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Train to Ignatz

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Chloe has never seen wings, but he does not figure an angel for necessities of biology. There is something all-too-human about the doctor, anthithesis to divinity. Besides he doesn’t like to think about higher powers. It makes him nervous. If there’s Gaia and she’s watching, then what things she must have seen, enough to turn the best woman sour. Sour women portend poorly. Particularly for those in an arc about her ire; and beside all the murderers were the thieves, beneath the child-slaves, charlatans. Particularly when sour women have the whole world at their beck and call. A lot of things make him nervous nowadays.

Those figures-turned-men trotting out of the rain-shadows made him nervous, but those were a more mundane worry. More mundane meaning, more likely than Gaia may be to comport themselves to break his kneecaps. One waved. “Awful weather today. Do you need any help?”

“Their sort of help is helping themselves to our wallets,” Chloe muttered to Liir. Con-men knew what con-men looked like. It was a part of the natural embrace among brothers with a shared enemy, the law - which was often violated. He touched the wheel. “Should I...?”

But they had already moved out of the beam of headlights, out of the impact zone.

“Hello, friends, we’re quite fine sitting here out of the rain. Do you gentlemen need any help?” Liir smiled all big and cocky like the rich-kid he seemed to be. Chloe hated that.

Ah, this was Life! Chloe imagined him thinking. Dashing, daring, danger: Liir Meets the Bandits, and Pow - Down They Go! He was riding the razor-edge of civilization and coming out on the winning side, and Gaia help whoever was in his way - but the bigger, the better for his charm, his intellect, his well-bred physique. Chloe had seen as many Casperian kids robbed blind for their adventures. He had robbed a few of them himself.

Chloe fingered the keys and kept one foot on the accelerator, swallowing nervously.

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"Well, do you gentlemen need any help?"

The younger man gaze flickered across the car, then settled on its two passengers. He smiled. His teeth were brown and rotten. 

"Well," he drawled, "'seems like yer car's stuck in the mud. Lookit this!"

He swung off his horse and walked towards the car, boots squelching in the wet ground. He bent down, hefting a small, copper-colored device in his hand. Tians called it a desolidifier. Desolidifiers, as their name helpfully implied, were awfully useful for turning buildings into rubble, were outlawed promptly after their creation, but a handful had remained in the Tian black market.

The trio of bandits had been lucky to get hold of its inventor.

The younger man tossed the desolidifier into the mud below the car. Almost immediately, the ground liquefied. What was once damp, packed ground became six inches of mud, and the car's inhabitants, if they were sensitive enough, would feel the vehicle slowly sinking.

Far ahead, Yau was staring intently at the tarp over her face. Taking a deep breath, she carefully edged open a door in her mind, and a trickle of information flowed through.

Canvas. Reed fiber. 50% waterproof. 10 years old. Dusty. Manually woven on-

She redirected the stream, imagining the cart driver.

Native Tian. Vampire. 80 years old. Turned at 30. Turned in a brothel. Turned by a-

Yau didn't need to know that. She focused on the image of him. Black hair. Black eyes. Night vision. 6 feet, 6 inches tall. Endomorphic build. Physically fit. Supernatural strength. Minimal hand-to-hand combat skill. Illiterate. Impatient. Frustrated. Self-loathing. Anger issues. Feels inferior to others. Feels inferior to humans. Feels inferior to educated humans. Compensates with his strength and powers. Hired mercenary. Vents anger through physical violence. Murderer. Murderer of 15 humans. Hungry.

Huh. The girl creaked the door in her mind open a bit more.

Hungry. Last meal: three weeks ago. Deprived of human blood. Wishes to drink from the strangers. Wishes to drink from me. Agitated by the scent of blood. Wishes to drink from the other bandits, but can't. They will pay him after they sell the Tian tech. After they sell me. Will be paid greatly. Will be able to purchase blood slave. Avoid jail. Avoid being captured. Avoi-

She had learned enough.

Yau scratched at the wound on the tip of her fingers. She tugged at the skin, gritting her teeth to keep from screaming.

After a few moments, the tarp above her moved. The cart driver stared down at the girl, a wild light in his eyes.

"You might scream," he said dully. "I'm gonna make you sleep so you're quiet."

His fingers were at her throat in an instant. Yau choked out the words, "Take me ... ghhh ... with you! I'll let ... ggkkk ... you-drink ... hhh ... all ... hhh ... you want."

He hesitated. His grip on her throat slackened. His eyes narrowed. "Why should I believe you?"

Yau swallowed, gasping for breath. "Don't want to be ... sold... rather ... take me with you..."

The vampire considered her for a moment. His fingers traced the vein in her neck. Yau fought the urge to shudder.

