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

The Power of Illusions

Chapter Six

Several days passed as the group got used to having Calliope and Feferi around every so often. They were at the table for every dinner and occasionally showed up for training with various groups to get them into the swing of how the facility worked. Everyone in the young adult group was amiable toward them with the exception of Dirk and Tavros. The animal communicator was still very wary of the two girls and avoided them whenever he could. At dinner, he alternated between watching them with a hawk-eye and ignoring their presence altogether. The latter was what Dirk did all the time. He just ignored them, pretended they weren’t there. Even when they were brought in to his training room, he acted as if nothing had changed. He refused to work with them or even acknowledge them. He was also avoiding Dave and John.

About a week after the girls were first introduced, they were finally brought into a group that John was working with. He’d just finished using the air to slice up a few dummies when they walked in. Upon seeing them, the boy happily flew over to them.

“Hey there! I can’t believe you’re in my group today! This is going to be fun!” he said, grabbing their hands and pulling them further into the room away from Rolanda. The other members of that day’s group were Roxy, Terezi, Karkat, Nepeta, and Rose. The other five acknowledge the two girls and returned to their instructor.

“I apologize, Sophie, for bringing them in unannounced like this, but I figured it was time to start putting them with some of the people they’d initially fought against. Let them get used to those powers in a different manner now, right?” The instructor smiled at Rolanda.

“Of course. Now, you two. Stand in line. We’ve already shown off our powers, but can you state yours and demonstrate them for us? I’m not familiar with them at all even if some of them are.” Her blue eyes looked directly at Calliope, who was standing next in line to John. The blonde smiled.

“This actually will be a perfect opportunity to test out a theory we discussed a few nights ago. I have siren-like abilities, fogging the mind with an alluring melody.” She stepped forward and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath and opening her mouth. The most beautiful sound came forth from her throat. Notes gliding and sliding entranced all in the room. All but Nepeta. She blinked and watched everyone fall into a trance-like state. Calliope opened her eyes, still singing and saw that her song wasn’t affecting Nepeta and smiled at her, ceasing her music. A few moments after the melody stopped, everyone started coming out of their reverie.

“That was impressive, Miss…”

“Ah! I’ve been remiss in stating my name. I’m Calliope.” Sophie nodded.

“Miss Calliope, then. That was impressive. And what theory was it that you tested? What were the results?” Calliope looked right at Nepeta.

“Those with mind-altering abilities are unaffected by others’ mind-altering abilities. Nepeta here was fully cognizant throughout my song. She had full control over herself. I didn’t affect her whatsoever,” she said, smiling at the other girl. Sophie looked between the two girls with an astonished expression.

“So you were right, Calliope. This bodes well for what we can do to prepare for L.O.R.D.’s next attack,” stated Rolanda, still in the doorway. Next, she addressed the instructor. “Again, I apologize for staying, Sophie. I just wanted to see what would happen as well. I’ll take my leave now and return for the girls at the end of training.” With that, the scientist strode out of the room. The instructor then looked to Feferi.

“You’re next, Miss.”

“I’m Feferi! I have life manipulation powers. I can take and give in small bouts or all at once. There’s only so much I can do to demonstrate it. I do need a volunteer, though.” She glanced at John, just getting the feeling that he would volunteer when she was surprised.

“I’ll volunteer.” Rose stepped forward, a small smile on her black lips. John’s head whirled to stare at her in shock.

“Are you sure, Rose? I can do it. You don’t have to volunteer,” he said, never having expected someone like the youngest Lalonde to have put herself in danger’s way like that.

“Relax, John. What better way to show that I’m willing to give people a chance than to put my life, literally, in their hands?” She chuckled a bit at the end to show that she wasn’t nervous. The blonde moved toward Feferi, standing right in front of her. “Well? Let’s feel this power of yours, Feferi. May the divinities that be look over us with compassion and glee at the toying of the life force.” Rose took a deep breath and relaxed completely, holding out her hand to Feferi in a sign of trust. Feferi took the proffered hand and concentrated.

