Nevermind, not able to write coherently right now
Nevermind, not able to write coherently right now
Eris blinked, and suddenly found herself in a very small, very cramped, very fluffy area. Pushing out with her hands she managed to rip through the shoddy stitches holding her itchy prison together and escape. At the sound of children screaming, she looked down from where she was and noticed that she was on a shelf, surrounded by giant stuffed animals. Ignoring the “I nevers” and “Please ma’am, let me explain’s” going on around her as well as the screaming that was still going on, Eris jumped down from the shelf, grabbed a bowling pin from the midway game she had been trapped in (picking one up lifted them all, showing that they were one solid piece, much to the scammers eternal shame had he been watching) and clubbed both the worker and the arguing mother over the head.
“Now that they’re quiet,” she said looking at the still screaming children with amusement, “maybe you should go through her pockets and get more money for the games? Sound like a good idea?” She gave the tiniest of mental pushes to the kids, who suddenly forgot that their parental unit was slowly bleeding on the ground and rifled through her pockets looking for change. Attention diverted from her for the moment, Eris looked around and found that she was in a corridor lined with stalls, each containing a probably-rigged game. The people (they all at least looked smart enough to be people) were packed in, some trying to just push through to the other end to get out, others waiting in lines for games, forming living walls that slowed movement to a minimum, and others calling out to attract attention and that “every round has a winner!”
Looking at all the prizes on the shelf and seeing that none of them were moving, Eris figured that Vigil, despite how close they were before, was probably back with Lynette or at least somewhere completely different than she currently was. If I was a bunny boy, where would I be? Do circuses have petting zoos? She shrugged. I’ll just have to look for him, and maybe have some fun on the way.
Besides the recent barfight, Eris hadn’t been around so many people who didn’t know about her in years, so a small touch of chaos was just the thing to liven the place up. Walking through the crowd, Eris put her hand on anyone she could reach and gave a small push, sometimes mental and other times physical. Cigarettes appeared in the pockets of children, sticking out just enough that a parent might notice. Men holding a date’s hand suddenly had the scent of perfume and a small lipstick stain on their necks while next to them women who were alone became flustered. Tentacles and feet were stepped on and apologies weren’t had by any. By the time Eris reached the far end of the midway and stopped to look behind her, there was a winding path of fights and arguments breaking out that led directly to Eris. Considering her job well done, she turned and bumped into someone that she hadn’t expected to be there, frowning down at her. Too many years of running had led Eris disliking when she was being noticed that way. Her efforts could be seen all she wanted, but having strangers frown at her afterwards made her wary. As such, she decided it was best to proceed cautiously.
“The hell is your problem, jerkface? Can’t you watch where I’m going?”
“I’ve seen where you’re going, and where you’ve been,” he said pointing to the brawl breaking out behind her. “I haven’t met all the others yet, but one of us is supposed to be short, heartless and delight in chaos. You wouldn’t happen to be her, would you?”
“Listen guy, I’ve got my own set of problems now, and I don’t care about yours. You’ve got the wrong chaotic entity, and I’ve got to find a weirdly powerful rabbit before one of us says something you’ll regret. And where do you get off calling me short?!”
The man stooped down to her, baring his teeth. “Are you part of the battle, or aren’t you, pipsqueak?”
Oh. Well that changed things. He shouldn’t have called her short again. Eris took a deep breath, and began crying loudly. Everyone in the midway was too busy to notice, but those outside of it did. At first everyone’s thoughts were “it’s just some spoiled kid who doesn’t want to listen to her dad.” Until they heard what she was saying. “Don’t make me go with you, you’ll just try to touch me again! Waaaaahahaaa…” Disgust and protective instincts began to kick in for any parent who saw and heard Eris, and an angry set of intergalactic mothers and fathers began to head their way. Apparently not noticing the scene they were causing, nor the angry crowd heading toward them, he grabbed Eris’ arm and began to drag her away. Before he could get too far, however, he was stopped by a wall of righteous parental anger. “Let the little girl go, or you won’t like what happens.” “I won’t like what happens? Listen buddy, you don’t know who you’re dealing with…” He let Eris’ arm go anyway, sensing that he might have to beat some sense into these simpletons, and Eris stepped away, flashing him a roguish grin before vanishing again into the crowd.
Rude and stupid. I hope that jerkface gets what’s coming to him. Eris forgot about what was clearly another contestant in another battle and returned to looking for Vigil somewhere in the crowds.
To me, God will always be the guy that could have made Pokemon real, but instead was all like "nah man... Malaria."
"...the other is a group of tall OH MY GOD IS THAT THE SUN?! You love the sun. It is the shiniest thing of all." -Engineclock
Essere Ragazza magica!
She was dead.
No. It wasn't her body, it was Jolene's. But that's who she was, right? Even if she was an 'Other Jolene,' that didn't mean that wasn't still her... or did it?
The final Other Jolene looked at her body, still solid, forever(?) changed by the powers thrust on her. She was shaking, scared, and it didn't help that her only companion in the world was struggling to stand.
As she looked at the girl who had separated her from the main Jolene, breathing heavily, and collapsed on the wall of the alleyway, she realized that despite the many questions on her mind (chief among them being 'What did you do to me?'), the only thing she could say was, "Are you okay?"
Lynette honestly wasn't sure what the answer was. Her head was spinning, her hands were shaking, and she had done something to the woman talking to her, but she wasn't sure what it was. She was just so tired.
"I'm sorry, I didn't think that... aah."
She just couldn't keep this up for much longer, at least not without Vigil. She would have to do that. Even as she struggled to stay conscious, she still loathed the idea of turning back to normal, especially when she wasn't sure what it would mean for... her. She stared at the other Jolene, closed her eyes, and hoped that this was the right choice.
Her body glowed, and all of the sudden, she lost a commanding sense to her. Lynette lost her orchid dress, purple pants, black gloves, shoes, and tiara. As the glow faded, her hair turned to black and her eyes dulled, as did the rest of her body. There once more, was Lynette Spettro, dressed in her normal grey uniform. A white blouse, a grey jacket, a darker grey long skirt, and her boots. She was still weak, but she felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted off her shoulders.
The Other Jolene wasn't sure what to make of that spectacle. "What?"
Feeling her head clear, and her strength return now that she wasn't powered, Lynette gave a giggle and a small smile. "Oh, didn't you know? I'm a Ragazza magica."
Vigil had been tricked, or something. If he ever saw Hard Snake again (as unlikely as that may be) the encounter would probably end in something much worse than death. The small rabbit was angry, not just at the video game character, but at The Incompetent and at himself. Now, not only was he separated from his ward, but he had also lost track of the embodiment of chaos that was Eris, and everyone else. He had lost focus, of the battle, of what he had to do, and because of that, he was alone in... wherever this was.
Vigil observed his surroundings, a small, colorful room, with a few plush animals, make-up, and a few scattered clothes. Where did that oaf say we were? Vigil closed his eyes and recalled The Incompetent's words.
Wait, did he say his mother's battle? Once again, the rabbit cursed. Another one of these? This is worse than I thought...
Vigil took a deep breath, focused, and began to make his way to the door. "I need to get help, find someone from around here."
As if on cue, the door opened, and a young girl was shoved through. The door slammed and the person on the other side yelled something to her, "I'm sorry Princess, but I can't let ya out, that lass may have the rest o' the dem fooled, but I don't trust her, she's behind this, I know it! This is fer ya own good."
Landing on her tush, the bright-red-haired girl, wearing a blindingly-pink(?) dress with more frills than seemed possible, started to slam on the door, "Let me out Yoel, you are wrong!" A better look at her revealed that the girl was less human than Vigil thought.
Galatea Paroxysm was the star child of the Cirque Des Étoiles, not the main star of course, but definitely one of the more well-known mascots of the show. The girl's four blueish, scaly arms were covered in colorful bands, each of which did different things, like glow, sparkle, or flash. Her aforementioned dress (with the frills and the more frills) was colored in such a way that when perceived, it was difficult to pin it down to a single color, that was commonly called "vaguely pink." It had no sleeves and flowed into a short skirt, under which was red tights, colored similarly to her hair, and pink slippers. Said ruby red hair was in two drill-like curls, kept far from her cute face and her two solidly pink eyes.
"Aaaarg." The starlet gave up on her banging and with a puff sat against the door, bringing her eyes very close to her visitor. "Who are you? And what were you doing in my room?" The second sentence had a bit of an accusatory tone to it, but overall it was said in a cutesy, diabetes-inflicting manner.
Well, I can't say that this was the sort of help I was hoping for... but I suppose I'll have to work with what I've got.
Vigil stood up on his hind legs and decided to address the girl on somewhat more equal terms. "Hello there, my name is Vigil."
Galetea stood up in surprise, "YOU TALK???"
Breathe in Vigil, they always do that, you've been through this.
He stared upward at the statuesque circus girl, "Yes, I talk. I do a lot more actually, but that isn't important, I need your help."
