Price Threefold, Chapter 20- Domenic

“Attention students, guests, and faculty. Please make your way to the auditorium. This is not a drill. I repeat, everyone in the building please head to the auditorium immediately.”

ConfusionFear AlertReady. I looked around first, but the small classroom they’d assigned to paperwork didn’t have any answer. Around me, other students and their parents all looked about as confused as I did.

“Domenic?” Nanna asked. “What happened?”

I was spared explaining to her that I didn’t know by the room plunging into darkness. Shouts of surprise, and even a couple people cursing out their cell phones for the lack of signal indicated that it was only light, and we still had sound. “I don’t know, Nanna.”

I felt around in her general direction until I found her shoulder. In some ways, my metal-sight had taught me a few tricks about functioning blind; there was little difference between being blind, and everything being invisible. In addition, I switched over to metal-sight and could see the framework within the building as clear as day; yet another advantage I had over everyone else here.

“It a fucking supervillain, is what it is!” Beatrice’s voice cracked. Whether the accusation in her tone was real or a figment of my imagination, I couldn’t say.

“Don’t be stupid!” a girl shouted from somewhere near the back. “Nobody’s stupid enough to attack a school!”

She was half right; attacking a school, or kids in general, was about the easiest way to guarantee you wouldn’t live to see jail. Especially this school, where the parents could afford to hire mercenaries to track you down. Her mistake was assuming there was a limit to human stupidity, or she was in denial. Either way, reality was going to prove her wrong.

“Everyone listen up!” A man’s voice rose above the general panicked murmurs. “We need to stay calm and head to the auditorium like the announcement told us. I’m sure the police are on their way, and that’s where they’ll come looking for us. Everyone form up, hold hands, and we will be fine. Do any of you know where to go?”

This I can do. “I know the way, sir!” The ‘sir’ may have been a little excessive, but I was the one with the ability to see in this mess. I helped Nanna out of her desk, then made contact with Bea’s arm. “I’m starting the chain here, everyone come toward the sound of my voice.”

While we gathered up, I looked around for metal under the influence of my power. Chloe and Cecelia were in the building, though only Cecelia was moving fast. Either this effect, whatever it was, was strong enough to blind Chloe, or she wasn’t willing to use her powers.

I made my way to the door, all the while scanning for anything in easy reach that I could use my power on. One would have assumed the lockers, but our school had to be special and use some kind of high quality plastic. The support beams were all hidden inside walls, not that I was in any hurry to demolish a chunk of my school if I had any alternative. Still hunting for options, I led my daisy-chain of people through the hallway toward the auditorium. If nothing else, I knew there was plenty of metal holding the stage up, and if that collapsed they’d just have to make due with using the gym like a normal school.

Someone screamed behind me. I turned to look, even if I was still blind. More shouts followed, and Nanna tugged my arm back. “Domenic!”

Agony shot through my shoulder and spine, and I crumped to the ground. My cry of pain was… far less masculine than I’d have liked. I hope I live, if only so my family doesn’t remember my last moments as screaming like a little girl.

Only then did I switch my vision back to normal sight, to find there was once again light in the building. I hope no one puts together that weakness. The hall had light, but the whole thing was in black and white, with gray mists whirling around us. In the mist, misshapen humanoids lurked with long, cruel talons extending from crooked caricatures of hands. Like the black and white scene before us, they belonged in a horror movie.

If one of those things was what got me, I won’t survive without a healer.

RageOpportunity! One such monster rolled past me, its skull broken open to reveal some tar-like substance rather than a brain. ImpatientDisgust. “Get up!” Lightning crackled in Cecelia’s voice.

Reflex led me to obey her before I considered the consequences. Contrary to all expectations, I had no trouble standing, and in fact I hurt more from where I hit the ground than where the claw got me. Cecelia herself wore just enough metal to cover her face and have thin gloves and boots which were decorative enough to be mistaken for Gadgets. “Wh- what happened?”

