This noise is killing me, came the unbidden thought, as Melody moved carefully through a ruined husk of a mall.
It was the same mall whose shelter Hastur had corrupted, killing thousands of innocents, and wrecking the building.
Bree’s attack had only made things worse, and the place now looked positively post-apocalyptic, with collapsed ceilings, dust everywhere, puddles of water from broken piping, and so on.
And above all of it, that horrid noise. It wasn’t as bad as Bree’s presence had been, it wasn’t making her ears bleed at least, but good God was it annoying. A constant background thrum and whine, always changing, so she couldn’t even get used to it.
Sometimes, Melody really hated her power.
At least it keeps me reasonably warm. After she recovered her senses within this place, she’d found that her power armor was wrecked beyond use. Damage from operating it within Bree’s field, more damage it had incurred during the attack on the Gefährten, which she probably hadn’t managed to fix entirely because power armor just wasn’t something she was that good at, and Hotrod had been busy with his own project, they’d all piled up and left her all but stuck inside immovable scrap.
So she’d hit the emergency release and gotten out of it. Then she’d detached the gloves and bracers where she’d concentrated most of her sonic equipment, from it, relying on her innate strength and stamina to carry them now.
Which, of course, also meant that she was left barefoot, wearing nothing else but her visor, an athletic (pink) bra and athletic (pink) briefs made of spandex, in a ruined city currently hounded by six insane serial killers and their habitually rapacious devotees.
Maybe I should’ve listened to Mister Patrid and gone with a proper impact suit. Looking hot as heck doesn’t exactly help me right now.
It had been a childish thing, now that she thought about it, to specifically insist on transparent armor panels, just to show off the body her powers had given her.
Going from a mousy stick of a girl to a sex bomb was one hell of a rush, which was why she’d never begrudged Aimihime her own escapades, nor Dalia’s hers.
Girls who’d been pretty to begin with, like Irene and, according to Dalia, Hecate, just didn’t get it.
At least her physical enhancements made her pretty resistant to heat and cold.
Not that it matters now. I need to figure out what to do – I have freaking Fire Burial coming after me!
She stopped, standing with her bare feet in a puddle of reasonably clean water, feeling glass shards crunch between her toes. Her skin was bulletproof to small arms fire and seriously resistant to anything short of armor-piercing rounds, so she didn’t have to really worry about anything she was liable to step on actually causing her harm. She still wanted to find some proper shoes. And pants, or at least a skirt. And some kind of shirt.
Then again, I am inside a mall… there ought to be at least some clothes left in one of the stores, right?
She looked around, eyes searching. Quickly finding her target, she took a running start, then leapt all the way up to the second level. Gloved fingers caught onto the railing, and vaulted her over it, metal bending slightly, but her landing itself was otherwise completely silent.
The clothing store she’d aimed for still had at least half of its inventory inside.
She went in, rifling through the womens’ section. Finding a pair of stretchy jeans that fit was easy enough, as were socks and sneakers – she quickly cleaned her feet with some low-level sonic waves before putting them on – but finding a top that actually fit her ridiculous (but still very much appreciated!) bust size in a comfortable way proved to be a challenge. In the end, she just grabbed a hoodie that was probably a size too big for her, all in sky blue, with a white flower in tribal style stenciled on the back.
Should I try to… no, I couldn’t try to hide as a normie without discarding my tech. And without it, I’d be far less able to protect anyone.
She tied her hair back into a knot. With the noise cancellation active, there was no sound to stimulate the dye, leaving her hair to be unnaturally black, without any lustre or shine to it.
Thinking about her looks put her to thinking about Jared. He sure had made a habit of commenting on them, particularly her bust. It’d annoyed the hell out of her; as much as she liked showing off, she liked some class, and he’d had none. Never quite crossing the line into harrassment, but gleefully dancing next to it.
And she was quite certain she was going to miss it.
The clockwork giant had been him, she was sure. A swan song. She’d heard the tune of his power before, and the giant had been the tune, made flesh. Or crystal clockwork, as the case may have been.
