The Neofates - Part Two

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is the middle portion of my fantasy story about abortion. the world of the Neofates exists between life and death, and the delicate creatures that live there must struggle to avoid the worst fate known... life on Earth.

Chapter Three

Things had gotten much worse at Geneda’s in the short time Amnio had been gone.  As the two of them approached, they noticed a great fountain of color underneath the building, crashing against its black sides like waves on rock.  Every few seconds, a flesh-colored needle dropped from the top of the building and got swallowed up by a droplet of color.  Amnio’s mind refused to grasp what was happening for a moment.  A memory from her Phenotype tried to make the scene harmless.  As a blue jay she had seen a smiling, laughing family feed bread crumbs to a crowd of ducks.  The children squeezed with their chubby little palms and drizzled the bread onto the birds playfully.  Surely that was what she was seeing now.  The things dropping had to be synthetic food.  The alternative was too ghastly.  But there was only one thing to feed in the void… and they were very picky eaters.

“No!” Aradox roared in a tone Amnio had never imagined could come out of such a gentle being.  The sound filled her with shame.  How dare her mind try and butter over this massacre with a warm memory?  If he faced it, then she had to as well.

The top of Geneda’s building had opened up into a sort of funnel with several diving boards hanging out at odd lengths and angles like storm-blown planks.  Drunken Neofates were taking turns walking out to the edge, giggling madly, shouting unintelligibly, and then willingly dropping into the swarm of Blooms.  Some dove straight down.  Others tried cannonballing or belly flopping to their demise.  There were no splashes or screams.  Their cries of adrenaline merely vanished in the instant they connected with a Bloom.

“Amnio!” Aradox called.  She spun to face him, tears streaming down her face once again.  She was surprised to see the sadness in his eyes spilling over as well.  It mixed with his anger and gave him an agonized expression that could put all the cries of the tormented that waft up from the gates of Hell to shame.  “I need you to take the lead,” he said.  “I’ll hold them off while you close it back up.”

She nodded in reply and swallowed hard.  That was a very tall order.  To close the entire top of the building in the space of a second without leaving any cracks or holes would take a tremendous amount of Focus.  There was no choice though.  It was one thing to fail, but an entirely different one to fail and see the immediate consequence of death speed at you like a hawk with wide, unblinking eyes.  If he believed in her, then she could do it.

Amnio flew to the front and flapped powerfully to gain speed.  Fear was just a shadow flickering in candlelight at the moment, for she knew Aradox would keep the Blooms away.

This was accomplished with a miniature version of his security system.  Aradox closed his eyes and created several pairs of crystals that followed alongside him.  Each crystal danced around its partner in a sort of excited orbit.  As they neared the swarm of Blooms and several started to break away and come straight for them, he fired the first pair.  The stones crackled against each other and finally exploded with the wave of light and sound that had saved Amnio earlier.  Every Bloom in range either flew away as fast as it could or sank dizzily back into the crowd.  Each time they regrouped Aradox released another pair and successfully cocooned them in vibrant fields of light.

The two of them angled up, flying vertically against the side of the building to reach the top.  A suicidal Neofate dropped by them at high speed.  Aradox built a net with his Focus and caught the confused creature.  The Fate squirmed in the bag like a fish moments before being thrown on the grill.  The net tied itself around Aradox’s ankle and followed them up.  The last few crystals exploded behind them now, keeping the Blooms at bay.

At last Amnio flew between two of the diving boards and got a close look at what the party had become.  The funnel shape of the open roof made it appear as if everyone were participating in some kind of gladiatorial game.  All the bodies were packed even tighter than before in the center, still dancing, thrashing, and shouting.  It was like someone had opened a drain in the middle of the room and everyone was scrambling over each other for a chance to drop into it.  Lastly she noticed a female Neofate, flushed with her soft-shelled turtle Phenotype, tiptoeing out to the edge of one of the boards.

Aradox is already inside, she thought.  I don’t even need to turn around.  I know he’s right behind me.  I just need to concentrate.

