The Light That Failed Pt 17

From the Story Arc: A Fine And Private Place

Previous Story in the Arc: The Light That Failed Pt 16 by Agn Stratonik (Monday, October 10, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: The Light That Failed Pt 18 by Victoria Victrix (Monday, October 10, 2005)

(posted Monday, October 10, 2005)

It might have seemed very strange to those who were not gifted with Powers for two heroes to be flying back to Paragon City sitting in coach seats and staring at Mystery Meat "meals." But the plain (and plane) fact was that a jet traveled at 500 mph and upwards, and the fastest any hero could go--the fastest teleporters, in fact--was only a shade faster than 100.

So there they were, husband and wife, Kheldian and former angel, John Murdock and Serpahic Flame, dressed in jeans and t-shirts and jackets, wishing there was some way to link Hawaii to Paragon by Portal.

John was tapping his foot impatiently, bent forward in his seat. His brow was furrowed as he contemplated the situation. Their honeymoon had been cut short when Flame had "felt" something wrong with Bella; they shared an empathic connection similar to the one that she and John did. Within an hour they had left the bungalow and boarded a flight bound for Paragon. It was lucky that they had been able to catch the flight that they had; time was critical right now.

Flame leaned her head against his shoulder. It was lovely. We will always have those hours. And there will be more. She was referring to their abbreviated honeymoon; it had been wonderful, while it had lasted. Unfortunately, one of the things about being a hero is that things always happen at their most inopportune. John shifted uncomfortably in his seat, trying to position himself to better support Flame as she rested. Possibilities were soaring through his mind. Had Bella been kidnapped? Was she stranded somewhere? Hurt? While they knew that something was drastically wrong with Bella, they simply didn't know what.

Anchor, me, love. I can find out, but I need you to anchor me.

John nodded, slipping his hand into hers. He didn't even need to concentrate to connect with her; they were always in empathic contact nowadays. He eased his consciousness down, staying just above complete immersion so as to give Flame a point of reference.

She slipped into trance as easily as a seal slipping into the ocean. It might seem strange to choose a crowded airliner as a place to conduct such a seeking, but of all the places she could have chosen, this was, oddly enough, the one that was where they were least likely to be interrupted. They were surrounded by weary, happy travelers with nothing more complicated on their minds than doing the laundry when they got home. The flight attendants would see a pair of newlyweds leaning against each other and dozing and make little signals to each other to leave the lovers alone. It was as perfect a place as they were going to get.

She was a thing of fire and wings of fire in this place; he was a star of brilliant white light. She glided past him with a caress, and sent herself deeper. She knew the way, but he held the path, the path to the Heart of All Time. There she would find a link to Bella, she was sure. John remained on the periphery, acting as her Beacon for reality and the Heart.

It was a temptation, always, to stay. The Heart had been her home...but it was far, far less so now. Now that she had John, and he, her. In fact--without him, the Heart would not be heaven. Rather, it would be the opposite place. Exile.

She "looked" back along her path and saw him still shining there, near enough to touch and as far as the stars themselves; distance and time were substantially without meaning in the Heart. John poured assurance and love along their connection, supporting her as she ventured "further".

She stilled herself, becoming all listening, seeking the song that was her sister, her mortal "sibling," her apprentice, in a way. In the trillion, trillion, trillion souls that connected in and through the Heart, it took a keen ear to find one. But even diminished, with patience--

--lost, lost in the dark--

Bella's voice, but when had Bella ever said anything like--

--Zach....oh, Zach....

Flame seized on the words, on the voice and--

She, no, Bella, was flying. Flying inside some--place. Primeaval forests flashed by underneath...the view rose up to encounter towering spires, taller than most of the buildings in Paragon. They looked alien, but familiar...like some sort of gigantic ant colony. Poking through the tree canopy were collapsed buildings, assorted bits of urban wreckage strewn about them. The forest wound around the ruins, reclaiming them. The view shifted again, focusing on a massive object in the distance. It sat atop a barren hill...and was gargantuan. The other spires seemed tiny in comparison. A waterfall ran down one side of the central spire, cascading back into the forest. There was a feral, ancient beauty to this place.

Flame sent it all flying back through time and space to her other half, her better self. Love? What am I--are we--seeing?

Before John had "changed", he'd often helped the heroes of Paragon combat a single, indefatiguable threat. Every time they congregated, they'd have to traverse a wild, protean zone. A place that had been forcibly taken from man, wrenched back for Nature.

Eden. This is Eden, love. It used to be Woodvale, back before the Devouring Earth attacked. John hadn't been in Paragon when the Devouring Earth had launched the assault that had destroyed Woodvale; but he'd heard enough stories to be glad he wasn't there when it'd happened.

Bella joined seven more people at the edge of a--hole? Yes, a smooth-surfaced, enormous hole in the earth. Infurno, oh yes, Flame recognized her mentor. And Shyft and Moriaku and Black Light.

--found them, so glad, now I can say goodbye, I can help them one last time and say goodbye--

Full comprehension blasted Flame with the force of a jackhammer, throwing her out of Bella's mind and sending her fleeing back along the "path" she had taken to get here.

Bella---Bella was dying. And tragically, agonizingly, she knew it.

And now, so did Flame and John.