Price In Triplicate, Chapter 40- Domenic

“I didn’t think they were this powerful. It’s really something else, huh?” There was an undercurrent to Hunter’s emotions through the bond. Between Cecelia hiding them, and with Chloe’s blinding presence in our shared connection, I couldn’t puzzle it out what they were.

If you’ve never had a phobia before, it’s a fascinating experience. A deep emotional reaction, as if you’re afraid for your own life, but you’re aware that you’re in no danger. A real emotion, but one you know is stupid and has no justification. The was similar; real emotion, but also not real. Years of dealing with one had in some way trained me for the other.

“I don’t think it is this powerful under normal circumstances. But there are at least two bonds at once.” I needed to stall this some; Chloe was fighting on emotion, making sloppy mistakes due to the growing emotional effects. It was a minor miracle she hadn’t brought the building down on us already. “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”

GuiltRegret. Chloe realized that I was trying to draw this out, to keep my connection to her going as long as I could. Anger surged up inside her, enough to force Hunter and my emotions from her mind. She rushed Hunter in a full powered burst of orange lightning. Hunter didn’t even attempt to avoid the attack. I could only describe her emotion as acceptance.

The explosion released when she made contact blinded and deafened me temporarily. It seemed my armor did give me some level of protection against light and sound based attacks. Hunter’s body collided with a short concrete wall that divided the warehouse. A temporary fixture, once upon a time, but not valuable enough to drag off when they abandoned the place.

Chloe shot up into the air, her emotions a blur of anticipation for an ambush. “Where’d she go?!”

“This way!” I ran in the right direction while Chloe bolted past me, ready for some sort of ploy by Hunter.

With Chloe’s aura for light, I saw Hunter buried in the rubble. She was in one piece; her durability meant physics treated her more like a ball hit by a bat than flesh and blade. The edge did go deep enough to open her carotid artery, if the alarming amount of blood spilling down her shirt was any indication.

Hunter looked up in silence as Chloe brought her sword up for the killing blow. There was no sense of resistance or betrayal in Hunter’s mind. She’s accepted death, perhaps she even welcomes it. 

The doubt and fear all radiated from Chloe, perhaps with some extra from me. The sword shook in Chloe’s hands. “Get up!” Through Chloe’s emotion, and the crackle of her aura, she didn’t sound human. “Fight back!”

ResignationConfusionResistance. Some of that was Chloe, some of it Cecelia, some of it me. Hunter pressed her hand under her jaw where the sword struck. “Why?”

The word was hard to understand. At that angle of attack, her jaw may have been broken as well. Why she wasn’t healing, I couldn’t be sure.

“Be- because I… I…” Chloe floated down to the ground. “You’re supposed to fight back. I can’t do it like this.” She lowered her sword.

Guilt and pain radiated off of Cecelia. “Well, I can’t do it myself if that’s what you’re hoping for.”

How does someone respond to that? She’s given up completely. It’s the bond. Two of us against one of her, and we won. Chloe turned her head toward me. HopelessLost.

Even if our empathic link only existed using Hunter as a conduit, I could feel her searching for words that didn’t exist.

“I don’t think we can.” I bid the metal around my mouth and eyes slide back; now was not the time for a mask. “I don’t buy the Greenwitch’s ‘Loa’, but we’re backed into a corner. You’re not the sort of monster-” LoathingGuiltFailure. That emotion was some blend of Chloe and Cecelia. Either way, it stunned me to silence for several seconds. “It’s not in your nature to kill someone in cold blood like this. Empathic link notwithstanding.”

ResignationAcceptance. “You’re not, either. Even if you were, I’m the only one of us with enough power, somehow.”

She needed me to give her the answer she couldn’t find for herself. “But we can contain her, right? Until the heroes-”

FearPanic! “You can’t!” Cecelia pulled herself up into a sitting position. “It has to be you! I… I’ll try to fight, if that helps.”

She means it. I forced myself to ignore my instinctive belief she told me the truth. The shapeshifter who beat Starfall’s power might be able to lie even through a Pairbond. There was plenty of trickery employed to avoid Truthsayer scrutiny, but without proper experimentation I couldn’t know if it applied to a Pairbond.

“I’m telling the truth.” She managed to climb to her feet despite her injuries and blood loss. “If they try to take me, I’ll fight back. I… I can’t kill you, but I can kill them until you make me stop. I will! Our Fate is for you to kill me, no one else!”

