Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Chapter Forty-Seven - The Paths We Walk

Keera stood inside the walls of the Hidden Springs movie studio, the warm July air bathing her and the world around her in its gentle heat. Eventually she stepped ever closer to a large prop near the end of the lot. It was a giant gas canister made up to look like three cans of spray paint. On the side of the can was a special effect prop.

"Don't do this!" A voice said, at first quiet, like a faint echo off in the distance of an empty canyon. As the voice continued, she realized that it sounded like her own. However, Keera kept walking forward without listening. "Don't go near that!" Her own voice reeked of desperation as it echoed through her mind, but she did not listen. Her own feet were drawing her to the cans of spray paint despite the struggle in her mind.

"Stay away!" The words now screamed into her mind, and every step she took was painful and arduous.. The bottoms of her shoes felt like they were on fire.

"Leave this place!"

Keera turned around and saw herself standing behind her, a scar across her doppelganger's face. Suddenly Keera's point of view switched, and she found herself screaming at her younger self in a vain attempt to change the past.


The gas canister exploded, engulfing her past-self in a fireball which hit Keera herself head-on. Explosions tore through the entire studio as she screamed out-loud and closed her eyes. Seconds passed and she felt a severe pain in her side as she opened them again.

Keera was back in her room, lying on the floor. It took her a moment to realize that she was awake and that the entire past few moments had been a dream. She also came to the realization that, that during her dream, she had been tossing and turning and eventually fell completely off her tall loft bed.

Keera remained where she was, curled up while waiting for the pain in her side to subside. Eventually it did, and she believed her alien DNA was responsible for the lack of serious injury she should have sustained from falling such a height.

Stunned from the fall and still feeling the effects of the dream, she sat up on the floor and crawled over to the ladder, leaning back against the side of her bed. As the events of her recent dream, and the  tears streaming down the side of her face that wasn't scarred.

Keera stood up and grasped her side, worried that the impact would leave a bruise, and walked over to the door.

Upon looking around, she limped downstairs and into the kitchen to get some juice from the fridge, and heard footsteps behind her as she did so. Keera turned around and noticed Scarlett, wearing her own sleepwear, standing in the middle of the dining area.

"Do you want to talk about what's been going on, Keeki?"

Keera sat the juice on the counter and walked over to to the center of the room. "Nothing much, other than a few bad dreams. I'll get over them."

Scarlett shook her head. "I don't think they're merely dreams. Otherwise you wouldn't be yelling at yourself in your sleep to stay away from that movie prop."

Keera nervously scratched her head, "You uh, you heard that?"

"Yes. In fact I think Annabelle's birth-mother on Torra Sev heard you. What's wrong?"

Keera sighed. "Ever since going back to the movie studio, I've been having flashbacks of that place. The fire, the heat, everything. Anything as minuscule as the popping of a soda can triggers it. I can't control myself!!"

"Hey it's okay." Scarlett approached Keera and gave her a hug. "I understand. Everyone does."

"I thought going back to that place meant that I was free from the memories, but they'll never go away, will they?"

"We carry a lot with us as we go through life. The fact that you're so young, and you've already been through hell and back, is a strong indicator that the bad parts of your life are behind you."

"But... but what if more bad things happen? What if someone I love dies? What if I die?"

"You can't live a life scared of what might happen." Scarlett said, "If you do that, you may find that you have missed opportunities, the good things life has to offer. Look at Kelly! She's getting married this next year because she took the opportunity to tell Mirabelle, or Annabelle, how she felt. Kelly told me that she spent hours beforehand thinking of 'what if she says no'? But in the end, despite that worry, she pushed herself to do what she felt was right."

  "Okay, I'll try to be unafraid. But I have one question... is there a way you can stay near me tonight? To help me in case I have another, you know, nightmare?"

"Sure, kid. John's busy working on that robot downstairs all night anyway, so I'll be able to. Let's go into the living room, you up to watching movies?"

Keera smiled. "Sure. Let's do that?"

Scarlett and Keera walked into the living room and turned on the television. The first movie that came on was one starring Scarlett herself, from when she was an actress. Scarlett motioned her hand at the screen and pointed out every time the director messed up when it came to shooting, or when the commissioned special effects were used in the wrong shot.

Eventually, Keera fell asleep on the couch, and Scarlett turned off the television. Instead of leaving the teen alone to sleep by herself, she decided to keep her promise and stayed with her the entire night.


 The next morning, Annabelle and John stood in the latter's basement lab while he worked on MIKE's robotic body. At times, Annabelle wasn't sure if her brother was even listening to her, despite how important the subject was.

"I'm worried about Tom.... he still hasn't spoken to anyone! This is even worse than he was after seeing that video!"

John briefly shrugged and went back to work. "Well this week has been one heck of a emotional see-saw for him. I mean, he gets a video from his parents, then finds out they were killed by the mummified remains of an evil alien overlord--wait a second, do you have any idea how odd that sounds?!"

"Any less odd than the fact that the radiation-empowered human brother of an alien hybrid is fixing up a humanoid robot?"

