follow the right rules--so she was going to have to learn the new ones. And in this universe, there apparently really was a life after death, and ghosts did in fact interact with the world.

There really was a life after death. Holy shit!

She couldn't allow herself to become distracted though, even by something as mind-blowing massive as this. It was a little disappointing that she hadn't just joined an organized underground or something, but he was right. Where there's two, there should be more. Finding them though would be hard. But hey, if Dad brought him to her, then maybe...

"We can't do it alone, Norman" she stated firmly, knowing that she had just joined him in his mad scheme. "We're going to need help. My father brought me to you; maybe he can help us find others like us?" A sudden thought struck her. "Is he here? Can we ask him?" She looked around, as if expecting him to reveal himself to her now.

There really was a life after death. Holy shit!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman looked at Sharatur blankly for a split second. Then his face split into a grin so wide it nearly glowed. "That's brilliant!"

"Your father stayed at the grave yard. I get the feeling leaving the grounds is a bit disconcerting for them. But some of the others went out to spread the word. They might be able to go the same way and find more like us. Or at least, maybe, find somewhere we can start on the Order."

His grin vanished just as quickly as it had arrived. "Miss De Vasch, your father didn't exactly bring you to me. He has no idea what's happened to you. He just wanted you to know, you know, as I said before. But perhaps he could rest a little easier if he knew you were well." He paused and added warily, "Are you well?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Oh." She suppressed the surge of nearly-automatic skepticism at his sudden backpedalling. The mask. The plane. He didn't need to prove himself to her. She laughed briefly. "Norman, I have just had my entire life, everything I loved, everything I was, everything I believed just...wiped away in the last few hours. You and I are standing here talking about going up against the single most powerful organization in the entire world. I'm not about to go nuts, assuming I haven't already, and I'm not going to have a breakdown. But I am about as far from 'well' as I ever have been in my life."

She paused, considering. "I have no way of getting back to...to my father's grave. Not quickly. Can your, uh, plane take a passenger?" She thought about her car full of her stuff. "...And how about some cargo?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman's face fell as he tried to process what Sharatur had just said. It wasn't that he lacked a sense of compassion for other living people, far from it. He just hadn't had occasion to use it for quite a while. He was, perhaps by way of compensation, over-enthusiastic in his sympathy.

"Good... Good gravy! Miss De Vasch, that's awful! What happened? Was there a fire?" He bit his lip and added hopefully, "At least you can fly. Or hover. Or whatever that was. That kind of talent has got to be some consolation, right?"

As he spoke he pulled the airplane fragment from his coat and twisted it carefully. The resulting explosion of nether-mass threw him up in the air, but he clung tightly to the steering column and after a few seconds the cockpit coalesced around him. He glanced back and spotted a second passenger pit. He wasn't totally sure it had been there on the flight up, but he wasn't about to complain. "I think I can get you and some stuff on board." He hopped to the ground and almost stumbled from the jolt. "She can get us there in about an hour."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur seemed to dart to one side as the plane appeared before her. She shuddered a little after it had gone, but only pointed at him. "Wait right here" she commanded, then turned and trotted around behind a sharp, rocky rise.

Minutes passed.

Finally, Norman heard a car engine start up, off in the distance in the direction opposite where Sharatur vanished. The noise grew steadily louder as its source apparently came closer. As the vehicle came into view, he saw it was a servicable if not too spectacular, perfectly normal looking dusty jeep driven by Sharatur, and packed full of boxes and bags and other I'm-moving bits.

Sharatur hopped out of the jeep once she'd stopped in front of him. "I'm sorry, I guess I didn't know the area I had parked it in as well as I thought I did." she said with mild embarrassment. She apparently intended that to explain something.

She trotted around the jeep, reached into the passenger side, and hauled out a plain old wooden quarterstaff and a large rocky quartz. "So!" she asked brightly. "How do we load up?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Hm... Good question, just a minute."

Norman slid his mask back on, adjusting it slightly as the swirling memory of its old self enveloped his face. He attempted to repeat his previous nearly-dashing summoning of the ghost-plane, but this time succeeded only in manifesting it a few feet away from himself. After crawling awkwardly into the cockpit he found what he was looking for. He flipped a switch and a small set of bomb-bay doors slid open silently in the belly of the plane. Neither the switch, nor the doors, had been there before. He was almost certain.

"Hopefully most of your essentials will fit in there. Just hop in when you're ready to go."

He took a moment to start the engine. The ghostly roar echoed across the rocky, painted landscape. The spectral propeller sent tiny strands of nether-stuff swirling around it in a hypnotic miasma.

