8.5 Shelter

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An unknown location – Saturday, the 16th of June 2012. 02:06 PM on Sarina’s music player.
 
 
At first, there was a darkness so absolute that Sarina couldn’t see her hands in front of her face. She flinched at the feeling of hard, cold metal that seeped through the thin fabric of her trousers and pushed up, rising to her feet.

Where am I? She asked herself as she turned around in search of some kind of visual focus. But all she found was more of nothing. It should have made her anxious – pitch black darkness usually had that effect on her – but she felt more frustrated than anything. The last thing she remembered was something heavy knocking her down, then she’d been moved here without warning or explanation, and she didn’t appreciate being left in the dark like this. Literally.

A red light flared ahead of her, and she flinched again, narrowing her eyes against the bright glare.

An unfamiliar male voice buzzed from somewhere behind her. “You’re clean.”

Before she could react or ask what the hell was going on, the red light became a blur, and a light dizziness in her stomach told her she was being moved elsewhere. Again.

The next room she found herself in was illuminated by a warm golden glow that created a much more welcoming atmosphere. The first thing she saw was a butterfly painting that looked vaguely familiar, though she couldn’t recall from where. It hung on a rustic wooden wall above an end table with a porcelain vase. The rose bouquet it contained gave off a sweet smell that calmed her nerves. Her breathing relaxed, and the thudding of her heart slowly resumed a normal pace.

“Welcome back, dear.”

The man’s voice sounded suspiciously familiar. Sarina whirled around to see Gentleman sit on a wooden chair a couple of meters away from her. He considered her with a tilted head and a knowing smile, showing off that unmasked face that almost resembled a certain Covenant hero.

“What’s going on?” Sarina asked, looking around. The lack of windows was immediately apparent. The illumination came from a candle holder on a small table to Gentleman’s left.

Am I back in the shelter? She wondered, glaring at the man on the chair and his lack of an explanation. Judging by the cube-shaped metallic chamber she’d seen, the shelter lacked windows as much as this room did. The cozy furnishings didn’t match up with her previous impression, though.

“What indeed?” Gentleman replied, as chipper as ever. “You are safe, of course.” He unfurled his long fingers from his chin and made a swiveling motion towards her. “I asked to have you brought here so we could have a chat.”

Back where I started. She should have been relieved to get away from whatever it was that had landed on top of her, and she was, but not as much as she could have been. Not while the circumstances and the fate of her companions were still unclear.

Sarina’s eyes flicked to the single door in the wall to her left, across from Gentleman’s chair. It was closed but didn’t seem to have any kind of lock. Only a simple handle, easily pulled.

She didn’t know why she was looking for the way out, but somehow she did.

“Did Drifter pull me out?” she asked, attention shifting back to the man on the chair.

“Yes. We agreed to let you try and use your powers for the betterment of the city, did we not? It never was our intention to let you die.”

You swapped someone in for me. The realization sent a shiver down her spine, and she felt her teeth clench in indignation.

“What happened exactly, who did you send in, and what the hell was up with that dark room just before?” She asked.

Something was wrong with her voice. No, she realized. The voice hadn’t changed, but her tone sounded cold and harsh to her own ears.

Not again.

She closed her eyes and assembled her willpower to focus on being herself, on not letting her take control.

GET OUT OF MY HEAD!

Then she realized she was okay, that everything was as it should be. Her eyes fluttered open to watch the man on the chair.

“A volunteer with invincibility powers,” Gentleman replied without batting an eye, but with much interest in her facial expression. He cocked his head to the side, studying her as he went on. “One of Hellion’s creatures dropped from a roof before Data could react. I hope you understand we had to check you for harmful effects before bringing you back to the shelter. You were exposed to Hellion’s power, after all. Your companions received the same treatment.”

Invincibility powers? Sarina ran a list of known powersets through her mind and came up empty. Rampage maybe, but he’d been there with her.

“Everyone made it out?” She asked.

“Fortunately, yes. Magpie was able to escape by her own effort. She is a rather resourceful young lady.”

Oh, really. You don’t say.

“Am I going to be able to talk to them?” Sarina asked, watching Gentleman’s body language. Like so often, he was frustratingly self-controlled, refusing to give her the slightest hint. Which wasn’t too surprising for a stage actor.

