Status: This is for NaNo. As such, it will be unedited for the time being.

The Power of Illusions

Chapter Five

Elsewhere in the facility of H.O.M.E., there wasn’t such a carefree feeling in the air as the one John and Dave had planning their day off together. In the depths of the facility, in a dimly lit room, there stood the head scientist of S.B.U.R.B. in front of one of the captives from the day prior.

“Hello there. My name is Rolanda, and I’d like you to answer a few questions I have,” the scientist addressed the girl with platinum blonde hair. Her green eyes shifted up to meet almost purple ones. She blinked a few times and opened her mouth to speak. A very soft, almost demure voice came forth.

“Thank you, Rolanda. Thank you and your facility.” Rolanda looked at her in confusion.

“What do you mean by that? Why are you thanking us?” The girl took a deep breath and settled back in the chair she was chained loosely to.

“Thank you for getting us out of there. Out of L.O.R.D. My name is Calliope English. I am very willing to work with you.” The scientist sensed she was already getting somewhere, even if the thanks threw her for a loop.

“Well, Calliope, it is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell me what exactly L.O.R.D. is?” Might as well start with the most basic of questions.

“L.O.R.D., or League of Royal Demons, is an agency much like this one, consisting of those with powers. However, unlike this one appears to be, our leader’s goals are to show the world just how powerful we are and make the common folk kneel to us,” was the explanation given. Calliope seemed willing to give information, but only as much as the question allowed. Rolanda figured it was a method of gauging their intent as well before revealing too much.

“Hmmm… interesting. Now, how many members are in L.O.R.D.?” Calliope paused for a moment before answering, needing to think on the number.

“I would say close to about 100 members with powers, 200 without that help our facility, and about 20 with almost mastery over their respective powers, myself included in that.” Rolanda was taken aback by those numbers. For never having heard of that organization, there sure were a lot of members.

“And those other 2 you were with were part of it? Can you tell me more about the other members involved as well as your own powers?”

“My powers are very siren-like. I am a Muse, as I call myself and is my codename. After all, I can sing and put people into a trance-like state. It is quite the useful defensive power. As for the other members, the two that were brought in with me have plasmakinesis and life restorative/theft powers. The male, Eridan, can control, manipulate, and create plasma. His power is highly offensive and one of the most powerful in the facility. The girl, Feferi, has the life restorative/theft powers. She can drain life, give it back, weaken someone, or strengthen someone depending on her will. She must do it through touch, however, so having her chained up like me would prove to be most beneficial to you until you can get her to cooperate. Although, I presume that won’t take too much to do.”

“Why do you say that? And for that matter, why are you so willing to come forth about information from this group? What do you gain from it?” questioned Rolanda, wanting to get to the bottom of things, growing more and more suspicious from the upfront attitude of the girl in front of her. Calliope heaved a large sigh.

“Because the leader of L.O.R.D. is evil and conniving. She essentially wants world domination, as I’ve told you. Her methods are underhanded and nasty. She finds a power she likes and takes it. Both metaphorically by enlisting the wielder and literally. Her power is power theft. She can touch a power wielder and steal their power, leaving them as a normal civilian while she gains that ability on top of the multitude of other abilities she’s already collected. There seems to be no limit to how many she can collect.” That was a power Rolanda had never heard of. And, quite frankly, it was disconcerting.

“That is quite the power to have. What abilities has she already stolen?”

“She has electrokinesis, plasmakinesis, psionics, and most recently, mind control, on top of a number of others that I can’t even begin to imagine. She was already very powerful when my brother sought her out,” Calliope explained. One thing pinged the scientist’s attention other than the list of powers.

“You have a brother? And he is a wielder as well?” True, the list of powers of the leader was disorienting and fear-inducing, but the prospect of more families with powers was enticing.

“You don’t want him. He’s just as evil as her. He is a wielder, yes, but he is very corrupt. He brought me with him, deeming my power useful, and sold us out to her.”

“What are his powers?” Rolanda pushed. Calliope looked her straight in the eye.

“He is a puppet master, Rolanda. He’s incredibly powerful, especially when paired with me.” Rolanda frowned and sighed.

“Well, we will be on the lookout for him. Now, about this leader. You said she recruits members? How does she do that?” Calliope relaxed in her chair again.

“Usually she hears of strange incidents throughout the states, and either she travels there or sends one of her minions to gather the person or people. If they choose not to come with her willingly, that’s where her mind control comes into effect. I would venture a guess of about 75% of the facility is mind controlled. Not a one of them knows it, however. Not anymore at least. They used to know and fight it, but since it’s been so long, they believe their purposes to be what they wanted all along.” That brought up even more questions in Rolanda’s mind.

“So, if you didn’t want to be there in the first place, I’m assuming you fought it. How do I know you aren’t under mind control right now and just telling me what I want to hear?” That caused Calliope’s eyebrows to raise a little and a smile to grace her delicate face.

“Now we are getting to the in-depth questions. That’s what I was waiting for. You see, I was put under mind control… or so she thought. I’ve been acting this entire time. I was never under her control. As a person with the ability to distort the mind and create a fog in it, my own mind is safe from any other powers that do that. I simply cannot be mind controlled. However, as soon as I figured that out, I knew I needed to play it off that I was if I wanted to survive and keep my powers.” Rolanda nodded and continued.

“Are either of the other two that came in with you under mind control?” Calliope kept her smile.

“Yes. Eridan is. Feferi, however, is not. Although, she doesn’t agree with the leader’s methods or desires either.”

“Are her life powers considered a mind altering power?” asked Rolanda, now mildly confused why someone who didn’t agree with the leader wasn’t under control. Calliope shook her head.

“No, of course not. She is the leader’s one and only daughter. So her mother obviously had some sort of an influence on her due to her raising and upbringing.” Rolanda nodded, that making sense to her now.

“So you say Eridan is under mind control? Are any of the other 20 or so most powerful under mind control?”

“Of course. You can’t honestly expect that many wielders to agree with her methods willingly, can you? A majority of them are mind controlled at this point. I believe there are only maybe 5 that aren’t? Aside from Feferi, myself, and my brother.” Rolanda stood and paced in front of Calliope as she considered the information that was being presented to her.

“So you say that this leader has the ability to steal other people’s powers? Why has she personally not been out yet? I would venture a guess that she’d be able to take us down pretty easily if she went out herself. What are her plans for the group and how they’ll achieve their end goal?” Calliope considered the questions for a moment.

“Yes, she has that ability. She’s done it many times since I’ve been there, every person leaving the facility a wreck and unable to function at the base level for quite some time, having been used to having their powers. I would assume that it feels like a void in your being having them stolen like that. Now, on to her methods and plans. She hasn’t been out personally yet because she sees no reason to be. It is the same reason she’s not sent my brother out yet. All of the oddball users you folks have taken down have been from L.O.R.D. She’s been sending them out by ones and twos in order to start establishing a presence out in the world. However, seeing as you have been taking down her men, or pawns as she would have them called, she’s been growing progressively more angry. That was why she finally sent out Feferi, Eridan, and myself. Although, to be honest, I believe that was my brother’s suggestion. He always was the impatient type.

I do not know of her current plans, but seeing as we’ve taken out about as many of your members as you have ours, I believe she will think it time to start bringing out her power players. I also firmly believe you will have much more difficulty dealing with future teams from her. We’ve been stolen from her, after all. She won’t be happy about that, especially since one of the ones stolen was her daughter. I can very well assume that she’ll try to steal away a member or two from your organization in retribution for stealing us away. Just a fair warning for you. If you don’t want your best members taken from you, don’t send them out when she sends out her next team,” warned Calliope. Rolanda ceased her pacing for a moment to consider everything presented to her.

