In the Void: Push

(11/32/80)

“You really wanna do this?” Playlist taunted, outright laughing at his opponent.  “Come on, Collision, what are you gonna throw at me?” 

Imperium’s telekinetic growled and flicked a finger, launching a table forward at easily 100km/h; Playlist clicked on his headphone chord and glowed purple, his Power aura demolishing the table when it got too close.  

People around the room moved away as a pair of chairs were reduced to splinters from colliding with Playlist’s protective field.  Playlist shrugged, unphased, laughing the whole time, “Give up man! You got nothing that can hit me!”  

Collision growled and flicked his hand, throwing a massive stone chess table that Collector had been kind enough to donate for our use.  However, it never made it to Playlist’s destructive shield as a literal hand of tree roots and gnarled wood seemed to almost explode into existence and snatched it from the air.  

Between the two of them, more vines and wood coalesced to take the form of an adolescent girl clad in white, “We warned you, no fighting.”  She raised a hand towards either of them and a torrent of bark and root flowed forward, quickly engulfing Collision up to his neck. Playlist’s barrier held out for a moment, but there was too much to fight against as Forest wrapped around his shield and squeezed down like a python.  

It eventually burst like a balloon and Playlist slowly rose through the gnarled mass until his head was free.  The instant breathing was an option, Forest held him fast.  

“Now,” she muttered, her voice tinted with rage, “What the hell are you two idiots doing?”  She split herself off from her impromptu prisons and reformed her arms to look more like regular limbs.  “Were you having a disagreement about your game? Did someone cheat at solitaire? Did someone take an extra mug of coffee this morning?”  She stalked towards Playlist, “Do you think Titan will be happy to hear that his little protégé has been picking fights when explicitly denied that privilege?” 

For all the bravado that I had seen the youth exude, he paled quick at the prospect of Titan being made privy his blunder.  “No, Forest.” 

“And Collision,” she started before dissolving into the mass of wood only to reform inches from his face, “Shockwave assured me that his men would cause me no trouble while we were all working against the Trillodan.  Are you saying that your boss lied to us?” 

“No, ma’am,” he whispered. 

“Then what the fuck were you doing?”

The stocky man hung his head, “Being an idiot, ma’am.”  

Both men were released from their twisted prisons as the roots receded back to their source, the girl shook her head at the two of them and then turned her attention to the thirty or so Adapted watching the spectacle.  “The next person who goes against our rule, the next one of you idiots who starts a fight, I will crush you. We have no room for people who can’t play along and make nice. We don’t give a fuck where you came from or what grudges you hold.  You’re part of a greater cause now. Start acting the part.”  

With the situation diffused, people began to file away, but I stayed a second to watch Forest and get a glimpse into what she was thinking.  

I could tell from the look on her face that she knew the problem wasn’t resolved.  All she had managed to do was quell this solitary incident. The bigger issue was that the Adapted were made to fight for some reason.  We needed conflict, we craved it. When Titan had told me that we needed something to champion and conquer, he was right.    

Unfortunately it meant fear of consequence could only hold us hostage for so long.  

I retreated away from the common space and slinked into one of the empty rooms that were sparingly furnished for the Adapted we were hoping of finding on Vuuldar.  All it held for now was a bedroll, a small table, and my backpack of clothes. Even so, I was content. I hadn’t gone back to my room in two days, not since my falling out with Nick.  I couldn’t stand to look at him and Murphy, not after the shit that had happened.  

To add insult to injury, they were still plenty chummy.  I was the only one left out in the cold.  

“Fucking Murphy,” I growled to the empty room, a little tinny echo calling back to me, “You’re the fucking problem.  You had to run your mouth.”  

Maybe I just needed to shut him up.  If he wasn’t around to bumble into awkward topics we wouldn’t have this problem…

I shook my head, that wouldn’t solve the problem in the long run, not by a mile.  If anything, driving a wedge between Murphy and Nick would only make them hate me more.  They were inseparable; it was easier to accept that I was the outcast. A few people from the Sentries had come to see me to tell me that I could stay with them but I was happier alone.  There was nothing I could ruin and spoil if I was quarantined.   

I was staring so intently at the table, brooding over how hopeless my life was that I hadn’t noticed someone take form in my room. 

“Dragoon, what the fuck are you doing?” A shriek left my lips and I threw myself to the far corner.  Forest raised her hands apologetically, “Sorry, I forget how quietly I put myself together.”

