Betsy Visits River City.
There was minor chaos as everyone readjusted themselves to the new reality.
“Is it over?” asked Beamer. “Is that thing defeated?”
“Yes,” answered Faeryfaye, after pushing her face up out of the mud. She wiped her eyes clear of the stuff and went on, “it’s defeated all right. Joystick managed to remove its energy and the faeries compelled it to return.”
“Return where? Can it come back?” The heroes really wanted to know if there would be a repeat performance.
“There’s no more energy for it to latch onto now,” answered Faeryfaye. The elves destroyed the power source. All we saw was the effects of the last remnants of that energy. If it’s not turned on again, that thing won’t return. Eventually you’ll get normal pixies back, but you’ll never see them. Your lives will get a little more chaotic, but that’ll be easily bearable.”
Billie returned to the group with Fundamentelle leaning on her. Fundamentelle looked like hell. Her face had been cleaned but that just highlighted the damage done to it. But, she was alive and would recover. She had seen the remains of Fundamental and was crying. She didn’t understand what was going on and she felt weaker than she had ever felt in her life.
“Can someone say why my energy levels aren’t improving?” she asked of the crowd.
“Same here,” responded Beamer. Smooth nodded agreement.
Faeryfaye looked at them compassionately and answered. “It looks like Dr. Orlof has been transferring energy from the pixie dimension to this one. He’s been doing it for decades. Some of you heroes have been able to utilise that energy as an unintended consequence. Now that the elves have destroyed the power source, there’s no energy left for you. I’m afraid you’re all normal now, and you’ll stay that way.”
Beamer looked at her. “Are you saying that the energy that gave us our powers made that monster?”
Faeryfaye answered, “Yes, in essence. I don’t know why Dr. Orlof wanted that power, but I guess it wasn’t for the good of humanity. And the monster was also an unintentional consequence. The pixies had to retreat from River City to bolster their own defences back in their home world. Things got so bad for them, that monster was the result.”
Faeryfaye turned at a sound and saw Betsy returning, limping while carrying the broom. Betsy didn’t look good. Her clothes were ripped to shreds, so much so she actually looked fashionable for once. She was scratched all over her body, some of them needing stitches. Her new look was complemented by fresh blood dripping down her body and legs as she limped back. Her left eye was swollen and closed, in preparation for a championship black eye tomorrow. Billie started to run to her but Faeryfaye was faster. She put Betsy’s arm around her neck and supported her round the waist while they both walked back. Once back, Faeryfaye lay Betsy onto the ground and felt her all over in a clinical manner. Betsy just lay back and let her, which was a worrying sign.
“You’ve a few broken ribs, but that’s all,” Faeryfaye eventually said. “The rest is superficial. How are you feeling?”
Betsy looked her straight in the eyes. “I don’t like fucking brooms,” she said.
“But you don’t have to fuck them if you don’t want to,” was the answer. “And if you do, you do need the butter and herb potion to lubricate, medicate and halucinate...”
“Not that. I like that. I don’t like flying on the fucking things. It’s unnatural. It should be banned.”
Faeryfaye opened her mouth to answer but Betsy interrupted. “I know, it’s the fucking Christians’ to blame. But we don’t have to follow their ideas.”
“But Betsy, that was a good idea,” answered Faeryfaye reasonably. Betsy stared at her but didn’t answer.
“You need pain relief,” observed Faeryfaye. “Why haven’t you done that?”
Betsy’s stare became a puzzled frown.
“Forgot,” was the eventual answer. Her eyes defocused for a while before she struggled up and looked at the aftermath. She looked hard at Fundamental and then at Fundamentelle, who was still sobbing gently. Turning back to Faeryfaye she said, “Have you told them?” meaning the heroes without power.
“Yes,” was the reply.
Betsy turned directly to Fundamentelle and said gently, “Do you understand what’s just happened?”
She shook her head. “I was going to marry Adam,” she answered.
“Fundamental,” she clarified.
Faeryfaye wrapped her arms around her and Fundamentelle flopped into her body and cried. Everybody else was silent and turned away to give them some privacy.
Betsy started walking towards the castle when Bubble Girl stopped her.
“Hey,” she said. “I heard that. You’ve broken ribs. You need treatment. Want some help?”
Betsy turned unsmiling. “Thanks Bubble Girl, but I’ve turned off the pain. It’s no problem now. But there’s something else I have to do and now is the time.” She smiled and tried to portray efficiency and competence. “I think it’s best that you help here. There’s a lot to do isn’t there?” A noise in the sky drew her eyes. It was a helicopter coming in to land.
“It’s Robbie back,” said Billie. “That was quick.”
Betsy really didn’t want Robbie to know any more about her and Faeryfaye, so she called out to her and they both walked towards the castle after Faeryfaye passed Fundamentelle onto Billie. Vicky definitely didn’t want them to go and do their stuff, whatever that was, unassisted and without any witnesses able to understand what they were doing, so she tagged along too. Sonia, of course, followed Vicky.
They all entered the castle when Betsy said, “Er, Faeryfaye, where are your patients?”
Faeryfaye smiled and led the way.
“Pearl,” Vicky shouted when she saw her there, in bed and awake. At the side of the bed, Vicky turned and asked, “Why is she still strapped in?”
“It’s for her own good,” answered Faeryfaye.
Vicky smiled. “Then she needs releasing,” she said, moving to do just that.
“No,” answered Faeryfaye urgently. “It’s for our good also.”
Vicky stopped her actions and looked at Faeryfaye and then at Pearl, who shrugged her shoulders. “You’d better explain that one carefully,” said Vicky. Betsy heard the potential violence in those words and adjusted her stance and position and edged closer to Vicky, watching her closely. Faeryfaye didn’t think to.
