Authors: G. X. Knight
THE VOICE FROM BEYOND
There was only black. Everywhere. I only saw
Is this what the disembodied limbo between existences looked like, or had X been right, and things were going according to plan?
He told me that because I had such a strong, shielded Cast, he believed that Yel and I would go into some kind of psychic battlefield where I could keep Yel distracted long enough for X and Zora to regain control of the
. Of course that would do me no good if I still lost to Yel here in this spirit-arena. Based on the presence of
, I was past worried I had failed to even start. In fact, I was downright panicked that I had landed in the middle of essence-purgatory.
“Scion can you hear me?” X’s becoming-familiar grumble rolled in from out of nowhere.
“Oh thank God. What is this?” I asked.
“I can’t see what you see. I can only briefly communicate with you. It worked. You two are locked together. We’re trying to stop the ship, but it’s not going well. Listen carefully. You’re going to have to capture his spirit and question him. We need you to find out how to stop the boat. If you do anything too traumatic to him, the link will be severed, or worse, and we won’t have as much luck with him out here. I can’t stay too long or I’ll disrupt the link. I’ll check in a after a while. Hurry! Get the information. We’re starting to see Frostwick on the horizon.”
And then I was alone in the
I took one step at a time. The footfalls didn’t echo. In fact there was no sound whatsoever when I moved. There was no wind, no rubbing together of my jeans, not even my arms squeaked or hummed. My fists clenched into tight balls, and my Dragonstones burned brighter. They fed their ancient energy into my veins and eyes that shone with the green-colored power that inhabited me.
After a few more steps, my walk became a run, then a sprint. I pumped my amalgamated legs as hard as I could, but I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I was like a man trying to run while crushed under miles of water. I ran and ran into the void, and again I heard X’s low voice, “Hurry, Scion.” Another eternity worth of minutes let me spy a single pinprick sized dot of light far into the distance.
Every step was heavy, but I pushed onward until I was surrounded by the light. As soon as I was engulfed by the warmth of its brilliance, it left, and I found myself standing on my home beach outside Harbor House.
Nobody was home. I traipsed through almost the entire house, but I could find no signs of life. It was as if everyone had been going about their day and then had suddenly vanished. Largo’s pipe lay on his desk still smoking. Maid Mary had a batch of Diablo Peppers sizzling on the stove. Sway’s computer was in the middle of doing some tests, and Kata’s electric closet was spinning like a never-ending carousel of pink. I took the staircase that led to the training studio, when all the lights in the house clicked off, and I was left with only my green glow to keep me company.
It was there, in the training studio, where I found what I was looking for. In the middle of the room Yel was waiting for me. His Ripper tattoos glistened and were ready to Rip. He was standing where I once stood. He was a picture of anger and destruction accentuated by the broken pieces of all the bots I had destroyed that night I had lost my temper.
“There’s something that connects you to this place,” he said to acknowledge my arrival.
“How about I connect
to this place by slamming your head into the floor?” I said as we faced off in the middle of the room. “Or we could just skip to the part where you tell me how to stop the ship.”
“So brazen,” Yel admired. “I assume it’s because you have those freakish mechanical monstrosities.” He pointed to my arms. “Let’s see how quick your tongue is when you’re just another man.”
Yel snapped his fingers. All my senses returned to how they were before I was a Cyborg. My metal parts were gone, and I could see, touch, and feel as a normal human again. I wiggled my fingers and ran my hand across the tiny hairs that pricked to life goose bumps across my flesh. It hadn’t been that long since my transformation, yet it felt like an eternity since my brain had registered those sensations.
I wanted to get lost in the feeling, but I had to stay focused. I took a step toward Yel. He seemed undaunted by my effort to remain on task.
“Still not good enough, eh?” He snapped again and suddenly beside me there was Largo. His eyes were kind, his smile genuine.
“Let’s go play some Xbox,” Largo said. “We don’t spend enough quality time together. You know I love you like a son, and I know I can be the father you need right now if you’ll let me.”
So this was his game. I hated to admit that it was working. I let my guard down as I stared at Largo’s salt-and-peppered features. His beard crinkled within the deep lines carved from a thousand smiles, and right now he was smiling because of me. I was making him proud, but then again, it wasn’t him. I knew the only way I could make Largo proud would be for me to carry on.
