POV: Maria Espinar (our Sunlit Unicorn takes the stage at last! What will her few days be like? Wait, DEATH?!)
O_O Oh, no! Our pure Sunlit Unicorn gangster is overloaded; she’s dying!! She managed to heal Reed’s grandson after spending much of the day chugging down that sweet icy sunflower nectar she got on that alien world.
However, she’s discovered a weakness … her skin can’t handle that much energy passing through it in a day. I suppose it’s what they say, moderation in all things.
How will our girl get out of this dire situation?
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Maria let her legs fall straight while leaning against the bathroom door, resting her hands against her lap; her hair bunched on the floor at her back, but she couldn’t be bothered to shift it over her shoulder.
“Come again?” Clay slowly replied. “You’re dying?”
“Yup,” she sighed, wincing as the cold air brushed against her exposed chest. “I’ve got like … freak … I’ll be dead within two hours if I keep losing energy like this.”
Clay’s concerned tone deepened. “What’s happening … why? You were fine, and then you just ran off. What can we do?”
The world went black as Maria closed her eyes, head falling limply against the door. She was more shocked about how calm she felt about dying than anything else.
A small smile brightened her sad expression while thinking about her life. Felix was old enough now to handle himself, even if she wasn’t around, and even if she wasn’t around, there were people in the crew to take up the mantle. Even so, she didn’t plan to go down without a fight.
“Short version … I’m leaking Solar Energy, and to heal, I need to be in the sunlight.”
“Okay … for how long?”
“Hehe … I don’t know, Clay, but probably longer than the sun’s got in the sky. Yo, one day is bad, the next is the dawn, right? Got a plan … because I’m lost, chino. The sun’s the only thing that’ll save me, and it’s goin’ into the evening, my man.”
It took a moment before Clay responded. “So … sunlight will save you, and that flower won’t help?”
“Che, heck no,” Maria chuckled. “No, this little devil caused the whole thing! How do I explain it … eh … it may have Solar Energy, ya know, charge me up, but it’s not like the sun. I need to see the sun … uh, be inside the sun’s sight? Aye, it’s kind of hard for me to say right now…”
“Ahem, so, if, by some chance, you can sunbathe for a decent time, then you’ll recover?”
“Aye, how’d you say it so good?”
Clay slid past her question. “It’s 6:17 P.M., which gives us roughly an hour to get you airborne.”
“Airborne … eh? Yo, I don’t think you get it, homie … if I’m out of the sun for like … half a second, a cloud or some crap, then I’m still dead. The sun’ll be like those life machines that pump air in your lungs or whatever, but just one wrong cloud and boom, I’m a goner.”
“Noted, but don’t sound so down. Honey, you’ve got the U.S. Military standout outside your door, get ready to fight…”
“Honey?” Maria snickered, but his words resonated inside her chest.
“… General Dallas, we have a life or death situation. How soon can you get an F-15E to the nearest airstrip, fueled, and the UV shielding removed in the back?”
Maria opened her eyes, glancing at the wall while listening intently to the receiving party.
“… It’ll be there when you arrive. Send me the details when free.”
The line cut, and Clay promptly asked, “Do you need anything before we start traveling?”
“Heh … you just called in a jet for me? Yo, that’s crazy.”
“Please, Maria. What do you need? We’re on a time crunch.”
“Uh … a lab coat, I guess … I ain’t puttin’ that bra or shirt back on! Ya hear?”
“Understood. Give me a moment.”
Maria took in a deep breath of air, glancing down at the yellow energy radiating out of the fissures in her chest.
Wow … things have really changed, huh? I’m so used to doin’ everything on my own, but now … so many people are backin’ me. Is it just because I’m a Unicorn? I mean, that’s probably a part of it, but still … it feels kind of nice having people to depend on.
Clay returned with the lab coat; Jasper was by his side as she cracked the door to accept the article.
“Master Sergeant, what’s happening?” Jasper questioned.
“We’re canceling everything planned for the rest of the day. Maria, a Humvee is waiting outside. We should hurry.”
She wrapped the coat around her body, using one hand to keep it closed while opening the door with her other; it stung a little to move, but nothing like removing her shirt and bra.
Giving the doctor an apologetic chuckle, she followed Clay’s brisk pace as he led the way out of the hallway, and several soldiers joined them from different hallways, looking slightly confused, but forming a circle to keep anyone from approaching.
“Uh … Master Sergeant, may I join to understand the situation and relay it back…”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible at this point.”
Maria chuckled softly. “Aye, if you really want to be some help, get me some new clothes … I left my old ones in the bathroom, and yo, make sure nobody does anything creepy with them, okay?”