"Woah, woah, woah, Mr. Bunny-Man, I am a staarrrr." She jingled as she lifted her arm into the air dramatically. "I can't just help anyone. Without any explanations. Or reasons." She paused for a bit, thinking a bit about why she couldn't help Vigil, "Oh, and also Yoel locked us in here because he's a paranoid jerk."
Vigil sighed, "I would prefer that you call me Vigil. And please, reconsider, it is about my friend, she needs my help and I can't find her without someone else's help, in this case, your help."
Galatea walked across the room and plopped herself in her chair, "I dunno... still feels a bit fishy, like you aren't telling me everything," she spun around a few times, staring at the ceiling, "Sides, it doesn't matter if I say yes, because we are stuck here!"
Once more, Vigil sighed. This was always the hardest part, and as he hadn't any time to prepare, he would have to either spin this (which he loathed to do, tricks never have a good conclusion, no matter what some of the others might say) or tell the whole, complicated, esoteric, ridiculous truth. To him, the choice was obvious. Despite his worry for Lynette, he hoped that she could stand to be without him for a little while. If he was going to get help, he'd get it the right way. "Well, it's a long story."
"Welllll," The girl looked aside as she elongated the word before giving Vigil a sly smile, "I guess I have got time."
Though the alley the two were in was dark, it was not enough to hide Other Jolene's quizzical face (or to be more accurate mouth). Pulling up the normalized girl, she asked, "What does that mean?"
Lynette was still getting used to her lack of power (How long was I transformed for?) and did her best to stand without leaning on the Other Jolene. "I'm still not sure, that's what Vigil called it. I guess that basically it means I can transform and then use magic to fight bad guys."
Carefully helping the weak girl walk out of the alley, the Other Jolene struggled to come up with a response to the girl before settling on a "How'd that happen?"
Starting to walk with some ease, Lynette began to move a bit quicker, "Well, it's a long story, but I guess we've got some time, huh? It all started the night I met Vigil..."
"And that's it." Vigil finished his tale and awaited the reaction, whatever it may be. He hoped that he had made the right choice, but worried about the world where he didn't. He looked up to see Galatea not in shock, but in contemplation.
"Okay, so, your kind turn girls into Ragazza magica, magical warriors who fight those who invade their homes. One such being kidnapped you, and separated you from your current ward, Lynette, who needs you, so now you want to turn me into one so that I can help you find her and also maybe fight things that might invade the circus."
Vigil wasn't really expecting that, "Uh.. ye-yea..."
"Alright then, I just have one last question, why? Why does it have to be a girl?"
Vigil sighed, "Well, it doesn't necessarily have to be a girl, it can be a boy or neither too. The issue is more of... potential."
"Potential? Well I suppose I do have the potential for pure greatness, don't I?"
"It isn't that simple..." Vigil pauses to think of how best to explain it, "Okay, think of your life as a river. There are twists and turns but it has a start and and end, even if it collides with other things along the way. Sometimes, the river will split into two ore more paths, but at their core, they are still the same river, flowing along their destiny. When we turn someone into a Ragazza magica, we divert the river into a new path, which in this case, is easier to do near the start of the river. We could hypothetically empower older people, but doing so would take more energy than it is worth and usually deal a lot more damage to their origin universe, damage that we are trying to prevent."
"So, does that mean that any invaders also divert these rivers, on a larger scale and stuff?"
"Yes, that's why we have to be careful with who we turn as well, if we make a mistake..." Vigil opts to not finish that thought. "Sorry, it's fi-."
Galatea claps her hands and smiles. "I think I'll do it."
Vigil leaps on to the girls desk and stares directly at her. "Are you sure?"
She nods in response. "Yes."
Vigil's eyes glow. They glow bright, blindingly bright, until they are all she sees. She closes her eyes and and begins to feel relaxed, more relaxed than she ever had before. Slowly, she feels something well up inside her, a power, slowly crawl into her and spread out. Her body begins to glow. The glow spreads outward, to her multiple arms, legs, fingers, hair, until her body is covered in it. Gone are her frills and pink and bands and sparkles, all replaced by the glow.
Then the transformation begins. It begins from the bottom, with black shoes that seamlessly fade into the dark blue of her new pants, which above the knee turn to white, the two meeting in a zig-zag pattern. Meanwhile, the fingertips at each of her arms turn to clean white gloves that similarly segue into the dark blue sleeves of her form fitting shirt, the torso of which is in a spotted pattern of the blue and white that makes most of her outfit. At the center of her outfit lies a black ring with her symbol inside. Her neck becomes covered in a grey-blue ruff that connects with her black jesteresque hat, concealing her hair. She opens her now duller, purple eyes as the final piece, a white mask, appears.
"Woah." The new Galatea Paroxysm looks over herself, inspecting each bit of her new outfit. "So what are my powers or whatever?"
Vigil leaped on to the new Ragazza magica's shoulder, "You should be able to figure it out, just focus on your power."
"Alright, if you say so." Galatea closed her eyes and cleared her mind, focusing the magical energy that now flowed through her. She lifted out a hand and created a white ring. "Oooooh." She swished it around, moving it up and down in an arc. "Alright, let's get that door down!"
With a flick of her wrist, the ring flew in the air, colliding and breaking through the door, knocking it open. "Woah!" She gasped at her accomplishment, "I didn't even throw it hard..." The ring returned, having completed its mission. She stared at it with wonder. "That was AMAZING!" Galatea leaped into the air, much to the chagrin of the rabbit on her shoulder. "Wow that was great, how did I blow open the door just like that? Jeeeeez! Well, no sense lollygagging, let's gooooooooo!"
Without another word, she dashed off, closer to the performance area. As he hung on as hard as he could to her shoulder, Vigil worriedly wondered what he had gotten himself into.
"And then we ran away..."
The Other Jolene had been listening intently to Lynette's tale of fighting magical things and eventually her family, intrigued and sorrowed by her plight. The double tried to comfort the girl on the bench that the two had found and sat at after Lynette started to tell her long history. "Wow... You've been through a lot."
Lynette was doing her best not to cry, to be strong even if she wasn't a Ragazza magica. Would she ever see her family again? She didn't know, but she had to have hope, didn't she? She looked up at the Other Jolene's sad, understanding face, and she closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around her.
The Other hugged back, still quite unsure of where to go from here, but trying not to focus on the death and sorrow and tragedy, but on hope.
Unfortunately, it would be short lived. The Other Jolene saw something, (or did she feel it?) a ghostly something, far in the distance, (was it closer?) looking at her. She wasn't sure what it was, but there was a familiar feeling, one that she did not want to reconnect with.
Tapping Lynette's back, the Other Jolene motioned for the two to move away, maybe look at a show or something, do something, anything, that would get them away from here. Lynette didn't have to know why, she just had to get far away.
Too bad there wasn't anywhere far enough...
It's very difficult for a city to smile. One generally needs a mouth for that sort of thing, or at least the sort of coherent motivation to feel happiness. So ordinarily, a thing like Gomorrah wouldn't bother. Not worth the effort, usually.
But it had been some time since the last time it'd killed someone properly- a real person, something that wasn't already under its control. So long since its presence had been so fully realized, since its power had run unchecked through its host. It was exhilarating- and it's very difficult for a city to be exhilarated.
And if it weren't similarly difficult for a city to feel immense, crushing disappointment, it most certainly would have felt such an emotion in the moments following.
Everything evaporated. Blackness enveloped the world, and the creations of the Gamexus flickered out of existence as if they'd never been there in the first place. Steelwork and masonry vanished without a trace, leaving behind an immense crowd of shades. They were confused, for a while, before they started fading out of existence, no city to support them. Those that remained stood and watched for a bit, transfixed by the blackness around them. They didn't pay very much attention to the man on the dragon, nor to the woman who appeared and talked for a time.
Then the void was replaced with a cramped bedroom, and Gomorrah began to shrink, and then all of a sudden it was motionless.
And all of a subsequent and entirely different sudden, Gomorrah was at the circus. If it had known to expect things, it'd have thought something like "That was unexpected." It had tasted circuses before- plenty of people, plenty of chaos, but altogether too much joy. It wasn't ready to make itself known, and it took in its surroundings before deciding upon an appropriate set of shades.
It was in a large tent- to call it a tent was perhaps to do it a disservice, because it was really more of a stadium that just happened to have glimmering cloth- was it cloth? draped over the top, magnifying the shimmering starlight above. Down in the ring, a variety of extravagantly dressed people led strange alien beasts in an acrobatic performance. The crowd was ablaze with excitement, with cheers and shouting filling the air with mirth.
Gomorrah was going to have to do something about that. For the time being, it began to remember- it remembered a baseball game, between the home team and their rival players. It remembered the hostility in the stands, the cheers drowned out by opposing boos whenever someone hit the ball. It remembered loudspeakers crackling as commentators apathetically worked the crowd. It remembered the grime and stench that drifted from the halls, the pickpockets who made a few people's day a little worse. It remembered it all, but had to stop itself. It couldn't stretch itself too far. Its appearance would undoubtedly cause a panic, and while panics were generally great fun, they had a tendency to end. It'd have to take things slowly, at first.
