Price In Triplicate, Chapter 38- Cecelia

I had planned to ambush them, but they were too far from any avenues of attack. Besides, both were defended by powers that my fate-sense couldn’t beat. My new electrical powers were good enough to hit them, but I couldn’t kill them. I should have listened to Cora; I can still listen to her. I can run, be safe.

Then they started talking about Fate. How I couldn’t stay away, and neither could they. The steel-clad boy believed in Fate, just as I did, even if he didn’t want to. This is meant to be. I crouched, allowing my electricity to dance across my fingers, too dim for human eyes to see.

I was made aware of a new set of emotions; feelings that did not belong to me. Fear and doubt, concern for the boy. I was better prepared this time than the first, I could ‘listen in’ without it overwhelming me like it did before. She loves him. She will fight, not for revenge, but because she is afraid I’ll kill him if she fails. It was a concept so alien that it hurt. No one has ever felt that way about me.

I recognized my mistake a second later. Glow-girl jumped into the air and stayed floating. “I feel her. They’re here.” Determination warred with uncertainty inside her. She’s not a warrior, she doesn’t know if she’s able to kill, but for him she’ll try.

I can run. I should run. I must stay. “It’s not just me then?” I kicked up my electricity to its fullest extent, allowing it to dance across my body in a beautiful pattern of death. Glow-girl’s thoughts and feelings came in clearer than ever before, a blend of hate and suspicion. “What were you saying earlier about Fate?”

“Where’s your sister?” Metal-boy’s voice echoed through the building, as unnatural as the blank spot his presence created in Fate. Through the lens of his partner’s emotions, I could understand the strength behind the steel wall, not of his flesh which was average at best, but of will and wisdom far exceeding our years.

“I told her to go ahead, and I’ll catch up later.” If any human being could defy Fate, it would have been him, yet he was still here. That was all the proof I needed that my death was certain. I could not win, and I would not run, therefor I would die. “She’ll have to find her own Destiny. Tonight belongs to us alone.”

Glow-girl focused on me, reading my emotions with the same sloppy skill as I was reading hers. She tensed, her confidence rising as she began to realize I knew the story ended in their favor. “She’s telling the truth.” They have some sort of plan.

Before I could key in on what it was, she rushed me. She had speed and strength on her side, but I had skill, physical conditioning, and superior senses on mine. I rolled sideways, putting the pillar between us. In a straight fight, I’d lose, but something about the pillars were special. The pair would avoid accidentally knocking them down.

Glow-girl turned and rushed toward me. She needs time to pick up speed. Not all Imbued had that problem, and it was a weakness I could exploit. Especially with her carrying around that giant sword. Instead of avoidance, I rushed right for her, feinting a dodge at the last moment to put me right in front of her. I spit in her face, then was knocked back when she ran face first into me.

Surprise, confusion, and disgust came off glow-girl. Then the drug hit her system, flooding her with enough sleeping agents to drop almost anyone. Any moment now, and she’ll be unconscious. 

“Yuck!” She wiped my spittle off her face. “What the fuck is wrong with you?!”

Or, it will do nothing but annoy her a little. “Dunno, guess I’m just weird.” Why didn’t it work? The Fate-thread I followed promised me she isn’t poison resistant. Orange lightning, my orange lightning, danced over glow-girl. Oh, so that’s what’s happening, she’s stealing my power. How did I not see it before.

I bolted right for metal-boy again. Glow-girl was beyond my powers to hurt, but her boyfriend might prove an easier target despite his immunity to my power. Before, it had been about killing her to mock him, now it was about ending him and maybe using his metal as a weapon that worked on her. I felt the wash of fear from glow-girl, but beneath it was something else. Confidence? Anticipation.

Oh shit, it’s a trap.

Metal-boy stepped back, placing his hand on a trash can. It disintegrated under his touch, shattering into tiny chunks. A new power? Did he Surge for this fight? The pile of metal spread outward, clacking across the concrete floor. My power didn’t see it as much of a threat, there was no risk of death or serious injury, but I couldn’t trust my power against him.

Behind me, a metal clang rang out. I barely managed to duck as another garbage can sailed over me, raining metal down. I jumped to the side, lost my footing, and landed back first on the tiny metal… spheres? I rolled to my side to avoid glow-girl’s foot smashing through the concrete.

