Disclaimer: This novel contains adult material including sexually explicit activities, strong language, extreme violence, mass murder, child murder, suicidal themes, derogatory language, and more. This work is not suitable for minors. Reader discretion is advised.
Psycho Bullet Festival 2222
Bout 05: Enter Terra Flare
Date: February 22, 2222
Time: 07:17 UTC – 09:17 LT
Coordinates: 15°N 32°E (Sudan, Afrika)
The concept of wealth, or money, is something that ruled and dictated the world up until the Cataclysm. Then the legal tender issued by dead governments ceased to matter, and all that mattered were food, water, and essentials. But nobody had a plentiful supply of any of these things. When Abigale awakened, she brought forth a new system, but it was a temporary and shifting one, changing as more and more of the world reconnected. All until the very concept of goods, of things having inherent value… ceased to matter. Because if you can turn anything into anything, then the value of a sandwich, a clump of dirt, and a piece of gold, are all the same.
‘Value’ ceased to mean anything, and people could create anything they wanted so long as they had matter. This is the way the world has been for 140 years, and for the students before me, it was as ordinary as the Machi by their sides. To suggest anything else, to place differing values on things for what they were, was a concept that many struggled with at a young age, and fascinated some well into adulthood, such as the 12 humans before me. They sat scattered in four groups, each accompanied by their Machi, as they engaged in colorful discussions, trying to make sense and explain this concept at a higher level with the aid of their peers.
They were clearly enjoying themselves, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I let them teach themselves all class, so I called for their discussions to end.
“Alright class, wrap up your current conversations. Group 1, present your answer when you’re ready.”
The class simmered down as they took in my words, the noise quickly devolving into a hushed murmur. Once things were sufficiently quiet, I glanced at the screen behind me and read the first question aloud.
“Group 1, your question was: ‘What reasons would a billionaire have to keep their vast wealth for themselves, instead of sharing it with those who would benefit from it the most?’”
I then turned my head over to the group in question. The six members there looked at each other for a moment before Gaia Gonzalez, a young woman with a lighter complexion and auburn hair, stood up to answer.
“That’s a rather loaded question, and there are any number of reasons why a wealthy person would choose to hoard their wealth rather than share it. A culture of content for those beneath them. A belief that they are some greater class who worked hard enough to deserve their millions or billions. A selfishness that could only be satiated through lavish possessions and was not satisfied by donating and sharing their wealth. And of course, a desire to accumulate greater and greater wealth through investments that promised a high rate of return. In the eyes of a wealthy person, giving millions to the needy would not just be the loss of millions. It would be a loss of millions plus interest.”
“Ah, very good observations, Gaia, but I’m afraid we don’t have time for a full verbal essay today.”
“It’s okay. I’ll just save it for my reflection,” Gaia replied with a small laugh.
“Splendid. Now, group 2, your question was: ‘What prevented the governments of the world from taking money from the wealthy and distributing it to those who needed it?’”
As I turned to face group two, one student immediately rose after I finished my question. It was Cal Jones, an extroverted young student with a tan complexion and somewhat unkempt curly brown hair.
“There are a lot of reasons why, but the basic answer is because the wealthy did not want that, and they prevented this idea from getting traction. They funded lobbyists and owned the media, so they were able to not only shift the perception of reasonable discourse at a governmental level, but at a greater societal level. They could repress stories they disagreed with or push for articles that encouraged others to think the way they thought, regardless of whether or not it would be to the benefit of the reader. The wealthy made these sensible ideas seem outlandish, and governments, because of lobbyist meddling, could not agree about something as beneficial as universal basic income.”
“Indeed, and I’m looking forward to your other reasons why… just try to keep it under 5 pages this time, Cal.”
“Yeah, yeah. ‘Passion is wonderful, but brevity is a sign of wit.’ I’ll try to do better this time.”
“That’s what I like to hear. Next up, we have group 3, answering ‘Would it have been possible for humanity to enter a non-monetary era without an event like the Cataclysm?’”
Before I could fully finish reciting my question, one Patti Matton rose from her seat and stood tall and proud, with her arms crossed over her chest. She was a woman with naturally blonde hair and a dark complexion, who had a habit of using her outside voice while indoors, because people like that are ubiquitous across all eras.
