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Liberation Squad - 1

Liberation Squad: Tales from the Anti-O-Viral Research Division

Word Count: 1444
C/S: Canon
Main Characters: Six-Spirit, Beckitt, Nyra, Lana, Pollux
Rating: X

Beckitt was on all fours, whimpering as they bit into the pillow, ass in the air and marked red with Nyra's handprints. The curves of their body and writhing form had Nemera rising inside my chest, but I, as Ardell, kept a calm, unruffled face on, even if we were in Mid and couldn't physically shift into my form.

Nyra grinned at me, all teeth, while tossing some ginger locks behind a pale shoulder. "So what do you think? Shall we continue with the experiment? Or add more variables?"

I arched a brow. "Tell me again how this is integral to our research? Shouldn't we not be practicing with Beckitt because they have one of the lowest O-Virus counts in their blood stream?"

"Everyone's got O-Virus in their blood stream. House Underworld gave us this technique to practice before we give it to Keeper field agents or send us out into the field ourselves." Nyra shuddered. They hated doing field work. "So far, we know that the O-Virus is practically undetectable in Mid by Mid tech, but maybe these techniques can still have an effect, and what better way to start our research than with a willing squad member?"

I pursed my lips, my eyes trailing over Beckitt's form, feeling Perry want to shove me aside and use the time for play instead of work. Who was I kidding? I wanted to use the time for play instead of work. It seemed like I was always working, nowadays, that Anti-O-Viral Research had swallowed up all our six lives.

Beckitt turned their head slightly to look over their shoulder at me. Their dark eyes, with Nyra's copper-hazel ones, stared at me, waiting for an answer.

***

It hadn't always been this way.

I had remembered a time when missions were haphazard. When House Fate assigned me to random shit, and I/we, as Six-Spirit, bounced from one thing to the next with a carefree, bright-eyed glee. But things happened, life moved on. After Pollux's death, I was devastated. I took a leave of absence from Omphalos, and in that time almost all the Na'wal I had done missions with moved on, were assigned to other teams, other worlds. When I returned to Omphalos, I'd found Hansine had been assigned in far-flung worlds and had gotten married. Rani, also in a distant world, married, to Lenobios. Sometimes I got to see Evan and Jen in a few missions, but the main world they worked in was far from mine as well. Daun and I had had a falling out, and though we reconciled and were both part of the Anti-O-Viral Research Division (AOVRD), she was assigned to a primarily field work team. Erasmus and I kept in touch, though we were never assigned any missions together anymore.

And then there was Lana. I made a point of always seeing Lana. Her and I had done a few Muse-ings once in awhile, but our dynamic always seemed too intense that it compromised the mission, so House Muse pulled us off the same cases. I've been slowly working on getting her a transfer into AOVRD, maybe into my Liberation Squad, but Lana had her own shit to deal with and didn't necessarily have the time and commitment to something as consuming as my work.

At first, I did solo missions for the AOVRD. I hadn't been put on a squad yet, and I didn't expect I ever would with how fucked up I was over Pollux's death. But my O-Virus count started to drop and I was able to pick up Muse techniques to see past O-Virus illusions and drop other people's O-Virus counts too. With my research and a strange, combined blessing from Houses Underworld and Upperworld, I was able to sense and gauge O-Virus counts, which became valuable in more research and some field work.

Our squad began to form when I met Nyra. I specify "met" Nyra because they weren't assigned to me or I to them... at first. I had been doing an experiment in a lab at House Logos with a research team from House Psyche and I was the Mentor rep from House Muse. A few Novices who had high O-Virus counts and who had been flagged as a turning-Trespasser risk were given to me to use my Muse techniques on. The House Psyche squad was there to see if they could measure the effect it had on the Novices, and Nyra was one of the assistant recorders on the team. However, the Novices started to react strangely whenever both Nyra and I were in the room. When it was discovered that Nyra amplified my abilities, House Fate pulled them off the House Psyche team and we began forming our own Liberation Squad for the AOVRD.

Same went for Beckitt-- we met doing AOVRD research from different teams. Beckitt was highly blessed from House Upperworld and House Muse but was mostly doing field work with Daun's team when we met at an AOVRD support group to prevent burn out among field agents and researchers. The O-Virus had existed for millennia, a rot in the Tree of the Axis Mundi, that ate away at your spirits and threatened to collapse your body at any moment with its infection. Research had proven that support groups helped reduce O-Virus counts among Na'wal who were frequently in contact with it. Through the group, my House Fate blessing of creating Links activated around Beckitt and though we tried to ignore it, it continued to grow to the point where when we were eventually assigned a research mission together for House Muse the outcome had been so successful in reducing O-Virus counts for a large group in such a short amount of time that eventually they were assigned to our squad and found Nyra's Pysche abilities of enhancement also worked on Beckitt.

It would have been perfect except that, for some reason, I still kept taking solo missions. I couldn't just stay with my squad. Lana had remarked on it, a few times, had suggested --even bluntly-- that I was trying to prove something after Pollux's death. That I had gotten lost in the proving and forgotten what it was for, that I couldn`t tell if I was enough anymore. There was so much O-Virus in the world and maybe the work made me feel like I was worth something, after all. Maybe all the work made me forget the dreams I had given up, the feelings I had when I saw postcards with Rani and Lenobios, or Hansine and her husband, in worlds far from me, far from a future I had believed I would be a part of.

And to be honest, I was terrified of getting attached to my squad. I was terrified of getting attached to anyone again, and spending time with my work kept all that terror at bay.

So that's why I hesitated. I hesitated because this House Underworld technique was something that I had been working on for quite some time, had tested it out with Lana a few times too, but wasn't sure what it would mean with our squad, with the Link and Nyra's Pysche enhancement. The Muse techniques I had were tried and true, but to start going public with this Underworld technique? It was controversial and it could end badly. Worse, it could end badly with my squad, and I would lose them. Again.

***

I snapped back to the present with Nyra's hand on my face. I could feel a flow of power from their skin, flowing strong and unimpeded through our Link. I could feel my terror start to subside, my doubt melt away.

Even though they had done this before, used their Psyche blessings to reduce a flare of my O-Virus count, I always marveled at the effect every time. All the self-hatred, one of the many side effects of the O-Virus, annihilated, by a touch, by eye contact.

"Stay with us," Nyra said softly. "You know, this doesn't have to be work all the time. We can schedule an official experiment in a House Underworld chamber later. For now, we can just spend time together, as a team, as a squad. As friends and as lovers."

Beckitt grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the bed, snuggling into my back while Nyra wrapped their long pale limbs around me, their hands stroking Beckitt's shoulders. I closed my eyes and forced thoughts of O-Virus counts out of my mind, letting the warm hum of our Link surround us.

It was a good thing I did, because I needed it for the shitstorm that was to follow.

... to be continued...