Militia: Triage

The only upside about the Trillodan militarizing the Ellayan population was that it drew people away from where we were heading.  

Interface steered us towards where Titan was setting up shop, well removed from the coast.  It seemed that Big Picture had pushed Titan towards the idea of using one of the old ark ships for getting us the hell of this planet.  Part of why Interface had found us was because Titan knew he’d need Dragoon to get the damn thing off the ground. Thank God that the pilot had decided to dump the ship a ways away from the coast.  It let us drive around the majority of the city completely ignored, not that anyone was coming out anyways. Every human had sequestered themselves if they hadn’t evacuated already. No one wanted to be seen by the Trillodan if they could avoid it.  If this generation of survivors was anything like those on Tso’got, they would avoid the galactic tyrants at all cost.  

If they were anything like our parents had been, any rebellious tendency within them had burned along with Earth nearly three decades ago.  

It wasn’t too long before we found ourselves approaching an ark vessel; I heard they were monstrous, but I didn’t fully appreciate exactly how massive they were.  

Originally built in atmosphere, they had been the product of years of labor with hundreds of craftsmen putting together a ship able to relocate massive swaths of society to a new refuge.  While our first vessel had been the size of a damn football field, this was easily quadruple the size, or at least it had been. Chunks of it had been cut free, like someone had taken a massive saw to some of the sections of the vessel.  

“We’re going to get that off the ground?” Lightshow asked.

“We can figure it out,” Dragoon said, not sounding at all sure of herself.  While this had been her plan, the original fire that burned within her was gone.  You could feel that emptiness in her, that pain that couldn’t be ignored anymore. Even though Adapted were incredibly resilient to mental stress and trauma, this was more than she could bear.  

It had only been a few hours since her childhood friend was ripped away.  Of course she wasn’t okay. Truth be told, Alexis and I might never be okay after last night.  

“I’m not trying to be too negative here,” Interface said, “But do you think you’ll be able to make it happen fast enough?  I mean, if the Trillodan are gathering an army, we’re not going to have a ton of time before everything goes to shit.”

“Because once they use the Ellayans as fodder, the Trillodan themselves clean up afterward,” Menagerie added.  

“Maybe Titan has some ideas,” I said, alleviating some of the pressure from Dragoon.  Right now she didn’t have the wherewithal to make a cogent argument or defend herself.  The last thing she needed was tremendous pressure to save a whole sect of people. That was more than she could bear for now.  

“I’m just hoping that Titan has some food,” Exchange yawned, “I’m starving.”  

“If we’re back on Repositories cooking I’m going to hand myself over to the goddamn Trillodan,” Lightshow grumbled.  

Menagerie laughed, and it surprised everyone in the cab.  None of us had been able to crack a smile since last night; the Peculiar artist laughing was permission enough for everyone to lighten up and laugh a little.  Even though none of us in the truck were happy, laughing was a blissful reprieve. Admittedly, I felt a pang of pity for Exchange; the blonde looked woefully confused as to why her comment was funny.    

As we got closer, I was expecting some kind of ambush.   I expected for one of Jai’s slimes to block the road, the demolitionist Salah to blow up the road out from under us, the juggernaut Kalr to slam into us and roll the truck.  Perhaps a brigade of Trillodan infantry would set up a firing line or, worse yet, Zellig himself would come to claim a few more of us as his grisly trophies.

Instead our approach to Titan’s base camp was uneventful which made me all the more paranoid.  Vuuldar seemed to have longer days than Tso’got did, but it had probably only been thirty hours since our arrival.  Even in such a short time, I’d gotten used to the frenetic and hectic, adrenaline fueled fights we’d been swept up in.  Despite the stakes and the losses, there was something strangely comforting about it.  

Adapted fought.  It was what we did.  Originally I thought that was a bit of a jab at our violent exploits on Tso’got, but I started to wonder if there wasn’t some kind of underlying and biologic truth to that saying.  

