Price In Triplicate, Chapter 29- Chloe

I stared down at Domenic, trying to reconcile what I thought I knew about him with that display back there. More, I couldn’t believe he took the brunt of Quash’s attack withough so much as flinching. I started descending; there was a nice little clearing in the trees near the edge of the forest.

“You don’t. Have to …. About me.” I could barely hear Domenic over the wind. I assume he said ‘worry’ in there.

I landed us in a cluster of wildflowers, and felt water seep through the joints in the boots Domenic made for me. “Not for you.” I didn’t care about the wetness; I was exhausted both physically and power-wise.

Domenic sat in the mud as well, but I bet he didn’t get any water in his armor. The plate over his face folded back, showing his mouth. Sweat was dripping down the parts of his face I could see. “Sorry, I thought your power protected you.”

“It does.” If I wasn’t so afraid of drowning, I’d have let myself fall on my back. “But there are limits, and Dad’s power is stronger. Do you have any idea what he does to a body?” Stupid question, he was caught in it as well.

“It wasn’t that bad. He held back because you were there.”

What is he talking about? “Didn’t you see his aura? He was going full power and then some. My power was the only reason I could move at all, and it hurt like hell.” On the other hand, I now knew my father’s power was orange when going all out. It wasn’t lost on me that Mom was purple and I got green.

“Oh. Sorry, I just thought that he wouldn’t use his full strength if it put you at risk.” Domenic’s breathing was as ragged as my own. “I guess he thought your invulnerability protected you.”

It did, that’s the only reason my heart didn’t explode. As it stood, it felt like I just got done with a triathlon in the middle of death valley. “I don’t think that’s it. I think his power’s like mine; he has trouble with control when he’s emotional. You got to him.” Between Mom’s death, and me holding hands with Domenic at the meeting, he couldn’t have been in the best mental state to begin with.

“Well, good.” Domenic’s lips went up into a smirk. “I’d hate to think I went through that for nothing.”

“Why the fuck did you do it!?” It hurt to yell. I put my hands over my face. “You could have ruined everything.”

“I should be asking you the same thing.” More of Domenic’s armor folded back. “You volunteered us for a fight with super powered serial killers. I know you’re upset about your Mom, but-”

“That has nothing to do with it.” I glared at him. “I’m a hero, heroes stop the villains, it’s what we do. Even, especially, if it’s dangerous.” I looked down, at the mud we were sitting in. My mother died fighting to protect people from those monsters. If I’d stayed home, maybe I could have been out there with her, maybe I would have been enough to save her.

“We’re teenagers, we should be focused on school, not out hunting psychopaths. We should leave that to the professionals. Judge, Jury and Executioner can do it, that’s how they make their living. Going out for revenge is just-”

“Says the idiot who provoked my father into a fight in front of like fifty people?” My power crackled around me. Steam rose up from the water at my feet. For whatever reason, I was jealous that he mentioned Jury. I saw the way everyone looked at her, including Domenic, or myself for that matter. The only person who didn’t seem even a little distracted by her was my father. He never had eyes for anyone who wasn’t Mom.

Domenic looked up. “Exactly. I fucked up bad, and now I’m backed into a corner. If my family gets hurt because of me, I’ll never be able to forgive myself.”

Oh, Domenic. “This isn’t completely unsalvageable yet.” Now that I was able to rest, I could think. “I can convince him to back off, by the time things start to settle back down, he’ll have other things to worry about. I was planning to go back any-”

“No.” Domenic’s voice cut me off. This was the first time he’d ever ordered me. “I won’t let that happen. I would rather unmask myself and out him with me.”

Part of me was unreasonably happy at his words. It was a small part of me, drowned out by the other parts which were absolutely livid. “And what makes you think you have any right to tell me what to do?” I was still physically burned out, but my energy levels had returned to something close to full power. I lifted myself so I was standing. “Or are you planning to blackmail me, too?”

Domenic struggled to his feet. “That’s not what I meant. I just don’t want you to have to go back.”

