Comatose

What Happened in Corvallis

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Argon dived to grab one of the spears conjured by Kenshin. He has never really used any melee weapons, but how hard can it be? The moment he reached the ground to pick up the spear one of the ghouls charged at him. Argon didn't manage to get the weapon ready before the attacker run into him and they both fell. He had to fight hard with the urge to just crush the ghoul with his telekinetic powers, while the monster tried to kill him with bites and scratches. Fortunately, several layers of clothing made him safe from the nails for now. Argon flew up several meters above the ground with the ghoul attached to him, doing his best to avoid his teeth. Once high enough, he used a telekinetic push to get the zombie off him. A splat came second later, announcing the death of his attacker.

By the time Argon got back to the ground for the weapon, most of the ghouls were already killed by Kenshin, only three were left trying to get to Rick. Armed with a spear, Argon flew in their direction and stabbed the first one. His spear dug into wild mans left shoulder, right between the collarbone and shoulder blade, killing him almost instantly. The spear got stuck and slipped from Argon's fingers as the man fell down.

One of the two still surviving ghouls managed to climb up to the roof, using old christmas decorations and vines growing on the wall. It charged at Rick and bit his arm. Seconds after that Argon managed to grab the monster from behind, choking it with his arm around it's throat. Rick managed to get free from the bite, jerking his arm away, with a single tooth still his flesh. The zombie still tried to reach him with it's hands and legs, but it soon passed out from Argon's grip.

The last ghoul climbed up on the roof and run towards Argon. With a little help of telekinesis he managed to get out of it's way, just to let it fall from the roof on the other side of the building. It started to get up, when Argon snapped it's neck with his powers. 

"Man, you suck at using spears, you know that?" Rick said, holding his hurt arm, as he walked closer to Argon.

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The slaughter was over quickly, even with Kenshin dragging out her amusement. These things had no way to actually fight against her. Surveying the remainder of the battlefield she spotted Argon flying away to help his little friend. She hardly cared what happened to him and seeing how there were only three of them left, Argon would likely deal with them well enough on his own or he’d fail to properly leverage his powers and got the annoying vanilla killed. That might actually be the better option just to shut the worm up.

Instead of helping Kenshin walked back to the remaining weapons she created. The corpses she could consider an achievement, certainly enough that she wouldn’t have to bother with cleaning them herself, however the same couldn’t be said for her creations and Kenshin did not intend on littering.

As she pulled the weapons free from the ground and made them disappear again, Kenshin watched Argon’s performance. It was what one would call pitiful; a proper weapon didn’t deserve to be handled by someone so incapable. It was almost bad enough to make her regret handing it over to Argon.

Once she was finished with cleaning up her arsenal, she headed towards the house and the two men on top of it. She arrived just in time to see the last ghoul blindly run over the roof’s edge and fall out of sight. Judging by the look on Argon’s face it would stay down. Instead she got to listen to the worm’s remarks. The ghouls were utter failures indeed.
“It’s about what one can expect from an amateur without training,” Kenshin said while raising her voice slightly so the two of them could hear her down on the ground. “Are either of you injured?” Unlikely, seeing how they were still standing but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

 

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"One of them bit my arm!" Rick shouted back at Kenshin, while Argon grabbed him to fly down to the ground.

"Can someone please explain to me what was that?!" Argon asked once they landed, looking suspiciously at the bodies scattered around them. Corvallis was supposed to be a peaceful place of wealth and tranquility in this crazy world. This was definitely not something he had expected. "Who were they? I thought zombies belonged in movies from before Calamity..."

"Yeah, we thought so too, until a day or two. I think those are fellow citizens that fell under influence of some Epic that want's to damage Rainmakers position by destroying what she tries to build here... Ouch, this bite really hurts...". Rick suddenly fell quiet, with horrid look on his face. "Do... do you think... do you think this might be contagious? Like in the movies?!" 

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So one did get injured and he had to be undignified about it. “I haven’t heard any notice about them infecting people in any way that doesn’t become obvious immediately but I am far from an expert on this matter. One way or another I would encourage you to seek medical aid.” Kenshin let a short moment of unease pass by before creating another spear that she promptly pressed into Argon’s hands. “Consider it a memento, just in case you need it. Now gentleman, we have done our civil duty, so I imagine it would be best if we notify someone to clean up for us, we might also want to get some medical attention.”

Without waiting for a reply Kenshin set off again towards the city. After the little distraction their trip remained much quieter, not only lacking further attacks but also in that her two companions lacked their prior talkativeness, much to her delight. Once they were close enough to the city, Kenshin excuses herself and split from the group.

For the time that she was alone, Kenshin mulled over the encounter. Argon was clearly hiding something, the fact that he didn’t get cut by the razor made that much clear, the question was just how much. Judging his power portfolio was of course near impossible at this point but even more than that one had to wonder about his motives and behavior. Why would anyone put up with undignified vanilla worm acting as if he was anywhere near the same level as an Epic? What could Argon gain from discarding his pride like that?

Queen Buttercup followed by her customary trail of light descending in front of her made Kenshin shelf the train of thought for later. “Queen Buttercup,” Kenshin greeted her with a small bow.

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This was frustrating. No, the word frustrating wasn't encapsulating her feelings adequately. This was infuriating. Either this Argon really wasn't a High Epic, which would mean he was a particularly delusional Epic who was willing to place himself in deadly situations without care, or he was so worried about outing himself as a High Epic that he'd embarrass himself just to not give it away. But the situation did have two silver linings. One, Buttercup got to see first hand how well Kenshin handled herself in combat, a truly impressive sight. Two, if Argon was a High Epic, he was at least placing that secret as a higher priority than the chatty vanilla's life.

But that didn't mean she had to be happy about not having her answer yet. She continued to keep a close eye on the Epic as he fought though, the binoculars she brought proving invaluable. The showing was pitiful. He was immediately tackled by one of the monsters, and struggled to get away. He had to resort to flight just to do so, but did finally manage to push it off. His display on the rooftop wasn't any more impressive either. Buttercup was about to give up all hope on this man being a HIgh Epic, when the ghoul fell off the rooftop. How lucky can he ge- her train of thought cut off. The ghoul had landed clumsily, but was still moving on the ground when something snapped its neck.

Buttercup flicked her binoculars back up to Argon. The man had an odd look on his face, but she couldn't decide if it was relief or confidence. Allowing the trio to collect themselves and begin their trek once more, Buttercup allowed them some distance before approaching the sight of the attack. She beelined for the ghoul with the broken neck. No projectiles embedded in the body. None anywhere on the ground near it either. If he didn't use a projectile of some sort, then he must have used a power. But flight, baked goods conjuration, and mild resistance to Epic Powers wouldn't allow that. That means he's got an additional power which he didn't disclose...

Buttercup decided to continue her train of thought while continuing to tail the group, catching up quickly thanks to her flight powers. She sent Blossom a brief text too, as she'd need her sister's help with what she planned next. When Kenshin finally removed herself Buttercup briefly continued to follow Argon until she had given Kenshin enough time to move a safe distance away.

Flying over to the female Epic, Buttercup landed softly. Removing the headset and throwing the listening device to the side, she couldn't keep the smile from her face. "Excellent work. During that encounter with the rabid vanillas, Argon gave away a power which he had not told security about at the checkpoint, as he somehow managed to snap one of those thing's necks from a distance, without a projectile of some sort. Unfortunately, such a feat could be due to quite a few different powers. At the very least that gives us reason to question him further. I still can't decide if I believe him to be a High Epic. Did you have more luck?"

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“I did manage to find something out about his powers, Queen Buttercup. I slid a razor edge, more than sharp enough to cut on its own, over his hand without him noticing. It did not cut him, meaning that he does have some damage resistance independent of Epic powers, although I could not say just how significant it is.”

So Argon did have a more developed power portfolio, interesting. It was good that Buttercup had had managed to spot Argon’s maneuver, seeing how Kenshin herself had failed to do so. Even if it likely would have been too suspicious, Kenshin did not even consider further examining the corpses. Killing these creatures was easy enough that she didn’t even consider Argon too incompetent to deal with them on his own but seeing how spineless he likely would had have let per proceed anyway. However such an attempt may have turned out, Kenshin considered this as a failing on her part.

“Ma’am, if I may ask, do you already have a plan on how to proceed further concerning him?”

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After she got things sorted out with Chasmfiend and had the servants sent back to HR to be reassigned, Rainmaker returned to her office at the University, and had her increasingly despondent servants send for a bottle of fine wine and her masseuse.  It seemed like her servants were feeling the effects of Euphoria's absence more keenly than the humans Rainmaker had observed in the streets.  Before Euphoria's disappearance, positions on Rainmaker's staff were highly coveted, as one of the perks included an unlimited and continuous supply of Euphoria's power.  If withdrawal from the loss of their unnatural happiness continued to cause dissatisfaction, Rainmaker would have to find an alternative way to bring the quality of her servants' service back up to an acceptable level.  

After a few glasses of wine, her masseuse arrived and started to knead out Rainmaker's cares and stresses with her capable hands.  As she relaxed, Rainmaker sent out a quick text to her fellow queens, requesting their presence in her office.  It was time they assembled and made a plan to address the threats to their rule once and for all.  

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Rick left Argon alone a couple minutes after Kenshin went her way. They were already in a well populated area and he wanted to see a doctor as soon as possible, so Argon had to walk the last kilometer or so alone. He couldn't stop thinking about those zombies that attacked him. Was Corvallis on a brink of collapse? That would be a shame, as he just got here and wanted to taste the luxurious life that city was supposed to offer.

He looked at the spear that Kenshin gave him. It was a thing of beauty. Perfectly straight and smooth wooden shaft, with a shining, intricately decorated head. Thinking about the Epic that gave him this weapon, Argon figured, that he should have paid more attention to making good impression on that woman. After all, Epics were more dangerous than other people. Fortunately, the encounter didn't go bad. She may not have a good opinion about him, but he did his best to give out impression of a harmless guy. Hopefully she bought his performance.

After some time, Argon finally reached his new home. A dozen or so people were sitting on packs or on the ground in front of the building. Most of them talking, some of them just sitting or in some other ways minding their own business. When he was crossing the city border one of the officials told him that his servants will wait outside his home, not allowed to enter before he arrives. Despite that, he was still surprised that they waited outside in such a bad weather. They didn't seem to notice his arrival. After all, he was dressed just like them and arrived here on foot.

"Good evening everyone!" Argon raised his voice to be sure that everyone could hear him. "My name is Argon and I'd like to invite you inside. There's no point to stay outside in this weather!"

Before they had time to fully comprehend what he said, Argon walked inside his new house. The main hallway was big enough to fit all the servants he has been assigned. Furniture was already there, there was even a carpet covering the floor and the staircase. They slowly and uncertainly entered after him and gather together as far away from him as possible. 

"Allow me to introduce myself." Argon started, as he walked up a couple of stairs to have a better view on his staff. "My name is Matthew Archerfish. You can call me Argon or Matthew, I don't really care. From now on, if I understand the city rules correctly, you are my servants. Some may call you slaves, but I really don't want you to feel like slaves. I'm not a demanding person, so I think you'll find me bearable."

"I'd like to start with a compensation for your time spent on the rain, waiting for me. I got held up by a bunch of zombies. You've probably heard of them already, but if you didn't, you should be careful and avoid walking outside alone. Those creatures are nasty. Anyway, here's your compensation." Argon focused and clapped his hands. A dozen pieces of different kinds of pie and cake appeared on the table near the entry door. "Go ahead, help yourselves with some sweets!"

After several minutes of really awkward silence interrupted by sounds of eating, the Vanillas stood even more confused, looking at their Epic owner.

"All right! I see everyone's finished." Argon continued, with a smile on his face. For now, everything was going just like he planned. It would be bad if they didn't want to eat. That would be too awkward. "It's getting late and I really don't see any use for so many servants here at once. So, I need six volunteers."

A wave of fear has visibly washed over the faces of Vanillas in front of him. He didn't expected that, but immediately understood what happened. They must have thought that he is going to kill some of them, as he doesn't need so many. He knew, that looking for volunteers was a cruel game many Epics played with their servants. Those that volunteered did never knew if they're volunteering to die or to survive. It was a cruel russian roulette. However, before he had time to say something to fix his mistake, four men and two women stepped forward.

"Right... The volunteers are free to go home! I'll need you back here tomorrow morning, when we'll start cleaning this place of dust and so on. The rest of you will stay here, until all the supplies from the front are taken care of. Then, I will only need one person for the night to keep me company." With this words, Argon turned around and went upstairs to take a look on his new house. He could hear voices behind him, as everyone was confused with what happened. After what he heard from Rick, Argon figured that it would be best to accept his servants and treat them as such, but also to be more nice to them than most of the other Epics. That way, he should be safe from his staff, but also he shouldn't irritate any of his neighbours too much by spoiling the Vanillas.