Taking a second to swallow the nervous lump in my throat, I found my way back up to my feet and looked towards one of the Prime Trio, intimidated to be in the same room with her, alone.  “Forest, um, hi. How can I help you?”

She looked to the side, likely responding to another conversation, before turning back to me, “Sorry, keeping an eye on Playlist to make sure he behaves.  Boy can be a bit touchy.” Her hands wove together as she took a step forward. “I know about the talk Titan had with you.” 

“And you probably heard my talk with Toolkit,” I replied, agitation clear in my voice.  “We don’t appreciate being spied on, Forest.” 

She shrugged, “When you put dozens of battered and broken people with powers inside a box together, you have to take measures to ensure that they don’t kill one another.  Or maybe I should allow the blood feud between Black Mass and the Serpentine to continue?”  

Two gangs from cities outside of Ciel’s cluster.  I had seen their colors the night of our evacuation and seen the glares of animosity between those groups ever since we had been onboard.  From what little I knew of them, they had a few heavy hitters on their squad and they had bad blood that made our feud with Imperium or Surface Dwellers look trivial.  I didn’t like Forest’s concept of policing us, but I could see why she would take that over leaving it alone when people like that were in the mix.  

That wasn’t a problem that would stay contained if let out of the box.  

I shook my head, “What does this have to do with Titan talking to me a week ago?” 

“He told you that Adapted need something to rally behind, a cause to fight for, right?  Don’t you think there’s a reason he chose to speak to you specifically?” 

“You know he did, and honestly I don’t know and I don’t care.” I replied, more annoyed than anything at this point.  

Forest scowled, “Then if that is the case, why are you sitting her and wallowing?” she asked, a bit terse.  “Why are you refusing to fight?  Why aren’t you doing what you are able to do? Don’t you know what good it would do for so many people to have something to do? Something to partake in?”  

   As she talked in that frustrating, accusatory tone, I cracked.  “Maybe I’m apathetic because I managed to lose my friends. Maybe because I can’t get the help of the bitch I need because I destroyed her whole way of life back on Tso’got!  Maybe because I helped get her friend killed!” I spat out, tears forming at the periphery of my vision, “Maybe I’m tired of fighting, Forest. Maybe I’m tired of pretending I’m good enough for any of this.” 

Forest was a pain to read because you could always see her responding to stimulus that wasn’t something nearby; it meant that I had to watch her smile, sneer, and then finally don a very neutral affect as she seemed to regain focus on me once more.  “Titan didn’t pick the weak and feeble to fight. We had our eyes on you for a long time, trying to figure out the best way to introduce ourselves.”

“Why didn’t you come to us earlier?  Why did you let things blow up so horribly before deciding to say hi?”  I didn’t have to say it to know that Forest understood exactly what I meant.  

Why had the Prime Trio allowed Feast Day to occur?  Why had they let my best friend’s consciousness become his worst enemy?  

“Titan refused to detract from your autonomy and introducing ourselves early into the life cycle of a Reckoner team would have done just that.  Would you have believed you had a choice but to disagree with him?” 

“I don’t feel I get a choice to disagree with him now,” I replied, blunt.  “The problem with you three is that no matter what we want, no matter what you say, we have to agree or we’re toast.” 

Forest frowned, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” 

“It isn’t that I just feel that way, it’s that everyone feels that way!  You three don’t even recognize how much power you casually throw around! If you wanted to, Forest, you could literally fill this entire ship with wood and snuff out every person onboard in a matter of seconds.  Titan could turn this place to slag without breaking a sweat, and Infinite….could do whatever she wanted! She could casually eject us into space or fill the place with fire. Who the fuck knows! You guys are so damn powerful you’ve lost sight of how much influence you wield just by existing!  You three don’t seem to appreciate exactly how gifted you are!” 

Up until now, Forest had been oddly detached, objective, content to let me verbally wail away, but that actually got a rise out of her.  I got the sense that despite how much she likely had herself spread out around the ship, all of her attention was pointed straight at me.

It suddenly dawned on me, all my problems, all my troubles, all my insecurities and foibles, they all were so solvable.  The fact that I had pissed off one of the most powerful people in existence, that was a problem no one could fix. Even if I screamed, no one would be able to get here fast enough to save me from Forest; my only prayer was hoping she didn’t deem me worthy disposing of.  

