Price Threefold, Chapter 40- Chloe

The freakish bat creatures swarmed over me, blinding me with wings and claws. I swatted them away, heated my skin up to the point where my clothes caught fire and took countless bats with them.

PainOverwhelmed! It’s not enough! Cecelia’s in trouble, too. Domenic’s power seemed to keep him safe, and maybe if Cecelia and I had our armor we’d have been okay, but we were caught unprepared. It didn’t help that I’d been afraid of bats since as far back as I could remember.

The next wave of monsters tore into me. I tried to convince myself it was fake, but the pain felt more real than anything I’d ever been through in my life. I have to get out of his range. If I get out, then I help recharge Cecelia from a distance. I flew up through the ceiling, which ate another bit of what little power I had left. I collapsed to the ground, gasping for air now that I could do something other than scream.

That’s when I realized I went through a wall rather than the ceiling; the disadvantage of my flight’s disregard for gravity was that I couldn’t tell which was was ‘up’ while blind. More of the hideous batlike creatures swarmed through the hole I made or materialized out of the fog. They were on me yet again, burning and dying by the thousands for the privilege of causing me fake injury.

I called on what little power I had left, this time I flew in the correct direction. My power flickered out on the next floor; I suppose I should have counted myself lucky I didn’t fall back into the hole I created, but all I could focus on were the creatures swarming me.

Now that I was on the ground, the rats joined in, digging their claws and fangs into every bit of flesh they could find. They even climbed into in my mouth when I opened it to scream. The blessing that they didn’t have a taste was lost on me when my gag reflex kicked in and I threw up on myself.

Then the blindness and pain vanished as if it had never been there. I shuddered as my body made another violent attempt to expel the contents of my stomach. HorrorDenialLoss EmergencyFocus. Dom and Cecelia are still in trouble.

I struggled to my feet, helped by what little power I managed to absorb. Not enough power to fly, barely enough to walk, and no way I could hide my identity. I kicked up my energy draining power as much as I could, just for the lightshow, and willed my power into Cecelia. I hoped that would be enough while I stumbled to the drama club’s room in hopes they didn’t take the supplies home with them over summer break.

I stopped for a moment by one of the water fountains to rinse out my mouth, used my power to bring it to a boil in my mouth, and spit it out on my arm to clean the gunk off. Ugh. They never show this in the movies.

I broke the handle to the drama room rather than the door itself. From there, I had my pick of any number of costumes, from which I selected something from the Shakespearean section. After a moment’s hesitation I grabbed some spare cloth, rolled it, and stuffed it in the costume to give me the appearance of having breasts, much like the padding my armor had. It’s suspicious enough that we’re here at all, I need to hide my figure so nobody makes a connection to my body type. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

Two officers, guns out, were in the hall when I stepped out of the drama room. “You there! Stop!”

I didn’t bother to stop. “Sorry! No time!” I made sure to distort my voice with electricity as I usually did as Plasma. I hoped they recognized me and didn’t shoot; I wasn’t sure I had energy enough to take bullet fire right now. They protested my retreat, but didn’t open fire.

I’d built up enough spare power to take fast jumps down the hall, and made it back to the holes and other mess I created in no time. Jeez, I hope Principal Reeves won’t be too pissed. At this point, there was no doubt in my mind she could figure out who I was in costume.

Domenic and Cecelia were still riding high on negative emotions, so I dived through the hole instead of stopping to examine the damage I’d caused. I kept my glow at its brightest for disguise purposes, which forced several of the people in the hall to look away.

Domenic and Cecelia were crouched near the doors to the auditorium, with the guards nearby, one of them was near Dom’s grandmother, and… Beatrice. Oh god. No. Cecelia’s head snapped toward me as I landed. RelievedNeed.

Another jump let me clear the students still in the hall and land not far away from the group. A shell of Dom’s metal was wrapped around Bea’s chest and stomach, while Cecelia had the girl’s head in her lap, holding both temples with her steel gloved hands. “What can I do?”

“Reinforce her,” Cecelia said. DemandImmediate. I obeyed without question, pushing the same power that protected my clothes into Beatrice’s body. Cecelia helped in her own subtle way to make sure my power worked as needed. “There’s a healer on the way, we have to buy time.”

Now that I had done as instructed, it was time to ask questions. “What happened to her?”

“I… I’m keeping the metal inside to keep her from bleeding out,” Domenic’s voice trembled. GuiltFear. Inside? Bleeding out? Oh god, he’s the one who stabbed her. “I… I don’t… I don’t know what to do…”

He’s moments from breaking down. ResponsibleGuilt. The only thing which kept him going was the knowledge that if he slipped, his sister died. I felt the occasional pulse of Cecelia’s power into Bea’s body. I couldn’t understand what she was doing, but given Cecelia’s blend of electricity, drug production, and Fate-navigation, it could have been almost anything. As long as it kept Bea alive, that was enough.

