4th November, 22:10
The elevator hummed as it descended from the faux-hideout.
Dalia and Vasiliki were leaning against the console, looking straight at it with matching frowns (Dalia more than Vasiliki), while Prisca was sitting on the couch and looking contrite. There was a screen open on the console’s monitors, showing Eudocia’s emblem – the lips with a red jewel inbetween, forming an eye on black ground.
They were obviously waiting for Basil, and at least two of them were none too pleased, but everyone stopped in their tracks when they saw Basil.
He looked… not like himself. His hair was messy, but that was normal. What wasn’t normal were his old grey sweatpants, or his frayed black shirt. Basil was a very scatterbrained person, but he usually dressed very carefully – not stylishly, but carefully, and appropriate for the occasion. He did not do sweatpants outside the house. Not to mention that he looked kind of… pale.
“Basil, are you alright?” Prisca asked, flying over to him, putting her hands onto his shoulders. She looked into his tired eyes, worried.
“More or less,” he said, brushing her off without even a kiss.
He’d never done that before.
The girls watched as he walked towards his laboratory entrance, until Dalia got her indignation back and hollered, “Hey, mister! We’ve got somethign to talk about!”
He ignored her.
“We just learned about your AI – why did you keep something that awesome secret from us!?” she continued, stomping after him. “Didn’t you trust us? Or what? Why did your girlfriend know, but we di-“
Basil whirled around, his eyes cold. “I don’t fucking care right now! Leave me alone!” He walked into his workshop and shut the door behind him, leaving the girls stunned.
<I don’t think I’ve ever heard father swear at someone,> Eudocia commented, her voice meek.
“No shit,” Vasiliki breathed.
* * *
Basil felt ashamed almost before he’d finished speaking, but he left the room nonetheless and closed his workshop’s door and sat down in his favourite chair.
My head hurts.
It really did. His power had been running non-stop, at its maximal intensity, for weeks now. It had only gotten worse since he’d… since he had almost died fighting Hastur. More intense, almost an order of magnitude more so, in fact. Almost.
And now this. As if he’d suddenly had his blinkers… blinders ripped off, now he couldn’t stop thinking about all the things he knew Amy had done… he hadn’t been able to face her, he’d just left, practically ran over to his lair.
Prisca told them about Eudocia, came an unbidden thought. She probably slipped up and didn’t regain her composure quickly enough to divert their suspicion. It was very obvious. Right?
Right you are, mate.
He pinched his nose’s bridge, closing his eyes. Blazing Sun. Can you hear me?
Can you… tone it down? My head hurts.
I have only little influence on that, but I shall do whatever I can.
You are my power. How can you not have influence over yourself? he asked, irritated.
I cannot say.
So we’re back to that, eh mate?
Neither of you seems to be of any fucking use beyond making me feel miserable.
Ouch. You break my widdle heart.
Basil shut them both out and stood up, swaying on his feet. He looked around… he still had to rework his armor into something more resource-efficient, he needed to work on a better protable energy source, a functional flight system, an upgrade for the three-dimensional maneuvering gear, the new explosive compound, the enhanced stun gun, his anti-brick rifle, the stealth suit…
He shook his head, trying to refocus his attention. He couldn’t block out the ideas, the inventing, but he could focus on something else.
Not in here, though. Why did I come?
He had been hoping to see Prisca. At least that had been his initial intention. He had thought maybe she could help calm him. Then he had just started getting more and more irrate as he had gotten closer to the base, to his work and then he had blown up like that. He did not even really care about Eudocia being revealed to the others, he probably would have done it soon, anyway, but it had been just another thing to think about and he really did not need that right now.
I need to get out, go somewhere quiet and away.
He always kept a change of clothes in his workshop, and he switched into winter pants and a pullover (it was getting rather chilly outside, and there were signs of a massive snowstorm coming) and a pair of winter boots, pulled his jacket over it, stashed some self-defense equipment and went back into the common room.
Prisca was gone, but Vasiliki and Dalia were still there, apparently chatting with Eudocia, but all three fell silent when he came in.
The girls were both dressed in bathrobes, their hair in towels. When had they found the time to shower? They certainly had not showered together and even if they did that, he could not have spent more than five minutes in the workshop…
Basil tried to remember how long he had been in his workshop, at which point he might have nodded off without noticing it… perhaps when he had pinched his nose and closed his eyes? He could not really say.
They looked at him, apparently as unsure about how to react as he was. Though most definitely for different reasons. Vasiliki looked ready to start into a lecture.