Again, she meant it, and again I was forced to push through and remain logical. Envy came from the girls. Or perhaps, it was Chloe who envied me, while Cecelia was… jealous that she was jealous? Turns out, an empathic link into a girl’s mind didn’t make her any easier to understand.

“If we go to the heroes, they’ll hold a trial and-” I rejected the idea, only it was Cecelia’s emotion, not mine. She’ll force us to kill her before she lets us cage her. “Maybe use her as bait to bring her sister out.”

AngerEnvy. “She’s a lot stronger than me. If you fought her, she’d have almost no difficulty killing you both.” Sensing our shared question, she continued. “This is our Destiny, not hers.”

She’s insane. I suppose I knew that already, but it hadn’t been pushed in my face like this before.

Focus on the subject at hand. “Giving you over to the villains-” it was Chloe who rejected that one, but her I agreed. “Is not an option. They probably have someone who can get the job done, but they’d have to get through all three of us to make it happen.”

Chloe’s agreement was tinged with resentment at her parents’ betrayal and all the wrongs they’d done. “How is handing her over to be tortured and executed any different than doing it myself?”

RejectionCertainty. “It has to be you.” Cecelia’s voice was stronger than it had been. It’s her regeneration. Does it just take a long time, or is there something in our Pairbond that’s getting in the way? 

I put my hand in its traditional spot on Chloe’s shoulder. “Possibly the strangest hostage negotiation in history.” I tried to let Chloe know I was there for her. LongingRegretLove. JealousyShame. “A-and letting you go is not an option.” I chose the gentleman’s path by pretending I didn’t notice any of those thoughts. GratitudeSafe.

“Let me go and I’ll just find a way to make you try again, the moment the bond wears off.” There was no threat in her tone; at least, not of the intimidation variety. It was a simple statement of fact, as neutral as a medical professional explaining the situation to a patient. “Maybe find a way to kill both of you. I doubt you’re immune to poison under normal circumstances.”

She’s trying to push Chloe into doing it. FrustrationDetermination. “I’m not a murderer. I can’t.” FailureRegret. Two sets of feelings from two people who could not be more different. Is that what a Pairbond needs to complete itself? Natural opposites? 

For myself, I could only feel proud of Chloe for sticking to her choice. If she was willing to kill like this, I don’t know how I would have reacted. Even so, she wasn’t able to find an alternative. I need to help her. “Then we find another way.” My voice was much more calm than the turmoil going on inside my mind.

“There is no other way.” Hunter’s emotions were somewhere between smug and frustrated. “You kill me, or I find a way to kill you. Probably along with a dozen other people. It’s Fate, and even you aren’t immune t-”

“Fate can fuck itself in traffic!” My voice echoed through the warehouse in the silence that followed my outburst. I was shocked at my own anger, but I was going to ride this outrage for what it was worth. “The very concept of ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’ or ‘luck’ is just bullshit. Excuses so people can make themselves feel better about their own laziness. I grew up watching people waste their lives like that. I’m not lucky enough, the system’s built against me, the man keeps us down. It’s all the same bullshit and I will not allow myself to be one of them!

UncertaintyHopeSupport. Chloe’s emotions rang out, her belief in me strong enough to make me believe in myself. Cecelia was defiant, still gripped to this concept of fate. I looked her right in the eyes. “I’ve been the target of three people with some kind of fate powers in as many months. Two failed miserably, and the third won’t do any better.” RealizationAgreement. “So sit down, shut up, and let me show you how we beat so-called Destiny!”

I don’t know which of the three of us was more surprised, but Chloe broke the silence. “Do you have a plan?”

CuriosityDoubt. “Not as such.” DisappointmentFrustration. Yeah, me too. “But I know how to problem solve. First, we start with goals. We’ve eliminated prison, the villains, murder, and just walking away. How about keeping you with us?”

SurpriseConfusion. Yeah, what she felt. “It… how would we even do that?”

Why would you do that?” Cecelia stepped forward, if her awkward limp counted as stepping.

“Because if I intend to beat Fate, I have to do something so crazy that even the crazies who believe in fate will step back and say ‘that is wack’. So we’re getting out of here, everyone alive and intact.” In retrospect, perhaps repressing not only my own emotions, but two others, made me a little unhinged. “You’re not going to run after, are you?”

