Precipice 12.18

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Conglomerate Shelter, somewhere beneath the Pacific Ocean – Friday, the 22nd of June 2012. 05:19 PM.
The alarm went off almost instantly after the villain’s masterly mind splattered across the wall behind him, suggesting that maybe the notorious trickster had been honest for once. Chris barely registered the background noise. What concerned her right at that moment was the nagging uneasiness Gentleman’s final words had left her with, and the slowly settling realization that she didn’t ask about Ryan before it was too late. The urge to shut the villain up had become insurmountable.

I can still find him. I’ll just keep looking. The thought wasn’t as comforting as it should have been. Part of her was aware why she hadn’t asked: because she already knew the answer and couldn’t bear to hear it again.

“You should get patched up,” Morpheus was saying with machine-generated sympathy. “The bleeding looks bad.”

Chris lowered her gaze to see her blood all over the floor. “Oh,” she said, lifting her left foot to put it down somewhere a little cleaner. “Yeah, I guess.”

A light dizziness was beginning to set in, dulling the pain in her chest and reducing the howling alarm to background noise. The noise now sounded further away, somehow, as if someone had picked it up and was carrying it away from her.

She heard Morpheus’ voice just fine, though; it was coming from right beside her. “I can’t prevent the self-destruction of the Shelter – my code’s been chopped up and modified by amateurs – but I can give you as much time as you need.”

“Okay,” Chris mumbled to herself. She pressed her hand to that annoying red-rimmed hole in her hoodie and shuffled back the way she came. Upon reaching the entrance area without power suppression she activated her speed again, and created a new palm-sized forcefield to seal her wound. If she wanted one free hand to support herself in case the dizziness become overwhelming, she didn’t have any hands left to carry the AI’s sphere. It would just have to open all the doors at once or catch up with her.

The slow-down effect reduced the alarm to a low, droning sound. It was kind of nice, really. The time bubble she’d created prevented the AI from rambling on and on, and she didn’t need to wonder whether her ‘ally’ was truly unable to deactivate Gentleman’s dead man switch. She could just keep walking. Do her thing. Follow her plan without outside interference.

It only took her a moment to remove the forcefields which blocked access to the ladder. On the floor below, Rampage and Eve stood frozen in time with looks of concern on their rigid faces. The French villainess was grasping the ladder, one foot set on one of the rungs, about to make her way to the main floor.

The submarine isn’t going to wait for you. Or me.

Chris took her time climbing down the ladder past the two villains, pausing just long enough to surround them with a tightly packed cluster of forcefields. When time continued to flow normally, they’d have a hard time moving, let alone going anywhere. Hopefully, the forcefields would last long enough to keep them off her back for a few minutes.

Down on the ground floor, no villains were in sight. The canteen looked to have been abandoned in a hurry. Eve’s paper cup was now spilling out on the floor, creating a large brownish puddle. Chris didn’t bother skirting around it. She dragged herself onward. Her dirty sneakers left a trail of blood and brownish footprints in their wake.

The security doors to the pantry and prisoner area were wide open, giving her hope that all of the fortress was now accessible by default. She didn’t have time to waste. Indeed, the cell doors on the left side of the circular corridor had all been unlocked. Watchmirror’s anxious young face peeked through the doorway, looking outside for threats but not daring to go step out of the confines of his room. The two kids stood right behind him, holding each other’s hands. The three adults were further back.

Chris passed them by with a silent promise: I’ll be right back.

After a few more steps she noticed a significant change in the layout of the corridor and the surrounding area. The rooms at the very back, beyond the meat grinder and the execution chamber, were no longer accessible. A sheer metal wall — so compact it didn’t leave a finger’s breath of space — stretched from the floor to the ceiling to cut off these rooms from the remaining prisoner area.

That wall hadn’t been there a minute before.

So much for the submarine. King doesn’t want anyone else to get aboard.

