Chapters 26-Epilogue


Chapter 26

“Behold!” Laverne extended a hand toward the Citadel. “My old house!”

Mithra’s jaw dropped, she had never thought that something as tall as the tower could exist, it totally dwarfed the trees she used to see in Khumret. The thick red haze obscured the finer details of the tower so that only a dread inducing silhouette was visible, but that was more than enough. Mithra frowned as a vile smell wafted up her nose, not as bad as a few she had smelt but it was up there.

“Time to blow it up!” Ellie punched her open hand.

Laverne nodded. “Time for this chapter of history to come to an explosive finish.”

Ghost wasn’t listening to them, she was too busy watching a positively massive ship hovering over the outer edge of the Citadel. Cass joined her, floored by its size.

“Physics be damned I guess.”

The ship veered sharply to the left and leveled off again, the thin lifeline holding it to the ground shattered and slowly fell to earth.

Lethe spoke from his place on Ellie’s back. “If I may hazard a guess… the easiest way to get to the tower is to fly, so the advance group would likely try to hijack the first ship they saw. They could have picked something smaller though.” He slid down, silently counting down. “A-a-a-and…”

Alarms began ringing across the field of warehouses.

“There they are.”

Cass sighed. “Four of the stealthiest warriors in history and they can’t keep hidden to save their lives.”

Ellie chuckled. “If there’s one thing I learned from them all it’s that stealth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. They probably just walked into a room full of Shalthar without even thinking about it, or Pestilence knocked something over.”

“Well either way, it’ll make our getting in either ten times easier or ten times harder; let’s hope all of the Shalthar are looking at the sky.”

They broke for the fence, Lethe under his own power and with Kid still bouncing on Mithra’s back. Kid had remained fastened to Mithra for the entire journey across the plains, she didn’t mind, Kid didn’t weigh too much and Ari seemed happy for the company.

With a grunt of exertion Ellie simply pushed through the fence, not at all bothering with stealth, anything they did now would get written off as being done by the previous group. They filed through the large hole and began creeping towards the center. They had to duck into the shadows or hide inside the positively disgusting warehouses several times as groups of Shalthar rushed toward the massive ship. Looking up they could see a swarm of ships streaming from the hangar which spring from the side of the tower like a cancerous growth to intercept and regain control of the struggling ship. Near the border with the industrial ring the group stopped, a new sound had cut underneath the distant roar of the ships, a lower grumble like that of a combustion engine. Ellie signaled the group to a halt and poked her head around the corner, after a quick glance she looked back at the others.

Her voice trembled slightly with repressed excitement. “Looks like we found our free passage to the tower.” She held up a finger and bolted around the corner.

They didn’t dare look around the corner for risk of being seen. Whatever Ellie did was done completely silently, there were no cries there were no cracks not even the sound of bodies hitting pavement. The sound of the engine rose in pitch and grew louder as it drew nearer. Ellie shot around the corner in a large truck, it could easily seat them all and there was what appeared to be a large energy type weapon fastened to the bed.

Cass nodded in appreciation. “Nice wheels, now scoot over, I’m driving.”

“Aww, but I had the seat adjusted just right.” Ellie quickly relinquished control over to Cass.

Laverne took shotgun, Mithra, Ellie, and Lethe sat on the benches bolted to the side of the bed and Ghost took the gunner’s position. Mithra carefully shifted Kid to her front so she wasn’t hanging off the side of the truck.

Cass sighed. “Stealth seems to be entirely out the window… Let’s book!”

With the screech of tires the truck shot off, nearly throwing off those in the back. She turned a sharp corner and was faced with a small group of identical trucks, their occupants distracted by the scene playing out above. Ghost aimed the energy weapon and fired. A crackling beam of lemon yellow energy arced through the trucks immediately setting them alight and cooking their occupants instantly. Cass swerved around the inferno and kept speeding along. They sharply stopped as a patrol shot past making a beeline for the tower, likely seeking out the hangar to join the others. Cass fell in behind the convoy and signaled Ghost to fire. The hissing beam of energy scythed through a majority of the trucks, obliterating them in a fireworks display of twisted metal and charred bodies.  The beam seemed to have a limited range as the front third of the convoy was unaffected; they swerved and broke down the near endless alleys. As the trucks vacated, the road to the tower became clear, it was a straight shot right to the front doors, nothing stood in their way.

“Jesus…” Lethe pointed up at the ship, they were running perpendicular to it so only Lethe had a good view of it.

It was beginning to move, slowly at first, then it gained more speed, faster and faster on a collision course with the tower.

Cass threw a quick glance over. She pressed her foot down harder. “I hope they know what they’re doing!”


Anon fell back, the Doch’erne clawing at his throat. He kicked upward lodging his knee in the thing’s stomach. It exhaled sharply, covering him in the foul smell of its breath. Using its distraction he pulled his other leg up and kneed the thing again. The force of the double kick sent the thing airborne, it writhed as it fell, trying to regain its bearings. Anon swung wildly with the Cutter, catching the Doch’erne in the shoulder he pinned it to the floor and pressed his knee to the back of its neck. He quickly looked over at Scorn who was more than holding his own against his Doch’erne, the thing just couldn’t seem to see him, its strikes were always too late and sometimes it seemed as if frozen in confusion. Anon scoffed, of course Scorn gets the defective one. Anon pressed harder into the thing’s neck, he could slowly feel it giving way; the creature’s writhing grew frantic. There was a sick pop as the vertebrae separated and the creature fell limp.

Anon stood up shakily. “Bastard…” He limped over to Scorn and his rapidly angering problem.

The Doch’erne was too distracted to even notice Anon come up behind it. Anon had had enough, he thrust the Cutter through the thing’s chest, pinning it to the floor. He began viciously stomping its neck as it tried to pull itself free.

“Just die you stubborn son of a bitch!” Anon landed a particularly hefty blow and the creature’s head tore away. He looked up at Scorn. “Where’s the cockpit?”

“Up,” Scorn said simply.

He brushed past Anon toward the nearby set of stairs. “Here’s hoping the others are having better luck than we are.”


Bolt and Pestilence burst into the cockpit. It was a positively massive room affixed to the top of the ship like a cancerous growth. It was a two tiered room with a large raised platform stretching outward toward the main viewscreen and movement controls. The platform was ringed with a lower tier of seats where the Shalthari mindlessly labored to keep the ship level. The Shalthari didn’t even look at the intruders they were too focused on their single task. Wulf lounged in the main pilot’s seat while Wall stood off to the side, arms crossed.

“What took you so long?!” Wulf called.

“It looks like you guys had a rough time of it!” Bolt called back sarcastically.

“We needed a little bit of luck on this stupid quest, how many times have we been knocked senseless by those shrimpy bastards?”

Wall shrugged.

Xypia rushed into the room carrying a mostly unconscious Pixia, both were covered in bleeding wounds. Wulf clapped as they arrived.

“Welcome! Now we just need to wait for captain glowstick and the funny man and the whole set will be here!” his timbre seemed to change, he didn’t sound like himself.

Wall stayed silent.

Something was rubbing Bolt the wrong way. “Wulf you feeling alright? You’re not feeling bitter that you didn’t get to knock some fools around on your way up here?”

He laughed a shrill laugh. “I’ve been knocking plenty of fools around on this little trip!”

The other’s hackles rose, something was wrong, very wrong. Scorn and Anon stumbled into the cockpit and Wulf leapt to his feet startling the others.

“Fantastic! We’re all here! Brother!” He looked over at Wall.

Wall mashed a button on the complicated control panel and the doors behind the Indra locked, blast shielding descended over the door and covered the viewscreen, covering the cockpit with a pervasive darkness. A sick cracking could be heard and some quiet grunts. Bright red emergency lighting filled the cockpit illuminating the Indra Woe and Fear, Wulf and Wall were gone, no trace remained of them.

The two scampered forward, radiating a despicable wall of pure malice; it was hard for the Indra not to wilt under the pure force of the malevolence.

“Where are Wall and Wulf!?” Bolt yelled at the approaching evil.

Fear let out a small wheezing snicker. “They were never here! Always us!” It brandished a small circuit board; it glimmered in the red light. “Here’s Wulf!”

Woe held out a circuit board of their own. “Here’s Wall!”

In unison they snapped the boards in half.

The Indra couldn’t even cry out they were so stunned.

“Master always said we were excellent actors.” Fear dropped the halves of the board and crushed them further. “Gave us a special task…”

“Simple task…” Woe whispered. As it drew closer, throwing the shattered board behind it.

“Very simple…” Fear intoned as it fell in behind Woe.

“So fun!” Woe’s voice grew giddy.

“Get you here!” Fear started.

“And kill you!” Woe bellowed.

The two rushed the stunned Indra.

Bolt let out a primal bellow and sprinted to meet the two head-on, Pestilence flanked her and Scorn wasn’t far behind. They met with a clash, the steel of their blades meeting the razor sharp claws of their foes. Fear swung savagely at Bolt’s stomach, forcing her to jump back, a swift chop from Pestilence batted the hand from the air but Woe was immediately in its place lunging at her. They fell back in a scuffle while Scorn and Bolt tried to hold off Fear who was trying to get onto Pestilence as well. Anon stayed back with Xypia and Pixia, they skirted around the fight and made a break for the flight controls. Seeing Pestilence go down he gave Xypia a slap on the back and veered off the help. He pulled out his Cutter with a flourish and smashed the hilt into the side of Woe’s head.