“If that’s the case, then how do we take down any team she sends out? If we can’t send out anyone we would rather not risk losing, how are we to succeed?” Green eyes once more met purple.

“That is up to you to decide. I can, however, tell you that no matter what, it won’t be easy. The decision is a hard one to make. It also depends on the strength of your strongest. Can they outwit and out-power her teams? I, myself, cannot tell you as I don’t know your members. Although, I would venture a guess to say that the team that took us down was one of your strongest?” Rolanda hesitated, but she eventually nodded.

“Since you are giving me the information I need, I will give you this. Yes, they are some of our strongest. Even more so than our more adult members. These young ones are exceptionally strong. But they are also so young. Just as you are, I presume?”

“My age matters not, Rolanda. Nor does theirs. We’re all in the same situation, are we not? We all have powers, weak or strong, that we have learned to live with and control. Age is no determining factor in a fight such as this one. In fact, younger wielders, from my own observations with L.O.R.D. seem the most easily adaptable. They can take in a situation and come up with a solution a lot more quickly than an older adult can, regardless of power level. However, that is slightly beside the point, is it not?” Rolanda sighed and nodded.

“Yes, you are right. We must get back to the main topic here. So, you are volunteering all this information due to the fact that you’d like to see L.O.R.D. fall, am I correct in assuming that? You’ve already stated that you do not like the methods used and have thanked us for getting you out of there.” Calliope took her turn to nod.

“That is correct. I never wanted to go there in the first place, nor do I believe in her ideals that the common folk should kneel to wielders as if they are lower. I believe that everyone is equal, despite the fact that some of us have powers. That doesn’t make us better or worse than anyone else. It simply makes us different and even potentially a little more useful, depending on the power. I’d rather see a world of equality instead of a table flip like L.O.R.D. desires,” she explained. “That is why I thanked you. And I’m sure Feferi will as well once you manage to convince her that this is for the best.”

“So, since you know Feferi and how she’ll handle things, can you help me decide the best way of convincing her that we are friends, not foes?” Calliope nodded.

“Of course I can. Provided you release these chains. I’m finding them very uncomfortable. I understand your reasoning for them, however they’re relatively in-effective with a power such as mine. You’ll need to come up with a better method for sound manipulators, especially when you need to ask them questions. Perhaps, providing I prove myself useful to you and trustworthy, I can help you concoct a method of interrogation that would allow you to remain safe against wielders such as myself?” The scientist smiled at her.

“We’ll see, shall we? You do have to prove yourself, as you stated. But once you have, we will ponder on the idea. I will release the chains on one condition. You promise to remain amiable and help me with questioning the other two, even if you aren’t present when I do so.”

“I am in agreement of the terms you have set forth.” Rolanda hesitated a moment more before moving forward to undo the chains restraining Calliope. Once they’d been removed, the girl rubbed at her wrists smiling in relief at the small freedom granted to her. She then turned to the scientist.

“Also know that if I truly desired to escape, all I would need to do is sing. You’d be entranced before you know it, and I could easily leave the facility with Feferi and Eridan in tow. However, you also have my word that I will do no such thing. Unless absolutely necessary, I shall not sing. It would be unscrupulous of me to do such a thing to the people helping me, wouldn’t it?” she chuckled, a musical sound escaping from her throat and putting a smile on Rolanda’s face.

“I suppose so. I do appreciate that you’re so willing to help us, even if it is for your own benefit. Now, how can I wear down Feferi? I’m saving Eridan for last, seeing as he is the most likely to put up a fight.” Calliope considered for a moment before speaking.

“Feferi will be easy to crack. All you need to do is reassure her that you are there to help. That I cracked and that you know she doesn’t agree with her mother’s methods of handling her powers. If you can convince her that you are a friend with polite words, gestures, and a show of your knowledge, then she will cave as well. She needs to know that you won’t hurt her or myself or Eridan. Eridan, especially. She’s very close to him and very protective of him. I can tell you that she hates that her mother had to mind control him. She tried convincing him to- actually. I will let her tell you that. It’s her story to tell, after all. Regardless, she needs to know you won’t hurt us. She needs to be aware that you are intelligent enough to warrant her trust. Those are the key points in getting her to divulge information to you.” Rolanda made a mental note of all the things presented by Calliope for when she went to speak with Feferi.

“Very well. For now, I need to take you back to a small holding room so that I can bring Feferi out. You won’t be chained up or restrained, but you will be cooped up. I do apologize about that. It will only be until I have spoken to my head of operations and convinced him that you are ready to be introduced to the others.” Calliope simply folded her hands in front of her, the picture of poise and grace.

“Of course, Rolanda. It does not bother me being in a small space. I am a patient person. I await your word on my introduction to others. Now, where it this room?” Rolanda smiled at her and led her to a small room to the right of the main room they were in. The small room had a chair and a small latrine area and was completely private. However, it was also made of reinforced steel and sound-proofed to help keep as many powers under control as possible. Before she fully went into the room, Calliope turned to Rolanda once more. “Oh! And remember that Feferi’s powers rely on touch. Beware of that when bringing her out.” With that, she entered the small room and sat herself on the chair.

Rolanda moved away from the room and pondered for a short time. Was Calliope telling the truth? Was L.O.R.D. really bad enough for her to come forward with all that information and essentially sell them out to S.B.U.R.B.? Did Rolanda trust her enough to believe everything she was saying? All those questions and more ran through her head as she walked over to the recording equipment on the opposite side of the room. She always recorded her questionings to review later. They were sincerity checks along with reviews on how to best help the captive become a better person.

The woman knew that the methods of restraining the wielders weren’t exactly good methods and appeared inhumane. However, when dealing with people who could potentially kill her with just a thought, any measure of protection was worth it in the end. That and it wasn’t like she didn’t consider them people. She just knew how dangerous some of them could be and took the precautions with every user. She never did anything inhumane aside from the restraint during her questioning.

After reviewing the tapes and really taking in Calliope’s body language as she spoke, Rolanda determined she could trust the girl’s advice insomuch as working with Feferi to get more information out of her. With that thought in her head, the scientist moved to an entirely different small room on the left side of the main room. She carefully opened the door, taking in the image of a passed out girl on the chair. Her hands were bound with leather cuffs with a length of chain attached to them. Rolanda grabbed the chain and jangled it loudly, awaking the girl with a start. She knew she couldn’t carry Feferi without risking her waking up and killing her, so this was the best method.

“Hi there. I’m Rolanda. I need you to follow me so I can ask you a few questions.” Almost pink eyes narrowed suspiciously at the scientist as the girl tugged at the cuffs.

“Why am I restrained?” she questioned, not moving from her spot.

“You are restrained due to your powers. You are at S.B.U.R.B. facilities. I know that your powers rely on touch and would therefore like to avoid any unnecessary risk to my person through touching you. That is the reason for the restraints. If you cooperate with me and my questioning, you won’t have to be restrained any longer. How does that sound?” Rolanda made sure to keep her voice even and kind as a reassurance to the girl. After all, Calliope had said that was what was necessary to get her to crack. The girl studied her for a moment more, eyes turning to the cuffs before sighing and standing. Rolanda grabbed the chain and led her out into the main room. It was obvious that the fight had taken a toll on her as her thick hair was a mess, and she had bags under her eyes. However, she also held herself rigid and proper, as if a member of royalty rather than a captive. Once presented with the same chair Calliope had sat in, Rolanda put the chains around her there as well. She still sat straight and regal, eyes holding a fire that said ‘mess with me. I dare you.’ Once she’d been properly restrained to Rolanda’s satisfaction, the scientist began her questioning.