Argon stopped in front of a window that gave him a view on the garden behind the house. There, he saw a young woman kneeling on the ground, playing with a little kitten in front of her.

Interesting..., he thought and turned around, looking for a way to the garden. 

 

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Buttercup raised her eyebrows at Kenshin's report. That's likely a second power he's trying to hide then. Just how strong is it though? Strong enough to be considered a prime invincibility? The thought nearly confirmed her suspicions at this point. "That is troubling to hear. It seems highly likely he's a High Epic. The question then shifts to why he's hiding his powers."

It was possibly the more concerning question too. With all the attacks suddenly popping up, it was certainly possible that some type of Epic coalition was forming against the Queens. Buttercup couldn't figure out what the point was though. If they plan to keep the city as it is now, they'd need Bubbles, Cornucopia, and Euphoria...but maybe that's the point. They've already taken Euphoria, perhaps they plan to convince her to join them. They are probably working on her already. How quickly will she allow herself to be convinced? More importantly, when will they move for the other two? Cornucopia can handle herself quite handily, but Bubbles can't. I need to increase her security. 

Buttercup chewed briefly on her lip. What was taking Blossom so long?

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Blossom brushed her hair in front of a mirror in her home. It was a soothing action she often took to when puzzled, helping to clear her mind. This Insight problem was annoying, she was at a complete loss for alternate solutions should her plan with Bubbles fail. How was one supposed to track an invisible and incorporeal Epic? She had already ruled out Insight's tech, and Chase's powers were no help either. This is so frustrating.

Her mobile buzzed, a text from Buttercup coming through. Letting out a sigh of relief at an opportunity to put her mind towards something else, she grabbed her umbrella and left, flying slowly towards Buttercup's location.

The text was rather disturbing, yet another High Epic entering the city? What had cause such rapid degradation of the city? Had they allowed some weakness in their infrastructure to shine through their stability? Was Euphoria's disappearance that attractive of a time to attack? And who was this Rick fellow? The idea of a High Epic being friendly with lowly vanillas, well it was flat out ludicrous. Even an Epic of her ability being friendly with them was abnormal. It made no sense. But the alternative was more dangerous than the current situation; what if this vanilla wasn't a vanilla at all?

Blossom didn't have time to think on that though, she had arrived.

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Buttercup looked to Kenshin at her question. "A plan? Yes I do, but I need my sister to execute it. I've already asked her to come, so she should be here any minute." Buttercup looked to the sky once more, the rain hitting her face going unnoticed as she spotted the streak of pink light. "Speak of the devil..."

Blossom landed next to the two women, Buttercup greeting her with a nod. "Blossom, this is Kenshin, a rather skilled Epic who has proven herself in combat twice now, if I'm counting correctly."

"Kenshin," Blossom stated, nodding to the other Epic before turning back to her sister. "Your text to me was concerning," Blossom started before Buttercup cut her off.

"Yes, and it gets worse. Kenshin here says that she attempted to cut this Argon with a razor blade, but he apparently felt nothing, and was not harmed."

"Do you think it's a prime invincibility?"

"I'm not sure," Buttercup crossed her arms in thought, "It seems likely, but without trying something more dangerous than a razor blade we won't know."

"Then why am I here?" Blossom looked between the two Epics. She wouldn't be much help against a High Epic in combat, Buttercup knew even she would struggle, but with Kenshin's help it just might be possible to beat Argon in a fight.

"You're here because I'm not a good talker," Buttercup trailed off momentarily, looking to Kenshin. "Kenshin and I can handle the combat, should it come to that, but this Epic has proven to enjoy conversation. I'm planning on assembling a team to confront him, and I'm hoping you two will join me. You," she nodded to her sister, "to try and settle things diplomatically, and you," she nodded to Kenshin, "to help should she fail."

"You're serious?" Blossom sounded incredulous, but Buttercup knew her sister was reveling in the admitted inferiority. "This is a little insane. You have no idea how he'll react to being outed."

"Is it insane? Kenshin already agreed to do this much, and on top of that she was gutsy enough to try and cut him. All I'm asking you to do is talk to him." Buttercup was getting frustrated, and was struggling to keep it in check. "I don't really have any other options. Rainmaker is upset enough as it is, I'm not going to approach her with news of yet another High Epic in her city. Particularly not of one who lied about his powers to get in. At least, I won't tell her without something more to offer."

Blossom shook her head. "Fine, but if this goes south, I was against it, for the record." She looked to Kenshin, and Buttercup could tell that her sister was question the inclusion of the other Epic. "And you? Are you willing to risk your life for this city?"

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Before the conversation between Queen Buttercup and Kenshin could advance, another Epic arrived, heralded by a pink streak of light. Queen Blossom, the head of propaganda. If Kenshin judged the situation right the plan was not to attack Argon. Fine enough, as long as they didn’t step down to sucking up to him.

As straightforward as Kenshin was, even she didn’t believe that violence had to be the first approach. Elegant as it could be. All she wanted was for the two Queens to act in a way that maintained their dignity.

Silently following the sisters’ conversation, Kenshin could tell that she properly judged the situation, though Blossom seemed to coward for even that. Then the Queen asked Kenshin if she was ready to risk herself for the city.
“Of course, Ma’am,” Kenshin answered.

It was of course a simplified answer. The city itself was of no further importance for Kenshin but so was the danger. The matter of importance for Kenshin was to do her duty; she would not shy away from another Epic just because they couldn’t cull him in numbers. Should the moment come that she stopped serving the city it would likely be because she moved on to a more worthwhile calling. No matter how strong, Argon would not be what lured her away from this city.

"I'm at your service."

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Summer was still playing with Henry, ignoring the mild drizzle, when the door to the house behind her opened.

damnation it, I must have missed Argon's arrival. She thought as she stood up and turned around to see who entered the garden. She sighed with relief when she saw just some guy wearing a raincoat. It was probably one of the servants assigned to Argon. He closed the door behind him and walked in her direction, scaring Henry, making him hide under the shrubbery again.

"So, the Epic is finally here, right?" She asked, to make sure her suspicions are correct.

"Yeah, he just came here a couple of minutes ago." The man answered and squatted near the bush. He reached out his hand for Henry to sniff, before he stroked his head.  The cat seemed to accept this new human. "No surprise you missed his arrival with such a nice company here. This little guy is without a doubt a better company than any Epic, right?"

"Definitely!" Summer answered, uncertain if she should go inside and introduce herself or to lay low for as long as possible. "How is he? Did he gave any instructions?"

"I guess he's alright... He sent half of us home, after feeding everyone with cake. Those that stayed are supposed to carry the supplies indoors and make sure the house is in good shape."

"He did what?!" Summer asked surprised. An Epic sending his staff home and feeding them cake sounded ridiculous. Unlike any other she had contact with. "Are you sure the cake wasn't poisoned or something?"

She looked at her companion, half expecting the he'd drop dead right in front of her. He just laughed.

"I think everyone is fine. You can go and see for yourself, maybe there's some cake left?" He stood up and faced her. "I apologise, I didn't introduce myself. My name's Matthew." He reached his hand toward her.

"I'm Summer, nice to meet you," she accepted his handshake. His hand was pleasantly warm, in contrast to her's, which was cold and wet from the drizzle. "And this is Henry. I just found him here, but I think I'll keep him or at least take care of him. I just hope that Argon won't find out about him..."

"Oh, I think he won't mind..."

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Blossom looked the Epic up and down. If her sister vouched for this Kenshin, then she had no reason to doubt the woman's abilities. "All right then, I assume you plan to bring some officers with us as well, even if they prove worthless?"

Buttercup nodded, pulling out her mobile and making the call. It wouldn't be long before a transport showed up then. Blossom used the time to come up with something to say. How did one convince an undercover High Epic to come clean? From what her sister said, it sounded like this Argon fool was a kindhearted man, a trait mostly lost to history. Now days being kind got you killed. But perhaps she could prey on that, reason with that side of the man. Of course, if he truly was here for malicious purposes then his kindness would be an act, and nothing she said would do them any good. That would be when Kenshin and Buttercup took over, though if they could coax him out into the rain she could do some damage too. Perhaps this sparking rain would do her some good after all.

An SUV pulled up, breaking her thought process. Climbing in, there was enough room for the three Epics, and the rest of the vehicle was taken up by five security officers. "I assume there will be more than the eight of us there?" She looked to her sister.

"Of course," Buttercup climbed in behind her. "There will be two other transports, eight men each. That'll total to twenty-one officers, and the three of us," she nodded to Kenshin. 

Blossom nodded. More officers than that would be reckless, since they would be useless against a High Epic, and unneeded if he wasn't a High Epic. They were there to show the strength of the city, and perhaps prove useful in some unforeseen and unlikely incident. That left all the heavy lifting to her, Buttercup, and Kenshin. 


The drive was fairly long and mostly silent. Blossom used the time to take stock of her companions. The security officers were well trained individuals, not showing any sign of nervousness at either the three Epics accompanying them or the daunting task they were about to face. Perhaps it was due to the confidence in their Queens.

The thought made the corners of Blossoms lips rise a quarter of a inch. It was good to know that some of the populace was getting along well without the drug. It would serve her well to be cautious, though. How long without Euphoria can the vanillas in this city be kept civil? It wouldn't do Corvallis good to have its Epics forced to turn against the humans. And with less servants, will we be forced to deal with insurgent Epics as well? How many can Rainmaker, Cornucopia, and Buttercup take? Probably best to not find out, we need to find Euphoria.

Between her thoughts and the rain audibly pattering the roof of the car, Blossom was slightly surprised by their sudden stop. The officers all gripped their weapons as they moved out of the van in organized military fashion. Buttercup and Kenshin exited next, leaving her to climb out on her own. It was an awkward motion, trying to exit one of these beasts of a vehicle while retaining her dignity and grace, but she managed. This is nothing like the luxury rides I'm used to.

As she stepped out onto the street, she fixed her skirt and jacket, did a quick run through of her hair with her hands, and took in the scene before her. The building was large for a personal residence, but being on the outskirts of Corvallis proper often led to such things. In fact, the building seemed larger than her own home, but the property was smaller. She preferred her apartment in the city anyhow. Trees littered the lawn, which would serve her well should a fight break out. In addition, there was plenty space between this Argon's property and the next house over, so there was little chance the other residences would take damage unless the scale of the fight increased. Of course, with her sister here anything was possible.

Blossom looked around at the increased security presence as the other two vans emptied as well. Buttercup gave some quick directions to the officers before they spread out into the lawn, many using trees as partial cover, weapons pointed towards the ground. Wise decision, given the initial desire to peacefully work things out.

Blossom gave a quick nod as her sister beckoned her to lead the way to the door, the three Epics moving in a triangle formation. She did her best to look nonchalant, given her entourage. This was business after all, best to look like everything was exactly as you wanted it. 

Offering one last glance to Kenshin and then her sister, Blossom rang the doorbell.

Edited by Blaze1616
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Argon was just inspecting the CDs collection left in the house by it's previous owner, when he heard the doorbell. He was happy for the distraction, as the CDs weren't enough to stop his thoughts about Summer. She reminded him of someone from the past he didn't want to think about. 

Still not used to having servants, he went to the door and opened it himself. He saw three women standing in front of him. He recognized Kenshin immediately, but the two others weren't familiar. The one in the middle, with straight orange hair, wore fashionable and elegant clothes while the other one choose to wear more practical and durable clothing. Rick has spent a lot of time describing Queen Blossom while they were walking towards Corvallis, but could it really be her? Why a Queen would visit him just after he arrived to the city? And what Kenshin had to do with this?

"Can I help you...?" Argon asked, out of pre-Calamity habit, holding the door open and staring at his unexpected guests. If the woman in the middle was indeed Queen Blossom, Argon was not surprised Rick had a crush on her, she was a beauty. Behind her however, he noticed a sight much less enjoyable. A couple of big black cars parked on the street, and a bunch of people in combat gear, spreaded around his new garden. They were armed, but fortunately the guns weren't pointed at him... yet...

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The Princess woke from a disturbing dream, instantly vanishing the sweat on her body with a flourish of her power.  "Now that was simply dreadful," she said, only realizing she was alone when she began speaking to herself.  It would appear that Kenshin was still out and about assisting Queen Buttercup.  "Oh my, it was truly wonderful of Kenshin to let me stay and rest here, even if I had that nasty dream.  I simply must do something to repair her!"  Gliding gracefully over to the door, the Princess opened it to find Sebastien waiting faithfully in the rain, holding her parasol and the reigns of both their horses in his hand.  Her cleaning crew was nowhere to be seen, but the area looked spotless.  

"I sent the others onward, Highness, so that they might continue their duties."

