I've only myself to blame for getting into this mess. I should have just bought Titanite a birthday present, something cartoon related, and left it at that. But, genius that I am, I had to ask her what she'd really like.
She gave me this very forlorn look and said, "Azurite ... (which should have tipped me off that she was up to something, normally I'm Azure to her) ... it would make me really happy if you and Margrave could get along with each other. So for a present I'd like the two of you to spend an evening together and be nice to each other. Civil at least ... just don't fight!"
"But ..." I had a hundred objections but she did that big eyed pleading thing she does so well and I couldn't remember any of them. No wonder Calcite lets her get away with so much.
I tried to salvage the situation by saying, "Allright if that's what you want I'll do it. If you can get Margrave to agree." I figured I was safe enough. Margrave was never going to agree to spend an evening being pleasant to me. Ti thanked me profusely and ran off looking for Margrave. As for me I retired to the den to look through the latest script I'd been sent. After my role in the "Sailor Arcturus" movie I'd started attracting them. All the same sort of thing. Guess there's a shortage of gaijin femme fatales in the local B sci-fi movie industry.
Still it was a change from modelling though if I'll ever take another movie part I haven't decided. It was kind of fun playing the evil empress Nocturna but I'm still a little unhappy that they said I was all wrong for the title character. Especially as I am Sailor Arcturus.
Anyway I was reading this very bad script when Margrave slunk in. Since there was no one home but us youma neither of us was wearing our glamours. Of course if anyone enters unexpectedly I can just claim to be wearing red tinted contacts and trying a new haircolor. It's a little harder to explain body covering thick white hair and fangs. She wasn't wearing much in the way of clothes, just a very short and thin bathrobe. No surprise, she prefers to wear as little as possible. Can't really complain about that. If I had an inbuilt furcoat I wouldn't wear much either. That's the reason her wardrobe tends towards miniskirts, shorts and brief halter tops. One of the reasons anyway.
When she smiled at me I knew something was wrong. "So I guess we'll be spending a night together", she purred. I just sort of stared at her for a moment. She gave me a big smile that flashed her fangs and asked, "So what are we going to do? I assume picking up guys and getting laid is out?"
I didn't bother answering that. We both know she thinks having a single lover is a stupid idea. Frankly I don't think she understands the concept of relationships. Intellectually yes, she's certainly heard enough on the subject but emotionally she doesn't and cannot comprehend it. Still that's hardly surprising, normal youma aren't capable of love. Only Renegades have that ability or, in Margrave's view, that failing. I really wish Titanite would get the idea that Margrave is not one of us and never will be more than a regular youma. Unfortunately Ti seems to think there's a heart of gold under all that hair. She's going to be really hurt when she realizes Margrave's rotten to the core.
But until the day Margrave does something terrible we're stuck with her. Calcite promised her our protection if she followed our low profile example and lives peacefully. Peacefully meaning leaving humans alone, I seem to be fair game. Unfortunately mischief, innuendo and practical jokes aren't bad enough for Calcite to think she's violating her oath.
Besides I refuse to let her get to me. I just have to remember that I'm a superior lifeform so I shouldn't stoop to her level. Which can get very difficult sometimes.
Margrave broke in on my thoughts by asking, "So where shall we go on our date Azzie?"
I unclenched my teeth (I really hate being called Azzie) and looked her in the eye. "You're going to abide by the conditions? The two of us spend an evening together with no insults, attacks or attempts to humilate each other." Even I said that I wondered if there was anything which would embarrass Margrave.
She smiled again and in a "trust me" tone of voice answered, "Of course Azzie. That's the whole idea. Ti's hoping we'll really get to know each other, put aside our differences and undergo a female bonding type experience."
"When hell freezes over."
She nodded. Amazingly we'd actually agreed on something! "That's my opinion, but that's what she wants."
Something wasn't right here. "Why are you going along with this?"
"That's my business." I studied her but she was acting completely uninterested in anything except examining the polish on her claws. Ok, so she was planning something but what? I didn't want to upset Ti and cancel the whole thing with nothing to go on but some paranoid feelings. Besides that could be what she wanted. Perhaps she'd agreed to it because she expected me to scuttle the whole thing. Which would boost her trustworthiness in Ti's eyes while diminishing mine. So I was going to surprise her.
"Alright then we do this on three conditions. First we declare a truce for the evening in question. Second if you violate the truce all bets are off."
"Make that if either of us violates the truce the other is free to respond."
"Fine." I wasn't going to be the one to start anything. Finish it maybe but not start anything. "Thirdly ..."
"... Don't call you Azzie?"
"Fine by me, Azzie."
I forced down a snarl and settled for a thin smile. "That didn't last long."
She chuckled. "We aren't running the truce yet Azzie. When we do I'll be sure to avoid that nickname."
I forced back my irritation. She'd done it again. There are days I almost wish I was a regular youma. Then I'd have no reservations about turning her into a rug. Meanwhile she continued, "So we spend the evening talking about things that won't provoke you, right?"
"Right!" That sounded a bit terse.
"So no mention of that dye in the shampoo, or the noodle incident, ..."
"... or those fetishists walking off with your underwear ..." That happened during a swimsuit shoot a few weeks back. Noriko and I came back to the dressing room to find the place ransacked. Margrave's said a few things that imply she was partially responsible. Namely very detailed denials about exactly how she'd have broken in and sold the merchandise if she'd been involved, which she wasn't. Maybe she wasn't, could be she's just trying to aggravate me by making me think she was involved. Then when I blow my stack she'll come up with evidence that she was somewhere else at the time.
What's the attraction anyway? Gives me the creeps to think there's people who get off on that. Why collect souvenirs from women they don't know and will probably never even meet? At least I hope I'm not meeting them. Meanwhile Margrave continued running on with the list of things she wouldn't be bringing up.
"... or the nude photos on the internet."
"Right." Wait a minute! "What was that last one again?"
She looked puzzled. "Oh sorry, I don't know where I got that idea. Just forget it." She had one of her "I've got a secret" looks which tend to get me paranoid. Except it's not really paranoia if someone is out to get you. Now I've never posed for nude shots so there couldn't be any floating around in cyberspace. Of course as we're all living under the same roof she's had the opportunity to get them. Say by hiding a camera in the bathroom ... I shook off that line of reasoning. She was just trying to me. Wasn't she? I was still pondering this when Ti walked in.
"Already planning your evening. That's great!"
Her enthusiasm was actually infective and I dismissed my worries for the time being. I'd made Ti a promise and I intended to keep it. I like seeing her happy. Even Margrave seemed to feel that way though that was just my imagination. At any rate with Ti there we thrashed out plans for the evening. We picked thursday night, the day after her birthday. It would be a simple enough evening, dinner together, followed by a movie and then drinks at a bar. It seemed innocuous enough. What could possibly go wrong?
