Price In Triplicate, Chapter 25- Cora

Cecelia leaned on the redhead’s shoulder. “You have pretty hair, you know. So, what’s your name, anyway?” The girl hesitated, glancing over to her boyfriend next to me. She clearly wanted to run to him, to beg him to save her, for all the good that would do. “Don’t be shy, we did save you.”

“C-Casey.” She shivered, as Cecelia played with her hair.

“That’s a pretty name.” I felt a twinge of jealousy. “We have ‘C’ names, too. I’m Cecelia,” she pointed to herself, then to me. “And that’s Cora. So, why were these losers causing problems?”

The man’s heart was throbbing. He’d taken a few hits before we got here, so he wasn’t too upset by the bodies laying around us, but he was terrified of Cecelia right now. He has good instincts. “Because of me. Dey don’ lahk us colored boys stealin’ the white girls.” He put on a strong mockery of a southern accent. “I thought we’d be safe in this part of the city.”

“Ah, jealousy.” Cecelia pulled Casey a little closer. “I’m not jealous at all, in fact I hate jealousy. Are you the jealous type? Mister…?”

“Uh, I’m Manuel. And no, I’m not the jealous type.” It was a lie, but Cecelia didn’t care; this was just part of the fun.

“Good.” Cecelia licked her lips. “I can see why they’d be jealous, you’ve got a great body. I’m not really into guys, but my sister is. I bet she’d sink her teeth right in, right? Don’t you think he’s just edible?”

I had to admit, Manuel was quite the hunk. Tall, mid twenties, the body of someone who worked hard and took pride in it. “He is.”

“And since we’re such close friends,” Cecelia continued. She ignored the whimper of fear from Casey. “How about we go back to our place for a bit of fun? You’re both very attractive, and I’m sure everyone will enjoy themselves.

Cecelia’s voice was low, the threat that they wouldn’t survive if they said no. They didn’t know they wouldn’t survive if they said yes, either. Their fates were sealed when I saw them through my shower wall.

Manuel looked at me again, a hint of disgust rose through the fear and all the other emotions. Once again, fear won the battle. “I, umm, guess we’ve got time.”

“I think I’ve heard enough.” A woman’s voice echoed through the alley. I looked at the woman, her inner workings bare to my sight. She was middle aged, though she’d was in good shape and had healing done, I could see she had multiple children. For some reason, her pulse was weak. Rapid, but not as strong as it should have been. She should have been in a hospital bed waiting for heart surgery, not on the streets in costume. “You are under arrest for assault, murder, and the use of Imbued abilities on civilians. Now back away from the civilians.”

Behind her was an orange, glowing woman that looked to be made of smoke or something. She didn’t register to my lifesense at all.

“But we’re just having a bit of post-rescue fun. Don’t tell me you’ve never done that.”

A bit of a flutter in her emotions proved she had, in fact, done that. It was quashed down by anger and disgust. Her eyes glanced at the couple we’d picked up, then down at the thugs, then focused back onto Manuel for a bit too long. The blend of emotions was impossible to explain, but over everything was a certainty to move forward, that an accomplishment was close at hand.

“I don’t think they want to have fun.” Black shadows started flowing around the would-be hero.

“Cecelia! That’s Starfall!”

My sister hesitated, but only for a moment. “Cool, I’ve never met anyone famous before.” She faked her confidence so well that she believed it herself. “We’re Hunter and Killer. We’re not famous, but we will be.”

“I promise you’ll be on the front page, tomorrow.” Starfall slid her foot back, into a combat stance. Her hand went under the cloak of her costume. “Now back away from the hostages.”

Cecelia smiled, her skin turning a mottled gray as her chitin-bone armor formed over her skin. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to take hostages. I’ve been spoiling for a fight, don’t disappoint me.” She made a ‘come hither’ gesture with a clawed finger.

Starfall’s emotions jumped. “Good. I’m sure the judge will take that into account at your trial.” What was that? There was no sense fear, just anticipation. It isn’t like Cecelia’s thrill for battle. Hope? Happiness? Contentment, even?

“Cecelia, this is dangerous.” She might be even more insane than we are. “She doesn’t think she needs to be afraid.”