“Eh … I’ll see to it, Ms. Espinar…” Dr. Jasper mumbled as the soldiers positioned to separate them. “When will we see you back?”
“Undetermined. I’ll update you when possible,” Clay replied as they entered the elevator.
She gave him a rueful smile, waving as the doors closed.
Clay was back on his phone. “… The jet is being routed from McChord? The shielding … good. How long will it take to replace the part? Good.”
He swapped to a radio clipped to the side of his suit that hadn’t been there before. “I want the roads to Tacoma Airport clear; keep all non-essential military vehicles on standby.”
“High priority cargo en route.”
“Hmm … big shot, eh?” Maria chuckled as they exited the building. The falling sun’s weak heat touched them, causing a mixed reaction that trapped Maria’s breath in her lungs.
The sunlight comforted her in some areas, while others felt like ice digging into her skin.
“… Ms.?” One of the soldiers asked, noticing her expression as she slowed.
Clay turned around, hard face creasing further. “Something change?”
Maria bit down on her lip, trying not to cause any more damage to herself. “Yes … it’s just … I’ll talk in the car,” she mumbled, fighting past the pain flaring around the cracks in her skin.
Entering the vehicle, she readjusted the coat, swallowing a lump in her throat as she exited the sunlight. The translation was just as jarring. The comforting and warm sensation, mixed with the pain, evaporated, replaced by a tight and sore chest.
Only Clay and her entered, their escort closing the door; the Humvee swiftly left the hospital with the military clearing a path for them ahead of time. The rapid acceleration pressed her closed hand against her chest, making her wince and clench her coat front harder; she locked her jaw, fighting back the tears threatening to leave her eyes.
Clay buckled himself in, dark brown eyes studying her reactions since they’d left. “Is there a problem with the plan?”
“N-No … dang it,” she growled as they took a sharp turn.
“Should we slow down?”
“No …this sucks … uhg, there’s just some pain with the sunlight.”
Clay folded his arms with a deep frown on his large lips. “Is that flower poisoning you? If we need to find an alternative to containing it, then let me know.”
Maria shifted on her seat to get off her hair as the ride eased up a little, reaching the freeway. “It’s not that it’s poisoning me … I’m just overusing it.”
“If possible, then please explain it to me,” Clay urged. “If you’re worried about it being recorded, then I won’t speak of it to anyone.”
“Wait, what … not even General Dallas?”
Clay shook his head. “I’m here to support you, and that cannot happen if you don’t trust me. My top priority is your safety.”
Maria blushed a little, brushing back her hair. “Well, okay, you’re not lying … a’ite, then. Umm … my skin is like a container, you know, like uh…”
“A milk jug?”
“I guess,” Maria mumbled, cheeks darkening further upon the comparison while shirtless and braless. Her fingers tightened around the coat. “Uh …my skin holds my Solar Energy, but to fill it up, it’s not like you take off the lid or anything. Get it?”
He nodded with a serious expression, fingers locked together and held between his legs as he leaned forward to listen.
“Right … yo, man, lighten’ up a little, eh? You’re makin’ me nervous, starin’ at a chica like that…”
He added a noticeably fake smile. “Of course.”
“Che,” Maria chuckled, causing the pain in her chest to act up. “Yo, you can make me laugh, chino … but, umm … the sunlight passes through my skin like a filter … too much…”
[Chino – Mexican slang for ‘curly,’ in reference to people with curly hair, or African Americans, as they often have curly hair.]
Clay’s narrowed eyes fell to the necklace made of her hair. “… It starts to take damage. It’s reversible, though?”
Maria ran her free hand through her hair, brushing it out while puffing out a long breath of air. “I don’t know. That’s the screwed up part of this whole thing … yo, all I know is that if I want to live, I gotta be in the sunlight, and I can’t leave it until this crap is healed.”
The Master Sergeant closed his eyes, leaning back to ponder the information while Maria studied him, doing her best to keep herself balanced with the car’s movements.
A wince creased her face every so often as the sun touched different parts of her body, and after a few minutes of silence, Maria asked, “Aye … why are y’all doin’ this for me? Eh … is it just because I’m a Unicorn with some useful powers? I mean, I get that, but … I did a ton already. I wouldn’t have blamed you … you know, just leavin’ it at that since I’m … like this,” She mumbled, glancing down at the bunched coat at her breasts with a soft sigh.
Clay shifted his legs to cross them, glancing out of the window with a smile. “Why were you chosen for this task?”
“Umm … because I can heal people, and it was probably the best option to get what y’all want?”