“What is your name?” Simple. Get something out of her to begin with. However, this proved to be the wrong thing to start with as the girl ignored her. Rolanda considered her options, Calliope’s words echoing in her mind.

“Very well then, Miss. If you do not with to impart your name on me, that is perfectly understandable. However, I will be asking you a multitude of questions and it would be to your benefit to cooperate with me. After all, Calliope has already given me a good deal of information.” That wrought an immediate reaction. Fury.

“What? How could she! That little snitch! When my mother hears about this-”

“Ah, but she said you don’t agree with your mother’s methods of handling things. Is that true?” Rolanda cut in before Feferi could finish her thought which came as a surprise to her.

“I… what? She said that? Why would I not agree with my mother’s methods? She’s my mother for God’s sake! Of course I agree with how she runs things! Calliope is a liar and telling you what you want to hear to save her own skin. Ooooh when her brother hears about her betrayal-”

“Miss. If you would cease with your tirade I would like to also ensure that if you cooperate I won’t harm Calliope or Eridan. You have my word on that.” Feferi stopped her words in a second.

“How can I hold you to that?” was all she asked. Rolanda knew that she’d won with that. The woman offered the restrained a smile.

“You have my word. Calliope is in that room over to the right. I removed her restraints partly through her questioning. She told me a multitude of things. I’d mostly just like to confirm them with you and get your take on things. We want to help. We want to protect. We want to do whatever we can to get rid of this stereotype that wielders hold in the common world. We want them to be seen as equals, not monsters. However, we also don’t believe the common folk should be forced to fear or submit to the wielders. Do those sound like similar beliefs to yours?” Rolanda questioned, watching Feferi’s face move from suspicious to considering to suspicious again to set in determination. Their eyes met, pink ones filled with fire.

“You promise you won’t harm Calliope or Eridan if I answer your questions? Know that if you break your promise, I will find a way to free myself and steal your life,” she threatened, clenching her fists and straining against the chains and cuffs to show how serious she was. Rolanda was actually impressed with her determination to keep her friends safe. It was an admirable trait to have and one S.B.U.R.B. strove to instill in all their members.

“I promise or may the divinities that be smite me. Now, let’s start this again. What’s your name? Mine is Rolanda.” Feferi searched Rolanda one last time before settling back into the chair slightly, relaxing some.

“Feferi is my name. Although, I’m sure Calliope already told you, seeing as you know hers and Eridan’s. I don’t see the need to ask me for mine.” Her tone was haughty and distrusting, almost mocking.

“Yes, she did, but I wanted to hear it from you. After all, I couldn’t be absolutely sure that she was telling the truth. Using Eridan’s name was a risk, but to get you to answer my questions, it was a risk I was willing to take. It worked, did it not?” Feferi sighed, disinterested.

“What is it you want to know, Rolanda? What else could I possibly tell you that I’m sure Calliope hasn’t already?”

“Well, I was actually hoping I could get your take on a few things and then ask you some questions about yourself. The first thing. Calliope said you three were from an organization called L.O.R.D. Is that true? What is the end goal with the group? Can you tell me more about it?” Rolanda asked a few questions in quick succession with one another, just to get more information out of her at once. Feferi’s eyebrow raised as she rolled her eyes.

“Yes, we are from L.O.R.D. I’m sure she already told you what that stands for. Our mission is to make the common folk kneel to our superior powers and stand at the top of the foodchain where we belong. I’m not sure what else there is to say. That’s what it is and what it’s about. What all has she already told you. Maybe I can confirm it so I’m not saying the same damned things she did. I’m sure that would be boring for you, wouldn’t it?” Feferi batted her eyelashes innocently at Rolanda. Rolanda felt her eyes narrow slightly at the girl’s cheeky tone, but pushed on.

“She told me member numbers and a few other things regarding their powers. She told me a bit more about your powers as well as Eridan’s and your mother’s. Can you tell me about any of the other dangerous ones?” Maybe with that, Rolanda could get the girl to talk more.

“Every single power is dangerous, Rolanda. Didn’t you know that? I bet you didn’t, seeing as you are part of the common folk.” That was it. Rolanda snapped the pencil in her hand in her frustration.

“Why is it that you assume I am common folk because I am here questioning you and worrying about my own well-being?” she questioned, taking to circling around Feferi like a vulture. She could see the nervousness begin to take over the girl. Her breath hitched ever so slightly as she forced herself not to stutter.

“Because. Why would they send a wielder to talk to me who was afraid of being attacked. Wielders are much stronger than that. I know they are.” It was a weak argument, but Feferi found herself struggling to come up with a fully coherent thought. Rolanda smirked and settled right in front of Feferi.

“You aren’t the only one with powers, Feferi. I also have them, just in a different manner than you do. You see, I can manipulate my environment. I can’t necessarily manipulate emotions or anything, but I can get everyone in a certain area to feel what I want them to with my actions. They aren’t ‘powers’, per se, but they work for me. As shown by this little demonstration. You feel nervous, intimidated, slightly fearful of what is to come. Am I right?” Rolanda raised an eyebrow, her face showing her victory as Feferi gaped like a fish.

“How the hell did you do that?”

“It doesn’t take your kind of powers to instill a sense of fear or happiness or any other emotion I want people to feel. It all depends on my actions and demeanor. I’ve been told I have great charisma. So, I have a lot of influence.” Rolanda explained, standing back and relaxing herself. To Feferi, the air suddenly felt clearer, more friendly. She stared at the scientist in disbelief. “All it takes is the ability to read the human body, my dear. Now, where were we. You were going to tell me more about L.O.R.D. and the powers there that are the most dangerous, weren’t you?” Rolanda smiled sweetly at the girl who took a deep breath and finally cracked.

“There are a multitude of powers kept under wraps in our facility. Many of them haven’t been outside since before their ‘enlisting’. They were simply to wait for the right time. I was used many times to ‘enlist’ members. Calliope’s very rarely been used, but she has been. Her brother, Caliborn, hasn’t been out at all. My mother’s been out a number of times as had her then second-in-command.” Rolanda tilted her head.

“Her ‘then’ second-in-command? Can you tell me more about that?” Feferi nodded, seeming a lot more willing to work with Rolanda’s questions.

“She had a partner when she started L.O.R.D. Her codename was ‘Mindfang,’ but her real name was Melissa Serket. She had a mind control ability. Now, when Mom and her started the organization, myself and Melissa’s daughter were dragged in. I wasn’t keen on it, but didn’t dare go against my mother. Vriska, Melissa’s daughter, shared her ability and was all for the mission statement. Cue several years going by as the organization grows. Mom and Melissa begin arguing more and more over leadership issues and decision-making. Finally, seeing as Vriska is now at least as powerful as her mother, Mom decides she’s had enough of Melissa’s bitching. She steals Melissa’s powers and has Vriska kill her as a show of her absolute power in the organization. Hence, ‘then’ second-in-command,” Feferi explained, revealing more and more about the people in the organization, former and current.

“So your mother would stoop so low as to kill her own friends?” That meant nothing was really tying her down or holding her back. She’d probably even sacrifice her own daughter to gain her end. That made her very dangerous.

“Of course. Mom is a tyrant in the most basic sense of it all. She may not necessarily be a ruler at this point, but her codename is ‘Empress’ and she intends to enslave humanity.” Feferi shrugged her shoulders as if that were the most obvious thing in the world. Rolanda bit at her fingernails.

“That is troubling… However, it is something we can work around. Now, can you tell me more about Vriska’s position in this organization?”

“She’s not Mom’s partner, if that’s what you’re asking. Mom has no need for her to be seeing as they share an ability now. The person that Mom talks to about her decisions now is Caliborn, the puppet master.” Rolanda nodded.

“So how dangerous is Caliborn, then? Obviously, pretty dangerous based on his status in the organization.” It was Feferi’s turn to nod.

“Of course. He IS a puppet master, after all. And paired with Mom’s mind control, they’re essentially an unbeatable duo. Unless, of course, you have a mind-altering ability. However, they don’t necessarily know about that. Calliope figured it out when Mom tried to control her. Caliborn was always willing to work with her as was Vriska, so neither of them have any clue about it. Do you have any mind-altering powers in this organization?” Feferi asked. She knew she may not get an answer, but it was worth a try.

“You know as well as I that I cannot reveal that to you right now. You have to earn our trust and/or figure it out for yourself. So far, you’ve been cooperating. At least, the last ten or so minutes you have. Not as good as Calliope, but it’s better than what I’m expecting from Eridan,” Rolanda mused. Feferi sighed.

“That’s for sure. Erifin hated going along with my mom. Especially after she killed his dad and brother. He had no choice, though. She mind controlled him into following her. I was tempted to break him out of it when he got to the facility, but I knew it’d be too painful for him,” Feferi explained, tears gathering in her eyes. She’d befriended Eridan before she knew he had powers. When he displayed them for her, of course her mother found out because of Vriska. She confronted the entire family, finding out his dad and brother also had the ability of plasmakinesis and was going to take them all. However, Eridan’s father had refused too hard, attacking her mother and earning himself a swift death. Eridan’s brother cowered, a trait her mother found disgusting, so she rid herself of him as well, deeming Eridan the only worthy one. Feferi remembered the day as clear as if it had happened the day before. Rolanda began speaking again, so the girl shook herself out of her reverie.

“That’s terrible, Feferi. I feel so sorry for him and for you having to have gone through that. I will warn you, however, that due to the nature of our mission here, I am going to have to try to break him of the mind control,” Rolanda said with trepidation. She gauged the girl’s reaction, not knowing what sort of one she’d receive for that. Pink eyes blazed with fury as they met hers.

“You said you weren’t going to hurt him!”

“I am not going to! But we need him out of the mindset that L.O.R.D. is everything if we want to help him. Please understand that, Feferi. I know the memories and the feelings associated with them aren’t the greatest, but we need him to work with us,” she calmly (as calmly as she could, that is) told the furious life wielder. Feferi searched her face for signs of remorse and for signs of sincerity. Finally, after a few moments, the girl settled down.

“Do NOT harm him, Rolanda. I’m putting my trust in your word. I know the mind control needs to be broken, but think of the ramifications. He’s been this way for a few years now. Think of what his mind will be like if you break him of that control, and he’s slammed with all the years of underhanded tricks and crimes he’s committed while thinking it was the right thing to do. Is it worth it?” Time to pull out the card she hated using.

“It’s either we break him of the mind control and help him heal or we kill him for being unable to be reformed. Those aren’t my rules, but the facility abides by them. Those wielders we capture that are too far gone for us to help and who cannot be put back into society are ‘dealt with accordingly’. I hate it, but it’s the way the facility runs. They’re too dangerous to keep around or to put back into the normal world. And if we can’t help Eridan, he’ll fall under that category. Especially with powers like his.” Feferi’s jaw dropped. Then her face morphed into one even more furious than before.

“YOU WOULDN’T DARE KILL HIM! NOT IF YOU WANT MY HELP! NOT IF YOU WANT CALLIOPE’S HELP! YOU WILL FIND A WAY TO HELP HIM THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE DEATH OR VEGETATION FROM BEING OVERWHELMED BY MEMORIES! So help me Cthulu….” Feferi’s anger and fury was palpable, startling Rolanda. She’d never experienced anything like it before. It almost felt like a little bit of her life was drained from her in the process, and she wondered if Feferi knew that she could do that. Better not bring it up to her at that point in time, though.

“I promise, Feferi. I will do whatever it takes to help him. I’m just telling you that I need to take certain measures to ensure he isn’t labeled a lost cause and killed. I hate having to tell people that and that we do it at all, but I don’t make the rules. I do everything in my power to help these wielders become better people with better morals. Trust me when I say I want to help Eridan out. I want him to be able to make his own choices and have his own thoughts and sense of right and wrong. Please, believe me, Feferi.” Rolanda tried pacifying the angry wielder in front of her. She knew it was a risk saying that, but the scientist had to make the girl understand the gravity of the situation and what her and her companions’ cooperation meant. “Now, you can either help me when I get to that point, or you can let me do it on my own. Calliope has already volunteered her help wherever she is needed. I’m assuming she doesn’t have as close a relationship with Eridan as you do, however. So, your help with him would be much appreciated.” Feferi took several deep breaths to calm down as Rolanda explained herself and asked for help with the situation. Sure, she didn’t like it one bit. But… she supposed she understood where they were coming from… After all, it was something her mother did on the regular.

“...Fine. I’ll help. But only to ensure you aren’t hurting him or forcing him out of it too fast.” Rolanda sighed in relief and smiled at her.

“You have my promise. Now, is there anything else you can share about L.O.R.D. right now?” Feferi contemplated for a while longer.

“The most I can tell you at this point is to be wary of any future teams from her. While we don’t really have the teamwork your agents do, I’m sure she’ll be cracking down on that and forcing them to get used to working together. There are still some dangerous powers in the higher up members. I’ve not seen the full extent of all of them, so I’m relatively useless with them at this moment.” Feferi met Rolanda’s eyes to show her she was being sincere in her statements. The scientist nodded and began approaching Feferi at her chair.

“Thank you for answering my questions. Those are that I have for now. I appreciate your willingness to work with me, despite the fact that I threatened your loved ones. You will be taken back to your holding area while I bring out Eridan to at least gauge how much work he’ll need. I’ll inform my leader of your cooperation. Maybe you can start proving yourself tonight. We’ll have to wait to see,” Rolanda explained, undoing the chains and grabbing the one linking the cuffs, directing Feferi toward the small room she came out of.

“I presume you’ll tell me how I can prove myself when you are sure of it, then? And again, remember our deal about Eridan,” she warned, pink eyes flashing malice if he were to be hurt.

“You have my word, Feferi. I won’t harm him. All I’ll be doing is asking him very similar questions to you and Calliope to see if he’ll answer them. I won’t be going too in-depth tonight because of the mind control, but I’ll still be scratching the surface. As for you proving yourself, yes, I will tell you when the opportunity arises. Thank you, again, for your cooperation, Feferi. I’ll speak with you as soon as I know anything.” With that, Rolanda shut the door to the small holding area and walked back over to the recording equipment. Feferi took quite a bit of convincing. She’s been a hard nut to crack, but Rolanda had done it with Calliope’s suggestions. The Siren-like wielder was already beginning to prove herself to the scientist.

While reviewing Feferi’s line of questioning, Roland wrote an email to Sage detailing the day thus far and how much information she’d already gotten out of the two girls. She also stated that she believed at least one of them ready to handle dinner with the young adults. She’d been very forthcoming with information that had yet to be proven false. The other girl was a bit harder to get information out of, but Rolanda did it. And she became more willing as time went by. She appeared to be more cooperative, so Rolanda thought it might do the two some good to be exposed to the positive nature of the young adult members. Perhaps, they would get even more information out of them if they began feeling comfortable in the facility.