The Princess resisted the slight urge to rebuke Sebastian for his insolence.  She had told him to keep the workers on task, and it wasn't his fault that they had finished cleaning while the Princess slept.  Besides, it was good to know that she didn't have to worry about the wearisome work of directing the crew.  "Thank-you Sebastien, dear.  We shall rejoin them presently.  For now though, we simply must do something to repay Lady Kenshin for her kindness.  Her house is marvelously clean, and the has the loveliest of knives, but the decor is a tad spartan if I do say so myself.  Why don't you come in and see for yourself?"  

The Princess skipped back into the room, humming to encourage the horses, and Sebastien, to join her in the living room.  As they entered the house, she also gave them each a quick tap to to cleanse them of the water and muck they had acquired in the rain so they would not dirty Kenshin's immaculate home.  

"Now then, let's see what we can do here, shall we?"  Skipping over to a window, the Princess opened and and called out in song, summoning any nearby animal helpers to her presence.

"Aaaaah-aaaaaaah-aaaaaaaah, aaaaaaah-aaaah-aaaaah, aaaaaaah-aaaaah-AAAAAAAAAAH!"

Slowly, the animals in the area began responding to her song.  Soon she had a small group of birds, rats, insects, and a cat attending on her.  "All right now little friends, let's get to work, shall we?"

"Beeeecause when you have friends like I do,

You're as lucky as can be.

It's important to repay them,

Because nothing comes for freee!"

 

"Sooooooooooooooo..."  The assembled animals, including the horses and Sebastien, stood at attention, ready to begin following her instructions.  The Princess smiled during the pause in her song and stamped her foot, adding sparkling glitter to amplify the shininess of the spotless floor.  \

"Let's cutify the furniture,

And beautify the walls!

Every touch just has to be

the prettiest of aaaaall!

 

Because our host has done her best to help us on our way,

We simply must repay her, and that's why we're here to say:

 

"KENSHIN, we're her help you

FASHION up your space!

KENSHIN, we're lucky to have you,

Sooooo let us help you put a smile on your faaace!"  

As the Princess's song continued, she danced around the room, adding lace and frills and glitter to every surface she touched.  After trying and failing to find something that was not already clean, her animal friends settled on performing as back-up dancers.  

The Princess smiled as she studied her work.  Kenshin was going to be just thrilled when she got home.  

 

6

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Chase sat on her bed in the safe house, picking at her fingernails. It was a nervous habit she wasn't exactly proud of. She knew it showed she was weak. She was weak. She had to be, in order to survive. She had to be small. Nobody hurt the ones who were in the middle. Strong people hurt weak people, weak people hate strong people. Mediocre people are too strong for the strong to bully, but too weak for the weak to hate. 

 

She leaned back onto the bed, watching her Chains move around. She liked looking at them. It reminded her she wasn't powerless, even if she tried to avoid being important. 

 

"Hey, vanilla," she said, turning to look at the vanilla sitting in her cage. She played with the Chain Tagging her to the vanilla. If she wanted to, she could probably figure out a way to kill a Tagged vanilla with them. She wasn't particularly interested in that. It seemed like too much power. If she figured out how to do it quickly without having to individually possess a vanilla until they died, she'd have to tell Rainmaker. And the ability to insta kill every single Tagged vanilla at once seemed a bit too important for Chase's tastes. 
 

"What is it?" asked the vanilla. She looked bored. Chase strangely wondered what it would be like to kill her barehanded. That was stupid. She needed the vanilla here as an anchor. If she wanted to hurt something that badly-- which she didn't -- she could take some unimportant vanilla from the city. That wouldn't have any consequences. She was allowed to. It was her right as Queen -- which was important. 

She wasn't important. She didn't matter. She had to remind herself of that every time she started to think too much of herself. She'd get cocky and she'd get dead. 

Just like your brother. 

A rough noise crackled through Chase's head and she reached up to grab her temples. A headache splintered through it. Was she going crazy? What was that voice? It sounded like her own voice, only screaming. Maybe she'd been using her powers too much and needed a nap. Or a break--

Screaming. Her head screamed at the idea of not using her powers. Maybe... she wasn't using them enough. She'd been sort of bored sitting here anyway. 

"You're my friend, right?" Chase asked. It was hard to find good friends these days. Most Epics were boring. Too cocky. Someone needed to teach them a lesson. She curled her hand into a fist almost absentmindedly at the thought of all the arrogant Epics who styled themselves as so important, so valuable. Well, guess what? She thought. You don't sparking matter. 

"Of co-ourse, Chase," said the vanilla. "Do you want something?" 

"And friends will do anything for each other, right?" Chase said. She didn't feel right. There was something... something wrong. She grabbed one of the Chains from mid air, distractedly yanking on it. She flashed into the eyes of that vanilla for a single moment to see-

Bones cracking

Slamming against the wall

screaming

power

loneliness

a final breath

gasping for someone to help

but nobody came

Chase startled fell into her own body again. 

"Of course, I'm your best friend!" the vanilla was saying. Chase thought... she wasn't listening to the vanilla. Instead, she stared at the Chains. She didn't realize she could yank the vanillas to her. Or that, if she could, they would probably end up phasing through the wall. Was the wall phasing thing only Chase's? She thought she... she didn't realize what she could do. And that was dangerous. 

"What would you do for me?" Chase mused. This was an interesting development. screaming inside -- that's their screams

"Anything," the vanilla said, sweating. Chase examined the Chains and took hold of one. She yanked it upwards and 

a child body flying into the sky screaming for help

a mother crying

Guilt pulsed in Chase's limbs. Then... something else. Something unexpected. Something powerful. Do I have to be important to be powerful? She considered this. She only feared being in the spotlight, right? Being powerful for her own uses... now, that was something. 

Perhaps this could amuse her for a while. But she'd need to be careful not to be seen-- she didn't want someone important noticing her careful movements. She didn't really care that much about the vanillas. She just didn't seem the point to conversing with them. She could make them do whatever she wanted by taking control... but what would happen if she got them to do what she wanted by choice? It would be much more powerful than simply commanding them. She couldn't possess people twenty four seven. 

She found a good clump of Chains and pulled herself into the middle of a party. 

The vanilla she'd used stumbled at the sudden crash of a pale blue figure into the room. Her colors shook into a more regular tone and she stood to her full height. She wasn't very impressive physically, but she did have the air of an Epic. Because she was an Epic. And Epics were expected to hurt. She didn't have to do it all the time, but the headache from lack of activity started to evaporate. Perhaps this could just be an hour of indulgence. She'd found it harder to avoid doing something... reckless... over the last few days.

"Hello," she said, crossing her arms. "I think I want to see something." 

"Miss, m'lady, uh, what do you want to see?" someone mumbled. She noticed he was not Tagged. She stalked over to him and grabbed him by the wrist. She wasn't very physically strong, but he was pathetic physically. She Tagged him. She wasn't even trying to be subtle with the static, so he jumped from the surprise. 

"I don't think you entered Covallis legally, did you?" 

He mumbled excuses and started bowing, but she knew she'd already signed his death warrant. Being unTagged was a capitol crime. It was treason. And harboring a traitor... she was going to have a bit of fun. 

screams from inside. 

Screams outside. 

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Chasmfiend.jpg

     Chasmfiend thought about why he came to Corvallis.

     He hated thinking about it. It forced him to show himself that he was weak. It was why he came. He would prove he had no weakness. If he could stay here, in Corvallis, seat of the Queen of Storms, his fear was nothing. He had no weakness.

     And he would prove it to himself, even if, in the end, he had to attack Rainmaker herself.

     Upon arriving at his house, he noted his servants had arrived. He would need to address them- He needed new warriors. He hated Rainmaker for taking them. Their new masters may be in for a surprise- he hadn’t reverted their abilities to normal.

     He walked up to his balcony to give orders to his servants. They were scared, as they should be.

     “My new servants. I welcome you to my house. Please split into two groups- one that can and will fight, and those who cannot or will not.” Eight of the fourteen went to the right, saying they could fight (probably more out of fear of what he would do to them rather than because what they truly thought), and the remaining six went to the left.

     “Okay. The eight of you that will learn to fight, go to the back. The rest, I will talk to you about your jobs.” As he waited for the eight to file back around his, he walked down to the yard. Once they were gone, he addressed the remaining six. “You two- the younger two- you’ll run errands. Blondie- you’ll stay with so you can run when I need you too.” He turned to the other four. “The rest of you will cook food for all of us. All fourteen of you will live on the second and third floor- I’ll stay on the first. Make sure everything there is clean, as well as everything I see on my way to the balcony. Otherwise, I don’t care about the rest of the house. Just keep it clean where I am.”

     He then walked back around the house. “Come here.” The frightened vanillas came, probably thinking they would be punished for choosing to be able to fight. “Okay, you eight will be my knights. You will fight as I direct. I will give you power to fight even some lesser epics.” He touched each on the forehead, increasing their strength, speed, agility, and endurance several times higher than a normal human’s.

     “First, I’ll show you beginning techniques…”

***

     After a long day of working with the new recruits, he sent them up to rest. Even he was exhausted. He hadn’t expected them to take so much work- he thought he could do anything. And it seems some things are harder than expected. He thought. He needed to summon Gemheart again in the morning.

     A loud thump echoed through the house. Holy crap, what are they doing now? The vanillas had been testing their new abilities all afternoon. It seemed like they had found a new way.

     Then a bestial scream echoed through the house.

     OKAY, WHO LET THE FRACKING DEMENTED IN?! He rushed out past to bodies he didn’t recognize. Outside was a warzone. Again. Do the stupid things migrate, or is something determined I get no sleep? His warriors were all still fighting, though one had taken a powerful blow to the stomach, and has trying to bandage himself. He rushed out again to fight.

***

     Finally getting to bed, he didn’t plan on getting back up again for a while. Finally.

<><><>

 

Golem.jpg

     Jack was having a terrible day. First, he had been reassigned from a lesser fire epic who could only start fires, then the new epic ran him ragged the first day. Sure, who knew how to fight now, but training is tiring.

     Then a bunch of fiends show up in the middle of the night. He was a light sleeper, and had woken up when they came in. He had warned the other soldiers, and killed the first several in the house. Then, one of the smarter ones took some blunted knife and mangled his stomach.

     Finally, Chasmfiend came out, and finished off the rest of the fiends. He healed Jack (It took about 10 minutes) and went back to bed. Jack, however, found a book on fighting. Next time, he would be prepared. He would fight better. He would win.

***

     In the morning, even after only 5 hours of sleep, he got up and ran to his storage area, close to his last master’s home. He went to get the few items he had accumulated.

     On the run back, he changed. Slaughter ensued.

<><><>

 

Valdemar.jpg

     Valdemar dodged yet another strike from a ghoul. Blasting its head off with his gun, he wondered where the Epic who turned these people was. They had killed one or two who were doing it already. Yet they still came. He assumed it meant the Epic was a gifter.

     He swung the gun into another ghoul as it tried to get his partner, who was obviously new. No one else would try to hide. They could… smell you or something. Finally able to reload, he did, and mowed another five down.

     “Hey, new guy,” He shouted at his partner, “if you’re not going to fight, then get over here and trade me your rifle.” The new guy approached slowly, on his stomach. Holy crap, he’s an idiot. Grabbing his rifle, he gave him his. “Reload.” The man, older than him, apparently at least knew how to do that. And he could actually follow orders. His last partner had gotten his head ripped off trying to go solo.

     Killing the last one, he looked around. Usually only a couple of them died, but this had been a particularly large horde. He saw almost 20 dead. Stormur það! That many had never died on his patrol before. There must’ve been something else attacking, but he didn’t see anything. Litlaus Epics, he thought. One of them must have gotten involved. They always caused more fatalities than when they just stayed out. Idiots.

     “Men! Back the barracks!” He knew they would happily go without him. He needed to report. He would probably be killed for the number of deaths on his patrol. Be maybe if he caught their superior in a good mood...

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Skinsaver slumped back in his office chair, closing his eyes.  How did Rainmaker expect him to run his hospital effectively in the middle of a Sparking zombie apocalypse, while also running the entire city for her?  Of course, Rainmaker's expectations were rarely grounded in factual circumstances, and Skinsaver was in no position to defy her.  You would think after all I've done for her...

"Busy day?"  

Skinsaver bolted upright, nearly knocking down his chair.  He had expressly asked not to be disturbed, and had locked his office door.  And yet, an unfamiliar man, thin and dressed all in black with a smug grin, sat across from him.

"Who do you think you are?  How did you get in here?"

"I wonder, why does she put you in charge hmmm?  I took me a bit to figure out where all the calls were going, and when I did I was... surprised.  Why not delegate to one of her more well liked or more competent underlings?"

"I don't know who you are, or how you got in here, but I'm telling you ..."

"Then, it hit me," the man continued, as if Skinsaver had not spoken.  "If she's going to replace her right hand, she needs someone she can trust.  So why does the Queen of Corvallis trust a healer above her fellow rulers?  What makes Skinsaver so important?"