“Not incorrect,” Clay stated, smile falling a little. “Like I said, you’re supposed to be a light to the nation, but why you? General Dallas didn’t spend nearly as much time with you as Rachel, and I can’t speculate on why he didn’t choose her, but I am certain about the reasons you were selected for this task … no, I think you are the only possible choice.”
“Woah, hombre, that’s something to say, yo … why just me?” Maria whispered, feeling a little on the spot by how sincere the man was being.
His eyes shifted to look at her, and his smile softened. “You’re authentic, and no one can say otherwise. You remind me of my youngest sister … maybe not all the cursing,” he laughed, “but she’s not one to filter her attitude. No, what the people need to see is a real person behind the Mythickin, and I’m not saying this as a political play … no, because it’s you, it’s not a political stunt.
“Maria … you literally gave your life for all those people to live just a little bit better, and that’s rare … very rare. You may be rough around the edges, but you’ve got a heart of gold, and throughout the day, I’ve seen you fight for thousands of people past your discomfort.”
Maria’s eyes dropped with her shoulders. “Aye,” she whispered, “it’s not like I did it for free … I’m no saint.”
“No saint?” Clay repeated, staring at the floor. “You told me that you were dying … and not once did you demand my help … you never even asked, deciding to shoulder that burden yourself. In fact, you were even resisting my attempts to aid you, and I can’t say for what reason, but to me, it doesn’t even matter. If you don’t have the characteristics of a saint … then who does?
“If nothing else, you’re a hero … someone people can look up to. You could have been stubbornly proud, rejecting my help entirely, but instead, you humbly accepted it after I offered.
“It was at that moment I decided that I’d fight for you … no matter what. You may lack refinement, but you’re an exceptional human being, Maria, and I will save you. I can guarantee you, General Dallas, and I won’t ever ask for anything in return for this. You are worth fighting for, Maria, and the public must know that. Demi are real people, and we cannot deny their humanity.”
Maria’s heart burned with what this Military man believed. “Dude … you gotta way of makin’ a chica feel special … aye … thanks.”
“Anytime,” Clay chuckled. “You’re the kind of girl that I wish my boy would find someday. You’re kind, but also a fighter, and you’d fight to your dying breath for what you believe.”
Maria blushed, going silent and averting eye contact to not say anything stupid.
With the roads being cleared, it didn’t take them long to get to the airstrip, and Maria was shocked to find massive fighter jet wheeling over to stop on the runway. A vehicle with a ladder on it neared it, lining up with it as the aircraft stopped.
The sun was dipping below the horizon as Maria got out, tensing as the cool winter breeze stung her skin.
“What the … I can’t wait to get back to Miami … freakin’, it’s cold as a freezer here…” She shivered.
Clay chuckled, guiding her to the area. “I arranged for a female pilot; she’ll help you inside.”
Maria’s silver eyes widened. “Son of a … frik, how far did you think? Dang, yo … no, seriously, chino, thanks for all this … for real.”
“Just hurry up,” Clay replied with a warm smile. “You can thank me when you return.”
“Tch … take a compliment, Dude,” Maria chuckled with a nod, walking over to the stairs.
“Ma’am, if you could…”
“I know how to climb stairs, dang! Actin’ like I … crap, uh…” She paused as the wind picked up. “… I just need to be careful, yeah?”
“… Keep a hand on the railings, Ma’am,” the man yelled past the jet engines with a forced smile.
It took some effort fighting past the pain, but she eventually made it to the top where a woman with a bright smile was waiting. “Hello!” She yelled past the engine. “I’ll help you into your harness!”
Climbing in, her eyes widened once Maria removed the coat. “Oof, eh … dang, girl! Umm … I’ll be careful, but…”
“It’s fine, just get it over with!” Maria yelled back.
The woman’s lips were tight as she fiddled with the straps, getting her in place before placing the headgear on, having a bit of difficulty with her hair. She looked genuinely sorry as a few tears escaped Maria’s eyes when she tightened the belts around her exposed chest.
“Alright, we’re ready to go!”
Jumping back into her seat, she threw a thumbs up to the men below, signaling them to take the stairs away, and she began talking to the flight tower while getting into position to take off.
Maria was feeling the fatigue she experienced at South Beach as her energy continued to plummet, and the woman’s voice came through the headset she wore; she could barely hear her past the pain and her low groans as the straps pressed against the cracks. “Alright, Honey, hang on…”
She could smell the faint scent of something burning as the wire harness pressed against the fissures, but all of that went blank in her mind as the aircraft accelerated, far exceeding the speed she ran with Rachel.
The sound raddled her head, and the pain blocked out most of the experience, but eventually, she found herself rising, G-forces pressing against her body.
