Archive for PC & RI (City of Heroes)

The Paragon Song of Dark Swan

“The ancient Greeks believed that swans only sang once: at the point of their death one beautiful last lament. Well, this is my last swan-like lament.”

―Hugh Laurie

 

It has always been my belief that my characters existed before I stepped into them and they will continue to live their lives as they would with out me there, without the medium that I met them in still being there. The end of City of Heroes is not the end of Paragon City, the Rogue Islands or Praetoria, it is simply the end of us viewing the world from that perspective…

 

So, I guess its now official that the characters that I stepped away from last November are not going to ever have me riding with them ever again in Paragon City/Rogue Islands/Praetoria… so I thought, it might be appropriate for me, as a self proclaimed Swan to be the first to sing a swan song for Paragon and thus, here the song begins…

 

Aysel “Lady Darkswan” Swan eloped with her long time fiance Wilhelm “Pyrite Von Magnus” Maynard after stewing over what she learned from Astrid’s magical chocolates given to her freely by Rosie Raina Montrenne a Christmas that seemed so long ago…

 

Nesrin “Lady Daystorm” Day Married her long time beau, Dominic “Dominus” Magnusson and they continued to fight their inner demons together, Nesrin with her art and being a teacher at Saint Raven’s, Dominic with his research in medicine and biology.

 

Aglaya Lyednika rediscovered how to feel, and went on to help Tempest Solutions become the go to source for computer security and intelligence.

 

Larisa Duska still talks to ghosts, but the whole precinct at KRPD no longer has issues with ghosts in their desks… or Circle of Thorns, when she is at work.

 

Leah Saga worked her way past the block on her powers that made them only be able to work outwardly, and in the process, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine with her work in the field of meta-genetics. She retired and lives happily with her husband in the Pacific Northwest, but keeps an eye on Paragon through her daughter Courtney.

 

Courtney Saga and her life partner are still busy watching out for their charge.

 

Sandy “Canadiene” Taylor surprised the world by getting over the ditzy blonde schtick, married her long time boyfriend Sean Stevens, and has Tenure at Paragon University at Salamanca as the head of elemental fire magic.

 

Anna Pavlova-Taylor found eventually that she was not aging, and watched her husband and children age and grow on. Eventually the ballerina faked her death for the second time, but the Red Swan still watches over her progeny and of course, the people.

 

Selene “Agent Dreamloom” Summers earned her halo becoming a full on guardian angel/cherub and immortal to boot, giving her plenty of time to tend to her daughter, and her two charges, they may not be redeemed yet, but they have an eternity to do it.

 

Seth “Knyght Shade” Rigby-Wu finally managed to rig up a time machine to save his sister Eve from the past, and then rocketed back to his correct time line and reunited with his foxy girlfriend princess.

 

Izumi Arashi took her house back over and started dominating in Kitsune politics with the help of the technical expertise and the sexy sledgehammer she brought with her after escaping Praetoria, she continues to play chess with Kiku…

 

Ashley “Labaredas” Maynard settled down with the other two members of her triumvirate, and is said to have settled somewhere in Germany where she always is glad to see Aria when she comes home, and keeps Alex as a house husband… oh and the eggs hatched eventually too.

 

Kaoi thrives always with her mistress, just as her mistress’s enemies fail to thrive for some reason once touched by the nectar of the blue lotus.

 

Jinlan Wu was offered a position at the University of Southern Florida and took it to be closer to her grandmother, moving the headquarters for Priam Laboratories to the Keys, leaving Ami to head the Paragon Branch. She has full tenure at the university and has put her robotic armor into retirement, focusing instead on taking care of her family (but gods forbid you mess with her family).

 

Rosie Montrenne had been already in her freshmen year in a high school music preparatory program put on by DePaul University in Chicago when Chris Montrenne died. Her first album containing her own compositions plus arrangements titled “Beyond the Bare Necessities” was dedicated to her mother, and went Platinum within two weeks of its release… Notable in the arrangements was a “mash up” of Amazing Grace and Send in the Clowns that it was said she assembled and sang at the funeral.

Character info: Rosie Montrenne

The incredible origin of Rosie Raina TM (Now Rosie Montrenne)

When I started playing I had several friends that had come over with me from the scraps of what was left of our neverwinter nights persistant world community.