Woe was deceptively heavy, it seemingly retained Wall’s weight as it was only knocked aside, not fully dislodged. A swift kick in the side knocked it off fully. Anon pulled Pestilence back to her feet and prepared for retribution. Damn they were quick, in the dull red light Anon could barely make out Woe’s movements, not helping matters was Scorn’s glow that cast wicked and oftentimes false shadows across the room. Woe leapt down to the Shalthari’s level and completely vanished.

Bolt was angry, remarkably angry, she was surprised at how angry she was, it almost felt like the old days. She was going to have to fight like the old days of she wanted to stand any chance of surviving. She channeled her anger, feeling it fill her arms and legs with a vicious energy she forgot existed. A pale blue light clashed against Scorn’s bright white glow. She sighed; she hadn’t seen her aura in ages. Lunging forward she caught Fear a striking blow to the side, it was launched into the wall, leaving a sizeable dent, it fell among the Shalthari. Bolt leapt down, she wasn’t going to let that swine scuttle away. Scorn leapt down beside her. They could see Fear crawling between the Shalthari’s legs. Bolt was relentless, she swept her blade at Fear, cutting away the legs of several Shalthari, they fell with muffled screams. It leapt from its cover and made a break for the controls. Bolt looked up and saw Xypia and Pixia tugging at the controls. Suddenly Fear was among them.

“Wrong button!” it shrieked. “You want this one!” It jammed a large lever forward and the whole ship jolted.

The Indra fell back as the ship shot forward. Woe savagely threw Pixia from the control deck, she landed in a pile. Fear batted Xypia’s head which sent him spinning; it looked back at the controls and mashed another button. The shielding slowly lowered and the lights flickered back on filling the room with bright white light. The Indra leapt back up to the control deck and approached the two. They turned around and pointed out the viewscreen in unison.

“Time to die!” Fear bellowed.

The tower slowly grew large in the screen, they were barreling at it full speed.


The city fell silent; all eyes were glued on the massive command ship as it sped toward the tower like a million ton bullet. The ships that beleaguered the command ship retreated, blowing past the confines of the city. The Shalthar that festooned the barracks at the tower’s base began to flee, scrambling over each other to commandeer any form of transport they could get their hands on. Cass’ group stopped, they were at the outer rings of the barracks as a wave of fleeing Shalthar blew past them, totally ignoring the intruders. Ships flooded from the hangar, a mass of shining metal broke around the ship is it blew past them.

Tash and Juvinea stopped and looked back, watching the ship grow closer to the tower from their vantage point in the Cloning Pools. Their eyes widened.

The horsemen were running as fast as their legs would carry them, the surge of fleeing Shalthar were the only warning they needed. They had only cleared the plaza when it struck.

The world turned white, the flash could be seen as far east as the Shalti River and as far west as the banks of the Great Salt Sea. Countless eyes turned to watch the destruction of the tower. The initial shockwave flattened every structure in a two mile radius. The barracks simply ceased to exist, the nearest Shalthar were charred to powder and blown away on the second shockwave. The entire top half of the tower vaporized as the massive force of the ship shattered it and the massive shockwaves blew it into the sky. The sound was almost beyond comprehension, a crack that dwarfed even the loudest of thunder followed by the largest blast of white noise one could never imagine. So low was the tone that the ground shook violently knocking those who survived the shockwave from their feet and throwing them into the air. The rumbling could be felt hundreds of miles away, windows across the continent vibrated and shattered. The end of the Shalthar dominion was felt across the planet.

A cloud of ash descended upon the ruins of the Citadel. Sizzling shrapnel bombs barreled across the blackened sky carving trails of grey smoke through the air. Molten chunks of metal the size of boulders shot from the stifling clouds of toxic ash and fragmented into shards of death upon their inevitable contact with the ground. As the ash cloud spread further and further the rotors of the fleeing Shalthar ships gummed up and they began to fall from the air.

The world went quiet, only the crashes of the falling debris could be heard.

Tash looked silently at Juvinea, their eyes wet with unrestrained tears.

“The Shalthar are destroyed.”

Chapter 27

Ellie pushed the charred wreck of the truck over. They were lucky, luckier than the others who were around them; the blast threw the truck back shielding them from the heat of the explosion and the shockwaves that followed. She did a headcount, Cass and Laverne were there, Mithra and Ghost were unconscious but seemed no worse for wear, Kid and Lethe were gone. Ellie’s stomach dropped, she turned around and began kicking through the nearest piles of rubble, they might have been thrown back by the explosion. The uniform dust held nothing, no Kid, no Lethe, no signs of life.

Mithra coughed herself into wakefulness, her vision was bleary but at least she could see, she thought her eyes were going to cook in their sockets from how bright the blast was. She felt something jostle her shoulder and Ellie was looming down over her, lifting her into the air. She was shaken rather roughly as Ellie’s voice slowly faded in through the ringing.

“Where is she?!” Ellie’s voice was cracking. “Where’s Kid!”

Mithra barely had enough control of her body to keep her head up. She remembered Kid being torn from her as the truck flipped. She jerkily shook her head.

Ellie let Mithra drop. She staggered off, not wanting to believe her. She kicked through more dust but there was simply nothing to be found. She fell to her knees and grabbed a handful of the ash.

Laverne struggled to his feet and surveyed the destruction; he turned to look at the brilliant pillar of flame that used to be the tower, the tears that threatened to streak down his dirty cheeks evaporated on contact with the air. He felt a small tug on his ankle, it was Cass, she was wedged beneath a large melted portion of the truck, she didn’t seem too badly injured only immobilized. He knelt down and tried to lift the hunk of metal but it was fused to the ground. He gave her hand a squeeze and went to rouse those who were left. A few slaps roused Ghost and some gentle shaking coaxed control back into Mithra’s limbs; he noted the loss of Kid and Lethe. The three of them combined manage to peel the metal from the ground slightly but it wasn’t enough to free Cass.

Laverne looked to Ellie; she was kneeling silently in the ash. He walked over and knelt in front of her.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Are you?” Ellie’s voice was tainted with anger. “You’re sorry?” She looked up at him. “That simply won’t cut it Schultz. Everything that has happened here can be laid at your feet. You built this city… you created the Shalti… allowed for the creation of Marge. Then again I suppose the blame could be laid at my feet… and the rest of the Indra. No matter where we go, no matter how well intentioned we are, no matter the good we do for this world it always comes back so much worse. I’m tired… tired of the death, tired of the destruction. I’m tired of humanity! Humans! Why must you be so… so…?” She screamed and smashed the ground. The ash around her was blasted away as an angry red aura surrounded her.

Laverne stayed where he was as the ash was blasted away. “It’s so hard… isn’t it? Losing somebody you love? That hollow feeling that comes when their place in your heart is torn away… it’s so quick to be filled with the pain of their loss, to be filled with anger. I have lost many people whom I loved dearly: My wife, my children, my grandson, Marjorie! Juvinea! You Indra! Watching them grow old, watching them wither away to dust!” he raised a finger at her. “You have not felt the loss I have! You have not felt the loss they have!” He pointed at Ghost and Cass. “Not in the same way! And it never gets easier, you can try to hide the pain, sequester it away for later, but it doesn’t work like that. It will drill away your soul piece by piece until you are nothing but a husk! A shallow being with one foot in the grave and arms full of those you intend to take with you before you leap inside! You do not get the right to give up now! Not at your first, not at your second! Never! You never get to give up! Never ever! You have to keep moving, keep putting one foot ahead of the other and keep fighting. Fight for humanity so that they may change for the better, so that their greed may not go unchecked, so that there may finally be peace on this piece of shit planet!” He stood up and pushed Ellie over, he stood over her, face twisted with rage. “You don’t give up! You never give up! I will never forgive you if you run out on us now! If you give up on us, now when the world is at its most vulnerable moment, when we have the chance to make the most meaningful change in the history or history then you are not worthy of my contempt!” He spit into the ash and strode over her and threw himself at the melted wad of metal.

Ellie lay in the ash, Laverne’s words burrowing into her mind. Her emotions stewed in a tumultuous toxic brew.

She felt her chest quiver, a sob brewed up from deep inside of her; the cold feeling of loss saturated her.

Don’t give up Ellie… not now,” Vee whispered. “We believe in you.

C’mon, we can cry after we kick the Monarch’s ass,” Katrine said quietly.

Ellie repressed another sob that threatened to break free and pushed herself up, she looked at the three struggling to move the metal. She hopped over and threw her weight in with the others, digging her fingers under the small lip they managed to make. She sank to her knees, straddling over Cass, and wedged her fingers as deep as she could and lifted. She didn’t care about the agony spreading from her back as her muscles began to fray, she kept lifting.

She heard somebody call out behind her, she paid them no mind, her mind was focused on freeing Cass from her metal tomb. She felt several slaps on her back which only exacerbated the pain, she roared and lifted harder. More sets of hands joined hers, unfamiliar hands, their owners lost to the depths of her memory. The wad of metal began to slowly peel upwards Laverne knelt down behind her and began slowly pulling Cass free. As Cass’ feet were pulled free the other hands fell away but Ellie kept going, with a bellow of exertion she got to her foot and lifted the thing higher until it was stood straight. With a primal scream of rage she threw the strongest punch she could at the despised obstacle. The wad metal partially shattered and was thrown back several meters where it kicked up a choking cloud of ash. Ellie fell back to her knees, body quivering with rage.

“I miss nature,” she muttered to the ground.

An unfamiliar figure settled in front of her, she looked up to see someone most unexpected.

“I miss nature too kiddo, when this is all over we should go bird watching,” War’s voice was tired.

The Horsemen were in rough shape, they bore the brunt of the blast with little in the way of shielding. The outer layer of their skin was thoroughly cooked and was peeling away and they were covered in large open wounds where the shrapnel had punctured and passed through them in some cases.