She swung in the air and delivered a spinning kick to the turtle Fate, knocking her away from the edge and back inside where she spun on her shell like a top.  This shape is closed, Amnio repeated to herself several times.  She landed on the floor and raised her hands in a great open gesture like she was closing a tome written by giants.  This shape is closed.  So says I.  This shape is closed.  So says I.  This shape is closed!  So says Amnio!

Amnio clapped her hands together with such a thunderous sound it shocked even her.  Aradox was not surprised though.  She was so very young but she had enough heart to pull trains through trackless wastes.  The clap silenced everyone.  They all watched as five points of the funnel stretched upward, wrapped around each other, and settled back down, sealing them all inside a bud shaped chamber with a very high ceiling.

Amnio gasped at her own strength.  Her heart was thrumming like it did in her last life, like a nervous little bird’s.  Aradox walked up next to her and put his hand on her shoulder.  He kicked his leg out, disintegrating the net and flinging the rescued Fate back into the crowd.  Silence hit the room for the first time all day.

“What’s wrong everybody?” a voice shouted.  Qynox used the hand-like feet of his Phenotype to hop across the heads of guests and then pulled a structure like a dead tree out of the ground so he had something to hang from.  “Who closed the window?” he asked.  “The fresh air was so divine.”  He smiled his ape’s smile and scratched at his thick wiry sideburns.

“Qynox I presume,” Aradox seethed.

“The one and only and finest and most fun, yes,” he replied.

“Why do you trick your own kin into death?” Aradox shouted.

“Death?  Not death!  Life!  Life in all its glory.  Life: where you have something to lose.  Life: where food and drink practically crawls to you.  Life: where there is sex full of consequences, enemies burning with rage, gardens of purple swollen jealousy between the best of friends.  Where you can laugh while you bleed!”  The crowd roared in approval, waving their hands, hooves, fins, claws, and wings in the air.  A few of them used their Focus to explode small fireworks out of their hands, which looked worryingly like incendiary Blooms.

“Qynox told us about your lies,” a member of the crowd said with his finger pointing at Aradox.  His speech was slurred, but it bothered no one as they all spoke the same language of inebriation.  “He set us straight,” the Fate said ironically as he teetered on his feet.  “We shouldn’t fight the Blooms.  They’re natural!  They can save us from this nothingness and take us back to real happiness.”

“Real happiness,” Aradox countered with such authority that it made some of the Fates recoil and slink to another layer of the crowd.  “Life is where everyone loses their mind.  It’s where beings get so caught up in their fears and their greed that they sacrifice progress for fleeting moments of carnal pleasure.”

“Carnal pleasures like meat!” Qynox said, stretching the last word into a sort of drum roll.  “Why is it Aradox that there is no meat in Antelife?  Everyone talked so highly of you I thought you must have mastered that by now.  I know you can make all kinds of plants but where’s the flesh?  Those of us with carnivorous Phenotypes are desperate for some fresh blood but you do nothing to help us.”

“Neofates do not need to eat,” Amnio said.  She tried to not think about the cravings she often had for fresh crunchy grasshopper.

“But we want to!” Qynox exclaimed.  “And that is the point!  We should get what we want!  Isn’t that right everybody?”  The crowd lit up again, like a puddle of fuel with a match flicked into it.  A random partier pulled a stringed instrument out of the air and started playing it.  Aradox reached out his hand and turned it to dust.

“You’re not winning any converts with behavior like that,” Qynox chastised.

“Have you all forgotten our goal?  If we protect ourselves… if we keep calm, collected, and rational, we can unite everything.  We can subvert the codes of the gods and end suffering.  This time of self-control is but a small sacrifice in the face of what we can achieve!”  Aradox pleaded.

“Sacrifices are for the damned!” Qynox bellowed.  He made the tree-like shape grow, spread, and twist so he could climb to an even higher branch and scream into the high ceiling, which obliged him with an echo.  “We are eternal!”

“Your energy is eternal but you are not,” Aradox corrected.  “The moment you merge with a Bloom everything from your opinions to your memories is erased.  How is that not death?”

