Afflictions: Part Thirty One

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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.


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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.

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

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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

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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.

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 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

You are joining part of an ongoing series: Earth 2

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.

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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.

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 Twenty Four

You are joining part of an ongoing series: Earth 2

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

Jude rode in the back of a truck through the Iowan countryside, pulling a trailer behind them. The ‘Hammerston Heroes’ had given him a short rundown of the situation, and he’d agreed to get the long version along the way. He figured this was a thing that would be better to ask for forgiveness than permission, and agreed, leaving Zoey and Guillermo in the relative safety of town. From what he’d been told thusfar, it didn’t sound like a mission Zoey should go on.

The group had all donned some degree of body armor and helmets, and they offered Jude spare equipment. They seemed to be relatively relaxed about the whole thing, so they seemingly had a decent bit of field experience.

“So, there’s some group of people that are abducting supers, and strapping them down on temporary sites in the middle of nowhere?” Jude asked. That would explain what exactly these guys did out in the boonies as superheroes.

“More or less.” Casey, the woman who got out of the truck in town, nodded. “They’ve been popping up about once a month since the green light hit.”

“There was a few months after we took down the first couple of them that nothing happened, but since then they’ve been nearly like clockwork.” Jimmy added, adjusting the straps on his vest. “They keep getting tougher too.”

“So what do they do to these people, exactly? What’s the point?” Jude asked.

“Well, most of the people we rescue don’t remember much, besides waking up in a tent, usually strapped down.” Tim looked more somber than earlier. “We only have what they did to me to go off of, really. I just know they abducted me, and ran a bunch of pretty painful experiments on me and my tentacles.”

Jude nodded and thought for a moment. It was definitely plausible that someone would want to run experiments on supers. Hell, he was basically kept by Mr. Smith to watch him, but some things weren’t quite adding up. “So, why would they keep coming out if you keep stopping them? It sounds like they stopped for a little bit once they realized you’d be a problem, but they started back.”

“We’ve been wondering that same thing, really.” Casey nodded. “We don’t really have any good answers.”

“Really, as long as people keep getting abducted, I feel like we have to keep saving them, ya know?” Tim added.

Jude felt like it was something best left to them, since they had the experience here. He figured it would probably be best to move on. “So earlier, when you said they’ve been getting stronger, what exactly did you mean by that?”

“Well, when we started, it was guarded by a few pretty normal dudes, and we had a bit of a firefight. That’s when we rescued him.” He gestured to Tim. “The next couple of times, they just had more guards, and went a bit further out from town, but we still managed.”

“After that, they didn’t show up for a few months or at least if they did, we didn’t find them.” Casey nodded. “After their break, they showed back up, pretty close to town. This time they had some kind of body armor, a little bit like mine.” She gestured to the trailer they were hauling. “It didn’t seem to work well at first, but every time after that it’s gotten a little better. It’s been harder to fight them, but it’s been great for the salvage at least.”

“I think it’ll probably be a big help to have you along today, Jude.” Tim smiled. “We’ve been managing, but at this point, I’m starting to get a little concerned that we won’t be able to keep up for too much longer. I’ve been trying to talk Jimmy and Dale,” he gestured to Jimmy and the man who was driving the truck, “Into joining up with the DSR to get some reinforcements.”

“I’m not the biggest fan of the idea, but I’ve started to agree with Tim about it.” Jimmy nodded. “You’ll see what I mean today. These guys are getting strong. Tim and I can still hold our own, but I’m thinking our time is starting to run out. Not to mention, things in town have been getting a little weirder. Lately there’s even been talk of the devil going around town. I think it’s just something kids are making up, but…”

Jimmy opened his mouth to say something more, but stopped, and looked off into the distance. Jude looked and saw a black SUV driving towards them from the direction they were headed.

“Ah, shoot, I guess they saw us coming.” Jimmy nodded, and was silent for a moment. Then he seemed to have an idea, and pulled out a small bag. “Hey, Jude you can fly right?”

“Yeah, what’d you have in mind?” He raised an eyebrow.

“I want you to fly over, roundabouts to that sign,” he gestured to a roadsign off in the distance, about two thirds of the way between them and the SUV, “And try to toss a few of these out just to the side of the road. Just do something else while you’re up there so they don’t notice.”

