The Aftermath Academy - CH60 (Olivia)

I see May Butler standing casually in what’s left of Hope’s throne room. Not sure that’s its official title, but there’s a giant ass chair in the middle of a large room and Hope is a megalomaniac. So I’m going to go ahead and call this a throne room.

I’ve never really understood the point of a throne room. Of course, I can lounge in the air as easily as a giant chair. Personally, I think that’s more badass. And if I couldn’t do that I’d probably get a nice couch like the one back at base that Abe and Lilith are always lazing about on.

“No one’s dead!” I say excitedly. “That’s fantastic.”

“You killed my security team,” Hope says bitterly.

“Actually most of them are just unconscious,” Abe says. “Not that they won’t be executed once your crimes all come to light.”

I float over towards Hope. May Butler watches me curiously. “Remember that time you tortured me to death?” I ask Hope.

She sneers at me, “You killed my friends.”

“I only have vague recollections of that, given I had to have my brain reconstructed and all,” I tell her. May makes no indication that she’s interested in stopping me. Even Valkyrie just stares at me. I’m glad she didn’t do something dumb like try to fight Abe. I tenderly caress Hope’s cheek, which dissolves under my Pride. “But I loosely remember your friends consisted of other people you were torturing. I remember there was a girl. The things you’d done to her. It was like the stories my mother told me. My mother thought that telling me about your transgressions would make the things she did, the things she had her soldiers do, seem reasonable by comparison. And the sad thing is it kind of did. But that just made everything even more sad. And thinking about all the things people like you do, all the things my mother’s soldiers did, the joy you took in doing things that made me sad, I kind of snapped a bit. And I gained another ability, which really screwed up the whole Seven Sins thing I was going for, a name I spent so much time coming up with. So on the long list of things I hate you for, costing me my name is pretty damn high. But don’t worry, I’m starting to accept my new power. I even think I might have a new name to go by. What do you think of… Cardinal?”

The light goes out of Hope’s eyes as I use Acedia on her. Every bit of joy she’s ever had torturing someone is promptly forgotten. Every bit of joy she’s ever had doing anything for that matter. Her memory is purged of every happy thought that’s ever passed through her mind. Every dream, every desire, anything that motivates Hope to get up in the morning is snuffed out.

“You should take her life now,” I tell May. “You’ll need a life to restore the immortality field, and you’d be doing her a mercy.” I can see the slightest flicker of unease in May’s eyes. She knows Acedia would likely work on her, no matter how many bodies she has. But she also knows we had her dead to rights. Our goals need her alive and healthy, both physically and mentally. This knowledge lets her quell the unease she’s feeling. But she’s grown so unused to being in any real danger that standing next to someone who could end any meaningful life for her is still unsettling.

Her eyes slide over to Hope. I can see her weighing the decision, the truth of the statements we’ve made, maybe wondering if, even if Hope were innocent, whether I’m right that killing her would be a mercy. May walks over to Hope and touches her. There’s a brilliant glow and Hope falls over dead. I can feel it as the immortality field rushes out around us. Then the feeling fades into the background of my consciousness, the slightest of pleasant tingles.

I smile. Our plan worked. May will undoubtedly find some death row inmates or some such to dispose of, establishing immortality fields for each of her bodies. If we’re right about the effect of Jared’s boosting on her, then her capabilities will be able to create relative safe zones that could house over a billion people.

Including us. I turn towards Krieg and Abe. “Let’s get Lilith and head out. I’m… tired actually.” I look back towards May. “Thank you,” I say sincerely. “For not killing my friends. They’re all I have.” Her cool grey eyes lock onto mine and she stares into them as if searching for something. After a moment she nods her head. I take it as a dismissal as much as anything else and begin to drift towards the door. Abe and Krieg begin to follow me. As badass as it’d be to vanish in a portal of light, they’re one-way transport. After we grab Lilith we’ll be heading to our new digs the long way.

As I pass by Valkyrie, who is clearly in a bit of shock, I nod towards the prone form of The Butler’s brat. “Your boy there has a hell of a hit. I’m glad I took it,” I say. “Like I said, you were on the wrong side. But I would have been sad if I’d killed you. I don’t need your forgiveness for defending myself, but I hope someday you’ll give it anyways.” With those words I glide past her.

I hope we’ll cross paths again under more amiable circumstances. Some parts of our fight were kind of fun. Maybe May might have some sporting fights in her new safe zones. I would love to kick Valkyrie’s ass when our lives aren’t on the line and I’m betting she’ll feel the same way. Speaking of betting, maybe it could be a rivalry thing and once the odds are obviously in my favor I can throw a match. I’m sure with the right betting scheme we’d make a killing.

I’ll have to talk over the details of that idea with Krieg. But first, I’m really looking forward to getting to spend some time in our penthouse.