31 – Any Means Necessary

Stef looked to the bathroom door. ‘Coming?’

Curt opened the door, already halfway dressed. ‘Coming.’ He tossed his jacket to her as he stepped into his shoes, and began to button up his shirt as he followed her out of his room.

‘How bad?’ she asked Ryan as they stepped into the waiting lift.

‘We know where they are,’ he said, ‘so that’s something.’

‘What else do we know?’

‘You know as much as I know,’ he said, ‘I’ve just been told myself.’

Curt pulled his jacket from her hands, brushed himself down, and straightened his tie in the mirrored reflection of the lift.

‘Oh, stop being so perfect,’ she said. ‘I’m not even in my uniform.’

The lift opened, and they walked down the empty halls of the second level.

‘It’s an abandoned industrial area,’ Jones said as they walked into the room. ‘been in development hell for over a decade, it’s probably owned by Solstice shell companies, which isn’t important now, but it’ll be something to investigate if we survive the day. This is good for us. No civilians, and a good buffer of undeveloped land surrounding the area, chances of non-catastrophic collateral damage are low. We have one advantage. Where it’s being held is a system area.’

‘What?’ Ryan asked.

‘For whatever reason, it’s one tiny bastion of system area, in the middle of this blackout. We can shift in, but if it fails, we’re going to be stuck.’

‘It’s a risk we have to take,’ Ryan said.

‘Everyone we can get is going in,’ Jones said. ‘All the backup we can pull, all the favours we’re owed, this could be our one chance, so it’s going to be a free-for-all, and there are going to be causalities.’

‘Any means necessary,’ Taylor said. ‘We have no choice.’

‘Everyone Agency will be in uniform-‘ Ryan said, ‘but there’s going to be a lot of people we won’t recognise, but don’t assume they’re friendly, our uniforms are easy enough to duplicate. Consider this martial law and permission to fire on anyone in uniform if they refuse to show ID, and if you have reasonable cause to do so. That’s all the time we have, let’s move.’

One long fade later, they arrived on the edge of the industrial park – it was a sea of warehouses, small buildings and dilapidated demountable offices.

It was a warzone.

Ryan looked at them. ‘Split up, save the phoenix, nothing else matters.’

Something stabbed her in the neck.

‘Ow!’

‘Sorry,’ Jonesy muttered as he waved the mad-scientist sized needle, ‘but do you want to be able to require or not?’

Require: cookie!

A cookie appeared.

‘It’s just recruit level,’ he said, ‘best we can do this fast.’

She nodded.

Curt grabbed her arm. ‘Coming or not, newbie?’

So not ready for this.

* * * * *
One Hour Later
The bullet slammed into her gut, a painful impact that according to tropes and fanciful filmmakers, should have thrown her back against a wall, or at least knocked her over. Tiny as she was, the impact barely rocked her, it was the pain that made her double-over.

This is why you don’t get separated!

Oh shut up, like it’s my fault!,

The scumball Solstice raised his gun again, probably thinking she was nothing but a recruit, probably thinking that she was an easy kill. She swung her gun up and pulled the trigger until he stopped bothering her. A thought refreshed her clip as she pushed herself to her feet and headed for a dumpster. She pushed herself in beside the faded metal, but her lip and waited for the wound to heal.

‘Agency?’ a man’s voice called.

She looked down to her gun, sucked in a short breath. ‘Yeah!’

The dumpster was pulled aside, and she saw two agents standing there. Or two big recruits that could be mistaken for agents – without a HUD it was hard to tell. Curt could tell, he could always tell, but it wasn’t something she’d bothered to pick up on.

‘Mimosa, right?’

She nodded.

‘You alright?’

‘Will be in a minute. I’ve cleared the immediate area-‘

A fist to the face derailed her train of thought.

She swooned, and slammed against the concrete wall as he hit her again.

Solstice?

Yeah, like the Solstice bothered to learn who you were. I think your first instinct was right, I think they’re agents.

She was hit a third time, then the world lurched as she was picked up and thrown over a strong shoulder. The point of his shoulder bumped against her bullet wound and she screamed. Through tear-blurred eyes she saw the other agent – the one who hadn’t said anything – come up behind them.

‘Help me,’ she whispered.

‘Sorry,’ he said, falling into step, and reaching up towards her, a gag in his hand.

She struggled against his grip, and threw herself off the agent’s shoulder. ‘HELP!’

