Paragon City Stories: Meanwhile at the Superbase
Hosted by UNINVENTIVEHEART
Chapter II, Scene 7
Alpha and Beta
Place: The Brownstone...day after Halloween
Halloween has passed, with Holiday decorations, Trick-or-Treaters, and momentous revelations and decisions.
Paige has spent the night at Nyghtshade’s apartment, dozing on the couch with the cats for company, while Nyght keeps quiet watch in a nearby chair, should Paige need anything, and readies herself for whatever comes in the morning.
Paige is in her mind again over the revelations she had last night…
And Paige sat up, breathing heavily. Wu Shu was startled and ran off of the young girl’s lap, headed to safety in the kitchen. She is awake but stunned, as her vision is blurred from the harsh awakening, her skin covered in sweat, and her ears still ringing from the imagined impact of hitting that bonfire.
She imagines a masquerade ball, but it’s not the scene that Nyghtshade and Devereaux had. It’s out in a forest somewhere in her mind. Torches tied into ancient trees at a 45 degree angle light the field. A bonfire in the center, roaring and casting sparks into the gently lit night skies. Men in fancy attire, powdered wigs, and long coats. Women in full gowns, fancy hair, and pale makeup. All of them wearing feathered masks.
And Paige is no exception. She’s alone in a low-cut burgundy gown, an impossible beehive that she’d never have on her own, and a silk fan in her hand to cool herself next to the flames. She watches the dancers sway and spin to the baroque music seemingly played out of nowhere as the perimeter of the circle is surrounded with onlookers.
The music increases in pace, as a tall gentleman in a green silk jacket takes Paige by the waist and begins to spin with her. The man seems familiar, with the same dark hair and jawline of Carter Drake, but she can’t be sure.
“Do you like this song? Is it simply marvelous?” he asks. The music IS familiar to her, and it’s the same song that was being played when Devereaux and Nyghtshade were in her mind… before Ode to Joy. It’s nothing that would have been played in such an era. It’s a modern song with a uncommon melody.
“Yes, it’s something I cannot get out of my mind lately, although I cannot remember for the life of me what it is called,” Paige genially replies, “Do you sweep all of your dance partners off of the floor like me, or is this a new approach for a gentlemen such as yourself?”
“Only the ones that are clearly not a part of the unaffected and disenchanted… these phonies, these imposters for human souls. But you… you are simply remarkable. I could not take my eyes off of you, my dear.”
As the music slowed to an ending, the two dancers were close in an embrace as Paige removes her mask.
“But… were we not supposed to remove the masque until after midnight?” the gentleman asked.
“Do you think they care what we do?” Paige said, leaning in and closing her eyes as he came closer to her, taking his mask off to try for a kiss.
Her lips touch solid skin. Was this him being coy or playful and turning his cheek before she made contact with him? Surprised she leans back and opens her eyes, “Is this a jok–”
And the color drains from her face as the gentlemen’s face without a mask simply isn’t there. There’s nothing. No eyes, no mouth, no nose or ears, just hair and flat skin where his face should be. The gentleman stops speaking or making any sound. This is when the rest of the revelers stop and remove their masks, only to show the same faceless form.
One woman is still masked standing in front of the bonfire. “Did you think you could get him back? Did you honestly think you could bring Carter back from the void so simply? All you have of him is what you got after I erased him. A glimpse here, a confrontation there.”
“It’s you,” Paige said, “You haven’t gone anywhere, have you?”
“This is my new home, little girl. I’m not going ANYWHERE. And the more you ignore me. The more you resist me, the STRONGER I will get. The more powerful I will become. You’ve lost memories? That’s just the start. Are you aware of exactly why you’re failing your classes?”
“Are you aware of the loss of your past with your dear derelict Mom yet?”
“I still have her memories. The REAL ones. You can’t take them from me.”
“Are you aware of your other emotional ties I’ve begun to sever? Every day, I get closer to throwing each of them into oblivion. Every day… is a chance I get to make you my puppet, and when I do finally succeed, your personality will begin to be erased.”
“I will stop you. Whatever it takes.”
“But you can’t. Every day you denied to confront me, my power has increased. Every moment you didn’t fight me, I’ve burrowed deeper and deeper into your subconscious mind.” The woman takes her mask off, and Paige is looking at her mother’s face, square in the eyes, “…and if you dare attack me, I take a part of your memories with me.”
The woman lunged at Paige with superhuman speeds and grabbed her, then threw her body towards the bonfire at full force, causing her to scream…
Monique is on her knees beside Paige in an instant, taking one of Paige’s hands in her own. “Nightmare?” she asks gently.
“Nightmare…” Paige said, still breathing heavily. “Not the worst I’ve had, but pretty intense.” She slows her breathing a bit, switching to deep breaths… “Sorry about the cat… she’s been sweet all night.”
“He’s a glutton for attention,” Nyght chides, half-smiling, “and always looking for someone warm to curl up, since… well, for quite a while.” Striving for some normalcy for Paige’s sake, she adds, “Still, he is a sweetheart, and has been good company over the years. Him, and Mei Mei.”
Monique rocks back onto her heels, watching Paige carefully. “So, the nightmare… anything you want to talk about?”
“I was imagining being around Carter, but when I tried to face him, he was gone. Shiara is back, now that I’m thinking about her constantly again. Said she’s getting more powerful the more I ignore her.”
She collects herself and looks at Nyghtshade, “I have to confront her. She’s right.”
Monique nods, offering no argument. “When? And what do you need me to do?”
“Can you come with me to Steel Canyon?” she asked, “Detective Martins called and wants me to talk to her– well, to talk to Mirelle McClune, the woman who gave her to me. I don’t want to go there alone.”
“Yes, I can do that. Give me a moment to change into fresh clothes.” Indeed, Monique’s slacks and sweater look somewhat rumpled, as if she’d slept in the chair… or, being Monique, sat up all night in the chair.
“If you need to freshen up, there’s a guest bathroom just off the dining area,” she calls, ducking into the back bedroom.
Paige, checking her brow, gets a handful of perspiration… “Yeah, good idea. Sorry about the pillow.”
She gets up wearily and steps slowly into the guest restroom.
It doesn’t take Paige and Monique long to ready themselves for a visit to the PPD. Monique has changed back into her costume, and keeps her hood pulled forward to shade her against the morning sun.
She follows Paige’s lead as they head into the PPD precinct HQ and request a few moments with Det. Martins.
Paige is sitting in the lobby waiting for Martins as she is looking at Nyghtshade, “Thank you for doing this for me. I’m in your debt.”
Nyght has remained standing, pacing slightly as they wait, but at Paige’s comment, she pauses, shaking her head with a faint smile.
“Shugah, helpin’ friends isn’t a tit-foah-tat arrangement, it’s just what you do foah yoah friends. Ah’m glad Ah can be heah foah you while you deal with this.”
“I am too. I just hope… I remember in Founder’s Falls it was hard for you to be in the daylight. If you need to go, I understand.” Paige said. “I promise, after this, nothing else.”