War looked behind her. “Famine, take ma out of here, meet up with Tash and Juvinea in the Cloning Pools, we still have work here that needs doing.”

Famine nodded silently and slung Cass over their shoulders, they stumbled off into the gloom.

The assembled Indra turned to the pillar of fire that used to be the tower.


Bolt jolted back into wakefulness, she groaned as she pushed herself from her tomb of shattered metal and webs of twisted cabling. She took in her surroundings, the cockpit was still mainly intact, it must have been built stronger than the rest of the ship. She could see the arms and legs of the other Indra poking from under their own piles of debris, slowly stirring as they regained consciousness. With a few tugs she was free, she stumbled onto the command deck, she could only remember the few moments going up to the collision then her mind simply blanked. She looked up, the ceiling had been peeled away, she could see thick columns smoke blowing past dropping flakes of ash. The room was bathed in an orange glow as tendrils of flame licked at the edges of the hole.

She heard a small gasp behind her, she whirled around and her stomach dropped. It was Pestilence but she wasn’t stuck beneath a pile of rubble, she was in a far worse way. As the ship collided with the tower many of the support beams running across the ceiling buckled and splayed across the cockpit, Pestilence was unlucky enough to be standing in the way of one. She was impaled on the thick beam, one end punching into the floor and the other stretching into the gloom.

Bolt rushed over and gave Pestilence a light slap on the cheek. “Hey… hey, c’mon stay with me.”

Pestilence looked up at Bolt; her movements were jerky and weak. “I’ve had worse.”

Bolt let out a small desperate chuckle and began looking for something to cut the beam with. “We’re gonna get you out of here and we’re gonna find Ellie, and we’re gonna get you uploaded while ma fixes you up.”

Pestilence let out a small scoff. “Sorry babe… I don’t think that’s gonna happen… shame, I really wanted to build that house.” She let out a small disappointed grunt as her head slumped.

Bolt held her head back up. “No… no don’t talk like that… just a few minutes to find something to cut this with and we’ll be golden.”

Pestilence voice was little more than a whisper. “Behind you…”

Bolt let her head drop and made to turn around but suddenly it was as if her body just refused to respond to her commands. A striking cold spread from her chest to envelop her entire body. She looked down to see a pale grey hand stained black as it punched further through her chest. She heard Fear giggle behind her and the arm was roughly tore away. She vaguely felt something punt her in the back, pushing her forward onto the body of Pestilence.

Bolt pressed her forehead to Pestilence’. “I’m glad you won’t get to see this honey… I’m about to get violent.”

The cold void that seemed to occupy her body began to shift and twist, a streak of fiery red anger shot into the chilly blue, more and more filled her body. She could hear the snapping of her cabling jumping back into place, the feeling in her limbs returned. Fear’s coos of gloating turned into whimpers of confusion. Bolt pushed herself back to her feet, she looked at her cut and scrape covered arm, it was enveloped in the same blue aura as before. She turned to look back at Fear, it stepped back. It seemed the Invincibility of the IL Group didn’t extend to thermonuclear explosions as it was bumped, battered, burned, and bruised like the rest of them.

Bolt’s voice dropped to a low growl. “I will shred you down to your last atom, I will instill upon you the very feeling for which you were named… You will die, I swear this.” She took a step forward; the metal flooring quaked beneath her footfalls.

She backed Fear up against the main control console; it lashed out, catching her in the side. She winced as cold pain was thrown into the tumultuous mess of red anger. She responded in kind with a spinning kick to the head throwing Fear back into the lower level. She dropped down, punching craters the ground as she landed. A thrown chair sent her stumbling back followed by a flurry of strikes from her frightened opponent. A swift kick to the stomach sent it falling back.

 She wrapped her hands around its neck. “You who wore the face of my good friend and ended his life so casually… you are beneath contempt.”

It cried out as its damaged skin began to tear and peel away revealing the vulnerable flesh beneath. It clenched its fingers into spikes and began jamming them into Bolt’s stomach and chest. She didn’t feel the fatal blows being landed, she only saw her hands digging deeper into the thing’s neck slowly travelling towards their meeting place in the center. Her legs gave out; she pulled fear down with her, its blows were growing weaker and weaker as more of its neck was slowly cut through. With one final scream of effort she finally forced her hands to meet. Fear’s head shot from its body and landed a ways away with a wet thud, its body fell limp.

Bolt let out a satisfied sigh and pushed herself back reclining against the wall. “Wulf… you have been avenged. And besides, it never would have worked out between us, you just weren’t my type. Pestilence… I’m comin’.”

Xypia dropped down in front of her, and pulled her into his arms, he leapt back to the command deck where Anon, Scorn, and Pixia were struggling to break the beam impaling Pestilence.

Anon threw a glance back, he was about to turn back but upon seeing Bolt’s limp body he ran over to Xypia. “What happened?”

Xypia simply pointed to the decapitated body of Fear.

Anon sighed. “Well, that isn’t out of keeping with her. Put her down we need your help to get Pestilence.”

Xypia carefully placed Bolt on the ground and followed Anon.

They heard a clatter of debris behind them and Woe burst from a pile of shredded equipment and bodies.


Cass muttered dozily. “Famine? What the heck are you doing here?”

Famine kept their jog up; they were drawing near the edge of the blast area. “Just helping out any way we can.”

She grinned internally. “Not an unexpected response, I see you’re still your cold self after all these years.”

“Naturally.”

“Not even fazed by the fact you’re giving your dear old mother a piggyback ride through nuclear fallout?”

Famine threw a glance back at Cass. “Of course not, this is quite a standard day for me.”

Cass wasn’t quite sure how to react to that one. “Was that the bare beginnings of humor?”

“A distinct possibility.”

She tightened her grip around their shoulders in a hug. “Oh, I’ve missed you.”

Famine gently clutched Cass’ hands. Their voice fell to a whisper. “I’ve missed you too.”

“So where are you taking me?”

“I am escorting you away from the danger with the intention of meeting up with those who released me and my brothers.”

“I vaguely recall hearing a name that sounded like Juvinea… Lethe’s wife?”

Famine nodded. “It truly is a pity that Lethe is not here to see her; it seems much of her memory has been restored from Lethe’s own.”

Her voice dropped. “Lethe was with us, on the truck, I don’t know if he survived the blast.”

“That is a shame, it would be best if you did not mention that to Juvinea she had found herself to be far stronger than she used to be and out of a concern for our safety if would be best if she were not riled.”

As they crossed the threshold of the blast zone they were immediately surrounded by several dozen Shalthar soldiers, rifles trained at their chests. Famine stopped and raised their hands, Cass clutched them tighter.

“C’mon, you can take ‘em,” Cass whispered.

“I’m afraid I cannot, in my current state I am quite destructible, the energy weapons don’t help either.”

Multiple trucks grumbled behind the group, energy cannons trained on the two. A lone Shalthar pushed through the group, it was bedecked in glittering golden armor, its helmet had the face covering cut away to bare their brutish face to the elements. Several piercings dotted their face giving it an odd sparkling quality. It stood in front of the two.

It crossed its arms and shifted it weight. It looked the two up with a mixture of admiration and scorn. “I am Brekka, high commander of the Shalthar. You are now my prisoners.” Their lip curled. “I must congratulate you Indra, you have come far closer to destroying my people than any who have come before, even corrupting one of my own…” It looked back and barked a command.

A shock of red hair was easily visible through the ranks of ash covered Shalthar. A red haired woman who looked identical to Marge and a Shalthar who was bound and gagged were thrust in front of the two.

Brekka kneeled down and stared into Tash’s eyes. “Tash… my formerly esteemed equal, how long have you been a traitor?” Its eyes flicked down to the gag. “Bah, it doesn’t matter; you will die like the rest. Load them in the back! The Monarch will be most pleased!”

The Shalthar descended upon the four and roughly pulled them to the back of the trucks. Thick ropes were coiled around their arms and legs and they were hoisted into the beds of the trucks. They couldn’t see where they were going but judging the thickening air they were going back into the blast area. The trucks squealed to a halt and Cass was roughly pulled up. She saw the Indra in a defensive formation, prepared for a fight. Brekka grabber her from the Shalthar and held her up higher, she felt the barrel of the energy weapon press into her back.

“Surrender or your creator dies!” Brekka called to the Indra.

The Indra’s stances loosened, and the Shalthar streamed forward.

Brekka grunted. “Your children’s loyalty is admirable.” It dropped her back into the truck.

The trucks began to depart but they were quickly halted as the remaining Indra stepped from the gloom. Xypia and Anon were carrying the bodies of Pestilence and Bolt; behind them were Scorn and Pixia, Woe brought up the rear. More Shalthar jumped from the trucks and pulled the four aboard. Woe settled next to Brekka.

The bodies of Pestilence and Bolt were carelessly tossed into the trucks; they landed on top of Ellie and limply rolled down onto the bed. Ellie let out a small cry as the two jostled lifelessly, their wounds still dripping. She slowly turned herself and began shuffling back toward them, ignoring the kicks and shouts from the Shalthar sitting on either side of her. Straining against her bonds she reached out to grab the two, there may still be time to save them. The ropes cut deeply into her skin, she could feel her skin break but she ignored the pain, they were more important. She wrapped her grasping fingers around Pestilence’ shoulder and Bolt’s wrist and waited.

Chapter 28

Katrine and Vee sat in the apartment and waited, in their experience all new arrivals wound up there. Ellie was in direct contact with them so why weren’t they showing up?

“It might be too late…” Vee whispered.