MIKE briefly spoke, despite his current tune-up, "You certainly showed her the error of her ways, Jonathan."

John sighed and continued working on MIKE. "Next time I draw up the plans for a robot I'll remove the algorithms that allow the development of sarcasm."

"Sarcasm is not an algorithm. I am a learning machine. I learn through interactions and I have been spending an increased quantity of time listening to Annabelle."

"That explains a lot."

Annabelle smiled. "Good boy. Learns from the best." The joking around with John and his robotic friend made her briefly forget about her worry for Tom and his anger, 

John chuckled, "Annie, you are more sarcastic than my wife is angry. And that says a lot. Uh, MIKE, don't tell Scarlett I said that."

"Oh dear, it seems the button that stops recording everything around me has broken. Perhaps paying me fifty dollars will fix it."

John looked confused. "What the heck do you need money for?"

"Violin lessons."

"That's ridicu-"

"Sixty dollars."

John growled, and then put on one of the most faked smiles he'd ever worn as he continued working on MIKE. "Anyway about Tom, I don't know how to get through to him. I had to ask you, Red, and Kelly to help him out the other day. Perhaps this is just something he needs to do."

Annabelle shook her head. "No, the way he acted was so... out of character for him. He was more angry than he was when we had that huge argument! I'm worried about him, deeply worried."

"Maybe you should talk to him, tell him again how you feel."

"I tried that yesterday. I stood outside his door and talked to him, but it was like I was talking to a brick wall. No response, nothing."

"You should give him time to heal. And if he's walking this path of anger and hatred, maybe that IS his way of healing. As long as he doesn't go over the edge, we can't really stop him from doing what he wants."

Annabelle thought back to that night, the look of anger in Tom's face when he found out about his parents' death from Shale. She'd never, in her entire life, seen him that angry and hoped to never see him that way again. Despite this, John was right: No one could stop Tom from doing what he wanted to do, though she hoped that he wouldn't do anything he'd regret.

Annabelle thanked John for the advice, how minimal it seemed to be, and left the room. Just as she was doing so, however, she heard John and MIKE trade another back-and-forth. 

"Great advice Dr. Freud." 

"One more quip and I will disconnect your voice module."


"So why did you ask me to come along?" Kelly and Tom stood in Hidden Springs' center park, just across the street from city hall.

Tom, continuing to look ahead, replied to his cousin. "You know why I asked you. It's obvious isn't it?"

Kelly looked at the people walking by and shook her head. She didn't even have to read Tom's mind to know that he wanted her to read others', in an effort to track down the sarcophagus.  "I can't do that, Tom. For one, it's invasive-"

"You have the ability to read minds. Scan them and tell me who knows about the sarcophagus."

Kelly shook her head. She wasn't sure of her own abilities, and did not want to push them past her limits, if they even had one. "I can't. Literally, I can't look into minds, I can only read what's on the surface. And I'm not going to get into people's heads to help you with some crazy revenge scheme."

"Crazy?!" Tom glared at Kelly this time. "Imagine if it had been your parents! You'd be using your special magical mind powers to tell yourself who knows about that damn mummy! Wouldn't you?!"

Kelly briefly looked scared, and turned around to walk away, "I'm not doing this. I don't need psychic powers to know that you're driving yourself insane with rage. If you want my help, I mean my honest detective skills, I'll help you. But I am NOT looking into the minds of strangers for your benefit." 

Tom watched her leave for a few moments, and yelled out. "Okay, sorry. I don't know what's coming over me. Ever since I found out about my parents, I've not been able to control my own actions. I'm sorry. I need your help. Please."

Kelly sighed. She knew that he was crossing lines that he shouldn't, but at the same time she was worried about his safety. She realized that if no one was there to reign Tom in when he pushed himself, he could get injured--or worse, hurt others in a fit of rage. "Okay, fine. But one more outburst like that and you're on your own."

"I won't let you down. I promise."

Seconds later, Kelly's phone rang and she answered it. She spoke a few words and hung up, putting the phone back into her pants pocket.

"I had the receptionists at the police station keep an ear out for reports, specifically any involving strange rocks. They gave me odd looks but I assured it was important. Anyway last night a couple officers picked up some guy outside of town rambling about a rock making him come here, and being attacked by a strange monster."

Tom gave a brief chuckle, "That's lucky. What did they do with him?"

"Nothing yet, they have him down at the station at the moment. If we go now, we may be able to talk to him before he gets transferred to a psychiatric hospital."

"Lead the way then, 'Officer Kelly'."

Kelly rolled her eyes and the two walked down the road towards the police station.


Tom and Kelly walked into the dimly-lit back office of the police station. Sitting at the desk was a man with torn clothes, graying hair, pale skin, and visible veins across his face. Before Kelly even had the opportunity, Tom sat down across from him, wearing a scowl on his face.

"So I hear you talked about a rock. You know about the Abyss? And the Vornek?"

Tom waited for a few moments, but there was nothing. He asked again. "What. Do you know. About the Vornek?"