Failing to be terribly disappointed or surprised, Chris moved on, back to the execution chamber where she had left Jasper. He’d made the effort to hide, but there just wasn’t very much to hide behind apart from the big furnace-like machine with its suction hoses. She found him right behind it, crouched in the space between the two hoses, and stepped into his line of sight before releasing her hold in her power.

Now that the blaring alarm once again overpowered all other noise, she had to raise her voice to be heard. “Let’s get going. Do you have Dancer’s music track on you?”

When his eyes flicked to her, they went as wide as saucers, and he actually flinched a little. His mouth fell open, but it took him a moment to speak. “What on earth happened to you?”

Chris glanced at herself to see that the fingers of her left hand were nearly as bloodied as the fabric of the hoodie they were clutching. Even the gun, tightly clutched in her right, had somehow gotten bloody. “Work-related accident. I’m fine. Do you have the track or no?”

He averted his eyes, trying too hard not to stare at her. “Just finished before… well, this. The soundfile’s in the room with my music equipment.”

“Come on then,” she said, already on her way out of the chamber. She couldn’t tell how many minutes had passed since she knocked Drifter unconscious and left him in his room, but it felt like some iteration of ‘too damn long ago’. Besides, the alarm made her more restless than she already was.

At least she didn’t need to sweet-talk Jasper into coming along. He wasn’t in great shape himself, but he had no trouble keeping up with her pace. “Did you find a way out?” he asked as they made their way to his former cell.

“Yeah,” she replied. “Drifter.”

He gave her an incredulous look but didn’t ask questions which she appreciated. They didn’t have time to discuss. Hell, she wasn’t sure they had time to get the soundfile, but if Dancer really was the Healer, then that power-boosting track just might be important enough to risk both their lives for it.

When he was back in his cell, Jasper’s fingers flew across the keyboard of his laptop in a blur, and his eyes gleamed with newfound determination while he performed the necessary steps to copy the track onto a data stick. As she watched him from the doorway, Chris envied him for his vibrant energy. She’d felt that way once, like she could push the world back from the brink if she only tried hard enough.

“Got it,” Jasper announced. He raised the triumphant data stick into the air before rushing back to her side.

Chris triggered her hyperspeed for the split second she needed to evade his hug. After walking a few steps down the corridor she released her hold on her power, allowing him to catch up. Each step sent a fiery pulse through her chest wound. She felt as if Mr. Smiles’ make-believe knife was still wedged in her flesh, twisting a little whenever she took a breath.

Jasper gave her a rueful look. “I’m so sorry, that was inconsiderate of me. You must be in pain.”

“It’s nothing,” she lied. “Just keep that data stick safe.”

“You should take it. You have better odds of keeping it safe.”

Talking was beginning to hurt more than breathing, so Chris kept her answer short. “No, I don’t.”

She stopped in front of the cell containing Watchmirror’s three generation family. The Visionary was still in the doorway, poking his head out like an anxious meerkat on the lookout for trouble. Predictably, his eyes flicked to her bloodied sweater before noticing the gun in her hand. He recoiled back into the cell.

“What is happen?” he asked in broken English, his voice shrill and squeaky. Behind him, the members of his family huddled together at the very back of the room. Both of the kids were now crying.

“If you want to get out,” Chris managed, “you all come with me. Now.”

They didn’t look like they wanted to. Considering how damn noisy that alarm was, it wasn’t very likely that anyone except Watchmirror had even heard her. Or understood her English.

“No, no. This is trap,” the anxious young man said. “We go, bad man kill us all.”

“Bad man is dead. You’re going to die if you stay here.” Having made her point, Chris turned away from the doorway and did what she did best: she kept moving.

That’s when she realized something was very wrong with her. Not that long ago, she would have done anything in her power to ensure the safety of those kids. Now… if they didn’t want to come with her, what was she supposed to do? She didn’t have the strength to carry a grade schooler on her back, let alone two of them. The realization made her a little sad, but not enough to dwell on it. It was easier — and much more efficient — to focus on her next step.

