|On the Other Side
Author: catseyegem PM
What happens when an innocent woman is dragged into a universe completely unlike her own? *Revised Chapter One now up!*Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure - Chapters: 8 - Words: 27,356 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 10-17-11 - Published: 11-19-10 - id: 6488618
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Part Eight: Payback
It had been, she reflected the next morning, not the best of ideas to hug the person who was recovering from a dislocated shoulder. Even more so when said person was not only expecting her to not be wearing her spare costume, but also to be safely ensconced in their hideout. She'd be walking with a limp for weeks after the ass chewing she'd received. On top of that the Winter Mage had insisted on Catherine registering as a heroine as soon as City Hall was open the next morning. She'd wanted to complain about that last one, but the look on her mentor's face brooked no disagreement.
She shifted position from one foot to the other and fiddled with the hem of her vest for what was probably the dozenth time in the past few minutes. It was turning out to be one thing to rush into danger heedlessly, and another thing entirely to deal with the consequences.
She glanced at the Winter Mage out of the corner of her eye, then wondered why she did so; the other woman had her hood pulled forward as far as it would go, and in any case was studiously ignoring everyone around her.
She sighed and peered around the shoulder of the man in front of her, who was dressed entirely in military fatigues and gear. He stood stiffly with his hands clasped behind him, ramrod straight. Catherine resisted the urge to tap him on the shoulder just to see what would happen; somehow she doubted that would get her back into her mentor's good graces. Either fortunately or unfortunately, she wasn't sure which, there were only three more people in front of her.
She reached up again to adjust her black domino mask, which was stuck securely to her face and hadn't moved, just as it hadn't moved the last dozen times. At the desk, a woman with pointed ears and long black hair that reached down to her waist turned and stepped away, slipping something small into a brown satchel looped over one shoulder. With a smile and a wave the woman stepped lightly towards the door to Altas Plaza.
As the line moved forward the Winter Mage turned to look at Catherine, raising her hood some as she did so. "Have you thought about what you are going to call yourself?"
The other woman nodded. "Yeah. Wayfarer."
"A fitting name."
Catherine smiled. "Thanks."
There was silence for a moment. "Does this mean you've forgiven me?"
"For the theft of my costume, or for breaking the law?"
"Both? Or just one or the other," she added after seeing her mentor's expression.
More silence as the line shortened by one more.
"If you haven't forgiven me, then why are you still here?"
"You are my problem, whether I like it or not. I brought you into the situation, and now I will see you out."
"So... you're still going to be my mentor?"
The Winter Mage looked away. "This is not a conversation we should be having in public."
Catherine pursed her lips and nodded, then started fidgeting with the hem of her vest again.
Like her new name, she had come up with the costume while unable to sleep. But really, how could she be expected to after everything that had happened? At least it meant a night free of nightmares. By the time morning rolled around, a pair of serviceable jeans, a grey t-shirt someone had donated when her first apartment had burnt down, and a black vest and mask she'd been planning on putting to good use at Halloween had been found and assembled.
It was also the costume that made her wonder what on earth she was doing the most; it above all was a sign saying 'heroine here'. Granted, technically she was a heroine now, even if the paperwork hadn't been completed yet.
That was about to change though, as the military man in front of her nodded politely to the secretary and clipped his new ID to the front of his flack jacket. Printed in large letters was the name 'Johnny Devil.'
The moment of truth had come. Only her mentor's presence and the thought of being turned in as a criminal kept her from fleeing right then and there. She stepped up to the counter with a nudge from the Winter Mage. The redheaded FBSA agent, wearing a suit and a nametag reading 'Rebecca Cross', smiled warmly.
"What can I do for you today?"
Catherine swallowed hard. "I, uh, want to register as a hero."
"And you miss?" the woman asked, looking at the Winter Mage, who was standing at Catherine's left.
The Winter Mage shook her head. "I am here merely to make sure my sidekick is properly registered."
The agent nodded and picked up a tablet from its dock on the counter next to her, entered a few commands, then handed it to Catherine, who took it cautiously. "Just fill out the forms here and bring it back to me when you're done. You can sit over there," she said, nodding towards several rows of chairs.
Catherine sat in the back and flicked through the files she'd been given, while the Winter Mage chatted with the Rebecca. The process seemed simple enough- things like the name she would work under, whether she wanted her personal identity to be private or public, a basic outline of her abilities, a basic background. There was only one thing that made her hesitate, a question asking about known associates. She tucked a stray strand of hair behind her right ear, brought up the onscreen keyboard and began to type. Half an hour later there was only one thing left to do.
"Mage, can I ask you something?"