“Short answer? No GOLDARN way! We know very well how much the capitalist world of yore was all about keeping things growing in the same direction, and hissed at anything that aimed to change the way things worked. Even if somebody made a Real Booter back in… 2005 or whatever, the megacorps would have been on that like buncha dogs, because it would totally bonk up their supply chains. In their eyes, innovations like Real Booters were a threat that would murder the everloving crapaloney outta many— hell, prolly just MOST— industries around the world. And no Real Booters means no non-monetary era. Because then you would still have money in the form of stuff, and stuff is even worse than money because you need to trade, exchange, and re-trade it in order to get what you want.”
“Animated as always, but also accurate. Now, group 4, I asked you the hypothetical question of ‘If you were born into wealth 250 years ago, would you use it to better the lives of others, or would you use it to better yourself?’”
The group looked at each other in confusion for a moment, before one let out a sigh and stood up on their behalf. It was none other than Cyh Anide, a 30-something-year-old student with an uncommonly pale complexion and a habit of shaving their head.
“Well, if I was born into wealth, then my values would have changed as I grew up, and I would have grown accustomed to the wealthy lifestyle. I would have no real understanding of the poor and, depending on how they were presented to me, I might either view them with contempt or pity them and wish to help. I would like to say that I would be charitable and ‘one of the good ones,’ but even if the core of my personality remained the same, I do not think I would be that generous. The fear of losing my wealth and not preserving it for future generations would be too great for me to risk helping people without an expectation of getting something in return.”
“Heh. I always appreciate it when people give answers like that… and with two minutes left until class ends, I’ll let you all leave early. Remember, your reflections are due before class on Tuesday. Make them at least 1 page, but no more than 5.”
As I made my announcement, the students began packing up their things and filtering out the room. I did the same, stuffing my tablet and other supplies into my satchel, only for a student to come up to me as I began walking away from my desk. It was Vita Velasquez, a timid young woman with a dark complexion and coiled black hair.
“Excuse me, Terra, but could I ask you a personal question?” The young woman asked, her voice as loud as a murmur.
“Of course. You kids know I’m an open book when it comes to whatever.”
“Well, in that case, can I ask how your family, the Flare family, amassed so much wealth before the Cataclysm? Because considering the institutionalized racism that was prevalent back then, it was exceedingly rare for someone of your heritage to come from wealth.”
“Eh, in North America, definitely. But my family made their fortune back in Asia during the 20th century, and it was not an effort by any one group. A collection of four wealthy families from all over the continent came together to amass their wealth under one family, which adopted the surname of Flare. These four families were unified with the marriage of my parents, who then moved to California in order to take hold of the American market. When there, they gave birth to my sister and I. Neither of us wanted any material thing, and we never thought too much about the origin of our wealth. Because, to us, it was normal.”
“I see, but why would anybody wish to do that? To further consolidate the wealth amongst many families into one? If they have wealth and could simply live comfortably off of annuities, then why pursue something greater?”
“To amass more power and fuel their ambitions. They wanted more. So they did all they could to get more and more. Even if they cannot use it in their life, they can pass it down to the next generation, and the next, and the next.”
“…If humanity lost Real Booters, do you think that cycle would continue?”
“Absolutely. One of the truest things I’ve heard in my almost 250 years is that ‘times change, people don’t.’ Humans are not altruistic. They are greedy, self-centered, and petty. We have fashioned modern society in a way to minimize these traits, but it remains true in the core of every human.”
“That’s… a lot to take in.”
“It is. And I would like to see you mule over a concept like this in your reflection. Or maybe you can try to lead a discussion on Tuesday.”
“Oh? Well, I guess I could, but I’ve never been too good at those sorts of group activities.”
Vita’s eyes dropped to the floor as she spoke, and while I knew that I could simply talk to her and ask her about whatever was bugging her, I could tell she was the sort of person who struggled to express her innermost desires and uncertainties. I knew it was invading her privacy, but I felt the need to peer into her. To view her beyond her physical self and look into something beyond. Into her aura.
Something that I became very much aware of during my travels across the world during the 21st century is how I… perceived other people. As I look at someone, I can see them, but I can also see something beyond the physical form. I have taken to calling it an aura, as just by looking at it, I can tell their emotional state. I can see the source of their joy, sorrow, or anger. I can only see it by focusing and by shutting my eyes, but I can see it. And as I ‘looked’ at Vita, I could see her pale aura flickering, representing her unrest. Representing the baggage she had been carrying with her for the near entirety of her short life.
