ladyfirestarter: (home)
Charlie steps through into the second-floor corridor and stands aside, holding the door wide for Olivia to follow her. The air on the other side is dry and cool, with the slight brittle chill that only comes with air conditioning.

"Welcome to Taos," Charlie says, lightly.
ladyfirestarter: (telling it straight)
"It doesn't seem to be related to what happened last winter," Charlie's saying as the two women make their way slowly along the lakeshore, "but I'm wondering if it could be something left over."

The sun's dipping low toward the horizon, but isn't down yet. Charlie is wearing a messenger bag, open at the top, and carrying (but not yet using) her cane.
ladyfirestarter: (oh that sucks)
Charlie's at the bar, with coffee. Sweet, sweet life-giving coffee.

"Still no?" she's saying, wearily, apparently to the bar itself.
ladyfirestarter: (in the dark)
It's not until Charlie gets home to Taos that she realizes she can't find the kouros... )
ladyfirestarter: (Tet Corporation)
It's a Tuesday afternoon early in June of 2009 in New York City, Keystone Rose.
ladyfirestarter: (telling it straight)
Had there been time to think about the long-term consequences of surviving the plan -- of surviving through generating a nuclear explosion in todash space, and getting home afterwards -- Charlie could easily have predicted that she would need time to recover. And knowing as she does that nothing worthwhile is ever done without cost, she would certainly have considered the risk that she might overstrain her power; that she might leave herself unable to do much more than light a candle, if that. For a time, or for all time. She would have counted it worth the risk, or even (though not without a pang) worth the certainty.

What she probably would not have predicted, even given time, is what happened.

Her power's completely unaffected. The firething is strong as ever, curled contentedly within her, eager to burn again. It's her own energy that's been drained, and that's frighteningly slow to return. Two days later she's still barely able to walk across the hotel room, step by careful step and bracing against the wall, without exhausting herself.

Nothing worthwhile is ever done without cost. She thinks of Nancy Deepneau, and of Marian Carver.

What she accomplished was worth this too. Even if it never goes away.

She makes it to the debriefing at the Tet building Tuesday afternoon by dint of leaning heavily on Charles Wallace and repeatedly stopping to rest between the door of her room and the cab waiting outside -- and then leaning heavily on Michael Copeland and repeatedly stopping to rest between the cab and the conference room. (A wheelchair might have been more practical, under the circumstances, but ... no. Under the circumstances.)

They're here to give their account of the events of Saturday night, to be assembled along with everybody else's accounts into something approaching a coherent narrative. During the debriefing she drinks black coffee and lets Michael do most of the talking, nodding and elaborating from time to time, until the point where his account perforce has to break off. He finishes the sentence, pauses, and then opens his hand to her. I think Ms. McGee can tell you the rest.

Charlie folds her hands on the table, keeping her eyes on her interlaced fingers, and starts speaking. There isn't very much to tell, really.

We had to get Black Thirteen out of the vicinity. Ideally out of any vicinity. Charles Murry, who's been informally assisting me at the Taos complex, is a teleport; we had some thought of having him send me to todash space with the ball, but in the event it proved unnecessary, as Black Thirteen took care of that itself. Charles was able to bring me back afterwards.

Why todash space? Because we knew that the amount of power it would take to destroy Black Thirteen would also wipe out anything nearby. Which meant we had to take it between worlds, where there wouldn't be anything nearby.

Yes, we were fairly certain. Enough to make the decision.

We? The good-mind. We were able to consult and discuss the matter very quickly, in that state. No, it isn't a continuing state, we aren't currently linked up.

I suppose you could say the decision was mine.

She's still exhausted, and has been for days, and the sharpness in her tone isn't intentional; it takes her until later that afternoon to realize why the tone of the interview suddenly went conciliatory at that point.

There isn't much more. Once I was in todash space with the ball, I burned it. And Charles brought me back.

Yes, I can quite definitely confirm that it was destroyed. Completely. It was in my hands at the time.
A pause, and she turns to Michael Copeland. I'm sorry about your coat.