As soon as I thought that I had a dozen scenarios. More would follow in the days to come. Oh, before I forget, the internet business ... someone had pasted my face onto some "Penthouse" GIF's and sent them anonymously to one of the alt.binaries newsgroups. Anyone could have done it so I'd be the last person to name anyone in particular. Ok, maybe second to last.
Which brings us back to the here and now. Suddenly Magrave's smile disappears and she spins round to face a geeky looking guy behind her. Looks like she just ran into a groper.
That's one of the hazards with public transit but what was the alternative? The car's still in the shop, besides even if it was available the streets are gridlocked in the evening. So a taxi wouldn't have been any better. I can teleport but she can't and I'm damned if I'm going to waste energy dragging her around.
Anyway some time back I learned quickly that there's a lot of creeps looking to get their jollies on these trains. They figure the crowd will make them undetectable and anonymous. So I came up with what I assume is a unique response.
When I travel on the subways, buses or whatever I wrap a skintight forceshield around myself. This also means I don't have to worry about picking up any bruises or aches in the crush. Sure I heal fast but I still prefer to avoid injury. Anyway the point is that when some hentai goes for his area of interest he gets a surprise. He expects to touch something soft and yielding but instead it feels like he's groping a statue. While the creep is trying to decide if I'm wearing steel underwear I turn to look at him. I can't feel his touch through the shield but I sense the point of contact. It's a little hard to describe if you can't cast a shield but inside your head you see ... but I digress.
Concluding my story I'm able to sense the creep and make eye contact with him. At which point I partially drop my glamour and let my eyes revert to their real color. This usually has the desired effect, red eyes are rather startling. In fact one of the more unstable creeps backed away from me shrieking, "The Terminator!". As I'd restored my glamour immediately everyone assumed he was mental.
Margrave doesn't have a shield so she can't do that. Still, you might think that given her ... (I have to be nice to her tonight so I need a euphemism) ... extremely liberal views on sex and sexuality that she wouldn't mind. You'd be dead wrong but it's an understandable mistake.
In fact she gets very unpleasant about anyone who touches her without invitation. Not that it's hard to get an invitation. I wonder if she's ever said no to any guy who asked her? However the point is you need her permission. Touch her without it and you'd better have your insurance paid up. This could get very ugly, very quickly. I moved to intercept her before she got violent but she's very quick. That was when she surprised me.
Margrave grabs the creep by the wrist and hauls his hand off her butt. Then still gripping his wrist she raises her hand over her head. He's shorter than she is so he's forced to stand on tiptoe. In a voice loud enough for everyone in the car to hear she asks, "Hey anyone in here lose a hand? Cause I just found this one resting on my ass!" All the heads turn in their direction and the creep turns scarlet. He tries to pull free but can't break her grip. Even when he starts hauling on his trapped arm with his other hand. He doesn't know it but his bones would break with the force he needs to get free. After a minute she decides that's enough public embarrassment. By now his face is imprinted on the minds of everyone in here. She brings his hand down but doesn't release her grip. He's trying to pull away from the crazy gaijin with the white hair. A twist forces him to come face to face with her. I hear her whisper though I doubt anyone else does besides the creep.
"I could break your wrist with ease. Any doubts?" She squeezes and he shakes his head frantically. "Good. Tonight you get off easy. Next time I break it and any finger that touches me. Then I'll get really nasty." She gives him a teeth flashing grin. From the way he turns dead white she must have removed the glamour over her mouth. Giving him a good look at her fangs. She releases her grip and he backs away fast as he can. People get out of his way, especially women. She looks at me and shrugs. "Shouldn't try anything if you can't deal with the consequences."
I'm actually impressed with the way she handled it. "Very effective technique."
She snorts. "My first impulse was to slice off his nose and make him eat it. But you'd have called that an overreaction and used it against me."
I might have known. Still at least she's shown that she has some self control. That's got to be a good sign. On the other hand that implies an ability to plan ahead rather than acting purely on impulse. So she's capable of setting schemes up to pay off further down the line. That could be trouble. Or am I reading too much into this? She has that effect on me.
The train pulls into our stop and we disembark. I start towards the exit but Margrave puts a hand on my sleeve. "Wait a sec. Got an errand to run." Somewhat mystified I follow her to the lost property office. She produces a wallet and hands it to the attendant. "Somebody dropped this." He thanks her and we head out of the station. When we're out of his line of sight she produces a small wad of yen and riffles through them. "Looks like we're still going dutch for dinner. Still my sleazy friend will be paying for our tickets and a couple of drinks." She gives me a grin. "The least he could do, eh?"
I suppose I really should condemn this but I can't bring myself to bother. Though he'll never know it he's got off lightly for trying to feel up a youma.
Our meal is fairly quiet. Hardly surprising as avoiding subjects we'd argue about really limited the conversation. I've never discussed the weather so much before. After we'd exhausted that topic we talked about food. Turns out there's quite a few dishes we both like from our Kingdom days. Not that we'll ever taste them again. It wasn't just the youma that got wiped out, a whole ecosystem perished with the Kingdom. Ti's tried to simulate a few of her favorite foods by substitution but it's not the same.
Not that there's anything wrong with human foodstuffs and I certainly wouldn't want the Dark Kingdom back just for the sake of the cuisine. Still sometimes I miss the taste of Ktar beetles steamed in their shells, or a nice piece of fried morshi fungus. Mushrooms are so bland in comparision.
So after dinner we head for the cinema. It had taken us a while to decide on a film. Margrave was all for the "Sailor Arcturus" film again but I refused. I've already had enough of hearing her critique my acting. Also I don't like hearing her loudly cheer my death scene, attracting the attention of the whole audience. I was pushing for a romantic comedy but she refused. She said she doesn't understand romance so she'd be bored stiff by my choice. Ti was pushing one of her animated films but they aren't really to my taste. Margrave seemed interested but passed when Ti told her there weren't any catgirls in the movie. I asked Pyrite and he recommended some SF flick which we both rejected. At last, by process of elimination we settled on this police thriller the critics were raving about.
In the cinema we sit watching quietly. We don't have to pay any attention to one another which helps make the evening bearable. As for the film it's one of those extremely cynical ones where the cops are as corrupt as the crooks and you can't tell the goodguys from the bad. Matter of fact there are no goodguys, everyone's morally bankrupt. Probably some critic called it "brutally realistic". I have to say I prefer more cheerful films.
