Some time before Tschic and Bennie simply walked down into the waters of Morfran’s Ward, two watery jets sped out via the ocean-side exit. The merpeople were fast swimmers for sure, and the years of fighting on the front lines had ensured that they had an impressive endurance and stamina as well, but there were still of course times that called for something a little extra. A mermaid and merman set of scouts were riding on said little extra, squids that had been specially trained to shoot out air in a way not dissimilar to a jetstream, capable of propelling a scout through the ocean at extremely high speeds.

Tirion, the male of the pair, spoke with his partner, “Is this really worth even us going after it? I understand the circumstances are odd but how could this be as big a deal as what’s going on with the egg?”

Veltria, the more scarred of the pair, sighed, “What’s going on with the egg is exactly why we need to go after this… ship. You’re right, that it could be nothing, but what if it isn’t? Whatever this thing did, it scared the pirates up there enough to ask for help.”

Tirion furred his brow, while the pirates and ocean fey weren’t allied, they weren’t enemies either. There was a causal relationship of agreeing to ignore the other, as long as each of them kept their messes to themselves, and helped the other when there was crossover, and whatever this was, it definitely seemed like crossover.

What the scouts knew was that some sort of creature, structure, or corruption of dreams and nightmare suddenly appeared above the ocean around some pirate ships, grew to an enormous size, was fired upon, and then sunk into the ocean, taking with it not only all of the remains of it, but its crew, and some of the crew of the other pirates as well. The pairs mission was to go to the scene of where the ship manifested, track it down, and if it was a nightmare, subdue it.

As Tirion circled around the area, he looked above at the pirate ships that didn’t leave the scene. “I still don’t like this, why do we tolerate those pirates anyway? What if this is a trick?”

“It isn’t a trick. I can feel it. Whatever that thing is, it definitely was here.” Veltria looked at the water, it clearly had been through something. She waved her hands through the changed waters and focused for a moment. “There, the trail is hot, but getting cold, we need to hurry.”

She rushed off without another word, and of course, Tirion followed.


Acting-Captain Saint stood at the helm of the ghost ship that currently was the Traveller’s Rest, turning the wheel to follow a map, as any good pirate would do.

It wasn’t the easiest to navigate in the current conditions, when the Traveller’s Rest reformed after it’s wreckage upon arriving inside Port Ceridwen, the shape it took was very… peculiar. While the previous forms had had their quirks, they had also been much more real than the rainbow mist covered ship full of holes, that seemed to be floating on hopes and dreams, though fear and nightmares was also a good guess to go with. Still, it did the job that it did, even with the missing pieces and the much more importantly missing Captain O.

“Saint, it seems like we’re hitting a lull in the wind, surely you can take a break now?”

First Mate Maria stood near the captain, her face much older than when Saint last saw her, but still the same as always.

“Sure, I’ll go below decks in a bit.”

Maria nodded and slowly left Saint to her musings, but hesitated, for just a moment.

After making sure that Maria had left, Saint looked at the other parchment left to her by Captain O, trying once again to make sense of it. There was something about an egg, a nightmare, a city, it didn’t make sense, and she couldn’t figure out what it had to do with the treasure they had to find either, but this is what they did, right?

Saint sighed and went to the decks below...


Calibration at 94%...

The computer ticked onward, calculating with as much certainty as it could the multiversial coordinates of the missing Eagle, Freefall. As soon as it finished, a portal could be opened, and the course of action would be clear. To retrieve their friend.


Magenta was calm, meditating and focusing her powers for whatever was waiting them. This was clearly not the plot of a regular villain, and definitely not anyone from their world. It was a force far greater than that, but no force that she had ever faced could overcome the power of friendship, companionship, and teamwork. She hoped that whatever the situation was, Freefall was doing her best.


M.E.T.A.L.’s fingers were outstretched on the keyboard, his robotic hands typing and manually adjusting the calculations the Eagle’s computer was outputting. This had to be perfect, there was no room for error. Freefall had vanished from one corner of the multiverse to another twice now, there was no telling when it would happen again. Time was not on their side, and he wasn’t sure if anything other than his teammates was.