He stares at her for a moment, and then begins to laugh helplessly.

Nothing of much import gets said after that.

By Thursday she's improved somewhat. Still tiring easily, but strong enough to be able to travel home with Zillah -- and with Charles Wallace, who's already stayed in this world three days longer than they originally intended, but refused to leave until he was sure she'd be all right.

Tet makes the travel arrangements. Charlie wasn't sure they would, after the last session with Armin Cochrane; he was very serious about wanting to reconsolidate the Irina Foundation under Tet (back into the fold, as he put it), and somewhat put out by her unequivocal refusal. Which must have grated even worse, coming on the heels of Michael Copeland's rejection of a very similar offer for himself and the Calvins. But apparently Cochrane isn't quite irked enough to make much of it ... or else Rose put her foot down sometime in the past few days.

Hobbling down the jetway, leaning on her new walking stick (oak, with a head carved in the shape of a rose; Zillah picked it out), Charlie finds she can picture that very easily.


Jun. 2nd, 2009 10:11 pm
ladyfirestarter: (in the dark)
The phone rings three times before Charlie manages to lift her hand to the receiver and fumble it towards her, tilting her head sideways so she can rest the receiver on the pillow instead of holding it up.

ladyfirestarter: (Tet Corporation)
The plan, while ambitious, is utterly simple on the face of it, the reasoning for it plain: they're still making slow and steady progress with the kids' therapy, but they've long since reached the limit of what they can do about the brain damage inflicted on them. Except that a recent theory suggests that maybe they haven't, based partly on data about the one surviving victim who doesn't live at the Taos complex: River Tam.

It wouldn't be safe to take all of the kids to New York City at once, and at any rate it would probably be wisest to test the theory first with one. The main concern that comes up in the discussion is the stresses of travel and of unfamiliar surroundings, and most of the suggestions center on how to alleviate those; no one's worried about the proposed treatment itself.

The rose is good, after all.

Charlie's got good people working under her. Within the next two days, Eric VanAllsburg has taken care of everything, including the tickets and the arrangements with airport security. The Taos complex and the Irina Foundation have top medical credentials, and while the kids' identities are the products of careful forgery on the part of the Tet Corporation, they're solid enough to stand this kind of a security check -- and their cover story, bringing a patient with trauma-related cognitive disorder to a neurological specialist in New York, has the advantage of being true on every level but the most literal.

All of which means that when the little party of three arrives at the airport, they're met by an airline representative and whisked through to a private security checkpoint. Charles goes through the metal detector first, and that's enough encouragement for a reluctant Zillah to visibly steel herself and walk through after him.

Preboarding has been arranged. The airplane's a small one, and flying half-empty; they stay in their own seats nonetheless, Zillah half-curled in her chair and gazing ceaselessly out the window. She relaxes almost completely once they're in the air, watching the clouds and the earth below them with serene delight.

It isn't until they land at JFK International Airport and disembark that the tension starts to come back into her posture; she hunches, ducks her head, shies away from anyone but Charles and Charlie. There are people all around them, and the air's layered like a parfait: exhaustion, excitement, crankiness, tight-reined nervousness, delight, annoyance, melancholy, boredom. Charlie does her best to keep her own emotions on quiet calm, and works to push the feeling out into a shield around them.

They're expecting to have to wait for a cab, but outside of the baggage claim is a uniformed man with a sign reading MCGEE. Charlie sighs with relief; Eric's come through again.

It's not the Dolphin; this hotel is somewhat smaller, and considerably closer to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.

Charlie shrugs out of her jacket, drapes it over one of the two straight-backed chairs, and turns to Zillah. "How're you feeling?"

The girl nods, a little unsteadily, but doesn't say anything.
ladyfirestarter: (the fire and the rose are one)
( wE're gOiNg on An adVENtuRe, cHaRliiiEe. )

Tumbling away. Thundering away, todash chimes sounding through her head like crystalline splinters, unsane laughter ringing in her ears, the world -- all worlds -- falling behind ... and the thin thread of the kythe still with her, stretching, trembling with the strain but holding, holding.

