B3 — 9. Omens Of The Apocalypse

POV:  Rachel Park

Recap:  Fiona and Scarlet return to report in about their finds.  Fiona found some news on the crystals while Scarlet discovered some aliens.


Rachel appeared on the other side of the Blood Portal, finding her balance quickly; she couldn’t help but shiver as the physical act of being touched everywhere spread across her body while sliding through.  Taking a calming breath, time slowed as she examined her environment.

Tom was sitting in a chair at the head of the table, facing a monitor with a grid showing multiple people in power.  She recognized the President front and center in the largest box; he seemed to be in a large underground room with multiple people.  The sight brought flashbacks of different movies she’d seen call it The Situation Room.

Two more people were seated on either side of the table; one was the Major that had seen them off, and the second was a man in his late forties or early fifties; the one to Tom’s right had a jacket peppered with colors and medals.

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Tom glanced back at her as everyone stiffened; the man with the medals shot to his feet, hand dropping to a gun at his waist, but stopped on Tom’s words.

“It’s alright, no need for concern.  Rachel, I got a report that Scarlet had come back through,” the general said, shifting his chair around to observe her.

Rachel calmly walked over to take the empty seat beside Tom and the man that had shot to his feet; he held his hands up, taking a step back as if expecting to be attacked.

She just smiled while taking the seat.  “ If you wanna start a fight, you better throw the first punch, and make it a good one if you want to make it through the night.”

“C’mon, Gibbson, relax,” Tom huffed, tapping his fingernails against the plastic table.

“Sorry, Sir,” Gibbson muttered, cracking his neck before taking the seat beside her.

They appeared to be in a portable home, designed for operations; there were printouts of images taken from the other world scattered across the table with a large map of the wide-shot picture the drone took.

A camera was set up to record them and a projector was bolted to the ceiling, sending its image to a portable white screen.  It appeared to be a one-room structure and wasn’t that big.

Everyone’s attention went to the President as he spoke.  “Rachel, then this is the Mythickin girl you were telling me about, Tom?”

Rachel kept a calm and business-like appearance, folding her fingers atop the table; with only movie references and common sense to work with, she conducted herself with what little knowledge she had.

“Yes, Mr. President.  I would like to thank you on behalf of myself and my friends, but before we get into why we’ve interrupted your meeting, please give my friends some time to settle in; we have time.  I hope we haven’t disrupted anything of importance.”

“No,” Tom replied.  “If you’ve come this urgently, then I’m sure there’s a good reason for it.”

She turned back to Fiona as she exited, rubbing her shoulders with the manic toucans at her side.  She shivered a bit, glancing over at the birds as they flapped their wings and squawked as if they were dying.

“Hey, hey!  I know, it feels like you’re being … yeah, like that … chill, though.  Still, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that feeling. Right—it sucks.

The man to Rachel’s right was clearly disturbed as he stared at the birds and Fiona with disbelief.  “What in the name of sam hell is going on?”

The creatures slowly calmed down, quaking as they stood in midair.  Fiona’s eyes locked on the screen. “Oh … Rachel, umm, that’s the President, right?  Uhshould I salute—Sir?”  She questioned, making a stumbled attempt to raise her hands.  “Wait—left hand—no, right?”

The President chuckled.  “No, don’t worry about formalities, my dear.  Please get seated … those are interesting creatures.  Ah, or float where you like—I guess, and—um, explain what news you have when…”

He paused as Maria exited the portal, falling on her face with several sharp gasps; dead silence followed as she rolled to her side, hugging herself with pants and curses.  “¡Ya metienes harto!  ¡Vetea la chingada!  ¡Chingada madre!”

Scarlet came through with her fluttering Chinese wedding gown several seconds later, giggling.  “She told me to kick her … umm—what’s next, Rachel?”  She asked, face turning red as everyone looked at her; she slowly slid behind Tom’s chair.  No one could ignore the blood that flowed back into her body.

“What—the—is that?”  The Major asked in a rather calm tone, vision locked on the blood that rushed back into Scarlet’s chest, not making a mark on her dress.

Tom swiveled his chair around, making Scarlet’s face brighten further as she was exposed.  “Ah, Scarlet … that’s an interesting method to travel. I assume it’s not pleasant, though,” he mumbled, glancing down at Maria as she recovered; she was on her knees, bending over with her forehead pressed against the carpet.  Her mane of glowing white hair obscured her face as she hugged her stomach.