“You think this is a blessing?” she demanded, taking a step forward, “You think I love being like this?  Do you think existing like this is a gift?” Her arm erupted into a mass of roots, scooping up the table and subsuming it into an expanding mess of wood that quickly filled half of the room.  “Go on, Dragoon, explain to me how being rendered inhuman is a blessing?” Her form twisted as she grew, her human form cast aside and her voice distorted to something fit for a nightmare. “Go on, Dragoon,” she snarled in a voice that shook the room, “Tell me I’m lucky!” 

I fell backwards onto my ass, tears streaming down my face as a massive hand of wood slammed down next to me.  Even if I had the dream suit with everyone helping me build, there was no beating her, there was no stopping this juggernaut.  Even if Titan was here, I wasn’t sure that he could stop her. This was the woman who had slowed down Eldritch during Feast Day and she only had access to about a third of her mass at any given point; now all of her mass was accessible, and my only option was to beg for my life.

“I’m sorry,” I whimpered.  

Her renovated face leered down, inches from my own.  There was no breath, no panting, growling, nothing. I did my best to crawl away from her but backed into more of her ever expanding form.  To touch as little as possible, I curled into the fetal position, my face slick with tears and snot, my whole body shaking as she swallowed the space around me; I had never been particularly claustrophobic before now but now suddenly understood that sense of being crushed and stifled.  

And then, Forest collapsed in on herself, her adolescent form taking shape again while the roots that had swallowed the room somehow compressed themselves inside of her.  Even though she wasn’t huge and monstrous, I pushed myself away as Forest took a few steps forward; after I finally backed myself into a corner, she knelt down in front of me and sneered.  

“Clean yourself up and fight.  Understand?” 

I managed to nod between shaky breaths.  Forest turned and walked out the door, leaving me alone and petrified.  

Finding my feet was a chore, and one that did not come easily.  My whole body felt like it was being held down, still smothered by the immovable mass that was Forest.  Even though she hadn’t laid a branch on me, she didn’t have to.  

Her message was loud and clear: earn your keep.  

The first attempt to get up ended with me tumbling the side, my equilibrium still completely shot.  Using the wall, I pushed myself back to my feet and sank immediately down to my knees on taking my first step towards the door.  

How was I supposed to fight when I had nothing left to fight for?  Forest tried to make it so simple, but it wasn’t such an easy problem to address.  

It took awhile to make it to the door and I was still needing to use the wall to aid in my balance, and much to my embarrassment there was an Adapted outside who I didn’t recognize.  He was a bigger guy with a little bit of a gut but clearly there was enough muscle on his frame to suggest he wasn’t a lay about. His hair was cut high and tight with oddly square features that seemed to accentuate his head as a block.  

Whoever he was, he looked just as caught off guard by me as I was of him.  

“Um, hi,” he muttered.  

I fought the urge to retreat back into the room and hide until I could balance; instead I managed to redirect my frustration with Forest into drive to stay outside.  

“Hi,” I replied, “We haven’t met.”  

He gave a nervous smile, “Crash.  I’m with Black Mass…or was I guess.”     

I offered a sad smile, “You’re part of the most murderous group on Tso’got and you’re wary because of a girl who can’t stand up straight?” 

While I didn’t know a whole lot about Black Mass or their equally nefarious counterpart, Serpentine, there was one consistent thing about all of their members: everyone had a body count.  The leaders of each group hated one another and amassed as many Adapted as they could scrounge. Part of the reason that a lot of Adapted ended up in our cluster was because of their blood feud; no one wanted to get swept up in something so alarmingly fatal.

“Just because I have a body count doesn’t mean I’m not a person,” he replied.  “Plus, I don’t know you or what you do yet. Maybe I have reason to be afraid,” he suggested playfully.  

As much as I wanted to smile and pretend I was interested in flirting, I felt myself start to cry as all my self loathing and disdain for my cowardice came rushing back.  This confident foot I was trying to put forward, this attempt at flirtation, all it did was remind me of Nick and his hostility. “I’m not someone to concern yourself about,” I whispered as I tried to push past him, “I’m a nobody.”  

“I find that hard to believe,” he said, grabbing my arm, “Hey, I might be a killer but, I’m still a person and you clearly need someone to talk to.”  

“Let go of me, Crash,” I whimpered, “Please, just leave me alone.”  I already felt my chest tightening as the surge of adrenaline and fear that Forest had induced started to come back in full force.  

It abated somewhat when he released my bicep.  

“I didn’t mean to-“

“I know.  But please, try introducing yourself a different time, okay?  I’m not…just not now.”

