Price Threefold, Chapter 2- Cecelia

ShockHorrorRejection. I struggled against the emotions coming off Domenic as I watched his sister leave the garage. They hate me, they fear me, they have nothing but regrets bringing me here.

I somehow found the strength to keep my smile and pose until she closed the door. Once she was gone, I took a breath and looked at the two halves of my strange new world. “Your sister is an awful judge of character.”

ProtectiveFear. Domenic took a step forward, ready to yell at me. It seemed flirting with his sister was a hot button issue for him. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Chloe moved in as well, taking a position just in front of her boyfriend. Considering his lack of armor, I’d destroy him in a fight, and all three of us knew it. Through my combat sight, a million million possible scenarios blossomed before me, possible ways this could play out if we got into a fight. I stood an excellent chance of killing Domenic before Chloe could stop me, before he got enough metal together to fight back. I took a path harder path for me to see, talk.

“”What would you have me do? Say nothing?” I leaned against the wall, stretching my arms over my head and pressing my palms flat against the wall. As far as positions went, it was both nonthreatening and a way to show off my flexibility. “I thought we were trying to keep my identity a secret, here.”

RealizationAnger. Domenic hesitated for a moment. “Just because you’re being cooperative doesn’t mean I trust you around my family.” ReluctanceConcession. “But, you’re right, it was was better than Bea asking a bunch of awkward questions.” ReliefSupport.

I smiled, then licked my lips. “Good, I’d hate to get into a fight while your girlfriend’s wearing my clothes.” I allowed my skin to return to normal flesh colors, reminding them I’d been nude the whole conversation.

ShockEmbarrassment. Both of them turned their heads away, though I noted that Chloe’s eyes lingered longer than Domenic’s. Well there’s an unexpected twist. CaughtHumiliation ConcernJealousy FearLossNegationGuiltRegretForgivenessDisgustPainSupportConfusionPanic!

I crumpled as the conflicting mess of emotions overwhelmed me and the others. I lost track of time as I lay there struggling to think, to make sense of the chaos in our minds.

FocusDeterminationStrength. Domenic pulled his mind back together while I was still struggling to figure out which pair of hands belonged to me.

“Chloe.” Somehow, I could feel him pushing her shoulder. HopeSafe. “Just focus on my voice, okay?” AlertFocus. Once he broke free, the storm in our minds cleared as fast as it hit. The sensation of Domenic touching my shoulder faded as well.

SafetyGratitude. Chloe wrapped her arms around Domenic, while I pulled myself to a sitting position. So she checks me out, then crawls all over him. Did I fall into some bizarro universe? I drew my legs to my chest. “Okay, anyone want to tell me what that was?”

UncertaintyConcern. The pair looked surprised, as if they’d forgotten I was here. SuspicionDoubt. “Well… we can sense each others’ emotions, or something to that effect.” Domenic looked back at Chloe, and kept his eyes locked on hers. TrepidationApology UnderstandingAcceptance. Seriously? “Maybe this is normal Pairbonds, but it stands to reason whatever they get, we get fifty percent more of.”

“And it’s not uncommon for even normal people to panic and lock up,” Chloe added. “So that, multiplied by three, I guess?”

I decided neither of had any more clue than I did. “Translation: you saw my tits, and it broke all our brains. Great.” ShameConcern UnderstandingSupport.  I rolled forward on my feet, stood, and started to walk in a single fluid motion. “So, wanna toss me my clothes before it happens again?”

“Uh, sure, just give me a second.” Chloe rose to her feet using her power, and lifted Domenic with her. He turned to look at the wall while she pulled my shirt off. With a remarkable amount of skill, she stripped my jeans in mid air, tossed them in my direction, and went for a cabinet in the corner. There, she pulled out an oversized shirt and pair of shorts and started to put them on, all with her back to me.

She doesn’t give off straight vibes, but she’s got a change of clothes in this guy’s garage. I cannot figure this girl out for the life of me. “You’re good at that.” I bent over to slide my jeans on, while making no effort to hide my breasts.

