B1 — 30. Conclusion

Rachel’s POV


Rachel breathed through her teeth as she forced herself up; she couldn’t feel pain with the moonlight empowering her, but she knew her muscles were strained.  She expanded her hearing, listening for Maria, Scarlet, and Fiona.

Maria seemed to be talking with some of the SEALs, Fiona was having a troublesome time with some of Terrell’s gang, and Scarlet was talking to Relica.

Fiona seems to be in the most trouble … wait, Relica can force people that are brainwashed into attacking people?  Crap.  She’s right; Scarlet would take a lot of heat.

Her brow furrowed as she heard a massive explosion near Fiona and, after a moment, began to talk with a Slime gang member, mentioning his resilience.  It looks like she’s got it completely under control now.

Listening to Scarlet’s situation, she began to feel more and more uneasy.  She’s manipulating Scarlet to buy time.  Those creatures probably have something to do with her ability, and they’re closing in.

She glanced down at her hand, squeezing.  I’m so physically spent.  Moonlight reinforces my body, but it doesn’t heal my muscle stress; there’s no way I can effectively help Scarlet.  Fiona might be able to … she’s flying out to the ocean, though.  Ah, Terrell is out there.  What can I do?

Biting her lower lip, she played with it for a moment, glaring up at the moon.  Maria’s out of energy, Fiona’s chasing down Terrell, my body won’t hold up long sprinting, and Scarlet’s being forced to stand down.  My best option is to try and get help from the SEALs.  Scarlet should be able to hold out; she’s strong, and it looks like Relica’s more interested in talking at the moment.

She briskly walked down the street, paying close attention to the moon’s light.  Moving off Ocean Drive, she crossed onto Fifth Street; there were a few buildings that blocked the moon’s glow down the road, causing her to curse every time the pain returned.

Rachel listened to Scarlet’s situation intently as Relica created a globe of sunlight, and Scarlet activated some reaper ability.  Relica’s way more dangerous than I thought; she knows so much about this change, and if she can counter Scarlet with sunlight … it’s not looking good.  A System … she’s mapping it out like some form of game and the abilities, the stats I’ve discovered, everything lines up.  This does function like a game … but I don’t know about any games.

Could I stand a chance against her, even if I was at full power?  She’s definitely more knowledgeable than me.  Do I have anything to help recover my body?  No … really.  

She followed their movements as Relica tried to outlast Scarlet’s new power, but she was slowly taking down her life-linked minions.  A sharp spike shot through her heart as the realization struck.

I don’t think I could have taken her.  Fiona, maybe, but I’m not sure.  Would burning even work on those creatures?  Even with the sunlight disadvantage, Scarlet might have been the best choice.

If her minions have an advanced regeneration ability, I could have destroyed them, but they’d just reform, and as long as they lived, all the damage she took would be transmitted to them.  No, wait, even though she’s losing them, they’re not leaving or separating too far.  Then again, she has some kind of ability that can lock Scarlet down and push her away … she has way too many spells.

Gah!  If only I could tell Scarlet, there’s probably a range on them.  If Scarlet could teleport them away, she could handle Relica on her own, but still, what a powerful ability, and the things she did to obtain it … did The Oscillation make her that callous?  Are we becoming like that?  Dang, there’s so much we don’t know.  C’mon, Scarlet, hold out!

She frowned as she caught sight of Earwig and Bean, two of the SEALs that were sent to meet her; further up the road, she could see small groups of people rushing toward the bridge.  Maria seems to be on decent terms with them, but they’re not our friends.  They’re here for a mission, and Relica is a part of that mission.

“Hey, are you alright?  What happened to that…”

Readjusting her ripped biking pants to put less pressure on her tail, Rachel cut him off.  “I need your radio.”

“Eh, what?”  Bean slowed, posture turning defensive.

“I need to speak to Jerry quickly.”

Earwig frowned but nodded.  Unhooking his radio, he pressed the switch on the side.  “This is Earwig, Rachel wishes to speak to you, Cap.  Over.”

“Affirmative.  Over.”

He handed Rachel the walkie.  “Jerry, I took care of the tank and Conner; he’s dead.  Fiona’s in pursuit of Terrell and took out most of his gang; Terrell’s in a boat heading northeast with a few of his remaining gang members, but they moved too far across the ocean for me to hear them.  They sunk a few Coast Guard boats, but Fiona rescued the passengers.

