Afflictions: Part Thirty Four

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Paul sat alone in his room, holding his breath for as long as he could, in an effort to build up his endurance. He wasn’t sure if he’d actually end up under water, but based on the visions he’d been having he gave it a 40% chance. The DSR was still working on getting the paperwork filed to approve his request, so he really didn’t have anything better to do than prepare for the hypothetical situation in which he had to swim, and hold his breath until he could work out which way is up. Ideally he’d be able to see light to navigate, but he couldn’t be certain.

Paul’s important training was interrupted by a knock at the door. He actually wasn’t expecting this, so he was a bit confused for a moment as to how to react.

“Come in…?” He answered.

“Paul, are you doing anything today?” Deven asked. His tone seemed a little excited.

He thought for a moment. The DSR definitely wouldn’t approve his request today, and the vision was fixed, so he didn’t see any sense in waiting around. “Nothing too critical, why do you ask?”

“I was wondering if you could come with me to something.” He hesitated.

“What’s the thing?”

“I entered in a flower contest…” He mumbled. “The judging is today.”

“Oh okay.” Paul nodded, relieved. “I thought you were about to ask me to do something weird or hard. Not sure why you want me there, since flowers are more of a visual thing, but I don’t mind.”

“I just thought you’d like to go out, and you might like it.” Deven replied.

“You do have a point… I do like a good reason to go out.” He nodded. He wasn’t the most sensitive individual, but even he recognized the significance of Deven asking to go out with him. “Alright, give me a minute to get ready, then we can go.”

Paul changed out of his clothes that he’d been wearing for an indeterminate length of time, and into something vaguely clean and decent. Once he was ready, he met Deven in the living room, and the pair made their way to the bus stop. It was a pretty decent fall day. The sun was out, but a breeze was blowing just hard enough to keep it slightly warm. They rode the bus for about a half hour, before arriving at their destination.

Based on the noise level, Paul assumed that it wasn’t a huge ordeal. It at least wasn’t taking place at a convention center or anything. It smelled of air freshener, with a hint of perfume.

A few moments after they entered, a woman approached them. “Good luck Deven! I think yours looks the best.”

“Thank you Mrs. Dobbs.” Deven replied, stifling a happy giggle. Once the woman had walked away, he turned to Paul. “I don’t think I’m going to win. Mine’s pretty simple. Some of these are very pretty.

“Well what does yours look like? Can you describe it to me?”

Deven led him over to what was presumably his arrangement. “Well it’s not too much. I’ve got a bunch of different color roses… Red, white, and pink. I spread them out pretty even, and then put some lemon leaf, which is just kinda big green leaves, around the bottom.”

“Oh wow.” Paul nodded. “That’s pretty cool. I don’t think I’d have the sense to do that kind of thing even if I could see.”

“This is pretty basic compared to some of these other ones…” Deven led Paul a few feet over. “This one’s really cool. It’s not even in a vase, it’s on some kind of a plate thing. It’s a few shoots of bamboo, but its got a base of small white flowers around it. There’s a dendrobium orchid, that’s just a tall purple one that has petals going up the whole way, and it’s running around and through the bamboo.”

“Oh wow, that sounds cool.” Paul replied. “I thought flower arranging was a bit more narrow, but I guess you really could do a lot with it. Using bamboo on a plate sounds really cool.”

Deven laughed, and proceeded to pull Paul around the shop, describing all the arrangements. Paul was a little bit sad that he wasn’t able to see any of these himself, but he really felt like just going to see these with Deven wouldn’t have properly captured his excitement. He described the plants really vividly, and with such an excitement. He’d really almost forgotten what fun could feel like, after obsessing over his visions for so long. He was relieved to have some time where everything wasn’t going wrong, and he didn’t have to worry about the future.

After about ten minutes or so, Deven had finally described all the arrangements. Paul could sense a little bit of a crowd gathering around them, as Deven gave his tour, but he didn’t really mind. They finished going through all the entries just in time for the results to be announced. Everyone got quiet and directed their attention in a singular direction.

“Alright, everyone. This seems a fitting time to announce the results. I’m glad to have you here, both old-timers and newcomers.” An older sounding lady began to speak. “Today we’re giving out a first place and a runner up. Even though you won’t all get an award, I want you to know that I appreciated every entry, and think they’re all quite lovely.

“In first place…” The woman paused for emphasis, and Paul felt his heart rate accelerate. “Yuki Tanaka, with the bamboo arrangement, congratulations.”

The crowd of people quietly politely applauded, and Yuki collected her reward.

“Runner up…” The woman again paused, and Paul’s anxiety increased even more. He felt pretty sure he didn’t need to worry about Deven throwing a tantrum, but the possibility still existed. Based on Deven’s descriptions, it felt like his was one of the least visually impressive, but that didn’t necessarily mean he wouldn’t get an award, depending on how they judged.

“Evelyn Douglass, with the hydrangea arrangement, congratulations.” The shop politely applauded, as Evelyn collected the runner’s up award. Deven seemed to take it fine, and Paul could hear the clanking of his hands as he clapped.

The crowd began to spread around the shop, and Paul heard someone approaching again. “Little bit of a bummer, but next time you’ve got it. We all loved your tour.” Mrs. Dobbs said.

“I’m not too worried about winning.” Deven replied. “I learned a lot this time, and I got to take my friend with me.” Paul felt a heavy metal hand on his shoulder.

“You’re too sweet…” Mrs. Dobbs laughed. “Thank you for joining us, you two. I hope you’ll come again!”

Paul nodded politely and smiled, then followed Deven out of the store.

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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Pretty good week, until the part where it’s saturday and I feel sick.

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Afflictions: Part Thirty Three

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Arte stood, on guard, outside the bathrooms. It had been a long day up to now, and it wasn’t over yet. She needed to find time to talk to Ashley, since she was starting to feel bad about how awkward things were getting, but now didn’t feel like the time. She just couldn’t take how much Ashley was putting herself in danger. She didn’t have an offensive power, and she’d only just gotten her back. She couldn’t bear to lose her again.

There was the sound of clanking off to the side, and Arte saw a bottle rolling out into the hallway from the closet.

Arte cautiously began to approach the doorway from where it rolled. She was leaving Ashley, but it would only be for a second, so she should be fine.

Out from the closet stepped a figure, who bent down to pick up the bottle. It was dark, so she couldn’t make too much out about the person. They looked over at her and froze. They thought for a moment, then booked it down the hallway.

“Shit…” She muttered, and began to chase after them.