Skinsaver felt a chill.  "GUARDS!  SECURITY!  GET IN HERE NOW!"

"No need to shout, my friend.  You told everyone not to bother you, remember?  I've dealt with the staff in the area.  No one can hear you."  Skinsaver lunged for his phone, but the man seemed to vanish, only to reappear, catching Skinsaver's wrist before it could reach the phone.  

"No need to worry.  This won't hurt at all, and it will only take a moment."

Flashbacks.png

Skinsaver adjusted his goggles and pulled off one of his mittens, shivering as the brutal winds hit his exposed skin.    In his hurry to get inside, he keyed in the wrong pass-code, and had to try again before the electronic door slid open and he was able to replace his glove.  

Today, the inside of the facility was almost as cold as the outside, except for the absence of the wind.  The industrial strength heaters that lined the walls hummed loudly, blowing hot air at full strength, and yet doing nothing to change the temperature of the room.  

"I'd keep the coat on today.  She's in a chilly mood.  Just be ready to pull it off if she throws one of those heatwaves at us."  While the blizzard outside was nearly constant, the heat inside the complex tended to fluctuate at random, responding to the whims of the prisoner.  Skinsaver had spent most of his time as a site nurse alternating between treating frostbite and heat exhaustion, often both in the same day.  

Skinsaver nodded to the door guard, and made his way through the halls.  One or two of the few people he ran into on his way stopped and asked where he'd been last week.  Telling people he had been hiding out during an epic attack in his area assuaged most concerns.  The staff at the facility was kept small, out of necessity.  The fewer people who knew about the prisoner, the better.  

Finally, Skinsaver made his way down to the heart of the complex.  Two guards sat, protected behind glass on either side of the hall.  It's now or never.  You can do this.  Today, he was going to change his fate, and claim his destiny.  

"What's going on?"  Skinsaver pulled up his goggles and face mask for a moment and flashed his I.D.  "Why are you here?"

Skinsaver gulped, trying to keep the nerves out of his voice.  "Just checking if anyone needs some medical."

"Not while on shift buddy, you know the rules."  Buddy.  Skinsaver felt his temper start to rise.  "Right.  Of course.  Sorry.  Just a slow day."

"I feel you, buddy.  Part of me wonders why we don't just abandon this place all together.  No one is gonna come looking for her."  As the guard spoke, Skinsaver let his vision shift so he could see through the walls, searching for any information he could use to get through that door.  

"You should probably get back to work," the second guard chimed in.  Gazing through the walls, Skinsaver could see he was reading a book.  

"Right, of course."  Hating himself more with every step, Skinsaver turned and made his way back to the staff room.  I can't do this.  I've been chosen for something grander and greater.  Those simpletons should be worshipping him, not calling him 'buddy'.  

Skinsaver sat in the staff room for what felt like hours.  He refused to work, of course, it would be beneath him now.  But try as he might he could not think of a way to get through that door that wouldn't end with him in custody.  Eventually, one of the guards from the prisoner's door waltzed in as his shift changed.  "Oh!   Hey there buddy!  You on break too?"  The guard--Skinsaver had never bothered to learn his co-workers names--sauntered over to the armory and opened the door with a flash of his key card.  "I'm done for the day, myself.  Those night shifts are the worst.  At least we are safe in here though, eh?  I heard you had some epic trouble back home... ...What's up?"  The man turned around to find Skinsaver standing in the doorway.  We are alone.  I could take him.  The man was a good twenty years younger than Skinsaver, but he had power now.  

Skinsaver lunged, and grappled with the man, jamming his fingers under the man's face-mask and into his mouth to stop him from screaming.  The man bit down, his teeth tearing into Skinsaver's hand, but Skinsaver sent the damage back, watching through the man's gloves as his hand began to bleed from severe bite wounds.  The two continued to struggle, Skinsaver holding on to the man's jaw like his life depended on it and transferring every straing or bruise that was inflicting on him back to its source.  Finally, the man got his hands on his gun and fired twice into Skinsaver's abdomen, and then crumbled to the floor when Skinsaver transferred the damage back.  Skinsaver took a steadying breath and then grabbed the gun off the floor, checked to make sure it still had bullets, and fired one last shot to put the guard out of his misery.  "See you later, buddy."  He grabbed the guard's key-card and dashed out of the room, knowing his time was limited.  

Knowing the shots would have been heard, Skinsaver dashed away from the staff room, avoiding running into people where possible, using his x-ray vision to keep track of how people were moving throughout the building.  By the time the alarms started sounding, he was almost to the door.  The two guards currently on duty stood at attention, watching the hall from their protective cages.  

"Help!" Skinsaver called, not needing to fake the terror in his voice.  "We're being attacked!"  

The guards watched impassively as Skinsaver reached the doors to their secure chambers.  "We're in lockdown.  Can't let anyone in."

"Please!  They'll be here any minute.  You have to let me in!"  

The guards shared a glance with one another across the hall.  

"ATTENTION" blared a voice over the intercom.  "ATTENTION.  THE NURSE, HOWARD JENKINS, IS ARMED AND DANGEROUS.  REMAIN AT YOUR POSTS, AND DETAIN OR INCAPACITATE HIM BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY".  In what felt like slow motion, both guards eyes slipped to Skinsaver's ID badge, and then rushed to grapple with the controls for the guns mounted in the corners of the hall.  

And then the heat wave hit. 

Bone-chilling cold transformed into sweltering heat in an instant.  The guards froze for a moment, torn between incapacitating Skinsaver and stripping off their winter gear to avoid succumbing to the overwhelming desert heat they were being subjected too.  Skinsaver took his chance, and rushed for one of the chamber doors, using his key card to enter.  The guard reached for his handgun, as Skinsaver began shooting at him wildly, praying that one of the bullets would hit.  The guard took a hit to the leg and to the shoulder, but still managed to get a shot in on Skinsaver.  As he felt the pain of the bullet in his belly, Skinsaver lunged forward, grasping wildly, taking two more bullets in the process.  

I'm going to die.  

Panting, the guard began backed out of Skinsaver's reach, and frantically began removing his winter gear with his good arm, both to get a look at his wounds, and because of the heat.  Skinsaver, still in his jacket and mask, felt his head begin to go fuzzy, both from the heat, and from the blood loss.  

"He's down?"  The guard from across the hall entered the chamber, letting his jacket fall to the ground and revealing a sleeveless shirt underneath.  All the staff in the compound were prepared for sudden weather changes.

"I think so.  Just... argh!  Here, help me with this will you?  The sparking nut case got me, and I can't quite manage these buttons....  Sparks I'm thirsty, do you have any water?"

As the second guard passed by, something stirred in Skinsaver.  A primal need to survive, to continue to live at all costs.  

Gods shouldn't die.

Skinsaver reached to his side, grabbing at the guard's ankle.  The heat of the guard's skin seemed to sing to Skinsaver, urging him on as he healed himself.  He gasped as the bullets were forced out of his body and the guard collapsed on the floor next to him, bleeding out from wounds more severe than those Skinsaver had been dying from moments before.  

The remaining guard shrank away from him as he rose to his feet.  "You... you're one of them."

Skinsaver smiled.  

******

After stripping off his winter clothing, revealing the light scrubs he wore underneath, Skinsaver made his way through the open door into the cell.  The heat was even more intense in the room.  Skinsaver took out a canteen he had recovered from one of the guards and dumped it over his head, and then took a drink from the second one.  He didn't know how long it would take to free the prisoner, but he didn't want to overheat in the process.  He reached back and dragged the remaining living guard, still living despite his injuries, into the room and set him aside, just in case things didn't go as planned.  

In front of him, a white cloud churned and thrashed behind a thick pane of glass.  

Rainmaker.  

Skinsaver studied the chamber, looking for any sign of a mechanism for opening the prison.  The chamber was airtight, he knew, to prevent the epic from escaping in her cloud form.  Initially, he had thought the controls might be in the guard chambers outside, but his search had been unsuccessful.  Skinsaver stepped closer to the glass, searching the room with his x-ray vision, looking for any clue that might tell him how to open the door and unleash the monster within upon the world.  

A face stared out back at him.  

Skinsaver jumped back, shifting his vision back to normal.  The face wasn't human--without any air or food for the entire period of her imprisonment, Rainmaker would die if she became flesh once again--it was shaped out of cloud, subtle patterns in the shifting mass, making the shape of a human face.  She's watching me.  

"Hello?  Can you hear me?  I'm trying to free you."  The giant face reformed, taking a vaguely human shape.  It--she seemed to shrug helplessly.  "So you can't hear me?"  The figure shrugged again, and then pointed towards the glass.  That answers that question.  He had expected Rainmaker to be in a relatively mindless state after her long confinement.  It was surprising to learn that she was still conscious, and had some awareness of the world outside her cell, despite being made of cloud.  

"You," Skinsaver said to the guard, "How do I open this?"

"You can't.  They've sealed her in permanently."

"Then why guard the bloody place?"

The guard fell silent, leaving Skinsaver to stew about his problem.  A sudden motion from behind the glass drew his attention.  The clouds began to swirl rapidly, and when he looked up, they transformed again, forming into what looked like a shorter rectangle attached to a slightly longer tube.  What is that?  I'm running out of time!  Why is she giving me riddles?  Not knowing what else to do, Skinsaver took out his gun and fired several shots at the glass.  Cracks spread, but the bullets didn't appear to penetrate all the way through.  The clouds reformed again into a face, which nodded.  She wants me to shoot the glass?  But it's obviously reinforced?  Skinsaver took another drink of water, trying his best to ignore the sound of the alarm and the repeated message on the intercom.  A quick glance backward with his x-ray vision told him he only had a few minutes before a group of the remaining guards would reach his position.  He had to act now, or they would kill him or lock him in some prison.  

Shaking his head, Skinsaver took several more shots at the glass, trying to hit his existing holes, but his aim was off. Out of bullets, Skinsaver retrieved more and reloaded the gun, and tried again.  The glass began flashing rapidly between white and transparent, momentarily obscuring the clouds within.  It took Skinsaver a moment to realize that Rainmaker was trying to rapidly heat and cool the glass, hoping to weaken it.  Shouts echoed from down the hall.  They were coming for him.  

One of the bullets punched through the glass.

Skinsaver was thrown backwards by a powerful gust of wind, and he watched as the clouds rushed through the tiny hole, coalescing on the other side.  The clouds changed, taking the form of a thin woman with long dark hair.  The woman gasped in a breath of air, but she seemed to wither before his eyes as her cheeks began to grow hollow.  She collapsed and then returned to her cloud form.  She shifted back and forth several times, each time appearing more emaciated than the time before.  

She's starving.  No one had ever fed her, of course.  To do so, they would have needed to let her breathe, which would have potentially allowed her to escape.  Now, all that time being without food was catching up to her.  The next time she reformed, Skinsaver scanned her with his x-ray vision, and watched as her organs began to fail.

The goddess who was supposed to save him was dying.  

Four guards entered the room, only to be knocked backwards by another powerful gust of wind.  The winds continued in force, seeming to howl as their mistress died. I need to save her.  Skinsaver slowly rose to his feet, bracing himself against the wall.  "I can help you!"  He shouted.  "I can heal the damage that starvation is causing to your body.  I can transfer it to another."  The winds around Skinsaver lessened somewhat as Rainmaker took human form once again, this time close enough so that Skinsaver could see into her eyes.  She was terrified.

"Just give me a moment."  At his words, Rainmaker shifted back into cloud, and Skinsaver dashed over to the nearest guards, who were still being pinned to the floor by Rainmaker's winds.  Reaching, Skinsaver grasped the nearest guard by the ankle, and then reached out with his other hand.  "Grab on!  I need skin contact for this to work."  One moment, the clouds seem to fill the room, but the next they were gone, a bony hand clutching his.  Skinsaver acted instantly, focusing on the damage starvation was causing and transferring it from Rainmaker to the guard.  In moments, the guard stopped breathing, and Skinsaver moved on to the next one, feeling Rainmaker's grip begin to strengthen.  When he looked back to check on her, her skin was shining bright with light.  

"Grab the canteen from my belt.  I can heal the damage caused by starvation or dehydration, but I can't transfer their water or calories to you.  You need to drink, and we need to get you some food as soon as possible."  Rainmaker nodded, and began gulping down water greedily.  Her skin began to shine even brighter, lighting the room like a miniature sun.  When she finished, she wiped her mouth and the tossed the canteen aside and took her hand from Skinsavers.  With a gesture, she sent the remaining guards crashing from one wall to the next, crushing them with powerful gusts of wind.  

Skinsaver, still uncertain of how well Rainmaker's recovery was going, would have preferred to have kept a few specimens alive, but he held his peace, waiting until she was done.  As the bodies crashed against the glass with a sickening crunch, Rainmaker relaxed and turned to face him.

"You... you've freed me.  You've saved me.  Why?"  