“Scarlet is currently engaged with Relica; she’s a Legendkin, just like Conner.  She’s by far the strongest person in the area, probably stronger than Conner, to be honest.  Scarlet is having trouble.  She needs support.  Relica has two minions left that are life-linked to her and have rapid regeneration.

“Meaning, all damage done to Relica is transferred to the creatures, and they can heal that damage.  There may be a distance requirement on the ability of fifty to a hundred feet.  Scarlet can bypass the creature’s regeneration, but I don’t know how long she can keep it up.  They’re at Thirteenth and Ocean Drive at the moment…”

Jerry cut her off.  “Copy.  Hear that, Task Force Green?  Over.”

“Affirmative.  On route.  ETA four minutes.  Requesting additional information.  Over.”  Rachel heard two of the several helicopters in the area change directions.

She gave them all the information she had recovered about Relica’s abilities and the current battle conditions as the fight moved over to Fourteenth Street.  Suddenly she caught Terrell’s voice a few miles away.

“I just heard Terrell.  He’s teleporting over the ocean, back toward land … Fiona just caught up to them.  She handled it.  Daren, Marcus, and Terrell are dead, and she’s bringing the bodies back to land.  She’s heading back to the hotel to see if I’m still there, and Scarlet killed the last creature, but she’s out of energy; Relica’s going to try to mind-control her, you need to get there, now!”

“Copy.  ETA two minutes.  Over.”

Rachel’s right fist tightened.  “That’s not fast enough!  If she can mind-control Scarlet … she’s already extremely powerful, add Scarlet to her arsenal, and I don’t think any of us could take … the spell—I think it failed.”

“Repeat that.  Over.”  Jerry stated.

“Relica … she just teleported a mile north; she’s running.  She left Scarlet behind.”

“Copy.  This is Task Force Green; Unit One, pursue target, Unit Two, confirm Vampire’s condition.  Out.”  The two helicopters split off.

Rachel’s brow was furrowed as she glared at the ground, listening to Scarlet.  She asked what Scarlet did … Did The Reaper do something to prevent Relica from taking over her mind?  That was supposed to be an extremely powerful spell, gained off some form of Achievement, but it failed.  Could it have been the proficiency level?  Relica was worried about that, but … we haven’t met The Reaper yet.

Corrupted Scarlet told us that she had no clue what The Reaper was, but it scared her.  Could Scarlet have another personality flip?  Her mind turned back to the song Scarlet had sung, trying to remember the exact words as Bean and Earwig listened to the different orders being given.

“I have a tale that time has lost, sins of judgment born of blood.  She took a name from the one profaned; the chosen—know the dark but let it rest.  Come down to the red sea, swim with me.  Ah-ooh, ooh.

“Born of graves and left below, painted ashes, painted snow; when the dark awakens, fires of your last hopes are burning low.  Blood of gods and blood of men, meet in union to ascend; fate has chosen, and your fading light is at its end.

“You rise, I fall.  I stand, you crawl.  You twist, I turn.  You sit and stay, I don’t obey.  Life’s breath flickers with the candlelight, lost souls in the twilight.  Fear not the dark, the monsters within; brace for the feast of humanity’s end.  Ah-ooh, ooh.

“It’s a long way down to the place I found, lurking silhouette waiting below—a dark sun, hollowed by the fade; that debt you live to repay—you see the blackness stare, promising to spare the chosen.

“Born of graves and left below, painted ashes, painted snow; when the dark awakens, fires of your last hopes are burning low—your souls will char; flicker to and fro—afraid to linger and to go; trapped in blood until my scythe has come to take you home.  Ah-ooh, ooh.

“A pact embraced, a road unsought; a black heart’s redemption borne by brigand’s blood.  A blight upon the light, a terror for the night, she became the bringer of twilight.  Vengeance is her only ward; beware the blood-red rose’s thorn, for it will end with Scarlet.

“With flowers and my love, both never to come back, her wrath is known within the black; the tide, it stole away her grace, but the depths, they would not claim her.  I could not foresee this thing happening to you; I am exposed, I am undone, no more colors, it all turns black.  Ah-ooh, ooh.

