Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Battle Vixens! - 39


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I had this written a little while ago, but I wasn't entirely sure about it since it came out a little shorter than the usual BV because of a bit of an unusual organization scheme for this part. Just a warning that these scenes are not being presented in strict chronological order, but it shouldn't be too hard to figure out what comes after what where it's important. 

Also, some links on/to this site have been misbehaving for me and at least one other person. If you get sent to an endless loop of the "this is an adult site, are you sure you want to view it" page, try replacing the "http" in your address with an "https". I would fix them myself, but there are WAY too many across all these posts to catch them all. At least I'll try and make sure the links in any new posts are all functional.


Episode 39: Another Day

There was no visit from the Giver that night. There hadn't been one the night before, either; Rowan had had another visit then, apparently, and been prompted to give her another name, "Chaos". Might as well go with Pandora too, although she was really more like the box—or maybe a factory that made such boxes. Blake had expected maybe something after that tip-off from "Beryl", but Emma's roommate had mysteriously disappeared again the following morning and not come back yet.

During the commute to campus, he spoke about it with Amory. "It just seems weird. She obviously knows we know, so why isn't she rubbing it in our faces?"
"Hmm. Well, if you saw her you'd want to play the game again, right? You'd even know what to ask right away, this time."
"Sure, I'd ask where we can catch—"
"Exactly. But maybe she doesn't want to take sides in fights between people she's given powers to. And she could just decide not to play the game—not to tell you in general, or maybe to say something misleading, except that would be for the puppeteer's advantage instead...and it's less complicated to just not contact you at all until you finish this fight yourself."
"Amory...she doesn't shy away from 'complicated'," he pointed out.
"Yeah, you're right. It must be something else, then."

They sat in the car in silence for a minute or two, neither one successfully coming up with a good explanation. Eventually Blake decided to change the subject. "Well...any plans for today?"
"Emma wanted to go out for supper tonight. Just the usual otherwise. What about you?"
"Oh, you know. Another day, another monster. If I hear they found that car then I might skip class to help out."
"How exactly do you plan to get over there in time?"
"Uh...well, there are a few possibilities," he said. "Especially if you happen to be somewhere I can grab you to help real quick."
"Yeah, yeah...well, you know my schedule."



High school demands an exceptionally early rise, and Simon was the kind of person who was delighted to work for himself largely because of the opportunity to sleep in as much as he wanted. This made it a little surprising for Karis to wake up and find the bed empty. After a quick shower, she located him soon enough, up in the painting room working. He waved at her when she came in.

"Hey, what're you doing up so early?"
"Hm? Can't a man be passionate about his work?" he said. His current project seemed to feature both "parts" of Gemma facing each other, a kind of double profile. "They're really putting my nose to the grindstone with all the advertising and product design—which was my idea, after all. Plus, I've got an interview this morning unless the monsters attack then, and then one of them is sure to show up this afternoon unless it already did in the morning."
Karis came up to put her arms around him from behind briefly. "Dear, I appreciate your drive, but you could get yourself killed if you fight one of those things while you're exhausted. Promise me you'll take a nap sometime soon."
"Oh, well, I'm sure there's a meeting I can skip sometime today," he said cheerfully.
"Have you even had breakfast yet?" She let go and took a small step back; he didn't respond but the answer was obviously no. "C'mon, a glutton like you can't start skipping meals. Take a break and eat with me."
"Oh, very well. This layer needs to dry anyway..."



The instructions were: If that plate number was found, do not act on it. Don't pull over the car, don't even act like you noticed it. Just report that it was seen, and follow if it was safe to do so. Then the message would get to Rowan, and he would handle things from there. Of course, they didn't expect the car to show up that night, and it didn't. He kept his phone very close the entire time anyway, and in his hand now, sitting in a folding chair he'd brought up in front of Dawn's bedroom door.

