Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Aberrant - Chapter Two Conclusion

We'll be returning to Aberrant when we're at the end of the chapter for Mage so thought I should finish writing that up too!

Told from the point of view of my character, Chrissie Walker aka Lisa 'The Phoenix' Moore, the story index is here.

The news continued to report on the devastation in London and the search for Hyperdrive as a suspect in the attacks on the churches across America. They mentioned they were all part of the Church of the Archangel Michael, and speculated he'd done it in vengeance against what had been done at the premiere. They pointed out there was no comment from us. That riled me: they hadn't approached us for any, and we hadn't had time.

I looked to Alastair to lead us, but he sat on the bench motionless and emotionless. I drew strength from the memory of Benedict, of his request that I lead the Initiative. I've made poor, young Alastair do this for far too long. Time for me to stand.

It was a daunting prospect nonetheless.

I phoned Dave, head of the nova-friendly network N! and long-term friend of ours. He would have a team with us shortly - would come himself to help us find the best things to say. He's human, but very good at what he does. I phoned Captain Montgomery, too: he had a team on the way and promised to make the remains of the St John mansion safe. The PR department of St John Enterprise was also set in motion, and I felt a little better. The strong, black coffee Remi brought me helped, and seeing Holly was safe even more so. Someone pointed out I need to let Jen's parents know she was hurt, maybe dead, and Alastair finally roused and said he would do this, but accepted my offer to come with him.

He took my hand to teleport us to their drive. As we walked to the door, each of his footfalls cracked the ground. This... I'd never seen this before. I touched his arm before he touched either of his grandparents - I could feel something rippling from him, but it seemed I could survive touching him. He told them what happened, that many men with many guns overwhelmed security at the mansion and shot Jen. I left him with his grandparents and their grief, and took mine with me.

I collected Holly and Stef - whose only UK address had been the Hub - from what remained of the Hub and took them back to Cambridge with me, tried to make things as normal for Holly as I could with her dad missing and encouraged everyone else to spend a bit of time recovering. Alastair joined us after a few days to let me know he hadn't found Steve. I wanted to hold him close and mother him, but he had things he needed to sort out so I let him go.

At the end of the week, Adam sent me a very brief message: he was handing himself in, then silence on our link. I turned on the news and watched until I saw him being arrested. He was at his California home; the footage from the circling helicopters showed a huge burn mark, but I couldn't see Sam or Nicky. Pax took him in. I picked up my phone to call Pax to find out what would happen next when the doorbell rang. I opened it to... Steve.


For the first time since Erupting, I wasn't sure how I felt, how I was going to react, so I listened as he talked. I'd assumed he'd never asked me to marry him because he knew, with my childhood, I wasn't ready for that, but now...

He'd Erupted shortly after me, while I was being held in the Outer Hebrides. His ex-wife - Holly's mother - is a Nova scientist who specialises in 'experimenting' on other Novas. Holly... Holly may have been born a Nova, he wasn't sure. At some point around 1995, she'd said or done something that changed Eleanor's attitude: she got a hungry look towards her own daughter. My stomach churned at that - I felt flushed with fear and anger and maternal protection. If Steve hadn't still been talking, I might have flown off to try to tear the woman limb from limb.

They left, changed their names, moved around, eventually settling in the flat below mine. It seems this was a genuine coincidence - very unusually where Benedict is concerned, but my mentor didn't take an interest until after my Eruption. When he found out, he taught Steve to control his powers and did ... something for Holly. Steve wasn't sure what - bound her or controlled her or something, tied in with the bracelet she wears. She has no idea of any of it, not least how dangerous she has the potential to be.

And then I took her with me to fight that fire in London, which was what started all of this. He saw her there, holding on tight as I flew in front of the cameras, so he raced over, that figure in ice - but of course her mother saw the footage too. My anger was tinged with frustration, because if he'd only told me the danger Holly was in, I'd never have taken her with me. I recognised that frustration as a mask for guilt and didn't reveal it.

"How dangerous is she?"

"I don't know."


"Maybe. I saw it once, apparently, but it was too dangerous for me to be allowed to remember. I don't know. She doesn't know any of this. She mustn't. Not just because she'd hate to be dangerous, but it's not safe for her to know."

I promised, then phoned Pax to learn Adam was in Bahrain. I asked about the burn mark, and he said he didn't know what had caused it but it looked recent, and Adam had been kneeling by a small cairn. I thanked him, checked in on Steve, Holly and Stef, and flew out to Adam's place.