I could feel the tears coming, and this time I wasn’t going to let him see them. “You don’t want me to do a lot of things.” I focused on anger, instead. “Well, it’s my decision to make, not yours. I don’t care if it’s justice or revenge, I am going after Hunter and Killer.” I lifted off the ground.

“Wait!” Domenic flinched, gasping for breath. I tried to ignore the pang of guilt. I was the one who inflicted the first set of injuries on him, and my dad did it again today. “Where are you going?”

I almost said it wasn’t his business. “Back to my family.” It might have been kinder if I had. “And so we’re clear, if you do anything to hurt them, you’d better pray that Heritage finds you first.” I kicked my flight into high gear, taking off toward home. We were less than half a mile from Domenic’s car, he could get that far on his own. I was a mile or two away when I remembered I left my cell phone and street clothes there as well.

Rather than turn back, I decided I’d rather buy new stuff. I went straight for the place that had been my home since the day I was born. I avoided heavily populated areas it added a few miles to the trip, but I got home without running out of energy. I dropped low into the forested part of the propery, staying within the tree lines. Dad’s security was top notch, but hopefully it couldn’t watch everything at once.

I went for the trailing edge of the property rather than the mansion proper. My music teacher, Mr. Knapp, lived out here away from everyone else, and it was here that my brothers and I would go for our music lessons. I felt I could trust him, in part because he was Imbued, and in part because he was weird. Not in a creepy way, he never gave me that vibe at all, he was just odd. In fact, I doubted he had any interest in sex with anyone. Unless some Altered came along who was made of living music, in which case things might get bizarre.

I dropped down in the bushes near his guest house. Before today, I never really gave much thought to the fact that this building was once the slave quarters. It was one of those things I filed away as part of Dad’s obsession with all things historical. It wasn’t as if our family wealth came from slavery; Mom and Dad were self-made success stories, and bought the place right before they got married. Now, I couldn’t ignore the more sinister implications.

I could hear the music before I made it to the door. I recognized it as a dirge, that much was obvious, but it was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. I wanted to stop and listen, but under the circumstances I couldn’t afford to be seen. I dipped into the alcove and knocked.

Mr. Knapp yanked the door open. He was roughly my parents’ ages, but looked decades older than either of them. A lifestyle of music as his only interest in life left him pale, thin, and frail.  His look of annoyance turned to surprise and perhaps a bit of fear when he saw me. “Who are you?”

“I need a place to get changed.” I gestured at my mud covered steel costume. “Before I go to the house.”

“Chloe?!” He stepped back. “Get in before anyone sees you.”

I levitated as I entered, staying a half inch or so off the floor to avoid tracking dirt everywhere. I closed the door behind me. “You don’t seem too surprised by this.”

“I suspected, after you ran off the other day. It has been quite the subject of speculation amongst the staff, as you might imagine.” He stepped into the main area. “You can use my shower to get clean.”

“So you know about my parents?” I tried not to be surprised or disappointed.

“Miss, does it truly matter what I know or don’t know? If I do know some juicy tabloid secret or another, I clearly am not inclined to talk about it.” He kept his voice level, passive even. “And if I don’t, then that question just lets me know there’s some secret to be known. For that matter, if I know any secrets, they might not be the same ones you think you know. In all scenarios, it’s better not to ask.”

He definitely knows. “I’m sure your loyalty’s appreciated. Mom and Dad always did know how to find the best help.”

“You’re wondering why I work for them.” He walked over to a door and pushed it open, the dirge got louder. “This is my library.”

I followed him in, glancing around at this part of his home which I’d never been in before. True to the description of library, there were shelves lining every wall, but packed with CD cases rather than books. There had to be tens of thousands of them lining the walls. I looked back at him. “So they gave you every song known to man?” If there was any bribe I could see working on Mr. Knapp, it was that.

“Quite the opposite, in fact.” Knapp always had a somewhat tired, sad air about him, but it was never so obvious as today. “This is all music of my creation. Some full songs, other experiments with certain chords and harmonies. All told, if one were to listen for eight hours a day, it would take roughly ten years to hear it all. To date, almost no one’s heard any of it.”

Oh. “Why?”

“Do you remember what it felt like, right before your Manifestation? That feeling in the back of your mind, promising power?”