"You'll get caught if you try to buy a slave in Casper," she said hoarsely. "I've been in Tia for years. I know how your kind can stay safe. I can help you. Just... get me out of here."

The vampire hesitated.


Progress: 4 hrs travel, 400 km out of 1300 km traveled

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It’s been a while since the last time being friendly had turned out to be a mistake, so Liir ought to be forgiven when he simply stares as the rotten-mouthed man throws himself off the horse and makes his way near them, cradling something between his fingers.

“What the—” He gapes at the device as it flies in a low arc towards them, half-expecting it to blow them up, goodbye cruel world, but then it doesn’t.

But then, with his body taunt and alert to threats, he feels the car begin to sink.

Since the beginning, since he had opened his eyes to an unfamiliar sky, since he had taken his first step into an unknown world, his whole time spent here had been a comedy of errors, and to be frank, Liir is quite sick of it.

You would get a kick out of this if you were here, wouldn’t you, he glares at the luminous blue thread spiralling out into the beyond.

Liir sends a frantic, you-better-know-how-to-drive-out-of-mud-buddy look to Chloe before plastering a tight smile on his face and turning back to the men outside the window. “What an amazing trick,” he deadpans, lifting a disapproving eyebrow. “Hilarious.” His sword gleams faintly in the lowlight, and he places a hand on the hilt in case the car refuses to fling itself out of the mud and they are forced to let the men come any closer. “You’re all just making our day worse.”

Gods, this car better move or so help me—

@ethela penna @Csl


Progress: 4 hrs travel, 400 km out of 1300 km traveled

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Ah — the hiss, like gas escaping the chamber of a silent starter — that was it.

Clotho slumped back into the seat and rubbed the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes tight. He didn’t need to open them to feel their prospects sinking into the mud. Liir tensed up beside him. Well, that’s the moment passed and the will of things. Whatever choices they had were no more, and now three men guffawing were their lifeline and the long-drop both.

“Highwaymen and brigandage,” he sighed. He gave the pedal a feeble try, and the wheels cried out like hogs in a grinder. “I thought as much.”

“What an amazing trick,” Liir remarked.

“Amazing.”

Chloe punched the wheel. The horn bellowed out hoarsely, petering out when it remembered that nobody was listening, to a half-hearted trumpet. Nobody turned so much as an eye. Everyone — except maybe Liir — saw the cards on the table. There was no alterations to be made and no remedy to be applied to present circumstances, no aces in no sleeves and no cards left unturned at all. The game was decided. He turned the mirror all the way around, flickered the lights on and off, even punched the windshield wipers, which wiped once then halted. It was all fidgeting at this point. “Amazing.” He shoved the shift toward park, and the shift wouldn’t move. Chloe almost laughed. He thumbed the glovebox. It popped open.

Chloe sucked in a breath through his teeth, and closed it again. He looked out the window at the men still talking amidst themselves, maybe about the price to be exacted. Money, or maybe they’d take the car itself after they saw the trunk? That wouldn’t be the worst disaster he’d faced. He thought of Sharon. He opened the box, took out the pistol, placed it under his leg, and closed it again, felt a shiver run down his body and up his spine, tingling in his fingertips.

Liir rested a hand on the hilt of his sword.

Chloe grabbed the boy’s wrist, his voice shaky. “Alright, kid, let’s be straight here. This is the end of an episode. It’s an episode where we get robbed. That’s all. That’s all that’s on the line, money. Or something. This isn’t going to be the end of our life, unless you’re asking for it. Shit. Only a fool’d ask for it. Don’t you try a goddamn thing. Unless it’s looking like being reckless is the best choice.”

He composed himself and stuck his neck out the window.

“Alright, fuck all, whaddya want? This is my pal’s car and we’re poor as dirt. Don’t mind the boy’s fancy clothes, he’s just a whore.” Chloe shot Liir a look. “A big-talking fuck-boy. You know, used to getting respect — and a couple other things — from ugly old guys like present company.” He spat onto the ground and sneered at them. “So, what’s it going to be? Money? Bodies? I warn you, I stuck a pencil sharpener up my bum in the seventh grade, won’t treat you well.”

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The sound of a car horn cut through the rain. A half-second flicker in the light - light, Yau now realized, that came from another source.

The girl kept her expression carefully flat. In her head, she gingerly nudged open the door that held her power back and watched the information flow.

Car on the road. Car on the heading away from Casper. Car on the road, stopped in the road. Car stuck in the mud. Stuck in the mud- desolidifier, used by the younger bandit. Desolidifier version 2, composed of ur-

No. Refocus. Car stopped. Car stopped in the rain. Contains two men - one Terran, one otherworlder, powered. Car stopped... to wait for someone. Car waiting for-

 

A blazing streak of light shot down from the sky, knocking the older bandit off his horse.