YieldAgreement. “No.” To my surprise, she meant it; I’d gotten through to her, somehow.

DoubtCaution. “We’ll have, like, all the authorities in the country after us.” Chloe, however, was less than enthused. “Harboring a fugitive of the law, especially one that’s done what she’s done,” DisgustRejection “is impossible. I want to be a hero, Damascus, not going into hiding for the rest of my life.”

She’s right. “We could delay an investigation for a while.” It was a flimsy idea at best.

IntrigueSuspicion. A sort of giddy energy started radiating off Cecelia. She wanted us to succeed, not to save her own life, but to see if it could be done. “You were planning something, weren’t you? A final trap?”

ConcernSuspicion. Chloe was right not to trust the question, even if it had been rendered moot. “Well, when we spend our time preparing, I may have went through and weakened all the support beams in the building.” RealizationShock. “At this point, I’m just glad it’s a calm night. A strong gust of wind might bring this building down on top of us.”

AmusementSurrender. Hunter laughed, the first truly happy emotion shared through our link “I can’t believe I thought you were stupid for not using caltrops! I knew you were luring me into a trap, but I didn’t even think of killing all of us at once.”

Chloe shifted, feeling awkward at the nature of the praise. “We thought it would be two on two, and we have powers that can protect us.”

“The two of you didn’t seem to have any special durability beyond your healing, and no super-strength at all.” I don’t know why I felt the need to justify the plan, but I explained it to Cecelia nonetheless. “You’d probably both survive, but after that you’d be easy pickings for the rest of the people hunting you down. If we do it now, well, it could take days before they’re sure nobody’s under the rubble.”

DoubtFrustration. “But it’s not enough!” Chloe’s voice cracked. “If we wanted to help you escape, sure, but we’re keeping you trapped, not letting you go. The cops will still come looking for us.”

RealizationTriumph. “I know how we can beat fate.” Cecelia began describing her plan, and we were so engrossed that I almost forgot we were conspiring to commit half a dozen felonies to hide a serial killer from the police.

NEXT

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20 thoughts on “Price In Triplicate, Chapter 40- Domenic

  1. A/N- One of the interesting aspects (for me) of In Triplicate has always been the process of deciding who gets a chapter when. Most of the time, it’s obvious- it’s the character that’s doing something. Others, it’s a need to show a particular scene a specific way. And others… it could have been either character, so I picked the one that had been getting less attention recently, just to keep the balance, because the scene itself could have been done with either.

    This chapter is the first time I straight up got it wrong. I fought and fought and fought me so hard… until I realized it *needed* to be from Domenic’s perspective, not Chloe’s. (I’d gotten this idea in my head that the final chapter has a scene that requires Domenic as the main and I’d need Chloe for an incredibly important scene in *this* chapter.

    Then I realized I could shuffle Chloe’s Uber-Important-Scene into the final chapter instead…

    After that decision was made, I went through to fix the first half of this chapter that I’d been smashing my face against my keyboard over… and the second half just flowed out.

    And that is what a good buffer is for. Lucky me, this should be next Wednesday’s chapter.

    PS- I’m back up into the Top 15- and it seems to have attracted roughly 30 new people to the story thus far. Either that, or a bunch of old readers have gone back to reread both books for their own amusement.

    But let’s keep up the work of advancing awareness of my story and finding my typos. I expect this chapter will likely have more than the average number thanks to the way I had to carve it up to switch perspective from Chloe to Domenic.

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

    Also: “go fuck itself in traffic” is a phrase I will now actively seek to use in one variation or another in every story I create from this point forward.

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  2. “How does respond to that?.”
    I think there is something missing here.

    Oh boy, so I had it they did not kill Cecelia they just made it seem like it I knew the Bond would find it’s way to endure somehow and have them rationalize something.

    I like how Domenic is here and his attitude about fate and the way he is the calm and logical one in the triplicate, which makes sense though I cannot help but to wonder if some of Domenic’s current calm doesn’t come from cecelia’s sociopathy dulling his emotions just as her healing is helping Chloe(true the sociopathy is not a power but given the meld of emotions and personalities taking place…)

    I also think this showed how Domenic completes Cecelia: he is thinking things through and calculating, not whimsical nor does he let exterior forces like fate determine his life unlike her. that also makes me wonder if Cecelia really is Chloe’s dragon and not her love. Great chapter anyway I knew that Esper Value was suspect.