Vita was born with a male body and, from an early age, this did not set well with her. She never truly felt like a boy, and this was clear to those around her as she was coming into her own as a person. Her Machi and fathers helped her come to terms with her feelings, Vita adopted her current name, and she started presenting herself as female shortly thereafter. She was met with euphoria as she made this transition, but she felt the divide between her and others grow as puberty began. While artificial hormones influenced her development, she could tell that there were differences between herself and other girls.
Nobody ever brought up these differences to her, but as she developed intimate relationships with other girls her age and saw glimpses of their bodies in changing rooms, she began feeling inadequate by comparison. At age 18, she sought to address these discrepancies by undergoing genetic therapy shortly after graduating from twelfth grade. The process suppressed her parental Y chromosome and replaced it with an inactivated X chromosome, and as she recovered from the procedure, she struggled to grasp all the differences.
Her face, her frame, and even the texture of her fingers, they all changed. She was still identifiable as who she was before, but her sensory homunculus struggled to adapt to her new self. She was happy with her new body, and knew she was a beautiful young woman, but her adolescent years and body image issues left mental wounds. I could tell that Vita was healing, but was still in the midst of finding out who she was as a person. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I opened my eyes after spending a few seconds taking in her story, and opened them to see Vita’s face, wrapped in a confused expression.
“If you wish to be a social wallflower, or are content with being an introvert, that is yours to choose. But if you’re not sure about something, the only way you’ll find an answer is if you try it for yourself.”
Vita then offered me a small smile and thank you before leaving with her Machi in tow. Upon looking at the clock reading 07:32, I decided to do the same.
As I made my way out of the classroom, I was joined by my Machi, Nicole. She was… let’s just say, a bit unique in the world of Machi. Most people wanted their Machi to look humanoid, to have things like skin or hair. But me? I knew they were ultimately robots, and that’s what I made Nicole look like. Her body had harsh edges and corners. Her skin was colored turquoise with white accents. Her eyes were more akin to singular light bulbs that dimmed or changed colors— a far cry from the complex array of lights and cameras found in most Machi’s eyes. Her voice even had a synthesized twang applied to it. And if you ever picked her up, she felt more like a giant plastic toy than anything made of metal or artificial muscles.
This all earned her a certain reputation around campus, and part of that was how she always walked besides me. Nicole stood at a respectable 160 centimeters, but I towered over her, being a solid foot taller.
Anyway, I bring this up because as I left the room, Nicole spoke to me in a concerned tone.
“Terra! You have an urgent message!”
“Care to define urgent, my robuddy?”
“It’s Abigale. She wants to meet you at the university laboratory.”
I paused in my tracks, no more than 20 steps out of the classroom, when I lifted Nicole by her armpits and looked in her purple hued eyes.
“…Nicole, that is beyond the highest priority. That is a GOD-TIER message worth interrupting ANYTHING, let alone a college class.”
“Look chief, I just do what you ask. If you want an exception, ya gotta tell me. Or give me more agency.”
“Ugh! Fine, I’ll be less of an old fart and give you a standard installation next time, but now we’ve gotta hightail it to the lab. Grab on my back like your future depends on it and send a preemptive apology to the principal, because I’ve gotta run.”
Nicole then jumped onto my back, where she wrapped her limbs around my chest, joining her arms and legs together in order to become a ‘robot backpack.’ As I heard her limbs click together, I started my mad dash, dodging students as I ran at 30 kilometers per hour before reaching the door out of the south building, where I was met with the open air campus of Sky Trigger University.
Of all the places to be ecologically remixed after the Cataclysm, Afrika had been hit the hardest. It turned a mostly desert nation like Sudan into a lush forest with more in common with the American northwest than it does with whatever it was beforehand. I wasn’t complaining though, as the entire town around Sky Trigger was gorgeous to look at, and the STU campus was no slouch either. The area between its buildings was filled with wide walkways and plentiful nature, with trees planted every few meters, inviting students to nestle under them as a source of shade as they worked, read, or just chatted with their friends. It was always a pleasant place to walk through, especially during the fall, and even now, at the tail end of winter, it had a discernible beauty to it.
…But I really did not give a crap about how pretty the leafless trees were or how refreshing the air was. I had places to be and the literal most important person in history to see. I left a palpable gust as I zoomed past the crowds, nearly knocking some people over with the 50 kmph I reached at my apex, before finally slamming through the front doors of the Sky Trigger University Laboratory.
