Fallen Stars

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Repetition 1.8

The hallway was lit by flickering bulbs in the ceiling, casting shadows that spread down its entire length for seconds before vanishing again into the darkness. The steady rhythm of clanking and clinking that echoed through the cold air came from two men in white labcoats, and the cart they pushed squeaked constantly. It was as long as a bed and had straps on the sides, along with a round clamp at the end nearest the man pushing it.

They stopped at the door labeled N3-R0, and the larger of the two walked towards the door. He pressed a button on the wall, and a small slit opened up in the middle. He peered through, and then pulled his eyes from the slit. “Subject is still secure. Opening the door now,” he announced, and pressed another button to the side of the door.

It slid open with a hiss, revealing a small cell – barely wide enough to fit the single bed against the far wall, which was only five feet tall. On the bed was a girl, no older than fourteen, her long red hair spread out across the pillows and mattress randomly. Her arms were strapped tightly against her body, the straight jacket around her held her still. Her legs were also bound to each other, completely immobilizing the girl.

“Hello, Nero,” the man who had opened the door said as they pushed the cart through the door and into the room. “How are you today?”

“I am simply wonderful,” she said with a smile, turning her head towards them. “And how are you, sirs?”

“We are quite well. We’re taking you somewhere new, how does that sound?” He lifted her up from the bed, her hair falling down as he practically cradled the girl.

Her green eyes lit up and she nodded. “I’d like that very much! Where is it?”

“It’s an island called Avalon Bay, and there are lots of people there. More than here.”

“Are there any my age?” she asked as the man set her down on the cart. He nodded once and she smiled widely at the idea of being around others her age. The straps being tightened around her body, the clamp around her head – neither of those bothered her much. “I’m very excited, sirs.”

The man behind the cart laughed slightly, and gave her a soft pat on the head. He pushed her out of the room slowly, the cart squeaking as he did so and the other following behind. The door shut, and they were in the flickering light again.

“Will I get a window to watch out of on the way?”

“I’m not sure, but hopefully,” said the man pushing her through the hallway. “Make sure to behave yourself there though, they won’t be as lenient as we are.”

“I will! I’m very sorry for what I did to Doctor Anderson, is she alright?” she asked, only the ceiling in her vision – the two men were just barely outside of her range of vision. The man behind her leaned forward so she could see his face.

“Yes, she is alright – she only has minor burns,” he said with a small smile. “We know you’re very sorry though, so don’t worry. This isn’t punishment.”

“Will the strangers in the weird bells be okay with me gone?”

He paused and looked to the other man. When that man shook his head and shrugged, unaware of who the girl was referring to, he turned back to look at her. “The... who?”

“The strange people in the bells, I don’t know their names,” she said as she blinked, and then continued. “I helped them into the bells years ago, after they made the new sea,” she explained, and the two said nothing for a few seconds.

“Do you know what she’s talking about?” the man behind her asked, looking at the other. The other shook his head. “I’m sure they’ll be okay, Mr. Stoneheart wouldn’t allow you to be moved otherwise.”

“That’s good, I was so worried when I was told they’d be frozen in the bells,” Nero said with a small smile. She tilted her head slightly, looking back at the two of them. “I hope that you won’t be punished for knowing about them. The last helper I did vanished, and I felt ever so bad for it.” A smirk came across her face.

The two men fell silent as they pushed her through the hallway, and eventually into the elevator. They had been assigned to helping her two years ago, and had been told that she had just arrived at the faculty. But the new sea... was it the collapse of the Ogallala Aquifer that she had referred to?

She giggled slightly, her hair falling off of the cart and hanging down to the man’s knees. The elevator began to rise.

She was just insane, that had to be it – there was no way that she had been in there an entire year before the two had found out about her.

Kyosu sighed as he sat down on Bellona’s apartment – it had been a day of him there, trying to open portals. The woman was, quite frankly, beginning to wonder if he even had a home – for the near week she had known him, he had only left to go to Mount Rushmore... which had, of course, ended badly.