“I believe they would prefer to hunt down the remaining creatures. Do not burden your conscience, dear. Data and my crew are quite capable of handling tense situations.” He flashed a smile that was most likely supposed to be reassuring. “You wanted to see the little Princess?”

“Where’s the camera Drifter used to swap me here?” She asked, not pleased by his attempt at distraction.

“Right here.” He brought up a wrist and turned it to let her see his silvery wristwatch. “I rarely use it to check the time, you see. It has a few very intriguing functions the simpler models lack. I was able to keep an eye on you as much as Data and Drifter did.”

“You know if Magpie pulled off that shot on Hellion, then. I heard it go off, but I didn’t see if it hit.” Data had confirmed it, but Sarina wanted to hear it again in case something didn’t match up. And while Gentleman was hard to read, the drone had been an impossible challenge.

“She has indeed.” Gentleman’s expression didn’t change, but he sounded as pleased as a child about to unwrap his Christmas present. “Athena’s drones will pick him up in a little while. Would you like to see him? Perhaps it would please you to take a look at his unmasked face?”

Since when do you work with the Covenant? Sarina’s eyes narrowed a fraction, and for a brief moment, she wondered why exactly she was feeling suspicious. As far as she was aware, she hadn’t experienced anything that would prove him wrong, and it was unlike her to-

Do you have to let everyone take advantage of you, Dumbass? You don’t even notice how he’s manipulating you.

Something shifted inside of her, and the self-doubt dwindled away into oblivion, along with the frustrated thought. “No, I don’t want to see the asshole from up close,” Sarina said. “I’d just like to know why he didn’t run away. He wasn’t killed by the shot, was he?”

“He is very alive. Magpie wrapped him up like a Christmas present once he lost control of his powers.”

Let’s see if you’ll actually let me check on the kid.

“Alright,” Sarina said with a glance to the door. “Where’s the Princess?”

Gentleman stood, lips curling into a pleased smile. “Not far. Come, let us go say hello. The little American heroine will be waiting for you as well.”

Sarina made two steps towards the door, then stopped. Something about Gentleman’s smile drew her attention back to his face.

“We just talked about her two hours ago,” she said. “And now she’s already here?”

“I believe we agreed she was in danger, yes? Any wait may have put her at risk of being kidnapped.”

“That’s what you said,” Sarina replied. “That she was in danger.”

“Truthfully so. Buddy had his eyes on her powers.”

Gentleman twisted the handle and pushed the door open, revealing a view of a dimly lit corridor whose walls and floors consisted entirely of metal. There was a steel door opposite the wooden one Sarina stepped through, featureless and shut tight.

It looks more like a prison than a shelter.

The look of the place infected Sarina with an almost overwhelming urge to request a lift back to her team, to make sure they hadn’t disappeared in her absence.

Or been kidnapped.

If the desire to check on the two little girls hadn’t been more prevalent on her mind, she might have. She told herself that her team included a power surged master of concealment and a probability manipulator. They’d hopefully be able to take care of the group for an hour or two.

“The girl is this way,” Gentleman said as he closed the wooden door behind them. He started down the length of corridor, steps echoing hollowly on the metal floor.

Sarina hesitated a second before following. The corridor extended for a few dozen meters, illuminated by simple xenon lamps that dotted the left side wall in six meter intervals. There was about the same number of metal doors on either side, closed without betraying a hint of sound.

Looking back, she could see that the wooden door she’d passed through had turned the same grey shade of metal as everything else. It didn’t surprise her all that much. It made sense that Gentleman tried to

manipulate her

make her feel comfortable after the unpleasant circumstances under which she’d arrived here.

“The little heroine’s parents weren’t hurt, were they?” Sarina asked as she padded along the length of corridor behind Gentleman.

“So distrustful. You wound me.” Gentleman heaved a dramatic sigh. “Only the mother was home, put into a peaceful sleep by my men. No violence was done to the woman or the house cat. You may ask the girl about it, if you like.”

It’s to keep her safe, Sarina reminded herself, smothering the flicker of doubt that grated at the back of her mind. If she stays at home, she’ll get kidnapped by villains.

“We should let the parents know she’s safe.”

“The girl may do so, if she wishes. We did not take her phone away. However, keep in mind that as soon as she leaves the shelter, the phone may be traced despite your boy teammate’s best efforts at keeping her hidden.”