Rose could feel her body weakening. It was getting harder to breathe. Her joints hurt. It was hard to even hold herself up properly. It was as if the weight of the world were causing her shoulders to stoop. Then, the next moment, she felt stronger than ever. She felt at the pique of her life, perfect health, perfect condition. It was exhilarating. She’d never felt better. It felt as though nothing could tear her down. She felt invincible. Not too long after, the feeling returned to how she felt before touching Feferi.

“Interesting. That was quite the experience, Feferi. I must say, I do hope I’m killed before allowing myself to grow that old. I do not find myself appreciating the aching joints or the feeling of the weight of the world on my shoulders. Unless, you can perpetually keep me in pique condition,” she chuckled. “Regardless, that was an interesting expression of power. It seems highly useful, if a bit inconvenient that you need to be touching someone to put it to use.” Feferi nodded and offered her own smile.

“I’ve been trying to figure out a way to work with it without touch, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet. All I really know is that, occasionally, when I get angry or overly excited, my power extends out just the slightest bit. I can’t control it at all, though. Thank you for volunteering and trusting me.” Rose nodded to the black-haired girl.

“Of course, Feferi. It was a one-of-a-kind experience that I am glad to have been a part of. If you are restoring or adding to my life, I would not mind feeling it again.” Before more words could be exchanged, Sophie stepped forward.

“Alright, enough. Thank you two for demonstrating your powers. Now, since all 8 of you are here for team training, let’s figure out how to utilize each of your skills in a variety of situations.” Calliope raised her hand. Sophie nodded to her.

“I apologize, Sophie. However, Feferi and I only know of the powers of three of the members in this room. I know what powers Nepeta holds, but have never seen them, nor do I know anything of Roxy and Terezi’s powers. Feferi doesn’t either.” Sophie sighed and looked at the three in question.

“Well, girls. Demonstrate your powers again for the latecomers. I really need to talk to Rolanda about giving me a heads up before she brings people in…” Roxy stepped forward.

“I’ll go first! And don’t worry, Soph. I’ll make this quick!” Her cheery personality caused her voice to squeak a little as she spoke. The eldest blonde turned to face Calliope and Feferi.

“Alright you two. Pay close attention. I am a technokinetic haxor babe. I can control aaaaall sorts of technology, from the most simple to extremely complex. The lights? I got ‘em.” As she said that, with a wink, the lights shut out then flickered in a pattern resembling the beat in a song. Finally, she brought them back up.

“Next, Sophie’s walkie talkie.” She glanced over at the instructor’s technology and caused it to take itself apart in mid-air, using the pieces of it to become weapons, flinging them at the dummies and lodging them in the foam of the faux bodies. Roxy then commanded them to put themselves back together into a fully functioning like-it-never-happened walkie talkie.

“Something more complex,” she said, looking around the room for something and spotting the instructor’s phone and watch. Roxy raised her hands and used them to direct the pieces of technology to disassemble. She demonstrated using them as weapons on the dummies, then proceeded to ‘put them back together’. By that, she mixed the parts to make her own technologic hybrid that looked vaguely steampunk. What exactly it did, no one knew, but both pieces of equipment still operated. Roxy then disassembled the creation and returned the items to their former designs and lowered her hands. Afterward, she took a bow and made her way back to the line.

“Excellent job as usual, Roxy. My phone works just as it should as does my watch. You actually fixed an issue I’d been having with it for a little while anyway,” commented Sophie, receiving a smile.

“No probs, Soph! It was totes easy peasy. And your battery was just loose. No biggie.” The instructor then looked to Terezi, who was next in line.

“Terezi, it’s your turn to show off your powers.” And like that, a shit-eating grin spread over the red-head’s face. She moved to the front.

“As you know, I’m Terezi. I have enhanced senses, first of all. But my main thing is called Enhanced Synesthesia. Basically, that means I can see sound waves as light. I can then use them to project concussive blasts. Like this.” The ginger turned away from the group and focused her attention on sound coming from the fans in the room. The sounds traveled toward her in a ray of light. She then took a deep breath and cupped her hands around her mouth, giving a small grunt. Next thing anyone knew, the dummy across the room from her exploded. She turned toward the obstacle course wall in the corner of the room and threw her voice toward it, similar to echolocation. To her, the sound waves lightly bounced off the structure back toward her. From there, she cupped her mouth with her hands and gave a small shriek. The wall across the way cracked and then shattered into an almost fine powder. She straightened herself up and turned back toward the group.