She paused at the closet to peak in. Inside, was a sleeping bag, with a bunch of trash scattered around it, along with a few more items she didn’t care to identify. It looked like there really was a homeless guy sleeping in the school at night. That didn’t quite give her reason to let her guard down, since there were still any number of ways this guy could be dangerous. Kriska did seem to imply that this was something worth looking into, so she was reluctant to believe this was just a normal dude.

Arte saw he was about to approach a doorway, and decided to put an end to the chase. She was in decent shape, but she didn’t intend to tire herself out chasing him. She drew an invisible line across the doorway, and clothes-lined him with it. As expected, he fell to the floor. After a few moments, he was totally enclosed by a cage.

She got a better look at him, and it was definitely a man. He was wearing a mismatched and ill fitting set of clothes, that looked to be from the lost and found. She tried to study his face, but something wasn’t quite right about it. One thing was for certain, he was definitely smiling.

The man’s form began to morph. Curved horns sprouted from his head, and his skin began to turn red. He had enough room in the cage to sit up, but not enough to stand.

“How do you do? I’m Caveat.” He held out a hand, and she rejected it.

“So I take it you’re the alleged powerful being that’s been roaming the school?” She kept her guard up. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that he could break out if he wanted.

“Guilty as charged.” He nodded. “Now, can I interest you in a deal?”

Arte paused her pacing. “What?”

“I have the ability to make any of your wildest dreams come true. All it would take is a handshake.” He smiled.

“Sorry, no thanks.”

“Are you sure?” He cocked his head. “I could make your family love you for who you really are…” He raised an eyebrow. “Or perhaps I could offer to render your fiancé invulnerable to any harm. That would surely ease the burden on your shoulders. Hell, why not both?”

Arte froze. She knew this was a bad idea, and had relatively little interest in making the deal in the first place, but she was curious how this worked. “And what would you want in return? That is how deals work, isn’t it?”

“Keen, aren’t you?” He nodded. “I’m sure you could offer me any number of things. Say that necklace, for example. I’d be quite interested in that.”

“No deal.” She shook her head immediately. Not only was this way too valuable, she didn’t want it to fall into this guy’s hands either.

“Well, perhaps just a favor, to be repaid on a later date?” He raised an eyebrow again.

“I think that somehow sounds like worse of a deal, really.” She shook her head. “Besides, I don’t want my parents’ fake love. I had that for long enough, and I’m not interested in a second course. I’m also capable of protecting Ashley myself.” She crouched down, out of reach, but still near him. “What I’m really interested in, is knowing what you did to Jessica Maguire.”

“Do I really look so sinister that I’d abduct a teenage girl?” He held his hands on his hips.

“Absolutely.” Arte nodded. “Are you naturally like that, or is that cosplay?”

“100% natural.” He nodded. “Regardless, I have nothing to do with the girls disappearance. It just so happened to occur while I was here. Didn’t even happen at the school, otherwise I’d know something about it. I’d definitely narc too, not a fan of pedos.”

“Prove it.” Arte stood and placed her hands on her hips.

“You want me to prove that I hate pedos? Just google ‘Devilman gores rapist’, I do believe it was on video.”

“I want you to prove you don’t know where Jessica is.” Arte rolled her eyes. This guy’s sense of humor reminded her a little bit too much of Paul’s.

“Fine, fine. I’ll make you a deal.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out something. “This is my card, take it and keep it, and I will truthfully tell you everything I know about the girls disappearance.”

Arte took the business card, and pocketed it, then shook his hand. “Well?”

“It didn’t happen at the school, and I had nothing to do with it.” He looked smug and satisfied.

A gunshot sounded in the distance, and Arte jumped. She’d forgotten about Ashley. Caveat had been playing her.

“Holy shit she shot me!” His eyes went wide, then he shrugged, returning to his previous demeanor. “I thought you’d be the one that tried to kill me.”

“Shut up and don’t move.” She ordered, and ran towards where the shot came from.

She rounded the corner, and saw Ashley crouched down onto the floor with her pistol by her. She ran over and kneeled next to her. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” She looked up. “I just found what we were looking for…”

“So did I…”

Previous Part ______________ Next Part

Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Someone should do an empirical analysis of my rate of good and bad weeks based on these blurbs. This one was a bad one. Recovered now, but sheesh.

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Afflictions: Part Thirty Two

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Check out the reading guide first if you’re new here!

Ashley walked side by side with Arte, down the halls of the school. It was dark, lit only by the emergency lights, since they were here after hours. It was nearly midnight after an agonizing night of walking around in awkward silence. She was starting to get tired, and kinda needed to use the restroom. They’d been doing a sweep of the school at irregular intervals, to try to catch whatever has been lurking around here, and were about halfway through this sweep, so it’d be a minute before they got back to the room.

“Hey, Arte?” She whispered. “I think I’m gonna need to stop in the bathroom.”

“Fine, we’ll make a detour.” Arte replied.

The pair made their way over to the nearest restroom. Their footsteps on the tile echoed through the halls. Ashley was reminded how eerie schools were afterhours, even when you weren’t actively expecting something to pop out at you. They’d gotten permission from Dr. Flores for Ashley to carry tonight, but if anything that left her more on edge. She knew she could take a life if she needed to, but she hated the experience.

Once they were there, Arte poked her head inside both the men’s and the women’s. “Coast is clear. I won’t go too far.”

Ashley nodded and stepped into the dimly lit restroom. The flickering fluorescent lights did little to ease her anxieties. She took a deep breath and reminded herself that she’d been through worse before, and it would be fine. She did what she came to do, and washed up.

For a moment, she thought she heard something, but she listened again and it was dead silent. She poked her head out of the restroom, and Arte was nowhere to be found.

 Her heart started pounding as she looked around. She had said she wouldn’t go far, so she should be nearby. She tiptoed to the nearest corner, and poked her head around. A figure with a flashlight was confidently walking her way.

She sighed with relief. “Arte, there you are. I was getting worried.”

“Hey, what are you doing here?” A man’s voice answered.

The flashlight came to shine on her, and she couldn’t see anything, except that the figure was drawing near.

“I- Uh…” She took a couple of steps back. After a second, the light was no longer in her eyes, and she could make out more details of the man. He was wearing a polo and dark pants, and wore a badge that said security.

“Are you a supposed to be here?” He asked. His brow was furrowed.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” She again sighed with relief. “I’m filling in long-term for the math teacher. Dr. Flores said he would fill in security.”

“Oh, that’s my bad.” He laughed. “You’re the long-term sub, that’s right. He did mention something about you staying late. Your fiancé in the room?” He looked around.

“Well, we were taking a lap around the school, and I said I needed to stop in the restroom, and she said she’d wait outside, but I’m not sure where she went…” Ashley trailed off. She felt a little uneasy again.