Being subjected to the shining figure's scrutiny made Skinsaver sweat, even though the intense heat from before had faded.  "I... I guess I wanted an opportunity.  You have power.  The power to change things.  I thought that if I freed you..."

"That you could rule under me, hmmm?"

Skinsaver didn't really want to rule--he was more interested in exploring his powers and using them to surpass what mortal surgeons like his parents were capable of--but he nodded anyways, thinking it best not to disagree.  

"Well then.  Rule we shall.  But first, lead me to some food, little epic, and then let's see how many more of these useless wretches we can kill."

 

 

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Chase jumped back into her body when the vanilla stopped movingdied. By pulling on the Chains in a different way, she could send the bodies flying. The velocity affected them a different way, apparently. The cracking of bones in response to her hands sounded like a melody to her ears. Blood was on the vanilla she'd used as an avatar's hands, but her own digits where as clean as if she'd just washed them. If she didn't hate poetry, she'd find it a nice metaphor. 

 
Her mobile was ringing. Another text? Of course, Chase was a queen in this city and she was expected to have some duties, especially when the city was falling apart. She sighed and opened it up. Another group message from Rainmaker directed to all of them. Euphoria, of course, was included but Chase highly doubted she'd reply at this point. If only Chase could track Epics like she could track vanillas. With that kind of power, she could easily have fixed all of this by now. She could've found Euphoria, sparks, she could've taken the entire city from Rainmaker with a single Tag. She wouldn't have, even if she could, but... wow. 
 
Rainmaker's office. It would anger her if Chase didn't come in her own body, but she risked damage to it if she did. Chase looked for a good vanilla nearby her office, either to Tug herself to or to possess. The longer the day went on, the more angry and paranoid she got. She sighed and found a vanilla guarding the door. Wait, what? Chase narrowed her eyes as she examined that Chain further. That vanilla wasn't guarding the door, she was trying to eavesdrop. Chase grabbed the Chain and Tugged her way in person towards her.
 
The vanilla was twenty eight or so years old. She wore a necklace with some sort of religious insignificance under her outfit and her brown hair was starting to gray, presumably out of stress because Pre-Calamity members of her family had gone gray a lot later. 
 
Chase phased through the walls and landed in front of the vanilla. The sensation of being flung was equal parts terrifying and amazing, and Chase remembered the day she'd learned how to fly. A red light shining down from the sky had given her power and bloodlust had instantly come over her. Chase had Tugged anyone who came across her back and forth until she'd broken their spines. The first person who tried to shoot her with his gun had already been touched. Chase had used his body to open fire on the few surviving victims. That same version of her who'd killed without thinking of the political consequences seemed to be getting busy. 
 
The woman opened her mouth to let out a shriek of surprise, but she'd closed it just in time. Chase tightened her fingers into a fist and stepped even closer to the vanilla than she'd arrived in. Something red seemed to be pulling at her, as if she wasn't the hunter and was being yanked around like a toy.
 
"Hello, Queen Chase," said the vanilla, her body shaking like a leaf in the wind. Chase wanted to take that leaf and rip it in half. The crimson stain on the floor would take ages to clean. Her hands would be dirtied for the meeting. Her outfit would be totally ruined by the kill. So she stepped back, cracked her knuckles, and shoved the vanilla away from the door. She seemed to be startled, and maybe Chase had used more strength than she'd intended.
 
"You're to guard the door," Chase said, her voice loud and crisp, "not listen through it. Got that?" She grabbed the door's handle and stalked into Rainmaker's office.
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This is my first post on here, focusing on Shattered. (Character profile: Page 16 of Question 20) (Hopefully, I don't screw thing up)

A figure moved in the shadows. He moved cautiously, avoiding the gazes of humans and Epics alike. Unfortunately for him, a man spotted him slipping into an alley. Signaling, the man and four others followed him into the alley. What happened next would change the future events forever.

*****

"Hey, slontze!" yelled a voice. "Where you goin'?" Derek turned and saw five figures slowly walking toward him. Not responding, he began to run.

"Oh, no, you don't!" laughed one. They broke out into a run as well. Derek retreated further down the alley. He felt something stir in his mind. B.A.. No, he thought. I can do this alone. He continued through. YEAH RIGHT!!B.A. interjected. You're being a coward! If we have your way, we'll never find Mother! Derek sighed with annoyance. B.A. always wanted to go by his agenda. Another voice popped in. If we have it your way, thought KITT. We'll end up as a corpse on the ground. B.A. fell silent. KITT was the only one who managed to keep him quiet. 

All right, said Derek. Now I just need to find a-. He got no more out. Derek slammed into the dead end wall. He flew back, crashing onto the ground. Groaning, he rolled onto his stomach. The five thugs stopped in front of him. They began to laugh.

"Oh, sparks!" one said. "Look, Speedy here broke his nose!" They laughed again.

"Yeah, well, when we're done with him," said another. "There won't be anymore to break." Another laugh attacked them. Derek shut his eyes. He hated bullies. An iron grip clamped down on his collar, lifting him up and slamming him into the wall.

"What's wrong, Speedy?" teased the punk. "Why don't you run now?" He planted a fist into Derek's belly, knocking the air out of him. Derek coughed violently.

"Please stop," he wheezed. "I'm warning you." The gang laughed again. Fists began to land everywhere. His ribs. His already broken nose. His eye. His shoulder. Let me in, insisted B.A.. With me, we can get out of thisDerek shook his head visibly.

"No, you're too dangerous." The thugs stopped pummeling him to listen. "I can save you." The sudden change in Derek's voice surprised them. One began to laugh.

"This slontze has one of those mental things!" he howled. "Schizophrenic or something!" The others began to laugh as well. So loud, in fact, they did not hear the words Derek and B.A. exchanged.

"We can't. W-w-we'll be kn-nown."

"You gotta let me. They gonna kill you. C'mon. Fighter or flier?" Derek didn't respond for a moment. Then he spoke.

"I'm a fighter." Derek relinquished the controller, handing it to B.A.. Derek's face changed from helplessness to pure rage.

Laughing, one punk turned to look at B.A.. Seeing the change in his face, he came closer. "Oh, is the wimp suddenly all mad? Does he want his mama?" A hand shot out, gripping his throat, pulling him in. He choked, gasping for breath.

"Yeah." replied B.A.. "I do want my mama. But you be cryin' for yours after I'm through." He threw the thug back into a Dumpster. A sickening thud confirmed impact and the punk slumped onto the ground. Shocked, the other four backed away, nervous. B.A. raised his fists into the air.

"Come and get it, suckas!" he screamed. He charged at them. He tackled the first one, pounding his face until his nose broke. Then he rose to face the three others. One dived at him, pulling out a knife. B.A. dodged him, grabbing his wrist and snapping it. The thug yelled in pain. B.A. snatched the knife and snapped it in two. He kicked the punk in the chest, launching him upward. The man screamed in fright as he rose, then fell twenty-five feet. He landed on the ground and did not stir. The two others pulled out guns, aiming them at B.A.. B.A. chuckled.

"You boys must not know when you facin' an Epic, huh?" he said. "You better say your prayers." He jumped into the air, doing a front flip. He landed behind them, elbowing one in the temple, knocking him down. The last one dropped his gun.

"P-p-p-please. Spare me." B.A. stared down at him. Then he felt someone tug at the controller. Let me handle the last oneVoltron said. They need to see the power. Reluctantly, B.A. handed the controller to Voltron.

"You attacked me." Voltron bellowed in a deep baritone. The man cowered, covering his head.

"I'm sorry!" he wailed. "We didn't know!" Voltron looked impassively at him. Humans, he thought. They are all the same. Careful, Voltron, warned KITT. We are here to do one thing. Remember that. Voltron spoke.

"Look at me." he ordered. The thug looked up hesitantly. Voltron's eyes glowed dark red, then a blast of heat vision hit the man in the chest. The last gang member keeled over, dead. Voltron turned toward the wall. His eyes glowed red, and began to carve an inscription into the brick. Thunder boomed and rain fell.

*****

Police Report, approx. 7:37 a.m., Highest Confidentiality

"Attention, all units. This report is of the highest level of confidentiality. Any leaks shall be dealt with swiftly. Last night, approximately 10:49 p.m. Pacific Time, five men were brutally accosted by an unknown Epic. Only one survived the attack, and is in critical condition. From the scattered description, our new hazard is male, about 6'0'', wears a leather jacket and a blue scarf, and is relatively young. Due to the trauma of the victim, a full detail of the Epic's powers cannot be realized. We have classified him as highly dangerous. This investigation shall be kept quiet. All information shall be immediately reported. You have permission to kill on sight. Good luck, all units, and hope this sparking Epic doesn't get you first."

Edited by Captains Domon
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OOC:  I am posting the final scene of What Happened in Corvallis, along with a short summary to get people caught up with what was going to happen.  People are still welcome to post here, and fill in what their characters were doing during the five-ish days of the Corvallis story, but I will not be checking for continuity or approving characters anymore.  People are also free to post summaries like I am doing, if they just want to share what they had planned but don't feel like writing.  In the summary, I'll mention a few plots that were just ideas in my brain, which may have changed or evolved as I consulted and wrote with the other players, so keep in mind that their 'canonocity' will be dependent on the approval of the players involved.  Feel free to use some of the events referenced as jumping off points if you want.  Writing these characters and creating these stories with everyone has been a real privilege, and I thank everyone who contributed their time and talents.  Hopefully I will see you all around.

- Comatose

SUMMARY

Spoiler

Rainmaker and the other Queens continue to fight to maintain order in Corvallis as Iconoclast continues to sow chaos, and Insight continues to abduct key figures, gleaning what information he can from their memories.   Rainmaker's efforts include: 

(1) Locking down the city using Bubble's abilities, and refusing to let anyone in or out to gain better control;

(2) Throwing a 'ball' for the people of the city to raise morale, and give off the appearance for being under control.  I was thinking the ball could be held on the river, which Rainmaker would freeze and then sculpt with her wind powers, and Princess GOOD could beautify.  

Both of these efforts likely would have failed miserably, knowing the other characters motives and abilities.  

Because of Insight's insider knowledge, Rainmaker begins to wonder if there is a traitor in her inner circle, and beings testing the loyalty of her fellow Queens.  I think it would have been fun to play with some of the dynamics with @Blaze1616, @Voidus, and @winter devotion.  I'm guessing there would be drama with the sisters, and Chase is obviously struggling in her role already.  I know Voidus and I have chatted about some of Cornucopia's fail safe plans which would have likely played into Corvallis's eventual destruction, but I'll leave those to be revealed by him if he decides to do so.  

Insight, realizing that it would not be satisfying enough just to kill Euphoria, decides he must crush her, and that to do so he must give her a chance at success.  At the end of the current day, Insight brings in Peregrine, an epic with a 'dousing' type ability to locate epics and sense their powers.  Either using a combination of his and Peregrine's powers (or a motivator Insight had made by Knighthawk or another producer if that would be allowed, suing Peregrine's DNA), Insight is able to keep track of Euphoria, and tell if she is using her powers.  He proposes a challenge.  He sets Euphoria loose, and gives her three days to regain control of the city without using her abilities, or letting anyone who knows her face recognize her.  Euphoria, desperate, agrees.  

Once she is set free, Euphoria goes for one of her safe houses where she has supplies stored, only to find that Argon has recently moved in to the previously vacant house she was using.  Euphoria manages to sneak in, cleans up, gets new clothing on, and dyes her distinctive hair brown.  My thought was that she could be caught by Argon and/or Summer (with @Mestiv's cooperation), and end up playing the part of one of Argon's servants.  

In the next couple days, Euphoria (with or without Summer, depending on what Mestiv wanted to do) gets involved with the Rebellion (led by @TwiLyghtSansSparkles) infiltrating it, and trying to use it to help her restore order, all the while keeping her head down to avoid being detected by Rainmaker or the other Queens.  

Insight, meanwhile, makes a proposal to Iconoclast, giving him hints that will lead him to Euphoria, giving Iconoclast the right to kill her if he can find her.  Iconoclast (from what I understood from my conversations with @Blackhoof would relish the opportunity to kill the source of order and happiness in Corvallis, but as a force of chaos would resist being a pawn in Insight's game, making it uncertain where this plot-line would lead.  

Euphoria's third day nears its end, and Corvallis is more chaotic than ever . . . 

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Three Days Later

I failed.  

Euphoria lay back on her bed, feeling the sudden wave of exhaustion rush over her.  She'd barely slept in the last few days, and when she had Insight had haunted her dreams, driving her to continuing her mad struggle for survival.  A part of her urged her to get up, to lift her leaden limbs and continue to the fight until the last possible moment, and to spit in Insight's face when he came for her.  

He wants me to fight.  Why give him what he wants?  It was true, Insight had to be getting some sick pleasure from her efforts, for why else would he have released her?  To be fair, Insight had never truly released her.  Even now, she was sure he was there, silently watching, hidden from view, exulting in her defeat.   