“So there you have it! My excellent powers. I can be defensive when I need to be due to my enhanced senses, but I’m mostly an offensive player here.” With that, Terezi returned to her place in line. Nepeta stepped forward.

“Your powers are always so scary, ‘Rezi. I always get worried you’ll accidentally set off one of your blasts while just in normal conversation and that it’ll make me explode. I know it’s an irrational fear, but I still have it.” She then turned toward Calliope and Feferi. “Now, you two know that I can manipulate emotions. What I need from you is one of you or both of you to volunteer so I can show you what I mean by that.” Both the girls stepped forward.

“It appears that we both volunteer. I must say that I find the concept interesting. Technically, your power is a mind-altering one. But let us see if it affects me,” said Calliope, giving the cat-lover a smile. Nepeta returned it and first looked at Feferi. She concentrated ever so slightly.

Feferi began crying, feeling overwhelming sadness. They were loud, guttural cries, too. Nepeta directed her attention to Calliope, willing the same change onto the Siren. Calliope just continued looking at Nepeta. She felt a pang of sadness gnaw at her gut, but it was nothing to get emotional over. The small girl nodded and turned her attention back to Feferi. She immediately stopped crying and turned to being fidgety. Her eyes swept across the room quickly and frequently. She glanced behind her multiple times. Her breath quickened as her heart raced. The paranoia there was taking her over. Nepeta’s eyes met Calliope’s as she willed the other to feel the full force paranoia she was making Feferi feel. The most Calliope felt was a slight increase in her heart rate. But there was nothing more that that. The cat-lover turned back to Feferi with a small smirk. The taller girl ceased her shifting eyes and dropped to the ground doubled over with laughter. She clutched her gut and laughed so loudly, Terezi actually flinched a bit due to her enhanced hearing. John couldn’t help but laugh along with her, loving seeing Feferi like that and hoping that one day she’d be able to be like that without Nepeta’s influence. Meanwhile, the manipulator turned toward Calliope, once more willing her to feel the laughter… Nothing. Calliope managed to keep a completely straight face. While internally, she did find Feferi’s laugh lovely and amusing, she did not even chuckle once in the face of it all.

“Well, I’d venture a guess that my powers, indeed, do not work on you, Calliope. You are an impenetrable force when it comes to mind powers,” Nepeta complemented, releasing her hold on Feferi and allowing the girl to return to her previous emotional capacity.

“I would say so. However, watching your powers in action was quite thrilling, I must say. You have such a mastery over them, you instilled each emotion flawlessly and with a relatively quick speed. It was fun watching you change Feferi’s emotions so quickly. That’s the most I’ve ever seen her go through, so I feel I must commend you on a job well done. As for me, I felt slight twinges of what you were trying to convey unto me, but obviously, it didn’t get must further than that,” stated Calliope. Nepeta nodded and gave the other green-eyed girl a beaming smile.

“Well, now you know your theory is right! And I know some more limitations with my power, so it’s a win-win, right?” Everyone cracked smiles at Nepeta’s excited nature as she moved back to her place in line. The instructor took her place in front of them once more.

“Alright. Now that everyone is more acquainted with one another’s powers, let’s begin, shall we? Situation one: You have a team in front of you consisting of an earth manipulator, an electricity manipulator, a foe with super strength, and one with mind control. What do you do? How do you handle it? Take it away,” said Sophie, letting the young adults in front of her deduce the best method of tackling the problem. They considered the situation for a moment, picturing it and what path each would take.

“Battling mind control with mind-altering abilities would prove futile. However, we can’t just focus on the non-mind wielders,” pondered Feferi aloud. From there, John snapped his fingers.

“I’ve got it! Thank you for that beginning insight, Feferi,” he said, directing the last bit to the life wielder. He cleared his throat and continued his thoughts. “Alright. So if each side has a mind-altering user, pit them against each other. Use ours to tie up theirs, so to speak. While their abilities won’t work on each other, there are other methods of taking down that particular foe. Find them, use them, but it’s best if our mind users do that so as to prevent anyone else from being targeted. From there, Feferi, you should give life-strength or whatever it is to Roxy, Rose, Terezi, Karkat, and myself to help us take down the other 3 users. Rose, you and Karkat take the earth manipulator. Terezi, you and Roxy take on the electricity manipulator. I’ll take on the one with the super strength since I’m about the only one who can.” The instructor just shook her head in amusement.