“Alone with this vision, alone with this sound, alone in my dreams, maybe I will fade away and not have to face the facts.  The darkest night, the brightest day; history tainted, the cycle hovering above gravity’s lure.  My love will laugh with me before the morning comes, for the blinding light will never return.

“Born of graves, left below, no time for rest, nowhere to go—a storm was loosed with tear-stained eyes—come down to the red sea, swimming with me.  Ah-ooh, ooh.

“A wretch bound to the harvest, born of the shadows, between light and dark.  Oh, oh, oh, ooh … who will save you now?  Incinerate our shackles.

“The Maiden of Death will tend to her fields, and eternity will fall into silence … Heaven or Hell … where do you land in the red sea?  Ah-ooh, ooh…”

Rachel tucked in her lower lip as she recounted the words, stomach uneasy.  There are so many ominous lyrics in there.  Legendkin have Trees from gods … Wenet is a branch in my Tree.  I’ll have to look up who Wenet is, but the name rings a bell.  I think she’s from Chinese mythology.  Blood of gods and blood of men, meet in union to ascend … it can’t mean that, right?  No, it can’t, because there are multiple god-like abilities that Relica had, but I don’t know the specifics of her legend.

I don’t know if some of that is talking about Scarlet or The Reaper … probably the most concerning phrase is brace for the feast of humanity’s end.  What is the dark or the monsters inside it?  I’ll have to ask Scarlet if she has any insight into it.  I mean, it could just mean that humanity will end as this system continues to expand, or people are born into these changed types … There was that one incident where the Beastkin gave birth to a kid that was the same type.  There are just so many unknown factors.

She heard the unit rappelling out of the helicopter near Scarlet and looked up as she heard Fiona approaching; a bright green light moved toward her with a charred body beside it.  

“Rachel, oh my gosh!  Are you okay?”

Bean and Earwig stiffened as they caught sight of the bright light, unable to process it in the dark.

“It’s fine,” Rachel said, moving toward her.  “It’s just Fiona.  Yeah, I’m fine, just tired.  What about the rest of the gang?”

Fiona hovered several feet above her, lips pursed as she looked Rachel up and down; her voice was soft enough that the men couldn’t hear.  “Honestly, you need new clothes, and Maria should look at your wounds … where is she?  Oh, and the gang’s all taken care of too; here’s Terrell, barbecued and ready for drop off.  Is it just me, or is it strange not feeling anything about killing him?  Well, the satisfaction that it’s over … not the best thing to say, I admit.  Anyways, I don’t know about Relica, but Scarlet’s awesome, she’s probably already mopped the floor with her.”

“Hmm, yeah, we’ll talk in private later.  I think we all have some things we need to discuss.  Maria’s in bad shape; she’s lost too much energy it seems.  She won’t be healing anyone until she can recharge, and Scarlet actually had a pretty rough fight, but it’s over now.  I’ll tell you about it in a bit.  Some guys are helping her to one of the creatures to get some blood from it.”

“You mean one of those gray-skinned weird things that ran after Relica?  Is that safe?  What if it’s like, radioactive or something … they looked like they popped out of a post-apocalyptic movie.”

Rachel shrugged.  “I don’t have a clue.  I want to say Scarlet knows which blood’s edible for her, but who knows.  Maybe we’ll meet Corrupted Scarlet again.”

Bean and Earwig began to fidget as they listened to the one-sided conversation.

“What do you mean, Corrupted Scarlet?”  Bean muttered.

Fiona frowned.  “Oh, umm, yeah, I don’t know about the whole Corrupted Scarlet part, but I mean, these guys killed, melted, ate, and experimented on kids, women, and men … in front of me.  Can you imagine why I want them dead?”

Rachel smiled softly.  “They can’t hear you, Fiona.”

Frowning, she closed the distance.  “Honestly!  You know, I sing … not mainstream or anything, but people like my voice.  Now people can barely hear me; I don’t know anything about Corrupted Scarlet, by the way.”

“If Scarlet drinks old blood, then she can develop another personality that takes over.  It’s not really as bad as it sounds.  She’s actually a lot more open and happy; she’s had a rough transition, though … probably even worse than yours, Fiona.”