Ace clenched his fist, worried about what it was they would find on the other side. He had hoped that he and M.E.T.A.L. would have been able to keep this from Magenta, to ensure that they could do what they needed to do, get Freefall, no matter what. He hoped that it wouldn’t come to that, that whatever the situation was, there would not be a need for a hard choice. But if there was, he would make it, it was his responsibility after all.

Calibration at 98%... 99%... 100%

In that moment, the portal opened, a whirl of intense energy starting in the center of the room. The three superheros looked at each other, nodded, and stepped through, the metallic interior of the Eagle’s Nest fading into the ocean of Port Ceridwen. Or, to be specific, far above it..

In an instant, Magenta wrapped the trio in a protective bubble, massively slowing their descent and leading her to give Ace a slightly smug smile.

Ace sighed and said, “Yeah, yeah, you don’t have to rub it in. Just land us safely. M.E.T.A.L., where’s Freefall?”

M.E.T.A.L. nodded and began to attempt to search for Freefall, when suddenly, rainbow mist started to appear around Magenta’s bubble. After a longer silence than he had hoped, the machine lifeform spoke, “MY SENS0RS SUDDENLY HAVE MET WITH A MASS1VE 1NTERFERENCE. 1 AM AFRA1D WE W1LL HAVE TO LOCATE FREEFALL THE 0LD FASH10NED WAY.”

Ace clenched his fist tighter, but kept his cool, “Fine, Magenta, how far do you think we are to the surface.”

“I do not know, this mist is… far thicker than it seems, I,” *THUMP*

The bubble popped against the mast of a ship, causing all three of the heroes to fall onto the deck below.

The fog was heavy, Ace could hardly see his own hand in front of him, but he didn’t need to see an attack coming to dodge it. The superhero dodged out of the way of a spear that came from the fog.

“Damn it.” said a male voice from the fog.

Ace reached for his utility belt and pulled out his staff, easily dealing with the attacks from the fog, “I don’t have time for this!” He was upset, starting to become angry, but still more than capable of holding his own against the mysterious attacker.

He was not, however, capable enough to avoid the second attacker, who snuck up behind him and grabbed his arms.

“Tirion, enough with this, we are here for a mission, we can’t afford to waste any more time.”

Ace knew how to deal with this sort of maneuver, and prepared to shift his weight to counter the hold, only for something to coil around his leg, causing him to fall to the floor instead. “What?” he yelled on his way down, as he finally got a good look at his attacker.

Veltria was towering above him, as a veteran mermaid, she wore more scars than the battles she remembered, and while signs of her age were present, it was obvious that she was growing into it like a fine wine. Ace was impressed with her, but wasted no time in slipping backwards into the fog before either one of his attackers could draw a weapon on him.

It didn’t work, with Veltria quickly stabbing her trident into his ankle, luckily only scraping at his skin. “Now, outsider, tell me what you are doing here.”

Ace’s brow furled as he considered his options, deciding to start with something he was pretty good at, “I could ask you the same thing, you have a mission on this ship don’t you? Well, I have a mission of my own, a friend I need to find before it’s too late.” Ace dramatically looked to the side, wondering where his teammates had gone and why they hadn’t come to help him yet.

Veltria sighed and rolled her eyes, but Tirion seemed interested, Ace getting a good look at the other merperson who he had been fighting, this one much less scarred, but no less toned and handsome. “Really now? And what does that have to do with this ship? Or the mist?”

Before Ace could rebut, two pink beams of light shot out from the mist, knocking the scouts back and restraining them. M.E.T.A.L. stepped above Ace, removed the trident, then helped him up to his feet. “ARE YOU ALL R1GHT?”

“Sorry for taking so long to find you, this mist has been unkind to both mine and Metal’s senses.” Magenta then turned to the scouts, “Who are they, is this ship theirs?”

Ace shook his head, “I don’t think it is, and I get the feeling that this is just a misunderstanding.