"If you've got something warm to wear, now might be a good time to get it out." He shouted over the howling engine as an afterthought. "It gets cold up there."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur didn't say much, she just started loading up. And if she cheated by speeding up slightly, she tried to do it when he wasn't looking. She took a minute to get out a couple of sweaters and some leggings before packing everything away.

Steadfastly ignoring that dwindling little voice talking incessantly about how none of this could be happening.

Then she gingerly got into the passenger seat, stowed her staff and the artifact within somewhat within reach, and nodded to him. "I'm ready" she said--belied by her hands and feet that were pressed hard against any available surface as if to hold her in place. Or perhaps, to confirm that the strange, phantom plane really did exist...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Necronaut tried to suppress his mad grin as he hauled back on the throttle and sent the ghost-plane rocketing skyward. Despite the fact that his face was covered by his mask and turned away from Sharatur, he felt it was somehow inappropriate to express such joy in the presence of one who had recently suffered such tragedy. Though he was not yet totally certain of what the tragedy had been.

Once they were cruising and the Grand Canyon was a dwindling smudge on the horizon he took a moment to yell over his shoulder. "So what happened that caused you such grief? You don't have to talk about it if you don't want, but between the two of us we might be able to make it right. I mean, I'm assuming you can do more than just hover." He paused, trying to gauge if that was a safe assumption. All in all, hovering was pretty cool and he didn't want to belittle it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur hesitated for a long while--in part because she didn't trust her voice for the first few minutes she was in this...thing...watching the sky and ground flash by at a mad pace.

She was cold, and quickly put on the extra layers. But she should have been windblown in the extreme, her face scraped raw at the speeds they were going. She found though that she could just ignore the effects if she wanted. Which was impossible of course, that little voice informed her, more in a tone of exhausted but determined stubbornness than in any attempt to persuade her.

By the time she was ready to speak, she had decided she would carefully edit her story. She would tell him about the two Knights Watchmen she assaulted that had put her on the run. She would tell him about the artifact, and the loss of her beloved museum. But that was it, for now she would keep the rest of it--her beliefs, her additional powers, and so forth--to herself for now.

Maybe it was finding someone else that could do the flatly impossible. Maybe it was the nervousness--and yes, she had to admit, the sheer excitement--of streaking along the skies in a barely-existing plane that was under this strange man's control. But she found that once she had started, her entire story came pouring out. She told him of the abilities she had so far discovered--she could punch holes in stone walls, teleport limited distances in the blink of an eye, operate at speeds many times faster than normal, and walk on air as if it were solid ground. She described what had happened to her in the last few hours: the artifact, the fights with the Knights, leaving her friends, and his phone call to her.

She then tried to describe to him how her job as a geological museum's only tour guide may not have been prestigious or paid a lot, but she had loved it, for the most part. How she had held firm beliefs in the rules of the universe just half a day ago--beliefs that were now shattered irrecoverably, leaving her feeling adrift, lost and scared in a world seemingly without any logic or rationality whatsoever. How she had never so much as taken office supplies without permission before this day, and now she was irrevocably on the run, having assaulted two Knights Watchmen to protect her friends--and assaulted her friends, even if she had to do it to protect them! Her feelings of hurt, anger, and betrayal that this had all been set in motion, her entire comfortable and content previous life utterly shattered by a...a damned data dump from this strange quartz--a display sample of the very same geological knowledge and interest she had lovingly worked in service of for most of her life.

By the time she wound down, she was crying again, if carefully controlled. She was also a little embarrassed, unloading so completely on this complete stranger. And a significant portion of that hour or so to get to Chicago had passed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman listened with a strange combination of sympathy and confusion. Occasionally he nodded, or asked Sharatur to repeat herself when the howling wind overcame her voice.

By the time she finished her tale Norman was the victim of a massive paradigm-shift.

"So, your abilities have nothing to do with the netherworld? Nothing at all? That doesn't make any sense! That's crazy!"

He trailed off, squelching his own uncomfortable brush with incredulity. He had pondered the source of his new-found ability to reach the other side with little success. But it had never occurred to him that it was something only he could do, or that if there were others with amazing supernatural abilities, they would be from different sources. Whatever had happened was bigger than just the netherworld reaching out for help, if such a thing were possible.

He was about to say so when he noticed that his mouth, in collusion with the rogue part of his brain that tended to take over in these awkward moments, had began to address another matter of concern.

"Miss De Vasch, I am so sorry. I hadn't realized how difficult all this could be. I..." he realized that he was about to ask that very dangerous question of himself. What did he stand to lose? Perhaps he hadn't been as attached to his old life as Sharatur, but... The thinking part of his brain clamped down on that like a soldier throwing his helmet over a grenade. Focusing on the positive was a mental discipline essential to his mental stability. He wasn't about to abandon it now.