“It…”

“Language!”  Fiona called out with a bright tone.

“F-Freakin’ sucks … MMMH!”  Maria growled.

“Hey, you told me to kick you,” Scarlet mumbled defensively.

“I didn’t actually mean for you to kick me … and that hard!  I don’t have pain immunity … for real!”

“My bad,” Scarlet whispered, rubbing her arms.  “It’s a little difficult judging my strength now … I guess I did drink a lot of blood.”

“So,” Tom said with a slight smirk as he turned his brown eyes back to Rachel.  “You girls seem to have had a good ol’ time in the mud; especially you, Rachel. I got the report back that you’d saved one of the soldiers and were making progress.  What’s brought you back so suddenly?

“Ah, wait, before that, let’s introduce everyone.  To my right is the Sergeant Major of the Army, Gibbson; he’s in charge of representing the issues of the enlisted soldiers to all the officers.”  He gestured at the man.

Tom lifted an eyebrow at the man’s reservations.  “Better brass-up, Gibbson, surely these girls aren’t as intimidating as the Al-Shabaab.  You’ve seen some gruesome combat situations. They don’t bite … well,” he chuckled, glancing to his left as Scarlet rounded the table to sit next to him and across from Rachel.  “Not without provocation.”

“You’re right, general,” he said, regaining his composure.

“Good, and to my left is Major Webber, whom you’ve already met.”

“Is that teleportation?  Impressive.” Webber asked with keen interest, folding his hands across the table as he studied her.

“Ah, we can save the minor stuff until later,” Tom muttered, waving his hand while turning his attention back to her.  “Rachel, you have the floor.”

Rachel sat back, adding a pleasant smile as she turned to Gibbson.  He swallowed under her stare, and she turned her glowing red irises to the toucans.  She began after everyone was seated and Fiona had floated the birds to the foot of the table with her.

“To put it bluntly, we’ve discovered some information that might prove critical; to begin, we entered this new world with limited information and our first objective was to identify threats.  I see that you each have papers in front of you and the ability to take notes; please write down anything you’d like to address once I have finished the full briefing.”

Tom nodded, unfolding his arms to pick up the pencil in front of him.  “That sounds reasonable to get through this.”

He lifted his eyes to the screen to see everyone else shuffling about or calling for someone to take notes.  Everyone straightened as she continued, paying close attention to her explanation.

“Excellent,” Rachel’s tone turned neutral as she used the map on the table, pointing at the areas of interest.  She took some time to go over all the information they’d gathered, directing the conversation to Fiona and Scarlet during their stages.

Fiona was animated as she darted around the air, explaining her one-sided slaughter of the insects while rapping, but Scarlet was much more reserved for her parts, shyly stumbling around her words as she tried to explain the hive and aliens.

Maria fell asleep in her chair halfway through, somehow looking utterly stunning as she leaned back, hands folded in her lap.  She was likely drained after being under the full moons, which put a bit of concern in Rachel’s mind.

I’ll need to ask her if moonlight drains her energy?  Perhaps, if the Lunar Energy is strong enough, it could.  It could be the same for me with the sun … if we somehow end up on a planet with different types of sun, could that be an issue for me?  Not specific, enough? I suppose I’ll have to look at each individual sun type and ask the question. There’s so much to consider.

Once Scarlet had finished recounting her alien-base experience, and Fiona ended her discovery of the toucan birds, Rachel re-entered the conversation.

“Now, as Fiona explained, these birds say they come from another world and this Azure Frost is currently attacking the jungle planet our crystal is linked to.  To be honest, I’m not very confident in these birds.

“They magically appear out of the jungle, clearly running for their lives, and willing to give us the information we need?  It all seems too convenient; that’s not to say they aren’t being truthful, and if so, then that’s wonderful, but before we make any deals with them, I believe we should first identify the veracity of their claims.”

Tom breathed in a long breath before letting it out.  “Well isn’t this a cluster storm … we didn’t even consider many of those possibilities.  So, Fiona can talk to wildlife?”