“They’re some kind of illusion,” she spoke loud enough for the whole group to hear. “They feel real, but they can’t do anything permanent. Stick together, keep moving, and I’ll cover your backside.”

I wanted to argue that I could stay and fight, but with all these witnesses I couldn’t find a plausible excuse. Instead I extended what boost I could to Cecelia’s metal, which would help keep her powers topped off. Chloe wasn’t far off, though she seemed occupied as well. ShockPainConfusion.

“Okay. Thanks, uh, Spark.” I got up and scrambled for where Bea and Nanna were, then led them as fast as I could for the auditorium, as instructed by the message which still rang through the halls. I had to assume it was a recording. Now I had another reason; the sooner I got them to safety, the sooner I could join the girls in fighting this living nightmare.

Cecelia moved behind us, to take on another monster. It died with as much fanfare as mine had, but one of its claws managed to hit Cecelia in the stomach as it went down. SurprisePainRage.

One of the creatures dived out of the shadows at a couple guys who had moved past me in the confusion. The one in front took a raking attack that either caught his face or throat. The results either way were the same; he screamed like he’d been ripped in half while falling backward. Moments later, he felt at his face to discover there was, indeed, no wound. Oh, good, at least I won’t be the only person who looked like a total loser here.

His buddy, however, hauled off and gave the creature a sucker punch which sent in stumbling back, only to follow up by kicking it in the ribs. Its mouth opened as if to scream, though no sound came out. It seemed this horror movie was a silent picture. Somehow, that served to make it worse. Another man came from the side holding a fire extinguisher, and brought it down on the monster’s head. It hit the ground, then dissolved into the mist which surrounded us.

The fighter turned to face the rest of us, a manic smile on his face that reminded me a little of Cecelia. Now I recognized him as one of the jocks on the football team, Jimmy-something. He was my age, though a bit shorter and with a lot more muscle. “And that’s how it’s done!”

The adult with the extinguisher stepped forward. He had a resemblance to Jimmy that made me immediately assume either father or uncle. “We know they can be beat!” He was also the same voice who took charge when things went dark. “Men, grab anything that looks like it can be a weapon, and take point to protect the girls and the elderly. Let the superhero protect our back!”

He leaned over to help pull Kenny, the boy who’d been attacked, to his feet, then shoved the extinguisher into his hands.

I spotted a nearby supply closet, then grabbed the handle. It was locked, but I carried enough steel on me to forge a key. The door popped open for me to survey the loot, zombie-survival style. Most was useless, unless we hoped the monsters could get high on markers and paint. The closest thing to payday was a mop and broom, and a box of staples which I converted to a couple pounds more metal for combat use. I still didn’t have enough to make a mask, let alone a full costume, but every little bit helped.

I ran for the front line, which had moved forward while I was looting.

“You think you can fight these things?” Jimmy didn’t look or sound impressed by my approach. I let him take the mop, but kept the broom for myself. A fact which he didn’t seem too pleased with, no doubt thinking one of the jocks could make better use of it than the skinny nerd.

I pushed my broom against the ground, then stomped it hard, breaking the brush off and leaving me only with a jagged stick at the end. “Sure, let’s call it a fight.”

I didn’t give him a chance to argue, instead pushing past to lead the charge into the fog. Knowing these things couldn’t do real damage was a boost of confidence, and as we moved forward they began to come out of the fog.

They’re not real, they’re illusions. It’s just like a realistic video game. That mantra in my head, I engaged the first one I found by swinging the handle of my stick into the creature’s jaw. It rocked back, and another bolted for the opening I left in my guard. Fuck this is going to hurt.

Jimmy’s stick slammed down on that one’s skull, and he followed up by kicking it in the jaw.

I spun my weapon around and jabbed the pointy end into my monster’s mouth. I didn’t feel the pop-crunch of bone as I had in my fight with Salamander; these creatures were more like soft rubber than living material. It became smoke, which freed my spear from its smoke. “Thanks.”

“Introduce me to whoever taught you to fight like that, and we’re even.”