“It’s a little dangerous to be wondering around on your own, don’t you think? What with the kidnapping, nefarious parties, and whatever’s roaming the halls at night.” He nodded, his smile unchanging.

Ashley stammered for a moment. Something was wrong here…

Her vision began to blur, as she looked at the man. His figure began to distort, with his face flashing different colors, eventually settling on red. His hat exploded into shreds as curled horns sprouted from his skull.

“Not safe at all around here, I’m afraid.” He shook his head.

“What… Are you?” She stumbled backwards and pulled out her pistol.

“I think the more pertinent question is what do I want? This leads, of course, to the even more pertinent question of what do you want?” The devil leaned up against the wall, scraping his horns against the paint.

“What…?” Ashley stopped herself. She was getting distracted and playing right into his hands. She leveled her pistol at him. “What did you do to Arte?”

“I didn’t do anything. She ran away all on her own.” He shrugged, then began to pace, completely ignoring her pistol. “I can offer you a deal, you know. Anything you desire, I can grant.”

“What do you mean…?” She lowered her firearm.

“I could give you more power, something more than that.” He gestured to her gun. “I could grant you happiness, beyond your wildest dreams. Pure marital bliss.”

She paused for a moment. He seemed to know a lot, but clearly not all that much. She and Arte may be fighting right now, but she was still perfectly happy with her, and she and Arte could protect themselves fine with their friends help if they needed to. “Not interested.”

“Really?” He looked off to the side. “I really figured we had her with that one. Unfortunate really. Was that the best you had?”

“You seem to know a lot, so tell me this. Where is Jessica?” She leveled her pistol again. He was starting to act erratic, so she needed to be on guard.

“Oh the girl who’s been kidnapped? I haven’t had anything to do with that.” He shook his head. “I don’t believe I’ll be making any headway here tonight. You two are quite stubborn, aren’t you?”

Ashley’s heart sank again. “So you did do something to Arte! Where is she?”

“Well, technically I haven’t done anything, unless you want to be pedantic about the word. Well, whatever she’s coming this way it’ll be fine.” He reached into his pocket.

When he reached for something Ashley’s finger tensed, and her gun went off.

The devil stumbled backwards and shouted in pain. “You shot me? Wow, she shot me!” He shook his head, and pulled out something from his pocket. “Just take the card damn it.”

Held in his outstretched hand was a white business card. She took it, and he immediately disappeared.

She stood there shaking, and sank to the floor.

Previous Part ______________ Next Part

Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Doing much better this week! Just a little fun fact. I organize seasons in character focus, act, and part. This part was “Arte 3:2”. Just thought it was funny.

Like this and want to support me? Give a listen to my album, or better yet, buy it! It’s like tipping, but you get an album out of it. Here’s all my links!

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Afflictions: Part Thirty One

You are joining part of an ongoing series: Earth 2

Check out the reading guide first if you’re new here!

TW: Blood , Violence

Ashley stood silently with Arte outside of Dr. Flores’s office, waiting for him to return. The receptionist had said he was on the phone and to give him a minute. She tried to think of something to say, but was coming up blank. Things had been a little tense between them since Friday, when they confronted Webb.

She’d tried to work out exactly what was wrong, but Arte didn’t seem to want to talk about it. They hadn’t had a fight or anything since she had come back from the prison with Vanessa, but this was usually how they fought when Arte was upset about something. Arte would clam up, and she’d spend the next while trying to work out what was wrong, sometimes she did and sometimes she didn’t. Regardless, Arte would talk when she was ready.

After a few moments, Dr. Flores emerged from his office. “How can I help you ladies?” He smiled and motioned them inside. Standing off to the side of his desk was Mr. Kriska, the assistant principal that Arte said gave her the necklace.

“So, we have a kind of vague question for you.” Arte said as she sat down across the desk from them. “Have either of you noticed anything supernatural or weird going on in the school?”

“Let’s see…” Dr. Flores put his hand to his chin. “As far as supernatural, I don’t think there’s been anything really that we know of. That is, unless you want to classify any of the strange things you already know about as supernatural, that being Mrs. Maguire’s disappearance and Mr. Webb’s strange behavior. I could see a few supernatural explanations for both of those, and I imagine there’s something supernatural going on, since they called you two in to investigate this, but beyond that, I can’t think of anything strange going on.”

Mr. Kriska cleared his throat. “Dr. Flores, I believe the matter that you were just speaking on the phone about falls into the realm of ‘weird’.”

Dr. Flores looked to Mr. Kriska and thought for a moment. “I suppose it does.” He turned back to Arte and Ashley. “While the police have already decided this has no relevance to the investigation of the disappearance, I suppose you might find it relevant to the conversation. We’ve been finding trash and miscellaneous closets being disheveled for the past couple of months.

“We believe this is due to a homeless person finding his way into the school at night and sleeping here. I say at night, because they’ve never been spotted here during the day, and their mess is usually found in the mornings. That isn’t to say that we’ve found them here at night, but I feel it would be quite a good bit harder to hide here during the day.”

“Oh, well that is a little weird…” Ashley muttered, then turned to Arte. “Do you think that could be connected?”

“Maybe…” She thought for a moment. “And there’s nothing else?”

“Not that I can recall, no.” Dr. Flores shook his head. “Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”

“Oh, no you’ve helped a lot!” Ashley smiled as she got out of her seat.

Arte and Ashley filed out of the office, with Mr. Kriska following afterwards. Once they were out of earshot of Dr. Flores, Arte turned to Mr. Kriska.

“Is there anything you’ve noticed?” She asked.

He raised his hands and shrugged. “I’m just here to observe, not to interfere.”

“That looked an awful lot like interference back there.” Arte pressed.

“Me? Break the rules? I’d never.” Mr. Kriska gave a wink, and then went on his way.

“So would you call that a lead?” Ashley asked.

“I’d say so.” She nodded. “There’s one more person I want to talk to, though.”

She took off down the hall, and Ashley followed after her. Webb was absent today, so she had a pretty decent idea of who they were going to talk to. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later, they rounded the corner of the history hallway and went into Mr. Wentz’s room.

“Hey, you two!” He said with his usual smile. “What can I do ya for?”

“Ashley and I were just having a debate, and we wanted your take on it.” She sat up against one of the desks near to him. “I’ve been having weird feelings of déjà vu lately, but only when I’m here. I think there’s something supernatural going on, but Ashley thinks I’m just tired or something. You’ve been here longer, so do you think there’s something going on here?”