When we were kids, Alexis was one who avoided conflict.  She had avoided confrontation with her parents for years and years; once we embraced our role as Reckoners, she never backed down from a challenge.  Murphy used to be pushed around and bullied but took it upon himself to be stronger and turn fighting into a work of art. He’d stood up to Zeal to prove a point, even at risk of life and limb, knowing full well that he wasn’t supposed to win that fight.  Even for me, tapping into the primal power of Eldritch felt good. Even though Feast Day horrified me, I would be lying if I said that the power wasn’t intoxicating. There was something primal and gratifying about being powerful and knowing I could rise to the challenge.  

As we drew closer to the old ship, I noticed a figure flying down to meet us.  I recognized the way he carried himself, but it was strange to see him without his cobalt clad armor.  

Interface parked the truck and woke back up.  “Clemency!” Interface greeted with a smile as they opened the door.  

“Good to see you,” he said.  The Projector’s grin turned to a frown as he saw us clambering out of the truck.  “Is this-“

“It’s everyone,” Dragoon said, cutting him off.  “Where’s Organelle?” 

Clemency noticed the laid out members of Serpentine in the back and grimaced.  “Goliath!” Clemency shouted, “We need a hand!”

From up the hill, a small figure sprinted down towards us, rapidly enlarging as he approached.  The musclebound brawler from Surface Dwellers wordlessly scooped up the members in the truck bed and turned around, jogging back up the hill in haste.  Clemency helped steady Trample and I put an arm under Alexis to help her up the hill. Behind us, Lightshow created a stretcher and, with Exchange’s help, wheeled Adamant up behind us.  

Looking around, I was reminded of the last site where Titan had been hiding a ship.  Right before we’d had to abandon Tso’got, it had been a hive of activity and this was no different.  People were talking and milling around, some seeming to investigate the ship or be discussing battle plans with others.    

What was different was the tone. 

Back on Tso’got, we knew that we had an exit plan.  Back on Tso’got, we were one step ahead of the Trillodan.  

This time the Trillodan were a step ahead of us.  

We were staring down an army and we didn’t have an escape plan.  Even if Infinite could get us off world, the ark ship was in desperate need of repairs; the moment we were in the void of space, we’d all be choking once the oxygen was sucked away from us.  Discounting the external work that needed to happen, the ark ships were older than any of us. I had my suspicions that a rocket engine was good to go after nearly three decades without any kind of upkeep. 

And as far as I knew, the only two people who really could do quality work fixing the damn thing were Dragoon and Toolkit.  Given the unrest of the other Adapted here, they knew that too.    

The ship had been dumped on top of a grassy hill overlooking the bay.  If we had time to truly relax and appreciate the scenery, it would have been a fantastic place to drink in a view.  There were plenty of Adapted on the hill, trying to appreciate the calm before the storm, but they sucked at it. I saw Psycho and his band of Lunatics huddled up, whispering amongst themselves.  Shockwave was off to the side, still in his coat with a cigarette in hand talking to Beleth. Playlist had one headphone in while chatting with a few Adapted I knew by reputation from Tso’got.  

Clemency led us up a ramp and into the bowels of the ship.  While the original ship Multi-task had made was clean and tidy, this thing felt like it desperately needed restoration.  It was covered in dust and oppressively musty. Despite the smell, there were plenty of familiar faces, and plenty of new ones too.  Big Picture was talking with Clairvoyant, Command was talking with a pair of red-headed twins I’d never seen before, and one scantily clad woman with a long spiked trail caught my eye.  

“You’re a pig,” Dragoon whispered, managing to provide a small grin.  

“I’m seventeen,” I said defensively, “If there was ever a time to look at a girl…” 

“Here,” Clemency announced, herding us through a sliding metal door.  Inside, the always graceful Organelle was in a room surrounded by battered and sick looking Adapted.  Some of them I recognized: Blitz from Black Mass, Pyre and Hive from Surface Dwellers, even Contagion from Occult was laid up.  And there were just as many faces that were present that I didn’t know. Whether you had been an Adapted on Tso’got or a Selected on Vuuldar, none of us seemed to be safe from the Trillodan.    

“Organelle, where?” Clemency asked. 

