Ch. 2.2 – Sara

“Okay, let me see if I’ve got this right,” Alex said, leaning forward on the couch. His armor, having been made of energy, was simply gone, and he was back in his Captain Beacon T-shirt and blue jeans. What was left of his jacket had been thrown in the trash; the energy-armor had torn it to shreds. Pity. It was a nice jacket, Sara thought as Alex dove in. “There’s…well, a lot of odd in our world, but we can more or less lump our types into five general categories — the Complex, Havoc, this Alliance, something called the Vortex, and a UN agency that fights the Vortex stuff.”

Sara chewed on her peanut butter and tuna sandwich. It was an effort not to grin when Alex scrunched his nose. Probably rejecting the alien intake, she mused. After a moment to swallow her latest bite, she nodded. “When it comes to humanity, pretty much, yeah.”

“There’s the Anshin and Daimani,” Ben added quickly, holding a hand out to indicate a book on the kidney-shaped coffee table. The Adept had put on neatly-pressed grey slacks and a mint green polo shirt. “They’re not exactly human, but their fates are bound with ours.”

Alex shook his head. “I know, but they try not to get involved on the large-scale, right?” Ben nodded slowly. “Okay. So the Complex is the Big Nasty Conspiracy, only they’re primarily concerned with keeping humanity in the dark about us.”

“The Mandate always wants more wealth and power,” Molly said from the other end of the couch, her voice low and fierce, “but you have the way of it, give or take.”

Alex nodded. “Havoc Absolute is their supremacist counterpart. They say they’re the brave resistance, but if they win they’ll just be a public version of the Complex they’re fighting.”

Sara nodded in kind. “Basically. You won’t get a lot of argument on that front from anyone but the Havocs.”

“The Vortex…” Alex took a deep breath, let it go. “We really have cosmic horrors who want to eat the world. They’re trapped in what you call the Vortex. The major powers pitch in to fund Division One. They exist to fight the Vortex, and occasionally play arbiter for everyone else.” He got several nods, and no further commentary. No one argues about the Vortex, big guy. Alex glanced around, then continued. “And pretty much everyone else who doesn’t get swallowed up by one of them is a member of the ‘Four Allies,’ a mutual support and defense society for Adepts who aren’t inclined to fight the wars these other people do.”

“We all fight the Vortex,” Ben insisted, leaning back into his recliner. “In fact, the Council Majestic considers resisting them a sacred duty.”

Sara chuckled, finishing her sandwich in a single gulp before continuing. “Vortex Spawn scare the piss out of everybody. Even the Grayboys and the Havocs will play nice long enough to stomp ’em. Anna says we taste like chocolate to them, and I believe it.” After a moment, she sighed. “There are a few genuine independents.”

“Like you?” Ben asked quietly.

“Please,” Sara replied bitterly. Maybe once upon a time, she thought. “Without Molly, I’d be Weaving luck for the Grayboys, or worse.” She hugged herself, shivering slightly. “I don’t even want to think about what some of the Alpha creeps or Mandate types would do to me if the Skeptic dragged me in.”

“We won’t let that happen,” Alex insisted. Molly frowned, and he quickly looked worried.

No you don’t, Molly. “Most guys I’d warn off,” Sara said with a grin. “You held off the Skeptic. On day one. You’re hired.” Alex looked down for a moment. Molly glanced at Sara, and the smaller woman’s smile slipped as she threw up her mental shields. Oh, I’m going to pay for that later.

“Who is this Skeptic, anyway?” Alex asked. “It’s pretty obvious he’s not your run of the mill agent.”

“He’s Gray Company’s one-man equalizer squad,” Ben whispered. His eyes danced away from Alex. “Lots of us can dampen Talents, weaken effects, even shut each other down for a while, but no one can erase the Talent, undo Empowerment…no one but him.”

“So why is he after Sara?” Alex asked, clenching his fist until nails dug into his palm. He didn’t seem to notice. “What’s their problem with her?”

Sara looked at her boots. Molly nudged closer to her. Ben looked from Alex to Sara and back in surprise. No one spoke for a moment. “You really didn’t have much time, did you?” he asked. As one, Alex and Sara shook their heads. “Sara,” he continued slowly, “is the most powerful Weaver in the world, bar none.” Alex whistled. “The problem is, after her first encounter with the Skeptic, her other Talents are…weak.”

“More like gone, except for a little Vision,” Sara added furiously, shaking. “He couldn’t wipe my Weaving, but you can’t affect the physical plane directly with it. You have to make things ‘happen,’ and that doesn’t really work on him.” Alex put a reassuring hand on Sara’s shoulder. She grabbed his hand and huddled into him, bringing his arm around her, surprising them both. “What you did…I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Ben looked from Alex to Sara again, then settled on Molly. “Ghost Dragons?” Ben asked.

For a moment, Molly stared at Alex, hand cupped on her chin, considering. “We wouldn’t turn him away,” she said finally, “but his Talents don’t follow our traditional methods. His Anima is fair, but for the most part he’s all Blaze and glory. If I had to compare him to an Ally, I’d say the stories of Doc Powers come closest.”

Alex gaped for a moment. “Wait, the pulp hero? ‘Before there were super-men, there was Doc Powers?’ He was real?”

In an instant, Ben was alight with glee, smiling from ear to ear. “I love watching that. Doc Powers was as real as the sun and twice as bright. He was the best of us, fighting mad Adepts, Vortex cults, Nazi Majestics, you name it. He was even ready to take on the Complex…” He shook his head, the smile fading but not quite vanishing. “We’re pretty sure they betrayed him in the last days of the war. I mean, we know Iron Wolf did the deed, but the Mandate was scared of him.”

Alex stared, beyond disbelief. Ah, Ben, Sara thought fondly. “What’s a Ghost Dragon?” Alex asked, clearly changing the subject.

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Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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