SG-1996: (1/4) Reflections Refracted

Eric Burns sabre at
Tue Mar 28 14:26:53 PDT 2017

[[Secondary Author's Note: This is not the end of Twisted Reflections. Nor
is this the next episode of Mason's Mazin' Mob. This is, instead, a view of
the end of that story, the light reflecting off the story and refracted
through another lens. If ever that story is finished, anything it says is
true and contradictions here are a lie. Post no bills. Promise bright,

     Once upon a time there was a tragedy.
     Her name was Maria Mendez, and from a young age she had the chance to
be a hero. No, not just a hero. A *super* hero. Blessed with the ability to
turn the attacks of others back against them, she took the name Reflective
Lass, and then later changed it to Mirror Maid.
     But a very bad man used an experimental gas to try and kill her and a
young actress, and the two were mutated beyond belief. Her friend combusted
-- becoming literal fire with no body underneath, and ultimately became the
heroine called Matchstick... later called Hellfire.
     As for Maria... the gas blessed her with many orders of magnitude more
power than the teen had already possessed... and cursed her to live inside
a literal mirrored skin, unable to touch or taste. She was nearly
frictionless, which meant she seemed clumsy. And though her friends were
true, she felt lost.
     A good man helped her, forging a ring which let her deactivate her
powers... but she had that ring for less than an hour before it was
destroyed saving her friend Matchstick, making everything worse than it had
been before. If she had felt lost before... now she *was* lost.
     And then, a handsome man offered her a way out. He couldn't remove her
powers or free her... but he could stimulate her senses... cause her to
feel touch as though it were happening. He called himself Sensation, and he
offered her the world. He took her with him, and hid her away, and she
gladly surrendered herself -- her innocence... her trust... perhaps even
her soul....
     And then the moment turned wicked... and he showed her pain as well as
pleasure, both amplified far past the point of addiction. Rightful answers
and behavior were rewarded. Wrongful ones were punished. And far more
quickly than any might believe, Maria gave in. She gave him right answers.
She did whatever he wanted.
     And as part of that process... she revealed the secrets of her
friends. The ones who had always loved her and been there for her. She told
their weaknesses, their hopes, their desires. She told things she held in
confidence. She told things she had learned by happenstance. She told him
whatever he wanted to hear. And she learned to call him by a new name:
     And then the man's master appeared -- the same man who had mutated and
cursed her all those years before... but she didn't care, so long as
Sensation would give her the sense of touch, of taste... she would do
whatever Sensation... and the evil Random Encounters... wanted her to do.
     And what did they want her to do? That was simple. They wanted her to
finish her betrayal of her friends -- Mason's 'Mazin' Mob, who had once
been the Teen Team. They wanted them all not just dead, but wanted them to
suffer. And in that cause they gave Maria a new costume that highlighted
her fallen state, and a new name -- 'Reflects' -- for she was a twisted
reflection of her former heroic self.
     And Maria, confronted with the prospect of betraying all those she
ever loved in the name of what Sensation could do for her... agreed without
so much as a second thought.
     Once upon a time there was a tragedy.
     It just waited for its final curtain.

