Price Threefold, Chapter 41- Chloe

“Alive?” Eldritch’s speed bordered on teleportation as she appeared above Beatrice. “What makes you certain it’s alive?”

ShockSurprise ImpossibleNew. I realized then that there had to be some limitation to that ability, or Cecelia never would have escaped her after killing Mom.

RecognitionGuilt. For a moment, I though it was Cecelia catching on to my thoughts, but it was Domenic looking at the dark green ichor in Bea’s eyes. HorrorHate.

He’s right. We knew an Imbued with that color, one who’d already claimed Bea as her own via some fucked up mystical logic. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to believe the madwoman had decided to force the issue of Domenic giving Beatrice to her.

FailureStupid. “I… I’m not…” Cecelia took her hand away from Bea’s face. “It just… explains why it spread when Bliss healed her?”

“My power only works on people,” Bliss said. “I admit I can’t purge existing parasites from the body, but I also can’t make them any stronger. Let alone to this extent.”

RealizationGuiltDefense.

“Power interaction, then?” I hoped that by changing the subject to this, they might not pay too much attention to Cecelia’s slip. At least I could hope they wouldn’t connect us to this on a personal level. “Perhaps one of ours, perhaps whatever… the girl was exposed to.” In the process, I almost screwed up as well. “We know next to nothing about how the attacker’s powers work.” NeedProtect. I tried not to look at Domenic. “Listen, we have to go. We’re risking our identities here.”

“I’m sorry, but we must initiate a Class 2 Biologic quarantine,” Seraph said. “On top of a Class 3 Infiltrator.” He only now took his eyes off Cecelia to look at me. “You are allowed to switch to civilian garb, but you may not leave the building under any circumstances until we can confirm there is no risk of spread of disease. We’ll fabricate stories about how people outside of the school were caught in the attack and brought here, if necessary. As well as keeping people in small groups in multiple rooms. No one will be able to track your change of identity.”

SurpriseImpressed. Say what you will about the police, they plan for everything. I wondered if the divided classrooms was a standard part of the quarantine, or part of a special arrangement to help us.

The angles of light changed as Eldritch moved in front of me. “I don’t mean to add more stress, but the three of you were more exposed than anyone else, ergo if anyone can be infected, you already have. Would you mind moving patient zero to the nurse’s office for the time being, rather than risk exposing others?”

Domenic took a couple steps forward. “I’ll do it.” His metal started to move around Bea before anyone could object. “My power protects me from chemicals and biologicals. If it gets me, we’ll know how dangerous it is.” FrustrationStruggle.

Cecelia and I pretended not to notice how much trouble Domenic had trying to carry Beatrice to the nurse’s office. ReliefDread. It seemed Dom was using his power to examine her during the walk, and didn’t think she was in immediate danger.

I wondered what the witch thought she was doing, how this Fate stuff worked in her mind. I glanced over at Cecelia, who’d gone pensive. We haven’t told her about the Greenwitch. That needs to change now.

Seraph stepped in line next to Cecelia. AnnoyedImpatient. She stepped away from him.

“So your Tech can be used for bioanalysis? My Methodology is in fluid dynamics. For example, my flight system works by collecting and condensing air to create lift equivalent to water buoyancy. I think I could make a healing device, or at least blood filtration Tech, with the help of your scanner.”

DismissalFrustration. Cecelia picked up her pace some, then turned to walk backward while facing Seraph. “There are two ways for you to get your hands on my equipment. The first, I’m not nearly cold and dead enough for. The second requires they be surgically removed from your small intestine.” ShockSchadenfreude.

“I think you mean the large intestine,” Seraph didn’t seem to get even that hint. I felt a little bad for the guy, in fact. “The small is far too deep in the body-.”

DiscomfortPityProtect? I could feel Domenic wanting to come to Cecelia’s rescue. Someone has to, if this keeps up, Seraph will figure out Cecelia’s not a Gadgeteer. I prepared to take that task on myself, since Dom was still busy.

UnnecessaryConfident. Cecelia, it seemed, didn’t feel the need for a rescuer. “Not the way I’m gonna put them there.”

“We may be able to use our combined skills to filter her bloodstream and extract the poison from her body.” I had to admit Seraph had a point; if Cecelia had been a real Gadgeteer rather than faking, it would have been a tempting idea.

HesitationTrapped. I felt my powers deplete again as Cecelia drank deep of our shared battery. “Yes, why don’t we cobble together an untested trick to use on an unknown power? That’s the most creative way to kill someone I’ve heard all week.” Sarcasm was known as a means to trip up Truthsayers, but I got the feeling that wasn’t Cecelia’s motive. “Or do you happen to know of someone who knows how to do surgery on weird super-powered parasites that no one’s ever seen before?”

Seraph stopped for a moment. “No, there are no Imbued on record with such an ability. Sorry.”

TiredFocus. Domenic stopped to adjust his grip on Beatrice. FrustrationContempt. Great, he’s blaming himself for not being strong enough again. How I hate when he does that. He kept quiet as we walked so no one other than Cecelia and I caught on to how he struggled.

I went ahead just enough to open the door to the nurse’s office for him so he could set Bea down on the bed they had.

Eldritch drifted into position on the other side of Beatrice. “Thank you, we’ll make sure she’s safe, now. Please take this opportunity to switch to your civilian identity if you think it betters your odds of avoiding discovery. We promise our discretion in the matter.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” DoubtSuspicionResignation. He didn’t believe Eldritch for a moment about helping his sister, or respecting our secrets. AgreedAlert. With Cecelia thinking the same, I fell into agreeing with them. At this point, calling our secret identities paper thin is wishful thinking.

I started accepting that by the end of the day, the cops would know who I was, if they didn’t already. I just had to hope they didn’t start digging into our history. Learning about my family could only lead to trouble, and the less they looked at Cecelia, the safer we’d all feel.

ConcernUrgencyIdea. Domenic came back to the hall. He has a plan, I need to help make it happen. AcceptanceReady. I went with the expected small talk to start. “Is she going to be alright?”

UncertaintyHope. “She seems okay for now, and we’ve done all we can here.”

My identity’s on even thinner ice than Dom’s, given I’m sure Principal Reeves could figure it out even if I hadn’t stolen a costume from the drama club. No sense in not taking another hit to give Dom a better chance. “Okay, I’ll show you where you can change with some privacy.” I kept my eyes locked on Seraph, on the off chance he might object, but he didn’t. Then, for all I knew he was hoping to steal Cecelia’s “Tech” when she wasn’t wearing it. I still couldn’t decide if the man was an asshole, or just a bit of a moron.

AcceptanceGratitude. “Thank you.”

I led them down the main hall until Cecelia pulled us into a side locker hall. “We’re going, right? You know something, it’s big, and we gotta deal with it.”

ConcernResponsible. “I… want to,” Domenic paused to look at me, as if I could finish the thought for him. “But.” HesitationDoubtUnsure. “If we go, we’ll face a lot of problems down the line,” he trailed off, this time for good.

It ends our career as heroes, perhaps forever. It may even get warrants out for our arrest, and all but guarantees Dom and I have our identities revealed. “If that’s what it takes to do the right thing, then we’ll do it.”

UncertaintyConsideration. “So you’re saying you know who did all of this, and where to find them?” Cecelia glanced down the hall. “I’m confident we’re not being listened in on, if that’s your worry.”

AcceptanceFocus. Domenic leaned in to whisper to Cecelia. “We had an encounter with Granny Greenwitch.” Cecelia showed no sign of recognizing the name. “She’s an ancient Imbued, utterly insane, and has a voodoo obsession. I don’t know all her powers, but she has a dark green aura and is a biomanipulator.” RevulsionFear. “Also sort of a healer and can mess with powers. What happened to Bea fits the things we know she can do, and she has the aura as that stuff. Green and black, that’s a rare color for Imbued, right?”