Katrine shook her head. “No… you were dead nearly an hour and had some nasty board damage and you showed up fine.”

Vee tapped her chin. “Their power cores may have been damaged.” She looked up and yelled. “Ellie! You need to give a little of your power they might be completely cut off!”

Ellie grunted and forced a web of cabling from her hands into Pestilence and Bolt’s bodies. She muttered an apology, it felt wrong but she couldn’t let them go so easily. Her cabling wrapped around theirs, she didn’t feel anything, no presence, no power, no glimmer of life. She forced her own power into their bodies, it wasn’t much, she had very little to spare. She began to feel faint, she grunted and shifted all her available power to Pestilence, she’d been gone longer and would likely need more effort to bring back. She felt a small spark, her board was being powered. Ellie pulled, she didn’t quite know how she did it but she pulled Pestilence, the very core of her being from her chip and took her inside. The process was slow, not helping matters were the Shalthar who had taken it upon themselves to throw kicks at her, threatening to break her concentration. The final dregs of Pestilence were drained and she moved on to Bolt. As she expected Bolt was mildly easier to coerce.

She let the two go and curled up, she desperately wished she could go and see them but her attention was needed elsewhere. Turning her head she could see that they had passed the flaming wreck of the tower completely and were driving past the Cloning Pool warehouses. She had expected a bunker or secret base but those sorts of things were usually kept beneath the headquarters, clearly the Monarch was acquainted with the cliché and had taken steps to avoid the predictable outcome.

The trucks came to a slow stop, the Shalthar were jostled slightly though that didn’t dissuade their kicks and jibes. The Indra were roughly pulled from the trucks, Pestilence and Bolt were left behind. The door was slowly pulled open revealing a wall of oily darkness, no wall of red mist greeted them, this warehouse had a different purpose. The lights were flicked on, the warehouse was completely empty, no pools no control room, just a dusty floor and cobweb ridden rafters. The Indra were dragged to the center of the room and dropped, the Shalthar, Brekka included fled to a safe distance.

Laverne rolled over and glared at Brekka. “C’mon, you have us right where you want us; don’t tell me you’re turning chicken!”

Brekka laughed. “Your insults have no weight for chickens went extinct long ago!” He stamped the ground a small hidden button was pressed.

The entire floor began to descend, pulling the Indra, Laverne, Juvinea, and Tash into the murky depths of the earth. Brekka leaned over the edge and gave them a small wave before turning away.

The floor was descending for what seemed like hours… Or at least that’s what it felt like for Mithra. She rolled over, struggling at her bonds. “Ugh, c’mon…!” She arched her back, reaching for the rope wrapped around her legs. “Why aren’t you guys trying to escape!? There’s literally nobody here to stop us!”

Laverne righted himself and sighed. “Bold of you to assume we haven’t tried and done so already.” He pulled his arms apart and the ropes just seemed to fall away.

The sounds of fraying and snapping rope could be heard as the Indra did away with their restraints. Soon only Mithra, Juvinea, and Tash were struggling and unable to free themselves.

Juvinea sighed. “Y’see, this is why I stayed out of your adventures, I’m just no good at them.”

Pixia dropped down in front of Juvinea. “Now look here…” she looked over at Ghost. “Hey babe,” she made a smooching noise and looked back at Juvinea. “That’s what I don’t get… How the hell are you here!?”

She rolled her eyes. “Do you have half an hour to spare while Tash here goes over the grisly details?”

Tash flopped on the ground, still bound and gagged.

Pixia didn’t get to answer before Anon interrupted her. “Hup! Wait a moment! You spent the entire journey whining about Ghost not being here and now you act all blasé? No! Go over there and hug your damn wife!”

Pixia’s tone was snotty; she turned up her nonexistent nose. “You do not dictate how I divvy my affection.”

Ghost got up. “If you won’t come over here, I’ll go over there. C’mere O lovely wife of mine.” She wrapped Pixia in a strong hug.

She squawked. “Gah, no! Watch the wing! It’s tender.”

“Why, what happened?” Ghost leaned over to look at Pixia’s back.

“Either Fear or Woe tore off one of my wings. Bolt stuck it back in and Anon sewed back up.” She shrugged. “Sorry but we won’t be going on any midnight flights anytime soon.”

Ghost’s voice turned childish. “Aww, should I kiss it and make it better?”

“Yes please.”

Laverne watched the exchange, he couldn’t help but smile. He could feel a particularly powerful gaze throwing daggers at him. “The wound is still fresh for you old friend, but I have had much time to mull it over.” He turned around to face Death.

War placed his hand on Death’s shoulder but it was quickly shaken off.

“I expected more gloating Schultz, I picked the wrong side, and I’m responsible for this.”

He raised an eyebrow. “If it wasn’t you then it would have been somebody else, Marge was a wily one, quick to your thoughts into your own. Odd is it not that she was not the villain of our little adventure, that she has gotten away unscathed…” He smiled at Death. “It simply shows that change is always possible for those who are willing to try.”

Mithra stopped his speech. “Um, Laverne, Ari asked me to tell you to stop copying her.”

Laverne nodded, stroking at his beard. “She is the perfect example, Death, be like Ari.”

He tilted his head. “In regards to mental state or physically? ‘Cause the irony would not be lost upon me.”

Laverne smiled. “There you are.”

Mithra floundered on the ground, still tightly bound. “Look these are some touching moments and all but you’re forgetting a few things. A: We’re slowly descending into the Monarch’s lair and B: I’m still stuck!”

Scorn chuckled. “I see you’ve still retained your feistiness. Alright, where are you?”

He kneeled down and sawed through her bonds.

Mithra huffed. “It’s a miracle I’m not a perpetual grouch like you lot by now, after all the things I went through.”

“And what horrors did you encounter as you recuperated around a nice warm fire?”

Laverne looked over his shoulder. “Oh I wish you guys had stomachs.”

Mithra screwed her face up in what she hoped was a terrifying grimace as Scorn’s light threw shadows across it. “I barfed up my skeleton,” she said in a raspy whisper. “My organs, my blood, my bones were turned into a thick slime and propelled from my mouth. Can you imagine Scorn, the thought of viciously… and violently… forcing yourself from yourself?” She stood up and began advancing upon Scorn her face still twisted.” The anguish of propelling your once cherished musculoskeletal system from your gob!?”

“It’s true,” Cass chimed in, “that was definitely liver I saw.”

Mithra whirled around. “You stuck your hand in it!?”

“A big sloppy fistful. You were there, you should have noticed.”

Mithra blanched.

A light suddenly filled the room as the floor slid past the ceiling of a room. Everybody was instantly on alert; it was time to get serious. As the ground leveled they finally got a good look at their new surroundings. They were in a cell, one of several, past the bars was a strange surgical amphitheater mixed whit that could only be described as a mad scientists laboratory. Masses of scientific and surgical equipment were scattered across the floor, not even Cass could identify more than a few of the machines on display. At the back of the room were multiple large glass cylinders filled with a pale blue liquid, lights shone upon the bodies suspended inside. The Monarch looked up from where he was at the surgery table. He cast a glance at the body he was working on and shrugged, carelessly throwing a cover over at and wiping his hands.

He walked over to the cell hands still wrapped in a rapidly darkening cloth. “My Shalthar are so efficient, I had only just gotten started.” His voice was as emotionless as before the strange electronic augmenting making his voice boom from all directions. “I do hope you’ll forgive me if I keep you waiting.”

Ellie was on her foot almost instantly. “Don’t act so smug you piece of shit!” She launched herself at the bars.

The room was filled with the smell of ozone and the sound of crackling electricity. Ellie stumbled back and sat heavily, her skin smoked as she regained her bearings.

The Monarch tilted his head, the golden mask seemed mocking. “You really thought I would have mere steel bars to hold you in? I am no fool, I am well aware of your abilities; your strength is wasted here.” He turned his attention to the adjacent cell. “Are you ready to come out? Or do you need more time to simmer?”

The group looked over and saw a small familiar figure huddled on the floor of the cell. It was Kid. Ellie was immediately at the bars reaching through, trying to get a hold of Kid, her sobs were barely repressed.

The Monarch looked over at Ellie and tsked. “Oh, such misplaced affection. Would you still love her if you knew what she was?”

“I know who she is!”

“But you don’t, not in the slightest. It has been in that form for so long that even its almost forgotten.” The Monarch let out a small grunt of frustration. “Up!” He barked. “Do you forget who your master is!?”

Kid shot to her feet her head lowered keeping her gaze averted from both Ellie and the Monarch.

“Good, so you have not forgotten.” The Monarch tore the door open and Kid strode out. “Perhaps a final moment with your cherished friends before you leave this earth completely?”

Kid knelt in front of the bars and held her hand through, Ellie immediately clutched it.

Kid’s voice was small, “Mithra, you too.”

Mithra knelt next to Ellie and took Kid’s other hand.

Kid tightened her grip on them. “I’m not Kid… I’ve never been her, only a cheap imitation of the real thing. I’m a fake, and not worthy of the love you’ve given me.”

“What are you saying? What does that mean?”

Tash joined them, they looked deeply at Kid. “You’re Anguish, one of the IL Indra like Fear and Woe.”

Kid nodded. “I was planted with Scorn and Anon immediately when we heard Schultz had been captured, if he did manage to escape there was no way he’d leave me behind.”

“If you’re an IL then why are you not like the others? They reveled in destruction and bloodshed.”

“Your Kid’s a strong one, she fought me from the moment I took control of her board, corrupted me from the inside out.”

Mithra started. “That was you, in the town… you hugged me.”