Complete and absolute darkness washed over us. Through my lifesight, I could see Cecelia looking around; her animal senses did’t work, either. “Fuck you, bitch.” Her voice carried as normal, the words more an animal’s growl than anything a human throat could generate.

She still had hold of Casey, so when she struck the girl with her elbow, I lost sight of her with my power. She didn’t even have time to realize she was dead; by far the most merciful end she could have hoped for tonight. A wet crunch and thud where she hit the ground were the only sounds she made.

Starfall moved through the darkness, looking in no particular direction. She can’t see in her own power? Her arms came up, holding something. Oh no! “Cecelia! Look ou-” The loud bark of gunfire cut off my words.

Cecelia rolled, knocked back by the force of the bullet. I could see that it had done real damage to my sister, piercing her shoulder despite the layer of armor, and taking her to the ground. She rolled to her feet, the wound already mostly healed. “What happened to a fair fight?”

“No such thing.” Starfall walked closer, her footsteps silent through the gunfire ringing in my ears.

There must be some power at work. Such a small gun firing with enough force to knock back a Tank like Cecelia should have shattered every bone in Starfall’s hand. That she was still standing, let alone walking, proved some power at work. Not for the first time, I wished I knew how to use my power better.

Two more shots rang out; one hit Cecelia square in the face, the other ricochetted and nearly hit me. I dived behind the dumpster, so teeming with organisms that I couldn’t see through it. I guided my hand up the metal wall, finding its top to confirm I could see over the trash without moving my head from cover. I wasn’t sure when, but Manuel had run off in the confusion and darkness. Cecelia’s going to be so mad; no one’s ever gotten away before.

Starfall moved closer, wielding a different sort of weapon that I couldn’t see. Her arm came down, and a thin but deep cut made itself known on Cecelia’s arm. She has a sword, too? What is with this woman? Judging by how deep it cut, it couldn’t have been ordinary metal. Or maybe Starfall had super strength.

Cecelia, blinded as she was, jumped away and twisted to face her attacker. I saw her altering her body, growing her ears and nose to to the furthest extent that her powers could make them. She hadn’t yet learned to do echolocation, but she had hearing better than bats.

I wanted to scream at my sister. How could she do something so stupid? I knew the answer before I finished the thought. It was because she’d never been in a real fight before in her life. She was so accustomed to her powers making her too strong and too tough to beat, and we’d never gone up against a capable opponent before. Not since Him.

Cecelia took a crouching stance, looking directly at Starfall. Like this, she could track her enemies by heartbeat alone. Cecelia lunged, claws extended to pierce the ribcage and end the fight. Maybe this will work out after all.

Starfall slipped on the blood and brain matter left behind by Casey, falling on her back. This had a fourfold effect. First, it meant Cecelia, caught in midair, couldn’t change course. Second, it lined Starfall’s sword up  to lodge its tip right in Cecelia’s neck. Third, it made Starfall’s gun go off, deafening my sister.

Last, the bullet from the gun somehow travelled through the gap under the dumpster to strike my foot. I dropped screaming; where my foot used to be there was nothing more than a bloodied stump and jagged bone.

At last, the darkness cleared. Starfall stood over me, pointing her strange looking gun at my chest. “You are under arrest. Sorry for the loss of your partner.” She didn’t sound sorry at all.

The orange smoke girl hovered above us. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”

I looked at where Cecelia lay, she’d hit a wall, and the blade was forced into her neck, through any number of organs, and come to rest with the tip somewhere near her belly button. She’s not dead. Her heart still beat, her organs were mending themselves or finding ways to distribute the workload.

The orange woman had continued reading me my rights while I was distracted. “…by alias, you will be treated as an adult under the law regardless of legal age. Do you understand these rights?”

They’d have to take silence as an answer. Starfall gave me a minute before speaking. “We will get you medical attention, now roll over on your stomach and put your hands behind your back.”

I looked up at her, noting the tension of her fingers and the quiver in her breath. She may have won that skirmish, but she was in no condition to fight. It took too much out of her, and she knew it. She’ll pull the trigger if she has to.

“Get away from my sister!” All heads turned toward Cecelia. She held the blood-coated short sword in a trembling arm. Her powers have limits, and she’s reached them.

“Sister?” A click came from Starfall’s gun. “Stand down! I would rather kill the prisoner than to let you degenerates go free!”