“Ball bearings?” I had to ask. Pride and amusement rolled off glow-girl. I flipped myself backwards, landing on the tips of my toes. The area around me filled with more clattering as the metal stuck to my skin fell back onto the concrete.

“Like it?” metal-boy asked. “Took forever to make, but they counter your agility advantage. While Daybreak flies and I’m functionally immune to anything made from metal.”

“Guess I’m supposed to be flattered.” I was flattered, thrilled even. They took so much time, care, and planning just for me. I was almost proud that they would be the ones to kill me. A shocked confusion came off glow-girl. No, focus on anger. “Or should I be insulted that you didn’t use caltrops?”

We stood there for a moment, me and glow-girl staring each other down. Eventually metal-boy broke the silence. “I, uh, we didn’t think of that.”

“That’s okay, sweetie, you’re a guy. Of course you’d think balls are the best way to handle a girl.” I relished in the spike of embarrassment from glow-girl. She launched forward, sword ready. I jumped sideway, landing on the balls and allowing myself to slide with them like I was skating. It will take more than this to beat me.

Their plan still had a lot of merit; paths where I survived were narrower now than before, and more literal dead ends rose around me than before. I wasn’t afraid of my death creeping its way toward inevitable, but I wouldn’t go down without a fight. If they want my head, they have to earn it.

Glow-girl rushed toward me. She’s not losing power, if anything she’s stronger now than when the fight started. Instead of the green aura I was expecting, her lightning was a brilliant sunset orange that bordered on pink. Still, she wasn’t used to her new power, and overshot me so far she almost put herself through the wall.

I fell on my back and pushed off with my feet to gain speed on the bearings. Glow-girl slowed herself, then turned to chase after me.

She was smarter this time, but her caution made her slower an easier to predict. I rolled into a handstand, with my fingers finding traction where my feet could not, then flipped over her rather than off to the side. My feet came down on the small of her back, allowing me a leap straight at metal-boy. In the minute or so this fight had taken, I managed to cross half a mile of hostile terrain while under fire. That thought made me smile. They better appreciate this kill.

Metal-boy positioned himself, duel-wielding blades that were as thin as fencing swords, but twice as long as he was. For anyone else, it would have been useless, but his power made the tactic terrifying. Only one way in, and that’s going through. I let him hit me, both swords impaling my stomach.

“Urk.” Theatrics, maybe, but good for buying a moment to adapt and get my electricity into his metal. “You this rough with your girlfriend? Lucky gir-” A new set of emotions made themselves known. Shock and embarrassment beneath that something stronger; the feelings they shared for each other. LoveRegretLongingLossForgiveness.

We stood there, all three of us stunned as the pair faced their emotions. Each other’s emotions. Their feelings started with love, then moved on to shame and regret, and then balanced out with acceptance.

Meanwhile, I was caught in the middle and it hurt worse than the swords currently inside me. “No!” I forced the steel out of my body, my willpower slammed against Domenic’s. I don’t care if I’m outnumbered, or that he’s Fate-invisible, I can still fight back!

I stepped away, holding decent sized chunks of both his weapons. They shifted and merged into something more manageable. Beneath me, the ball bearings started rolling away. I turned just in time for my new-formed sword to block Chloe’s. I held my ground as our energy fields sent off an explosive shockwave. I hope Domenic’s protected from sonic booms.

I looked into Chloe’s eyes. So blue. I memorized them, because I’d be using that color next time I wanted to look Caucasian. I smiled at her. “So, are you having as much fun as I am?”

I wouldn’t say she smiled back, but she bared her teeth. “Know what? I think I am.” She flew back, then brought her sword at me in a horizontal slice, aiming right for my face.

I could feel the metal, charged with whatever weird hybrid my power made with Domenic. With Chloe’s power to absorb electricity at a distance as a sort of conductor, I took control of the metal in her sword. I laughed when she hit me with what amounted to silver colored water.

The laugh was cut short when an edge struck my chin. I tumbled across the concrete, my shapeshifting working to mend my severed jaw. I kept rolling, flipping up and diving off to the side as several spears slammed into the ground near me. My power screamed at me to duck a heartbeat before Chloe nearly took my head off a second time.

They’re good, better than I expected. How? Adapting. Two of us. Them! Two of them! Where before I had only the pressure of Chloe’s mind inside me, now Domenic was making his presence known. With her, it was at range, with him it’s touch. Is that why it’s so much stronger?

