Price Threefold, Chapter 4- Chloe

Domenic led our way down to the docks, with Jaz and Davin bringing up the rear. It seemed that after our brush with our Pairbond backlash, she’d become wary of us. I couldn’t blame her; I’d never seen how we behaved from the outside, but I was sure it looked bizarre at best. Her lack of education on Imbued meant she probably wouldn’t realize anything important. Davin’s specific blend of observant and clueless made him impossible to predict, however.

ConcernSupport ConfidenceFocus. Cecelia stepped just a little closer to me than necessary. “My power says we’re in the clear for now.” She grabbed the smallest tote bag containing our supplies for this working vacation of ours.

Domenic grunted as he lifted the biggest of the three bags. I was torn between feeling insulted that he didn’t let me take care of it, and finding his chivalry sweet. EmbarrassedLove.

I smiled. Okay, so chivalry wins this round.

Domenic pulled his mind away from that emotional loop, though was reluctant to do so. “We’ll just have to be more careful in the future.” In other words, I need to stop being a baby. RegretDefend. Domenic hesitated for a moment. “You know I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Yeah, I know. I’ll try harder.” RespectSupport. I took a moment to bask in Domenic’s emotions. One of the few things in my life which haven’t betrayed me. “Let’s focus on the mission, that makes it easier.”

We left the semi-private parking area and made our way down a staircase to the docks. I saw several boats, most filled with youngsters and wealthy families intent on enjoying their summer vacations. This was no surprise, as ever since Espada started their civil war in the southeast Mexico a couple years ago, the tourism industry had exploded across the American seaboard. A detail which pleased my parents to no end. Until recently I thought it was just a question of economic improvement, now I wondered about more sinister motives.

SupportConcern. I took a breath. Nothing to worry about, just a stray thought.

Gawkers stopped to stare at us as we approached our ferry. Imbued in costume were often followed either by cheers or screaming in horror. CautionRisk ContemptAmusement. Cecelia stepped forward, her body language the exact opposite of her approach with Jaz. She stood tall and walked like a queen, the way I’d seen my mother do so many times before. When she got weird fate powers from Mom, did it come with part of her personality?

No. Focus on the mission. I took a breath, then followed behind Cecelia, with Domenic now bringing up the rear. Unlike the other two, my mouth was exposed, so I smiled as I walked, and looked at the various people. Some smiled back, but for the most part they stared at us as we passed.

Despite Wiki’s claims that Domenic and I were famous, few people here seemed to recognize us. It’s a tourist trap, most of these people aren’t from this state, of course they don’t know who we are. Since we didn’t seem hostile, they were happy enough to stare and check us out. I wasn’t surprised that most of the men were more interested in looking at Cecelia than myself. More insulting was that more men were into Domenic than me. I was losing the female vote as well, but that was to be expected. I consoled myself with being the only one of us who didn’t use powers to cheat.

We didn’t stop walking until we were on the ferry, where I turned to look back. Jaz and Davin had tried to in blend with the crowd at some point when I wasn’t looking, though they were overdressed to sell the act. In any case, we seemed to have drawn any suspicious glances away from the siblings. I waved at the crowd, hoping not to look too lame in the process.

PityAnnoyance. Behind me, Cecelia sighed. “They should have pretended to be employees. No one ever notices the staff.”

As if to prove her point, the man attending the gate spoke. “The captain would like to see you in the control room right away, if it isn’t too much trouble.”

DiscomfortFrustration. Domenic shifted his bag, and his armor shifted to compensate. His bag’s not that heavy, is it? “No, that’s acceptable.”

Cecelia held her hand up over her mouth to stage whisper. “Bet you anything he’ll try to keep us there the whole trip, so we’d better take care of any business now.”

The concern on our greeter’s face served to confirm her accusation. “I wouldn’t want to imply you’re not welcome, but your presence could be distracting. We need to consider all of our guests.”

ContemptDisgust. I agreed with Cecelia, as the man stumbled over himself to apologize. Watching a grown man humiliate himself like that was cringe inducing at best.

RegretPity. “That’s better for us, actually.” Domenic took it all in stride. “We’re here for a quiet ride, that’s all.” He glanced around us to make certain no one else was in hearing distance, then leaned in toward the man. “When the other members of our party arrive, however, pretend you don’t know they’re with us. They’re not in costume.”

Our greeter visibly relaxed. “Just walk to the front of the ship, and take the stairs up. The door is labeled.”

Poor guy. I smiled my best. “Keep up the good work.” I followed behind the others, hoping I’d made the man feel better the way my Dad would, but of us children, only Adam inherited his way with people.

In this situation, Dad would have laughed, maybe put an arm around the greeter or pat his shoulder or give a handshake, and say something about how he started as a working class man, himself. In spite of the awkwardness, the worker would smile and say some platitude. After we walked away, Mom would make some warning about not getting too friendly, lest he be seen as a buddy rather than the boss. Dad would say something which made Mom smile while us children cringed. From then on, the once-terrified employee would be happy to see us rather than terrified. The scenario had played out so often through my childhood that all the examples ran together.