Magenta looked at Ace, then at the two very attractive merpeople, and then back to Ace, before sighing and turning back to them, “If you do not wish us harm, then we wish you none as well. I am Magenta, the person you fought is Ace, and our large friend is Metal. We have travelled here from another world in search of our friend Freefall, who we believe is somewhere… here… not necessarily this ship. Who are you and what do you want?”

Tirion struggled against Magenta’s binds, confused at how his fey strength could be so easily thwarted, while Veltria took a breath and calmly explained herself, “I am Veltria, Scout of Morfran’s Ward, and this is Tirion, my fellow scout. We have been tasked with scoping this ship out for our superiors, to ascertain whether it is a threat worth following up on, although I now see that we have far more… interesting matters to deal with. I apologize outsiders, for our attacks, but it seems you are unrelated to this den of nightmares and this concealing mist. I cannot help you with locating this, Freefall, character, but I feel like we can come to an agreement.”

Magenta lowered the scouts to the deck as Ace stood forward, “So if you came to investigate this ship, does that mean you don’t know what it is?”

“Only that it is a den of nightmares and corruption, and that this mist makes it difficult to locate and track, though its thickness is an advantage on its deck. We have encountered no others here than yourselves, and as we were expecting outsiders, well.. We may have acted with more haste than necessary.”

Ace held his hand to his chin, the gears in his head trying to decide the best course of action to take… Could this ship be related to whatever Freefall was going through? Veltria seemed to think that it was not a local to the universe they were in which meant someone could potentially know more about what was going on, but finding Freefall before whatever force had taken her whisked her away again was key, they did not know how much time they had.


Veltria thought for a moment, then nodded, “That sounds like a fine plan. Tirion, take Magenta and Ace to the Ward.”

“What, are you sure?”

“Yes. When you get as old as I am, it’s the kind of thing you can feel in your scales.

At this point, Magenta had freed the scouts from their bindings and M.E.T.A.L. had returned Vetria’s trident to her.

Tirion stretched himself, then started to go towards the railings. Before he turned to follow him, Ace felt the need to ask one last question, “Veltria, you accepted this quite quickly, how often do you deal with… outsiders?”

Veltria chuckled, “All the time, although I admit, it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to talk to one instead of just killing them, be careful down there. Not everyone is as nice as I am.”

Ace nodded as he and Magenta prepared to leap into the waters below, to follow Tirion back to Mofran’s Ward.

Unbeknownst to either party however, they were being watched. A shadowy, dreamy eye set itself upon the party as they rode a squid back home, along with who knows what else… Below decks, Saint felt the map shift, they would have to change course soon...

I wanna be a real friend, Don't wanna break when I bend
I wanna a be no seeker, I wanna scream eureka
Bennie's sword sparked as it swung, hot blue-white and brighter than anything in the benthic gloom. It carved a black line into the nightmare as she spun like a matador away from its tusks claws spikes fangs.

This was getting tiresome.

It collapsed next to the other slain beasts, raising a plume of sand. Bennie had been striking the fine line between toying with her prey and brutally and efficiently dispatching them for the past five minutes. She hadn't asked how to kill them. She didn't need to ask things like that.

Across the rows of stone-carved audience boxes, the mer-officiants seemed both tired and unsatisfied. It stood to reason once you saw a stranger stylishly gut a hulking predatory rhinoceros you'd want to find a reason to deny her access to your city. Tschic could sympathize, but he wished they'd face up to the inevitable. They weren't going to stop Bennie from getting what she wanted.

And if this kept up, she'd probably get...bored.

Tschic was imagining where this could go next when a frightened-looking mer-aide swam up to a nearby MC and whispered something into his ear. The man stood up and raised his hand, quieting the cautious whispers that echoed across the coliseum.

“One final task,” He began, “One final task for our guest.”

Bennie beamed up at him. Her smile was even brighter than her sword.

“Come. We shall lead you to it. If you succeed, you shall have what you seek, for if we were to fail, we would have nothing to keep or give.”

Riddles, sighed Tschic.