I almost smiled at the image of Jimmy having a ‘practice match’ with Cecelia. These things were nothing compared to her. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Ahead of us, a trio of guys engaged another monster. One braved a slash to the arm, and somehow had presence of mind to catch the thing’s arm in spite of the pain. Another caught the other arm and held it while Kenny hammered the thing in the face with the extinguisher until his weapon went through mist when the monster broke down.

Another jumped through the mist and landed atop Kenny, who screamed as he went down again. His partners struggled to pull it off, but one of them was caught by a third monster which came out of the mist. Jimmy rushed in alongside another guy.

I almost went to help, but spotted yet another as it materialized near the ceiling and dropped behind him. I jabbed the spear, which caught its shoulder. It spun too fast for me to avoid the clawed backhand to my face. Pain lanced through my skull, and I swear for a moment everything tasted like the number twelve. I stumbled back, saved from falling only by the wall behind me.

Screams echoed from the girls- some in surprise, and others in pain. FrustrationRage. We’re getting overwhelmed. I fashioned what little metal I had into a long, slender blade which severed my monster’s arm. That seemed to be enough to end it, but there were dozens more coming. Domenic’s not enough, we need Ballast.

I ran into one of the side halls, away from the group. Now that I was alone, I could slide my way through the monsters without much trouble. I made my way to the shop class rather than the auditorium. Here was plenty of metal for me to work with, and within minutes I had a fully functional outfit at the cost of a couple table saws, and their tables. I hadn’t worked with much tungsten steel before, but if anything it seemed stronger than most of the scrap metal I was accustomed to.

Monsters rushed me, and now I could ignore them. Where they clawed they lost fingers, and where they grappled they were reduced to smoke. With a casual flick, blades so thin they could only be seen by the flicker of light lashed out and severed their limbs. PainTired. The same could not be said for the girls; I ran toward the source of screams.

A couple dozen people were in the hall near the auditorium. I could see Cecelia and Chloe near the front, trying to force back what appeared to be dozens of the monsters. Is that the nature of this power? The longer we stay, the more creatures spawn?

The behind, from which I was approaching, had a pair of Imbued I recognized as the school’s guards. Neither had costumes, and I only knew them as officers Blake and Erikson. A gunshot rang out, and took with it one of the monsters. Fuck. Who brought a gun? They must be getting desperate.

I lashed out, carving through a dozen monsters, and again to take down those that rushed to fill the gaps.

I ran toward the guards, and those men who had cobbled together a defensive line. “Sorry, I got here as soon as I could.” As good an excuse as any. “What’s the intel?”

“It’s both a Summoner and Infiltrator power. More the latter than former.” Officer Blake said. “Also a powerful anti-Esper ability. A little like your team has, in fact.”

What. I looked back at Cecelia, who only just dodged another attack. She’s fighting without her Fate-sense, no wonder she’s taken so many hits. “Hey, if you have something to say, then come out and say it.”

Blake took a step forward. “I’m not saying anything, yet, but I can’t help but notice your weapon’s having a lot more impact on these things than it should.”

“They’re no tougher than a normal person.” I shifted my metal into a long, thin blade, then shoved it into one of the lockers. I shifted the other end to wedge it into the locker on the other side. More monsters came, but now they had a chest-high razor thin blade to pass through before reaching us. I added dozens of other spikes as well, more as a visual warning to others coming this way than expecting it to be effective. The monsters ran mindlessly into their deaths nonetheless. “I hold back most of the time.”

PainWeakness. Chloe screamed from the other side of the hall. I pushed past the guards, no longer interested in arguing with them. The civilians cleared the way, and I took advantage of the opening to throw a spear at one of the monsters. It fell back, but more than its death, Cecelia now had access to a real weapon. She shredded a few others while I took position. “How are you holding up?”

Chloe fell back, giving room for me to kill a few others. “I… they…” She landed, her breathing hard. “They ignore my forcefield…”

Which explains how these things can hurt the girls. “Not my metal, though.” I glanced at Cecelia and remembered all the times she explained my power’s ability to hide from her Fate-lines. “The guards said this power screws with Espers, too.”