“That’s an easy one.” Wentz got up from his desk and began to pace around. “It’s the stress that’s getting to you. Being an inexperienced teacher is enough, but with the added stress of an active investigation into a disappearance? That’s a double dose.”

“See, he thinks so too.” Ashley tried to play along with whatever Arte was planning.

“I wish they’d just arrest the obvious culprit already.” He rolled his eyes. “They’re saying they’re looking into ‘elements in her home life’, but there’s an obvious suspect just running loose at the school. He was just ‘in his apartment alone’, with nobody to back up his story. It’s all very convenient isn’t it?” He sighed. “Anyways, I got caught up ranting. I think it’s probably just stress. A few students have been talking about something similar in one of my classes, so I think it’s an epidemic thing.”

“Maybe you’re right…” Arte looked off in thought. “Thanks for your input. It probably is just stress.” She turned towards the door. “Anyways, that’s all I had. I think we’re gonna stay a little late tonight, and see if we can’t get some planning done for next week.”

“Alright you two.” He waved. “Don’t stay too late. I hear there’s a bum camping out in the school late at night.”

They waved and made their way back to their classroom.

Previous Part ______________ Next Part

Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Barely getting a blurb in this week, as I’m completely drowning at the moment.

Like this and want to support me? Give a listen to my album, or better yet, buy it! It’s like tipping, but you get an album out of it. Here’s all my links!

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Afflictions: Part Thirty

You are joining part of an ongoing series: Earth 2

Check out the reading guide first if you’re new here!

TW: Blood , Violence

Vanessa’s heart was pounding, as she silently rode up the elevator of the Cinnistar wireless R&D building with Anastasia. They had ample evidence, and approval from the DSR to take him in for interrogation. She’d done more than one arrest by now, even in the past few months, but it was still nerve racking. You never knew who you were dealing with for sure, or what kinds of things they have up their sleeves. Sure they were all powerful supers, but that didn’t mean that this guy couldn’t have powers, or even a quick trigger.

Visions of the time at the bank flashed through her mind. She flexed her arm, and felt a tingle go up her shoulder. Even with the best medical treatment her dad could get, her arm would never be the same again. It served as a good reminder not to get cocky. She saw where cockiness had gotten her over the past few years. It gets you trauma or injuries at best, and dead bodies at worst. She knew she was powerful, but she wouldn’t let that make her hold back. She couldn’t go for the throat right off the bat, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t maim someone the second they made a move. Regardless of the morality of it, it was the world they lived in.

The elevator dinged, and Anastasia stepped off side by side with her. Handcuffs jingled on her belt. Both of them had ditched the old flashy costumes in favor of more smart tactical gear. Kevlar vests beat out pink spandex any day.

She pulled herself out of her head, as they approached the door to the VP’s office. The name plate read ‘Robert Stewart. They were here.

“You ready?” Anastasia asked, looking around at the slowly fleeing bystanders who worked in the offices around.

“Ready as I’ll ever be.” She readied a pink disc, and threw open the door.

Stewart had time to jump to his feet and take a step before he found a pink disc hovering next to his throat. His hair was grey and cut short, and stubble was growing on his chin. He had bags under his eyes like someone who didn’t have a good relationship with his pillow. He looked quickly around the room, then took a deep breath.

“Robert Stewart?” Anastasia spoke calmly.

“That’s me.” He laughed nervously. “How can I help you ladies?”

“We have a few questions for you. Why don’t you have a seat?” Vanessa gestured to one of the chairs in his office away from his desk. “Nice and slow.”

Stewart nodded, and, with his hands in the air, made his way over to the designated seat. He made the best smile he could, then looked up to Vanessa. “So, what kind of questions do you have for me?” He was clearly nervous, but he spoke clearly.

“First, I want to ask about your relationship with a man named ‘Vondrasek’. Do you know him?” Anastasia asked.

Stewart directed his attention to his other interrogator, and laughed nervously. “I think I know where these questions are going, so I’ll cooperate.” He nodded. “Yes, I do know Mr. Vondrasek. He recommended me for this position.”

“Why is that? You didn’t seem to have any relevant experience.” Vanessa leaned back on his desk, keeping the disc at his throat.

“I earned his trust. He needed a project completed distant from his companies, but wanted someone he could trust over it. I just so happened to fit the bill for that.” He kept up a faintly nervous smile.

“Now I want to ask about a date. February 24th, 2020. There was a shooting, for which you happened to be absent with food poisoning. The investigation into this was dropped, but I think you know something else about it.” Vanessa pressed the disc a little closer to the man’s throat.

As he spoke the man’s smile began to shift. “Well, you’ve got me there. I called it in to a line I was provided by some rogue terror group. I had a super in my department, and she needed to be apprehended. Not to mention those two researchers who started to ask too many questions. I felt no need to be there for that.” His smile began to set into something more smug, and he began to lean into the disc. “I believe I’m looking quite guilty right now, aren’t I?”

“What’s your plan here, Stewart? Why are you covering for Vondrasek. It’s clear he put you up to the shooting and orchestrated it.” She pulled back the disc a bit, before he hurt himself. There would be time for pain later if he wanted it.

“Oh I acted completely on my own. Mr. Vondrasek would never be associated with something dirty like a shooting. I acted completely out of hatred for people like you.” He sighed. “However, I do know that at Vertech we looked out for our own, and he will be looking out for me. We do have another policy at Vertech that I think you might find interesting, however. Would you like to hear it?”

“Wipe that smug look off your face, asshole.” Vanessa didn’t have time for this, she gestured for Anastasia to handcuff him.

“That policy is death for traitors.” He was shouting now. “How has your dad been feeling Mrs. Smith? Coughing a little?”

Vanessa wavered for a moment. Had they been poisoning her dad for betraying them? But how? He had security, and Gregory, Jean’s handpicked successor, was watching over everything.

In that split second, Stewart ducked out of the chair and to the side, before making a break for it out of the office. He made it about 20 feet before crying out and crumpling onto the ground. Blood poured from his ankle, where Vanessa had sent a disc, severing his Achilles tendon. Within five seconds Vanessa and Anastasia had him pinned to the ground and handcuffed.

With blood on their hands and uniforms, Anastasia and Vanessa carted Stewart to the van waiting outside the building.

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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Note that this is the midseason finale, speaking from the perspective of story structure. I actually don’t know if this is the numerical midseason. I’m fairly certain this distinction doesn’t matter, but I thought I’d add it anyways

Finally got in my things. This week I want to turn the tables in this little barely even a paragraph section that my weekly blurb has been reduced to. How are you doing? I feel like we always talk about me. I want to talk about you for a change. What’s been going on?