Kid nodded. “I was going to tell you then but I lost my nerve, it would have been so much easier if I had.”

The Monarch gripped to top of Kid’s head. “Now don’t be rude, it’s impolite to wear masks in front of our guests. Show them what you really are.”

Kid let go of Ellie and Mithra and stood back. She shuddered, her entire body seemed to vibrate, a chorus of cracking filled the room and she bubbled and distorted. Soon all of the familiar features vanished to be replaced with a dull grey body and a strangely shaped head like the other IL’s. Anguish averted their gaze, embarrassed to be seen in their true form.

The Monarch’s had drifted to Anguish’s shoulder, he squeezed tightly. “Finish the job.”

Anguish looked down at the board in her hand, Kid’s board; all that she was on a fragile piece of plastic.

The Monarch’s fingers dug deeper into their shoulder.

Anguish closed their hand on the board. Inside the cell Ellie stifled a cry. Quick as a flash Anguish had their fist buried in the Monarch’s stomach. The Monarch fell to his knees. Anguish ran over to Ellie and dropped the board into Ellie’s waiting hands. Ellie held it to her chest.

Anguish chuckled. “Maybe we won’t need plan B after all.” They turned back to the Monarch who was back on his feet.

“Do you forget who your master is!?” he roared.

“I am master to no none!” Anguish prepared for another strike.

The Monarch turned about and went back to the lab, everyone was taken by surprise. Anguish’s stance dropped to one of disbelief.

The Monarch raised his hand up. “Woe!”

A grey blur shot from the darkness of the amphitheater and hauled Anguish away like a ragdoll. Anguish was pinned to the ground, unable to cope with the raw savagery of their sibling. Woe planted a foot in Anguish’s back and grabbed their arms pulling them back.

“Let her go!” Ellie yelled.

Woe looked over at her, keeping their treacherous sibling stuck to the ground. It laughed mockingly and shifted, grinding Anguish across the floor until it was standing directly in front of the cell. It leaned back, slowly lifting anguish into the air, keeping their foot in its back. It began pulling and Anguish began wailing. The Indra watched helplessly as the skin around Anguish’s shoulders began to strain and fray.

Anguish bit back their screaming. They looked at Mithra and Ellie. “I love you,” they whispered.

They swung their legs forward and wrapped them around the bars, pulling them and Woe forward. The air filled with the buzzing of electricity and the smell of charring meat. Smoke cascaded from the two as their bodies were cooked by the flood of electricity. The surge caused their muscles to contract, Anguish’s legs were stuck around the bars and Woe’s hands were stuck to Anguish’s wrists.

The Monarch looked over. “Clever child.” He walked over to a small button on the wall near the cell and pressed a button.

The electricity momentarily stopped and the two fell back, he pressed the button just before Ellie slammed back into the bars, she was fell back once more.

The Monarch stood in front of the cell once more. “Interesting. You treat the creature directly responsible for the death of your friend as if it was still your friend. Such naivety, I will enjoy studying your brain.”

“It’s not naivety! It’s humanity!” Juvinea yelled, standing in front of the Monarch. “She could see the good inside of Anguish, even if you couldn’t.”

“Ah, my love, so you have indeed regained your memories, how lucky for me that I can thank the one responsible in person before destroying them.” He looked over at Tash. “Thank you for returning my wife to me.”

Her face was twisted with rage, she had been told that Lethe was lost in the blast. “I am not your wife! I am Lethe’s wife, and call me crazy but you’re not Lethe! My husband is dead!” Tears began to flow from her eyes and she sank to her knees.

The Monarch tilted his head. “Yes, your husband is dead, as you knew him that man has been dead for a very long time.” He looked back to Tash. “How many lies have you told her? How many half truths and white lies have you fed her to be so ignorant of the truth?”

“I said what I had to!” Tash yelled. “She wasn’t ready for the truth, none of them are.”

The Monarch turned back, ignoring Juvinea’s screams. “The common practice of those in my position is to tell you my side of the story… to explain myself. I shall not ramble for long; I don’t want to postpone your deaths for too long.”

He walked to the back of the room and began pulling two of the large tanks forward, they rolled easily across the floor. He stopped in front of the cell again, the bodies inside were easily identifiable. One was spot on for Juvinea; the other was an exact replica of Lethe’s human form.

Juvinea backed away from the tanks, face twisted in disgust. “What are those?”

“Us…” intoned the Monarch, tearing away the golden mask.

 “Mortal bodies for us.” Lethe fell to his knees in front of the cell. “Bodies for us to grow old in, a body for me to die in.”

Her face went slack as her world was shattered. “No! Never! Why would you do this!?”

 He stretched his hand through the bars, grasping for her. “Love! My love for you has stretched across the millennia, the moments we had together were the only moments of happiness I have ever felt in my cursed existence.”

She backed away further. “Why couldn’t you just let me go!? Why wouldn’t you just let me stay dead?”

He withdrew his hands; his voice was cloaked in sadness. “I couldn’t, I couldn’t let a flame such as yours be snuffed so carelessly. I wanted to give us a second chance, a chance to do it right. To live a normal, mortal life.”

Cass stepped forward, shielding Juvinea from Lethe. “And what of what you built here, would you simply let the Shalthar continue to sweep across the planet like a plague?”

Lethe shook his head, his voice turned almost smug. “I have bred them to their destruction. There will be no new cycle; the Shalthar will go extinct with this generation.”

Tash stood forward, standing face to face with Lethe. “They will not! I found the records; I found the research that you left forgotten. Already the cloning pools have been infected with the genetic rectifier. The next Shalthar shall be human, man and woman as they once were before with a sufficient genetic diversity to reproduce and grow normally. The Shalthar have died but the Shalti shall live!”

Lethe tilted his head. His tone was one of near admiration, “Impressive… I approve.”

Tash took a step back, surprised by Lethe’s reaction. “What?”

“I approve of your decision, I only wish you approached me sooner with your idea, it would have saved so many lives.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“The cloning pools are to be detonated, the rest of the Citadel shall be leveled, the Shalthar shall be totally destroyed while I and Juvinea flee to our safe haven.”

She pushed Tash to the side and stared daggers of pure hatred at Lethe. “I will never go with you!” Tears streamed from her eyes.

“You don’t have much of a choice, not that you’ll remember any of this, your memories of all of this shall be removed and you shall be restored to my beautiful wife. My body has already undergone a similar memory procedure, he remembers nothing. To him you never died, you have already lived a lifetime together and shall have the opportunity to live one more.”

Cass gently placed a hand on Juvinea’s shoulder and pulled her back where Ellie wrapped her in a hug and led her to the back of the cell with the rest of the Indra. “Lethe… son… Your plan will not work, it never could have worked, there are simply too many factors that you haven’t taken account of. What happened to that logical mind? What happened to the man I knew back at the ship? Was it all an act?”

He looked at her. “I fixed me ma, I fixed my problem, in the caves of Brull I did surgery on myself. I tore the board from my head and fixed it. The feeling I got when I stayed awake for longer than a day, then a week, then a year, then a decade… My world grew, expanded in such amazing ways. Yes, the time we had on the ship was an act, that pathetic man you once knew is long dead.”

“So you tampered with Marge? Wiped her memory of you?”

He nodded. “She knew who I was from the beginning, she was only too happy to work with me with the freedoms I granted her. I had to make sure she didn’t remember me. It was so easy, you just left me and Woe alone, your trust was immediate.”

There was a crash from far above drawing the attention of the Indra, Cass and Lethe did not notice, they were too deep in conversation. Everybody’s attention was gained when the headless corpse of Brekka slammed into the ground of the cell, splattering blood and viscera across the cell. The bars crackled as offal sprayed across them filling the room with a vulgar smelling smoke.

There was another thud but nobody could quite see who it was.

“You thought you could so easily mess with my circuits? My mind is not your plaything you fat bastard!” Marge’s voice rang through the room. “Back of the cell sweeties things are about to go boom!”

Cass saw what was undoubtedly a grenade rolling through her legs. She threw herself back as the entire front of the cell was obliterated. The tanks near the cell shattered as shrapnel shredded the bodies inside. The floor was awash with the blue liquid and viscera.

Marge pantomimed talking with her hand. “Talk, talk, talk, that’s all you ever do these days. C’mon how about some action!?” She threw herself onto Lethe.

The Indra did nothing as the two rolled across the floor. Marge began throttling Lethe.

“Backups sweetie! You thought I would be so stupid as to not keep backups of my files? I was gonna go, I was gonna be a mother! But you had to roll up and spoil it all!” She flung him across the surgical theater.

He rolled to a stop. “You’re no match for me Marge! We both know that!” He rushed at her and plowed a knee into her stomach.

She grabbed his shoulders and they began grappling, he pulled her from the ground and arched back, slamming her into a large metal box. Smoke rose from the destroyed machine as debris flew across the ground. She rolled to her feet, the skin on her face was tearing away and large chunks of her hair had been ripped out, her metal skeleton was beginning to shine through her skin.

She looked at the Indra still huddled in the cell. “You can help too y’know, this doesn’t have to be a one-on-one!” She was decked across the face with a hard elbow.

The Indra exchanged glances, none of them wanted to fight Lethe, they didn’t want to believe that one of their own could be capable of such atrocities. Cass dusted herself off and strode from the cell toward the scuffle.

“I’m sorry son,” she whispered before plunging a fist into his back.