Nyght shrugs a little. “Serge came up with this suit design years ago, lookin’ to make an outfit that could protect me in daylight… except foah the face.” She smiles wryly. “Ah drew the line at wearin’ some kind of full-face mask, which is what he wanted at first.”
She shakes her head. “He had to settle foah a deep hood, not his first choice, but it works OK as long as Ah remembeh to keep mah back to the sun…”
“Good to know…” Paige said, nervously. “I might need to visit him, my complexion is really fair, and I tend to burn easil-“
“Ladies, right this way, Detective Martins is ready,” the Secretary said. Paige gets up with Nyghtshade and head down the hall to the Conference Room.
“Paige, thanks for coming on such short notice. And I don’t believe we’ve been introduced… Name’s Martins. I’ve been the lead officer on this case” he said.
Nyghtshade follows Paige into the office, and stands behind her as Paige slips into the seat Martins indicates.
She nods in greeting to Det. Martins, with whom she’s worked in past, but does not intrude in Paige and Det. Martins’ discussion.
“Right, there’s not much time to waste…” Martins said, “Alright, Mirelle is set to appear before a judge for the first time, and the defense is pleading that she is unfit for trial. We’ve interrogated her, or at least tried, but she remained silent. Not even asking for an attorney. If it wasn’t for us reviewing CCTV footage of her in the Recovery Ward, we’d haven’t have found this…”
Martins drops a photo onto the table. It is a shot of the window next to her hospital bed, with her breath on the window and the letters written backwards, “PAIGE”.
“When we mention your name to her, she cries quietly, but remains silent. In short, you’re our only chance to talk to her. We want to try to put you in the same room as her and see what happens.”
Paige’s face drops in shock.
“Now, before you say no, we do have her in a Recovery Ward of the Steel Canyon Medical Center. There’s some power suppression in place… it’s not the best, and it is useless against Psionics, but it’s enough to keep her miscellaneous abilities in some control. Plus, we have a special guest present to suppress her Mental Powers to a degree. If you need to use psionics on her, you won’t be alone.”
“If you need time to think about it, you can, but we need an answer at the top of the hour.” Martins said.
Nyght lifts her gaze, meeting Det. Martins’. “Is Paige allowed to take anyone in with her to this meeting? Assumin’ she wishes to, of course.”
“Of course,” Martins said, “We want to just show Paige in the observation room and see how she reacts first, if it doesn’t look like she’s going to talk, we’ll send you on your way. But if it’s productive, Paige can enter with you to talk to Mirelle.”
Nyght nods, and waits for Paige to decide how she wants to procede.
“I don’t know if I can do this.” Paige said… “I know I was sure of it this morning, but now that I’m here. I… I’m not sure.”
“If she’s catatonic, then there’s nothing to lose. But if she responds to me… If she… what if she’s the rest of Shiara waiting to finish with me? What if I’m delivering her on a plate and she comes back to consciousness?”
“Or if I’m going to just send her into a coma. Then we’d never know. What if…”
Martens stops her, “If I can offer some advice, this is where courage matters. Weigh out the possibilities, but understand that doing nothing is still a choice. If you don’t confront her, and she has the answers for both of our problems, there’s a chance you’ll never get this opportunity again. You’re not alone. If something bad happens, we’re going to help you in any way we can. But you have to decide. We can’t force you to do this.”
“Paige, you aren’t facin’ her alone. As Det. Martins says, they’ll be right theah neahby, ready to intervene if things go south. Ah’ll be theah, eitheh beside you, behind you, even in yoah mind with you if that’s what you need.”
Nyght shifts position, adding after a moment, “And if Shiara has left this woman, then Mirelle may have answehs you need.”
“But it’s yoah choice, Shugah. No one will ask you to do moah than you feel able.”
She takes a deep breath… “Let’s go. Before I change my mind.”
Martins led Paige, Nyght and a driver to his patrol car. It was a short trip to Steel Canyon Medical Center, as they were between the morning commute and lunch hour, so the majority of the bustling traffic was in the center of the neighborhood. Upon arrival, the two women were escorted to the 4th floor, to a ward full of draw curtains, beds and beeping monitors watching over heart rates and checking O2 saturation.
The bed at the end of the hallway was where Martins walked behind the curtain. Paige and Nyghtshade were on the other side of an observation window into the ward, protected with wire-reinforced glass. Their side was a hallway, where nurses, medical staff and guests passed through the ward into other areas of the floor. A row of chairs opposite of the window were present as they sat down, among others waiting. A woman on her phone looking distraught after learning her boyfriend was injured in a Skulls robbery. A boy with his dad waiting for a woman to wake up after miraculously surviving a 40 foot fall… who didn’t have the abilities to soften her fall. The difference in paint between wall segments showed that this ward had frequent repairs when protection failed. A door was present after every third window to allow guests to visit the ward without walking all the way around to the entrance to get in.
The detective returned from the curtain and nodded to a co-worker, who has been sitting in the hallway all along. Someone who didn’t come in with the two women. A man who got up and listened intently to the scene on the other side. “Fog, you got her?” Martins asked from the other side of the glass. “Fog” simply nodded without a word. Complete silence from him.
This was the special guest that Martins referred to: A thin, gaunt man of average height. He was dressed in a suit, trench coat and fedora. An FBSA ID was clipped to his collar, with the name “Giovanni Pilato” who had many peculiarities. Upon removing his hat, he also had hair that alternated in color from raven black to white, which extended to his eyebrows as the edges were also white. The hair difference appears to be natural as his pigment-splotched skin alternated in shades from a pale white to an olive complexion, with the white skin adjacent to the white hair and olive skin next to the darker hair. The split pigment crossed his face, with his mouth split between the two. The left half of his mouth had darker, slightly thicker lips, the right half, thin and pale. Both halves extended asymmetrically down his clear-shaven neck into his chest. The man’s stare focused on the bed behind the curtain, a fixed gaze that didn’t break. A gaze marked also with heterochromia: One blue eye and one hazel eye.
His sole ability is temporary Psionic Suppression. Not much for a hero to rely upon to fight crime… not all villains use Psionic abilities so using his ability on someone without those powers does nothing to them. And his concentration only works on one target, so he can’t stop multiple people. But he remains a great asset for law enforcement.
Nyght glanced from the agent in the chair to Martins inside the ward, and back again to the agent in the chair. Not entirely sure of his purpose there, she tightens her mental shields to keep from inadvertently reading or interfering with whatever he might be doing.
“Pardon me, Mr. Pilato. May name’s Nyghtshade, and Ah’m guessin’ you might be the person keepin’ Martin’s patient in theah undeh control. Maybe interferin’ with her psionically, perhaps?”
She pauses, giving him a chance to react, before continuing, “Ah’m a telepath, and Ah’m heah to provide backup foah Miss Pirillo while she talks to this woman. Ah just need to know, will Ah still be able to do so, with you heah on the job?”
“Va rog. Nu este usor sa se concentreze.” Pilato said to the woman, “Daca te deranjeaza plimbare a?a cum face ea, va fi bine. Numai ea va fi infasurat.” Seeing she didn’t understand him, he said, “My English has bad. Talk with Martens, to know.” His accent is somewhere in Europe, but it’s difficult to place.