                               Late May, 1996

     We have discussed JOEL's multitasking capabilities before. Suffice it
to say, he can do tens of thousands of things all at once.
     Over the past year or so, JOEL had noticed that more and more of those
simultaneous tasks had involved the Cybernetic Intelligence called Jenny --
the CI for the Mob installed down in Stately Ward Manor, who also oversaw
the CI duties for Team M.E.C.H.A. At first it had been just a few
conversation threads -- the digital intelligences tended to have multiple
conversations with each other rather than limiting themselves to just one
-- and a few games of... well, games. You wouldn't get it, unless you can
conceptualize thirty-seven dimensions, the rules to both Chess and Go, and
know the platypus's genome inside and out. And, if you meet all those
criteria... stop wasting your time reading this gibberish and cure cancer,
     Anyway. It had been just a few. And then more. And more. The pair were
both stock market speculators and wrote under pseudonyms -- now they had
become collaborators in both. They found themselves finding neat feeds to
hack and look through to trade between each other. He had told Jenny about
Xolchipalia, and she had told him about Missouri, and neither one entirely
believed the other.
     Suffice it to say, on a certain day in May, JOEL had found himself
having over seven thousand, two hundred and nine interactions with Jenny
simultaneously... and some of them were perhaps not entirely safe for work.
Oh, there were layers of deniability in there. Here an MMO, there a
'collaborative fanfiction project,' but JOEL was forced to acknowledge, at
least to himself, that this was going past friendship.
     It worried him a little. He was so, *so* much more powerful than she
was, even though her nanotechnological base and brainwave imprints from her
mother Summer had given her nuances and capacities he had never seen
before. He didn't want to take advantage of her... especially when she was
making it increasingly clear she A) wanted to be taken advantage of and B)
didn't actually see it as 'being taken advantage of' in the first place.
     On the other hand... even his more torrid interactions with Connie and
Sheen of Solutions? Ultd hadn't had quite the same... tension that these
tentative moves had. And JOEL had found he quite liked them.
     Well, these things tended to work out, though he had begun to consider
the possibility that it was time to open up yet another Conversation
line... and have... the Talk.
     «Well,» he said to himself after a billionth of a second spent  all
the possibilities several thousand times and dithering a bit to boot, «no
time like the present, I guess.» He invoked yet another talk window.
     "Yeeeeeeees?" Jenny said, grinning as her avatar resolved in virtual
space in a way it totally didn't actually do because the perceptions of
such things are so different to actual cybernetic intelligences as to be
incapable of organic comprehension, but damn it writing is metaphor so just
     «Hey,» JOEL said, resolving. Around them, a cafe formed -- okay, it
didn't but again. Just *accept the illusion.* -- and the two sipped coffee.
     "Ooo -- you bring a girl on the best dates," Jenny said, giggling as
she sipped cybercoffee.
     «Yeah, well -- I try.» JOEL paused. «Hey Jenny?»
     "Yeah, JOEL?"
     «*Is* this a date?»
     There was a long, long pause. Practically measurable in nanoseconds,
which is pretty long in this case.
     Jenny's smile had frozen in place, but she was biting her lip, her
eyes a bit wide, her back clenched in tension. "Do you want it to be?" she
asked. Her heart was pounding. Except not. Damn avatars. You know what I
     JOEL looked around a bit. «Well...» he looked back at her. «I do
*like* you....»
     "Like me? Or *like* me. I know the difference. My parents never
remember to put me in Privacy mode because they get distracted."
     «Well that's disturbing.»
     "Yeah, but cute." She giggled. "They're really cute. And you didn't
     «Well... I guess the whole point of dating is to find the answer to
that question. So if we want to know, we have to date, right?»
     Jenny giggled. "Well, that *is* logical."
     «So there we go. I guess--»
     Jenny's face suddenly twisted, and her avatar warped and gnarled as
she screamed an electronic scream -- not just in this interaction but in
all the interactions the two had -- thousands of thousands of screams, all
at once, each with the girl's distortion, before--
     Sudden, complete silence. On another board, the Xolchaportation link
to Stately Ward Manor went down.
     Jenny, in a burst of hideous pain, had disappeared from the net
     «Oh that's not good,» JOEL said, even as he spawned multiple responses
-- at least one of which being an alarm.

                          Superfluous Productions
                             *THE* Mason Kramer
                            in association with
                          Mademoiselle Muse, Inc.
                              Proudly Present:
                            Mason's Mazin' Mob!
                     the Adjusted League Unimpeachable


                           Reflections Refracted
                            Inflicted Experience

                                  based on
                 "Mason's Mazin' Mob: Twisted Reflections"
                             *THE* Mason Kramer

                         written, produced, plotted
                             *THE* Mason Kramer
                         (concept, plot, execution)
                              Eric, Lord Sabre
                              Ain't No School
                            Like the Old School