I pushed the imposter away and took another step closer to Yel. He didn’t seem to be surprised at all. Jackass. I, for one, thought my will power was simply… inspired.
“Not enough to have a Daddy? I suppose you are too old for that now.” He thought for a moment and then grinned, “I know what you want.” He snapped his fingers again.
Bikini-clad Sway and Kata slinked into the room with sultry high stepping walks that echoed with each pronounced clip of the heels they wore. Sway was back in that black and red number that about sent me overboard earlier. Kata rocked a very similar, but even smaller, pink and green ensemble that literally stopped my breath. The girls let their hands rest on nearly-bare hips as they sidled up on either side of me. Their hands traced across my chest, their lips moved closer to mine, and I suddenly found myself painfully aware of why cinnamon and sugar made such a tasty combination.
Of all the difficult steps forward I had taken to get me there, none were as painful as the one backward stumble I took to get away from the girls. Their lustful gazes remained trained on me while I tried my best to ignore Yel’s newest temptation.
“You don’t want to play with us?” Kata pouted.
“Maybe he just wants to get a better view.” Sway said pulling Kata closer.
There was a different kind of spark that lit the fuse inside of me as I watched the effigies of my friends being perverted into a weapon against me. Anger and indignation filled my gut. My head lowered, my eyes narrowed, and with a snap of my own fingers, I took control and made Kata and Sway disappear.
I stared down a now-scowling Yel, who still remained calm, but I could see the toll of his illusions begin to cause beads of sweat to form along his furrowed brow.
“Nothing is going to stop me,” I said plainly. “Now surrender, and tell me how to stop the ship.”
“I think we’ve talked enough.” He balled up his own Veil Ripping fists, “How about we fight?” Yel lunged at me with wicked speed.
I tried to block his attack, but I was still working with the human parts. I buckled under his first hit, and laid there as I took a second, third, and fourth to the face. I never knew how Drake and Cade felt after I had finished with them, until now. They still deserved what they got. Maybe I did too. I reached a point where I couldn’t even scream from the strikes. My cries turned to grunts, and then grunts turned to nothing as he pounded on my face with the fury and force of an unleashed savage.
After I could stand no more, I tried to beg him to stop, but my exhales only bubbled with the blood that poured from my lungs. I rolled to my stomach. My face slid into the blood that pooled around me. The warmth of it on my skin was somewhat comforting. I allowed myself the serenity of defeat before all feeling went away as I began to let myself be pulled apart by Yel’s Veil Ripping. The only thing that made it okay was a new distant sound. Like an angel’s voice floating on melodious winds, Maeve’s Celtic voice kept telling me that everything was going to be fine.
THE ANCHOR HOLDS
The stabbing cold Sway felt grew more intense. It was followed by the wet trickles that seeped from her wound. She refused to open her eyes, even after she heard Kata’s valley girl voice, “So are you going to lie there all day? I could really use some help getting her up off you.”
Realizing she wasn’t dead or dreaming, Sway’s eyes popped open. Inches from her face was a frozen statue of Corona, stuck mid-strike and still holding the knife she stole from Sway. The tip of the blade was only a Sprite’s breath away from skewering her through the heart. Sway’s gaze, searching from her mask of unbelief, fell to Kata and Largo, who stood above her. Both were visibly proud, and relieved, about their more-than-convenient timing.
“What the hell?” Sway screamed realizing the cold she felt was from an ice weapon Kata used to freeze Corona, and the wet feeling having been from it melting against the warmth of her Fire Elf skin.
Kata and Largo helped dislodge frozen, and de-flamed, Corona. Kata pull Sway to her feet as Largo answered, “Genetic Dragoness ice grenades made by our resident Iceling. When we were finally able to get the tracking devices to work, we realized where she was. We Skipped over as soon as we could. Neither you nor Scion answered your phones, so we were prepared for the worst.” Largo looked around quickly, “Speaking of our green-haired-guy… Where is he?”
Sway deluged the information about what was happening on the ship as fast and succinctly as she could. Largo looked worried. “There’s no way these two incidents aren’t related. We need to take her into questioning. You two go and get back to the ship, and I’ll see about getting her locked down before she thaws. I will join you when I’m finished.”
“I’m staying with you,” Kata said to Largo.