“Just keep breathing, Honey! We’ll get above the clouds soon and get to a stable cruising speed … I was told to be quick … this’ll be rough…”
The afterburners kicked in; Maria couldn’t breathe as she was pressed into the seat.
“Just … more…” The pilot’s voice came on, spotty to Maria’s brain.
After an unknown period of time, a warmth spread through her body, clearing her mind, but with it came the icy daggers, continually jabbing at her chest. Fighting past the tears, she felt her stamina fading quickly; her energy was nearing zero, despite the sun’s rays slowly filling her with life.
Soon after, she blacked out.
Maria’s muscles tensed, and a light discomfort compressed her chest. Eyes peeking open, she was greeted by the sun, hovering in the distance. Glancing to the side, she saw clouds far below them.
She was weak, but with a forced smile, Maria chuckled softly. “Freak…”
The woman spoke as Maria recovered, working through her current physical state.
Crap … my Health Status must have dropped to Hazardous, and I blacked out … yeah, I was on heaven’s door.
“Oh, are you finally awake? I was afraid you died!” The woman sighed with relief. “My name’s Jill, by the way. I heard yours is Maria? Oh … one second, let me report it in … this is Guardian, 90-0233 … Bright Light is up, I repeat, Bright Light is up.”
She was silent for a moment. “Maria, patching you through…”
Clay’s voice came through the opposite end. “How are you feeling, Maria?”
“Still figurin’ it out … uh … oof … not good, but eh … yeah, I think I’ll live!”
There was a bit of a delay, but after a second, he breathed a sigh.
“… That’s good to hear. You’ll stay airborne until you give the pilot the green light to return, and if you need to continue for a while, then we’ll have to send up a refueling plane.”
“Wha … for real … yo, I’m feelin’ bad over here. How much does this crap cost?”
“Far less than what you mean to General Dallas and me.”
“Freak…” Maria blushed with a soft smile. “Y’all are too much. Umm … give me a minute to see how things go.”
“Take as much time as you need to regain your healthy status.”
Maria popped her tongue with a bit of amusement. “Not lettin’ that go, eh…”
“Take care of yourself.”
“Fine … if you’re makin’ me,” she chuckled. “Dang, keepin’ me up here … and holy crap… it’s freaken’ freezin’ up here!”
“Oh,” Jill sheepishly chuckled. “Want me to turn up the heat a bit more? I kind of like it cold.”
“I’m an icicle here, chica!” Maria shivered.
Clay laughed. “Alright, let me know if anything changes.”
“Sure thing, Jefe,” Maria snickered.
The connection cut and the heat slowly increased. Maria glanced down at her compressed chest with a slight frown. All of the fissures running out from her chest had mended except for the flower’s petal-shaped pattern, but even that was showing signs of healing.
Hey, System-dude … after all this embarrassing crap, you better give me somethin’ good, eh? What changed from this crap…
Her eyebrows rose as the information fed into her mind.
Miracles of the Immaculate Branch: Tapping into the extraordinary feats of a Unicorn, Maria can access a source of miraculous purity and recovery, granting her the ability to use more wondrous feats than is available at the Sunlit Base Tree level.
Radiant Defier I: (Cooldown: 6 Month; Cost: N/A; Duration: 1 Hour; Range: N/A) Reactive, Solar-Type, Level One, Novice Grade, Rank Max. If Maria reaches 0% Solar Energy, an internal reservoir will be activated, allowing her to keep a Healthy Status for a time.
- Every time this skill is used, the reservoir must be rebuilt to its maximum but cannot be used again until the indicated time.
- Maria cannot use any Solar Skills while this is active.
Solar Saturation I: (Cooldown: 1 Day; Cost: N/A; Duration: 10 Minutes; Range: N/A) Reactive, Solar-Type, Level Four, Novice Grade, Rank Max. For a limited time, Maria’s absorption of Solar Energy is doubled.
Armor of the Light Branch: Tapping into the Unicorn’s incredible defensive branch, Maria can access a source of safeguards to support her in combat that is greater than the Sunlit Base Tree provides.
Immaculate Skin I: (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: 5% Solar Pool Per Minute; Duration: N/A; Range: N/A) Active, Solar-Type, Level One, Novice Grade, Rank Zero. A golden aura of light radiates from Maria’s skin, making it as tough as hardened wood.
Well, okay … okay, not bad, not bad, and I get a bit of a boost to my skin’s solar absorption. What’s my current health status … Unhealthy.
“Eh, not bad…” She mused, adjusting the wire harness with a grunt.
“Hmm? What’s up?” Jill asked.
“Naa … just talkin’ to myself, eh … I’m still recovering, but I think I’m out of the woods.”