A foot came down on the back of her neck and held her to the ground, the heel grinding into her skin. ‘Shut up, please, make this easy on yourself.’

‘HELP!’

There were no running steps, no shouts to leave her alone, just the echoes of a dozen fights. He gripped the back of her head and the other fastened the gag into place.

She was thrown back up over his shoulder – this time, it didn’t hurt as much, as the wound had been nice enough to seal. ‘Now stay still,’ Agent Dickhead said.

The silent Agent Douche gave her a nod.

A door was opened, and then closed. The room was large, not the open space of one of the warehouses, smaller, a tools room, or a workspace.

What the fsck, what the fsck, what the fsck?!

Agent Dickhead grabbed her by her shirt and slammed her down onto a hard wooden table. She heard something crack, then the weird sensation of bones healing.

Agent Douche grabbed her left hand as Agent Dickhead held her still, large hands pressed down onto her body. She tried to pull it away, but he tied it with a zip tie to a metal spike coming out of the corner of the table, then bound it with rope, then repeated the procedure with her right hand.

She screamed against the gag as Agent Douche looped rope around her middle and fastened her to the table.

‘Hurry up!’ Agent Dickhead snapped. ‘We don’t have all day!’

‘I’m trying.’

Agent Dickhead looked down at her. ‘I’m sorry about this, but…but we’ve got no intention of dying along with the world. If there’s anything that can survive, it’ll be those protected by mirror.’

No. No. No. No.

Her eyes went wide, and she pulled harder against the bonds, feeling the rough rope rubbing her skin raw.

No. No. No. No.

Agent Dickhead grabbed her shirt with two hands and tore it open.

No. No. No. No.

She pulled and screamed as Agent Dickhead pulled a small knife from his pocket.

‘It’s not even my birthday.’

A new voice. A familiar voice.

She swung her head around towards the door, unable to see the man, but she could see the tips of wings. Fairy wings. Blue and gold wings. Carmichael.

‘An agent, all tied up with nowhere to go,’ the fairy said, his voice closer, coming into view as he crossed the room. ‘So nice of you two. I’ll consider it my bonus for a job well done.’

Agent Dickhead actually growled at the fairy. ‘You’re next if you don’t leave.’

There was the sound of a lighter. ‘But there’s only one table, boys, and do you really think you could tie me down if you tried, who do you think my girls practice on?’

‘Leave, fairy,’ Agent Douche said.

‘There’s only enough for two,’ Agent Dickhead said.

‘You don’t even know if there’s enough for two,’ Carmichael said, standing beside the table now, He lifted his cigarette and tapped the ash onto her exposed stomach. ‘And I’m not after the mirror anyway.’

This stopped her from pulling at her restraints.

He knows? How can he know? He-

Carmichael blew smoke at Agent Dickhead. ‘It’s the end of the world, mate, act without consequences, do as you want.’

‘Then what the fuck do you want?’

Carmichael rand a finger across her stomach, drawing shapes in the cigarette ash. ‘You both know who I am, you both know what I like. Take the mirror, I’m not going to fight you for it.’ He leered and she tried to pull away. ‘But can I have her when you’re done? I mean…she’ll still be warm, and it’s not like I’ve got time to find a better piece of ass, and I’d rather go out with my end in something. Even if it’s something dead.’

‘Do whatever you-‘ The sentence was cut off with a gurgle.

Blood dripped onto her face and she stared up at the knife that had appeared in Carmichael’s hand. Agent Dickhead fell on top of her, dead weight, his open throat splashing blood everywhere.

There was a brief scuffle behind the table, and the sound of another body falling to the floor. Agent Dickhead was shoved off her, and Carmichael smiled down at her.

‘Sorry about that, Agent Mimosa, but I needed to get in close in order for that to work.’ He cut the gag away, then worked at freeing her hands. ‘And as soon as they see you as a pervert, you stop seeming dangerous.’

She sat up and immediately pulled the ragged edges of her shirt together. She shuddered for a moment, then required a new one. She stood, and leaned heavily against the table, her legs not quite ready to support her yet.

‘Thank you,’ she whispered, tears dripping on to the bloodstained wood. ‘Thank you.’ The bodies were still on the floor. No respawing. Dead. He’d killed them dead. Dead dead. No loss.

‘Thank yourself,’ he said, ‘I heard you screaming for help, wouldn’t have found you otherwise.’

‘How’d you know about the mirror?’