Humans puzzle me sometimes. They've got so much to be thankful for yet they seem to prefer whining about how everything's going or already gone to hell. I've been reading those history books Calcite keeps brooding over. Things aren't getting worse, they're getting better. Or at least they've been improving since the fall of Silver Millenium and the end of the first era. And as none of them (except the Senshi themselves) know it existed they can't be pining for the lost golden age.
I imagine Margrave's rather enjoying this. She's genetically programmed to enjoy darkness and destruction. A legacy of Metallia's interference with her ... with our ancestors. The difference between us being that Renegades lack those inbuilt drives for whatever reason. Perhaps a throwback to our distant human ancestry. Perhaps just chance. At any rate the film probably reinforces her views on life.
It wraps up in a very bloody gunfight with everybody dead or wrongly convicted. Nobody wins, like you couldn't see that coming a mile away. She's quiet, seems to be thinking about something. Wonder what? On second thoughts I don't want to know. It's probably unpleasant.
Time to get on with the schedule. Have a few drinks, politely reinforce our mutual dislike, and head home. I point out a bar and we head on over. We arrive to find some guy murdering a Michael Jackson song from the karaoke stage. Margrave winces a little, her hearing's a lot sharper than mine, but she doesn't comment. Come to think of it she has the sharpest senses of our entire group. Wonder how difficult living in Tokyo is for her? Not that there's much she can do about it until we figure out a way to leave the zone without dying.
Then I spot an acquaintance. Noriko waves us over to her table so we wander cross the floor. We've done a few model shoots together. Apparently we contrast well, at least in the mind of the art director. I don't know the guy she's with and forget his name almost immediately. It's fairly obvious he doesn't appreciate the additional company. I introduce Margrave as Catherine Margrave, the recently arrived friend of my housemate Calvin Hobbes. I explain Cal's busy and I've agreed to entertain Margrave for tonight. She doesn't contadict me. I half expected her to claim we're involved in a lesbian love affair or something equally embarrassing. Maybe she's taking the truce seriously. Maybe she's just biding her time.
We have a few drinks and talk. Or rather Noriko and I talk, Margrave and whatshisname make the odd noise to show they're listening. Thankfully Margrave doesn't try to amuse herself by seducing him.
The karoke stage's empty and Noriko's looking at me. I tell her if she's so eager why doesn't she go up?
"Already been, so's Tati-kun. Come'on, do that song you did last time." She wobbles a bit, must have been drinking quite a bit before we arrived as she holds her liquor well.
"If they've got it." So I head up and take a look. Sure enough there it is. As I cue it up it occurs to me that this might be considered provocative. Damn. Well no way out, if I change Noriko's gonna yell for me to sing the right song. Might as well do a quick intro. "Well this is dedicated to somebody I know ... lyrics are in English but that's your problem. Here goes!" With that I launch into Hall and Oates, "Maneater".
I don't think I do a bad job on it though I'm a long way from being a pro singer. The crowd seems to be enthusiastic enough but the men'll cheer any good looking woman. I ignore the calls for an encore and head back to our table. Noriko applauds, so does her guy. Margrave doesn't seem to have taken offense. She looks to have mellowed but that could be because of the steady drinking. She hums a snatch of the song.
"... 'The beauty is there but a beast is in her heart'... I like that!"
Noriko giggles, then tells me, "You never did tell me who you were thinking of when you picked that song the first time."
"Hey, you've got to let her have a few secrets." I'm a little surprised at the rescue from Margrave. Looks like she didn't take offense. Still why should she? She knows what she is and is perfectly happy with herself. I'm the one who can't stand her.
"So Margrave-san how about you do a number?" Noriko's looking at the empty mike. Margrave seems about to refuse then stops and looks at the table. She drains her latest drink then looks at Noriko.
"I don't know many songs, but there's one I like. If they've got it I'll sing." I'm a little surprised at this, I didn't think she had any interest in music. I believe her words on the subject were, "sappy romantic drivel". Which probably means she's looking for a death metal number or something along those lines.
She heads up and looks over the music available. She seems to wilt slightly then sighs and heads for the mike. Here she goes.
"Ok this is dedicated to someone who's not here and almost none of you know anyway so I don't know why I'm telling you this. Hell with it, here goes. Hope you brought your earplugs."
The music starts, I don't know this song. She opens her mouth and begins to sing. Margrave's voice cuts across the drunken conversations around us like a pealing bell. A hush falls over the room. She's singing beautifully, it's impossible not to listen to her. The lyrics are again in English so I don't know how many can understand her. I can and I listen.
On the final day Margrave tracked us by scent and saw us vanish. The collapsing warpgate threw her into another dimension and she spent months there not knowing where we'd gone.
Noriko gushes over Margrave performance and mentions a friend in the music business. Margrave waves her off by saying she's planning on living off a man she knows and enjoying a hedonistic lifestyle without working. Noriko notices her guy is getting restive so she excuses the two of them and hurries off with him.
Soon as we're alone Margrave looks me in the eye. "It was just a song. Don't read too much into it." I get us a couple more drinks and we spend the next few minutes fending off guys who think we're looking for company.
We're quiet for a few moments until Margrave breaks the silence. "Can I ask you something."
"I guess so." I sound a bit too wary for my own liking. Here it comes.
"Why become a model. What was the attraction?"
That's about the last thing I expected. I take a moment to collect my thoughts. "Well it was partially chance. I caught the eye of this pair of photographers. It was something new so I decided to give it a try. Besides it was unique to be regarded as attractive by someone outside our little circle. Back in the Kingdom I was regarded as freakish for looking so human." No one bothered the generals about their appearance. Regardless of what they might have thought that would have been suicidal.
"And if Calcite happened to notice you as a result and became physically attracted, well that couldn't hurt."
I feel my face flush. "I suppose I can't deny that."
"But in the end you picked Pyrite anyway."
"Yes." I expect her to imply she's going to seduce him but she just shakes her head as though she doesn't really follow this.
"This romance stuff really complicates things. Why can't you just keep things sexual like Calcite and me."
"That's your viewpoint. Calcite wants it to be more than that."
Margrave shrugs. "That's his problem. I can't be what he wants. Matter of fact I won't. Normal youma don't fall in love, only Renegades do. And I'm not one of you. What I am is the last real youma! I've got a tradition to maintain."
What was that supposed to mean? Why state the obvious? I know what she's like. You'd almost think she's deliberately avoiding falling in love with Calcite. Which is crazy because, as she said, there's no risk of that. She can't love anyone, it's against her nature. Must be the drinking making her run off at the mouth.
"Why Calcite puts up with you I'll never know."
She gives me a smile, "Apart from being incredibly desirable I have the added advantage that he doesn't have to lie to me."
"What?" Calcite's one of the most honest people I know.
She does another one of those irritating I've-got-a-secret grins, "Maybe I'll explain that someday."