“Anywhere,” she snapped, her demeanor markedly more hostile than I remembered.  “I’ll get to them when I can.”

“She’s been drugged,” Dragoon whispered to me as I helped lay her down on a small bedroll that hadn’t been claimed.  

“What?”

  “That shit Chemtrail made.  That shit Titan gave me back on Tso’got so I could build drones for him,” she said.  “Titan’s given a hit of that to Organelle. Her body language, it’s all wrong.”  

Titan had let people die instead of interrupting autonomy.  If he was administering a power booster and putting people to work, things were getting desperate.  

“Lightshow,” Dragoon said, “You feeling good enough to work?”

Our Altered comrade nodded and helped get the limp form of Adamant draped over Exchange’s shoulders.  Once he was set, she dismissed the stretcher and began making a duplicate of Organelle; it seemed easier for her a second time, though it could be that she’d finally gotten some sleep since losing her arm.  

Clemency raised an eyebrow at us not leaving Adamant with Organelle, “Why-“

“Trillodan left something in his body.  It isn’t organic, but it’s attached to his spine.  We’re hoping that Infinite or someone else can get it removed for him.” 

“Follow me,” he said, leading the way up a flight of metal steps.  Clemency guided us through the maze of corridors to the flight deck…which wasn’t nearly as grand as I imagined.  The ship that Multi-task feautred an immense pane of glass across the front, making it almost an observatory. This was a small deck littered with control stations and precious little space for anyone who wasn’t needed to fly the damn thing.  There were dozens of blank displays, half a dozen stations with a bevy of control, dials, and buttons all at their disposal. At the front, a familiar redhead raised her face and flashed a smile that quickly fell into a frown. “What’s wrong?” she asked, getting up and meeting us halfway.  

We put Adamant in a chair and leaned him forward.  “The Trillodan shot him with a device, basically a small coil of metal around his spine is keeping him paralyzed.”

Infinite filed in behind Adamant for a better look.  I felt heat radiate from her as her eyes changed color and she got to work.  “Clemency, I can handle this. Let Titan know that the Sentries are here. I know he wants to talk with Dragoon.”  Her voice was surprisingly curt and forced, like she was frustrated with the inconvenience or us being here.    

I hadn’t spent a lot of time with Infinite, but this was very different for her.  

“Sure.  Will you need-“

“No,” she barked.  “Don’t bother Command for this.  I’m fine.”

Clemency bowed and backed off, knowing better than to press his luck.  

It was interesting to watch Infinite up close and get some insight into her strange power.  When she added a new power to her arsenal, her eyes shifted some, slowly veiling her own original features.  As more of her power bled out, the air around her felt alive. It was like as she changed the space around tried to change with her.  

The first power added little red spots in the whites, a second little yellow streaks, and a third little black swirls that seemed to fill some of the gap between the streaks.  

Infinite pressed a hand to Adamant’s skin and it parted for her, like her fingertip was some kind of scalpel.  She leaned forward, studying the little band of metal constricting around his spine. A green tint covered her pupil and little beads of vibrant green liquid covered the end of her fingertips.  Leaning her index finger near the little metal band, a single drop splashed against the metal snare; an acrid scent filled the air as the green fluid attacked the metal. Whatever acid Infinite made was on a mission and it took very little time for Adamant to wake up violently.  

He clawed at the floor, gasping for air; Exchange grabbed him, keeping him from reaching back at the opening that Infinite had made on his neck.  

“Let her finish-“ 

“What the fuck happened to me?  Where the fuck am I?” Adamant demanded.  He opened his mouth to say more but all that tumbled out was a surprised cry of pain as Infinite dragged her finger along his neck to re-seal the skin.  

“The Trillodan paralyzed you,” Exchange explained while Adamant still caught his breath.  “They hit you with something that stopped your nerves, basically made you a human vegetable until we could get it ripped off.”

He grimaced as he rubbed the spot on his neck.  “They knew about me,” he said, annoyed. “They got rid of me early.”  

“Seems that way.  Oh, introductions,” I said.  “Infinite, this is Adamant, head of the Lost Children.  Adamant, this is Infinite. The most powerful person here.” 