I nodded. “I don’t know how anyone could forget. It was like meeting God.”

“Hmmph, if that was God, then we’re better off going to hell.” Knapp’s voice dripped with bitterness. “I got my power not too much older than you are now, less than an hour before I was to go on stage at the Boston Opera House. I was something of a prodigy.” Somehow, even his brag sounded bitter. “But that wasn’t enough. I needed to know I’d be perfect, and that’s exactly what my power gave me.”

I could tell he wasn’t done with his story, so I waited while he kept looking at the walls. Either this dirge he was playing was really long, or it was set to loop and so perfectly timed that I couldn’t tell where it began and ended.

“I went on stage to play, and could feel every person watching me. Their emotions, their thoughts, and it was wonderful. The music came to me in a way it never had before, as natural as breathing. Then I learned my power was too good.” He took a slow, pained breath. “I could see everyone who listened to my music. Present, and future. Live, or recorded. It was too much, and for the next three years I was insensate.”

Oh. I stayed silent, for lack of anything to say.

“Your parents are two of the few who’ve ever heard anything in this room,” Mr. Knapp continued. “You see, my power to sense those who will listen to my music ends with my death.” He trailed his fingers along some of the cases. “I can sense that, too, to the day. Some days, I have only weeks to live. Others I can expect another forty years, but one day I die. I’m not one of those Imbued for whom aging has stopped. One small favor, I suppose. Your parents promised me that after my death, they would see to it that my music was distributed properly. In that way, I follow the footsteps of Emily Dickinson.”

And in the process, my parents have a precog that might give them warning against attacks. I wasn’t sure how, but if anyone could figure out a way to turn Knapp’s power into an alarm system, it was my mother.

“And if they die first?” It was the only question I could think to ask.

“It’s written into a contract so thorough that not even their lawyers could get them out of it. Though I’ve never known your parents to go back on their word once they gave it. I can’t imagine you and your brothers doing it, either.” Knapp allowed himself a smile. “Besides, aside from certain stipulations that my share goes to my sister’s children or grandchildren, there’s quite a fortune to be made when the time comes.”

I didn’t know he even had family. He was no doubt right, however; If even a fraction of the music here was marketable, there was easily millions in potential profit. “The literal investment of a lifetime, then?”

“Amanda said almost the exact same thing, over twenty years ago.”

I choked back a sob. Once, I took it as a matter of pride when someone compared me to my mother. Now, other than a stark reminder of the loss, I wasn’t sure what to think. “I… should go take that shower. I’ll need clothes.”

“Of course.” Mr. Knapp reached for his phone, and pushed a button.

“Security. What’s the situation, sir?”

“I need to speak to Frederick,” Mr. Knapp was back to sounding like his usual professional self. The security guy tried to say something, but Knapp cut him off. “I am aware he’s busy. This is a priority, I’ll take responsibility.”

“Uh, of course.”

Knapp looked at me. “I’ll explain while you’re cleaning up. Don’t worry, your parents trust Frederick completely.”

That’s the opposite of reassuring. “Okay.” I floated out of the room and toward the bathroom. Once inside, I got a look at myself in the mirror. I was well concealed in my armor; to the point where it would have been impossible to guess my age or sex, let alone identity. Without Domenic, I’d have to undress the old fashioned way.

I dug my fingers into the metal covering my face and peeled it away. The only signs of effort were the cry of metal torn in half, and the loss of around a fifth of my power reserve. Bruises were already showing themselves from exposure to my dad’s power. Forget makeup, I’m going to need a can of paint. I gripped the metal on my arm, peeling away another strip.

I hope Domenic’s okay.

NEXT

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11 thoughts on “Price In Triplicate, Chapter 29- Chloe

  1. An old wisdom: What is the easiest way to ruin a man? Give him everything he wants.

    And we’re back to The Chloe Show for at least another chapter or two, including the family reunion, and Amanda’s funeral (as if either of those things are a spoiler).

    Not a lot for me to say on this chapter beyond that… except that I actually planned to have Knapp’s background covered right after Chloe got her powers, but decided to wait. And so here we go.