Sway didn’t like that, “Are you still mad at Scion?” She said with a more hostile tone than she meant to use. She took a deep breath and tried not to sound so defensive, “Because he was just having a bad day. We’ve all been out of sorts since Maeve left. I’m surprised he’s doing half as well as he is, all things considered.”
“Oh my God! You slept with him!” Kata rebutted pulling the conclusion from Sway’s odd tone. “You told me before you left that there was no way, no how.”
Sway balked, “I most certainly did not.”
“He shot you down?” Kata pressed.
“Now you’re being ridiculous.”
“Girls.” Largo reminded them in that tone he so often used whenever they got distracted.
“Sorry,” Kata said. “But no, this has nothing to do with him. We have no idea how long that Ice Grenade will hold her, and if she starts to burn free, I don’t want Largo having to fend her off on his own.”
“Fair enough,” Sway agreed. “I’m going to take a boat back to the ship. Join me ASAP. I have a feeling this thing isn’t over yet.”
The two girls hugged it out, Sway retrieved her black-diamond knife from Corona’s icy grip, and then ran toward the docks leaving Kata and Largo to carry Corona like a heavy and gangly mannequin.
The storm outside was raging, but the stinging rain was a relief after all that time in the volcano. Sway was happy to have the soot, ash, and blood rinsed away. She was still sore, but thankfully she was a quick healer. Actually, it was her people’s healing properties that gave her and Kata the genetic roadmap to make sure Scion had similar abilities when they were fixing him up.
Turbulent waves looked too nasty for one of those little speedboats to be out on the water, but just off in the distance, Sway caught the lights of the cruise ship. They were close, so she risked it. She ran pounding steps across the dock, jumped into a boat without another thought, and let the throttle run wide open.
After a few close calls of nearly being capsized, Sway made it back to the ship. She found out from one of the security guards where Scion and X were. She sped up to the bridge only to find X and his mother tapping away haplessly on controls with crewmen who obviously knew as little as X and Zora about the boat’s systems. Her brief assessment made her sigh. The ship was locked into a collision course with Frostwick, and nobody knew how to stop it. She was tired, ready to relax, and did not feel like diverting yet another disaster. She never wanted to hear the name Frostwick again.
“Oh, good,” X said when he saw her walk in. “We need that infamous Fire Elf know-how.”
“I’m fine, really.” Sway said not hiding her irritation. Considering she looked like she had been dragged behind the boat for a couple of miles, somebody could have asked how she was. “First. Where’s Scion?” She demanded.
X took her to a side room and explained what was happening. Much like Corona, Scion and Yel were stuck in a statuesque state while their souls stayed locked in some kind of battling trance. She was worried, but X said the non-movement was a good thing. If Yel had Ripped Scion the link would have been broken. This meant they were still duking it out. This meant Scion could still win.
“Is there any way to help him?” Sway wondered out loud.
“It isn’t wise.” X answered, “Too much outside interference could cause them to permanently fuse. “I’m able to briefly communicate. Anything else is too dangerous.”
“Can you let me talk to him then?” Sway asked.
“I thought you Fire Elves avoided Rippers like the plague. Now you want to bust up in the middle of a Ripping session?”
Sway shook her head, “I don’t care... He’s my friend, and I’ll do whatever I can to help him.”
X thought for a moment, “Lucky guy. Maybe I misjudged you, Elf. Come on.” He worked his mojo to connect them and then made one final warning, “You won’t be able to see him, and if I know my Dad, Scion probably doesn’t know up from down, or friend from foe. Be prepared for anything. My father is a more practiced deceiver than I realized. It’s a good bet Scion won’t even be able to acknowledge you.”
They both concentrated their focus on Scion. X placed a hand on Scion’s back, and took Sway’s hand with the other. His grip was strong and warm, even to her. As if Scion were in an adjacent room, she could hear his struggle with Yel. Sway reached out with her mind after all the noise of Scion’s cries stopped. She feared that it had ended, and she could feel the great pain Scion’s spirit was in. With a trembling voice Sway called out to him, “Scion, it’s going to be fine.”
There was a long moment of silence. She could feel Yel’s presence hawking her own like a circling predator. It sent a shiver down her spine.
“Maeve?” Scion groaned. “Why did you leave me?”
“It’s Sway. I’m here. You’re going to be okay. You have to stop him. I don’t care about this ship. We’ll find another way to stop this thing. You have to stop Yel from hurting you anymore.”
