The Aftermath Academy - CH20 (Olivia)

I'm laying in bed, pretending to be asleep. Ok, floating slightly over the wrecked remains of my bed if you want to be technical about it. Me and beds don't go well together since the second I toss or turn in my sleep the bed is toast. And the moment I sit up to go to the bathroom I'm going to rip through any sheets, so those are out.

Tonight I'm torn in my opinion regarding my rather immodest sleeping habits. On the one hand, if Hope is spying on me I'm giving her something of a show. On the other hand, if she's not spying on me then it really defeats the point in pretending to be asleep. I guess given how much concentration it takes to do what I'm about to do it doesn't matter, but it's the principle of the thing.

I reach out my Gluttony, tiny wisps of my hunger materializing into existence. They're weak due to my general lack of fighting or sleeping the past couple of days, which is exactly how I need them to be. Damn, life is kind of working out right now. Imagine how inconvenient it would have been if I'd needed my Pride to be weak but my Gluttony to be strong? That shit would have sucked.

I will admit it would be more convenient if my Greed were stronger. Because this is tricky part. I slowly merge my Greed with my Gluttony and images start to form around the dark wisps. Hell yeah, we have video! This trick is hard, even for the awesomeness that is me. But damn if it isn't convenient to be able to spy on things. I'm safely on the other end of the tower, nothing but the timing of my visit to connect me to my voracious wisps of avarice skittering through Hope's tower.

I started them out in the ballroom where we raced horses today. Yeah, horses inside, you heard that right. I'm still baffled how the space manipulator made that little trick work, but they basically go around in circles only it doesn't feel like circles when you're riding them.

I've started suspecting Jarvis is the space manipulator. I don't have any proof of this, but he was present with the horses and I imagine that level of finesse can't just unconsciously follow the security algorithms Krieg set out for the spatial manipulator to follow. Also, if he is the space manipulator, I'd have an excuse to test out my Gluttony against Hope's immortality field. I think I could win and Jarvis totally fucked up my eggs this morning. But maybe he's still just bitter about the whole 'being thrown out the window' thing like it wasn't all his fault for sneaking up on me.

I probably won't be able to prove all that. But wouldn't it be nice? In absence of a rational reason to test my gluttony on biological person, I satisfy myself with hunting down all the tech detectors hidden throughout this tower. Naturally they're rather tiny little bastards since they're all made by goddamn tech geniuses. And there's always a risk that shorting them out will draw enough attention to get the whole lot replaced. But if Krieg is right, he just needs a small opening and his own tech will be able to camouflage itself.

So I spend the night shorting out tiny little alarms and hope it's doing anything. Because really, I have no idea. Do I look like a tech genius to you? That's a trick question, I really look like Diana Carrasco and she's a total techie bad ass. I think Krieg maybe even had a crush on her once. Hell, it could even be why he stopped to say hi when we first met, though he will definitely deny it and claim he was just curious about who was ripping through hundreds of soldiers in Hex. That liar.

I am not sure I can describe the sensation of looking for hundreds of little sensors at once, small tendrils of my consciousness pouring through different rooms of the tower. They are subtle, looking like nothing more than the wisp of a shadow, a trick of the light or even the eye to anyone who might glance their way. Even more so since I dissipate any tendrils of my Avarice that spot someone else first.

The main thing that's annoying about this task is that dealing with the spatial rearrangement of the tower makes it feel like I'm starting over every night. I always make sure to find a pathway to the outer wall of the tower, and from there I can burrow into the earth or flow straight to the dome wall and trust Krieg knows what the hell he's doing. But I don't feel like I'm making any progress towards finding Hope's most inner sanctum. You wouldn't think it'd be hard given she has a small range in which she can move and still have her field cover the entirety of the city.

I'm not certain why she bothered to restrict herself so much. It wasn't like she made full use of the space within her little paradise. Maybe she'd intended to, before the dome was grown. But whatever aspirations she might have had when Doctor Sedrick created the living dome that protects Hope's Bastion, they were lost long ago. Now I suspect she keeps the dome fully protected more out of fear than anything else.

Ah...speaking of fear. You know how I've been busily doing work into the wee morning hours while you get to read a few minutes of summary because you're all just in my head? I think it's important to stop our other work and note that I found a room I really didn't want to find, because now I'm thinking about the fact what goes on here could happen to me if I let Void take my powers again.

I knew this room existed. My mother told me about it, to make her punishments look tame. (FYI, they still weren't). But I almost believe her now on the contrast thing, seeing the horrors here from an infinite number of angles as the voracious avarice unfurls into the room.

Hope only needs one life a year to fuel her power, someone already on the brink of death for whom immortality would be more of a burden than a gift. But she doesn't stop at one life. Or, a worse thought, maybe she usually does. That would be unfortunate for the poor souls in this room.

You might be surprised by what can be done to a person who cannot die. I'm sure the guy whose had one eye removed with the nerve still intact so that he can look at the shredded remains of the other eye mounted on display in front of his nose was very surprised. I don't know how to interpret 'messed up googly eyes' as an emotion, but I don't think it's projecting too much if I just think of it as 'perpetual horror'.

The woman whose organs are displayed outside her body nails the horrified expression, which is about all she can do since like all the other human statues she's had her vocal chords removed and throat paralyzed so that she cannot scream. In her case, it was probably overkill given I doubt she could scream much with her lungs floating in front of her like that even if she had the throat for it.