It doesn't matter.  She hadn't broken any of the rules, but Insight was going to kill her anyways.  Perhaps she should count herself lucky that Insight would probably insist on doing it himself, rather than abandoning her to the monster whose twisted creations were prowling the streets.  She knew Insight would have killed her no matter what, even if she had completed his challenge.  Her only hope had been to play along long enough for Insight to make a mistake she could capitalize on.  Unfortunately for her, unlike the man she had once known, Insight did not appear to make mistakes.  

Despite herself, Euphoria felt her eyes growing heavy.  Without a compelling reason to fight off her exhaustion any longer, Euphoria finally succumbed and fell asleep.  

The nightmares were waiting for her.    

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"Part of me wants to keep the poor thing here, though it wouldn't be right.  And you know that sparking man would have made sure I had heaven and hell to pay if I tried to challenge his custody."  

Leila stopped mid-stride, crouching to the side of the door instead of entering her aunt's living room.  Her mother's sister was the only member of that side of the family who Leila had any contact with for as long as she could remember.  Despite Leila's prodding, her aunt refused to speak of Leila's mother, or why she had left Leila and her father when Leila was still in diapers.  

"You'd really consider going to court over this?  I mean, I know you're a blood relative, but he's her father, Melanie.  Caroline's pretty much abandoned any parental rights she might have had at this point, and with him taking care of her for so long on his own, you wouldn't stand a chance."

"I know, I know.  Besides, can you see me raising a child?  I wouldn't know where to start!  I just . . . can't stand the way he is with her, you know?  Every time I see them together, I remember how he was with Caroline, and it just. . . I worry.  He's so controlling I'm surprised he even lets her visit me."

"Probably thinks she needs more 'feminine' influences in her life.  At least his out-dated values have a slight silver lining in that way."  

Leila's aunt snorted.  "A very dim silver lining, if even that.  I know it's out of my hands, but, I just wouldn't be able to forgive myself if he ever did something to her. . ."

"Oh Mel, you don't think he would do anything like that?  Surely he's not a danger to her."

Leila felt her pulse begin to quicken.  A part of her screamed internally, begging her to leave, but her curiosity won out.  No matter how much it hurt, she had to know more, and her aunt certainly wasn't going to be more forthcoming if she confronted her directly.  

"I don't know.  It could be my imagination and bias against him getting the better of me, but I do wonder.  She's the spitting image of Caroline, you know?  And the way he tries to control everything she does, and how she dresses, it's the same crap he tried to pull before Caroline came to her senses and ran off.  I don't know what she saw in him in the first place, honestly.  And then sometimes he gets that look, in his eye, you know, when he's looking at her.  And I just don't think that's how a father should be looking at his daughter."  

"Mel, don't be dramatic.  Surely Caroline wouldn't have left Leila behind if she thought there was any risk of that.  She knew him better than anyone.  If she thought he was capable of . . . I just can't believe she wouldn't have tried more to protect her own daughter."  

"Caroline wouldn't have had the patience for the endless drama and legal struggle.  She knows Rick is stubborn as a brick, and as good as she is at playing mind games with people, he might be better.  Once she decided she needed a clean break, I honestly don't think she spared much thought for the poor girl.  I know it's awful to say, her own daughter, but honestly I think it's the truth.  I love her--I mean, she's my sister--but she is far from perfect, and she's less suited to being a mother than I am."  

Not understanding why, Leila noticed her breath coming in and out in quick bursts.  She felt a strange agitation, a tightness in her chest, and in her head, like her body was so full it could burst at any moment.  I need to get out of here.  I can't be here anymore.  Leila stood carefully, listening to make sure her aunt and the guest hadn't noticed her presence.  Once she was out the front door, and out of earshot, she started running as fast as she could.  She didn't know what she needed, only that she needed to get away from that place, and those things her aunt was saying.  It's not true, she told herself.  It's not true, it's not true, it's not true.  Her Aunt hated Leila's father.  That was it.  She was only saying those things because she was angry with him for fighting with Leila's mother so much.  

Leila ended up at Danny's house without meaning to.   Not wanting him to see her so upset, she turned to leave.   She couldn't let him see her, otherwise he would know something was wrong, and she would have to tell him.  And she couldn't tell him what was wrong, because admitting what she heard and that she was upset about it meant that part of her wondered if it was true.  It's not true, it's not true, it's not true.

"Leila?  What's up?"  Danny was standing on his front porch wearing his pajamas.  Numbly, Leila heard Danny's mother shouting at him not to leave the door open and to put a jacket on if he was going outside.  On then did she realize she had left her jacket at her Aunt's house, and that she was standing outside, in early November, in nothing but a filmy pink dress and tights.  Shouldn't I be shivering?

"Leila.  Are you okay?"  Danny ran down the stairs.  Leila flinched.  I need to keep running.  I need to get away.  Her feet refused to move.  She stood in place, frozen.  

"Hey, hey, it's okay.  Don't cry."

Leila sniffed, choking down the emotions that were threatening to overwhelm her.  "I'm not crying."  Her tone was forced and devoid of emotion.  She couldn't fool him, not with that on her mind.  

"Don't do 'whatever-Leila-does-instead-of-crying' then," Danny smiled and Leila felt a bit of her anxiety begin to melt away.  "Come on, I'm sure we can figure it out. I'm just playing the new game my mom got me last week.  You can watch me play if you want.  And my mom made homemade oreos!  They're so good.  I'll ask her to make us some hot chocolate too."  

Leila let Danny usher her inside, and did her best to leave her fears out in the cold.  

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Euphoria opened her eyes, not sure if the memory had been a part of her nightmare, or Insight snooping through her past again.  It had been so vivid.  She had never visited her aunt again after that day, throwing a fit whenever her father tried to make her until he relented and decided she was better off not seeing her mother's family at all.  Her relationship with her father had never been an easy one, but it had changed after that.  The unrelenting stubbornness and harsh commands had always annoyed Euphoria, but her aunt's words had put darker thoughts in Euphoria's mind, one's no amount of logic or reason could dispel.  Despite her fears, Danny had never asked what was wrong that day, though she could tell he wondered about it.  Somehow he had known, just like he always did, exactly what to do to make her feel better.  

Danny is dead.  And so is Leila.  Only Euphoria and Insight remained, and soon one of them would be dead too.  Likely me.  

Glancing over to the clock, Euphoria noted that she had only been asleep for a little over an hour.  She still had several hours left until sun down and Insight's deadline.  Might as well get up.  Wouldn't want to die in the bed of a slave.  As she got up, Euphoria heard one of Argon's other slaves who lived in the same building calling after her, scolding her for dozing off during her shift.  Euphoria ignored the woman, and retrieved some hair products from one of her hiding places.  Argon wasn't home, and thus far he had proven to be a lenient master.  Even if he did return and find out she wasn't there, he likely wouldn't care she had been ignoring her duties.  

It took almost an hour of scrubbing and rinsing with several different products to get most of the brown dye she had been using to disguise herself out of her hair.  When she was done, her hair still had a slight brown tinge to it, but for the most part it looked like her regular strawberry blonde.  Caroline the slave of Argon could die too.  Euphoria had no need of that role anymore.  One of the soaps she used to get the dye out smelled faintly of honey.  Euphoria usually avoided wearing scents, especially ones which were traditionally feminine, but today, she couldn't bring herself to care.  So what if her hair smelled sweet?  Maybe it would complement the smell of her corpse rotting.  

Euphoria returned to her hiding place, and switched out her plain wire frame glasses for a pair with her standard thick rims.  She tied her damp hair back into a sensible tail.  If she was going to die, she might as well do so as herself.  

Once she was ready, she exited the tenement and started wandering through town.  The sun was shining brightly as it slipped towards the horizon--either Rainmaker was in a better mood, or she had stopped caring.  Euphoria avoided the centre of the city, knowing that was where she was most likely to run into someone who might recognize her.  If she met someone, or saw another person walking towards her, Euphoria would turn off as soon as possible to avoid them, but otherwise, she didn't pay much attention to where she was going.   Insight had stolen the mystery of the hour of her demise from her, but there was something comforting about letting fate decide where she would meet her end.  

The streets were mostly empty.  People avoided going out once it started getting dark, thought the ghouls came out in the day as much as they came out at night. 

Eventually, a familiar structure came into view.  

What was it he said I missed?  Something about the swings?  Euphoria looped around Garfield Elementary, which Rainmaker had never bothered to re-purpose into anything, to where the playground was.  It was still standing, surprisingly, likely because Rainmaker simply hadn't cared enough to have it torn down.  Euphoria walked over to the rusty swing set, and sat down.  The swing was low, and she had to stretch her legs out in front of her.  

I still don't remember.  She supposed it didn't matter what she had missed.  Insight had discovered her deception, and now she was going to pay for it.  Euphoria absently brushed away a bee that was buzzing around her head, discarding her earlier acceptance of her scented shampoo with a curse.  

"Trying to figure out where you went wrong?"  Insight appeared as the sun slipped below the trees on the other side of the field.  

Euphoria shrugged.  "Not much else to do.  My plans have come to nothing, and while I've avoided being dismembered by your zombie friend, somehow I don't think that means I passed your little test, if you can call it that."  If she focused, Euphoria could still see the scenery behind Insight, indicating that while he had made himself visible, he remained incorporeal and unable to be touched.  Even now he fears me.  At least in that, she had been successful, even if her success had sealed her fate.  

Insight frowned.  What's the matter?  Is it less fun to torment me when I've given up?  Isn't seeing me fail the whole point of your little game?  Euphoria held her tongue.  Her last moments would surely be painful, if Insight's previous treatment of her was any indication.  There was no sense is antagonizing him further.  Euphoria swatted away another insect which was fluttering around her head, a butterfly this time.  The little thing hovered for a moment, and then fluttered over to where Insight was levitating.  

Insight became corporeal, and collapsed on the ground.  

Something primal stirred within Euphoria, propelling her to act on Insight's momentary weakness.   She stumbled slightly as she came out of the swing, but sprung forward to conserve her momentum, tackling Insight to the ground before he could rise.  Her fingers found his throat and she pushed, dashing his head into the gravel surrounding the swing set.  Somehow, he managed to get his legs up far enough to lash out with them and force her off of him.  Breathless, Euphoria snarled and renewed her attack.  She lunged again, striking with her feet and fists and hand fulls of gravel.  Insight fought back, striking her in the face and chest, but Euphoria bore through the pain.  She scratched at his face, and bit down on his fingers when he tried to strangle her, drawing blood.  

As they tumbled, her hands found a larger rock, which she grasped and swung into Insight's temple.  As he fell back she surged forward, climbing on top him.  She brought the stone down again and again, screaming as she did so.  When she finally stopped Insight had long since stopped moving, and what remained of his face was barely recognizable.  Frightened, Euphoria scrambled backwards, both in awe and horrified of what she was done.  

He's goneHe's finally gone.  Insight was dead and, against all odds, Euphoria had survived.  

She rose gingerly to her feet.  Her body ached from a dozen bruises and scrapes, and her face felt like it was on fire, but she didn't think anything was broken.  She pointedly did not look at where Insight lay.  Somehow, her week of terror had ended, and she was still standing, if barely.  

Euphoria found her glasses, which had been bent and partially shattered in the struggle.  She'd have to go back to one of her safe houses to retrieve another pair.  After spending what seemed like an eternity in hiding, it was time for people to know exactly who she was. 

Now it was time to make sure she was never left so vulnerable again.

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Skinsaver spun as the doors to his office swung open.  "I said no one was to bother . . ." he trailed off as he recognized his guest.  Though her face was battered and bruised almost beyond recognition, the strawberry blonde hair and the distinctive glasses gave Skinsaver enough visual cues to recognize Euphoria.  "Euphoria . .  . but . . ."

"I have no time for this Skinsaver.  I clearly need medical attention."  Her voice was strained, but commanding.    

"Yes of course, right this way."  Skinsaver led Euphoria out of his office to the nearest patient room.  Though out of sorts, he noted that every staff member they passed seemed to be humming or staring off into space in a contented daze or stupor, enthralled by Euphoria's power.  

"Does, uh, Rainmaker know you are back?" Skinsaver touched the shoulder of a sedated patient with one hand and reached out for Euphoria with his other hand.  As he examined her with his X-Ray vision, he could see that she was favouring one leg, and that she was covered in many scrapes, lacerations, and bruises.  What had happened to her?  

"I will visit Rainmaker as soon as I am well, but that is my concern."  Euphoria eased down onto a nearby stool and took Skinsaver's hand.  "Butting into other people's business isn't the way to avoid. . . disappointment in the post."

Skinsaver shrunk back at the allusion to his weakness.  He hadn't realized Rainmaker had shared it with Euphoria, but it only made sense.  After all, Euphoria had basically been running Rainmaker's dominion for her.  For all he knew she had written the letters Rainmaker used to threaten him.  