“Hi,” Infinite greeted meekly, her hostile demeanor gone.  Adamant seemed dubious about my assertion but still shook her hand gladly.  

“Thanks for getting that off my spine,” he muttered.  “Exchange, where’s Distortion?” 

“With Organelle,” the blond teen answered, “She had one of those on her spine too…but we had to rip it off so she’d wake up.  She lost use of her left side; Organelle is trying to fix it.”  

Adamant was a little shaky getting up, but he wasn’t going to be deterred from seeing his underling being patched up.  He said another thank you to Infinite on the way out. I tried to leave with them, but Infinite caught my shirt.  

“I want to talk to you, Eldritch,” she said.  It wasn’t the same curt demand she’d given to Clemency earlier, but there was something ominous about the way she said it, like she knew that no one was going to enjoy the ensuing conversation.   

I had a sinking sense that I knew exactly what she wanted to talk about.  

As I took a seat some distance away, Infinite grimaced and blinked the color out of her eyes.  The strange pattern seemed to travel along her skin down to her fingers where she whipped her hand and expelled it.  Infinite shuddered and composed herself. “Forest,” she called out to the room.

“Yes, Charlotte, I’m here,” a disembodied voice answered.  A moment later, a girl in white materialized as a group of roots slithered across the floor and wove themselves together.  I squinted around the edges of the room, catching glimpses of the tiny bits of flora that was Forest and wondered how long she’d been watching and how much of the camp she was keeping an eye on.  “Good to see you again, Eldritch.”  

“Hey,” I said.  “So, um, I think I know what this is about.”

“So then you understand why we have to have this conversation,” Forest stated.  

Of course this was a conversation I was going to have.  Lightshow had brought up the idea which meant Titan had thought of it too.  With the Trillodan provoking an army to march on us, it meant there was an opportunity for me to cannibalize hundreds of people and utilize the fact that my power had no ceiling as long as I could keep feeding it.  But, Forest had been there for Feast Day and remembered how much effort she’d expended trying to stop me; she was not eager to repeat that.    

“You’re afraid of another Feast Day,” I said, solemn.  “It’s not going to happen.”

She was unconvinced.  “Right. Emotional triggers.  Speaking of, where’s Parasite?  I didn’t see him among your crew.”

  Forest’s words were like a slap to the face.  I’d told Titan that I’d been emotionally unstable because the first trigger was watching Beleth kill my parents back on Tso’got.  That ensuing volatility had let Eldritch take control. I hated that she was calling it into question, but she wasn’t wrong to do so.      

“We know you won’t do it on purpose,” Infinite said, playing the good cop, “But after a certain point you become awful hard to bring down.  If the Trillodan are sending thousands of people at us and you gobble up a few hundred…”

“I know.”  I took a deep breath to steady myself.  “I know it was only a few weeks ago, but I’m not the same guy anymore.  The thing I grow, it’s alive. And we’ve come to some agreement about control.”  

Being mentioned caused the beast to stir a little and listen in like a fly on the wall.  

Forest wasn’t the best at generating facial expressions because she had so much body to control, but she managed to look incredibly suspicious of my claim.  “Eldritch, we want one thing to be abundantly clear: if you lose control, we will put you down.”  

Infinite winced, not liking the harsh assertion.  “We can’t risk everyone else if you get out of hand.  If we think you’re out of hand, we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the others are safe.”  

“And what about Titan’s opinion?” I asked.  “Where is the third member of the Prime Trio?” 

“He’s busy,” Infinite offered.

I set my jaw, frustrated that I was someone that could be ignored like this.  If two of the three most powerful people among us were warning me about going overboard, I wanted to know what the head of our crusade was planning.  Surely he had some kind of grand design or plan to make use of Eldritch, and I knew that neither of these two were the ideas people. Forest fed him information and Infinite was his enforcer.  Even though he was powerful, Titan’s greatest strength was his mastery of delegating.  

