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 Romantic as a Pair of Handcuffs [closed/solo]

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PostSubject: Romantic as a Pair of Handcuffs [closed/solo]   Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:29 pm



Rain fell like dead bullets that turned the snow to slush. They slipped through the underside of Milwaukee in three black sedans, electric engines so they were dead quiet, tinted windows, rolling past boarded up shops and barred up homes in silent procession. She counted them as they blurred past. Liquor store. Gun store. Liquor store. Gun store. Strip club. Gun store. Gun store again. That part of town. Kayla might've said something, but the interior of the car was a cold vacuum, soundless, joyless, and every passing comment shriveled up unanswered in the void. No radio. No nothing.

She pressed her head against the window. At first she'd fought, thrashed the rooms they'd set up for her, lashed out at anyone who came near her, almost killed a guy or two, but they'd beat her, and beat her, and beat her, until she was tame as the rest of them. Sulky, with anger bubbling just below the surface, but tame. The red ribbon chafed against her neck. Callahan had her collared like a dog. And when she wasn't let off her leash, she was expected to sit there, and sit quiet. That's how it went, and she could put up with it and ride along or get locked up back at the Patterson Mansion. Between the two, she'd always choose the road over the agitated restlessness of the old house.

They'd moved all over the place, from the west coast to the east coast and back again, with pit stops in Hong Kong and Delhi and Monrovia, and the next day they'd slip through another portal and be back in some no-name greasy back-alley like this place. She fidgeted with a silver token between dirty fingernails, letting it spin and gravitate over an open palm with thin blue currents streaming over the ridges. Ryan drove, she rode shotgun. Snow wriggled around in the back with Elin sitting stock silent in the opposite seat, matching red string and bad-tempered mug. It was their usual set-up, whenever they went driving like this. They all wore black. Some kind of stupid fucking dress code.

Gang life really was no different from high school.


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PostSubject: Re: Romantic as a Pair of Handcuffs [closed/solo]   Fri Nov 10, 2017 11:59 pm


They parked a few blocks back and scattered. A few words, some points and nods, and that was all the code they needed to know their places. Ryan walked the rest of the way alone, hands stuffed in his pockets and his shoulders hunched up against the rain. Nobody stared long at strangers on this side of town. Everybody kept to their business. That's all they needed.

Ryan found Callahan leaned up against a lamp post just outside the motel. Rivers Pointe Inn was all drawn blinds and flickering neon, the kind of place where you got bedbugs just from looking too long. Twin mattresses, open Bibles, and cockroaches under the dresser. He knew the type. They were always drifting from one town to another, striking deals or busting heads, and he'd almost gotten used to stiff box springs and soiled sheets. Even still, this place looked exceptionally sketchy, with no lights except a crooked vacancy sign that shone like a beacon through the rain, casting a sinister red glow over the decrepit facade.

Callahan kept his head low, flicking a cigarette out from his coat pocket, no greeting except the slightest of nods. Ryan just snapped his fingers, sparking up a small red flame just above his thumb that danced and weaved in the rain. Daniel leaned forward to light it and took a long drag, his one golden eye glowing like an ember in the gloom. "Your buddy sure caused us a big fuckin' mess."

"It's what he was good at." Ryan returned his hand to his pocket, turning his eyes up toward the clouds.

Daniel clicked his tongue against his teeth. "I know," he murmured around the cigarette. "That's what I liked about him." He inhaled and breathed the smoke out back through his nose, before passing the cig into Ryan's fingers.

He flicked the ash off the end of the butt and almost brought it to his lips, but stopped short. Scott wasn't a bad guy, and Mr. Callahan had him offed, but that wasn't anybody's fault but Scott's. There was nothing personal about it. That was just business. Ryan put the lit end of the cigarette out against his own palm. No burning pain, just a light tingle of warmth, and when he tossed it away, no ugly blister, just a black soot ring where he'd snuffed it out. "You should quit these things, you know. There's rat poison in it and shit."

His brow arched just above his eye patch, a light smirk touching the corner of his lips. "Where the hell is this coming from?"

"Just something the new chick was telling me," he laughed. "Give vaping a try. It's better for you."

"I'll take the rat poison." Callahan slipped his hands into his pockets and turned toward the motel. "You know I'm too old-fashioned for that kind of crap." They pressed into the empty lobby, out of the rain, past a blood-splattered reception desk and down the dim lit corridor. Jill fell into rank behind them with a few sweet giggles, flicking crimson droplets from her fingertips as they snaked up the stairwell, then Elin Naess in stony silence, the young girl's lip curled in disgust. No Katherine. Things like this required delicacy, and the old man didn't want her anywhere near here. Elodie stood at the other end of the hall with her hands folded in front of her. Her honey-colored hair had been tousled by the wind and rain, but she had a way of making it all look intentional. He'd never seen her have a bad hair day, even when they were all covered in blood and guts.

Room three-twenty-four. The number was screwed in crooked, and the brass was chipped. "Are we feeling lucky, Miss Motte?"

Elodie dipped her head, eyes closed in serene affirmation. Her smile never flickered. "I have sensed no troubles, Monsieur." She had a pale, polished, china doll sort of look, the kind that'd make any red-blooded guy in the world freeze and choke on their own breath. He only caught himself staring when that liquid gaze turned on him to melt his insides, and Ryan turned his head toward any direction but hers, as if he'd been admiring the generic paintings hoisted on the walls the whole time. "Whenever you are ready to proceed, Monsieur, I shall follow. Master Patterson is already inside making pleasantries."

"Showtime." Callahan turned the knob, flicking one last glance at the three figures gathered outside the door, and slipped inside with Elodie at his heels. Room three-twenty-four's door slammed shut behind them.


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PostSubject: Re: Romantic as a Pair of Handcuffs [closed/solo]   Sat Nov 11, 2017 11:53 pm



Curtains drawn. Mildew creeping down the walls. The carpet looked shredded and water damaged. His eye flicked from one corner to the other, to Motte behind and Patterson ahead, and the four strangers scattered throughout the cramped motel room. Daniel strode to Patterson's side, flashing them a thin smile. Four adults. There was a dark woman on the corner of the bed, a monstrous snake curled around her shoulders like a scarf, a tall well-built man out by the window, wifebeater, camo pants, and combat boots, his ruddy beard split down near the corner of his lips from some old wound, plus some slender Asian kid in track pants that couldn't be much older than nineteen or twenty, thick rimmed glasses perched on the edge of his nose. There was no sign of the girl. Just a man in the center of the room, teakwood skin and thick dreadlocks, eyes hidden behind a pair of shades.