“Lots of practice.” RealizationEmbarrassmentNegation. Her head snapped toward me, then back to the corner. SurpriseAttraction. “I mean! Uh, part of the training routine!”

ConcernFocusProtect. “It’s good sense for heroes to be able to swap disguises fast, just in case,” Domenic added. He made sense to me, as a straight male who tried to pretend he didn’t want to mount every half decent looking girl in sight. I hated men like that, who tried to pretend they were better than animals. “Secret identities, and all that.”

Chloe turned to face me, now clothed. She kept her eyes trained at the ground, though I could tell she didn’t want to. “Plus, I’m a Tank. There are no clothes that can survive what I’ve been through. I’d complain, but, well, any hit that’d destroy my clothing would kill a normal person ten times over. At least my power offers some protection to things I’m touching.”

“Better naked on the battlefield than naked in the morgue.” I slid my shirt over my head. “Good news for me, since I’ve got your toughness, now.” I shifted my fingernails into claws, and tried to cut through the cheap shirt I wore. I managed to cut through, but it was a lot tougher than it should have been. “Cool, it does work. I bet I’m, like, five times stronger now.”

ConcernSuspicionDread. Domenic hazarded a chance to look at us, then took a step toward me. “We’ll worry about that later. Right now, we need to figure out what to do about…” HesitationUncertainty. “Everything. We can’t keep you here forever.”

Yeah, that’s going to be a problem. “Ain’t we got time enough for that tomorrow? It’s, like, ungodly o’clock, and I need a nap.” Now that I think about it, what was his sister doing out here? It’s more like early morning now than late at night. I walked over to the other opposite corner of the room where there was a mattress propped up against the wall. “Okay, I’ll buy you stashing emergency clothes, but a bed, too?”

EmbarrassedDefensive. “That’s Dom’s, not mine.”

With a tug, I slid it out and let it drop on the floor. “Hey, I ain’t judgin’.” She told the truth; his scent was all over this mattress, but hers nowhere to be found. Curiouser and curiouser. I plopped down before either of them had a chance to object, then curled up and closed my eyes. With a bit of effort, I boosted my other senses. I wasn’t sure why I lied to them about being tired, but it seemed a good way to get them to let their guards down and go to bed.

AnnoyedConcerned. As expected, Domenic was too caught up in his gentleman act to argue. After a minute, he spoke in a whisper. “Well, my metal’s like a water bed for me, anyway.” He began to deconstruct a set of tools in the corner, all made of steel. “More comfortable than any mattress.”

Now that I was paying attention, I noted that the whole building was covered in solid metal tools. I counted saws, shovels, picks, rakes, lots of wrenches, and tool boxes that I was willing to bet were nothing but solid blocks of metal. I felt a little bit of respect for such a clever way to hide weapons in plain sight. I decided Domenic wasn’t a total moron, which took the sting out of losing to them. I also noticed his power made a strange sound, almost like listening to waves from under the water, which I found soothing.

AppreciationSupport. Chloe floated her way behind Domenic, then put her arms around him. I could tell by the subtle buzzing noise her power made, like being near a power line. “Hmm, maybe you should make that bed a little wider.”

“Uh, Ch-mmm” SurpriseConfusionDesire. And just when I’m convinced she’s gay, she starts making out with a guy. Domenic broke the kiss. She let him, he wouldn’t have been able to break her grip with a truck if she hadn’t allowed it. “What’s gotten into you?”

SurpriseConfusion. She drew back, and the faint ozone of her power in action wafted through the air. “I’m sorry, I just, I wanted to, and… I thought you wanted to…” HurtDejected. “Don’t you?”

Oh god, it’s like those stupid soap operas Cora watches. All we need is for them to accidentally trip into a kidnapping and somehow save the President’s daughter without ever realizing who she is, then one of them will have some kind of brief romance with her before breaking it off because she’s being played by a guest celebrity and they don’t have the budget for her to show up more than once a season.