The problem was I didn’t have the juice to keep enforcing Bea’s entire body, not without more power to work with. I started withdrawing power away from her limbs; they weren’t injured, and there were healers who could restore limbs, anyway. Granted, that kind of healer was rare and expensive, but it beat Domenic going the rest of his life blaming himself for his sister’s death.

“Here they are!” someone shouted; I couldn’t spare the concentration to figure out who. Moments later, a couple paramedics joined the circle of people around Beatrice. If she was conscious, she’d love all the attention she had on her right now.

They started talking in medical jargon, and strapping things to her. “Too unstable to move. No mundane recourse. Two minutes, three tops,” was about all I understood of what they said: Bea was going to die if they didn’t have a healer.

“Thank you.” I looked up at the distinctive white outfit of Bliss. The man was in theory a police hero, but the red cross, crescent and Doctors Without Borders emblems patched onto his arm told the story of someone with his own set of loyalties. Much like the groups he carried the the symbols of, he would help villains as well as heroes, and refused to use his powers as a weapon. “Is the girl’s guardian here?”

“She’s my granbaby.” Dom’s Grandmother tried to move closer, but was held back by Officer Blake. “Why? If she’s dead, I swear I-” she started to sob.

“No. No, she’s still alive for now.” Bliss moved a bit closer to her. “Ma’am, I need you to accept responsibility the use of healing on your granddaughter.”

ConfusionDefensive. Bliss had as much of Domenic’s attention as he could provide while still keeping Bea stable. I had to admit I was uncertain  as well.

“Why? Is you chargin’ me to save her? Or is you gonna turn her inta some kinda freak?” It wasn’t a completely unreasonable fear for Nanna, who knew nothing of Imbued or the politics surrounding them. Still, I would have expected her to have a little more respect for someone who wore humanitarian aid emblems.

“No. Of course not.” Bliss seemed to take it in stride. I wondered how many times he’d dealt with this sort of situation. “Side effects of my healing are classed as negligible, and I only charge for elective healing. But I need to know if your grandaughter has a DNR, or an objection to Imbued healing for religious reasons.”

RecognitionUnderstandingFear. Oh, shit. I bit my tongue. Dom’s grandmother was an unfortunate product of an upbringing which labeled gays as degenerate perverts and Imbued as literal agents of Satan. If she refused aid, then Bliss would have to stand by and do nothing. Perhaps Domenic could challenge her in court, but Beatrice wouldn’t live long enough to make that a possibility.

Domenic turned his head toward them. RiskAcceptance. “She’s going to die!” He didn’t use his power to hide his voice. “Please. Don’t make me a murderer.”

His grandmother looked at us. Perhaps she recognized Dom and I, perhaps not, but it didn’t take her long to look back at Bliss. “I don’ care what you hafta do, save mah baby.”

ReliefGratitude.

“Yes, ma’am.” Bliss came back to us and knelt down next to Cecelia. “Please, I need you to remove your powers and back away. I don’t want to risk an Interaction on the patient. Take the foreign material out as well.” As he he talked, the paramedics went to work unstrapping Beatrice from their equipment, then they backed off as well.

RealizationAlarm. Domenic looked up at him. “This is what’s keeping her from bleeding out.”

“It’s okay, Ballast,” I said. “He’s one of the strong healers.” But not strong enough to save Mom. GuiltFear. “He can restore anything short of dismemberment and brain death.” Meanwhile, I stopped using my power on Bea.

ReluctanceAcceptance. “I… okay.” His metal slid out of the horrible looking wound in Bea’s chest, followed by a shocking amount of blood. Whatever Dom had used went in just below her sternum and left a hole big enough to stick a hand in. FearGuiltHope.

“She’s taken a lot of damage, so this one’s is going to be big.” I didn’t know who he was talking to, but Officer Erikson knelt next to Beatrice and pressed his hands down on her shoulders. Officer Blake, on the other hand, moved away and took Dom’s grandmother with her. The other bystanders had been driven off by the ordinary cops and other emergency personnel.

“Don’t worry, I’m immune,” Cecelia said.

Green light emanated from Bliss’s hand like a laser beam, focused on Bea’s chest. The reflected light felt pleasant on my skin, not unlike a good massage. True to her word, Cecelia ignored the sensations and helped keep Bea pressed against the ground.

The light grew brighter, and I stumbled back along with Domenic. PleasureConfusion. My skin felt like it was set on fire in the most wonderful way possible, and I stumbled to the ground gasping. Domenic remained standing only because his armor kept him up.

Beatrice gasped and arched her back, kept on the ground only by Erikson and Cecelia holding her as she convulsed. The blood on her skin moved back to her chest wound like she was bleeding in reverse.

RealizationDiscomfort. Yeah, talk about awkward. His online bio said his power ‘stunned’ those he used it on, but it made no mention of how they were stunned. Literal orgasmic pleasure wasn’t quite what I’d expected, but even from as far back as I was, I got hit by enough of it that I still couldn’t stop shaking. I hope nobody’s filming this on their phones.