When he opened his mouth to speak, Daniel caught a glimpse of his crooked, yellow teeth. "It's no king's suite," he drawled apologetically with a spread of his hands, every word flavored with the spices of the Caribbean. The tingle beneath his eye patch told him the accent was faked. "But I hope you understand the need for modesty. Our kind, we must keep our heads down if we can help it. They call me Anansi. These are my friends, Maya," he gestured to the snake woman, who didn't look up from her pet, "Ivar, and Moon Si-woo."

Motte smiled, like she always smiled, and nodded her head. "We are pleased to meet you. Please meet our lieutenant, Monsieur Callahan, and Monsieur Patterson, a close business partner of our operation."

The man with the dreadlocks cut her off with a silent wave of his hand, a hint of smugness lighting up his yellow smile. "And you would be Elodie Delphine Motte. Yes, I know who you are as well." Daniel fought to not show the hostility in his face, even as Motte's expression flickered in sudden confusion. Patterson might as well have been carved from stone. He always had a way of looking unimpressed. "I will admit I had hoped to speak with your Agrona herself."

He could've burst out laughing at that, but Patterson cut in with razor tones before he could lose his composure. "Where's the girl?"

Anansi laughed, a deep, bubbling, hearty laugh, a laugh that bordered on mockery, like there was some big joke hanging over the whole room that only he was smart enough to understand it. "Always getting down to business, as I have seen, Adam Patterson. You should relax. Smile more. Spend more time with your son."

Patterson's expression didn't change except for the subtle downturn of his lips into a hard frown.

What kind of clown had they been set up with? Daniel stepped forward, thumbs hooked through his belt loops, still smiling. "My employer doesn't appreciate her time being wasted, Mr. Anansi," he interjected. Maya's snake coiled further around her neck, its forked tongue flicking through the air, twice as long as any tongue he'd ever seen on any kind of animal. A closer look revealed eight black, beady eyes ridged up along its snout, like a spider. "And neither do I. You told our associates you were ready to talk."

"We are talking right now, are we not?" Anansi said. "I arranged this meeting so we could negotiate in good faith. Please, your patience."

Lies. He felt his eye glow, a red hot web of pain spreading out behind his patch and ringing through to the back of his skull. What happened to no troubles? His eye flicked over to Elodie, but she looked even more lost than the rest of them. "Don't inconvenience me, Mr. Anansi. Tell me the truth. Is she here in Milwaukee?"

His eyes glinted from behind his sunglasses. "This girl... Lilith, you've named her? She is of much interest to your organization, I understand. As she is to ours. Truly fascinating, to possess mastery over more than one gift... I have never seen anything like it. You have created a true marvel." He pressed his middle finger to his thumb, leaning closer. "Such a specimen is priceless."

"Priceless? I don't think so. Everybody has a price." Daniel's grin widened, leaning against the wall. "Name what you want in exchange. Anything."

Anansi chuckled. "I have heard your Agrona is a wish-granter. But this Lilith, her blood is more valuable than all the gold and guns in the world. You cannot buy her back with trinkets."

"Unfortunately, she belongs to our employer."

"A runaway. And so young. Surely you can empathize with that, Daniel Callahan?" Anansi stepped back, steepling his fingers. Daniel felt a tinge of nausea creep up his throat. Something about this guy gave him a bad feeling in his gut. "She chose us. I cannot in good conscience turn a helpless orphan over to be simply disposed of. Especially not one so precious."

"Monsieur, surely you do not think so low of us?" Elodie blinked, feigning pale shock. She played the bit perfectly, and he might've almost been convinced himself if it weren't for the pounding headache the dishonesty gave him. "What monsters would hurt an innocent child?"

"Elodie Motte, as you glimpse things yet to come, I see things in reverse." He touched his finger to his temple, and Daniel fingered for the knife on his belt. "And I have seen much about this child's life. These gifts of hers, they once belonged to others. I know well what kind of people you are." Anansi sat himself down on the edge of the bed. "You asked me for my price, Daniel Callahan. All I wish is to work alongside you. I wish to study her. I want to unlock the secrets of our blood, the potential we all hold."

Daniel smirked. "You want a piece of the pie?" he said. "A look into our research? That's it?"

"That's. It." Anansi spread his fingers. " In return, we offer our services to your Agrona, whatever she may require. I believe that is fair, Daniel Callahan, and I know you are a fair man. Lilith is with my people at the cemetery off Lake Drive. We can visit her together there, as partners."

He eyed him in silent expectation of another flash of pain, staring as trying to x-ray straight through his skull and into his innermost thoughts, but nothing. The truth... She was here. Daniel exchanged glances with Motte and Patterson before extending a gloved hand to the man with dreadlocks. "This has been a productive talk, Mr. Anansi. Can I get a moment to speak with my friends here outside?"

Anansi grasped his hand and shook it. "Of course, Daniel Callahan. Of course."

The three people in black turned and wordlessly filed out of room three-twenty-four, letting the door close gently behind them with a winding crrrrrrreeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaakkk. Daniel fixed a do not disturb sign onto the old brass knob and slipped his hands into his pockets, turning to saunter down the passageway. "Naess, lock it." Elin spread her fingers, pinpricks of light growing from the tips of her nails like beads of mercury, webbing into gossamer threads as she pulled her hands apart. She crossed her arms and whipped them out, and the wires flung out like whips, chaining across the entrance way and blocking the four strangers inside. "Ryan, close the deal."

Ryan snapped his fingers, without expression, watching the flame spread and wreathe down his hand, and pressed it to one of the tacky paintings of a garden pinned up on the wall. It went up with a whoosh, falling off its hangers and onto the old dirty carpet, spreading like a wave down the hallway. Daniel didn't turn around to watch the place burn, but he felt the heat on his back as he stepped back out into the rain, a golden glow reflected in the rippling puddles outside as he strolled back toward his car. The others scattered back to their other positions, or walked their own pace, leaving him alone as he took the long way around, tailed only by the last echoes of Snow's giggles ringing through the rain. Then silence. Sweet silence.