<Father? I’m sorry I-> Eudocia started up, but Basil cut her off with a wave of his hand.
“I’m not angry. It was going to happen soon, anyway.” He looked at the girls, and they seemed to deflate a little under his gaze, for whatever reason. “And I’m sorry I blew up like that. I have some… issues to deal with, and I need to do it alone, I think. Please excuse me.”
And without another word, he left to go for a walk.
* * *
“Did he… doesn’t he kind of look like he’s in pain?” Dalia asked, now concerned instead of outraged.
<He’s complained about his power never turning off,> Eudocia confided in them. They were his teammates, so it wasn’t wrong to share this information with them, right?
“He never told us that,” Vasiliki whispered.
“I don’t think he tells anyone much of anything,” Dalia supplied, frowning.
“Well, if he wanted our help, he’d tell us,” Vasiliki continued. “Let’s give him some space, unless it really gets worse,” she finished in an authoritive tone.
* * *
Earlier the same day, in Rome
‘I have never, ever eaten so much ice cream at once – and still wanted more,’ Melody thought as she ate another spoon of this delicious, delicious chocolate ice cream.
It actually tasted like chocolate, not weird synthetic stuff mixed with frozen pseudo-milk. And it didn’t come in balls here. No, they just used a honest-to-god palette knife to scoop out the ice cream. Each serving was about the size of a double hamburger and it cost less than a normal ball of ice cream back home.
Quite simply, Melody was in heaven. It was almost good enough to make her forget the mortifying turn lunch with her family had taken. She hadn’t expected her mother or her brothers to behave, but she’d hoped her grandmother and her dad would reign them in.
“I’ve been coming to this place since I was two,” Irene said, pulling her out of her contemplation of family drama and delicious ice cream and back to the small, backstreet ice cream parlor in Rome they were at, sitting outside with a table between them to enjoy the afternoon sun. “I remember, the first time we came here, I accidentally knocked out mom’s glamour. Suddenly, me, my mom and my dad – all out of costume – where sitting in the middle of the place in the late afternoon. Which is kind of the prime time of places like these, during summer at least.”
‘That ought to have been fun,’ Melody commented, for once thankful for losing her voice. It meant she could talk to Irene telepathically and so keep eating delicious ice cream.
“Eh, it was kind of underwhelming, after the initial shock. Mom ported me away, Dad knocked out the short term memory of everyone and came after us. No one was harmed, except Dad,” Irene continued with a soft smile, her eyes sparkling as she reminisced.
Even Melody couldn’t help but notice how incredibly cute she looked when she was deep in thought like that. It made her want to snap a photograph, but she didn’t want to ruin the moment.
‘How come your Dad was hurt?’ she asked, curiously.
Irene shrugged, looking up. “Mom didn’t like him using his powers like that on innocent bystanders. She blasted him through three walls for that.”
‘I wouldn’t have thought that Lady Light gets violent like that. I mean, domestically,’ Melody said as she finished the chocolate ice cream and turned to the equally gorgeous Straciatella scoop. With extra chunky chocolate bits inside. She was going to weigh a ton by evening.
“Believe me, any woman would get physical with Dad as her significant other. He is… aggravating,” Irene said, taking a deep, calming breath. “I can’t count how many times… oh, seven-hundred and eighty-three times… he’s made me lose control and lash out at him. He loves to tweak peoples’ noses until they snap.”
‘I’ve heard about that. He always plays with his enemies, before he gets serious. If he gets serious in the first place.’
“Kind of the opposite of mom, really. They are like that, in many things,” Irene supplied, tasting a spoonful of her lemon ice cream (it looked delicious).
‘To be honest, I know very little about your mother, especially about her battles. There’s so few records of them, and most of them are really short,’ she replied as she assaulted her own ice cream. It was, as predicted, delicious. Almost made her forget the look on her mother’s face when she’d come in the door.
“That’s the point, really. One of mom’s lesser known nicknames is the ‘Fist of God’. Because you’ll feel like the lord almighty reached down and smacked you a good one, once she’s through with you,” Irene said with some obvious pride in her voice. “Mom hates fighting. She never toys with enemies. And she doesn’t believe in drawing negotiations out, either. Unless she’s sure she can do something with words, she only gives the bad guys one chance to surrender – and then she simply smacks them down by the principle of ‘in combat, overkill is the only appropriate amount of force’.”
Melody shuddered. She hadn’t seen much of Lady Light, but she knew how strong she was. And how, obviously, experienced she was, too. The thought of her just cutting lose as her modus operandi…
“There’s a reason most people she fights never fight her a second time. Dad, on the other hand, enjoys fighting so much, he usually gets angry if people refuse to fight him… unless he’s actually serious about what he’s doing, then he can be just as ruthless as mom,” Irene added.