“Chris, wait!” Jasper called after her.

She didn’t turn back around, but she stopped walking, giving him the chance to speak before they were so far apart that a conversation would be impossible.

“Give me a minute or two. I’ll catch up with the kids and their parents.”

“Don’t take too long,” she replied. It was meant to be a shout, but her lungs failed to produce the necessary volume. The last word ended in a ragged wheeze which burned its way through her chest.

No lung damage, she rationalized, drawing the conclusion from what little medical knowledge she’d accrued in high school. I’d be coughing up blood if he pierced my lungs.

Since Jasper was staying behind, she called upon her hyperspeed to quickly make her way back to Drifter. Lark — or Morpheus — awaited her in front of the closed door to the surveillance room. As she stepped up to the hovering drone she let go of her speed and doubled over, fighting off a spell of dizziness while she removed the forcefields that were blocking the door.

“There is a first aid facility on the living quarters floor,” Morpheus helpfully informed her.

Chris straightened herself with some effort, discovering that she could manage more easily if she made no sudden movements and took small, shallow breaths. “Later,” she huffed, erasing the forcefields she’d left on the door. “I need to go in there. Now.”

Her superhuman senses informed her of Eve and Rampage’s ongoing struggles against the barriers she’d erected around them. Rampage was fighting his way through, but was only making minimal progress. She didn’t expect him to make his way through for another two or three minutes. Regardless, she created another mass of superimposed forcefields over the ladder hatch to buy herself – and the other prisoners – some additional time.

The door to Drifter’s room slid open, revealing a villain who was conscious, but looked to be in nearly as bad shape as she was. The skin of his neck was badly bruised. He staggered and braced himself against his desk, opening and closing his mouth like a fish on land. Upon seeing her, his eyes bulged in panic. He stumbled backward and nearly tripped over his own feet. But he couldn’t escape the room. Not with Chris standing in the doorway, raising her gun at his face.

“Make sure he doesn’t get out,” she told Morpheus before stepping inside. Even though the dizziness still prickled through her skull, she felt steady enough to speed up and position herself behind the man before he could react. When time snapped back into place, she quickly brought her arm about his neck, just like she’d done before. The pressure of his back against her wounded chest nearly made her cry out. She clenched her jaw, compressing the cry into a ragged gasp that didn’t reveal just how much she was hurting.

Drifter struggled in her grasp, but relaxed a little when she made no move to choke him again. “What do you want?” he asked in a small, anxious voice.

Chris allowed herself a moment to manage her pain, keeping the gun firmly pressed up to his temple. “You’re going to release the prisoners,” she said. “All of them.”

Data’s holographic projection stepped up to her side. “I assume you need me to restore the video feeds?”

“Yeah. But give me a moment.” Chris steeled herself against the pain and tightened her grip, careful not to let Drifter look at her. If he got a visual of her and someone else, at the same time, he’d swap her out for one of the Conglomerate’s straw men. The other prisoners would still be stuck here with no way out.

“If you turn your head, I’m blowing a hole into your skull,” she hissed, concealing the fact that she was going to do so anyway. But only after everyone else was out.

The man stiffened in her grip. “You’re not getting away with this.”

“Oh, but I believe she will,” Morpheus cheerily divulged. “Let’s see… your boss is dead, as is the psycho clown. King and Alastair wisely decided to take the submarine. Eve and Rampage have been walled in, so don’t count on them to reach you in time. Did I forget anyone?”

“Laughing Wolf,” Chris said. “He died first, actually.”

Drifter was silent for a moment before responding. “Assuming you aren’t lying… how am I going to get out? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this place’s about to blow up.”

Right. He can’t swap himself out for anyone else. Sucks to be him.

“You’re going to blow up first,” Chris growled, “if you don’t play along.” She increased the pressure of the gun against the side of his head until he grunted, a shiver running through him. It was becoming increasingly hard to hide her own weakness. If the guy could actually see her behind him, bloodied and unsteady on her own feet, he wouldn’t have been so docile.

