The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive

Light and Shadows X: Eclipsed

by J. Darksong & Gbrn32e

* * *

Ch. 9) Penumbra

“It is time to choose.”

A soft gasp escaped Angela’s lips as she found everyone’s gaze focusing on her once more. Before she could utter a response, however, a violent tremor shook the land, and several of the young Nornir let out a cry. Urdra sank to her knees, glowing brightly with a pale silver light, as if struggling underneath a massive weight. A very surprised Devon followed suit second later, crying out in alarm as she too dropped to her knees, beginning to glow.

“Hey! What’s happening? What’s going on?” Tawnya asked, as one by one, the other Norns began to glow as well. “Is this it? Is this the end of the world you were talking about?”

“Not yet, child,” Fate replied solemnly, stepping back from the well. “Time has stopped for us at the moment of decision. My children are feeling the strain of the weakened walls of reality threatening to crumble. The Great Weave has been ripped, torn by the actions of both siblings altering the fabric of reality so callously. It is all my little ones can do to hold it together under such constraints, but if young Katherine succeeds, then the Weave will unravel completely.”

“Goddess Fate!” Lacie cried out, catching her attention. “You have made your point. We all know our roles in this now. There’s no more need to hold me back. Please!” Fate simply nodded, and with a gasp, Lacie slipped to her knees, glowing, changing, her dark hair regaining its golden hue once again. “Come on, Sisters,” she encouraged, struggling to regain her feet, sweating under the strain, “I’m with you! We have to hold it together... just a little longer!”

Fate turned back to Angela, who stood wide eyed, and silent. “Come, child. You cannot procrastinate any longer. You must decide. Your two friends have tried and failed to stop Katherine Frasier from piercing the walls between dimensions. This is the last moment in which I can act to undo the damage she has wrought. Say the word, and I will intervene and put things back to right once again.”

“N... no!” Devon managed, struggling back to her feet. The newest and youngest of the three, she’d been caught offguard by the sudden strain of holding the Weave intact when it hit. Until Lacie had rejoined them, it was all she could do to breathe and stay conscious, her energy and essence draining out of her like a sieve. The thought of Jimmy being erased from existence, however, gave her a strength she didn’t know she had. “Y... you... can’t... let... her,” she managed through gritted teeth.

“She... has... to!” Urdra countered, gasping weakly, drained more than the others from having supported the Weave for so long by herself. “It’s too late... there’s no other... choice... now...”

“Yes, there is!” Tanya stated, one of the few still unaffected and able to stand on her own power. “Please, Angela! Think about this! You can’t let her kill off Katie and Jimmy like this! Look at everything Jimmy and Bonnie were able to accomplish! They can reach Katie, and talk her down. I know they can! You just have to give them the chance—”

“ENOUGH!” Fate cried, silencing all their cries and protests. Angela blinked, finding herself and Fate floating in a dark void, floating in the middle of what appeared to be outer space, with the lights of the sun and stars, and other celestial bodies twinkling in the background. Fate sighed wearily, showing her own amount of strain now. “Arbiter, the time has come,” she stated officially. “All other voices and distractions have been removed. The choice is yours and yours alone. And there can be no more delay. You must choose.”

Angela took a deep breath. “And if I choose wrong?” she asked. “If I choose for you not to act, and Jimmy and Sioban fail?”

“Then all of this,” Fate gestured to the universe around them, “everyone you know and love, everything that has been and ever will be, will be destroyed.”

“Well, gee, nothing like a little extra added pressure,” she mumbled, pinching the bridge of her nose. Sighing, she closed her eyes, considering. Okay. What do I do? I don’t want anyone to die... and I certainly don’t want Lacie’s children’s blood on my hands. But... if its the only way to stop her from LITERALLY destroying everything, what other choice is there? If Fate doesn’t intervene, we could all die. All of us! I mean.... yes, Bonnie and Jimmy COULD still pull it off, a last minute save. But, really, what are the chances of that happening? I know she’s not in her right mind, but that cute little blonde apparently has more power than the three Norn goddesses that gave Brunhilda her powers back in the day! Having Fate intervene is possibly the ONLY thing that could stop her.

She shook her head. Dammit. I know what the right choice is... so, why am I even hesitating? My head is telling me to go ahead and make the hard decision... but my heart is telling me to have faith. C’mon Angela... you HAVE to do this! You’re a scientist. You KNOW the correct choice. It’s not just your life that’s at stake here... it’s everyone’s life. The entire world, hell, ALL worlds, hang in the balance here! You can’t put all of their lives above the lives of two kids. Nigel would quote Star Trek and tell me ‘The lives of the many outweigh the lives of the few, or the one’. This isn’t even a debate. The choice is obvious...

Sighing deeply, she opened her eyes and nodded. “I’ve made my decision,” she said softly, as the starry background blurred and faded away...

* * *

Time was running out.

“How?” Jimmy yelled, shaking his head in denial. “How is this even possible? Our powers negate each other! You shouldn’t be able to warp reality that way with me so close. This is... it’s...”

“Impossible?” Satore replied, chuckling softly, stepping forward. “I believe you yourself are so fond of saying that NOTHING is impossible, merely improbable. As for your sister’s newfound ability to surpass you, I am the one to thank for that. My powers have augmented and increased her own, and my knowledge of the Key and its properties have allowed her to gain far better control that she had before.”

Sioban’s eyes narrowed. “In other words, you’re controlling her!” she hissed, powering up her gauntlets. “You’re using Katie as your puppet to destroy the city? Why? I thought you wanted to rule it, to turn everyone into your ‘loving adoring thralls’?” To her surprise, Katie laughed.

“Sioban, sweetie, you have it all wrong,” she chided the older redhead. “I’m not Venus’s slave,” she stated, gesturing as Satore knelt primly at her side. “She is mine. I asked and allowed her to use her powers on me, to help me counteract Jimmy’s presence weakening my powers.” She chuckled. “You and my brother are both smart science types, so you’ll probably understand the concept better than I ever could, but... ever hear the term ‘resonance’?”