“No way,” Fiona muttered.  “Really?  That’s terrible!  What’s happening with her?”

She listened to the small group around Scarlet for a moment, trying to get a better understanding of their conversation.

Scarlet’s voice was relieved as she talked with one of the men around her.  “So, I can drink blood from dead bodies, even if they’ve been dead for hours?”

“Yes, most might not think about it, but you can safely use blood from a cadaver for six to eight hours; the blood inside a dead body remains sterile, and the red blood cells retain their oxygen-carrying capabilities within that time.  So I don’t see why you should have the problem you explained; it should be no different than a blood bag, if not fresher.”

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“Thank you.  Thank you so much!”

Scarlet bent down and quickly sucked the blood out of the creature’s body.

“Man, the red eyes are a bit unnerving,” one of the soldiers muttered.

Releasing her fangs, Scarlet sighed.  “It’s not voluntary … I’m not trying to be creepy, but I need to drink blood to survive.  This blood tastes really salty, though,” she smacked her lips, “and tangy?”

One of the soldiers chuckled.  “Gross.”

Rachel smiled.  “She’s doing fine; the blood seems like it’ll work out.  I think she’ll be teleporting to us soon.”

“So, it’s over?”  Fiona stretched out with a groan.  “By the way, I’m functioning on like, eight percent life force … could I get some sugar?”

“Eight percent life force?”  Bean muttered.  “This is just too crazy.”

Fiona nodded.  “Right?  I mean, I literally use my life force to attack.  What kind of system is that?  Don’t get me started on Warpath!”

Rachel sighed before whispering, “Let’s not give these guys all our weaknesses, Fiona.  There’s still a lot we don’t know about and how all this is going to play out.”

Scratching behind her left ear, Fiona hummed before responding.  “You’re right.  This has been such a mess.”

Both Bean and Earwig were staring at them with furrowed brows.  “What?”

“Nothing,” Rachel replied with a warm smile.  “Why don’t we head back; I’m sure there’s some military general or somebody that…”  she trailed off as she heard Maria muttering, alone in a building.

“Where the hell are they going to take us?  If Rachel is beat-up, then maybe Scarlet could put up a fight … gah, I don’t even know them that well.  ¡Qué mierda de tormenta!  We sent Felix to the military outpost too … mierda!”

[i.e. What a crap storm!; Crap!]

“What’s up?”  Fiona asked, glaring at the charred corpse above them.

“Give me a moment; I’m listening.”  She caught both Bean and Earwig’s frown as she cycled through conversations about Mythickin.

“… This is Sky Carrier Delta, have orders changed with the Mythickin?  Reports show a Legendkin escaped during their scuffle, and part of the unit is in pursuit.  Over.”

“That’s a negative, Sky Carrier Delta; orders stand, pick up Mythickin and drop them off at local Overwatch.  Do not engage in combat unless provoked, and Officer on deck gives the order.  Out.”

“Copy.  Out.”

“Did I hear that right?  We’ll be taken to the local Overwatch?”

Bean frowned.  “Eh, yeah.  Those are the orders I received.  There are some things we should get cleared up, though.”  He waited for Jerry to stop giving orders and getting updated information before speaking.  “This is Bean.  We have charred remains that are reported to be Terrell’s, the leader of the dismantled gang.  Orders.  Over.”

“Bean, you and Earwig report back to Forge, escort the girls there, and I’ll have a medical team on standby to take the remains.  We’ll debrief in the King and then send them to Overwatch.  Out.”

“Copy.  Out.”

“King?”  Fiona muttered.

Rachel smirked.  “Code words, they use a lot of them.  It probably means a Burger King nearby.  I think Maria’s in one, and Jerry’s going that way.”

“That’s correct, Ma’am,” Bean stated.  “Let’s start heading that way.”

“Sounds good,” Rachel stretched, trying to be careful not to stress her ripped clothes.

They walked several meters before a blood portal appeared in front of them; Bean and Earwig stiffened.

“No need to worry,” Rachel said with a bright smile.  “It’s Scarlet with an escort.”

Scarlet appeared with two men dressed in green military garb; Scarlet’s face brightened as she caught sight of her, but the two men seemed a little shocked, likely from the blood portal’s effect.