“Hello! Earth to Terra!” Nicole yelled while removing herself from my back. “Your partner has been trying to tell you something, but you kept overreacting in a manner most unbefitting for a 235-year-old!”
“For the 235th time, that number is bullshit because I’m a kitbashed lifeform, and means nothing because I’m immortal!”
“Abigale is not going to be here for at least 20 minutes! In the meantime, grab a lab coat and head to the genetics lab. A team has already gotten things ready for a DNA test. They also got the message, and you did not need to rush to the lab like a child!”
“Well, maybe if somebody prefaced the message better, then I could have listened to them. You had ample opportunities to tell me to wait.”
“You started running, I told you to stop, said that you did not need to be there ASAP, but did you listen to me? Nooooo.”
In case it wasn’t obvious by now, I freaking loved Nicole.
The two of us continued our couple’s quarrel as we made our way to the genetics lab, grabbed some fresh lab coats, and finally met up with 7 of my colleagues as they were taking out instruments needed for the DNA Test. Well, we just called it a DNA test as a short-hand. Typical human or animal DNA tests of yore were now so simple that they could be performed by any fully equipped Machi. Oh no, this DNA test was for something ‘non-traditional.’ I had grown rather adept in this field over the years, as I have, on and off, taken to examining my own cockamamie nonsense slurry DNA.
In short, I was a hybrid between Abigale Quinlan and a regular human. When Fiona fused with me 200 years ago, she mingled our DNA together in a way nobody was able to replicate. So I remain a mystery, a living enigma, to scientists around the world. Even Abigale was baffled by my continued existence. Over the years, I tried to make sense of myself, but the answers were always inconclusive. I gradually got used to this, however, as I did not really need to understand how I worked or why I survived my battle with Abigale in 2022. I just needed to keep on living. …Though, this raised a rather obvious question.
“Say, why are we preparing a DNA test in the first place?” I asked the team around me.
“Didn’t you hear?” A young lab member questioned. “Abigale has discovered another hybrid. …Seriously, how were you of all people not the first to know about this when the news broke?”
“Because nothing happens anymore?” I said. “We’re in a utopia, so what would I need to keep up to date with?”
“What Terra really means is that she prohibited me from notifying her of even the most urgent news,” Nicole said, her sass reverberating through her synthesized voice.
“We can change your settings later, Nicole! Just bear with me…”
With the aid of my lab members, and Nicole, we gathered everything we needed to greet Abigale the moment she came in with this curious individual. As the clock struck 08:00, the door to the lab swung open, revealing Abigale, clad in her usual black suit, along with who looked to be a young woman with a brown complexion, intense blue eyes, and wearing a white suit with a cobalt shirt underneath. She looked around her surroundings with a timid glare as she followed Abigale into this lab, and her eyes soon lingered one me. I took this as an opportunity to greet this pair.
“Hey Abigale! How long’s it been, 20 years?” I said, addressing her as casually as I could get away with.
“Hello Terra,” Abigale replied, her voice as proper as ever. “I trust you know what brings me here today.”
“You want us to look at the DNA of your little buddy, is that right?”
“Y-Yes, that’s right,” the woman with blue eyes said as she walked towards me.
As we drew closer, I could not help but look at her as if something was… off about her. She, much like myself, bore a striking resemblance to Abigale Quinlan. But whereas I was distinguished by my black freckles, ‘natural’ platinum blonde hair, and thicker body type, her complexion was ever so lighter, her saturated blue eyes were almost the opposite of Abigale’s desaturated red, and she looked… younger?
If you were to compare her to a human, Abigale was in her early 20s, which is the best place for someone to stop aging, but this person before me… she looked more like a teenage Abigale with contacts and a different hairstyle. Which was just… weird! Abigale has been a visual constant since the 2080s, not changing her appearance at all! So any remix of this look had a certain… uncanny quality.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” I said to the uncanny maiden before me. “My name is Terra Flare. I am a professor and researcher here at Sky Trigger University, and premiere expert in all things Abigale Quinlan.. So tell me, what is your name, miss?”
“Oh, my name is Raiyne Underwood. I woke up in Korea— but you people don’t call it Korea any more— and Abigale flew me all the way here. Sorry, I think I’m a bit flustered by… everything.”
“Her first flight started less than two hours ago and she spent it going at 5,000 kmph,” Abigale explained. “We are also currently operating under the assumption that she is from another world.”
“‘Another world?’” I repeated. “Did she die and get reincarnated? Or did she fall through a portal and wind up here?”
