Courtesy: Part 46

The boy froze again, his right hand curling into a ball. Then he smiled and said, “I would like that. Is this something that you can teach me or would you place a spell on me?”

“A spell,” Amy said, glancing over at Arete, “and I can’t do it now because I’m a little tired, but I think I could in ten minutes.”

Uncurling his right hand, the boy smiled, “I don’t necessarily need it, but I’ll think about it. I do sometimes have a little trouble with rogue personalities and a little help keeping them under control wouldn’t hurt.”

While I couldn’t say I wanted Arete free, helping the Fungus Collective keep him controlled also felt wrong.

On the other hand, I’d seen Arete’s expression and I’d seen the boy freeze when Amy suggested the binding. It wasn’t impossible that the Fungus Collective might be warring within itself over who controlled the group.

I wondered if Amy knew and found Daniel’s connection to me had expanded to include her.

You’re trying to push him, Daniel thought to Amy.

Amy thought back, Yes. If Arete can take over, I want him to do it now when we’re prepared to destroy this thing instead of later.

Huh, I thought back, is that the best way to do this?

I felt a surge of irritation from Amy’s end of things that she quashed down, knowing I could feel it. I’m sure I told you about this. The last Bloodmaiden—the last of the old-style Bloodmaidens before I got powers—absorbed a monster with more force of will than she could handle. Its personality ran the whole show until she recovered and ended it. She killed almost everyone she knew, throwing the throne over to my branch of the family.

The past Bloodmaidens don’t want to see that happen again even in other people. They don’t want to be surprised.

Was it even worth trying to argue? I doubted I’d have much luck trying to persuade a composite being with thousands of years of service that I was right.

Besides, they might be right. That didn’t stop me from asking, But if we avoid a crisis now, can the fungus handle Arete?

Maybe, Amy’s expression remained neutral, but they don’t think we can trust the Fungus Collective past this crisis. They’ll take any excuse to destroy it.

My mask hid my facial expression—which was good because I doubted it would help the situation.

As Daniel closed the connection between the three of us, he said, While I can sense that engaging with the boy gives us the best chance, outcomes of the conversation are fuzzier than normal. The Fungus Collective might be the cause.

Amy nodded, eyes narrowing. I couldn’t argue. The thing already had enough psychic power to affect teleportation. Maybe it was deliberately fuzzing out the outcome.

It didn’t bode well for our alliance against the Nine—though it might go along with that because it wiped out a potential rival.

Using the connection between us that never quite closed when we were in range, Daniel said, I’m going to continue narrowing down the possibilities for Alex and pass this conversation on to the rest of the group.

I agreed, knowing he understood even if I didn’t put it into words.

In that moment, before Daniel could have even told them, I saw Katuk and Kals emerge from the group of mounds behind us. Kals looked around as she followed Katuk, taking in the pool, the bioluminescent mounds around us, the boy, and Arete with his new body.

Katuk, in his silver Xiniti armor, walked a little ahead of her, making the smallest movements of his head, but I had little doubt that he was scanning the room for threats.

To my surprise, it wasn’t Kals that started talking. Katuk said, “I’ve received direct orders from the Xiniti nation that I’m to assist in handling this threat as my first priority.”

“Just now? We’re not fighting,” I watched the boy for his reaction and he made none. I could only wonder what was happening underneath.

Arete didn’t move either, making me wonder if the Fungus Collective hive mind was now joined in pitched battle with itself.

“Kals,” Alex said, drawing out her name. Remembering what he’d said about pushing buttons earlier, I had a bad feeling that he’d taken Amy’s plan to heart. “If Arete gets out of control, you can take him out, right?”

She eyed Arete’s head on his new fungus body, “If everything in his head is still human, he shouldn’t be any match for me.”

The boy fell over, landing on the concrete next to the pool, showing no sign that the body had once been animate. It lay there, one arm folded under its chest at an angle no human could stand for long.

Arete didn’t move either, but he didn’t fall. Despite Arete and the boy’s immobility though, something was moving. I could feel rumbling in the floor through the Rocket suit.

7 thoughts on “Courtesy: Part 46”

  1. If you’ll pardon a quick rant, home renovations suck even when you’re not doing them yourself. It appears that this week will be spent moving furniture. We’re getting our wooden flooring sanded and restained. Our linoleum will be replaced–which means that every room on the first floor will be changed this week.

    Will I write. Yes, but we’ll see how this goes.

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    1. Just remember, like this story, you can never FINISH the renovations, you can only STOP them. There’s always something else that needs to be done…

      1. If you’d ever seen the house, you’d know that it’s a very humble brag. There are three rooms on the first floor–four, if you count the bathroom, which is basically a toilet in a closet. No complaints, but it’s not a big house. If we didn’t have a second floor, there would be no bedrooms.

  2. “Arete didn’t move either, but his body stood.”

    Maybe switch to “his body stayed standing”, cuz “stood” can be a…verb? Rather than a body position descriptor. Or “stood in the same spot”, double down on the details.Dunno the correct nomenclature, but I think my suggestion would be clearer.

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