Our boat was small by ocean ferry standards, though larger than any river vessel. The coast of North Carolina had a string of islands called the Outer Banks, which shielded the mainland from most of the violence of the Atlantic much like a coral reef. The island chain also served as a wall large ships couldn’t cross, which forced shipping to go around the region instead of through. I assumed the water was too shallow, but I wasn’t certain. What was certain is we had to take a ferry, or drive well over another hour to get to the real vessel.

Several vehicles were in place, with a pair of valets keeping watch, but those were on deck, rather than in a special bay. Much like our walk to the boat, we got no small amount of attention as we went to the control room. I had to admit the captain made the right call in hiding us away from the passengers. If we’re so much trouble, I wonder why they agreed to ferry us in the first place? We made no secret that we’d be in costume.

Could be some kind of plot. SuspicionAlertReady. I picked up my pace, which put me ahead of Domenic by the time we got to the control room. Perhaps I didn’t get Mom’s powers or Dad’s charisma, but I had a decade of watching power plays using million dollar tokens. I was the one best equipped to deal with them if they did have some scheme.

I opened the door, then strode into the room. ImpressedDesire. Thanks Dom- ShockConfusion. Oh, that was Cecelia. Awkward. No time to think about it now. I looked around, then spotted the captain. He was younger than I expected, with dark features and sun tanned skin that could have originated from any Mediterranean country.

“Thank you for your invitation,” I said. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a tour of a ship.” Most people wouldn’t have considered seven months a long time, nor would they have considered a ferry to be a ‘ship’ in any real sense. More important than that, I’d set the tone of the visit to be one of special treatment rather than a polite isolation.

His smile was one of a man accustomed to getting his way. “Welcome aboard. I’m Paul, but I’m afraid I’m a guest, just like you.” What. “You’ll want to talk to Captain Cline.” He gestured toward an older woman in the corner that I’d overlooked entirely.

Rumor has it there is a man in the UK with the power to go back in time up to twelve seconds, once per day. I have never wished for any power in my life as much as I wish for that power right now. Or perhaps the power to make everyone forget I exist, that sounds good, too. “I’m sorry, ma’am.”

She chuckled as she stepped toward me. “Don’t be. It happens all the time when this scoundrel’s around.” Her voice was more youthful than the wrinkles of her skin led me to expect.

PreparedTrick AgreedAlert. The advantage of my Pairbonds was that, when we all our minds pushed in the same direction, we had a lot of brain to work with. They did this to put us off balance, which means we have to be twice as ready. I stepped forward to meet the woman. The first stage to regaining control is admitting it was lost. “Still, it was rude of me to assume.”

In a way, it was not, given that our guest was in uniform as a captain. My power supply dipped again, as Cecelia invoked my energy as her own. HuntConfident NonthreatNormal. Cecelia had just run a check on how we matched in a fight against them, and found us clear winners. If they were Imbued, they weren’t of any consequence.

“Water under the bridge,” Captain Cline said. “You said you’ve been on a tour, before?” Now that I was close, I noted our captain was an inch shorter than I was.

Which means I have to work twice as hard not to underestimate her. Behind me, I could sense Domenic had his eyes on Paul, while Cecelia was alert enough to watch both. In the end, she had the skills and powers to Track people, while we did not. “It was an educational trip about finding sunken ships, back when I was in high school.” I saw no reason to mention the trip was not arranged by the school, nor that I hadn’t graduated yet.

Her smile held a tint of mischief. “And now you’re going on a sunken ship hunt of your own? Quite the coincidence.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I prefer to think of it as turning luck into opportunity.” We didn’t tell her what we were doing. “After comparing notes about powers with my friends, I recalled some old memories, realized what we could do, and the rest is history.” If she wanted to accuse us of something, I wasn’t sure what it might be. Surely she didn’t suspect we had some way to control who got what powers. Aside being impossible, who would waste a power like that on hunting ships rather than saving or conquering the world?

“Turning luck into opportunity?” Paul said with a chuckle. “Hope you don’t mind if I steal that one for myself?”

Shit. That’s one of Mom’s lines. She’s been quoted as saying it in papers, and now that people have connected her to Starfall- FocusConfidenceRescue.

“She stole it from me,” Domenic said. “And I stole it from some infomercial I saw on TV.”

“That so? And here I thought nothing good came from infomercials.” I still didn’t trust Paul, but Cecelia felt confident we dodged any bullets this time, so I accepted that for what it was.

“Hey, while we’re here, you can pay me back by telling us some stuff about how ships work,” Domenic said. “I’ve always loved machines, though I’ve only ever worked with cars. Plus, you know how Gadgeteers get about learning new stuff.”