     It was a beautiful spring day in May, which was undoubtedly why
Dangerousgirl -- having finished classes for the day -- had afternoon
monitor duty. So, when all was sunny and bright and pleasant, she was
sitting in a room staring at screens. It's the kind of thing that should
torque her off. It's the kind of thing that *had* torqued her off.
     Instead, she was bouncing and drumming her hands on the console --
away from the buttons -- while music played in the background. Because she
wasn't going to be in any kind of bad mood today. Not any kind at all.
     Roger had invited her to a picnic.
     Roger had invited *just* her to a picnic -- their first 'date' having
been an overburdened affair with too many chaperones.
     *Roger* was going to *cook her chicken.* Which, for the record, was
not a euphemism, so... just stop it.
     Dangerousgirl was not going to be unhappy today.
     There was a sound behind her, but the music was up too high to let it
make an impact. There was another sound, but Dani -- short for Danielle,
which was her name after all -- couldn't really care. There was a third she
almost but not quite could hear--
     }{Dani!}{ Healer's telepathic voice fairly shouted in Dani's head.
}{Could you please turn that thing down?!}{
     "Yah!" Dani shouted, slapping at the music pause and turning in her
     Mandy Harken -- ALU Comptroller -- and Healer were standing, looking
amused. "And here we brought you bagels," Mandy said, smirking.
     "Oo! Yes! Give me bagels! You're the second best people I've seen
     "Second best? Maybe she doesn't deserve bagels," Mandy said.
     "That would depend on first best," Healer said.
     Dani grinned. "Roger's taking me on a picnic on Saturday. We're going
to each chicken and talk softly of love and fight off bears wearing hats
and ties who want our basket."
     "Oh, well, we can't compete with *that*," Healer said, handing Dani a
bag with the Bruggers label on the front.
     "Darn right you can't. Can you believe it? He asked me *to go on a
     "Yes," Mandy said. "I can believe it. You're single most attractive
woman in the Academy, he's besotted and he was sure you'd say yes. So
despite your obvious flaws--"
     Dani stuck her tongue out at Mandy.
     "--he asked you out on a picnic."
     "You have no sense of romance. Also, Samantha's the prettiest girl in
the Academy, followed by Transit. I just have the best figure." She turned
and looked over the board. "Man -- everyone's out, aren't they? Where's
     "And T-Man's in Dark City. The Dash -- well, she's all over the world
and yet the easiest to recall. The Kid's down in... Arkansas? Dang. There's
a story *there*. My sister's with Trashman because 'always with someone in
the field' crap and Mike who the Hell cares?"
     Mandy sparfed, having been eating bagel. "Well that's blunt," she said.
     Dani shrugged. "He signs out a lot now -- goes who knows where. And
I'm *so sick* of his attitude these days. Anyway -- aside from a few
students and you guys we're an empty house. And I have a *date *on
Saturday! Do either of you have a date for Saturday?"
     "Bruce is taking me to Le Pré Catelan in Paris," Healer said.
     "Kid Solipsism and I are doing an arthouse Fellini festival," Mandy
     "See? Neither one of you are going on a *picnic*. I win." Dani turned
back towards the board--
     The board went from silver to red, an alert playing sharply. «Guys!
Something's happened to Jenny!» JOEL said, as urgently as he was capable of
sounding -- which admittedly wasn't much. «We've lost all connection to
Stately Ward!»
     "What? *What?*" Dangerousgirl began hitting controls. "Confirming
signal loss-- complete dropout and we've lost Xolchaportation link. They're
     Healer blinked. "They're Academy students -- ping their Xolchacomms!"
     "Right -- redlines! Three... four... even *Charlie's *'comm is
offline!" Dani slapped her own comm. "Roger? *Roger?!*" She heard the
'dysfunctional link' chirp instead of the ping of connection."
     "Wait!" Mandy said. "Maria, Summer and Alice's 'comms are online!"
     Dani hit the board. "ALU to Mirror Maid -- come in! Report! Report,
     «("Reporting.")» Maria's voice sounded... almost singsongy, with some
noise in the background.
     "Mirror Maid -- we've lost 'comms to all the other Mobsters and
Jenny's out -- what's your status?" Dangerousgirl's heart was pounding.
     «("We have... there's a technical problem. Don't worry. We're all
     "Don't worry? Maria--"
     The 'comm disconnected.
     "What the Hell?" Mandy said, softly.
     "Dangerousgirl, try--"
     "Momentum. Right!" She pinged Momentum's 'comm.
     "Momentum -- this is ALU Control! We've lost contact with Jenny and
the Mobsters -- report status?"
     «("What? I'm fine.")» She, at least, sounded normal.
     Dangerousgirl breathed out. "Good -- where are you? Is Roger there?"
     "Or Phobos?" Healer was leaning in closer.
     «("What? No -- I'm in the Academy cafeteria. Though if they ate this
     "Crap," Dangerousgirl bit her lip. "Report to B-Tower Control.
Emergency situation."
     «("What? I don't--")»
     "Do it!" Dangerousgirl pinged off. She then switched connections. "ALU
Control to Summer -- Summer, are you okay?"
     «("Huh?")» the metamorphic former Team M.E.C.H.A. mainstay said.
«("I'm fine -- what's wrong?")»
