Live Steel


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Scene Title Live Steel
Synopsis The training gloves come off as Adam begins the next phase of Squeaks' training.
Date January 27, 2020


Bamboo slats bound with twine and leather smack smartly against a practice target, two times in rapid succession.

Swack! Crackle!

A third slice is followed up immediately by a sudden and brief flash of electricity.

Praxis Ziggurat, Private Training Hall

Praxia, California Safe Zone

January 27th

7:38 pm Local Time

Squeaks, fine tendrils is electricity crawling along her body for an instant after she rematerializes, spins to face the target. The shinai in her hands cuts through the air to strike the target. The sound of the practice sword combines with her own grunt of effort.

Practice was earlier in the day, just as it usually is. She's been committed to the art since she was introduced to it, whether that means working on her own or with Adam or Joy. That dedication hasn't , until very recently, extended to multiple sessions, and she hasn't stayed unusually longer or arrived questionably earlier.

That change began yesterday, when she returned after supper.

“You’re getting the hang of it,” Adam explains, brows raised as he parries the blow with his shinai, but finds himself jolted by the electric discharge nonetheless. “Turning a weakness into a weapon. That’s an art, Jac, and you’re becoming an artist.” Stepping back and holding out a hand, Adam swings his shinai around and then plants it tip-down on the floor to indicate a break.

“Let’s take a moment, I have another development, but…” Adam glances down at the floor, then looks back up to Jac, “it can wait until you’ve caught your breath. You might be hard to hurt, but you can still be worn down by someone with more stamina.

The breath Squeaks exhales is more of a huff, a mask to hide that Adam might be right. She'd prefer to push herself, but she knows better than to argue. Her posture relaxes, though, eases out of a readiness to strike again. Her shoulders roll up and back to loosen the tension from working out.

“I'm good,” she replies following another, deeper breath. She's tired, juggling physical activity with using abilities is more draining than just doing one or the other. It carries in her voice, while her eyes and stance still shine with the energy to continue. “What developed? Is it…” She stops short of asking if it was like the explosion out east and lets out a breath between narrowly opened lips. “Did something bad happen?”

“Nothing, yet,” Adam says, but it’s a lie. He’d meant a development for her training, and she means whatever’s been going on that’s had him so on edge. Adam approaches Squeaks, taking her shinai, then walking over to the rack to place both hers and his beside one-another. Adam then walks over to the duffel bag he’d left by the entrance of the practice room, crouching down to unzip it.

“How’re you feeling, after…” Adam turns his attention back to Squeaks. He means dying. How is she feeling since dying.

“Better.” The answer lifts in tone, as though Squeaks isn't sure that's what she's supposed to feel. “It… Sometimes it's almost scary, but I'm careful.” Mostly. “I think if I didn't go so far so fast then maybe it wouldn't happen again.”

She hasn't tried, but obviously she's been thinking about it.

With her hands empty, Squeaks presses the thumb of one hand into the palm of the other to work at a sore spot. She watches Adam too, obviously wondering what he's planning, probably knowing his answer to her first question isn't fully true. She leaves it alone, allowing curiosity to carry her a few footsteps toward him, blue eyes wandering to the bag then up again. “But I am feeling way better. Like I could start doing more. Should start doing more.”

“Good,” Adam says, retrieving something from the duffel bag. He stands up, and Squeaks can see the length of lacquered wood and wrapped silk in his hands, the glossy black of the scabbard, the subtle gold leaf on the crossguard. The symbol stamped in gold on the grip.

It’s the Kensei Sword.

Adam draws the blade out with a shearing sound, and Squeaks can see her face reflected in the smooth edge of the steel. With a single flourish he whirls the blade through the air and she can hear the way it slices in that motion. Then, stepping forward and carefully laying the blade across his forearm, Adam takes a knee and holds it out to her.

“You’re going to use this from now on,” Adam says, looking up to Squeaks. “This sword is over three hundred and fifty years old, and it’s still an inadequate gift for what I’m asking you to use it for.”

Squeaks’ head lifts out of a slight tilt as Adam turns to her. Her eyes fall to the scabbard, to the symbol that she recognizes it as easily as her own face. Confusion briefly touches the open curiosity in her eyes as she looks up from the blade to Adam.

Her eyebrows knit, a small furrow forming between them. Questions batter like storm driven winds, but words are in obvious short supply. When the sword is offered to her, she pulls her hands up, fingers folded in and knuckles pressed to her chin. The Kensei Sword? For real? Is she even capable of using such a fine weapon?

“It…” It's one of the greatest things she's been given. Squeaks lowers her hands to reach for the hilt, fingers extending to curl around and take up its weight. “It's more than adequate.”