“I can’t say I’ve ever worked with a Gadgeteer before,” Paul said, turning his attention toward Cecelia. “But I’m more than willing to learn.” His smile was more flirty than it needed to be, or perhaps it was my own issues that made me think so. Paul had no way of knowing the tall, curvy woman was in fact a shapeshifting fourteen year old.

IrritationProtective AnnoyanceRejection. Cecelia brought her hands up, to clasp them together in front of her chest. “That sounds wonderful. My girlfriend will love hearing all about it when I get back.”

“Of course. Well, let’s start with the basics.” Paul recovered well, though he couldn’t hide his disappointment from Cecelia’s senses, and through her Domenic and I saw it as well. “We rely on gas for most of our needs, though our engines are somewhat larger than you’ll find in your car.”

“I always thought Paul missed his calling when he chose captaining over engineering.” I turned my head toward Captain Cline, who I’d almost forgotten was there. “You, however, seem like you’re suited for command.”

Or you’re fishing for information with compliments. “Do you think so? I haven’t given it much thought.” Questions and noncommittal answers were the safest approach, at any rate.

“I have a sixth sense for this sort of thing,” she said. “Nothing to do with powers, but I’ve learned to spot good captains through experience.”

“Thanks.” Despite myself, I meant it.

“Come, let me show you how I handle my job. Maybe you’ll like it, and even Imbued need day jobs, right?”

I glanced over at where Paul was still discussing the engines. Domenic and Cecelia can handle themselves. So can I. “I’d like that. I never turn down a chance to learn.”

The next hour was a blur, as Captain Cline spent all her time giving orders and micromanaging her ship. I felt confident that I didn’t give away any sensitive details to the captain, if only because she dedicated her attention to her job while all I could do was stand and watch. If her goal was to confirm I had no idea how to run a ship, then she succeeded.

We were well on our way before the excitement settled down to a dull hum of activity, but I had a new respect for the captain. Dad would have given her a compliment, perhaps his patented ‘I’d offer you a job, but I wouldn’t want to insult you’ line. I instead opted to stay silent.

HesitationRecognitionSurpriseSuspicion.

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9 thoughts on “Price Threefold, Chapter 4- Chloe

  1. A/N- Don’t worry, Chloe… Dom was only getting looks from guys because he forgot to craft a bulge for his giant greek-god-statue-form. It’s the sort of thing which invites stares.

    On a more serious note- my research for this chapter taught me about ‘valet’ being used to refer to parking like that is a North American thing. Or at least that’s what the research tells me.

    I also learned all kinds of things about the Outer Banks islands. Never been there, myself, but it looks like a beautiful place to vacation.

    Oh, and sorry about the delay. Sick day. Ugh… I think my new goal is going to be to get up to a full week ahead of schedule, then get one more day ahead. Then keep a chapter in reserve so I don’t have to apologize when I’m only six days ahead instead of seven.

    Yeah. That’s the new goal. As well as getting my vote count back up. Being in the 40s feels like losing ground when I was in the 70s.

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

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So Cecilia is Kitten, or we dont know if she is Kitten, or what? I thought she was Kitten way back, but I’ve lost track. I confess I also dont really understand her or why she is playing along just because of the pair bond. Does she now have affection for the other two, think she needs them, or what.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am going to try to get this right, but I don’t have a chance to go and verify some stuff so forgive me for any errors.

      Cecelia is not Kitten, she is her sister. They were originally Hunter and Killer, until they ran into Dom and Chloe and discovered their pairbond. Cecelia was planning on having a big final fight with Dom and Chloe and letting them kill her. Her powers include Fate checking and manipulation, and she believes in things like Destiny. So in Cecelia’s mind Chloe and Dom are not just the only people who could kill her, but the only people who should.

      However, the pairbond hit the three of them really hard, for various reasons that are touched on in In Triplicate. So instead of killing Cecelia, Dom and Chloe decide to fake her death and keep her with them so that they can maintain the bond.

      Cecelia is not playing along with them, she is doing whatever they want because the emotional resonance provided by the pairbond is that strong. That is actually why all of them are going through with this scheme. It provides each of them with something that they really desire, and the feedback loops from it reinforce their dependency on the bond. Comparing it to a drug is a very good analogy. Everyone involved gets a taste and likes it, wants more, and as they continue to experience it they get more and more hooked.

      Meanwhile, Cecelia’s sister Cora currently thinks that she is dead. She will continue to go on the killing sprees that the sisters started with an eventually Surge again and end up becoming Kitten. Losing her sister to the “destiny” of a pairbond will strongly influence her, which is why she latches on to the idea of Zach being the one who is “destined” to fight and kill her.

      Whew. I hope that that helps, and I hope that I didn’t screw any details up too badly.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, oh kind typo finder. But… just let me check to make sure you know this is the defunct version, and will contain spoilers for the (already far better) rewrite.

      Like

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