    PS- usual request for votes and typos.

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

    Oh, and in other news! I should have banner art some time this week! Ah ish excited!

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  2. Another side character who had a “careful what you wish for” Imbuement. You can make the most amazing music in the world, but the more people who listen to it the more sensory overload you have to deal with. That said, not only did Knapp make the best of it, but so did Chloe’s parents. Simplest use of that power is that they just listen to it every day and it gives them an idea of any large scale attacks that would wipe out the house and surrounding environments.

    A more clever use would be standing orders to kill Knapp if the house ever comes under attack. That way a smaller assault or even assassination could be predicted and then planned for. I hope that abusing precognition becomes a running theme in the Priceverse.

    I can already tell that Dom is going to be beating himself up over what he will probably see as driving Chloe off. Which is a damn shame, because with just a bit more communication and less dramatics they could have parted on more reasonable terms. But hormonal teens coming out of a fight or flight type situation like they just did aren’t exactly known for being reasonable.

    Very interesting that Domenic’s power can help dampen/mitigate Quash’s. At a guess I would say that the supportive nature of it helped to lessen the overall effect of the gravity press. Internally he still felt the pressure but even just being able to adjust your limbs under that kind of gravity would help with blood flow. Alternate theory is Dom having some mild or instinctual control over the iron in his own blood, and subconsciously using that to help out. But I feel like an earlier chapter mentioned that he couldn’t do anything like that.

    Final note, This and the previous chapter are not linked in the Table of Contents page.

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    1. Less ‘careful what you wish for’ and more ‘if you’re smart, you turn it down’. There’s a reason Mike and Amanda were so upset to learn their daughter got powers, and that they were such a high stage set. It’s because they’re very familiar with how bad that news is. It’s no exaggeration to say that if not for Chloe getting powers, her mother would still be alive right now.

      And everyone who has access to a precog makes sure to abuse the hell out of it. That’s part of why it’s so damn unreliable. Price’s Scry v Scry is a constant pain in the ass.

      Also: fixed the table of contents.

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  3. Heh, Starfall’s power at work with the chain of events convinetly pushing Chloe Back to her family, well at least Amanda got what she paid for…Tch truly her power was nasty.

    Speaking of power it was interesting to see the Quash incident from Arclight’s PoV as it confirms something about Domenic’s power: His metal has Breaker properties, first it prevented Starfall to sense him with her power and now it lessened the impact of Quash’s gravity(eh I bet the city has to deal with lots Crushed/Pinkmisted minority gangers)and Dom’s metal itself was completly immune to it whatsoever as he observed that it stayed light for him.

    This particular aspect makes me wonder about the kind of things a Pairbond (and triplicate)effect involving him would generate. His and Chloe’s power together have quite some potential, eh if they are part of the Title’s Triplicate I wonder who’d be the third.

    I really enjoy what you have done with Mister Knapp his story was a very nice touch and so is his power and the way Chloe’s parents and possibly Heritage at large use it. I hope we will get to see more of him and others like him(IE useful Imbued not going out in costume)

    Now I hope we will get to see Myriad soon, I mean Amanada said she was hopelessly in love with her husband and that she was glad thre would be someone for him if she bit it first I am curious to see what kind of person this woman is(well about her power too especially given her name, but more about what kind of person she is and how she will fit in Chloe’s life). Oh and I cannot wait to see who got the Mark of Cain from Starfall’s death(well most likely one of Chloe’s brothers, of course it would be rather Ironical if Chloe’s own power was it and that it appeared before Amanda was murdered and thus actually caused the Star to Fall)

    On a sidenote I also found Chloe’s reaction to Jury interesting…

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  4. As mentioned not long ago by Domenic- it’s rare for Quash to get his hands dirty *personally*… really only happens in fighting other Imbued. But, yeah, the name wasn’t taken in jest.

    And, yeah, many Imbued try to do the “normal life” thing… some more successfully than others… Manifesting tends not to happen to sane, rational human beings however. Domenic is something of an exception in a world full of people like Chloe, Zach, Alex, Cassie, Cora and Cecelia.