Jimmy’s eyes went wide in shock. Resonance? We’re resonating? Shit... incredible... unbelievable... but it explains what I’ve been feeling from her, and how I was able to teleport back to the roof when I fell. She’s managed to alter the phase of her powers’ frequency to better match mine! Now we don’t merely cancel each other out—when we’re in perfect synch, we actually BOOST each other’s powers!

Sioban, likewise, coming to the same conclusion, glanced at Jimmy. “Okay. So, you can do the same, right? Tell me you can change the phase of your shadows as well. Tell me we’ve still got a shot, here.”

Darklight laughed ruefully, taking a deep breath. “I have no idea whatsoever. Honestly, until three days ago, I’d never even CONSIDERED using my powers this way! And I hate to even bring luck into the equation... but if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.”

“Great. Just great,” she murmured. “Then it looks like we’re going with plan B!” she yelled, charging forward suddenly, tackling the surprised Venus to the ground. Caught off guard, she nevertheless rolled with the hit, arching her back and planting her feet, kicking out with her momentum, sending the red headed heroine up and over, before leaping back to her feet. Scowling, Sioban rose back to her own feet, dusting herself off, frowning slightly as she spotted something on the ground nearby. “Perfect. Just perfect. I’d been itching for an excuse to pay you back for what you did to Patricia and Angela all those years ago. Looks like you’ve just given me one!”

Satore merely grinned, adopting a fighting stance. “Fine with me, cupie doll. I just went ten rounds with a speedster with ninja training and an axe to grind, and held my own. I think I can manage against a little girl with wings and a chip on her shoulder.” Her grin twisted into a smirk. “Last time you took me by surprise with that sword slash. But you won’t catch me off guard this time!”

Eyes narrowed, Sioban shook her head. “Not sure what you’re talking about, witch,” she growled softly, as she charged towards the haughty villainesss, snatching up the discarded helmet and slipping it on, “and I don’t really care. I’m taking you out with my bare hands!” As the fight progressed, however, Dragonfyre found herself having to admit the obvious—that despite all appearance, Satore was actually good. The Goddess Tear Sioban held gave her much greater strength and speed, but the self professed Goddess was much better trained, with centuries of fighting skills and experience to draw upon, compared to Bonnie’s own rudimentary brawling skills.

Likewise, Jimmy was having his own difficulties. Attempting to ensnare his sister, Jimmy struck out both arms, attempting to grab Katie, only to miss as she dodged deftly to the side. “Oooh! This should be fun,” Supernova crowed, dancing lightly on the balls of her feet. “Think you can catch me, Jimmy? You never could when we sparred. As I recall, the last time,” she teased, nimbly backpedalling as Jimmy chased after her, “you got so upset that you punched a hole through the wall and stormed off in a huff.”

“That’s not happening this time,” he growled, leaping for her legs, then rolling back up as she jumped, hovering several off the ground, “despite how much you always cheat,” he added with an edge. With an effort, he leapt up as well, hovering in midair next to her. “This time, I have some tricks of my own. THIS time, we’re on EQUAL footing, little sister.”

Not far away, Venus Satore laughed gleefully as Sioban landed hard against the concrete roof. ”Ah, so sad,” she said mockingly, as the green clad vixen rose once more to her feet. ”Struggling and fighting so hard, but for all the wrong reasons. We both know you should be fighting with me, not against me. You should be fighting for Mistress Supernova... for Katie,” she stated, dodging deftly, slipping around behind to grab Sioban in a bear hug. ”You should take off that wretched helmet Albinn used to block out my scent and just give in. You know you want to,” she purred seductively, ignoring the smaller girl’s struggles. ”It’s why you gave in so easily when she first confronted you. I’m a goddess of love, Sioban MacMillan... and I know exactly where your true motivations lie—”

“Uggghhhnnnn!” Sioban yelled, unfurling her wings, surprising Venus, who released her hold, only to find herself grabbed. ”You’re right,” Sioban said tersely, lifting off the ground, gaining altitude rapidly, smiling savagely as the suddenly frightened goddess held on for dear life. ”Katie IS the one I am fighting for! That’s why I have to beat you,” she said, straining even more, taking them higher and higher, as Venus began to gasp from the thin air. ”I have to stop you and Katie... because if I don’t, I’ll lose her! And I’m not... going... to... lose... her... again!” she yelled in triumph as the body clutched tightly in her arms gasped and went limp.

Back at the Towers, Katie found her frustration beginning to mount. Her skill and speed, which normally prevailed every time she sparred with her brother, was being seriously challenged by his strategy and sheer tenacity. Worse, through their similar training growing up, Jimmy knew most of her moves, and could anticipate her strikes and blows, but SHE was having trouble following his. Worst of all, her powers were absolutely no help at all. Even at her new remodulated frequency, her Light and his Shadows still cancelled each other out, each doing no harm to the other. She was unable to beat her brother, and he refused to give up.

“Dammit! Just give up already! You’re not going to win this one either,” Supernova snapped, lashing out with a blast of bright searing light... only to scowl as it dissipated inches from Jimmy’s chest. Jimmy merely shook his head, grinning back.

“That’s the beauty of it, Sis. I don’t have to win. All I have to do is keep you locked up and occupied so that you can’t finish what you started. Not a win or a loss... a stalemate.” He gestured to the breach above them, which had began to slowly close, the jagged rips and tears gradually sealing themselves. “Without you constantly trying to punch through it, the rift seems to be fixing itself.” Or, more likely, Mom and the others doing some hasty patch work on that Great Weave thing, he amended silently. “Either way, as long as you can’t rip the world apart by the seams, I call that a good day.”