"Well played, Daniel Callahan. I must say, well played."

Daniel stopped mid-step, not looking up from the sleet-slicked asphalt. He was slow to raise his head, half-turning toward the direction of the voice behind him. Anansi was just a formless silhouette until he stepped beneath the light of a street lamp, half his face charred, bleeding, gaping open where his cheek should have been. At least he saved his hair, he noted dryly.

"Mastery over fire is one of our kind's most precious gifts. Few realize it. The young Patterson's flames can burn up to twelve hundred degrees Celsius, did you know? Water boils at one hundred degrees. I was lucky to get away when I did. Without Si-woo, my friends and I would be dust."

His only answer was the crack of a gunshot. Daniel slipped his revolver out from his coat, cocked back the hammer, and squeezed the trigger once, twice, three times. Anansi stumbled back, smoke pouring out from the holes in his jacket. He opened his mouth, to speak or scream or choke out one last word, and Daniel shot him again, and again, and again, until the gun clicked and the last of the casings were clattering against the concrete. A gun slipped out from the dead man's hands, dropping into a puddle unfired.

Wasn't that the saddest thing?

Anansi finally toppled over. And after a skipped heartbeat, he sat up again, rubbing at the dark stain spreading down his front.

"I thought you were supposed to be some kind of seer."

"That was the gift I was born with. My mama called it the Sight. And I have sought other blessings, at great cost to myself..." Anansi struggled to his feet, on shaking legs. "This is my regeneration. I obtained a blood sample from a like-minded man, but it is not perfect. The process is delicate, and I still have much to learn from this young girl..." Daniel popped out the cylinder and slipped in another bullet. "She is truly marvelous..."

He put the next one right between his eyes, splitting open his sunglasses at the bridge. Anansi's head snapped back, and he didn't have much more to say after that. After a few still moments, Daniel turned on his heel and kept walking, his breath billowing out in front of him in a white cloud as he fingered for another cigarette, but nothing. That punk threw out the last one he had with his rat poison bullshit. The shit I put up with...


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PostSubject: Re: Romantic as a Pair of Handcuffs [closed/solo]   Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:20 pm


Elin had long grown numb to the scent of sulfur and charred flesh. You couldn't escape it among these animals, especially the Pattersons, but who was she to judge? This was the world they inhabited. She just pulled her scarf up over her nose as the smoke began to pour out from beneath the door and the rest of her comrades went slipping down the hall, leaving her alone as the walls of heat closed in on her.

It was foolish to linger too long. The building already looked like it had been on the verge of collapse even before Patterson had put a torch to it. But ever since her insubordination in Seattle and the Academy, she savored any solitude they granted her, even if it only were for a few heartbeats. She pulled at the red cord around her neck, casting uneasy glances toward her shadow flickering across the wall. Even then, she doubted if she were truly alone, even in her dreams.

She had gotten off easier than most. Some of her other conspirators paid a far worse price, far worse than death. Agrona had shown her mercy on account of her youth, her bloodline, and her gift. It was only the combination of the three that allowed her to escape punishment with her life. That foul no-named vǫlva eyed her the way wolves eye prey, and Lady Agrona herself... An involuntary shiver ran down her spine, even as the first beads of sweat began to spot her brow.

With one last sigh, she turned to follow Patterson and his pet down the hall. She didn't turn around at the first heavy thump against the door, or the second that rattled the door on the hinges, straining against the wires of light that bound them shut. The third was accompanied with a heavy crack, ejecting splinters into the opposite wall, and still, she didn't turn. Elin took no more joy in watching the dead struggle.

There was a twitch in her hands, like nerves stretching and severing, and her head snapped around just in time for the fourth thump. The door exploded into two-by-four slivers as the snake burst out from the other side. Her wires melted like cobwebs as the monster turned, thrashing in the flames, its great body twisting toward her. She flourished her hands, strands of light lacing up her knuckles to twine around her fingers, weaving together to form a lance of burning white fluorescence that she slashed with a light flick of her wrist.

It cleaved through the smoke and caught the monster by the neck as it lunged, shearing its head from its body with one clean cut. The thing's head went bouncing quietly away down the ugly carpet behind her, but the rest of it continued to struggle, writhing directionless across the ground. Elin let the lance fade into sparkling mist around her open palm.

"Disgusting..." She narrowly avoided the spray of black blood, but the droplets that caught on her sleeve began to sizzle, and the floor corroded and fell away beneath the dark puddle that formed beneath the headless snake. The behemoth fell away into the open pit, crashing into the floor below with one last great flail. Gone, it had now lost her interest, and she proceeded down to the second floor. Its severed head stared after her in mute appeal as she walked past, flames reflected in eight beady eyes.

It was waiting for her as she wound down the stairwell. Down, on the opposite end of the hall, blocking her only exit, it continued to convulse, its tail whipping and cracking against the walls. And when it turned toward her, it had three heads instead of one, and six times as many eyes. She froze, an element of primal fear fluttering across her heart as it reared back like a cobra, three tongues flickering in the smoky air, each two feet long. Its heads oscillated searchingly, and then locked on her in unison, the only other lifeform in the building.

The heat was oppressive. She tossed her hat to the floor and shrugged her coat off from around her arms, letting it fall in a puddle around her boots. The monster slithered toward her, first at a stalking pace, and then with ferocious predatory drive, powering toward her with a terrible lunge. Its three jaws parted, impossibly wide, each with two rows of razor teeth, and fangs as long as daggers.

She clawed her nails through the smoke, hatching ten silver threads into the air that crossed and stitched across the hall like a web. The snake crashed into it, its mouths snapping and hissing, straining against the cords that separated it from its prey. Her wires pulled under the weight, flashing as they reached their breaking point, and snapped, unleashing the flood of mass and muscle that poured out from the other side as the monster thrust toward her with all its power.

All she could do was jump. Wires hooked out from her shoulders and latched toward the stairs like a harness, snatching her back out of death's jaws just as the middle mouth slammed shut where her head had been a moment before. She hurtled backwards, first flying, then sliding across the thin carpet, unable to break her momentum as her upper back slammed against the lower steps. Pain spread up her spine. Rug burn was the least of it. A sheet of sweat covered her skin as the flames began to trickle into the hall, lapping at the corners.

