Joanna's Tale, Pt 2

From the Story Arc: The Essence of Life

Previous Story in the Arc: Joanna's Tale by Krasnaya Zvezda (Sunday, March 21, 2010)

Next Story in the Arc: Playback by Krasnaya Zvezda (Sunday, March 21, 2010)

(posted Sunday, March 21, 2010)

Sister Joanna looked down at the tabletop and ran the events of earlier today back through her mind, taking the time to frame her thoughts. Finally, she raised her head looked at Red Star.

“Today,” Sister Joanna began, “I was assisting a small group of 'Found' who are attempting to reintegrate themselves back into society.” She sighed, “It is a difficult journey for them; most are still mutated, showing signs of the affliction they have undergone and so they are shunned in most places they attempt to live. I've managed to secure a place for them to stay, a broken down apartment building in the worst part of the Row.”

She shifted uncomfortably, “Anyway, I was visiting them today when they - I - heard a sound coming from the alley outside. There was a scream, a girl’s voice, which was cut off abruptly. There are a fair few members of the Circle in this area who have lately been harvesting the souls of innocents and, making all haste, I set off to save their latest victim. But I was too late. The only living being in the alley was Jokers Ace; it seemed he was in the neighbourhood as well and he offered to help looked for the Circle, saying he’d seen them run off as he approached.” Joanna paused, “It was then that I noticed something strange; the Circle usually requires a significant amount of equipment for their rituals and there was none of that that I could see. The body lay partially hidden towards the end of the alley and as I attempted to get closer, Jokers Ace became adamant that we start searching for the Circle immediately as they could be escaping and began to usher me out of the alley.”

Joanna shifted again. “Maybe I should have realized something was wrong, maybe I could have--” she shook head, “Either way, I shrugged him off and walked down the alley, he reluctantly followed me. The scream had belonged to a young female; she couldn’t have been more than 14 years old. She was a pretty young girl, with long brown hair that had been tied back with a pink bow, but she’d just been discarded; dumped amongst all the debris in the alley, like she was just some more garbage, used up then thrown away.” Joanna sighed, “It was easy to understand why Ace didn’t want to go back and see her; it was a heartbreaking sight. But anyway, just as I was about to examine the body, Ace spotted the Circle on the rooftop above us; they had found another victim.”

“We both changed forms and flew up to meet them. Ace charged ahead - as is his way - and threw himself into them, scattering them wherever he attacked. The Circle tried to run but that took them closer to the edge of the roof and whenever Ace tried to stop them, they were knocked off the roof and fell to their deaths below. I was more concerned with the girl and immediately went to comfort her. Alice was her name and she was another young one - maybe 12 years old. She was very shook up, as you would expect; alternately crying for her mother and her friend, Sarah. It seemed she had been playing outside with Sarah, when her friend disappeared. She’d gone to look for her and was turning the corner into the alley when she’d been taken by the Circle. Ace had dispatched the Circle and, having comforted her somewhat, I told Ace that I’d return the Alice to her parents and we parted our separate ways, with him teleporting away.”

“Alice stiffened slightly as he left but I didn’t think anything of it at the time, it was only later that I remembered it and put any significance to it.” Joanna sighed again, “At any event, Alice was returned safely into the arms of her mother and as they hugged I noticed the mark that had been placed on the side of her neck, the mark the Circle use as a focus for the effects of their incantations. I couldn’t remember seeing any on Sarah, and the marks do not disappear that quickly, so I headed back to the alley to check. The first KRPD unit had arrived and was sealing off the alley but they were happy to let me look at the body again. Now that I’d had more time to do so, I could see something wasn’t right, there were no marks on her at all; it was like she’d just died with no visible cause of death.”

Joanna looked at Star, “There was something that I could tell though; she had been touched by a Nictus. Nepthis could feel the residual traces of Nictus energy on her and, well,” Joanna glanced quickly at Shadowstar then looked directly at Red Star, “this combined with information Alice later gave us confirms it; Jokers Ace must have killed her.”


---


Red Star stared back at Joanna then shot a quick look at Shadowstar, surely they couldn’t be serious. Jokers Ace was a young fool but for him to kill someone...

“I’m afraid this is all true, Red Star.” confirmed Shadowstar, “Alice later told us that Sarah and her had been playing in the street when Sarah disappeared in a ‘black flash’ and Alice heard her scream from the alleyway. When she went to look, just before the Circle took her, she saw Sarah lying on the ground, covered by a ‘black cloud’. The description is slightly inaccurate but it is close enough. Given the girl screamed only once and that Joanna saw no one leave the alley, it had to be Jokers Ace.”

Shadowstar looked grim, “It would seem that the ranks of the Warshade have been infiltrated by the Nictus.”