Nyght nods in understanding and thanks, and turns back to the window to repeat her question through it to Det. Martins.
“He’s able to stop only one telepath or telekinetic from working, you and Paige should be fine.” Martins said, “But he’s not able to hold it for long. After 5-7 minutes, he loses control.”
With that, Martins draws back the curtain and reveals Mirelle McClune to the two waiting guests. Her face is sunken in with gray skin, her eyes are dark and dilated, her once long and golden blond hair is shaved down to a buzz cut after it matted past the point of being fixed. Her gaze is broken from the bright lights once obscured by the curtains flooding into her pupils at once, causing her to raise her left arm with a pick line to her face to shield out the glare. A once gorgeous 30-something woman now looks like she is on her death bed.
Paige is crestfallen seeing her. This woman who has tortured her for the last several months, who has threatened her time and time again, who has dared to infect her mind… but now, so broken and weak.
Mirelle’s eyes finally focus, seeing a silhouette of the short girl who has been haunting her dreams for months… “You? It’s really you…” she mutters weakly.
Martins waves the two women to enter the ward.
“Is it possible Mirelle was possessed by Shiara just as you were?” Nyght suggests telepathically, as she follows Paige into the room. She stays behind the young girl, allowing Paige to take the lead in choosing how to deal with Mirelle.
“Perhaps? She kept saying after we removed her mask that she’d die without it. You’re right, I wouldn’t weigh that out.” Paige replied.
“You wrote my name in the window. Well, I’m here now.” Paige is careful to stand at the foot of the bed, to avoid skin contact with her, as she did when she entered her mind. Plenty of space to fall back to the windows if she should lunge at her. “I’m listening.”
Mirelle asked only one question, “… what… what the hell did you do to me?”
Nyght raises an eyebrow at that, but merely waits for Paige to act.
“What?” Paige asks incredulously.
“You did the one thing that stopped you from saving Mirelle’s soul by destroying that mask. The mask consumed her entirely before Von Trier met with her on the island. And I was free to take over her mind, nibbling on her spirit one day at a time. And by destroying it, you killed her. And the dozens of souls in that mask keeping her alive.”
“But then you. You… you reached into my mind, and I’ve been tortured by your wretched soul ever since. You haven’t let me go. You’ve been… plaguing my thoughts. Haunting my dreams. Torturing my every… waking… thought. Why?” she coughed weakly into her hands, “Was my unmasking and arrest not enough for you?”
Paige steps backwards, hands covering her mouth. “What the? This can’t be… this… isn’t right. If you think I’ve been… This doesn’t make any sense!”
Confused, Nyght sends, “Paige… is this woman suggestin’ the real Mirelle is gone, and what we’re lookin’ at is… what? Mirelle’s body, inhabited by what’s left of Shiara? Or am Ah complete lost heah?”
“When I left her mind, she was set to consume me. I instead charged at her, with everything I had. And when we collided… did I… did we?” Paige replied, working out what exactly happened, “Were you there? Before you tried to consume me?” she asked her.
“Me? Consume you? You tried to consume me, you bitch. I spent every moment resisting you. You were in pursuit of me… my thoughts, my memories, my everything. I felt my soul get ripped away piece by piece until you or something stopped it.”
“Something? What?” Paige asked, almost afraid of the answer.
“It was a blinding flash… and I heard someone. Someone I’ve never heard before.”
Nyght is still trying to unravel all this and hoping her suspicion is wrong.
“Um… Miss,” Nyghtshade interjects, speaking to Mirelle, “Can Ah ask… What is yoah name?”
“Who the hell are you, her mom?” she asked. “Not that it matters to you, but I’m Shiara of the Carnival of Vengeance,” Shiara replied to Nyghtshade, then looked at Paige, “And you killed my host before trying to kill me, and I’m the one cuffed to this bed!”
Oh….kay, Nyght thinks to herself. To Paige, however, she sends, “Eitheh this woman is fishin’ foah an insanity plea, or… Ah think the ball’s in yoah court, Shugah. What do you want to do now?”
“If I think I know what is happening, and I might be wrong here… when I tried to get information from her, I got too much. I… I mean, if I’m haunting her like she’s haunting me… she might be right. Perhaps a part of me…” Paige thought to Nyghtshade, before being interrupted.
“But there’s something you don’t know about yourself, little girl. You… you are no innocent. I’ve heard the voice who saved my life, and he gave me the key to getting myself back.” Mirelle said, then she raised her head.
She weakly began to sing, “I’m as puzzled as the newborn child. I’m as twisted as the tide. Should I stand beneath the breakers? Should I lie with death, my bride?”
“You’re right. Insanity plea. This is stupid.” Paige said to Nyghtshade, then looked at Martins, “Well, she’s talking. Will this work for you?”
“Sure. Alright, I think this wraps things up.” Martins said, nodding to “Fog” to relax his ability. He remained standing at the window, however, unmoved, as to not arouse suspicion in the prisoner as to what is going on…
“Are you done heah, then?” Nyght replies, to Paige.
“Yeah, let’s get out of here.” Paige said. She began walking to the door, when she kept trying to sing, and the melody was changing…
“Hear me sing, come to me, come to me, let my arms enfold you…”
Paige is stopped in reaching for the door. Like a rabbit in the underbrush, she is frozen. Her dream in the forest earlier this morning. The same melody being played by the invisible orchestra. Nyghtshade might remember the same melody in Paige’s mind when she and Devereaux entered it for the first time to try to save her from the murderous masquerade. And in the hospital, before Tahq and PulseFire visited her, a familiar humming she remembered that matched that melody before she fell asleep… that same melody she is hearing right now.
“Here I am…. Here I am…” This is the last words that Paige hears consciously. She looks forward, emotionless, still, unable to move, as she softly replies…
“…waiting to hold you.”
“Come to me. I want my soul back.” Shiara commands from her bed.
Paige turns around and starts walking to the bed. Martins is confused, “What the hell is going on?”
Nyght grabs Paige by the arm as she passes, with surprising strength. “Oh, no, Ah don’t think so!” she snaps at Shiara, as she tries to pull Paige away toward the other end of the ward.
“Martins!” Nyght snaps, without releasing Paige, “Damp that woman down now!”
Hearing Nyghtshade’s call, Shiara wastes no time, and takes a gamble. A trick she’s learned from the Primal Earth Carnival… she reaches out of her body in the moment before Fog can raise his defenses, casting a Psychic Visage. The blast is wide enough to encapsulate Paige, Nyghtshade, and Detective Martins. The bluish spiritual light grabs at all three of them.
If there isn’t sufficient energy in the attack, she can’t save herself, but if it connects Paige to her for just long enough, she might have a chance.
Paige is seen at the foot of Shiara’s bed, kneeling and staring forward mindlessly. Nyghtshade, drained by the attack, has lost her fight against the crushing urge to sleep while the sun is dominant in the sky, collapsing onto the ground motionless and unbreathing. So too does Martins, who doesn’t have Psionic abilities, drained of endurance and snoring hard.
Paige and Nyghtshade find themselves inside of Shiara’s mind, moments before Fog restored his ‘dampening’ field, but instead of stopping Shiara from connecting to Paige and Nyght, it’s serving as a wall to stop them from leaving.