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Afflictions: Part Twenty Nine

You are joining part of an ongoing series: Earth 2

Check out the reading guide first if you’re new here!

Vanessa lay sprawled out across the couch, with Anastasia sitting next to her in an armchair. Across the coffee table, Marquise’s papers were scattered, with a few marks made on them. They’d spent the last few hours reading through the excess of research that he had done, as well as some of the highlights from Arte’s own investigation of when Ashley went missing. There was a lot of good information, but it was exhausting to go through.

“I think that’s it…” Anastasia sighed, as she flipped through her notepad. Vanessa could see that she’d written quite a lot. “Let’s go through everything we wrote down.”

“That sounds like a plan.” Vanessa pulled out her own notes, which she now felt were inadequate compared to how much Anastasia was writing down. She felt like they had enough, but they needed to put together a proper set of evidence if this was going to go anywhere.

“So, Stewart was hired by Cinnistar on October 17th, 2019, two weeks after he left an HR position at Vertech.” She followed along the page with a pen as she spoke, occasionally tapping for emphasis. “On November 4th, Cinnistar’s wireless R&D lab accepted a contract from Vertech to develop the ‘G-Wave emitter’.”

“The timing is a little sketchy, but it’s really that he came from HR that sounds sketchy…” Vanessa thought for a moment. “What does the G-Wave thing even do?”

Anastasia thumbed through her notebook for a moment, before shaking her head. “Evidently it doesn’t hurt people, but that’s just about all they have here. They were contracted to build something that emitted radiation at some specific frequency, and it had to not hurt humans.”

“Weird…” Vanessa looked down at her own notes. “Nothing overly weird seemed to happen after that, until they finished the G-Wave thing, on February 8th of 2020. They had the party on the 21st, where Stewart was trying to buddy up with my dad, then the next work-day, the 24th, there was the shooting…”

“That timing is definitely suspicious. The shooting happened right after they finished the project.” Anastasia paused for a moment as she flipped through her notes. “According to this, Cinnistar investigated the shooting themselves, and the police backed off. It looks like they just called it a terrorist attack.”

“The shooting was where Ashley got kidnapped, but there were only a couple of people who actually got shot, right?” Vanessa dug through the papers on the table until she found the printed article she was looking for. “Khoa Lue, and Chia Li. They were the people directly over the G-Wave project.”

“And Stewart was absent on the day of the shooting with food poisoning, and that was verified by the police before they dropped the case.” Anastasia thought for a moment. “Does this seem a little half-assed to you?”

“I think so, yeah.” Vanessa nodded, thinking about everything they’ve gone through. “It’s bordering on obvious that something sketchy was going on here. Maybe they just weren’t worried about being caught?”

“I suppose the only reason this is on our radar at all is because you met Ashley in the camp, and Arte came to Jude while she was looking for Ash…”

“I guess that is true. It really is a coincidence that anyone looked into this at all. Marquise did all the digging, but evidently nothing came of it until he gave it to us, so maybe they’re doing a proper cover-up, and we just happened to be lucky enough to stumble on it.” Vanessa looked back down at Marquise’s pile of evidence. It was definitely a string of unlikely coincidences that they even knew about this, so it was probably covered up about as well as they thought they needed to.

“I think that’s pretty much everything we have.” Anastasia flipped through her notes quickly, before continuing. “It definitely looks bad, but we don’t really have any solid wrongdoings here, it just looks sketchy with the number of connections. I think this might be where it would be helpful to call your dad to verify what we’re thinking.”

Vanessa’s heart sank at the suggestion. She knew she was right, but that didn’t make it more palatable to turn back to her dad for help. “Yeah, you’re right… I don’t think we can get much further on our own.”

“We don’t have to completely rely on his information though. We have a good bit already, so if he lies about anything important, we’ll probably be able to tell.” Anastasia offered a reassuring smile. “We’re still looking into this on our own, it just wouldn’t make sense to not use all of our resources.”

Vanessa nodded, and pulled out her phone. There was no point in putting it off. She pulled up her contacts and called her dad.

The phone rang for a moment, then he picked up. “Hey, Vanessa. I’m glad to hear from you.”

“Dad, I’m calling to ask about something. At the end of 2019, you hired a guy named Stewart Ashworth to be the director of the wireless R&D lab. What all do you remember about him?”

Mr. Smith sighed. “Well the name rings a bell. He was one of the people I hired as part of one of the deals I reached with Vondrasek and Weston. I didn’t exactly like him, but I put him over the project Vondrasek wanted him over, and he completed it. I know he was working on a part of the detector for people with powers, so he figured out a few people who had powers at the company and had them taken to Takeo’s camp.”

“And what about the shooting on February 24th?” She pressed. This was almost enough, if she could get him to connect Stewart to the shooting.

Mr. Smith sighed again. “Well, I don’t exactly know that he organized it or anything, but he did tell me to avoid going to the research branch that day. I believe it was to get a super so they could take them to the camp, but I know there were casualties, so I’m not sure if that was all.”

“Thanks, dad.” She had everything she needed, so she felt no need to keep this conversation going. “Well, I have to go take care of something, so I’m going to go.” She didn’t wait for an answer. Even if he was possibly sick, that didn’t erase everything he had done. Besides, she needed to call the DSR now to see if they could do anything about this.

“Well?” Anastasia asked.

“He confirmed it. Stewart was hired because of Vondrasek, and knew about the shooting in advance.” She nodded. She felt like this should be more of a somber moment than a happy one with what they were investigating, but it still felt good to succeed. “So let’s call the DSR and try to get a warrant.”

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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

I don’t know how I keep doing this, but I mislabeled another post. Trying to be more careful about details like that. Also, still don’t have any of the stuff I ordered for my studio (thanks fedex).

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Afflictions: Part Twenty Eight

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Check out the reading guide first if you’re new here!

Anastasia sat at a table, a good bit too large for one person, in the back of a crowded bar. She had a pair of sunglasses perched on top of her head, and a notebook and pen on the table. She’d been waiting for a few minutes, and was starting to get nervous. Ashley had told a few of her old colleagues and their friends that she was an ‘investigative journalist’ getting ready to write a ‘huge piece’ on Cinnistar that would ‘blow the lid right off’, so right off the bat Anastasia felt a good bit of pressure. Arte was sitting at a table across the room, and Vanessa and Ashley were waiting outside, so she didn’t need to be too concerned about her safety. She felt her phone vibrate in her pocket, and took a look. It was Vanessa.

That’s them walking in. GL.

She took a deep breath and looked up at the door. Sure enough, a group of people in polo shirts were approaching. There were three guys and a woman about Ashley’s age. Anastasia raised a hand and attracted their attention, and the group made their way to the table.