“Very good, John. I believe that plan would actually work pretty well.” Before Sophie could say anything more, Terezi piped up.

“Wow, John. I’m perpetually impressed by the fact that you actually are smart. You look and act like a dingus, but when it really comes to it, you can come up with some pretty smart shit.” The air manipulator gave the ginger an exasperated look while the rest of the wielders had themselves a good laugh at John’s expense.

“Wow, Terezi. I’m perpetually amazed by the fact that you’re a bitch,” he said in retaliation. All Terezi did was grin widely.

“Of course I am. But you love me all the same.” Sophie stepped in, preventing them from bickering back and forth for an indeterminate amount of time.

“Alright, alright. Let’s test John’s theory, shall we?” With that, the instructor turned to the main part of the training room, and the eight of them began their hands on training for the day.

After an hour, Rolanda returned just as they were finishing the last scenario. She had to shield her face from the torrent of water that swept by her as she walked in.

“Very good, Rose! And you wiped your enemy out with that last move. That concludes training for today. You all did a damned good job. Go eat lunch as a reward.” Sophie was soaked through courtesy of Rose and John creating a mini hurricane during one of the scenarios. The group gave a collective, relieved sigh as all of them were tired from running around and using their powers in various ways that they hadn’t thought of previously. Calliope spotted Rolanda and got Feferi’s attention. The two of them walked over to the head scientist.

“Hey there, you two. How did training go today?” asked Rolanda, smiling at them.

“It was actually pretty amazing. I know we’ve worked with some of the other wielders before, but having John with us actually helped the tension a lot,” said Feferi.

“I agree with Feferi. Having someone there that has indefinitely made us feel welcome really helped our teamwork and working with others. He actually incorporated us in his first plan, and that panned out the rest of the session. Whenever others came up with plans after that, we were factored in. Not to mention, we were even able to contribute to plans as well for various scenarios. It was, by far, the most successful training session we’ve been to, Rolanda. I’m very happy you made the decision to bring us to this one,” affirmed Calliope. She gave a very small bow of appreciation to Rolanda who just brushed it off.

“I just figured it was time to introduce you to some of the others as well as some of the ones you battled against previously in order to give you a new sense of their powers. You two have been doing so well, I wanted to reward you with a little challenge and trust. It would appear that was a smart move on my part.” The scientist smiled at them before continuing. “Now, as Sophie said, shall we reward you for a job well done with food? Would you like to eat lunch with the others? You’ll be joined by some of the older adults for lunch time. Would you be amenable to that?” Calliope and Feferi looked at one another, suddenly a little wary of the potential of being with the older adults, seeing how many of them were killed due to them. However, at that moment, John walked up and put a hand on each of their shoulders.

“We’d love it if you two joined us for lunch! And if anything, you can ignore the adults. They aren’t supposed to be judgmental, but I expect they’ll be hurt and scared by you two for what happened previously. Just don’t let it get to you. You’ll have all of us! We’ll protect you two!” He gave a beaming smile at the two girls that they couldn’t help but return.

“Fin. As long as you all are there as whale. It shoald be fin,” Feferi stated, fish puns lacing her speech, causing John to chuckle.

“And you, Callie? Can I call you Callie?” Calliope found herself blushing a slight bit.

“Of course you may call me Callie. You may call me as you desire. It makes no difference to me. And as Feferi stated, it should be fine as long as you six are there to help buffer any potential… situations… that may arise. We’d be willing to join you,” she said. The others from the group walked up, smiling at them.

“Don’t worry. You’ll be fine with us. No one will dare mess with you as long as I’m there!” exclaimed Terezi.

“Yeah, because you’re too crazy even for the strangest of the older adults. They’re all wierded out by you,” said Karkat, arms crossed and head turned. In retaliation for those words, Terezi punched the blood manipulator in the arm, causing him to cry out in pain. “What the hell?!”