She seems to have said all she's going to on the subject and changes the topic. "I understand you were the one most committed to leaving me behind."
We've never really talked about this. I look her in the eye. "Yes. We barely got out ourselves."
"And if you'd had the time to set up a stable gate that could handle more than the four of you?"
"Then I'd still have opted for leaving you behind."
She doesn't seem surprised. "I assume you were responsible for Calcite keeping the gate secret from me."
"Yes. You'd have used it against us. Either turned us in or blackmailed us and Calcite wouldn't have let me neutralize you." And if I'd gone behind his back to do the deed he'd never have forgiven me.
"That's what you think, hmmm."
I put a bit of steel in my tone. "Look me in the eye and tell you wouldn't have done either of those."
Margrave shrugs. "I could tell you that but I'd be lying. Of course I'd use it against you. If someone shows weakness you exploit it. That's the way it works. Or rather the way it worked."
Our talk turns to inconsequential things. It occurs to me that Margrave is matching me drink for drink. She's looking a bit unsteady and I'm about to warn her when she turns serious again.
"Lemme ask you something ..." She's slurring a bit but I can understand her easily enough. "...Back in the Kingdom if some guy made a move on you an you didn't want it wha'did you do?"
This isn't hypothetical to me. I had that happen a couple of times. Before I had my "bitch from hell" rep established. "Told them to keep their hands to themselves or get ready to fight to the death."
She looks quizzical. "So what if they called your bluff."
"I don't bluff. I won't say anything I'm not willing to back 100%!"
She looks like she's just figured something out. "So that's why you never told Calcite you loved him. Cause you weren't sure and you couldn't say it until you knew for certain! Darkness! You coulda sorted that whole triangle mess out years ago if you were willing to lie a bit."
My face is flushing again, whether from anger or embarrassment I haven't decided. Maybe both. "Perhaps but that's a bit simplistic."
Margrave doesn't seem to be listening. After a moment she says, "You could get away with that kinda thing. You had some power. Enough to deter up to the midrange youma. The more powerful could take you out but why risk messing themselves up when there were so many low power females they could prey on. Females like me." She's silent a moment then goes on bitterly, "Cat girls were popular. Must be some sort of cosmic law. Even in this world where we shouldn't exist they fantasize over us. I didn't have any power to speak of which made me fair game for anyone stronger. Besides it wasn't worth dying over." After a pause she gives me a faint grin, "You wanna know something funny? I mean funny ironic not funny haha." I nod and she continues. "Sex is my favorite recreation ..." Like I didn't know that, but she's not through yet. "...if they'd just asked me most of the time I'd have said 'sure thing, let's have some fun'. No problem at all. But youma don't ask do they? They just take what they want."
Perhaps you think that being ruled by a queen would prevent this sort of abuse. Not a chance. The Dark Kingdom's social order grew out of a feudal system. There the nobility always satisfied their pleasures on the commoners. Things changed a bit as the populace mutated over the generations into magic users of varying degrees. Those with power became the new nobility. Those with little or none became the commoners. I'm sure you get the idea.
"There was little I could do back then but smile, endure and cut their throats if I got the chance. Not that there was much chance for revenge. The real bastards tended to have allies who'd get unhappy if you cost them a partner."
I knew all this but I ignored it along with a lot of other injustices in the Kingdom. Trying to help them would have marked me as a Renegade. Still ... "There must of been a lot of you in the same situation. For that matter a lot of low power males. Did you ever think of working together?"
She looks puzzled. "The low power males? Why would I want to hang around with inferiors like them? What I wanted was someone with power who I could control."
I make another attempt to explain. "You could have banded together to help each other."
"Help each other? The only person you help is yourself. I decided I was going to show all those smug youma who looked down on me just how high I could rise. So I worked at it. If the other weaklings wouldn't help themselves why should I?" She's got a moral blank spot a mile wide. No surprise. She continues, "I went a bit too fast and tried to a spot in Jadeite's legion far too soon. Still that brought me into contact with Calcite. He ... intrigued me. At any rate with him for a lover I had a degree of security. Hurting me meant answering to him. No one in their right mind wanted that. I could pick and choose for the first time. With his backing I started to advance through the ranks. Being close to Magnesite's deputy increased my attraction to others with power. Except now I could refuse if I chose. All thanks to Calcite and my own foresight."
"And if you'd had a better offer you'd have sold him out in a second."
She stares at the table for a moment then tosses back her drink. Then smirks again. "Of course. No room for sentiment in the Dark Kingdom." Then she sighs and starts rotating her empty glass. "I wonder though ... what's the point?"
"The goal of life for us ... for regular youma was to rise as high as you could while crushing everyone in your way. So what good did it do in the end? Take Queen Beryl, centuries of absolute power then she has one bad day and gets blown away by a kid with a silly hairdo. That has got to qualify as a really undignified end."
"I don't think she'd have felt better if she got killed by someone with better hair."
Margrave is definitely wavering now. "My point ... my point is ... what's the point? Why scrabble to accumulate power if you'll just get wiped out by someone stronger?" Her balance definitely isn't what it should be. "Since Jadeite died and you guys brought me to this world I've been doing nothing but lounging around and having a good time."
"Not to mention picking on me."
"Like I said having a good time ..." I glare but she doesn't notice. "... and I'm getting used to it. Anyway the thing is if it's all gonna end the same way why bother exerting yourself. Makes more sense just to have a good time any way you can."
"By sponging off Calcite?"
"Exactly." She's trying to look smart and dignified and failing miserably. "Would you rather I tried to take over the world?"
"No. Not that you could anyway."
"Good. 'sides it's none of your business. You've given up your claim on him." She giggles a bit and starts a rambling story but gets lost halfway though. I stop her before she can stagger to the bar.
"I think you've had enough."
"Not just yet. Not till I've drunk you under the table!" She starts waving a finger at me then slides to the side of the table. I sigh, I should have known.
"Margrave", I keep my voice gentle, "Do you have any idea how hard it is to outdrink a woman with a healing factor?" It takes her a few seconds to get it then dismay crosses her face. She starts banging her head on the table then stops abruptly.
"That hurts. Why'd I do that?"
I'm thinking this is sort of amusing when the reality belatedly sinks in. If she loses consciousness her glamour's probably going to collapse. I don't want to become the center of attention that way. Being spotted sitting in a bar with a drunken woman/cat hybrid is going to raise some awkward questions.
Time to hit the road I think. I haul Margrave to her feet and we head for the station. From a glance at my watch I see there's half an hour until the next train. Perhaps we should take a cab, except I don't see any.