The hooded heroine turned and sat down next to her trainee. "Yes?"
"I know you didn't want to have this conversation here, but apparently the FBSA wants to know about my known associates."
The Winter Mage was silent for a long while. Catherine was about to ask again when her mentor spoke. "You can count me as one of your associates."
Catherine smiled in relief and leaned over the tablet once more as the Winter Mage continued. "But our conversation is not over. When we are alone we will discuss my terms."
Catherine nodded, then stood up and walked back to the counter and her last chance to back out. "I'm done."
The agent nodded and took the tablet. "Let me make sure everything is filled out properly... okay, you're all set. Your information is updating to the system now, and I'll have your ID card ready for you in just a moment. Make sure when you're on patrol you keep it on you at all times."
There was a beep and the sound of something printing. Catherine peered over the counter interestedly, bu the printer was tucked away unseen. The agent smiled knowingly and handed over the small blue card that marked the recipient as the newest hero in Paragon City.
She resisted the urge to cheer and dance and instead carefully tucked her new ID into her wallet, which went back into its pocket on the lower left of her vest. It was official. She grinned at her mentor, who nodded and said, "Congratulations."
The Winter Mage then looked over at the agent. "Do you need anything further from us?"
"You should visit MAGI and Azuria before you go. With your origin, Wayfarer, she'll be a perfect contact for you at the FBSA."
The two made their goodbyes and exited Superhero Registration. Catherine stepped lightly, a burden lifted from her shoulders. She looked around, slowing to read the plaques on each of the doors as they passed. One in particular caught her eye- 'Omega Team Memorial'. In front of it was a sign stating the memorial was under renovation.
"The Omega Team were the ones that helped end the Rikti War, right?"
"Correct. They and their companions in the Alpha Team, coordinated a final strike on the Rikti invaders. The members of the Omega Team knew theirs was a suicide mission, and so left a time capsule to be opened on the seventh anniversary of their sacrifice."
As they neared the door to Atlas Plaza Catherine slowed, uncertain. "Didn't Agent Cross say I needed to go talk to Azuria?
"If you wish."
"It isn't necessary?" Catherine asked as the duo veered away from the door and towards the far side of the room.
"It is useful for single heroes just starting out, but not nearly so for those experienced or working with an experienced partner."
"Oh. Uh, you don't mind then?"
"I have my own caseload, but I do not have any pressing matters to attend to."
They rounded the corner leading to New Hero Assignments and Catherine slowed, looking around with interest. The hallway quickly opened up into an expansive room, with five large entryways, each with a plaque centered above it. In front of her on the far wall was GIFT, on the left ELITE and SERAPH, and on the right DATA and MAGI The floor thrummed with power beneath their feet, and Catherine briefly wondered why there weren't more visible cracks.
"So that's MAGI, huh," commented Catherine, nodding towards the nearest entryway on the right, where bookcases and shelves could partially be seen.
"Indeed. I must warn you, do not mention the vault while talking to Azuria."
Catherine blinked. "Okay. Why?"
"I will explain once we are done."
It took only half a dozen more steps for Azuria, a woman with long brown hair, a purple ankle length skirt, and a blue tank top, to call out to them.
"Hello and welcome to MAGI! My name is Azuria. It's good to meet you."
Catherine smiled and sped up, while the Winter Mage trailed behind a pace. "It's good to meet you too. Agent Cross said I should talk to you?"
"Of course. Come in, come in." The mage led the two heroes past cases and cases of artifacts, all meticulously detailed. Behind these were rows of bookcases with titles like 'Minor Artifacts of Ancient Babylon' and 'An history of the Isle of Mu.' This last was so battered as to be almost unreadable.
Catherine frowned. "The isle of Mu?"
"A civilization long since lost, although the bloodline continues yet today," Azuria said as she sat at a table tucked in between a display of bracers taken from the Warriors on Talos Island on one side and a giant wooden mask that had belonged to the Banished Pantheon. "Please, sit."
The duo did so.
"Let me give a bit of background on the situation her in Atlas park before I go on. There are three main villain groups: the Hellions, the Clockwork, and the Vazhilok. The Trolls and Skulls occasionally make incursions from the Hollows, and small groups can sometimes be found selling Superadine, but of these groups the Hellions are the most firmly entrenched.
The Hellions, as you probably know, are a group of demon worshiping pyromaniacs. They also deal heavily in minor artifacts of power, although no one is quite sure where they get them from."
Catherine nodded and filled that thought away in her memory.
"There is a location here where I have divined a stronger than usual concentration of magic. I would like you to check it out, recover anything you find, and arrest whoever is in charge."