“The submarine is most likely gone,” Morpheus informed. “However, I am kindly suppressing the self-destruction process and will be sending help.”

Drifter’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “What kind of help?”

The AI was quick to answer. “Oh, you know. The kind of help that is going to handcuff you and inject you with Power Zero. Beats getting blown up, don’t you think?”

Drifter licked his lips, squinting at the row of surveillance monitors on the wall to his right. Even though she couldn’t see all of his face, Chris could tell he was struggling with himself, wanting to believe in that small chance that everything would turn out all right in the end. Having been in that position not too long ago, she could, to some degree, relate.

For now, she was glad to let the AI do the talking. Morpheus saved her the effort of pretending she wasn’t about to collapse. Keeping track of Rampage and Eve’s struggle to break through her forcefields was taking up most of her mental bandwidth. She didn’t expect them to interfere anytime soon, but they were making progress.

“Just who the fuck are you?” Drifter asked the AI.

“Would you believe me if I told you I’m Data’s immortal soul?”

Drifter spit a small glob of blood onto the floor. “I don’t know. Data was a freaking genius, though. If anyone found a way to achieve immortality, I’d say it would be him.”

His AIs are good at bullshitting, I’ll give him that.

The door slid open, revealing Jasper, the two kids with the tear-streaked faces, and the terrified looking woman who had to be their mother. Chris couldn’t see Watchmirror or the other two family members but decided to assume they weren’t too far behind.

Chris released the breath she’d been holding. Now was as good a time as any to renew some small faith in happy endings. “You guys ready?” she asked Jasper through clenched teeth.

“Yeah,” he replied, gently ushering the kids into the room. “I promised them they’d all be able to leave together.”

Chris bit her lip to keep herself from commenting. She had to stay focused on the man she was keeping in a headlock to prevent him from taking advantage of the situation, but the dizziness had grown so severe that she wasn’t sure she’d be able to use her powers or react in time to prevent her prisoner from breaking free. Hell, she could barely stand.

The mother released a flood of incomprehensive words in some foreign language, gesturing helplessly with her hands. They’re from some Asian country, Chris remembered vaguely. Guess she wants a return ticket.

Drifter squinted at the door. “Just how many people are there? We don’t have a whole group of swap targets in the same place, let alone under camera surveillance. I can send two people to the same location, then again two. The rest are going to go wherever. America, most likely.”

The monitors surrounding his surveillance console lit up, showing at least twenty different locations that Chris failed to recognize at a glance. A few were devoid of people. Most of the screens showed exactly one person in a room or back yard, killing time by reading or sipping coffee.

“All of the swap targets are criminals, right?” she asked, her suspicion aroused by the civilian outfits and harmless appearance of the on-screen people. One of them was a kid who couldn’t be more than fourteen or so.

“They’re Conglomerate associates, without exception,” Morpheus assured her.

“Don’t swap the kid in.” Chris still wasn’t convinced this place wasn’t going to blow up after all. She could imagine all kinds of reasons why Data’s vengeful AI might want to destroy it rather than inform the authorities, who would no doubt find the leftover tech as interesting as the leftover villains.

“Who first?” Drifter asked.

Jasper stepped over to Chris, eyes on the screens. “Where’s the first pair located?”

“Atlanta, USA,” Morpheus said. “I’ll display the location info. Check the bottom of each screen.”

Chris closed her eyes, too busy fighting the dizziness to read the various taglines. She felt like she was burning up from the inside. Her body shuddered, and she had to lean on the prisoner for support. She barely processed what happened next: people disappeared, others appeared and were ushered out of the surveillance room by some combination of Morpheus’ tech and Jasper’s reassurances. The blaring alarm finally stopped, too. The silence probably played a big part in keeping the situation under control.

