Price Threefold, Chapter 6- Cecelia

I had to admit, their escape hatch on the roof was clever. From where we sat, a maple tree kept neighbors from seeing us on this side, and the incline of the roof gave us a hiding spot everywhere else. Domenic even managed to find a dull metal that matched the shingles in color, and crafted the metal to look just like the shingles it was next to. Pity I had so little opportunity to look at it from my hiding place inside the armor, because it gave me a new respect for my captors.

“So, when’s our window of opportunity?” Domenic’s voice carried through his armor so that I heard him from every direction at once. “Remember, I’ll need a moment to tell C- Daybreak it’s time to go.”

I took a breath, cool against the armor because I turned off my body heat to spare us the joy of roasting in this armor. Even then, it was cooler in here than it should have been, with the summer sun well nearing its apex. His armor keeps him cool, too, somehow. “You’ll have to let me out if you want that.”

UncertainParanoia. “Just try it this way first.” ConcernCuriosity. “She doesn’t think she can do it.” DisappointmentFear.

“Your armor blinds my power, that’s why you beat me. Why would it be any different, now?” Annoyance aside, I opened myself to seeing the Fate-threads, and was floored by the difference.

Possibilities danced around me, Fates selected or destroyed by the tens of thousand like a forest made of nothing but spider webs, on fire, with the spiders building the forest up front as fast as it burned in the back. Most threads bordered on the impossible, gossamer webs which lost their grip and flew off in the wind. Such was their non-Fate, dissolved into nothing.

Other possibilities persisted and grew from possible to probable to certain, then vanished into the past as having happened. Those, too, were braided around thicker trunks of events that were almost certain, which themselves were caught on the events which were undeniable and absolute.

Massive trunks, impossible to deny, stood well above the underbrush, untouchable by mere mortals. The sun would set tonight and rise tomorrow, no force in this world could change it, and so it existed like the ground, from which a forest maze of possible events grew. It was these points that I used as landmarks to sort through infinite possibility to find strands I needed. Now I sought a moment in time and space where we would escape this neighborhood unseen.

I had expected it to be a thousand times harder trapped behind this metal shell, but somehow it has the opposite effect and filtered out both the useless ephemera and the gigantic absolutes. Uncountable threads vanished from my sight, pruned away for being so unlikely as to be impossible, such as us deciding to kill ourselves, or ignored for being unrelated or meaningless, such as the fates of every insect and blade of grass those in the neighborhood stepped on. The net result was me using my future sight ten times better than before, at half the cost.

“Uh, Cecelia?” SurpriseExcitement ConfusionHope. “What was that? I think you just drained half the energy that’s been stored up in the armor.”

I couldn’t help but smile as I took control over Domenic’s armor, copying the trick which allowed him to talk through it. “Oh, nothing,” AstonishedImpressed CuriousEager. “I just think I figured out the full benefits of our Pairbond, and it is awesome.” My own voice echoed around me, carried through the metal better than it would through water, but worse than air. “I think it just multiplied my Fate-sense twenty times over. Normally, I struggle to get five minutes, but I’m looking at things an hour ahead and it’s easy!”

RecognitionShame. What was that? ComfortSupport. Domenic turned around, relying on his power to support my weight so he could grab Chloe. HateLossBlame.

Oh crap! I saw the paths bloom into us collapsing into another paralysis fit as we had done twice inside. Here and now, that might end in us falling off the side of the building. Chloe and I would be fine, but Domenic could be hurt or killed, and we’d lose any chance to stay hidden. “Fly! Now!”

AlarmDanger! Chloe reacted to my panic, taking us into the air before she had a chance to think about what she was doing. PainResolute. It seemed she went a little too fast, and Domenic would have a bruise or two tomorrow. AlertUncertain. “What happened!?”

You almost freaked out and ruined everything. Now if I could just figure out why. “Uh, if we stayed you would have been seen, and we didn’t have time to get inside.” Falling off the building would have been an excellent way to attract attention. “We’re safe, now, if we keep flying. I’d say a couple miles at this speed would be good.” Not because we were going to be spotted by anyone who’d piece the puzzle together, but because she’d forget all about what went wrong.