“What happened? I didn’t do anything,” Terezi said, beginning to whistle innocently. Karkat growled at her while the others laughed, including Calliope and Feferi. Rolanda smiled at them all, really happy they were getting along. Hopefully, Eridan would be able to join in the fun with them soon, but she was still trying to break his mind control. It wasn’t going terribly well. She was trying to trigger former memories and feelings without completely opening the floodgates. She was getting nowhere, though, and was heavily considering taking Feferi and Calliope up on their offers to help her with that portion.

The group began moving toward the dining room where the delicious scent of food was wafting from. Calliope and Feferi hesitated, glancing at Rolanda one more time for confirmation. With a nod of her head, the two walked faster and caught up with the group and made their way into the dining room. The eight younger wielders all sat at one end of the table, immediately moving to fill their plates. While Calliope and Feferi had been nervous at first to take too much and eat in front of the others, they’d since become more comfortable with the situation and ate normally now. As usual, John completely loaded his plate.

“Goddammit, John! Save some for the rest of the facility!” shouted Karkat. However, the group knew he didn’t mean it harmfully. He was just teasing the other. John flashed him a grin and began chowing down on the sandwich he’d grabbed from the platter. Rose shook her head at his antics while Karkat gave him an absolutely disgusted look. In all the time they were preoccupied with filling their plates, none of them noticed the looks the older adults were sending them. However, soon enough, Calliope glanced over and caught one of their eyes, noting how the person immediately looked away, a scared look crossing her face. Calliope sighed and returned to her food as the others began varying chatter around her.

“Callie? Is everything ok?” asked John, bringing attention to the small blonde. Her green eyes widened, and she forced a smile on her face.

“Everything is fine. I’ve just found myself tired after the day’s training. This is the most I’ve ever done in one setting,” she said, trying to cover it up. Nepeta jumped on her in a heartbeat.

“You’re not telling everything. What’s wrong? You’re upset,” she stated, tone serious and worried. Seeing everyone’s concerned expressions, she sighed and let her smile drop, her eyes sliding over to look at the older adults. Everyone else followed the line of vision to see the other wielders looking over in caution, some of them scared, some of them angry. There really was no in-between. John frowned, but before he could say anything, Roxy spoke up.

“Hi guys! I see you’ve noticed our new recruits! Meet Calliope and Feferi. They’re both super cool and smart and strong. Mom’s totally worked with them extensively and trusts them enough to let them come here with us, so let’s treat them nicely shall we?” Her voice was oddly hard and not nearly as happy-go-lucky as it normally was. It stunned the others a little to see her behave like that, but they wholeheartedly agreed. All of them made eye contact with the older adults.

“They really are nice and trustworthy,” stated Rose, calmly sipping her tea. Her purple eyes slid over to that end of the table. “Now, remember, folks. This is a non-judgment facility. We give everyone here a chance. You do know what will happen if it’s found you aren’t so friendly, right?” She raised a knowing eyebrow at the older adults, all of which looked around at each other, some of them looking a bit sheepish. However, one of the ones who held an angry look spoke up.

“They murdered our friends! How can we trust them? How can you trust them when they killed some of our own?” Karkat, Nepeta, Terezi, and John seemed ready to shoot off their mouths with some form of a retort when Roxy and Rose spoke up at the same time.

“Because our mother trusts them.” Rose continued.

“If my mother did not trust them, they would not be out here, exposed to everyone else. True, they killed some of our members, but there were extenuating circumstances in which their hands were forced. There was no other way or path for them to take. We’ve killed before, have we not? Joel, I specifically remember you being a part of that mission a couple years ago when the wielder needed to be exterminated because there was no way he’d have been able to be reformed. And yet, you pass judgment on these two who were forced to behave in such a way by their superior. What a shame. I used to think highly of you.” Purple eyes were hard as her face remained stoic. Joel was taken aback by the sudden speech coming forth from the normally quiet and reserved water manipulator.

“What makes you think I care about your opinion?” he asked, not quite being able to mask the slight hurt that laced his voice.

“Oh you care, Joel-y boy. Especially since our mother is someone you look up to. You’re a scientist, ain’t ya? You want to work with her, right? Well, if you’re this judgmental, there’s no way she’d let you anywhere near what she does. She’s not only a scientist. She’s also the Head Interrogator. You’d be shadowing her with that, too. And, quite frankly, you aren’t cut out for it. Not if you’ll treat these two how you are right now. Say ‘adios’ to the possibility of working with her if we don’t think highly of you and your ability to handle all sorts a situations,” said Roxy, smirk on her face.

“That’s not fair! You are threatening me and my future just for the sake of these two murderers? Where the hell is the third one, anyway? Why isn’t he with them? Was he too far gone and killed already? That’d be fucking nice if he were,” said Joel, crossing his arms and glaring at the two Lalondes. The last bit infuriated Feferi, however, as she promptly stood up and slammed her hands on the table, glaring at Joel.

“Listen here, asshole! Rose and Roxy are telling the truth! Our hands were tied. It was either we behave how my mother wanted us to or we would be killed, in Callie’s case, or mind controlled to kill anyway, in my case! If we wanted to survive, which we did, we needed to attack and even kill! And don’t you DARE talk about Eridan that way! He’s been mind controlled, you insensitive PRICK! Of course he isn’t up here with us yet! He isn’t safe to be around anyone else at this point while Rolanda is still bringing him out of the YEARS of mind control my mother put him through after MURDERING HIS FATHER AND BROTHER RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM!” she screamed. The air almost crackled with her rage, everyone feeling a drain on them as she sucked the life out of the room in her fury. John reached out and put his hand on hers at the same time Calliope put her hand on Feferi’s shoulder. Both of them felt a noticeable drain in their energy, but held on as they tried to calm the enraged life wielder. Feferi breathed hard as life ran into her from her surroundings. However, she quickly noticed that she was beginning to subconsciously drain the life from the two currently touching her and shook herself out of it. She let out a long exhale, the life she’d taken returning to the room as she concentrated on giving back the life she’d inadvertently stolen from John and Calliope.

“It’ll be ok, Feferi. Eridan will snap out of it. You’ll be back with him soon. I just feel it,” encouraged John, giving her a reassuring smile. Calliope squeezed her shoulder and gave her a smile as well.

“We can talk to Rolanda about helping out with him once more after lunch if you want.” The small blonde turned back to the older adults, all of whom appeared afraid for their lives after that display of pure power. “Next time, think before you speak so callously. It is unbecoming of one to wish death on another being. Not everyone can be in control of the situation in which a poor decision or series of decisions are made. You cannot blame him and wish him ill for a circumstance which was beyond his control, knowing or no. You are still wishing another human being, another wielder with exceptional powers, death. I believe you need to reevaluate your stance on a great many things before spouting that someone deserves a certain punishment for a crime they have not even yet been convicted of and proven to have committed. You have a very uncompassionate soul, sir.” Everyone at the table was silent following the retort Calliope issued as she hugged Feferi and asked once more to make sure she was ok. Finally, Terezi felt it time for her to jump into the fray to deliver one last statement.

“Justice will be served, Joel. Don’t you worry about that. However, Justice will be served in different manners for different infractions. In these two’s cases, just the fact that they are being kept from the populace of members until they’ve proven themselves trustworthy is justice enough for them. Eridan’s justice is being served via the methods of bringing him out of his mind control and the emotional damage it will take on him when he is finally clear-minded. You do not get to decide the punishments or the severity of the infractions in relation to the grand spectrum of the universe. Only the universe may do so and will deliver only what is needed to make things right and to amend them if amends need to be made. Keep your nose out of things it needs not be in. And if you don’t, you’ll find yourself living with either tinnitus or deafness courtesy of a perfectly controlled soundwave.” She smirked at him in a threatening manner. The rest of the adults remained silent, eyes darting back and forth between the young adults and Joel. They were all too afraid to move, however, until they were sure the argument would be over. When it appeared nothing else was going to be said, most of the older adults got up from the table and darted out of the room, keeping their heads down in shame and fear. The young adults were ruthless when it came to protecting their own. The adults were just beginning to realize the younger ones were more powerful for a reason other than their unique abilities.

With most of the adults gone and the rest too quiet to be much of a disturbance, the group turned back to one another. The looks in their eyes said that they’d support each other no matter what as they all continued eating. Their conversations picked back up as the tension in the air finally began clearing. It wasn’t too long afterward that Rolanda appeared in the dining room. The group, at that point, were all laughing about something that had just been brought up. Rolanda cleared her throat, garnering everyone’s attention.

“Calliope? Feferi? It’s time for us to head out. There are a few things I wouldn’t mind some of your help with, but for now, let’s just get back to the basement. OK?” she said, a smile on her face and a calm, reassuring tone lacing her voice. “Sorry to take them away from you folks. I’m sure they’ve had a great time.” Calliope and Feferi shared a look that vaguely echoed one of happiness and stood.

“We did have quite the great time. And we believe our time here will be a little easier from here on out, honestly,” stated the short blonde. Feferi nodded enthusiastically as they flanked Rolanda, beginning to speak about the events of lunch and how the others stood up for them.

As they reached the basement, both girls saw Eridan chained to the interrogation chair. Calliope’s smile dropped, and Feferi gasped, anger quickly taking over her emotions. Rolanda immediately turned around in front of them, blocking their partner from their view temporarily.

“You’d both stated that you wished to offer help in breaking his mind control when I first questioned you, correct?” Both girls tentatively nodded, not really sure where the scientist was going with her train of thought. “Well, I’ve tried about every humane thing I can think of under the sun that I can do by myself. Nothing is working. No memories are being triggered. He’s basically damn well tuning me out. Now, what I’m wanting is both of you to talk with him. Figure out how he’s feeling, where he stands on his morality. Feferi, if need be, I want you to start sharing stories with him from before the mind control. I feel like, psychologically, that should at least put a crack in the floodgates. The rest would need to be up to him to ensure he doesn’t become a vegetable. Do you two understand?” The tall blonde stood with her heel-clad feet shoulder-width apart, clipboard in her hands behind her back, and back ram-rod straight. In the background, Eridan leaned back against the chair, hands as usual encased in steel. He looked extremely bored. Feferi and Calliope looked at one another and met Rolanda’s look.

“Fine. But you stay out of it. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but let us handle it for now,” said Feferi, tone hard and unswaying. Rolanda gave a swift nod and moved out of the way, staying back to let the girls have their space. She could only hope they would be successful where she had failed. If something they did worked, it may help in future cases she was sure they’d begin having as soon as the next attack.


“Fiiiiiiiially! Now I think we’re getting somewhere. Jesus, Sollux. You SUCK at teamwork!” Vriska bitched at the end of a particularly grueling training session. She was sweaty and had a small headache growing in her head, right on her temples, so she knew it was a tension headache. She rolled her head to crack her neck and rolled her shoulders as the psionic scoffed at her.

“I suck at teamwork? You suck at leading. Get over yourself, you two-bit whore of a shit leader.” He sighed and shoved his tingling hands in his pockets. They still resonated with the charged energy he’d been throwing around the room for the last several hours, and he was ready to work that out with a hardcore coding session.

“You and your need to have two’s in every aspect of your life. Of COURSE you would call me a ‘two-bit whore.’ You are soooooooo predictable.” The blonde placed a hand on her hips and sneered at Sollux.

“I’m predictable? At least I don’t have some shitty obsession with the number eight. Two is a reasonable number. Eight? Shit. Just like you. Piss off,” he bit out, heading out the door. Vriska glared at him and narrowed her eyes, preparing her mind to take over his when one of the other two in the room stepped in front of her.

“Knock it off, Vriska. You know that won’t help anything. We’re supposed to be working together, are we not? What will fighting with one another verbally accomplish? Nothing, that’s what. Now, get your over-inflated ego out of your ass and move on,” an alto feminine voice spoke out. Crystalline blue eyes shone brightly behind red cat-eye glasses, red-tinted lips turned down in a frown. Vriska’s own blue eyes looked the other up and down, evaluating her before rolling her eyes and side-stepping her.

“Whatever. It’s not like I actually care. I’m just following orders, after all.” The other girl raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms.