He activated his powers, focusing in on Euphoria's individual injuries, and then doing a generally healing of her entire body.  When he was done, his patient had begun weezing in her sleep, suffering from injuries more severe the ones he had healed Euphoria of.  

"Say nothing of my return.  I need to discuss next steps with Rainmaker.  We will be in touch."

"Yes, of course.  But . . ."

"Yes of course, my Queen."  

Skinsaver frowned.  Euphoria had always been one of the few Queens to avoid the formalities of her position.  "As you command, my Queen."  

Euphoria nodded, and then left him.  

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"Halt!  This area is restricted!" 

Euphoria didn't break her stride, but lashed out with her powers, and the guard slumped against the wall, giggling with glee.  As she made her way through Rainmaker's compound she gave every person she met a similar dosage.  Rainmaker's servants had always had the most access to Euphoria's powers, and had no doubt felt the consequences of withdrawal more keenly than other citizens.  The sudden restoration of Euphoria's unnatural happiness could be overwhelming for anyone, but for Rainmaker's staff it was all consuming.  Many collapsed to the ground, and most barely even seemed to notice her passing.  

Euphoria opened the doors to Rainmaker's bedroom slowly, and closed them silently behind her.  The Queen of Corvallis tossed and turned in her bed, well in the grips of her most recent nightmare.  Euphoria took a loaded syringe out of her purse, recently retrieved from another of her safe houses, and mentally prepared herself for what she was going to do.  Be calm Rainmaker, I am here to help you.  This medicine will help you sleep deeper and keep your nightmares at bay.  For extra insurance, Euphoria spread some oil-based lubricant on Rainmaker arm before attempting to pierce her skin.  Thankfully, either Rainmaker's danger sense recognized that Euphoria meant no harm, or Euphoria's guess about her weakness had been correct, for the powerful epic did not shift into cloud form.  When the syringe was almost empty, Rainmaker's eyes fluttered open.  

"You . . . Euphoria, is that you?"  Rainmaker's voice seemed to slur slightly, as the sedative took hold.  "What, what are you doing?  Do I dream still?"  

"Hush, sweet Queen.  Go to sleep and all will be well in the morning."  

"All will . . . but what about the spill?  The streets are being flooded.  We must clean it up, get rid of it before it reaches us."  

"Hush, Rainmaker.  It is being cleaned up as we speak."

"Cleaned . . . yes.   Good.  Euphoria can handle . . ."  Rainmaker trailed off as the sedative took hold.  Euphoria emptied what remained in the syringe, and then set it aside.  

Euphoria clasped Rainmaker's hands in her own and went to work with her powers.  She started by focusing on her absence, colouring Rainmaker's perception of the last week with as much pure fear and terror as she could muster.  She left periods when she and Rainmaker had been together untouched,--she would go back and increase the positive emotions associated with those times later, saturating Rainmaker's memory with  devotion for Euphoria--but then intensified Rainmaker's feelings of fear whenever they were separated.  When she got passed their first meeting, Euphoria again focused on fear, drenching Rainmaker's remaining memories with it.  Rainmaker's whole life had been one of fear and uncertainty until Euphoria stepped in, and Euphoria was Rainmaker's one source of light. 

When Euphoria was done, she went back over Rainmaker's emotional history again and again, adding subtle nuances to her revision to make it feel more real.  Yes, it had been particularly heartbreaking when people refused to succumb to Rainmaker's rule easily.  Couldn't they see she deserved obedience and respect?  And then Euphoria had arrived and made everything better.  She alone gave Rainmaker what she needed, what she craved above all else.  The thought of Euphoria leaving was nearly as frightening as her actual absence.  It was only with Euphoria at her side that Rainmaker got the attention she deserved.  Her powers made her a mighty force to be reckoned with, but with Euphoria's help she was a goddess.  Without Euphoria, Rainmaker was nothing, a thought too terrible to contemplate.

There was a reason Rainmaker preferred to rule the way she did, rather than instill terror in her people like some epics.  Above all, she craved the adoration of the people around her--she wanted to be celebrated far more than she wanted to be feared.  

Euphoria worked through the night, not daring to stop until Rainmaker woke up, lest she accidentally miss something as she had with Insight.  For this to work, her revisions needed to be perfect.  If Rainmaker suspected what had happened, it could all be for naught.   Once the sun rose, Rainmaker's mobile started going off.  With a free hand, Euphoria sent out a general text instructing that Rainmaker was not to be bothered, and she incapacitated any vanillas who called from outside the door with powerful doses of happiness.  

Euphoria sat back as Rainmaker's eyes fluttered open, sweeping the empty syringe and the container of lubricant into her purse before they could be seen.  

"What . . . Euphoria?"  Rainmaker's confusion melted away, replaced with an expression of pure joy.  She sprung forward, wrapping Euphoria in a tight hug.  "It's you, it's really you!"

Euphoria suppressed a shudder and returned Rainmaker's embrace.  "Yes it is me.  You're safe now."

"I was so scared without you.  Things have been just wretched.  I . . . I don't know what to do."  

"There's only one thing to do, Shining One."

"But what?  Everything we've built.  It's all falling apart.  I was so lost without you."  

"This city does not deserve you anymore, Bright One.  They have squandered your generosity and patience.  They are not worthy of you, or of us."  Euphoria began to run her fingers through Rainmaker's hair in what she hoped was a comforting fashion, and hugged her closer, bringing her mouth even with Rainmaker's ear.  

"We need to destroy Corvallis."

One Year Later

Caroline gasped as what was left of her former home came into view.  She had to check her mobile several times to be sure she was in the correct location.  To be fair, she hadn't been back since long before Calamity had arrived, but even still, she had expected to at least recognize some part of what remained.  Instead, she was greeted with complete and utter devastation.  The land was torn and broken in a chaotic heap, barren and completely unrecognizable as a place that had once been home to thousands of people.  

At least now I know he's probably dead.  Though the ruins of Corvallis, if what was left could even be properly called a ruin, were particularly bad, what Caroline was seeing was not all that different form what she had seen elsewhere in Oregon.  The rumours of its destruction by the warring of its epic masters had proven founded.  Caroline took one last look at the desolate landscape, spitting on the ground for good measure, and the returned to her camp.  Good riddance.  The city and its inhabitants had only bred misery in her life, and the best decision she had ever made was to leave it.  

A small part of her wondered about the small child she had left behind.  Little Leila, named for her mother, against Richard's initial wishes.  I hadn't been that hard to convince him, she'd just pointed out what a traditional and feminine name it was, and half the battle was won.  Maybe Leila had made the smart decision and gotten out when she could.  Maybe Richard had done the little girl a favour by driving her away before she could be caught up in the destruction.  

No sense in being emotional about it.  What's done is done.  

It took her a few hours to retrace her steps back to her camp.  When she returned, the others were making supper--canned beans, again.  The only food they had was what they brought themselves.  

"I'm back," Caroline threw down her pack and sat down next to her friend, Hannah.  

"So," Hannah turned, offering Caroline a canteen of water, "What happened in Corvallis?"

7

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Three Days Later

Jumpdrive frowned at the screen. Corvallis was in chaos, with a rebellion of humans adding to the general feelings of imminent destruction that was facing the city. He wasn't sure what the point of this exercise was, but he would still stay and follow orders. Not for Buttercup, or Rainmaker, or the absent Euphoria. Or for the city. But for Michael. 

For today, he hunted Michael's killer. Not himself, but the Epic that had forced him to kill his own friend.

Iconoclast.

Locator buzzed, reminding him of his mission as his thoughts distracted him. Looking at the screen, he saw that the drone he had flicked to was seeing something. An old church, it seemed, with a crowd of people inside. And around the edges.... ghouls. The creatures skulked out of the shadows, blood covering their bestial claws and faces. The stained-glass windows of the church were intact. Evidently, the inhabitants did not have guns or other means of defending themselves. They would be slaughtered. The beasts howled and charged. He nearly piloted the drone onwards, not wishing to see yet another slaughter in the charnal-house the city had become. But he noticed something strange. The ghouls reached the windows, the people screamed, but.... there was no smashing glass. 

The ghouls stopped, avoiding the flimsy windows and hissing as they circled the building. 

Jumpdrive was astounded. He'd seen ghouls jump straight through windows before, shards of glass slicing their skin to pieces. They didn't feel pain. Why stop? He moved the drone closer, trying to get a better look. His suspicions were confirmed- the windows were not barred, or boarded-up, and they could clearly see and hear the people inside. They should be climbing through the windows and bashing down the door, but they simply stalked around them. 

Suddenly a jolt of realisation his him. Every Epic had a weakness. His research had confirmed that the weakness worked even against Giftings of that Epic's power. The only thing that could possibly be deterring those things.... was if something about that building, or those windows, triggered Iconoclast's weakness. This could be the secret. He studied the windows. "Locator, get me in touch with Buttercup. She needs to know about this...."

 

Hours later....

 

Iconoclast and Slaughterine made a happy pair of murderers. The streets were abandoned, and the distant sound of gunfire could be heard. Chaos followed him wherever he went, and it had come here with but a little push. He had kidnapped their little Epic Broadcast, using his power to disrupt communications, send out calls for revolution, and incite terror. Then, his constant attacks and threats against the Queen Bubbles prevented Corvallis from controlling movement into and out of the city. It hadn't been long before most of the Epics had begun fleeing with their own servants. The servants and slaves had risen up in violent mobs, and the Epics had fled even faster. It wasn't long before many of the security forces had begun joining the rebels, or fleeing on their own. And through it all had been him and Slaughterine, slaying guard units, turning humans into beasts, and sowing fear throughout the city and its citizens.

It had been a good few weeks.

An armoured van suddenly veered from around the corner in front of them, with the badge of the Corvallis Security Forces emblazoned on the sides. "Ah, more lackeys of Rainmaker, to interrogate me about my crimes!" Iconoclast laughed. The armoured car sped towards them, and Slaughterine ran for a nearby yard to get out of the way. Iconoclast kept laughing, holding his hands behind his back. Slowly, they hardened, two fists becoming like rock, bones and joints stiffening. The car was almost upon him, tinted windshield reflecting his own visage back upon him. He was reminded in seeing that face that it wasn't his real face. Never, never his real face.

Just before the van hit him, he leaped up, enhanced leg muscles  propelling him forward with great force. He thrust his hardened arms in front of him, and he met the windshield of the speeding vehicle like a rocket. The impact shattered his arms, and he could feel every crack, break and fracture as the shock reverberated through his skeleton.  His arms were nearly ripped from his body. But the windshield shattered too.

Sailing through the wreckage, glass tearing his skin apart, Iconoclast came face-to-face with the shocked human driver. His momentum crushed them together, and Iconoclast's jagged teeth found his throat as the van veered off course. The guard let out a gurgled scream, and Iconoclast felt his bones healing back together again as he ripped the driver's throat out.

The vehicle crashed onto its side, sliding through a lawn and crashing into a nice suburban house. 

Slaughterine ran to help him, and the back doors of the van fell open. As Iconoclast crawled out of the shattered and bloodied canopy of the van, three figures emerged from the back, recovering from the crash remarkably well. Two women and a man, all carrying weapons. He recognised one- Buttercup, head of Corvallis Security.

"Master!" Slaughterine begged. "That is Buttercup! We need to GO!" Iconoclast laughed, snapping himself back together. "Perhaps, little one, but for now, I want to have a little fun..."

The two groups faced each other, the wheel of the van still spinning idly. Iconoclast shuddered, the final re-positioning complete. He was fully healed. He smiled broadly, revealing a row of razor-sharp teeth amidst his otherwise nondescript, middle-aged features. "Well well well! If it isn't Buttercup herself! And her little band of deputies! Hmm... strange, they don't seem to be in uniform. Did all your real officers run away?"

Buttercup looked furious, but said nothing. She hefted a large axe, to go with the spear and samurai sword the others wielded. Iconoclast was curious- why... swords? Medieval weapons? Did they think a sword could do more to him than a gun or a speeding van could? After a silence, he continued. "I think you should give up, all three of you. The city is lost, and my ghouls run rampant already. I have spent the last day building up quite the number of them! My advice is to leave, and end this totalitarian little project you have here. Embrace the chaos, and take what you want! Like true Epics should."

The three spread out, holding their weapons carefully, all with the sharp edges of the blades facing him. The man, however, held his crookedly, so that the flats were exposed. That is when he saw something on the blade. Some arrangement of symbols, scratched into the metal. He narrowed his eyes, and felt the slightest tinge of fear. Could they..... The man saw him looking at his weapon, and he started, twisting it so that the symbols were out of view. Iconoclast froze. They... they knew. They knew his weakness!

Iconoclast screamed, "Destroy the blades! Slaughterine, destroy the weapons!" Buttercup yelled a warcry and all three charged towards him, wielding weapons marked with holy symbols. He knew that one of them would be a cross.