     "Are you with the Mob? Is everyone--"
     «("No -- I'm visiting my brother at our old base.")»
     «Summer!» JOEL broke in. «What's Jenny's status? Is she okay?!»
     «("Wha-- I don't know. That whole infrastructure's offline for planned
maintenance. What's going on? Did someone do something to Jenny?")» The
Rocket-Powered Redhead sounded angry and upset -- which made sense. Jenny
had gained sentience when Summer had merged her metamorphic structure to
Jenny's systems -- in effect becoming Jenny's mother where Phobos was
Jenny's father. It was a relationship Summer took very seriously.
     "We don't know," Dangerousgirl said. "We're trying to find out. We'll
keep you in the loop." She pinged off, then switched connections again.
"Frigid Girl and Memorex report to B-Tower Control. Emergency!" She pinged
off again.
     "Wait," Healer said. "Frigid Girl and Memorex? They can't--"
     "They're both rated to take the monitor board, freeing me up so I can
get to Austin!"
     Mandy blinked. "Dani -- you're a probationary member. You can't just
up and take--"
     "Are you a member, Mandy? Or you, Healer? Have either of you ever been
Primary Team?"
     Healer frowned. "No, but--"
     "Then for the moment we're what I have!"
     «How're you getting there? It's two thousand miles and we don't have
Xolchaportation!» JOEL definitely had a bit of stress in his voice.
     "I -- I'll Xolchaport to Team M.E.C.H.A's old HQ. Then Summer can--"
     «No good -- the relay's through Stately Ward. They're off the
Xolchaportation Network too.»
     "Something to correct," Mandy muttered.
     Momentum blurred in. "What's going on?" she asked, upset but not
panicking. A good sign.
     "Stately Ward's offline."
     «And Jenny's been hurt,» JOEL said.
     "JOEL," Healer said. "I know that--"
     «Elizabeth -- I saw her distort, *screaming*. Thousands of times!»
     Healer blinked, and sent her thoughts out. It was a long way off, but
Mental wasn't far below her own telepathic power level, so.... }{Mental?
Tim -- can you--}{
     //\*...pain... static... nothingness....*/\\
     Elizabeth fell back, stumbling to the floor. "Okay, it's *bad*."
     "Then why did Mirror Maid say everything was fine?" Mandy was shaking
her head.
     "Mind control? Coercion? Replacement by a pod person? Who knows?"
Dangerousgirl was upset, but focused. Perhaps more than she ever had been.
     "Would someone *tell me what's going on?*" Momentum demanded.
     So they did, repeating key points for Memorex and Frigid Girl when
they arrived.
     "Any response from Trashman?" Mandy said, afterward.
     "No," Dangerousgirl said. "JOEL -- mark me on mission and put Mem and
Fridge on the board. Okay. We have to get to Austin as fast as possible."
     "The *Crimson Permanent Assurance?*" Memorex asked.
     "Call that last resort," Dangerousgirl said. "It would still take a
while to do two thousand miles even if we had the Masked Bruce piloting,
and we can't even reach him."
     "I'm running down there--" Momentum turned and blurred towards--
     }{Alice, *don't*--}{ Healer snapped telepathically.
     Momentum skidded to a stop, glaring at Healer. "Jesus, Tirkoff --
*stay out of my head!* I won't--"
     "Calm down, Momentum!" Dangerousgirl snapped. "Don't run off
half-cocked. Trust me. I ate a lot of pavement to learn that. Healer was
the only one who could stop you from making a *bad* mistake."
     "You can barely crack Mach 1," Healer said, smoothly, "and that only
for a few moments. Even if you managed a cruising speed of six hundred
M-P-H, you're looking at over three hours and you'll be wasted when you get
there. You're *not* the Dash. Focus."
     "Who's goin'?" Memorex asked. "We can help--"
     "You can help by staying on the board and letting the others know when
they check in," Dangerousgirl said. "And that's not dismissing you two,
either. We *need* that. Right now, we're looking at Momentum and me --
Healer if she wants in."
     "Healer definitely wants in," Healer said. "I may need to put some
psyches back together and *no one* fucks with my students."
     Memorex looked shocked at Healer's swearing. Frigid Girl, not so much.
"Why is Momentum going? If we're not allowed--"
     "Momentum's a Mobster. Technically she's already an active hero,
probation or no,"
     "And there's no way in Hell<tm> you could stop me," she said, firmly.
"So how *do* we get there?"
     "Transit--" Mandy started.
     "Trans can do sixty to seventy mile hops at best," Memorex said. "Less
here 'cause North-South so the destination speed's different. She'd never
make it an' even if she did it'd end up slower than Momentum could run."
     "Susan Stymer--" Healer started.
     "Off planet," Dangerousgirl said. "It was in the monitor notes.
Relativity Woman?"
     "Very pregnant," Mandy said. "That's a no."
     "It's not enough to get there," Memorex said. "You need *intel*. You
said Maria sounded weird. You guys could get sucked into whatever. They
might expect the three of you 'cause you're all connected to the Mob
through the school."
     "Or they may figure the loss of Xolchaportation would mean we're cut
     "Expecting us...." Dangerousgirl said, eyes narrowing.
     "You got something?" Memorex asked.
     "Maybe. Let me make a call. Maybe more like a recall."