“No portals yet?” she asked, coming around behind the couch and leaning against the back of it, looking down at the young man, travel mug in her hand.

“I can’t do it,” he said sharply. “I just can’t open the portal and I don’t know why.”

“Have you tried to just call out to her? I mean, you should still be linked even if she is denying you the usage of your powers for whatever reason.” Bellona shrugged slightly and looked up at the wall that Kyosu was glaring at, his brows furrowed with irritation. “I hate to say it, but...”

“She’s not dead,” Kyosu said as he turned to look at her. “I can’t accept the idea that she died for me.”

“And if she did?”

Kyosu said nothing as he pushed himself up and off of the couch. He paced with his head down, body shaking slightly. What if she had, the thought ran over in his mind again and again. It was possible, but... he couldn’t bring himself to think about it in any real point beyond that.

“Then I’ll kill whoever did it.”

“How? He can control fire, that’s not something that’ll be easy to deal with.”

“I’ll get stronger on my own, I’ll learn how to fight without my power – I’ll hunt him down and finish him,” Kyosu said as he clenched his fists. “But she didn’t die.” If she had, surely he’d have known. Surely, there was something that’d have told him. She was just in trouble, yes, that had to be it.

“Alright, I can get that. Although... it’s kind of sad what happened. And scary, too – the idea of losing your powers is terrifying. If I never let mine define my goals, you said you wanted to be a superhero, and now you can’t be. It’d be like if Emerald Knight lost his powers.”

“What are you trying to say?” Kyosu asked, turning away from Celestia. “That you’re pitying me? I’m not going to let that Jacques guy get aw-”

“It’s over, Kyosu. He won this battle. You can’t get to Mount Rushmore and into his base, even if I used my powers to help you – it’s too far away for you to travel without your power.”

“Why do you think that I can’t?”

“Do you have a car? Do I have a car? How do you suppose we get there? Do you ever think ahead? I mean, really, Kyosu?”

“Well, you could pause time, we take someone else’s-”

“Would you really steal someone’s car just to go there? Even though I can’t use my power long enough for you to get there before Jacques was gone anyways? Even though you’d die if you stepped foot into his presence for a second, now that you don’t have your power?”

Kyosu paused, and looked down at the ground. He hadn’t thought it all out. It was brash, it was without hesitation. He had been decisive, and while he had come out okay usually... he had never dealt with someone who could control fire with a thought. And if Bellona doubted her ability to do what was needed to make this plan work out, well, it wasn’t something he could trust himself. After all, she knew her ability far better than he did.

“No,” he said as he looked back up at her. “You’re right. I need to think it over more.” If it meant saving someone, he would steal – but if it wouldn’t make a difference, it’d be a waste of his life and someone else’s property.

“Good, you get the idea,” Bellona said as she lifted up her travel mug of coffee and took a drink. Kyosu sighed and then looked down, his body slumping forward slightly. It had never occurred to him just how foolish his entire goal of being a superhero was – he had a power when he had realized his dream was possible, but now he was nothing special again.

Bellona sighed when she saw the look on his face – he was far from a person she wanted to fail. He had good intentions, after all. And there could be a way to help, somewhere out there. They’d have to find it though.

“I didn’t mean to put you down so harshly,” she said as she shook her head and closed her eyes. “I really do wish I was as, well, enthusiastic as you are about these things. But, well... this isn’t a TV show. We aren’t covered in plot armor like Emerald Knight is.” Bellona opened her eyes and looked at Kyosu. “I have obligations, payments, family, a job, I can’t be reckless – I can’t put myself out on the line, and I don’t want you to get yourself killed. You owe it to someone to stay alive.”

Kyosu paused and nodded slightly. He moved back towards the couch, but instead of resting on it he walked around it and to the side that Bellona stood on. He shifted slightly, and then looked down at the floor. “I know,” he muttered before looking at Bellona. “But there has to be... well, something we can do.”