Qynox puffed his cheeks out and rolled his eyes mockingly.  The crowd giggled.  Amnio reached out with her Focus and broke the branch Qynox hung from.  He merely cackled and hopped to another one before his old perch hit the ground and shattered like glass.

“Tell me wise Aradox,” he said, ignoring Amnio’s obvious rage.  “Why is it that only the death of higher animals creates Fates and Blooms?  Why do none of us have Phenotypes for bugs or jellyfish hmm?  Everyone here is a fish, amphibian, bird, reptile, or mammal.”

“I suspect it’s intelligence,” Aradox said slowly, unsure of where Qynox was trying to lead him.

“Half right, which I guess makes you half-wise… as if that’s good for anything,” Qynox sneered.  “The smarts are just the tool.  Fun is what creates us.  Fun is our eternal energy.  All those poor beetles just can’t have fun.”

“Even if that were true, what would be your point?”

“My point is that you can turn anything into fun if you try hard enough.  Pain can be fun.  Suffering is just joy soured and moldered by a bit of fear.  We just need to cut loose!  Have some drink!  Slay some beasts!  Lay some foolhardy females… and some males too for good measure!  I just want everyone to have as much fun as I’m having.”  Qynox smiled again, yellow fangs glimmering.

“The fun stops here.” Aradox declared and raised one hand.  There was a sound like compressed air hissing out of a tank, then a great disc of orange vapor, the same color as the fruit he had fed Amnio, expanded from his palm.  The gas descended into the crowd where everyone breathed it in.  The effects came swiftly.  Most of the guests hid their Phenotypes and quieted.  Amnio was relieved to see Geneda and Zygo still in the crowd.  The goblets and bowls melted into puddles and dried into a crust.  The fountain stopped flowing.

Once the orange mist faded away, Amnio could see realization creeping onto the sea of faces.  A female Neofate screamed, “Nompix?  Where is my Nompix?”

“Dead,” Aradox said callously, perhaps more callously than he should have.  The Fate broke down in tears and dropped to her knees.  The sight softened Aradox’s face and voice.  “I’m sorry everyone, but Qynox has taken advantage of you.  He urged you into the Blooms when you weren’t yourselves.  He poisoned you.”

The combined needles of Focus from every Fate turning their hatred towards Qynox instantly shattered his tree.  He landed on his back with a painful whoof sound.  He performed a quick backward somersault and was back on his feet.

“You just needed a little push,” Qynox said and took a few steps backward.  The group of Fates began to close in around him.  “Come now, have you already forgotten what fun it was?”

“I notice you didn’t take the plunge,” Amnio said.

“Well how can I?  I’ve lived countless lives little Amnio.  The Blooms don’t seem to like the smell of me anymore.  I reek of something that’s far too alive.  But you…  I have no problem lending a hand to all of you.”  Qynox turned and held out his palms like he was pushing an invisible cart.  His Focus blasted out the back wall with incredible force. Qynox hopped onto his hands and spun his feet in the air, sending out blasts of Focus that tore holes in the roof.  The chamber returned to chaos as the walls crumbled.  Blooms poured in.

They were waiting just outside the walls, Amnio realized.  We’re all dead.  Her dark thoughts began coming true as the Blooms swallowed up more guests.  Screams filled the air.  Many of them were instantly cut off, sealed away behind the glowing skin of their predators.  Amnio returned to her Phenotype and rose into the air to both escape and gain a better perspective.  Her first objective was to find Aradox, so she scanned the room for his distinctive manta ray wings.  Why doesn’t he use more crystals? She fretted.  Where’s the white light?  Where is he…

A red blur soared past her.  “Geneda!” Amnio cried.  The blur stopped and turned to face her.  Geneda was flushed with her cardinal Phenotype, brilliant, red, transparent feathers making her look like a mirage phoenix.  “Where’s Aradox?”

“I don’t know,” Geneda shouted back, flapping erratically to stay in the air.  “Zygo’s building a ship as we speak, come with us! We must leave!”