Titan knew exactly how valuable Eldritch was and he had some grand role reserved for it, of that I was sure.  Otherwise, why the hell did he keep us alive on Tso’got? Titan went to great lengths and risked his own life and limb to keep me intact; there was no way he did it out of decency.  He was too interested in self-preservation for such sentimental heroics.  

I vividly remembered the end of my rampage and being sequestered in the alley.  I remembered attacking him, nearly engulfing his arm; the only thing that kept him from losing a limb was the fact Titan’s coat had been imbued with power by Armorsmith.  If it hadn’t, even Organelle wouldn’t have been able to undo the damage.  

“What is Titan planning to do with me?” I asked, looking to gauge their reactions.  “You’re only giving me warnings because you assume I’m going to get wildly large. Why?”  

“In a perfect world he would keep you away from the fight,” Infinite said.  “Under ideal circumstances, he can employ a handful of non-lethal measures to deal with the Ellayan militia.” 

“Such as?” 

“Powerhouse bolstering Playlist and Soliloquy would be a good start,” Forest said.  

Playlist was another one of Titan’s devoted, and the kid had a powerful arsenal up his sleeve.  Whatever music he listened to granted a specific ability ranging from destructive telekinesis to superspeed.  To my understanding, some of those powers were emotional influencers, such as a calming presence or a dread-inducing aura around him.  

Soliloquy was someone I had gotten to know  during our last night on Tso’got. A member of Flagbearers, he was a Projector who could give commands and glamour people who heard him speaking.  It was like instant hypnosis that only grew in power the longer he was allowed to talk to people.  

If Powerhouse gave them extra gifts to bolster their own kit, they might be able to stop a small army without any bloodshed being necessary. 

“Except the Trillodan won’t let that happen,” I said.  “Titan has to know that.”  

“He’s hoping to keep the fighting minimalized and protect the innocent people.  If all goes well, we’ll be able to segregate the Ellayans away from the Trillodan.” 

  “We’re guessing that we’re going to have to kill half of them,” Forest said, blunt as ever.  “Titan’s hope is to make you big enough that Soliloquy and Powerhouse can easily make the rest of them fall in line and avoid any excess bloodshed.”  

Now it was starting to make sense.  “And you want to make sure that I can control myself and still follow along with his plan.”

They both nodded.  

“I should be able to.  At very least, I can do my best to direct it to the Trillodan.  We both hate them so it shouldn’t be a hard sell.” 

That got a smile from Infinite and no discernible response from Forest.  

“Whatever happens,” Forest said, “Just know the risks you take.  I’d rather not have to pick another fight with you.”  

I gave a sheepish smile and Forest’s figure dispersed as the roots slithered out of the room, leaving Infinite and I alone.  She let out a long sigh, as if she’d been holding it in ever since Forest got here. “I’m sorry she gets… confrontational. Forest also doesn’t care for you all that much since you ripped a lot of her apart back on Tso’got.”  

“I figured.”

“She does respect you though,” she added, as if that somehow made things better.  “She’s just distracted looking everywhere for Titan.” She trailed off, looking down, as if somehow I made her nervous.  It still perplexed me that the most powerful person in the galaxy was such an anxious bundle of nerves.  

If she wanted to, she could kill everyone and we’d be powerless to stop her.  You’d figure that kind of power would inspire some confidence.

“Infinite,” I said, “How hard would it be for you to stop me?” 

“Huh?” 

“They told you about Feast Day.  Titan and Forest had to work together with power boosters to bring me down,” I recounted.  “If I lose control again, can you stop me?”

For a moment, that anxiety vanished completely, and I saw a glimmer of what Dragoon saw.  Just like I hid a monster beneath my skin, Infinite had her own monster pushed down and suppressed.  Instead of the eyes of a nervous young woman, I saw the eyes of a hardened and cold-blooded killer. I saw the eyes of someone who would do whatever it took, no matter the consequences.  I saw someone who would not, and could not, be stopped.  

“Nine powers.  That’s all it’d take.” she answered.  As soon as she had said that, that look of malice vanished, replaced by the demure demeanor that I was used to seeing.  “But, I mean, I’d rather not. Using that many can get a bit dangerous.”