It had taken a while to convince her to eat something resembling supper and then get some sleep. Still, she'd been asleep for about ten hours now. This was apparently normal for an overexhausted vixen, but he couldn't help but worry about that a little bit. And when she did wake up, he wanted to invite her to breakfast. There was a lot he wanted to talk about once she was rested and relatively calm.

Thinking back on it, the records from the time just before she was apprehended, and from yesterday, showed something very unusual. Dawn usually didn't throw more than a couple of mid-sized fireballs or maybe a short-lived plume of flame during a fight, and tended to rely on her own powers mostly just to make weapons to hit with. But after the monster ate Cynthia, temperatures in the city block they were fighting on had abruptly dropped ten degrees. It had probably affected the weather for the next few days. And then yesterday, she had suddenly used the "borrowed" powers just as effectively as their original owner had, making a brief but towering inferno to destroy the puppet and mist monster both. In each case it had left her completely exhausted, but...

The girl who had "time" powers, from Japan, had had something like that, too. In that moment of desperation she had displayed a level of ability far above any imaginable threshold; it was seemingly more than she was able to even control. The Giver had granted everyone some impressive powers, but that was...quite a bit more. Something happened to a vixen's powers when she was put into an especially desperate or emotionally compromised state of mind. His thoughts were drawn to the idea of a cornered lion—one that could also play havoc with the forces of nature and/or physics at will.

The puppeteer's powers were already absurd, bordering on unimaginable, from the many people she had killed. They would need to be exceptionally cautious if they did track down that car, or found her some other way. A sniper rifle from a long distance seemed like the safest bet, provided she didn't dodge, block, or otherwise survive it. Everyone would have to be in position and ready for a long, hard fight if it did come to that.

A click came from the inside of Dawn's room, the adjoining bathroom door shutting. It sounded like she was up, and for a second or two Rowan contemplated taking the chair back to where it came from and then returning to the bedroom door in an effort to appear spontaneous. It was better, he decided, to remain there and be perfectly honest with his intentions—as much as possible, anyway. He didn't feel able to easily explain to her why he wanted to understand what kind of person Cynthia had been from Dawn's perspective, given that it was based on little more than some vague hints and ideas.



After dropping Nadia off at school, Gerald returned once again to his shop and opened up for the day. With a new normal for the world as a whole beginning to be established, the usual customers were finally starting to come back, and the odd curious person as well. None of them looked at him strangely or suspiciously; they just saw a friendly old man behind the counter. That was good. He thought his next-door neighbor had given him a knowing look the day before, but he couldn't be sure. He couldn't very well ask her; even if she did know, it was far better that neither of them talk about it at all. And Nadia was smart enough to keep the secret as well, judging by the fact that none of the other kids looked at him strangely, and the teachers weren't responding to him any differently from usual.
As long as he had his own health, this mask was important to maintain. It protected her; it protected Light and the others from what he might be willing to do to get her back. Especially with a specific, intelligent enemy on the loose, their side just couldn't afford to have another person vulnerable to kidnapping.

Gerald looked at his phone during a lapse in customers. He had the version of the VI app with contact to other vixens now, too. Rowan, or maybe his position at the Initiative, had enough sway with the police in his own town to get them to protect those close to the people he worked with. Maybe the same could be done for Nadia, if it came down to it. But ironically, any special protection given now would just call attention to her and break the mask sooner. The safest guard was no guard, but it still made him nervous. He'd been mistaken for someone rich once before, after all...

The door rang, and he put the phone down, closing out of the contacts list and looking up to see who it was. A short girl with huge glasses came in, looking around the store a bit but clearly headed to talk to him. "Welcome," he said. "What can I do for you?"
"Um...Rory said I should introduce myself," she said, reaching the counter. After a brief, furtive glance backward at the door (there was still nobody else coming in), she hesitantly offered a hand. "I'm Emma. We've uh, ssssort of met before."
He took the hand and gave a good shake. "Gerald Nelson. How do you know Dr. Quinn?"
"Uh..well, she teaches at my school, but not actually any of my classes," she said. "Weee, actually really met in front of the hospital a few days ago."