“Alright…” Jude took the bag, and examined the contents. It contained about 10 ordinary looking acorns. He raised an eyebrow again, but Jimmy just nodded.

He jumped up out of the truck, and started to fly a winding path towards the sign. He imagined these guys would probably start shooting at one of the supers that they were presumably here to fight, so he thought it best to not fly straight at them. Sure enough, he soon heard gunfire. He touched down on the road, near to where Tim had told him to, and made a large flash of light at the SUV. As it veered out of the way, Jude tossed the acorns off to the side of the road, before turning back to the truck.

He hovered in the air about thirty feet above the truck, still weaving a bit as he flew, and saw Jimmy point out to where he had thrown the acorns.

The SUV had nearly reached the sign, and Jude looked up just in time to watch a tree sprout rapidly from the side of the road. It shot up quickly to be as thick as a fully grown oak tree, and jutted out into the road. This caused the SUV to swerve and roll off to the side of the road into a field. The tree then grew back straight to allow the truck to pass, and Jude moved to rejoin it.

They had some weird powers, so this was certainly going to be interesting. He felt a bit of pause about the likelihood of whoever was in that SUV surviving, but they did start it by opening gunfire on him. He figured he’d leave it to the DSR to talk to them about that if they decided to join.


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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! Everything is still on fire. On the up side, here comes labor day, eh? Pretty hyped about that. Not sure what I’m doing yet, but I ought to do something.

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Afflictions: Part Twenty Three

You are joining part of an ongoing series: Earth 2

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

Jude, Guillermo, and Zoey all sat on a table outside a local restaurant in a small town in Iowa. They were on the tail end of a long drive, and had made a slight detour to get dinner. Paul had said he had been to Iowa a few times to see family, and highly recommended ‘The Quarry’, a diner in the area. It was a bit out of the way, but the promise of a particularly good burger had piqued Jude’s interest enough to stop here anyways.

They had all finished their food, and were generally appreciating the atmosphere of the day. It was the perfect temperature, they had full stomachs, and were almost done driving for the day. Jude was really glad that he had decided to listen to Paul on this one, both the trip and the stop. This really was what he needed, a proper vacation. Even if a road trip can be exhausting, it’s more than nice enough to make up for it.

Zoey looked off in the distance for a moment, then back at her dad. “Hey, what was this town called again?”

“I think it was…” Guillermo paused for a moment in thought, “Hamilton?” He looked to Jude.

“Hammerston, I think.” Jude had been navigating, so he felt reasonably certain.

Zoey pulled out her phone and scrolled for a moment, before looking up with excitement. “It’s him!”

She held up her phone, and showed a picture of a young white man, dressed in trendy clothes, who had weird black tentacles coming out of his back. She then directed their attention off into the distance, where, sure enough, a white dude with similar looking tentacles was walking.

“Who is he?” Guillermo asked.

“Timtastic!” Zoey began to clean up her trash and gather her stuff. “He’s one of the Hammerston heroes. I follow him on Instagram!”

The name rang a bell in Jude’s mind. He had heard about the ‘Hammerston Heroes’ in meetings with the DSR. They were a solo group with little interest in joining with any larger organization. It was only legal because the local police deputized them, and they worked with other small town police departments. They had a disproportionately large social media following because of ‘Timtastic’, who ran a bunch of social media pages. Jude wasn’t sure exactly what there was to do around here really.

“Yeah, I think I’ve heard of them now that you mention it.” Jude nodded.

“Let’s go say hi! We’re supers too, is there some kind of code?” Zoey jumped up from her seat.

Jude laughed a little. He was really reluctant to go harass the man, but Zoey had been having a particularly ‘low energy’ day before this, so he was really just glad to see her happy. He was also admittedly wary of wandering around too much in a rural white town, but he supposed this wouldn’t take too long. It wasn’t sundown yet either way.

“I don’t see why not.” He shrugged and looked to Guillermo.

“I don’t have a problem with it.” He nodded, and gathered his own things.