Slaughterine reacted with a start, and blasted lightning at Buttercup. Her bolts arced out, striking the axe and her arm, and she dropped the smoking, charred weapon with a cry of pain. The man slowed, turning in concern, as Slaughterine enveloped him in lightning too. The man, however, barely seemed to notice, although his spear caught fire and the head seemed to char and melt under the heat.

The samurai-woman got to her too fast, and as Iconoclast backed away in fear, the katana whipped around and severed Slaughterine's arm. She screamed, and with a wave of her other arm sent arcs of red lightning into the samurai. It was the samurai's turn to cry out, as her clothing and body burned under the fierce bolts. The woman fell to the ground, and Slaughterine whimpered, clutching her bleeding stump.

Iconoclast felt his fear draining away. Their weapons.... they were destroyed. The symbols charred. They could do nothing to hurt him now. 

Buttercup rose to her feet, burns and injuries healing. The man was completely unharmed, but looked concerned at the fallen samurai. She didn't move, her body burned and her sword a charred, twisted mess. The man lifted his hand, and the samurai began floating through the air, to rest behind them. Iconoclast scowled at Slaughterine, "Cauterise your wound and stop whining!" She looked angry, but with a flash of light she did so.

Iconoclast grew thicker skin, sharper claws, and spiny ridges along his shoulders and back. Soon he was a beast of thick, corded muscle, like a nightmare given form. "I will kill you both! I will end you like the monsters you truly are!" He charged.

His charge was foiled at the last minute as both of his opponents took to the sky, hovering above and behind him. He felt a great force take over him, and he was mentally yanked backwards by the male Epic. Slaughterine shot a bolt of scarlet lightning skywards, only narrowly missing Buttercup as she swooped towards her, fists at the ready. Iconoclast turned, and with a powerful jump leaped at the male. The man looked shocked as he sailed towards him, and could barely react before clawed fists wrapped around his arms. A normal man would have had his limbs ripped off, but Iconoclast could tell that this Epic had a powerful form of resilience. Perhaps invulnerability. But he was not super strong, and he was unable to pry the monster off of him. Reaching up, Iconoclast tried to rip his face apart, but his claws skated off the skin and eyes without so much as a scratch.

Buttercup soared towards Slaughterine, but a hail of red lightning knocked her to the ground. As she healed her charred skin, Slaughterine staggered forwards and prepared to unleash another blast.

Seeing this, the man showed real concern, and waved his free hand to send Slaughterine flying backwards. Seizing on this, Iconoclast wrenched himself upwards, catching the man in a great, crushing hug and dragging the distracted Epic to the ground. Still, he suffered no damage, but was now pinned underneath the insane Epic. Iconoclast laughed as he formed an iron grip around the man's arms. The male Epic glared at him, and his laugh died as he felt a great force pushing him away. The sudden wrenching force was too great, and his fingers were smashed or ripped off as he was thrown off the Epic and onto the street. He crashed into the tar, and staggered to his feet. He saw the man rise as well, staring him down as behind him, Buttercup rose to her feet.

Iconoclast grinned. "Why do you fight for them, mysterious Epic? You could do so much for yourself! Whether or not you serve me! Go and take what you want in this city of ruins! Live this beautiful collapse! Instead you try, futilely, to stem this inevitable change?"

The male shook his head. "My name is Argon. And I am better than that."

Suddenly, a gaggle of ghouls emerged from between two nearby houses. The ghouls sniffed the air, and soon saw the combat happening. With growls, they charge towards the fresh meat. Argon, Buttercup and Slaughterine turned in surprise as screaming ghouls descended upon them. Iconoclast laughed, and leaped forward. Distracted, Argon didn't see him coming- and they both crashed to the ground as Argon was brought to the ground. Iconoclast bashed his head into the street, and with another powerful leap, sprang up towards Buttercup, who was fighting his ghouls nearby. Argon tried to rise, but two ghouls sprang onto him and brought him back down. 

Buttercup easily killed her ghouls, while Iconoclast directed them away from Slaughterine. Buttercup turned to see Iconoclast in his thorny horror descend upon her. He slashed open her chest, but she gritted her teeth and retaliated with a green-glowing punch that shattered his shoulder. They both immediately began healing, and trade more blows. Iconoclast slashes while Buttercup strikes, both leaving injuries that barely last. Slaughterine turns to see them slashing at each other, and Iconoclast sees her aim bolts behind them- at Argon, presumably. 

Iconoclast reaches forward, clutching his hands around her neck. She falls backwards, and he pins her to the ground as she punches his arms, shattering the bone. But his claws still dig into her neck, and the broken bones heal quickly. Buttercup's face turns red, and she gasps for breath. Iconoclast grins. "Where is Rainmaker, little Epic?" His expression becomes less gleeful, and more.... angry. "Where is your little god? Where is she?! Do you pray to her? Beg her to save you? Well today you learn that there are no gods!!! There is nothing above... except me!!!"

Suddenly the sound of static and electricity cut out, and Slaughterine fell to the ground in the corner of his vision. Iconoclast was wrenched out of his rage, and he turned to see that a throwing knife was embedded in her throat. Her sightless eyes stared upwards, and a thin trail of blood crept out of her mouth, to match the fountain gushing from her neck. Where... where had they gotten the throwing knife?

He heard footsteps behind him, and turned to see Argon standing nearby. Behind Argon, the samurai woman had risen weakly to her knees, and she held a gleaming katana in her hands. Flawless, except for the crude cross carved into the blade.

Iconoclast went ice cold, and froze as she threw the sword to Argon, him catching it easily with his telekinesis. The cross etched into the blade seemed to glow, and enlarge, becoming a blazing image in his vision. A little whimper escaped him as he rose, releasing Buttercup. Argon looked at him with hard eyes, and the sword hovered in the air, rotating to point directly at Iconoclast. 

Iconoclast felt tears begin to well in his eyes. "damnation.... damnation tear ducts.." he whispered. "I... I removed you...."

With that, Argon flicked his wrist, and the sword shot through the air like a javelin, impaling him through the stomach with a grunt. Pain exploded in him for the first time in what felt like forever, and he fell to his knees. Tears streamed down his face, and that infernal cross burned in his vision. Buttercup rose behind him, and Argon strode forward, but he barely noticed them. He felt himself change. His face reshaped, his hair changed colour, and his body shrunk back to its original form. His original face, and his original body. He felt the blade in him twist brutally as Argon worked it with his powers. Roger Moore cast his eyes downwards, and he saw a piece of shattered glass on the street, right below him. Reflected in it, for the first time in years, he saw his real face. "Do you...." He coughed, and blood came out. Buttercup walked around to his front, bruised and bloodied neck still healing, and with a growl, she ripped the sword out of him.

Roger Moore gasped in pain, and his blood covered the street. It covered the glass, and he could no longer see himself. His vision began to darken, and in the darkness he thought he saw Mary smiling down upon him. "Do you think...." He looked up at them. "Do you think Mary will... like this face?" He closed his eyes, falling forward.

And finally, Roger felt no more pain. Ever again.

 

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Cornucopia wiped a smear of blood from her face, the green silk of her glove now stained with a crusted black and red, the blood of a creature which should have been dead a long time ago. These horrific human-like creatures had been relentless in their attacks, only growing more and more insistent as time went on. It was only yesterday that they had finally started attacking the Arboretum directly, and while the first wave had been instantly mowed down by row up row of pistol-wielding bushes, the next wave had come, and the next. A never ending tide of human flesh, throwing themselves towards their own destruction.

But why did they stop? She mused.

The hordes had been drawing steadily closer to the center of the Arboretum, forcing Cornucopia back to her dwelling, and then suddenly they'd all stopped, twitching. She had taken advantage of the distraction to slaughter all those she could see, but then no further waves of them had come. The rest of the night had passed without issue, finally, the sun had risen, a clear, bright day. Cornucopia's wounds had begun healing over at an accelerated rate until finally her skin was smooth and unblemished once again, aside from the smatterings of blood.

Moving back inside the house, she saw one of her remaining servants, huddled in a corner, a metal poker held before him defensively, sweat staining the formal suit he was wearing.

"Be a dear and run me a bath would you?" She said quietly. "It's been a dreadful morning."

The young man sat still, eyes still wide in panic, not seeming to understand what she was saying. He lowered the poker slightly and began looking around furtively, keeping his form as small as possible.

Cornucopia sighed and raised one, lofty finger to point outside.

"They are all dead or gone, I have some peace at last, and for me to enjoy that peace I need to rid myself of... this." She gestured towards the filth and gore staining her clothes and skin. "So please, a bath?"

Without waiting for an answer she moved towards the bathroom, standing in front of the mirror and examining her own features. Dark circles lay under her eyes, her hair was a mess, and the earth that usually stained her clothes and hands was completely covered by blood and pieces of meat. With disgust she flicked one piece off and then began changing to a bathrobe and poured some water onto her face, ridding herself of the worst of it.

A sudden, sharp pain sprung in her shoulder.
She spun around to see the same frightened servant, eyes confused and harried, looking at her in panic. The poker he had been holding clattered out of his hands with the force of her spin.

She sent a rush of power towards the boys stomach, finding a small seed from a lemon he must have eaten last night, the seed quickly began swelling, unfurling inside of him, spreading roots through his body.

In a moment the boy coughed, spattering her in a fresh coat of blood as his innards were torn apart, a bloodied root system began emerging from his abdomen. The lower half of his body fell to the ground, limp, but his torso was now held stiffly in place as a thick woody trunk began to grow inside of it, eventually bursing his neck open as the tree began forming in earnest.

Plucking a small, withered, and oddly red-colored lemon from the tree, Cornucopia kicked what remained of the body to one side and began moving to the outside. She needed sunlight, she needed to heal. The house could be replaced later if she required.

Rushing out the front door she collapsed onto the ground, eyes closed, she moved the robe from her shoulder to expose as much skin as possible to the sunlight. She felt the pain soothe, the wound, slowly beginning to draw itself shut.

Just in time for Jenna, the only other of her servants to catch her in the stomach with a kitchen knife.

"We need her back." The woman choked out. "Ever since she left everythings been... we need her back, I need it back."

Jenna continued hacking into Cornucopia's body, inflicting damage faster than it was healing.

A loud bang echoed from among the trees as one turned its branch, aimed a pistol and fired. Jenna's body collapsed ontop of Cornucopia, the blood of both bodies mingling slowly on top of her.

Weakly, Cornucopia managed to push the body off of her, pulling out a mobile she dialed a number.

"Rainmaker, my Queen, I nee-" A violent cough racked her body, unable to fully heal wounds this powerful without a stronger source of sunlight. "Cornucopia, in the Arboretum... need.. light."

The phone fell from her hands and she lay on her back, dress torn apart, wounds closing but not fast enough to replace the blood she was losing. The Arboretum rustled as every plant within a mile of her began shifting, branches waving as though in sympathy of her pain.

"Hush now." Cornucopia crooned. "Soon she will bring the light, and we can all bathe in its warmth."

She closed her eyes, feeling the gentle breeze from the plants, the soft dappling of light on her skin as clouds passed in front of the-

Her eyes lazily opened.

"Clouds?"

Looking into the sky she saw small wisps of white forming, thickening into grey. Passing in front of the sun. Cutting off her light.

"Not rain. Need sun." She muttered.

The clouds continued to thicken, all of them blocking the light. All of them forming solely over the Arboretum.

Her watery eyes began to fill with a red haze as she realized what was happening.

"No. No, you need me." She said, clutching at her stomach, her voice cracked as she began screaming into the clouds. "I provide for you! I provide for all! All the worthless people in that city live at my whim! Food, water, power, weapons. All of it is ME!"

The thick cloud cover blocked the last rays of sunlight reaching her body.

Cornucopia stared blankly into the clouds. Why? Why was this happening? What reason could Rainmaker possibly have?
Summoning what little willpower she had left, she clutched at her stomach, feeling her blood seeping out, watering the surrounding plants with her own life.

"It doesn't matter." She said, hanging her head down. Droplets of rain began to fall, wetting her hair, straightening the few curls that remained, plastering it all to her head and the sides of her face. One tear from each eye joined the falling droplets of water.

"Fine. If our alliance ends, then let it end."

She raised her head, staring at the plants that drank in the water from the clouds.

"Children. It's time." She said. In contrast to her softly spoken words, the burst of power she sent into the ground was anything but soft. A harsh, violent burst flooded the surrounding greenery, some plants began groaning under the force of her command.

And deep under the earth, a complex network of roots began constricting, pulling themselves tighter. Tighter around the triggers they held.

Laying back down, Cornucopia tilted her head to the side, taking in one last view of her garden.

"Beautiful."

The ground beneath her, the forest around the Arboretum, and the streets of the cities of Corvallis. All heaved upwards as countless millions of explosives detonated from beneath them.

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