“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.