He gave her a smile. ‘I am in intelligence, Agent.’

‘But you-‘

‘You’re safe, and we’re regrouping, shall we?’

‘Huh?’

‘Don’t let go,’ he said as he wrapped a hand around her waist.

She grabbed him on impulse as the room expanded.

It’s not the room, Spyder.

She took a moment to process what she was seeing. The room wasn’t growing bigger, they were shrinking.

‘Oh my god!’

‘I like how you scream,’ he said with a grin. ‘My offer’s still open, by the way. Now, I mean it, don’t let go, and shh if you please, this does take a lot of concentration.’

She shut her mouth, and held on to the fairy’s bloody suit as his wings flapped and took them aloft. It was fast, faster than she had imagined, and far too much like being on a rollercoaster. They zipped through tiny spaces, spun and twirled through bits of debris and open windows before zooming bare inches above concrete roofs, towards a small crowd of suits.

‘Tightly now,’ he said as he gripped her.

The world flexed again, and she felt a weird, ear-popping rush as they resumed their normal sizes.

Ryan walked over to her. ‘it’s over.’

‘What?’

The ground shook, and a jet of fire shot into the air, the opening salvo from a volcano.

She felt herself beginning to cry. ‘Please gods no.’

Ryan held her and she buried her face into his suit. Dad. Safe. Home. He’d make it better. He’d make it better. The world wasn’t going to end. That was just stupid. The world didn’t end. It got screwed up and fscked over and changed, but it didn’t just decide to-

More fire shot into the air.

‘Everyone. Wings.’

She looked up at the crowd on the roof. Taylor, Magnolia, Grigori, Darren, a half dozen more agents she didn’t recognise and a dozen recruits – or the other way around, it was hard to tell without a HUD.

Curt pushed his way through the crowd as agents started to strip off their shirts, or turn to each other to slit holes for wings.

She let go of Ryan, and let Curt hold her. ‘I’m sorry, newbie.’

‘This isn’t happening.’

‘Curt!’ Carmichael’s voice. ‘Catch!’

A package was tossed at Curt, and he pulled it open. He shrugged off his jacket and pulled himself into the harness. Carmichael walked across, slapped him on the shoulder, then pressed the button on the belt, and green wings burst from the harness. ‘Green ones,’ Carmichael said, ‘I remembered.’

Curt embraced the fairy for a moment. ‘Thanks. I never said it. Thanks.’

Carmichael nodded to them both. ‘I’m going to try and make it home, I don’t want my mum to be alone.’

He crossed his arms across his chest, bowed, and shot off into the sky, his wings rocketing him towards an airspeed record.

Nothing to do now, except wait for the end of the world.

She pulled the tiny knife from her pocket, cut a way to her heart and wished for wings.

They didn’t hurt like the agents around her were being hurt. Just the pain of the far-too-often hole in her chest, and the weird squicky, squeaky feeling of bones growing and shifting and bursting through the back of her shirt.

Wings.

Angel wings.

This was supposed to be an awesome moment. It wasn’t.

She took to the air with everyone around her.

‘Everyone.’ Ryan’s voice.

The assembled agents turned to look at him.

‘I’m broadcasting this as well as talking to the agents with me. To anyone who can hear me, it’s over. The phoenix is dying, and we’re out of options. If you can hear me, you’re relieved of your duty. Go to your loved ones, send your recruits home if you can. It’s been an honour.’

The crowd disappeared, leaving them behind. Ryan, Curt, Taylor, Mags, Grigori. The failed last line of defence. They were going to be the first ones to die.

It was so easy to die. It really was so easy to die.

It’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair.

So easy just to slip out of the world. It was ok, because everything else was going to go on without her. Agency life could continue without a stupid recruit who hadn’t paid attention to physics. An agent could continue on, and find another recruit to teach and love. A world could continue and not miss a stupid hacker.

It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair.

Dying had never made a difference. Not one bit of difference.

She swallowed the lump in her throat.

It had never made an impact because there was always a world to continue on without her.

She looked to the violent maniacs, Magnolia rested against Taylor, not seeming very scary now. Taylor stood, arms around Mags, his forehead resting against Grigori’s. They’d accepted they were going to die.

Ryan was a statue. It wasn’t /serious, but it was close. He squeezed her shoulder tighter as he noticed her looking up at him, then went back to being quiet.

It’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair.

It was the end of the world, there was nothing to say.