In the back of my head, I began to wonder if there were any healing powers that weren’t disturbing. Loup-Garou’s power caused literal addiction, and I’d rather die than suffer Granny Greenwitch’s healing a second time. Comparatively speaking, Bliss had a wonderful healing power, but that didn’t stop it from being creepy as hell.

Eldritch passed through a wall to appear next to me. She didn’t seem impacted by the power at all. “It may take several minutes before he’s done. You should get further away.”

Seraph approached as well, from amidst the other officers. He made sure not to get too close to Bliss or Beatrice. “Would you mind explaining what happened here?”

Domenic studiously avoided watching his sister writhe under the influence of Bliss’s power. It was, however, disturbing enough to the both of us that we weren’t able to come up with anything to say.

It was Officer Blake who started the report with his eyes affixed on the ceiling tiles. “At 11:02, we were attacked by an unknown Imbued. My precog ability did activate, but only seconds before the attack began rather than than the minutes I’m accustomed to.”

Blake took a breath, then continued. “He’s a Summoner. His power causes everything to go pitch black in the effected area. I’m afraid I haven’t had time to confirm exact radius. Vision returns a couple minutes later as monochrome, with a light gray fog from which misshapen humanoids and rodents emerge to attack people. Imagine an old horror movie. The creatures and wounds they inflict feel real, but cause no physical damage. Only pain.”

Eldritch took on a somewhat more human form, perhaps in response to the ‘misshapen’ comment. “Sounds closer to an Infiltrator than Summoner illusionist.” It was quite polite of them to talk loud enough to drown out the noises coming from Bea in the background.

“If it is, then it’s also a Breaker,” Officer Blake said. “The power works on electronics and at least one Imbued known to be immune to most Infiltrators, in addition to his anti-Esper ability.” Wait, who’s immune to Infiltrators? On reflex, I glanced back to where Erikson held Bea down in the midst of Bliss’s power like something out of a more pleasurable version of the Exorcist. Oh, I guess he’s the one who’s immune, then. What a great power for your security team to have.

“I’m running a search through our database,” Seraph said. “There are no Imbued which fit those exact traits, but several hundred have an eighty percent match or higher. Can you provide any more details?”

HateDisgust. “He named his power the Killing Field.” Domenic’s voice dripped with hate, but was still no match for the emotion I could feel in him. “Claimed his illusions would kill you, if you were exposed long enough.”

“You saw him?” Eldritch moved closer to Dom. “What did he look like?”

DoubtUncertainty. “I… he was dressed up like some sort of witch doctor in a casual suit. Halloween skull mask, bunch of voodoo-looking trinkets. I’m no expert, but it all looked like cheap, tacky stuff you’d get from a store, nothing authentic. But… his power means we can’t be sure any of it was real. For all I know, he’s really a she and wasn’t even in the building.”

“He was here,” Cecelia said from behind us. She had stopped holding Beatrice down at some point. CertaintyHate.

“How do you know?” Eldritch asked the question for us.

“You don’t get a power like that, and use it the way he did, unless you’re a sadist. He wanted to make us suffer, and he wanted to watch it happen.” RealizationDread.

Eldritch hesitated for a moment. “Are you implying this might be some sort of personal grudge?”

PanicTrapped. Oh fuck, if they start asking questions into people who might have a reason to go after us. 

Cecelia shrugged her shoulders. “Could be. In which case, any of the teachers, students or their rich parents could be the targets. Stalker, jilted ex, hired assassin, kidnapping for ransom, some poor kid angry he can’t go to the rich kid school? Maybe revenge because somebody’s parents built a resort on sacred Haitian burial grounds? Could be anything. All I know is he’s a sadist.”

All those scenarios were possible, some less probable than others, but Cecelia didn’t feel like she believed any of them. She knew as well as Dom and I that this was meant for us. Now we just had to hope the cops didn’t draw the same conclusion.

“Shit. So soon after the fucking psycho twins,” one of the paramedics muttered. Then he realized he had spoken out loud. “Uh… sorry… I’ll just…” He backed away from her eavesdropping place, still apologizing profusely for saying what everyone was thinking.

Eldritch faded into something less real than she had appeared moments ago. “That is disturbing, if true.”

FailureGuiltRegret. Cecelia sighed. “I think this means we’re coming out of our psuedo-retirement.” UncertaintyRejection. Yeah, Cecelia, don’t make statements like that without consulting us. “Come on, I’ll show you.” She walked over to Beatrice, and we followed.

Bliss was still there, though he’d quit pouring on the healing energy. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong, I can’t bring her out of it.”

HorrorLossNegation. “What!” Domenic stepped forward, his metal rippling into thin blades as it readied itself for an attack. I grabbed his arm and dug my fingers into the metal. Tired as I was, I still had that much power available.

“It’s not his fault,” Cecelia said. She knelt next to Beatrice, then used her fingers to open one of the girl’s eyes. A dark green ichor leaked out like tears. “It’s in her blood, too. It’s some sort of Imbued poison, and I think it’s alive.”

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