“Hey, Chris,” Jasper said in a quiet, gentle voice, pulling her back from the edge of unconsciousness.

She cracked her eyes open to see him standing in front of her as the last person in the room who hadn’t been evacuated. She was still holding the gun to Drifter’s temple, but her arm had dropped away from his neck. The man didn’t struggle or try to escape. Like her, he had nowhere to run.

“Are you going to be okay?” Jasper asked, concern written all over his face. “I have a bad feeling about leaving you behind. You should go first, Chris.”

“No,” she rasped in a strained voice that didn’t sound like hers. “I have the gun. You have to go. Now.”

“Take him to one of the cities in Europe,” Morpheus commanded. “Just not Paris. Too much drama over there.”

Jasper reached out for her arm, his touch as light as a feather. “We’ll meet again,” he said. “I’ll let everyone know what you…”

He never finished the sentence. Drifter swapped him out for a dark-skinned woman in a blue dress, who cried out in surprise at the sudden location change. She didn’t look like a criminal. She didn’t even look like a Conglomerate associate, though Chris was aware that looks could be deceiving.

“Get out,” she rasped, looking at the woman with what she hoped was a death glare.

It worked. The woman babbled something in nervous staccato Spanish or Italian, and then vacated the surveillance room through the open door.

“You’re next,” Drifter told Chris.

“No, you are,” she said before pulling the trigger.

By the time the gunshot’s thundering echo died out she was already on her way out of the room, still clutching the gun without really knowing why. It felt like a part of her. Made her feel a little safer.

Morpheus’ sphere drifted alongside her. “Interesting choice,” the AI said. “You could have gotten out of here, but chose not to.”

Chris didn’t respond. She needed her breath and her energy to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t act so surprised, she thought. You knew I was going to do this.

“I’ll come pick you up,” he said over the sound of her wheezing breath. He must have figured out where she was going, and why. “Good luck.”

You better.

She grasped her power, surprised to discover her speed still came to her. It didn’t shorten the agonizing walk, but it gave her time to reach her destination–the meat grinder–before Eve and Rampage broke through the forcefields. A long vertical shaft filled with rotating blades, motion-triggered compactors and sharp spikes to turn bodies into minced meat for the sharks. And at the end of it… the wide, open ocean.

Chris had a hunch she was going to find Ryan somewhere in that shaft.

She projected a large forcefield bubble onto herself, enclosing as much breathing air as she could justify, then adjusted the forcefield’s shape to make it the kind of slender cylinder that would be able to squeeze through.

Then, she jumped.

((End of arc 12))

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20 thoughts on “Precipice 12.18

  1. I did it! I finally finished this arc. Sorry about the cliffhanger – the next arc (Radiant / Dancer’s POV) is going to reveal what happened to Chris. I had to finish this one in a rush because there just wasn’t any time left to keep working on it. Sorry about that. On the plus side, the chapter is a little longer than the previous ones were.

    If you had been in Chris’s position, would you have shot all those people? Some of them? Or none?

    • I probably would have made the same decision, as she didn’t really have any choices to make, it was either kill all them or none of them. If any of them had lived then the whole thing she was trying to bring down could have easily continued. I’m not mad about it ending here, as this is where it makes sense for this arc to end, just want the next chapter NOW.

    • Hard to tell, really… I would have shot the clown. Mr. Smiles was creepy and dangerous. I just hope he pretended to stab Chris with a normal knife, not a poisoned one… And that what we’re seeing here with all the dizzyness is just the shock from being infured and the bloodloss. D:
      I think I would have tried to shoot Laughing Wolf as well. Dunno if I’d followed through, though. Never tried shooting someone. x)
      If I had been fit enough I would have tried to get more information out of Gentleman and I probably wouldn’t have shot Drifter at all. But in her weakened state, I think it was the safest route to go. Drifter could have swapped her somewhere with more than one Conglomerate associate and she was in no state to defend herself. Leaving Rampage and Eve was smart, trying to end them herself would have been a unnecessary risk.
      At this point, Chris might not have chosen the most moral of routes, but the safest…

      • Also on that note, if he imagined a knife inside her chest, then died, would that knife fade? Would it act like a normal except invisible knife? Will it be there forever?