She wiped tears away.

It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair.

She let go of her angel for a moment, drifted past Curt, who stood on air, his fake wings flapping and keeping him afloat.

He’d kissed her. He’d told her he loved her.

She flapped her wings and went to him. She squeezed his hand and he held her.

‘May I?’ he asked as he put a crooked finger under her chin.

She nodded, and he kissed her. Longer this time. Three seconds.

‘I’m sorry I didn’t know, newbie. I could- I would have been so good for you.’ He kissed her again, nothing but brief contact this time. ‘And I mean it, I love you, and- I’m scared. You?’

“Sad,’ she said as she crossed her legs and sat on the air, her wings supporting her easily. ‘And a bit scared.. You want lap?’

He let himself drop a little, and she cradled his head as best as she could. Not a bad way to go out. Not a bad way to die.

She stared down, at the rushing waves of fire, at the twisting metal, and the ground that was getting hotter and hotter.

‘The floor is lava,’ she muttered.

Nothing they could do. It was dying. Nothing they could do. It was going to die, and they were going to be the first ones gone.

Jets of fire. Walls of flame. Rolling, roiling clouds of death and destruction. It was brutal. It was hypnotic. She watched it repeat, over and over.

SPYDER!

Oh my fucking god.

It was repeating.

She shook her head, cleared her thoughts and watched with more interest.

There was a pattern. There was a pattern. There was a pattern. There was a pattern.

Her breath caught in her throat.

She watched it through again, Curt gripping her tighter, whispering his love over and over.

She pushed the marshmallow feeling away, the need to just lie with him and be held as everything went away.

She watched the pattern again, then leaned down and kissed his hair. ‘I’ll be back in a minute ok?’

She stretched and flapped her wings.

Having wings was supposed to be awesome. Useful, apparently, was better than awesome.

She drifted closer to Taylor. It took the large agent a moment to even notice she was there. ‘What do you want?’ Annoyed, but not ragey, resigned, not angry.

‘How strong are you?’

‘What?’

She kept the countdown going in her head.

‘How strong are you?’

‘Why is that-‘

‘Could you bring that building down with your bare hands?’

‘It wouldn’t help.’

‘Could you?’

‘Of course.’

‘Then do it. Count to eighty-seven, then bring it down on my head.’

‘What?’

‘Shut up, count, then do it.’

‘You can’t-‘

She flapped her wings and brought herself level with his face. Compared with an apocalypse, he didn’t seem so scary anymore, a photo-finish close second, but still, not as scary as the end of everything ever. ‘Don’t fucking argue with me, just do it.’

He growled.

She turned to Grigori. ‘You help him.’

She looked at Mags. ‘I need you to hold Ryan back.’

‘What the fuck are you doing, Mimosa?’

She gave a shrug. ‘I hope I know.’ She looked to Taylor, who was counting under his breath. ‘You need to time this right.’

He growled again.

She flapped, and flew back to Ryan. She hugged him, and he broke out of his quiet contemplation. ‘Forget requiring and shifting and all that, when you showed me the phoenix moon, that was when I really believed in magic, when I really felt like I’d seen magic. It’s still one of the best moments of my life, even if I was half out of my brain on painkillers and fell asleep halfway through.’

‘You were the first person I’d shown,’ he said, ‘who wasn’t scared.’

‘I was terrified!’

‘Only for a little bit.’

She saw Magnolia drifting closer.

She buried her head in his chest. ‘I love you, dad. Now I need you to do one more thing. Ok, two.’

‘Anything.’

‘Hold Curt back, and forgive me.’

He pushed on her shoulders. ‘What are you-‘

She pulled away from him, and turned to Curt.

She kissed him on the cheek. ‘I love you too.. Be happy, okies?’

‘Newbie-‘

She tucked her wings and dove towards the building.

The countdown continued in her head.

She could hear Ryan and Curt screaming after her, but the screams stayed distant, Ryan holding Curt back, Magnolia holding Ryan back, or just the normal common sense not to dive towards certain death.

Breathe.

She drew in a long breath and dodged a wave of fire.

Three. Two. One.

She folded her wings in front of her face as the wall of fire hit her.

She flew through the fire, her wings burning, her skin bubbling. She hit the floor, and rolled, leaving patches of melting flesh behind.

She knew she was screaming, but she couldn’t hear herself over the roaring fire, the crackling debris, the melting floor.