“Well,” Bellona said with a slow nod, her free hand going to her chin. She paused for a few moments as she thought, and after a moment she started to talk. “We can, and it shouldn’t be terribly hard. You said they called themselves the King’s Foot, right?”

“Yeah,” Kyosu said.

“We can do research, see if there’s any information on them from before this all went down. If we can figure out where they come from and where they might go to after this, finding Jacques and Celestia will be easier.” Bellona stepped away from the couch and took a drink from her coffee mug as she waked past Kyosu and towards the door. “Right now, though, I think you need to get some stress out – it won’t help you any if you’re stressing out,” she said as she looked back at him. Kyosu blinked once as Bellona slipped on her shoes by the door, and watched for a few moments. “Come on, get your shoes on – I’m getting us some coffee.”

“But don’t you have some in the travel mug?”

“It’s not the same,” Bellona said with a short shrug. “Plus I could go with something to eat from a cafe, anyways – and you could use to get out of my apartment for a while.”

Kyosu smirked and walked over to where his shoes were. “Well, I can’t deny that – I have been here a lot recently.”

“Why is that, anyway? Don’t you have your own place? It’s kinda weird that you’ve been sleeping on my couch for about a week.”

Kyosu grimaced slightly – it was weird, he knew, but she had let him. Yet, he had never really explained the why. “Well... when you found me, I was running away from the Aces. Well, they’ve probably been waiting for me to go to my place – and sure I could have opened a portal, but I didn’t want to risk it. I owe them a lot of money.”

Bellona rose an eyebrow and put a hand on her hip. “What on Earth did you do to owe them money?”

“Well, it’s a long story,” Kyosu said as he laughed slightly. “The short and simple is that I ended up getting a few of the big bosses mad for... various things. But hey, they don’t know I’m here – for all they know I’ve fled the city,” he said as he gave her a short smile. Bellona just shook her head as she threw open the door.

“You’re such a dumbass, Kyosu – you better not draw any trouble to us,” she said as she walked through the door. Jumping to get his foot into the shoe further, Kyosu grabbed a hold of the door as he followed her through.

“I won’t, I can’t imagine them being in this area anyways,” Kyosu said as he bounced out of the apartment. His foot finally slid into his shoe with a slight thump, and as the door closed behind him he began walking normally. “Hey, Bellona?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks for letting me stay with you, by the way. I mean, you easily could have kicked me out – I guess it just slipped my mind in the excitement I had over having a superpower,” he said as he followed her through the hallway of the apartment complex. She nodded once and smiled slightly.

“Don’t worry about it. A superpower is a lot to get at once, after all,” she said with a short shrug. “Besides, it’s nice to have someone to spend time with. I don’t have too many friends.” Bellona gave the young man a short smile and he nodded.

“And thanks for being willing to help me out this time.”

“Hey, losing your Angel sounds pretty scary,” Bellona responded. “And as long as you don’t do anything stupid, it shouldn’t be too hard. Figure out where they’d take her, go there, get in, get out.”

“Yeah,” Kyosu said as he softly nodded to himself a few times. “I just hope finding out where she is doesn’t take too long...”

“Well, like I said, it does no good to be stressed. That’s why I’m taking you to the cafe – to get you a bit less stressed.” They reached the stairwell of the apartment complex as she said that, and she gave him another smile. “Besides, it’ll do us good to get some fresh air.”

The frozen yoghurt shop was quiet, unsurprisingly given the time of day. It was the middle of the lunch break, hardly a time of day that many thought to themselves “Some frozen yoghurt would hit the spot!” The single worker stood behind the counter in boredom, tapping her fingers against countertop. She hummed slightly, waiting for someone – anyone – to come into the store.

The doorbell chimed as Ami Ikari pushed the doors open. The worker smiled and welcomed her with a cheery voice, “Welcome to Froyo Galaxy, what can I do for you today?”

“Just a small bowl, please,” Ami Ikari said as she approached the counter. The worker nodded and handed her one of the small-sized bowls. “Thank you,” she said to the worker as she started towards the self-serve yoghurt machines.