It took him a moment, but imagining her with white hair and no glasses, there really was a striking resemblance. "Are you...?"
"Um, yeah," she said nervously. "I uh..Rory kinda told me who you were, or at least that you'd be here, and I thought that wasn't really fair if um.."
"It doesn't matter too much to me," he said. "I suppose we would've talked eventually anyhow."
"It's just uh. Since then, I kind of attacked Light, and uh, I am really sorry about that," she stumbled about awkwardy with her words.
"Welcome to the club," he said wryly. "She's a little too forgiving for her own good, if you ask me, but I'm grateful for it. You've been doing good since then, right? Helpin' people out?" Emma nodded. "That's about the best I think anyone could ask for."

After a short pause to think whether there was anything else to say, she said, "So...you have a granddaughter?"
Gerald nodded, and couldn't help but beam a little bit. "My pride and joy. She's very smart for her age, and the sweetest kid you'll ever meet."
"Mmh." She looked around nervously for a second. "Um, please f-forgive me for asking, if it's, offensive or anything..doesn't risking your life, put her in some danger? Especially with, uh..."
He nodded seriously, and leaned forward a bit, toward the counter. "Listen. Before this happened, I wasn't sure I would live to see my little girl grow up. Now I have a chance at it. But I won't forgive myself if the world she grows up into isn't as safe as I can help make it." He sighed, leaning back again. "Not just her, either. Young folk like you and Light shouldn't have to worry about this for the rest of your lives. My life is worth that. If anything, I'm not any worse off than if none of this had happened and I just got too old."
"I-I see.." She seemed to be absorbing that for a moment, and then nodded. "If you, um, ever need any help..I used to do some babysitting. I mean, I guess I'll end up fighting at the same time as you are usually, but if there's ever any other reason.."
Gerald nodded. "Thank you. I'll be sure to introduce you some time. Call me on the, uh...this thing," he said, holding his phone up enough to show the app running on it.
"Sure."



"She was...look, ain't nobody perfect." Breakfast.
Rowan had suggested that talking about Cynthia might help the healing some. Dawn wasn't so sure, but it felt like he wanted to know about her, and it was the least she could do at this point to tell him. "She was a punk like me. Her mom died forever ago, her dad was a..." A few different sets of words ran into each other in her head and caught in her throat. Rowan nodded; he understood, of course, which saved them both some trouble. "She wanted outta the slums. Away from the gangs. Both of us, an' anyone else who wasn't already part of the problem. She thought..if we ever did get out, she talked about comin' back someday to pull more people out. Maybe try an' fix things."
Dawn looked away for a moment, and then forward again. "I didn't know what I'd do if I got out. Still no idea what I'm doin' now, just tryin' to get by every day like I always did. Cynth, she knew. It was like she was already outta there an' thinkin' ahead to the next move. But she wasn't—we were still stuck there, you know."

They didn't speak for a long moment, just the sound of forks doing their work. "Just a few days before the...all this," she said vaguely, gesturing to her own appearance, "she was, talkin' about goin' home one more time, to get her things. And get outta this place, go to some job that said they'd hire her. She came back, the next morning, covered in bruises, some cuts. Nothin'..too bad, not life-threatenin' at least, but...
"She wouldn't say nothin' about what happened. Didn't have to. I knew what happened." Dawn could feel herself shaking. "It wasn't the first time. It was...I didn't count, but I think I woulda lost count if I tried."

Rowan allowed silence to reign for a good few minutes, letting her calm down. She said quietly, "The night before, that dream, we were just talkin'. An' all of a sudden she looked at me and she said, 'Donny. Sometimes I just wanna burn it all down.' She asked if it made her evil or somethin' like that. I said no, that was just natural. Not havin' a way out, I thought, that'd be the next best thing. I...didn't really think it was literal, y'know."
"It probably wasn't," said Rowan. "The person who gave us these powers just has a sick sense of humor sometimes."



Clark made breakfast again, and sat down once it was ready. "So, what have you got today?"
"More labs to catch up on...I expect a flood of reports by the end of the week," said Rory. Then, after a few bites: "Say. Do you think I'm pretty?"
He looked up from his breakfast at her, trying to gauge her expression and figure out where this was coming from. "You remember what I said when I proposed to you, right?"
"Yep."
"Well, my opinion hasn't changed a bit. And I can't work up the nerve to word things that dramatically this early in the morning." She nodded, agreeing it'd be a little much.

"...Being able to just suddenly look different—like, closer to how I always used to want to look—on a whim kinda changes things, though. You like how my fox form looks too, don't you?"
"Yeah. But dear, you know the most important thing is that it's you, not how you look."
"Still. I wonder if there's any preference? Like, if I split into two different bodies all of a sudden and both of them were still me—"
"Then whatever decisions I needed to make wouldn't depend on your physical appearance," he said.
"Hmph. You're no fun."
"Love you too."

"I just wonder if that Emma girl is going through anything like what I did at that age. Maybe she wouldn't have been desperate enough to get violent if she was a little more, 'conventionally attractive', you know?" Rory made a point to cup her own chest slightly to emphasize her meaning.
"Guys are attracted to a lot of different things," he said. "Anyway, a good body can't compete with a good mind in the end."
"That's just your fetish," she said, sticking out her tongue. "And even if you're right it never really feels that way. Maybe I could give her some advice, or encouragement—you know, in case it doesn't work out with Amory. If only to prevent another psychotic implosion."
"You do whatever you want to, dear." He waited through a bite of food before adding: "You always do, anyway."
"You know you love it," she countered, hardly missing a beat.




Amory managed to catch Blake in between classes. He pulled up the news on his phone, while gently leading him to a less-crowded part of the hallway.. "Hey, look."
The headline was eye-catching enough: "Black Mist Steps Up Attack". The monsters that had already appeared that day had been, on the whole, bigger and nastier than usual. That was not an easy mark to achieve at this point; they were less numerous, but this had led to several more vixens being eaten, resulting in their monsters becoming even worse to deal with.
It did not take him long to get the gist of things. "That means more people going to that facility," he said.
"More importantly, we have something to worry about here," he half-whispered. "With the puppeteer around too, you guys really need to be on your toes today."
"Yeah..." Amory had a brief flash of imagination, as if he was seeing Light's ears droop from that thought.

"I'm sending messages to everyone to be ready for a tough fight today. If it shows up in the middle of town then Ning has to hold it off until everyone else gets there..."
"Well, if it doesn't happen until after our classes then we could drive out there and leave Emma and the Quinns here," he said. "Then, whoever needs to can go the other way. Until then, though.."
"I've been texting with Emma. She's planning to head out to meet him close to noon, and she doesn't have classes till later, after ours. So she offered to stay out there."
"I guess that'll work...thanks for keeping an eye on things."
"Of course. I checked on Rowan too, but they're already on high alert out there, patrolling and everything. Being all public and official like that has its advantages."

2 comments:

  1. I think the reason the Giver hasn't appeared for Blake is because he's expecting it. I think she only does things like that when they're not expected. Kinda like the Spanish Inquisition, just more subtle.

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  2. Hmm... A particularly rough day of monsters... and Simon hasn't been sleeping... Hmm...

    I wonder if the puppets are just a one-time investment for the puppeteer, or if keeping all of them out slowly drains her energy over time. If they are able to just kind of 'hang out' while the puppeteer is getting ready, I wonder if they ever get the chance to chat among themselves. Even moreso what is the state of their consciousness while they are 'dead' versus when they are puppets...

    Do the puppets have proper senses? Are they able to taste and smell? They can obviously see and hear, and one of the puppets did say that getting destroyed hurt, implying a sense of touch still.

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