She slammed a charred hand against her chest, digging through fried flesh and felt her still-cool heart.

HEAL IT!

Everything stopped.

She opened her eyes, whole again, burning again.

She pushed herself to her feet, her skin already black and peeling.

She ran through the fire, seeing the phoenix screaming in the centre of the flames.

She collapsed to the ground again.

She dug towards her heart again. Heal the phoenix! Heal it! Heal it!

Everything stopped again.

She opened her eyes, pushed herself up from the floor, and took another couple of steps toward the phoenix.

The building started to collapse.

She pushed herself forward and fell on top of the dying firebird.

Heal it! Heal it! Heal it!

Everything stopped.

Spyder?

…ooooh fuck not this again.

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

This again.

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

I-

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

This was not one of your better plans.

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

Heal it! Heal it! Heal it!

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

If I am in my heart, I am making a wish! Heal the damn-

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

Spyder-

This has to work!

Please, please, please heal it! Let it live! Burn me up, I don’t care!

Spyder?

Yeah?

We’re still here.

…is that good or-

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain.

THE FUCK WAS THAT?

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

There was no pain last time.

I know!

Please! Please! Please! Heal it!

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain.

How do I make it listen?!

I don’t know.

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

The fact that you’re still respawning means the world is still there.

I’m trying to help you! I’m trying to help you! Make it understand! Please! I’m trying to help you! Please don’t’ end the world! Please don’t end the world!

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain.

Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please.

You tried, Spyder.

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

Godsdamit.

Breathing. Burning. Dying.

No one could have-

Breathing.

She felt her body snap to attention as she tried to move. She was trapped. Hot metal touched her on all sides, searing her skin. Cooking her.

‘Fuckfuckfucfuck-‘

Spyder!

Something moved in her arms.

She tried to open her eyes.

‘Come on.’

She opened her eyes, and saw the phoenix settling into her arms. It was warm, like a fat, content cat, and the softest thing she’d ever held.

‘Shh, shh,’ she whispered as she stroked it. ‘It’s okies, it’s okies, I got you.’

It looked up at the sound of her voice, put its beak against her chest and screamed.

Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain.

She recoiled, but stopped herself from pushing the creature away.

She forced herself to look down, and saw it chewing on a piece of mirror.

‘Oh,’ she said weakly, ‘okies.’

It made some softer noises, curled against her and went still.

‘Sleep…what an excellent idea.’

She closed her eyes.

Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain.

‘I could get you pancakes instead,’ she said as the pain subsided. ‘I require really awesome pancakes.’

It squawked at her, then settled into her lap.

The metal cocoon had cooled, it no longer seared skin, but it did an excellent job of keeping the world out.

A world that was still there.

She stroked the phoenix. ‘Thank you for not destroying the world.’

She had an after-impression of safety. Security. Home.

‘I’ll keep you safe,’ she said, ‘I’ll get you home. Do you trust me?’

In response, it curled its wings around itself and she saw the impression of an egg, no more than a trick of light, a fuzzy touch of static, but an egg forming all the same.

It felt safe.

She closed her eyes, and slept.

She opened her eyes.

A fully-formed egg lay in her lap, solid and safe.

She looked around the small metal room.

Ok, um, how do I get out?

Just wish your way out.

She put a hand to her chest, feeling raw skin and blisters, and the hole the phoenix had fed through still there.

She touched her heart. ‘Doorway out, please.’

Some of the metal disappeared and she saw a long, dark hallway. She stood on shaky legs, leaned heavily against the cool wall and limped towards the light.

There was a rush of cool air. Agency air. It smelt like Agency air. The wonderful smell of recycled air, of home, of everything good and right and shiny in the world.

She stepped into the light.

She blinked, a headache immediately descending.

What surrounded her wasn’t the abandoned industrial park, but an Agency. Agency smell. Agency colours. Agency everything.

Agency agents. Ryan. Agency recruits. Curt.

Both of them sprinted across the concrete floor towards her.

She smiled, looked at the floor, and let herself fall.

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Book 05 - Oubliette 2.0
60 comments on “31 – Any Means Necessary
  1. Wraith Wraith says:

    This chapter has left me awestruck.

    Bravo Stormy, bravo.

    • Stormy says:

      It’s got its problems, but I think now writing the other actiony stuff later on will be much easier, so for a dry-run, it wasn’t bad. :D

  2. Fantasy_Lover says:

    :’( :’( :’(

    • Stormy says:

      Fan, why are you crying?