Adam slowly stands up after handing the sword off, his brows creased into a subtle furrow as he considers how she looks with the blade in hand. Fair haired, blue-eyed until the gold kicks in, that sword. Adam nods slowly. It’s perfect.

“It’s time we took your training to the next level,” Adam says with a tension in his voice, followed by the door to their practice room opening. Joy emerges from the hall, as if exactly on queue. She and Adam walk past one-another, and Adam offers Joy a wordless nod, which she answers by extending her hand toward the duffel bag and yanking a second — less historic — sword through the air toward her outstretched palm.

The second the sword hits Joy’s palm she brings her other hand to the scabbard, unsheaths it with a fluid motion, and hurls the scabbard aside before lunging in and striking the blade across Squeaks’ throat. The sword reflects off of her hardened skin as if it were stone, leaving a shower of sparks. Joy flourishes the sword, gripping it tightly in both hands before it erupts in flames that roll down off of her arms.

Time to admire the sword, to become familiar with its weight and balance, is cut short when Adam speaks again. Squeaks looks up in time to see Joy with a sword in her hands.

Instinct causes her to flinch, and the force pushes her back a step. But she recovers amidst the rain of sparks, in the glow of flame.

No fancy footwork or twirling blade precedes Squeaks’ movements. She slides a foot back, draws the blade before her, then shouts at Joy. It's a wordless cry that reverberates, powered through her skill with echolocation. It's the only tell the woman gets before the teen launches forward. The sword in her hands cuts to slice through shoulder to hip.

When Squeaks draws blood there is no cry of pain from Joy, but rather a look of willful determination. She had stepped in to the strike, following it through with a swift elbow to Squeaks’ sternum that knocks her back off of the prescribed footing of Adam’s style. It's only then that Squeaks’ echolocation picks up something behind her, too close to be the wall.

It's Joy.

An exact duplicate of Joy strikes from behind, hitting with a seemingly identical sword against Squeaks’ back. It slashes through the back of her shirt and harmlessly glides off of her shoulder in a shower of sparks. The Joy that Squeaks had cut unravels like a simulacrum of cloth and paper, being effectively hollow. The real Joy, the one who ambushed her from behind, extends her hand and launches a telekinetic volley at Squeaks, throwing her backward across the floor. “You're distracted,” Joy insists, flourishing her flaming sword to grip with both hands, “I can feel your thoughts, you have something on your mind…”

On the sidelines, Adam watches intently, arms crossed as he paces the floor. At Joy’s question, he's honed his attention squarely on the young Squeaks.

The ache of the elbow is a distant thrum, the distance gained from the telekinetic force a double-edged sword. Neither are dwelt upon as Squeaks picks herself up from the floor. “That's not my mind you're hearing,” she points out, boldly denying the possibility of distraction.

Sound emanates again, heard only by her, used to explore the room in only a couple of seconds. She's searching, looking for others that might be hiding the way Joy had been hiding. It fills the gap, the space between speaking and confronting the woman physically. Her hands tighten their grip.

And she moves.

Low and to the left. A sliding dive that should be followed through with sword slicing through legs. The sword remains close to her body though, so that at the point of anticipated impact it remains with her when electricity flickers and jumps across her body.

Squeaks’ teleportation pulls her from the slide just as she should be striking. It places her directly opposite of where she'd been less than a heartbeat before. From this side she does strike, first with the sword’s hilt driven for Joy’s ribs, to be followed up immediately with the blade at the woman’s throat.

Joy unravels like a paper wasp nest yet again. This time, however, Squeaks is prepared for the coming onslaught. Four more copies of Joy seemingly materialize from out of thin air, each armed with a flame-shrouded sword, each one stepping in and striking. Eli Carnegie may have died long ago, but his power of replication continues to live on inside of Joy with so many others. For Squeaks, parrying and dodging each blow is an impossible task given their numbers, but Squeaks’ indestructible skin saves her from each would-be hit.

But there should be one more.

Squeaks’ echolocation senses the presence of one more person in the room than she can see. Fifteen feet away, opposite from Adam on the far end of the room. The multiple copies of Joy all move and strike with fluidity, echoing the real woman with nearly perfect symmetry.

Duck. Parry. Weave.

At first it's about all Squeaks can do to keep too many of the strange phantom swords from finding flesh too often. The intermittent chirps and clicks keep her better aware of her surroundings, allow her to move and avoid potential obstacles, slip through the rare opening. She isn't anticipating actually finding another someone.

The shower is sparks that pulls her from the fractional distraction prompts movement. The sword in her hands cuts horizontally through the air as she steps in…

…and crackles to a wider opening on the training room floor. Her eyes seek out, not the someone but the multitude of Joy clones. And then she teleports into position opposite where she'd landed, electricity popping and snapping with her movement.