    Now I am a bit confused: is the next chapter only Wednesday or are we going to get stuff before that ? And can’t wait to see Chloe’s big scene, eh if they keep Cecelia and Chloe does the hero thing she will be just like her mother.

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    1. Well, Cecelia does have some influence on the bond, but Domenic’s just really good at controlling his emotions.

      I’m confused at where you’re getting the idea that Cecelia’s regen is helping Chloe… nothing’s happened to Chloe after Granny that requires healing…

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      1. Oh ? Well I got the idea of Cecelia’s Regen helping Chloe from this bit of chapter 38:

        “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.”

        Along with this particular nugget of the current chapter:

        ” It’s her regeneration. Does it just take a long time, or is there something in our Pairbond that’s getting in the way? ”

        So I reasoned that whatever was helping Chloe to go all LOLNOPE! at Cecelia’s poison was her leeching from Cecelia’s power thus slowing the latter’s regen and since the Regen/Shapeshifting is the only aspect of cecelia’s set that could stop/heal poison…

        As for Domenic being good at controlling his emotions well this was made rather apparent in his chapters,but still I thought this might perhpas be the first hint of Cecelia’s influence on the other two, a subtle one enhancing something already present in Domenic’s regular personality(because I am positive that the bond,or should I say bonds ?, will alter them greatly).

        Eh curious to see what the dynamic in the trio is going to be, also once again poor Cora.

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        1. She was leeching. Specifically, Chloe’s forcefield is far stronger with Cecelia’s power boosting it.

          Chloe’s not poison resistant, but poison actually has to touch her first.

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          1. Forcefield DUH, should have thought of that as it is her means of invulnerability. So she was leeching Cecelia’s power in general, so Cecelia is a battery to Chloe in one for of their interaction…

            This is rather interesting, she being the support element in that particular pairing, I wonder what other aspects their particular interaction may have…Also curious to see the other interactions that can be seen in this triplicate.

            They better learn about those soon because once people know about them their might be lots of brown pants(and that’s without even taking Cecelia into account)as well as people who might want to control them. i wonder would their Triplicate justify them having the Blue Steel unit sent to capture them ?

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            1. Depends on what they do… if they play nice with the heroes and public, they’re generally left alone.

              The government has resources enough to control Imbued that make themselves a problem… but not enough to control *every* Imbued. A civil war is bad for everyone.

              Especially since a dead Imbued means new powers in the hands of people that *will* use them for violence. Worth it to take out the psychos, sometimes. Not so much for the law abiding citizens.

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            2. Ah, okay then so no trying to bring them in because they are something new never seen before good to see that the Government is not stupid enough to try that in Priceverse.

              Though when I was refering to people trying to kill or control/Study them I was not necessarily thinking of the Government as I am pretty sure they are groups of nutjobs that this kind of thing would interest.(Well if there weren’t those kinds of Nutjobs there would not be a need of special units to take care of them)

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  3. I thought it might end with them keeping Caecelia, but you had me questioning myself up until this chapter. Thank you for writting both of these incredible stories. I can’t wait to see how this ends and where you go from here.

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  4. Hey, so something just kinda popped into my head. I read a fair number of translated Chinese xianxia-type novels where characters become stronger by gradually growing their powers, sometimes to the point of going from regular joe to literal godhood.

    So this makes me wonder, are there growth-type abilities in the Price-setting where time and effort invested directly and significantly increases the user’s power? Further, is there any kind of hard limit on ability strength such that there would never be an imbued with powers sufficient to say, exterminate all life on the world and live through it themselves?

    I know you’ve mentioned aiming to avoid classic comic escalation but that doesn’t necessarily mean there are no powers that can reach that scale, no?

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    1. Powers do get stronger with active use- though the progress is about as slow as it is for normal people, and like normal people it reaches a point of diminishing returns, and weakens with lack of use.

      “Regular Joe” can reach “martial arts master”- but ONLY if Joe is willing to put in years (possibly decades) of dedication and hard work to reach that point. Sometimes that training is done before even getting powers- Chloe, as an example, is already a skilled martial artist, knows ballet, is classically trained on the violin (by someone with music focused superpowers, no less), knows French, German and enough Latin to get by, and was pushed hard by her parents her whole life. That’s why she’s as capable as she is despite having a relatively low level powerset.

      Achievement through time and effort is an option.