Gentleman reached the end of the corridor, where he tapped a small switch on the right side wall. The massive door that sealed off the exit slid open, gradually revealing a view of the hallway beyond. Sarina was relieved to finally see some semblance of habitation. The spacious room ahead contained several pieces of furniture one would expect to find in a refugee shelter: bunk beds, a half dozen cheap plastic chairs arranged in a semicircle, and a thick mattress covered with a colorful patchwork quilt. The walls were covered with an assortment of posters and child’s drawings.

It had something of a half-way house. A place people didn’t want to stay, but had to because of circumstances beyond their control.

Two young children sat on the mattress, busying themselves with crayons and drawing pads. Both looked up as the door opened. Sarina didn’t recognize the pudgy blond boy, but the pigtailed girl bore a striking resemblance to the preschooler who’d greeted her at the Sun King’s court. She was wearing a shirt and pants instead of a princess dress, but the birth mark on her cheek was unmistakable.

Upon spotting Sarina, the girl put her crayon down to give a small wave. Sarina waved back, feeling marginally better about this place.

Maybe it’s a shelter after all.

“The boy belongs to one of my men,” Gentleman explained as the door slid shut behind him. “The shelter houses nearly a dozen children now. All of them have parents who wished for them to be safe.”

I only see two.

“How big is this shelter?” Sarina asked.

“A difficult question, my dear.” Gentleman clacked his tongue, eyes rolling upwards in contemplation. “How do I put it? Space is a relative variable, here. We have sufficient amounts of it, at any rate. Would you like to speak to the Princess?”

Sarina’s eyes flicked back to the two children. They had resumed their drawing and lounged on the mattress, seemingly relaxed. The boy prattled about building their own house out of cardboard boxes and wanting superpowers, the Princess just smiled and grabbed a sheet of paper, folding it. They looked happy enough, at any rate.

“No,” she said. “When I met the Princess in Paris, she only whispered one word to me. And besides, my French is poor. I’d like to see Kid so I can talk to her.”

“Very well.” Gentleman gave the children a playful waggle of his fingers, then started in the direction of the door on the left side of the room. The blond boy giggled and threw a crumpled paper ball at him. The girl followed suit, launching a paper plane instead.

“Is the Sun King here as well? He’s like a father to her, isn’t he?” Sarina asked. In passing, she finally glimpsed a couple of other figures stretched out on the bunk beds. Judging by their height, they had to be older. Teenagers or middle graders. One seemed to be reading a book. The other – a girl – had headphones pulled down over her head. She glanced up at Gentleman and dipped a nod, then resumed writing a test message on her phone.

Gentleman must be bringing in visitors often, Sarina concluded.

“Louis is not here at present, but he does visit almost daily,” Gentleman replied. He prompted the next door to open by stepping in front of it.

“This isn’t really what I expected,” Sarina said. “It looks like the interior of a really large submarine, just without the bull’s eyes. With so many powered people working on this place, I thought they’d make it more… I don’t know. Pretty?”

“Perhaps it is a very large submarine?” Gentleman sounded amused. He started leading the way through the next corridor. This one was narrower than the first, more brightly lit with a number of turns and junctions.

“If it was, making it waterproof would come before making it pretty.”

“I do wish we could provide our hard working allies with some additional comfort,” Gentleman said. “But alas, our options are limited. Perhaps one day, your power may make the difference.” He stopped to give her a glance, tapping his cheek with a finger.

“My power?” Sarina echoed.

“Yes. I did mean to invest a moment in discussing this subject after your safe return. I hope you will forgive my forgetfulness.” He dismissed her inquisitive look with an apologetic smile.

“What’s there to talk about? It doesn’t work.”

“I have a humble theory, if I may?”

She shrugged. “Sure.”

“Very well.” He spread his hands as if he was showcasing something. “I could not help but notice a certain, ah, correlation between your intervention in Liverpool and certain changes to the local environment that you may not have noticed.”

Do we have to talk about what I did when I was out of my mind?

Sarina watched him with a frown, waiting for him to get to the point.

Her lack of protest encouraged Gentleman to continue. “You see, the water did not appear from nowhere. It drained from the underlying sewage system, a mere ten meters beneath the building, but the mysterious drain did end when Paladin removed the effect from the roof. And, as it happens, some nearby objects went missing as you mended that wall.” He paused there, watching her from beneath lowered eyebrows.

“That only tells me my power is messed up even when it works.”