And the monster was still coming. Elin pulled herself up so fast she got a head rush, and staggered, dizzy, confused, desperate, smoke filling her skull as the snake flashed forward, its scales glittering like armor in the summer sun. She lurched to the right, catching the attention of the left head, then to the left, catching the attention of the right head, and in one fluid motion kicked her discarded hat up from the ground like a football. The rightmost jaw snapped shut on the fabric, instinctively, and she slung out a thread of light that pinned to the open hole in the ceiling.

She swung past and over the monster, feeling acid spittle on her shoes as the middle jaw clipped at her heels. Elin went rolling roughly across the carpet as the snake twisted and writhed in confusion as it tried to turn, its three heads caught in sudden disagreement. Light spindled out from up her wrist into a saber-thin ray, and she hacked down on the middle of the thing's spine as it wound back to look at her. Its heads folded back like a man with no legs, connected at the stem but with no supporting body.

Elin took no joy in watching the dead die. She would have been content to run to the exit, but she was transfixed by the tangle of heads, biting and snapping at one another in their death throes. Then one caught the end of its severed tail in its teeth, and they began to eat, ripping into their own flesh more like jackals than serpents, and as they ate, it grew, and the more it grew, the more it ate. First bone, then muscle stretching over the bone, lengthening into a new tail. More than that. The monster grew, until its three heads were each the size of motorcycles, and its girth filled the whole hall, stretching at least nine meters. She ran screaming as the middle head gobbled up the last of the old useless flesh, fleeing from the heat on her back and the three hisses, as loud as industrial pistons, the way the floor creaked beneath the monster's great weight.

Stay away! She cast a glance behind her just as one head struck forward, lightning fast. Elin dipped to the floor as the head jabbed into a door, splitting it open like it was made of foil. But then the monster was on her then, sweeping her up in its scales, its body coiling around hers. The thing could've ground her every bone into powder with one flex of its muscles, but the ravenous left mouth poised just above her, preferring to devour her instead. Its jaw unhinged, long fangs dribbling venom, and in that moment, Elin thrust her hand into the monster's throat. A blast of light flashed out from her palm, bursting the snake's head open like an egg.

The monster's lower jaw hung open, the top half of its skull flowered open to reveal its inner anatomy.

Stinging pain flecked her face from the drip of blood, forcing her to flinch back with a choked scream, and she half-expected to be crushed in that instant, but the snake toppled over, both remaining heads stunned into temporary paralysis. She slipped out from the coils of the monster and scrabbled toward the open door, through an empty smoke-stained motel room, sticking a hand against the blocky CRT on the shelf. White essence kept it glued to her palm as she whipped her arm around, still running, until the moment of release. The ancient TV went flinging out the window with a crash of glass, and she went leaping after it, flying through the open air.

Wet asphalt lurched up to meet her. Silky threads whipped out like ropes, hitching to the street lamp outside, bending it beneath her weight as she went swinging out across the street. She flew, and she rolled, hitting the ground with a violent tumble, hacking up soot and stinging from a dozen small burns, battered but alive. The cool air might as well have been an entire galaxy separated from the burning motel, crisp and sweet even in her singed lungs, a cold blanket over the heavy rise and fall of her chest.

She sat up with a shaky breath, patting for her phone, and cursed under her breath when she remembered it'd been in her coat. Elin pulled herself to her knees, then her feet, and managed to keep her balance. Would they be coming back to check on her? Surely... There was a crack and a yellow flash that filled her vision with spots of light. At first, maybe she thought it was burning timber, but she was too fine-tuned to the sound to not recognize it.

Elin stumbled back. Another crack, and she focused on the source of the sound, a shapely silhouette with a gun in their hand, honed toward her. She spread her palms, a thin white shield stretching over her torso, and there was the third gunshot. Her shield split like ice, then broke away, the bullet bouncing into the darkness. There wasn't any other option except to run, boots pounding against the concrete as she went leaping, sliding behind the cover of a parked car. The ring of metal filled her ears as two more bullets pierced into the metal plating, a third shot shattering the back windows into a million tiny cubes that rained down into her hair.

The girl raised her head a centimeter above her cover, eyeing her fresh assailant. A dark woman in a tight green dress, nothing that suited the weather, slender fingers and long nails wrapped around a trigger. Another shot, and Elin ducked her head back down.

"Come, little dove..." the woman hissed. She spoke with a thick accent that reminded her forcibly of their stay in Kolkata, with a hint of what could only be a lisp. Miserable country. Elin chewed at her bottom lip, forming a white sphere in her fingers. There was another great thundering sound, and she looked up just in time to see the snake burst from the side of the motel just as the roof caved in, piling into the street below, with five heads now. She watched with a sinking stomach as the woman strut forward with feline liquidity, running a hand over the beast's scales as it uncoiled across the street. "My darling Manasa... Who hurt you so?"

Run. Instinct struck her like lightning. Elin sprang out from the other side just as one of the heads struck at the car, caving in the doors like an aluminum can and shifting the car onto its side, its alarm blaring through the street. Out in the open, she darted down the street, legs pumping, but exhaustion made her stumble, every pant tearing at her hoarse throat. The monster reared back to strike, and she turned, tripping on her own boots, spinning as she fell, a thick cord of light lashing through the air as a whip, and looping around the two rightmost heads.

Her strength was nothing compared to the snakes, and to anyone watching she should've just been flung into the air with the lightest flick of the monster's head. But instead they knocked together as the loop pulled tight, and she tugged back like a man with a fishing lure, wrenching the monster into the side of the building. She pulled back her other hand and flung out another rope, mimicking the movement with the two leftmost, heaving them into another row of parked cars.

The woman stepped back, watching in stunned fury as her pet was thrashed around, and let the clip drop out of her pistol as she fumbled to reload. Elin didn't waste any time, pulling apart, tightening and shortening the wires as she poured the last of her strength into her gift, the light burning white hot, the middle head shaking from side as its sisters were pulled apart. With one last sharp tug, the cords split the four stumps from the main body, peeling away strips of flesh as they fell away into the street. She whipped the threads around as the monster reeled back, collaring the final head.

"Manasa is unkillable," she hissed, clicking in a fresh magazine.