Furious, seeing her carefully crafted victory starting to slip from her grasp, Katie went on the offensive, lashing out of her brother with a furious barrage of kicks and punches, seeking to hurt him, break his focus and concentration, and allow her to regain the upper hand. Yet, this time, it was Jimmy who seemed untouchable, dodging and blocking her strikes with seemingly little effort, causing her frustration to build. “Goddammit!” she yelled, leaping back, panting heavily. “You’re NOT going to take this from me!” she screamed, hands clenching tightly. “I am so done, DONE, playing around! If you won’t help me create a new world together, then I’ll shatter it all... and start it all over from scratch!” A blinding light began to shine from deep within her, surfacing her entire being, as the cracks in the sky resumed, doubling, tripling, spreading throughout the entire horizon...

* * *

Angela stood stiffly, staring down into the images swimming in Urdarbrunnr’s depths, showing the events transpiring as they occurred. She felt an arm slide around her waist, squeezing gently in support. “It’ll be okay, Angie,” Tawnya said softly, peering over to watch with her. “You made the right decision. Trust me. They’ll do it.”

“I certainly hope so,” she said, shaking her head wearily. “Oh goddess... what if I just made the biggest mistake of all time? What if I just doomed us all? Tawnya, what if I’ve just killed the entire world?”

“Then, dear Angela,” Isabella replied with a weary smirk, “I don’t think we’ll be around long enough for you to agonize over your decision. For what it’s worth, I think choosing to have faith in your friends to solve this crisis instead of letting Fate intervene directly was the right decision. Still, I must ask... why DID you decide to have Fate withdraw her hand, and bid her not to act?”

The blonde scientist sighed deeply, closing her eyes. “I don’t know if I can explain it myself,” she admitted. “In the end, I just went with my gut. My head was telling me one thing, and my heart another. I’m a woman of logic and reason... but really, nothing about this situation is logical or reasonable at all! I’m standing here with you, in a place that shouldn’t exist, outside the normal flow of space and time from my world. My friend Tawnya just received special powers from a new talisman granted to her by the spirit of a long dead goddess who was just reincarnated into the young dark haired college student standing over there just a few feet away. So, yeah, I’d say ‘logical’ took the last train out of here a long time ago.”

Isabella laughed. “Very true. Little of what has recently occurred would be what one could consider ‘normal’, even for us. Still, I have to wonder why you would choose a course of action that would put your own life in jeopardy based solely on the actions of others, even close friends.”

Angela shrugged. “I’m actually asking myself that question right now,” she admitted sheepishly. “But for me, it all boils down to what feels right.” She lowered her head, staring down at her feet. “I’m hardly perfect. I’ve made more than my share of mistakes over the years. Everyone does, I suppose. But the worst mistakes of my life are ones where I chose what I thought was the ‘smart’ move instead of listening to my heart. Even when I thought I was protecting someone I cared about from someone I believed would only hurt her, I only ended up hurting them both more in the long run.”

Glancing up again, her eyes were shining with unshed tears. “Even then, I knew deep down what the right thing to do was. I guess it was anger... maybe some jealously, and fear of losing her completely that made me act as I had. But I ignored that feeling of what was right and wrong... and it blew up in my face. And this... even though every sound logical thinking cell in my brain was telling me to say ‘yes’, to let Fate intervene, my gut told me that it was just simply wrong to sacrifice those two just to save our own skins.”

Tawnya nodded, squeezing her arm gently. “Yeah, I agree. We were chosen as Tearbearers in the first place to save people, to risk our lives to help people that can’t help themselves, and because even the bad guys we take down deserve a chance at redemption. We all had a chance to see how much good the Tearbearers of the past have done, how those good deeds have affected others who went on to do good themselves. Jimmy’s a hero. He’s proved himself time and again. And so has Katie. She’s as much a victim of what’s happening right now as anyone else. Getting rid of them to save everyone is just a cop out.”

Isabelle smiled then, a sincere one. “I understand. And for what it’s worth,” she added before turning to stare into the well’s shifting waters once more, “Mistress Fate was correct. She did indeed choose well when she chose the both of you for this.”

* * *

Sioban MacMillan landed gently back atop the roof of the Grimalde Towers, dusting herself off, staring in awe. In her twenty eight years of life, she’d seen a lot of strange and remarkable sights. She’d traveled abroad, and visited the seven wonders of the world. She’d seen rare, once-in-a-lifetime occurrences, visited the remains of the progenitor of her powers, Brunhilda, the woman who had created the Tearbearers and bequeathed their legacy to them. She’d even traveled to the mystical realm of the gods and goddesses, to the realm that brought forth Brunhilda, and met the ancient Valkyrie and Goddess Skuld themselves! She’d seen many incredible things in her very short life. But now, here, at what might very well be the end, she was seeing yet another sight that seemed to defy explanation.

“Uggghhhnnn!” Jimmy yelled out loud, channeling his own powers, glowing with an eerie pale dark light as well, sending out streams of black shadowy darkness towards his sister’s light. Light and darkness battled, causing flashes of oddly colored green and red lightning to flash in a sky painted orange covered with jagged cracks and tears. The ground shuddered as well, as if an earthquake was tearing through the land, causing the Tower on which they all stood to shake and shimmy randomly. Sioban stood, transfixed, not sure what to do, afraid to do anything, that the slightest word or breath might somehow disrupt the titanic battle of powers happening before her.

“UUUUGGHHNNN!” Jimmy cried out again, turning to look at her then. “Sioban! Bonnie! It’s... no good! I can’t match her this way! Katie’s.... uuughhhn... going all out now! She’s literally killing herself to make this happen! It’s up to you! You have to reach her somehow!”

“Me?” Sioban squeaked, glancing at her friend... at the young girl who was so much more than a mere friend to her. “I... I can’t!” Sioban yelled back, turning away, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. “I don’t know what to do! How the hell can I get through to her when her own brother couldn’t—”

“GODSDAMMIT!” Jimmy yelled, sending forth an even stronger pulse of darkness, managing to halt Katie’s progress ever so slightly. “I am so sick of this shyness routine! We don’t have TIME for this! Literally! No time! Sioban MacMillan... do you love my sister?”