Ami Ikari was not someone who frequently splurged, and she made no exceptions to deserts. She knew the exact amount she could fit into the bowl and pay exactly three dollars, including tax instead of the five-something that most people ended up paying with the small – it had taken time to learn, but she was glad she had. It was more than enough frozen yoghurt, after all, even at that amount.

The mixture of strawberry-banana and raspberry yoghurts was one that she had came up with when she had begun work at Stoneheart Labs about ten years ago as an intern, during a lunchbreak with her original supervisor. She still loved the combination, and got it at least once a month – as far as she was concerned, the frozen yoghurt was a better lunch than the idea of fast food.

She brought the cup back to the counter, and when the worker put it on the scale Ami had already produced the money from her pockets. “Thank you very much!” the worker said, taking the dollar bills. She paused for a moment, and then looked back at Ami. “You gave me an extra dollar,” she said, pulling a fourth bill from the ones that Ami had handed to her.

“It’s a tip,” Ami said with a smile, closing her eyes slightly. The worker nodded happily, and put the dollar into her pocket. She handed Ami one of the plastic-wrapped spoons and a napkin, which Ami was more than happy to take.

“Thank you again,” the worker said as Ami started to leave. “The tip is really appreciated!”

“No, thank you,” Ami said with a smile. “I mean, I wouldn’t be able to eat this if this store wasn’t around – and being able to is appreciated also!” The worker laughed slightly as Ami thanked her with an enthusiasm that was somewhat unfitting for the topic. After all, it was only frozen yoghurt.

The door chimed as Ami pushed the doors open on her way out, the warm summer air rushing against her face. The small city that Stoneheart Labs was in was always warm during the summer, even if it was one of the coldest cities in the nation during the winter. The sound of birds filled the air throughout the entire summer, and the small town feel that filled the city had made Ami feel welcomed, even when she had moved in immediately after college.

She pulled the spoon from the plastic wrap and threw the wrapping into a recycling bin, the Stoneheart logo on the side of it a reminder of the fact that half of the economy here was from Stoneheart’s presence; formed in the ninety sixties, he had provided more jobs for this city than any other man could say for any other city. It was hardly a surprise to see his logo on the recycling bins.

Above her, for a singe moment, she swore she saw something falling through the sky. But it wasn’t as if it mattered – the taste of frozen yoghurt was more than enough to make the world melt around her.

She closed her eyes and found herself savoring the flavoring. She continued walking even though her eyes were closed, and the moment she opened them she found herself practically crashing into a man – a man with long, gray hair that blew through the wind as if it were a scarf. He was staring at her with ancient hazel eyes as he brushed some dirt off of the sleeves of his longcoat, and Ami opened her mouth to utter an apology for nearly bumping into him.

In a flash his hands moved down to what seemed to be a hilt at his hip, grasping it firmly as he looked down at her – she realized immediately just how tall this stranger was, and felt herself shiver slightly. The look in his eyes were... utterly alien.

“What is that?” he asked, interrupting her before even the beginning of an utterance of a word could come from her mouth. His eyes were locked on the bowl of frozen yoghurt in her hands, only breaking contact with the bowl to glance up at the spoon that was in her hand.

“It’s... it’s frozen yoghurt?” she said slowly, her eyes wide as she watched his hand that was on the hilt. She looked back up to his face, to find that there was not trace of emotion in it – it was like looking at any of the ur-fravashi’s faces.

“Frozen yoghurt?” he repeated, his eyes still locked on it. He pulled his hand from the hilt on his hip, only to rest it at his side. “I am unfamiliar with it. Is it good?” She breathed a sigh of relief inside, glad to see his hand no longer on the hilt, and then realized he had asked a question.

“Good? Well, yeah, it’s frozen yoghurt – it’s delicious,” she answered as her left eyebrow rose – or rather, the right one sunk. “You’ve really never had it before?”