No words, no nothing, came from the man. He simply sat there, looking at Tom. Kelly tried to read his mind but the result led her to hear nothing but a single word, rushing so fast she couldn't even make it out.

The man continued to stay silent, so Tom asked again, this time with his voice breaking. "What do you know about the Vornek? Can you tell me anything? You were found with a rock, you said it brought you here, why not talk now?!"

Again, not a word came from the man's mouth. Tom made another fist and pounded the desk. Kelly, trying to keep the situation calm, reached out to Tom hoping he'd get the hint. However, he was too far gone. The man stayed silent, and Kelly was getting increasingly worried about Tom's anger.

This was their only clue as to where they could find what killed Tom's parents, and his rage was going to compromise it if he didn't calm down. She even tried to read his mind, both him and the strange man. The word that he was repeating in his mind had slowed, and she could hear it more clearly now. It turned out that the word was a name, his name, as it repeated itself over and over again on the outer reaches of his mind.

"Roger? That's your name?" Kelly asked, again trying to get the hint that maybe a "good cop" would be more effective. The man continued to stay silent, but he briefly looked at Kelly and blinked his eyes. Kelly took this as acknowledgement from him, that he was trying to communicate, but her cousin was less astute in terms of visual cues.

Kelly sensed the anger welling up in Tom's mind and she realized it was only a matter of time before he did something he would regret. She tried one last attempt to communicate with Roger, but he didn't look at her again.

Fed up with the lack of information, Tom's face turned from a scowl into a snarl. Before Kelly could do anything, he jumped up onto the desk with both hands balled up into fists. The man remained stoic as Tom yelled at him, even  as the force of the jump was strong enough to knock a lamp off a nearby table and shake the lockers behind them.

"WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE VORNEK!" Tom screamed as loud as he could, and Kelly was immediately worried that the police in the rest of the station would come storming into the room with their weapons drawn. She quickly ran over and grabbed onto his hand, pushing the chair back a bit to get to him.

"TOM! He clearly doesn't know anything. Please get off the desk."

Tom continued to snarl, but Kelly's words and contact got through to him. He clenched his fists, started breathing heavily, and stepped off the desk, holding onto this face as a rage-induced headache hit him with devastating force. Kelly, however, did not take sympathy to his headache and instead glared at him, her own anger taking over.

"I'm getting my coat. We are done here."


Kelly stormed out of the police station, with Tom not too far behind her. He could tell by the look on her face and the way she walked that she was not happy with what he did, so he tried as best he could to apologize.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know what came over me." Tom's voice was quiet, almost broken, as he spoke.

Kelly turned around to face him, scowling the whole time. "That was completely out of line, Tom! What you did in there could have landed you in jail AND it made me look bad in front of everyone I've come to know in my time as a private investigator! What were you thinking?!"

"I... I wasn't thinking! I already said I'm sorry!"

"No, sorry doesn't cut it this time! You promised me twenty minutes ago that you wouldn't let your anger get the best of you, that you wouldn't let me down! You broke my trust, Tom! And you lost my help." Kelly turned and walked down the road, kicking a can across the street when she came to it.

Tom breathed in a heavy sigh and solemnly stepped in the other direction. He thought to himself in his walk, noting that he truly wasn't sure what had come over him in that room back there.


Gabriel stepped down the stairs and into the living room where Keera was sitting on the couch watching something on the television. Having remembered her getting angry at him the night before, Gabe didn't even speak to Keera in an attempt to avoid confrontation.

The two sat on the couch, watching TV, for a few moments before Keera turned to him. "Look, I'm... I'm sorry for what I did last night. You were only trying to help, and I snapped at you. The truth is I've been going through a lot of problems lately, remembering the accident which led to..." she made a gesture towards the scar on her face, "...this."

"I understand, Keera." Gabe replied, "Considering what you've been through?" He sighed, and continued, "I heard about the accident at the movie studio all the way down in Nevada through the news. You don't need to apologize, and you also don't need to apologize. You went through a traumatic experience and those change people. I know this for a fact."

"I know, but it's just I--I don't want to be afraid. I don't even know if fire can hurt me, from what mom said regarding that genie, but I'm still afraid of it. Last night, Scarlett told me that I shouldn't be afraid of 'what-if' scenarios, but I am."

"Hmm, that's good advice, actually. The what-if thing. I guess I took that advice myself some time ago."


Gabe nodded. "Last month, I was living in an orphanage outside of Lucky Palms, Nevada. Nice enough town, neat casino. Anyway I went to sleep on the main living room couch one night, I wasn't even tired, and I had this dream that I had a family. A mom, a dad. It was so real. When I woke up the next morning, I felt compelled to jump on my bike and drive to Starlight Shores, where my dream-mother was heading towards. I eventually met Cassie in Sunset Valley and she brought me to your house, and the rest is history."

"So you decided to go out to California on a whim?"