He clacked his tongue in disapproval. “Do try to see the connection, dear.”

Side effects? That’s nothing new. My power does whatever the hell it wants.

She just stared at him, waiting for him to continue proving his superior intellect and knowledge. She might have been willing to discuss the subject with a friend. Jasper, maybe, or even Tess. She didn’t see any reason for playing the guessing game with him.

“Very well. Your power appears to take the path of least resistance. You wish for water, it taps into the nearest source. You wish for additional materials to close a gap, and it makes use of what is already available.”

And that helps me stop the monsters from butchering innocent people how? The thought left a bitter taste in Sarina’s mouth. She swallowed and wiped her mouth with the back of a hand before responding.

“And what’s with the personality shift? Do you have an explanation for that as well?”

“Alas, no. But tell me, did your mission stir your power at any time? Was there ever a moment where you felt its call, the inner pulse? When facing Hellion, perhaps? Or the sight of those poor people in need of a savior?”

“No,” she said, sounding as bitter as she felt.

“I see,” he replied.

“Do you have a theory about that?”

He cocked his head. “Do you? I believe you would be most qualified to make observations that focus on yourself, my dear. No one knows you like you do.”

“Not a clue,” she admitted.

“A pity,” he said.

That wasn’t all there was to it. Sarina couldn’t read his face, but something changed about his body language. Something subtle and undefinable. If someone asked her this very moment, she wouldn’t have been able to tell what it was, but she got an ominous tingle from it.

“Are we still going to see the girl?” she asked when he showed no intention to move.

“Ah, yes. Of course. I do need to check on my men, however.” He cast a half lidded glance down the length of corridor, as if lost in thought. “Would you mind speaking to the girl on your own? It is the last door to the left. You need only knock, someone will open the door for you.”

“And we’ll both be sent to my team?”

“If you convince her to come with you, yes. As we agreed.” His smile showed a hint of teeth. “You should allow yourself some rest, dear. We may find something else for you within a day or two. Perhaps you would be more comfortable working with your friends rather than my men?”

Did you read my mind?

“I’d like that,” she said. “If I can convince them to help. And I’d rather drive with them than be yanked around by someone I can’t even see.”

“Magnificent. Rest well! We will be in touch.” Gentleman dipped a little bow, doffing an imaginary hat like an actor in one of those old movies from the fifties. Then he turned and strode back the way they’d come, adjusting the hat he wasn’t actually wearing.

Or maybe he was.

Sarina watched him for a moment before she continued down the corridor. She still couldn’t shrug off the nagging feeling that she’d missed something important, but the idea of getting that girl out of here pulled her mind elsewhere before long.

The last door to the left looked just like all the others, but it didn’t open for her like it had for Gentleman. She raised a fist to give it a firm knock that echoed throughout the corridor.

She heard footsteps a moment later. A female voice came from the other side, too muffled to understand the words. Sarina stepped back from the door as it opened. She was half expecting some kind of unpleasant surprise, but the athletic young woman who filled the doorframe looked harmless enough, despite the form fitting full black body suit that could have been taken from a spy movie. She lacked any weapons or mutations. No claws or tentacles extended from her body.

“You that girl?” the woman asked, eyeing Sarina in a way that suggested anything but.

“I’m here to see Emily. That’s her name, right?”

“I guess,” the woman replied as she stepped aside to make room. “Didn’t ask her.”

Sarina didn’t pay any more attention to the woman. She stepped through the doorframe to see the auburn-haired girl sit on a chair at the back of the windowless room, fingers clenching on the edge of her seat. Her blue eyes flicked to Sarina the instant she stepped through the door. The girl didn’t look hurt, but the sight of her dolphin printed blue kiddie pajama gave Sarina a twinge of guilt.

I’m so sorry they took you out of bed.

Emily looked so small and lost on her chair. Sarina wanted to just pick her up and take her back to the mansion already, where Sunny would keep her hidden from any villain. She’d be much more comfortable there than in this featureless, metallic cube of a room.

“Hello, Emily,” Sarina said with her best effort of a reassuring voice. “I’m Sara, and I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

“Hi. Are you why they took me away from home?” Emily asked. She sounded fairly calm, given the circumstances, but her fingers tapped some kind of nervous rhythm against her pajama leg.

“I didn’t want this to happen,” Sarina said. “But you were in danger at your home. I want to keep you safe.”