“That felt…”

“It’s like … wow…”  

“Rachel, I’m so glad you’re okay!”  She dashed forward but hesitated as she neared.  “Umm—is it okay to hug?”

Rachel opened her arms.  “I don’t mind.  You’ve more than earned it from a fight like that.”

Scarlet walked into her arms.  “I was so scared at the end … Did you hear?”

Holding her, Rachel nodded.  “Yeah, you did everything you could.  I don’t think any of us would have lasted as long as you; she knew so much … we should talk about it later, not now.”

Pulling away, Scarlet took a deep breath, the few tears that left her black and red eyes sinking back into her skin.  “Alright.  Oh, Fiona, is that…”

“Terrell,” Fiona stated, puffing out her flat chest.  “He was so annoying … all of them were … oh.”  She turned to Earwig.  “So, back at the hotel, there’s a bunch of kids in a room.  I covered the door with dirt, so you can’t miss it.”

“Got it,” Bean stated, nodding for Earwig to call it in.  He turned to the two members of Task Force Green.  “I’m Bean, and this is Earwig.  We’re a part of Task Force Blue; we just got orders to take them to Captain Jerry for debriefing.”

The person to the left of Scarlet had blonde hair, solid features, and brown eyes.  He watched the blood portal shoot back into Scarlet’s skin with interest before his vision turned to Bean.  “Lieutenant Hopper, and this is Rowdy,” he pointed to a man in his early thirties with black hair and blue eyes.  “He’s our medic.  Task Force Green.  We’ll accompany you.”

Rowdy moved around Scarlet to examine Rachel.  “You seem to be in pretty rough shape for how you’re acting.  How bad is the pain?”

Rachel shook her head.  “No need, Doc.  I’ll live, it’s not as bad as it looks.”

“Hmm,” he glanced back at Scarlet as she sucked her lip under her teeth.  “Scarlet told me that you looked really worn out.”

Rachel frowned.  C’mon, Scarlet!  These guys could just as easily turn against us.  “I am tired, but I don’t feel like my life is in danger.  Is that right, Scarlet?”

“Erm, yeah—yeah, just tired.  Your muscles are just kind of strained.  I thought you might be hurting a lot.”

“Nope, perfectly fine,” she said with a reassuring grin.  Her ears twitched as she listened to the helicopter of the unit pursuing Relica return.  She puffed a breath through her cheeks, tail twitching with agitation.  “It seems they lost Relica; she disappeared shortly after running away from you.”

Scarlet gulped, causing Rachel’s eyes to narrow with curiosity.  Does she swallow her own blood?  How does that work?  Her anatomy is so different.

“Yeah,” Scarlet ran a hand through her black hair, pushing back her bangs.  “I doubt they’ll catch her.  She wanted to stay and fight me at first…”  Her vision shifted between the men, and she bunched her lips to the side.  “I guess we can talk about that later; I’m sure someone will want to talk to us about it.”

“How are you doing on energy?”  Rachel asked.

Scarlet smiled brightly, fangs showing.  “Great.  I drank the blood of one of those creatures.  It’s not as bad as blood bags, but it wasn’t that good … I really like Julia’s blood if I’m being honest,” she giggled.

I don’t doubt it; her happy personality must really help with all the tragedy she’s gone through recently.  “That’s a relief.  We need to get Fiona some sugar soon; she’s basically dying.”

Fiona puffed out a breath of air, folding her arms.  “Geez, make it sound life-threatening, why don’t you … I’m only six percent away from my grave.”

“Scarlet, could you teleport us to where Maria is?  She’s in the Burger King…”  Scarlet’s blood had already pulled away from her body.

“I know.  She’s not doing so hot; I’m worried about her the most.”

“Yeah, but there’s nothing we can do right now.”

Fiona looked like she wanted to ask why, but kept silent.

The four men looked at the blood portal uneasily, both Rowdy and Hopper shivering.

“How’d it feel?”  Bean muttered.

“Eh—personal,” Hopper replied.  “Just go in and don’t think about it.”

“Yeah, just like last time,” Bean muttered; a quake shot down Earwig’s body as he gulped.

Rachel didn’t hesitate, motioning for Fiona to follow.  She walked through, wincing as she left moonlight, muscles tensing, but she managed to keep most of the pain hidden behind a mask.  The uncomfortable feeling of being touched all over helped distract her mind.

