Fallen Stars

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Repetition 1.9

Nihilium and Raelyn said nothing as they looked at the strangers who had just appeared inside the diner – they had been just about to start eating their dessert, a slice of pie for each, when they had appeared in an instant.

“Who the Hell are you?” Nihilium had asked as he looked towards them – apparently, an Angel’s host had the power of teleportation, he thought to himself. He started to say something before he was interrupted though, Michael asking if he was Delirium’s host – and bringing up their plan to investigate what was going on with the military at Avalon Bay.

Raelyn said nothing, and glanced towards Nihilium – it didn’t take a genius to see that she wasn’t the target of Michael’s words, after all. She was curious though, and nodded slightly towards the Angel – Nihilium nodded, and thought of a response to Michael’s statement.

“How... how do you know about that?” He asked. He had noticed, oddly enough, that the Angel seemed largely uninterested in who exactly Raelyn and himself were. Although, given that Michael already knew that he was Delirium’s host, it was fully possible the Angel knew who Nihilium was.

“I’m pretty good at gathering information,” Michael said with a short shrug. “You are Nihilium, yes? Who is the young lady? Another host, I gather, from her lack of reaction.”

“I’m Raelyn,” Raelyn said as she smiled softly towards the two. “And, well, yes – I am a... host. I have powers, although I’m not sure how to use them yet. How did the two of you get here? Do you have teleportation powers?” Her face turned away from Michael and she smiled softly at Ariel. The Angel was like Delirium – somewhat unpleasing, and not very... well, human.

“Oh, no,” Ariel said as she smiled softly at the assumption. Her smile vanished and she put a hand on her stomach for a second, cringing slightly in pain – even though the main injuries were healed, she still felt bursts of pain from time to time.

“Are you alright?” Raelyn asked as she saw the sudden movement of pain.

“I am, don’t worry,” Ariel said with a friendly smile. “I’m still healing, and while it hurts...” She shrugged, before she realized that she had been about to show her power to the woman. “But, no, I can’t teleport – I can control shadows though,” she said with a smile – as if to show her power off, she made her own shadow begin to move around her body, with her feet as a pivot.

Raelyn gasped for a second when she saw the sudden movement, before a smile came across her face. Nihilium watched and smirked slightly as Ariel’s shadow stopped moving – and then shrunk into nothingness. “I brought her here by stepping through reality,” Michael explained as Ariel’s shadow slowly returned to normal. “It took some work, carrying a human through, but it was doable.”

“Wait, so can all Angels do that?” Raelyn asked in a second. “I know Delirium did, but I’ve never seen my own Angel.”

“Yes,” Michael said with a short nod. “For us it is as simple as opening a door – however, carrying a human through takes considerable more effort.” He paused for a few moments, and then looked at the seat beside Nihilium. “May I sit?”

“Sure,” Nihilium said with a shrug. “But we only ordered two slices, I’m afraid.”

“No need to worry, I’m not fond of eating,” Michael said with a short shrug.

Ariel’s stomach growled as she sat down as well, next to Raelyn. Her cheeks flushed and she looked down for a short second – she, unlike Michael, did like eating. And she was hungry, having not had actual food for over a day now.

“If you want to, you can have mine,” Raelyn offered as Nihilium picked up his fork and began to eat. “I mean, I just ate a hamburger and fries, I hardly need it.”

“I don’t have any money,” Ariel said, and Raelyn just rolled her eyes before pushing her plate over. Nihilium glanced up for a moment, and went back to his slice of pie.

“Go ahead, have it, you’re hurt still it looks like,” Raelyn said with a playful smile across her face.

“Thanks, “Ariel said as she took the pie. “So... what powers do you have?” she asked, glancing between the two. “I’ve never met another Angel host, well, not one that knew they were one – so I’m still kinda new to the idea.”

“I can make metal items turn into weapons,” Raelyn said with a smile. Silence followed before there was a sudden thunk from beneath the table, and Nihilium shot her a glare.

“What was-”

“Ariel asked what our powers are,” she said with a happy smile, and the man sighed loudly. Raelyn just laughed as Nihilium pushed the fork down and into the pie.

“I can see the future, basically,” he said with a short shrug. “It takes a lot of energy though,” he added. Ariel nodded, and Nihilium silently began to eat again. He was far from fond of being interrupted during the middle of a meal – especially one of pie.