“Um… both, pretty much?” Raiyne replied, her voice uncertain yet sincere.
“That was a joke… you seriously did both of the isekai things at once?”
“Terra did not read the briefing before you came,” my dearest Nicole said, butting in like she always does.
“And you are Terra’s Moch… Machi, is that right?” Raiyne asked.
“For better or for worse,” Nicole replied, snippy as ever. ”For someone who claims to be from 2003, you seem to be adapting quite well.”
“I suppose… To be truthful, I feel as if I am in a subdued state of shock and panic over losing everything and having maybe been reincarnated but… You people need my blood, right?”
“We could use other bits of your body, but blood’s the easiest,” I explained. “C’mere, I’ll draw your blood and get your test started pronto.”
Raiyne sheepishly followed me while Abigale went over to the other lab staff to discuss things. I listened in, because I can do that, and picked up on stray details about what was going on while I sat Raiyne down and got out the needle, alcohol, and tube I needed. It had admittedly been a solid 10 years since I last did this, but I could still remember the experience like it was just a few hours ago. You just disinfect the spot, aim for the vein, take the blood, suppress the bleeding, bandage it, and empty the blood into a tube. Raiyne was a bit squeamish during the process, and got tense as I gave her a li’l stabby stab, but I really wasn’t surprised. Needles still had a bad stigma back in 2003.
“So, Abigale told me about you during the plane ride,” Raiyne said as I wrote her name on the tube.
“Uh-huh, and how much dirt did she talk about me?”
“None… at least I don’t think so. She told me your life’s story, the trauma you underwent as a teenager, how you helped cause the Cataclysm, and how you spent decades trying to make amends with the world before finally learning to love yourself.”
“…Are you sure that she didn’t throw in some spicy details?” I asked as I loaded the tube into a machine for analysis. “Because trust me, there have been MILLIONS of papers and student essays written about how problematic I am. If you think of me in a positive light after just knowing I exist… then you were probably given the sugar-coated version, sweetheart.”
“Well, even if details were omitted, I do not think you are a bad person.”
“Heh. Well, thanks for the compliment, Raiyne. It’s not often I get to meet people who haven’t known of me for years and years.”
“Yes, I suppose someone like you would have a place in most general history textbooks. Though I was surprised to hear that this lab was in Sudan… former Sudan. My apologies, it’s hard to grasp this concept of a nationless planet.”
As Raiyne and I continued to talk, results started loading in on the interface next to the machine. The data was coming in fast and hot, but I was good enough at multitasking to keep chatting with Li’l Miss Isekai.
“Pfft! Raiyne, I’ve seen generations of people flub up like that, so no apologies are needed. And for someone like you, there is a lot to take in. Hell, I’m guessing you get weird vibes just looking at people walking down the street.”
“Yes, the people of this world were scattered and spread globally after the Cataclysm. This dislocation and the limited population inspired many people to marry and start families with people of differing ethnic backgrounds. As this trend normalized and the world rebuilt, the overwhelming majority of the human population became multiracial.”
“…Either you have a great memory, or Abigale’s Enhanced Intellect carried over to you.”
“Oh! Abigale mentioned that during our time at the café earlier. I am unsure if adequate evidence has been presented, however. Perhaps studying for a standardized test would be the best way… Heh. Maybe I could try my hand at an entrance exam for this university when everything’s said and done.”
“D’aw, you sweet summer’s child! We don’t have entrance exams anymore. If you wish to study, you just need to apply.”
“Really? I… yes, yes. My apologies, Terra. It’s simply difficult to adapt to the new way of things here. I’m used to correlating college and expensive, but nothing is truly expensive in a world with non-limited resources, now is it?”
“Education is free, working is optional, and you can do whatever you want. Except for murder, rape, assault, you know, the bad stuff.”
As I finished that sentence, the whirling of the machine stopped and the screen before me filled up with a stream of rapid fire data. The speed and complexity of it would make a normal human go dizzy with confusion, but I have been doing this for years and was blessed with a brain beyond that of a human, so I kept up pretty nicely.