She knew from the moment she (we they) saw the dark globe: Michael Copeland was right, all those months ago, with his theory about the new short story collection and the implications of one story in particular. She'd refused to agree with his conclusion, that the fallen towers hadn't taken Black Thirteen with them after all; not out of any knowledge of the breaking strain of Maerlyn's crystal, but out of a heart-deep conviction that if Stephen King was going to invoke September 11th, it had to be for some reason. Some purpose. Evil destroying evil.

Michael was right.

But maybe, just maybe, so was she. That red wound in the ball's side, that's new since it was last described; and with the ball itself pulsing between her hands, even shielded by the coat wrapped around it, she can feel something, some arrhythmia. Some weakness.

They've come to a stop. Well, maybe; that rushing sensation is gone, but they could still be moving and there would be no way to tell. There is no light anywhere, not even a dim foxfire exhalation to lend depth to the darkness, not even the suppurating red glow from the crack in the ball.

This, she realizes dimly, this is what the house was practice for.

( chaAaarLie. cHaRY-kA. daddy's BEST giRl. ) The gloating spite in Black Thirteen's voice is like cold trickling slime. ( yoU'rE in myyy houSe nOw, chaRlie, aNd oh wHat FUN wE're gOinG to -- )

( that's right ) she says. ( we're in your house. you brought me here. i knew you would )

Silence. Startled, she hopes.

( you let me in ) she amplifies.

( you can't possibly. )

( bets? )

( yOu cAn'T pOssIBly -- )

spark-a-dark, who's my sire?
will I lay me? will I stay me?
bless this camp with fire

as white fire blazes outward from Charlie's hands.

Michael Copeland's coat is incinerated in a blink, not even ash remaining. The sphere doesn't fall, though, held in midair by the energies coiling around it; its sickly-slick surface coruscates with reflected brilliance, the red glow of its wound washed out to a feeble wisp as flame channels directly into the cleft.

Slowly the fire expands into the void, like a star being born. The things in the todash darkness, half-formed half-beings like the sinktrap leavings of creation, thrash away from the burning; those that don't move fast enough curl like cinders in the blaze.

The fire surrounds her as it once did in Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel, but oh this fire is so much stronger. A fire this strong would have reduced the entire hotel to ashes in seconds, possibly the entire city block. Possibly the entire city. Definitely her own body ... but that was before Boetia, before the change.

Through the kythe, the goodmind is still with her; she can hear Charles Wallace's voice in her head, chanting the fire with all the strength it hath (and half a beat behind him, as though in counterpoint, Zillah's: the strength so strong mere force seems feebleness) --

And Black Thirteen is sagging, melting, shrieking in her hands like -- oh, let's take a moment to love the irony, why not -- like a thing possessed.

( NO, you mUsTn't! you dAreN't! )

( i've heard that one before )

( buT yOu'lL diE toO, ) it wails. ( yoU'll Die TOO -- )

( maybe. maybe not. think of all the fun we could have, finding out )

She pushes harder. It's something beyond fire now, the apotheosis of fire, ravening energy like the heart of a sun, a burning so fierce that it shines effortlessly through bone and flesh; so bright that it makes no difference whether one's eyes are open or closed. Charlie keeps hers open and fixed on Black Thirteen, almost entirely liquefied by this time and now going translucent, going dim, taking on a strange doomed beauty as the lethal light refracts through its molten core.

A little more. Just a little more --

The final burst of power is everything she has; close to everything she is. Her head snaps back with the force of it, her hair streaming in the billowing heat, in the shockwave of annihilating light.

Evil may destroy evil, sometimes.
But the will of Gan
I am become death
(oh, say hallelujah)
destroyer of worlds
is the victory of the white.

The darkness closes back in.