It was quite clear that Crash wasn’t used to be snubbed as his face twisted a little with annoyance.  But as quickly as it appeared, it vanished. “Okay, okay. But hey, listen-“ 

“The lady said to leave her alone,” a familiar voice called out from down the hallway.  I wasn’t sure if I was glad or alarmed to see a familiar redhead stalking forward like she owned the place; the needle tipped toward glad as Crash paled and bowed in apology, quickly scurrying away. 

No matter where you came from, no one fucked with Infinite.  

As happy as I was to be rid of him, I wasn’t thrilled to see another of the Trio right now with the memory of Forest smothering me fresh in my mind.  “What do you want, Infinite?” 

Her bold demeanor paled quickly as she stepped forward to offer me a ballast.  “I um, I heard you pissed off Forest.”  

“Yeah,” I scoffed, “I had the audacity to call her special and gifted.”

“Oh.  Poor choice to call her because, well, she isn’t,” Infinite replied quietly.  

For a moment I wanted to call bullshit, but I looked at the most powerful person alive and was surprised to see clear pain on her face.  “What…what do you mean?”

“Everyone else on board is human still.  We can eat, speak, touch, etc. Forest…isn’t.  I mean that in the most literal sense too. The guise she dons, that takes effort.  For her to speak, it takes serious work. She has to fight daily to keep a sense of self as she suffer sensory overload when she is spread out.  She can feel the lives of so many through her vast network and it is a constant struggle for her to preserve her own identity. A few times she has lost control and Titan had to cut swaths of her away until she could regain control.”  Infinite gave a weak smile, “As powerful as Forest is, she is only granted such extraordinary might because she was robbed of her humanity. She won’t be able to enjoy the taste of food, the joys of dreams, or even the same pleasurable touch they we can feel.”  

“I-I didn’t-“

“You couldn’t have known,” Infinite assured me, “I know.  But, everyone who Adapts is broken in part. Forest is one arguably the most battered and broken onboard.”

“What happened to her,” I inquired with a mix of horror and curiosity.  

Infinite sighed, “Forest was homeless as a girl, and being homeless on Tso’got as a human is almost always a death sentence.  She was lured in one day, bribed by some man with food; she hadn’t eaten for days and eventually desperation overwhelmed caution.  He turned on her, tried to rape her, and something snapped. The next thing she knew, her arm had erupted into roots and branches and crushed the man.  Her attempt to move was rewarded with additional eruption of growths and she couldn’t even cry for help if she had wanted too. She was alone and suddenly put into a body that was so foreign that she had no control.”  

My eyes widened as I vividly recalled my own Adapting and how violent a fracture that was; I couldn’t imagine how much worse her transition was compared to mine.  

“What made her different, so far as we can tell, was that she Adapted before puberty.  Forest has been Adapted since the age of nine. Even though she is five years younger than Titan, she has been Adapted almost as long.”  Infinite shrugged, “We don’t know why she changed into what she is or why, but she is firmly devoted to Titan because he helped give her purpose and helped her piece herself together.  Without her, Titan couldn’t have accomplished nearly as much as he has. Truthfully, she has done way more for his cause than I have because she is more stable than me at this point.”    

All this news brought a staggering amount of shame down on my shoulders.  She was such a troubled and battered person and I had basically reminded her of her horrific past and her pained existence.  “I didn’t mean to-“

“Forest will calm down,” Infinite assured me, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder, “But she can be a bit reactive at times.  I know you didn’t mean any harm; you’re just having a rough time.”  

There was a strange warmth that seemed to flow from Infinite into me; I hadn’t felt like anyone had been able to understand me, to really be willing to listen to me for the last few days.  Having someone who could was…incredibly invigorating.  

“Thanks.  I’m just so damn overwhelmed.  Fucking Titan singles me out to try and make a project happen out of nowhere and won’t back me up with trying to enlist people.  And of course the person I need to get onboard hates my guts because of what I did to her group earlier. It isn’t like I can just disagree with her and say ‘oh, I didn’t do those things that happened’!  I mean, clearly not.” I felt blood thundering through my ears as despair was replaced with a new emotional extreme.  

Rage.  

How dare Toolkit hold this against me.  Why should that bitch be allowed to hold a grudge that could end up getting tons of people killed?            

As if Infinite could tell something had changed, she raised an eyebrow, “You look like you’re getting ready to do something intense.”  

I didn’t so much think as open my mouth and let the words tumble out.  “I’m gonna go give Toolkit a fucking piece of my mind.”  