Inside, there are two copies of Shiara, and two copies of Paige. One of the Paige copies is staring mindlessly forward just like her real life counterpart. Nyghtshade is present and watching, able to respond.
Without hesitation, Nyght strikes out at both versions of Shiara, tearing at their minds with painful domination.
Should that work, distracting them both, Nyght would next start draining them both of lifeforce, energy, health - first one, then the other, and repeat.
Shiara Alpha, who has control of Mirelle’s body, strikes back at Nyghtshade with a Lightbolt, causing a sunburst in front of her warming and heating Nyght’s skin as the Sun would.
Shiara Beta, from Paige’s psyche, is slightly surprised at the development. She is caught unaware at Nyghtshade’s attack, and is on the ground grabbing at her cranium in pain.
Paige Alpha continues to stare forward mindlessly, but humming the song she just heard. Paige Beta, from Shiara’s mind sees Nyghtshade’s attack and joins her as she Dominates Shiara Alpha, yelling blissfully “Finally! Some reinforcement!”
Nyght recoils from the sunblast, eyes squinted, gloved hands thrown up to try and shield her face, which is reddening as if suffering a severe sunburn.
But she does not fall, and Paige Beta’s shout rallies her. “Ah’m heah with you, Paige,” she calls back, and strikes back at Shiara Alpha with another brutal blast of mental domination.
“I don’t know who you are, lady, but awesome!” Paige Beta yells back, “I’ve been stuck in this murderer’s head for months! And for that matter, what the hell is wrong with me?” Paige Beta looks at her Alpha counterpart, “Am I comatose?”
Upon hearing Nyghtshade call for Paige Beta, Paige Alpha begins to awaken from her trance… “Wha… what? What just happened?”
Shiara Prime is still reeling from the dual attacks, and surges with energy as she notices Nyght’s vulnerability. Her mind is now changing to a broad landscape, with an exaggerated sun drawing closer and closer to their plane in her mind.
“Lady! Carnival of Vengeance are vulnerable to Darkness. Wouldn’t have any of that with you?” Paige Beta asks aloud as she grabs Paige Alpha’s arm to pull her away from the two assailants and towards her new Purple-cloaked friend.
“No Darkness, not mah poweh set,” Nyght pants, dragging her hood forward and ducking her head to shield her face as much as possible from the increasing glare of the mindscape sun.
“But if we’ah all mindwalkin’ heah….” Nyght pauses, concentrating fiercely as she attempts to throw up mental walls around all four of them, cutting both Shiaras off from the sun, casting them into darkness as the mental walls, hard and heavy as stone, encircle them and grow together to form a roof, cutting off the sun. Inside, Nyght glows softly, shedding enough light for them to see, but barely.
Paige Beta watches the construction at work, “Nicely done!” She then turns and sees Paige Alpha starting to react, “Are we in my mind? Why would I call the sun like that?”
“Nope, cutie. We’re in Shiara’s… I know the smell of her tricks. We need to attack them, but most importantly, right now we’re split because we’re in disunity. The longer we spend apart, the harder it is to rejoin. Just know that Shiara CAN’T be allowed to rejoin herself, or we’re all in a lot of trouble. And she knows this.” Paige Beta warns to both Nyghtshade and Paige Alpha, “Divide and conquer, ladies.”
“Somethin’ about this doesn’t feel right,” Nyght hastily sends to Paige Alpha. “How is this duplicate of you stuck in Shiara’s head, tormentin’ her? Did you put her theah consciously? Or is this ‘otheh you’ really somethin’ else, not part of you at all?”
Paige Alpha thinks for a second… “You’re right. I guess there’s one way to find out. You!” Paige Alpha looks at her doppleganger. “Quickly! Who did you have a crush on in the last year?”
“Easy. Carter Drake, that guy from Sociology. Richard Cross from 7th Grade, when we ran into him at The Last Bean Coffee Shop after marrying Gina Rodriguez. And Jeff MacFarlane, the Salutatorian.” Paige Beta answered.
“You know who I mean. Who else?” Paige asked her again, “You get one last chance.”
“Breathe a word of this to ANYONE, and I’ll disappear from the Earth,” Paige Beta said… “Tahquitz. He’s just…”
“Unattainable. Like all of your other crushes. And you don’t know that.”
“What? He’s seeing someone else? Aw, Fuck!” Paige Beta is visibly distraught.
“I’m convinced.” Paige Alpha said, “I wouldn’t have known that after encountering Shiara. It’s me.”
“Is is possible you’ve been split, Paige? Could this version, gung-ho, agressive, outgoing - could that be a part torn away from you, somethin’ that needs to be re-integrated?”
With an unladylike oath, Nyght’s attention focuses again on both versions of Shiara as the show signs of , and she tries to force them both into a stunned stupor within the darkness of her mental stone walls.
“I would say so,” Paige Alpha said.
“Alright! Let’s smash her up!” Paige Beta said, ready to stomp off and pick one of the stone sarcophagi to Dominate.
“Hold on! Get back here! We’ve got a choice to make. If we defeat Shiara, we can permanently make sure that she’ll never use her abilities again,” Paige Alpha said, “But if we don’t defeat her, we can still win. All we have to do is leave her and let Martins take her to trial. If Shiara is comatose after we’re through with her, she’s useless to him.”
“But, if we let her get away, Shiara will still have her abilities. One screw up from the penitentiary and she misses her ‘meds’, her mind is back at full strength ready to put a mask back on and kill again.” Paige Beta said, “And she is fully capable of it.”
“Paige is right,” Nyght interjects, gesturing at Paige Alpha while addressing Paige Beta. “It’s not our job to kill anyone, or to rendeh them mental vegetables. We’ah not judge, jury and executioneh. She isn’t, Ah’m not, yo’ah not.”
“Besides, you have a moah critical job now,” she adds to Paige Beta, laying a gentle gloved hand on her shoulder. “You need to help heal this Paige heah, who’s been sufferin’ terribly since you weah torn away from her…”
“There’s so much that has happened. Carter, School… Tahq. Seriously, I need a boost to get back on top of things. And Nyght’s right, we have to trust the system. Devereaux taught me that… Vengeance isn’t part of the job.” Paige Alpha said.
“WHAT? Devereaux said that? Now I don’t believe you,” Paige Beta said.
“Believe what you want to believe. And he didn’t say it exactly like that, of course–” Paige Alpha said as a screeching howl was heard from one of the sarcophagi. “Right. So, Paige, want to help me subdue Shiara?”
“No… But I will anyway. Lousy conscience.” Paige Beta said, sounding disappointed in her ‘better angels’ mode of thought. “What’s the plan?”
“Ah can open each stone hut a crack, one at a time. The darkness inside may have drained the Shiaras a bit, and we can try drainin’ them moah, till they’ve passed out. BUT, we have to be careful, not to kill. Unless you all have a betteh idea?”
“My approach would be to dominate the dominator. Search Shiara’s mind for a part of her past that even she is afraid of, and we magnify it. Even better, find something unique from what I find so both nightmares happen at once.” Paige Alpha said, “Then Nyghtshade can drain to her heart’s content without any interference.”