Silent, unmoving, a half-fetal human shape floats alone in a lightless void.
ladyfirestarter: (hands)
It's nearly twenty hours later and starting to get dark before Charlie surfaces from sleep, and it takes her a little while to realize that she has. Her eyelids feel stiff, almost tacky, resistant to open. She moves to wipe her eyes, and something gently grasps her hand to prevent her.

"Hold up," Prometheus's voice murmurs. "You're still all over clay, you don't want to rub that into your eyes. Here." The light touch moves to her chin, and something rough and wet brushes her eyelids -- a washcloth, she realizes a moment later, as it sloughs away the dried crust of earth. She blinks once, twice, and tries to sit up; he reaches immediately to steady her, and presses the damp cloth into her hands.

"Did it," she starts to say, and coughs as the words rasp in a throat that feels as dry as the clay clinging to her skin. With an effort she swallows, and articulates as clearly as she can: "Did it work?"

"Oh yes." His smile gleams in the dimness. "Can't you feel it?"

"I ... I'm not sure." She kneads absently at her hands with the washcloth, feeling the texture of the weave against her knuckles, feeling her skin relax at the touch of moisture, feeling the still air of the cave brush against her upper cheek. Where the clay no longer touches her, every tactile sensation seems -- not heightened exactly, but weighted with greater impact, as though experienced for the first time; it reminds her of something she can't think of.

"So you know that scene in all the movies," Prometheus says after a moment, "where they've found the guy who was stranded in the desert, and someone always gives him water and says 'Drink this, but not too much'?"

Charlie glances up at him.

Silently, he hands her one of the canteens they brought along. After a beat, she gives a tiny dry laugh and takes it, and drinks. Not too much.

"And when you're feeling up to it," he adds, his tone airy on the surface and almost a purr beneath, "you might want to take a look at what you can do now."

She lowers the canteen to look at him again, and slowly starts to smile.
ladyfirestarter: (guide me)
Charlie's walking out by the lake. Remembering meeting Rachel Gray there, over two years ago.

Still getting used to this. It's like ... she can't think what it's like.
ladyfirestarter: (capable)
Date: August 12, 2008
From: "Charlene R. McGee" <>
To: "Kaylee Frye" <>
Subject: re: next message


This came in for you.

Glad to hear you're doing well. How did your visit to the city go?

Take care, and please give my best to Rose,

Kaylee, [xin gan],

I know you'll be careful. Have a good time -- though I suppose by the time you read this you'll be back from seeing the city already. (Which city is this?)

Everyone is well here, and we miss you.

I love you and will see you soon.

ladyfirestarter: (watchful)
"Susannah? Sorry to bother you at home, but I think you want to know about this."

She's watching the kids through the first-floor library window as she speaks. Maybe twenty of them are out there in a loose clump on the lawn, most of them standing, some kneeling, two or three stretched full length on the grass. A few of the regular staffers who happen to be mind-blind are out there among them, including Ree Tassenbaum, currently bending over one of the prone kids.

Most of the standing ones are rigidly poised, each with an arm extended forward, parallel to the ground; each holds one of the objects they've been making in the art workshop, like pendulums or distorted yo-yos, a clay weight attached to the end of a braided lanyard cord. The weights swing free, strangely heavy for clay.

She can't hear it from here, but she knows the kneeling and reclining kids are still humming, an eerie wordless harmony that set her teeth on edge when she heard it before.

They're all staring in the same direction, northeast, with a terrible intensity of purpose.

"It started about five hours ago, and it's been building. There's this sort of ... buzz, all the psychics on staff have been getting headaches from it -- Ted finally had to help reinforce all our shields, or we'd be out for the count by now -- but the kids have been reacting differently to it. Focusing on it, ignoring everything else to focus on it, like they can hear something in it we can't. Maybe half of them rigged up these contraptions that look a hell of a lot like miniature Manni plumb-bobs, and a few of them have been compulsively writing --"

The pencils are still scratching, in the room behind her. Arbalest and Roberto and Matthias, sitting at one of the round library tables; quite calm, even serene, producing page after page covered with the swoops and curls of what Ted finally recognized as the high script of Gilead.