Ariel took the fork that had come with Raelyn’s plate, and hesitantly started to eat it. Michael watched in silence for a few moments, the table awkwardly still until he cleared his throat – or rather, made the noise without doing much else. It wasn’t as if Angels needed to clear their throats like that.

“So, what is it exactly that the two of you are doing in regards to Avalon Bay?” he asked. The two looked at each other, and Nihilium put his fork down, and turned to look at Michael.

“Why exactly are you so interested in it? You’re clearly not working with them.”

“Why don’t you look into the future and see if you can trust me or not.”

Nihilium smiled and laughed. He shook his head and put a hand on the table as he turned a bit more, wanting to face the Angel as he spoke. “Alright, you’re not as dumb as you look with that get-up.” He sighed and looked towards Raelyn for a moment. “Basically, we’re just investigating. Delirium told us about a run-in we had with a man who can wipe memories, and we thought that we could look into what’s going on and hopefully get an advantage if they do try anything. What do you want with them?”

“Ariel was attacked by a man connected to them, and a friend of hers – a host whose Angel hadn’t revealed itself – was taken. They’re the only lead I can find,” Michael answered calmly. Ariel put her fork down, only having had two bites of the pie but not exactly wanting much more.

“Her name was Christina,” she said quietly, looking at the pie. “She was far from the nicest person I ever met, but... well, she was the only person that I wanted to have as a friend.” Ariel laughed slightly, and picked up the fork again. She drug it across the plate in boredom, and sighed. “And the man who attacked us, well... I want to find him. To make him pay for what he did to us.”

“Ariel, you can’t rush in after them for revenge,” Raelyn said softly, and placed a hand on her shoulder. Nihilium said nothing, and his one eye closed. Raelyn looked away from him. “You need a plan of some sort.”

“That’s why I’m here, isn’t it?” Ariel asked as she looked towards Raelyn. “To get a plan. To do something.”

“You realize we probably won’t be able to find and help your friend.”

“I... I know,” Ariel said after a short pause. “But it’s better than not trying.”

“There’s going to be a ship,” Nihilium said as he opened his eyes. “It’s going to leave from a port in what was Oakland, South Dakota in... two days. If we can make it there in time to sneak aboard, which... with Ariel’s power wouldn’t be terribly hard, we can get some information and get out of there without being caught.”

“Oakland? I know where that is, it’s about a four hour drive from here,” Raelyn said as she blinked. “I mean, it was destroyed when the aquifer collapsed, but it’s still the same distance.”

Nihilium looked at Raelyn and gave her a short nod. “Right then, we can take our time getting there then,” he said with a smile. He turned to look at Ariel and coughed slightly, getting her attention. “Ariel,” he started, “There’s a chance that your friend is there, there was a person being moved on it, but I didn’t see them.”

Ariel smiled as she felt her left fist clench. She’d make this work, it had to be Christina. Why they had gone so much trouble over two young, inexperienced Angel hosts was beyond her, but... well, it was what had happened. Victory would be just as sweet as the pie she had on her fork, she just knew it would be.

The street outside the cafe was quiet, the occasional car passing by with a gentle rumble. At the tables underneath the large umbrellas people sat, drank coffees and teas, and ate various cold foods. Kyosu slurped at the straw of the smoothie in his hands slowly. Bellona looked out and into the empty street, a smile across her face as she pulled her hair back with one hand, coffee in the other.

“This is nice,” she said as she set her coffee down. “Isn’t it?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Kyosu said as he pulled his lips from the large smoothie. He started drinking from it again and Bellona just shook her head with a laugh.

“You’re such a kid, a smoothie? Really?”

“I don’t like coffee. And I wasn’t the one that wanted to do this. Burgers and root beer floats are better.” He cracked a half-smile, and put the smoothie down onto the table. “You were right though... Getting some stress out was a good idea.”

“See, I told you that it’d help,” Bellona said as she took a drink from her coffee. “When we get back, I figure we can get to business.”

Kyosu nodded slightly, and took a drink from his smoothie. It was hard for him to have a good time given the situation with Celestia, but... well, it was worth trying to get some of the stress and worry out. He found himself thinking a bit more clearly now as well, although he had heard that smoothies were good for getting the brain working.