Rachel’s mind quickened.  We need to keep the information these birds have to a minimum; if they can piece together the situation based on Fiona’s answers, then it could make it more difficult to get down to the truth.

Fiona was about to answer but Rachel cut in.  “Only certain types of wildlife, and it’s not something she can turn off.  Giving them that information could also dampen our level of negotiation.”

“I understand,” Tom muttered, leaning back in his chair with a low hum as he looked up at the display.  “What do you think, Sir?”

The President had needed to take several breaks to talk to a few people, but his attention was undivided at the moment.  He sat back, staring down at the table in front of him, likely studying some of the recorded notes. After a moment’s silence, his blue eyes turned to Rachel.  “You say you have a surefire way to tell if they’re lying?”

Rachel shook her head.  “Perhaps not surefire, but Maria can tell if someone is lying.  I don’t know if that will work across the language barriers, but it might.”

“It’s worth a try,” he nodded.

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Scooting back, Rachel got up and walked around Gibbson to gently shake Maria.

“Huh?  What’s up?”  She asked, swallowing before looking around in confusion.  “We done? About time,” she mumbled, scratching her forearm.

“No, we need you to check if the birds are lying.”

Maria stretched her arms high into the air, shirt rising to expose her smooth belly as the fabric stretched against her chest.  Releasing a yawn, she lifted an eyebrow at the birds. “Seriously? All I hear from them are squawks. I can give it a go, though.”

She leaned forward with a smirk, resting her elbows against the table.  “Alright, Fiona, ask ‘em whatever.”

Fiona’s lips pursed.  “Oh—I get it … okay,” turning to the toucans, she asked, “So, Ha’e, you know a lot about the crystals, right?”

The second-largest bird did a few quick gestures with her wings before quieting down; everyone turned to Maria as she released a soft groan, forehead dropping to the table; her hair slid to the table, dropping over the edge and nearly grazing the carpet.  “Gibberish … no clue if it’s lying or not.”

Shoot … so, Maria does have a limitation on her lie detection.  She needs to be able to understand the language.

Rachel took a deep breath before letting it out.  “It was worth a try. That’s everything we have to report, any questions.”  A flurry of voices assaulted her.

“Why’d you let the alien go?”

“You mentioned the alien was in pain?”

“How fast does the Azure Frost spread?”

“The crystal…”

“Hey, hey, hey!”  Tom shouted, holding up his hands.  “Let’s get organized.”

The President cleared his throat, causing everyone to quiet down.  “Thank you, Rachel. The first thing we need to address is the safety of our citizens and troops.  The crystal is the primary focus. Fiona, was it?”

“That’s me!”  Fiona nodded, smiling at the man as she sat cross-legged in the air.

“Can you ask them to explain to you everything they know about our specific type of crystal.  Basically, we need to know if someone creates them, what are the conditions of its appearance and disappearance, why it shows up in specific locations, why it is here in the first place, and if more will come.”

“Hmm … that’s a lot,” she folded her arms across her chest, glancing over at the shifting birds.  “They said before they tell us anything, they want to make sure they can stay here. They’re scared of the other world.”

The President sucked on his cheek for a moment.  “Depending on their intelligence, we’ll see what we can do.  I assume it would need to be close to your residence so you could translate for them, correct?”

“Hmm,” Fiona’s brow creased.  “I guess that makes sense … I hadn’t really thought about that part.  I live in Miami … and I know this isn’t the time, but life’s been so hectic that I want to ask before I forget … is that okay?”

He breathed out a long breath.  “Seems this is the time for negotiations … what is it?”

“My sister … I was wondering if you could send people to make sure she’s okay.  I’m just really worried about her, and my friend, Erica … she’s also my lawyer. I’ve got a cat, too, Brion, he’s all alone,” she whispered with worry.

Tom cleared his throat.  “Sir, I can handle that personally, including the placement of the birds if their intel checks out.”

The President breathed out a sigh of relief.  “Thanks, General Dallas. Then, if these creatures have the counsel we need, we’ll do everything we can to assure their safety within our world.  I also hope your family is safe.”

“Thank you,” Fiona sniffed, choking back tears.  “It’s been so crazy … I was supposed to be with my family right now … stupid YouTube…”

Everyone’s faces softened but the man and woman’s on the bottom left corner of the screen.  The woman’s lips were a line as she used the following silence to be heard. “Yes, it must have been hard for you; we have the lives of potentially the world on the line, though, dear.  If you could please ask those questions.”