Eyes wide, blushing fiercely, Bonnie stuttered. “I, um, I, well, um,” she began, only to close her eyes and sigh deeply. “Yes. Yes, I love her. More than anything else in the whole wide world,” she stated, finally admitting the words she tried so hard to say aloud.

“Then for the love of all that’s good and decent and holy, fucking TELL HER!” Jimmy yelled. “Everything... all of this... it’s her pain, and her loneliness, manifested. She thinks she’s completely alone. Show her that she’s not! You have to convince her how much she means to you!”

Nodding softly, Sioban moved towards her, only to cry out, drawing back in pain, the sheer power Supernova was putting out burning her. She glanced down in surprise at her uniform, the edges along her arm and the middle of her chest frayed and burned, and the skin underneath red and sore. Oh my goddess... and Neuroweve is supposed to be indestructible. I can’t even begin to get close to her like this...

Jimmy, however, had seen the problem. “Get behind me,” he yelled, stretching out a hand towards Katie, walking slowly towards her, his field of darkness pushing against her field of light. “Keep your hands on my back... and whatever happens, don’t let go,” he warned her, teeth gritted against the strain as he moved forward another step closer. And another. And another. Bonnie merely nodded silently, bracing herself against him, letting the younger boy bear the brunt of the onslaught, the combined powers beginning to warp the world around them, with Jimmy acting as her shield as they moved ever closer to Katie. Only five steps away. Four steps. Three.

Two steps.

“Ugghhn... never... a TV crew... around... when you... need them...” Jimmy grunted, taking another step forward, sweating fiercely from the strain now, “to show... something... this epic! Just... not sure... if I’m Gohan... or Cell... in... thissss!” With an effort, he stretched out his hand and grasped Katie’s in his own...

* * *

“Mr. Frasier, Sir?” a voice spoke through the overhead speakers. Rising from his seat, Eugene walked over to the intercom and replied back. “Sir, we’re, um, having... a slight problem with the instrumentation. GPS software seems to be down, and we’re getting a lot of heavy interference on the radio that we can’t block out.”

Gene nodded thoughtfully. “What about ILS? Is it still functioning?”

“Yes, Sir. For the time being. I can still guide us in. It’s just—” the plane shuddered slightly, as they flew through another bout of turbulence, “—flight conditions continue to deteriorate the closer we get to our destination. A large number of flights have already been diverted to Boise and Salt Lake City...”

The plane shuddered again, and Eugene sighed deeply, closing his eyes. It seemed that Fate was really pulling out all the stops, throwing everything at them but the kitchen sink to keep them from arriving. “I trust yer judgment on this Jenny,” he said after a moment. “We truly must get back to River City as fast as possible... but if you dinnae think we can make it—”

“No! No, Sir,” the young female pilot assured him. “I can bring us in. I was briefed on why you need to head back, and I can get you there. It’s just... your jet might need a bit of work by the time I set her down.”

Gene smiled softly at that. Jennifer Gaines was one hell of a pilot. In her late twenties, she’d washed out of the Air Force over a mishap with a fighter jet. The fault had turned out to be an engine design flaw, and not her fault, but she’d been so disillusioned with the military’s heavy-handed handling of the incident she’d resigned her commission. When Gene had offered her the chance to fly for him personally, she’d jumped in with both feet, and never looked back. Besides the pay and other benefits, she’d acted as his test pilot for some of his more unique flight projects, including several early models of his Armor Man suits. If she said she could get them to River City safely, he believed her.

“Aye, lass. Do yer best.” he said calmly, releasing the intercom, only to grimace as the plane shook yet again.

“Okay, everyone. This is your captain speaking. We’re still an hour away from our destination. Reports speak of some kind of... um... disturbance over the skies on River City, and weather conditions have become unstable. We’re expecting the turbulence to increase the closer in we get, so everyone please retake your seats and get strapped in. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!”

Nigel glanced up as Eugene walked past. “If things are as bad as she is indicating, are we safe to fly directly into the city?” he asked, concerned.

“Ah dinnae ken,” Eugene replied wearily. “Satellite feeds are apparently down. The only way we’ll know what the situation is there is to see it with our own eyes at this point. “ He turned, coughing a bit, slapping his chest. “But dinnae worry. Jenny is the best... best pilot I’ve ever known. Called her in... specially... cough cough for... for... this...”

“EUGENE!” Nigel yelled as the elderly Scotsman suddenly collapsed in front of them, faceplanting in the middle of the aisle. Instantly everyone rose to their feet, Eva and Christina somehow crossing the distance to his side before Nigel and his girls could from just a few feet away. “Eugene! Are you all right? Come on... talk to me!” he growled, lightly slapping the man’s face, trying to get a response.

“Nigel, let me,” Eva said, pushing her way in close, taking her Master’s wrist, checking his pulse, then listening to his chest. Everyone sat quietly while she examined him, biting her lip before sighing deeply. “Okay. Pulse is strong, but a bit rapid. His breathing is also fast, but not overly so. He’s not straining to breath or anything. And he has a slight fever. Psychically, he’s completely out, unconscious, not even dream layer thoughts going on.” She chewed her lip. “My medical experience and expertise is far less than my psychological... but from these symptoms, and knowing personally what he’s been through the past several days, I’d say its exhaustion.”

“Exhaustion?” Patricia said, breathing a sigh of relief. “So, that means he’s going to be all right, then?”

“I... don’t know,” Eva replied in frustration. “Normally, I’d just say some rest, a good night’s sleep and plenty of liquids would do the trick, but Eugene is hardly a normal case.” She shook her head ruefully. “Damned stubborn... flies around in a big metal suit, and forgets that he’s not a actually a robot...”

“Yes, yes, we get it,” Ana sat, patting her sister’s hand gently. “With everything that’s happened over the past few weeks with Rose Contreras, then Venus Satore, and now with his daughter Katie, it’s no wonder he’s stressed and overworked. I doubt he’s gotten much sleep in the past week either. The biggest surprise is that he hasn’t collapsed before now!”