Rosie was part of an idea that a friend (Volpe) had  that consisted of themed characters that were living dolls made by Trevor Ansgrave as hinted at in Without a Pullstring. Volpe left the game and thus the demise of Susie Sunshine in that story, and the character had been shelved until I brought her out to check on Hreb’s highth for his robotic duplicate during a D meet((in the days before character costume files)) and Rosie met Chris and they hit it off, considering at that point Rosie’s main vocabulary stemmed from what a talking doll would say. ((“Are you my mommy?”and “You’re my best friend!” being the catalyst for the adoption of Rosie to the Montrenne family))

Wow that character has come a long way since then…

Frozen-Epilogue

Epilogue

A single frozen tear fell down Aglaya’s cheek as she snuggled closer to Yuki on the couch while they watched a movie.

“What’s wrong Aggie-chan?” Yuki whispered to her.

“Nothing… I was just remembering what it was like when I was frozen.”

“Ah.” Yuki smiled then kissed her.

“Well, spring has come love… spring has finally come.”

Frozen-7

It took just short of three months for Aglaya to convert her savings into liquid assets. She had plenty of time to get the intricate details of her plan together.

She had decided on a three prong attack on Sinclair’s attention.

Act one: An email to Praetor White revealing Sinclair’s involvement with the assassination attempt  made by Basilisk and Dragon on White five months previous. To be attached are files on Project Phoenix, including the six members, their mission files, Aglaya’s work on mopping it up and evidence concerning its reboot.

Act two: Files delivered to Praetor Tilman’s office at Mother of Mercy Hospital regarding the technology Sinclair had put in Aglaya’s head. The part about the dampener hiding her from the Seer network should really set the Praetor on edge.

Act three: The anonymous donation of schematics to the building where Belladonna Vetrano was being kept, including intel on guard rotations and patrols, security codes and just about anything else the Resistance would need for a break out.

Any one of the three might have been adequate to keep Justin from seeing what she was doing, but if all three happened simultaneously, there would be no way he could stop her. Not with Tilman and White breathing down his slithery neck and his secure facility broken into. Aglaya grinned, she almost regretted not being able to see the look on his face when the shit hit the fan. Alas, she would be otherwise engaged.

She had complete paperwork that would not only get her into the Rift Enclosure but would insure that she would be heading to the Rogue Isles. After she got on the other side, well, that’s where the plan ended and the guesswork began. She had some intel on how things were on the other side, but she suspected that it would turn out to be a lot different then the reports said it was. There would only be one way to really find out though.

She let the ball start rolling after planting a bug in Justin’s office to keep up on the play by play. Within an hour an anonymous email had been sent to White and two separate couriers had been dispatched to Calvin Scott and Mother.  Two hours later, intel had the Resistance starting to make moves for the facility, and Justin had just received an angry call from Tilman, with White on the other line. It was time to move.

She smiled and stepped on the Transit to Neutropolis and then caught the ferry to Keyes Island, all the while listening as Sinclair was getting into deeper shit. She rolled her suitcase behind her and presented her paperwork to the guard and found herself staring at a giant portal device, took the listening device out of her ear as Tami was reporting on Vetrano’s escape and casually dropped it in the trash before handing a USB drive with her “orders” to a waiting Tech and then walked through the portal once the crew had uploaded “Praetor Sinclair’s” orders to deposit her in the Isles.

She looked at her watch as she came through on the other side and the portal flickered on and off making a sickly whirling sound. It’d take them at least a month to figure out the virus she had just released on the Rift system with the forged orders…  no one would be following her. She smiled and stretched. “Bon voyage old life.”

Frozen-6

Time seemed to have sped up when she wasn’t looking. As slow as that weekend was, it had been nice to have time to breath without Justin breathing down her neck. It was all well and good that she had Security Clearance now, but there was a big gaping hole in her plan. She had no time to execute it. She’d stay late but she had training sessions with Justin every night.  She was on the verge of giving up hope when an intelligence report on the Rift Enclosure fell almost quite literally into her lap.