“Okay, just know that, um… Shiara is a twisted chick. I mean REALLY twisted. She makes the Knives of Artemis seem like a upbeat college sorority. Are you sure you want to look at that brand of crazy?” Paige Beta asked.
“I’ll have to see it anyway, of course, once we rejoin, whatever you will know I will too.” Paige Alpha said.
“Good point…” Paige Beta said. “Nyghtshade? Cool name, by the way… does this work for you?”
“Ah’m game, yes. One thing, though, if we get kicked from Shiara’s… well, both parts of Shiara’s mind… then out in the real world, Ah’m goin’ to seem dead, at least till sunset. Ah’m not… OK, well, Ah kind of am, but Ah’ll get betteh by sundown, promise, OK?”
Nyght draws a deep breath she doesn’t really need, and nods decisively. “Let’s do this.”
“Cool! I’ll start!” Paige Beta goes over to Nyghtshade and watches her cause the top of the hut to crack… not enough to give Shiara a grip enough to break free, but enough to let Paige Beta work through in her mind’s eye to see into Shiara’s past.
“I’ll kill you! I’ll destroy you! I’ll eat your flesh like it was–”
“Shut the hell up…” Paige Beta said as she reached into Shiara’s psyche, diving past the recent memories of Mirelle McClune: her transposition into the mask as Shiara invaded her body… further back in time as Mirelle was first given the Mask from the Carnival of Vengeance, full of the souls of the fallen Resistance who swore to seek their retribution. Into Shiara’s past as a First Ward soldier of Emperor Cole who was there for the Hamidon Wars. Into her teenage years, as the bossy and pristine girl who lived by the rule to make made boys cry twice as hard as she ever had. And finally, Paige Beta found paydirt… the formative years.
Shiara was in the fields of Eltentown. Her mother died giving birth to her, so she grew up a single child. Daddy’s girl loved to visit the work sites he frequented as she talked to the older men. On this day, she was telling her father’s co-workers what she wanted to be growing up.
“And what are you going to be?”
“A foreman, just like my daddy!” She smiled at them. “I’m going to tell workers what to make and what to do!”
The men all laughed and guffawed at her.
“Why not? What’s wrong?” Shiara didn’t understand.
“You’re going to be somebody’s wife. You’re not in charge of anything, little girl, and you never will be.”
“I can too be a boss!” Shiara called back… she dropped her purse full of toys and doll clothes in front of one of the workers. “You! Pick that up!”
The workers all laughed as they walked back to work. The closest worker to the back of the pack kicked it into a rain puddle, soaking the contents. “You’re cute, kid, but you’re not that fucking cute.”
Shiara ran to the puddle and collected her purse, then she cried and ran from the field towards her daddy’s truck. From that moment on, she knew she never wanted to be in a position that she was told “No” to ever again… by anyone.
Paige Beta knew that was the moment. She brought the same cadre of workers back to her mind, and Shiara was reverted to that same impish little girl who believed it was her birthright to be in command of others. And she put the past on ‘repeat’. The feeling of humiliation, shame, and powerlessness. It was perfect. And it kept repeating over and over.
Shiara Alpha kept muttering, “I can be a boss! I’ll be in charge! No man will tell me what for ever again!” But the muttering is fruitless as she’s reliving that moment unaware of her mind’s current state.
Paige Alpha saw her counterpart make quick work of her villain, but she wasn’t so sure of herself. This Shiara she is facing, Shiara Beta, is the exact same one in Mirelle’s mind, who has been tortured and threatened by her and not the other way around.
She then remembered the confidence she had when confronting Doctor Hill on the catwalk back in Crey’s Folly, almost a month ago. It was mostly fake, but it worked. The fear and passiveness was gone for a moment, and she had some control of the situation.
And in that, she knew what to do. With Shiara in her mind, the fixation on control was something she knew that had to be a common thread between the two.
So she dove into Shiara Beta’s thoughts and memories. And again, past Mirelle’s fears and hopes was the actual life of the woman. And the moment her soul was lost to the mask she craved, even now.
It was the week after the Day of the Devoured Earth. The day when Hamidon attacked Praetoria yet again, but not from the outside as it did in the past. But rather, from within as the tentacles of Devoured Earth fell the cityscape from within.
A week where new growths would destroy additional footholds that society would cling to as Hamidon enacted it’s vengeance on civilization. A week where Shiara, who was grown up and working for the PPD’s first incarnation, the Praetorian Civil Defense, as someone inbetween a police officer and a soldier during this time. When communication from Emperor Cole is cut off, but her mission as the rest of the PCD is still clear: maintain order, maintain control, and protect the city.
Nightfall is a temporary cover for Praetoria, as PCD fighting the Devoured Earth is the only sound in the skies… gun fire, cries into the night, explosions, and the dull hum of the sonic fencing keeping the force from enjoying absolute chaos on everything they know. If none of that was happening, it would be a beautiful summer night. Shiara spent the night on watch over a building full of survivors in Mercyview as she looked out of the damaged walls with a sniper rifle. Spotting targets, she would only fire if they advance on the building. And if they started to run in a bum rush to raid the bottom floor, then a new battle would be on.
But tonight, it’s calm. Except for crying upstairs from a new woman brought in from outside.
“Praetor Turani, you hear that?” Derek Simms yells at her from the hallway, “Shut her up.”
Once more, Shiara is upset at him for reducing her to take care of other women instead of patrol. Part of why she is stationed here instead of the assault teams. “Is she hurt? Does she need attention from a doctor?”
“We have survivors trying to sleep and the screams attract more attention. If she’s screaming, she doesn’t need triage. It’s 2 am. Either shut her up or knock her out. I don’t care.” Simms said.
Putting her rifle on safety, she leaves her post and heads upstairs towards the screams. “I’d love to knock him out… bastard.” She climbs up the stairs and heads down the hall to find a woman crying loudly and writhing in her bed.
“Ma’am! I’m with the PCD… do you need medical attention? Are you hurt? Do you wa–” Shiara’s commanding voice was interrupted by a loud yelp from the woman who is clearly in agony. She notices that she is avoiding one side of her body when she twists around, and any contact of it against the bed makes her jump in pain. She takes the rifle and uses it to roll the woman onto her belly to see the cause of the problem… a thick, mucous-filled sac was on her left kidney, and pulsing hard. Shiara ripped the shirt off of her back, and saw it. A spore.
There was only one choice. She grabbed a sidearm from her belt and shot the pistol into the woman’s head four times, killing her. Grabbing her radio, she said the words that would cause the building to enter a late night panic.
“Yellow 14-6. I have a Code White. I repeat, Code White. It’s the plague. This is not a drill.”
Shiara knew the protocol: Tellurian Plague victims had to be burned in place. It was the only effective way they knew to contain it… that is, if she already hasn’t been infected. She grabbed at the cabinets in the hospital room for anything she could use as an accelerant. Her answer came in Rubbing Alcohol. She opened the strong bottle and dowsed the bed with it, only to light it up and burn the victim’s corpse.