Oh shit. “Cecelia! She means it!” I stared up at the barrel.

“Truthsayer, huh?” Starfall took a slow breath. “That’s good, I hate it when people think I’m bluffing.”

She was bluffing. Not about killing me, she could and would pull that trigger, but she’d learned to be afraid of Cecelia’s abilities. She wanted to buy time, probably for her reinforcements to arrive. If only I knew the limits to her power.

“If you pull that trigger, I won’t let you die.” My eyes went back to my sister. She took a step forward. Her body was a wreck, internally. Blood was being forced back where it belonged, but much of it was already dying after it spilled into the cavities between organs.

Cecelia could heal from anything, but only if she had the living tissue to do so. Her breasts, which she was ever so proud of, were shrinking down as the fat was consumed to replace other tissues. Muscle and bone compressed, forcing her to shrink. Her power is magnificent.

“You’re welcome to try.” Starfall was focused on Cecelia, likely preparing whatever strategy she thought would work. “I’m ready to die to take monsters like you off the street.”

She’s going to attack anyway, they both are. “Please, Cecelia, don’t. Run away, surrender, anything. You can’t beat her. We’re not strong enough.” I whispered so quietly that no human could hear the words, but my sister’s power was good enough.

“We can be.” Cecelia’s eyes fell on mine for a moment, and I knew exactly what she meant. I watched it happen, or at least what was left in its wake. Cecelia’s emotions as she was confronted by that terrible force and its unknowable will. Her acceptance, eagerness for new strength and her fear of what was lost for them. A wash of energy coursed through her body as she changed herself in ways she never had before.

She held still, watching me now, rather than Starfall. She was calm and confident now. “It’s fate.”

Starfall’s emotions jumped from confusion to fear. Time slowed, as my power let me know Starfall made the decision to pull the trigger. I grabbed desperately at the power I could have, that Cecelia was already given. I needed strength, I need knowledge, and I needed to know how to save myself.

My senses shifted, something new and alien as I learned not just what was going on, but how to strike back. I gave myself over to my new senses and instincts, trusting them to do what I wasn’t strong enough to do on my own.

My muscles surged with power, not unlike Cecelia’s, reshaped and improved. I twisted my back and legs in a way that would have shattered half the bones in my body. The bullet meant for my heart missed, tearing a hole in the armpit of my shirt and going an inch into the asphalt.

I kept moving, until I was curled, standing on my hands. My hands pushed into the ground as my legs kicked up, a crouching leap done upside down. My broken leg bone punched into Starfall’s stomach, and didn’t stop until it pierced her heart. I kept going up in an arc until I landed on my one good foot atop her corpse.

“Starfall!” I looked up at the floating orange girl. My new powers still couldn’t give me a map of her biology, but they did let me know she was no threat. Untouchable, but unable to touch.

“That was awesome!” I felt Cecelia’s arms coming for me before she even touched me. She lifted me off the ground in a bear hug, even as my power gave me a list of ways to injure and maybe kill her. With practiced ease, she put me in a bridal carry. “You just killed her with your own bone! I don’t even know how to begin saying how badass that was!”

I smiled. “Y-yeah. I kinda got a power like yours, now.” I half-listened to the gibbering orange woman above us. My power didn’t consider her a threat, so I ignored her.

Cecelia’s lips met mine, but only for a second. “I’d love to fuck you on her corpse, but we have to go before the cops get here. I can carry you.”

I smiled at her. “Thanks. Can you outrun her.” I glanced up at the orange girl. “If you can’t we might ha-” I was cut off by Cecelia bolting forward. Her confidence and focus sent a tingle through me, just as her kiss had. “Is that a yes?”

“Oh yeah. I wish you could see it, Cora.” She bounded into the street, dodging traffic without so much as looking. Cars blared their horns, but Cecelia never took her eyes off me. She didn’t need them to watch where she was going.

I looked at the orange glow fading away behind us. She was barely moving faster than a normal person walking. “You could see she wasn’t fast enough?”

“No, I just knew it was fate. I can see destiny, what can happen, what should happen, what will happen. It’s all there, an impossible web of cause and effect. That’s my new power, Cora.” Cecelia’s giggles were manic. “I had to give up a lot of my shapeshifting for it, but who cares?”