"Yes. I don't even know why I was doing it. I was compelled to go there. And you know what? I'm glad I did it. I came out here, I met Cassie, I met Annabelle and Tom, both of whom had been in my dream as my parents. They took me in and now I honestly for the first time in my life feel that I have a family. I took the right path, for the first time in my life, and it led me to happiness."

"Mom said she had a dream about you, it must have been the same night. That's crazy, right?"

Gabe chuckled for a solid minute before replying, "Crazier than two clones talking on the couch next to a robot?"

Keera turned and noticed MIKE sitting on the love seat near them, watching television as he had the day before. "Greetings."

"Maybe not that crazy." Keera replied. She then looked at her brother, chuckled, and playfully punched him in the arm.

"Hey! What was that for?"

"Nothing much, just wanted to see how you'd react... bro."

Gabriel chuckled himself this time, "Well trust me, I'll get you back for that... sis."


Back at the Feen hideout, Shale sat against the back wall contemplating events going on around him. Without warning, the door to the hideout flew open and Kelly stormed inside, a fierce glare on her face.

"Alright you overgrown pebble, I have a few questions for you and you had better give me the straight answers I'm looking for or I swear I will break you down into gravel and use you for the foundation of my 'WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?!' museum!"

"I may have said answers." Shale replied in a calm tone.

"Why didn't you tell Tom about his parents sooner?!"

"I was worried about his reaction to finding out. It turned out my fears were well-founded."

"Were you EVER going to tell him?"

Shale grew silent for a few moments, then spoke softly. "Perhaps, when I knew he was ready. I wasn't sure if he would have been within the next five years, or ten, but I would have told him eventually."

Kelly rolled her eyes and stepped away. "Always dodging the questions aren't you, Abraham?"

Shale's voice stopped dead. "What."

Kelly turned to face Shale again, "Your name is Abraham Korven, right? Annabelle told me everything you said to her and I put the pieces together as she told me. YOU were the German scientist who had a disease, YOU brought the Abyss here, and YOU made a deal with it. How is that immortality treating you?"

Shale grew silent again. "I know. I doubt the Vornek or the Abyss would even know about Earth if it wasn't for me and I've spent an incomparable amount of time regretting my actions, actions that have continued to have ramifications long after they were done."

"Like Tom's parents."

"Indeed. If I had not brought the Abyss to Earth and inadvertently lured Vorik and his army here, Tom's parents would not be dead. Perhaps that is the real reason I could not tell Tom about his parents, the shame of watching them pay for my mistake."

"You were too afraid until someone asked you about it. I know the feeling." Kelly thought back to when she first told Annabelle about how she felt, the accidental slip-up of saying the word 'bride' which led to Annabelle finding out about Kelly's true feelings towards her. Kelly actually understood this rock's apprehensive attitude in revealing his truth.

"One more question. If you can take the form of any rock, any stone on Earth as you told Annabelle, why didn't you try to stop Thomas and Tina from walking into that tomb? You could have told them not to go in there."

"I cannot speak outside of this particular rock, this room. It is much like seeing something through binoculars: you can see great distances, but you cannot simply say 'hello' to what you're staring at. In time I may figure out a way to fully possess other forms, but at this moment I cannot. I wish I could have."

Kelly nodded. "I understand. Can I ask a favor? Since you can, you know, take the form of rocks and stones? Can you quickly travel to China and see how my parents, Elliot and Mei Coen, are doing? I just need to know if they're okay."

"I owe that to you." Shale said as his voice trailed off.

As Shale was gone, Kelly began to remember the events of the day so far. In particular the conversation she had with Tom earlier and how he brought up her parents and what if it had been them instead of Tom's. While she refused to acknowledge it, the notion of losing her parents made Kelly terrified beyond comprehension. What if it HAD been her parents? What if they went off to some adventure and didn't come back? The idea of losing them hurt Kelly at a deep level unlike any pain she'd felt in her entire life. As she thought this over, Kelly realized that she not only understood the rock's apprehension, but also Tom's anger.

In her life, Kelly had nearly lost a great deal of the people she was close to. Annabelle had been kidnapped, twice, and one the second occasion she was presumed dead. Keera was injured in a fire, scarring half her face. Tom and Annabelle were caught in an explosion and nearly died then, and the entire family was put into jeopardy in the graveyard battle during the eclipse.

Tom, however, HAD lost people close to him. He lost his parents, he lost Andy, and for a brief time he even believed he saw Annabelle get incinerated. He also watched as Annabelle was turned to gold and kidnapped, and later physically attacked by Jack in the graveyard's mausoleum. Kelly understood that Tom had been going through loss, and she knew that he had to release the feelings over these losses in the only way he knew how: punching stuff.

The recent revelations about Tom's parents also came at a time when he was just getting over having seen them on video tape, so he had admittedly been in a roller coaster of emotions. Kelly wasn't sure if anything excused his actions at the police station, but she decided to try and give him the benefit of the doubt. She was indeed hoping now that, by the time the two met again, he would accept her apology and she his.  

Shale's voice echoed back into the room. "They are fine. I heard them speak of you, and how they want to move back to Sunset Valley to be closer to you."