“That’s true,” Eva said with a sigh. “Still... given his age, his recent heart surgery, and all the neurological damage he’s suffered, I just don’t know. At the very least, he certainly needs medical attention, from an actual doctor—”

Just then, the jet rocked violently, sending them all to the floor. The lights flickered then died, as the emergency lights kicked on. Several of the girls screamed, as the horizon tilted sharply, and then the jet began to descend.

“This is your captain speaking,” Jen’s voice called out again, anxiety evident. “We’re experiencing another bout of unexpected turbulence. Systems are offline, but I’m guiding us in on manual. I’ve also activated the in-flight safety protocols as an extra precaution. I promise you, we will arrive in River City on time as expected. We just... might end up arriving by separate accommodations...”

“Well, if this don’t beat all,” Ellen muttered, shaking her head. “Thirty years flitterin’ around on a pair of magical wings, in all sorts of dangerous situations, and I end up buyin’ it in a fancy customized Boeing nicer than my own house. Safest way to travel, my ass...”

“We’re not going to die,” Eva insisted, getting back to her feet. “At least not in a plane crash. The pilot mentioned turning on the in flight safety protocols a moment ago. Eugene specially modified this plane with some of his high end technology. The entire cabin is protected with a reinforced EMP resonance force field capable of surviving a nuclear detonation, and with inertial dampeners installed to lessen any fatal impacts down to a slight jolt.” She gestured to Eugene. “Help me get him back to his seat. None of us are dying today... especially not him. Not until I’ve had a chance to pay him back for scaring me like this...”

* * *

“What?” Sioban asked, blinking in surprise, stumbling slightly in what appeared to be a suddenly pitch black void. “What the hell? Jimmy? Katie? Where am I?” she asked, panic beginning to settle in. She jumped, screaming when a hand grabbed hers in the dark, only to growl in frustration as Jimmy chuckled lightly, the darkness fading somewhat to reveal what appeared to be the inside of a cave. “That’s NOT funny!” she hissed, calming her breathing. “And anyway, where the hell ARE we? How did we go from struggling to reach Katie on the roof to... this... wherever we are?”

“Oh, we’re still on the roof,” Jimmy replied idly, gesturing lightly with his left hand, creating a small burning torch, shedding even more light on their surroundings. “This is just... well, it’s kind of hard to explain,” he said slowly, considering his words. “For lack of a better description, we’re inside Katie’s head... in her mind.”

“This... is Katie’s mind?” Sioban asked dubiously, glancing around at the dank, dark, empty cavern stretching out before her. “Funny, even with everything going on right now, I kind of pictured it a bit more... um... lively. And brighter.”

“Well, it’s not just HER mind,” Jimmy stated with a frown. “It’s more of a shared mindscape, per se, a combination of mine and Katie, created when I forced my way in. To be honest, I’m somewhat surprised that you’re able to be here with me this way. Eva and Ana could never do it, and they’re psychic. Still, I think it’s a good sign.”

“Sign? Sign of what?” Sioban asked, still utterly confused. “And just what is happening here? Why are we in Katie’s mind? And if we’re in HERE, what’s happening outside to our bodies out in the real world?”

“Don’t fauch about it, Bonnie,” Jimmy replied, leading the way forward. “It’s like being in a shared dream. We could be in here for hours and less than a second could actually pass outside. And as for what we’re doing here,” he said, pulling to a halt, holding up a hand as a figure slowly approached them from further back in the cave, “we’re here to find Katie. The REAL Katie.”

“The real Katie,” Sioban repeated, pinching the bridge of her nose again. “Great. That makes perfect sense. So who have we been fighting all this time, her doppelganger?”

“Close, but not quite, Sioban MacMillan,” Katie’s voice stated wryly, as the figure from the back stepped into view. Bonnie blinked in surprise, expecting the person to be the girl they were seeking from the voice, instead finding a tall willowy woman with Katie’s face, but showing long bright dark purple hair with silver highlights, decked out in a green blouse with a star shaped cut-out at the breasts, black skirt, and heels. She winked, giving a strange finger wiggling wave. “Hey, cuz,” she said, nodding to Jimmy. “Quite a pickle you’ve gotten yourselves into, eh?”

Jimmy nodded, unfazed by her appearance. “Yeah, Nebby... you could say that. Is Katie in here somewhere? We really need to get to her, like yesterday.”

“Wait. Wait a sec. Nebby?” Sioban asked, trying to catch up. “As in Katie’s rock star cousin, Sylvia ‘Nebula’ LaSilvas? What are you doing HERE inside Katie’s mind?”

‘Sylvia’ rolled her eyes. “Well, obviously, I’m not the REAL Sylvia LaSilvas,” she stated with a smirk. “I’m like a shadow, a remnant left behind from when we shared a... ahem... ‘special moment’ last year when I came to town for a visit.” She sighed softly, wrapping her arms around herself. “And to be honest, it’s a bit crowded in here lately.” She gestured with a hand, sending out a plume of sparkling purple mist, creating a portal in midair. “Well, best way of fixing all this is to take you to see her. Come on. I’ll take you as far as I can. Just so you know, I’m all for helping you two... but some of the others probably won’t be so accommodating.”

“Others?” Jimmy said, frowning, as he followed the Sylvia clone through the portal, crossing over into what appeared to be a large flowery field, with a thick lush forest surrounding on all sides. “Um, just how many others are we talking about here? And who, specifically, should we be looking out for?” No response. “Um, Sylvie?” Glancing around, he blinked in disbelief.