    • Kill Laughing Wolf, and take the knife; no need for ammunition conservation at that point.
      Systematically remove all possible threats before confronting Gentleman.

    • I would have killed all i could, and yes that includes the kid (Alastair), that said i would have done like her and prioritize Gentleman, but i would have killed every villain i found on the way, if i had her powers i wouldn’t have bothered with bullets unless it was necesary, for example i would have killed Rampage and Eve with a light tap on their heasds while in hyperspeed, with how her speed works that should be enough to either cave their heads in or break their necks depending of where i do it, a shame King and Alastair scaped (i want that kid dead, he reminds me of Joffrey Baratheon)

  2. I just caught up with the, and overall it’s pretty good. I had a couple problems with it though.

    Out of the 3 main characters, I liked all but Sarina. She has so much power yet never uses it in any meaningful way, which bothers me. Probably just a case of personal preference, I like characters that are intelligently working towards defined goals.

    Gentleman also frustrates me, because he never got a decent motive for him and now he’s dead. I hope there’s going to be some resolution to that. As of right now, everything he’s done just seems kinda pointless, stupid and horrible.

    The UNEOA and the Covenant seem decidedly off. They had a lot of authority and where independent from any individual government. I can’t really see what would force world governments to accept that sort of thing, and it would be really interesting to see how it was formed in the first place.

    Some infrequent and small hints to the actual origin of the powers would be nice. A good mystery has just enough information to make the reader feel like they should be able to figure it out, but not enough for them to actually know what’s going on. A couple hints from time to time will keep us guessing.

    All in all, it’s quite entertaining. It has a very different feel from other superhero media, in that anyone with powers is a dangerous liability, to some degree. Keep up the good work.

    • Hey there, thanks for commenting!

      Some thoughts, if I may… Sarina was trying very hard to keep a low profile, because her great power paints a big target on her forehead and a single sniper shot could kill her instantly. She knows she’s wanted – not only by the international community and most heroes, but also by Legion, and the group she joined from the beginning of her story (the Nameless) was all about keeping a low profile, which influenced her quite a bit. That said, now that she has been separated from Sunny who allowed her to keep a low profile, things are going to change quite a bit… for instance, Legion will now be able to actually track her.
      Gentleman was all about building up to a grand finale… and his death didn’t bother him too much because it’s part of it all. We’ll see some consequences of his set-up soon.
      The Covenant / UNEOA’s background was explained by David in arc 2, did you feel it needed more detail? I was afraid of slowing the already slow pace too much.
      Hints about the origins of powers came up, for instance: The minute of missed time, what Legion remembered in his interlude, what happens when two Evolved of the same classification meet / touch (with Chris / Saint and later Chris / Sanctuary, Denis’ white on black drawing of Radiant and the people around him, Preacher’s hint that children have fragments of Pulse memories, the various short flashbacks (for instance when Chris referred to Radiant as a Beacon, or when Chris and Sanctuary’s hands touched – ‘don’t be afraid of the dark Dylan I’m here with you’). Darkness was mentioned a few times in different chapters. Were these not enough? Maybe my writing wasn’t good enough to classify some of these as hints – the ebook edits will help in that regard. 🙂

      • By the way, I’m 95% sure the Pulse Interlude is going to happen at the end of the next arc. I hope you keep reading! I’m really looking forward to that one.

        • Aaaaaaarhgghgrhahgh. Why would you leave on sich a cloffhanger and then tell us THAT. Sometimes i swear, you wake up and you go, “how can i tourture them while keeping them interested?”. Then I remember you male these wonderfull weekly updates and stop being upset. Mostly. I still want more.