    Powers don’t (directly) fuck with your head. But people who are fucked in the head tend to get powers.

    Plus… “normal people” are boring to write about.

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  5. Hnnn…I meant HAD to deal with Crushed/Pinkmisted non White Gangers as I am sure the guy was more hands on when he was younger. Of course Quash not involving himself personally in the nastier side of gang business now makes perfect sense.

    Now while powers(well most of them) do not fuck with people’s minds I wonder if the same can be said with the Pairbonds…I mean such a bonds could potentially alter the personalities of those being part of them with elements of the pair’s personalities bleeding into the other.

    Eh and now for no reason at all I am wondering what Imbued SWAT teams, Special forces or spies are like.

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    1. Well, when Quash was younger he’d have to be more personally involved. But, again, mainly against opposing Imbued. There are some pretty harsh laws in effect when it comes to Imbued on Normal crimes compared to Imbued on Imbued, in much the same way our world doesn’t care as much about gang-on-gang violence as long as bystanders aren’t hurt.

      If Quash personally murdered enemy normals- even of the gangbanger variety- they’d have tried and convicted him in absentia of capital crimes. The cops wouldn’t have come to visit that little meeting, they’d have had a sniper (power or actual SWAT member) blow his brains out from roughly two miles away while he was vulnerable.

      There’s some real legal bias against super powered individuals in this setting. It doesn’t extend to the civilian world (Imbued have the same rights and expectations as everyone else… and even have legal ‘conveniences’ like Domenic not being confronted by the cops for concealing his license plate with metal)… but when it comes to committing crimes, they’re on thinner ice than normal folks, and when the state responds with disproportionate amounts of violence, there isn’t much of an uproar.

      I *am* actually planning a story focusing on a special forces/internal security main character.

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  6. Logical given what some powers are capable of, though I would think that said laws have nuances depending on the power of the Imbued in question or for that matter if the normals are actually threats to the imbued I mean let’s take Quash if there are six normals all armed with assault rifles I would think things would not be the same that if the normals were unarmed or only had knives.

    As for the Legal bias well it was nicely shown in Alex’s chapter with him being denied the right of representing himself in court because he had some of Ferne’s power in his system.

    But then that kind of legal bias can only work because of the relatively low level of the powers in the setting and the low numbers of Imbued and the fact that society has had time to get used to deal with Imbued since they’ve been around forever.

    Hoh ? You are working on such a story I did not see it in the list of future books, eh well this one is now tied with the one on the Mindcontrolling gadgeteer(Rebirth right ?) for the book I am anticipating the most.

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    1. A lot of it’s in that “use of an Imbued ability to commit…” line. That’s functionally two charges where a non-Imbued would only face one. Two counts for the jury to choose to convict on. Two opportunities for the judge to apply a sentence. An opportunity to choose consecutive over concurrent sentences. More leverage to force a plea.

      Not only that, but there’s also perception of power vs powerless at play. By definition, Imbued have a level of power that no normal human has. Think of it this way…

      Men in our world get roughly three times the prison sentence for the exact same crime and circumstances as a woman does. To say nothing of being far more likely to get convicted in the first place.

      Why? Judge and jury bias, mainly.

      Plus… these are things it’s really hard to lobby against. It’s not an argument against possible false convictions- that can be taken seriously. This is lobbying against punishing a criminal for crimes. Let’s say Quash did kill a few people with his powers, and he was convicted, and he’s sentenced to 75 to life rather than the 50 to life that a normal Supremacist asshole might have received.

      What rights group is seriously going to stand up and cry foul here? Not many, Which sounds more likely “the poor man is serving an extra twenty five years in prison, we should protest even though we can’t prove a normal person wouldn’t have gotten the same sentence!” or… “he’s an asshole supremacist multi-murderer, I hope he gets raped to death by the other inmates.”

      Especially in the USA’s political climate where one of the surest ways to tank your career is to look weak on crime. So even most Imbued (or, at least, law abiding Imbued) are perfectly okay with this state of affairs- after all, they’re not using their powers to rape or murder people. In the same way most gun lobbyists are usually support the harshest punishments of people who use guns to commit violent crimes.

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