It started to really Remember, and a small part of the city came alive. Bill Bisbano sprang into being, wheeling his hot dog cart around the tent and cursing his low supply of mustard. Nick DiAngelo appeared, disinterestedly droning about his three-penny cotton candy. Bill shot an angry glare at Nick, despising the teenager for filling up the crowd and stealing his business. A host of other competitors emerged from the shadows and began to peddle peanuts and other snacks. A few empty seats filled up with spectators, many of whom felt no reason to respect the stadium's prohibition against alcohol. Gomorrah decided to avoid remembering the baseball players, and its spectators were perplexed for a while before drunkenly gaffawing at the three-headed Goggwheggler from Begbon IV. A few more shades appeared, composed of formless smoke. Perhaps they would have seemed out of place, if people hadn't already resolved their xenophobia regarding the sentient gas people from the Lolor system.
The hard part was done, so Gomorrah began to work on the minds of the audience. They were enraptured by the show, amazed by the wonders taking place in the ring. That was no good- Gomorrah started to numb them, slowly taking away their enthusiasm and replacing it with boredom. The joy, bit by bit, was being drained from the southern end of the tent. Gomorrah was beginning to spread.
When confronted with death, people feel fear. It is an understandable reaction that nearly all sentient creatures share. Humans are unique in that they fear not only their own deaths, but can fear the deaths of their companions.
Those that die leave behind survivors who have to bare the burden and move on. Those that fail to save lives must wonder what else could have been accomplished, if only they had known or acted faster.
Keagan felt none of this.
Even as the tears fell, even as her blood seeped into his clothes, even when he was torn away from her now limp body and relocated twice, Keagan felt empty. There was no honour in being a hero that failed or simply being a boy that survived. Eventually the emptiness found a substance to fill the void. Anger. He now knew that whatever Gomorrah truly was, it had to be eliminated. After that, the orange fool would be next. He already had a vague and crazy plan to kill both of them.
He dried his tears, put his glasses on and managed to search his surroundings. He wasn't alone.
She stood there, staring at him. She showed no feeling of surprise or fear, not even curiosity. They both simply stood there, staring. She had recently showered, he could tell, and was halfway through getting dressed. If she noticed his brief look at her flesh she didn't show it, but Keagan turned all the same. She seemed contempt with that at least as she continued dressing. As he heard the fabrics move he allowed himself a small peek, taking in more this time. What he saw was not flesh, though he hadn't been hoping for that, but instead was a large scorpion tail. At first he assumed it was a prop or costume, since he appeared to be in a dressing room. But they way it would swerve from side to side, or move aside to allow for her clothes seemed far too prehensile for it to be fake.
This girl was not normal. But Keagan was surprised by his own lack of, well, surprise.
When she was finally dressed she took a seat, her tail curving around her waist to rest on her lap.
As Keagan turned to address her she lunged forward, quickly stabbing him in the chest with her sharp reptilian spiked tail. He was slammed into a wall while the tail failed to penetrate his flesh. This at least seemed to get her attention as she applied even more pressure. Keagan was unused to the feeling of slowly being crushed, but his power seemed able to compensate. After she seemed to have exhausted her full strength she instead kept him pinned. With a proper chance to look her over Keagan noticed her short yet wild bronze hair, her almost glowing aqua coloured eyes and an outfit that reminded him of the pattern of a bumblebee. It matched her tail. The costume left very little to the male imagination, helped along by her curvaceous figure.
“I guess you've earned a chance to explain yourself, never met a brat that could hold up this long,”
He briefly considered telling her the truth. He couldn't play off his sudden appearance without causing himself trouble.
“How much time do ya have? It's a long story. And very, very bullshit.”
“Long enough, I'd think.”
So he told her. From his selection, to meeting Jolene, all until the moment he stood in her dressing room. He managed to avoid telling her about his power, or the events that would sound impossible to survive without it. All the while she didn't react, she just kept staring at his face, possibly judging whether he was lying. There wasn't much chance of her believing it all, but Keagan was already between a wall and a very strong opponent. His chances weren't getting much better.
“That is one heck of a story, I'll give you that. Truth or not I think you've earned a little freedom.”
The pressure on his torso lightened as she retracted her tail. He rubbed at the point where the barb had failed to pierce his skin. His finger kept away sticky. This girl, whoever she is, was more dangerous than she looked. And she looked pretty damn dangerous as is.
She sat once again, this time letting Keagan stay where he was.
“So your friend died, that explains the blood. You've got six things left that could try and kill you, not to mention you don't know the layout of the circus, and there are other new guys who can try and screw up my job.” She sighed, finally showing a single sign of dropping her guard. “This doesn't seem like something the manager could handle. And there are very few exceptions of things they could not handle, I tell ya.”
There was a knock on her door, causing her to look sidelong at it. It was quickly followed by a voice calling “Ten minutes, Pepper”
She stood again, moving across to a small desk that held an array of make-ups along with a mirror. She tutted at her reflection as she started adding girly things Keagan had no understanding of.
“Listen Kid,” She said between applications, “You've got a shit hand dealt but way I see it it's none of my business. True, I did just try and kill ya, but I won't be the last today I reckon. Whatever kept you alive just know better keep happening for the next hour or so.”
As Keagan opened his mouth to respond her tail lashed out. It stopped a foot or two before his face, causing him to blink in automatic response. But the stinger never connected, but he felt a sharp burning sensation in the back of his throat. His eyes opened in shock as he began to gag. When he tried to focus on her, all he saw was her reflection in the mirror, her eyes deadly focused on him. As his mind figured she'd used it to target him, poison him, he could only wonder what she planned.
All her words that he remembered suddenly began to dull, his body becoming numb almost like an instantaneous fever was ploughing through him.
“Hope you got good reflexes kid,” She said standing over him, belts of knives wrapping around her figure, “'cos I hate it when my targets get squeamish. It scares the audience.”
As his mind went blank, all Keagan could focus on was his plan, his solace, his last resort. He needed that girl with the rabbit. He needed to kill that spectral city.
He needed more power.
There was no explaining it, she just didn’t know what went wrong. Having run from Jerkface, she wound up hiding among a bunch of children of different races on a twelve-tiered carousel. Even with their parents watching over them, she had still managed to get all of them to start fighting one another when Jerkface managed to track her down, and all she had to do was join the fight for him to pass her by while muttering about “ungrateful brats” and “chaos freaks”
Going from there, she had run again and ended up outside of a giant stadium with something that looked like a cloth of light stretched over it. Once she got in, it would have been easy to hide again among all the people, except she needed a ticket that she didn’t have and couldn’t afford even with the money she had lifted off the unconscious mother back in the midway. Last, and worst of all, something had yelled “there she is” and Eris, assuming that she was the “she” in reference, had ducked into the nearest stand to hide yet again. Deciding to take a look out the front of the stand, she had been accused of trying to steal food and had to convince the lackey behind the register that no, she wasn’t stealing food, she was a new employee and didn’t know what she was supposed to do since it was her first day and all, and would he please point her in the direction of the manager and then shut up because your voice is too whiny and nasally for talking thank you. Even after she had found the manager, who wasn’t surprised when she claimed to be a new worker, things had gone downhill, with one exception. Now she was standing in an uncomfortably itchy uniform that made her look like a salesman who felt like he could sell a marching band to a town, listening to people argue with the cashier, listening to the manager arguing with the people arguing with the cashier that “we don’t take intangible currency, even if it is legitimate in your system, you can just go find an exchange booth, and no I can’t change how my cashier sounds.”
At least there was cotton candy, which she was making. Put in charge of the cotton candy machine (some foods really are universal), Eris was actually slightly in her element. Pulling wisps of spun sugar wasn’t quite how she made it normally, but to her cotton candy was cotton candy: a staple in any chaotic doing. Left to her own devices, she would have simply created it out of nothing, and could potentially have eaten several times her mass in the sugary substance. Except no, the manager told her, it doesn’t matter if you can do that, we have inter-galactic health standards to maintain and you’ll be out of here faster than blinking if you mess with it.
Of course, that wasn’t going to stop her. Fun was fun so long as it was chaotic, and she didn’t really work there anyway.
Dipping her candy handle into the machine, Eris finished the last off the sugary fluff that had been running when she arrived, and glanced around to see if she was being watched. It was time for some batches of candy that were guaranteed to attract attention, chaos, and at least one chuckle, and maybe get Bunny Boy’s attention if he was nearby. She began to scoop cotton candy again, even though the machine was running on empty. Clouds of the sugary substance began forming, and that’s exactly what they were: candy clouds. Of course, one batch like that wasn’t going to be enough. Reaching back in, she abandoned the pretext of the handles and began to pull clouds of chaotic confectionary out in giant strands by hand, shaping them and placing them on trays to delay suspicion. Done with clouds, she pulled hand over hand to make various other flavors: a light blue that looked delicate but was made of solid ice, a light red that would burn the tongue off all but the most hardened spice-eaters, a row that she affectionately deemed “condiment candy” in flavors ranging from deep red ketchup to white horseradish, as well as a basic pink that didn’t have any special flavor but would put a drop of chaos in any that ate it (spreading chaos takes time, and the midway fight would’ve burnt itself out by now anyway).
