Ch. 11.1 – Alex

Alex looked up as the Rift gate closed behind them. Purity West Tower had all the hallmarks of the corporate age high-rise: rounded corners, a blue glass exterior, and a complete lack of personality. While not the tallest building in the city, it could compete, with its corporate logo visible from half the city. At a casual glance, it looked as mundane as its siblings in sky-scraping. To Alex’s Vision, the building radiated hunger, every deadly sin watching from within it. “Okay, the first part of the plan seems to have worked.” He felt for Sara’s threads of Weaving, and felt them trail into the building’s basement – already fraying. “Good thing, too. We’re on a clock.”

“Then we need to move,” Molly insisted, though her voice was lower and rougher than usual. “Alex, you know what to do.” The Ghost Dragon looked at Max and Wonder Rose, and all three disappeared using different methods. Alex looked up, swallowed, and flew.

Huh. Definitely tall, but he doesn’t seem to be trying to have the biggest building around, Alex noted. It still made the Blaze-wielder’s stomach spawn butterflies to float up over thirty stories, nothing below him but concrete.

When he reached the top floor, Alex knew he’d found what he was looking for. The sharp-dressed figure staring at him was elegant, raven-haired, and only slightly surprised to see a man in glowing comic-book armor floating across from him. Carefully, West put down his goblet, stepped back, and gestured at a wall. The window nearest Alex opened. That was…unexpected, he decided, then floated in. “I don’t suppose this means you’re about to be reasonable,” Alex sighed. So much for the lead-in quip, he thought wearily.

“Funny,” Travis replied, smiling with a comfortable ease that surprised Alex, “I was about to ask you the same thing. Drink?” He gestured at a bottle on one of the end tables.

“No, thank you.” Alex raised an eyebrow.

West chuckled. “Come now, do you really think I’d try to drug a Prime?” He beckoned to his glass, and it returned to his hand. The mentalist watched Alex carefully as he took another sip.

“Alcohol is a drug,” Alex noted evenly. So by all means, keep drinking. Travis laughed. “You terrorized, hunted and kidnaped a friend of mine. As much as I’d like to throw you through one of these expensive walls, let her go and we’ll leave without a fuss.”

“Just a friend?” Travis asked, the smile becoming a smirk as he quirked an eyebrow. Alex’s kept his expression flat and neutral. “Oh, I don’t mean to dismiss your ‘heroism.’ Still, it’s clear you’re infatuated with my property.” Before Alex could control himself, lightning burst from his armor, shorting out the entire floor. Travis blinked, smile vanishing.

“I want to make this very, very clear: the Weaver belongs to herself,” Alex hissed. “I’m not here out of some misguided sense of possession. Last chance.”

Travis’ jaw twitched once. Then he struck with all of his considerable Vision power. “Jump out the window. Don’t use your Blaze,” he ordered, the Prime’s voice echoing in the very majestas.

Alex leaned on Powerstar’s trick, binding his own Vision shields to his Blaze with the Adaptation art. It felt odd, as though he was checking his pulse from the inside. Alchemy, he mused with strange detachment. This is what mystics mean by alchemy. Fundamental transformation. Once the initial psychic burst washed over him, Alex struck back, more lightning surging out to scramble West’s nervous system. From the way the electricity flared around West, Alex guessed the creep knew the same trick. “How do you live with yourself?” Alex demanded, lancing out with pure physical force.

“Seriously?” West asked, trying to grin, but it looked more like he was baring his teeth. His counterattack was a slash of mental disruption, trying to cut through Alex’s will. “We’re gods, and you bleat about conscience? Morality is for the suckers. Evil is just another word for smart.”

Alex stomped his foot, and the floor shook. Cracks shot towards Travis. “Not looking too smart just now, travesty,” he snarled. For a moment, West stumbled, his defenses wavering, and Alex thought he might have a shot at the monster.

Then something that seemed as large and fast as a freight train slammed into him, and he went out the window with it. Alex was shocked to find it floating in front of him as he righted himself, and his jaw went slack as he found himself face to face with a dragon. Red-brass scales sheathed a twenty-foot-long serpentine form, the classic snout nuzzling the air in front of Alex. Wings spread out from the body above four graceful limbs. “Ooo, pretty,” it said with a sultry woman’s voice. “Can I keep him?”

Travis laughed. “Beat him, and he’s all yours,” the Vision Prime called out. The dragon all but squealed in delight and flew at Alex again.

This time, though, he was ready, dodging upward and over the skyscraper. “I liked my last date better,” he called out. Oh, great, now I can quip.

In seconds, the dragon became a stunning woman in a bright red dress that matched her hair. The wings and tail still stretched from her back, though they’d shrunk to be proportional to her new form. She licked her lips. “What do I call you, pretty knight?”

Alex paused. “Bastion,” he admitted finally. “Captain Bastion. And you are?”

The woman’s eyes widened, and a look akin to sympathy crossed her face. “And they say I’m a puppet,” she whispered. “I’m Ekaida. Honey, the Anshin are playing you. Trust me, you don’t want to be any kind of Bastion, let alone their captain.”

Alex’s eyes narrowed. “You’ll forgive me, I hope, for not trusting a woman who’s helping to hold my friend prisoner.” Ekaida’s eyes went wide for a moment. Then, to Alex’s shock, she looked sad. Wait a minute, he thought, inspiration striking, and the Bastion let his own Vision take in the being facing him.

In that instant, he learned two things. One, she was a Daimani, one of great age and power. Two, West’s own Vision Talent had woven through her spirit in ways he couldn’t even track. Oh no. He’s controlling her. Now what do I –

An instant later, Ekaida’s expression had set into one of manic determination, and she flew at him again, power unlike anything the Bastion had ever seen surging around her. Oh crap!

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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