Jude cleaned up his trash, packed up his bag, and the trio went to approach ‘Timtastic’. As they got closer, Jude got a better look at the tentacles. They were certainly something. They didn’t seem to be made of any kind of flesh, they seemed a little spectral really. It honestly looked a little sinister. He was walking alongside an older looking white guy. As the trio grew nearer, they turned to face them.

“Are you Timtastic?” Zoey stepped forwards, beaming.

“Why yes, I am!” He smiled and placed his hands on his hips. His tentacles began to do wave in a pattern behind him. He looked over to Jude and Guillermo and thought for a moment. “Hang on, are you… Dayspring?”

“Yup, that’s me. You can just call me Jude.” Jude nodded. He wasn’t really sure how this would go, since Josh wasn’t exactly clear on the relationship here.

“I’m Jimmy, or ‘Captain Iowa’.” The older man stepped forwards and shook Jude’s hand. He didn’t appear to take the super hero persona too seriously. “You here on business or pleasure?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Was just passing through town when Zoey here,” He gestured to her, “Noticed you and wanted to meet you.”

“Glad to hear.” Jimmy nodded and shook Guillermo’s hand as well.

“I’m Guillermo Rodriguez, or ‘Super Dad’ I guess.” He laughed. “I’m Zoey’s dad.”

Zoey rolled her eyes at the joke, but still laughed. “I’m Crystal! Well my real name’s Zoey, but I have powers too so I go on missions with him sometimes.”

“Oh really?” Tim turned to Zoey, looking surprised. “How old are you?”

“I’m 15, but I’m basically 16.”

Jude’s heart raced a bit. He hadn’t quite considered the possibility that Zoey would mention her powers. He and his dad agreed it was best for her to keep it a secret wherever possible, but he should have seen this coming. Not to mention, while her dad agreed, and Jude made sure Zoey was safe, she was a little young. Jude looked up and saw a slightly judgmental look from Jimmy.

“We’re with the DSR, so really our job is more like being celebrities than anything. We always follow strict safety protocols.” He nodded, feeling slightly better. These people were relatively high profile, and nobody had mentioned anything about them being dangerous, so he figured he’d just keep a closer eye on her for a bit.

“Of course.” Jimmy nodded.

“How long are you in town for?” Tim turned back to Jude and Guillermo.

“Well, we were just passing through. We stopped at The Quarry for dinner.” Jude nodded.

“We totally need to do some kind of collaboration while you’re here!” Tim’s energy was almost overwhelmingly positive. “How long could I convince you to stay for?”

Jude looked around, then over at Guillermo. He wasn’t excited about staying in a small white town, but if he was to some extent working with some popular locals, he wouldn’t mind. “I guess we could do a night?”

Guillermo nodded. “We’re on our way to Wyoming right now, but we could do a night.”

“So we get to do a collab?” Zoey looked over to Jude, taking on Tim’s positive energy.

Jude sighed then laughed. If Zoey was happy, he was happy. “Sure, why not. I’d need to call the DSR first, but what did you have in mind?”

Tim thought for a moment, but was cut off by the squealing of tires on a truck. Out from the truck jumped a woman about Tim’s age.

“Tim, Jimmy, hop in. We found another tent.” She waved them on, then noticed Jude, Zoey, and Guillermo.

Tim thought for a moment then nodded. “How does a mission sound?”

Jude immediately began to regret getting up earlier. He was basically committed at this point, though. “I’m gonna need some details.”


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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! Everything is still on fire, but I’m managing better. Got a swanky new recording setup, so that’s nice. Am I writing? Don’t ask. I also just noticed I failed to change the name on last post (note that I copy the formatting and blurb shell from the last post to make it easier), and nearly failed to on this one. Happy little accidents or something.

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Afflictions: Part Twenty Two

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

CW: Suicide

Paul tapped his cane on the sidewalk, as he meandered towards his house. A few cars passed by on the street, but overall it was pretty quiet. The wind brushed past him, and he began to regret not bringing a coat. He was full of energy now, and he had one last idea as to how to fix everything.

It would be better to say that this idea hadn’t occurred to him before, but it would be a lie. Really, he’d just wanted to avoid bringing other people into this. Part of it certainly was the fact that he didn’t like to make a habit of telling people how the future goes, but a bigger portion of it was that this was the only thing he brought to the team. If he couldn’t keep the future straight, then what was he doing here? Regardless, he’d carried this as far as he could, and it was time to ask for help.