It was two months after her “new” life had begun. She had almost handed the report off to one of her junior analysts when she had spotted Yuki’s name listed somewhere among the sheaf of papers. She about tripped over said analyst and wound up going back to her office with the stack. It turned out that Keyes had actually made a portal to go to Primal Earth, and the kicker was Provost Marchand was sending diplomats over to try to make peace overtures while Emperor Cole was talking about Invasion. It boggled Aglaya’s mind. What was more, Yuki was listed not as a diplomat going over but as confidential status. She immediately plunged her hand into that bag of cats and came out  with an eye widening answer. Yuki and Izumi were FROM Primal Earth, and had gotten stranded as the result of some sort of magical spell. They had taken Kitashi and Tiffany with them as diplomats. But the thing that was hard to discern was their place of residency in the Rogue Isles. If they were being diplomats, then the Rogue Isles was the wrong place to be. Aglaya shook her head. It didn’t matter. If Yuki Inaba was in the Rogue Isles that’s where she was going. It was only a matter of getting herself assigned now. She was technically still Power’s Division and White owed her a favor for going all the way on the investigation of the Destroyers. He’d inevitably be stepping on Sinclair’s toes, but he’d do that anyway, especially if she  revealed to him that the assassins that had targeted him three months ago had been Sinclair’s fuck up. She’d slip out while they were arguing about it, and then she’d be out of reach.

It would take some preparations. She’d invested some in gold and jewels, but most of her money was still in the bank, it’d take time to convert enough of it over to take it with her. She’d also have to give up her book collections, and it would probably be wise to upgrade her laptop and nPad. She would mourn the book collection, but at least she knew somewhere she could get a good price for it while getting digitized copies at the same time. She let out a breath. Well. She had a plan, and she’d have to do it slowly so Sinclair didn’t know, but so far he’d been so self involved that he hadn’t noticed she had formed an attachment.  Gods help her, she was actually starting to sympathize with Belladonna Vetrano.

Frozen-5

After the emotional high she had gotten from her Wednesday night internet stalking spree, Thursday moved at a crawl. Though she tried to get information on Keyes Island, it was classified to the point that she would be easier to retrieve the intel from work (rather then hack it from the unsecured hospital room)… which meant she would have to go back to work, which in turn meant she would have to make her appointment with Sinclair. Not that she had a choice on that one, she had done some spot research, at her current salary, it would take ten years to pay off her hospital bill. Sinclair owned her. Totally and absolutely. She didn’t like that. There had to be a loophole, she just needed to find it, use it and then go where ever it was that Yuki and Kitashi went. Until then she’d play along with Sinclair, she just had to keep in mind that like his callsign, he was a chimera… with three heads; lion, goat and a third that was both a tail and a slithering snake. She figured the goat head for the business side of things… normal stuff, running the Sinclair Building. The lion was the fighter, the public face of the Praetor, this was the side that she’d be fencing with. That left the tail… she was going to have to be very careful of the venomous snake that was his tail, the side that started Project Phoenix in the first place.

She was discharged from the hospital Friday morning, and it had been about time. Her eidetic memory made it pointless to study or read over things more then once, so after she drunk from the initial goblet of information, there were diminishing returns. She had grown restless and bored in the hospital room, even if it did have free pay-per view and a minibar. By the time the meeting rolled around, she was nervous even though being home and taking a shower and getting into some fresh clothes had helped her mood to a point. She, however, caught herself daydreaming about Yuki in the shower, and it did not seem to help her.

She arrived at the Sinclair Building early as usual, and couldn’t help but feel that she was about to step into the lair of a great monster as she rode up the elevator to Justin’s office. She looked at her hazy reflection in the mirror polished tiles and inhaled deeply. “It’s just a meeting, you’ve had them with him before.” She told herself. “Yeah, but that was before he put multimillion C-Bill implants in your head.”

Tami greeted Aglaya from her desk, giving the girl a broad grin. “Great to see you up and about Ms. Solomon.” Aglaya gave her a nod and a pert smile then sat down on the leather couch and pulled out her nPhone because it was all she could do to keep from fidgeting. A successful game of Spider Solitaire later and Tami cleared her voice and gave her a warm smile. “He’ll see you now Aglaya.”

Some how she got from the couch to the inside of Praetor Sinclair’s office. The Praetor smiled at her and greeted her like an old friend, though she detected a dagger in his smile. “Aglaya! I’m so glad you’re doing well… come, sit.. sit!”

She obeyed and sat primly in one of the wing backed chairs across from the Praetor where he sat in his desk.

“I trust your experience in the hospital was satisfactory?” Aglaya nodded and pursed her lips, keeping her gaze steady on Sinclair. “Good. I like taking care of my family.” Aglaya blinked. “Family, sir?”