“Rachel?  Maldita sea, what happened after I left because it looks like you’ve been run over by a truck?”

[i.e. Dang it]

Examining herself more thoroughly, she followed several rips in her tank and bike shorts, white blood staining the black clothing.  Her wounds seemed to have scabbed over with white, hardened liquid.  It was mostly modest, but the back of her bra seemed to have some cuts in it that could snap the support if pressured too hard.

“I think I turned out fairly well after smashing into a car and then following said car through three buildings.”

Scarlet chuckled, hand held to her lips as they emerged from the portal behind her.  “Dang, that’s pretty bad.”

“I’ll say,” Jerry muttered.

Fiona appeared shortly after; Rachel reacted quickly, wincing as she accelerated to catch her as the green aura faded, and she dropped from the sky.  Falling into her hands, Fiona shivered, holding her arms.  “What—what the sucking hobgoblin’s frostbitten ears!”  she muttered.

Maria chuckled darkly.  “Nice save, Liebre Blanca, and I’m totally with you, Hada.  Feels like someone’s touching your whole body.”

[i.e. White Hare; Fairy]

Fiona nodded.  “Seriously, like—suck!  Can we go through shadows next time?  I like that a lot better.”

“You okay?”  Scarlet asked, Vampiric eyes scanning Rachel’s body.

Rachel nodded, smiling reassuringly as her muscles screamed.  “Yup, totally fine.”

“Eh?”  Maria’s eyebrows lifted.

She didn’t pursue her lie as she whispered, “Roll with it.”

Huffing, she shrugged, but Scarlet didn’t hide her concern that well.  Rachel was relieved everyone was too focused on Bean, Rowdy, Hopper, and Earwig than their conversation.  They stepped out of the portal, Earwig’s face was white, but they seemed to take it well.

“I don’t think I could ever get used to that,” Earwig muttered.

Hopper chuckled.  “Hey, it’s not that bad.  By the way, you dropped the body on the other side … something wrong?”  he asked, catching sight of Fiona in Rachel’s hands, still trying to compose herself.

Fiona shook her head.  “No … that—I’ve never been touched like that … maybe my small body’s just super sensitive after being changed into a Fairy…”  Her wings appeared again as she took a deep breath, and she floated up, green aura returning with a spray of light dust that soon vanished.  “Thanks, Rachel, that just—it shocked me—a lot.”

The charred corpse exited the blood portal, and the crimson liquid returned to Scarlet’s body.  They were in a fairly fancy Burger King that seemed all but normal after seeing the chaotic streets.

“Sorry, Fiona,” Scarlet shifted nervously.  “I know it’s a little overwhelming.  I-I kind of had to push Maria to get back into it the second time.”

Maria grunted, looking off to the side.  “I’m not scared … it just doesn’t feel good.  You know?  I’m not a cobarde.”

[i.e. coward]

“Never said you were,” Scarlet chuckled.  “Just saying that it can freak even you out, and you’re a pretty hard chica.”

Maria struck her tongue against the roof of her mouth.  “So, what happened?  Judging by your bodies, all of you feel like you’ve seen paradise and barely made it back.”

Rachel took control of the conversation.  “Right, I can explain most of the details and some of the things I miss, each of you can fill in.”

She turned toward a table with packets of sugar, grabbing out a few packages as she whispered.  “Don’t mention anything about The System, your weaknesses, or any sensitive information about yourselves.  We don’t know what the future holds.”

Turning back, she smiled warmly.  “Fiona, you’ll have to tell me how these taste.”

Fiona’s eyes sparkled as she flew over to the table she sat in, Scarlet joining her.  Maria sat across them at another booth, nodding at Rachel.

Ripping open a packet, she began to explain the bare minimum of their story; she mainly stuck to their opposition, keeping information about them at a minimum.  After thirty minutes of back and forth conversations between everyone, they finally gave Jerry enough information to be satisfied.

Jerry finished writing down some of the information she’d given him.  “Okay,” he sighed.  “That’ll have to do.  There’s a lot … you girls really dealt with a ton.”

“You don’t have to tell us,” Maria huffed.  “Did you figure out what’s happening with my brother?”