“You Elsa?” One of the men asked. He was tall and well built.

Anastasia cringed internally at her ‘secret identity’, but smiled in response. “Yes, I’m really grateful you came out here today.”

“No worries.” A different man answered. He was shorter, older, and less muscular. “I’m Hank, by the way. This is Aaron,” he gestured to the first man to speak, “This is Marquise,” he gestured to the slender black man who had yet to speak.

“And I’m Adrienne.” The woman introduced herself before Hank had the chance. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Marquise finally spoke up. “Ashley was a little vague on the details of what you were doing a piece on, but she told us she was ‘sure we’d be able to help’, so here I am. I do think I have a guess about what you’re wanting to talk about though.” The mood of the group grew more somber, seeming to be on the same page. “You want to know about the shooting, right?”

“Well, that’s definitely a part of what I’m here for, I won’t lie.” Anastasia nodded. The shooting was when Ashley got taken, so there had to be some kind of connection there. “I’m more interested in the event leading up to the shooting, to be honest. Do you recall what happened in the months before?”

The group looked slightly surprised, and thought for a moment. Aaron eventually spoke up. “It seemed to be a pretty normal time, I think. We’d finished a big project, so we had a little celebration. The owner even showed up, so I guess it was kind of a big deal.”

Hank laughed. “I remember that party. Man, Stewart was really trying to buddy up to Mr. Smith.”

“After months of us working overtime, and him going home early, we get done and he makes sure he gets all the credit.” Adrienne shrugged. “That’s Stewart for you.”

“Sorry, who is Stewart?” Anastasia was trying to make notes about what was important while listening. It definitely seemed noteworthy that they finished a big project, and that Mr. Smith was there.

“Robert Stewart is the guy over our team. I think he’s the VP of something.” Hank shrugged. “All I know is the dude is a grade-A asshole.”

“He doesn’t seem to know anything about electronics either. It makes you wonder who’s son or friend he must’ve been to get the job.” Aaron added.

“Our names are off the record right?” Marquise asked, looking around the bar. “I appreciate your project and all, but I’m not trying to lose my job here.”

“Of course, you have my word.” Anastasia nodded.

Marquise lowered his voice and leaned in. “I heard that he got the job because of some shady stuff. He didn’t even have connections with any of the execs, he just suddenly found himself the VP of wireless R&D. That’s why a lot of the other execs don’t like him.”

Anastasia was struggling keeping up, but was taking it all down. She definitely thought they were onto something: a big deadline, a party, and a shady executive. “So what exactly were you working on in the leadup to the party?”

“Well, it was honestly kind of weird.” Adrienne replied. “They were being very selective with what they told us. We were trying to make some kind of emitter for a specific frequency of radiation that wasn’t harmful. It was really an ordeal, but we figured it out eventually, and it met whatever 3 letter agency’s requirements.”

“I think it was the DSR and the EPA that gave us guidelines.” Aaron added. “It was kind of weird to have such a specific and secretive contract for someone that wasn’t the military.”

“It was some company that wanted it, I don’t remember the name though.”

“Vertech.” Marquise answered. “The companies name was Vertech.”

Anastasia took the name down. Her page of notes was turning into a real mess, but she got everything down. “Do you remember anything else?”

“This is more about the shooting than the time before, but Stewart wasn’t there on the day it happened.” Marquise looked off into the distance. “The feds investigated, and found he was definitely sick like he said, but it still doesn’t sit right with me.” He looked around once more, before producing a manila envelope. “I did a bit of digging into the guy, and I found that his only prior employer was the same company we were contracted by. Vertech. Seems weird to me, but I couldn’t really find anything on the dude. I made copies of everything I had, if it seems helpful.”

Anastasia took the envelope and began to thumb through the contents. There was a decent bit of personal history of the guy, and there was a bit of info about ‘Vertech’. She suddenly noticed something that made her heart skip a beat. Vondrasek. Marquise made a web of corporate connections to Vertech, and sure enough, far down the web, was ‘The Vondrasek Company’. There was also some company called Syngenuity which she swore she’d heard of before, but couldn’t remember where.

She tried to keep her composure, and closed up her notebook. “Thank you so much, it was a huge help.” She started to leave.

“Elsa, wait up.” Adrienne called after her, before getting in close. “If these people are connected to the shooting, then they’re dangerous. Be careful.”

Anastasia nodded. “I will. Thank you.”

She turned away and gave Arte a thumbs up. The pair left the bar, and went to the rendezvous point.

Previous Part ______________ Next Part

Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Getting some new equipment in for my studio this weekend, so I’ll most likely be focused on that. This week was generally *rough*, but it looks to be ending on a good note, so that’s about all you can ask for. My thought for this week, is that it will sure be interesting to watch my evolution as a person by reading these brief little snippits. If you’ve been reading a while, feel free to DM me on twitter if you have interesting observations. I check it weekly or so.

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Afflictions: Part Twenty Seven

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Check out the reading guide first if you’re new here!

A few hours after their discussion with Paul, Anastasia and Vanessa sat on a couch in the loft, having dinner. Anastasia sighed with contentment. Even if Paul was being difficult, she had a friend in Vanessa. She’d never really expected the two of them to get along together, but after Vanessa came back last year, she just made an effort to be nice to her. Things went naturally from there. That was especially nice since they were all going out on missions together periodically.

“So where do you think we should start?” Vanessa asked, once she’d finished the last bite of her sandwich.

Anastasia thought for a moment. Mr. Smith had said a lot of things that were at least a little alarming. As far as things they should look into, though, there were really only a couple. “Well, I think the two things we should focus on are gonna be looking into the DSR’s connections, and the people your dad said he was working with.”

“I think it might be best if we wait for Jude to get back before we start poking with the DSR…” Vanessa paused. “Besides, my dad said they were on their own now anyways.”

“I guess that’s true. We should still look into it, but I guess that can wait until later.”

“So that just leaves the people my dad was working with.” Vanessa nodded in thought, and took a sip from her drink.

“Did you recognize the names of either of the people he talked about? Vondrasek and Felix?”

“No, not really.” Vanessa thought for a moment. “If my dad was working with them as an equal, that probably means they’re rich businessmen.”

“That’s true. Do you think your dad would have business ties with them then?”

“Probably.” She sighed. “The problem with that, is that Cinnistar is really big, so trying to trace and business connections would be hard. Not to mention the fact that if there are business connections, it’s probably being done through a series of shell corporations, so that would be even harder to trace.”