Shouting that she was going to grab more coloring, Eris grabbed her palette of cotton candy clouds and walked out the back of the tent, throwing them one by one into the air, where they seemed content to drift, slowly pooling together to form one giant cloud. Eris grabbed a spare cone and tossed it lightly at the cloud, which started to rain onto the tent and attracting the eyes of beings that were generally desensitized to the usual ploys of food venders to attract customers. Grabbing her dye pack for her alibi, she walked back in time to be grabbed by the manager and placed onto a register. With a “we’ve got enough stocked and you need to learn every position,” the manager walked off, leaving Eris to deal with her first customer: a sullen and slightly grey Nick DiAngelo.
“What do you want?” Eris wasn’t the cheeriest salesperson in the multiverse, and she’d be the first to admit it.
“Listen kid, I need as much three-penny cotton candy as you got, I’m fresh out. And hurry up, because if I don’t get back in the stadium, people are gonna buy other food and I’ll be out my paycheck.”
Eris glanced at the price sign: the smallest size they had was still more than three cents. She thought so anyway, there wasn’t anything on the sign that looked like a recognizable number to her. She decided to guess. “We don’t have any three-penny candy, this stuff is like, super expensive. But I’ll tell you what…” She beckoned him closer. “We’ve got a batch that’s off-color and can’t sell even though it tastes fine. If you take it off my hands so I don’t get in trouble, I’ll let you have it no charge.”
Nick pretended to think it over. Selling free candy meant that whatever he didn’t have to hand over to his own boss would go straight to his pocket. It wasn’t even a question if he would take it, it was as good as his. “Sure thing kid, just because I’m nice. Throw in one regular one too though, since I’m doing you a favor you can do me one too.”
“Done,” Eris said, grabbing one of her chaotic-pink ones and passing it to him. “Just meet me out back and we’ll get you what you need.” Ignoring the look of the other cashier at the suggestive nature of her comment, Eris abandoned her register, snagging all the condiment candy as well as a few more chaotic ones, she walked out the back of the tent and handed them off to Nick, wishing him luck and turning to go back into the tent, running face to face with her “boss.”
“Whatd’ya think you’re doing, giving stuff for free? And what did you do to my recipe? It’s been in my family for years!”
“First off, that stuff wasn’t right. It’s my first day so I messed up. He was taking it off our hands so we wouldn’t have to throw it out. And secondly, what recipe? You said it was all standard or something!”
Silvio DeMarco closed his eyes and looked up, begging for patience. His hadn’t been in town long, and he was trying to make a clean profit in a new place. That his father had worked for the mob was a past he was trying to escape by trying to be a confectioner like his mother, but it was hard going against the idea that candy was ‘for babies, and women’s work too’. Without his father’s support, he felt like he was going nowhere in a hurry, and thought he might have to take after his old man after all. “Listen kid, my family’s been selling this stuff for years, and if we don’t turn a profit, we’re gonna get shut down. We almost couldn’t afford to pay the Boss for protection last month, and I sure as hell don’t want to miss paying him this month. Secondly…” He opened his eyes and gaped at what was taking place above his stand. The cotton candy cloud was now pouring down on his tent, causing it to sag in places, and staining the fabric in general. He let go of Eris and grabbed his hair, threatening to pull it out. “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO?!”
“What? It’s just chocolate! All pink cotton candy makes chocolate milk, you want a different rain, give me a different color to work with! And it’s bringing in customers!”
“And ruining my tent! Kid, when they find you, there’s not gonna be enough left for them to tell what you were. I’ll make candyfloss outta you!” He looked down to grab Eris, but she had run off again. All he caught of her was her cackling in the distance.
Inside the stadium, Bill Bisbano wasn’t doing so well with his sales. When he ran out of mustard, and then ketchup, people stopped wanting hot dogs. And that penny-pinching cotton-candy peddling customer-thief was back. At least his sales weren’t doing too hot either. Customers took one bite of his stuff and spat it back out, demanding a refund that Nick wouldn’t give them. Others saw this and stopped buying cotton candy completely, leaving the way open for peanut sellers and popcorn pushers to move in on both their territories. Bill decided to go have a gloat and followed Nick to a bench in the corridors surrounding the thater, where Nick was eating his own cotton candy.
“Tough day at the game, chump?”
“Shut it Bill, I just got some bad cotton candy today is all, I’ll leave you in the dust tomorrow. What’s your problem, hot dogs get all cold?”
“No, ran out of stuff to put on it. What’s wrong with your stuff? Looks like your normal low-quality crap to me.”
Ignoring the jibe, Nick popped a bite of his own candy in his mouth, talking as he chewed. “Dunno, mine tastes fine, and I got it from the same kid. They all complained that it had a weird taste, kind…of…like…” His eyes widened as he chewed, an idea forming that was so crazy it just might work. “Bill, listen. I don’t like you, and you don’t like me, right?”
“And you’re out of toppings? Ketchup, relish, like that?”
“What’s your point, kid?”
“People’ve been saying my stuff tastes like that. Yellow is mustard, red is ketchup, that sort of thing. What if we worked together for the day to make some more money? My cotton candy on your hot dogs?”
Bill glanced at the bags of spun sugar doubtfully. Grabbing an open bag, he put some yellow fluff on a hot dog and took a bite. It wasn’t terrible like he thought it’d be, in fact it tasted just like a dog with mustard should. “Kid, if we can sell this, you’ve got a deal, just for today. After that I hate you, you hate me and we go back to how things were.”
“Deal, old man. I just wanna make my pay.”
There was a slight change. If a city could feel confusion, Gomorrah would’ve felt it. It was expanding beyond the stadium, and had already taken over several concession stands, putting in its own owners and remaking the tents into facsimiles of small mom-and-pop shops. There was one where a pink raincloud kept washing off the changes made, but the Lolorians (who had a fondness to anything mostly air) were slowly eating it. The tent would be replaced with an aged confectionary before long. If it had been as large as it had been not long ago, it would have brushed the sensation off. It was different from the ghost-girl, but Gomorrah was small still, and there was something it felt. A sense of wrongness came over it in the stadium. It had taken all the joy of the circus away, but somehow fun was coming back. It wiped the fun away but people were still changed, and the fun was slowly growing back. A weed that only had the top pulled while the roots festered, and those roots had to be burned away. Focusing on the stadium, Gomorrah began to change things back to the way it wanted. It was harder than it should have been, but only marginally so.
Its people were cheery, it took that away until it noticed that what they were eating was causing the change. It replaced it. Tracing the food back to the vendors, it found that they were…cooperating. That wouldn’t do. It tried to change them back, but only one, Bill Bisbano, would. Nick DiAngelo would not. It saw the cotton candy, and felt the chaos inside it. It was not chaos Gomorrah knew, and not the taint of the ghost girl, nor the chaos that comes from crowded places like a circus, but a new chaos. Nick would take time to change back, to burn out the foreign chaos in the ghost, but no matter. There were dozens like him, all dreary and wanting to get ahead in life. It removed Nick and put another in his place and had a trashman sweep the now-discarded candy away and throw it down one of the stadium’s trash chutes where no one would eat it. It knew Nick DiAngelo's life like a record, endlessly repeating to the point where it could have played his life itself. And it had, many, many times. Something had changed, though. Where had he gotten the tainted food? It looked, and saw a small girl, winged with a small crown on her head. She was not one of its creations, but something outside. If Gomorrah could have, it would have been frustrated at seeing something that it was on the edge of recognizing but could not. It would remember though, if such a thing happened again. For now though, the problem was resolved, and Gomorrah again turned outward to continue its spread into the circus.
By the dumpsters behind the stadium, one of the shadows formed into a child. A homeless orphan girl dressed in rags: Little Amelia, and she was starving. She jumped up and grabbed the edge of the dumpster, slowly and strenuously pulling herself in. After rooting for a minute and eating the remains of a chip bag and the corner of a burger, she came across a large bag of bright pink cotton candy. She remembered times when her parents would give her a penny to go down to the corner and get herself a treat if she had been good or just to get rid of her for an hour, but that was before mommy had killed daddy for hitting her (sometimes it was daddy who hit mommy and she would hit her head too hard when she fell, or daddy hit her so she ran away, or mommy took her frustrations out on her). That candy was hardly a fraction of the prize that lay in front of her now, and she didn’t know if something like this would come along again soon, if ever. She tore open the bag and began shoveling cotton candy into her mouth as quickly as she could.
Last edited by Adenreagain; 11-29-2012 at 02:59 PM.
“When were you planning on telling me this?”