The streets seem fairly quiet and I'm in a relaxed mood. My system will purge the effect before long but I'll enjoy it while it lasts. I remember back as a teenager finding out how much I'd have to drink to get really plastered. Purely in the interests of science you understand.
We were simply testing our regenerative abilities to the max. Honest. Anyway Calcite stood guard while Pyrite and I held a drinking contest. We discovered it's possible for Renegades to get drunk but you have to drink a hell of a lot very, very quickly. It'd poison a human to consume that much. Also the sheer volume of fluids means you'd better have a toilet within staggering distance. I remember Pyrite got very maudlin about something but I was in no shape to understand him. Kept muttering about Calcite ... ok I get it now. Another case of 20/20 hindsight.
Margrave's leaning on me and has an arm around my shoulders. Her head's resting on my coat and she seems to be drooling a bit. So I'm wondering if she's really out of it when I hear the muttering from ahead of us.
The redhead's leaning on a parked car. She looks vaguely familiar ... oh yes I saw her stalk out of the bar a while back. She'd just slapped some persistent guy which is why I noticed her. I don't think she's aware of us. Or maybe she just doesn't care who overhears her as she's got to blow off some steam. She certainly sounds angry enough.
"Lousy backstabbing pack of bitches ... after I trained those little snots to be something more than a joke! No gratitude from any of them! All I get from them is giggles over a couple of mistakes. As if any of those losers could have done any better. My plans were perfect ... just a couple of random factors interfered and there's no way to predict those. 'Expect the unexpected' my ass! That's his idea of advice? For your information prof. if you can expect it it's not unexpected! I've just had a run of bad luck, that's all. It could happen to anyone. Besides who could replace me? Minette? Hah! That treacherous little ... I'll give her 'snail woman'! When I complete the mission I'm confirmed as number one which means it's payback time! Oh the things I'll do to you sister ..."
Guess she's having trouble at work. Office politics can be murder. She really shouldn't broadcast this to all and sundry. Still there's no one around but us and we don't give a damn. At least I don't, Margrave might take it all in for blackmail purposes on general principles but it won't do much good without knowing her identity. Anyway I wouldn't have heard that without my enhanced hearing. She probably thinks we can't hear her, assuming she's even noticed us.
We're just about to pass her when she pushes herself upright and steps in front of us. She's swaying slightly but seems in reasonable possession of her facilties. At least until she starts to speak.
"I've been waiting for you. Funny really, I wasn't even thinking about working. I just stopped in to have a few drinks and calm down a bit because I'm sick of them all whispering behind my back. Like they could do any better! Hah! If any of them were running the operation it'd already be game over!"
I'm not following this at all but she's not through yet. "Then I heard you singing and I knew I'd got lucky." I realize that she's not looking at me, she's studying Margrave. Margrave's opened her eyes and is studying our new friend quizzically during this rant. So am I. She's wearing one of those white coats that are cliche wear for doctors and scientists. Her long red hair's bound into a thick tube that makes it look like some sort of tail. Reminds me of a youma I knew briefly. Very briefly as I had to kill him at our first meeting. Old business, forget it. Back to the present.
I guess she likes stars as she wearing a pair of very large, very garish red star shaped earrings. Now that she's standing up I can see there's a black star design painted on the front door of the stationwagon. A sharp contrast to the otherwise white all over paint job. She's smiling at Margrave, it's not a very warm smile.
I guess Margrave doesn't catch that as she raises her head to mumble that she prefers men. I don't think she's listening to Margrave because she doesn't slow down. "Anyone who can sing like that must have an exceptionally pure heart!"
I stare at her in disbelief. Margrave looks at her for a second then starts giggling. "Pure heart ... me ...hahahahahaha ..."
She doesn't seem to like hearing that she's a poor judge of character. "You don't fool me!" She sounds angry. Margrave doesn't care, she keeps giggling. Guess I'd better defuse this before she blows her stack.
"If you're looking for a pure heart then you'd better keep looking. Take my word for it this is the worst possible choice you could make."
Looks like she doesn't want to let it go. Hell with it, I don't want to spend all night debating Margrave's character. "Excuse us, we've got a train to catch." I step to the side of her dragging Margrave with me. The redhead glares but doesn't try to stop us.
Margrave's still chuckling and hanging onto me for support. She manages to stop laughing and attempts to give me a superior look. "And you don't think I've got any self control!" All she succeeds in doing is sounding pompous and silly.
"Oh yeah?" Now she's sounding belligerent. "I laughed off that idiot didn't I? Back in the Dark Kingdom I'da ripped her throat out for slandering me like that. Pure heart ... heheheheh ..." Off she goes again.
I have to admit that is fairly amusing but I don't feel like laughing. Suddenly my instincts are screaming danger and it's coming from behind us. I turn to see the mutterer has ditched her coat and is hauling something cylindrical out of the car with both hands. It looks like an oversized version of a supersquirter water gun. Except that she's handling it like a weapon and appearances deceive. Making assumptions can get you killed which is why I shove a startled Margrave to the right as I dive left.
The energy beam cuts through the space we occupied a moment before. If I hadn't listened to my instincts she'd have backshot both of us. As humans don't have energy weapons yet I'd say we've just run into one of the Senshi's new playmates. I'd prefer to be a conscientious objector in the war between good and evil but that's not an option here.
No witnesses, thank god, so I can transform without fear. If anyone happens on this altercation I'd rather they see Sailor Arcturus fighting this nutcase rather than fashion model Azure DeWitt displaying superpowers.
I hit the ground rolling then slam an air vortex into her. As she cartwheels down the street, losing her grip on the rifle, I trigger the transmuter. She's looking battered as she comes to rest and stares at me in bewilderment. The costume's fully formed by now. "No fair! Senshi are supposed to give a speech before fighting! You didn't even name your attack!" Wonder if I should do the "I'm-Sailor-Arcturus-your-ass-is-grass" bit?
She scraped her forehead while bouncing down the street and there's a trickle of blood running down. Plain old red. Damn, I've got a problem here. I think she might be human after all. If she was youma I'd feel no hesitation about wiping her out while she's down. Give a fallen youma a break and it'll kill you first chance it gets. That's not necessarily true of humans so I'd better give her the chance to surrender. Not to mention that the Senshi could misinterpret my killing a human as an act of war. What I'll do with her if she does surrender I don't know. Maybe I can drop her and that gun off at a police substation and let them book her on a weapons charge. Problem is it won't look like a real gun to them.
She looks towards where her gun landed then slides a hand into her coat. I raise my right hand and a fireball appears over my palm. "Don't!" She freezes in place. Actually fire generation is the newest and weakest of my powers. My air control abilities are far stronger, a vortex burst could smash her to jelly easily. But they don't provide anything visual to threaten her with. So unless she knows my powers she'll do something stupid and I might have to kill her. Now a fireball looks threatening. That gives her something to fear.