The stranger shook his head as he looked up from the bowl of frozen yoghurt, and to Ami’s face. She felt herself shiver slightly, the man was far larger than she could reasonably handle – and the way he held himself was... not arrogant, no. Cold? No... he was distant. As if a person was looking at an ant.

“May I try it?”

“Er... yes, I suppose,” Ami said with a short smile as she held out the bowl and spoon. The man took a hold of of the spoon and the bowl, and slowly – carefully – he pushed it into the frozen yoghurt. The scoop he took was larger than Ami had hoped he would take, but it wasn’t as if she could tell him so – she had said he could try it.

There was a tense moment as he took a bite, and then he closed his eyes. His face looked down and he handed the bowl back to Ami, practically shoving it into her hands in the process.

“Do you not like it?”

“No,” he said, his body shaking visibly. The intensity the man packed into the word was great, and admittedly a tad bit beyond what Ami expected – even of someone this strange. “I... I love it!”

She stepped back in shock, the man’s eyes lighting up with excitement as a smile stretched across his face. “What is your name, human? I must thank you properly for introducing me to such a delicacy – surely, this must be the most sought-after food on this planet!”

“I- What? My name’s Ami – what are you talking about it like that for? It’s good, I think it’s probably my favorite food, but it’s not even that pricey. This bowl was only three dollars. It’s pretty easy to find.”

“Three dollars? That’s cheaper than the price of the fuel that you humans use for transportation! And there’s so, so much of it! That it was you who I first met on this world is beyond good fortune, Ami!”

Ami stepped back again slowly, the man placing his hand on his hilt again. “If you want, you can have-”

Once again he interrupted her, this time pulling out a long, curved sword from the sheath that seemed to vanish into his longcoat. He thrust it forward and into the air, a grin across his face as he looked into the sky. “I am Sieg Grandark, the finest warrior of my family! I have come to this world after my people banished me for the destruction of the entire Rissoni nation! I am the Storm of Swords, the Army of Blades!” he swung the sword down, stepping back in a flash so that he pointed it at Ami. She yelped slightly, holding her hands into the air – froyo in hand. “You, Ami, what is your full name?”

“A-Ami Ikari,” she said through a stutter, her eyes locked on the sword.

He sheathed it again, but she noticed that he did not put it into an actual sheath – the moment it touched his longcoat a small hole opened up in it, and he seemed to push it into his leg directly. “I offer my service as a warrior to you, Ami Ikari. In exchange, I ask only two things – supplies of this frozen yoghurt, and assistance in locating a specific host.”

Ami blinked once, before she realized exactly what this man was – “You’re a fravashi?”

“I am indeed! The finest warrior of the Third Heavenly Army, as well – that is, until my banishment nearly five years ago now.” Grandark grinned as Ami lowered her hands, and then his grin vanished. His face became entirely serious in the blink of an eye, as if the emotional outburst he had shown had never happened. “You know of my people?”

“Three years ago, seven of your people’s elites, the ur-fravashi, landed on our planet. You didn’t know of that?”

“No, I knew that the ur-fravashi landed. But I did not know that the humans were aware.”

Ami paused for a few moments. Had his outburst been from the frozen yoghurt? He suddenly was far more serious than before, and if he switched moods this easily... She hardly wanted to see if he had a bad mood. She’d have to be careful in her wording, clearly – it would do no good to insult someone who had destroyed an entire people.

“When they landed, they destroyed a lot of land – we managed to stop the destruction by slowing down the nuclear reaction that went on within their bodies, but...”

“It does not matter what you have done with them, I have no loyalty to the ur-fravashi. I am a warrior, and they banished me for it. So, Ami Ikari, will you assist me in locating the host that I seek? They disappeared shortly after my arrival.”

Ami nodded once. “I’ll help you as much as I can, Sieg Grandark.”

“I will fight for you when needed in repayment.” Grandark smiled at her, even if the rest of his face betrayed no emotions. “And call me Grandark, please. The full name is hardly necessary.”