      • Fantasy_Lover says:

        it was so beautiful and Stef was acting like a Mom again. She should be a Mom somehow.

        • Stormy says:

          …she’s still got a lot of growing up herself to do (and a lost boy to practice on), and she can be Cool Aunt Stef to Curt’s kid (if that goes ok).

          I’m really not sure if she will have a kid, as much as she always wanted a child, her issues and misconceptions about kids/motherhood etc alone, without taking everything else into account, isn’t something that will disappear overnight, and even if she does learn to deal, there’s no guarantee that she’d ever be ok enough to look after a child.

          And not every long-term relationship in this ‘verse has to end in kids. :)

  3. LittleMadHatter says:

    I want a baby phoenix…
    So kayooooot…

  4. the leaking pen says:

    hmmm. I feel like I watched this doctor who episode before. Very interesting. was it repeating because she did actually travel back in time and was causing the repeat, or was the phoenix itself respawning?

    • Wraith Wraith says:

      Stef repeatedly dying and being resurrected.

    • Stormy says:

      Very interesting. was it repeating because she did actually travel back in time and was causing the repeat, or was the phoenix itself respawning?
      You know you’re reading the MV right? If it looks like Stef is dying (even temporarily), it’s Stef dying. :P That’s her longest chain of death and respawns in such a short period of time (and I’m including her stress tests/beta testing) so she probably unlocked an achievement from that. :P

      hmmm. I feel like I watched this doctor who episode before.
      It’s early, but the closest I can come up with is River being stuck in the time loop during The Big Bang – is that what you were thinking of?

      • the leaking pen says:

        that is the one i was thinking of yes.

        And I was referring to stef seeing a repeating pattern.

        • Anonymous says:

          I beleive the significance of the repeating patern was that it gave stef a window of uportunity, between the waves of flame, to get to the phoenix and wish it healed befor the next wave of flame consumed her. And she could do this over and over again each time the pattern repeated.

          • Stormy says:

            Pretty much this, I do need to go back in and expound on it a little, but yeah, other agents were trying to get in, but just burning to a crisp (and not respawning), cause they weren’t looking for a pattern (and even if they’d seen it, they wouldn’t have gotten much further than the ones who were running blindly in), whereas she knew she could burn up over and over (well, suspected she could) but still needed to know that there were gaps to be able to do stuff in.

          • the leaking pen says:

            that … makes sense. Yeah, that could do with some more explanation.

          • Stormy says:

            …bad author, but I needed the perpsective of seeing it up and being able to read it (which is someone different to just reading it through in a word doc).

          • the leaking pen says:

            ohh, absolutely. And perhaps its me, I see two repeating patterns, I assume one causes the other, and time travel is a valid thought.

          • Stormy says:

            …not really a lot of timey-wimey stuff in the MV (other than, er, blackout zones, which hardly count).

            If/when there’s time travel stuff, I’ll be sure to make a point of it. ^_^

  5. Carradee says:

    Very confusing. But that poor little phoenix.

    And what about Stef? How much heart can she have left after this, hmm? *sighs*

    • Stormy says:

      Yeah, there are a few points that need to be cleared up, but I needed to get it out so I could have perspective on it (if that makes sense), I’ve already plugged one little plot hole, the rest just needs to be expounded on a little, and it should run smoothly enough.

      And what about Stef? How much heart can she have left after this, hmm? *sighs*
      A quarter or less of what she had at the beginning of the book.

  6. Roma says:

    Stormy…
    Can the next chapter please consists of long overdue Stef/Curt snuggles
    Go on, you know you want to :D

  7. Anayilea says:

    …a mind f*ck. /requires phoenix. I shall love him and hug him and call him Squishy!!!

    • Stormy says:

      And he shall be your Squishy! (And be handy-dandy toaster of marshmallows :D).

      • Anayilea says:

        And betcha he would <<<<3 those pesky door to door salesmen…

        • Stormy says:

          …if they could just do something about the telemarketers, remote light toasting, perhaps? :P

          • Anayilea says:

            You, my dear author, are bad for my mental stability! LOL giving me all these idears…

          • Stormy says:

            …just choked on my sushi.

            Clicking on RC is bad enough for your mental stability, let alone reading the content, let alone engaging the author! Silly Ana!

          • Anayilea says:

            …bu-buh-but I LUBS ET! Me can haz cookies now?