. -. - .-. -.--

The submarine’s corridors were rusted and winding. METAL had been inside some pretty large submarines, the biggest, of course, having been that of the League of Leagues (get it?), but this was...something else. The ship seemed to be twisting back on itself, giving them false turns and dead ends. And moment they had been standing on its deck, and then the world shifted (like in a dream) and they were in a small damp room (and according to METAL’S readouts) a couple hundred feet underwater.

METAL was starting to regret not having been a part of the team that had directly fought Dr. Nyx. But the realm of the subconscious had never been his strong suit. And besides, Magenta had insisted someone needed to stay behind to keep Freefall from dashing off (heroically) to her comrades on the front lines at the first sign of trouble.

“Do not let your mind wander, knight.”


“This ship is woven straight from nightmare-stuff. As an outsider, perhaps you do not realize how rare this have no substance, to be nothing but thought and will...most dream-ships, they are built on a skeleton of a ship, a base that gives form to the whimsy. But this is not that. This...what kind of mind could be strong enough to create this? A whole ship, and no more substantial than a soap bubble...yet strong enough to contain us. I had thought this the work of a wizard, but…”


Veltria smiled. “You are right. This is unlike me. We will plan, not muse.”


Veltria frowned.
“I cannot ken a way past this maze. But it will shift again, and soon. I feel it. It reaches its will not be able to focus on us. And then we will strike.”


. -. - .-. -.--

The edifice the guards led them to was a mirror of the Awen Library. Distorted, seen through the ripples of a lake or the glint of a dark gem, but a mirror all the same. It shimmered like a mirage. Tschic searched the guards' faces for some sign of is it supposed to look like this normally, but found nothing.

“We suspect a poison in the land-dweller's simulacrum has wormed its way into the heart of ours. Root it out and any answer you choose shall be yours.”

Bennie strode forward, saying nothing, her excitement cutting the water in front of her like a knife.

Tschic didn't see as he had many choices right now, and followed after her. Maybe I should have stayed with Aaron.

-.. --- --- .-.

“Is this the right way, Aaron? The sign said the councilroom's that way--”

“We're not going to the damn councilroom.”

“Huh? But--”

“We're going what you might call the source. The Patternroom. It's been closed for weeks, accessible only to a select few. I've started to think that they're hiding something. They won't be able to simply turn me away this time.”

Weeks? Freefall raised one eyebrow, and when Aaron didn't respond, switched to the other. “Aaron, we've only been here a few--”

She was cut off by his hand gesture and the doors they stood in front of. They were dark wood inlaid with sea-blue lapis and gold, abstract naturalistic patterns somehow telling the story of the Port's beauty and life, the ebb and flow of dreams.

“It's behind here.”

“ it?”

“A map.” Aaron let out a long breath. “A perfect map.”

Now, knock these down.”

.... . .-. --- . ...

The interior of the mirror-library...well, Tschic would have liked to say it was a distorted version of the other library the way the outside had been. Tschic would have liked slightly less but still appreciated being able to say it was a sticky pulsating mess like the inside of the nightmare had been. Tschic would have liked being able to apply any sort of adjectives to the interior, really.

But he couldn't. He and Bennie walked through a void. Occasionally vague impressions of parquet floors and Venetian doors sluiced through, transient and echoing like the dripping tap you can't find.

Bennie kept forwards, sure of her direction. She was lit by a sourceless light, and he was lit by the light bouncing off of her. Good thing she wore white. He was suddenly possessed by the disturbing urge to anchor himself by grabbing her hand.

“Are we...clo—How much further?” He asked.

“I can feel it. Can't you?”

“No...maybe.” Hard to say where a sense of dread is coming from.

“It's the only direction left. No matter where we went, we'd reach it.”

“Are you...uhh...”

“It's okay. We're the heroes.”

.... . .-. --- . ...

The heroes walked through a dark mirror version of the interior of the Awen Library, although they had never been there and therefore couldn't appreciate the symbolism.

“Do you sense anything, Magenta?”

“Yeah. Somewhere...below. We need to go downwards. Everything the mermaids asked us to's down there.”