“Indeed. Let me start at the beginning. I have done some thinking in the three weeks since you helped me clean up Project Phoenix, and in that time I have come to realize, that no matter how hard I tried to force Gorgon, Cockatrice, Basilisk or even Phoenix herself… we weren’t ever truly family in the way that mattered most… in the fact we were never completely united in one goal.  My goal.” He got up and walked to the window. “They all had attachments that allowed for them to become distracted. I see now that I let those fester until they rotted away the family into pieces until my treacherous siren of a daughter was able to call my sons to her side.” The Praetor stared out at the streets of Imperial City. “You though Aglaya, you have done everything I’ve ordered of you. You brought in the shattered remains of my family, even capturing that damned Siren for me and ignored her lies about me.   For the gift of that traitor that you gave me, I can never repay you enough…”  In the window, Aglaya saw Sinclair lick his lips as he hissed the last words, and suppressed a shiver.

He turned back to her and motioned for her to come to the window with him. “I confess, I looked at your file before, but the significance never truly dawned on me until now.”  He smiled like a serpent. “You and I are alike Aglaya. We have no attachments… and we avoid forming them. So then, in a sense we are already kin.” He extended a hand. “The truth is, I shall make Project Phoenix rise from its ashes, and it will start with you. You shall be my Unicorn, and I will train you and sharpen the skills you already have. Join me in my new family.”

A lump formed in her throat. It was about like she thought. He wanted her to be his new pet assassin. She forced a smile and nodded and took his hand for a split-second, leaving frost crystals on his insulated glove. “Da, Praetor Sinclair… I owe you my life. Of course I’ll help you with your dream. When do we start training?” It was a lie, but the truth would get her killed. Those attachments she had avoided? She wanted them very badly now, and she would have them. One way or another.

“Please Aglaya, you may call me Justin… and we shall start tonight. Tami will give you the address.  In the meantime, your new office will be ready on Monday, I am promoting you to head analyst.  Under the circumstances, I will also expedite a greater security clearance for you. Do enjoy the remainder of the day. I look forward to working with you.”

Aglaya almost swore she heard his coils rub together as she was dismissed. She had been wrong. She wasn’t going to be fencing with the lion’s head, she was going to be tangoing with the vicious viper itself, and she was in more danger then she had even begun to fathom that morning. There was some good news though. The promotion meant that she’d have the correct clearance to look into Keyes Island, and furthermore it would no longer look odd for her to request the files.  Now all she had to do was stomach training sessions with Sinclair and learn the rules to an evermore complicated game. No problem. She let out a breath and stepped out of the office. Tami handed her a card and she found herself sighing as the elevator door closed. It was going to be a long weekend, but at least on Monday she’d be able to start working towards her new goal.

Frozen-4

Aglaya woke to a faint beeping sound. She couldn’t place it at first, and was reluctant to open her eyes, it didn’t sound like her alarm. She groaned and tried to roll over but bumped into the arm of the bed and her eyes shot open, this wasn’t her bed. She sat up and before she could even take in the enormity of the room she was in, a visitor appeared. The woman smiled at her. “Oh good, you’re awake Ms. Lyednika…”

“Solomon.” Aglaya croaked. Her mouth was dry like she hadn’t had anything to drink for a week. She squinted at her guest, she knew this woman from somewhere.

“Hrm?” She asked.

“My name. Aglaya Solomon. I haven’t used Lyednika since I came to Praetoria.”

“Oh, of course.” The woman pulled out her nPad, made a note, put it away and pushed a lock of her short brown hair out of her eyes.

“You’re Tami Baker. Praetor Sinclair’s assistant.” Aglaya suddenly remembered.

The woman beamed at her. “Very good, we were afraid your memory would be impaired from the surgery.”

Aglaya blinked and her hand shot to her head. There didn’t seem to be any marks… and her hair was all there. “Surgery?”

“Oh they did it la… lap… lapros…” She bit her lip, sighed and then started again. “They did it with minimum invasion.”

“Ah.” Damn her mouth was dry. “Water?”

“Oh! How rude of me… of course!” Tami went to what looked like a minibar and took out a 32oz cup with a straw and filled it first with ice and then with water. “Here you go…”

Aglaya took a long pull from the straw and then acknowledged Tami again. “What did I need surgery for?”

“Justin… I mean Praetor Sinclair values his employees very highly, and after the incident with the Syndicate trying to mind control you and everything… WELL! We couldn’t have something like that happen again to such a valuable asset, so you are now fitted with a state of the art psionic dampener.”

“Don’t they use those in Seers?”