Catherine looked at the Winter Mage, then back at Azuria. "You've got it."
Azuria smiled. "Thank you for your assistance." She wrote down a location on a piece of paper, and handed it to the newfound heroine. "I would send it to you electronically, but I'm afraid technology doesn't work well in my presence."
Catherine showed the paper to the Winter Mage, then pocket it and stood up. "Thank you for the information."
The Winter Mage nodded. "My apprentice and I will return shortly."
The duo made their way into the late August sunshine. Catherine pulled the piece of paper Auria had given her back out of her pocket. "Does this make sense to you?"
The Winter Mage took it, opened it, and nodded. "It is a set of coordinates, meant to be plugged into a GPS. However, I use this to pinpoint locations," she said as she pulled a black velvet bag from a pocket and removed a clear crystal. As Catherine looked on curiously the hooded heroine held the crystal in the palm of her left hand and waved her right hand over it. The crystal continued to sit in her hand, no seemingly no different that before.
"There," said the Winter Mage. "We now have our own navigation system. "But first, we must pay a visit to both Chiron Medical Center and the police department.
Catherine blinked. "Why?"
"You are in need of a Medi-Porter and teleport beacons"
One trip and an hour later the two heroines stood in front of a brush covered entrance into one of the city's many cave systems, this one on the bank of the pond in Prometheus Park, not far from City Hall.
"Are you certain you understand the rules we must labor under?" the Winter Mage asked quietly.
"Yeah. I can't do anything the police can't do. And especially no killing."
"Correct. While we are working together you must do exactly as I say when dealing with the enemy, or else all of our work will come to nothing."
The Winter Mage waved her hand over the now brightly glowing crystal, causing it to dim. She put it back and pulled out an amethyst. Seconds later the duo were surrounded by a protective bubble.
Catherine narrowed her eyes as she looked between the bubble and her mentor. "I have to say, that looks really familiar."
"Yeah. You kind've look like her too."
The Winter Mage shrugged. "There are many people who use the magic inherent in these stones. It, like many things, is easy to learn and make useful, but hard to master." She shook her head. "This is not a conversation we should have standing in front of our enemies' lair."
Catherine shrugged herself and followed her mentor through the brush and into her first mission. "Curiouser and curiouser," she said under her breath.
The Winter Mage put her finger to her lips. Catherine snorted, then took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She concentrated and brought her magic to the surface, reveling in the feeling of the seemingly unlimited power at her disposal. If only she had better control, she mused as she carefully followed her mentor down a gentle slope.
The stone that formed the tunnel around them was grey, and lit with torches every dozen paces. After a few minutes the Winter Mage stopped and carefully turned to gesture Catherine forward with one hand and reached into a pocket with the other. Catherine raised her eyebrows, which her mentor answered with a jerk of her head towards the sharp curve in front of them and then mouthed the word 'Hellions'. Catherine nodded and brought a ball of negative energy to hand. The Winter Mage frowned, but raised a hand, three fingers out. Two... one.
The duo rushed around the corner and launched their attacks near simultaneously. Within seconds the group of four Hellions, one carrying a shotgun, were covered in a layer of ice and shrouded in darkness. None even had the chance to make a sound.
Catherine smiled and turned to the Winter Mage, but her expression faded when she saw her mentor hadn't moved. She looked back towards the Hellions, confused. It was quickly obvious what had the other woman's attention- the cloud of darkness she'd created around her victims was spreading as she watched, and deepening. A cold chill radiated from it, and somehow it seemed to be sucking the light from the surrounding area. As they watched the cloud grew bigger, and the room grew dimmer.
The Winter Mage whirled towards the younger woman. "Whatever you've done, end it!"
Catherine jerked and glanced at her mentor, then at the obscured Hellions. There was an edge in her voice that she'd never heard before, and it set her nerves on edge- fear. She pursed her lips, thought for a second, and slashed her right hand through the air from left to right. The cloud slowly faded into nothing, revealing four chilled Hellions.
"We must work quickly before their internal fires release them from captivity. Take one of the patches you received from Chiron Medical Center and place it on his chest," the Winter Mage said brusquely, nodding towards the nearest Hellion. "and activate it to send your target to the nearest medical center."
Catherine stared at the small white patch with a red cross on it, then back at the Hellion.
"Quickly," the Winter Mage urged. "Would you deny him the medical care he needs?"
That was enough to jolt her into action, and the hapless quartet was soon on their way.
The two heroines started on their way again, until a few minutes later their path split in two.
"So what now? Should we split up?"