They looked down the stairwell at murky flights that slithered disconcertingly in lazy uneven spirals into the depths.


.... .- ..- -. -


"It's simple, you just--"

"No. Nope. Gonna cut you off right there. I'm not some--battering ram you can just drag around to do whatever fucked up new plan you have in mind.

“I mean, ‘for weeks’? What the f--What does that even mean? This place, it-it messes with your head, but you? I’m not stupid! What’s wrong with you, Aaron?

Freefall didn’t wait for an answer, but turned and started punching holes in the wall almost absentmindedly.

"You know, I don't know why I even came here with you--it's not like, like you have a great track record, like everything you've done has worked out great and now I just trust you--not like you didn't murder a whole platoon and then laugh about it--don't know how I forgot that one!!"

They weren't really even people

Freefall stopped punching. "What...? What did you say?"

"There are answers behind that door." Aaron's voice was flat. No energy to convince her. Needed it to move forward.

Freefall shook her head.
"I don't think so. The big monster I can kill, the villain that needs to be convinced to change, the switch that needs to be flipped to turn off the machine--I don't think it's there, Aaron. I don't think--" She shook her head again, smiling bitterly. "I don't belong in this city."

"...Open the doors, Freefall."

"Open them yourself." She turned to walk away.

The doors swung open.

--. --- .-.. -..

They stepped into the room, and it resolved around them. It was wide, and octagonal--no, more than that. Dodecagonal. Of course. No need to even count.

The walls were tarnished gold hung with black draperies, shadows that refused to change as the light shifted. It shone from glass net-floats clustered in the middle of the ceiling, scintillating across the floor as if it had traveled through water to get there.

In the center of the room in a tall glass case was a golden suit of armor that wore a golden mask and held a golden sword. In front of it stood...a figure. Absence and presence, a skeleton, a gestural drawing made of painted wood and the curve of rooflines. Tschic recognized it. It reached towards the clasp of the case.

Bennie stepped forward, about to run.

An instinct deep in Tschic snapped out, grabbed Bennie by the back of her dress, and pulled.

The abyss yawned beneath her, full of teeth.

The room was a bowl like the bowl of the sky, at their feet was infinity, the far walls as distant as stars.

In the center burned the sun, caressed by serpents.

Near to it, nearing it, was a shipsubmarinehousespaceship. A spaceship. It was somehow still welcoming-looking, despite everything. Its docking bay was opening.

“Thanks,” exhaled Bennie, “Knew I was right to drag me with you.”

The blackness swirled across blackness.

“So,” Bennie attempted to pace around the edge of it, “Some kind of illusion?”

“No...just…” Tschic shrugged, “More real than the other room.”

“What the hell is that thing?”

The walls shook.

“I don’t think. Most of this place is very real. Like, in general.”

Bennie stared at him, then at the stars. She spread her arms frustratedly.

“There must be a way. We need to get to it first.”

Do you even know what it is you’re trying to get to? “Can you fly?”

Deus ex machina. The doors swung open.

-.. --- --- .-.

The library impeded their progress at every turn, walls sprouting arms, or tentacles, or something in-between, floors snarling into gaps rimmed with teeth.

Magenta couldn’t tell if the malice was directed at them, or if they were just caught in the throes, whatever inky life that animated the shadows writhing and spitting. At times the floor shifted beneath their feet, contracting like a serpent, like layers of muscle pushing them forwards. Then suddenly each step they took pushed against a force, and the next door would recede into the distance before their eyes.

It was hard to say if they were making any progress.

Ace seemed focused on the mission, his Trump Cards efficiently slicing through a keloidish umbral web that clogged their path. But Magenta knew that he couldn’t help wondering if Freefall was somewhere like this--or somewhere that made even less sense.

At least this doesn’t seem to be drawing on our subconsciouses. Magenta thought. They at least had that. And she couldn’t help feeling sure--perfectly sure--that if Freefall was truly in trouble, not just captured or in a mess or in danger but really, truly in trouble--she’d know, immediately.

If only she’d reach out to me.

If only there was some wood to knock on.