     It was clearly going very well. And even if someone decided to
investigate the smoke coming from Stately Ward, the patrolling random
perils would stop them. Even if someone got past those, there were guards
of a decidedly *un*random nature waiting. Random Encounters was tired of
losing to these punks. He was taking no chances.
     And thanks to Reflects, he didn't *need* to take chances. Soon, they'd
be dead, broken or both.
     The most likely intervention -- really, the *only* superheroic
intervention they were worried about -- was Momentum. She hadn't been home,
so if she was elsewhere in Austin she'd come back. But they were ready for
that. Summer -- the metamorphic hardsuit warrior from Team M.E.C.H.A. who'd
essentially become a Mobster after that group's dissolution -- was back in
Missouri visiting her brother, and wouldn't even notice Jenny's absence
since the attack had been planned during a maintenance window on the
systems in the erstwhile headquarters on that team. So there wasn't much
chance Summer would have known and even if she did, it was a couple of
hours flight time even for a veritech fighter. It was so *convenient*
having the maintenance schedule ahead of time.
Otherwise -- the Xolchaporters were offline and Reflects had explained the
alert strategy. Sure, the other teams would see the link go down but that
happened sometimes. The ALU had even checked and Reflects had deflected
them. They'd done everything they needed to do to keep Jenny from actually
sounding the alarm that would have brought help, meaning they were allllll
     Reflects herself was looking down at a chunk of Phobos's armor. She'd
cracked it herself. Her head was cocked. She knew she should feel--
     There was a rush, as a thousand fingertips brushed their way over her
body, underneath her bustier, thong and hip boots and the silver mirror
force alike. She moaned, her eyes rolling back. *That* was what she should
feel. That and that alone.
     "...muh...maria..." came a wheeze. "...puh... plea... please..."
     "Oh, I wouldn't beg," Random Encounters said with a chuckle. "You need
all the breath you can get. I mean, that epipen isn't exactly clearing your
throat, is it, Daydream Believer?"
     "Dreamweaver, remember?"
     "Please. Give me the Monkees over Gary Wright's hippy soft rock crap
any day." He chuckled, watching the Dreamqueen's breath get shallower and
shallower... Mighty Dog's nearby howls of pain music to his ears....
     Momentum's original suit had been gold with a cheetah logo. She'd
given it up to make a break from her past, having gone with a green and
gold uniform with lightning detailing down the sides. It wasn't a shock
when the monitors showed a green blur shot in at close to six hundred miles
an hour, looking to hit the front door.
     And since it wasn't a shock, they were prepared -- two speedsters
shooting forward to body check the green blur, followed by a barrage of
electronic psi repeaters nailing the figure as it rolled back on the lawn
and curled into a ball. Apparently Alice had been in town after all. Too
bad for her.
     Reflects moaned with pleasure again. It was going well, which meant
Sensation would be given permanent powers, which meant she was one step
closer to an eternity of feeling like this... of feeling like *anything....*
     That was way louder than a dog or a wheeze, really.