Domenic moved, and his armor shifted as well. From what I could tell, he was getting a better grip on Chloe since she was flying blind with her arms wrapped around his ribs and my legs, rather than the handlebars they planned for. ResignationDread. “Angle yourself to the left a little… there, that’s perfect, that’ll take us downtown.”

I used my power to alter his metal, making it so I couldn’t be heard once again. “So, wanna tell me why Chloe just about broke down back there? All I said was our Pairbond made my power stronger.”

HesitationConcern. “Tell me when we’re close to our destination, I’m closing my eyes for now.” ConcentrationControl UnderstandingComfort. “Thanks.” The words sounded different, now, more muddled and less omnipresent. He was making sure only I could hear his next words. “Chloe’s parents had a Pairbond, and we’re pretty sure it was a precog power, kinda like ours.” I chewed that over for a second; it was odd, but it didn’t explain why she was so upset. “Her mother was Starfall.”

Oh. I choked back my own emotions. I just reminded them that I’m a murderer, that’s the problem. She’ll never forgive me. “I understand.”

Now that I thought about it, it made sense I’d have a Pairbond power like hers, since she was where I got my Fate-sense to begin with. I stayed quiet as long as I could, in the hopes they’d forget I killed Chloe’s mother; telling them Cora got the finishing blow didn’t seem like it would make them feel better. “We’re in a good spot to land.”

ReluctantFear. I knew when Domenic opened his eyes, because his fear bled into my own emotions. Great, I’m stuck with a crybaby and a guy who’s scared of a little five story fall. “Okay, just a bit further forward… that’s good. Now lower us slowly… okay, almost there, almost, al-” a thud echoed through the armor as we hit the roof. SheepishApologetic. “Uh, I guess I’m not so good at judging distance like this.”

SupportAcceptance. “Well, it’s our first time flying blind.” SurpriseConfidence. “Oh, wow, this is a lot closer than I thought we’d get so soon. I… I think I fly faster, now. Or, I flew as fast as I could without running out of power too fast, and it’s as fast as my old max.”

ConsiderationConclusion. “You took a chunk out of the extra energy in my armor. I, uh, think you’re both storing extra power in the armor and drawing on it later, rather than your internal reserves.” UncertainFocus. “We’ve got a lot to learn about how our powers work together,” Domenic said. His metal shifted so he could touch Chloe’s side with his hand rather than a steel shell. ThrilledEager. “We’ll make the day of it, and probably tomorrow as well.”

So, Chloe likes the increased power almost as much as I do. I can use that. “I’ll charge up the metal, not like I’m doing anything else in here.” Without waiting for permission, I pushed lightning into the metal. Instead of cooking Domenic or vanishing into nowhere, the power remained within the metal, and improved the ease with which I could sense his emotions.

Chloe stepped away from Domenic. ApprovalGratitude. “Yeah, I can feel it from here. Just don’t overcharge it.” RealizationEager. “Ooh! I thought of another stop we need to make! We’ll go there first, it’s not gonna be cheap.” I found I could track Chloe well enough, despite still not having Dom’s ability to see through it. She jumped over the armor, taking her usual position to grab the handlebars he put in his armor. “Okay, let’s see how fast I can go when I try!”

Her takeoff was gentle enough, but she picked up speed and then kept it up as we shot forward into the heart of the city. SurpriseThrillAwe PanicDreadTrapped. Somehow, there was no feedback loop as Chloe screamed in joy at her new power, while Domenic did everything he could to not scream in terror while hurtling through the air at speeds which must have rivaled most passenger planes.

This is absurd. I wanted to tap into my Fate-sense, just to get some idea how dangerous our powers were together, but I didn’t want to while Chloe was draining our collective battery faster than I could charge it. “You’ll have to slow down. I can’t keep us at this speed much longer.” DisappointmentAcceptance NervousRelieved. We still have limits, but we might be more powerful than any Imbued I’ve ever heard of before.

Chloe slowed to less than half the speed she’d hit in her earlier boost of power, and I found myself able to charge her as fast as she used the energy. She lowered us to the ground after another minute or so in the air. Around us, Fates flickered and scattered as people backed away from the superhumans. “That was amazing! I think my new light effort is my old maximum limit!”