Finally, Rolanda felt like she had everything in order to try tackling the last member of the team they’d been brought. The scientist moved over to a holding room in the north section of the main room, opening the door only to swiftly move out of the way. Eridan had been lying in wait for her and attacked the moment the door was opened. Luckily, Rolanda was prepared for that, grabbing the chain attached to the reinforced steel mitts on Eridan’s hands that worked as a method for restraining his powers. At least, she hoped it did. As it stood, if they didn’t, he would have escaped long before now. She led him, dodging attack after attack, over to the chair and somehow managed to chain him down. He struggled against them as hard as he could for several minutes, eventually tiring himself out. His chest heaved with exertion as his nearly purple eyes bored holes into Rolanda’s skull. She stood enough out of the way to avoid being hurt but close enough to assert a certain dominance over the situation.

“Eridan. My name is Rolanda. I would like to ask you some questions about-” she began, keeping her tone firm, but friendly, only to be interrupted.

“Fuck you, bitch! I ain’t answerin’ any a your damned questions! You’ll have ta kill me!” It was already off to a bad start in the scientist’s mind. She barely restrained a sigh as she continued.

“You WILL answer my ‘damned’ questions, Eridan. I am the one in charge in this instant. You will respect me and cooperate with me or extreme measures will be taken,” Rolanda stated with a firm voice and stance. Eridan tried launching himself at her after that, a snarl on his face. She didn’t flinch at all.

“You’re just a whipped bitch for your boss. You don’t scare me,” he said, the snarl making its way into his voice as well. Rolanda held her ground.

“If you so believe me to be, then I surely must be. However, if I was, then my boss would know about the methods with which I use to conduct my interrogations and my experiments. Care to test out some of these methods other than the one you are currently chained to?” Her voice was vaguely threatening as she tried to get the upperhand and show him that she meant business and was not to be messed with or underestimated. He laughed at her, however, nearly causing her to show emotion.

“You? Go behind your boss’ back? There’s a snowball’s chance in hell a you doin’ that. An’ you sure as hell ain’t makin’ me talk with an attitude like that.” He held his ground just as much as Rolanda did, staying firm in his conviction. So, Rolanda did what she does best; change the atmosphere of the situation. She was nothing if not an actress as well as a scientist.

“You’re right, Eridan. I hide nothing from my boss. You caught me in my bluff. I’m terribly sorry about that. Now, can you ever forgive me?” The woman made her voice small and frail, allowing her face to morph into one of slightly fearful apology. Eridan froze and evaluated her, purple eyes searching hers before laughing once more.

“HA! You’re just as weak as I thought you were! God, an’ you’re supposed ta be one a the best in this facility. The best, my ASS! You’re weak. Just like the rest a your too caring ‘members’.” Perfect. Immediately, Rolanda snapped up straight and strode right over toward him with determination and intimidation emanating from her very being. It caused Eridan to actually flinch back and speak before he could stop himself. “Alright, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean ta speak out of turn, Empress.” Now, she was getting somewhere. She held her firm gaze and dropped her voice as well.

“I’m not your ‘Empress’, Eridan. I am your interrogator. Now, I have several questions for you. How willing are you to answer them now?” He stayed curled into himself for a few moments more before he met her gaze again. What he saw in those pink eyes almost made him flinch away again, but he held the look.

“I… I refuse. You’ll have ta kill me. I won’t say anythin’,” he said, voice significantly weaker than it had been, like he was still trying to comprehend that his ‘Empress’ wasn’t there. Rolanda searched him briefly before stepping away.

“Really, Eridan. I promised Feferi I wouldn’t hurt you. Your lack of cooperation, however, is seriously testing that promise. You won’t tell me anything? Not even exactly who this ‘Empress’ is?” The scientist tried coaxing an answer out of him by mentioning his other companions. It seemed to garner a reaction at least.

“You already talked ta Fef? Where the hell is she?!” he screamed, eyes wild with worry and anger. “So help me, if you hurt her-”

“I never laid a hand on her. In fact, she was so well behaved, I removed her chains part way through our talk.” Eridan gaped for a moment, face returning to a snarl.

“She told? She came forth about information? What a snitch! When Empress hears about this…” he trailed off, causing Rolanda to prompt him again.

“Who is ‘Empress’?” she asked once more. He scoffed at her, significantly calmer than he had been not five minutes prior. Apparently, her intimidation factor worked well enough.

“As if you don’t know. She’s our leader, duh! Hence, ‘Empress’ as her codename,” he said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

“Yes, but who is she? Outside of the codename, who is she? How did she come to found L.O.R.D.?” Rolanda prodded, hoping to get a little more out of him. He just rolled his eyes at her and sat back in the chair.

“As if I actually know. No one really knows her name. Well, except those super close to her. I’ve always known her as ‘Empress,’ though, so try another question. Oh wait! I won’t answer them. Just put me back in my cell or room or whatever the shit-hole is,” he said, not looking at Rolanda anymore. The scientist considered her options; put him back in his room and not get anything else out of him for sure or try coaxing more out of him and risk still not getting anything or potentially pissing him off too much. She glanced at her watch and sighed under her breath.

“Very well, Eridan. You win this round. I will escort you back to your room. We will resume in the morning.” With that, Rolanda made her way over to him, making sure to hold her ground well enough to grab the chain and unhook him from the chair. He did try to attack, but she dodged once more and delivered a swift chop to Eridan’s neck, effectively knocking him out. She picked him up and dragged him over to his room, gently putting him back in there and making a mental note to get security to move him to a slightly bigger and better reinforced room.

Once the interrogation with Eridan finished up, Rolanda moved back into her office space and called Sage to give him the update.

“Hey there, Sage,” she started, voice weary from the stress of all the questions and deals struck.

“How did Day 1 of interrogation go?” he questioned through the line. Rolanda pinched the bridge of her nose to ward off a potential headache that was starting to form.

“Well, as you read in the emails, Calliope and Feferi were relatively forthcoming with information. Eridan, however, proved difficult. He’s going to take a LOT more time. Although, intimidation does work on him to an extent. He’s just very tight-lipped. Not to mention, he’s been brainwashed. At least, that’s what Feferi and Calliope both told me. They’re both fine, but Eridan’s thoughts aren’t his own. They are the leader of the organization L.O.R.D.’s thoughts that she forced upon him. He’s since gotten used to them and believes them to be his own, from what I’ve seen,” she detailed. “I’m going to need to break that mind control in order to get anything out of him and to even begin getting him ready for societal reintroduction.” Sage was quiet on the other line for a spell, speaking again only after he’d fully comprehended everything.

“So, you’re telling me that Eridan has been completely and totally brainwashed by this group?”

“Yessir, I am. He seems so normal, like there’s nothing wrong with him, but Feferi told me she watched him be mind controlled when they were younger. Apparently, everyone her mother controls starts off fighting, but eventually, she kills the will to do that, and the victim accepts it, believing the forced thoughts to have been theirs all along,” Rolanda explained. On the other line, a sigh was heard.

“Very well. Are you sure you can accomplish that without him frying his own emotions as he comes to terms with everything he’s probably done under mind control? I’d rather not let someone like him die for a reason we could have prevented,” he stated, voice laced with concern.

“I’m unsure at this point, Sir. All I know is that I have an intimidation factor I can use at least for now. I can speak further with Feferi and Calliope to see what will help break him of the control. They both offered, anyway.”

“I wouldn’t mind you at least talking with them about the possibility. Speaking of which, you say both of them were extremely cooperative with you today?”

“I will do that then, sir. And yes, they both were. Calliope even thanked us for saving her. They have both expressed interest in helping us out.” On the side of the receiver, Sage was nodding.

“Would you trust them insofar as to allow them to attend dinner tonight? Do you believe it would be wise or a good idea?” he questioned, wanting a second opinion on the decision. Rolanda paused for a moment, then choosing to answer.