That night was full of panic, as the PCD tried to evacuate the shelter and move further inland. Away from Hamidon’s wrath. Away from more suffering and loss… only to find the most perfect seat in the house for the final insult from the Cole Administration as the dull hum of the Sonic Fencing shut off. The lights from the pylons went out one after another as the radiation dish turned on the pivot. Each dish pointed into the city instead of away from it. She knew what this meant… the city is officially considered a total loss. Ignoring her orders, she found a door to the Underground and ran inside. She was fast on her way into the catacombs before the fence re-energized and killed everything on the surface.
Four days later, she found a group of survivors from the city who spotted her weakened form, dying of thirst, stomach turgid from malnutrition, and barely able to register their presence. The betrayal from the administration, the onslaught of an enemy without remorse or reason, the duties of protecting a people that she failed at. A total loss. A colossal failure. She was ready to die.
The elder of the group came to her and placed a necklace on her, kissing her forehead as he muttered an incantation. This released her spirit once and for all into the necklace, with countless other souls in a pseudo purgatory… the last words her mortal ears heard: “Soon, my child, we will have our vengeance. Be patient.”
Paige was saddened from watching this, but knew that moment of failure was enough… she kept replaying it in her mind for Shiara to keep reliving over and over again, just like Paige Beta did. And Shiara Beta was silent in repose, awaiting a death that will never come once more.
Nyght has not been privy to the memories either version of Paige has laid bare to the two Shiaras, but as the Shiaras cease their struggles, Nyght begins to relentlessly drain them both - of energy, of health, of strength - but taking care not to drain them too far, not to drain them to death.
It is a balance she’s spent 10 years perfecting, and it does not fail her now.
As she drains them, in turn she bathes both versions of Paige with the stolen lifeforce, boosting their mental selves with the same energy and health, hopefully strengthening them both for the coming re-integration once this ordeal is finished.
Paige Alpha and Beta, relieved that Shiara is under control for once, are both looking at each other with concern now.
“So, how do we, uh…” Paige Alpha said. Paige Beta moves in for a hug, adding “I never thought I could hug myself. This is weird…” She broke off of the embrace, “…and it didn’t work.”
“I could try this… I did it in a prior dream of Linuial’s.” Paige Alpha said, getting some distance, then running towards Paige Beta only to have her swerve out of her way, “WHOA, crazy! What was that supposed to accomplish?”
It’s been a few minutes, and the two Paiges are still just as separate as before. In any case, it’s not as simple as a handshake to get the two back together.
“I ran into a situation like this once befoah,” Nyght says slowly. “A psyche splinterin’, becomin’ separate personalities, because the host thought they’d be betteh off without certain aspects. It took some work to convince all three of them, the splintered psyches, that they really truly needed each otheh… and when they’d finally accepted that, Ah withdrew and waited foah the person to wake up… and fortunately…. it worked.”
“Ah know you two Paiges would like to get back to normal, to be, well, togetheh again… but are eitheh of you strugglin’ at all with losin’… Ah don’t know, yoah individuality? That might be throwin’ a wrench in the works…”
“Well, Nyghtshade is right. For starters…” Paige Beta said, “Girl, we’ve got a problem. You might be excited that Shiara is under control, but did you remember what happened before you got here?” she asked.
“Got to the Hospital? We were at the Police Station when Detective Martins–”
“No, not that. Before we wound up in Shiara’s mind. I saw you. I saw what she did to you, and I know why she knows that. Something is wrong, and it’s got nothing to do with her.”
“But I was walking to the door… next thing I know, I’m looking at you and watching two Shiaras fight us.” Paige Alpha said.
“Oh, but that’s the problem. When we split apart, what did you get after leaving Shiara’s mind?” Paige Beta asked, “It’s clear what happened to me.”
“Facts, information, names, memories of hers, not a whole lot, but enough to figure out why she was here…” Paige Alpha said.
“And did you stop to consider that Shiara might have got information out of you?” she starts off, “Because there’s three things she knows that you don’t apparently…”
“One, that you’re susceptible to mind control. That blur between you heading for the door and me meeting you wasn’t instantaneous. You’re missing some time.” Paige Beta said, as she touches Paige’s forehead, and pushes her, or rather, Shiara’s point of view into her.
Paige Alpha recoils from the revelation. “What… what was that?! What did I do?”
Nyght watches the two Paiges, ready to intervene if things get too tense between them, but also knowing their best bet is to work through this themselves.
And, Nyght also continues to periodically drain energy and strength from the two Shiaras to keep them subdued, which incidentally has completely healed her badly reddened face.
“But I… I don’t remember any of that!” Paige Alpha said, “My God… I thought Shiara was screwing with my mind in my head, but in real life too?”
“It gets worse,” Paige Beta said, “Second, part of what she got was from a mental block. I didn’t understand what it was when I felt it, but Shiara has seen things like this before. The trigger for this is song lyrics, it seems like… lyrics she learned immediately just like when you got info out of her after you two fought for the first time. She also knows that it has been in place for quite some time. Well before we were at Mom’s. Well before we were in group homes. It might be because of #3…”
“What’s number three?” Paige Alpha asked, afraid to know.
“The person who made the mental block has a name… Orion. Does than name ring a bell?”
“No. Not at all. None of this makes sense. None of it! Why is this happening?!”
“I’ve been thinking about it for a bit… Orion. Could that be someone we’ve met before? Someone who we’ve seen around? Paige…” Paige Beta asks her, “…what do we really know about our parents? Other than them being killed in an accident?”
“Practically nothing.” Paige Alpha said… “I don’t even know if that’s true. I’ve never had any documentation on them from my social worker or any proof of who they are…”
“Ah’ll bet a certain mercenary could dig up moah concrete info on yoah original parents, if the incentive was right,” Nyght offers. “Assumin’ we can’t dig it up ouhselves, through the PPD or private detectives.”
“Devereaux… yeah. But where would we start? We’d have to have something for him. Something for him to work off of.” Paige Alpha asked.
“We do, Rebecca Paige Thompson. We do.” Paige Beta smiles, “And something else has been bugging me…” she turns her back to the two women. “Have you noticed you’re not yourself lately?”
“‘Not myself’ is a pretty broad statement… you’ll have to be more specific.” Paige Alpha said, “I’ve been walking to strange apartments at night, filling out my registration forms as Mirelle McClune, dreaming that I’m Shiara myself.”
“Okay, then… The last several months… I’ve been… for lack of a better word, a bitch. I’ve tortured this woman since she was arrested, teasing her mind for any kind of a hint or clue as to how to get out. And I found nothing. And I’ve been quick to anger from it. I’ve been downright cruel to her. I can’t help it, it’s not just what she did… the slightest provocation pisses me off. I have no control of my temper!” Paige Beta said, “Have you been noticing anything like that?”
“Yeah… but I’ve factored it as Shiara’s doing. I’ve been having trouble concentrating overall. No focus, no drive. My interests were getting more and more narrow… people have picked up that I’ve been behaving differently lately. I thought it was her influence, but now… Now, I’m concerned.” Paige Alpha said.
“As if both of you were missing something crucial? Something you need to be whole again? And the other has it?” Nyght prompts.