Kelly smiled, "Sunset Valley, I miss that place. Thank you."

"You are welcome, Kelly Coen."

Kelly said her brief goodbyes and walked out of the room, heading back to the house. Along the way, she thought of Mirabelle, and wondered what she was doing at the moment.


Mirabelle stood in her and Kelly's bedroom, looking out the window at the falling snow. Out of nowhere, while she looked out to Hidden Springs, Mirabelle wondered what Kelly was doing at that moment. The sound of a door opening drove her thoughts away and she turned around, her eyes falling on John.

"Hey bro, what's up?"

John shrugged, "I went into Kelly's office to get that flash drive I loaned her but it wasn't in there. You didn't happen to see it, did you?"

Mirabelle shook her head. "Nope. I'll ask Kelly when she gets back. Is there anything serious on the flash drive that you need?"

John nodded, "I saved all my information about the teleporter on it. I was going to take a few looks at the information to see if I can improve on the teleporter's range and efficiency. I may be able to improve on it, maybe instant teleportation to other planets or even other universes."

"Yeah Scarlett filled me in on your trip to that alternate world some time back. It got me to wonder: If Annabelle, or 'Jessica' never met you in that universe until recently, does that mean that I don't exist there?"

"It's likely. But does it matter?"

"What do you mean?"

John walked up to her. "You exist here, Mira. You're as real as any other living, breathing person. It's been months since the teleporter brought you into this world, and in that time you've made your own life, loved your own people, everything that anyone would call 'living'."

 "But I don't exist there, in that universe."

 "Mirabelle, let me tell you something that became very clear the moment Tom found himself in that alternate universe: The possibilities for everything are endless, literally endless. There are possible universes where Annabelle never even came to Earth, or another where Tom's parents didn't go to Egypt. Sure you don't exist in that universe, but I am willing to bet everything that I myself don't exist in one, or none of us at all in another!"

Mirabelle smiled. On occasion she would have thoughts of not belonging, but every time she would express those feelings, people close to her would reassure her that was not the case, in their own little ways. Kelly would give her a small kiss on the cheek, Annabelle would discuss their past, and John would use his science speak to declare her legitimacy. She wondered if she'd always have these feelings, but knew as long as she'd have them, her family would have her back.


John left the room, happier for having went in despite the fact that he came out empty-handed. Mirabelle was just as much a sister to him as Annabelle, so any time he could help her feel better made him jovial. Just as he stepped away from the door, his cell phone rang. He looked at the number, smiled, and answered it.

"Hey.... wait, you're here?! That's awesome, I didn't even know you were coming! Yeah I'll meet you downstairs."

John put his phone back in his pocket and walked downstairs, smiling the whole time.


 After talking with Gabriel, Keera took a taxi back down to the town's central park. A short walk afterwords led her to a bench, the same one she's sat on a few days prior to get a good view of the movie studio across the street.

Keera remembered the fire, the pain, every bad thing associated with that place. As she sat there, a voice from her recent past made its way into her head. She stood up, turned around, and watched as Ethan Craft walked up next to her.

"Hello!" Ethan exclaimed as he stepped up next to her, smiling the whole time. "How are you?"

"You! You were the one who convinced me to go back to that studio! I've been having flashbacks, nightmares, and everything in between since you told me! Stay the hell away!"

"I'm, I'm sorry. I didn't think I... are you alright?"

"NO! I'm not alright! Look at my damn face! Look at this scar! You think this is okay to have?! I've spent hours, days, MONTHS trying to get better and your little idea for me to go to the studio drove me back into the feeling of helplessness."

Ethan stepped closer to Keera. "I'm sorry for what I did, but I didn't tell you to go thinking it would be detrimental to your help. I sincerely apologize."

Keera closed her eyes, sat back down on the bench, and sighed. "I am the one who should be sorry. What's wrong with me isn't actually your fault, and it was unfair of me to have yelled at you."

"No, I shouldn't have told you to go there. I wasn't thinking! I thought since my mom's a doctor, I could help others myself but I failed completely."

Keera tried to hold in a laugh. "Trust me, my family has spent a lot of time helping others even when no one really realizes it. Remember the whole Starlight Shores graveyard thing?"

"You mean from last month?"

"Yep, that was my family. They stopped Jack Toomes... again... and saved the world. Though some people I've seen question what they actually did."

"How did they exactly 'save the world'?"

Keera smirked, "well they stopped an evil megalomaniac from using a genie lamp which would have allowed him to wish himself the ultimate power to take over the entire planet. Little things, you know?"

"I... I... that's something you don't hear everyday."

Keera laughed again, "That's my family's motto. Anyway what brings you back to the park?"

Ethan nervously smiled. "Well, if you want me to be honest, I kinda wanted to see if you were here."

"That's not creepy at all."

"No it's not like that! Okay maybe, but I wanted to see if you were alright. You seemed a bit out of it last time we talked. I wanted to know how you were doing."