“Alright, then, Grandark,” Ami said as she put her spoon into the frozen yoghurt again. “So who is the host you’re looking for? Assuming that you know.”

“He, she, I don’t know - they were a young one, about nine or so? I never revealed myself in person to whoever it was.” he said as he looked around the area. “Perhaps that will change. Perhaps not. But I recently lost contact with her.”

“I see,” she said with a short nod. She would be late returning to work if she didn’t start walking back now, so without a word she began to walk. “Did you knew their name?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” Grandark said as he walked. “She controlled the power of atoms, though.”

Five years on Earth, and nuclear power... It was clear who the host was. There was only one person that Ami knew to be a host without a doubt, and the description fit her perfectly. That her real name was unknown to Grandark as well as to Ami was no surprise, though. After all, Nero’s name was based from her subject number – only Stoneheart knew her actual name, if even he did.

Saying nothing about the girl, Ami nodded slowly and then glanced towards him. “If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.”

“Thank you. The last time I checked on their status, they were in this town, but that was about a year ago.”

“Right. Say, Grandark,” she said as she glanced back to see the man following her, “Didn’t you say that you destroyed a nation?”

Grandark smiled and said nothing as he walked behind her. When she saw that he had the look of someone reminiscing on fond memories, she shuddered and turned her head back to see where she was going, taking a spoonful of the yoghurt in her mouth. She felt a slight chill run down her spine at the thought that this man was responsible for the death of an entire nation – how could a being so powerful be walking directly behind her, and further more, how could he be so... non-threatening in his intentions?

“I suppose that I should not follow you into your workplace?” Grandark asked as he caught up with her in stride. Ami turned her head to look at him.

“Probably not,” she said with a short smile. “What have you done for the past five years anyways?”

“I keep busy enough – I’ve been running a weapon shop for the past five years, it keeps my craft of weapon smithing practiced and gives me the money to get more metals,” Grandark responded with a short and simple shrug. “If you need me, simply call out – not that you probably will, with as boring as this planet is.”

Grandark faded into nothingness as he walked alongside Ami, and for a moment, she wondered if she had truly met him. A smile came across her face. So I came across a fravashi looking for Nero. It’ll have to be my little secret. The frozen yoghurt melted in her mouth, and so did her worries. It wasn’t as if he knew that his host was being transported to a military base.

Although, if he found out he knew and hadn’t told him...

She let the yoghurt take her worry away, it was easier that way.

Ariel was sitting upright in the hospital bed, looking out the window across the room. It was a cloudy day, with great storm clouds approaching from the west. She sighed softly, wishing that she could see the sun at least – it had been a long time in the hospital room, and the doctors had refused to let her go until they figured out what the foreign material in her was.

Assuming that they weren’t holding her until those seeking Angel hosts could arrive.

If only I could just leave, she thought to herself as the winds picked up, the trees outside were shaking as wind passed through the branches. The sound of thunder filled the room, and she sighed.

The door opened without a warning and she tensed, quickly turning her head. She was still in some pain from the wounds, and the short cringe of pain gave that away easily. When she saw it was Michael that was entering her face turned to a short smile, the familiar face was a comfort. And then she remembered back to the attack, perhaps he knew something-

“Ariel, we have to leave now,” Michael said as he closed the door behind him. “Christina’s been captured by the organization that was after her earlier, her Angel has revealed itself to her and she seems to be more than eager to join up with her captors.”

“She’s... she’s not resisting?”

“She hasn’t so far. She was just captured by a group of men led by the shape-shifter though, so I’m not sure what happened, but she went without a struggle.”

Ariel shook her head. There was no way it could be right, Christina wouldn’t just... submit. She was never one to give in or let others tell her what to do – there was a reason Ariel had idolized her since Jr. High.. “I... I can’t believe that,” Ariel muttered as she looked down at her lap. “Do you know where they’re going with her?”

“I have my guesses, but none of them are good. But more importantly, they’re coming for you now. The foreign bodies in your bloodstream were left by me, to help you heal – not enough to do it themselves, but enough to quicken the process. But once the shape-shifter found out...”