"-- it's big, whatever it is. I didn't think taking this through channels was a good idea --"

Out on the lawn, Ree straightens up, shaking her head.

"But I don't think it's an attack. I think it's a message. And I think maybe you want to see it yourself."


"Can you get out here? The short way?"

It's an effort to pull her gaze away from the window, but she manages it. The fixed door is in the second-floor corridor of Main, all the way at the other end of the campus; she's got to start moving. None of the kids look up as she pushes through the library doors, letting in a draft of hot dry air.

"Five minutes?" She starts across the lawn toward Main, skirting wide around the kids. None of them appear to notice her, and again it's hard to look away. Ree catches her eye and looks a question. Charlie spreads her free hand: you got me.

"Susannah, if it's a message ..." She lowers her voice uneasily. "Who's it coming from?"
ladyfirestarter: (watchful)
The call from Tet came about five hours ago. Sitting on a folding chair outside the infirmary, Charlie watches the road -- one of the few roads on the campus itself, around the perimeter from the main gate.

They should be here any minute.

She's been to Milliways in the interim, and spoken with Dr. Tam, briefly: something's happened, Kaylee is on her way to Taos with Rose, they've both been injured but they're all right. He took it well -- at least until she refused to bring him back to Taos with her.

The last time I tried to bring someone through that door from Milliways, she finally had to tell him, it was Susannah Toren. And she disappeared. I'm not bringing anyone through from this side until I find out what went wrong. Not till I'm damn sure it won't happen again.

He apologized after that, controlled and courteous again, and said he would wait there. And I'm holding you personally responsible for bringing my wife back here safely, added everything except his actual words.

She can't blame him, not really.

There-- Charlie rises to her feet at the sound of the motor, and in the next second the car trundles into view, moving with what seems excruciating slowness. Eric's driving, with Ted Brautigan next to him, and -- yes, there, that's Rose in the back seat and the one next to her must be Kaylee --

The car pulls to a stop right by the infirmary doors, and Charlie starts forward.
ladyfirestarter: (home)
It's late in the afternoon of an ordinary day at the Taos installation, a fairly pleasant day in early spring.

Nobody is currently in a particular hallway on the second floor of Main, where one particular door (known only to a very few) is a fixed gate to a place called Milliways.
ladyfirestarter: (firething)
At first, she can still feel the smooth cool clay covering her skin. Distantly.

Then there's his voice, a deep rumbling hum, and everything else goes away. )


Feb. 24th, 2008 12:20 am
ladyfirestarter: (home)
The door on the second-floor corridor in Main opens quietly. Charlie McGee steps out, looking one way and the other, and then reaches back to grasp Prometheus's hand and draw him through with her.

"All quiet so far," she says to him in an undertone.
ladyfirestarter: (kouros)
The desert's chilly at night. She's brought a jacket.

Charlie sits on a particular rock a few miles from the Taos complex, knees drawn up and arms wrapped around them, looking at the moon.
I am looking for someone who can take as much as I give
And'll give back as much as I need, and still have the will to live

She hasn't been able to reach Prometheus for over a month now. Not from here; not from Milliways. She's still in the habit of taking out the little clay figurine at odd moments, running her fingers over its rough-smooth surface in something like meditation.

She's doing it now.
'Cause I am intense, I am in need, I am in pain, I am in love
But I feel forsaken, you know like the things I gave away

The fallout of things at Tet has left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. The security guy, Stuart, that's upsetting; the Board member, Adamson ... that's sickening. Treachery from inside. Treachery from above.

Lot of good people, she told Charles Wallace.

And blood and fire are too much for these restless arms to hold

Her blocks have to stay up while she's on the campus, for fear the kids will pick up on her negative emotions. She's alone now, and can let down the blocks and look at what's behind them: anger, and fear, and a bewildered sense of loss.

And I'm calling you, calling you, from ten thousand miles away

Over and over her fingers slide along the kouros, as though counting off prayer beads, and no answering warmth comes.
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