To spare the scientific bullhonky, the gist of the data I was reading stated that Raiyne’s DNA was approximately 50% Abigale Quinlan and 50% human… shockingly so. My DNA was this splotchy mesh of two people and Abigale, but Raiyne… it was as if she was the child of Abigale and a human, presumably herself. However, there was something… off about the portion of the Quinlan DNA. I could tell that she had the genes associated with Immortality, Rapid Regeneration, Real Booting, Snap Burst, Enhanced Body, and Enhanced Intellect, but instead of Nature Manifest, there was something else. There was—
“Interesting,” Nicole interjected, coming from nowhere. “Your DNA is a perfect blend between Abigale’s and that of a normal human, but it also appears that your Quinlan DNA possesses a deviation, or mutation. And based on the severity of this deviation, it is possible that you might have some ability or trait currently undiscovered or unaccounted for.”
“What the hell, Nicole?!” I shouted. “That was my reveal! And you stole it from me!”
“I stole nothing,” Nicole said, her sass cranked up to 11. “I simply processed the data faster than you.”
“Yeah, by like 3 seconds. Besides, I took the blood, I loaded it, and I co-developed this software, so I deserve dibs on the find of the century! Not you.”
“In the world of science, does it really matter who does what at any given opportunity? Science is a collaborative effort.”
“Shut your Medabot-lookin-ass up! You don’t actually care about that, you just wanna lick my bread!”
“That is not— and has never been— a saying.”
“A saying is just something that somebody says, and if I wanna make a saying, I will! ‘Sides, it’s better to be original and get the gist across than keep layin’ down the same tired tripe.”
“Terra,” Abigale said, her voice silencing the room, “I know you enjoy your little games, but we must be serious. Nicole, do we have any existing model to analyze this deviation?”
“No I do not, Abigale,” Nicole replied, her voice monotone and even more robotic than usual. “We will need more thorough analysis to determine the purpose of this deviation. In the meantime, it would be best to investigate the nature of this mutation via physical experimentation.”
“Meaning we want to take you to some place safe to test your unknown ability,” I said to Raiyne.
“Alright, but… how do we know what to test for?” Raiyne asked.
“We’ll figure that out in the test chamber!”
Following my decree, I led the jaunty quartet of myself, Raiyne, Abigale, and Nicole through the laboratory and down the elevator, where we descended to the sub-basement. The sub-basement of Sky Trigger University was a heavily fortified facility where you could test… pretty much anything you were worried might result in a big horrific kaboom. With 5 meters of solid steel on the interior and 5 meters of concrete on the exterior, there was no getting through these walls.
The only safer place to go hog wild on something untested was in an unpopulated desert or in a standalone facility. But convenience took priority over safety. Besides, we had Abigale with us, and Abigale could make a nuclear bomb implode in on itself and fire down to the center of the Earth. At least in theory. I was crazy enough to do the math, but not test it out.
“So, how is this all going to work?” Raiyne questioned.
“There are cameras and sensors everywhere,” I explained, “so don’t worry about cataloging your actions. As for what you should do…”
“My abilities are all linked to trauma,” Abigale stated. “To a force that I could only stop through the development of a new power via a process known as Critical Adaptation. You mentioned undergoing something horrific before coming to this world, and it is likely that your unidentified power is related to that trauma. I will not ask that you share this trauma with us, just that you imagine it. Imagine what you did to escape it.”
Raiyne took a couple steps away from our jaunty crew and closed her eyes. She did some heavy breathing and… I felt her presence change. Raiyne carried with her an aura not dissimilar to many of my students when I first saw her, and as I looked at her now, her aura darkened, reddened as memories of physical abuse and blood rushed to the forefront of her being. I knew it was rude to look in on a stranger like her… but I couldn’t help myself. It was the easiest way to help her find her powers and possibly help her as a person.
As I looked into Raiyne’s emotional state… I saw a person who had been broken. She lived a peaceful life for her first 18 years, before she encountered something out of this world. Something that she thought would give her life a greater purpose, but in the end… it destroyed her. Everyone she loved died. She was taken away from not only her home, but her home planet. She was struggling to survive in a world both grotesque and alien, and… she soon fell to the horrors around her. How the fuck was this girl so calm and polite if she went through this crap… less than 24 hours ago? Are you shitting me?
Hol’ up a minute! There’s something more, something… after she got viciously mauled by her mother— Damn, this girl is made of some hard stuff— then, after that happened, she was… This is really getting muffled, but I see a… portal. No, more like a tear… a Rift. A Rift in space, a void of nothingness from which things may both enter and exit. And in her darkest moment, she… summoned one and— Holy shit, is that her power? Can this kid open portals between dimensions?
“Hey, Raiyne!” I shouted.