“Not without Aradox!” she yelled back, her beak adding an angry trill to the words.  Geneda flew off and down a black corridor, leaving her friend to face the threat.  Just as Amnio turned back, a Bloom struck her… and passed right through.  It was blue.  It would only accept male prey… regardless, for a moment her head had been inside the nasty thing.  Her eyes had been filled with the otherworldly blue of a half-life seeking completion.  The sensation was deeply disturbing.  She felt like all the tears stored inside her had turned into metal pellets, like tiny pieces of her had randomly petrified.  She plummeted out of the sky.  The floor of the chamber, cracked but still in one piece, rushed towards her.  Maybe I’ll just die before a Bloom catches me.  Maybe I’ll crack my head open.  What happens to me then?

Aradox caught her before she could find out.  He glided to the floor and slid across it with her wrapped in his blanket-like fins.

“My love,” she whispered in shock.  “The... crystals.  Use the crystals.”

“I can’t.  There’s too much of their energy left in this air from last time.  They won’t spark,” he explained.

“What do we do?”

“We leave.”

“So soon?” a third voice declared.  Qynox flew through the air and kicked Aradox with both feet.  Amnio slid out of his arms and to the floor as he tumbled backwards.  “The party’s just starting,” Qynox said.  Several Blooms surrounded the ape Neofate as if to consume him, but the blue spheres just passed through him like he wasn’t there.  Impossible, Amnio and Aradox thought simultaneously.

“How?” Aradox asked in awe.

“Beats me,” Qynox shrugged.  “I wish they would take me.  I’d like nothing more than to go back to Earth.  If I can’t go… I’m going to make Antelife as much like Earth as I can.  I’ll fill it with laughter, war, orgasms, vomit, booze, and weakness.  It’ll be a grand old time.  Like a Mesozoic frat party!  Like mating season in falling Rome!”

“We won’t let you!” Amnio screamed.  She would have screamed more if Qynox hadn’t hopped over to her and kicked the air out of her with a strike to her stomach.  She flapped madly, hitting her wing tips on the floor, to get far enough back to recover.  A pink Bloom nearly took her, but another unlucky Fate stumbled in front of her and was swallowed.

Aradox barreled at Qynox and swung at him with his fins.  Although a full force slap could send someone across the room, Aradox was tired.  His fins wavered like paper in the wind and bent as Qynox blocked each blow.  The ape Fate landed several punches with both hands and feet along Aradox’s jaw, neck, and chest.

“Your Phenotype isn’t much of a brawler,” Qynox jested.

“I’ll just have to use another one,” Aradox said with a smile.  For once, Qynox looked confused.  The ape’s opponent withdrew his manta ray Phenotype, crossed his arms in Focus, and sprouted a new one.  A mane of silky black hair emerged from his head and crawled down his spine.  Black and white stripes grew across his arms and legs.  His fists and toes hardened into hoof-like shapes.

“You’re cheating!” Qynox howled.  “No Fate has more than one Phenotype!”

“And no Fate is immune to Blooms,” Aradox said, his voice now thick and energetic like his new zebra form.  He rushed Qynox, feet clopping angrily.  Qynox tried to dodge but Aradox caught him with a shoulder tackle and pummeled him with newly hardened fists.  Things might have ended there but a blue Bloom dropped from above, eager to taste zebra.  Amnio pulled him back at the last moment, causing the Bloom to bounce off the floor harmlessly.

Qynox took the opportunity to run, on all fours like a chimp, to the edge of the open chamber.

“That’s a good trick,” he said.  “I’ll have to figure that one out.”

“You won’t be able to,” Aradox said definitively.  Qynox scowled, then scoffed, then threw himself into the void.  “Amnio,” Aradox said softly.  All of a sudden he looked very tired.  The zebra details faded away.  “Get us out of here.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice,” she said and grabbed his shoulders with her feet, careful to not let her talons dig into him.  She took off and flew as swiftly as she could, leaving the overrun building behind.  A few hastily made ships joined them, their passengers trying not to look back at their mistakes.

Chapter Four

The lovers dozed in their home, suspended ten feet from the floor in a cocoon of synthetic cloths.  One piece hung from the ceiling, holding them in place like a pendulum string.  Their sleep was plagued by fanged faces fading in and out of their dreams.