I see a man with mottled skin, a victim of The Plague's attack, nothing more done to him than tying him to a chair. Nothing more needs to be done, the unending pain of his condition cruelty enough. As I look beside him to another man, I wonder how this madness started. This one has his nerves unwound outside his body and a small device is playing them like a piano, legs elegantly hopping from nerve to nerve in a calculated pattern, the man's agony a silent symphony similar to the first's.

Was this Dr. Sedrick's lab once? Did this begin as a desperate attempt to cure The Plague's victims by a man so smart that even Krieg admired him, no matter the cost? But in the end, Sedrick left and killed himself like most of the others The Plague infected. Perhaps if he wasn't a victim himself he would have had the clarity of mind to find the answer, but the pain took him. Were these the remnants of his final research? Was Hope corrupted by the trauma of The Plague's assault, the aftermath of it, even a victim herself clinging to some twisted belief that she might be able to do something the likes of Sedrick and Marcos couldn't achieve?

Or do these horrors have nothing to do with the dead bio-genius and Hope's just always been a crazy sadistic bitch? I doubt I'll ever know. Even if I ask her while I'm killing her, I wouldn't trust anything she’d say.

And as long as she dies, I'm not sure I care.

The hatred is overwhelming me, until I see the little girl. How ironic. It was the description of a little girl that made me hate Hope to begin with. My mother condescendingly telling me the awful things she did to teach me discipline couldn't compare to what she knew Hope was into.

Now I see that she might have been right about that, in her own warped way. I can barely process what I'm seeing. If whatever part of my mind you figments reside in can't see through my eyes, then I really need to figure out how to get the rest of my mind there right now.

Fear creeps up my spine as tears spring to my eyes. This can't be happening. I knew it was a risk, but it's only been a few days! But I know the mission is over, because the thought of waking up tomorrow and hanging out with Hope again, knowing that she can take my powers, knowing that she could do this to me...even though right now I'm wrapped up in my Pride and tomorrow Void would take away most of my emotions with my powers, the thought now of being without them seizes me.

Two emotions that I rarely experience wrack my body and my mind begins tearing itself apart. I try to stuff them back in, to contain the fear and the sorrow, to control them and bury them behind my Pride.

I fail.

I'm not sure which happens first, the sirens blaring or my Voracious Avarice lashing out, growing bigger and devouring all of Hope's living artwork, leaving nothing left from her masterpiece of misery and pain. I can feel them die as my Gluttony consumes them. It’s the only mercy that I can provide them and it's good that I can do even that much. It looks like however my Gluttony works, it can trump Hope's immortality field after all.

Whatever the order of occurrence, I can't take the risk that the sirens blaring weren't because I lashed out with an entirely different ability. Actually, fuck that, I'm just goddamn terrified. There, I admitted it.

And I'm not sticking around this hell hole to be turned into some fresh horror Hope comes up with. That crazy psycho would probably make me eat myself or something. She could do it indefinitely, like she does with her cattle industry. Yeah, infinite steaks are nice and all until she ends up giving everyone mad cow disease which, let's be real here, she'll probably do on purpose just for the lolz.

Seriously, fuck this noise. I go from pretending to be asleep to flying through the roof of my penthouse in a split second. I hurtle upwards on a direct route to the bio-dome above me, intent on bursting through. But I'm not very fast, which is concerning. I'm far from fully charged and my Envy sluggishly hauls my small body skyward. I would have considered just falling downwards through the ground if there weren't such a high risk of running into Void on the way through the tower’s floors.

Fortunately, no one appears to be in pursuit. This raises my suspicions further that the sirens weren’t because of my sudden strange impulse not to let people suffer for eternity. But beggars can't be choosers and I'm fine with anything that lets me get the hell out of here.

The roof is closing in. It's two hundred feet away. It's a hundred feet away. It's...not there anymore. Huh. There's a roof, but it's not the roof.

“Hello, Princess Adaliah,” an all too familiar voice says. “Were you going somewhere?”

I turn towards Hope, flanked by Void and a very bored looking Jarvis. Son of bitch, I was right! Bastard space warped me right into the room I just wrecked a few minutes ago.

Void is suppressing my powers, which fortunately means the panicked terror I was feeling is gone. That was very mildly embarrassing now that I'm thinking about it, so how about we pretend I wasn't running for my life?

“Don't suppose you would believe that I was just going for a midnight fly around the city?” I ask earnestly.

“I'm afraid not, Princess,” Hope says softly. She is incredibly poised, a piece of living art herself, superficially much more beautiful than the terrors she created. I'd say she's uglier on the inside, but she didn't leave much of what was inside her victims to the imagination and that was all terrible too.

If she feels any anger over what I've done it does not comes through in her demeanor. She walks over to me, almost a foot taller than I am, and gently caresses my cheek. To the extent that I'm able to desire anything right now, I wish I still had the ability to punch through her fucking face.

“My dearest Olivia, it seems I have lost many friends tonight. I'm not sure how they've disappeared, but I think I will need more. And we have had such great fun these past few days. Wouldn't you just love to be my friend?” She smiles at me widely, a genuineness in her voice that is spectacularly disturbing considering the scalpel she's holding in her other hand.

Well fuck...