Infinite raised her eyebrows, “Wow, really?  That seems…rather valiant of you.”

“Titan won’t stand up for me and my friends sure as fuck won’t rep me right now either, someone has to take care of number one.  Even if I don’t like her right now, Forest had a good point. I need to fight.”  And with that, I had a crystal clear plan of attack; it seemed so clear to me now that my depression was so unwarranted.  I was taking out frustration on myself and that would accomplish nothing.  

Adaptation or not, I was an engineer.  I was someone who solved problems. Why this had taken me so damn long to figure out?  Toolkit was a part of Imperium, a group that resorted to violence first and asked questions later.  Being cowed by her lashing out only proved I was weak. What she needed was the opposite to prove I was worth her time.  

Infinite followed me behind me, smiling nervously as I marched up to Toolkit’s room and pounded on the door.  “You sure you want-“

“I got this,” I replied, raising a hand to quiet the most powerful person in the universe.  I was somewhat aware that sort of behavior could come back to bite me in the future, but for now I had something else on my mind.  

The door opened and Shockwave stood in front of me, clad in shots and a white t-shirt with a cigarette tucked behind his ear.  “What do you want?” I saw him look behind me, noting the presence of Infinite. In some ways, I wanted her gone; I didn’t my assertion to be tainted or misattributed to the mere proximity of Infinite scaring people into cooperation.  Still, she was good to have as insurance in case Shockwave got the wrong impression.  

“Toolkit.  Where is she?” 

The Cognate stepped into my field of view behind Shockwave, glaring at me, annoyed.  “Bitch, what are you doing here? We already went over this, I’m not fucking helping you.  What part of that don’t you understand, Dragoon?” 

Part of me screamed to turn around and leave, to accept that this was something beyond my control, something I had no sway over and should simply take as fact.  

And the rest of my shouldered forward, pushed Shockwave bodily out of the way, and seized Toolkit by the collar.  I wasn’t the strongest person onboard, not by a longshot, but I definitely favored myself in a fight between most Cognates present. Even though both our powers pertained thinking and creation, I had spent countless hours training and exercising with Murphy who was a goddamn savant when it came to fist fighting.  Toolkit however, was someone who avoided direct confrontation, leaving it to people like Shockwave and Siphon.

For a moment, her proud and unflappable façade cracked, displaying a glimmer of concern as I yanked her forward.  As quickly as it faded, it resumed with a renewed sneer. “What the fuck are you gonna do, huh? Hit me? You gonna pick a fight with one of the Trio here?  You think Infinite won’t tell Titan that you punched me?”  

I countered her sneer with a bloodthirsty smile, “I’m not that crude, Toolkit.”

“So you’re just gonna have a panic attack outside when you’re done pretending you’re a tough bitch?”

I heard Infinite start to protest, but I shook my head to stop her.  “Not this time. You know why?” 

“Do tell.” 

“Here’s the deal, Toolkit, I know you’re fucking bored out of your skull.  I know you’re aching for something to do and you’re starting to lose your mind with the apathy.  So, you’re going to work with me because you need to alleviate that headache that’s fucking brewing between your eyes.”

Toolkit spat in my face and shoved me away; my grip broke as I was caught off guard by her salivary assault.  “You think I’d help someone like you, huh? You’re weak, you’re pathetic, and you can fuck-“

My body twisted as I swung, a massive right hook practically throwing her across the small room onto a lower bunk.  I rounded as Shockwave stepped forward, his hands starting to glow. “Fuck off,” I shouted at him, “And think about what you’re doing.  You wanna use your power for violence in front of a Trio member? You really wanna fire one of those off and hope Titan is simply cool with it?”

The former head of Imperium looked cautiously at Infinite and then lowered his hands.  I knew that I was playing with fire, but I didn’t care. I had come here to be heard; I wasn’t about to let some superpowered warlord intimidate me.  Should Shockwave really want to shut me up, he’d have to do something more drastic than posture.

And there was no way he did that with Infinite in the same room.  

Toolkit got back to her feet, blood trailing down from her lips.  “You piece of shit, you think you can force me to help you?” 

I laughed, “You think I’m gonna try to beat you into servitude?  I’m not Beleth for fucks sake. That hit, that was for spitting on my face.  Toolkit, here’s the deal: we’ve got issues because of the Sentries.”