“Give her some room to breathe, dang,” Maria grunted, pulling back her hair as she sat back.

The man’s emotionless eyes moved to her.  “This is not the only crystal currently in the matrix.  We need actionable intel as soon as possible. Lives are being lost and people are in danger.”

Maria just glared back at the man, but her composure broke with a yawn.  “Awwh … dang it …” she grumbled. “Ah,” she shot a glare at Fiona as she lifted an eyebrow, “it was the F-word, remember!”

“Fine,” she sighed, turning to the birds.  “Thanks, Te’r, yeah, I hope my sister’s alright, too.”  She gave them Tom’s assurance with the President’s support before repeated the questions and listened; the second-largest toucan did most of the speaking, but the others chimed in every once in a while.

“After a few minutes, Fiona whistled.  “Man, that’s pretty insane … so, that’s everything?  Huh … wait, the Azure Frost was a world crystal … no way.  Well, that’s not good. Wait, wait … it’s kind of like our abilities then!  Yeah, no, I gotta think about it for a minute … hmm … it’s so much like a game!”

“A game?”  Scarlet whispered.  “The crystals are connected to our abilities?”

“No, no, no,” Fiona chuckled, holding up her hands.  “It just functions a bit like our abilities. It might just be a coincidence.  Let me just think a bit more about it…”

After a few minutes of bobbing her head back and forth, she said, “This is so cool … okay, it’s like this!  So, each one has a shape, color, size, glow, and image.

“The image is pretty easy, it’s like one of our Branch Skills; it indicates the type of world environment we’re going to enter.  Like my Ice Magic Branch … ours is a Jungle Crystal.

“The size shows how many people can enter it; it’s like how many levels it has and as it grows, the more people can enter it.  Ours is the size of a vending machine, but as time passes, it’ll continue getting bigger and bigger. That reminds me … how did you guys get a car in there?”

“It just kind of got sucked in when we drove into it,” Major Webber replied with a shrug, clearly not understanding how it worked either.

“See, it’s so cool!”

The Sergeant Major rubbed his cleanly shaved chin with a light hum.  “So, can it start at different levels, then? Not all of the crystals are the same size that we’ve observed; some are bigger and some smaller.”

Tom nodded.  “Now that you mention it, yeah, the larger ones do allow more people to enter.”

“Their information is checking out, then,” Rachel added, folding her fingers atop the table as she leaned forward.  “What else, Fiona.”

“Umm … the size, yeah … well, if a crystal is left on its own for a long time, and no one completes the requirements to close it, then it’ll basically turn into a raid … when it reaches max level.”

“Snap,” Scarlet clicked her tongue.  “What kind of raid … like, a twenty-man, forty-man?”

“Raid … what are you two talking about?”  The President asked.

“Like a game,” Fiona replied.  “In games, you have dungeons and raids … I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but actually, our abilities function pretty closely to a game-like system!  So, no, Scarlet, not twenty or forty … more like the world-level … a raid is when the limit on creatures that can enter is removed. The objectives change each level, too.

“The objective of the crystals is to conquer each other … and we’re in a Double Crystal Event … basically, it’s a Battle Royal type game.”

Tom cursed before releasing a low growl.  “It is a declaration of war…”

“Well, not really,” Fiona mumbled, playing with her glowing green hair.  “It’s not like we’re declaring war or the other side is declaring war … it’s more like someone or something else wants us to fight … maybe no one at all.  These guys haven’t figured that out yet on their world. If you don’t close a crystal and let it go into a Raid, then it’s never good. They don’t know what will happen, but they were told that it’s terrible.

“The crystals will shatter when the opposite side has been defeated … it’s a lot more advanced than any other game we have.  It’s like … you can do just about anything to win. They speculated that another race used the Azure Frost to act as their solution to the crystals.  It’s not really a person, but a flower that just grows at a super-fast rate. It’s not alive.”

Webber nodded, lips a line.  “It’s an effective strategy. If a crystal opens, just throw it through and let it do its work.  It’s a weapon.”