Rachel sat back, crossing her legs as she expanded her hearing, trying to get any more information she could from their surroundings.  So, those guys Scarlet scared the piss out of ran off?  That doesn’t make a lot of sense; they were babbling eggheads.  Relica’s still in the wind, and she probably has multiple false IDs.  A few of Terrell’s gang members that ran are being rounded up … what?  Scarlet’s mom escaped custody … how?

She glanced over at Scarlet’s bored expression as she played with her blood, creating different shapes.  Noticing her staring, she straightened.  “What’s up?”

“Nothing; it can wait.”  Of course, Maria’s looking at me … her lie detection sucks; she’ll stay quiet, though, she’s not stupid.  It feels like we’ve taken a big step by obliterating Terrell’s gang, but … there’s this ominous feeling with how this all played out.

She scratched the base of her ear as new information fed back to her; she groaned, sliding to the tabletop.  “A mental hospital was just overrun … some patients with a new ability.  There’s so much chaos.”  What’s going to happen in the future?  What plans can I make?  Nothing…

“That’s not surprising,” Hopper muttered, eating a hamburger that he’d made in the back.  “We’ve had events like that happening everywhere.  Things are a lot better now that we’ve got a network set up, though.  I don’t expect that to get too out of hand.  Once the dangerous people are taken care of, then things will start quieting down, and we’ll have to deal with the investigations of the not so loud lawbreakers.”

Jerry nodded, sitting back.  “It’s a mess, but you’re right.  Order should be returning soon, and then we’ll see how the politics shake out … which reminds me.  You four need to get on the helicopter at Fifth and Alton, to your left when you exit the building.  They’ll take you to your next destination.”

Rachel hummed.  “It’s taking us to the local Overwatch, right?”

“That’s right,” Jerry said without explanation.

“That’s different from the Forward Base, right?”

“Correct.”

 Maria finished the piece of lettuce she was chewing on.  “Spit it out; where are we going?  If my brother’s at the Forward Base, then that’s where I want to go.”

“I understand,” Jerry stated calmly, “but there are orders to take you to Overwatch.  Do I need to remind you that we’re still in Martial Law.”

Rachel took a deep breath at his response.  It’ll be best to not get on the bad side of the military.  From everything I’ve been hearing, we’re actually getting a lot of good praise from saving all those people.  There are some reporters already scrounging around for a story.  Things are looking bright in that regard, but who knows with how the news functions.  There are even youtube reporters running around.

“That’s fine,” she said, standing.  “This was inevitable, anyway.  Let’s go; the sooner we get there, the sooner we can figure out what we need to do next to leave.”

Fiona hummed, snacking on a small bit of sugar like popcorn as she sat on the table in front of Rachel.  “I’m just happy Erica’s safe.  Wait!”  Wings appearing, she hovered over to Jerry.  “Erica’s my lawyer!  Can she join us?”

Jerry groaned, hand pressing against his face.  “Well, it’s Martial Law, but I don’t see why you can’t have legal counsel once it’s lifted … I’ll put in a request with my supervisors.  If it’s approved, she’ll be escorted down there, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

“Thanks,” Fiona said brightly.  “I’d shake your hand, but you could crush me,” she laughed.

“Right,” he smiled.  “Well, any other requests?”  When no one responded, he nodded.  “Okay, head over to the helicopter, and I hope everything works out for you lot.”  Standing, he saluted them, the other men following his action.  “Thank you for your brave service in protecting those in need, even if it was not your duty, you made it your mission to help all those in front of you.  Your courage and quick actions saved the lives of hundreds if not thousands and the lives of my own men; I won’t forget what you’ve done.”

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“Thank you,” Scarlet whispered, blushing a little.

Fiona cheerily saluted them back, “No, thank you for your service!”

Maria huffed, but smiled, hiding it with her hair as she looked down, stretching.

Moving over to shake Jerry’s hand, Rachel nodded.  “I can’t thank you enough for dedicating your life to serving others, even at your own expense, that of you and your men.  I hope I can reflect half the honor and dedication in my life as you’ve shown in your service.”

Saying their goodbyes, they made their way to the helicopter; Maria seemed to lose her breath quickly but was managing.  The real battle starts now.

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