“Thanks for paying, by the way,” Kyosu said as he put the smoothie down again. Bellona paused and looked at him for a few moments.

“Errr... what? I didn’t pay for yours.”

“Yeah you did, the person who took my order didn’t even ask me for money.”

Bellona rose an eyebrow and waited for him to admit that he was bullshitting her, but there was no response from him. She laughed slightly, and he just stared at her without a word. She stopped laughing, and asked “You’re joking, right?”

“No, she said someone else paid for it,” Kyosu said as he frowned slightly. “If you didn’t, though...”

“And I paid the right amount,” Bellona said as she glanced towards his smoothie. “Are you sure she didn’t say she’d cover it or something?”

“I’m positive.”

He looked down at the smoothie, and then looked around himself. Had some stranger decided to pay for his smoothie? But if so, how had they known what he was getting... after all, it wasn’t like he told anyone what he was getting beforehand.

Kyosu jumped when he felt the hand fall down and onto his shoulder – with a shout he pulled away and flung the hand off of him, turning around in a snap. Bellona hadn’t seen the stranger approaching him, or if she had she hadn’t thought it was with any ill intent, and jumped into action at the shout – in a moment she was on her feet, chair behind her.

“Whoa, calm down!” The voice was familiar to both of them – the man in front of them was a short black man. His black was very thin, very curly, and very short, but his facial features were also familiar. A well-defined jawline, despite the Velcro beard. Most remarkable was the scar that ran down his face, that was exactly like...

“You’re... you’re the man who plays Emerald Knight!” Kyosu said, a smile coming across his face. There was no way this man couldn’t be, Kyosu could recognize that scar anywhere. “I’m a huge fan, can I have an autograph? What are you doing here? I thought you’d be filming for-”

“Slow down, there’s time enough to ask questions,” the man said with a smile. Bellona relaxed when she realized that Kyosu was right about who the man was – he was clearly the man who played Emerald Knight. “But, yes, I’m Don Truman. And you can have an autograph, but later. There’s something I need to talk to you about, Kyosu. You too, Bellona.”

Kyosu blinked – Don Truman knew his – no, their – names? But before he was able to say anything, Bellona asked what was on both their minds; although a bit cruder than he would have.

“How the Hell do you know our names, that’s kinda creepy. Aren’t you just an actor?”

He laughed and shook his head. “Follow me, we can’t talk in public. Bring your drinks too – alright?

Bellona stood still as Don started to walk away from the cafe. Kyosu was about to follow before he paused, looking back to Bellona. She hadn’t moved from where she had been when he asked them to follow him. “Bellona, it’s Emerald Knight himself. I’m sure we can trust him.”

Time froze – the sound of nature around him stuck onto the last note it had been on, and nothing around the two of them moved. Donald was frozen in place, and Bellona stepped forward and towards Kyosu.

“Kyosu, he just happened to know our names. That’s weird. That’s not normal,” she said as she stepped directly in front of him. “And it’s not Emerald Knight, it’s Don Truman – the actor.”

“I know, but... I mean, why would he do anything bad to us? He’s an actor of a superhero, he’s all about the fans,” Kyosu said in response. Bellona paused for a few moments, before she sighed softly and shook her head.

“You know what, you’re right – it wouldn’t make sense for him to do anything to us,” she said as she put her hands on her hips. “But if he tries anything, don’t cry to me.”

Kyosu smiled and gave her a thumbs up, grabbing the smoothie from the table in the process. “Don’t worry about me,” he said as he did so. “I trust Emerald Knight fully!”

Bellona stepped back to where she had been standing, and then time resumed.

“Coming!” Kyosu shouted as he regained his composure from the sudden continuation of time. Bellona waited a few moments before she followed, grabbing her coffee as she did so. Kyosu definitely had a point, maybe she was just being paranoid. But, she wasn’t comfortable with the fact that Don Truman apparently knew both her and Kyosu’s names.

Don led them to a taxi cab, which he opened with no fanfare – it was a wide enough cab for the three of them, for sure, but it was an odd sight to see a celebrity opening a taxi cab door for two nobodies. Kyosu nodded in thanks and got in, and Bellona followed him in. She found herself sitting in the middle seat of the taxi cab’s back, the divider between the taxi driver and the passenger area already up.

“Take us around to my hotel.”

“You got it, Mr. Truman.”