Chloe wasn’t letting up, forcing me to dodge again and again without getting a chance to even turn and look at her. More spears slammed to the ground around us. None close enough to hit. Domenic’s power didn’t make him a skilled fighter, and today was the first time he ever tried spear-throwing. Heritage would have something offensive to say if they saw this.

How do I know that? Distracted by the thought, I wasn’t prepared for Chloe’s next attack. She scored a solid slice with her sword into my back, which sent me flying until I hit the ground. That should have cut me in half. My power’s borrowing Chloe’s durability. 

More spears rained down toward me, and again I flipped to my feet. Some ribs had broken, but they stopped Chloe’s weapon from going any deeper. I did have a chance to look at Chloe; she held the same mithril blade she used to fight Cora before. There were still scraps of steel sticking to it.

I couldn’t help but be impressed; they knew I’d be able to shape Domenic’s metal, so they hid the real weapon inside the decoy. A confused blend of emotions came off the pair, as if they felt like they needed to thank me but weren’t sure why.

“It’s getting clearer, isn’t it?” Throughout this fight, there was an undercurrent of grief and pain, but never once were they surprised by what was happening. “You know what’s happening, don’t you?”

I was buying time, hoping they’d be willing to talk while I patched myself back together. My regeneration was still good, especially with Chloe’s invulnerability backing me up. Yet, more than that, I needed to know what was happening to me, to us.

Domenic chose to answer my question. Waves of disgust and self-loathing were all I could feel from Chloe. I want to hug her until she feels better. “It’s called a Pairbond, if you know what that means.” But that- “Impossible? Yeah, we know, but somehow your power connected to both of us.”

Oh. “One question answered, a dozen more raised.” I didn’t know much about Pairbonds; Cora and I had been avoiding other Imbued until recently. Anger started replacing Chloe’s disgust. She won’t wait much longer. “I didn’t think they were this powerful. It’s really something else, huh?”

“I think our case is unique in that regard, since there are at least two bonds at once.” At least? “Somehow, after you ran last time, Chloe and I could still… it didn’t last long, but I think the way you change our powers give them a Pairbond of their own.”

Guilt surged off of Chloe; she’d had enough talk. She rushed me, radiating a hate that shook me. She blamed me, not just for her mother’s death, but for stealing something precious and special from her. Something she would never be able to replace.

I’ve stolen a lot of precious, irreplaceable things these last two years. For the first time in my life, I felt guilt.

I didn’t bother defending myself as Chloe rushed in. There was no point in it; I couldn’t win. It wasn’t just the physical injuries; those I could repair. It wasn’t just that, blended as our powers now were, that there was literally no weapon in my arsenal that could harm them anymore. Even if I had the power, I wouldn’t be able to make myself do the deed; I would sooner die than harm either of them further.

It was far more than that. It was two minds pressing against mine; two wills that had something worth fighting for. People to protect, families who loved them, ideals and causes and dreams for the future. Compared to that, what was I? I fought for no cause past my own pleasure; between the three of us, my will was consumed like a candle in a forest fire.

The blade struck my neck with all the force Chloe’s power, enhanced by my own, could muster.

This is Fate. Perhaps more importantly, it is justice.

NEXT

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8 thoughts on “Price In Triplicate, Chapter 38- Cecelia

  1. A/N- Whew… and that is, functionally, the climactic chapter to In Triplicate. Cooldown chapters still pending. Maybe a cliffhanger to leave you on like in DoaH. Definitely aftermath chapters, because in Price- EVERYTHING has consequences.

    Also: Pairbonds in action. Hella creepy, aren’t they?

    And in Domenic and Chloe’s defense… Caltrops, while beautiful in their brutal efficiency, wouldn’t spread nearly as well as ball bearings. No point in battlefield control that doesn’t cover enough of the battlefield to make a difference.

    Usual vote request. I’m closer to the top 15 than I’ve been in a while, and I want it!

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

    And, you know… strictly speaking, I’m way ahead of schedule. I could leave it at this chapter until *Monday* without missing an update. Just sayin’.

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  2. Nice to have the chapter early…but damn that’s messed up, the Pairbond effect basically drove Cecelia to suicide for the other two’s sake. Granted here there were three people involved with two of them wanting the third dead(well Domenic less than Chloe but still)but this is frightening, the other thing I noticed is that Cecelia said she had nothing to live for but her own pleasure, she dd not even think of Cora, one would think the sister that shared everything she went through and to whom she was the only family in the world would have mattered.