“Yeah…” they both said at once, as a warbled line between their faces forms, like a heat line off of a summer horizon. Then another, crossing from one torso to another. And another pair from their knees.
“It’s happening!” Paige Alpha said, only to be interrupted by Paige Beta saying the same thing. “Oh, my God, I’ve never seen this…” they said in unison again, as lines form from each of their fingers, tracing one hand to another. More lines appear– shoulders, elbows, feet, hips… “How is this going to feel like? I’m scared but excited…” they said in unison again, as the last two lines formed from their eyes, making eye contact as the heat lines coalesced into a slow moving web collecting on itself, drawing the two girls nearer and nearer, changing from translucent to white as they got closer.
Not wanting to prolong things, the two girls leapt forward into each other, as the lines grew in magnitude in both size and brightness as a flash pealed in both light and sound.
And there was one girl on the ground, lying on her side. She got up slowly.
“Paige?” Nyght asks cautiously. “Are you all right? How are you feelin’?”
“Oh, Monique! It’s so… so… weird. It’s like I have two sets of memories from the last few months! Part of me is finally glad to have met you, but I’ve known you for a while now! But I… I feel happy. Happy! I can’t explain why… No! I can! The feeling of isolation for so long, and I can finally go home! It’s like… like I gave up and I was trying to make Mirelle… or Shiara… try to incriminate herself or come to harm for what happened to me, but I can finally let that all go! And at the same time…”
Paige looks at the two stone entombed Shiara semblences… “I learned why she was a bit like she was… Monique, she was evil, but when you see the stepping stones from one side of the river to the other… you kind of understand why a little more than by being just a victim of her. How she got to be the way she did. It’s not just the domination, I’ve learned quite a bit about her from her own mind as well. I’m relieved to be free of her, but at the same time… I’ve found a little respect for the enemy. My God! Don’t tell Devereaux I said that!” Paige is shying away from Monique, “I’ll never hear the end of that!” she laughed, then turned back around, “Wait! Devereaux! Linuial! Where are they? Tahq! Tell me he’s here too!” Paige is elated thinking about her friends… “I think I’m ready to leave here.”
“Befoah you go, Paige!” Nyght says hastily, “Two things. One, we need to be shoah yo’ah OK, because once I leave heah, Ah’m useless to you till Sundown… and…”
Nyght cuts an unreadable look at the two stone tombs, before turning back to Paige.
“What about Shiara? Do we leave her torn in two, like you were? Do we leave her trapped and sufferin’? Or do we set her free, and let Justice take it’s course - after a thorough debrief with Det. Martins, of course?”
“She’s an adept psychic, and I’ve learned more from her that I can apply from my own abilities. She’s been ‘split’ before.” Paige said. “We shouldn’t let her come to harm… but we shouldn’t exactly help her either. If we oversee her while she rejoins, she could harm us while we’re still in her mind. She’s got hometown advantage… anything we can do, she’ll be twice as effective at once she’s one woman again.”
“She’s too weak to get up at the moment, right? Before we leave we can set her free, maybe let her wake up… for us, it’s been seconds in the real world. Once we’re free, she’ll have a few hours to get back together before the judge will want to see her. But in her mind, that can be days. I think she’ll be fine.”
“Ah realize she’s dangerous,” Nyght nods solemnly. “Just sayin’ that once we’ah out of her mind, it’s up to you, what happens to her. Ah won’t be able to help one way or the otheh. If Ah’m not actively focusin’ on Not Succumbin’ To The Curse durin’ the day, then the minute Ah’m distracted, mah body’s down foah the count. Out theah, Ah’m probably already collapsed in a heap. So, are you ready to deal with this on yoah own?”
“Oh… you mean when we wake up… I didn’t consider that!” Paige says. “It depends on the scene… if that weird guy is still there, I’ll try to ask him to stop her as I get you help out of the hospital. If not, I’ll figure it out.”
“I’m sorry, Monique. I was so caught up in my problems… I should have been thinking about you too. Is there someone I can call to help get you back to home? Jade? Olivia? Have they helped you before?”
“Yes, you can give Jade a call,” Nyght replies gratefully. “She takes care of my cats when Ah’m away, and has the apartment alarm codes and a key. Thank you foah thinkin’ of it.”
“And yes, Det. Martin and his friend definitely need to keep Mirelle/Shiara mentally damped down, you need to stress that.”
“Roger that… a million times over.” Paige said, then tried mentally reaching past Shiara’s head and it feels like she can get back to her body and return to a wakefulness. “The way out is clear. Ready when you are.”
“You go first,” Nyght says firmly, “And Ah’ll follow.”
Paige wakes up, lying on the floor of the hospital, next to Shiara’s bed. She gets up carefully… “I’ve been falling over a lot. I shouldn’t make a habit of that.” She feels her head, then smiles as a part of her missed the feeling of skin contact for so long. It’s good to be back.
She looks at Shiara’s bed, and is pleased to see her eyes in REM, preventing a sudden waking as long as she is careful. Outside, the “Fog” is on the phone, unaware that Paige woke up as he is faced the other way. She gets to her feet and walks to the door, opening it and seeing the man turn around, then holding her finger up. “Help,” she whispers and waves him in.
Martins is hard asleep, but resting comfortably now as the Fog and Paige set him into a chair next to Shiara’s room on the other side of the hallway, curtain drawn. Neither of them seem to be snoring lightly, so it’ll be a bit before Fog is needed again to keep Shiara in check. He sits next to Martins to keep him company.
Nyghtshade is unconscious, but in motion. Within minutes, Paige is walking out of the ward and to the elevator with Nyghtshade’s body in a wheelchair as they head towards the Cafeteria. Once in there, she makes a call to Jade Dancer to help with exfiltrating Nyght’s body out of the hospital without arousing suspicion from the hospital staff.
Thankfully, Jade is terribly clever, as she comes through in about an hour as a foodservice worker. She pushes into the Cafeteria with a large enough cart to smuggle Nyght out of the hospital unseen from the service entrance. The truck isn’t hers, of course, but a payment to the right person at the Paragon City Farmer’s Market in Silver Lake can sometimes mean that a unmarked delivery truck can be readily available on a slow day… as long as Paige can help chip in for gas before they bring it back.
“You know,” Jade grins as they load Nyght’s unmoving body into the truck, “I am so looking forward to hearing why we had to smuggle her out of a hospital in a food cart!”
“I hope you can stick around to help me get her up all those flights of stairs, though! I keep telling her we need to put in an elevator.”
“It’s not how I’d leave, but I hear it’s a very popular way to make an exit these days. All the A-Listers are doing it.” Paige says, then smiles, “And of course I’ll help with the stairs… if we bruised her, she might take it out on your next rent check. I can’t do that to you.”
“Where is Tahquitz at? I called him to help us. Did you see him leave last night?”
“No, she’s cool. Besides, all she’d have to do is patrol tonight and voila, no more bruises.”
“And no, I don’t keep tabs on Tahquitz. Maybe he’s busy with something else. Hard to get decent cell reception in, say, Oranbega. Just sayin’.”