Fans had left flowers and cards expressing disbelief, a sentiment I shared. Other people had come by and desecrated the scene. Inside, there was a grim quietness to the staff tending his vinyards. The cairn Pax had mentioned was marked 'Robin', and the cape Adam had made for his dog hung over it. I patted the name, sighed, and talked to the staff. The police had told them not to talk to anyone, but they knew me and told me they'd been attacked, three of them killed: crucified then burnt. Robin had been killed defending them. 

I ingratiated myself with the police officers patrolling the grounds. They couldn't tell me why this attack was being hushed up, and I didn't want to push them, but they did tell me the link between the Church of the Archangel Michael and the victims shouldn't have been leaked to the press. 

There was no sign of Sam or Nicky, and no one knew where they were. 

Back in the UK, I talked to Steve about the attack on the facility, and the handless lady I'd left in Morocco. I visited her, and she said her name was Gertrude and she'd gone to Switzerland for work as a guard. She didn't know much about the company, just that it was something to do with microchips. I helped sort out prosthetics for her hands (despite the potential in my Eruption and to my frustration, I'd still not demonstrated any healing power), and took her back to Switzerland. Steve said the microchips were new technology based on the Nova study by his Ex. I wanted to investigate more, but London needed rebuilding. 

On which note, Alastair wanted me to head up the quantum generator project to bring green power to London as part of the rebuild. With looking after the Initiative and Holly, Stef and Steve, and trying to find Sam and Nicky, and keeping on top of my research, I actually felt busy.

I dreamt we buried Jen next to the empty plot marked as Benedict's grave. A weird feeling crept from the pit of my stomach, filling me with a sense of wrongness. I missed them both. The feeling stayed with me after I woke. Maybe this is partly why I don't normally bother with sleep.

We didn't bury Jen. She survived. Very weak, recovery a long road, but she was alive. Alastair didn't tell us to begin with because he wasn't sure she'd make it. That boy takes on too much. 

Adam's court date was set for 6th June 2005. We found the best defense lawyer on the Nova Initiative books, and I started studying law in my spare time to assist - took about a month to get my degree sorted, but at least it was interesting. The PM raced my licence through. 

It meant I got to see Adam, but that didn't reassure me. He seemed unconcerned that I couldn't find his heavily pregnant wife or their young daughter, just saying the defense lawyer was investigating. When he slipped and called me Chrissie instead of Lisa, I raised an eyebrow and asked if he was ok, hoping anyone monitoring would assume he'd made a mistake. He twitched as he talked, describing something like sensory deprivation torture.

As it came near time for me to leave, he looked right at me, more lucid than any other point: "I'm scared for my sanity, back there in that room with no beginning and no end."

It frightened me, but he made me promise not to break him out.

I investigated the Church, hoping to find links to terrorist organisations to justify Adam's attacks: the lawyer told me he'd said he was guilty and hadn't been coerced. They had incited the attack on his film premier, but weren't normally involved in that sort of thing, and it didn't look like they'd been intending to become more involved. It looked like he had been manipulated into creating anti-Nova propaganda, though: all the incidents were captured on cameras with sufficient EMP-shielding to protect them even from Adam's power. The best we could hope for was that provocation and good behaviour would buy him a reduced sentence.

The trial was at The Hague; Pax must have pulled straws, because a trial in the USA could have led to the death penalty. It was difficult to go through: Adam was like a caged animal, and they showed footage of the attacks I hadn't seen - more brutal than I'd realised. The lawyer did his best, but it wasn't enough. 

We built the new Hub on an island, a unique place with a sprawling network of buildings that could only be reached from that one location. Workers would arrive from other offices, but could only go further if they had approval. It truly was a hub.

Remi and Mark had spent their time trying to track down the people behind the attack, but with no success. Alastair had an idea it was a Belgian former black ops soldier, Gaspard Reynard, who'd led the attack. He'd been an accomplished soldier and had no family we knew of. Alastair had no idea who'd instructed him, but he was a Nova now, with absolute mastery over the molecular structure of others. Project Utopia had picked him up early, at one of the clinics they ran to give a drug to suppress your powers while you learnt to control them (and, being Utopia, presumably made you infertile at the same time).

We had no leads at all on Sam and Nicky, and it was driving me to distraction. I was worried enough about Adam without having lost his family. 

Finally, I was allowed to see Adam, A doctor took me to him. There were so many small rooms in the facility, each housing a criminal (I presumed all Novae), and Adam was one of them. He was curled up in a small ball, rocking, repeating "He's here, he's here..."


And that was where we left the game. We actually played out this section differently, with Adam being acquitted, only at the end for the GM to give me a few changes to the year so it ran for Chrissie more or less like this, while what we played was in Adam's head.

The last note in my book is "(+10xp I forgot to note on character sheet)", which is the kind of note a player likes to find!