“It makes sense,” Domenic said. “Both of you generate and use energy, so as long as one of you is only working as a generator, the other has twice the amount of power to use, right?” ConsiderationAcceptance.

That’s right, remember how much stronger you are, I’m too useful to discard. I tapped into the Fate-threads; using them directly on my Pairbonds seemed impossible, even like this, but I could use it to make sure we weren’t in any danger. “I think it’s more than double. Maybe just us alone, but your metal makes everything less wasteful in the transfer between us. I bet we’re way more than twice as strong. I’d bet at least three, maybe four times better.”

UncertainHopeful. “Well, I don’t know about you, but my power’s straightforward enough to test. I have a pretty hard limit of just under two tons of steel, and at that level the metal is sluggish and takes a lot of concentration. We can figure out to the pound how much better I am, and use that as a sort of stick to measure you.”

Okay, we’re pushing the limits. “We’ll talk later, the crowds are going to get brave enough to eavesdrop if we stick around any longer.” Minor Fate-threads carried forward, becoming more difficult for me to predict as people joined the possible futures. At the moment most were ready to run, no doubt expecting a fight with some villain. Some may have thought we were the villains; Daybreak and Damascus weren’t that well known, after all, and Domenic’s power was as intimidating as the best of them. Waiting would have allowed them to gather courage, and poke at the superhumans for autographs or whatever it was the normies did when not fleeing in terror or begging for their lives.

I knew when Chloe stepped into the store by countless blossoms of possible future deaths stored in static positions. Firearms, lots of them, some ready to be used. I tensed as I realized the longer we stayed here, the more the odds of violence happened. Perfect.

I forced Dom’s metal to shift, removing the thin wall of steel between us. A distinct male aroma entered my awareness, as I’m sure my scent reached him. Good, I want him thinking about it tonight when he’s cuddling up with her. I pressed against his back, then whispered to him. “They’re not happy to see us. Might even get violent.” I hugged myself tighter against him, as if I was some child needing protection from the big, bad guns.

UnderstandingDeterrence. Domenic took a step forward, causing an echo to go through both the armor and the building. “Uh, excuse me, ma’am? We’re here to buy a couple things and could use some help.”

“Oh! Uh, sure thing!” The woman sounded young, and not too enthused at the prospect of helping us, but she was going to do her job. Most of the threads vanished into the ether, replaced by business as usual, with only the faintest hints we’d start a fight they’d try to finish. “What can I, uh, help with, s-sir?”

“What kind of place did we walk into? There’s like six people here who were ready to open fire.” Even now, I could see the flicker-chances of combat in the background; they stood little chance of success and they knew it, but these were people accustomed to solving problems with violence. They would never have started an attack, but they feared we’d find something questionable, and were ready to act if necessary. To satisfy my own curiosity, I began searching the Fate-threads as best I could.

UncertainAlert. “You’ll have to talk to her, it’s her project,” Domenic said through the armor. Then he turned it off to speak only to me. “Sporting goods store. I bet it’s a front for Heritage. You got any way to prove it?”

“We’re looking for a few Bolt Bottles, if you have any. Oh, and a Dynamic Capacitor.”

“Uh, umm, Bolt Bottles,” the girl stammered. “W-we need to see your licensing first.”

SuccessCaution. “Uh, sure, here’s my SEID, I can demonstrate my powers if you need confirmation.”

“I, uh, SEID’s a valid ID, but, Bolt Bottles are Class Four restricted weapons,” the poor girl stumbled over her words. “C-can I see your FOID or FEL?”

“No, whatever they’re doing that’s illegal, there’s no proof we can find here.” While Chloe talked to the girl who no doubt wished she was anywhere else, I listened with no idea what they were talking about. “Uh, what seed is she talking about? And what’s a bolt bottle? Or a FOID or FEL?”

FrustrationAcceptance. Domenic’s sigh echoed within our metal shell. “Guess that’d be hoping for too much.” SkepticalConfused. “Uh, Bolt Bottles are, well, some Gadgeteer invented a way to capture lightning strikes and store them in crystal balls. Plug one into a capacitor, and it can run a house for weeks. They’re popular for survivalists, since they’re a lot cheaper than gas generators.”