Amnio was the first to stir.  A few pieces of cloth unfurled like flower petals to free her head and torso.  She yawned and rubbed the residue of nightmares out of the corners of her eyes.  Then she leaned back down to listen to Aradox’s breathing and rub his chest.  He didn’t tell me about the zebra, she thought.  What else is he keeping from me? Could he and Qynox have something in common?  It struck her that her world was reaching a tipping point.  The support beams of reason were buckling under sudden traumatic miracles.  Blooms increasing in number and intelligence.  A Fate that is unpalatable to them… a Fate with two Phenotypes.  Maybe more.  Amnio gently pulled on one of Aradox’s ears to wake him.  He was clearly still drained from the battle with Qynox, but she had to know the truth.  For all she knew, his mind could be host to more than one soul, all of them taking turns as the one in charge.  The thought left her a little angry.

His eyes opened slowly.  The cloth cocoon swirled and shifted, moving both of them into sitting positions.  They held hands and swung their feet in tandem, causing their new seat to swing back and forth.

“So… where did the zebra come from?” she asked.

“The zebra is my Beta Phenotype.  Before I was a Neofate I was a ray. Before that, a Fate again.  Before that, a zebra.”

“How do you know this?”

“It took countless hours of meditation.  It seems that deep within us, locked in chains forged in other planes, memories survive.”

“Do you mean that we don’t actually die when Blooms take us?” Amnio asked excitedly.  That would mean no more fear.  No more hiding.  A little self-awareness could solve all of their problems.

“I’m afraid not,” Aradox said, shooting down her hopes.  “While the memories of Earth lives are stored… the phases of the cycle still destroy everything else.  I haven’t bonded with my last Fate self or with the zebra whose Phenotype I channel.  They are gone.  All that’s left of them is scraps.  And these pieces do not regenerate or contain the whole of the being.  They’re just… ashes.”

“So what were you before a zebra?  How far back does it go?”

“I don’t know.  I’ve only just begun my research into my Gamma Phenotype.  I believe it’s another mammal of some kind but that’s all I’ve got.”

“And Qynox?” Amnio asked.  “Why is he immune to Blooms?”

“I have no idea,” Aradox conceded. “Perhaps we should just take him at his word and assume he’s lived so many lives that his energy has gone stale.  What?”

Amnio was looking at him with wide eyes.  Their swinging feet were no longer synchronized.  The cloth swing shook in different directions and lost its back and forth pattern.

‘It’s just,” she said with her gaze now fixed squarely on her own knees, “I’ve never heard you so…”

“Clueless?” Aradox guessed.

“Yes.”

“When will you realize I’m not perfect Amnio?”

“I know you’re not, but you’re the closest thing the Fates have.  You’re Antelife’s greatest mind.”

“My mind is Focused, but not greater than any other Fate’s.  I actually suspect yours to be stronger.”

“What!?” Amnio gasped.  Her half of the cloth chair instantly unraveled and dropped her to the floor where she landed with a thud.  Swaths of red and blue fabric gently landed on her face and shoulders.  Aradox descended more gracefully, turning his half of the swing into a short cloak.  Amnio rose and made a ‘get your lazy butt off the floor’ gesture with her hands.  The cloths around her twitched, flew up, and made a rather messy looking outfit for her.  She might have made a joke, something along the lines of ‘What? This is what everyone’s wearing’, but she was still too perplexed.  “How could I be stronger?  I’m just…  I’m just a blue jay!”

“That may be part of it.  Your Phenotype had a shorter lifespan than my last two.  A faster metabolism there could mean you’ve inherited a quicker mind here, one with more invested in each second.”

“I can’t do half of the things you can,” she said.

“All you need is practice.  Do you remember our goal?”

“Yes.  Unite Antelife and Earth.  End the pain, the death, and the Blooms.  A utopia.  Not something one can just snap their fingers and do.  Especially with fingers like these.”  Amnio’s hand morphed into a wing and she held it up to Aradox.