He discarded his previous sentence and tried to offer an encouraging smile. The effort was rendered largely futile thanks to his ghastly gas-mask. "It'll be okay. We'll save the graveyards, things will settle down and maybe you can go back to being a geologist again. A geologist with unstoppable KungFu and the undying gratitude of the legion denizens of the nether-world!"

To Norman's ears that outcome sounded so appealing that he was able to ignore the part of his brain telling him that it could never ever happen. Almost.

Further ruminations were postponed as he turned the plane into a nose-dive toward the outer reaches of Chicago's Chinatown cemetery. A split second before it seemed the whole assembly would smash into a crater of gore and ectoplasmic wreckage it stopped and settled to the muddy grass as lightly as a feather.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Except that Sharatur was no longer in the plane.

In the last few moments, once she realized he was going to crash, she had instinctively stepped away. She found herself instantly changing from seated in the plane and hurtling straight into the ground at mach umpteen billion, to standing stationary and staring in surprise at the plane, which was also at rest a hundred or so feet away from her.

Hmm. That could come in handy one day.

The dramatic moment had shaken her out of her melancholy--for now, anyway. Unable to resist showing off a little herself, she suddenly appeared back in her seat beside Norman. She reached down for her staff, and said "Okay, I guess we've arrived. Massively impressive ride, by the way! What's next?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman, lacking any such emergency contingency, was forced to deal with the consequences of his own novice piloting skills. His eyes were wide and focused on the patch of ground where he was currently imagining important parts of himself haphazardly spread. If he had noticed Sharatur's basically-miraculous jaunt he gave no sign.

"Thanks Miss Devasch." His voice was upbeat, but still tinged with distraction and rapidly abating concern. "I think I need more practice. I guess I'll look for your father, and see if we can get the nether-folks to start looking for persons of interest."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur hid a twinge of disappointment that he hadn't even noticed--but when she figured out why, she had to hide a grin of relief as well. It was strangely comforting to know she wasn't the only one a little freaked out by her new abilities.

Then she realized where she was, and what she was proposing to do. "Uh, will I see him? --Can he see me?!?" Her voice ended on a little squeak at that, an she automatically patted down her sweaters, before realizing she was rapidly growing sweltering. She quickly took off her leggings and all but the innermost sweater, then looked around as if expecting her father to pop out from behind a tree, under a sheet with eyeholes, and yell "BOO!" at any second.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman managed to peel his hands off of the steering yoke. He barely held his footing as the plane vanished.

"Well, I think he can see you. I'm still not totally clear on how, um, how you work. My guess now is that you're something..." he stopped himself from saying 'weird' and went with "...different from me. You probably can't see into the netherworld, unless that skill was somehow in your memory-stone."

He cast his eyes about thoughtfully.

"I guess we'll find out pretty soon. If I may ask have you been here to visit since he's been here?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman could see something a little different about the cemetery, compared to the rest of the world. If he had to put his finger on it, it was the difference between a house with no resident and a house that was lived in. Difficult to define, but there.

One of the ghost, the now-familiar form of Alexander De Vasch, rose out of the ground. He looked at Norman, and nodded. Then he looked at Sharatur, and froze.

"Oh, my little snowflake. It's been forever. I should have called more. I'm sorry."

Click to reveal..
Norman can see Alexander; Sharatur can not.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman's eyes cast between the two, focusing briefly on the gulf between them. It was an awkward moment as he considered who to address first. Ultimately he opted for seniority.

"Mr. De Vasch, I don't think she knows you're here."

He glanced at Sharatur for confirmation. His instinct was to arbitrate, to act as a medium for the unusual reunion. Fortunately he knew better than to trust his instincts in these matters. Instead he spun up the efficiently ponderous wheels of his mind and began to wonder if there might be a way to bridge the gap.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sharatur startled, and looked all around her. She found herself fighting off a frightful reaction, needing to force herself not to simply teleport away, like she had at Norman's extreme landing just minutes ago.

"Daddy?" she asked, her voice breaking a bit as she gazed around pretty much nowhere near where he was standing. If this guy is screwing with me, I swear I'll tear his head off! her inner skeptic grumbled. Norman had just flown her to this cemetary in a...a spectral plane, or something. She knew the mental comment to be, well, almost certainly baseless, anyway. She decided to believe in this bizarre man she had just met, yet another time.

And she was a little girl again, afraid and wanting her Daddy to fix it all for her. She was at a loss, her mind unable to think of what to say. Her heart had no such difficulties, however.

"I miss you."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...