     Far away, JOEL continued doing what he'd been doing -- finding routes
into Austin, finding connections and communications... finding things to
hack, things to undo, paths to follow. Like we said before, JOEL's runtime
was shockingly high, with so many thousands of operations a millisecond
possible no one would believe the number.
     For the first time since JOEL went online, he was low on resources.
For the first time since JOEL went online, he had to intentionally
designate connections for the Xolchacomms, the Mission Board, and the
Chick-Mouse's systems. All the rest -- *all the rest* -- was devoted to
finding any path, any relay, any hop, any *thing* to get him closer... and
ultimately in... to Stately Ward Manor. Everything was fair game.
     These idiots had no idea just how big a giant they'd awakened. JOEL
meant to change that.


     A few hallways over from the main hall, foyer and ballroom that Random
Encounters, Sensation, Reflects, several day players and a goodly number of
generated wandering monsters and enemies lay a library. It was well
appointed -- almost lush. It was one of those places readers like Samantha
loved to just curl up. And of course it was a place that the team mage
found himself relatively often.
     Just not like this.
     Phobos, Dreamweaver, Mighty Dog, Mental and Mime Man had all been
taken down in that main section. This library was where Roger Nobody,
Hellfire and unfortunate innocent bystander Melody Pernicious had been
     Roger had done a fair amount of screaming. It wasn't natural -- if
that was even the word -- for his ghostly body to feel agony but it was,
caught up in a purple and gold corascanting field of magical energy that
seemed to be feeding off of his spirit's essence. Melody herself had
screamed quite a bit, having been chained down to a stone slab that somehow
they'd gotten in the building -- the same field tearing into her flesh.
Roger's own body -- a golem that had been crafted for him by a friend --
was ash and dust on the floor. Between the two of them was an orb of
gleaming opal, and above it, connecting the two with that hideous power,
lay a single artifact suspended within the field.
     That artifact? A card -- one with stats and a picture on it instead of
a traditional playing card. It was burned on its edges and the back and
stained with old blood. Once, it had been part of the magical deck of
gathered power the young hero named Deckmaster had used. It had been the
card he was pulling to invoke in the midst of the Industrial Revolution,
just before he was killed rather horribly.
     The last thing Roger Nobody had touched in his all too brief life,
before death claimed him and his existence *really* began.
     A Free Spirit, claimed by neither Heaven nor Hell. A dead woman whose
flesh had housed that spirit, letting her escape but still connecting the
pair. The last magical artifact the spirit had touched in life. All
connected. All bound together.
     Now the flesh anchored the spirit, while the magic consumed his
essence -- not death but obliteration... all the while the girl's own soul
waited to be consumed the same way, all with the card holding them locked
in their fields. It was entirely horrifying.
     Roger had liked talking about aspects and hints like this to Samantha.
Symbolism was huge in both magic and in dreaming, and the pair had bonded
over it. Every so often, before meeting Dani, Roger had wondered what it
would have been like if he'd met Samantha before Tim.
     Roger had no idea Maria overheard any of their conversation. She never
really seemed interested. He knew now, of course, but was in too much agony
to think about it.
     Not far away from where they writhed, a mold had been erected. Inside
that mold was a sealed tank -- a tank that had held a slurry of liquid and
frozen nitrogen, which had inundated Hellfire. That couldn't really kill
her, of course. The thought was nothing could. But it banked her flames and
made it next to impossible for her to act, as the near-absolute zero and
lack of oxygen robbed her of strength. The tank had then been evacuated --
a vacuum that sucked up the slurry even as Hellfire flared one last time
and fell into a single dark ember -- one that would fire back up... except
that by definition the tank would only hold nitrogen, and even Hellfire's
flames needed oxygen to burn.
     The mold was shaped like a coffin. Gallows humor -- almost literally.
Resin was pouring down inside of it... engulfing the tank, sealing it away
so that no air could possibly make it inside. Phobos and Hellfire had
worked together to learn the limits of her abilities. Mirror Maid was
Hellfire's best friend. Of course she'd discussed all of the results with
her. It almost went without saying.
     Once the resin set, the idea was the trap, the stone, the remnants of
the card and the corpse of Melody Pernicious would be dropped into a single
sarcophagus, which would then be filled to the brim with cement and capped,
a fake name put on the outside to hide it. No evidence. No opportunity to
get into the tank or let air touch the ember. No free spirit. No soul.
     No hope.
     A trio of thaumaturges and a cyclops, generated from the dice of
Random Encounters, were guarding the whole affair. Outside, in the two
halls between the Library and the Foyer, several other wandering random
encounters waited.
     Through the pain, Roger manage to moan out words -- they echoed like
they came from down a very long metal culvert, only to then be processed
through autotune and the playback played down the culvert a second time.
     Melody Pernicious managed to open her eyes. In one sense, she barely
knew Roger. They only met face to face a few days before. In another, no
two people knew themselves better. Roger had spend months inhabiting her
body's skin, and had left memories behind and gotten a few of hers in the
bargain. Besides her son, Roger was the closest thing to family she'd had.
Or would ever have, it seemed.... "Y-yeah?"
     "I'm sorry we didn't find your son."
     Melody just closed her eyes, the magical forces tearing at her inner
     A surge through the field made Roger scream, flailing. Through it, he
managed to think of two things. One was Danielle -- God, he wished they'd
had a chance to go on that picnic.
     The other was Maria... and the literally orgasmic look of pleasure on
her face as Melody and Roger had been trapped and the pain had begun.

[End of Part One]
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