Lethe roared in agony and pushed Marge away. He wildly swung back, catching Cass a staggering blow to the head. She tumbled back, crashing into the surgery table, knocking it over. That spurred the others into action. They streamed from the cell, surrounding Lethe and Marge. Juvinea and Tash helped Cass up, she seemed only stunned. Xypia grabbed Lethe about the shoulders and lifted him into the air; he radiated a sad determination as he looked at his former friend. Raising him up Xypia slammed Lethe into the ground and placed a foot on his back. Ghost pinned his left arm, Pixia pinned his right, Scorn and Anon pinned his legs. He writhed furiously, trying to shake the others off. The Horsemen stood to the side as Cass stepped forward.

She looked down at Lethe. “Wulf, Wall, Kid, Bolt, Pestilence… The lives of my children, the lives of your family all taken to accomplish a selfish goal. Millennia of terror, of war, of death, to regain the love of a single woman.” She sighed sadly. “There is nothing to be learned from this, no moral, no truth, only shame. My shame in you my anger at the betrayal of everything you once fought for is endless. No matter what may be said, I did not build you all those years ago to kill, to spread death, I built you to prevent that, to reduce the cost of a pointless war. I failed then and I failed now. I wish I could say I was sorry.” She raised her foot and slammed it down on the back of Lethe’s neck, his writhing intensified. The Horsemen rushed in and helped the others in pinning him down. Cass’ voice was cracking with sadness. “In the names of the countless people whom were murdered at your whim I shall end you.” She slammed her foot down again, and again. She screamed as her foot finally hit the floor.

Chapter 29

The Indra all looked away as Lethe’s severed head rolled across the floor. Cass collapsed sobbing; Juvinea knelt in front of her and pulled her into a hug. They sat there as the Indra carefully carried Lethe’s body away, they tucked it the darkness away from view. As they dropped his body they simply wandered, not looking at anything, not talking, the weight of the past few minutes needed to sink in and they weren’t quite prepared for it.

Ellie knelt in front of the charred corpse of Anguish. “What was plan B? What did you mean?”

Mithra tentatively placed a hand on Ellie’s shoulder. “We may never know… but you still have her board, could she be rebuilt?”

Elli let out a shuddering sigh and looked down at the tiny board. “I don’t know, we don’t have the ingredients to make another body.”

“We’ll figure it out.” Mithra gave her shoulder a squeeze and looked back at the others.

Laverne sat down in front of Marge, she was in a very bad way, much of her skin was been torn off and a thick green liquid was forming a pool around her. She lay where Lethe had thrown her, unable to get back up. “Well then, it seems you have a shred of good in you after all.”

Marge flicked her eyes over at him. “Not for much longer. It may not have redeemed me but at least my final act was a good one. Way too much damage, probably not salvageable, it’s the end of the road for me.”

Laverne raised an eyebrow. “Are you trying to tug at my heartstrings?”

She scoffed, her voice was slurring and distorting. “I’d never do such a thing; I’m just a genuine person.”

He smiled and she smiled back.

“Goodbye Marge,” he whispered as her eyes closed and her body went limp. He stood up and looked around at the wandering Indra. “Alright, I say we get the hell out of here.”

The Indra took no convincing, after a short time searching, the control for the elevator was found. They rose toward the surface.

“Why did you lie?” Juvinea asked Tash.

He looked over at her. “Would you have helped me so readily if I told you that your husband was responsible for these atrocities? You likely would have tried to confront him and he would have only accomplished his goal so much easier. I’m sorry for lying to you, but it was the only thing I could do.”

She let out a shuddering breath. “It’s alright, I understand… I only wish it could have ended differently.”

“So do we all,” Cass whispered.

The elevator stopped to a scene of carnage, it seemed the Shalthar guards weren’t particularly enthusiastic about letting Marge past. The Indra skirted around the destroyed bodies and emerged into the russet skies of the Citadel. There was no trace of life to be seen, it was all completely abandoned, only the two trucks made any sound as their engines idled. Checking the back revealed that the bodies of Pestilence and Bolt were unmoved.

Scorn sat on the ground with them and looked up at Ellie as she hauled herself in. “Did you get them?”

She nodded her head. “Yup, they’re still unconscious though, probably for the best.”

“Mind if I go in? I want to talk to them if I can.”

“You don’t need to ask, you’re welcome anytime.”

Scorn pressed his hand to Ellie’s side. His eyes opened to the familiar door in the grey void. He gently opened it and strode inside, scanning the apartment. The two were tucked into the bed, still asleep. Katrine was sitting with her back against the wall; Vee was reclining on the futon. Katrine perked up when Scorn entered.

She got up and gave him a quick hug. “Oh hey, didn’t expect to see you.”

He squeezed back, harder than he thought he would. He’d forgotten how much he missed hugs. “How’re they doing?”

“They’ve been sleeping peacefully since they got here; probably best not to wake them.” She led him to the kitchen, they settled around the small table. “The more important question is though… How are you feeling?”

“Honestly?” He looked at her. “Not too good, this one was bad… I can’t speak for the others but I just was to go away for a while, a good long while. I’m pooped.”

“The offer still stands boyo!” Bolt called from the bed, their talking woke her up.

Katrine looked between the two. “Offer?”

“In exchange for being her walking talking mannequin she’d let me live with them.”

“Yup, just need to get back to our bodies and we can settle down, someplace out of the way.”

“Tropical?” Pestilence suggested.

“Ooh, I like that.”

Katrine smiled and got up, she rummaged through the closet and got shirts and pants in the two’s size and tossed them over. “C’mon, let’s go get decorating ideas.”

The two were immediately out of the bed tugging their clothes on. They rushed over to the door at the back. Katrine followed them, she looked back. “C’mon Scorn, you too.”


The trucks rolled to a stop, their way was barred by a ragged line of Shalthar, scientists and military alike stood shoulder to shoulder. They didn’t raise their weapons, they didn’t make a move, they were defeated and they knew it.

Tash stood up and surveyed all that was left of their people. “High Commander Brekka is dead! The Monarch is dead! And we the Shalthar are doomed to the same fate if we continue in their footsteps! I am the highest authority still living in this city and I beg you to follow my word!”

The Shalthar knelt before Tash, heads bowed.

They frowned. “There will be no more kneeling! There will no longer be any bowing or scraping at the feet of a supreme ruler, I am Shalthar as you and should be treated as such. I ask that all but two cloning pools be deactivated.”

 The Shalthar scientist Provost, the one Scorn knocked out in the cloning pools earlier, rushed forward, their optical implant was going haywire. “But that will not be enough to repopulate! We will go extinct!”

Tash shook their head. “We shall not go extinct, we shall simply adapt. Using ancient research I have created a means to end our cloning ways forever. The next batch of Shalthar shall be the final for they will be able to have children naturally. We shall live the way we used to, farming and giving back to the land we have neglected for so long. Please, throw down your weapons and join me.” Tash jumped from the truck and stood among their people. “We can have peace once more; no more of us need die for the will of a tyrant.”

The Shalthar looked down at the rifles clutched in their hands, the last remnants of who they were, without their guns they were as weak as the next human. Slowly they dropped them, they made hollow clattering noises as they hit the ground, one Shalthar threw theirs. Tash smiled and strode among them patting shoulders and shaking the many hands that were offered. They kept walking coming to the other side of the crowd, the rest followed, they followed their new leader towards the future they were always promised.

The Indra watched them go.

Laverne smiled. “It seems I can no longer claim to be the father of the Shalti, I have been usurped. My legacy has been officially wiped clean.”

Mithra poked his shoulder and pouted. “Oi, what about me? You haven’t forgotten about me have you?”

He turned around, looking slightly bewildered. “Hmm? Oh! Mithra, I totally forgot you existed. How did you enjoy your first adventure?”

She crossed her arms. “I didn’t.”

Ghost placed a hand on Mithra’s shoulder. “In our experience our adventures are rarely enjoya—.”

“I wasn’t even the main character!” Mithra shouted, interrupting Ghost.

A silence fell on the group.

Laverne smiled. “When you’re in a group this big it’s hard to keep your identity.”

Mithra was feeling righteous indignation. “All this shit started off with me! I had that dream with Ari and Medusa, all that happened in the jungle and here I am… a side character!”

Laverne cast a fearful glance to the side and whispered quietly. “Mithra, leave the fourth wall alone, it can only take so much battering before things start to become hokey.”

She looked at him, eyebrow raised. “What?”

He turned back around. “It would take far too long to explain. Now c’mon Cass, let’s get the hell out of here, things seem well in hand. I hope you don’t mind if we take a quick detour to that town on the Shalti, I have something I need to collect.”


The trip to the Shalti River, though long, was thoroughly enjoyable. The spirits of the group immediately lifted as the trucks cleared the red haze of the Citadel and began trundling across the rocky plains. Cass had relinquished her driving duties to check up on Pestilence and Bolt. Their power cores were indeed damaged far beyond repair but the gloom around that information didn’t last.

Laverne yelled back unconcerned. “The ship! The thing has dozens in the cockpit, they’ll be fine, we can whip up some biomass over there too and they’ll be right as rain.”

There were several sighs of relief from the Indra. Mithra wasn’t listening though, she had long withdrawn into her thoughts, she hadn’t heard anything from Ari and Medusa for a while.

The void could no longer be classified as such. She opened her eyes to two very different structures; to her left was what could be generously be considered a mountain. A large opening filled with darkness yawned from the mountain’s front; no doubt Medusa was skulking around in there. The other structure to the right was a large well put together house. Made from sandy colored brick it wasn’t all too ornately decorated despite what Ari had suggested earlier, the sharply slanted roof was made from dark tiles and had multiple chimneys shooting upwards. All three stories had many large windows facing outwards allowing plenty of light to penetrate deep into the house. Mithra nodded in appreciation, she hadn’t seen many houses but this one was pretty nice. Keeping well away from the cave she walked up to the front porch and knocked on the door, it only seemed polite.