Working together with the Dark, of all people, to save them all from whatever DiL had done.
That terrible un-sound. She shuddered just thinking about it, remembered the utterly wrong way it had sounded to her ears, even in those seconds and minutes she’d been linked to Jared’s Giant, nevermind the sheer, mind-rending cacophony right after, as it had exploded, then imploded.
Whatever it’d been, she was certain it would have destroyed them, if not for Jared’s sacrifice and the Dark’s efforts.
Goodbye, Jared. You were an insufferable ass, but you were a hero, and you went out like a boss.
I just wish you’d shown me more of the hero and less of the ass, in the time we’d known each other.
She froze, as another thought rose up, suddenly, as if thrust up into the spotlight by some unseen hand.
And, oh God, what’s going to happen to Kizzy now? Jared was the last family she’d had left.
She’d be alone now. A foster family was nice and well, but…
Glass crunched outside. The sound of boot on shards. From across the mall, but within the main area.
The parts of her visor that extended to cover her ears, looking like concave blue metal disks, turned on at a subvocal sound of hers, little more than a very precise vibration along a specific frequency, transmitted to her visor via her jaw and ear bones.
Irene’s idea, not hers, as much as it embarrassed her a little to admit it, even to herself. Making use of the fact that, while she couldn’t speak, she could still hum and make other sounds, and not only that, but she could produce frequencies humans shouldn’t be capable of. Having a smart friend could be very enlightening.
Since she wasn’t talking anyway, it was only efficient to use her throat to control her gadgets, though sadly, the system was still in the prototype stage, and she could only control her visor with it, so far.
Still, the echolocators went online, and her gauntlets began to transmit sounds on a frequency far too high for most organic life to pick up.
She listened to the map it was creating, walking out of the store, squatting low so she wouldn’t be easily visible, and directed the sonic pulses in the direction she’d heard the sound come from.
A child! she thought, as her pulses traced the outline of a young girl, going by general body shape and the skirt she was wearing. All alone, and scared, going by body posture and heartbeat.
Melody jumped onto the railing and ran towards her, completely soundless and faster than a normal person could hope to move.
She only stopped when she was close enough to see the child, leaping off the railing onto a large support pillar, clinging to it hard enough her fingertips sank slightly into the concrete, causing dust to rain down.
Her eyes widened when she saw, and recognized, the girl.
She leapt down, straight off the second level, and landed, silently, a good distance away from the girl, trying not to startle her too much.
The girl still gave a squeak and stumbled, staggering back, to fall into a puddle of water and crushed glass.
Melody leapt forth, faster than the girl’s eye could likely follow, and grabbed her at the last moment before the pretty black pinafore dress touched the water.
The girl squeeked, ready to run – or panic, or both – before she recognized her.
“Melo- Polymnia!” the little blonde squeaked, her tear-stained face briefly lighting up.
“Hey there, Kizzy,” she greeted her, with a smile that she knew didn’t reach her eyes, after she’d pulled her up onto her feet again and gotten her hands free. “What are youujsglj-!”
She was interrupted when Kizzy threw herself at her with such vigor, it nearly bowled her over, wrapping thin arms around her neck and holding on for dear life.
Careful not to hurt her with her oversized, rigid gauntlets, Melody hugged her back.
They couldn’t afford the time to just stay there and hug, but she took the time anyway, because Kizzy needed it, and if Melody was honest, she needed it, too.
Her heart ached in a way it never had before. Watching so many people be slaughtered by Bree, unable to help. Losing Brennus, a colleague who was almost a friend, whom she admired as a gadgeteer and as a hero. Losing Jared, who’d been way too annoying to admire even as a hero, until he’d gone and died for them. Now this, trapped in a world of horror and evil, singled out to be a crazy, cannibalistic pyromaniac’s plaything.
She really needed a break from it all.
“I couldn’t find anyone,” Kizzy said, after a whole minute of them just clinging to each other. “I was with my family but then the world went weird and I was alone and I thought I’d find Jar Jar, but there’s no one around, and, and, and…” She trailed off, looking up at Melody with big, tear-filled eyes.