At last. She let her eyes narrow into slits, allowing herself a thin smile. "Manasa belongs to me now." Elin rotated her wrist, and like a dog on a collar, Manasa thrashed to the side to her command, spitting in pain, now hovering over her former master.

"Darling—..."

The jaws closed over the woman's upper body like an iron trap. Her legs kicked and twitched feebly in the air, gave up, and what remained of the woman in the green dress melted into snakes. A thousand vipers, none much longer than thirty centimeters long, scattered out across the slush and concrete and into the gutters and alleyways. Elin crushed one beneath her heel as it slithered past, and gave one last sharp tug on the wire.

Manasa choked on her own blood, the acid gurgling in the monster's throat as Elin throttled the beast, then it fall away. The body, and the remaining heads, shriveled into bubbling pools of black oil, and evaporated. She finally let out a breath, turning away from the scene, the sweat sticking her clothes to her skin. Troublesome as ever, these cultists... How did she guess this deal would go sour even when Motte couldn't?
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PostSubject: Re: Romantic as a Pair of Handcuffs [closed/solo]   Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:05 pm


So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden cherubims and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
- GENESIS 3:24

MARCH 7, 2010
EDWIN RIVERS begins his research into genetic engineering, the evolution of the supernatural phenomena known as gifts, the origins of these abilities, and ultimately, how to develop new powers. BEATA ACADEMY is founded as part of this process.

MAY 3, 2012
MARK ECKARDT'S natural abilities are absorbed. This refined process is agonizing and ultimately fatal to the victim, but successful.

APRIL 30, 2013
EDWIN RIVERS is killed by DESKEN MOORE in a student mutiny. His extensive research on the gifted gene is recovered and stored away. PHOEBE RIVERS and DIANE BENSON are recovered from cryostasis.

SEPTEMBER 5, 2023
PHOEBE RIVERS leaves BEATA ACADEMY.

DECEMBER 5, 2032
AGRONA's lieutenants authorize a project researching the potential malleability of gifted DNA, nicknamed CODE LILITH. Human experimentation is conducted on young gifted children aged 9 to 13 years old. SUBJECTS 1 through 6 die during the trials. SUBJECT 7, formerly a ward of the state code-named CHOUKO, is the first to survive.

FEBRUARY 13, 2035
CODE LILITH is abruptly terminated.

FEBRUARY 25, 2035
FACILITY 002 is destroyed. All researchers affiliated with the project are terminated. SUBJECTS 14, 18, 19, 22, and 27 are terminated. SUBJECT 7 is not accounted for and presumed neutralized.

Wisdom will deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger, who flattereth with her words, who forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God; for her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.
- PROVERBS 2:16-19


SEPTEMBER 29, 2035
AGRONA's lieutenants receive intelligence that SUBJECT 7 survived FACILITY 002's destruction. There are reports she has been taken in by a subversive group of gifted cultists.

JANUARY 29, 2036
SUBJECT 7 is tracked as far as SEATTLE, WASHINGTON. The target is allowed to escape.

OCTOBER 31, 2036
Action escalates against the LILITH SECT.

AUGUST 5, 2037
Cultists, represented by a man known as ANANSI, reach out to AGRONA's representatives to negotiate an armistice. The deal is set for NOVEMBER 10, 2037, at the RIVERS POINTE INN in MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN.

N̴O̡VEMBE͡R̨ 10͜,̸ ̛2́0̀37.̨..̧
After God created Adam, who was alone, He said, 'It is not good for man to be alone.' He then created a woman for Adam, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith immediately began to fight. She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said, 'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.' Lilith responded, 'We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.' But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air.

Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: 'Sovereign of the universe!' he said, 'the woman you gave me has run away.' At once, the Holy One, blessed be He, sent these three angels Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof, to bring her back.

Said the Holy One to Adam, 'If she agrees to come back, what is made is good. If not, she must permit one hundred of her children to die every day.' The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined to drown. They told her God's word, but she did not wish to return. The angels said, 'We shall drown you in the sea.’

'Leave me!' she said. 'I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.’

When the angels heard Lilith's words, they insisted she go back. But she swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: 'Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.' She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, we write the angels' names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers her oath, and the child recovers.
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PostSubject: Re: Romantic as a Pair of Handcuffs [closed/solo]   Sat Nov 25, 2017 10:27 pm



Plop, plop, plop! Oh she loved puddles, she loved the way the mud streaked up her legs, and the squish squish squish with every step in her black sneakers, water in her soles, Danny wouldn't let her wear any other color, she didn't like that. Jill seesawed back and forth, arms at her sides like an airplane, swooooooooping from left to right to left across the street, or was it the other way around? She didn't know, she didn't care, she just laughed, following Ryan to wherever he was going, moseying forward like a big ol' grump with his hands in his pockets and his eyes to the ground. He looked over his shoulder, toward her, and she smiled. Where's the brat? he asked, the brat was Elin, but sometimes he called her a brat too, she didn't like that. Not that he called her a brat sometimes, just that she wasn't his only brat.

Dunno, she said, pursing her lips, and he just shrugged, like he didn't care anymore, and she was allowed to forget Elin and Miss Croft and That Girl and Her and Danny and Ell-oh-dee and everyone else again, she had a habit of saying Ell-oh-dee's name like it was three different names, all slow, it was just so fun to say, she wished she had a name like that.

Jill-ee-ann. It wasn't the same. Even Ryan only called her Jill. Wasn't that funny? What if she called him Rye? Most people just called her Snow. Sn-oooo-ow. No. Nope. Didn't work.

Got lost, maybe.

Yeah, maybe, Elin was always getting lost, breaking away, and sometimes she had to chase her down. Punk. She sighed, faltering a bit. That was no fun.

We've barely even started, he said, and that made her perk up. There's still the girl, remember?

Oh, oh, ohhh, right! She felt her heart do a little tap dance in her chest and she had to get up on her tiptoes, almost jumping up and down. Where is she? Where is she? Do I get 'ta pop her? Jillian had wanted to pop her for ages, aaaaaaaaages, but she always kept slipping away! She flexed her fingers, getting that itch again, ooooh, it'd been so long, they had to let her, they had to let her.

We'll see. She deflated, like a needle through a balloon, but kept that little ember of hope alive. Maybe, that was a maybe, and sometimes we'll see meant yes.