For a moment, Melody wondered whether Irene knew how she really felt, and was just doing her best to distract her, but… Scratch that, she definitely knows.
Maybe she’d even tell me… Should she risk it? Irene had almost lashed out at her family for asking, but…
“What is it, Melody? You stopped eating ice cream,” Irene asked.
Melody gave a start, and looked down at the delicious treat. She took another spoonful, almost moaning in pleasure. ‘It’s nothing really. Just a little scatterbrained.’
Irene’s face became a little contrite. “I’m sorry about that. I didn’t expect them to… to act like that. I wasn’t really prepared.” As if to underline that statement, she swallowed one of her pills.
Shaking her head, Melody ate some more ice cream. ‘It wasn’t your fault. And… it’s really, really sweet, how you stood up for me. So… Thank you. And don’t feel bad for it,’ she thought as gently as she could. Communicating directly with her thoughts had been tricky, at first, but once she figured it out, it turned out to be really handy. So easy to express how she felt.
“I just… Mom and Dad have their flaws but they’d never treat me like that. Even at his worst, Dad was always… you know, acting like a father. And Mom… I don’t want to brag, but she’s always been… she always says the right thing, she always knows what I need, what to do to make me feel good, no matter what…” She looked wistfully at a passing family of locals. “I just wish we had more time, but Mom is always working, except on Sundays. And Dad has nothing like regular work hours.”
‘I know how that goes… Mom and Dad were always travelling around for concerts and stuff, and they took my brothers along once they learned to properly make music. Never me, though, except for one or two times.’ She didn’t really want to focus too much on her family right now. ‘Who raised you, if your parents weren’t always around?’
“Well, Mom did take off for a while when I was on the way, and to raise me. And Dad cut down on his work, too. Otherwise, it was people who could survive me lashing out. Kraquok, Severance, Quetzalcoatl (scarier than I can put into words), Journeyman,” Irene replied, now wistful again.
‘Journeyman?’ She’d never heard that name before.
Irene nodded. “An old friend of my parents. He’s rather private, doesn’t like being in the spotlight. Don’t spread his name around.”
‘He must be very powerful, and a real good friend to be trusted with you.’
“I’m not sure I could harm him, even if I wanted to. I’m not even sure my sister could, to be honest. It’s a shame, really, that his powers are so…” She obviously fought for words, while Melody just listened in fascination. “Limited! Limited is the right word. Let’s not talk about him anymore. And please keep it to yourself.”
‘He’s a secret, alright. But I’d really like to know what his power is, if he’s so invincible.’
“It’s… complicated. He’s the Mover,” Irene answered. Either she still felt guilty for the scene earlier or she just trusted Melody enough to keep her mouth shut. “I mean, he can go anywhere, any time, no matter what anyone tries to keep him out. He even visits parallel and alternate dimensions.”
‘Wow. Does he offer trips?’ It sounded like an awesome power. And she could see how it might only be useful for evading enemies instead of fighting them directly.
“Very rarely, and only to parallel Earths where there is no human life. He’s never told me why. Something about his power backlashing if he breaks certain rules,” came the answer. “And I can’t analyze them with my own power, at all. I think he always keeps most of himself in some other place, really, so we only see a part of himself in here. Subject change, please, I already said too much.”
‘We really need to talk some more about all the interesting people you know. Like this Wyrm…’ Melody leaned in closer, eyes sparkling.
Irene looked at her eyes, not breaking eye contact. “Wyrm is out of your league, Melody. Please, don’t dig deeper.”
‘Awwww, pleeeeeease?” She gave her her best puppy dog eyes, supporting her chin on her hands as she leaned over half the table.
Her friend kept up the eye-lock, and Melody noticed for the first time how strange her eyes were even when they were ‘normal’. Such a brilliant dark blue…
“No. And you’re definitely being too flirty for a straight gal, Melody.” She was smiling, though, her eyes growing somehow even darker. Flecks of red appeared in the dark blue.
Melody giggled, never breaking eye contact. Irene’s eyes were growing more interesting with every heartbeat, thin, fine black veins running through the white, the eyes turning darker, the red spreading. ‘As if you’re any better…’ What had they been talking about again?
Irene smiled, which made her eyes squint a little bit, somehow making them look darker and redder. “Yes, but you’re supposed to be the responsible one,” she said. “Besides, I just wanted to distract you from… you know, your family.”