DesireConcern. “I do, believe me I do.” Now he’s hugging her, I can tell because she’s altered her power so he doesn’t die. “I just hadn’t expected you, well.” TrepidationUnease. He’s now watching me pretend I’m asleep. This pair has no sense of subtlety, at all. “Doing it in front of her.”

RealizationMortified. “I didn’t mean that!” Her turn to break free from him, she flew away. Based on echoes, I estimated she hovered next to the rafters near the door.

UnderstandingShame. “I… I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed. It was just, well…” HumiliationRegret. “You know I’d never make you do anything you don’t want to do.”

Can’t. You can’t make her do anything she doesn’t want, because she could break you like a slightly darker Kit Kat bar. I tried to form a model in my head of Domenic, but that anti-Fate power protected him whenever his metal was active. I couldn’t see it, nor how it changed the Fate-threads, which made him invisible to my power, and stronger than me. I thought to scream in frustration, but there was nothing to be gained there. Besides, I was still eavesdropping.

Meanwhile, Chloe moved away from the ceiling. TrustAcceptanceSafe. “I know you wouldn’t.” She pressed against him again. ReliefDesire. They began to kiss again, without any of the shock, until she pushed him into the pool of liquid metal, then joined him in, two metallic splashes on a strange bed. “Now, let’s go to sleep. This has been the longest night of my life, and I’m going to use you as a pillow for the next twelve hours.”

HappyTenderness. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

They went quiet, holding each other, content with nothing other than being together. I’d never in my life experienced such an emotion, never suspected it was possible. Is that people mean by love?

I focused on my powers, to find a combination of chemicals I’d need to allow someone to be happy the way they were happy. It didn’t take me long to decide that such a blend wasn’t an option. The closest I could get was a chemical lobotomy. I set that idea aside, on the off chance it was useful in the future.

ComfortSafe. Chloe shifted so she could look at Domenic. In my head, I imagined those bright blue eyes of hers were hooded, and her lips pouting and kissable. “Dom?”

TiredHappy. “Yeah?”

“Just because I don’t want to do it right now, doesn’t mean never.” SurpriseEagerDesire PleasedConfident. I could hear the fabric of their jeans rubbing together. “It means give me a chance to get used to, well, everything, okay?”

“Take as long as you need, I’ll be here.”

Somehow, these two are worse than Chloe is at being a lesbian. She wants it so bad I can smell her from here, and if he asserted himself for two heartbeats they’d finish before you could say ‘surprise pregnancy’. For a moment, I considered getting up, walking over, and showing both of them how to do it right, but knowing my luck that would knock us all out like last time. I bit my own lip to ignore the insistent tingle in my lower stomach. Now is not the time.

I began to run combat situations in my head, following imagined Fate-threads of battle between me and the two of them, or me against a copy of me. It surprised me to learn such a thread existed at all, but with a bit of a dip into Chloe and Domenic’s powers, I could isolate a possible combat between me, and myself. It may have been morbid, but I went about the dance of killing me.

The start would be accepting my Fate-sight was useless against myself, because we’d both tug the strings our own ways. Though perhaps it was just too much for my power to predict how it would predict fighting itself. The fight, it seemed, was one-sided, with me having boosts Chloe and Domenic’s powers. My speed and strength didn’t change, but a bullet could hurt normal me more than a bazooka would hurt me through Chloe’s shield.

On top of that, I had limits on my own, and could leave myself helpless if I went all out for more than a couple minutes. With Chloe as a backup energy source, I could go all out for hours, plus any weapons I had thanks to Domenic’s metal.

The emotions in my mind gave way to the simple relaxation of sleep from the pair. I can run, I have hours before either of them wake up. Get about two blocks away, hot-wire a car, and be halfway across the country before they wake up. Or, I could kill them in their sleep. Though, that I wasn’t certain about. Domenic was simple, a human who’d die like any other human, but Chloe’s powers made her immune to anything I could think of off the top of my head, and my Fate-sense wasn’t offering any hints.