A glittering ahead interrupted her. As they walked closer towards the doors, they tarnished in reverse, black pulling away into brown into gold.

Ace and Magenta steeled themselves like true professionals, and touched the doors.

They swung open.

-.. --- --- .-.

Out stepped two spandex-clad young adults. It didn’t make any sense, but Tschic couldn’t help thinking they’d had their costumes designed by whatever hack had done Freefall’s. Then again, it wasn’t like they matched up with anything else in the Port. They were strikingly graphic against the muddied dream-substance and intricate metalwork, which Tschic didn’t really need on top of everything else right now. He sort of wondered if he was seeing things again, but he could hardly miss Bennie’s excited gleam.

He made a motion as if to summon paint out of his fingertips, then remembered he couldn’t do that stuff anymore.

Ace and Magenta experienced an intense moment of vertigo, as the threshold led into a starscape that looked impossibly wide. In the center, a skeletal starship and a skein of shadows orbited a star, dancing around it like cat and mouse.

On the landing with them were two wildly disparate people. There was a chance these were some of the “wrong hands” the mermaids had been cryptically worried about their “secrets” falling into, but Magenta was having trouble getting a clear reading in the chaotic empathic fields.

The ratty-looking one was eyeballing them disgustedly. The (tall, blue, ripped) one was eyeballing them hopefully.

“I’m Bennie, this is Tschic. Can either of you fly?

“We’re trying to get out there.”
She added unnecessarily, thumbing towards the celestial dance playing itself out in the distance.

Ace raised an eyebrow. Magenta made a quick calculation and bubbled herself and Ace, flying them out to get a better view of the situation.

“Stay there, it’s not safe.” Magenta called back to the duo, more as a cover for ignoring them than any real warning.

Like before, the distance seemed...odd. Magenta felt at the edge of an invisible barrier of meaning. She pushed through.

In dimensions that humans have no need of occupying, the Traveller’s Rest and the Mirror Library fought. They were really fairly similar entities, dream-stuff and infinite as thought. Both of them had lost more than a few of their restrictions recently. They were at a standstill until Magenta, pure being of love and light, pushed through like a little star of her own. The Traveller’s Rest, far more canny and experienced of the two buildings and twice as animalistic, seized the chance in its jaws. The room pulled once more as it sunk its teeth into the writhing flesh of the Library, the space shifting into a torturous merging of lecture hall and lobby, half filled with water and ink, half still-metallic spaceship hull.

Veltria and METAL seized a chance too, taking the diverted attention of the Rest and its momentarily-nebulous geometry and blasting a hole in its too-riddled hull/wall. It coughed them out like parasites and where they fell from a gash howling with the void, neither Rest nor Library but a space without housing. Water began to gush out from the room in an unopposable torrent.

Magenta quickly bubbled METAL and Veltria, then bubbled Bennie (clinging to a pillar with one arm) and Tschic (clinging to Bennie) without a second thought. She was a hero after all.

As the water drained around her legs and dampened her long coat, a woman dressed like the captain of a ghost ship strode to a shining golden case that stood in place of a podium. Behind her was a woman with vines across her skin and an eyepatch that looked wholly decorative. Bennie banged on the bubble holding her and shouted words that Magenta couldn’t hear past the roar of water and nothing. But she got the intent.

Magenta held that intent, its point sharp with desire and ambition--oh, Bennie could feel ambition--and threw it.

Pink volition turned the floor between the captain and her prize to sparks, and all the bubbles popped. They wasted no time, running towards the captain, only half-sure of what they were even trying to stop. Ace’s cards pinned her coat to the ground and METAL shot blasts that kept the pirates from moving any further.

But something else moved anyways. Crawling through the floor, fighting against the floor, the metal of the ship contorted against the pilllarlike case pulling it, subsuming it.

Don’t even try it! shouted Bennie, and shattered the glass.

Light flooded out. Neither was willing to give up. But the ship would be stronger.

“Fall back!” shouted the captain, pulling free of her coat desperately, clashing weapons with Veltria. The other woman fired unpracticed musket shots.