Don Truman climbed into the taxi, practically pressing himself into Bellona’s face as he did so. He was not a big man, but he was someone who managed to have mastered the art of taking up as much space as humanly possible. Bellona slid over closer to Kyosu, forcing the boy to move against the car door, so that she’d have some distance between her and the celebrity stranger when she moved back to as close to the center of the taxi as she could manage, while still having space.

“So what is it that you needed us for, Emerald Knight?”

“I have noticed that there are some Angel hosts in the city – in particular, the two of you.” Don Truman smiled as the two said nothing, and laughed as Bellona turned to look at Kyosu for a moment. Neither wanted to be the first to respond. “I myself am an Angel host – although, I had the acting ability beforehand. So I hid my powers with the show. It was the ultimate alter ego, if everyone believed my powers were those of a fictional character... they’d think any example of them in reality were publicity stunts. My actual name isn’t Don Truman, either it’s -”

“Wait,” Kyosu said suddenly, interrupting the man, “You’re saying that Emerald Knight is real? The powers are real?”

He smiled. “Yes. Emerald Knight is real, although the stories on TV-”

“You mean.. you’re... I don’t even... I don’t even know what to say,” Kyosu stumbled over his tongue as he tried to find something to say that would be, well, appropriate to a reveal such as this. But nothing came to mind beyond just his own personal awe. “Are any of the others real?”

“Kyosu,” Bellona said sharply, “Let him finish.”

“Sorry, it’s just that, well, I’ve idolized the Emerald Knight since I was little.”

“It’s quite alright,” Don said with a hardy chuckle. “I grew up as a fan of my own superhero idols, so I can fully understand where you’re coming from.”

He paused to look between the two. When neither said anything, he continued: “Like I was saying, however, my real name isn’t Don Truman; my real name is Emmett Kingston. Another part of the fictionalized Emerald Knight that is based in reality, I suppose – it helps me disguise myself as a real person more that way though. Call me Don, Emmett, Emerald Knight – whichever you prefer.”

“Why are you telling us this though?” Bellona asked, interrupting the man’s explanation. “I mean... I have no real issue with it, but it is odd. Why us? Why not someone else?”

“Like I said, I knew there were two Angel hosts in the city. So I thought that if anyone would be interested in what I was doing, two Angel hosts would be the most likely to be interested. I did my homework, with the help of my Angel, though – and found the two of you.” Don – no, Emmett – paused for a few moments. He looked from Kyosu to to Bellona, and then back at Kyosu. The taxi came to a stop at what was presumably a red light.“One of you lost your Angel, though, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Kyosu said, “But how did you know?”

“My Angel, Ezekiel, said something about an Angel vanishing in the area shortly before I came for the two of you. And you looked somewhat uncomfortable when I mentioned my angel.” Emmett shook his head slightly. “But, it isn’t a hopeless situation. The odds that your Angel has survived are high.”

“Really?” Kyosu asked as he turned – Bellona cringed as he leaned over her, practically smashing her into the back of the seat. But she held her tongue, not wanting to cause any more discomfort in the confined space.

“Yes,” replied Emmett with a nod. The black man smiled at the enthusiasm Kyosu was displaying, and then paused. “If you agree to help me, I’ll help you find your Angel.”

“And if we don’t?” Bellona asked. Emmett shrugged.

“Then it doesn’t matter. No one would believe you if you told them anyways – I mean, who would honestly believe that Emmett Kingston, Emerald Knight, was real? Or that the actor playing him was trying to do anything other than act?” Emmett smiled as Bellona nodded slowly, and then looked out the window. “Well, anyone other than one man. But I wouldn’t expect you to get to him.” Bellona turned to look at Kyosu, and then back at Emmett. She wasn’t going to be the first to ask for more information, she’d rather look like she didn’t care.

“So what do you want us to do?” Kyosu asked as he leaned forward.

“I’ll explain in detail when we get to my hotel, but basically... I need some help infiltrating a laboratory and finding out what they’re doing inside. It involves the Angels though.”

Bellona said nothing as Kyosu started asking question after question about what Emerald Knight needed of him. It was strange, just how coincidental it all was – that as they were working to find a way to get Celestia back, the real Emerald Knight appeared – and offered to help them in exchange for a favor.

Even if he had powers, he was still an actor.