Maybe I’ll come up with something with more practice.

This time, I turned my attention back to my fight against myself. I chose a thread where I rejected my power boost, then set about finding ways to defeat myself at base strength. Reliance on charging, powers revolve around short term bursts of strength.

Two solutions to the fight. First, I could play defensive and try to force down the enemy battery while preserving my own. It wasn’t a bad strategy, but it put a lot of reliance on Fate-sight, which drained my strength more than any other ability. In the end, I’d be forced to act, and it got fuzzy.

The other path, the one I knew I’d chose if this were possible, was to rush in and trade blow for blow. There, I didn’t need to play a perfect game, all I needed to do was stay even with the target, plus one good hit extra. Then, by the time we wore each other out, I’d have just enough power for a single, final push to the kill.

Cora doesn’t have that problem. Her power tells her how to win, without the trouble. I found no path to fighting her, wherever she might be, but I knew from before that I wasn’t strong enough to beat her. Not alone, at least. I opened an eye, to look at the petite blonde curled up on the beanpole black kid.

Guess they make a cute couple, and they’re not complete idiots when they bother to use their brains to think. They did surprise me more than once when we fought, and would have killed me if I hadn’t had Chloe’s forcefield.

I took a quick look at a fight between them and myself without their powers, and near as I could tell it didn’t end in death because they refused to kill me. The possibilities were hard to determine, given I was still blind to Domenic. I knew Chloe alone was strong enough to destroy me every time. With our shared strength, however, I was able to compete with them, and even defeat my little sister’s far superior power.

I went back to my self-fight. Something about it bothered me, aside the fact that it was impossible, and I couldn’t figure out what it was.

Next

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10 thoughts on “Price Threefold, Chapter 2- Cecelia

  1. A/N- A little late, but here’s the first of the new Cecelia chapters. I happen to like it. Now that I’ve got a feel for the amount of time each edited chapter’s going to cost, I should be able to avoid slipping any further back in time.

    Also… I need a better spellcheck. I’ve told it three times that “deconstruct” is a real word, and it refuses to believe me.

    On the plus side, viewership and votes seem to be climbing again. Which is the opposite of what I expected when I decided I had to remake this book. Hopefully, we can keep that going.

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

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    1. Thanks. I already feel like it was the right decision, though I admit I don’t feel nearly as energetic about it as I would starting a new project.

      Just one of those things, fixing something you’ve already done is never fun.

      Like

  2. I know I’m a little late to game on this one (been a pretty busy week for me) but I really like the idea of Cecelia doing battle sims against herself to distract herself from Dom and Chloe. The idea of Cecelia fighting herself isn’t even all that unreasonable, considering some of the Imbued that are running around in the Priceverse. I would bet my bottom dollar that at least one Artificer out there had created a “magical” mirror that would create a doppelganger of the person touching/using it that would then fight them.

    Have I mentioned before how much I would enjoy seeing this a story in this setting set in an older time? Either ancient times, where it would be more of a magical story, or possibly something steampunk-y in the Victorian ages. I know you mentioned that Frankenstein story before which I still think would be super neat.

    And finally, Cecelia not know what love is is fucking heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I cannot believe it took me this long to reply to this one. I was going to, then I forgot.

      Dopplegangers are actually common enough in Price that they’re an assumed part of the criminal justice system. Namely, a person can claim there’s Imbued working against them, and thus request Esper assistance.

      Doing so is not recommended unless you know you’re innocent, however, since you by definition waive your rights against self incrimination.

      I’m tempted to run a ye olden story some day, but it’s not really a genre I like a lot, so I’m hesitant, lest it come across as cheap and fake.

      A WW2 and beyond story focusing on Rose Knight, however? Very tempting.

      Like

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