“I can’t, Maeve. I have to complete the mission.”
Sway felt her temper quicken. She spoke louder, hoping to get through to him, “Maeve is gone, Scion. She left us. I’m here with you now. I came for you, and I’m standing with you, no matter what. It’s just us like it was at Falor. You have to beat this guy. I want to try that ‘making it special’ thing you told me about on the balcony. We can’t do that if you’ve been Ripped.” The realization of what she just said startled her. Moreover she was embarrassed to have X, a practical stranger, witness her sudden breakdown.
She spent her life not being cared about, and even more, not caring about herself. What little warmth of spirit, besides the fire that ran through her veins, was reserved only for protecting Kata. But she knew Kata didn’t really need her anymore, and just for a second she wanted to let herself be normal. She wanted to feel what it was like to have somebody in her life that would actually care about her. Sure, Largo had been more of a father than her own, but she needed something else. She felt like an idiot for admitting it, but she realized, there at the most inopportune time and most inopportune place, that she wanted romance. She wanted to be the princess, and she wanted Scion to be her Prince Charming.
Whatever was happening in there between Yel and Scion, she could feel Scion slipping away. Yel was winning.
“I want to go out on a date when this is over,” She admitted with tears in her eyes. “Just a date. You can pick me up, open my doors, and I promise, I’ll even dress for you like a real lady. Maybe we could go dancing, you know, real dancing with a band, suits and dresses? Just come back to me now, please.”
“Sway?” His voice sounded lost and confused.
“Yes.” She said anxiously.
Scion began to laugh through choked hacks of coughing. “I almost believed that one, Yel. Your lies are getting more convincing. If you can see into my soul, you should know that won’t work. You’ll have to come up with something more,” Scion yelled, “You’ll have to do better because
I love Maeve
The declaration made Sway instinctively jerk away from the connection. She pulled away from X, turned away, and tried to wipe the tears from her eyes before he could see her. Good thing her makeup was already in shambles. At least
wouldn’t betray her as her own emotions just had.
There was a long pause. X’s voice was soft and kind for a grumbly Veil Ripper, “He doesn’t know what’s happening in there. He probably doesn’t even realize what he’s saying. You should try that again after he gets out.” She felt X put his strong hand gently on her arm, “I think that sounded nice, and you gave him what he’ll need to get back in the fight. If for some reason he doesn’t take you up on the offer,” he paused, “maybe I could?”
A Veil Ripper and a Fire Elf… Wouldn’t that be funny? Sway remembered why the smallest crack in the dam can be dangerous. She felt her emotions begin to break through the wall she had built for so long. If she didn’t do something to plug the leak fast, she was going to become a typical basket-case female.
She wiped the last tear from her eye, put on her game face, turned back to X, grabbed his face with both hands, and locked lips with the stone-muscled Ripper. The moment was what it needed to be. It was familiar to her, and she let her old friend Promiscuity fill the self-inflicted cracks in her defenses.
Once the moment was over, she answered his request to take her out with a snippy, “You’re not taking me anywhere dressed like a thrift store bum.” Then she gave him a wink, and they went back to the bridge to tackle the problem as if it were business as usual.
One of the guards reported, “We’ve confirmed. We are on a collision course for Frostwick.”
As Frostwick was taking up almost the entire viewport because they were so close, Sway huffed, “Thank you Captain Obvious.”
“But why?” X asked. “And why the need for the Soul Diamond if he’s just going to ram the ship and sink it off the island?”
“Oh you’re not going to sink this thing that way.” Sway said, “This beast is made with Elvinite. At this speed we’ll crumble any of the reef that gets in our way, and then we’ll run aground and jab that volcano like a zillion-ton-dagger. That rock will split before this ship will.”
X’s brown skin paled as it was washed with epiphany, “If the volcano splits, that will release the prisoner’s essences?” He glared at the box containing the Soul Diamond. “They’ll need new bodies. We thought he was going to
something with the Diamond, but he’s already done it. I’d bet my dreads everyone on board has already been marked for transference.”
Sway added, “Corona must have been the distraction to make sure everyone was focused on Frostwick. Plus, as a bonus, because of the potential eruption, the prisons have been evacuated by the guards who could have stopped the escape otherwise. They’re like big damn chess players.”