“Mmm... do you mean sweet little Nebula here?” a Katie clone asked, this one with pale nearly chalk white skin, short rough cut black hair, a black tank top with a skull, ripped and torn black jeans, and a pair of black shitkicker boots. Sylvia lay at her feet, mewling softly, her eyes glazed and starting to take on a grayish tint as she sucked lightly on the pale girl’s index finger. “Sorry, kiddies. Little Nebby here was being a bit TOO helpful, so I decided she needed a little... distraction,” the manifestation replied with a wry grin, pursing her black colored lips.

Sioban frowned, leaning towards Jimmy. “I don’t recognize her. Do you know who this is? And should we be worried?”

“Er... definitely,” Jimmy murmured back. “Haven’t met her myself, personally, but I recognize her appearance from Aunt Sarah’s stories. Though I’m not sure of when exactly Katie would have crossed paths with Sarah’s old pal Dust...”

“That’s Dust?!?” Sioban yelled, incensed. “The one responsible for Katie filling her head so full of gray powder there was barely any room left for thinking?”

“Hey, now,” Dust stated, getting to her feet. “I never claimed to be a saint. Far from it. But give credit where credit is due. Our dear little Katie discovered the joys of dirtying up her busy little mind LONG before I paid her a visit. In fact, it was because she was being such a bitch to my sellers here in River City, harassing them and taking their product for personal use, that I had to pay her a visit.” She shrugged, brushing a bit of dust from her shoulders. “I was even nice about it. She is Sarah’s niece after all... she’s practically family.”

“No, Dust,” Jimmy said with an edge. “Katie and I, we’re family. You’re just someone who took advantage of the situation. Now, how about you cut all the cheap theatrics and show us the way out of this meadow and on to where she’s waiting for us?”

“Ohh? How about you MAKE ME?” Dust challenged back, crossing her arms. “What are you gonna do? Rough me up a bit? Threaten me? I’m not real! And if the REAL Dust wouldn’t roll over so easily, what hope to you have of making her SHADOW cooperate?”

“Simple,” Jimmy replied with a smirk, nodding his head at her.

Blinking, Dust glanced down at herself—and screamed. “WHAT THE FUCK?!? WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY CLOTHES?!?” she shrieked, finding herself clad in a bright neon pink and yellow ensemble, with cream colored pants, pink ballet slippers, and her black hair arranged in pigtails. Ever her fingernails, normally jet black, had gone pink. Gritting her teeth she focused with all her energy, trying to regain her previous form, to no avail.

“What’s wrong, Dust?” Jimmy taunted. “Having a little wardrobe malfunction? Well, no need to get so upset... after all, you’re not really real, are you?” He gestured again, altering the dreamscape around them with his will, causing a sparkling rainbow to appear above her, and several little pixies to appears, circling around her head.

“Damn you! Stop this!” she yelled furious, as even the bows holding her hair in pigtails changed to bright sparkling pink. “OKAY! OKAY! GODDAMMIT OKAY! YOU WIN!” she hissed in defeat, walking over to a large tree. “Fine. Just go,” she grunted, wiping away a later of dirt and dust, revealing another portal inside the tree. “Anything to get you fuck out of here.” Taking full advantage, Jimmy and Sioban stepped through... and entered what appeared to be the courtyard of a large Japanese style house.

“Okay... now a Japanese shrine,” Sioban replied with a sigh. “Just when I begin to think I’m getting a handle on what’s going on, I get thrown a curve ball.” She glanced back at Jimmy, who stood, frozen, at the edge of the genkan. “Jimmy? What is it? What’s wrong?”

“I can feel... sense...” he shook his head, obviously shaken. “Never mind. We don’t have time for this. Just... prepare yourself. And try not to react to anything you see. This won’t be pleasant.” With that cryptic response, he forged ahead, Sioban following close behind.

Inside the mostly empty room sat a dark haired girl, obviously Asian, kneeling silently atop a woven rice floor mat before a small Shinto styled shrine, complete with burning incense. The girl was clad in a dark red kimono, with her back to the door, but Jimmy could just make out the handle of the wakazashi resting in her lap from the side. As they entered, the girl spoke without turning around, again in Katie’s voice. “Kon’nichiwa kōei ani to yūjin,” she said formally, with a slight bow.

“Aisatsu saiai no imōto,” Jimmy answered back, bowing as well, “although you would traditionally stand and greet guests face to face, wouldn’t you?”

“Hai,” she agreed, disapproval somehow dripping from that single syllable. “But in truth, you are not truly guests, but invaders trespassing where you do not belong. This place is private. I suggest you move on and continue your journey.”

“Agreed,” Jimmy stated grimly, glancing towards the open door in the corner. “Come on, Sioban. The exit’s this way.”

“Okay, but,” she stated, glancing back at the Katie clone in front of the shrine, “I don’t understand what is happening here. Why were you so freaked out about coming here? And why isn’t she trying to...” Her eyes suddenly widened as she caught sight of the sword in Katie’s hands, pulling free of its scabbard, gripping the hilt tightly with both hands as she brought the tip of the blade towards her stomach. “KATIE!?! NO! STOP!” she yelled, moving towards the scarlet clad girl.

“Modotte taizai!” she yelled, as a wall of blades erupted suddenly from the walls and ceiling, putting up a barrier between them. Sioban cried out, jerking back in alarm, her arm cut. “Stay back,” the Katie clone warned again. “You cannot stop me. I must do this. I will let no one interfere, not even you, Bonnie-sama.” With a soft sigh, she thrust the blade forward, impaling herself.

“Katie!!!” Sioban yelled, staring helplessly as the woman she cared for stabbed herself to death before her eyes. Except... aside from a generous outpouring of blood, the girl seemed unharmed. Gasping, shuddering in obvious pain, she withdrew the blade, lifted it to her heart, and stabbed again, wincing, only to withdraw it again, clean the blade and return it to its sheath. Sioban stood in shock watching, the blood dripping down onto the floor around her, staining it red.