“I believe dinner would be a good beginning test for them. They could get acclimated to the other wielders and begin making new friends and memories. And it would prove to us that they can handle other types of people within our organization,” she said, expressing her thoughts and opinions about everything. Rolanda honestly did believe it to be a great idea and wanted that as well.

“Very well then. Calliope and Feferi shall be allowed to attend dinner tonight with the other young adults. Now, was there anything else you needed to share with me, Rolanda?”

“No, sir. I will let you know if anything pops up.” The two exchanged proper goodbyes and hung up, Rolanda retreating to the main room the in which Calliope and Feferi were still locked up. She opened the door to Calliope’s room, noting the other hadn’t really moved since she’d shut her in there after the questioning.

“Calliope? It’s me, Rolanda.” The girl turned her head to meet Rolanda’s eyes and offered a sweet smile.

“Yes, Rolanda? Have you heard word on how I may begin to prove myself?” The scientist still wasn’t fully sure the girl was to be trusted, but it was worth a try at the very least.

“I’ve spoken with my superior about everything that’s taken place down here today. He’s decided that, based on yours and Feferi’s behaviors, that you two will be allowed to partake in dinner with the other young adult wielders, including those that took you down. Is that amenable to you?” she questioned, still standing at the door to the little room in case she was asked to or needed to leave quickly. Calliope considered for a moment and then stood, walking over to stand in front of Rolanda.

“I would be delighted to partake in the breaking of bread with the others. I’d very much like to actually meet them. So, if you’ll allow me, I will join. Is it now? I’m positively famished as well,” she said, her stomach making it a point to rumble loudly to punctuate the statement. Rolanda couldn’t help but to smile and shake her head a little. Calliope was definitely still a child at heart, that much she could tell.

“Of course, Calliope. Come with me. We need to get Feferi out and then make our way upstairs.” With that, the scientist turned to walk away, leaving the room open with Calliope following behind her to the opposite side of the room where Feferi’s room laid. Rolanda repeated the same procedure, standing in Feferi’s door and offering her the same deal.

“My boss says, based on your behavior today, you are allowed to join the other young adults for dinner if you wish. Calliope will be there,” she said, hoping the life wielder would come with her. Feferi met her eye and then looked past her at Calliope. The siren nodded and smiled, Feferi looking back at Rolanda.

“Fin. As long as Callie is there, I’ll go as whale,” she said, throwing in the occasional sea-related pun which was not lost on Rolanda.

“Shore she whale be. You won’t be there abalone, Feferi,” Rolanda said, winking at the girl who seemed to brighten slightly at the use of puns. Feferi stood and walked over to the two of them, moving beside Calliope but looking at Rolanda.

“You use fish-puns, too?”

“Sometimes. It makes life fun to use puns every now and again, doesn’t it?” Rolanda winked again at Feferi and turned to lead the two girls up to the dinner that was surely in full swing at that point. She only hoped everyone at least gave them a fighting chance. Those in the facility were taught that judgment will get them nowhere, but that they were right to be cautious of new things, despite having to try them.

After a several minute walk up a few flights of stairs and through a multitude of doors, Rolanda reached the dining room. Behind the doors were raucous shouts and laughter as well as idle chatter. She turned to the two girls following her.

“Alright, here we are. Forewarning, things might be a little tense because of the circumstances, but give them a chance and they’ll give you one as well. That’s how it works here, or at least, how it’s supposed to, ok?” The girls nodded, glancing at one another briefly and straightening up. They both wanted to make a decent first impression and did not want to be seen as weak. Rolanda opened up the door, all chatter and shouts immediately ceasing as several pairs of eyes turned to the door.

“Hello all! I have some guests for you! Meet Calliope and Feferi. They were extremely cooperative with me and have expressed interest in helping us out. Therefore, they have been allowed to join you all for dinner. Please treat them nicely, everyone!” Rolanda moved behind the two girls and gently pushed them forward, exiting the room and shutting the door behind her. The room stayed absolutely silent as the young adults sized them up. It wasn’t until the door opened up one more time behind them that anything happened.

“Surprise, guys! It is I! John Eg...bert… hey! It’s you two! Oh my god, how are you?!” John started talking before quickly noticing Calliope and Feferi and turning his attention to them. He went right up to the two of them and wrapped his arms around each of them, giving them tight hugs and letting them go. It left them both a little dumbfounded.

“Dude, you scared them. What have I told you about that?” Dave walked in not too far behind John. The air wielder just shrugged and turned his attention back to the girls.

“Oh no! He didn’t scare us. He simply surprised us with his perky welcome. It was most appreciated, however,” Calliope rushed to get out, holding up her hands. Feferi nodded and spoke up as well.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a hug like that. It was… nice. Thank you… John, was it?” She blinked at him, pink eyes big in wonder. John stuck out his tongue at Dave and turned back to them.

“Of course! No problem. And yeah, my name is John. John Egbert. I have aerokinesis. And who exactly are you two? I know one of you sings and one of you can steal life with a touch, but who’s who?” Everyone else in the dining room watched on, unsure of what to do.

“I am Calliope English. I am a wielder with muse-like or siren-like abilities. It is a pleasure to meet you, John. You are incredibly strong. I’ve never met an air wielder with quite that much control and precision,” she complimented.

“Awwww shucks! Thank you, Calliope! That was so nice. And you?” He turned to Feferi next, who slightly cowered before standing herself upright and rolling her shoulders back.

“I’m Feferi Peixes. I’m a life wielder. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” She looked over to see Rose and Kanaya, choosing to address them. “Your respective abilities are an almost perfect pairing. No one has ever been able to keep me at bay so well and so long. You impressed me thoroughly,” she said, a bit over-formal but preferring that until she got used to the others. Rose and Kanaya looked at one another for a moment before directing small smiles to Feferi.

“Thank you very much, Feferi. No one has ever complimented our teamwork such as you have before. I must say, it is quite delightful to hear on occasion, wouldn’t you agree, Rose?” asked Kanaya. Rose nodded.

“Yes, it is highly welcomed and duly acknowledged. We appreciate the compliment. You aren’t so bad yourself, Feferi. When you cannot reach someone to touch them, your physical prowess is nigh unmatched. You, admittedly, wore the two of us down quite heavily during our battle,” she added to Kanaya’s statement, watching Feferi relax slightly. It wasn’t highly visible, only if one was looking, but she relaxed. At least three people seemed willing to accept her.

“I’ve had extensive training. I was raised that way. I can dolphinately handle my own.” She clapped a hand over her mouth as the pun slipped out. “Oops! I’m sorry. I meant ‘definitely’, not dolphinately. I apologize.” Her slight embarrassment, however, was just enough to finally help break the ice. A few people chuckled at the table from the pun and her actions. John smiled widely at both girls.

“Well, don’t just stand there! Sit, sit! Join us and eat! I’m sure you two are starving, right? I know I sure as hell am,” he laughed, causing a few more people at the table to join in as he directed Feferi and Calliope to open seats near his usual one.

“After the HUGE breakfast this morning?! How can you even still move, John?” asked Jade in disbelief. “I saw that cart! It had plates stacked so high that I’m sure were absolutely full to the brim with food. How the HELL can you even still eat?”

“He can fucking eat because he’s a goddamned bottomless pit, Jade. It’s like all the food he ever eats just phases right through him, and it’s annoying as fuck because some of us can’t eat like that unless we want to weigh as much as a house,” said Karkat, glaring at John who was already loading up his plate and shoveling food into his mouth. He just grinned at the grumpy wielder and swallowed.