“It’s called the Killing Field.” A man’s voice echoed through the crowd of monsters. He stepped out of the mists. He was about as tall as I was, though his boots might have had platforms. The black casual suit was open, revealing a gray vest below. His face was a skull, though it was clearly a Halloween mask. The black glasses, top hat, and cane with a small skull completed the ensemble.

I shifted my metal around me for offense against an Imbued rather than these monsters. “Cheap illusions and an even cheaper costume.” I shifted my blade as well, into something closer to a scythe. One symbol of death against another seemed appropriate. “Both of which I happen to counter. You’ve lost. Now surrender, or else.”

He opened his arms out, showing more of the vest, and the various voodoo trinkets which dangled from it. “Illusion, perhaps, but I assure you it’s anything but cheap,” he spat the word. “You couldn’t comprehend what I lost to…” He turned his head, as if looking for something behind him. “No, it’s not time. What are you going to do? Kill me? Do you think you can?”

With a casual gesture, my scythe severed a few more creatures. They seemed to have gone passive now that their boss had arrived, anyway. “You have illusions, I have hard steel,” I clenched my weapon so hard my arm trembled. “And you assaulted a school. No one will care if I kill you.”

“I have so much more than illusion.” The smoke around us kicked up into a windless storm. From every hidden corner, emaciated hairless rats and bats swarmed out.

HorrorPainEscape! I heard the crunch of stone, and spun to see a hole in the wall with chunks of concrete falling out. Dozens of bats flew into the hole.

The illusory animals were too numerous to count, and had swarmed over all the students. They seemed especially interested in targeting Cecelia, who cooked them as they hit her like a bug zapper. Still, each wave lived long enough to rend her with their claws, and there were so many thousands more waiting for their turn.

She’ll run out of power before he does.

Another shudder rocked the building amidst cries of pain through my mind. In her own panic, Chloe seemed to be trying to find a way out of the building in the most direct way possible.

“How many times can a mind think it died before it starts to believe it?” Behind me, the psycho continued to ramble. How I could hear him over the screaming was a mystery in its own right, but it was as clear as if he was whispering in my ear. “How much pain can a body go through before it gives itself to the mercy of death?” He started to laugh. “This is the power of the Killing Field!”

I trembled. Even if I had the mass needed to flood the hallway with metal to kill the rodents, I couldn’t do it without risking the lives of all the people he was attacking. People which included Beatrice and Nanna.

That leaves the one option. I turned to face the madman even as my metal transformed itself into the naginata which I was coming to think of as my signature weapon. I was done asking him to surrender. If this is how I save my family, then so fucking be it.

I thrust forward, and in an eyeblink the illusions were gone. What remained was the shocked face of Beatrice. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but only blood came out.

Around us, the mad laughter faded into nothing.

Next

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12 thoughts on “Price Threefold, Chapter 20- Domenic

  1. A/Ns- In order of least to greatest import.

    1- I have no idea how much a box of staples weigh. The internet didn’t tell me. But many ARE made of steel.

    2- I tend to roll up a few names, even for characters that may never be important enough to name. When I rolled Kenny’s… I knew I had to kill him at least a couple times… which added a few hundred words to this chapter. Worth. The girl’s name was Mary, FYI.

    3- Also fit an EGS reference in here. Because I could.

    4- Baron Samedi, however, was pure happy accident. When I realized what his power was, I knew there could be no more appropriate iconography given what I know about the character. And if anyone wants to do a Baron Samedi video game based on this chapter? I demand a shrubbery! I mean free copy. You can keep your damn lawn ornament.

    5- I have gone from one cliffhanger to another, and it’s fun as hell. I might have to do this more often in the future. There’s also a Samedi chapter coming up that’s been planned from the beginning that is coming up next, which means you’ll spend even longer worrying about Beatrice.

    6- BWAHAHAHA!!!!!