“Yes, and this is the LATEST model, it even hides you from other psychics.”

“I can’t afford that…” Aglaya looked around the fancy room, it looked more like a hotel room then a hospital. “I can’t afford any of this.”

“Oh don’t worry about that! No expense was spared! Praetor Sinclair’s orders!”

Aglaya frowned. She didn’t trust the Praetor, not after what she had found out before she arrested Belladonna Vetrano. The man was up to something, and now he probably owned her with the thing that he had put in her head.

“Now now, turn that frown upside down! The Praetor has big plans for you Aglaya!”

Aglaya faked a smile. “Uh… thanks I guess Tami.”

“You’re very welcome.”  Tami gave her another award winning smile and then took out her nPad again. “Oh, some things came for you while you were sleeping, I’ll have them brought in… and it looks like they want to monitor your brain for another few days before they discharge you. I’ll put you in for an appointment with Justin on Friday.”

“Friday? Today’s Wednesday?” Aglaya swore in Russian. “But they ambushed me on Thursday, I’ve been out a week?”

“Mhm… thirteen days actually. They kept you in a medically induced coma until they knew the tissue around the implant was healed.”

“But… the think tank… and the mole!”

Tami gave her a giant grin as if there was something funny about what she said. “Justin said you might be worried about that. But no need! Carrie Hickman was the mole, and you killed her when she tried to use her mind control on you.”

Aglaya stared at Tami and then took another long drink of water. “I guess that’s all the questions I have for now… Is my bag here?”

Tami nodded. “I’ll have it brought in with the flowers, cards and chocolates.”

“Bolshoi. My laptop is in there. I’d like to get caught up with the news.”

Ms. Baker nodded, made a few notes on her nPad and excused herself. Some orderlies brought in a huge bouquet of flowers, some chocolates, a white unicorn with purple mane and tail and sparkling blue diamonds on the flank with some balloons and a thick pile of cards along with her messenger back containing her precious laptop.

Aglaya stared at the unicorn for a bit and read the card. “From all of us at the Sinclair Building, Hoping you Get Well Soon.”  She tilted her head and smiled. “Wouldn’t have taken Tami for the Saturday morning cartoon type… could be an accident… but its nice to think something cute of her like that.” She turned her attention to the other presents. There were several cards from different members of Powers Division that she had either helped or had on her team at some point or another. She skimmed them and then turned her attention to the chocolates. They were top of the line gourmet, imported from New Switzerland. She let out a little laugh. They were from Kitashi, and the card sported a little Japanese haiku that promised that they were free as long as she told Kit which kind she liked best. She slid open the box and sampled them all and decided that the Dark Chocolate Peppermint Truffle was her favorite. Grinning she found her phone in the pocket of her bag and hit Kit’s speed dial to tell her, and then started looking at the bouquet.

It was breathtakingly beautiful. Deep purple irises fringed it, with fragrant purple lilacs making up the bulk, with sprigs of fragile looking pink cherry blossoms, mauve hibiscus,  lavender roses and pink near-white peony in the center. She reached for the card as she got Kit’s voicemail then glanced at the time. “Funny, she should be answering. Oh well. Maybe she’s in a session with her Izumi-sensei or Yuki-sensei.” She blinked as she read the card, admiring the elegant calligraphy. “To the Beautiful Aglaya, from Yuki Inaba.” Her heart skipped a beat.  Yuki Inaba… was it the same Yuki? She put the card back with the flowers and reached for her laptop.

Two minutes later she was staring at a picture of Yuki Inaba, the woman that had saved her at the supermarket as TPN interviewed her in the aftermath. Five minutes later she was speed reading old news articles off the TPN site detailing the Powers Division exploits of one Yuki Inaba and Izumi Arashi. Another ten minutes later she was logged into the Sinclair Building server reading intelligence reports on the duo, unconsciously smiling as the thrill of the chase sang within her veins.

Within another half hour she (with much enthusiasm and glee) found she had access a set of surveillance cameras that were set up in the penthouse of the New Peninsula Hotel in Imperial City where they had been staying. Hours passed as she watched several months worth of footage on fast forward, drinking in every moment they captured of her guardian angel. She found herself blushing, yet empowered as she got to the final camera, one hidden in the shower head. She rewound the portion capturing Yuki and the one that seemed to be Izumi Arashi together in the shower. It was wish fulfilment at its best for the lonely Russian girl. If the Japanese women  had something together, perhaps there had been promise in the kiss her heroine had blessed her with after all. She saved a copy of the video to her hard drive for safe keeping and was practically glowing when she suddenly stopped cold she got to the more recent footage and then rewound, paying close attention to time stamps.