Emily didn’t respond. Her eyes went wide, though, and her lips moved to shape soundless words. The finger tapping stopped, her small hand frozen on the edge of her seat.

Did I say something wrong? Sarina frowned. She knew she wasn’t that good with children, but she’d gotten along just fine with her ten year old twin cousins when they visited for Christmas.

“Am I scaring you? Maybe you’d like to talk to someone else instead?”

“Nope, not scared!” Emily declared with a heartwarming smile. She brought a hand up to brush her messy hair back from her snub-nosed face.

You were just taken from your home. Doesn’t this bother you at all? Sarina was glad to see the girl smiling rather than in tears, but she seemed strangely unhinged. It was equal parts cute and creepy.

“Oh, okay,” Sarina replied. “I’m sorry I got you into this situation, but I really want you to be safe. My group has a boy just a little older than you who’s really good at keeping people hidden. No villain would ever pester you anymore.”

“I know!” Emily replied. She swung her legs back and forth, keeping her bare feet off the dull grey metal floor. “But my friend Chris is going to be real mad. She’s scarier than the villains.”

“Chris?” Sarina asked. “Who’s that?”

“And when she gets mad, she punches people. Real hard,” Emily continued in the same eerily chipper tone.

“She doesn’t need to be mad,” Sarina tried. “We’ll take good care of you. If you want to write a message for your friend, that’s fine. It’s a good idea.”

“Make sure she uses a different phone,” the woman in the full body suit said. “No one’s going to trace it to here, but if you take it somewhere else…”

“We’ll use a throwaway phone,” Sarina said. “It’s really no problem with the Technician on our team. Would you like to come with me, Emily? If you want to go back home, I can talk to the people here. But I don’t think you should. It’s dangerous.”

Emily furrowed her auburn brows and extended her small hand. “Let me touch yours,” she said.

Sarina complied without asking why. The girl’s fingers touched her own, as light as a brush of butterfly wings and perfectly steady. Emily’s other hand nestled against her knee, doing that strange tap again.

“They didn’t hurt your parents, did they?” Sarina asked.

“Nope. They made my Mom sleep, and Dad wasn’t home.”

Are you sure about that? After working alongside Magpie and Rampage, Sarina had her doubts.

Emily’s fingers pulled back from Sarina’s hand to point at the woman who had taken position against the right side wall, watching. “I know because she knows.”

Gentleman wasn’t lying. She really does see other people’s memories.

“You’re an Empath, right? I saw you on TV once.” Sarina’s lips curled into a smile she didn’t need to fake. “I always wanted to be a heroine like you.”

Emily smiled back. “I know. You’re like one of those white witches, people think you’re bad but you’re really not.” Her face turned serious. “What are your friends like? Are they nicer than the black suit people?”

Black suit people? The sound of a chuckle drew Sarina’s attention to the female guard, who looked rather amused. Oh.

“Much nicer. They never woke me up in the middle of the night.”

“Okay!” Emily said. “I’m coming. But I don’t have any shoes.”

That was quick. Did she even think about it? Sarina hid her surprise with a smile.

“We’ll buy you some.” Sarina made a step towards the girl’s chair, offering both of her hands to hold on to. “Want to stand on my shoes? The floor looks cold.”

“I like this chair. Can I be moved with it?” Emily asked, making no move to stand or reach for the offered hands.

“The chair stays here,” the female guard said. She raised her wrist with the attached silvery band, pointing its small monitor at Sarina and the girl on the chair. “They’re ready to be sent back… alright. Waiting for the signal.”

While the woman was distracted, Sarina leaned in closer to whisper. “You’re really sure about this? They didn’t threaten you, did they?”

“Nope,” Emily whispered back.

“And you’re okay with not seeing your parents for a while? I know what it’s like, not seeing them. I thought I’d be over it by now, but it’s still hard.”

Emily frowned a bit, fingers fussing with the silver link armband that adorned her left wrist. “It’s okay. My parents fight all the time and make our house a feel-bad place. America doesn’t let me do hero stuff anymore. And I like to fix messy people.”

“Messy people?” Sarina asked, somewhat perplexed by the statement.

“Yep! And you’re even messier than Chris.”

What’s that supposed to mean?

Sarina opened her mouth to ask when the guard’s voice came from behind. “Off you go!”