          • Sorry, didn’t mean to torture you guys at all 😦 it’s just that I could not for the life of me write more words that week, and I didn’t want to do a ‘final final’ arc update with less than 3K words afterward, so I had to move on.

      • The background for the UNEOA could use more detail, I think. A big part of that is that in any country with a functional government, the people would probably look to their own government to deal with it.

        The UN is an international organization meant to deal with international problems, like war and disease in places where the local government is unable or unwilling to deal with it. Their military and their funding all comes from the participant states. They have no real authority, other than what their participant states give them.

        So why would everyone jump to having the UN deal with it? It’s not really an international problem, more an issue of internal security. It seems really weird that countries that could deal with it on their own would decide to give up their sovereignty and let the UN kill or abduct people who are not only citizens, but valuable military and scientific assets.

        In terms of hints, the ones that were there kinda feel like they are meant to seem important, without saying much. Special names for people, weird repressed memories, cryptic drawings. Not that they’re bad, I just don’t find them that interesting anymore.

        I always find clues stuck in the actual mechanics, events, and motivations more interesting. The powers are clearly designed by something, they impose certain roles on people, there’s a set number of them at any given time, and reincarnations of powers usually have the same general abilities, many powers are specifically designed to interact with other powers. That sort of thing makes for a much more interesting mystery, in my eyes.
        My current theory is that extra-dimensional aliens testing different variants of their tech and weapons on the poor unsuspecting humans. Now that I think about it a bit more, you’ve actually been doing a pretty great job with that sort of thing, I think I was just getting impatient because it’s such an interesting puzzle.

        • Thanks for the response! These kinds of comments are immensely helpful and really helped me improve the story. Unfortunately the first ebook (where all that UNEOA stuff is explained) has already been published, but I’ll definitely look into adding more detail in a future edition. Thanks again!

  3. Having read most of the serials trending in top web fiction, I wanted to offer my personal perspective on the story and how I place it in context of the others. It has deeper characterizations and a better fleshed out world than the iron teeth, pact and zombie knight. The critical part here is that as a reader, I always feel that I know what is in the realm of possibility in this world, so when impressive people/events come along, they are fully appreciated. The action is well-written and characters are realistic, probably more so than twisted cogs and citadel. The most novel part of anathema for me is the game-of-thrones-esque shocking killing of major characters although I think that these events could be even more effective by further subverting the reader’s expectations. The most critical problem in the story is that I find it hard to empathize with Radiant and Sabrina for some reason: their weaknesses as seen through dramatic irony may be part of it. Still, hope you can parse my dense prose, and looking forward to reading more.

  4. Finally caught up.

    Now for some comments. First, I think I like this serial much better than Worm. The frequent normal days for the chars helped me to continue feeling for the characters before things go wrong again. This was what I hated about Worm, the tension got ratcheted higher and higher that in the end, I ended up not caring what happened to them.

    Second, your writing style is clean and well balanced. Your characters fleshed out. Are you sure that English isn’t your native language? 😉

    I will definitely continue reading and recommending this to my friends.

    Hope Overdrive and Casper, ern, Spirit will team up more often.

    Also, darn, I hope Dancer’s parents weren’t taken. I felt sad about that offscreen death.

    • Aw, thanks for the warm fuzzy feels! If you wanted to recommend the ebooks, it would help me out a great deal.
      And no, English really isn’t my first language. XD I always have to look up idioms and expressions while writing, which is why progress is so slow. The fabulous E. Foster also helps me with final edits and proofreading, which helps a great deal.

  5. I noticed a continuity error. A few chapters before, Kris counted a single bullet in her gun, which she used on Gentleman. So, how did she execute Drifter?

    • She didn’t know how many bullets there were in total, she just knew how to check that the gun is currently loaded (there is always one bullet in the ejection port, even if the gun is still loaded and able to fire more). At least, that’s what I learned from my gun research. If I researched incorrectly, please let me know!

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