Paul had walked far enough that he figured he should be coming up on the house soon, so he began to hold out his hand, waiting to feel their mailbox. After a minute, he finally felt some brick with the braille sticker that he’d put above the actual box. He followed along the sidewalk, and stepped up to the door.

He reached out for the door, but felt a rush of air in front of him.

“There you are!” Arte sighed. “Don’t just run off like that. Come in and sit down.”

Paul suppressed a sarcastic remark, and followed Arte inside. Once they were in, Arte guided him to a chair in the living room.

“What’s been going on, Paul?” She sounded worried, which he’d expected a little. Neither of them were in the mood for jokes.

“Who is here right now?” He was pretty sure he heard someone else, but not positive.

“It’s me and Ashley” Arte replied.

“Hi Paul.” Ashley sounded way more worried than he had expected, and it hurt a little. He probably shouldn’t have let it get this far.

“Okay. I need you to listen to me, and then I’ll need your help. I’m not going to tell you everything, but I’ll tell you most of it.” Paul took a deep breath and sighed. “Since about two years ago, I’ve been having a vision of something that will happen in the future. I’m not honestly sure when, but I’ll know before it comes. This event has to happen, and I’ve come to terms with it. However…” He paused and looked off to the side for a moment. “While I was at the monastery, the vision changed. There was always going to be a fight between our team, but the problem is the change.” Paul sighed again. He felt like he was rambling to stall. It wasn’t going to get any easier.

“What happens?” Arte asked. She sounded calm and patient, and that broke down Paul’s last wall.

Tears began to flow down his face. “I tried so hard to change it myself, but I don’t think I can. I’ve done everything I could think of, and then I did it all again. I haven’t slept in who knows how long… I-” He heard some movement, and then felt people sitting down on both sides of him. A hand came to his right shoulder.

“It’s alright, Paul. We can help.” Arte said from Paul’s right.

“It’s Zoey. I don’t know why, but I’ve watched her die at least a hundred times now.” He shook his head, and wiped his tears. “Zoey gets killed, and I don’t know how to stop it.”

The room was silent for a moment, but for Paul’s occasional muffled sob and the gentle blow of the AC. Paul wondered for a moment if he’d made the right decision here. In the end, he supposed it was the only decision he had left to make. He really did try everything. He worked nonstop on this for a year, and couldn’t make a single change.

“It’s gonna be alright, Paul. We’ll do whatever we can to make sure that doesn’t happen.” Arte still somehow spoke calmly.

“That’s right. It’ll work out.” Ashley’s voice was sweet and reassuring.

Paul took a moment to collect himself. He couldn’t understand how they did it, and how they weren’t more upset with him for not doing his job. He supposed that was because it was never his job in the first place, he’d just taken it upon himself to singlehandedly keep the future in line. Having help might just make putting the future back right actually possible.

“Alright.” Paul took a deep breath and sighed. “I don’t honestly know what I’ll need you to do yet, but when that day comes, I’ll need you to be willing to do whatever I ask you. Is that alright?”

Arte was quiet for a moment. “I don’t know that I like how you’re saying ‘whatever’…”

Paul’s heart skipped a beat. She’d seen right through him. This was what he was afraid of. He knew she wouldn’t be okay with it if she knew she was helping him kill himself. “It’s the only way.”

“If you can honestly say you’re not planning something dumb, then I’ll do whatever I need to do to help you.”

“I’m not planning on doing something dumb.” Paul responded instantly. It wasn’t even a whole lie, if you thought about it. He’d been calculating this move for two years, so it wasn’t dumb. He knew very well what she meant by dumb, but it was the only way.

“Okay. We’ll help you. Is that fine, Ashley?”

“Definitely. I’ll help however I can.” She sounded almost cheerful.

Paul laughed. It was nice to feel hopeful again.


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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! Works a little bit rough, and everythings on fire, so not much writing happening. Did get a new studio setup, which is going pretty well. Should be able to write season 4 by the time it needs to be released at least.

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