“I’m so glad to hear that!”
“Thanks, uh … where are we?”
“Umm … currently, we’re about to pass Puuwai if we’re talkin’ latitude.”
“Eh … wait, where’s that?”
“Ni’hau,” Jill giggled, “the same latitude as Hawaii. We’ll be heading to Wake Island next. We’ve already had a refueling session in-air about an thirty minutes ago.”
“Wait, what? Didn’t he say…”
“Ah, well, we’ve been flying over the Pacific for a while, we’ll need to fuel up again.”
“How long have we been flying?”
“About two hours since take-off … a bit more, but yeah. You slept through most of it, but we’ve gone something like 2,700 miles.”
Maria’s eyes popped, glancing down at the impenetrable clouds below. “How fast are we going?”
“Roughly 1,225 miles per hour. We could go faster, but at this speed, we’re still gaining on the sun while conserving a bit of fuel.”
“Eh … well, I’m 14%, so I think we should be good.”
Jill’s tone changed pitch. “Mmh … I was told to make sure you’re at least 40% before turning around.”
Maria popped her tongue with a light chuckle. “Dang, who told you that?”
“Master Sergeant Clay.”
“Hehe, figured. A’ite, well, guess I’ll get my sleep on, then,” she groaned, rubbing between her breasts; she was a little perturbed that she could stick her fingers into the glowing holes and quickly withdrew her hand.
“Sounds good. Oh, by the way, we might be going straight to California instead of returning to Washington. I’m sure if you had anything there, the Master Sergeant would bring it with him on his flight.”
“Wait, Cali … heck, yeah! No more cold friggin’ weather? Yo! Aye, I’m hyped, chica!”
Jill laughed, and the flight continued. Maria had the pilot wake her up every hour to check her percent, and after two hours, they turned around, heading to the City of Angels.
Maria enjoyed the trip back for what parts of it she was conscious; Jill made a show out of making several acrobatic moves that made her want to throw up, but she managed to keep her nerve, and it was really something, flying upside down while looking up at the ground.
By the time they touched down at Los Angeles International Airport, she was fully rested, and all of the damage to her skin was repaired. The process had actually dropped her back down to 35% of her Solar Pool from 44%, proving Clay was thinking ahead.
The coming day would be rising soon with their more lax return flight, and a woman climbed up the ladder on the airstrip to deliver her a new pair of clothes.
The woman blushed upon seeing her exposed front, causing Maria’s own cheeks to reflexively darken. She handed her the black bra, tank-top, overcoat, and short-shorts with a white studded belt.
Maria was a little surprised at how well they’d identified her size but had to remind herself that they’d marked down the items they’d taken from the Montana store, and referencing it wouldn’t have been that hard.
Flipping her glowing, lilac-white hair out of the back, she climbed down from the jet with Jill’s initial help. Once down, she added the light overcoat, grinning as Clay watched her, standing outside of another limo.
“What, did those two guys follow you here?” She snickered.
Clay ruefully shook his head. “Honestly, Maria … you just barely got off death’s door, and you look as radiant as I first saw you.”
“Dude … all you do is compliment me,” Maria mumbled, fiddling with the zipper. “Yo, so, uh … dang, this thing’s tricky, uh … what’s goin’ on today? You’re like my personal assistant, right?” She gave him a quick grin before returning to the stubborn links.
“… Are you sure you’re fine? No one would fault you for taking a break.”
“Tch … naw, I’m good! Yo, you said somethin’ about an interview, right? Uh … before I do any healin’, though, I should probably stay in the sun, ya know? I’m only like 35%.”
Clay’s eyes narrowed, glancing up at Jill, checking the plane.
Maria caught his gaze. “Oh, aye, no, no, chino, she got nothin’ to do with it, Hoss. Yo, we turned around when I was 44%, but healin’ up took more than I thought. See, yo, all me, amigo!” She said with a bright smile, finally getting the zipper to go up, stopping below her chest.
“So, we got an interview to prep for?”
Clay breathed out a long sigh, rubbing his bald head while giving her a relenting smile. “Alright, but before that, let’s get you to a hotel to shower.”
“Eh?” Maria smirked, left eye narrowing. “You sayin’ I smell? My hair looks bad or somethin’?” She asked, pulling around her long locks to insect them before giving them a sniff. “Woah … it does kind of smell like jet fuel, doesn’t it … freak.”
Looking up at him, she brushed her hair back while holding her hands behind her back. “A’ite, let’s go, Military man! I got a schedule, right? Let’s get this fight on!”
Clay shook his head with an amused smile, opening the door for her to get in.
“That’s right! Hehe.”
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