Something stirred in the back of Melody’s head. Something was wrong. But Irene’s eyes were so beautiful, black orbs with a red-and-blue ring each, somehow drawing her in, drawing her closer…
“You know, I could just kiss you silly right now,” whispered Irene, and the spell broke. Irene wasn’t supposed to speak like that to her!
Irene gasped, her eyes going white as she surged back – literally, space twisted, putting more distance between them. Melody gasped as she realized how much – and how subtly – Irene’s power had been pushing her. Blushing furiously, she looked down at her ice cream. That was close, she thought to herself.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God, I’m so sorry!” whimpered Irene as space contracted again, returning the table to its normal dimensions. No one around them seemed to notice anything. “Melody, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to… I swear, I didn’t even notice…” She broke out into tears as she shoved pill after pill into her mouth.
Taking slow, deep breaths, Melody calmed her hormones again. She couldn’t feel their mental link anymore, so she took out her vocalizer.
<Don’t… relax. It pushed you… as much as it pushed me. You wouldn’t have resisted so long, otherwise, and you said something that helped me wake up.>
Irene nodded, as if trying to convince herself.
It took them a while, but they regained their composure and finished their ice cream in silence.
At the very least, Irene had managed to distract Melody.
Better late than never.
There will be a donation interlude out on Thursday. We’ll be taking a small trip to Australia for some sightseeing…
I love you, platonically of course, but I love you
Ah, beautiful Australia. Everything is poisonous, and the jellyfish rule the seas. Cracked said it best when they said it is practically a deathworld.
Take care…. A lot of care
As someone who lives in Australia I’m just going to say considering the heros and villains making every other country a death world Australia’s really going to be an escalation.
Wait till you see what Queen Madeleine can do. She’s got some serious firepower, and some seriously powerful servants.
what chapter is Queen Madeleine in?
Basil or melody?
Hmm. Really good, but there are so,e issues with this chapter that bothered me. First, your introduction has a lot of the passive voice- “Person A was leaning against Bulkhead B,” as opposed to “person A leaned against Bulkhead B.” As a rule, I only use the passive when something is happening and something else interrupts it- “he was opening the door when the house exploded.”
At one point a non-Melody character is described as breathing through her nose while talking, which only Melody can do.
The beginning section feels very disjointed and confusing, because the perspective shifts several times, and the sections between breaks (whatever those “***” things are called) are very short. For example, the one with Basil in his back room could be replaced with “in the lab…” and remove the need for the ***. I personally reserve those for when there’s a time-skip more than a few hours or a large change in location. Anything else and it’s unnecessary.
All that out of the way, this was good. Basil finally getting some backlash is I think long-overdue, and a great opportunity for development.
I always thought of the never turning off part and the headaches his power “overheating” so to speak, or overloading, don’t know which describes it better, what I mean is that his power seems to grow stronger when it “senses” that Basil is not prepared enough to take on the threats that he has faced, or is facing. In the past, such as when he faced the Spiteborn or when he had to operate on Vasiliki, a short term power boost was enough to solve the situation, so his power returned back to normal, but with all that happened in the Hastur arc, it is continually going at full capacity because, should such situations arise again, he is not equipped enough to deal with it.
The reason for the headaches and the stress would be that Basil just cannot handle it for so long, and it should tone down once he starts working on it….. Or at least that is what my logic tells me
the use of the passive and the disjointed first section is deliberate.
Fixed the mistake with the breathing
Okay, that’s perfectly legit. I guess that’s one of my pet peeves, but thinking about it now, given Basil’s mental state, it makes sense.
The headaches are simply using his power for too long. A human mind has limits and you sometimes need a break. His main issue is that he is currently not particularly powerful in the grand scheme of things, and knows that he will need ALOT more firepower to stay relevant so his power is trying to compensate.
Unfortunately this universe does not seem to care about strategy or tactics in concrete ways. In fact, that is one of the few criticisms I can give this universe. The higher level metas are too powerful, similar to superman. They have so many gamebreaking powers that it isn’t particularly interesting to see them fight. I’ve lost count of how many powers the dark has, and there isn’t very much drama when you have a power for every situation like Irene. Against a certain level of power, strategy/tactics don’t mean anything. If two metas meet, then the higher level one is going to win the fight from what has been observed. So unless Basil pulls out an amazing technical achievement like actual shields, then he is always going to be the underdog who needs a team to barely take on any villain. Which might be fine but it won’t change anything. The Dark Five are still untouchable, the war is still going on, the 6 aren’t ever stopped, DIL still attacks, and he can’t do anything about it. So he probably is feeling very frustrated and useless right now.