They tried not to make promises. Ryan said they didn't want her getting over-excited. She thought they were a bunch of no fun. Whenever she talked to Agrona, there was always somebody to pop, but she hadn't seen Agrona in... gosh, who knew? August? It was November, then it was October, she knew that because of Halloween, then it was... um, crap, she forgot, it was hard remembering backwards, she couldn't even do it forwards.

She followed him around and around and around and around, like one of Elin's puppies, zigzagging through lamp posts and parked cars until she saw the little black car she was pretty sure was theirs. Ryan stopped a little bit away, about twenty feet, fumbling through his pockets, glancing around. Where the hell is she? He pulled out his phone, clicked his tongue against his teeth, muttering something incredulously about no bars (but he wasn't even old enough to go to a bar?), and slipped it back into his jacket, swapping it out for his keys. Damn brat. He pressed a button.

Beep beep, click, BOOM! The night lit up like Fourth of July, red and yellow, so bright everything went white for a few seconds, a scorching wind that flung her hood back and almost threw her to the ground. Ryan went flying to the asphalt with a grunt. Yowch. Jillian fell back a few steps. Wow, he really wasn't kidding when he said they needed to fix that thing up. Flames licked up from the charred out skeleton of their little black car, lapping up at the rain.

Jill, duck!

Quack, she giggled back, but then she snapped around at the sudden presence over her shoulder, a man in the air, the dark blur filled her vision, his leg stretched out in a kick as he seemed to fly down from the moon. She caught the blow on the back of her arm, pain splitting up from elbow to wrist, and the next second he was gone. Poof! Just like that, he'd disappeared, and for a second she was convinced she'd just imagined him, but she spun on her heel and he was behind her now. She felt a sharp jab between the ribs that almost knocked the breath out of her, and when she pressed her hand to where he'd hit her, her glove came away coated in blood.

Ouch...! Jillian stepped back, twisting at the waist, whipping a thick blade out from her cloak that flashed out in an arc, but the man melted away into the rain. The sword sliced through empty air, sending vibrations up her arm as it rang against the concrete.

Car alarms bounced from building to building, filling the street with flickering light. She glanced up to a dark shape perched on a lamp post, a bloody hunting knife clutched lightly between his fingers, crouching in a tracksuit. Some skinny kid with glasses on the end of his nose. Jillian puffed her cheeks, pressing a breath through her teeth, red hot anger flashing through her limbs. Her flesh wound pulsed with each intake of air. Teleporter!

Ryan stood, flames wreathing around his arms, glowing brighter as he waved them through the air, lengthening into whips that extended out from the end of his sleeves. He flung out his fingers, and a column of fire blasted out from his palm, cutting at the base of the street lamp. The teleporter leaped from the post as it withered and toppled from the heat, blinking from fifteen feet up to three feet above the ground, like a game skipping frames. His feet touched ground, kicking at a charred scrap of car, blown away from the explosion.

The metal disappeared as it touched his foot, and appeared again, inches away from Ryan's head, flying at the same speed. He went spinning to the ground as it grazed across his temple. Hey! That wasn't very fair, she wanted to say, but she didn't get time to say it. The teleporter flashed toward her, his face inches from hers, hot breath against her face as he wrapped his arms around her in a bear hug, her sword clattered out of her hands, and a nanosecond later the scenery flipped, the street was gone, and she was alone in the dark.

Ugh. There was a swell of nausea as she stood up on wobbly legs. Ryan?! Her voice echoed back to her. Ryan?! Ryan?! Ryan?! Jillian ground her heel against the smooth concrete. A parking garage. Rain drummed against the roof, making the whole space thrum with sound. She loved parking garages, but for some reason, she wasn't excited about being in this one.

Pressure slammed into her back, sending her flying forward. The ground lurched up to kiss her, and she carried it into a somersault, rolling back to her feet, and the kick came from the left this time, hooking past her arm and smashing into her ribs. She stumbled from the force of the blow, whirling around to try and find the source of the next attack, and he went flashing past her, to the right this time. Jillian caught him out of the corner of her eye as he came flashing past, as she peeled her glove from her fingers.

Got you!

Her hand flashed out, slapping against his chest as he zipped past, and he lost all solidity. There was a squelch, like overripe pumpkin, as the man turned inside out. He flowered, blossoming out in a spray of crimson, pink giblets specked with red and purple and white flinging across the garage with a hundred wet smacks, like water balloons.

Oh man, oh man, oh man, she loved teleporters now! Giggles burst out from her throat, savoring the bitter iron taste on her tongue as she glanced up. Drip. Drip. Drip. Tattered shreds of tracksuit hung from the roof like streamers. Man, it was even all over the ceiling, that was gnarly! He was a real gusher for such a stick-thin guy, wasn't he?! Sticky, goopy, drippy droplets sprinkled down like rain, spattering her face and hair and vest and cloak, the viscera sucking at her shoes as she waded through it.

Ouch.

There was a sharp pinch in her side, a wooziness that filled her brain, and she fell to one knee, grabbing at her waist, gloved fingers wrapping around the hilt of a hunting knife buried in her side.

Oh.
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PostSubject: Re: Romantic as a Pair of Handcuffs [closed/solo]   Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:53 pm


She leaned out against the concrete barrier, chin in her palm and fingers tip-tapping against the ledge, the same pose she always slumped into during Nabell's English lectures. A halo of mist ringed around the inn's flickering neon sign, her only source of light in this gray ghetto. Take up position and watch our backs, that was Callahan's command. That translated to, Sit still and let the grown-ups take care of this, okay, sweetheart? Kayla ground her teeth, sparks popping up along the ridges of her knuckles.

Orders were orders. Just the idea of arguing made her exhausted. But what was the point of all this then, Tokyo, New York, Seattle? Wasn't that the most fucked up part? All that bullshit about how much they needed her, how much they wanted her, her gift and how it was being wasted, and they finally get her and she gets put on fucking guard duty. What was the point?

"What a joke," she murmured into the rain. Somewhere, down in the streets below, six black silhouettes filtered into the Rivers Pointe Inn, one by one. They even let the fucking kid come with them, but not her. Sure, they let her loose every once and awhile, but it was a rare treat, and the bloody aftermath always reeked of anti-climax. Humiliating. Fucking humiliating. She clawed at the concrete, stewing in her boredom and self-pity.