ER/IC's recording of The Incompetent's opening speech played itself back to an incredulous audience for the third time but didn't seem to have made itself any less ridiculous. Back at home the presence of alternate universes had already been all-but confirmed even if they were yet unreachable and theories about what forms interdimensional travel and the people they might meet during it might take were hardly uncommon in works of speculative fiction but... that didn't really make any of it more easily believable to Gan.
Or less frustrating.
By all rights he should probably have been upset at the loss of the last link to his homeland, as far as he was concerned it had only been a couple of subjective weeks since everyone had become sick all at once, but all he could bring himself to feel was anger.
Not only was he stuck inside a walking box that refused to do anything he asked it to do unless he worded it in increasingly roundabout ways (did it not realise there weren't going to be any hospitals around that could serve his patients?) and not only was it hiding important information from him when it knew he was making plans (literally none of what he had just accomplished had been to any good, he was never even going to see any of those people again!) but the only reason they weren't where they should be in the first place was because they were supposed to fight for some cosmic child's amusement? Well, fuck that!
“You didn't ask”, was all Eric bothered to give by way of reply, and as far as he was concerned that was reason enough. What did any of that have to do with what he was supposed to be doing? He was starting to think that his self-appointed onboard paramedic didn't really know what he was talking about, medical license or not.
None of his detours or suggestions had ended in any kind of positive progress and had taken up a fairly substantial level of valuable patient space, though worryingly he couldn't quite tell where everything he had ingested had got to now. There was a faint feeling of... something, but not what it should have been. Perhaps it had been jumbled around a bit when he was shuffled between worlds.
It would probably sort itself out.
But yes, things had been delayed long enough that he had been transported somewhere else entirely and thus lost all of the scant information he had managed to gather about the previous city, especially as his new GPS system had vanished in a very tiny explosion mere seconds after arrival, effectively placing him back at square one. First priority was therefore going to be fixing this.
Perhaps worse though was that the transition clearly meant that one of the strange people he'd watched earlier had been killed, which was a fairly large failing on his part and another mark against following anyone else's plans. Much of what The Incompetent had said, Eric had simply ignored, but that part had seemed fairly relevant to what he regarded as his place in life and though he was not really capable of any strong form of resentment, he did not appreciate the fact that Gan had kept him wandering around for so long that he'd only sighted one of them, and completely failed to do anything about how he knew there was likely to be danger. That was far from efficient.
As it did not seem like his one conscious passenger was likely to stop plotting out loud to himself any time soon, Eric put him on slow for a while in order to devote more processing power to the important act of looking around, startling a couple of a couple of people who had mistaken his previously motionless form for one of a long line of colourful vending machines.
What they thought he might have supplied, heaven only knows.
Still muttering darkly (and unaware that he no longer had an audience), ERIC's unwilling passenger stomped his way over to the casually scattered pile of captured kappas and aimed a fearsome kick at the nearest one's shell for the purpose of stress relief. They were chronolocked after all, it wasn't as if they were going to feel it or suffer any ill effect whatsoever.
He'd fully expected to bounce off an impervious surface and possibly even bruise himself a little (it was a similar careless action that had got him incarcerated in the first place), so he was fairly surprised when he actually met no resistance at all. So surprised that his momentum carried him forwards and downwards, tumbling through several more intangible reptiles and slamming into the ground. Dislodged pixels scattered in all directions, bursting into algebra as they impacted against any real surface until Gan was once again almost alone in the nebulously defined space of ERIC's interior (save for the other two silently frozen members of his race, a robot arm and a boy).
Stunned to silence he heaved himself off the ground and took stock, fortunately nothing wounded but his confidence and peace of mind. What the hell caused that? Was there something wrong with ERIC's interior?
The two other Khral mercifully did not explode when cautiously prodded with one pseudopod, however the juvenile human seemed to have turned into a fine purplish mist while Gan's back was turned. This was mildly disconcerting as time should not have been moving in its relative area but did at least provide useful grounds for conjecture. The other two members of his kind had been here the whole time, but everything brought from another world seemed to have destroyed itself since they had left. Was this just a normal effect of interdimensional travel? Presumably ERIC and the other “contestants” would be protected in some way...
Why it left more corporeal evidence of its previous life than the kappas had was another mystery.
This left Weaver's severed limb, which also still seemed to be entirely tangible (and fairly obviously artificial, why were they carting this thing around again?). He recognised this from their Host's introductory speech though, and it was not from the same world as him or from the one they had just left.
Wasn't its owner meant to be some kind of genius? If he couldn't find a method to create a cure (something he'd never been particularly confident about) he could at least perhaps get someone with the right skills to “persuade” Eric to let him out. Could they use its arm as a bargaining chip perhaps?
Maybe he should have been thinking along those lines from the beginning, he'd spent too long already pandering to the artificial “feelings” of a machine.
The vending machines had been arranged in some sort of market area, many small booths scattered in front and around the sides of a single, much larger tent. The crowd was fairly thick (Eric noted with mounting optimism a fairly wide variation in species, not quite to the extent of the selection presented by the Gamexus but the more species of person a place was able to treat the more likely they'd have someone who knew something about Xenobiology and could finally take his burden off his metaphorical hands) but fortunately proved far more willing to get out of his way than the previous one he had encountered. When not coerced by the angry ghost of a city most people had a sensible aversion to self-propelled balls of metal and Gomorrah's influence had yet to extend much further than the walls of the tent it currently occupied.
That said, Eric did still have to exercise some care and as a result was moving forward a little slower than he would have liked. It would have been dangerous and impractical to take off here (especially considering he didn't have any form of map) but the delay was not something he appreciated in the slightest. As an emergency response unit designed for natural (or artificial) disasters he was not used to having to wait in traffic, as it were.
It had not yet occurred to him that he could simply ask for directions to the nearest medical tent (though he was likely to be disappointed at the facilities provided once he did) so he alleviated this irritation by craning his neck high above the heads of the circus-goers to try and spy out some kind of helpful sign. It meant that he could only really clearly see the surrounding people's heads but as they were generally moving out his way anyway this didn't seem like it was going to be an issue.
The theory would have worked too, if everyone had been looking where they were going and nobody had been short enough to pass under everyone else's heads. Alas, ERIC wasn't the only member of the crowd relying on most people's ingrained reflex to move out of someone else's way, or the only one who wasn't really paying the utmost amount of attention to what was in front of him. Or her, as it were.
The candyfloss vendor had actually stopped chasing her fairly quickly, he knew he couldn't keep up and couldn't afford to let his other incompetent employee man the whole store on his own for any length of time, but she hadn't found it particularly hard to pick up additional pursuers as she went. It would practically be a crime to run through a crowd without unleashing a torrent of underfoot marbles or setting the individual notes in a man's wallet flapping into the sky like butterflies.
Both at once caused a particularly spectacular effect as people were too busy greedily watching the sky to watch their own feet, so they often didn't even notice the growing pile of other people who'd been sent tumbling head-over-heels to the floor until they were suddenly counted among their number, flailing their arms in a fairly ineffective imitation of what they'd been coveting seconds earlier.
Eris certainly noticed it though, and as you've probably picked up by now she noticed it so much that she ran headlong into ERIC, bouncing off his plated exterior with an audible clang. Her child's body didn't give her an incredible amount of resilience but she was at least naturally bouncy and not completely unaccustomed to falling to the ground, the impact only leaving her a little dazed with a couple of bruises.
It actually took ERIC a couple of seconds to notice that anything had happened at all, though fortunately it registered before he managed to step on her.
As she shook herself off and ERIC repositioned his head to a more sensible location they realised pretty much both at the same time that the other was one of the people from The Incompetent's lineup of unfortunate participants. To Eris this detail wasn't really one of particularly great importance, but to ERIC this was enough evidence to create an individual exception in his previously-established rules against bothering humans (or at least, things that looks like humans). This in turn provoked what was probably a fairly predictable response, his spherical chest hinging open to expose the purple brilliance of his Event Horizon and his various arms uncoiling to their full and vaguely threatening lengths, veering in at slightly uncomfortable angles.
“Greetings and apologies Queen Eris of the Vetolian Flow , Do you require medical assistance?”
Hopefully he wasn't going to end up greeting every participant in this way.
”Runaway?” asked the menagerie-man, four-armed and malnourished, the consummate Vaudevillian in his yellowing decrepitude.
“Kidnapped,” answered Trisha.
The menagerie-man clicked his teeth. “A push out the door, then,” he said. “But you’ve got the stink of a runaway about you. Most people carry their homes around with them right here—“ he pinched Trisha’s stomach, causing the young veterinarian to squeak and jump back, “—Like a stone. Your home is a leaky balloon, tied to your heart, oozing nasty green stuff.” The menagerie-man was upside-down now, for some reason, standing on two of his hands. There was something about him that was inherently hard to keep track of. “So you’ve come to work with the animals, right?”