    7- PS- Don’t forget to vote. If I get a total of 30 more upvotes, I promise not to kill Beatrice. :p

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

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reason number 1 for Illusion Control being in my Top 10 most dangerous/useful powers. Excluding the flat out too powerful to be safe powers (splitting atoms, full on reality bending, really anything a tier higher than a Price power)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah… the biggest problem with illusion powers is you absolutely must keep track of where everyone on your side is… and then you just have to pray that the illusions can’t trick whatever detection methods you are using, so it makes it appear like the people are there, when instead they are elsewhere…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Technically, these are not “illusions” at all, they are hallucinations. Illusions are artifacts of light or sound distortion — i.e. they are external to the mind of the viewer, caused by the “viewer’s” senses, not their mind. An illusionist could not actually hurt a normal unless they tricked them into hurting themselves/each other. So what is really being discussed are likely compelled hallucinations. This is an issue that is routinely ignored by authors talking about powers, but understandable, since there really isn’t a good word for someone that causes mass hallucinations.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In Price, the difference is simple.

      Illusions are usually summoners- generating environmental hazards (namely- effective blinding) who can be expected to trick cameras with light-manipulation (or otherwise be picked up by electronic detections).

      Hallucinations of all forms (that impact humans, at least) are Infiltrators, as the power is classed as a type of mind control (and generally has similar strengths and weaknesses in the field. And all forms of mind control and/or mind reading fall into the general Infiltrator classification.

      Like

  4. Kind of off topic, have you read Heretical Edge? Some of the powers in that story could fit well in yours, or even give ideas for powers with how random they can get. Also your cliffhanger game is beyond beat by Cerulean, made only better by the hilarious tags for each chapter.

    This scene just seem to mesh with the feeling of that story… Or I need to go to sleep and reconsider commenting on 5 hours of sleep for the whole week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly? I detest the “all teh cliffhangers!” bullshit done by so many… it so often comes at expense of sacrificing plot and quality of storytelling for the sake of cheap sensationalism.

      It just so happened that there’s a lot of stuff tightly packed in this particular corner of the story, so the cliffhangers are pretty much forced on the story. I’ll go back to ‘normal’- which is to say focus on character interaction and subtle storytelling- soon enough.

      Like

  5. So, I give it better than even odds here that Domenic basically outs himself to the whole school. The nerdy loser kid is suddenly really good in a fight, and then disappears right before Ballast shows up a la Clark Kent. And that is without next chapter where he potentially freaks out and does something to make it obvious that he knows Bea.

    I am also kind of wondering whether this is the real Beatrice that got stabbed, or just an illusion. Depends on the Baron’s power, and whether those illusions are actively created by him or if he can do something like conjure images relative to the person he is targeting. “Image of someone close to that guy that is then stabbed” or something similar.

    But even while writing that, I don’t really believe it. There are too many coincidences with choosing Bea specifically for it to be an illusion (someone who is close to Ballast and would believably be in that location). Which is just a real gut punch on a lot of levels.

    I kind of think that the Baron was hired out by Quash for this specific purpose. After all, it is just as unlikely that he decided to do the old illusion bait & switch with a random civilian who just happened to be related to the hero he was fighting. But Quash would not have any problem figuring out who Domenic is, and from there that he should target Bea. Plus it is a neat little piece of symmetry, killing someone close to Arclight as punishment for losing his wife. It’d be a little more poetic if he had gotten Cecelia to do the deed, but the man is still in mourning and should be forgiven the minor details.

    Finally, the Baron in this comes off as a really cheesy anime villain, between naming his attack and doing his villainous monologue. Which just makes how damn effective he is that much harder to deal with. I actually really like him so far despite that, and his power is very interesting. Illusions seems like they would be a huge pain to deal with already and having them double up as an offensive weapon as well is just making that power stronger. I can’t remember the exact details on how color correspond to power, but I feel like black and white was an indicator of it being a Serious Thing. Either way it is obvious from his dialogue that he Surged at least once and I am really looking forward to finding out just what it is he lost for his, ahem, Killing Field.

    Liked by 1 person

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