Margrave stumbles to her feet with nothing like her usual grace. Looks like she wasn't faking being drunk. She's looking confused. "What the hell's going on?" Good question.
"Take your hand out of your coat slowly or you're going to be wearing this." She decides she doesn't want to have that red a head and obeys. She's displaying both an empty hand and a calculating look. Looks like her wits are back.
"Good. Now I'd like a few answers!"
"Very well, Here's the first one, DIAMON!"
Diamon? Suddenly I catch motion to the side and see the station wagon fill with smoke. Something explodes out of the sidedoor, somersaulting through the air to land in front of my prisoner.
I get a quick look at it. The creature is humanoid and apparently female. It's skin is orange with black stripes and it has a tail that lashes the air. Minus the tail it looks a lot like Margrave would if she were a tigerwoman. For some reason it's wearing a blue lacy teddy with fishnet stockings. But this is no time to critique its' wardrobe.
I decide not to wait and see if Diamon (I don't know if that's her name or her species) will obey. Bolts of energy spit from her claws and chew up the pavement I was standing on. I automatically tossed the fireball in her face as I jumped clear. She snarls and wipes the fire out of her eyes. It's pissed off but unhurt. Damn! I was hoping to blind it. As I head down for landing I hit it with a micro hurricane. She slids back several meters, just missing her mistress, her feet tearing parallel gouges in the pavement but staying upright. She's got a shield! Her counterattack misses me but one bolt deflects off the fringe of my forceshield. Good, it didn't punch through. Looks like we're evenly matched.
Meanwhile Margrave is looking befuddled and the woman who started all this is going for her gun. Margrave snaps out of her stupor and moves to intercept. But she's a lot slower than usual. She misses her grab at the redhead and falls over. The mystery woman grabs her gun and spins around as Margrave surges to her feet. She shoots Margrave in the chest at practically point blank range.
Margrave freezes in shock and something emerges from her chest. I can't get a good look at it with the tiger thing attacking me. Margrave stares at the floating object in horror for a moment then collapses at her shooter's feet. Her glamour blinks out and she stares eyes open and unblinking at the sky. Her killer looks amazed at what she's just shot.
I suddenly feel very angry. I didn't like Margrave but she didn't provoke this attack. Whoever these lunatics are they are going to pay! I'm in hand to hand range with the tiger woman. My forceshield merges with hers so we can get physical and I duck to avoid a kick that would have disemboweled me. I rise up inside her reach and punch her in the chest with my full strength. Something in her ribcage makes a loud and satisfying crunch. She squalls as she's thrown back towards her mistress. There's a faint crackle as our shields separate. She rolls to her feet but one hand cradles the impact point on her torso.
It's between me and the red head. For the first time it isn't moving to attack. Maybe she's temporarily exhausted her energy bolts or the pain is blocking her powers. Or defending her mistress is more important than fighting me. For the first time I get a good look at the object that emerged from Margrave's chest.
It's not an organ. It appears to be a crystal star. Inside it darkness and white light swirl. The woman doesn't seem to be paying any attention to me, she's too busy studying it.
"Never seen one like this before", I hear her mutter. She reaches out to grab it which is obviously a very bad move. She screams and falls backwards cradling her smoking hand. The star she flung away from her drifts down to Margrave and reenters her body. Awareness returns to her eyes and she gives a blood chilling shriek. She lunges towards the woman in a blur of claws and teeth. The tiger thing moves to block Margrave as the red head screams. The last thing it will ever do. Perhaps it's stronger than Margrave but it can't match her fury. Margrave's on it instantly trying to rip her way right through it to her prey! Blood and flesh are spraying everywhere. The woman has gone pale and is looking very scared. I've got a clear shot at her.
The vortex burst rips the gun from her hand and crumples it against the side of a building. It explodes in a flare of light momentarily dazzling me. I'm moving instantly and snap off a blind shot. There's a metallic screech. My vision's back and I see I've just bent a lamp post 90 degrees. Where the hell is she? Above me!
The woman is rising into the night sky! She's wearing some kind of pack on her back. I don't know if it's technological or magical but it obviously gives her the powered flight. From above she thumbs her nose at me and drops something. Which reverses course and shoots past her as I blast it towards the stratosphere. She looks after it without thinking and sees a massive flare of light as it detonates. So much for death from above, now it's my turn! She laughed far too early. It's a bad idea to flee by air when your opponent controls the winds.
She cries out as the air swirls around her spinning her about. There's a gurgling noise from behind me along with snarling and a steady ripping noise. I don't think I have to worry about Diamon anymore. A downdraft slams the dizzy red head into the ground. I ease up at the last minute so I won't smear her over the pavement. She's sprawled on the ground and the backpack's crackling and smoking. I'm about to check she's out when I hear an ear splitting howl behind me. Every dog in Tokyo is probably cringing, sure that the meanest cat of all time has just crawled out of hell. I turn to look automatically
Margrave is on all fours in the puddle that used to be the tiger thing. She spits out a mouthful of something red and screams, "I DON'T KNOW WHO YOU ARE BUT I'LL KILL YOU BEFORE I DIE!" I've never seen her this wild before! Her gaze goes past me and I hear a car roar to life. My opponent was tougher than I thought and decided that discretion is the better part of survival. Burning rubber the car zooms away, the driver's door hanging open. A hasty hurricance rips it loose but misses the car. She roars around a corner and out of my line of sight. Damn! Behind me Margrave screams again.
"I'LL TRACK YOU DOWN BITCH! NO ONE KILLS ME AND LIVES TO BRAG ABOUT IT!"
She's radiating pure murderous fury! Anything that gets in her way tonight is going to die. Forget the mystery woman for now. I can't let Margrave run around town in this state.
Her head snaps in my direction. "GET OUT OF MY FUCKING WAY! I'M GONNA KILL HER BEFORE I KEEL OVER."
One last try at reasoning then I use force! "How can you shout with a big hole in your chest?" Shield to maximum and get ready to fight!
She snarls for a few seconds and then my meaning penetrates. She looks down at her blood spattered chest in wonder. One hand tears away the soaked clothing as the other probes for an entry wound. She freezes in disbelief and takes several deep breathes. Her lungs respond normally. She checks her pulse and finds her heart working normally. "I'm all right?" She sounds like she doesn't quite believe it. "I'm all right." This time in a tone of wonder. "I'M ALL RIGHT!" She's got an ear to ear grin. It's the first time I've seen her smile with pure joy. Normally there's something malicious there whenever she grins.
