Thursday, June 17, 2010

Psychflare: Void

[check comments for notes. Next in series: A Vurokian's Reflections, Ananke]

It started with the move. We needed a new place for our base of operations after the old one had been found. The least problematic part is the place itself, finding abandoned buildings is easy if you know where to look. It's filling them that's a pain. Though we had managed to save a decent part of the equipment, Lightedge still said we needed a few systems completely rebuilt, and it wasn't gonna be cheap. And with Machi, you're just glad when the stuff she wants can be obtained without killing seven orphans and making a trip to Amazonia. Magic is weird like that.

What little money we had we needed to fund our next operation (whatever that might be), and keeping food away from the “luxuries” list. So, of course, we set out to making more. They say there's ten thousand ways to get your hands on large amounts of cash in Vurok City, some of them even legal, and it's true. The problem is keeping the cash long enough to spend it. That's why you keep a witch and a tech-head around, run away when your location has been compromised, and don't grab every job that comes your way without first checking it won't attract unwanted attention.

Solomon was the leader, back then. Slasher had been the one to assemble us in the first place, but last time I saw him he was missing a number of vital organs. Hence, the job fell on Solomon, who had been his right-hand man. As leader, he was supposed to find work when it was scarce, so he was spending a lot of time doing just that, lately. We had found something, a minor politician someone wanted dead. A bit low-scale, but it would help. We were in the early stages, just planning it out, when Solomon walked into the room and told us to stop whatever we were doing.

“I got us something up to our standards. I just heard Hyonma were looking for people to protect a significant amount of something so that no band of evildoers will take possession of it.”

Lightedge asked, “Are we the band of evildoers or the guardians in this scenario?”

“Evildoers, I'm afraid. The good news is, the guarding will be done by our friends Multi-ax and co.”

Multi-ax was the leader of, well, I suppose you might call them a rival band of paranormals, but not what you'd call dangerous competition. We knew we could handle them.

“Do we know what exactly they are transporting? Or are we just gonna burst in and steal a big pile of whatever and hope it doesn't blow up in our faces?” Joule asked

“Not yet, we don't. Which is why phase one is finding out. The ship with the cargo should be arriving in 12 hours. Now, taking it while it's still there is too complicated, which is why security won't be as tough. We can board the ship, take a look, do a small time-buying sabotage, and get back here to plot the actual stealing.”

“Isn't it a bit over-complicated, just for a recon mission?,” I asked.

“Perhaps, but we really need to be safe, here. Hyonma means very likely biohazard, which means containment measures, which means we need to know what we're containing. ”

“Fair enough. So, Ana is the most likely to find out what exactly it is, so we need her. I need to be there to hide us, too. Lightedge is our best shot for the sabotage, so he's in. More than three would make us too slow, so I guess that's it.”

Lightedge, unsurprisingly, protested. “Wait, wait, wait, you can't just throw me in a combat situation! In case you haven't noticed, I can't do all your flying and shooting lightning and creating armour out of nothing. I'm good at making machines, anyone is good at breaking them”

I started to argue back, but Solomon stopped me. “Usually I'd tell you to stop whining and do your job,” he said while looking at Lightedge “but truth is we need you here, to start building whatever it is we might need as soon as the boat party finds out. And, you'd need someone else to watch your back, which would mean sending a fourth person...”

Ananke interrupted. “What are you talking about? We'd be with him.”

“No, we need to perform the recon and the sabotage at the same time. Too long on there is risky. So, I suggest you and Void do the cargo, since it'll be guarded the heaviest, and Joule splits off, breaks whatever needs breaking, you meet again and get off.”

“I don't like it. I can't hide Joule if we split, we're better off doing one then the other.”

“The engines won't be nearly as well defended as the cargo, she can handle those by herself. And it really is key that you get out of there before anything weird happens.”

I still didn't buy the plan, but I knew there was no point in arguing. Joule always sided with Solomon, and obviously hated my claiming that she needed to hide. Lightedge would just be grateful Solomon had gotten him away from the action, so he would side with them, too. Machi might agree with me, leaving the vote 3-3, but ties were decided by the team leader. So, I shut up and began preparing to leave.
* * *

Joule, Ananke and I were at the docks, contemplating how to get from there to a ship miles into the ocean. Joule wanted us to steal a boat, but it was quite unnecessary. I manifested a bubble of darkness around us, which had the double advantage of keeping us afloat and making everyone else ignore us, then Ananke telekinetically accelerated it towards the target. Unconventional, perhaps, but efficient, and more importantly very hard to detect. We made our way over the waves, while I occasionally issues small corrections to our course, as I was the only one who could see in the darkness.

