Ch. 4.3 – Sara

“Alex!”

Sara yanked viciously on her Weave lines, desperately trying to banish the ephemeral Vortex Spawn at the ends. They wouldn’t hold out for long – but the manifest horror clamped onto Alex wouldn’t need much time to smother him. Its entire ‘hand’ was clamped onto his face, suckers pulsing with an unnatural plastic-like sound. I’ve got to help him!

With both hands almost literally full, however, there was little she could do. A quick Vision check showed Molly fighting the remaining spawnlings. It was three on one, and while Molly was managing against them, Sara knew that the Ghost Dragon wasn’t invincible. If it surprises her, she might lose her phase state. The Weaver had never seen someone merge with solid matter, but she’d heard stories. Few survived, and many of them were never the same, even with Anima healing.

But Alex needs me, right now. She watched with sick horror as he writhed in his captor’s grip. Maybe I can help with something besides Weaving? Sara thought, then whispered, “Iret.”

Alex’s mind was a surging mess of panic and jumbled thoughts. Sara was almost thrown out immediately, as he was managing to repel the thing’s Vision assaults. Fortunately, he recognized her before he bounced her, but between the frightened chaos in both their minds and the Vortex Spawn’s attack, she could do little more than telepathically hold on. *Blaze!* she sent desperately.

*I know – but if I lose control -* he replied, and Sara realized that he was holding back for fear of hurting her. An image of a force burst, or fire surge, in the enclosed space kept rippling through his mind, even as he suffocated.

*Try lightning!* she sent, imagining his armor covered in electricity.

*Shielded,* he sent, exasperated with himself. She sensed his frustration at having made it shock-proof. *Wait…*

The armor flew straight up, detaching from Alex and hitting the trap door above. The suckers on his face weren’t enough to hold the Vortex Spawn to him, and it slammed into the door as well. While Alex had several ring-like bruises along his cheeks, he could breathe, doing so with emphatic gulps. When the spawnling tried to writhe free, he turned the armor into a sphere, then created a new suit for himself. He grinned at Sara weakly. “It’s all energy anyway. I think. Thanks.”

“Whatever works,” Sara said, letting the Vision bond dissipate, then turned her attention to her captive pair. Time for you to go. With a brutal rip of the very essentia, Sara tore at both spawnlings. They struggled for a few seconds, then disappeared, retreating back to the Vortex.

Sara whirled, Weaving two more tendrils of Majestic power and throwing them out to ensnare the creatures Molly fought. Again, she caught two of them, and with that, they all vanished. “Better part of valor?” Alex asked.

“Vortex Spawn don’t know the meaning,” Sara retorted, then leaned against the wall, swallowing air in gulps. Alex stepped next to her, giving Sara a concerned look. “Hey,” she said with forced confidence, “I’m not the one suffering from squid face.”

Molly swam into the room, then dropped to the trap door with a gentle thump. Alex looked at her, the Ghost Dragon raising an eyebrow at him, then back to Sara. “Yeah, well, I guess I’m a sucker for conspiracies.”

“Tch, he’s quipping,” Molly said, taking his chin in one hand and giving him a quick look. “He’ll be fine.” Sara straightened, about to give Molly a few pieces of her mind, but decided against it when the suction bruises vanished.

Molly let go of Alex, who rubbed his chin. “We should check on Alice and Max,” he said, glancing down. “Shall I?”

“Do it,” Molly replied, and Alex opened the door with a gesture. Sara gasped, but he’d already gripped them with his telekinesis, floating them down gently. Alice and Maxine were still staring into each other’s eyes. Occasionally, one would twitch. “Huh,” Molly said evenly. “Thought she’d be done by now.”

Sara leaped over and grabbed Molly’s arm. “That’s it? Max is so messed up that it’s taking Alice freakin’ Robinson more time to clean him out than it did the three of us to fight a pack of swarmies, and that’s all you’ve got to say?”

“Unless Alice asks one of us for help,” Molly replied, gently extracting her arm from Sara’s grip, “there’s nothing we can do except keep the area secure. You hungry?”

“We just ate dinner,” Alex noted quietly.

Molly nodded. “Right, you’re tapping the universal. I use qi. Burned a lot of it staying intangible.” She opened the pizza boxes, sighing at their lack of contents. “I’ll pay her back,” she muttered, opening the mini-fridge and poking inside.

Sara walked up and looked at Alex’s cheeks. “Wow, looks like she did a good job, except for treating you like a side of meat.”

“I heard that,” Molly called from the fridge.

“Feature, not bug,” Sara retorted with a cool smile.

“I’m fine,” Alex said quickly, holding up his hands. “After an attack by those – those things, I can understand the need for haste.” He rubbed his face. “Molly’s grip was a lot better than theirs.”

Molly laughed. “That’s a pretty low bar, Alex.”

Alice and Maxine gasped simultaneously, the Reanimate shifting form involuntarily a few times before settling into the body of a muscular, curvaceous woman. “God!” Alice said, shaking her head in disgust. “What kind of person does something like that to another human being?”

“A travesty,” Sara spat out. “Maxie, are you all right?”

Maxine nodded. “Yes. I didn’t think it was possible once I saw what he did to me, but Alice pulled it off.” She looked at Wonder Rose gratefully. “I owe you big time, magic girl. I won’t forget it.”

Alice grinned. “I know. Don’t sweat it, Max. Looks like we’re in this together anyway.”

“Say again?” Molly asked, and Alice’s smile vanished. “What did you see in there, Rose?”

Alice leaned on the table, hands clasped. “Like Sara said, a travesty.” She looked up at the Ghost Dragon. “Travis T. West, to be precise.”

Molly hissed, Maxine held her face in her hands, and Sara leaned against the wall. Alex blinked. “Who the heck is Travis West?” he asked. The other four looked at each other, Maxine rippling suddenly back into Max’s body.

“I focused on powers, not politics,” Alice explained to the others, then turned to Alex. “We need to get out of here. I’ll explain on the way.” She stood, shaking her head. “Considering what I saw when we merged, though, you’re not going to like what you hear…”

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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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