“I have a high metabolism, Karkat! You know that. It comes with my super strength. The only person who was ever able to keep up with my eating was Jake before he disappeared,” he said. Had it been any closer to the disappearance, Jade would have thrown something at him. As it was, she laughed.

“Oh my god! Remember the eating contests you two had? You like, cleaned out the entire kitchen that one time! You two with your super strength and out of control metabolisms. Seriously.” At the mention of super strength connected to a Jake, Feferi and Calliope looked at each other, slightly uneasy. They quickly looked away and resumed eating. The shared look didn’t go unnoticed, however. The facility head’s son, Tavros caught it. As did Roxy and Dirk. Dirk had been watching the two like a hawk since they were brought in. He didn’t trust them but knew he couldn’t say it for fear of others jumping down his throat about it.

“So, Calliope, Feferi. Tell us about yourselves,” prompted Roxy. She took a sip from the drink in front of her as she addressed the two of them.

“Oh. Well… what all do you wish to know about us? I’m sure Rolanda could tell you about some of the things we shared with her…” Being put on the spot like that made Calliope nervous.

“What are your fave colors? What are your hobbies? Can you tell us more about your powers? Those sorta things!” elaborated Roxy, raising her glass too fast and sloshing some of the liquid out onto the floor.

“Well, in that case, my favorite color would be green. Like, almost a lime green. I don’t really have too many hobbies. We weren’t really allowed to have them. Although, I do suppose I enjoy writing and creating stories. As for my powers, I have a very siren-esque ability. I can fog a person’s mind with the sound of my singing voice. I’d like to believe that I’m pretty strong with it, but I don’t know for sure. After all, I can only see the results. I’ve never been able to use it on myself, you know.” Her last bit made several of the others at the table chuckle at the truth of that. Calliope felt herself relaxing more and even cracking a small smile.

“As for me, I love the color fuchsia. My hobbies are simply studying up on sea-life. I love all of it. I don’t know if you could tell from my accidental pun earlier, but I love water and anything to do with it. That was another reason I quite enjoyed the fight between us.” Feferi directed the last part toward Rose who nodded in acknowledgment and raised a glass in cheers, taking a sip. “Other than that, I’ve not really had much time for other hobbies. I was always training either my powers or my body. My powers deal with life forces. I can take away life force and restore life force, little by little and all at once. Unfortunately, or I guess fortunately for some people, I can only do it when I am close enough to touch someone. I haven’t quite figured out how to do it from a distance, yet.” Fefer shrugged and continued eating the crab leg on her plate.

“I’ll say it’s a damned good thing you haven’t figured it out. Or we would have been screwed harder and faster than a whore on a Saturday night,” said Karkat without really thinking his phrasing through. It earned him a swift clip upside the head from Jade.

“Karkat, do you have to be so vulgar? Jesus, you are such a FUCKASS! Not to mention, that was super offensive!” Before Jade could really start in on her tirade, Karkat held up a hand.

“Alright, alright. Jesus. I’m sorry. Whores are cool. I didn’t mean to insult them or whatever. Just don’t hit me again, crazy fucking bitch.” Jade humphed at him and turned back to her food.

“Karkles! Don’t call her a bitch! You know that’s not nice,” piped in Terezi, shit-eating grin present, as usual, on her face. She flung a small spoonful of peas right at him, nailing him in the head, causing the entire table to laugh or chuckle.

“Eat taters!” he screamed, filling his spoon and launching the food at the red-head. She managed to move just right to catch the food in her mouth, infuriating Karkat. Calliope and Feferi, at first startled, settled down after that and joined in the laughing with everyone else. It was when Tavros spoke up in his small, nervous sounding voice.

“So can you tell us anything about your former organization? Or are you sworn to secrecy? Personally, I won’t feel comfortable around you two unless I get some information out of you,” he said, surprising everyone not only with his direct attitude but also with how harsh the statement was.

“We are from L.O.R.D. or League of Royal Demons, as Empress likes to call it,” said Calliope. She set down her fork and sat back in her chair, hands in her lap, addressing the whole table. Feferi followed suit after wiping her mouth and taking a drink of water.

“L.O.R.D. was founded by my mother who was sick and tired of having to hide her powers because of common folk being afraid of what she could do. She figured, if they were already afraid, why not make them submit, too? So she started gathering up those with powers who felt the same way she did. Within a few short years, she’d built up L.O.R.D. I was about 5 by the time it was fully functioning,” Feferi explained. Taking another sip of water, she continued.

“We have numerous members, most not terribly dangerous as you’ve already encountered. Before you ask, most of the people you’ve apprehended the last few years have been from our organization. Mom sent them out to try to start building our name and get us more money, but obviously, they failed spectacularly. So, she finally decided enough was enough. It was time to send out the big guns. So Callie, Eridan, and I got sent out. There are about 20 others aside from us that are considered the strongest in the organization. And that includes Mom as well as Callie’s brother.”

“What sort of powers do you all have?” asked Terezi, attention focused for once. Calliope took over on that one.

“We have a myriad from element wielders to strength wielders to ability thieves to mind control, psionics, and, obviously, life, plasma, and song control. There’s more, but I don’t want to overwhelm you right now.” Everyone stared at the blonde stranger as they considered what she’d said. There were so many abilities there….Granted, they all had a very diverse amount of abilities but still. It was nerve wracking.

“So what should we expect from the next team they send out?” questioned Nepeta, surprising everyone with her seriousness. Calliope and Feferi looked at each other and then addressed the table.

“Honestly? We aren’t entirely sure either. But you can be sure they’ll be strong. Mom isn’t fooling around anymore, from what I’m guessing. After all, you guys nabbed me. As much as she isn’t really matronly or maternal, she is still protective of her own and won’t take kindly to this. There are still a few wielders I’m hoping and praying she’ll keep away from the outside. I’m hoping the most you have to deal with is mind control, super strength, and psionics. Those are the least dangerous, aren’t they, Callie?” Calliope nodded and expanded on that.

“There is one wielder who has exceptional luck as well as mind control. Be exceptionally careful around her. She is a master of her skills while only being our age. There are a couple wielders with super strength, one of them seems completely unlimited. He’s very dangerous. He can’t even wield a normal weapon without breaking it. He has to rely entirely on his strength. One wielder has psionics. Like, legitimate psionics. It’s much stronger than a simple telekinesis and about on par with your electrokinesis,” Calliope stated, addressing Dirk directly with the end part. “There is still one more wielder with life powers very similar to Feferi’s here.” Feferi picked up.

“One you better hope never makes it out to fight is a rager. He induces rage in other people, occasionally himself, and they won’t stop until there’s a mess of blood on their hands. It’s a terrifying ability, especially since he’s normally a relaxed guy, but when he does get mad, he goes berserk, essentially.” Feferi shuddered in fear just thinking about it. “Anyway, those are the big ones aside from our bosses.” The entire table was silent for a while, mulling over the information they were given.

“So, your organization likes gathering the really dangerous powers, right?” asked John in a light tone. Calliope answered him.

“Yes, it does. Unfortunately, when they rebel, they are either mind controlled or killed.” Everyone looked at one another in surprise.

“How many of your members are mind controlled?” asked Tavros.

“About 75% at the minimum,” answered Calliope.

“So, who’s to say you two aren’t mind controlled as well?” inquired Rose. Feferi shrugged.

“You only have our word that we aren’t. Eridan is, so Rolanda needs to break him out of it, but we aren’t,” said Feferi, trying not to let the Eridan thing get to her.

“Actually, I can’t be mind controlled. As a person who can cloud another’s mind, my own is safe from intrusion.” Calliope’s statement was met with dead silence. Everyone looked toward Nepeta who blinked.