Soon enough, we arrived at the ship. I made a subtle change to the bubble, removing the hiding effect, and then opened a small slit to let Ananke see where she was taking us. It was simply a black sphere at the moment, and it didn't protect us against much, but that's the only way someone else can see when inside it. So, anyway, we floated up, hopefully undetected, and I restored the bubble to its original state. We walked unseen past a few guards, and stopped in front of the engine room.

“Here's your stop,” I told Joule. “Try not to die, the boss might blame us for it.”

“I know it might shock you, but some of us can fight without hiding,” she replied. “I don't need you, so go do your job.”

So, on that friendly note, we parted ways. Finding our way through the ship to the cargo was not particularly difficult, but we had to avoid a few patrols. Sure, they would ignore us if they saw us thanks to the bubble, but colliding with something you can't see makes you pay attention to it. And we didn't want that.

* * *

Meanwhile, in the engine room

Joule stood around, waiting. Not for long, though, as barely a minute after she got there a shining blue rectangle opened in mid-air and someone walked out of it. The figure's face was completely obscured by a seemingly high-tech helmet and the body similarly covered in intricately-patterned armour.

“You're early,” Joule said, as she attempted to conceal her apprehension around him. “They might have seen you.”

“No. I knew they had left already,” he replied. “That disappearing trick, though, it's unusual. How do they do it?”

“Void captured some sort of darkness spirit, that's how he does his stuff. Darkness is apparently symbolic for “hiding”, so he can hide things in plain sight. Or at least, that's what he says.”

“Troublesome. He seems immune to remote vision. I'll have to try something new.” He paused for a second, and then added, “Oh, ignore that. There they are.”

He then opened up another blue rectangle, out of which he took out a rifle. Yet another portal opened, he aimed at it, and fired.

* * *


Ananke and I were almost by the containers and their soon-to-be-determined, hopefully-not-insanely-dangerous contents. I let my bubble vanish once again, just to let Ananke do her thing. Her thing, besides telekinesis, is called “analytical pseudo-precognition.” At least, that's what she calls it when she feels like being all sciency.

The way I understand it, she has something like a hundred or so kinds of ESP, which activate at random and feed a part of her mind with astounding amounts of information, which is permanently recorded and constantly analysed and sorted out into an elaborate map of each and every possible sequence of events that could unfold at any point, sorted out by probability. Makes me dizzy just to think about it. Well, the net result is that she can usually tell you what's going to happen next, and she has several libraries worth of data stored in her brain, but she has difficulty accessing it. So she needs a trigger, such as looking at what she's supposed to be identifying. Which is exactly what she was doing, when we both noticed a bright blue flash.

“Shit!” I thought, “What the fuck is Sidestep doing here?”

And then, I noticed that Ananke wasn't moving. And that she was bleeding.

* * *

Several hours later, Joule arrived at headquarters, running and almost completely out of breath. Solomon rushed to her immediately.

“Are you alright? What the hell happened?”

“They... got caught...” she panted, “I think... dead.”

The whole room felt silent at the last word, its atmosphere shifting from tension to shock. Solomon kept on.

“We need to know what happened, Joule. Are we in danger right now? Can they find us?”

She nodded, with visible effort.

“OK, everyone, we need to get on the move! Emergency escape procedures, leave everything behind. You know the drill”

Solomon manifested his spirit armour, giving him extra strength and allowing him to carry Joule, while Lightedge prepared the escape vehicle. Machi focused on casting concealment spells and scrying for any nearby threats. Soon, they were all in a nondescript black van, Lightedge driving while Joule rested in the back and the other two watched over her.

“OK, we're fleeing. Now what?” Lightedge asked, nervously.

“I had a safe house prepared. Nobody else should know about it, so we just...”

Solomon was interrupted by sudden braking, caused by the fact that everything outside was pitch black. Lightedge ran out of the car immediately, as Machi attempted the same. Her effort failed, however, as Joule shocked her unconscious. Both her and Solomon walked out, the former with electric arcs covering her from head to toe, the latter brandishing a spirit sword.

The picture they met, just outside the vehicle, happened to be a figure in manifested mediaeval armour made out of pure darkness, which happens to be how I look like in battle.

Lightedge is not a dumb fellow by any means, so he had figured out that staying anywhere near Joule was not a great idea. My side won him over by default, but he was more concerned with running away from the fight than with staying. Like I said, smart fellow. Joule and Solomon, being the other side, walked towards me-

I'd like to tell you there was lots of witty banter going on, Joule yelling at me about how I was supposed to be dead and me explaining in detail how I figured out their whole plan. However, we were busy trying to kill each other.