The square windowless room vanished, draining from her field of vision like runny paint. She felt the distinctive stomach flutter of being yanked elsewhere by someone else’s powers. Still disoriented, she looked to the floor as a focus point. It was reddish brown with that classy, smoothly polished look one expected to find in rich people’s homes.

The mansion. Of course it was. She couldn’t tell why she was surprised, but she felt silly for having expected something different.

It took her a couple of seconds to spot Jasper and Patrick who were sitting at the bottom of the foyer’s central staircase. Jasper jumped to his feet the instant he spotted her. Patrick greeted her with a boyish grin and a flash of a victory sign.

“Sara!” Jasper called out with audible relief, crossing the distance between them with a few swift strides. “We’ve been listening to the news until they told us you were coming back. Did everything go well?” He considered her carefully, as if he wasn’t quite sure whether to believe it yet.

Her mouth tightened. “Can we talk about it later? I’m waiting for…”

Some kind of movement to her left drew her attention, and she turned just in time to see the muscular man with the tribal tattoos – Laughing Wolf, she remembered – vanish from her field of vision.

Emily plopped into view in his place, knees drawn up as if she was still sitting on her chair, and promptly fell. Sarina caught her arm before she crashed onto her bottom with a startled yelp. They held on to each other for an awkward couple of seconds until the girl scrambled to her feet, using Sarina’s arms for leverage.

“Oops!” Emily said. “Way to introduce myself, like a dumb roly poly. Your friends are gonna think I can’t take care of myself at all.” She glanced down at herself, then added, “And I’m still wearing a pajama.”

“You should have taken my offer,” Sarina said. “If you stood on my feet, maybe we would have arrived together.”

“Maybe. Are those your friends?” Emily asked, eyes flicking to Jasper, then Patrick, who made his way over from the stairs more slowly than Jasper had.

“They are,” Sarina confirmed. Looking down, she could see that Emily was doing that nervous finger tap against her leg again. She tried to hide it, but the thumb that stuck out gave her away.

She isn’t scared of us, is she?

“Hey, Emily,” Jasper said in a gentle tone, offering a hand to Emily. “Kid, right? I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. I’m Jasper, aka DJ.”

“The guy who’s so un-famous that, no one knows him,” Patrick said, still wearing the same grin.

“At least my Evolved name wasn’t picked by my mother,” Jasper countered.

“Ouch!” Patrick clutched a hand over his heart, shoulders dropping.

Emily had a thoughtful frown on her face when she took Jasper’s hand. Sarina was relieved to note that the girl didn’t flinch or avert her eyes.

No, not scared. Maybe using her power to get an impression of us? Sarina couldn’t help but wonder how Emily would react to the other Nameless, Ace and Snow in particular. Those two remained a mystery to her as well.

“I know who you are,” Emily said. “You’re that music guy! My friends talked about you because you went poof with her.” The last part was directed at Sarina.

“They say anything nice?” Patrick asked.

“Um.” Emily’s frown deepened until her forehead looked like wrinkly paper. “You tried to do something nice with your message thingy in England? I recorded the news about you, and we watched all of it while eating Chinese food.”

“I hope we’ll give you a better impression than the news did, then.” Jasper’s fingers brushed against Sarina’s arm, as if to convey something else beyond the words.

I’m over the news, Jasper. It’s okay.

“Did your friends talk about how we went poof?” Patrick asked. Sarina couldn’t help but smile at the look on his face. It was his ‘please tell me I’m awesome’ face.

“Nope! They thought maybe Gentleman did it or something.” Emily’s fingers started to dance at the back of her pant leg again.

“He didn’t,” Patrick said, chest puffing up. “Don’t worry Emily, I’ll keep you safe like everyone else in this group! The bad guys are never going to find you.”

“Ooookay,” the girl replied.

“We should get her something to wear, and a phone she can use to send a message home,” Sarina said. “Tess should have something, right? Her parents must be worried sick.”

“Probably.” Emily slumped a bit, and a sad look passed over her face. “But it’s nice here. Doesn’t feel like angry people arguing all the time.”

“You’re sure about this, right?” Jasper asked. “Sara talked to you about everything?”

“Yep. Gonna message my friends that I have a real important mission.” Emily paused there, averting her eyes for the first time. “Chris is gonna be mad though.”

“What mission is that?” Patrick asked.