Keera nudged his arm, assuring him that she wasn't entirely serious. "I'm just joking, it's good that you care." Keera wasn't sure what to make of this person. He seemed nice enough, but then again she'd heard of others who had seemingly started out nice and turned out to be evil, ruthless supervillains with Jack Toomes coming to mind. Keera secretly wished Kelly was nearby so she could read his mind, but realized that would be abusing her powers, something she was staunchly against. Still, Keera wanted to get to know this person a bit more, a feeling which prompted her next question. "How much longer is your family going to be here in The 'Springs?"

"We leave tomorrow, unfortunately. I enjoyed this town immensely. Plus I got to meet you, which was a great thing."

"Well I try." Keera smiled, and nearly blushed as well. "So you want to hear more about my life? I mean, what I want to tell you?"

It was Ethan's turn to smile. "Certainly! Go ahead."

Keera started talking about her past, starting with meeting Annabelle in Sunset Valley. She told him all about her heritage, how she was a clone, which he clearly disbelieved. The two continued talking for a few more hours until the sun began to set. Realizing how late it was, Keera and Ethan stopped talking, stood up, and walked across the street to City Hall, Keera called a taxi to come get her, but Ethan stayed where he was.

"So, we should definitely talk more." He said, "hearing about your life was... interesting."

"Well maybe you can tell me more about yourself next time we meet, or maybe... call each other? You know, just to. I can give you my number."

"That'd be great." Ethan walked down next to her, and Keera typed her cell phone number into a text message. She then showed the number to him as he programmed it into his own cell phone. "But surely we can talk more personally. How about, next time I'm in town we meet right here! Right at city hall!"

"Is that you, asking me, out on a date next time you're in town?" Keera smiled at him in a way she'd never really smiled before: in a flirting manner.

Ethan nervously scratched his head, "Yeah, I suppose it is. If you want to go on one-"

"Yes. Next time we're both in town." The taxi pulled up and Keera climbed into it. "See you then, Ethan."


The taxi drove away, while Ethan waved. When it was out of sight, he pulled his cell phone out again and dialed a number. "Hey mom, I met that girl again... Yeah, she's really cool! Though I don't think that green skin I mentioned really was makeup..."


 Annabelle paced her room, trying to think of how to get through to Tom, when she heard a knock on the door.

"Yeah, who is it?"

The voice on the other end surprised Annabelle, if only because it was completely unexpected. "When Mirabelle told me that you were turned into a magical fairy, that was one thing I surprisingly couldn't believe."


Annabelle opened the door to a smiling Maria, whose expression changed to a brief surprise when she saw Annabelle's wings, and back to a smile. "So what happened?!"

"You know, the typical. What brings you here?"

Maria shrugged, but then continued,"When Mirabelle told me what happened with your fairy thing, I had to see it for myself. Luckily the movie set in Monte Vista will be closed for a while so they can do renovations so I decided to come see my kids. How's Keera doing?"

"She's having anxiety issues from the explosion, again. She's been trying to hide it but a mother knows her child. I fully intend to talk to her about it but I've been kinda busy talking to a rock."


Annabelle scratched her head. "Long story. I'm also worried about Tom."

"Mirabelle told me over the phone last night. He found out about his parents, and how they died? I mean, he already knew but now he has more information. He's headstrong, Annie, almost as headstrong as you! Kinda why I always assumed you two would get together."

Annabelle smiled, "Actually, we told each other, you know, how we felt. I thought that would help with his emotions after finding out about his parents but it didn't seem to faze him."

Maria laughed. "Wow! You finally spilled the beans to each other... Congratulations! It only took you guys about, oh, twenty one years. I can't wait until you get married! Should I book the venue for sometime next century?"

"Oh HA-HA, very funny mom."

"You know it. But seriously, congrats! I knew you two had it in you."

Annabelle smiled again. When she thought of Tom, however, the smile faded. "Yeah but he's a bit off the wall with anger lately. I'm worried that he's going to get himself hurt, or worse, and I can't stop him. Hopefully someone will be able to get through to him."

"Someone will. I know it."


 Gabriel knocked gently on Cassie's bedroom door, and then opened it. Inside, Cassie was seen lying on the ground, a video game controller and a bunch of games and movies spread out around her, and the television was on. Her character in the video game was repeatedly getting killed over and over, and he laughed to himself. "She must have fallen asleep playing games."

Gabriel walked inside, shut off the game and television, put away the games, and nudged Cassie's arm with his foot. "Hey, um, you should get on your bed. It's not very comfortable lying on the ground like that."

Cassie stood up and groggily climbed into her bed, covering herself up, then took off her glasses. All the while, she was saying things in her sleep that seemed connected to the games she was playing, with phrases such as "No lives left" and "I'll get you, King Rolthcar." escaping her lips.

"Yeah you get that evil king." Gabe said, chuckling.

Gabriel left the room, continuing to silently laugh, and shut the door. Just after doing so, and he was long gone, Cassie whispered to herself in her sleep once more. "Oh, hey honey, you want to play this game with me?"