Joule wasted a lot of time trying to fry me from a distance. Usually that works for her, but I'm notoriously hard to focus on when I want to be, and you can't really aim a lightning bolt at someone if you're not sure where they are. Solomon played it smarter, he had his strength boosted by his spirits and a manifested weapon that, I hear, really hurts to get hit by. So he got close and tried to hack my head off, which takes far less aim to do.

I dodged for a while, but it was tiring and odds was I wasn't going to out-endure him. I could block with my own manifestations, but they were weaker than his sword and vanished after each strike. I needed something to give me an edge, and quick.

Just then, we heard Joule scream, and saw her drop to the ground, unable to move. It took us a second to notice Machi was conscious, and sitting in a circle of glowing runes, chanting. I was glad for the help, but unfortunately, Solomon seized my distraction and got in a clean hit, which broke my armour. The next swing was coming, and I had nothing to block it with. I had to think of something, fast, when I felt a strangely familiar sensation. At that point, I knew I had won.

Solomon hacked right through me, or so he thought. Instead, his sword vanished the moment he hit me. It was my turn to take advantage of his distraction. I thrust my open palm right to his chest, and drained him of everything he had.

You see, Solomon's power was to create and use spirits. Mine is often thought of as my ability to manipulate darkness and conceal myself. But actually, I wasn't born doing that. I got that from a spirit of darkness. My actual power is to capture spirits and use their powers. Now, I had never tried to capture another spirit before that, they aren't terribly common. And I didn't know that Solomon's was the same kind I could capture. Maybe Ananke would've seen that one coming, but I certainly didn't. Still, end result was that while I was right next to him, Solomon's power was useless. And I had absorbed all his strength boosts. The tide of the battle turned quick.

* * *

We were back at headquarters. I was trying to explain Machi and Lightedge what was going on, while Ananke rested in the corner.

“Should we be here? Joule said they might find us.”

“She lied. The plan was to scare you into following wherever Solomon lead you and sell you out to the pissers, probably in exchange of immunity or the chance to join them. If the plan included them knowing where we are, they would have captured you here instead of driving you away. Solomon and Joule probably wanted to keep the stuff we had salvaged from the last base to themselves.”

“Still, we might want to find another place...”

“Sure, but it's not urgent.”

“OK, fine. So what happened on the ship, anyway?”

“Ambush by Sidestep. Ana reacted fast, as usual, and managed to redirect the bullet from vital areas before it hit her, and by then I had us covered. Sidestep uses some kind of ESP or another, and my hiding effect is much stronger against paranormal senses, so were completely invisible to him. We got out of there fast, but she was still hurt, so first stop was getting her some care. She pieced together most of it pretty easy. Joule had obviously been the one who had warned Sidestep, seeing as a) she was the only one that knew exactly when and where to find us and b) she got out of there alive. Solomon was in too, since it was him that forced us to take her along. Sidestep was involved, so it was pisser business.”

“OK, but why didn't they change plans, since the ambush failed?”

“They didn't know. I figure Sidestep thought it was best to report a success to Solomon, so he wouldn't be scared out of the deal, and he could track us down later. He didn't know, or didn't take into account, that the whole point of the ship plan was to get me and Ana out of the picture early, since I'm the trickiest to find and she's the one likeliest to figure out a trap. Well, and the fact that where one of us goes, the other usually follows.”

“Thank the gods for shifty alliances.”


1 comment:

  1. OK, figured I'd put this here rather than at the beginning of the story, it sort of gets in the way.
    Void started as a Whateley fanfic that I never got around to writing. It probably shows, in the whole superpowered thing. Most of the characters were born there, except for Sidestep who was from *another* Whateley fanfic I never wrote. And Multi-ax who was really made ad-hoc.
    Anyway, the plot is completely different (minus Solomon and Joule betraying Void, that was in the original), and of course it's in a different setting. I've come to call it the Vurok City Canon. Next Mindflare should clarify a few things about Vurok city. Void is quite changed as a character as well, but he has undergone so many transformations before it's not quite as noticeable. His powerset, background and to some extent personality have undergone many, many revisions, and there's really only two things that remain constant with him. The first is his codename, the second is an aspect of his powers that doesn't really show up here.

    So yeah, this took me a lot longer to write than I expected, more than all the other Mindflares combined. Partly because of length, mostly because of distractions. I'll try to stick to a once-a-week schedule, so the(much shorter) next one should show up on Wednesday or Thursday at the latest, and the one after that, and the one after that. Hopefully.