“You’re going to be the one to do it,” he said slyly.

“All of a sudden I feel much heavier,” she said, raising a huge bubble-like cushion out of the ground to fall back on.  Aradox walked up to her leaning frame, stroked her cheek, and kissed her passionately.

“You’re going to do it, because I can’t,” he said when their lips parted.  Amnio’s eyes, scared by this free fall of responsibility, darted back and forth.

“Why can’t you?” she asked.

“Because I’m a male.”

“So?”

“As close as I’ve come to the edges of Antelife during my meditation… I cannot break the barrier between planes.  I can feel it.  Make it bend.  Argue with it… but I can’t convince or force it do anything.  The energy radiating from it though… the emotions… are undoubtedly female.”

“Are you saying there is a god?  And it’s a She?”

“No.  Possibly.  What I’m saying is that the force that controls both the creation and passage of life is female.  Only another female can bear the responsibility of changing it.  I suspect this is why female animals carry and birth the children.  They are somehow reflecting this force.  Only females can make these life choices.  And only a female can unite Earth and Antelife… like seed and egg.”

“I guess I better start practicing…” Amnio said softly.

“Don’t worry.  I’ll guide you as far as I can.”

“This will have to wait until we do something about Qynox though, right?” she asked.  Aradox cast his eyes down so minutely that only Amnio could’ve noticed.

“I’m afraid not.  Your training should take priority.  Qynox would love it if we wasted precious time chasing him down.  He seeks to manipulate all our emotions, broil us in fear and frustration until we give in to the Blooms.  We cannot let him distract us.”

“It’s not a distraction to save our friend’s lives,” Amnio argued.  She bounced back to her feet and popped the cushion behind her with an unintentionally loud bang.  “You heard what he said.  He’ll throw more of his parties.  Hypnotize our friends with poisons and convince them Antelife isn’t worth living.”

“It’s partly the responsibility of each Neofate to monitor their own condition.  We can’t police their decisions.”

“I’m not suggesting that, but we can’t just let him run wild.  Remember that he tricked me into drinking.  Was I a fool?”

“Well… no Amnio.  We didn’t know about any of this.”

“There will always be Fates who don’t know,” she asserted.  “Qynox will always be scheming.  There is no permanent safeguard.”

“You’re right,” Aradox conceded.

“So we’re going after him?” Amnio asked.

“No.  I’ve invited some Fates here today who are willing to take up the task.  They should be here shortly.  They will fend off Qynox while I train you.”

Amnio crossed her arms and walked away.  She had not suspected Aradox to suggest they hide like insects clinging to the undersides of leaves.  If they were so great, they should lead the fight.  She would be the judge of whether or not Aradox’s handpicked Fates were up to the task.

Chapter Five

Later that day, Amnio was putting some finishing touches on a new chamber.  The room had a series of hexagonal tiles as its floor, many of them higher and lower than the rest to create uneven terrain.  She had moved a few of Aradox’s synthetic saplings into the room, rooted them to the floor, and convinced them to grow to maturity.  Each of the three trees was now far too wide to wrap arms around and had icy-looking gray bark.  There was also synthetic grass about knee high coming out of the cracks between hexagons.  Every few seconds, a leaf silently fell to the floor.  Amnio twirled her finger in the air, building up a light breeze that would continuously circle around the room.

Her choice in decoration for the sparring room had two advantages.  Firstly, it provided many unique structures and vantage points from which to attack.  She knew Qynox was not one to play fair, so anyone fighting him had to be ready to deal with any obstacle he built.  Secondly, this forest-like environment gave her a sort of home field advantage; it calmed the birdsong in her heart.  Her Phenotype’s battle readiness would receive a boost if it felt comfortable in the arena.  There’s no way they can beat me here, she thought as she plowed a streambed into the ground and filled it with synthetic water.  One last trick up her sleeve, Amnio used her Focus to pull down a large number of leaves from one of the trees.  She sent the leaves flying around her and dyed them all a ghostly blue.  Then she opened up a small pocket in the ground and buried the leaves.

