For those who haven’t read The Secret World Chronicles, the books are collections of interrelated stories by different authors. This snippet starts the first of the stories.
Avalanche – Snippet 01
THE SECRET WORLD CHRONICLE, BOOK FIVE: AVALANCHE
Mercedes Lackey, Dennis Lee, Cody Martin, Veronica Giguere
Dedicated to: our patient fans. Knowing you were waiting kept us going.
I pinched the bridge of my nose. My jaws hurt, I had been clenching them so hard. I needed to backtrack, to before Metis fell. That’s ok, Reader. It’ll get you up to speed.
Find A Way
Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin
The last few days had been a whirlwind of action for John and Sera. From the assault on Ultima Thule, their near defeat and final victory there, to being immediately thrust back into the “real world” of Atlanta as soon as they were conscious enough to be shoved onto an ECHO transport plane, there hadn’t been a moment to pause for a breath. It all seemed entirely too surreal; one moment, fighting for their lives in a strange recreation of Nazi Paradise. Collapsing, thinking that they were dead–at least they had fought on to the end, trying to save as many as they could–and then being saved themselves at the last moment by the Metisians. There had been the arguments and meetings, afterwards; what to do with the prisoners, how to split up the spoils of war in terms of recovered Thulian tech and materials, and so on. Bella and the Commissar both had thought it best that John and Sera get back to Atlanta, to HQ, stat; an uncomfortable amount of those arguments had been what to do with John and Sera themselves. The troops on the ground were for the most part thankful, or just in awe, of what had happened during the fighting. The top brass, however…they conveyed Fear, Envy, and worst of all, Greed when it came to just who was going to be able to call on the fiery duo. Three of the Seven Deadly Sins, if John’s memory was correct. Of course, his memory might not have been; he’d never been all that conversant in religion before, and Sera didn’t seem inclined to spout Bible verses and doctrine so much as cryptic responses or things that were, well, more universal than Biblical. All the same, the feeling in the air back at Ultima Thule was decidedly not friendly for John and Sera, so back to Atlanta it was. Even their comrades had been on edge, until Old Man Bear had broken the tension. Since then, things had been more relaxed at HQ.
There had been another thing John was contending with. He was picking up on the emotions of others, and not just in a natural, “able to read people” sort of way. He could actually feel what others were feeling, sometimes. It had taken his breath away, the first time, and still rocked him to his core whenever it happened now. But he was getting used to it; with Sera’s help. He wasn’t surprised when it happened, so much anymore; he was beginning to be able to control when he let the emotions of others in. It was still the depth of it all that overwhelmed him; maybe because he was used to regulating his own emotions, and was habituated over his life to react to them. With other people…it wasn’t so much as colors mixing and melding, as much as it was two different strains of music coming together, and not always in harmony. It was the best way that he could think to describe it. Some people were a lot easier to be around; all the healers and empaths, for instance; shielding other people out meant they kept their own emotions in. Bulwark, strangely, was completely unreadable. John figured it might have been an extension of his other powers, but didn’t have much of a chance to pursue the answer to that question.
And then there was Vickie, who had some sort of barrier of her own. She wasn’t a psychic of any sort, so it had to be magic. He still got the heebie-jeebies when it came to magic, despite how much of his gear–even his HUD and Overwatch rig–ran on it. John kind of wondered how the heck that worked though–magical-slash-emotional shielding. He hadn’t even gotten anything out of her when he’d inadvertently zapped her, and you’d have thought being hit by a “celestial” bitch-slap would have made her feel pretty damn strongly…but the only time she’d slipped was when she’d thought about Red Djinni.
That had been a painful exchange. He and Sera both had been lapped by waves of grief and longing that had come off of Vickie; it was only Sera’s moderating influence, John suspected, that kept him from being completely overwhelmed. He did his best trying to counsel her, and comfort her without being patronizing; he’d had enough experience with doing that when he was still Big Army, being a team leader and helping the Joes under his command. Still, she seemed mired in her own pain; it particularly stung him in that it reminded him of when Sera was going through her own trials while his memory was gone. In the end, Vickie had closed up…those weird shields of her own coming up, and completely cutting off the feed of her emotions to John and Sera. She said she was fine, but it was clear that she just wanted to end the interaction. It was probably for the best; pushing things too far, too fast would have more than likely been counterproductive. She was his friend, and he would offer her whatever help he could give, but she still had to find her own way, in the end.
Besides the troubles that Vic was going through, something else had stuck out to John about that night. When she had tried to do her magic “reading” on him, to determine if he was going to be a danger to others, something now intimately a part of him had reacted badly, before he was even aware of it. Celestial. That had been the word that she was trying to finish when she got thrown into a wall by whatever defensive impulse was building, before I clamped down on it. He’d done his best to seem nonchalant about it, but in reality he was scared to death. It only got worse after he saw the raw, unedited footage of himself and Sera during the fighting in Ultima Thule. Although he had been there, and had done all of those things…seeing it from the outside perspective, what it must have looked like to other people…that, more than anything, shook him up. They were awesome. And terrifying. More than anything, the footage conveyed to him how fast they were together; the amount of destruction they could dish out in a short amount of time was staggering. John had seen artillery–and experienced it, on the wrong end–and airpower, and those two things were frightening enough. But that wasn’t just a single person, or even a couple, that were capable of those things. It was teams of people, coupled with technology and entire logistical trains. Take one piece out of that puzzle, and it all fell apart.
The footage drove home that “John and Sera” were a power unto themselves, and a different one from anything the world had seen so far. And, so, John was frightened.
There was temptation to look at the footage again–easy enough to do, since he and Sera were officially on “detached duty,” playing Vickie’s bodyguards while the VIPs and select ECHO leads were in Metis itself. All he had to do was give Overwatch a couple of commands and he could view it again as many times as he wanted. But there was fear and even a little revulsion, too. He had detonated bombs that had leveled entire buildings, and called in airstrikes that had done the same or more. He had once cooked an entire hangar filled with Kriegers and Krieger armor. When he had seen what he and Sera had been capable of, when they were completely drained…it was beyond. He didn’t want to be–well, that. Whatever that was. Tapped into raw, unfettered power. It set them apart in a way very few metahumans had been before…and the world hadn’t been kind to those metas.
Sera interrupted his musings with a hot cup of tea. “You are troubled,” she said simply, sitting down beside him. “May I help?” They were sitting on the couch, back in Vickie’s apartment again, generally taking up space and making sure she had whatever help she needed. Most of the time, Grey and Herb already had Vickie’s needs taken care of, so John and Sera spent their time talking, drinking tea, and keeping an eye out for…anything.
He did his best to smile wanly. “I imagine you’re the only one that could, darlin’.” He took his cup of tea, transferring it to his left hand before pulling her closer with his right. “Guess I can’t hide anythin’ from you.”
She blinked at him, slowly. “You could, if you chose. I am glad that you do not choose to do so. What troubles you so?”