Ari didn’t answer, Mithra knocked again. She crossed her arms and let out a huff, she stood for a moment before shrugging and quietly opening the door. The inside was lavishly furnished with shining hardwood floors, wood paneled walls and ornate carvings covering the tall ceilings. Immediately in the entranceway was a positively massive staircase made from a near jet-black wood. Small tables and chairs were placed in attractive locations and the floors were covered in incredibly plush rugs where suitable. Mithra furrowed her brow, for how full the place was it seemed oddly empty, she looked at the walls and saw that they were entirely bare, not a single picture was hung on the walls. She walked further into the house, her footfalls muffled by the absolutely luxurious carpets, she had to pause and stroke them for a moment. She let out a small happy grunt, the softness made her happy. She heard a small noise from somewhere upstairs; she shot upright and twisted her head to look up the stairway.

She tentatively placed her foot on the first step, she instinctually expected a creak but one was not forthcoming. She jogged quietly up the stairs coming to a small room with hallways branching from its sides. The small noise came from the hall to her front. She crept down the hallway, she noted that the second floor wasn’t quite as flashy as the first, the ceilings were lower and the wallpaper less flamboyant. She walked past several large doors, she tested the knob on the first, and it was unlocked. She opened the door and peered inside, it was a small bedroom with a four poster bed against the right wall, the far wall was dominated by a large window with a plain desk situated in front of it. There was a smaller room off to the side; Mithra assumed it was a washroom. She closed the door and turned to the other, it was a similar room, the wallpaper was a different color, as was the bed but the layout was mostly the same. The small sound could be heard again, it came from the furthest doorway down the hall. Mithra padded down and listened at the doorway, she could hear the small tapping again, it was oddly metallic and heavy sounding. She slowly eased the door open.

Ari was sitting at a slightly nicer desk than the others Mithra saw, she was vigorously typing at a strange machine, producing an obnoxious clacking noise. She had changed her clothes from the simple tunic and cloak Mithra was used to. Her long hair was pulled up in a large bun and she was clad in a flowing burgundy frock. It was jarring to see her in such a domestic setting. Mithra couldn’t quite see her face but it looked like her face wasn’t wrapped in cloth anymore. Ari paused in her typing and seemed to think for a moment, she went back to typing. Mithra crept into the room, not closing the door behind her. She settled on the wonderfully soft bed, she smiled again as her rear was supported on a cloud of comfort.

Ari didn’t look up. “It’s generally polite to close the door when one enters another’s room.”

Mithra hid her surprise. “Oh is it? I left it open in case I have to run from you.”

Ari took her hands from the keyboard. “Fat chance of that, this dress weighs a good forty pounds.” She turned to look at Mithra. Her face was covered in a simple cloth mask, her mouth and nose were covered but her eye wasn’t, the mask had a small cartoon smile embroidered into it giving her a threatening aura. “I assume since you’re talking to me right now that we won?”

Mithra smiled sadly. “Yeah, we won…”

Ari stood up and sat beside Mithra. “Who did we lose?”

“Pestilence and Bolt, but they’re in Ellie right now. Wulf and Wall and Kid.” She choked slightly when she said Kid. “It turns out they were imposters, all of them, but the one who played Kid, they turned at the last minute. They gave Ellie Kid’s board and tried to fight the Monarch, they gave their life to destroy their own creator.” She began to sob, even she was surprised, she didn’t realize just how much it hurt.

Ari pulled her close and shushed her quietly. “It’s OK, I’m sure ma will figure something out, she’s quite clever you know.”

Mithra looked at Ari. “It was Lethe… Lethe was the Monarch this whole time, every moment he was with us was a lie; every word he said was a lie. He was going to level the world just for the person he loved.”

Ari inhaled sharply, her grip tightened. After a few moments she relaxed. “Well, it’s a pity you won’t get to meet her, she was quite a woman.”

“She’s right outside if you want to talk to her.”

Ari’s frown was apparent through the mask. “Huh?”

“He did it, he brought her back.”

Ari took a deep breath. “Will you humor me for a moment; I need to see this for myself.”

Mithra waved dismissively. “Take your time, I’m gonna take my first nap in a decade.”

Ari smiled and seemed to dissolve. Mithra collapsed on the bed and was immediately asleep.

Ari breathed in fresh air for the first time in a long time; she let out a deep breath and looked around. She was rather surprised to be sitting in the bed of a truck of all things. She stood up shakily, she still wasn’t quite used to how Mithra’s body felt. She jumped from the bed onto the soft grass, landing with a thump. The sudden movement drew the attention of War and Death who were loitering nearby with War thoroughly boring death with trivia about the few birds that passed overhead.

War looked over. “Hey kiddo, enjoy your nap?”

Ari looked at him and pursed her lips. “Hmm, still obsessed with birds.” She looked over at Death. “Still bored by birds.”

War looked over at Death. “Am I boring you?”

Death quickly shook his head. “Not at all.”

Ari passed them by, they looked at her like she was an alien. Eventually they shrugged and went back to chatting. The bulk of the Indra were lounging by a large flat rock sunning themselves. None of them paid Mithra much mind as she approached.

She could vaguely hear Pixia say “Turn me over sweetie I’m done on this side.”

Ghost scoffed in reply, “I’ll smack you and aggravate that sunburn you’re getting.”

“We don’t get sunburn,” Cass said, “though it would be funny if we could.”

Ari leapt up onto the rock, it was pleasingly warm on her bare feet. She walked over to where Ellie was stretched out and gave her a light kick.

Ellie grunted and rolled over. “Hey Mithra, what’s up?”

Ari crouched down and whispered. “She ain’t driving, have you seen Juvinea?”

Ellie pushed herself up on to her elbow. “She went into town with Laverne about half an hour ago, something wrong?”

Ari shook her head. “Nah, I just wanted to talk with her, I heard from Mithra that she’s back.”

“Yeah, she explained it to us earlier but I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, something about a memory splice.”

Ari screwed her face up in confusion. “Yeah, you lost me.”

She shrugged. “You’re probably better off waiting. That town’s surprisingly large and you’ll get lost.”

“There’s one road.”

“You’ll get lost,” Ellie reaffirmed.

Ari sat down fully. “You’re probably right. Mind if I come inside? Mithra’s napping and I don’t think she’d mind a tan.”

“You don’t have to ask.”

“Yeah, but it feels weird to just touch you without asking. Personal space and all that.”

“Suit yourself.” Ellie turned back over and settled with a grunt.

Ari raised an arm and placed it on Ellie’s back. That familiar door sprung into existence and she let herself in.

“And we’re back,” her voice strained as she stretched. “And I was just beginning to enjoy fresh air again.”

The apartment was empty; the occupants were likely off enjoying the recreational facilities. Ari had a brief flashback to the time she used the gym, she chuckled, the screaming involved was legendary.

She strode inside and made for the door at the back, she paused, stuck with a fantastic idea. She turned to cast a devilish side-eye at the fridge; it had been quite a while since she enjoyed the vice of liquor. She wondered if Katrine had any scotch in stock Ari recalled that the vintage she got was remarkable. She crept over to the fridge and tugged at the handle. The door refused to open. Ari frowned, in the thousands of times she’d opened that door it had never once not opened. She tugged again, the entire unit shook and jostled, she could hear the bottles clinking around inside. She wedged her fingers between the door and the main unit and slowly pried the door open. The door shot open bringing with it something highly unexpected.

Kid rolled to a stop, bumping into the table and chairs.

Ari looked at Kid dumbly for a moment. She pointed at Kid. “You’re supposed to be dead!”

Kid shot to her feet and pointed back. “So’re you!”

Ari looked to the ceiling. “Ellie! Get in here! Now!” She looked back at Kid, a twinkle in her eye. “Get behind the door.”

Kid smiled and shambled over to the door and waited.

“Ellie! Now!”

The door shot open, smacking into Kid’s outstretched chin, and knocking it back closed and banging into Ellie’s knee. Ellie’s face scrunched up in confusion. She looked over at Ari who had settled in the kitchen a glass of scotch in her hand.

“Um.”

Something kicked the door again banging it into Ellie’s shoulder.

She frowned. “Alright who’s doing that? If you’re trying to make me feel better by imitating Kid then you’re having a profoundly adverse effect.”

Ari took a sip. “I would never dare imitate Kid when the genuine article is more than capable of doing it herself.”

Ellie poked her head around the door to see Kid winding up for another swing of the door. Kid froze and looked at Ellie like a deer in headlights. She pushed the door anyways, knocking Ellie over. She stood over Ellie, who was simply frozen in shock.

Kid crouched and gently patted Ellie’s head. “Anguish knew what was going to happen and they granted me a little request.”

“When? How?”

Kid smiled. “We both know you don’t have any feeling down there so I snuck in when you were distracted.” She slapped Ellie’s stump and sure enough Ellie couldn’t feel it.

Katrine, Vee, Bolt, and Pestilence burst through the back door. Kid turned around and flexed overdramatically.

“I live!” she roared.

Vee immediately turned on Katrine. “You are such a terrible liar.”

She shrugged. “I’ll admit I’m a bit rusty, I figured it would be jumping the gun to say anything.”

Kid continued flexing and making exaggerated grunts, she was pulled down by Ellie who wrapped her in a full body hug.

Ellie was sobbing unashamedly and she squeezed Kid harder. “Don’t leave me again,” she whispered.

Kid squirmed around In Ellie’s embrace and looked her in the eye. She planted a little kiss on her cheek and hugged back. “Alright, I’ll stay, just this once.”