A few moments later, the black stone door to the forest chamber swung open.  Aradox entered first, with four other Neofates following behind.  Amnio sized them up as best she could.  One of them was a friend of Aradox’s she was already familiar with, named Theccary.  He was incredibly muscular for a Neofate and stood several inches taller than Aradox.  His expression was always somewhat humorless and miserable, as if he was born with thorns stuck in the soles of his feet.  She remembered that his Phenotype was a crested newt.

The rest of the group was unfamiliar.  They were all male and quite large like Theccary.  One had a head of long gray hair, which meant he was partially expressing what had to be a mammalian Phenotype.  Amnio rolled her eyes, though many Fate women would swoon at the sight of such luxurious hair.  The other two were bald and stockier than the gray-haired one.  One of them had a sort of lips-glued-shut facial expression that indicated he rarely spoke.  The last one, who had a series of grid-like scars across his chest, was talking Aradox’s ear off with some tale of exaggerated heroism.  Only females can save the world, but apparently we’re not good enough to fight, Amnio thought.  The men came to a stop as they reached Amnio and the center of the three trees.

“These are the Fates I told you about,” Aradox said.  “You remember Theccary.”  Theccary nodded towards her respectfully and she politely nodded back.  “This is Ignomadon,” he said and pointed at the silver-haired Fate, who then said he was delighted to meet her.  Aradox then introduced the silent Fate as ‘Gamazete’ and the talkative scarred one as ‘Socrome’.  “These are the Fates that will keep Qynox at bay.”

“The males you mean,” Amnio said.

“I’m sorry?”

“Nothing.  Can they fight?” She asked.

“Aradox told us you would insist on a test,” Ignomadon said.  “We’re ready for your worst.”

“Let’s start with bad, there will be plenty of time to get to worse,” she said and sprouted her Phenotype.  She launched herself into the canopy and vanished in the leaves.

“I guess she’s eager,” Aradox said with a chuckle.  “No sense in waiting.  The four of you against the two of us.  Go!”

Aradox hopped backward and flexed his shoulders outward, practically bursting into his zebra form.  Their four opponents were quick on the draw as well, morphing into their Phenotypes quickly.  Theccary’s skin grew mottled and slimy while a folding sail of skin emerged from his spine and webbing bound his fingers together.  He sprouted a long tail, whose tip was pointed at Ignomadon.  Silver and black hair spread down from Ignomadon’s shoulders to cover his torso.  His face stretched into a short snout full of teeth and his hands and feet grew long, thick curved claws that looked perfect for digging.  A badger.  His new whiskers twitched in the direction of Gamazete who was halfway into his dogfish form.  His body became more streamlined and gills appeared on his neck.  His eyes widened, flattened, and lost their lids.  In them the reflection of Socrome could be seen as he finished transforming into a gliding snake shape.  Green and black scales covered him and his torso lengthened and flattened, with a row of ridged scales sticking out on either side.  A new forked tongue flicked in and out of his mouth.  He immediately broke off from his trio of companions and climbed the nearest tree to take on Amnio.

The sparring chamber filled with noise as the competition began.  Their energy turned Amnio’s light breeze into a rushing wind that threatened to uproot the grass and lift the lighter brawlers off the ground.  Aradox charged at Ignomadon, hooves splashing through the stream bombastically.  Ignomadon responded by striking the floor with his claws, which sent sparks into the air.  He lifted the pile of broken stones he had just created and tossed them into Aradox’s face.  When Aradox held his arms in front of his face to block, Theccary whipped him with his tail and sent him flying into a tree trunk.

The trunk shook, threatening to make Amnio lose her grip on the branch.  She had planned to immediately dive bomb Socrome, but he had vanished into the trees like her.  Wanting nothing more than to fight, she scanned between the leaves for any sign of Gamazete, but he too seemed to have disappeared.  Maybe these guys are better than I thought, she silently admitted. 