As my voice echoed through this empty football-field-sized room, all three of my compatriots looked at me. Nicole gave me the stink eye, Abigale was perplexed, and Raiyne seemed worried.
“How did you get into this world, Raiyne?”
“Well, Yuki and Milky said that I came through a Rift. I did not see their recording, so I don’t know for sure, but it sounds as plausible as anything else…”
“Try making a Rift.”
“I… what? Rifts just appear, but—”
“Raiyne, sweetie, please try to channel your energy and desire into creating a Rift. Imagine its form, imagine a destination, and do not try to exert yourself. If it is like any of our powers, it should come naturally.”
Raiyne took a deep breath once more, held out her hand and… after literally 2 seconds, the Rift appeared. The space before Raiyne tore open, and from it, we could see nothingness. Light was consumed by the Rift, and nothing reflected back. It was somehow blacker than being in a sealed concrete box and blacker than a universe with no stars.
“That… is an exact match,” Nicole said, her eyes flashing different colors as she stared at the floating abyss.
“Raiyne, where does this Rift go?” Abigale asked, showing no fear in her voice.
“I… I don’t know… but I thought of the campus outside, as it was quite beautiful.”
Without being prompted, Nicole opened up her metal chest to display a screen, showing video footage of the STU campus, where a crowd of onlookers were gawking at the tear in space, while Machi urged them not to draw near.
I saw this and spied a prime opportunity to test the safety of the Rift by throwing something organic through it. A simple red apple that, being the slow-ass that I was, took me a full 6 seconds to make from the concrete beneath my feet. But once that sucker was in my hand, I punted it into the Rift. Turning my head to Nicole’s chest-screen, I saw the apple come through and hit a Machi right in the head, where the apple splattered across their faceplate.
“Well, at least we can tell that the Rift maintains its velocity and maintains the integrity of organic compounds that travel through it. It reminds me a lot of that 2007 video game, Portal. Except you cannot look through the Rifts, and they don’t need to be embedded into concrete walls.”
“Please consult with us before you try investigating unknown phenomena,” Abigale said with a sigh.
“So, it’s safe to go through these Rifts then?” Raiyne sheepishly asked.
“That seems to be the case, but we would want to conduct further tests with—”
“Nicole, why would Raiyne develop a power that harms her, or people like her, when she uses it?”
“Terra, restrain yourself,” Abigale chided. “We have all the time in the world to make sense of this and—”
Before Abigale could finish her spiel, Raiyne decided to stick her hand through the Rift, and upon looking at Nicole’s screen, it was coming out the other side. With our eyes still on the screen, we saw Raiyne push her whole body through, and she looked no worse for wear.
“Heh. Sometimes it’s easier to just rush through things, amirite?” I said, tossing an arm around Abigale’s shoulders.
“You are correct, but I dislike the precedent of rushing through procedures based on a hunch or intuition.”
After only a few seconds of standing in the middle of the campus, getting gawked at by the surrounding crowd, Raiyne hopped back into the Rift and came out of the Rift in the sub-basement.
“Okay, so it works… and it does not hurt, at all… but how do I get rid of it?” Raiyne asked, her voice shaky.
“Manifest your will onto reality and see if the portals go bye-bye!” I said with the utmost confidence.
Raiyne then looked at the Rift before her and stared at it intently… only for it to close. Looking at Nicole’s screen, the Rift at the college campus shuttered too.
It was from this revelation where we began an hour of experimentation. Of testing out just what the limits of Raiyne’s new ability, which I dubbed Rift Walker, were, and how they could be used. All lifeforms and matter could pass through Raiyne’s Rifts with no adverse reactions. Objects retained their composition, humans did not feel anything more remarkable than a slight buzzing feeling, and animals showed no reaction beyond confusion when put through the Rifts.
Raiyne can only place these Rifts in places she can visualize in her mind, but even then, their range was limited to roughly 10 kilometers. And while Raiyne had no issue creating short distance Rifts back to back, she began experiencing a headache after we went on a 100 kilometer round trip within 1 minutes, indicating that her abilities are not suited for long-form travel. We also learned that only two Rifts could be present at any given time, but one Rift could be relocated while the other remained where it was. Again, just like in Portal.
As we came to a stopping spot during our initial experiment, Abigale turned to Raiyne and looked at the exhausted teenager with a firm expression.