Gabriel walked down the hall, looking for something to do, when he stopped by Annabelle's door. Before he could knock, he heard Annabelle and Maria talking about Tom and his recent anger.

"I'm worried that he's going to get himself hurt, or worse, and I can't stop him. Hopefully someone will be able to get through to him."

Having seen Tom come back earlier that evening, Gabriel's immediate thought was of helping the woman that he saw as his mother. Heading upstairs, he found himself outside Tom's door, knocking on it repeatedly until Tom opened it up.

"Can I help you?" Tom asked. He had a small scowl on his face and Gabriel wondered if it was because of him, or just because of what's been going on with him lately.

"We need to talk, bud-to-bud, so to speak."

"What about?"

"You, and your anger-induced rampage of destruction across town that you're planning. At the risk of sounding like someone actually my age, you need to mellow out, yo."

Tom rolled his eyes, "Oh don't worry, I'll deal with the monstrous entity that killed my parents. Then I'll 'mellow out'."

"Wow you're really mad about this. I get it! You lost your parents, I would understand why you're acting like this! Everyone understands! Kelly understands, and I'm definitely sure Scarlett gets why! I know Annabelle does as well, but she doesn't want you to go out and risk your life on some crazy revenge-fueled conquest. I don't want you to either!"

"Why? You don't really know me..."

"You're right, I DON'T know you but I would like to! I would like to know the friendly Tom I that met when I was without a place to live. I would like to know the father I had in my dream! I don't want to know the person I see before me, who is so blinded by rage that he can't even be bothered to think about the people who care about him."

"Gabe I'm-"

"I'm sorry about your parents, okay. Again, I know you have every right to be angry for what happened. But if you keep doing this, this whole path of revenge thing, you'll be right where your parents are. How could you honor their spirits, and get justice for their deaths, if you're dead yourself? Not to mention that if you died, you'd leave me exactly where you are right now."

"And where is that?"

Gabriel didn't even look at Tom before as he turned around and opened the door. "Without a father." With that final sentence, he walked out of the room, leaving Tom behind to think about their conversation.


Annabelle stood in the basement, particularly the bar area, as she poured herself a drink. She heard a door open upstairs heard someone walking down towards her. Keera stepped out of the stairway and walked over to the television.

"That robot is still watching TV, I thought I'd come down here."

 Annabelle walked over to sit next to her and smirked, "Don't you have a television in your room?"

"On the third floor? Yeah, but why walk up two flights of stairs just to get the same entertainment value I can get down here? It's just too much work, you know?"

"We have an elevator."

Keera chuckled, "Elevators are too much work too. Besides, I'm not a fan of enclosed spaces, I don't know why. Anyway, have you talked to Tom lately? Or as I call him, 'Mr. Angry Hat'?"

"When have you ever called him that?"

"Lots of times!... Behind his back. When he's not around."

Annabelle shook her head, "No I have not talked to him lately. But he can do his own thing right now, because I actually wanted to talk to you, Keera. I know you've been having problems lately, as much as you've tried to hide it from me."

"Well I've tried to hide it from everyone, if you want me to be honest. Scarlett was a bit more intuitive than I expected. She's helped me out a lot and has spent time with me."

"So what's going on?"

"I've been having visions and flashbacks of the explosion. I dream that I'm there, trying to stop myself, but I can't. It's been happening ever since I went back to the movie studio. I took some advice to do it and I didn't think of how it would affect me."

"It makes sense, really. I mean, a horrible thing happened to you there. I think everyone would understand if you'd want to stay far away from that place."

"The thing is, I don't know if I want to stay away. I want to get better, I want to say I could go to the place that gave me so much grief and say that I could be there without repercussions. Scarlett's helped me, and I met this dude down at the park who... well he wasn't exactly helpful but at least he seemed nice!"

Gabriel, having heard Keera from upstairs, yelled down into the basement in a jesting manner. "Oooh! Keera's got a boyfriend?"

Keera coyly yelled back, her voice cracking as she did so. "Hey! Private con-ver-say-tion!" When Gabriel didn't respond, she continued talking to Annabelle. "His name's Ethan. We talked a bit down at the park, and I gave him my number even though he's leaving town."

Gabriel's voice again echoed downstairs. "Keera and Ethan sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-"

Keera scowled, stood up, and ran up the stairs all the while saying "I swear I'm going to be a single child again by the time this night is over!"

Annabelle stood up and yelled up after Keera, "Kids, don't hurt each other! I don't want to have to come up there!" As she walked towards the couch, she suddenly realized how she had just sounded and started openly laughing in the middle of the basement. "Wow. I've not said anything that motherly in a while."

 Before she could sit down on the couch, Annabelle's phone vibrated and made a noise. She pulled it out of her jacket pocket and turned it on. To her surprise, the phone held a single text message without a number or any indication about who had sent it.

"Annabelle Kethrin. Meet me at the outlook where you got your wings. 8:00 PM tonight. -A"

Annabelle looked around in worry, and put her phone back in her jacket.