Six hours in the car. Walk ten minutes through the rain. Sit in a fucking parking garage across the street. Wait for the fireworks. Walk out back into the rain. Back in the car. And she already knew, without even having to think about it, that they were going to be listening to Snow's music again the whole ride back. If she had to listen to any more K-Pop she was pretty sure she was going to thrust her fist into the dashboard and blow the whole engine. It wouldn't be the first time she'd seriously considered it.

There were the fireworks. Flames lit up the windows, a slow burn, but hotter than napalm. Nobody would be able to identify any of the victims inside come next morning, just one thick blanket of black dust. It wasn't even fair. She chewed on her lip, stepping back from the ledge. This was their version of diplomacy. She was sure there was a talk, of sorts, but this was how "negotiations" typically ended. Kayla spat and turned away, running her fingers through her hair. All her thoughts drifted back to long car rides, rain trickling down the window, Ryan and Snow and Elin pushing and shoving and fighting for the radio. That was everyday life for her now.

She wound down the steps to the lower level, her breath fogging up around her cheeks, hands slipped into her suit pockets. The wind cut straight through her, howling through the empty concrete fortress. What were they here for anyway? Something about some cult, that's all they'd tell her, and whoever they were, they were gone now. So she guessed she'd never know, if it ever mattered at all. Kayla rounded a corner, then another, eyes glued to the ground, but when she lifted her head, she froze in her tracks.

Moonlight slanted into the garage, where the shape of a woman stood silhouetted with a guitar case. Kayla dipped behind a pillar, watching as the woman knelt at the ledge, meticulously flicking open the latches. There wasn't supposed to be anyone near here. Her fingers twitched, sparks streaming down into her sleeves. Kill her. The killing instinct. No witnesses. This was her one and only job, just one snap and that would be all it took—...

She hesitated. Kayla glanced out over the edge, into the rain and down into the street below, where five shadows filtered out from the blazing building, almost casual. The woman flipped open the case, pulling out a metal rod, sliding it into another, clicking in a cartridge.

That... wasn't a guitar.

The woman pulled the assembled rifle out from the case and propped it over the ledge, aimed at the shadows below. Kayla flashed out from behind the pillar, electricity coursing into her palm. Her enemy pivoted to face the new threat, swiveling on her heel. She flicked a brass button off her cuffs just as the gunwoman opened fire. Blue light sliced through the gloom, a laser thin trace of lightning trailing at the end of the makeshift projectile.

BOOM.

Noise reverberated through the garage, echoing off the concrete walls as the button collided with the side of the barrel. The sniper's aim was knocked upward, blasting the bullet into the ceiling. A smoky bullet trail dissipated into moonlight as she let the rifle clatter to the ground, the muzzle dented inward. Kayla thrust out her arms as she advanced, slinging bolt after bolt at the woman's feet, but she danced nimbly away, always outside the edge of her attacks. Flashes of silver light revealed glimpses of her enemy's face, well-lined with wrinkles and old white scars, lanks of gray hair beneath her beanie, but it meant nothing to her. Or, at least, it should've meant nothing to her.

Kayla didn't let up for a second, beads of sweat running down the back of her neck, lightning webbing out across the soot-stained asphalt with every snap and flick of her fingers. The woman's expression was unchanging, sidestepping the whips and snakes of lightning that cracked and hissed at her, fluidly twisting and curving away from each bolt, beam, and sphere. They pulled in close, five feet from each other, and the old woman lunged toward her, cat-quick.

She couldn't twist away fast enough as a sharp two-fingered jab took her between the ribs, but it felt like being pierced by a bullet. Kayla stumbled back a step, choking back a gasp as a knee slammed into her from the other side, forcing her back another foot, a hard elbow sending stars scattering across her vision as she knocked her across the chin. The woman swung her leg up high, catching her in the chest, and for a second she was sure her heart stopped. Kayla flew back, arms pinwheeling as she tripped over the abandoned rifle, electric currents convulsing around her as she fell against the concrete.

The woman slipped a knife out from her belt, twirling it around in her fingers. "You're just a little girl," she murmured to herself. She almost sounded disgusted. Kayla didn't have an answer for her, but the slight pause, the brief breath of hesitation, was all the window she needed. She kicked down on the loaded magazine, sparks licking at her heels, and it combust, spraying up at the woman standing over her. Like a shotgun blast, or a shrapnel grenade.

Her enemy dropped back, falling flat without a word, crimson spilling out over those weathered features. Kayla just let herself lay on the ground, catching her breath, before attempting to stand, rubbing at her chest with heavy breaths. "Ryan..." She peered out over the ledge, flames reflected in the dirty puddles, but the shadows were gone.
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PostSubject: Re: Romantic as a Pair of Handcuffs [closed/solo]   Sat Mar 17, 2018 6:49 pm



She had never felt so lost. Elodie furrowed her brow, eyes straight ahead. Every shadow now seemed to hide unknowable enemies. What was this sensation? Her gift had been carefully nurtured since an early age, and she was not accustomed to this feeling of uncertainty. It was like a dark cloud had settled over her eyes and ears, leaving her deaf and blind to the hidden knowledge that she'd always been private to. Inside her heart, the door was shut. Paranoia, sharp as a knife, pressed between the vertebrae of her spine, speeding her breathing.

It was like the cold breath on the back of her neck. A ribbon looped around her throat.

Adam Patterson moved beside her, in a crisp black suit, carefully styled black hair, tired black eyes. She knew, as she knew many things, that the color was dyed. Just as his son turned his hair from black to gray, the father did his best to turn his hair from gray to black. He did not know that she knew, and she intended to keep it that way. "Monsieur, I am feeling... unwell."

"As you say," was Patterson's only response. She let the insult wash over her, face unchanging. There was a cold prickle up her spine. Something was not right. But she kept her mouth shut, matching Patterson's long-legged strides without complaint, twirling her parasol in the rain.

They rounded the corner to where their cars should've been, but only a smoking wreckage remained. Callahan stood among the blast, gun in his hand, the smokeless butt of a half-finished cigarette resting on his lips. "Care to explain, Ms. Motte?"