          • Stormy says:

            *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie*

          • Anayilea says:

            But that looked like it took waaaay more effort than warranted… Must lubs the Stormy

          • Wraith Wraith says:

            It looked like a massive copypasta chain, that’s all. Something of that length would take me maybe 30 seconds to a minute to make.

            *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie* *cookie*

            (or maybe I overestimated the time, that pile above was maybe 15-20 seconds worth of pasting) :P

          • the leaking pen says:

            paste 5 times, copy, paste 5 times, copy, paste 5 times, copy, paste once

          • the leaking pen says:

            <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3

            (that would be my above listed pattern. )

          • Stormy says:

            …you divided by zero more than me and Wraith did in the old MH comments.

            So tell us, outside the borders, are there dragons or basement freaks?

          • the leaking pen says:

            I’m tapping the blue! My own contingency plan!

          • edorfaus says:

            My editor (jEdit) just popped up a hint (like it usually does when I start it) that made me think of this comment (and the leaking pen’s response). Apparently, with jEdit, I can make a *cookie* chain of any practical length in about 6 seconds.

            Type “*cookie* “, shift-home, ctrl-C, ctrl-enter, type “100″, ctrl-V, enter. Voila, 100 *cookie*s. Type 200 instead of 100 and I’d get 200 of them.

            That got me thinking, and I realized that it would be very easy to get a practically infinite number of *cookie*s very quickly on most Linux boxes… as they have a command called “yes” that prints a string as fast as it can in an infinite loop until it is killed. By default that string is “y” but it can be practically any string – so the command “yes '*cookie*'” (which takes me about 2 sec to type) gets you a lot of *cookie*s, fast!

            I chained it together with a few other commands, to count the number of *cookie*s I would get in a second, and on my PC the number averaged over 19 million *cookie*s per second… Changing the string to ‘Require: cookie’ made the average number drop to about 13.8-13.9 million per second (as the string is longer), which is still a lot. And that’s just using one of the CPU cores.

            So, imagine if Spyder piped the output of that to the input of whatever command handles requirements…

            Unless the System has protections against such exploits, let’s just be glad she has either not thought about it (yet), or realized it would be stupid to actually do it. :P (Of course, she could get an equivalent effect with just a single “Require: 20 million cookies”… but still.)

          • the leaking pen says:

            error: syntax cookie requirements for multiples must be given in units of dozens

          • Stormy says:

            …baker’s dozens?

          • the leaking pen says:

            well, thats assumed, right? because otherwise someone might require a dozen dozen, and if its not baker’s, that would just be gross.

            (the windup, and the pitch! I knew you were good for the setup Stormy, thanks!)

          • Stormy says:

            You’re welcome. ^_^

          • Stormy says:

            Unless the System has protections against such exploits, let’s just be glad she has either not thought about it (yet), or realized it would be stupid to actually do it. :P (Of course, she could get an equivalent effect with just a single “Require: 20 million cookies”… but still.)
            One 20M cookie requirement would just be a warehouse, strung out like this, it would rain cookies, which is so much cooler! ^_^

          • Wraith Wraith says:

            Now I have the awesome image of it raining cookies.

            Maybe have Stef do that as they’re driving around getting rid of the blackout?

            Ryan: No, Stef, you don’t need that many cookies.
            Stef: But I’m just testing the system to make sure it’s working properly! *puppy eyes*
            Ryan: *grumbles about stinky little hackers*

            :P

  8. loudinsidemyhead says:

    At some point when someone makes a TVTropes page for Require Cookie they are going to need to put this as one of Stef’s Crowning Moment(s) of Awesome.

    • Wraith Wraith says:

      . . . there is a TVTropes page for the MV, it just hasn’t been updated in forever. Like, back when GE was still running concurrently with MS if I remember right . . .

    • Stormy says:

      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Mirrorfall

      But he’s right, it hasn’t been updated in ages. -_- I keep trying, then getting…well, it’s tropes, you can imagine, I’m sure. :P

      (That, and I keep second-guessing myself as to what applies and what doesn’t, and feel bad about doing stuff like nominating moments/scenes for CMoAs and etc, cause it seems arrogant).

    • Stormy says:

      …um, her secret’s pretty much out. -_-

      Enough recruits got told some version of the truth by various agents that they came out and told a version of the truth, ok, most of the truth.

      …and that’s going to be fun when Stef finds out her secret identity’s been blown…

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: