Dangerous Game, Part III


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Scene Title Dangerous Game, Part III
Synopsis Every risk comes with a consequence for failure.
Date January 2, 2019

A mellow, homely meal.

Stories new and old shared ‘round the table.

Laughter, heartfelt but with a subtle edge of more melancholy feelings.

You don’t have to worry

A warm home with familiar faces and voices. Faces and voices that grew somber as the night grew old and the time to leave became more insistent.

Sometimes the past can

Make the ground beneath you feel like quicksand

Leaving her friends a second time was almost harder than the first. A homesickness so strong it was nearly a physical pain, worries that the family she had built for herself would turn against her when she needed them most, those were the souvenirs Squeaks carried with her when she left the Lanthorn. It was kept hidden behind a grinning mask, hinted at in the hugs that went around.

Revealed only once she was alone with plenty of empty streets and buildings to hide her small form as she wept over her frustration and fears.

Minutes pass unnoticed as the raw emotions are allowed to escape, before a new resolve is formed. This time, her tears are dried before she even begins her journey back to Praxia.

You reach for my hand

Yeah I know you’re gonna be okay

Back home.

You’re gonna be okay

And even if you're scared

You're stronger than you know

Praxis Ziggurat

Praxia, California Safe Zone

January 1

9:24 pm Local Time

A yawn stretches and cracks Squeaks’ jaws as she slinks along the last stretch of quiet hallway to her apartment. She hadn't anticipated the trip to be so exhausting. Not even just the emotional strain of trying to convince her friends to see past everything they'd ever been told, but testing her teleporting power. Maybe she should have listened to all the warnings about not overdoing it. A hot shower and bed were definitely needed.

And wanted.

Maybe some food, too. Food would be nice. The teen reflects on what might have been left in her room that she could eat — hopefully something tasty, like fruit — as she stops in front of her door. The hand reaching for the doorknob detours to scrub the tiredness from her eyes, then returns to its task of opening the door.

The sudden crackle snap of an electrical discharge the moment she touches the door sends Squeaks flying backward as a lancing jolt of pain shoots up her arm. Smoke rises from Squeaks’ hand which has not a single scratch on it, but there is a terrible and agonizing pain building beneath the skin, throbbing up her forearm and into her elbow. The pain makes her eyes water, but when the second electrical discharge comes it throws her onto her back and causes her to arch up off the floor.

An involuntary scream and echolocation click erupts from Squeaks as three more blasts of electricity ground out from her into the sconces on the walls, blowing out the lights in the entire hall. Her clothing catches fire in spots where the electricity starts, smothered by her invulnerable skin. But the pain, the bone-deep pain, is unbearable.

An alarm sounds in the hallway, triggered by the power circuits blowing out. DIstant klaxons blare, the groaning sound of the shutters coming down over the windows is next. Two more — mercifully smaller — blasts of electricity arc off of Squeaks as she writhes around on the floor helplessly, grounding out on the distant doorknob across the hall. She can see the room spinning, darkness tunneling in around the edges, too much pain to

Two Years Earlier

Childs’ Residence
Elmhurst, NYCSZ
September 12, 2018

“What’s your favorite?”

Squeaks girl had already offered her own. She leans way over, to her backpack that’s still sitting nearby and pushes some things around, then sits up with a storybook in hand. The cover of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz is looked over, and then held out for Jolene to take. “This one’s really good.”

A ghost of a smile creeps across Lene’s face when she sees the book, brushing her fingertips over the cover before taking it. “Mom used to read this to me when I was little…” her green eyes search the cover, looking at the faded parts and the cracks in the paper.

“I don't know that I have a favorite,” Lene admits, then motions to a backpack leaning up against one end of the sofa. “What I'm reading right now is for class, but it's there if you're curious. It's mythology,” she looks back to the cover of Wizard of Oz wistfully. “There's a hero, and magic, romance and sacrifice.”

Lene looks up to Squeaks with a smile. “There's a dragon, too.”

When the backpack is motioned to, Squeaks’ interest rises. But she doesn’t go to find that book just yet. She leans on trying to decide which way to go first. A long second passes, and she turns to her bag again. Another book is found fast, not an adventure and probably not something a young teenager would be reading. Or maybe it is, but Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is deposited into Lene’s lap.

Perhaps she just felt the sharing of books needed another trade. Being allowed into someone’s belongings is a big deal. But soon as the second book is given over, she crawls to Jolene’s backpack and carefully opens it up to pull out the book.

“I started reading stuff on mythology,” Squeaks explains as she sits again. Her legs go criss-cross so she can balance the book in her lap. “One book is about Zuni myths and the other is East-Asian. Like Japanese and Chinese areas.” She looks over the cover as she talks then carefully opens the book to start absorbing the words inside. “It’s all really neat and there’s these similarities, but the stories are different. In the creations, both say the world started as this formless blob and the the gods shaped it into the world with tall things to connect heavens and earth. Great Father Sun from the Zuni created Morning Star and Evening Star to help populate the earth and the Japanese creator made Izanagi and Izanami to do the same thing.”

Of all things, the book in Squeaks’ lap is about “quasi historic” Japanese mythology. The hardcover textbook depicts a black armored samurai locked in combat with a coiling serpentine dragon with blood red scales. Across the cover is printed:

Kensei and the Dragon
The Mythology of Shakushain’s Revolt

Present Day

Unconsciousness is different from sleep. It is abrupt and dreamless, usually, it is a state closest to death that a person can experience. One moment the world is all around you and the next… nothing. There is something subconscious at play, as Squeaks mind was coming back into consciousness, that had her thoughts wandering to that night in Gillian’s house, when her life was simpler, when the world was simpler.

It’s Jolene.

Oh my god,” is the emotional whisper that draws Squeaks back to the waking world, not on the floor where she remembers being knocked, but prone in a hospital bed in a medical gown. Jolene is seated beside her, face red and eyes puffy with emotion. The morning sun is starting to come up behind her, and when Squeaks eyes flutter open it elicits a bubbled hiccup of anxious laughter and a sob from Jolene as she cups her hands over her mouth and nose to stifle the sound.

“Stay focused,” is a voice that isn’t Jolene’s. Because on the opposite side of the bed sits Adam Monroe, one sleeve rolled up. Squeaks only now can feel the sensation of something tugging at her arm, an IV, leading to a plastic bag full of— blood? He wasn’t talking to Squeaks.

He was talking to Jolene.

Through half lidded eyes Squeaks tries to will the world back into focus and sense. The pieces are scattered, a puzzle without edges. She was thinking of something just a minute ago, what was it?

Sleep? Yes, she needs more, but that's not…


The sound of her sister’s voice draws eyes in that direction. That's right, the book, Kensei and the Dragon.

“Can we read it again? Please?” Her voice is a distracted murmur as the memory of that night begins to fade and finer details prickle into her awareness. Lens's face, red and puffy probably from crying, the scratchy sterility of hospital bed and gown. The faint sting in the air, inherent to all places of medical practice.

What happened?

Her head turns slowly to the other voice. Blue eyes catch the tubing, it's movement making her pause to follow its path to her arm and up again. Then to Adam. Director, teacher, father. His words may not have been meant for her, but she's heard similar enough times that obedience kicks in even if she hasn't any understanding of her circumstance. Squeaks plants her hands against the thin mattress with every intent to pick herself up again. Just as she has in their sword fighting lessons.

One hand held at her mouth, Jolene remains silent as Adam looks Squeaks up and down. “Your disappearing act looks to have had consequences,” he says with a small hint of wry amusement in it, but only just. “Your teleportation ability isn’t well documented, Jac. We were testing its limits here, preparing you for its use, but… I think you overloaded it. You blew out the power in an entire wing of the ziggurat, stopped your heart, and…” exhaling a deep sigh, Adam shakes his head. “You’re okay now, but I won’t always be there to pull you back from the brink.”

Sliding off of his stool, Adam offers a look to Jolene. “Go get your mother, I imagine the three of you will want to have a talk,” he gently says to her. Lene nods, a couple of times, wiping at tears in her eyes. Rather than immediately leave, she goes over to Squeaks’ bedside and sweeps back the girl’s bangs from her forehead and kisses that spot.

Don’t you ever scare me like that again,” Lene whispers sharply, jaw unsteady. Adam looks away, down to the floor, then around the room as he gives them this moment.

The explanation gives Squeaks pause, connects the dots to why Lene looks frightened and excited, sad and angry, all at the same time. She sinks backward, a physical representation of her understanding.

“I’m sorry,” she says quietly, brow furrowing with reflection.

She means the apology for both of them, but her eyes swivel up to look at Jolene. Half pleading for understanding, still apologizing. She lifts a hand to press fingers to her sister’s arm, offering and seeking comfort. For a second, her eyebrows knit further, worried about how their mom is going to react. A lot like Lene, probably. Worry becomes anger turned inward, at herself. It was stupid. She should have known better.

“I didn’t mean… I thought it would be okay.” It should have been okay, but she isn’t sure what exactly went wrong. Just suddenly all the crackling that came with using her ability went crazy out of control. Squeaks shakes her head, dismissing the puzzle for a later time. “I'll be more careful. Lene…” She trails off, looks aside, but her small tone carries her message. Please don't be mad.

Lene’s expression, while grateful Squeaks is alive, also implies that it isn’t her Squeaks has to worry about being mad. “It’ll be okay,” is the reassurance she gives instead, leaning in to press a kiss to Squeaks’ forehead before straightening and briefly looking at Adam, then departing the room entirely.

Adam waits for a moment after the door shuts again before stepping to Squeaks’ bedside. “I knew you were leaving,” Adam finally admits, “and I chose to let you go. I thought… stretching your wings would be good for you. But,” he says with a shake of his head, “I’m just as much to blame on this. Neither of us fully understood your teleportation ability, it seems. I’m the adult in this situation… I shouldn’t have let you take such a risk.”

Squeaks forces a small grin that doesn't exactly hide her worry. It probably will be okay, her sister is right, but she's still uneasy about the cost of her misjudgement.

She sighs when the door closes, lifts a cautious look to Adam, anticipating anger from him too. What he says isn't what she's expecting and it shows in a flicker of confusion. “It… I mean…” She frowns slightly and shakes her head. Sure, if he knew she was leaving then he could have stopped her, made her march back to the Ziggurat. But it was still her choice to go and see what she could do by herself.

“When I got here, you said I had to learn to rely on myself.” It's not exactly what had been said, but it's Squeaks’ takeaway from that bit of conversation. “And… and if I'm going to do this then… then I need to know, right? I need to know what I can do and how far before it breaks.”

The teen watches Adam while she puts words to her understanding of how the world works. Her brows knit with the seriousness of the matter, with deeper thoughts she hasn't examined yet. After a couple of seconds, both eyebrows pop up and her expression lightens. “We learned something and that's good. We know that, somehow, I built up a really ginormous charge.”

“Things we need to figure out together,” Adam explains, walking to Squeaks’ side to pull the IV out of her arm. It’s a weird sensation, because it feels stuck when Adam tugs on the needle and Squeaks can feel it scraping against her skin like it was tougher than the needle itself. “I wasn’t going to burden you with this, but… I think you need to know.” He holds up the needle to her. “You died.”

Adam pops the needle off the tubing and throws it into the trash beside the bed and clamps off the transfusion hose, leaving it hanging for now. Someone else will clean that up. “The electrical discharge stopped your heart and disrupted all of your autonomous functions. You stopped breathing. You’d been dead for… maybe ten minutes by the time we found you.” Adam walks along Squeaks’ bedside, coming to rest at the foot of the bed, both hands on the railing at the end, hunching over it. “My blood was able to bring you back, and I needed to get your sister involved to negate you after the transfusion took effect, so that your invulnerable skin didn’t reject the needle.”

Adam breathes in deeply, then exhales a sigh through his nose. “I didn’t tell her you’d died, only that you were hurt. Because if she or Gillian knew that, you’d be out of here. They would be out of here, possibly calling SESA and…” For the barest of moments he was angry, but Adam tamps that fiery feeling down as he straightens. “When you put yourself at risk like that, it endangers everyone.”

Even though it doesn’t exactly hurt having the needle dragged out of her arm, Squeaks’ face clearly states that it does. Her lips pull back in concentration, nose wrinkles and eyes squint. The only thing that doesn’t happen is a complaint about the sensation. Once disconnected, she rubs at the spot and gives the tubing an insulted look.

Her eyes lift when Adam speaks, looking first at the needle then focusing on him. Brows knit, and a glance flicks to the IV bag then back to Adam. The explanation weighs heavily, filled with confusion and fear.

She’d known it was risky, but that that risk would be limited to the wrong people seeing her. The idea that it was this ability…

Somewhere a seedling of newfound respect puts down roots.

“I’m sorry.” Squeaks darts a look to the door that Lene had left through. This is definitely a secret she’ll keep forever. “It… it won’t happen again.” Not if she can help it, find a way to stop the overload from happening. She chews on her lip, eyes touching on various things around the room. After a few seconds, she looks up at Adam. “I promise, I’ll be a lot more careful.”

Adam nods, guilt momentarily flashing in his eyes as he wipes his hands clean with a sanitary napkin. “I know,” he says quietly, without any further judgment. He’s made his point. When he tosses the napkin into the trash, he lets his attention linger there with a distant and unfocused stare. “I’m going to go let Gillian see you, because she’s going to have a lot more to say about this than I do right now. You’ve learned your lesson. Just… remember, if she’s mad?” Adam lifts one shoulder in a resigned shrug, “the anger is for her, not you.”

Turning to the door to Squeaks’ room, Adam pauses with his hand on the door handle. “And if this does happen again…” he says with a hint of tension in his voice.

“…I might not be there to save you.”

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