      Advancement through anime logic is not.

      And Godhood is straight up off the table.

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      1. Good to know. If powers can atrophy, can they end up weaker than they were at their inception?

        If actual God is out of the picture, is physical God still in the running? By that I mean could a power be strong enough that the user is functionally untouchable such that they could only be meaningfully opposed by someone with the same level of power?

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        1. Everyone has a rock to their scissors. If nothing else, exploding seems to be reliable.

          At this point, there are vanishly few Imbued that can’t be beaten by conventional, if unorthodox, weaponry. If that fails, there’s an Artifact in France which has a power that can be summed up as “Passes through any defense. Whatever it touches dies and stays dead.” Oh, and it won’t work for Imbued.

          Then there are myriad mind control abilities.

          Energy beings.

          And some people whose power is “other powers don’t work on me in any way, shape, or form”. Doesn’t stop a good sniper rifle, however.

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          1. Hmmm interesting, so the powers can grow if people exercise with them on the top of the wielders getting better at using them, that has lots of potential, is that a well known fact or not ?

            The fact that few Imbued cannot be beaten by conventional weapons is not so surprising given that those are very varied, plus even in regular comicbook verses most of the Supers could also get killed by creative application of regular weapons.

            Oh boy, that’s quite the artefact and it sounds like something that could have been made either during the Revolution or under Napoleon(the first one of course)eh with this they didn’t need to fear imbued, I wonder what other stuf this particualr Artifact’s creator has made.

            For that matter I also wonder if the French government gets pleas to use the artifact: i mean some of the Immortal Imbued might be wanting to end their lives especially if you think about how shitty thngs can be for high powered ones. Or demands from other governments to execute problematic Imbued who cannot die from any other method(I know about the Mark of Cain and all but still you never know).

            Ah and about the energy beings are there powers allowing you to transform from human into one at will or are you stuck in the energy state once you got the power ?

            Oh and I also think that there might be Tank 8 imbued that can resist pretty much everything(Nukes and more)but only when they actively use their power, being otherwise say some people capable of intangibility or high end force field users.

            As for actual godhood well I think the power that creates imbued can bestow that and more it is just that no human has enough and will ever have enough to pay the Price for that.

            Also Chloe relatively low level ?

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            1. It’s generally understood, in much the same way it’s understood that working out makes you stronger, and studying makes you more knowledgeable if not necessarily smarter. Less well understood is specific training methods and possible gains- which makes it closer to wishy-washy things like “success training” than muscle group training.

              Some get transformation states… most just go Altered and sucks to be them.

              Even Tank 8 Imbued aren’t unbeatable. Zach, for example, can be beaten by an ordinary metal box in the hands of a teleporter without his weight limit. Guardian can be beaten by any suitably large explosion (a detail carefully hidden from the public) or, well, Kitten.

              Yup. Chloe’s relatively low level. She and Domenic are both Stage Two. As opposed to Zach and Cecelia, who are Stage Three… and Kitten or Anima who are Stage Four.

              Of course, having a Pairbond gives one a pretty hefty bonus to the power levels… but not enough to make them a legitimate threat to the high end Imbued. Against Anima? They’re collectively fucked. And even Zach would be able to beat them in anything resembling a fair fight.

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            2. Oh I never meant that Tank 8 are unbeatable, just that some of them might resist huge levels of destrutive power(more than pretty much anything else)under some circumstances(IE when their powers are in use) I have never seen the ability to resist destructive power(or regenerate from it) as being the same thing as being unbeatable(even though I confess to loving powers making people invulnerable to most things where there is need to be clever to beat them).

              As for Guardian being able to be taen down by a sufficiently powerful explosion well it makes sense given how his power works. In fact smart people with the right intel should be able to work that out, a bit like what Kitten’s instinct did by find Guardian’s proverbial Achilles heel.

              Ah yes, the scams and so called success training and associated New Age Mumbo jumbo I am pretty sure there’ a lot more of those things in a world where there is actual magic/Super powers.

              Oh yes, they are only stage two and of course would not hold against the likes of Zach, what I meant is that Chloe’s power(and Domenic’s too for that matter)seem pretty high to me for their stage just like Cecelia’s and Cora’s first set was.

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  5. I really love this chapter, maybe it is because the orthodox way this chapter went different to the norm, or maybe i simply like characters who try to fight their fate.

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