as narrated by Fujiko “Farseer” Leavitt
One of the worst things about living in a world of giants is when you see how very very little you are.
“Should we be able to feel the earthshaking? If the force field is holding we shouldn’t be able to feel the earth shaking through it should we?” the man sitting next to us said. I looked at my mother, unsure what the answer was. I was a girl in the fifth grade, it’s not like they taught us Force Field Making in shop class.
Mom looked worried but she didn’t say anything either. She was looking at my Dad.
“They probably didn’t anchor the force fields down. Easier to absorb energy if you let it move you around a little. Like a tree that bends in the wind.” he said. He was trying to sound calm and happy. Like it was no big deal that we were trapped in a disaster shelter when our city was getting pounded flat.
I was ten and even I wasn’t fooled by that. Our hometown was kind of a crazy place but it wasn’t that often that we had to evacuate to the shelters. We had heroes to protect us. Strong ones like Aegis and Thundercrash and Heartbeat and a whole bunch of others.
The thing about being trapped in a shelter that was packed to capacity was that it showed you some things you didn’t want to see. We had heroes, but the truth was that didn’t mean we were safe. I knew they would fight hard, I knew they would try to protect us but nobody can be everywhere at once and nobody is strong enough to protect everybody.
The next tremor threw me about two inches up off my seat and I started to wonder about something worse. The heroes couldn’t protect us all, I knew that. My new question was: could they even protect themselves?
“That was a big one! But it looks like the shields are still in place. No damage to the walls or anything.” my Dad said. He was forcing himself to be happy. I could see his hands trembling before he closed them into fists.
“Maybe we should get out of here? If they got us on buses I bet they could get a lot of us out of the city and to someplace safe.” the guy next to us said.
I thought about how the kids boarded the busses after school when all that was waiting for them on the other end was dinner and homework. I’d tried picturing how much worse the stampede would be if people thought the busses were going to take them to safety and staying behind meant facing a horde of monster animals and one really giant one.
“Oh I’m sure we’ll be fine here. Being on a bus out in the open probably isn’t safe yet. I mean who knows what shape the roads are in right?” my Dad said.
If he’d meant it to be comforting then he’d missed the part where he was arguing that we had no way of escaping from here.
“I’m going to go see what the story is. Maybe if we ask they’ll let us take our chances.” the man next to us said and stood up.
Just as he got to his feet a flash of red crackling energy passed through the room and took the lights out with it. There was immediate silence that followed.
I’m not afraid of the dark, but being plunged into it while I was surrounded by all those people was terrifying. I was lucky though. I was sitting with my back against the wall. That gave me something to press into so people wouldn’t trample me. I held in the scream that I felt building inside me, knowing that it wasn’t going to help. Not everyone else agreed with me though and maybe a second later the darkened shelter was pierced by dozens of screams. Over it all I heard one person shouting coherent words: “The force fields are down!”
A strange calm swept over me. I wasn’t brave or resolved or defiant. I was too scared to process it as fear anymore. Some part of me knew that I wasn’t getting out the dark box in the ground I was trapped in and it was numbing the rest of me to make the acceptance of that less painful.
That’s when I started hallucinating. Or at least I thought that’s what was happening.
In the pitch black that covered the inside of the shelter, lights began to appear. Little golden sparks drifting down like a glowing snowfall.
I saw one of the sparks floating towards my Dad, another towards my Mom and still another towards me. I knew I shouldn’t touch it but something about the bit of light in the darkness was irresistible.
“Help me! Save me!” a voice said in my mind as my fingers brushed against the spark. The golden radiance flowed down my hand with an electric tingle.
“Please, don’t hurt me.” the voice said again.
“I won’t.” I promised it. “Who are you?”
“We were Omega, now I am only Bitter Chocolate again.” the voice said.
“Bitter Chocolate?” I asked. I was talking in my head rather than aloud and I noticed that the screaming had died away. I had to guess a lot of other people were having similar conversations to the one I was.
“It’s the sensation that is at the core of me.” he said.
“What happened?” I asked.
“We were defeated. My fellow Psi-Lords and I. We formed a gestalt the likes of which none of us had ever seen and it was still not enough to overcome the Beast. We were so close too!” he said sounding as bitter as his name.
“Can you…” I paused, the numbness in me had worn off and but the fear of suggesting any kind of action was still good and strong. I looked up at my Mom and Dad. Their eyes were closed and that put a whole different sort of fear into me.
The prospect of dying in a dark, crowded hole in the ground had defeated me. I’d lost hope and just given up because it was too scary to even think about enduring. The prospect of my Mom and Dad dying in a dark crowded hole in the ground was different though.
That made me angry.
“Oww! It’s getting hot in here!” Bitter Chocolate complained.
“Sorry.” I said and shoved the anger down into my stomach where it could beat up the fear that was living there.
“Can you try again?” I asked.
“Try again? We were too weak before and we’ve lost our place with our host. At best Guan has maybe four of us left. They won’t be able to do anything.” Bitter Chocolate said.
“What if we helped him?” I asked.
“We? We who?”
“You and me and the rest of the the gold lights that were here!” I said.
“No. I don’t know how we would combine anymore. And there’s no point. There’s no path into the Beast. We can’t control it.” Bitter Chocolate said.
“How did you combine before?” I asked.
