Afflictions: Part Thirty Six

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Jeremiah had an interesting week. He’d spent the past few months or so in a containment unit specifically for supers, but before that he was locked in a cell quite similar to this one. The containment unit he’d been in basically left him with the ‘lower threat’ supers, since he didn’t seem to have any overwhelmingly threatening powers. The rule was simple, don’t use your powers or you get an increased threat ranking. He’d served about a quarter of his sentence at this point, so he wasn’t trying to get in trouble. His wife had stuck by him and was doing her best to raise the kids, but that wouldn’t last if he got involved with anything.

This all changed when the guards woke him up before dawn, and without explanation, stuck him in a van. Before he knew it, he was back here. He sat in a chair behind a table with two chairs on the opposite side.

He jumped as he heard the loud clang of the door lock. The door slid open, and outside stood two familiar faces: a giant metal man, and a scrawny white kid. The pair stood still for a moment before Deven lunged forwards.

Jeremiah’s eyes went wide in an instant. Deven cleared the table before anyone had time to react, and wrapped his arms around Jeremiah, who reciprocated.

“It’s good to see you, Deven.” Jeremiah sighed in relief, as he gave Deven a pat on the back. “It’s been a while.” He felt warm tears soaking into his shirt.

“I didn’t think I’d see any of you again…” Deven cried.

“I wasn’t so sure myself.” Jeremiah nodded. He wasn’t quite sure where this was going. This didn’t bode well, an assembly of former criminal supers, and one of the heroes. Then again, he figured it couldn’t be much worse than prison.

“Hope you’ve been well.” Paul nodded and edged his way towards the chair.

Jeremiah thought for a moment, and settled on a direct approach. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but if he was here, it might mean he could see his family again. He knew Jamal would want him to ask about Deven, but that would have to wait. “So what’s going on?”

“Well, your sentence has been partially commuted, contingent to a few terms, of course.” Paul leaned back in the chair.

Jeremiah was relieved that the kid was doing well, after what he’d done. He wasn’t sure. He wasn’t ever really told what happened, but he never got charged with murder. He knew he wouldn’t ever be able to fully atone, but he’d spent his time haunted by it, and had to move on. Now he was focused on what he’d just said.

Jeremiah’s heart raced. If his sentence was commuted that means he could see his family again. His phrasing was unsettling, though. “What do you mean?”

“I have an assignment for you.” Paul slid a manilla envelope across the table.

Jeremiah looked down at the closed envelope, and opened it. Inside were a couple of documents, and a picture of a quaint house by the sea. “What kind of assignment is this?” He said, as he skimmed the text.

“You’re going to Washington state. There’s a house on the outskirts of a small town by the sea, and you’re going to be on house arrest there more or less.”

“Why? What am I supposed to do there?” Jeremiah looked up from the file.

“You’re going to complete some basic medical training, and wait for an old man to arrive for you to take care of. Eventually, someone who you’ve harmed will arrive, and you’ll make it right. There’s a catch though.” He paused. “You can’t have contact with anyone from your old life, and this will be monitored. You’ll be able to return to your family when the devil sets you free.”

Jeremiah stared forwards. “What?”

Paul sighed. “Look, it’s all written down in the file. You’ll still serve out some more of your sentence like this, but it’ll be shorter than what it was supposed to be, and in a quaint town in Washington rather than a prison.”

Jeremiah thumbed through the files and found the instructions written nearly exactly how Paul had said. “Can’t you give me something more clear?”

“No. Mysterious ways and all that.” Paul shook his head. “Any other questions?”

Jeremiah thought for a moment. Even if he still couldn’t see his family this was a pretty decent deal. He had to do a few things and make amends for his mistakes, which was fair enough, and it would be shorter than it originally was. Not to mention his time would be served in Washington rather than a jail. “So all my food and stuff will be provided? Or do I need to get a job or something?”

“You won’t need a job, everything will be provided by the DSR, and a contact I have on the west coast.” Paul nodded. “You’ll be meeting him today.”

“I guess I don’t have too much of a choice if the other option is prison.” Jeremiah nodded, as he came to terms with what was happening.

“Great. He’s waiting outside.” Paul got to his feet.

“So he’s leaving?” Deven asked.

“Yeah, I need him to help me plan for something.” Paul replied. “Remember, this is top secret. So don’t tell anyone else.”

Deven nodded and led Paul out of the room. Outside, a slim man in a suit was looking down at his watch. He escorted the trio out of the concrete prison and into a modern lobby. Outside was a large muscular black man.

“Jeremiah, I presume?” He spoke with a British accent. “I’m Darryl, nice to meet you.”

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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 not 100% sure why I don’t abandon the blurb thing if I don’t love doing it. I’m probably about to abandon promo tweets, on accounts of them not working.

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Afflictions: Part Thirty Five

You are joining part of an ongoing series: Earth 2

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

Paul rode in the back of one of the DSR’s cars with Deven. They’d been riding for about 20 minutes, and there’d been a lot of stopping and starting, so he figured traffic was bad. He focused predominantly on keeping his cool. He’d done a lot over this past week or so with everything in his vision set right. It really was amazing what one could accomplish when they didn’t have to constantly relive the vision of a little girl being murdered. Regardless, Paul was at least interested to know what ‘Josh’ had done with the DSR, since he hadn’t been paying a whole lot of attention the last year or so.