“Oh really? Then why are you so gung-ho about being the leader in this instance, but not actually learning how to lead properly by getting your team to work together as Empress instructed? It’s like, you want to pick and choose what things you want to put yourself fully into, like giving orders, and try your best to ignore the aspects you don’t like, such as working with another person and not taking all the credit for a job well done. Right?” Vriska glared at her as her lips pulled back in a snarl.

“Mind your own damn business. No need to be an accusatory nosy nelly here,” she snapped right back. It was then that the other male in the room stepped forward, placing a hand on the other girl’s shoulder and narrowing his brilliant green eyes at Vriska.

“Do not take such a tone with Jane, Vriska. All she’s doing is, how did you put it… following orders. Yours and Empress’ orders. If you can’t get yourself together, maybe we should talk to Empress and get Jane here to be in charge of the team?” At that, Vriska actually made to attack him when Jane moved more in front of him and held out her hand, eyes glowing lightly.

“Touch him and die, Vriska. You know I can do that. Do you really want to mess with me?” The mind controller stopped in her tracks and looked back and forth between the two in front of her. The threat of losing her life over something that stupid almost made her laugh, but the fear of dying so young prevailed.

“Fine. Whatever. I guess I’ll learn to be a better leader or whatever the fuck it is you want me to do. Have fun screwing each other in your perceived victory over me. I’m out.” With that, Vriska turned on her heel and walked out of the training room, hands in her pockets and an angry expression on her face. Once she had completely left, the door slamming shut behind her, Jane turned to her companion.

“I apologize that you got involved in that, Jake. You shouldn’t have had to defend me like that. I’m not my weak, twenty-year-old self anymore.” A smile graced her red lips as she looked at Jake. He offered her a crooked smile of his own, running a hand through his dark hair and adjusting his slipping glasses.

“It’s not a problem, Janey. I couldn’t let Vriska talk to you like that. It wasn’t right. She wasn’t right. She never is, but she’s just cruel enough to be shoved right up Empress’ a-”

“Don’t you dare finish that statement, Jake. You know the walls have ears. You’ll be punished for speaking ill of the three most powerful wielders in this facility.” Jane placed a hand over Jake’s mouth to emphasize the severity of his potential statement. He sighed and removed her hand from his face.

“I know, Jane. But it just gets to me sometimes how unfair all of this is. Like, we’re kept here indefinitely until we are useful for something? How is that any way to live?” Jane just shook her head and grabbed Jake’s hand, leading him to the door.

“We don’t question things, Jake. This is just how it is here. You’re still getting used to how everything operates, so I don’t blame you. You have only been here for two years, after all. Be happy, though. Soon, we’ll get out into the world again and showcase our superiority while showing those S.B.U.R.B. idiots that living in the shadows isn’t what we were meant to be doing. We were meant to rule over those normal people. We are special for a reason and now we finally get to show that. I can’t wait,” she finished with a smile at her companion. Jake stared at her for a moment, contemplating what she said before nodding ever so slightly.

“You’re right, Jane, as always. I really shouldn’t question things too much. Having been part of S.B.U.R.B. and all of you showing me the error of my ideology there if the best thing that could have been done for me.” Jane gave Jake a quick hug and a peck on the cheek.

“Darned tooting right is what you are with that, Jake. We really are special for a reason. I’m so glad we rescued you from that organization. I shudder to think on how you used to be two years ago.” Jake chuckled a little.

“Yeah. I was pretty lofty with my ideas of how the world should be. I just really wish we could get my sister away from all of that, too. She’s normally the one with the brains, but she stays there, and I can’t figure out why. Hasn’t L.O.R.D. dropped any hints that I’ve changed my allegiance? Any at all when those others have been out and about?”

“Honestly, Jake, I’m not sure. I really have no idea, but I’m with you on your thinking. We need to get your sister away from S.B.U.R.B. as well as my little brother. I haven’t seen him since I came here, but I know he’s with them. The reports we’ve gotten in have been too accurate a depiction for how he would have grown up for me to ignore.” Jane’s face took on a look of determination as she considered how her little brother would have grown up. “He’s there. I know it. And he needs to be rescued, too.” Jake gave her a look of confusion.

“I know we’ve talked about him before, but who do you believe your brother to be, again?” Her blue eyes met his green.

“My little brother is John. John Egbert.”