Melody felt herself choke, even as she seemingly spoke without issue, her fingers twitching to form words. “It’ll be alright. You found me, and together we’ll figure it out somehow.”
Except for finding Jared. Because I felt, heard him die, saving fucking everyone.
“O-ok. Yeah. We can do it,” Kizzy said, earnestly, nodding. “We’ll, we’ll find Jar Jar and w- what?” She looked at her, confused, as if she’d seen something.
Of course she had. Melody had felt the stab of pain and grief, when she’d spoken of Jared again. And she’d never been good about schooling her expression, even for lesser things than these.
“Kizzy, I’m sorry, but-“
“No,” the little girl whispered. Her hands slipped off of Melody’s shoulders, where they’d been resting, and clasped each other in front of her heart. “No, no, no…”
She wanted to lie, so much, but she couldn’t. She’d never been very good at it, and it would have been wrong besides.
It was too late, anyway, because Kizzy could clearly see the answer on her face.
Her expression crumbled in time with her heart breaking.
Melody closed her arms around the girl, as she began to scream, and held her together as well as she could.
The city outside of the mall was strange to look at. With the sky a pure black above, but for the ‘display’, it should have been as dark as night-time, or if it was illuminated, one would expect said illumination to come from the screens above, but it wasn’t. Instead, a kind of diffuse, source-less light filled everything, and cast strange, warped shadows that seemed to be somewhere else each time one blinked.
It was pretty disconcerting, and made worse so for Melody because of the background thrum of Heretic’s power.
“That song you say you hear around me? The bad feeling you get from Patrick? That’s our powers,” Irene had told her, one night while they’d cuddled up on the couch, with irresponsible amounts of sweets, chips and soda, binging on streaming shows. “That’s why it gets louder the more my power is in control – that means it’s closer to the… forefront, I suppose. Pressed against the walls of this reality, making them thinner. Creating… vibrations, I suppose one could say, only it’s not the air that vibrates, but reality itself.”
Answering one question by opening up a billion more. It was typical of Irene. Not that Melody could blame her – her parents had made her swear to be careful about what she shared with others, about powers, and Melody was quite certain she’d shared more with her than she should’ve.
It was quite possible that Melody was among the top ten best-informed people in regards to powers and transdimensional theory in the world, at the very least top twenty, by now, just on stuff Irene had let slip.
If only I had the chance to lock myself in my lab and just work out all the ideas this is giving me, she thought in the now, mournfully.
Looking down her left side, she saw Kizzy, holding onto her hand as they walked under the false sky. The girl had cried and screamed for fifteen minutes straight, and then she’d gone entirely silent. Not a peep from her since, empty eyes remaining downcast.
Instead of being able to just detach from the world and work on her tech, Melody had to take care of this poor girl, and she didn’t know how to. She’d never had younger siblings, only older brothers and a sister, and certainly no one who’d ever gone through anything like this. Or was still going through it.
All I can do right now is be there, and keep her safe from the monsters.
And so they trudged along, searching for other survivors. With her noise canceller and echolocator both active, she and Kizzy were as silent as ghosts, and she could hear everything happening within two city blocks.
So far, she hadn’t picked up any signs of life, other than a few very disturbed dogs she’d decided to steer clear of. As well as a ton of insects, which she also steered clear of.
I wonder just how many people got trapped in here hello my dears you’re a surprise.
Melody froze in place, as Kizzy gave a jump, squeaking.
That hadn’t been her own thought, at the end there. And looking down at Kizzy’s shocked face, she’d heard it t-
Not your thoughts but mine now all mine.
“P-polymnia, I, I’m hearing someone in my head,” the girl whispered, wrapping her arms around Melody’s waist.
“I know, I hear him too,” she replied, quietly, putting a hand on her back.
Like having something oily in her head, within her brain.
I t-t-take, offense to tha-tha-that. I… I am not… oily… smooth. Mmm…
Shivers ran down her spine.
And then more than shivers. Hands, all over her, under her clothes, on her back, her breasts, her buttocks, her-
Suddenly, the phantom sensations cut off, as quickly as they’d come, the absence so intense it caused her to drop to her knees, even as Kizzy cried and tried to push away hands that weren’t there.