“Come on, Sioban,” Jimmy said softly, taking her by the arm. “There’s nothing we can do for her. This is the manifestation of her guilt, and her pain. That banner spread above the shrine written in kanji? It read ‘penance’. This is Katie’s way of punishing herself for what happened to Jessica... as well as a brutal reminder that despite her best efforts, she couldn’t even end her own life to join her.” He shook his head sadly. “The only way we’ll be able to put a stop to this is by reaching the real Katie hidden beneath all of these clones.”

Sioban shuddered. “I don’t know Jimmy... maybe... maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for me to be here. Watching Katie do... that... to herself, over and over again,” she said, shuddering again, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I don’t know how much good I’m even going to be once we finally get there.”

“Your arm’s bleeding. Here, let me see it,” he said, reaching out to take her arm. A shadow tendril struck out, wrapping around the wound, and after a moment, withdrew, leaving the skin healed and whole once again. “There. Good as new. I only wish my doctoring skills worked as well in the real world. But Bonnie,” Jimmy said gently, squeezing her hand tenderly, “I absolutely need you here with me for this. And Katie needs you, whether she knows it. She respects and cares for you more than anything, more than she herself realizes. She called you ‘Bonnie-sama’ back there. Not Bonnie-san or Bonnie-chan. It might not seem like much of a difference, but in this manifestation, that honorific speaks volumes for how highly she views you. If anyone in this whole wide world has a chance of reaching her, it’s you.”

Sioban managed a small smile. “Well, thanks for the ego boost. So, er... moving on, um... where are we now?”

“I...” Jimmy began, only to draw silent, his jaw visibly dropping as he took in their surroundings. Though he’d never been to such an establishment before in his life, he was pretty sure they were standing in the middle of a brothel. The walls and ceiling were tastefully decorated in a distinctly Victorian era decor, yet the floor was covered in a red crushed velvet carpet matching the upholstery. The prevailing odor of perfume, and oiled leather intermingled enticingly with the overwhelming presence of female musk. Faceless scantily clad women stood idly in the corners, leaning against the walls, watching them idly. The chamber was even lit by scarlet colored lamps, a not so subtle hint that they were in the ‘red light’ section of Katie’s dreamscape.

“Oh, fuck,” Jimmy muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose, now. “We DEFINITELY need to get out of this one quickly. Help me find the exit.”

Sioban, catching on, smirked wickedly. “Really? You find this one more disturbing that where we just came from? Or... could there be a bit more truth in what Red Rocket was spouting during your little exchange earlier?” Jimmy froze in place. “Super keen sight AND hearing, remember?” she added, walking over to look at him eye to eye. “And I sure as hell caught that little lip lock you two shared just before you sucker punched her. So, James... anything you’d care to say?”

“Now, now, Sioban,” a sultry female voice chided, as soft silky, and definitely fuzzy hands gripped the redhead gently around the waist from the back, snuggling into her. “There’s no need to tease my big brother. Can’t you see he’s embarrassed enough as it it?” Soft fuzzy whiskers tickled the side of Bonnie’s neck as a thin deft and flexible tongue licked lightly at her earlobe before nipping it gently, causing the redhead to moan, going weak in the knees. Stumbling back, Sioban received two shocks simultaneously: One, the newest version of Katie was a neko, a half woman, half cat hybrid, with cat ears, whiskers, and a fully functional tail, with a light bit of downy fur covering her body, yet leaving her wonderfully naked body delightfully exposed..

And two... she, herself, was completely naked.

“K-k-katie?” she sputtered, face scarlet, turning awkwardly to cover herself with her hands, ever mindful of Jimmy’s presence only a few feet away.

“That’s Katiecat, actually,” the sexy feline giggled, reaching out to rake her fingers lightly through Sioban’s scarlet tresses. “And, as you’ve no doubt guessed, I represent our sweet little Katie’s lust... her sexual drive, her passion, her, mmmmm... libeeeeeeedoooo,” she purred, stretching, thrusting her bared breasts out as she did so. “Oh... but I’m making Jimmy all uncomfortable again,” she teased, sauntering over towards him, swaying her hips with each step. “Is that true, big brother?” she asked, biting lightly on her thumb, the picture of innocence, despite her provocative form. “Am I getting you all hot and bothered?”

“H-hey!” Jimmy protested, stumbling back, as his clothes began to shimmer and fade slightly, before returning. This close to the real Katie, it was more of a struggle fighting against her changes to their environment. “Cut that out! Leave my clothes alone!”

“Why? We’re all adults here, after all. Besides, Bonnie and I are already in our birthday suits. It’s not fair if you stay overdressed for the party.” With a flourish, Jimmy’s clothes faded, leaving him as naked and exposed as the others. Katiecat giggled. “There! That’s much better. Now we’re all on equal footing again.” Sighing in resignation, Jimmy straightened up, not even bothering to hide himself. “Oooh... it’s been a long time, Jimmy... but I was correct when I called you ‘big’ brother! Megan was right—you’re freaking HUGE!”

“For the love of all that’s good and decent, can you PLEASE not talk that way in front of our guest,” he said pointedly, gesturing to Sioban, who, despite her misgivings, couldn’t help but stare and agree with Katiecat’s assertion. The boy was well equipped.

“Oh come on, Jimmy,” Katiecat teased, grabbing them both into a three way hug. “Sioban’s practically family.” She looked at Bonnie for a moment, and the happy facade slipped for just a second, a glimpse of a hidden pain. “She’s just like the... sister... I never had.” The smile returned, and she hugged them both again. “Anyway, all things considered, she should know the truth about us.”

That caught Bonnie’s attention. “And just what IS the truth about you two?”

“That we love each other,” Katiecat replied simply. “In every sense of the word. Everything that Rocket said, every word she spoke, was true. It was all coming from me, after all. She was merely parroting my thoughts.” She turned to stare her brother directly in the eyes. “Do you remember the last time we slept together?” she said softly, tenderly.