She disappears and reappears in the same was a third time. The jagged arcs like small lightning bolts have barely crackled out of existence when her sword slices at an angle, this time to strike the figure she'd found seconds ago. As she swings, Squeaks yells wordlessly with her ability riding in the sounds, pitched just enough to breach into normal hearing range.

The blade swings up, cuts through the air and

Three Hundred and Forty-Nine Years Earlier

Shiretoko Cliffs

Hokkaido, Japan

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The sky is awash with colors. Clouds are pushed to the horizon in every direction, a perfect ring of dusky, starlit purple near the clouds, fading to an inky black directly overhead. A shimmering curtain of aurora lights dances in the darkness, vibrant greens and blues with flickering edges of pink. The wind here is ferocious, whipping across bare rocks and blowing what little scrub grass juts up between them flat in a cyclonic pattern.


A black-haired woman stands on the outcropping of a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean, hands clutching her head. The fabric of her red kimono flows in the wind, the branch patterns of deep crimson silk contrasting against the vibrant scarlet of the rest of the cotton attire. Red makeup is streaked over each of her vibrantly gold eyes, each saucer-wide in shock. She screams, a dual-tone voice, one pitched deeper than the other. Her movements are staggered, struggling against unseen fetters, as she raises one hand with nails tapering to claws, a silk dragon embroidered down her billowing sleeve.


A tall, bearded man in black and white stands just a few feet from the woman, hands held up in the air and corsucating waves of heat mirage emanating from his palms. Sweat rolls down his brow, both eyes are bloodshot to the point of looking simply red with a dot of black for iris and pupil. There are three wounded people scattered about the rocky cliff, two in lacquered wooden armor clutching bleeding wounds at their abdomen. One in a fur-trimmed robe of brown and gray, braided fabric wound like a band around his head, with two strips of cloth flanking the sides of his face.


The man shouting is the only figure in armor still standing, his black and red armor notched and dinged from a hundred battles. Helmet cast aside on the ground, Takezo Kensei stands out from the others with his blonde hair, blue eyes, and foreign features. His sword, pointed at the dark haired woman, is gripped tightly in both hands. “Yaeko,” Kensei shouts over the howl of the wind, “fight it. I know you’re in there. Fight it.” He addresses her in English.

Yaeko, the woman with gold eyes, draped in blood red fabric, clutches her clawed hand closed and Kensei lurches forward, rising up on his feet as though grabbed by the throat. “Yaeko please. Don’t do this— You are my heart.

She squeezes harder.

Yare!” One of the wounded soldiers on the ground screams to the man in black and white, and after one pained look, his hesitation fades into resignation.

Gomen'nasai,” the man in black and white says as he claps his hands together, eliciting a scream of pleading from Kensei, “Ane.” When he pulls his hands apart, there is a shearing sound like metal scraping against metal, and the world behind Yaeko collapses inward like a thousand origami folds. Each triangular shape slips into the next, tessellating outward until a one-dimensional pane of absolute blackness eclipses her silhouette from behind.

Kensei!” The other wounded soldier cries. “Kimi ga shinaito!” Tears in his eyes, Kensei tightens his grip on his sword, jaw set, knuckles white. The howling wind changes direction, sucking inward toward the slowly rotating triangle of emptiness, the fabric of Yaeko’s kimono billows toward it. Dust, small rocks, debris, all tumble toward that yawning vortex.

Kensei, imasugu!

Kensei lunges forward, breaking the telekinetic grip as his sword plunges into Yaeko’s chest. Her eyes grow wide, blood sprays from her mouth, darkens the vibrant fabric of her kimono. She opens her mouth to scream and—

Present Day

Squeaks’ sword violently clashes with another. Adam Monroe stands wide-eyed between the young girl and the gradually visible Joy. As she sheds a cloak of invisibility, Joy brings two fingers toward her neck where a hairline slash leaves a thin line of blood from the very tip of the Kensei sword. Adam’s eyes are locked with Squeaks, and she isn't even clear how he got to her so fast.

Shoulders rising and falling, Adam’s eyes burn the same gold that Squeaks’ do when she uses her Gemini-granted powers. He exhales a shuddering sigh, lips parted as he steps back from their locked blades. He breathes, sharp and unfocused, and Joy watches him with a moment of recollection and uncertainty. Lowering his sword, Adam’s eyes cool back down to their normal blue and a look of apology dawns over him.

“Enough,” Adam says shakily, followed by a quick look to Joy, and then back to Squeaks.

“You're ready for the next step.”

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