“Because it would make you lose control?”

She bristled but didn’t deny it.  “You… you don’t know what it’s like.”

“I lost control and ate nearly four hundred people alive.  God knows how many I buried in rubble thanks to me rampaging around!  I think that of all people I-”

“No, Eldritch, you don’t,” Infinite snapped.  “You have no fucking clue. You have no fucking idea what it feels like!”  She took in a deep breath of air, trying to calm herself. “I heard that Lightshow was unlucky enough to Alter.  Talk to her if you want a fucking clue about what losing control is really like.”

As angry as she was, it wasn’t hostility that I heard.  Her voice cracked like someone who had been kicked down one too many times.  She sounded like my mom had the few times she allowed me to see her being truly vulnerable.  “…yeah,” I finally answered.  

“It isn’t something that goes away,” Infinite said, looking way beyond this room.  “That feeling of it being wrong, being misshapen, that doesn’t go away. Adaptations feel normal, like an extension of you.  Even yours I’d guess. But Alterations…those are fucking monstrous. They remind you that you’re broken. They remind you of every little awful thing that made it happen.”  She got off the floor and dusted herself off, “Don’t pretend you know what I feel like. You don’t know and, if you’re lucky, you never will.”  

I took a moment, letting her get enough of a headstart that I wouldn’t run into her on my way back down.  It hadn’t been all that long, but I needed to see a familiar face. Seeing that look in Infinite’s eye, hearing that shake in her voice and the rage and pain that came with it, it was all so unsettling.  I was reminded that others had paid a much steeper cost than I had for power.  

If the power she wielded was of any indication, Infinite must have paid dearly.  

As I walked back down towards Organelle’s impromptu clinic, I was surprised to see someone else waiting outside.  

Still clad in a black coat and black jeans with short brown hair, Titan loitered impatiently.  Just like the rest of us, he couldn’t stand being too still with nothing going on. Patience was a strong suit for none of us.  In some ways, it was nice to see him with some vulnerability, that he had some normal ticks like everyone else. Interface might be right about him being human like the rest of us. 

It didn’t take him long to notice that he was being watched.  

“Eldritch.”

“Hey, Titan,” I greeted, awkward.  He was the closest thing to a celebrity we had in our midst, and he was intimidating in a way that the other two of the Prime Trio weren’t.  They were probably more powerful than him, but he had a certain presence about him that neither of them had. Forest was just overbearing and scary like some kind of rabid dog on a leash.  Infinite held the promise of danger, like a loaded gun, but she was too demure and meek to really scare you. Titan though, was like a master boxer. He knew exactly what game he played and it was hard to not feel out of your league once he had his  sights on you.  

“I understand that Forest and Infinite gave you a bit of an overzealous warning.”

“It’s a bit weird being warned for something that I wasn’t told about.”

He nodded.  “Yeah, they jumped the gun a little.  I meant to tell you about my idea before Forest began threatening you regarding keeping your ass under control.”

I took a deep breath, bracing myself for whatever answer he might give me.  “How many people are you expecting me to consume?”

“Probably a third of their army,” he said at length.  “Enough that the Trillodan can’t easily stop you, and enough to be scary as shit and towering above everything else.  We need you to be that monster you were back in Ciel.”   

“Titan, those are innocent people,” I muttered.  “You’re asking me to eat hundreds if not thousands of innocent people.”

He let out a long sigh and then turned to face me.  “I know. And I wouldn’t ask you if I thought there was another way that we could manage it,” he confessed.  “I’m not thrilled at the prospect either. If Infinite has to intervene, it gets ugly for everyone. It’s a risk, but I am not about to let my family die because the Trillodan push people against us.”

“We should try-”

“Eldritch,” he snapped, catching me by surprise.  “People are going to die. Tons of them, with or without you doing a damn thing.  That is fucking inevitable. I know you’re young. I know you’re fledgling compared to a lot of people here.  But guess what, it doesn’t matter. We have a job to do. Bottom line, killing a mob of Ellayans to ensure our survival and continued fight against the Trillodan is worth it.” 