Jimmy sighed deeply, nodding. “Yes, I do. And Sioban, before your eyes burst out of their sockets, we were both twelve years old, and it didn’t involve sex.” He sighed again. “Not for the lack of wanting, though. It was just a few weeks after our last trip to visit our cousins in Midas City. My powers had come in, and I’d started change, physically. My hair and eyes had darkened, and I’d started filling out.” He shrugged. “It was the start of Katie and I growing apart, but the gulf between us hadn’t really occurred until that night...”

“It was storming outside,” Katiecat continued, closing her eyes, leaning into her brother’s chest. “I did what I always did, and ran across the hall and jumped into Jimmy’s bed. He held me there, as always, just like this, with my head against his chest, while he stroked my hair and sang to me. Soon, everything going on outside was forgotten, and it was just him and me... he stopped singing, and I rolled over into his lap, turning to face him. We just... stared at each other. And then, without even realizing what I was doing, I leaned forward and kissed him.” She smiled at the memory. “My first kiss. And... it was magical. My body felt like it was on fire. I never wanted it to end.”

“Me neither,” Jimmy admitted with a small sad sigh. “It was beyond special. I could feel you... her... Katie. Every part of her, touching every part of me... almost as if we were naked instead of in our pajamas. Both of our hearts were racing, yet perfectly in synch. We were perfectly in synch.” He shuddered. “Sioban... you can’t imagine how it feels to be so perfectly connected to another person, to feel what they feel, want what they want, know what they know, all to such a degree that you can barely tell where one of you ends and the other begins...”

“I was lying on top of him,” Katiecat continued after a moment. “I could feel him underneath me, could feel how hard he was. His cock.” She swallowed. “I was just a kid. The closest we’d ever come to something like this was bathing together as toddlers... but I knew... I knew what that meant. And I wanted it... wanted to feel him, to join with him, with every fiber of my being. And I knew he felt the same, that all I had to do was offer... just open my legs a little, and he would...”

“But just then, the door opened, and our dad peeked in,” Jimmy concluded, reddening at that particular memory. “‘Ach, here she is,’ he’d said aloud, no doubt to our mom down the hall. ‘She’s in with Jimmy again, no doubt scared by the storm’. He simply nodded, said, ‘Sleep well, you two,’ and closed the door behind him. They’d been worried about Katie, knowing how much the thunder and lightning bothered her, and decided to check on her. And they knew about her crawling into my bed at night, and that it was perfectly innocent. But, well... having them check in at that exact moment, when things might have turned anything BUT innocent... it was like a splash of cold water on the both of us.”

“You could say that,” Katiecat murmured ruefully. “That was the last time I snuck into Jimmy’s bed. We never said anything, never talked about what had almost happened... but we were both very aware of how close we’d come to starting on a path we might have never been able to turn back from.” She opened her eyes again. “And that desire... that hunger? It’s still there, Jimmy. In you, as well as in me.”

Sioban sighed softly, pulling away from them. This declaration was a bit sobering to her in its own way. While she’d expected something along those lines, it was still startling to hear it said out loud. Great. Not only to I have a rival for Katie’s affections from her dead girlfriend, I also have to contend with her twin brother? This just gets better and better...

“Bon-bon? Now, now, don’t be that way,” Katiecat chided playfully, lashing out with her tail, goosing the redhead lightly on her sexy ample butt. “This doesn’t have to be a competition, after all. You already know how much I care for you,” she husked, grinning wickedly. “And Jimmy... well, let’s just say you’re not much further down on his list than I am.”

“WHAT?!?” Sioban yelped, whirling around to glare at Jimmy, who immediately averted his gaze.

“Oh? You didn’t realize?” Katiecat remarked playfully. “Jimmy had always had a thing for redheads,” she said, nuzzling up against the scarlet haired vixen, using her tail to tease and stroke Sioban lightly as she circled around her. “Not that it’s not immediately obvious from his current state,” she added getting a groan from her brother. “I believe you met our cousin Yancy briefly at Jess’ funeral? That was Jimmy’s first real crush—”

“Katie, I swear to god—” Jimmy threatened menacingly, to no avail.

“So you can just imagine how he reacted the first time he met you,” Katiecat continued to tease, Laughing at Sioban’s bright red blush, she leaned forward to whisper. “We often share dreams you know, Jimmy and I. The way he knew how to pronounce you and Tawnya’s names correctly was from watching all the naughty little sex dreams I had of you two... and considering that the link goes both ways, I can tell you he definitely enjoyed them. Oh... but recently HIS dreams have centered around a certain winged redhead and her sexy dark skinned partner, kneeling before him in supplication, fighting over who could service him the best—”

“GODDAMMIT KATIE!” Jimmy yelled, causing them both to yelp in surprise. Huffing and puffing in agitation, he forced himself to calm down. “Sioban... Bonnie... it’s a long story, okay? It involves a shapeshifting succubus I fought recently, and her ability to dig deep into a person’s psyche to bring to life all their deeply laden fantasies. Honestly, I happen to find you very beautiful—hell, even a blind ninety-year old gay man would find you beautiful—but I can’t help what my subconscious conjures up when I’m asleep.” With an effort, he gestured, and his and Sioban’s clothes rematerialized. “She’s been distracting us all this time... but I was still able to find the portal out of here. Come on... we’re almost to the real Katie.”

“Awwww,” Katiecat pouted. “Do you really have to go? I mean, this is a dreamscape after all. A fantasy.” She gestured to the side, and a naked Yancy and Tawnya appeared at her sides. “If you stay, we can explore some of those fantasies a bit more in depth. When else will you ever get the chance? And remember—what happens in the dream world STAYS in the dream world.”

“No. We’re leaving, now,” Jimmy stated, opening the door, “before I end up spending the rest of my years in therapy for all of this...”

“Tch... fine. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Past that door is the last obstacle, the one in control of all of this. And she’s not going to surrender Katie without a fight. You’ll wish you stayed here with me.” She shuddered as they stepped through the doorway and vanished, then sighed with honest regret. “When Supernova gets done with them, they’ll wished they stayed back in the forest with Dust...”