“That sounds kinda like my new power. I just know how to kill something when I look at it, or the ways it can kill me. I don’t know how I know, I just do.” Oh, that explains so much. “That’s how Starfall was able to fight you like that, how she shot me! She had this power, too! She could control fate!”

Cecelia laughed. “Oh, Cora, you can’t control fate. Fate is so much stronger than we are. It’s like, we’re leaves on a river. We can move around a little, but the river won’t change for us.”

I looked down at my blood soaked leg. I was healing some, using the power I got to mend the bone and stop the bleeding. Like Cecelia, I could only work with what I had. “Is that why she died, did she push fate too hard and it pushed back?”

“Who cares? It was fate, and now she’s dead and we got her powers, right?” Cecelia gave me a sexy stare. “Let’s say we go home and test them in bed.”

A thrilled shiver ran from my neck to my toes. She’s right, it doesn’t matter. “That sounds like fun.”

NEXT

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21 thoughts on “Price In Triplicate, Chapter 25- Cora

  1. And so, the star has fallen. Murdered in the line of duty, saving the life of a Hispanic male. Does this mean, in the end, that she died a hero? It’s a question that Chloe’s going to lose a lot of sleep trying to answer. (As if that’s a spoiler!)

    Writing Cora chapters always leave me emotionally drained. I mean, I think they’re worth it and add a lot to the story… but they’re not a place I like bringing my brain-meats to visit. Time to cleanse myself by watching an episode of Happy Tree Friends.

    Cecelia’s right about one thing, however. Killing someone by impaling them on your own shattered tibia is pretty damn metal.

    Bit Of Trivia: It’s actually “Kasey” with a ‘K’… but she didn’t want to argue with the obvious psychopath… I can’t say I blame her.

    I rolled Manuel’s name and THEN decided the source of the attack Cora and Cecelia interrupted. It was originally going to be a more or less ordinary mugging. And for that matter it may very well have been… not all crimes have to be hate crimes… and the men are too busy being dead to explain their motives.

    In funnier news: a canon interview with Starfall.

    “So, may I ask where you got your name?”

    “Of course. The ‘star’ part is obvious, for anyone with luck powers. The fall part is, well, I tend to fall down a lot.”

    “Really?”

    “Yeah, it’s amazing how often my power decides the best way to win is to just fall over. I’ve had the craziest things happen when I do, like one time these two Snipers tried to shoot me, and instead shot each other. People think the padding in my costume’s to hide my figure, but really it’s because the ground hurts.”

    In less funny news: I still need people to help me with typos and votes.

    http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=price

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  2. I didn’t forsee Starfall’s own power being the engine that drove her death, good twist. Turns out she basically had a genie of a power. She should have known to be more careful what goal she set when looking for a path :( Although my recollection was that Starfall’s goal in finding a path was “for Chloe to come home to her family” – if so, her power kind of screwed her a bit since “to her family” should arguably mean all of the current members of her family. If it was just for “Chloe to come home” then, yeah, terrible goal when you have a genie of a power. It is kind of a wonder she did so well with such a difficult power — imagine her trying to find the path to “win a fight” and her power leading her to blow up everyone except her (including her team members) thus technically “winning” the fight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Depends on what you mean by “interact”. If you mean a power interaction? Then, generally speaking, it’s very unlikely.

      If you mean “can use her powers on them”- then generally yes she can.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Do you mind saying how common power interactions are in general? Also, is it just random chance or more like certain types of power effects have interactions with certain other types?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The in-setting estimates are roughly one in every ten combinations will have some kind of power interaction. (That’s coming up in a chapter sooner or later).

          Self-buff powers tend not to have interactions very often. But very, very few Imbued are *only* able to self-buff.

          And technically speaking, Gifters interact with everyone, all the time, that’s how their power works after all.

          AND not all interactions are practical or easy to find. Chloe and Domenic, for example, do have an interaction. If they’re both channeling their power on the same chunk of metal, it gets a few new properties on top of her invulnerability and his fluid-control. A detail they could only learn by very extensive, perhaps lab controlled, power testing.

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          1. Are there destructive interference-type reactions as well? Something like, someone with the power to disintegrate metal uses his power on metal Domenic is manipulating and their interaction causes both powers to fail to work on the target?