    Another interesting point is what Domenic said about how Cecelia’s power modifying his and Chloe’s allowed them to bond with each other…This has quite a lot of implications, not just on the power side but also personality wise as it means something in Cecelia was completing Chloe and Domenic in such a way that they could be bond when they normally could not.

    I wonder if this will last even without Cecelia around, I mean now both Chloe and Domenic have felt the other’s feeling, hell Cecelia realised that Chloe actually loved Domenic hell they realised they loved each other through that connection, Y chromosome notwithstanding(well that the Pairbond made them feel that way at least)so with the both of them realising that it is quite possible the bond to each other and their changed powers will last, Cecelia’s parting gift in a way.

    You know this chapter al but spells out Cecelia’s death by what is essentially power assisted suicide, yet for some reason I hope she survived hell I could see her still being alive…I mean she says it’s fate but we all know what Domenic’s power does to that.(eh one can hope right, and believe It strange writing that about Cecelia given my thoughts about her in the beginning so good job on that)

    Another interesting point was the information transfer through the bond as could be seen with the Heritage bit(speaking of which I truly hope we’ll get to see Quash getting Quashed by Domenic).

    Eh if those three had stayed together on amicable terms they would have been quite a force to be reckoned with in Priceverse I would think.

    Damn can wait to see this confrontations consequences for everyone and how people like Lup garou and JJ&E will react to that chapter’s events.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So much I want to say! So many spoilers I have to avoid!!

      One thing I can point out: Cecelia’s a true sociopath (with some psychopathic traits to boot), incapable of empathy for others. She was more than happy to push Cora into Surging *twice*. As she outright states, she never felt love for anyone.

      And, yeah, a three-way Pairbond sequence would be one of the most dangerous powersets in the setting. Hugely versatile, huge damage potential, and having multiple layers of anti-Esper abilities. Pretty scary to say the least.

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      1. You know that whole anti Esper thing that even normal Pairbonds have, which is even greater here due to there being Three people instead of two in the bond, and Domenic’s power’s own anti fate thing are what makes me doubt the reality of Cecelia’s death, that and the fact that Chloe herself pointed out earlier to JJ&E that merely taking the twins’ heads might not kill them due to their regeneration.

        As for this triplicate well at least it isn’t made out of Gifters, because that would be a regular nightmare.

        The sad thing about this look at Cecelia’s last thoughts(or what appears to be her last thoughts)and her lack of feelings(which as you pointed out you shwed earlier)is for Cora as it means that really no one ever loved her.

        Oh yes she is a monster(well really a victim who became one because of the influence of tow other monsters over her life)and needed to be put down but still it is sad and gives a whole new twist on how she acted in DoaH and her interaction with Zach once she realised she made him surge.

        It makes her less the evil force of nature she seemed to be and more of a tragic monster(well even more than what her PoV chapters showed she went through), I think giving context on Kitten and where she came from is one of the things I liked the most in this book.

        Also after this chapter I am even more convinced that if you bothered to split the Triplicate’s story in two you should not put the second part of it right away, because Cecelia’s death(or apparent death, you never know given the context, hell something of her might even survive in the other two if she really bit it here given the Bond weirdness)and it’s consequences are a nice ending point.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah. Poor Kitten. But, and I don’t consider this a spoiler, I do have one last Cora chapter to this book. Her origin story isn’t complete quite yet.

          … I might be a little too good at this ‘make horrible people sympathetic’ thing… maybe I should see what DC’s doing with the Joker in their next reboot?

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          1. Eh, good to know wonder if it will involve her fighting JJ&E(does their team have a name by the way, and if it has and that’s been mentioned then I complelty missed it)before finding out about the events involving Domenic, Chloe and her sister.

            Would I be wrong in assuming that there are three chapters left, one with Domenic another with Chloe and the Cora one ? Anyway it will be good to see the end of Kitten’s origin. Also why do I think that Zach killing her will be what will end up the reason for the Triplicate cast to interact with the DoaH crowd down the line ? And lastly why do I think that Cora is one of the rare people who might actually have benefited from a Pairbond ?

            Mah, given the amount of reboots DC has these days you can even wait of the one after this one(yeah I think there is one being done right now or will be soon).

            But then if you did your story would get the hell edited out of it as it would be dealing with one of the Bat franchise most character so you would get next to zero creative liberty.

            Liked by 1 person

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