The ground might as well have caved in beneath her feet. "Monsieur, 'ça va?" she babbled. The words slipped out in French, not English. Elodie raised a hand over her mouth.

"'No troubles,' I thought that's what you said."

Why had she not foreseen this? None of it made any sense. Callahan dragged his finger through the soot, wrinkling his nose at the musk of wet sulfur. He turned his eye on her, keeping a level, piercing stare, but after a minute he sighed. "They really outplayed us. We walked right into the web."

"My son was here," Patterson murmured, letting his stony eyes drift over the black stains scorched into the bricks and asphalt, the remains of a mangled lamp post. "The cultists did this?"

"I ran into our good partner, Mr. Anansi, on my way here." He shifted his grip on the revolver. "It's safe to say the rest made it out too." Callahan blinked his uncovered eye. "Naess and Croft aren't with you."

"Or with you."

A lead weight plunged into the pit of her stomach. They both cast sidelong glances toward her, as if she could conjure them from their hiding places with a flutter of her eyelashes, like always. But when she closed her eyes, she saw nothing. Callahan didn't press the point, holstering the revolver and turning toward the wrecked black sedans. "The girl is at Lake Drive. Or was not too long ago." He grimaced. "That's where we're headed. And we're going to get there before that witch does." Snow, the younger Patterson, Croft, and Naess had been given up for dead. That was the way it went. Elodie opened her mouth to protest on their behalf; surely they were best withdrawing and regrouping—... But Callahan locked her with a steady one-eyed stare. "We can't allow her to reach Lilith first. Under any circumstances."

She did not dare ask why. Somewhere in her heart, she thought she already knew. Elodie swallowed. "Compris." Patterson did not respond, a dark look in his eyes, but nodded in pure business-like acknowledgment. But what laid before them? In her mind, she wanted to shout out that they were only tip-toeing farther into the web, but the newborn doubt in her kept her mouth shut. Callahan and Patterson moved together in whispered conversation, but she lagged behind in the rain, slipping one of her many cell phones out from her pocket, pressing in the number by memory.

« J'ai tout le temps pensé à toi, mon chéri »
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PostSubject: Re: Romantic as a Pair of Handcuffs [closed/solo]   Wed Mar 21, 2018 4:48 pm


Milwaukee stretched before him, a glittering blanket of stars, their glow reflected off the cracked ice sheets on the lake, the city alive with the blur of lights. At least it was that way to the human, untrained, ungifted eye. A thin wisp of black vapor began to rise from his mouth, his fingertips, filling his senses, and he could glimpse into the heart of the city and see it for how it truly was. A black pocket in a rundown corner of the inner city, as if all life there had been frozen still. Gifted power flowed out from it like a fountain, like nothing he'd ever seen before, even at Beata Academy. This city was teeming with the paranormal. Elliot felt a prickle up his spine, the cold clutch of adrenaline that locked around his heart, like a predator sensing its prey. He had been on their trail for months, trekking cross-country in empty boxcars and crowded buses. Now they were all here, together.

Elliot hopped from one rooftop to another, crossing the invisible barrier, plunging through the rain-curtain. The hair on the back of his neck stood up, and he froze for half a heartbeat, paralyzed by the overwhelming presence that suddenly seemed to flood into the atmosphere. Malice, thick as mustard gas, seemed to envelop him. He swung down the rooftop, dropping onto a tin-sheet awning and sliding off into the dumpster ten feet below. His boots sank him over knee deep into the trash, but he pulled himself out with only a light grimace, smoothly flipping beck onto his feet into the alleyway. A square cut lane of sky stretched out above him, threaded with red string, like clotheslines.

It took him a moment for him to realize what he was seeing. An energy like black sparks channeled down the ribbon like a live-wire. Something was here, it was watching him, and it hated him... But it couldn't kill him. He stalked down the street, toward where the hotel blazed, sending a plume of black smoke up into the sky. Elliot was accustomed to the stench of fire, charred bodies and the blackened shells of buildings. His town was just one of a hundred nameless gifted settlements wiped off the map in the past several years. More and more, gifted were being drawn inwards to Beata Academy, and the rest that slipped through the cracks ended up all in black.

Disgust. That's the only way he could put it. He thought back to the school, the handful of friends he'd made there, and he still only felt disgust. This world wasn't meant for them. They were unnatural, alien. Monsters, not superheroes. Elliot paced down the street, watching the flames rise in the distance. A thick miasma flowed off him, pooling around his boots like a dark fog.

He felt the man's presence before he saw him, and he knew it went both ways. Elliot was a trespasser here. Every step closer would set off alarm bells in every gifted man and woman's head. The stranger was a thick-built man, well-groomed, with a clean buzzcut and a scraggly red beard. Hair didn't grow where his lips split, from some old wound.

His face pulled taut with tension. Elliot could taste his fear. The man flexed his fingers, his fingernails curling into thick claws, his shoulders hunching as he seemed to add another foot to his huge frame, his face contorting into a true demon's.

Elliot shifted on his soles as the monster charged, spring-boarding off the asphalt and careening toward him with all the force of a runaway train. He skipped past him with a simple sidestep, leaning to avoid the wild swipe that smashed the brick behind him. The demon howled, whirling with a vicious backhand that caught Elliot in the chest. With a grunt, the boy went flinging backwards, smacking into a fire hydrant. A cold shock vibrated down his spine, but he swallowed the pain, watching.

A black, sticky inkiness clung to the beast-man's arm where he'd struck him, spreading across his skin. The monster shook it, picked at it, but that only spread the mess. He roared, stamping his feet, legs as stout as tree trunks, and reeled, circling like a bull and charging his prey once again. Elliot rushed out to meet him this time. A long, thin blade slipped out from his sleeve, into his palm, blazing with dark energy as he whirled just at the moment of contact.

The beast-man staggered to a stop, the dagger protruding from below his shoulder blade. Elliot left him there, walking away as the man fell to his knees, writhing, convulsing, his muscles contracting and pulling his limbs into splayed, unnatural positions. He was deaf to the man's roars, his howls of agony, the bubbling in his skin, the bulging veins in his face as the man's own gift began to overload his system. Bones creaked, and snapped. Somewhere behind him, there was a ripe pop, and a wail of agony.

His mind was only on the girl. She was near. He could feel it.
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