“Mm. There’s three kinds. First is freaks.” The menagerie-man offered Trisha a cup of tea, which she accepted graciously. “The freaks are anyone who disgust themselves enough that they feel they ought to be paid enough. Boss tells ‘em all the same thing. Big galaxy out there. Takes a special kind of different to freak on a professional level now’days. Second kind’s the old-school hobo. Will-work-for-travel type. Some get the shit jobs, some wind up displaying some use and get a performance gig.” The menagerie-man sipped delicately at his tea with a proboscis that snaked shyly between his lips. “Hobos are always just hitching a ride until they hit this arm or this city or this distance from their parents. Some make it. Others get scared of life away from the lights and become lifers.”
Trisha wondered if she was making a mistake. The menagerie-man was kindly enough but in a way that left her feeling she didn’t have an escape route.
“Third kind is the kind comes looking for the animals. A kindred soul. A wild girl got herself runaway by some kidnappers.”
“I’m a licensed veterinarian,” corrected Trisha.
“A schoolgirl with an animal heart. We get all kinds of freaks here.”
“I’m a professional and prefer to be treated as such.”
“Kinship of sapients don’t do it for wild girls. She wants a deeper connection the like she’s got with her galloper.”
“Neigh,” acknowledged Hippocrates.
“And a fine, healthy beast it is, too.” The menagerie-man smiled ear-to-temple, being possessed of only one ear. “I understand because I feel the same way. The girl belongs in the wild. Don’t get wilder than a spacefaring freakshow. A delicate ecosystem we got ourselves.”
“I’m good with delicate ecosystems,” said Trisha levelly.
“Aye, once you’ve got ‘em in a jar. Here there’s no tweezers and no soft-frequency headlamps. Here we live wrist-deep in the pulsating stuff. Is the runaway ready to give herself over to the wild?”
“Like I said, I’m a professional. I can do what’s asked of me.”
Menagerie-man hopped up onto his desk. “We ain’t big on askin’.”
“Do you give this routine to all your prospective hires?” Trisha rolled her eyes. “Look, I know you have to cultivate an air of wonderment, or what-have-you, but there are jobs to be done here. There’s a discipline underneath it. Otherwise your operation wouldn’t be as successful as it is.”
“Ah, we got discipline and we got dattipline, we do. Now, our specimens ain’t just gallopers and mammally-types like you might see on your home zoo. Like I said, it takes a special kind of different. No schoolgirl will have seen a Nadavore or a Glamourby in any of her books.”
“Better start adapting fast. You’re hired. Now, do you want to see the cages or don’t you?”
Trisha tried not to squeal.
* * * * *
Patricia shared a dressing room with a rock-skinned, nine-foot-tall hulk of a woman-thing called She-Boom. She-Boom was a grenade swallower. Members of the audiences were called up to produce their own improvised explosive devices, dirty bombs, chemical weapons, controlled-release parasites. She-Boom would eat them. There were tiny cameras inside of She-Boom that would display a few brief images of her insides being torn apart before the cameras themselves inevitably exploded. She-Boom would just stand there. Sometimes her skin would change color or her tongue would fall out of her ear, but she would never fall.
She-Boom was A-game: biology pushed to the limits of its limits; physics themselves bending in the face of sapient discipline and training. The very real threat of death was key to most performances in Cirque des Étoiles. This late at night, that which wasn’t pain was pleasure. Out away from the big top, pockets of burlesque were beginning to crop up in the artificial night, luring patrons in with smells and winks and coded advertisements. Safe in her dressing room, Patricia understood that she would never have the willpower needed to make it big here. For that, one needed to grow up poor and shameless.
There was a knock on the door. One of the performers’ handlers barged in without waiting for a response. “Something’s gone wrong with Galatea,” the woman said. “She-Boom, get out here. Patsy, we might need you, too.”
Patricia groaned. In her short time at Étoiles, she had learned to resent Galatea Paroxysm, who had definitely grown up poor. Her air of nouveau-princesse and unbridled enthusiasm reminded the commander-princess far too much of an offensive stereotype from her own home, before the war. That the star acrobat had suffered some sort of mental breakdown on-stage did not come as a great shock. She ran out onstage, hoping to bear witness to her least-favorite circus performer getting the snot beaten out of her by She-Boom.
The situation was more complicated than she had expected, however, due to the fact that Galatea seemed to have manifested the ability to fly and shoot fireworks out of her hands. The grenade-swallower held one arm in front of her face to reflect the worst of the damage—either the acrobat’s energy signature was rather extreme, or She-Boom wasn’t quite as sturdy on the outside as she was on the inside. In any case, this wasn’t a situation that was going to be resolved quickly: Galatea was flying circles around all attempts to restrain her, doing untold amount of damage to the equipment, and the crowd was loving it.
Patricia’s rational instinct was to stay out of the fray entirely but there was a spare rope hanging down from the rafters and she saw an opportunity to restore order. Order was important to Patricia. She ran towards the rope and leapt onto it, letting her momentum carry her into the air above the audience, making a half-assed effort to hide her face. Galatea, alternating between blasting She-Boom and waving at the audience, didn’t notice as Patricia climbed the rope and crossed over gracefully to a trapeze, swinging her legs out to preserve her velocity.
She was working without a safety net now.
Patricia crossed from one trapeze to another, bringing herself into position above Galatea’s head. Her mind ran algorithms, her muscles twitched, and she could feel her immediate future coming into alignment before her. She had no idea what she was doing but she could tell for certain that it was going to work.
Patricia dropped off the trapeze. Her boots cracked Galatea square on the back of her neck, bringing the acrobat down to the ground.
The crowd roared. Men whistled and women screamed. She-Boom caught Galatea in one arm and Patricia, roughly, in the other.
“Get that rabbit!” called the handler. Patricia dropped down to the ground and ran after the offending animal, who was gliding away into the audience, ears and legs outstretched.
“Excuse me,” called Patricia as she executed a neat handspring from the ring into the seats, grabbing the thing by the tail. It definitely wasn’t a rabbit per se, as evidenced, among other things, by the fact that it started talking to her as soon as she grabbed it.
”Trisha, listen to me,” it said. ”The girl’s a bit out of her wits right now, but I need her to help me find Lynette. You need to help her!”
Trisha? “How do you know my name?” she growled at the rabbit.
The rabbit narrowed its eyes. ”I, uh...” It wiggled its nose uncomfortably. ”Sorry. Mistook you for someone.”
Patricia held the struggling animal to its chest and handed it back to the handler. “Get it to the menagerie or something,” she said.
“Uh-huh.” The handler held the rabbit at arm’s length cautiously; it squirmed and scratched at her hands. “Hey, Patsy, you really showed something there.”
Patricia shrugged. “I was lucky.”
“Look,” said the handler. “If G.P. doesn’t wake up in about half an hour, we’re gonna find ourselves without a headlining act. You think you could put those talents to use when it really matters?”
Patricia looked out into the crowd. She kept expecting to see certain faces looking down at her. Enemies’ faces. “I’d rather not,” she decided.
The handler pulled her aside. “You don’t really have a choice,” she intoned. “What’s the first rule?”
Patricia sighed. “The Show Must Go On,” she answered.
* * * * *
The glass tank harboring the Hwael strained against the bulk of what it contained, which was to say, nothing. “Hwael prefers a nice vacuum,” explained the menagerie-man. “He can handle an atmosphere in short doses, long enough to trot him round the big top, but for stableage purposes, it’s nothing or nothing.”
The Hwael sang, its wordless utterances manifesting in bright colors around its three mouths. Trisha was certain she had seen something more beautiful at some point, but couldn’t bring it to mind. “What’s wrong with him?” she asked.
“Difficult to prognose,” admitted the menagerie-man. “Hwael’s slow around the edges, and he secretes something foul in his sleep. Gotten to the point where they’re talking jettisoning him into the wild vacuum, letting him fend.”
“Would he make it out there?”
“Not hardly. Our boy was raised in captivity. Wouldn’t know what to do if we gave him the space.”
Trisha patted the glass and frowned. The Hwael’s optical song turned melancholy. “So how can I get in there?”
“That’s the problem, isn’t it? You get yourself out of that dress of yours and into a containment suit, sit half an hour in the airlock, poke around for a bit, and the second you need a tool you’ve got to recompress and start the whole process over again. It’s a nightmare, it is.”
“So I’d better be prepared before I go in,” resolved Trisha. It was a unique problem to a point, she admitted, but nothing too different from what she’d faced treating aquatic creatures in the past. “Do you have a sample of that secretion?”
“Alas, I might have bottled myself some for later. Let me check the pan—“
An enormous, muscular yellow-skinned woman walked in, holding Vigil. “New specimen for you, Double-M,” she bellowed, tossing the rabbit in menagerie-man’s direction.
“Vigil!” cried Trisha, cradling the rabbit. “How’d you get here? Where’s Lynette?”
“Pet of yours?” asked the menagerie-man.
“Oh, he’s sapient. Whoever sent him this way must have made a mistake.”
“Doesn’t look very sapient to my eyes.”