 Kelly walked down the stars and spotted Maria walking towards the living room. She had heard Maria was visiting through speaking Mirabelle so she wasn't surprised but instead, Kelly realized her presence gave her an ample opportunity to get an answer she'd been looking for. She had tried to get a hold of her parents but they were apparently moving from China back to the States so they were unable to chat for long, and since Maria had lived with them for so many years she would know a thing or two.

Kelly finished walking down the stairs and followed Maria into the living room. MIKE was still sitting on the couch from earlier, even though the television was off at this point. Maria sat down on the opposite couch and turned the television on again, channel surfing until she found something to watch. Kelly sat down next to her and smiled.

"Mira told me you'd be here. I mean at the house and all that."

"Yeah I decided to drop by and see how everyone is. So Mirabelle told me something about you, some sort of mental mind reading thing?"

"Yeah, I'm still trying to figure it out, and what caused it. I was actually meaning to ask you, when she was pregnant with me, did mom ever interact with any... alien... things? I mean, was she ever abducted by aliens or see an alien ship?"

"I don't recall, why?"

"That robot thinks the Torran radiation from alien craft was responsible for my mind-reading abilities, as well as John and my own intelligence. It makes sense with John, since you said an alien took your blood to make Annabelle as we know her."

"Yeah the whole 'Project Hybrid' Annabelle told me about. But I can't remember anything regarding aliens when Mei was pregnant with you. Maybe you can call her?"

"I want to, but that would be a very awkward conversation wouldn't it? 'Hey mom, were you ever abducted by aliens when carrying me to term?"

Maria shrugged, "Any more awkward than when you told people you could read minds?"

Kelly was about to reply to that when she narrowed her eyes, "Touché." The two shared a brief laugh, and started watching television.


Annabelle walked down the street, her phone kept close to her in case she needed some help. She had no idea who this "A" person was, why they would contact her, and how they knew she got her fairy wings at the outlook. Still, Annabelle had been through enough things in her life to know not to underestimate any kind of threat, so she kept her phone close in case she needed emergency backup. Though the text didn't tell Annabelle to come alone, she didn't want to put anyone else in unneeded danger.

After a short walk, Annabelle found herself at the outlook. She had flashbacks of meeting Kayley, and watching as the fairy used her magic to remove most of her clothes as a prank, then using her magic to knock her out.

A familiar voice took Annabelle out of her memories. She turned and watched as a brief burst of light faded away to reveal Anika Sundar, the genie she had freed in Starlight Shores.

"Hello Annabelle." Anika said, "Sorry for the mysterious mysteries of strange mystery, I just needed to talk to you. I want to help you fight The Abyss and the Vornek."

"You? Why not just show up at our house? Why make me come all the way up here?"

Anika looked downwards, awkwardly kicking a stone on the ground. "Well to be honest, I need you to meet someone, and I don't think it would be appropriate for her to show up out of the blue, even with me."


"Me." Another familiar voice echoed through the area, and Annabelle's eyes grew wide in terror as she turned around. The woman standing behind Annabelle was just as young as she remembered, with red and black hair, red and black clothes, green skin, and red eyes. She didn't have a glare or snarl on her face, instead a warm, friendly smile.

"You...." Annabelle replied. She stepped away from the woman she'd known as Mary Knight, or Nightmare, but the woman she once called her enemy reached out to her with a kind voice.

"I do not think we've been properly introduced... my real name is Andromeda Roshali. I know you don't trust me-"

"After the whole 'you tried to kill me on that beach in Sunset Valley' thing a few years back? No, why would you ever say that?"

"I am deeply sorry for everything I've done. Deeply. I wasn't thinking properly and it nearly killed me! Hell, I think it DID kill me! But I'm done walking that path. After a long time of thinking, getting my head back together, and a bit of help with others, I finally understand why I was so lost. I want to help you, and Anika, fight the Vornek."

"Yeah? Prove it!"

"Some time ago I found the book, The Dark Hollow, here at the library in Hidden Springs. I saw Mirabelle checking out books so I wrote a message to her and put the book back on the shelf. I knew she'd check it out because that kind of stuff would pique your interest back then."

"So you know about Mirabelle. Gee, I wonder how you managed that." Annabelle glared at Anika, who merely shrugged.

"Anyway I wrote that message for her because I wanted to help. I do want to help you!"

"Why? Why didn't you stay the hell away from me?!"  

"Because... we're family, Annabelle." Annabelle's face contorted into an expression of confusion and disbelief, and Andromeda continued "I knew you wouldn't believe me, so I figured someone else would meet us here."


Andromeda smiled again, "Well I told Anika here that I haven't had much time living on Torra Sev, so I decided to 'phone home'. It's a bit of a family reunion, of sorts. Oh, here she is now."

Annabelle turned around again after hearing a familiar "whirring" sound, and her eyes widened considerably when the person Andromeda was specifically referring to teleported into view.

"I think you've already met my little sister." Andromeda said.

"I'm here to help, in any way I can,"