Meanwhile, Chloe was still talking to the girl. I had no trouble listening to both conversations at the same time. “I thought the SEID was enough. I mean, my power’s ranked high enough that a Bolt Bottle can’t hurt me or do anything I can’t with my bare hands. Why can’t I have one?”

“S-sorry, miss, I don’t make the laws. I-if you feel they’re in error, w-we have NRA pamphlets at the front desk. They’ll show you how to contact people lobbying for more fair and balanced weapon laws.”

DismissiveVictory. “I’m not even buying a weapon, just fuel. Eh, whatever, I still want the generator. We’ll worry about gas later. There aren’t any laws against that, is there?”

Huh, lightning in a jar. Is that what Chloe plans? To see if she can replace me by sticking a bottle in her cooch? I almost laughed at the mental image. “Well, that explains those. What about the rest of it?”

IncredulityConfusion. “Uh, SEID is for registering yourself as an Imbued for jobs, so the government can keep track of things. FOID is a license you have to get so you can own guns and stuff. I don’t know what a FEL is, I assume it’s something similar. How do you not know what a FOID card is?”

I spent most of my life as a piece of property, that’s why. I don’t even know how to read. “I was home schooled.”

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5 thoughts on “Price Threefold, Chapter 6- Cecelia

  1. A/N- – FEL actually stand for “Federal Explosives License” and gives you some idea what a Bolt Bottle can be used for if you want to weaponize the thing. As a whole, they’re less deadly than a grenade, but pack more of a punch than any firework you could buy from retailers. Especially against electronics because it’s essentially an EMP bomb.

    I lifted a lot of Cecelia’s precog description from stuff that happened *much* later in the original version of this story. I think it’s better to see it at this earlier point than that later one.

    Cecelia’s illiteracy was, in the original book plans, meant to come up not long after what I declared was the finale of this book. It now comes up here.

    And, yes, I’ve known since as far back as Death of a Hero that Cora (and Cecelia) couldn’t read. I made sure they never did anything which involved (complex, at least) reading in any story they’ve been in. They know how to recognize some words- related mainly to cooking, traffic signs, and words regularly seen on television.

    They can’t actually *read*, however.

    Truly, they’re missing out on many great things, like dumbasses online plugging their shitty webnovels.

    PS- please vote. :p

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

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  2. I think that the main problem with you doing this re-write is that a bunch of what I usually type here is wild guesses about character motivation and future plot points. Knowing the general outline of what will happen and not wanting to spoil it kind of puts a dampen on that. That said, these last few chapters have been solid. Especially the Cecelia ones.

    Maybe it was because of the Blue Steel books being between them, but I didn’t realize just how much of a time jump there was between In Triplicate and the original version of Threefold. It hit me like a ton of bricks during the first few chapters of this story though. Seeing things from Cecelia’s point of view was exactly what I wanted it to be, and watching the group work through both their sudden power increase as well as the emotional issues that the pairbond causes is sure to be interesting.

    I didn’t dislike the other book, and was thinking about how it probably could have stood as it was with a bit of work. But these first couple of chapters of the re-write also have me agreeing that it is the right call. I didn’t quite realize how much stuff was kind of glossed over until reading the initial portions of it here. I appreciate what you were trying to do with the original version of the story, but this one already has me much more engaged.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I’m glad that my long term readers see and agree with the need to fix this book.

      Not far from the point where I can start editing existing chapters, which will vastly speed up the project. This early build represents… like, half the work, really?

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      1. That is actually pretty impressive, all things considered. I am glad that the re-write isn’t going to eat up as much time as a full story would.

        Once you are at the point of just editing existing chapters are you going to keep the current update schedule, or try to accelerate it? I know that you like to take some time to unwind between stories and that you aren’t getting it because of this but I don’t know if rushing through the re-write to get to that time off would help or burn you out.

        Either way, just want to make sure you know that I still really enjoy the story and your writing in general and that I am excited to see the final product.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, I’ll be taking my break after this story’s done, don’t you worry about that. But this book would be my shortest (the blue steel books taken individually notwithstanding) if I ended it now. So it’s not “burnout” zone yet.

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