Rare and terrifying. “Plus the voodoo theme that the guy you saw had,” I added. “This whole thing could have been cooked up by Granny.”

ClarityConsideration. “So you’re saying this Imbued laid out an attack, set everything up, left a bunch of clues alongside your wounded sister who can’t be healed, and knows you know where to find her?” ContemptIncredulity. Cecelia tilted her head to the side. “Have you maybe considered that she’s luring you into a trap?”

FrustrationAnger. Domenic leaned in. “Of course I know it’s a trap!” he hissed. “But I can’t sit back and do nothing!”

SmugDismissive. Cecelia gave a slow shake of her head. “Of course not. She’d set another trap, maybe start picking off your friends and family one after another.” Perhaps more disturbing than the subject matter was the casual way Cecelia talked about it. “She’s set up the game board, and has her plan at the ready. Either she’s waiting for you to come to her, or she’s not. We run out of here right now for the attack, and she’ll either be waiting for us or she won’t. Waiting a few hours ain’t gonna change that. It just means we have time to recover, plan, and not piss off the cops who might point an Esper at us that beats our powers.”

HumiliationAnger. “You’re right,” Domenic said. “Unless that Killing Field guy comes back for another attack, our best plan is to stay here. And if he comes back, still better if we’re here with the other heroes who might be able to find a counter where we couldn’t.”

I reached out and set a hand on Dom’s shoulder. “I’ll need to ask for your armor.” I fought down a wave of disgust. “My clothes didn’t survive the fight, so I have to stay in costume. I can tell Spark the full story while you take care of your grandma.”

GratitudeTiredResponsible. Domenic looked at Cecelia, who nodded. “That sounds good.” Metal shifted up from Dom and over my hand and arm, then down my torso.

Soon the comforting strength of Domenic’s steel ensured I was as safe from attack as he was. I was grateful for the added protection, knowing we now faced two Imbued of the strongest power rankings. Cecelia once called Heritage lightweights in the world of Imbued, and now more than ever I saw her point.

Now that Domenic was back in civies, he looked so frail and vulnerable. He tried to force a smile, but failed to achieve even that. “Well, I’d better get going.”

“Go right down the hall, then the first left you can. If you jog, you should be able to get to the other side of the building before a cop sees you. You want the first room on the other side.” Our school was shaped in such a way that the main hallway formed a large rectangle which would get you to anywhere on the ground floor. “Don’t worry, there aren’t any working cameras. I think they were taken out before the fight started.”

GratitudeRelief. “Thanks.” Domenic turned and ran down the hall.

I looked at Cecelia. Dom had given her a bit of metal as well, enough to serve as full arm bracers. From now until Killing Field was beaten, we’d all need to carry as much metal as we could get away with. Lining my backpack and shoes with a few pounds was obvious, but I would need much more than that to feel safe again.

Cecelia gave me a shy smile that fooled neither of us. “Don’t tell me this is what turns you on.”

What. “No!” I almost stepped back. “I was just trying to plan. I, uh, I’m surprised you wanted to wait instead of encouraging Dom to break out and run into battle. You’re the one who likes fighting.”

“No, you’re the one who likes to fight.” Cecelia leaned back against the lockers. “I like to win. There’s a big difference. Now. What is this Granny Greenwitch and, on a scale of one to ten, how fucked are we?”

“You really don’t know?” I couldn’t wrap my head around how that was possible. “She’s perhaps the single most powerful Imbued who’s ever lived, and she’s been alive for at least the last couple hundred years. Every so often, some stupid, desperate person goes to her for help, and she demands some sort of tribute.”

I paused to take a long breath while deciding how I wanted to phrase it. I opted for the blunt version. “That was us, to fight you, and I think she’s decided it’s time to collect her fee.”

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