No! The penthouse had been empty for at least two days. She went back further and watched Izumi, Yuki, Kitashi, and Tiffany Powers packing. Tiffany she had met one time when she was working with Kitashi… she had sent a get well card as well. Aglaya nearly flew back over to the pile of cards. That one had been mailed three days ago… the card with Kitashi’s chocolates was dated four. The flowers were fresh, they had to have been sent within the last two days. Aglaya drummed her fingers on her laptop and then cracked her knuckles and took in a deep breath to keep herself from hyperventilating. Wait. Time out. She rewatched the last week worth of video again. What was Kitashi doing in their hotel room anyway? She had popped up now and again in the earlier videos but in the last week of footage she was at the suite constantly.

The color drained from her face as she paused her internet stalking of Yuki and ran a search on Kitashi. Ichiro Ishikawa had been taken out by a rival faction of the Syndicate the Monday after Hickman had gone after her. According to TPN, Kitashi’s whereabouts were unknown. NPPD had her on traffic cams heading to the transit station. Transit cams then had momentary static when she entered the building. Focus. You know where she went. Izumi Arashi, the mysterious fox woman had taken her. Further to the point, all four of them had left Imperial City. Where had they gone?

“Maybe… browser histories?” she mused. An hour and a few hundred websites later and she had no more answers, but was filled with hope again. Included in Yuki’s last few viewed pages was something called the Language of Flowers. She giggled girlishly and traced the surface of one of the lavender roses. There was a subtle message for her within the assortment, and her her heart felt like it was going to burst with the joy it brought her. Unfortunately the rest of the browser histories had shown no light on where they might have gone. Though it did amuse her that Kit managed to get from “cute kitten pictures” to “sake alcohol content” in under five clicks.

Aglaya closed her eyes for a moment and then clicked her tongue with excitement as a new idea came upon her.  GPS tracking in the nPhone… if she could hack the network… YES! She was in just before the nurse brought in her supper. She sucked on her spoon and stared at the tracking data.

“What the FUCK is under Keyes Island, and why the HELL did they just disappear after they went there?”

Frozen-3

Imperial City, Praetoria; Praetorian Earth, present day.

She didn’t remember how they got her out of the river, she scarcely recalled living for months after she lost Xenia. They had taken her to Praetoria, called her a hero. She didn’t want that… she wanted to die so she could be with her sister again, but they knew that and wouldn’t let her.

Eventually it had become easier to exist. Her skill with computers and intelligence were noticed and she was hand picked by Justin Sinclair as an analyst. Sometimes Power’s Division had her go out into the field to do missions that required high security clearance. She figured that was alright, where other analysts might have been put off. While she wasn’t actively suicidal any more, she figured it wouldn’t be too bad if she died in the line of duty.

She didn’t make friends, nor did she try. She didn’t see the point. Far to much of social interaction required touch… and her touch meant death. Besides that, her ability to feel emotion had been numbed by Xenia’s death.

Little did she know, her whole world view was about to change because of the warm caring heart of Kitashi Ishikawa.

She met Kit when she had radioed for backup on a goose chase  through the underground looking for Eddie Polstra.  Encouraged by the potential and skill of the young Power’s Division trainee, Aglaya had moved her to preferred status for any teams she was leading, and soon she found that despite her feelings about the world, she genuinely liked Kitashi, to the point that she found herself confiding in the young woman on her past and feelings.

Alarmed by her new friend’s outlook, Kitashi related her concerns about her to her two teachers. Yuki Inaba and Izumi Arashi. Intrigued, the Kitsune princess Izumi bade Yuki to do research on Agayla, research that ultimately allowed Yuki to recognize the young woman at a critical moment and trigger off the sequence of events that lead to the young woman leaving Praetoria.

It was a special assignment from Praetor Sinclair that put Aglaya on his prized think tank. Her job, to blend in, and at the same time, begin the task of routing out a Syndicate mole. The Syndicate took immediate interest in Aglaya, and after finding out about her past, decided she would be an ideal target for mind control.

They put surveillance on her and soon realized she was a plant. Careful planning turned to desperation to get her under their thumb and they made a clumsy grab for her when she was at the supermarket.