T-t-too o-old. You’re w-w-wa-a-way too old for me. My little fire-ire-cracker would l-l-like you though. I th-th-thi-ink, the oily voice stuttered inside her head, and every time it did, it was like her own thoughts stuttered with it, like there was something broken there.
Br-broken. Yes. Broken. Ever since h-h-he broke me. He. That boy. Wretched boy, wretched boy, evil, evil, evil boy, he br-br-broke me!
What had been an oily, stuttering whisper in her and Kizzy’s heads became discordant screaming, like raw hate pouring forth from somewhere, into them, searing their brains.
Hate that boy! Hate him hate him hatehatehatehim! it, he, screamed, his thoughts seeming to grow both more coherent and more unhinged.
The pain was indescribable. Worse than being in Bree’s presence by orders of magnitude, it made her and Kizzy collapse, writhing and screaming for no one to hear.
Then it suddenly cut off, and they both went limp, breathing hard.
Melody felt like she’d nearly torn her own muscles off her bones. Sore from head to toe, and still with the memory of dozens of hands all over her, touching her where no one but herself had touched her before, at least since she’d been a baby.
D-d-don’t l-l-lie. You, you, l-l-like that. You-you-you’ve fa-fa-fantasi-sized… I know…
Unbidden, unwanted, memories came up, as vivid as if they were real, of fantasies she’d had. Naughty ones, even some dark ones, after reading some screwed-up fanfiction about herself (she’d never read any again, after that one). And with them, the things she’d done to accompany them, the sensations…
Her body arched, mouth wide open in a sudden, unbidden squeal of pleasure-that-wasn’t-pleasure, like being force-fed one’s favorite meal until it became disgusting.
Dirty girl. I d-d-don’t like th-th-that… I pre-fer the in-no-ce-nt ones… well, with one… two ex-ex-ex-ceptions. My li-li-little girls. But not o-o-others that are, are… soiled.
Melody went limp again, as he stopped forcing her to relieve that pleasure, and curled up into a ball, whimpering with tears in her eyes.
Y-you’re both, too old… too, too old… if only… ca-ca-can’t… con-con-connect, to so, so so so many, anymore… not since… that boy… b-b-broke…
Melody’s body moved on its own, and even when she tried to stop it, after the initial shock and confusion, it didn’t listen to her at all, as she threw herself around, clumsily, and closed her hands around Kizzy’s throat, squeezing.
Kizzy’s eyes went wide, filled with fear, confusion, pain and worse, as she tried to push Melody off, but she doubted that the little blonde could’ve fought her off even if she wasn’t superhumanly strong.
N-no… please… please, don’t hurt her! she begged inside her own mind, as she watched her body squeeze, slowly, crushing the life out of the girl she’d just sworn to herself she’d protect.
Wh-why not? She, she, she’s too, too old to, play with. B-b-but… maybe… will hurt a little, little, little, less, for, for a bit, i-if, I, make you, you, hurt her.
Kizzy’s struggles grew weaker, rapidly, before they ceased altogether.
N-no! No… the rules! Melody cried inside her own mind, desperately reaching for the only way out she could think of. The rules say you can’t hurt anyone but your chosen target, until and unless you’ve taken them out! Did you take out Amazon?
Oh. Right. I forgot.
And just like that, she had control of her body again. Gasping, she immediately let go of Kizzy’s throat.
The little girl’s body shuddered as she gasped for breath, eyes fluttering open, looking around wildly.
S-sorry. I forgot. Hrm… got to… to find her… used to be… easier… I used to be… so much… stronger… I I I wi-will… come back… to, to-t-to p-p-play with you, later, then. Un-unless, my firecracker, f-f-finds you, first…
The connection, so much more crude and coarse than Irene’s gentle touch upon her mind, cut off, gone as suddenly as it had come.
Melody fell down on her side, and drew a crying Kizzy into her embrace, curling up around her, as they both sobbed.
She’d never felt so powerless.