Ami Ikari looked down at the clipboard in her hands as she walked through the cold hallway, Stoneheart walking beside her. “So, Miss Ikari. N-three R-zero has been moved.”

“Yes, I believe I heard about that, sir,” she said as she looked away from the clipboard, and at Stoneheart. “I thought you didn’t like to talk about N-three R-zero?

“I do not, but, times change and so must we. For all my power, even I cannot change the unalterable events of the past.” Alexander Stoneheart shook his head with a gentle hum accompanying it. “And now that she has moved, I find my disdain for her has... lessened.”

“I see, sir. In any event, it is a shame what happened. Especially regarding Doctor Anderson.”

“Indeed it is. And so is moving her – she was useful here, and provided excellent security in the event of an ANB failure. But the move is the only real option we had given the circumstances.” Alexander Stoneheart shook his head and sighed His walk was slow, a small limp in it today – yet he didn’t keep Ami held up too much all the same. He shivered and shook his body to get the blood flowing. “Of course, we now have an opening for Head Researcher.”

Ami paused for a moment, stopping in the middle of her hallway. “Sir?”

Alexander Stoneheart stopped and turned, his hands reaching into his pockets. He pulled out a small tin and popped it open, pulling out a pill. He put it into his mouth, and swallowed without a moment of hesitation. “Ami Ikari, you’ve been perhaps the closest to me in this company for the past five years. Even though you never had the position of Head Researcher, you were in my office more than any other researcher under my employment.” He put the tin back into his pocket, and cleared his throat. “I want you to take Doctor Anderson’s place.”

“Sir, I didn’t know Anderson was leaving,” Ami said with a short frown. Alexander Stoneheart began walking again, and she started behind him.

“Oh, no, she isn’t leaving. She’s already left – she died in N-three R-zero’s attack.” Stoneheart said it without a hint of emotion, not even a moment of remorse in it. He continued walking in silence for a few moments, pausing as he swallowed. Ami’s eyes widened at the information – that Doctor Anderson had died was news to her.

“She... she died?”

“Yes. Her family has been notified, of course, but it wasn’t unexpected. N-three R-zero was a dangerous subject, and she failed to take the precautions. Honestly, I don’t know what she expected.” Alexander Stoneheart shrugged slightly as he continued walking. The callous disregard for Doctor Anderson’s death left Ami stunned in silence, and the older man took the silence as an invitation to continue. “And now that we are beginning Operation Eden, we need someone who has proven themselves at being fully capable of analyzing data.”

“Operation Eden? Forgive me, sir, this is the first I’ve heard of it.”

“Of course. Only Doctor Anderson, and myself were aware of it here.” Stoneheart paused for a few moments. “Is it just me, or is it unreasonably chilly down here?”

“Sir, it has to be.”

“Right. In any event, as you know, the AA Fields are an intense psychic phenomena. Just a single ur-fravashi’s AA Field, unrestricted by an Atomic Nullification Bell’s effects, is enough to effect all psychic-sensitive life forms in North America. Assuming it was centered on the continent, that is. Now, Miss Ikari... imagine that effect spread out to seven ur-fravashi.”

“Sir, that would be... that would be enough to permanently alter the psychic signature of an entire population, it- it’d- that would be simply absurd in scale,” she said breathlessly. The sheer amount of psychic energy in one ur-fravashi dwarfed the potential of any human being, even a fravashi’s host – and the small research she had done with Angels showed even them as insignificant compared to an ur-fravashi. While that they had managed to contain seven ur-fravashi was known to her, the idea of utilizing that much energy...

Alexander Stoneheart smiled slightly, and nodded. “So, Miss Ikari. Knowing what you do now, what do you say? Will you rise to the occasion, and be the Head Researcher of Stoneheart Labs?”

Ami paused for a few moments, her heart beating. She knew more about Stoneheart’s plans than she had before, all the work – the years of work – she had done here suddenly clicked in her mind. The ultimate goal of everything she was working on became clear. It wasn’t science for science’s sake for him, of course it wasn’t. She knew all along that it couldn’t have been that, but for a time she had been able to do science for science’s own sake.

Now though, now she knew what she had been used for. Stoneheart didn’t even have to tell her the details – he had left himself with just enough leeway to deny any accusations she might throw at him. And even if she did, the man had connections that made her pose no threat to his plans.