"I'M ALL RIGHT!" Margrave breaks into an impromptu dance. She grabs me by the shoulders and whirls me around. I feel fluids soak into my costume from her hands. Not far away I can hear a car leaving the area in one hell of a hurry. Guess it's down to the traffic cops now. Margrave is still grinning like a maniac as she leans over and kisses me on the cheek. Then we both freeze.
I cannot believe she did that. From the expression on her face neither can she. For a few seconds we look at each other blankly then her familiar nasty smile reemerges. "Well I couldn't have beaten those two by myself. So I guess under Dark Kingdom tradition I have to give you my body now, right?"
"You have three seconds to let go of me." My voice is cold.
She lets go of my shoulders and steps back. "Sorry I forgot. You don't have much respect for Dark Kingdom tradition." She sits down heavily on the street. With the adrenaline rush gone her blood alcohol level is catching up with her again. "Man, haven't cut loose like that since MegaTokyo. What a blast!"
Which is when I realize we aren't alone anymore. I'd have noticed sooner if Margrave hadn't distracted me. For some reason I step between the shapes in the shadows and Margrave. They realize I've seen them and step forward.
They're both dressed like Sailor Senshi. Of course so am I so that doesn't prove anything. However they've got Senshi auras, which is a sort of enhanced human aura. Much more intense. They look harder than the Senshi I've met. More as you'd expect warriors to look. The one with short blonde hair seems to be taking the lead. Looks like that's the dominant haircolor among Senshi. The other has black hair with a bluish tint. A bit like Mercury's. As my own hair is a nice shade of turquoise I prefer her coloring.
The blonde nods towards the little that's left of the diamon creature. "Dangerous friend you have there."
From the corner of my eye I see Margrave trying to look kittenish and innocent. And she's wearing blood soaked rags and bits of her victim it isn't too successful.
"They shouldn't have attacked her." Why am I defending her? I remember Ti mentioning new Senshi had been spotted but they seemed a lot more camera shy than the original five. Maybe I should have paid more attention last time she tried to show me her scrapbook of Senshi newspaper articles.
"She's not human and dangerous. I think we should do something about her." The blond senshi sounds cool. The other looks uncertain but willing to follow her lead.
The rational part of my mind is screaming at me to get out of their way. I'm not sure why I'm ignoring it. Perhaps because I don't like this arbitrary death sentence. Besides I'm nonhuman and potentially dangerous, hell our whole group qualifies for extermination on those grounds.
"I don't know who you two are ..." The blue haired one's about to tell me but I don't feel like sitting through a set of intro speeches right now. "... and I don't want to know. If I find out then I could get sucked into whatever the current lunacy is and I don't want that. I fight only in self defense, to defend the people I care about ..." Somewhat reluctantly I add, "or anyone it's a matter of honour to protect." I nod in Margrave's direction.
"She may be vicious, amoral, cruel, nymphomaniacal, greedy, malicious, lazy ..."
"HEY!" That comes from behind me but I keep going.
"... vain, obnoxious, manipulative, power hungry, loudmouthed ..." How else could I describe her, "... bad tempered, ethically berefit, morally bankrupt, rotten sense of humour, without sexual morals, basically bad company ..." What else?
"Excuse me?" It's the blue haired Senshi. "Is this going somewhere?"
Right, I was forgetting my main point. "...but as long she's not inflicting these traits on humans I say you've got no right to pass judgement on her. If she breaks her word to us then she's a menace and I'll help track her down. But long as she keeps her vow to live in peace I will not let you harm her. I don't want to fight you but I will defend her by any means necessary." I cannot believe I am risking my life over Margrave. Why couldn't she have done something rotten weeks ago and saved us both a lot of trouble?
There's a few moments silence then the blonde lowers her hand. "Why look for more trouble than we've already got."
The other nods, "It's not like her heart crystal was totally black." Heart crystal? If they mean that thing from her chest that means they were watching without intervening. "Besides she mentioned the Dark Kingdom, that's the Inner Senshi's responsibility."
I decide to take a guess about who she means. "If you mean Sailor Moon and the others there's an unwritten peace treaty between them and the Renegades."
"Oh, you know the kids?" The blonde sounds surprised. Kids? I wouldn't say these two are more than a year older than the other Senshi. Then again appearances deceive. If you judged the generals by appearance you'd put them at being mid twenties. Which would be off by centuries. "Pity we lost Eudial in the confusion. We'll be checking your story with the Inner Senshi."
"Tell them Sailor Polaris says hello." Ti made me promise to pass on that message if I ever ran into them again.
"We'll track Eudial back to her homebase another time." I think they're getting ready to leave. The blue haired girl pauses a moment then adds, "I saw the Sailor Arcturus movie. It was terrible."
"Everybody's a critic." To be honest it is fairly lame.
The blonde studies me for a moment then remarks, "That's a nice outfit", before turning away.
"Haruka!" Her friend sounds scandalized.
"Just kidding Michiru. She's far too old."
Old? I'm a month past 23! That's hardly ancient. The two bound away in one of those ridiculous jumps the Senshi are so fond of. I wonder if they had any idea I could overhear them? Margrave chuckles behind me. She definitely overheard.
"Real nice list you had there. What were you trying to do, dig my grave?" She's slurring her words again.
"Do you deny it?"
"Deny it? Hell, I revel in it." Figures. Why did I put my neck on the line to help her? Purely as a matter of honour. I have absolutely no use for her. If ... when she breaks her word I'll be happy to help the Senshi track her down.
For the time being I've got over worries. "Restore your glamour and let's get out of here." She nods and concentrates. It's harder than usual for her but she manages. Lucky maintaining a glamour is second nature for her these days. Ok she no longer looks like a topless, white furred catwoman wearing the shredded remains of a blood soaked dress. Now she looks like a topless woman with white hair wearing the shredded remains of a blood soaked dress. Not a great improvement. Actually the stains have faded so they don't look like blood anymore but they're still going to attract comment. As will her dress, or rather lack of dress.
Casting a glamour over your own body is easy. Casting it to simulate clothing is very difficult. Animating it to match the movements of your body is damn near impossible. Luckily we had an option. The labcoat that woman discarded was nearby and unstained. I checked the pockets but there wasn't anything useful. At any rate Margrave put the coat on and buttoned it. That solved her wardrobe problem. I reverted back to my normal clothing. Fortunately the transition shed the bloodstains from my shoulders.
That's when I notice there's not much left of Diamon's (or the diamon's) remains. Most of the bits have melted into the pool which is rapidly vapourising. As it shrinks all that's left is an oily sheen on the streets and bits of fluff. I see a larger piece and pick it up. It appears to be a paw from a stuffed animal. Reminds me of the stuffed tiger toy Calcite gave Ti. That was something of an inside joke. A reference to the comic strip he stole their family name from. Wonder if we owe Bill Watterson royalties? I toss it away. Whatever's going on is none of our business. Best to keep it that way.