“He’s coming here? He knows?”

Michael nodded.

“How do I know you aren’t him?”

Michael shrugged and walked forward. Ariel’s eyes were locked on him as he did so, and she trembled slightly. Michael said nothing, but instead his body started to fade out of reality, becoming see-through for a short period of time before he solidified fully again. “Is that enough evidence?”

Ariel nodded and the two shared a short smile. Michael pulled at the wires hooked up to Ariel and pulled them off – the monitor for her heart rate began to beep loudly, but stopped when he snapped his fingers.

“The storm outside is being caused by an Angel host related to the man who attacked you earlier. I do not believe they are working together though, even if their actions are similar. ”

“Are there others that are moving against them?”

Michael smiled and nodded.

“Can we go to them?”

“I was hoping you’d ask,” Michael said as he grabbed Ariel’s hand and pulled slightly – she moved to get out of the hospital bed as the door opened with a bang – armed men in black uniforms filled in through the doorway as the Angel moved quickly.

“Freeze, Angel!”

“Hold tightly,” Michael said as he pulled Ariel into him – she cringed with pain from the bullet wounds again, but wrapped her arms around the Angel.

There was darkness and the sound of gunshots. Reality fell apart, the walls of the room collapsing upwards as the ceiling crashed down and the floor forgot to exist – they fell and rose at the same time, and in an instant everything calmed down.

Ariel looked around to find herself in a dark space, Michael still holding her tightly. The world around her was still dark, but the two weren’t moving anymore. She looked around slowly at the light-devoid surroundings, the Angel letting go slightly.

“What... what is this place? Where are we?” Ariel asked as she stepped back onto... something solid. Michael smiled slightly.

“This is the place between places, where Angels go when they step out of space and time,” Michael explained as he walked forward slowly. “Humans cannot access it on their own, traveling to it takes far too much energy, but...”

“But you were able to pull me through still?”

“Yes. It exerted a bit more energy, but... it was still possible.” Michael smiled and put a hand on Ariel’s back. “How are you feeling? It was a lot of stress on your body, you might be rather... nauseous.”

“I feel alright,” Ariel said after a short pause. “So... you just will yourself to step out of this space and end up somewhere else, then? So that’s how you disappear and appear so easily.”

“Exactly so,” Michael said, and then stopped. “Do you feel ready to step back into the normal world?”

Ariel nodded once. It wasn’t as if there was anything for her to do here, after all. And besides, she had to do something to stop the people that captured Christina – if Michael was taking her to people that were also planning against Christina’s kidnappers, the sooner the better.

Michael took a hold of Ariel again, and pulled her close to himself. She wrapped her arms around the Angel again and reality warped – blackness turned away and in a flash there was a blinding light, walls seemed to fall from below and the ceiling popped into reality to hold them in. She closed her eyes, the sudden appearance of light hurt them more than the sudden disappearance of light had.

“What in the-”

She opened her eyes to find herself in a diner somewhere in the country, the windows showing an open field that seemed to stretch on forever past the highway. She was standing in front of a silver-haired man whose left eye was covered with his bangs, and a woman clad in all purple – her dress, her gloves, and even her shoes.

Thankfully no one else had seen her, the storm overhead had apparently turned away most visitors. And the workers were too busy texting to notice a young woman appearing out of thin air with an unusually tall man who dressed like a 1920s mobster – even if the two of them were clinging onto each other tightly, as if for dear life.

“Who the Hell are you?” the silver-haired man asked as he stared at the two. Ariel pulled away from Michael and looked around – the workers still hadn’t noticed her and Michael’s sudden presence. Ariel started to answer the question when Michael put up an open hand. Ariel stopped, and looked at him for a moment.

“I know who this is,” he explained to her, before he turned back to the silver-haired man. He smiled and gave the stranger a short nod. “I am Michael and this is my host, Ariel – you are Delirium’s host, I assume? I noticed you had plans to take on the folks at Avalon Bay?”

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