”I’m sapient!’ assured Vigil, hopping up on Trisha’s shoulder. ”And I could use your help, if you aren’t too busy with, um... that.” Vigil pointed up at the Hwael, which looked down at him with its forty-one soulful blue eyes, singing a deep blue lament.
“I’m busy, yes,” Trisha admitted. “But after I take care of this I should be free for the night.” She looked Vigil over circumspectly. “Hey, how are you in total vacuums?”
As had increasingly become the norm, Vigil was not very pleased with how events had played out.
The latest object of his displeasure was his containment suit, which was thrust upon him despite his many objections. Though his argument of 'being magic' was in fact enough to protect him from the vacuum of Hwael's cage, Trisha was stubborn, and insisted, countering his excuse with a concern about Hwael potentially catching any of Vigil's magic. Before the bunny could object on the grounds that you can't catch magic, he was dressed in an inexplicably bunny sized suit and deemed absolutely adorable.
Vigil did not like being called adorable.
As Trisha collected a myriad of veterinary tools and carefully diagnosed her patient, the magical bunny's mind went to the excitable girl he had recently converted into a potentially all powerful magical warrior. He had to admit, that despite her rather explosive performance, she was doing very well for someone new to the realm of magic. She would need some help in controlling magic, but at least she was a natural at summoning it up.
Still, Vigil couldn't help but doubt if he had done the right thing. He comforted himself with the knowledge that at least it seemed like the circus would treat her better than the Spettro's did Lynette.
Mind still wandering, Vigil turned his thoughts to the matter of the woman he had seen, who was she, why did she look like Trisha? Should he talk to Trisha about it?
At that moment, the veterinarian herself called the rabbit over, her hands full with tools and machines, presumably for Hwael. "Vigil, I didn't stuff you in that suit just to make you look cute. I will admit that it was a contributing factor, but we should probably talk about our situation given that we have quite a while until we can help poor Hwael."
Vigil snapped out of his mulling and sighed, but followed Trisha into the decompression chamber. After giving Double-M the thumbs up, Trisha tapped a button, sparking the containment suits' communication modules to life, "So what happened with you and Eris?"
Vigil did the same and began, "Well, at first, we weren't sure of where we were going, everything looked the same, absent, then there was a bar," Vigil paused for a moment, remembering his slapstick entrance into the establishment, and then his other, more embarrassing actions in The Last Checkpoint. Not wanting to risk a single giggle from Trisha, and also making sure to avoid talking about his outburst, Vigil decided it would be beneficial to fudge the details just a little...
"And uh, you know how people at bars can be... and how Eris can be..." There was an awkward silence as Vigil realized that obfuscating the perfect storm of events that occurred in that bar would be a bit more difficult for him than he thought...
As the Other Jolene and Lynette walked through the busy streets of the Interplanetary Circus, they found their worried feelings, not exactly lost, but hidden under the very heavy cover of the attractions' bright lights, loud noises, and miscellaneous inanity. It was a fun distraction from what the two had to deal with so far, but it didn't quite make their choice of action any more concrete.
"So... let's go see a show, get our mind off things, or maybe try to get some.. uh, food?" The Other Jolene decided she didn't quite want to think about if she could eat and instead focused on guiding the still woozy Lynette through the crowds.
"I could probably use some food, but... doesn't that usually cost money?"
"Oh I'm sure that there has to be some sort of free food here, right?"
There wasn't. None of the vendors that the girls encountered was willing to part with even a free sample, which made Lynette less enthused and the Other Jolene more irritated.
"Come on, look at her, can't you spare a single damn piece?"
The vendor looked at Lynette and though he felt a bit of guilt, remained adamant in his choice, "I'm sorry hon."
Though she was not pleased, The Other Jolene only clenched her free fist and turned away when a male voice spoke, "If you would please give me three orders of your finest MeatSpace Nuggets? I can't stand having such lovely ladies go hungry."
As the vendor retreated into his stand to prepare the food, the Other Jolene turned to the man who had made the purchase, initially to thank him. However, upon looking at their savoir, she felt a bit suspicious.
There was something about his face that she just couldn't pin down, as if he wasn't fully there. Still, he seemed to be friendly enough, even if the Other Jolene started to think that there could have been something off with his interjection.
Still, The Other Jolene had some manners to keep, "Thanks Mister..."
"That's not very important right now," he grabbed the newly finished MeatSpace Nuggets, gave two of them to the Other Jolene, and then started to walk, motioning the girls to follow while he started to sample his nuggets.
The Other Jolene was skeptical, but Lynette nodded, so the two started to follow him.
After finding a suitable place to sit, the man began to speak, "Alright, seeing that the last time I tried this it didn't work out too well, I'll cut to the chase, you two are in a battle, I'm in a battle and I'm psychic, any questions."
While Lynette was scarfing down her MeatSpace Nuggets the Other Jolene began with a barrage of questions, "What? What are you talking about? Why can't you give us your name? What do you mean you are psychic? How do you know any of this?"
The psychic rolled his eyes, "Let's do this in reverse order, I'm psychic, I can see the paths that someone can take, and the road that they have walked, the longer I am around someone the more I learn, so that means that I've already picked up Lynette Spettro's name there, although... I'm not so sure about you..." The man took a gloved, nugget bread covered hand around his chin, "In fact, you are pretty murky in general, who are you?"
Normally, the Other Jolene would have been rather annoyed that the so-called psychic asked for her name without giving his in return. On the other hand, his question instead made her go back to her less than comfortable line of thought. Could she really call herself Jolene? The man seemed to easily discern Lynette's name, why couldn't he do the same for her?
The psychic noted that he had hit a rather sore spot, "I see... well, I'll call you whatever you want, you just have to pick something."
The Other Jolene remained silent, and once again looked down at her companion, who had eaten her nuggets and was now thinking about the current predicament. "I think that I agree with him, you should pick a name, a name for you. It... it is scary to say, but Jolene... died. You aren't her, not fully anyway..." Lynette couldn't help but feel guilt for what she had done, she had allowed Jolene to live in some form, but...
"Alright... I'll pick a new name..."
A new name. No longer just an Other of Jolene Kamiensky. Did she even deserve one? Maybe, just maybe, she did.
But if so, what? What could she be? The Other Jolene thought for a while, leaving an odd silence surrounded by the crowd's murmurs and
"Call me... Aria"
"Alright then, with that settled I think that now's the time to move on, I can feel trouble coming by, I've felt it ever since we got here, there's something weird going on in the circus..." The psychic paused for a bit, "Wait, there's something else... familiarity? I don't like it, let's move"
As the group stood up, Lynette paused for a moment, "Wait, we never said we'd go along with you? You say that you are in a battle, but how do we know that? If you are as psychic as you say, you could be making that up!
The psychic sighed as the uncertain feeling of familiarity started to grow. Someone familiar to someone around him was going to come by, but not only was he unsure of who, he wasn't exactly sure if he wanted them to, "Well, if my guess is right, it looks like, you'll find out soon enough." Or not, he thought to himself.
"So I don't get it, why did you transform Galatea? If you are as magic as you claim, can't you use that to find Lynette?"
At the moment, the pair was inside Hwael's cage, safely decompressed and hard at work. Or to be more accurate, Trisha was hard at work while Vigil continued to talk and talk. The two had traded their respective version of events since splitting in the GAS Staduim, Vigil ended up leaving only his outburst, still mentioning Hard Snake's trickery and other embarrassing moments with Eris, while Trisha was much more open, hardly hesitating when she informed Vigil of which of the two Christian's she thought was hotter, much to Vigil's discomfort. (It was first one.)
At the moment, the pair had gotten into a very nice and easy routine where Vigil would grab whichever tool Trisha needed and she would use it to make Hwael's life a little better.
"That isn't quite how it works... and stop that. But to answer your question, while Ragazza magica are characterized by their unique potential for magic, there are some universal similarities with them, constants among each and every one."
"So one of these constants is tracking each other down?"
"Well, not exactly. Hmm, how do I put this... Let's say that each Ragazza emits a pulse, a weak but constant signal that doesn't do anything until another Ragazza is near. When two signals overlap, events conspire so that the two girls will meet."
Trisha wasn't sure if she was satisfied with that explanation, "If the girls send out a signal-" she noted that she finished treating another of Hwael's growths, "-pass me the sealpresser-" after being handed the tool and starting on recovering Hwael's skin, she continued, "if they send out a signal, why can't you use it to find her?"
"I can't do that, the only time I could detect a magical girl is the first time they send the signal out, or when they first transform."
"That hardly makes sense."
"You say to the talking, orange rabbit who gives girls magical powers."
Trisha scoffed, "Oh give me some credit, I don't think that you are lying, it just doesn't make sense! If the girl agreed to become a magical girl or whatever, why shouldn't you be able to find them?"
"A Ragazza magica, is the official term," Vigil looked aside, and lowered his voice, "and there's a good reason for it."
As the containment suits were very sensitive, Vigil's lowered tone of voice meant very little, "Really? Why?" Trisha noticed that she finished sealing, "Oh, and the scanner please."