“Does that mean Nepeta is safe from mind control?” Kanaya asked.

“It depends on her ability,” stated Calliope.

“I can manipulate emotions.” Nepeta spoke up. Calliope considered for a moment before nodding.

“Yes, I believe she would be safe from the mind control. After all, emotions are part of the mind. So, in theory, she should be protected from mind invasion. Are there any others here who have mind-esque abilities?” she asked, looking around the table. Most people shook their heads. She frowned and shared a look with Feferi. “That is quite troubling… However, it’s still alright. It is something that can be worked around.” Feferi nodded.

“Yes, it is something that we can help you guys with. We have a better idea of what to expect and what to do to counteract it without fully preventing it.” The wielders at the table glanced around at one another, nervous about the prospect of being mind controlled. They’d never run into other wielders with those powers. No one in the facility had them. The only one seemingly unaffected was John who was shoveling food into his mouth. After clearing his plate, he decided to speak up.

“Come on, guys! Cheer up. We have two people who are immune. That should be enough to get us through, right? We can handle anything those baddies throw at us! No offense to you two,” he quickly tacked on the end, realizing they were formerly ‘baddies,’ and not wanting to hurt them with his words. His enthusiasm took Feferi and Calliope by surprise, the latter finding herself laughing at his words.

“No offense taken, John. You really are too trusting, though,” she pointed out. She didn’t want to say much more than that for fear of getting on people’s bad sides, but she felt it was implied either way. Dave snorted and resumed eating.

“Leave it to John to get even the newbies to say he’s too trusting. Even if I agree with him that we can handle it. We’ve dealt with you guys. How much worse will this mind control be?” Feferi frowned.

“It’s fine to be confident, but don’t get cocky. Vriska’s mind control is second to none. She’s damned good and knows exactly how to get what she wants. Just be cautious, ok?” she warned. The rest of the table remained fairly quiet until Tavros stood and dismissed himself.

“I’m going to go continue training. If anyone wants to come with, feel free to.” With that, the brunet walked out of the room. Terezi sighed loudly and dramatically.

“I guess I’ll go with him to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. See you losers later!” She saluted everyone and skipped out the door, following after Tavros. With Tavros out of the room, some of the tension left. People felt a little more at ease with the strangers at the table.

“So, are you two staying in normal rooms or do they still have you in the basement for now?” asked Roxy. Almost on cue, Rolanda strolled back into the dining room.

“Calliope? Feferi? It’s time to head back to your rooms.” Roxy’s eyebrows raised.

“Well, that answers that question.” She turned back to the girls and beamed a smile at them. “It was super nice to meet you two! I look forward to working with you more, as I’m shore we whale!” The blonde threw in the fish puns with a wink for Feferi. Said girl smiled back at Roxy and stood, Calliope close behind, as they followed Rolanda out of the room and back to their cells. Back in the dining room, Dirk finally spoke up.

“I don’t trust them. I’m not sure how genuine they are.” Roxy smacked his arm.

“Oh hush, party pooper. If they weren’t trustworthy, would Sage have let Mom bring them up with us?” Dirk shook his head.

“You don’t get it. They’re probably really good actresses. It’s not all that hard to fool your mom, actually, Roxy. Nor is it hard to fool Sage. You have to be really shitty at acting to do that.” At the last bit, Rose spoke up before Roxy could.

“Our mother is far smarter and far more observant than you are giving her credit for, Dirk. And quite frankly, I’m more than a little offended that you think so lowly of her and our head of operations. You’ve always been too judgemental. Learn to trust a little, Dirk. No one here is out to get you,” she said curtly with a hint of venom. Kanaya placed a hand on her shoulder in a calming gesture. Before anyone could say anything else, Nepeta took a turn to speak.

“You all know I can feel emotions. They were being sincere. Either their act goes down to the core or they really were sincere. They wanted to be helpful. They were anxious we wouldn’t like them. Give them a chance, people,” she said, green eyes blazing. John piped up next.

“Yeah, guys! True, they used to be enemies and took out some of our members, but that was only because they had no choice if they wanted to survive. Wouldn’t you do the same?” Dirk looked pointedly at John.

“Not on my life. I’d kill myself before letting myself do evil for shit people like that. I have morals, John. Obviously, they don’t. Grow the fuck up and see the world without rose-tinted glasses for once.”

“Dirk. Knock it off,” said Dave, voice hard. The two brothers looked at each other.

“No, Dave. John needs to learn how the world really works. The only thing I trust and agree with that was said by those two was that he is too trusting.”

“It beats having a stick shoved up his ass, fueling him with paranoia any day! And this isn’t even about John, Dirk. This is about those two girls. Give them a fucking chance. Not everyone is confident enough in their abilities to commit suicide if their morals are threatened like you are. I’m heading back to my room, John. When you’re done, feel free to come on in.” With that, Dave stood up, shoved his hands in his pockets, and walked out of the room, not giving anyone a second glance. Everyone just stared at Dirk for a brief moment before he, too, stood and walked out of the room. John sighed.

“Well, that was an eventful dinner. I mean, I’m not saying I fully trust them. I don’t. But I’m at least willing to give them a chance. Aren’t you guys? We all had to give each other chances at one point or another, didn’t we?” Everyone nodded, Jade speaking up.

“I definitely want to give them a chance! They seem super sweet and nice. I’m willing to learn to work with them and give them the benefit of the doubt.” The rest of the people left in the room nodded in agreement.

“Then, it’s settled. We’ll all give Calliope and Feferi a chance. Now, I need to go check on a stoic asshole and calm him down. If you all will excuse me,” John said as he rose from his seat and marched out of the room toward Dave’s. Without knocking, he walked in to find the blond on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, shades still on. John went over to the bed and sat on the edge, looking over at his friend.

“Hey. What got you so upset in there?”

“Dirk’s an asshole. He had no right talking to and about you like that,” was the simple answer the air manipulator received. He just sighed and repositioned himself to lay down next to Dave.

“Scoot over, bed-hog. Anyway, it’s fine. I didn’t take any offense to it at all, ok? He was allowed to say what he wanted. I know I trust too easily. It’s just who I am. I believe in the good in everyone. It’s when I’m double-crossed more than twice that I stop trusting someone. I just… I know we fought those two girls and that guy. Obviously, the guy needs more work before he can be introduced and that’s fine. The two girls are trustworthy enough to have been introduced to us tonight. That’s why I welcomed them. Dirk and I are very different in that aspect. I trust what my supervisors trust whereas he needs to see or hear it himself to believe it.” Dave shook his head.

“It’s not even that. It had to do with Bro, dude. He took out his lack of trust and paranoia on you even though it is Bro’s fault he’s like that. It’s not fair to you. He had no right doing that,” he explained. John rolled onto his side and propped up his head on an arm.

“Dave. It’s fine. Dirk has his past. If he takes it out on me, so what? I really don’t take any offense to it. I’m totally chill. It’s his prerogative to do that, so who am I to stop him when it really doesn’t affect me, nor is it really even about me?” Dave rolled his head to look at John.

“You really are too nice for your own good, dude.” John laughed.

“Yeah, I know. But that’s what makes me, me, isn’t it?”

“You’re right. I don’t know what I’d do if you were mean or evil or not so naive or anything. You’re like a teddy bear as you are. Speaking of teddy bears, you owe me bro cuddles for getting angry on your behalf for no reason.” John just shook his head and opened up his arms, the smaller of the two snuggling right up to him.

“Just remember, Dave. No homo.”

“Yeah, yeah. No homo. Whatever. Just cuddle me, man.”