Anastasia thought for a moment. They really weren’t even really looking for a needle in a haystack, they were looking for a particular piece of hay in a haystack. She needed to find some kind of direct connection to start with, but it was Vanessa with all of the firsthand knowledge. She didn’t even really know how big businesses worked. “Do you know any executives or anything that you can trust?”

“Well…” Vanessa hesitated. “Not really, when you think about it. I can’t trust my dad anymore, and all of the people I would know are personally close to my dad. I doubt any of them would be any more help than just going back to my dad and trusting whatever he says.”

“That’s gonna make this tough then. We don’t have anything to go on as a starting point. Should we just go back to your dad, and get more information?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. We should at least look into part of this ourselves, so we aren’t just taking his word for it. I don’t think he’d just lie, but if we ask him where to start, he could send us down a path that would be the least damaging for him and the people that he works with.” Vanessa shook her head. “No, we need to do this ourselves. There has to be something.”

Anastasia quickly ran through a few ideas in her head. They could look at the contracts that Cinnistar has taken, and start poking around the ones that seem to be related to supers. The problem with that was the fact that there were probably too many to go through, and as Vanessa said, they were probably done using shell corporations. If there was some kind of research lab, they could go to that. Then again, Vanessa wouldn’t know about anything secret, and they could most likely easily hide anything incriminating.

“I think I have an idea!” Vanessa shouted suddenly. “The prison was run by the people my dad worked with, right? At that prison, there were a good few people that had worked at Cinnistar. Given that, I think that could mean that there would be some kind of direct connection at Cinnistar.”

“So if we went to where one of those people worked…”

“We should be able to find some kind of lead!” Vanessa pumped her fist.

“Do you actually know where any of them worked, though?”

“Well, I don’t know where they worked, but there was one particular person in there with me that worked for my dad, who we could easily ask.”

“Did Ashley work with your dad?”

Vanessa nodded, jumped to her feet, and went off down the stairs. Anastasia chased after her.

If there was some kind of direct connection between Cinnistar and the other people that Mr. Smith worked with, and they knew a specific department, they should easily be able to find some kind of direct link. All they needed to do was get Ashley to give them a list of people to talk to that still work there. Ideally they’d want any kind of suspicious figures, as well as some of her most trusted coworkers.

She felt a bit of smug satisfaction. They didn’t need Paul’s visions for this at all. If he wanted to rot alone in his room, that was his prerogative. They were just fine without him. The sense of satisfaction was tainted with a hint of sadness. It was still more fun to do things together.

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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Hard to believe another week has already gone by. Everything is going well enough on my end. Not well enough for me to write, but it looks like I won’t get a vacation this year, so I’ll have some time to write later.

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Afflictions: Part Twenty Six

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Check out the reading guide first if you’re new here!

After they’d gone back to town and rested a night, Jude and Zoey posed with Tim, Jimmy, Dale, and Casey, and Guillermo and a cop took the picture. This was something more like Jude had in mind to do, but it felt like he was helpful yesterday. He also learned something interesting about his power, so he didn’t exactly regret it.

Once a few pictures had been taken, Tim turned to Jude. “Well it was great to meet you, Jude. Hope we can work together again sometime in the future.”

“And you can tell the folk at the DSR that we’ll be in touch about maybe joining up.” Jimmy added.

Jude groaned internally at the realization that he still hadn’t told the DSR about any of this, but that was a later problem. “Will do, Jimmy. I hope to work with you some time soon. Maybe the agency will actually let me if you join up.” He laughed.

“Have a safe rest of your trip!” Casey smiled.

“Will do.” Guillermo nodded.

Zoey took one last selfie with Tim, then they all piled back into the car. It had been an unexpectedly long detour, since they were planning on covering a bit more distance before they decided to stop for the night, but it was definitely enjoyable. The stuff going on with the tents and guards with power-armor was definitely concerning, so he figured he should actually call this in at some point soon. He decided to get it done once they’d finished driving for the day. He’d already had a high enough dose of work in his vacation for now.

“I’m thinking we should stop for gas before we leave town.” Guillermo nodded. “Does anyone need to go to the bathroom or get some snacks or something?”

“I could probably use a restroom break.” Jude replied.

“If we’re stopping, I can run in and get snacks then.” Zoey answered, but she seemed a little tired again. Jude figured she was probably just bummed about not getting to hang out more with Tim and his crew.

“Sounds like a plan.” Guillermo nodded, and pulled into the first gas station they saw.

On the wall of the store, was a sign saying the restrooms were around the side, along with some graffiti he couldn’t be bothered to read. Jude groaned, and made his way around the store, letting Zoey go in to get food by herself.

Leaning against the wall was some dirty looking dude, that Jude did his best to ignore. He was all for charity, but he really didn’t like the idea of starting up conversations outside a gas station bathroom. He just had to hope it wasn’t occupied. Sure enough, Jude jiggled the handle, and it was locked. He sighed and made his way over to the wall by the dude that he passed earlier.

“Say can you do me a favor?” The man started.

Jude took a moment collect himself, before turning to the man.

“Don’t incinerate me, Jude.” The man finished.

Standing where the man was, there was now something humanoid with red skin and curled horns. It was wearing the same clothes as the man, and didn’t move.

Jude leapt back and readied himself for trouble. He’d been slightly on edge, but he definitely wasn’t expecting this. He was thinking someone might try to mug him. Evidently he’d attracted the attention of some kind of demon. And on top of all that, he still had to use the bathroom.

“What do you want?” Jude demanded.

“Don’t worry, I couldn’t win if I fought you anyways.” The man didn’t move from where he leaned. “I just have a question for you. Do you care to make a deal?”

“No way.” Jude shook his head. “Not interested. I’ve heard enough mythology to know this is a bad idea.”

“Suit yourself.” He shrugged. “I didn’t think you’d spring for it.” He pulled a card out of his pocket. “Call me if you change your mind, I’m never far away.”

Jude reluctantly took the card, and watched the man walk down the road. He’d half expected him to turn to go talk to Zoey or Guillermo, since he evidently knew something about him, but evidently not. He looked down at the card. It listed a name and a number.

Caveat: Granter of your Wildest Dreams

The person came out of the bathroom, so Jude pocketed his card and tried to make it quick.

Zoey stood at the register with a few snacks on the counter. She’d had a lot of trouble sleeping last night, but she thought she’d been acting as fun as possible. It wasn’t their fault she couldn’t handle even going to sleep, so she didn’t want to take it out on them. This was supposed to be vacation after all. Her nightmares didn’t seem to take the week off, though. She’d hoped it would be better out of the house, but it wasn’t.

“That’ll be $16.66.” The man at the register smiled.

Zoey handed him a 20 dollar bill, and stared back off into the distance.