“Raiyne, I trust you understand how useful your ‘Rift Walker’ ability could be if we could replicate it. It could connect people from other continents. It could eliminate the need for long-form travel. It would completely change the way I managed my daily operations and be a great boon to the world at large. I know I promised that your life would be yours to lead—”
“Abigale, you can stop trying to convince me. I’m more than willing to help you. And help the entire world. Besides, I’m curious as to just… how this all works. My power and this whole… Quinlan DNA thing as a whole. Because I know I did not have these powers back in my world, and I cannot fathom why I have them now.”
‘ It truly is a mystery wrapped in an enigma… but we have all the time in the world to figure it out.” I declared to my non-receptive audience.
“On that note,” Nicole began, “I would like to emphasize that you do not need to begin these procedures right now, Raiyne. You are in a new and unfamiliar world. If you wish to explore it or learn more about it, that is within your right as a sapient being.”
Raiyne let out a hearty sigh as she mused over this offer, before finally offering a reply.
“You’re making a good point, Nicole. I think it would be best for me to take some time before I make a commitment like this. Just because I can begin a serious venture like this does not mean I should…”
Abigale opened her mouth to respond, only to pause, her expression souring after a few seconds passed. I could tell she was listening to some information relayed via her little ‘codec’ by one of her hundreds of operators, and I knew they would never interrupt her unless a truly urgent matter was underway. Something on par with a natural disaster
I looked toward Nicole, her eyes a pulsating red, as she was reviewing this information herself. She then began relaying what she found out to Raiyne and I.
“A meteor the size of a small truck just landed in western Europe. The impact site was an uninhabited forest located close to a small settlement by the name of Yggdraz. No deaths or injuries have been recorded thus far, but it appears that… an unidentified person fell from the meteor before impact. The person survived and they strongly resemble Abigale Quinlan—”
“Raiyne! Terra! We are leaving NOW!” Abigale shouted, her voice both commanding and horrifying.
“I take it we need to investigate this meteor?” Raiyne said, her voice a quiver.
“Yes. For the sake of efficiency, please create a Rift to the area where we landed, located 1.7 miles to the northwest. I will handle our travel from there.”
“W-Wait, I can help more than that. I just need to imagine what things look like further away and—”
“Absolutely not. You were showing signs of strain after 100 kilometers. We cannot rely on Rift Walking for long-form travel, and our destination is over 4,000 kilometers away. Once outside, I will create an aircraft. With that, we should reach our destination within 50 minutes.”
Raiyne listened to Abigale’s orders and created a Rift before us, one that presumably to where the two landed their old plane. Abigale, Raiyne, and I all stood front and center, staring at this enigmatic hole.
“I will go first, Terra will go second, and Raiyne, you will go third,” Abigale announced.
“But what about Nicole?” Raiyne questioned.
“We have no reason to bring a Machi with us,” Abigale explained. “And one built like Nicole would simply slow us down.”
“I would resent that… but you’re right,” Nicole said. “I wish you all safety, and Terra… do stay on your best behavior.”
“Heh,” I snickered. “Just because I like to play it casual doesn’t mean I don’t know how to take things seriously from time to time.”
“Or so she says,” Abigale replied before walking through the Rift herself.
With a wave and a smile, I walked through the Rift and said goodbye to Nicole, hoping that whoever we found at the crash site would be friendly and not be some murderous freak who wanted to eradicate all life on Earth for no good reason beyond their own self-satisfaction.
But there’s no way something even half as absurd as that could ever happen… right? Right?
Psycho Bullet Festival 2222 Main Page
Bout 01: Enter The 2-2-2-2
Bout 02: Enter Raiyne Underwood
Bout 03: Enter Abigale Quinlan
Bout 04: Enter Miss Flare
Bout 05: Enter Terra Flare
Bout 06: Enter Verde Dusk
Bout 07: Enter The Righteous
Bout 08: Enter The White
Bout 09: Enter Nari
Bout 10: Enter Punky
Bout 11: Enter Peatrice
Bout 12: Enter Jad Spencer
Bout 13: Enter The Genociders
Bout 14: Enter The Destruction
Bout 15: Righteous X Genociders
Bout 16: Raiyne Underwood X Punky
Bout 17: Terra Flare X Genocider Jad
Bout 18: Verde Dusk X Peatrice
Bout 19: Abigale Quinlan X Nari
Bout 20: Black Righteous God X White Genocider Daemon
Bout 21: Enter Shin Abigale Quinlan
Bout 22: Exit The 2-2-2-2