“The color and shape are like a danger level, its Rank is the color, and the shape is the Grade.  So, umm, that Diamond-shaped red crystal was a really high Grade and Rank, meaning it’s like game over before it even begins.  Not soon after we entered, the crystal changed shape, color, and glow to reflect our entrance. Oh, the glow is like an experience indicator to the crystal reaching the next level.”

She counted on her fingers.  “Level is the size, Grade is the shape, Rank is the color, Glow is the EXP, and Branch is the image.  I mean, I guess it’s not a perfect example, but it just kind of came to me.”

Silence followed as everyone digested the information, and Rachel’s ears twitched in the silence as she thought.

I’m sure they have little to no clue what she means by Grades or Ranks, but they’re thinking about the other possibilities.  We are at war with other worlds, and at multiple points throughout the world … anywhere, anytime.

“Is there any way to tell where the crystals will show up?”

“Oh—give me a second to ask … I didn’t get to that one.”  The birds shifted nervously as the larger one replied, drawing everyone’s attention to the answer.  “Umm—they said that The Great Jo’Toa’Koria, it’s basically like a military race on their old planet, had a network of fast responders to take care of any incident that popped up since there’s always a grace period before it starts.

“One more thing … the Azure Frost has a Core that draws its energy during the day before using that fuel during the night.  It’s kind of like Maria, then, a solar battery with a frozen heart!” She giggled.

“Jódete.”

“What curse was that?”  Fiona asked with a smirk.

Maria’s lips pursed as she refused to make eye contact.  “My bad,” she mumbled.

There were a few curses that popped out from the others.

The Azure Frost really isn’t that big of a deal if we can take out the core; Scarlet can probably find it, but if it has solar energy in it, then that could be an issue.  Maria might be able to absorb it. We can consider that possibility later.

We have the problem of this crystal right now, but it’s good to consider long term solutions.  It’s probably not a far off theory that another race used the Azure Frost as a means to handle the rapid influx of crystals.

How do we respond, send a nuke through every crystal?  I’m sure there would be blowback … we’d need to put some kind of barrier around it to defend against a push back, and then there’s the attacking force crystal issue.

It pushes living creatures away, but would it work for machines?  Maybe we could send in drones just as it forms. Why am I even thinking about this … we did our job.  We just need to see how things shake out. It’s not my job to protect the world or nation.

She looked up, observing everyone; every eye was downcast as they considered the information.  Her eyes darted between Scarlet, Fiona, and Maria as they started their own conversation, Fiona starting it.

“Scarlet, I didn’t know you played games?”

“A few JRPG’s,” she said with a weak laugh.

“Doesn’t this seem like an anime or game?  It’s like, an apocalyptic event happens, and the world has to adapt to the sudden change.  We got powers just before the change, and we get stronger by battling and using our abilities.  These crystals are like dungeons … maybe there’s like a crafting system!”

“Nerds,” Maria laughed.

“But she’s totally right,” Scarlet defended.  “This is something right out of an anime. I mean, you could see guilds as companies or a ton of other possibilities.  The government could have a special task force to handle quick deployments!”

Tom cleared his throat.  “Girls, thank you for your help.  We’ll discuss this further while you rest.  I assume you’ll be staying on this side until the sun goes down on the other side?”

Rachel stood up.  “Yes, we’ll sleep by the crystal just in case we need to take quick action.  Could you provide us some provisions?”

He nodded before a smirk lit his lips.  “I’ll send word to you about what we decide; that is—if you don’t already know by the time we’ve made a decision.”

She replied with an innocent smile, ears shifting to the left.  “I’ll await your decision. The sooner we solve this the better; I look forward to going back and seeing my own family.”

With that, Scarlet began to make a portal but paused as Maria flatly shook her head.  “Nope, not happenin’, chica! I’ll walk.”

Fiona forced a smile.  “Yeah, Scarlet, no offense, but I think I’ll join Maria.”

Scarlet shrugged before her blood returned.  “Okay, that’s fine.” She winked at them before vanishing in shadows to appear beside Rachel.

Rachel chuckled at Maria’s glare; they disappeared, appearing beside the crystal.  There were a few curses from the soldiers, but they quickly calmed down.

He swore.  “You girls want to get shot!”

Two more men muttered a curse.

“Sorry!”  Scarlet said with a bright smile, showing her fangs.


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