Margrave looks unsteady but is able to stand and walk without support. We head towards the station. "Well that was different." I have to agree with her. "Y'know Azure, we have got to get out of this crazy city." I can't argue with that either. I wonder if we'll ever agree this much again?
It wasn't quite over yet. When I arrived back at the house I was once again supporting a drunken Margrave. When we'd arrived at the station we'd found that due to our delay it would be about and hour until the next train. Margrave spotted one of those tiny bars crammed into an alleyway and insisted on a drink. From the way she was putting it away I guessed her recent brush with mortality had shaken her more than she was letting on.
After about half an hour she'd suddenly said, "I suppose you're expecting me to thank you." She sounded surly.
If she'd been anyone else I might have. Instead I just shook my head. "I never expect gratitude from a youma."
She nodded. "Good, then we understand one another."
Funny for a moment I almost thought she was saying she'd like to thank me but couldn't. Guess my own drinking was affecting me more than I thought.
On the trainride back she curled up on the seats beside me, put her head on my lap and dozed off. As our evening's truce was still in place I let her get away with it. Just this once.
So here I am half dragging her up the path. I'm not surprised to see the lights on inside. Calcite and Pyrite are waiting for us. No sign of Ti but tomorrow is a school day. I imagine she's getting some sleep.
"A memorable evening?"
"You have no idea." I pass Margrave over to Cal and hug Pyrite. Cal's looking concerned, he must have caught the blood scent. I sigh. "Neither of us started any trouble butwe had a few problems near the end. Now we need to get her cleaned up and checked out. So get her to the bathroom and I'll explain what went wrong.
The three of us get her stripped and washed off. During this she becomes partially awake and has a few obscene suggestions about what the four of us should be doing. Pyr bags the coat and her clothing for disposal. He'll destroy them in his lab. Putting oddly stained clothing in the garbage could attract attention. While we're doing this I explain about the mystery woman and the new Senshi. Or rather I tell them what happened. I still don't understand what it was all about.
When we're done Calcite carries her down to Pyr's lab. She seems bemused when Pyr starts studying her. At one point she murmurs, "you are kinda cute", and wraps her arms around his neck. But he slides free before I have time to break her grip more forcefully.
The results? Apart from excessive consumption of alcohol she's fine. No internal damage, everything where it should be. No sign of any mysterious crystal organs either. Pyr thinks it was probably her life energy, mind or soul (or some combination of the three, the distinctions are somewhat vague) magically cast into the image I saw and extracted. In short a more efficent version of the youma energy drain technique. From the extractor's reaction youma "heart crystals" are harder to handle than the human version. Or perhaps it was a reaction to the nature of the beast?
So that's the end of our evening out. Calcite puts Margrave to bed then turns in himself. Me and Pyr call it a night ourselves. I'm in a funny mood right now. Something's bothering me but I'm not sure what. Pyrite picks up on my uncertainty and asks if I just want to cuddle. It's a good idea and he doesn't push me for anything more. Why am I feeling so confused right now? Everything I heard and saw reinforced my opinion of Margrave. Still there's on denying this has been a trying night. I forget about that and relax in Pyrite's arms. I always feel secure here, which is strange because I'm the one with the power and the battle experience. I don't think "why" matters as much as how I feel. Just go with the feeling. I'm trying to decide if I want to make things a bit more physical when the world fades out on me.
It's near noon when Margrave emerges. I was up to greet Ti at breakfast. She was fascinated to here about my run in with the new Senshi. According to what she's read in the papers they're apparently called Neptune and Uranus. Though no one's sure which is which yet. I told her the two of us got along last night. She looked a bit disappointed. I think she was hoping to hear that we've put aside all our differences and will consider each like sisters.
As I said earlier, when hell freezes over.
Margrave groans and glares at me. "Must you look so disgustingly healthy." She winces as she says this and clutches her head. It's hardly my fault I was born with a healing factor. I'm not going to rub her nose in the fact I don't get hangovers. At least not too much.
After a few moments she says, "Don't you dare pity me!"
"Because of what I told you last night. I don't want your pity."
"Why would I pity you. So you had a rough life. Big deal, we all did." Except Ti, we shielded her from the worst of it. I'm proud of that.
"Rough?" Margrave's not letting this go. What did you have to worry about?"
I look her in the eye. "Being exposed as a Renegade and tortured to death. Maybe dragging the others down in the process."
She looks nonplused. "Yeah. Ok, I grant you that was something to worry about."
"Big of you."
"But the bottom line is I don't like you."
"Believe me it's mutual."
"This house just isn't big enough for both of us."
"I agree. Which is why Pyrite and I will be moving out once we find our own place."
I seem to have surprised her again. "Moving out?"
"That's right. We should have done it weeks ago." Pyrite was all for moving out after we got back from the BGC world. There was still a certain tension between him and Calcite concerning me. Also he knew my feelings about sharing a house with Margrave. But I insisted we stay. I didn't want to leave Margrave here as Titanite's only female role model. Letting her corrupt Ti was impossible for me. Why I've decided Ti will be ok without me to watch over her I'm not sure. Must have been her birthday, I realized she's a big girl now. She can choose her own path. Neither I nor Margrave can control her now.
That must be it. I certainly don't trust Margrave to act decently towards her. Why would I? I'll put the fear of me into Margrave before we depart. So she knows for sure that messing with Ti's mind will mean answering to me.
Margrave's recovered from her surprise. "Well I certainly won't be sorry to see you go."
"I know. I'll miss Ti and Cal but I don't give a damn if I never see you again. Anyway we'll be visiting regularly. Hopefully at times I can avoid you."
"Fine by me." She pauses for a moment. "I'm gonna crawl back into bed. Please keep planning to get out of here as soon as possible."
"Believe me I will."
She nods and slumps away. That was something of a relief. I had a vague feeling I was going to say I'd miss her. That would have been embarrassing. It's a turbulant world out there. Constantly changing, there's very few things you can rely on. Good to know our mutual antipathy is one of them.
Funny, she didn't call me Azzie. Oh well, I don't expect that to last. But I'll enjoy it for the moment.
Lyrics to "I'm Alive" by Jackson Browne are copyrighted 1993 by Elektra records.
This is intended to be the first of five sidestories spotlighting individual members of the group. Forthcoming will be
Remembrance Day - starring Calcite
My Secret Identity - starring Titanite
Triangles Have Sharp Edges - starring Pyrite
Cat's Eye - starring Margrave
Comments? Email Mark.Latus@MSVU.CA
August 29 1996
Revision completed Sept 20 '96