All I could hear was my captain making the call to leave Murphy behind.  It had been the right call, but it was like a dagger in the guts.

“At what point are we the monsters?  At what point are we worse than them?” I asked, unsure of where the words came from.

Titan raised an eyebrow.  “Eldritch, I saved you on Tso’got.  People wanted me to offer you to the Trillodan as a fucking peace offering.  I nearly got myself killed trying to carve you free of your runaway power.”

I held my tongue; all those statements were facts.  

He dropped his head into a hand, massaging his temples.  It dawned on me that he was exhausted. Just like us, Titan was on edge.  I was quickly wishing that Interface was wrong and that he was somehow better than the rest of us, that he was immune to the pressures and stressors we were all subject to.  “I’m not fond of the idea of being the scourge of a city, Eldritch. Believe me. I know that I’m manipulative and sly at times, but I’m trying to do what’s best for everyone.  The reality is that you are the perfect visual spectacle and you’re one that is built for this kind of engagement. Thousands of people literally become fuel for the beast and it makes everyone else second guess who is the bigger threat.”

“I don’t want to do this.  I don’t want to consume hundreds of terrified and otherwise innocent people,” I said, unsure how to better convey my message. 

Titan’s look narrowed.  “If it can save the lives of your friends, is it worth it?  If it’s what keeps us fighting against the Trillodan, is it worth it?  I want you to take a minute and really think about this, Eldritch. The Ellayans are going to have the Trillodan at their backs, driving them forward.  If they don’t march, they die. Simple as that. Soliloquy and Playlist, hell, even Infinite herself won’t be able to do enough to simply snuff out that panic.  It will be mass hysteria at its finest. But you,” he reached forward, jabbing a finger into my chest, “You terrorized a fucking city. You became a monument to fear and power the size of a fucking skyscraper.  You have a unique power to become a literal walking, talking, paragon of destruction. If the Ellayans have something else to be goddamn terrified of then Soliloquy, Playlist, and any other emotional manipulator in our group has a chance to seriously turn the tide.” 

He took a deep breath and put his hand on my shoulder, “Listen, I can’t make you do this.  And I won’t. The call is yours. If you embrace how monstrous you can be just think of how many you might save as a result.”  

“I-”

“Think it over,” he insisted, turning to walk back outside, “And whenever Organelle’s done with her, tell Dragoon we need to talk.” 

“Yeah, sure,” I said.  

My back hit the wall and I slumped down, rattled.  Titan had a point; there was no one who could do what I did.  The exception was Infinite, but with her mental instability I didn’t want her to be so hard to bring down.  Besides, she was capable of doing anything and Titan likely already had something else in mind for her.  

He was right.  I was equipped to do something that no one else could do. 

I could make a serious difference in the outcome of the conflict to come, I just needed to be able to stomach the fact that I would be killing hundreds in the process.  I had never been aggressively pragmatic, and this went against everything that was at the core of my beliefs. I had been a Reckoner. My friends and I had originally embraced our powers to try and help people, to fight crime and clean up Ciel.  

Fighting back against the Scoundrels, Suppression, Snatchers, and now the Trillodan had been easy.  They were villains. They were doing things that were morally reprehensible. I could be righteous fighting them because they were oppressors, they were bastards who stepped on others for their own ambitions.  It had been easy to hate them, to take up arms against them.  

But the Ellayans?  They were victims. They were collateral damage.  They had simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time.  This wasn’t black and white like all my conflict had been so far.  This was grey…and I wasn’t sure how to reconcile it.  

As much as Titan had a point that it was a small sacrifice for the greater good, I wasn’t sure if I could do it.  We weren’t the Trillodan. We weren’t mass murderers. We were doing this to free people from oppression, not subject them to it.  

But if I did nothing, how many Adapted paid for it?  How many of us fell because of my inaction? What if it caused our crusade to crumble and meant the Trillodan went unchecked?    

I put my head in my hands, fighting back tears as the walls seemed to press in around me.  “Murphy,” I said, wishing my best friend was here, “What am I supposed to do?” 

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