Laverne settled at one of the many tables in the inn. The repair efforts were going swimmingly until all of the town’s windows shattered and an earthquake sent many of their half finished repairs tumbling to the ground. The townspeople seemed all too happy to accept Laverne’s explanation. The streets outside were filled with the townsfolk rejoicing the death of the Monarch and the destruction of the Shalthar.

Juvinea looked at Laverne. “So what are you here to collect?”

“The object that is perhaps directly responsible for Marge’s change of heart, if she ever had one to begin with.” He sighed heavily through his nose. “It’s fortunate that you’re physically identical otherwise the transition might have been rather rough.”

“Your avoiding my question.”

“Well it’s a difficult one to answer, I mean, I could answer it with a word but I’d like for you to be prepared since this will be quite a burden of responsibility.”

“Spit it out buddy.”

He gave her a look. “Is that any way to talk to your old boss.”

She raised her eyebrows and squinted. “I could say far worse things.”

He chuckled, not wanting to push her. “Hmm fair enough, alright, how would you like to be a parent?”

She leaned forward and rested her chin in her hands. “To whom would I be a parent?”

He shrugged and leaned back in the chair. “A baby we found.”

Her face went slack. “You found a baby?”

He smiled as he recalled the Indra’s terror. “Yup, Ellie hijacked a Shalthar collection ship full of people, we let them go off on their merry way and they forgot a baby.”

“Why didn’t you return it to them?” Juvinea was getting confused.

“Wasn’t really viable, we had absolutely no idea where they went.”

“You lost an entire tribe of people?”

He raised his eyebrows. “Who also lost an entire baby.”

She leaned back in the chair. “Huh.”

“Huh, indeed.”

They sat in silence.

Juvinea finally said, “I thought for a moment you were talking about Mithra.

Laverne snorted. “You’re welcome to try but you won’t get very far with her, she even more stubborn than your sister was.”

“Yes I got a brief taster back in the Citadel. Very free-spirited.”

“Well that’s to be expected, she does have Ari rattling around in her head after all.”

Juvinea wasn’t at all surprised. “A human Indra hybrid, I suspected from her head… Yeah, alright I see what you did there. In a way she’s lucky that she got to keep her face, emoting is always a useful tool. And I suppose being able to blend in with humans will be nice as well.”

“From what I heard she can swap at will with Ari, so it’s rather a win-win for both of them, she gets to be an Indra with the benefits that brings and Ari gets to have a body again if only for short spans of time.”

“Entirely the reverse of Ellie.”

“You should sit down and have a talk with them when you get the chance.”

“I think I will.”

The door to the inn opened and a homely looking woman tottered inside carrying something swaddled in a large amount of cloth. She looked up at them and smiled.

“The little laddie was given a few frights by the merrymakers so he might be squirmin’ a bit.” She gently placed the baby in Juvinea’s arms.

She looked down at I and it looked back up at her, its eyes were wide. It squirmed a bit, its face pinching as it threatened to cry. She began bouncing it and rocking it slowly, it made little cooing noises as it calmed down.

The nursemaid gave a satisfied nod. “He remembers you alright, even through those glasses of yours. Good for me, I already have too many to look after what with all the menfolk out rebuilding the place. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ll take my leave.” She made a small bow and bustled to the door.

“Thank you,” Juvinea called after her.

“Think nothing of it marm.” She closed the door behind her.

Laverne stood up, pushing the seat in behind him. “Well, are you ready to terrify some Indra?”

She smirked, not believing him. “I find it unlikely that they would be frightened by this little bundle of joy.” The baby squealed and she began making little faces at it and speaking in gibberish which only caused the baby further merriment.

“You’ll see.”


The Indra fled as Juvinea approached, the Horsemen were confused until it was explained to them they quickly followed the rest. Mithra and Ellie looked at them, mildly disappointed. Cass ran over and began babbling at the baby, it squealed in further delight.

Juvinea looked at the Indra in disbelief. “You’re actually afraid of this little guy?”

“Yes!” several of them chorused.

“Cowards!” Mithra yelled at them.

“Even you Famine!” The smile in Juvinea’s voice was apparent.

Famine called over. “Yes, remarkably, the feeling is quite irrational.”

Ellie clapped. “Alright everybody, Famine has feelings: Confirmed! We can all go home now!”

Ellie’s statement gave them pause. None of them had a home to go to, the one they had was lost to them long ago. A few had plans to settle down but none of them had really thought all too seriously about it.

Cass looked at the Indra, her children. “Alright everybody, I have a proposal for you! What do you say that we settle down somewhere and just enjoy ourselves for once? No obligations, no nothin’, just a few centuries of relaxing and getting hammered.”

Anon stepped forward, looking at the other Indra who remained silent. “Ma, I think I speak for us all when I say this but fuck yeah!”

Epilogue

“Well this seems as good a spot as any.” Cass dropped the handles of the pull cart.

It was a relatively flat stretch of land along the edge of the Jungle of Kvasstch, the grass was a bit shaggy but otherwise nobody could put forward much complaint. The spot was also close enough to the old Knoss River that trips to the Shalti could be made with minimal walking, which was a big bonus for trade.

The Indra were all completely overburdened with supplies, bar Juvinea who had her hands full enough with the baby. The Indra still refused to warm up to it, insisting that they’d make their introductions when it started to retain memories. She walked over to a small boulder and sat down, and watched the Indra bustle around.

Laverne looked around at the Indra who were intently inspecting the terrain. “Alright folks! Claim your plots, big as you like but try not to step on each other’s toes we’ll need room to spread out.”

Mithra dropped her pack and ran up to the tree line and began putting down stakes. “Are you sure Ari, I know it’s big, but this big?”

Ari was bubbling with excitement. “We’ll have a garden, and a greenhouse, I want a water feature, and a little walk up to the front door.

Mithra shoved another stake into the ground. “Hold your horses, it’ll take forever just to lay the foundation and we agreed that we’d start last, everybody else’s projects are way smaller than yours.”

Ari made an impatient whining noise.

“You sure it’s big enough!?” Pixia yelled over.

Hers and Ghost’s plot was just over a quarter the size of Mithra and Ari’s, they said something about a bungalow, whatever that was.

“Ari’s being very specific!”

“Of course she is, just don’t let her imagination run away with her.”

“Too late!”


As the months passed the Indra’s homes began to take shape.

Ghost and Pixia did indeed build a bungalow; they dubbed it the ‘Loveshack’ in honor of a song Mithra had never heard of. Xypia built a small studio filled with bare white walls to paint on with only a cot in the corner for relaxing. The Horsemen decided on something rather surprising, three small wooden cottages. Rustic would be an understatement, they didn’t even have electricity; they said something about trying to reconnect with nature. Scorn and the resurrected Bolt and Pestilence built a ranch style house with a large addition being added on later for Bolt’s tailoring studio. Anon in a bold move decided to build a luxury yurt. He said he wanted a yacht but that was too expensive so a yurt would have to do. It was filled with copious amounts of throw pillows and an ungodly amount of couches to lounge upon.

“A couch for every mood,” was all he said to justify it.

Juvinea, Cass, Ellie, and Laverne decided to abandon their projects when they saw what Mithra had in mind. The home Ari had built in her mind was going to be made a reality, down to the last detail. Mithra had to admit that she was rather smitten with the house and it seemed a shame that only she and Ari could really see it on a regular basis. Medusa had nothing to say, it was more than happy to stay curled up in its cave and sleep, finally reaching a level of peace once thought impossible.

It took a long time, far longer than anyone had expected, and pretty soon all of the Indra were helping full time to get the house finished. After two years of labor it was finished, the manor towered over the other houses but was still dwarfed by the looming trees of Kvasstch. Ari had to make some concessions, mainly the addition of electricity and proper plumbing for Laverne and Juvinea.

She stood in front of the manor hands on her hips and a smug smile plastered to her face. It was done, all that was left was one final touch. She looked over at Scorn.

He shook his head. “You have no idea how annoying it was to build this thing, there’s a reason people moved to computers y’know.” He placed a heavy cloth wrapped object in Mithra’s arms.

She smiled and said her thanks before walking up the attractive stone walk to the front door. Balancing the object in one arm she gently opened the front door, it swung open silently. She stepped into the front room, her feet pressing into the soft carpets, she asked Bolt to make them extra soft, she didn’t care if that meant they wore out faster. She looked around; everything was exactly where it was in her mind, right down to the empty flower pots on the windowsills. She looked up the large flight of stairs, a warm glow shone from the landing room above, she saw Laverne pass by he had just gotten out of the shower, she could see several nicks on his face from where he shaved. She smiled, as she walked up the stairs, not a creak not a groan to be heard from the dark stained wood. She stopped in the landing room, she heard the door to Laverne’s room click shut as he prepared for the festivities. She looked to the right and listened, she could hear Juvinea struggling with the kid, who she decided to name Trist, in the tub. She heard a loud splash and a whoop of surprise as she was no doubt soaked. Mithra looked down the hallway her gaze focusing on the final door down.

She slowly opened the door, and stepped inside, still not bothering to close it behind her. On the bed was a burgundy frock just like the one Ari was so fond of wearing, Mithra gave it a look and shook her head, not quite her style. She walked over to the desk and placed the object on it. She unwrapped the cloth to reveal an old fashioned typewriter. She pulled the cloth from beneath it and folded it, putting it off to the side. She pulled out the chair and settled down.

She cleared her throat and glared at the keyboard, she realized she’d have to learn how to type.

She rested her hands on the keys and jerkily typed out

‘A long time ago, in the future.’


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