“And you’re a traitorous-“

I raised a clenched fist, shutting her up quickly, “You bring my parents into this, I hit you again.  They made their choice, they made their allegiance, and my mother was an abusive cunt who drank too much and hated her daughter.  So yeah,” I snapped, “Maybe I hated Imperium because it was what seemed to drive my parents to be nasty, horrible people. If you want to hate me for being part of the Rogue Sentries, fine, you be a bitch who won’t let it go.  But you know what has happened on this ship: I’ve seen Shockwave and Beleth play cards and Collision and Awe workout together. You really wanna insist that you have more bad blood with the Sentries than you do the Surface Dwellers?  You really wanna tell me this isn’t some petty shit because of my parents, go for it! Tell me that we’re the fucking problem. Can you, honestly?” 

The edges of Toolkit’s sneer leveled out; she couldn’t rise to my challenge.

“Didn’t think so.  Now,” I said, lowering my hands, “I’m sorry about Vermin and that whole day.  We never intended for any of that to happen. If you want to know the truth, all we wanted to do was get some blood in the water to prompt a fight between Imperium and Surface Dwellers so you’d wipe each other off the map.”  

Shockwave laughed behind me, a quick, jarring bark of a laugh that got my head to snap his direction.  “Clever. It almost worked too. If fucking Rat and his group hadn’t shown up it would have worked. Beleth and I have been talking about it lately,” he confessed.  

“Seriously?” I asked, strangely amused.  

“Seriously.”

I smiled, glad that at least my initial plan for helping clean the rotten underworld of Ciel had been on the right track until a group of terrorists knocked over my house of cards.  With a little pride restored I turned my attention back to Toolkit, “Now, while we’re stuck on this fucking barge, how about you use that gift of yours to do something productive and stop fucking hiding around in this room?” 

Toolkit didn’t answer for a bit, eventually waving at the door.  “Let me think about it, yeah?”  

I shrugged, “Fine.  It isn’t like I’ve got somewhere else to be.”  Stepping out the door, I walked back into the hallway in Infinite who seemed astounded at my behavior.  

“You seemed… I mean wow.  You just owned the room,” she giggled.  

“It’s like something just clicked into place,” I confessed with a smirk, “I just finally got outside my own head and it seemed so clear I needed to meet Toolkit on her turf and prove I was worth her time.”  

There was a metallic clang behind us as the door opened and Toolkit darted into the hallway, catching up to us.  “I’ll help,” she proclaimed. 

“Good.” 

She looked down at the floor, “And you were right.  I was holding a grudge against you and your parents because mine were… a lot of the same.  I joined Imperium because my dad finally stopped hitting me when he learned I could help out the gang.  I just wanted to feel valuable.” For a moment she did away with the tough and bitchy facade and allowed me to see the real person underneath the violence.  She shrugged, “I guess I’m pissed that you managed to avoid getting roped in like me.”  

I scoffed, “Toolkit, it’s whatever.  I mean, it hardly matters now, doesn’t it?  We’re both in the same spot, working for the same asshole.” 

“Hey,” Infinite protested, “Don’t bad mouth Titan right in front of me,” she said, her voice trailing off.  

“He’s a bit of an asshole,” I replied to Infinite, “I mean, come on.  Nobody on this ship isn’t at least a bit of an asshole.”  

Infinite glared at me but didn’t reply.  

Toolkit laughed a little and shook her head, “Five days ago you had a panic attack because I got up in your face and now you’re shit talking Titan in front of Infinite.  It’s like you’re a whole other person from the last time you talked to me.” 

I smiled, but something about her word choice unsettled me.  

A whole other person, like there was something fundamentally different about me.  

“Well, whatever changed, I’m glad to have your help,” I said honestly.  “We are going to need tools.”

“I’ll talk to Collector, she can likely get us most anything we need,” she supplied.  

“Good, I’ll talk to Repository about making material that isn’t a fucking protein paste.  See you in the common area in a few hours to get started?” 

She nodded and offered an arm to clasp, and just like that it was official: I had the help I needed to build my new suit of armor that would help keep me alive.  

For the first time in nearly two weeks, I felt good about myself and about my prospects moving forward as we hurtled ever closer to Vuuldar and more inevitable conflict with the Trillodan.  

I wasn’t sure exactly what had clicked within myself, but it was about fucking time I remembered how to stand up for myself.  I was the fucking leader of the Rogue Sentries, it was time to start acting like a leader again. Time to stop grovelling and embrace my namesake.    

“Alright,” I whispered as I finally allowed my power to come to life, “Time to get to work.”  

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