About the headaches, I agree, goes well with my theory as well, about how power always trumps tactics, I’d say it depends on the power gap between opponents, no matter how resourceful and smart you are, you can’t bring down a Titanium wall with a slingshot, but when the difference is not insurmountable, tactics can come a long way in closing the gap, think of the fight against the Snow Queen, she clearly outclassed the trio, but with a combination of tactics, synergy and luck, they prevailed. I admit that I too, would like to see more tactical combat, but I’m sure that with the coming war, the battles against DiL and the new gadgets that Basil can’t stop,thinking about, we’ll see a bit more of that
I put a coma in there instead of space at the end, sorry
A comma? BURN THE HERETIC! Yeah, really wish wordpress had an editing function myself.
It does, but only the blog owner can use it. I can actually change your and my comments however I want, and you’ll never know! Muhahahahaha!
It appears imp has gotten herself a WordPress account.
We are all doomed.
The Heartbroken are coming for me……?
You know i have to say that the fact that the characters aren’t all neatly balanced in some sort of weird unnatural power equilibrium is one of the things I like about this universe. I mean the real, actual, universe doesn’t care about strategy or tactics ether, and the fact huge haxed powers actually have a effect on the world in proportion to how extreme they are gives it a sort of surreal realism. For me books that are too balanced tend to get bland and have a very deus ex machina feel to them were none of the individual powers actually matter and end up breaking down into a sort of person A shoots 5 damage from his hands while person B shoots 6 damage from her eyes and it really doesn’t matter what person C’s powers are because its not like there powers will interact with the wider universe in any meaningful or consequential way in even a localized fashion.
As far as tactical combat goes I like any situation where a main character uses there brains to solve there problems in or out of combat but i imagine some of those scenarios have to a pain in the ass to write, what are the tactics for fighting a demigod(ish)? Chuck a nuke at it and run for your life?
also iI’m pretty sure we’ve been getting a select view and most metas just aren’t as powerful as the ones we’ve been seeing
I remember a character that could only control what we call low life forms and that did just this against a demigod. Chucked a lot of nukes at it and run to another dimension.
I also remember that character, the demigod pursued her and her low life forms and somehow, it was damaged, tired and angry enough for their combined efforts to kill him.
Besides, when it comes to tactics, snow queen fight
Oh, ooohhhhhhhhh, i live in australia! Are you going to put in bocadiles and drop bears and the mega platapuss? Oh and every one needs to speak in slang with outrageous acents
In a slightly more sober tone, i have no ideah how the heck im suposed to feel about GG and mellody as a ” couple ” . One should never ship unless it futhers charcter developemnt. Well I’ve always felt so. But they mesh so well together, but thier so young….. waaaaaaa mindaingst…
Been there, shipped that
Well GG is still a preteen, and everyone she has ever met has either been afraid of her, or serves her parents. Let’s say a attractive older teenager hits on her, and according to her powers they really do not have any other motives. GG has never had any real friends before, so she just might be confusing her feelings.
I think she even says outright that her power can’t distinguish friendship from love, and it affects her emotions as well
Hmm, awfully sorry to go on about my little theory, but the Autism thing is gaining more weight. After all, one of our most common symptoms is the inability to block anything out whatsoever (senses, our own thoughts etc). Also, whenever going into sensory overload (fairly frequently), we tend to get extremely irate.
diagnosing the less sever forms of autism is actually a very imprecise thing there’s this whole scale thing and lots of separate “traits” depending on how many you have and which ones to see where you place on the scale (and a hundred doctors will give pretty much a hundred different diagnoses or opinions its like many other psychological/neurological conditions in that its not all that well understood and that’s before you throw in Asperger’s)though what I’m talking about is for high functioning autism, but yeah Basil definitely has some strong autistic characteristics.
Oh, I know all about the messed up diagnostic system. I was merely pointing out that he has most of the symptoms which I have experienced myself.
agreed. thought it makes makes me wonder a Gadgiteer with a neurological focus is probably possible but what about a psychological focus?
Don’t worry about it
I love how much GG is able to open up to Mellybean, and their burgeoning friendship makes me smile whenever we get a scene with them. It’s so realistic to how it felt to be a “loner” kid that age, even up to the point of wondering whether it’s friendship you want or something more. It’s as if GG’s powers are taking the normal teen experience and pushing it into an extreme overdrive.
I also get the feeling that Eudocia, Dalia, and Vasiliki are going to become fast friends…