Emily didn’t look at him. Instead, her eyes flicked back up to Sarina, fixating her. “I’m gonna save the world,” she said in all earnestness.
 

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7 thoughts on “8.5 Shelter

  1. Okay, I think this one turned out better. If you’d like to support Emily’s world saving schemes with a vote, click here: http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=anathema

    Having worked with a professional editor for some time now (for the older chapters), I think (or hope) I’m finally able to see and catch all those instances that are potentially confusing or unclear. There should be some mystery, but I have a feeling that many small (yet important) story details are easily overlooked and forgotten about.

    Let me know if this chapter did a better job at showing you what’s going on, or at least at hinting at connections that haven’t been revealed yet. While still leaving room for discussion. I’d loooooooove to see more discussion happening! I don’t write this story for myself, I’m writing for you. 🙂

    Who can guess why Emily made that statement at the end, and why she fixated Sarina in particular as she said it? Is it clear that this is the reason she agreed to come along, or was I too subtle again?

    And does anyone have an idea why Sarina’s power refused to activate in Thailand?

    As a commenter said a few months back, Emily really IS kind of unhinged. None of this is a normal reaction for a 9 year old in that kind of situation. I tried showing some reasons for why she’s acting that way in her interlude, but if you like, I delve deeper into her psychology in future chapters.

    • IIRC Sarina has never used her powers since the time she initially got them without one of Jasper’s tracks. It’s hard to guess what could make them work – voluntarily switching to the mindset of the alternative personality (which does seem possible if she didn’t intentionally reject that) is the only obvious thing I can think of.

      Some typos:
      It never was our attention to let you die. [intention?]
      She half expecting some kind of unpleasant surprise [missing “was”?]
      She felt the the distinctive [the the]

      • Hmmm, it seems I was too subtle about her power trigger mechanics. I’ll clear this question up by the end of the arc.

        One thing, though: Sarina never realized (at least not on her own) how her powers worked or the full potential of what she could do with them. Dancer, however, was very much aware when she emerged and ‘took control’ in arc 5.

        Thanks for reporting the typos. Much appreciated!

  2. Okay. I know It has taken me forever to catch up. But honestly I was stuck on 6.1 for like forever. I kept going back to it and then stopped reading. I finally pushed thru the block and enjoyed 6.2 and on wards. I didn’t read it because I was at a mental block.

    I have to say though, I really enjoyed arc 6 and 7 much more than I initially thought. Arc 8 is good so far, but It is a little iffy.

    I think you weren’t as subtle as you think with Emily’s intentions. Though, that’s fine.

    One, last thing! I REALLY enjoyed was Data’s little blurbs that you’ve added in the recent chapters.

    Oh and to answer this question:

    And does anyone have an idea why Sarina’s power refused to activate in Thailand?

    I have several “ideas” that your free to use if you want. They are all random and wonky, but you might be interested.

    Idea 1) The reason her power refused to activate was because she was in her hibernate state, which happens randomly every week for about one hour. Which allows the possibility of her being killed/captured. (this idea is a little…crazy)

    Idea 2) Only her other persona can use her abilities. Her regular self can not use those abilities. When she triggered, it wasn’t her “happy” self that got the abilities, but rather her “darker” side that got them. (this idea is a little cliched)

    Idea 3) Perhaps only when she is hurt mentally or physically directly she can use her ability.

    Anyways, I’m sure there are many other possibilities why her powers didn’t work.

    • Welcome back! Seeing you reading again means a lot to me. I always thought you’d enjoy arc 6, it’s my personal favorite so far. 🙂

      One of the points you mentioned is on the right track. The end of the Shelter arc is going to show which one it is.

      By the way, Data is getting more screen time soon. And I have an Athena interlude planned for the end of arc 9.

  3. Personally I enjoyed this chapter a lot more than the last one. This may seem weird coming from a superhero fan but the actual fight scenes are my least favorite part of the story, I like plot/character progression and world building the best.

    Kid’s back! You’re right in that it is weird that a 9 year old is so OK with all of this stuff happening to her, not that I’m complaining. Chris is going to go ballistic when she finds out that Kid’s been kidnapped.

    As for how Dancer’s power works, I just assumed it has a mind of its own and works or doesn’t work when it feels like it.

  4. Emily is basically therapy in a tiny tiny adorable package.
    If a little scary…
    Though feeling everyone else’s emotions would be nerve-wracking.

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