Sonia noted Betsy’s subtle actions and moved closer to Vicky to protect her if necessary.
“Look at her freckles, Vicky,” said Faeryfaye.
Vicky looked. There were more of them now. That was definite.
Vicky looked back at Faeryfaye. “Explain,” she ordered.
Pearl looked exasperated at Vicky. “I thought you were on my side, Vicky. I’ve done nothing wrong. Why aren’t you releasing me?”
“Faeryfaye isn’t one to ignore,” Vicky said. “Let’s see what she has to say.” Vicky stared at Faeryfaye, waiting.
“You mean ‘hear’. You can’t ‘see’ what she has to say,” said Betsy, automatically sniping, but without any emotion behind it. She received a look for her trouble but she still watched Vicky closely and listened to Faeryfaye.
“Look. Those things you see as freckles aren’t. I’m not sure what they are but I do know they affect her. And they’re multiplying.”
“I know what they are,” said Ffanci, who was also awake and had been watching this scene unfold.
They all turned to look at Ffanci, except Betsy, who continued to watch Vicky carefully.
“I saw those ‘freckles’ and didn’t realise their import until recently. Until after I heard Dr. Orlof talk without him knowing I was there, actually. I pieced everything together while I was lying here.”
“Go on,” said Vicky when Ffanci paused.
Ffanci went on. “I wanted Pearl Girl because she killed my husband…”
“What?” interrupted Pearl. “I never did that.”
“I’m afraid you did,” was the reply. Your second case. When the man tried to rob that bank and you ended up killing him.”
Pearl Girl thought back. “That’s not the way I remember it. He ended up under some rubble because of the fight we had and I had to evacuate the building before others were hurt. When I went back he wasn’t there. I thought he was dead at the time, but he couldn’t have been.”
“No. Dr. Orlof rescued him while you were otherwise detained. He brought him back here and tried to save him. But his brain was extensively damaged and all I could do was turn him into Robot Man. You’ve seen him in action. My husband was dead and I blamed Pearl Girl.”
“There must be more now,” said Faeryfaye gently. When Faeryfaye was in gentle concerned mode, people forgot what she looked like and were sucked in to her aura of concern. It was so effective because it was genuine.
Ffanci stared straight ahead and went on emotionlessly. “I heard Dr. Orlof instruct some of his bimbos to never let me see some of his files on Robot Man. So I made it my business to see them. It took a while but I managed it. Because Pearl Girl was so fast, he had to get him out of there as quickly as possible, so he just grabbed his foot and dragged him out. A pile of bricks fell on his head while that happened and crushed it. Or, it looks that way. He told me it was Pearl Girl who did the damage. In fact, he doesn’t know. His upper body was obscured when Dr. Orlof dragged him out.”
She paused there.
“What about the freckles?” asked Faeryfaye gently.
Ffanci answered quietly. “That was in the same batch of files. I read them all. Dr. Orlof’s ancestor captured Pearl way back when and experimented on her. He was trying to create a super strength woman who was under his control and as part of that procedure he used power from a dimension he had discovered. It didn’t work properly, so he had her frozen until he could work out why he failed and how to fix it. The freckles were a side effect. They’re a connection to this other dimension and he used that to make his adjustments. But, they also had another, unexpected, effect. They captured the essence, the soul, if you like, of a dying person. Pearl Girl had to be physically close for it to work, but in her line of work now, that was inevitable. And those essences, or souls, affected her. As she was mostly in contact with dying criminals, those essences combined and started to affect her thinking. She was—is—becoming a criminal slowly and surely.”
There was a silence, eventually broken by Pearl.
“No,” she wailed. “I’m not like that.”
“What about your thoughts, Pearl?” asked Faeryfaye. “Have they been changing|?”
Pearl was silent and stared at the ceiling. After a while, she nodded. A small nod, but discernible to all.
“How do we reverse this Ffanci?” asked Faeryfaye.
“There’s no way,” was the answer. “If we remove the connection we remove the power source and she’ll die.”
“The elves removed the connection,” added Vicky, desperate for something to work.
“No,” answered Ffanci. “I don’t understand what Dr. Orlof was doing here, but it was unique. It had no connection with anything else.
Pearl Girl stared into nothing, seeing a future she didn’t want.
“We need an answer now,” said Faeryfaye. She looked straight at Pearl. “Pearl. Do you agree to me interrogating your mind directly?”
“What does that mean?” asked Pearl immediately. She was struggling to cope with all this.
“It means I, well, I suppose hypnotise you and talk to your subconscious,” was the answer. “your subconscious must agree with anything we do and it may have a suggestion of its own that you don’t know about.”
“That’s silly,” said Pearl. “How would I not know what I want?”
“That’s the basis of a lot of therapy, Pearl. Sometimes there is conflict inside people and you’ve had more than your fair share of conflict. Do you agree?”
Eventually Pearl nodded and that was taken as assent by Fairyfaye.
“Do you want witnesses Pearl? Or do you want it done privately? I recommend at least one witness.”
“I’ll witness it,” said Vicky immediately.
“And me,” said Betsy, more concerned with Vicky’s reaction at this time than anything else. She wasn’t sure Faeryfaye understood how Vicky could react. And she was very tired as well she wasn’t certain she could stop Vicky either, if Vicky got rough. But she was all there was, so she’d have to do.
Sonia noted this and carefully positioned herself to protect Vicky. Betsy’s fatigue prevented her from noticing. Sonia didn’t say anything, but didn’t make a move to leave.
Ffanci was ignored.