“Very true. I wish I could do that. I bruise like an orange… most of my outfit is hiding marks, not really protection,” Paige said.
“Thanks for the help… I know we’ve just met. It’s kind of asking a lot from a new friend to smuggle someone like this, so if you need the same someday, I’m totally in to help you.”
“If I need you to help me move a body?” Jade snorts a laugh. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll definitely keep that in mind.”
Having settled Nyght in the back of the truck, she and Paige head up the to truck cab and drive off to Talos and the brownstone apartment building.
Jade pulls the truck up around back, and pops out to key in the code and prop the rear door open. Then she opens the back of the truck, pulls Nyght’s hood as far forward as possible, and then for good measure wraps a couple of aprons around her head to cover the face, Nyght’s only exposed skin.
“OK, you take her feet, and I’ll get her shoulders,” she instructs Paige, and as they pull the limp and surprisingly heavy body from the truck, Jade offhandedly calls over her shoulder to a stocky bent-over lady walking an obnoxiously small dog, “Hel-LO, Mrs. Peterson. Lovely day, isn’t it?”
Mrs. Peterson pauses to unabashedly stare as they carry the Nyght into the apartment building and start up the stairs.
“Nosy old biddy,” Jade grins, “She’s always trying to see what we’re up to, like she thinks we’re weird or something. I wouldn’t be surprised if she calls the cops on us.”
“All Monique has to do is wake up. For all the cops know, she just parties really late.” Paige laughed, “One of my Mom’s friends was like that… Real Estate Mogul in the afternoon, raging drunk at night, then dead to the world until 2pm.”
“Come to think of it, though, she didn’t sell that many houses,” she muses, “Makes you wonder how she’s paying for all the drinks.”
As Jade picks up her shoulders, Paige turns away from the body, lowers herself and hoists Nyght’s knees into her elbows, then stands up carefully. She then walks backwards up the stairs slowly as Jade proceeds up the staircase… “If you need a break, let me know.”
“Don’t worry, I’m a regular Energizer Bunny. If you get tired, you let me know.”
Jade has to set Nyght down on the top floor landing, so as to disable the 3 separate burglar alarms, and unlock the door. “She’s a little paranoid about break-ins while she’s out, y’know? Not like she’s got a bunch of apartments rented out to other Supers or anything,” Jade grunts, lifting her end of the body again, and nodding for Paige to head inside.
Inside, the apartment is quite dark, the windows covered with heavy metal shutters. Wu Shu promptly meanders out into the living room, meowing, while Mei Mei watches from the hallway.
“Yeah, yeah, Monique’s home. And I’ll feed you both in a minute!” To Paige, Jade adds, “We’ll just put her on the bed, and that should do it.”
After placing Nyghtshade on her bed, Paige is out of breath and sweaty. “We’re good… didn’t need… a break…. after all.”
Proud but out of breath, she reminds herself to get back into weight training next week as well as cardio.
“Alright… Thanks Jade! I’m… going to head home. Been… a weird weekend.” Paige’s breath is coming back to her slowly. “I’ll see you… on campus… sometime?”
“Sure. And if you ever want to try dance classes, or Gung Fu, for that matter, give me a shout.”
As Jade starts to see Paige to the door, the downstairs intercom buzzes, so she moves to answer it. “Hello?”
A gruff voice replies, “This is Officer Samson.” He sighs. “Got a call about a body?”
“Yeah, hi, Pete, this is Terry, Apartment 4-A. We’re were just bringing Nyghtshade in after a late night.”
“Yeah, figured as much when the description mentioned a purple suit for the body. But we have to respond, you know, can’t ignore calls like that. No matter how often the old lady calls them in.”
“You need to come up and see? I don’t think Nyght would mind.”
“Naw, that’s OK. Take care, see you around.”
“You too, Pete. Thanks.”
Jade turns to Paige, shaking her head. “Did I call it, or what?”
“That is uncanny.” Paige laughs.
“Guess you don’t have the market cornered on weird. Well, got to take care of the cats and then head out to follow some leads on a mission. You take care, OK? And I’ll let Monique know you made sure she was safe today.”
A few months back…
“Nice to meet you Sam. And you Elise. Be good and listen to your mother, okay? It’s time I visit my own little girl…” Gregg puts the magazine down and approaches Paige’s room, whistling a familiar melody before opening her door. “Hear me sing, swim to me…. Swim to me, let me enfold you…” He opens the door, then closes it behind him softly.
“Here I am… Here I am…”
“…waiting to hold you.” Paige sings back as her eyes open and she sits up, staring forward blankly.
“Now that we’re alone… Celaeno. It’s been a long time. How long has it been?” Gregg asked.
“Five years.” Celaeno replied.
“Five years. And you’ve been so well behaved. Someone even tried to adopt you, that’s so nice of them… but college? Registering in the Young Heroes program? I have to say you’ve come farther than any of your sisters. If the project was still running, you could have been the next prototype. So, so wasteful.”
“So, you’ve been meddling in your family’s affairs. Tell me about Morpheus, if you can.”
“It was a project in Crey Laboratories overseen by Doctor Hill.”
“Interesting… I know Hill. Would have made a great partner for Albert Moll back in World War II. What did he make?”
“A bio-construct neural network created from defeated villains with psionic abilities.”
“Oh, that is so lazy. I thought cloning and eugenics would have me in prison for decades after Crey terminated our project, but reanimating the dead?” Gregg rubs the bridge of his nose in disgust, “Come on. Please tell me you destroyed it.”
“We destroyed it.”
“Good, that is excell– Wait, ‘we?’ Oh, right, you’re a hero now. You have a team. Who are they?”
“Xavier Devereaux. Linuial. Tim Verne, known as Tahquitz. Fen Monique, known as Nyghtshade.”
“Good… good…” Gregg was writing in a notepad, “What was that? Linwell… Leenuel… Linuial? That’s a real name? Anyway, you are doing great, honey. Only a few more minutes. Did you see your aunt in there?”
“Doesn’t surprise me. She probably knew you were in there the whole time…” Gregg grabs her right wrist and turns it over revealing a healed-over scar, “I can’t believe they tagged you all, like cattle. Like company property. It probably won’t open any of Crey’s doors anymore, but I don’t doubt for a second that they knew your location throughout.”
Gregg looks at his watch, then folds his notepad up, “Well, that about does it for me. Tell me… what’s your address these days?”
“1200 Empire Street, Apartment 1610. I’m across the street from the University in Steel Canyon.”
“Very good. I’ll keep in touch. First, I got to find where your other sisters are hiding… After Crey ordered you to all be terminated, I pulled a lot of strings hiding you girls. Probably too many. But right now, you do need to sleep. That leg doesn’t look too good. Good night, Paige.”
Upon hearing her name, Paige returned to control as she closed her eyes and laid back down, accepting Gregg’s suggestion. Gregg walked out of the hospital room and past Tim and Lisa, who brush past him but didn’t see him closing the door to Paige’s room. “So that’s her ‘family’ now. Heh… I can’t wait for her to come home. With her real family.”
Gregg puts on a set of sunglasses and walks to the elevator to leave, humming his favorite song.