The Winter Mage shook her head slowly. "There is safety in numbers, especially when one is inexperienced. I believe I have a way of determining which direction we should turn."
Catherine watched as the other woman pulled out her purse of gemstones and removed the crystal she had used earlier. One wave of the hand and a muttered phrase later the stone shone dimly. Once again she held it in the palm of her hand and pointed it in either direction. It didn't react at all to the right hand passage, but brightened at the left.
The duo set off in the direction the gem indicated at a slow but steady pace. It continued to lead them left and down until Catherine was sure they were fifty feet or more underground.
Finally, after two more small groups of Hellions and what seemed like an eternity, the Winter Mage stopped once again before rounding a curve. Even Catherine didn't need to ask what was going on this time- the sound of heavy metal being played through a boombox could clearly be heard.
During the quieter moments it was possible to hear at least half a dozen voices raised in excitement. A burst of heat rolled past them, explaining at least part of what was going on- someone was playing with their favorite element.
Catherine cupped her hands together, formed a ball of energy there, and raised her eyebrows at her mentor. The Winter Mage frowned and shook her head abruptly. The younger woman shook her head and dispersed her magic. "What's the plan?" she said quietly.
The hooded heroine brought out her purse of gemstones and Catherine had to suppress a groan. Was there nothing she couldn't do with them?
This time it was the amethyst, and a few seconds later the purple protective bubble around the two of them was stronger than ever. Something began to glow under her hood, illuminating her face in a yellow light. the temperature dropped like a rock, making Catherine shiver and a light coat of frost appeared on the stone around them.
The Winter Mage strode around the corner, leaving Catherine behind in surprise. "Oh, hey!"
She scrambled forward just in time to watch her mentor reach the rough center of the small, circular room and raise her hands into the air. The temperature dropped even farther, and three of the half-dozen Hellions there were encased immovably in blocks of ice.
Catherine darted in behind the distracted gang members and planted herself behind a large stalagmite, heart racing. What on earth was her mentor thinking, rushing in like that? She was going to get herself killed or at the least badly injured. She shuddered, then took a deep breath and popped out of her hiding spot.
"Surprised to see us? Shoulda kept better security!" she called out as she lobbed fist sized balls of negative energy at the three remaining gang members, but especially at the sole demon-masked Hellion. She knew that he would cause the most trouble if he weren't taken down quickly.
Unfortunately, all it seemed to do was make her opponents angrier. On top of that, the few seconds she'd been hidden had apparently been enough for her to completely lose track of the Winter Mage. She swore virulently.
One of the Hellions broke and fled from the chamber, leaving Catherine with the Damned and a single minion.
She strode forward, anger in her voice. "If you hurt the Winter Mage, I promise you, you'll wish you'd never been born."
The Damned laughed, raised his hands into the air, and launched twin fireballs at her chest. Catherine never paused, taking both blows without even blinking. She swung her arms out to her sides, but before she could do anything else a blow to her upper back threw her headlong towards the stalagmites only a few feet from the back wall.
The knocked the breath out of her and she lay in a heap for a few seconds, until a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye cued her in to the fact that she was about to be attacked, not by the Damned, but by the Blood Brother Slugger carrying a knife.
She scrambled backwards, only to quickly find herself up against a rock. She looked around herself wildly, hoping against hope that her mentor was close at hand, but the other woman was still nowhere to be found. The Hellion smiled with glee and advanced, sure of a certain kill.
To her astonishment, the Hellion stopped dead in his tracks, dropped his weapon, and fell straight over, revealing a mass of ice from the top of his head to cover his upper arms, and down his back to his waist.
Catherine breathed a sigh of relief; even if she hadn't seen where the blast had come from, it meant the Winter Mage was okay. She levered herself to her feet and stumbled, head swimming. She shook her head, braced herself against the wall and concentrated, bringing as much of her power to bear as she could in the precious seconds she had before the Damned found her friend and fried her. The air around her blurred and darkened, until she was surrounded in an aura of darkness. The same aura formed around the feet of the Damned, and seconds later tendrils rose up and wrapped themselves around the Hellion's limbs, rendering him helpless.
"Mage!" she panted as loudly as she could. "I can only hold him so long!"
As she strained to keep the Hellion bound the Winter Mage came out from her concealment in the back of the chamber. The Hellion was soon encased in a block of ice from the neck down on top of the energy tendrils.
"Good work. Hold him as long as you can, please."
Catherine grimaced, but kept feeding as much energy as she could into her construct. It was all she could do to maintain it; she had no attention to give to the interrogation going on not more than ten feet away. Two minutes later the world dimmed, a minute after that it went black.