“Can I interest you in anything else? A good night’s sleep, perhaps? Maybe get rid of those pesky nightmares?” The man continued in his cheery tone.

It took Zoey a second to process what the man had asked, but once she did she looked back over at him. Something didn’t feel right. She concentrated on him for a second, and his form started to change. His skin began to become red, and the headphones he was wearing turned into large curling horns. His smile remained unchanged.

“Anything at all?” He asked.

Zoey stumbled back a few feet, and bumped into one of the shelves. “You’re…”

“The devil?” He tilted his head. “Close, but no cigar. You’re underage anyways. I’m Caveat. I’m here to offer you a deal. I don’t want your soul or anything, so don’t worry. I think you’ll find my price relatively low, really.”

“You… You can make the nightmares stop?” Everything in her was screaming that this was an awful idea, but if the nightmares stopped she could sleep again. She could go on more missions. She could stop being such a burden.

“Absolutely.” The man nodded.

Zoey hesitated for a moment. She wasn’t sure if she could trust him, but it might be worth hearing him out.

“What’s your price…?”

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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

I’m still slammed with work, so not much writing is happening (or likely will be happening for a while), but I’m managing to survive. Hope you’re doing well.

Like this and want to support me? Give a listen to my album, or better yet, buy it! It’s like tipping, but you get an album out of it. Here’s all my links!

Photo Credit: Original

Afflictions: Part Twenty Five

You are joining part of an ongoing series: Earth 2

Check out the reading guide first if you’re new here!

It was approaching sundown. Jude, Jimmy, Tim, and Casey crouched down and advanced towards a large white tent that poked over the corn. They’d left the truck a few minutes back and given Casey a chance to get into her ‘Harvester’. It was a pretty impressive piece of equipment, even if it looked a little hacked together. It had guns mounted on it, and could allegedly lift a truck, though she declined to demonstrate. On top of that, it wasn’t overwhelmingly loud, so they were still able to move a bit stealthily.

They neared the edge of the clearing where some corn had been flattened to make room for the tent facility. There was a big white tent, branded with the letter V in a few places, with flaps preventing them from looking inside. Around the tent, patrolled a few men in exoskeletons that looked like more sleek versions of Casey’s. They had guns embedded in the arms, and looked like they could dole out a nasty punch close range.

Jimmy held up his fingers and counted down from three. When he reached zero, they sprang into action.

Jimmy tossed out a couple of acorns at an unsuspecting agent. Roots burst out of it, and wood began to snake its way up the man. He managed to snap one of his legs out, but the part he broke off merely began to root itself in the ground again, and the original snaked back to it. Within a few seconds he was completely encased in a tree, they just needed to avoid his gun.

Casey leapt out into the clearing, since her suit provided armor, while Tim put out some covering fire at the other agent on this side of the tent. He stood for a second, but his armor was pierced pretty quickly. Her suit shot out massive steel projectiles, bordering on artillery. Once he was down, Tim made a break for the tent.

Jude flew up over the tent, and was surprised to find three men in similar looking exoskeletons to greet him. This was unexpected, as nobody had told him that they could fly. He had time to process this information and zip out of the way before the space that he’d previously occupied was filled with bullets.

Jude’s heart was racing as he continued to weave out of the way. He’d taken bullets before and been unharmed, but he really wasn’t keen on field testing the limits of that. There was some shouting from below, but he really didn’t have the bandwidth to process what they were saying. He tried to see how they were flying, but they were focusing on him, so he couldn’t get a good look.

About that time, Jude noticed larger projectiles hurtling towards the agents. Two of them redirected their attention to the source, and left their backs exposed to Jude, while the other kept firing. On their backs, was something that looked something like a jetpack, but nothing seemed to be coming out, it was just a downward facing hole.

He sped up and flew between the one focusing fire on him and one of the men shooting towards the ground, so he had to stop shooting, and landed a quick blast on the device on his back. Immediately the man began to drop down from the sky and fell down into the tent. Jude had enough time to repeat this maneauver once more on the other man focusing on the ground, before they realized what was happening.

Once he redirected his attention to the one that had kept his focus on him, he found it difficult to directly maneuver around him. It seemed that he could turn quickly enough to keep up with him.

Jude began to blast in the general direction of the man, trying to keep his shots concentrated on his lower half, so he wouldn’t kill him. As he did this, he started to lose focus on evading. Eventually, he landed a blow somewhere on the man’s leg. As he did this, the man jerked, and Jude saw a his arm swing directly towards him.

He had about enough time to realize that this was bad and tense up before they hit him. After a few seconds he realized that he was unharmed. He figured he’d do a more thorough inventory once he was on the ground again, and returned his attention to the man who was shooting at him. He appeared to be quite surprised that Jude was unscathed, and resumed fire.

With newfound confidence, Jude flew directly towards the man, pushing the bullets out of the way. They didn’t even sting as he closed in on the man, and began to reach for his back. As Jude closed in, the man landed a kick to Jude’s jaw, which sent him flying a few feet. This caused the man to lose balance, and gave Jude an opening to blast the device off his back.

With the last one down, Jude followed him to the ground, where the man was immobilized by a tree, in a similar fashion to the earlier one. Jimmy motioned for Jude to follow him into the tent, and Jude obliged.

Inside, were the two guards that Jude had shot down, Tim, and a young woman sitting on a table talking to him. The guards were unconscious or dead, Jude wasn’t sure which, and their armor was ripped to shreds. He was slightly impressed by what must have been Tim’s handiwork, since he couldn’t see any way that Jimmy or Casey would manage that kind of damage.

“Is she okay?” He redirected his attention to the woman.

“She’s pretty shaken, but she seems physically okay.” Tim nodded. “Thanks for your help out there.”

“No worries.” Jude nodded. “Should we get her to the hospital?”

“The ambulance is on the way.” Casey answered. “We usually have one on standby pretty close when we go to bust up a tent. It should be here in about ten minutes.”

“So, Jude,” Jimmy took off his helmet, “How did you manage to get out of that unscathed? If my eyes weren’t mistaken, I’m pretty sure I watched you fly right into his bullets.”

“I’m fairly sturdy.” Jude nodded, and went to take off his own helmet. When he did this, he saw what Jimmy was talking about. His helmet was completely unscathed. He inspected the rest of the gear he was wearing, and found that it was in the same condition he’d gotten it in, maybe a little sweatier. “What the…”

“It’s one thing to be sturdy, but that is something else.” Jimmy nodded with an admiring grin. “That is something else…”

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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

Greetings all! I am thoroughly exhausted. I hope you’re all doing well, and I good good fortune comes to you.

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