            Liked by 1 person

      2. On the subject of interactions, is Zach’s “preemptive” death before fighting Ferne officially considered an interaction? The rest could just be stable time loops, but I wonder about causality-breaking effects.

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  3. “Your welcome to try.” should be “you’re”

    First time commenting and I gotta say you’ve had me hooked since the first chapter I read.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m with you and Cecelia. When I read the whole leg-bone-impalement thing my immediate mental response was “Brutal” a la Nathan Explosion.

    This chapter adds another layer to the whole Imbuement/Surge dynamic. We know that the Mark of Cain supposedly means that killing an Imbued will lead to someone they love being able to get powers. However, twice now we have seen the sisters gain powers that are thematically linked to an Imbued, right before they killed them using those same powers.

    Both instances were a case where the powers gained were helpful/needed to bring down that particular enemy, so it could just be a coincidence. Surging and gaining a power that doesn’t involve fate manipulation while fighting someone with that ability would still probably have the same sort of problems as they had before. But it is incredibly interesting that twice now we have seen that the best way to kill a powered individual is with a version of their own power.

    I’m also wondering how much of what was going to happen Amanda realized/guessed at. She seemed pretty pleased when she realized she saved Manuel, which I took to mean she was hoping that would be enough to start Chloe on the path home. But she also seemed scared/surprised when the sisters surged, so maybe she didn’t realize that dying while saving someone was on the table.

    I am actually really impressed that you are able to do these PoV chapters so well. I think that you got the mood and tone down just right. We can all tell that these two are incredibly damaged mentally, but it still sounds like normal (to them) thoughts. I don’t blame you at all for having to get into that mindset though. Cora and Cecelia are fucking heartbreaking to read.

    Cecelia surges because she got into a fight against someone who she couldn’t immediately role. And the first thing that she does afterwards is look Cora and just assume she will do the same. Despite knowing there is a price and being afraid of paying it right before her own surge. That is not something you just expect someone you love to do for you.

    And then Cora does it anyway, because fuck these two are depressing me.

    Quick refresh: how old are Cora and Cecelia at this point? I know that Cecelia has the body shifting thing going on, so her looks aren’t quite indicative of anything. But that bit about Manuel looking disgusted at the idea of messing around with Cora reminded me that she can’t be much more than 10-12 at this point. Pretty sure I remember her being 13ish in DoaH, but I have no idea when this story takes places in respect to that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup. Making people feel some sort of weird empathy for the serial rapists and murderers… that’s the sign of an… umm… some kind of author, at least…

      They are 15 as of this point in the story- and DoaH, for that matter, it’s only a few months later in the story. But their childhoods weren’t exactly the healthiest in the world, so Cora at least is small for her age.

      Anywho- the question of powers coming from the opponent is covered in DoaH, especially Leia’s chapter. And all Kitten’s rambling excitedness that Zach would have the perfect powers with which to kill her, but Leia’s chapter really just lays it on the table for the reader.

      And, yes, Starfall was surprised. Most Imbued consider surging to be the last resort, something barely preferable to death. The rest consider it worse than death. Killing other Imbued is ALSO on the list of things most Imbued aren’t willing to do, and for similar reasons. The consequences are just too high.

      Starfall’s big mistake was assuming that Cora and Cecelia were not suicidally insane. And that her power wouldn’t actively seek to kill her. She’s had an almost thirty year long career with neither of those things having happened… and then it did…

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  5. Well, hello… Is that Proto-Kitten? Weird conversation about Fate, killer instincts, being bonkers… Must say, I don’t read comments a lot, but this seems like something I should have seen coming but didn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “She’s going to do attack, they both are. ”
    You might want to get rid of the”Do” here.

    Also is it just me or did Starfall ensure her own death by using her power ? I mean in her PoV chapter we got that line:”The strings of the possible future where she worked alongside her family rather than against us were closer together now than ever before, for reasons I would only be able to guess at in retrospect. I tied them to the ‘now’, locking that fate in place.”
    in which we clearly see her using her interaction with her husband’s power to choose threads where Chloe works with her family without knowing why she does so, and obviously Chloe WILL work with her family to Kill Cecelia and try to kill Kitten.

    I mean the way I see it there was always a possibility that she would get killed in that fight but it was just that, a possibility but by using her power she made that possibility the only one as it was the only way Chloe would ever work with her family and their gang.

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