Carina's wings burned like magnesium fires, forming a blinding halo around her silhouette. She held a short tree branch like a club, somehow managing to loom above the fallen bandit despite her small figure, and looked immensely irritated.

 

Yau watched the light from behind her dance on the vampire's face. The vampire  sprung away from her at once. His footsteps splashed on the mud outside the cart, fading quickly into the distance. The moment she was left alone, Yau forced herself into a kneeling position, flinging the door in her mind open. The wave of information that burst through made her wince- woodencarttypeconestagawagon5.4meterslength3.3metersheight1.2meterswidthcarryingcapacity5,400kilogramscurrentcontents-

It took effort to sift through, but she soon located her pack- southern left bottom corner five kilograms above metal drum of 20 liters containing seve- and began shuffling her way over as much as her bindings would allow, ignoring how the wagon's wooden floor scraped at her skin.

 

Carina turned just in time to see a vampire brandishing a knife leap at her. The woman made a slashing motion with her hand. Three of her wings flared brighter, striking out at the vampire in one sharp motion. The blow connected, and the vampire retreated a few steps to bare its fangs at her.

 

Yau reached her pack, gritting her teeth through the flood of information that still poured into her mind. With some difficulty, she hauled herself up into a standing position, grabbed her pack's strap by her teeth, then let both the bag and herself fall. The pack spilled its contents - despite the darkness, Yau knew exactly what each were and where they fell. What she was looking for though - her gaze landed on the vague shape of a broken gauntlet.

 

Carina's wings flickered, losing some of their brilliance. She shot a look at the two men huddled in the car. Help me! she mouthed.

The younger bandit seemed to come to his senses and realized he was over his head. He darted to his fallen comrade, who was already getting up, a hand on the knife at his belt. Both men backed away from the car, clambering onto their horses. The vampire moved to stand between them and Carina, his stance wary.

 

The rope fell from her wrists. Yau took a moment to admire the broken gauntlet, now a sleek-looking fingerless glove that wrapped above her right wrist, then clambered off the cart.

 

Carina backed away from the vampire, moving to stand beside the passenger seat window.

"So, Liir. Happen to have any secretly hidden powers that can be useful against a vampire?"

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Liir’s been called more provocative things throughout his life, but he can’t help the raised eyebrow of disbelief he sends Chloe at the labels he attaches to Liir’s person. He has to admit, him masquerading as a high-end rent boy does not seem too far-fetched, but really, of all things, it had to be that?

He can feel Jal laughing it off somewhere in the distance; he is sure of it.

Liir waits for a moment, watches without shifting his grip on his sword. Chloe had warned him not to be foolhardy, but the thought remains: he means to be vigilant. And his blade is of no match to the pistol under the other man’s leg, but it is at least a means of defense if necessary.

Suddenly, a beam of light flares to existence, cuts through the darkness and rain to reveal a figure aflame, wings radiant and glorious even as she holds a branch over her head in some sort of makeshift club.

Our savior, he’s tempted to shout, but decides to cage the words behind his teeth before they can get out into the air. He doubts Carina will appreciate it, but the exhilaration cannot be contained, and so he settles for an ear-splitting grin. “Took you long enough,” he mock-sighs, observing with barely-contained glee as she battles it out with a fanged man that had appeared from the shadows—a vampire, perhaps? There is not much else that would fit such a description.

Carina sends them a pointed, wordless call for help as she backs away towards the car, and Liir lowers the glass window to give her a thumbs-up.

"So, Liir. Happen to have any secretly hidden powers that can be useful against a vampire?"

His smile does not falter even as his heart sinks a bit at the query. He is in no shape to be using even a tiny hint of his Chryma, not when the net is a light breeze away from crumbling. Liir is not afraid to delve into the well and make use of his Fhrear, but it is deeply ingrained into every Kinnarian: fear for the world, if not for oneself, in such an event; fear for others if not for your own sake.

And if anything, Jal would not approve one bit. The other soul he is tied to—even more so.

“I’ve a sword; he’s got a gun,” Liir replies, gestures to the man in the driver’s seat, “so while I’d be happy to take them all on, Chloe here would probably be more suitable when it comes to fighting that man. ” He points at the vampire, tilting his head as he considers what he knows of their kind, considers his own prowess with the blade, which is to say, still questionable. “And you do know we could just skedaddle right now. But it’s your call. At least I’m ready to roll,” he adds, sending a grin Chloe’s way before stepping out into the rain to stand alongside Carina. His coat is soaked through within seconds, chills him to the bone, but he pulls out his sword from the sheath and gives it an experimental twirl, waits for the group’s verdict before making his move.

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