Vigil traded the necessary tool as he sighed, remembering some of the less scrupulous members of his race, "If it wasn't obvious by now, I'm not the only one who can turn girls into Ragazza, there are others... and some of them are not as nice as I am."
There was a small silence before Vigil continued, "How's he looking?"
While Trisha would have liked to ask more about Vigil's species, she sensed that it was a bit of an awkward topic. "Uh, he's a lot better actually, I'm not sure how this could have happened though."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the growths, they don't seem to be natural, as far as I can see there isn't a biological reason that Hwael should have secreted that much odor and bile, I think that something caused this."
"Hmm, come to think of it, I think I did overhear something about someone being behind something at the circus... you think that this could be related?"
"We might want to have a talk with Double-M about who could have gotten near Hwael."
"And then we find Galetea and Lynette."
"Sounds like a plan, now hand me the healant brush, I think that I've found the last one of these growths."
Somewhere else entirely, in the lavish Spettro home, sat four people, two boys, two girls, sisters and brothers and cousins, all huddled around a pedestal, waiting.
Some, less patiently than others, "So? Where are they?" One of the two male voices, impatient and firm, but precise, broke the silence.
The charcoal dog statue on top of the pedestal remains frozen, but it manages to respond.
"As I've told you, we need to wait and see, I can't sense him unless he calls, and Vigil was never one to keep in contact." Its voice was slimy and dark, with a tinge of smug self-satisfaction, "Not that it matters."
"Tough words coming from someone who can't move anything but his lips."
Though its status as a statue was a recent one, caused by the combined magic of the four around him, the statue was not phased by the intimidation. "All I ask, David Spettro, is for patience. I am sure that Vigil will make his mark soon enough."
Once again silence filled the room, rarely interrupted except by someone's stirring in their seat.
It would be a while longer, but eventually, the statue's ears pricked up.
In an instant, the four Spettro's dashed around the statue, each of them asking a question that did not need to be asked.
The statue smiled and answered, "I have indeed found him..."
Without another word, the Spettro's began their preparations, they shuffled around the room, leaving the statue to stand alone, wondering just what had caused Vigil to create another Ragazza.
Oh well, I suppose I will find out soon enough, he looked at the Spettro's each so worried, so hopeful, so stupid. But of course, not as soon as any of them think.
Running low on cash is a terrible thing. It's an even more terrible thing when you're at the circus, because of how many exciting things there are to see and buy. But you can't buy them, because they're expensive and you're trying to save up for something important. And all this terribleness is magnified when you're running low on cash, you're at the circus, and the circus is in space and it's full of unknown wonders from across the galaxy.
These are all reasons why Jax Ryder, Intergalactic Ridewright, was in a very bad mood. As it happens, it's very difficult to sell used cars at the circus. And while it had been difficult to sell used cars in much less populated areas (the giant abandoned barge in the middle of an oil ocean, especially), he'd never had to abandon a sale because a client thought you were a clown and your pitch was an act and they didn't actually want to buy anything.
It was also difficult for Jax Ryder to sell cars at the circus because he couldn't take anyone for a test drive. There wasn't a great deal of empty space out in space- wait, no, that's not right. There wasn't a great deal of empty ground out in space, with which to drive a vehicle with chainsaws for wheels without mangling civilians. And it had been difficult to explain to people that no, the Roadwrecker V9 did NOT fly, and if they wanted a spaceship then why weren't they asking the spaceship vendor by the big top?
Jax had managed to make one sale, and that was to a stage crew that needed something to haul away some hyper-dense Quugian Elephronx dung. He'd had to reluctantly strip it of its laser cannons and sell it at a discount, which struck him as a profound mistreatment of a 50-sleipnirpower Ramming Cart. But money was money, even though he didn't recognize the currency.
Whatever. There were like ten more of those things in the back.
After a lengthy and fruitless attempt to find additional customers for his specialty vehicles, Jax was just about ready to hit the road. The circus wasn't really doing it for him- lack of business aside, constant bright lights and offensive smells start to get a guy down after a while. And his only real ticket out, he'd been informed, was to fulfill the condition to begin the next round. The condition, conveniently enough, was always the same- find some other shmuck in the running and make sure they bite the dust. Not all that difficult so far, but things were kinda heating up lately. To be honest, he was starting to get kinda worried about his situation.
There were three other unfortunates caught up in this batshit contest, and if Jax was honest (not often) he didn't like his chances with any of them. The psychic, maybe, he could run down... if he had a clear shot, and could go fast enough that his fancy mind powers wouldn't see it coming. He never really had an opening, though. Guy always seems to be where you're not. Or maybe... well, no. He couldn't possibly kill that one. Not without... well, enough about that one.
But that just left Princess Rollerskates or whatever, and... well, gosh, he couldn't hurt a darling like her. She was just so charming, even back when she called him an unscrupulous sewer rat and convinced everybody to try to kill him. All things considered, though, she was really the only easy target left- not totally true, he supposed, since her uncommon athleticism made her tough to charge even without an omnipresent crowd of innocent bystanders in the way. Jax wasn't sure the people in these contests were real, technically, but all that needless bloodshed would ruin the hood of any of his rides. Plus, really distasteful.
Moving out was proving difficult. It might have been obvious to something capable of real forethought, but as it was, Gomorrah did not anticipate that circusgoers bored and irritated by an act would simply leave. When the negative energy of the crowd had peaked, the city had attempted to take complete control. The Goggwheggler had languished in the pit, unresponsive to the shouts of its trainers. But as dissatisfied tourists filed out of the tent, Gomorrah was spread thin. It needed to be more devious about this- it needed a way to cure the entire circus of its choking atmosphere of cheer, before it could do more than flit from place to place and perform its usual macabre reenactments.
It was not very smart, and didn't have the slightest clue how to do anything like that. Rising to power in a place explicitly dedicated to happiness would be no easy task.
Finding another contestant to kill in this crowd would be no easy task. Like, it hadn't been too tough to tell who was a battler before- just find whoever looked like a circus freak and make them survive less. This heuristic was markedly less effective in a literal circus, though. Compared to the menagerie of oddballs here, even that one looked normal. Hiding wouldn't be all that hard around here, actually, but Jax was determined to end this farce as soon as possible.
He was making his way through the crowd on, to his mild annoyance, a modified Segway, rather than any sort of actually badass set of wheels. I mean, sure, the wheels turned into deadly sawblades and the handle could detach and fire a high-energy ion pulse, but it just wasn't the same. It's not really a ride unless it's belching smoke and/or flames- but a decent ride wouldn't have been able to navigate these godforsaken food court crowds. What made the whole spectacle even more embarrassing was that nobody even seemed to NOTICE- he was as invisible in the pangalactic crowd as an invisible... guy... was, in a crowd. An invisible crowd? Similies were never really Jax's strong point.
Then, by an incredible stroke of luck, he caught sight of a familiar face. And sure enough, that face was already getting up from his seat. The bastard probably knew he was coming. Read his mind, or something. Friggin' psychics, using their bogus voodoo to mess with people. He gunned the tiny excuse for an engine on his ride, wheeling around to face his competitor.
"Ey, buddy! How's it been? Long time no see, ain't that right?"
The psychic stood stock still in front of Lynette and Aria's table. "...What do you want?"
"Who's that you got there? Couple of lady friends?" Jax lifted his shades and leered down at the pair of girls, a crooked grin parting his lips. "Didn't figure you the type to pick yourself up a little entourage, brah!"
"Did you want something?" The man's fists clenched, his body becoming visibly tense.
"I never got your name, friend! I must've heard it somewhere, but I bet it plumb slipped my mind. Mind like a steel seive, here!" Jax lifted his baseball cap to tap his head, revealing a blue-dyed mohawk underneath. Most people assumed Jax's wardrobe was attempting to make some sort of statement, and politely declined to comment.
"I never told you my name." The psychic looked ready to... well, he looked ready to do something. "Again: what do you want?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, pal! Have we not been introduced properly? The name's Jax Ryder, Intergalactic Ridewright, at your service." Jax swept his cap down in a theatrical bow. "May I have the pleasure of knowing yours?"
A person with less self-control, faced with a man who he'd, not 24 hours ago, seen impale a small child on his hood ornament, might have looked like they were about to garotte someone with electrified wire. The psychic man, however, was a more restrained sort, and merely looked like he was about to deck someone in the jaw.
The psychic man came very close to decking Jax Rider in the jaw, but didn't. "Please leave us alone."
"Buddy, I don't know about you, but I'd love to just split, y'know? Problem is, there's some unpleasant circumstances going on." Jax backed up a few steps, and grabbed the handle of his Segway. "Word has it, actually, that one of us has to get hella killed if anyone's going to make it out."
"What do you say to that?" he asked, as the handle began to crackle with dangerous-looking energy.
I think I've put this off long enough. I'll hopefully have something up in a few hours, depending on how formatting goes. Tomorrow at the latest. Regardless, this RESERVE is more of a formality.
Haha, yeah, about that