The result was chaos. Aglaya’s mind resisted psychic tampering and she lost control of her powers, freezing the air around her to near absolute zero. In an attempt to defend herself she made an attempt to throw ice or freeze her attackers. Instead, a perfectly good melon stand fell victim to permafrost, exploding with the rapid expansion of the water within. The Syndicate goons panicked  and one of them tried to run up to grab her, and he too shattered from exposure.

Patrons of the market scattered away from the produce section of the store, most running for the exit, except for one who walked boldly through the now frozen produce, ice daggers at the ready. What she found were several dead Syndicate members and Aglaya still trying to regain control, trembling on her knees in the middle of what remained of her shopping cart. Yuki recognized her from the photographs in her file, dropped her daggers and ran to her.

“No… don’t… don’t touch me.” Aglaya pleaded with her, but Yuki was a Yuki-onna, a snow woman of Japanese lore and did not fear the cold of Aglaya’s touch. To the girl’s amazement, Yuki took her into her arms and rocked her slowly. “Shh… it will be ok… I am with you, Beautiful Aglaya.”  Aglaya looked up into Yuki’s eyes and slowly control came back to her by way of the calmness projected within them. “There… that’s better…” Yuki smiled down at her and kissed her gently on the forehead. Aglaya closed her eyes, held her mystery savior desperately, and then exhausted, collapsed into a deep sleep.

Frozen-2

Some days, the only thing that kept Aglaya together were the memories, though some days the one memory that haunted her the most was the one that threatened to rip her apart.

The battle of St. Petersburg was terrible, and while Project Solomon fared better in combat with the Devouring Earth then others from previous engagements, the number of the Devoured were far larger then they had been at Moscow.  For every creature taken down by the fledgling heroes, three more stood in its place.

Aglaya and Xenia were stationed on the bank of the Neva river to the south east of the city with a company of soldiers. Their job was to keep the Devoured from using the river as a route into the city.  It had been easy at first, not many were coming their way, and the ones that did didn’t last long to the duo’s icy touch. The water made it even easier, with plenty of moisture in the air to freeze around the monsters. As the day progressed however, the two began to tire, and as they tired, more monsters pushed in around them,  and the more monsters that came, the quicker the soldiers died, and the slower the sisters were able to disable the abominations. The situation came to a critical point when a Greater Devoured flung Aglaya into the river and the water began to freeze around her legs, rendering her immobile. The monster screamed in victory and charged at her in a berserk rage, braking through the ice she desperately was trying to form between its thick legs faster then she could freeze it.

“Aglaya!” Xenia screamed and launched herself toward the towering beast. It whirled and caught her in its tentacled maw and began writhing as she projected her coldness under its skin. It shrieked and released her but it was too late, it was already starting to freeze from the inside out. It dropped her from its maw and she hit the ground running only to find Aglaya surrounded. She screamed and razor sharp ice shards formed from the wet air and fell from the sky, slicing at the creatures and repelling them for the moment.

Aglaya struggled in the water, desperately trying to move her legs to no avail, while simultaneously immobilizing the creatures that were swarming her, trying to keep them from melee range.

Xenia stood on the bank, gasping as she shielded her sister.  More waves of freezing cold emanated from her as she formed and tossed shards of razor sharp ice.  Suddenly she staggered, collapsing to one knee as the fine tracery of veins under her pale skin started to flush a vicious, sullen green.  Aglaya watched in growing horror as her sister turned to her.  She could see greenish ice where the Devoured’s tentacles had ripped into her sister’s flesh, injecting her with mutagenic poisons.

Xenia’s face contorted in horror and pain, as her lips moved one last time.  “I’m sorry, Snezhok, I think this is the end.”  She whispered as she closed her eyes then concentrated.  A sudden ripple ran from her body as she collapsed, a sphere of intense cold radiating in all directions, freezing the Devoured, the soldiers, and the very water of the Neva river.  Birds fell from the sky, frozen in midflight, and a gentle snow fell, covering the lifeless bodies of the Devoured, the soldiers…and Xenia.

Aglaya was alone, the only survivor of the battle on her front.  Even the sight of Consul Cole flying at the head of his Super Corps could not penetrate the frozen emptiness in her heart.

Frozen-1

St. Petersburg, Russia; Praetorian Earth, end of the Hamidon Wars

Aglaya Lyednika woke with a start in the room she shared with her sister. She sat up in bed and wiped away the droplets of frozen sweat from her forehead.