A smile spread across Ami Ikari’s face, and she nodded. “I will gladly be Head Researcher.”

It wasn’t as if she didn’t want his plans to succeed. No, quite the opposite in fact – for a while, when she first learned of the ur-fravashi, she had wondered about doing something similar. Had yearned for that kind of power, the ability to alter human beings at their very essence.

“The documents for Operation Icarus will be on the computer in your new office I will take you there now. For future reference, in case anyone other than me asks something of you, remember that you report only to two people now, Miss Ikari. Myself, and someone who is very eager to meet you.”

“May I ask who this someone is?”

Stoneheart laughed and shook his head. “No, no, no – they said they’d rather surprise you.”

The two walked silently for a while. Alexander Stoneheart shivered as they passed by the doorway to the room with the ANBs and the ur-fravashi. “Miss Ikari, I should thank you for what you managed to do for her. N-three, that is.”

“Sir, what do you mean? I thought you despised her,” Ami said as they approached the door to her old office. They passed it by without a mention of it.

“I do. Yet, at the same time, we must despise those who are closest to us.” Stoneheart shrugged slightly. Ami said nothing. “She was – is, I suppose – the daughter of a man I was not particularly fond of. When he died, he left her in my care.”

“Sir, I didn’t know that N-three R-zero was ever in your custody legally.”

“Oh, yes – she has been legally in my custody for quite some time. Even if it were not for her unique position she would have been, though I doubt you would have met her then. In any case, I believe I was showing you to your new office – and here we are, at the elevator. How convenient that the doors are opening for us.”

Ami nodded and said nothing as a new wide-eyed researcher came out of the elevator. A man that she had seen numerous times but never learned the name of was leading the new researcher through the faculty. They gave Stoneheart a respectful nod, and then continued.

“What floor is my office on now, sir?” she asked as they stepped into the elevator. The doors closed and he pressed a button.

“The twelfth floor, Miss Ikari. The trip to my office will be much shorter from there, than it was to this cold, damp basement.”

The elevator began to rose, and Ami couldn’t help but smile. She was rising too, and soon she would be learning far more than she was ever going to do cooped up inside the basement of Stoneheart Labs.

Yet the more she knew, the more she wondered. It truly was the paradox of learning.

Christina opened her eyes to find herself in a dark room, her arms restrained. She grunted as she yanked at the bindings, and glared out into the darkness. “You fuckin’ limpdicked sons of bitches,” she swore into the darkness. “You better fuckin’ let me go or I’ll rip your pathetic dicks off and choke you with them,” she snarled in continuation. She spat into the darkness, and the sound of her spit slapping against cold, hard steel echoed against the walls.

There was the roar of an engine, and she kicked at the steel wall before there was a sudden lurching – she fell forward with a thud, her chin slamming against the floor. She swore out and kicked behind her hard, slamming into the steel. “You’re gonna be sorry when I get out of here, you fuckin’ cocksuckers!”

A small panel of metal slid open, light pouring in. She cringed and her eyes squeezed tight, the brightness piercing her retinas like a hot needle. “Oi, quiet back there!”

“Do you know who the fuck you’re dealing with?” Christina shouted back.

“Yes, you’re Christina Gale from the town of Redcliffe, Nebraska. And you are the host of an Angel.”

Christina paused. “What the fuck are you talking about, you fucking moron? I’m not a host to an Angel! I’m an American citizen, I have rights, this is... is... unlawful detainment! I demand my lawyer!” she cried out, managing to roll over after a short struggle. The man behind the wall, presumably in the cabin of the vehicle she was in, laughed.

“You don’t have rights anymore, girl. Now shut up or we’ll have to gag you.”

“You wouldn’t fucking dare!”

The panel slammed shut, and once again Christina was in darkness. She felt herself shudder, the entire situation was far too much. She reached back into her memory, trying to figure out who had done this to her – but the last memory she had from before waking up here was being attacked by... some man in Ariel’s house. Her eyes widened, and she realized who it had been.

“Michael,” she muttered as she shook violently. She flung her limbs out but the binding stopped her, and she let out a scream – in an instant she realized that the man who had spoken to her would undoubtedly hear her. She shut her mouth, but realized that before she even finished screaming the sound had stopped.

There was a voice in her head again, and it told her what she had realized wasn’t just a mistake on her behalf. You are an Angel host, said a feminine voice – the same that had told her to be wary of Michael for some time, that had told her that Ariel would betray her before it had happened. The only friend she had left in this place.