Suddenly the branch she was on snapped and sent her plummeting.  Amnio spread her wings and regained her altitude.  Someone could have severed it with teeth, claws, or a burst of Focus.  She spun swiftly, trying to find one of the two missing Fates.  Gamazete revealed himself first by leaping from the foliage headfirst as if breaching the surface of the ocean, tooth-laden dogfish mouth open and ready to inflict a devastating bite.  Amnio barely dodged and watched as he disappeared into another tree.

There was no time to relax though, as Socrome was upon her.  He glided in from behind her, undulating his midsection to pick up the air currents.  He wrapped his arms and legs around her and sent them both hurtling down.  He’s going to run me into the ground, she thought.  Her mind raced to find a solution and settled on a good old fashioned peck to the wrist.  Socrome yelped in pain and pulled his arms away, freeing Amnio to spin around and peck him in the forehead with a cringe-inducing crack.  Socrome released his legs as well and Amnio again spread her wings, flying so close to the ground that the grass tickled her abdomen.  Socrome’s Phenotype did not have the benefit of powered flight, so he collided with ground.  A roll, executed almost correctly, saved him from some of the impact force and sent him spinning into the edge of the stream.

Aradox took advantage of the dazed Socrome by lifting him out of the water by his feet and tossing him at Theccary.  Ignomadon was recovering from a hoof to the jaw and about to rejoin the fray when Amnio grabbed his shoulders with the talons on her feet, flew him into the air, and dropped him back to the ground to soften him up.  As he got back to his feet she descended and withdrew her wings, using her Focus to create a pair of synthetic leather and metal cestuses that wrapped around her arms.  She used them to pummel the stunned badger with punches to the chest.

Gamazete reappeared from the trees and tried to bite her left shoulder but Amnio grew enough feathers to flap backward and out of the way.  Then she worked herself into an excellent combat pattern: punch Ignomadon in the side twice to keep him stunned, backhand Gamazete’s weak neck to push his jaws out of the way, kick him down, use her half-grown wings to pull out of the way of any attacks that managed to come through, and repeat.

It worked three or four times until Gamazete caught her ankle in his jaws.  She could feel his teeth puncture her skin and a little life escape her.  She wondered what a full force bite, one where he wasn’t holding back, would feel like.  She would probably lose the leg.  There was no time to concoct an escape plan, because Theccary pushed her into the stream and then knocked Aradox down next to her.  They sat there, sunken in both synthetic water and feelings of defeat.

“I’m convinced,” Aradox said as he dropped his Phenotype.  Amnio dropped hers as well.  Their four opponents regrouped, returned to their Neofate forms, and helped their new friends out of the water.  Ignomadon pulled Amnio up by the forearm and patted her on the shoulder.

“You fight very well,” he said.  “I don’t know if I’ve ever felt a punch as strong as that from anyone other than Theccary.”

“Thank you,” she said.  She looked over at Socrome, who appeared a little downtrodden by his lack of success in the match.  I could definitely take him one on one, she thought.  And maybe Theccary too since he’s so slow.  Ignomadon and Gamazete though… they look tough.

“Your verdict?” Theccary asked Amnio.

“You might be able to handle it,” she admitted.  “As long as you don’t get cocky.  Qynox will take any opportunity you present him, no matter how underhanded.  And he’ll laugh all the while.”

‘We won’t give him any then,” Socrome said.

“If you were fighting him now you’d all be dead,” Amnio said.

“What do you mean?” Ignomadon asked.

“Turn around,” she said.  The four Fates turned their heads to see what hovered behind them: a blue Bloom.  They recoiled as fast as they could but it was too late.  The Bloom rushed forward and hit Gamazete in the chest.  They all gasped in horror.  Nothing happened.  The Bloom broke up on contact, revealing itself to be the bundle of leaves Amnio had dyed blue and hidden away minutes ago.  “You’re dead,” she said to Gamazete, who was brushing withering blue leaves off his shoulders.

“Point taken,” he said.  The two teams bowed to each other and prepared for their tasks.  Theccary and his three companions would wage war on the physical plane while Amnio and Aradox explored the deep turbulent waters of space and time.

--This story concludes in part three.--


Submitted: November 30, 2014

© Copyright 2020 Blaine Arcade. All rights reserved.

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