And it did. It couldn’t lose anything more right now, warm bodies, hot minds. It settled for less.

The light convulsed and split. For a second Magenta thought someone had been beheaded, then realized a mask had been torn from a golden helmet. The armor dissolved like dreams in the morning as the ship sucked itself backwards, molluscing its charges away safe in its iron belly and retreating through the hole it had torn in the Library.

It was over. Bennie knelt where she had been blown back to, holding a golden sword in her hands. Strangely, she didn’t look happy.

A black smoke, viscous and heavy had started to flow into the room from the wall that wasn’t there anymore. Magenta had an impression of the library as a sick beast, too hurt to even lick its wounds.

“We have to go, Ace.”

“My thoughts exactly.”

“Only problem is,” said Veltria, “There don’t seem to be any doors in this room.”

Bennie had gotten up from the floor. She stared at the golden sword, then pulled her gaze up to Tschic. He looked resigned.

“Be careful with that--” said Veltria, as Bennie tossed it through the air.

When Tschic caught it, it was a strange small dagger, blunt but no less golden. Its handle was black.

Bennie smiled.

Tschic’s hand lifted with the golden athame and sliced a clean line down through the air.

A door opened.
A gap in space, a leap across a gateway you couldn't see the edges of, a stoma of twilit buildings and cobblestones that grew and swallowed them and their feet touched stone and their lungs breathed air and a feeling like all her neurons being grabbed and tugged like they were one big leash lanced through Bennie's skull.

Stop them from removing Freefall by any means necessary.

What, Bennie wanted to say, but it was pretty obvious, even with half your mind wrapped around the fist of an angry god, the little superheroes, color-coded , out-of-place, here to save the day. And besides, she doubted this was a two-way channel. BroStAuth didn't think like that.

The grip released and Bennie's self snapped back together. Of course, of course. Can't let go of—the talent! She staggered, reached to steady herself on Tschic, who sensibly dodged it and allowed the much more solid Ace to catch her.

Ace. The blue and red figure resolved, flexible fabric and form-fitting body armor, into the mentor-leader-peer figure Freefall had idly rattled on about, had so desperately needed the approval of even when speaking of him in passing. The metallic METAL, serious and dependable. And Magenta...

I'm really starting to get you, Freefall, she thought woozily as light and love herself—pink as she should be—passed fingers over Bennie's head—or her aura, maybe—and asked her what on this plane of existence had happened to her.

“Dunno,” Bennie said, clumsily swatting the hands away and struggling to use Ace as a crutch more effectively, “'llbefine innasec.”

“That was a psionic attack. You should--” Ace grunted as Bennie elbowed his trapezius, “Let Maggie help.”


“--To, to help p-people b-b-but sometimes, they d-don’t want to be helped--y-yy-you get--I go-I go-got, used to to this kind of, misund-d-der--mist-trea--these kinds of mm-mistakes.”

The china-blue twilight of Port Ceridwen had faded. Lights were coming on down below. From where Kriok sat, up above it, the sky mackerel-patterned and still bereft of stars, the town sparkling with lanterns and windows, it was like the world was turned upside down. A clammy wind blew up from the streets and she ruffled her feathers.

Kriok had climbed her way up to the top of what she assumed was an old decommissioned lighthouse, abandoned in favor of new, better-built ones. Leon had followed her, and she hadn’t cared enough to tell him--whatever it was that would change his mind about following an old woman up a crumbling tower to watch her be alone. She had thought he might leave in shock after she had neatly broke and then entered, but he had talked himself into being ok with it by the second flight, just like he was now attempting to talk himself into being ok with being hated by most of the people he met.

Kriok thought, if I spoke kindly to him he’d never leave my side.

Kriok said, “This city is doomed.”


A thought--a feeling--something staring up out of darkness between the stars of the miniature cosmos below--tiredness--déjà vu--plain old pessimism--Kriok rifled through the answers and realized that as usual she didn’t really care. It had felt true enough coming out of her mouth. Hardly a bad bet considering what happened everywhere else they all went. She clacked her beak. Leon fell silent.