“Who... who are you?” Christina stammered into the darkness, her voice not coming out as sound. “What do you mean, I’m an Angel host?”

I am Nephilia, and I am here to help you, my child. You can control sound at will, just as your former friend and betrayer can control shadows – let me guide you, though, and I promise you happiness.

“Ne... Nephilia? How long have you been here? How do you know about Ariel and Michael turning against me?”

About a year now. I tried to warn you of things that would harm you, my dear, but you did not listen.

Christina paused, it was hard to believe. Had she been an Angel host for nearly a year? It was true that Michael said she was one, but she had never believed him; he was a liar, after all. It was odd, she thought, that her Angel would have kept their identity quiet for so long. Yet there Nephilia was, telling her these things, claiming they had warned Christina, and that Christina had not listened.

It was true, she realized with a nod. She had resisted the voice’s commands for nearly a year. And had she followed its advice and commands, instead of denying them... Well, she wouldn’t be here. “Can you show me how to use my power?”

Simply will a sound to happen, and it will.

Christina nodded, and imagined the sound of a gunshot – and then she jumped when she heard the sudden crack of a gun firing that she knew so well. She smiled slightly, and then looked up towards the roof of the steel cage.

Do not push your powers too hard, though – they can deafen and take your voice, but you will know before you push too far.

“Thank you,” Christina said with a nod. The vehicle hit a bump and her body lifted off the ground slightly. When it crashed back down to the steel floor she let out a pained grunt, and lay still for a few moments – it was nice to be able to have some power in this situation, but it was still going to be a bumpy ride.

At least she could make the fuckers that did this to her pay, though.

A light shone out into the darkness; a singular, red light that went out as quickly as it had came into existence. It flickered softly again, and a shape began to move throughout the darkness. It was swift and blended into the void that surrounded it, and behind it trailed the smell of copper.

“Mazarath,” a voice hissed calmly. A holographic screen lit up above the singular, flashing dot – the darkness was not illuminated however, there was no physical surfaces for the light to reflect from. The figure who had gave the command to the computer was certainly not a human – but it did look as such. A smile twisted across its face and the long, flaxen hair flowed down its body as its serpentine tongue flickered out. “Has Grandark been found yet?

“Sieg Grandark has been found, yes. He is located in a city called Stone Falls by the inhabitants of the planet he has fled to. He has integrated into their society partially.” As the synthetic voice came through the air, the screen displayed both the words it spoke in a strange language, but also the wavelength of sound it was emitting and an equalizer.

The figure nodded softly, a long-fingered hand running up to its chin. Slowly it stroked at its smooth, hairless chin, a gentle hiss coming from its mouth. “Very well, then, Mazarath. Can you take me to where he is in Stone Falls?”

“Yes, I can. However, you have a significant lack of knowledge on the native population to the planet, further research into their customs would be advisable-”

“Yes, yes, I will research them on the voyage. How long until we are there?”

“We shall arrive in approximately four cycles. It also seems that Harut is on the planet already, however – he has been for nearly two years.”

“Does Harut have contact with Grandark?”

“Not yet, however he has found a host among the local population – they are not nearly as developed as they will be by the time Maalik arrives.”

The figure nodded as it watched Mazarath’s screen vibrate. An image of North America, clearly an orbital photograph, filled the screen some moments later. The great sea that filled the majority of what had been the Midwest made the continent look almost like a doughnut. “Where at are the two?”

Two dots appeared on the screens – a gray one and a red one. “These are the current locations of Grandark and Harut.” The gray dot shone brightly as Mazarath said “Grandark”, and the red did the same when the AI said “Harut.” “Of course, they will undoubtedly move some before our arrival.”

The figure nodded once. “Very well, Mazarath. Four cycles, eh? How long is that on the local’s calendars?”

“It is three of their years, and an additional fifty-nine and a quarter of their days.”

“Thank you, Mazarath.”

“You are welcome.”

The screen flickered off, and the figure was left alone in the dark. It hissed slightly as it moved again, sliding through the darkness without a sound. “So Grandark and Harut are both on this world...” he said to himself as he darted through the dark. The darkness swallowed him back into itself, the red light no longer flickering. “And Fire is coming.”

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