The car took a turn, and slowed down considerably, before coming to a complete stop.

“We’re here.” The driver said. His voice was young and happy. He sounded American, but more like he was from the north. Imported talent.

“Thank you.” Deven replied, and Paul nodded in sync. The pair got out of the car and were promptly greeted by a familiar voice.

“Deven and Paul!” Josh said a little too loudly. “Love to see ya!”

“Good to see you too, Josh.” Paul smiled and nodded.

He’d seen Josh a couple of times in miscellaneous visions, but not very often. He was a clean cut ‘tall skinny white guy’ who liked suits, but also liked to be more personal in his interactions. He was generally pretty nice, which was interesting in conjunction with him being the head of an important government agency. Paul had two theories about it. Either he was placed in this job to neuter the agency, or he is secretly cutthroat. Perhaps his outlook was pessimistic, but if you’re always pessimistic, you’re either pleasantly surprised or right.

Paul felt Josh take his arm and begin moving him towards what he presumed was the DSR HQ, and deftly ducked out of his grip, returning to Deven’s side. “I’m good, thanks.”

“Oh, my bad!” Josh replied, his cheerful tone unfazed. “Right this way.”

Josh led them into a cool air conditioned building, which was nice in comparison to the unpleasant heat outside. Inside it was relatively quiet, with a couple of sets of footsteps other than their own echoing through the lobby.

“Welcome to the DSR, how can I help you?” A receptionist greeted them, then quickly corrected herself. “Oh, Mr. Barry, welcome back.” Judging by her accent she was a local hire.

“Please Hannah, Mr. Barry was my father. Call me Josh.” He rapped his fingers on her desk as they walked past. “Keep up the good work!”

Josh returned his attention to Paul and Deven. “So, what do you think of the place? We just got done with the renovations!”

“It looks very fancy…” Deven nodded.

“Ah yes, I really appreciate the taste of the designer. Not too noisy.” Paul nodded. He slightly wished he’d caught himself before mouthing off to the guy he was asking for a favor, but he also definitely enjoyed it.

“Thanks! I worked with the designer, so I’ll definitely pass along the praise. We really want to create a welcoming environment to facilitate collaboration with our partners.” He lowered his voice to a normal talking volume briefly. “That’s what we call the supers that we work with now.”

“Oh is it?” Paul replied, nodding along. “You’re definitely running things different than Daniels. How long have you been official director?”

“About four months!” He replied at his normal volume. “It’s been a wild ride, but I’m hoping we’ll have a much better dynamic this time around. I really want to avoid any of the ‘control issues’ that Agent Daniels had.” He paused for a moment. “Nothing but respect for his work, of course.”

“Oh of course.” Paul nodded.

The three stepped onto an elevator, and Josh pressed some buttons. The elevator beeped a pleasant tone in reply and the door slowly closed.

“Anywho, I gotta say, your request was pretty tough to make happen, but I managed. I really strive to make our relationship with our partners work both ways.”

“Oh of course, I appreciate you making it happen.” Paul nodded, trying to channel the dialect of an ‘entrepreneur’ that wrote a book about ‘synergizing your workplace’. “I was confident that I could rely on you.”

“I appreciate the faith.” Josh replied. “I know there was a lot of work to do to undo the damage to our channels done by Agent Daniels, nothing but respect of course, but I feel like we’re making good progress.” He gave Paul a pat on the shoulder. “I definitely appreciate the intel you were able to pass along about the upcoming January situation, by the way. Really do. Higher-ups were thrilled about it.”

“Oh yeah?” Paul smiled. “I just really believe in making sure that I’m contributing to my associates when I can. I felt like it was very important information to pass along.”

“For sure!” Josh nodded in reply, leading into a few seconds of uncomfortable silence.

The elevator chimed, signaling that they had arrived. They’d been on for a little bit, but the elevator didn’t go that quickly, so Paul figured they were only around 5 floors deep.

Josh led the pair down a snaking concrete hallway. “Yeah, we moved away from housing prisoners here, so we could build partnerships with existing incarceration facilities, but I was able to get this guy here off the books. We still have the facilities for temporary stays and occasions like this.”

The three eventually came to a halt, and Josh began to whisper. “The guards are on break right now, so go on in. We’ll get him out once you’re done.”

“Appreciate it.” Paul nodded.

There was a series of beeps followed by a large metallic clank. Josh slid the door open and stepped to the side.

“Deven…?” A man’s voice asked from inside.

“Jeremiah?” Deven answered, frozen still.

“So this is actually Jeremiah then, Deven?” Paul asked.

“Yeah…” Deven nodded, and stood still for another moment. He suddenly lept forwards towards Jeremiah.

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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.

Technical issues overcome. The blurb is short, because you guessed it, I’m tired.

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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

You are joining part of an ongoing series: Earth 2

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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).

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 Eight

You are joining part of an ongoing series: Earth 2

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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