“Just a dream… a nightmare.” She whispered to herself in Russian. She stretched and glanced at her sister’s bed. Empty. She frowned, threw back the covers and then scooted out of bed, touching the floor with a bare foot, her blue snowflake night gown whispering as it brushed against the floor.

She crept through the bedroom and onto the balcony and found her sister staring at the city.

“Xenia…” She called to the girl quietly, but she didn’t respond. Aglaya paused and looked at her older sister with reverence. Xenia was 17, but she looked younger, young enough to be Aglaya’s twin at 15. They were both slender and albino, with white skin and hair and brilliant pale blue eyes. In addition, they both had the same tragic mutation. They were cryokinetic, with body temperatures far below freezing. Their touch to anyone but each other was painful, it would numb the flesh in seconds, and destroy it minutes. Because of the low temperatures the air around the two girls turned to a misty fog, making them look ethereal in the cool moonlit night.

“Xenia!” She said a little louder, tapping her sister on the shoulder. Xenia came out of her reverie with a start and whirled on her sister, automatically pulling a ball of ice from the moisture in the air and launching it at the perceived threat. Aglaya ducked and the ice shattered against the white stone wall of the mansion they were staying in. Xenia blinked at Aglaya and then sighed. “You startled me, Aglaya!”

“Sorry.” Aglaya said lamely. “I tried to get your attention… what were you thinking so deeply about?”

“Math.” Xenia answered simply.

“You’re always thinking about math…” Aglaya protested.

“And you’re always thinking about intelligence scenarios… what’s your point?”

Aglaya sighed and slid up to her sister on the bench. “You don’t normally stare out at besieged cities at two in the morning thinking about fractions, Kysena.”

“It wasn’t fractions… it was statistics.”

Aglaya rolled her eyes. “And statistics are just a bunch of ratios…so I think my point still stands.”

Xenia inhaled and stared into her sister’s eyes for moments that seemed like eons before speaking again. “The intel reports… how bad are they?”

Aglaya bit her lip. “It’s… well, no worse then Moscow.”

Xenia looked away and glanced back at St. Petersburg. “Snezhok, Moscow fell after a month… and they lost almost all of Project Ezekial.”

“Yeah but Project Ezekial was about training, not breeding. They weren’t specifically made to be heroes.”

Xenia sighed, her breath turning to snow as she closed her eyes.  “Da.  And we in Solomon were bred to be the next generation of heroes for Mother Russia.  Defending it against the capitalist Americans…and the Devoured.”  A flash of light followed by a low rumble from the battle lines punctuated her next, quiet words. “And we go into battle tomorrow.  Why not?”  Xenia started to cry as she whispered the last few words.  “We are no older than the soldiers who are giving their lives to keep the civilians safe.  If safety can ever be said to exist.”

Xenia held her younger sister close, shivering with emotion.  “Perhaps Consul Marcus Cole and his Super Corps will get here in time to save us all.  If they do not….”  Xenia trailed off, and was silent.

“You said you were thinking about statistics.” Aglaya suddenly piped in after a few minutes of silence.

“Da.” Xenia said quietly as she began to braid her sister’s hair.

“Well… statistics say that the Earth shouldn’t have life on it right? There’s billions of stars with hundreds of billions planets. As far as we know Earth is the only one at just the right distance to get just enough warmth from the sun.”

Xenia tilted her head. “More then billions, but I don’t see where you’re going with this yet.”

“Well… I mean think about the odds involved with us then. Albinism manifesting, especially with blue eyes is a recessive trait, even with mom and dad both being carriers, the genetic combination is rare for one in a generation… it has to be pretty damn unique for there to be two… and that’s not even taking in account the whole cryokinetic gene.”

Xenia stopped braiding and rubbed her chin. “Right. And?”

“Well, if life on earth happened, and we happened… then statistically speaking, anything can happen… Includingbut not limited to… us in Project Solomon holding the line long enough for the “bolshoi” capitalist pigs lead by Consul Cole to save our frigid, but cute communist asses.” Aglaya turned in her sister’s lap as she said this, grinned at her, and kissed her gently on the cheek.

Xenia gave her a little smile, hugging her best friend close and returning the kiss with one on her forehead. “Da. You are right. We can do this.” Xenia relaxed and the two of them gazed at the city and the stars until they grew tired and crawled into Xenia’s bed, drifting into a dreamless sleep.

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