“We were all in Guan’s mind. White Clouds showed us the way. He was our center.” Bitter said.
“Do you all have to be in the same mind?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” he said.
“Try. Try combining with me.” I pleaded.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
With the alternative being my parents not making it out of here, I’d never been more sure of anything in my life.
The funny thing was I didn’t even have to tell him. Bitter knew as soon as I’d made the decision. I felt him flow into the center of my mind. It was like someone had taken a key and opened a door I’d never known was there.
I breathed in and looked out of the door that had been opened. The sensation was like stepping out of a closet into a mansion.
“Oh my god!” I yelled.
“Please be careful!” an itty bitty tiny little voice said.
“Bitter?” I asked in a mental whisper but I didn’t need to wait for the answer. I knew he was there. We were sharing our thoughts. I’d never had any other thoughts to compare mine too. I hadn’t known that they’d be so much bigger than Bitter’s. Observing myself from his perspective and my own, I knew that the way I was thinking was far beyond what I’d been capable of a moment before.
“We are a new being, but we are not one.” Bitter and I said together. It took me a moment to understand what I was telling myself. We had become a gestalt, a small one, but we were not permanently bonded in that state. Something in me had changed though. I could sense the mental space around me more than ever before and that wasn’t going to go away when Bitter left. It was like I’d stepped out of the tiny little corner of my mind that I was comfortable with and I’d never be able to pretend again that the vastness I felt around me wasn’t there.
“Everyone!” I called, both aloud and mentally. All of the faces that were lit by the golden sparks turned to me. “We need to work together. There’s still a chance!”
I shared with them the impressions of what I’d experienced and one by one I felt the humans in the room connecting with the sparks of light that were before them. Most didn’t experience the same expansion of consciousness that I had – that had been a hidden gift that was waiting to bloom in me – but all of them experienced the rush of new power that came from joining together into our new gestalt.
“What are we giving up in this?” I heard voices in the gestalt asking. Unity didn’t remove the fears that assailed us, it just gave perspectives on them that we lacked before.
“Nothing.” came the answer from those same voices as we all saw the problem with hundreds of eyes.
The gestalt state was powerful but as the Psi-Lords had learned the hard way it was also vulnerable. One attack could disrupt everyone in the gestalt. In the long term we needed to live separately, we needed to be our own people so that we would maintain the diversity of perspectives that made the gestalt so potent. In moments of crisis though, we could afford to come together to fight as one.
“Everyone!” we called out, speaking to the whole of the city, to all of the humans huddled in the shelters, to the Psi-Lords that were flickering on the edge of death and to the heroes who were fighting on despite what seemed like a hopeless battle before them.
“There’s a new gestalt forming!” the heroine Prismatic said across our mental link.
“We haven’t failed yet!” Guan and Alpha shouted triumphantly.
One after another, new voices joined the link and added their strength to the force that we’d gathered. I felt my heart soaring and let my body tumble as I rose up into a new one as tall as the sky and glowing with every color of the rainbow.
In my mind I heard voice in Spanish and Chinese, Arabic and Tagalog. I didn’t know any of the words but I knew what they were saying.
“One more time.”
We stepped forward and caught the War Beast that threatened our city. It was unstoppable, but so were we. It spat green flames at us, and a shield of brilliant blue materialized to block them. On our left shoulder, Aegis stood as our guardian.
“We’re not done yet!” he screamed at the War Beast.
The creature tried to ravage us with it’s claws and giant robots jumped on it.
“That’s my team! Way to go guys!” a voice in our gestalt said. Sophie “Spaceshot” Lamarr didn’t have a functional aircraft anymore but that didn’t mean she was out of the fight.
“We need to find a crack in it’s psychic defenses!” Prismatic said.
“I’ve got one right here for you!” a new voice, the heroine Seaspray, called out.
We looked for her, expecting to find her in our gestalt but she wasn’t there. She was in the monster itself, and we had a clear shot into it through the path she’d shown us.
Without hesitating or holding back we poured everything we had, everything we were, into the fissure. The giant that we had manifested as tunneled directly into the War Beast’s mind and left the physical world behind.
I blinked as we pierced the center of its psyche and the external world was replaced by the realm of the War Beast.
I’d expected it to be all fire and brimstone, maybe with some devils jumping around. Instead what awaited us was a quiet, empty plane. I looked around and saw my Mom and Dad and the people from the shelter standing around looking over the place like I was. In between us floated Bitter Chocolate and the rest of the Psi-Lords.
We weren’t there physically of course. What I was seeing were the psychic impressions of everyone who was part of the gestalt. All of the “bodies” and “people” around me were just visual representations of the other minds that I was talking to in the mind-gestalt that we’d put together..
“What is this?” I asked.
“It’s the War Beast’s innermost self.” Bitter said.
“But it’s empty.” I pointed out.
“Yeah, these things weren’t created to have much personality.” a girl explained as she walked up to me. Thanks to the mental link we still shared I knew she was Seadancer, the one who’d showed us the path through the War Beast’s defenses.
“There is something here though. The land beneath us is the base of a mind. It is like the creatures we controlled.” one of the Psi-Lords said.
“It’s like a dog?” I asked.
“Not exactly.” a new voice said. I turned to look at Princess as she joined us. “It is more primitive than that. It needs to be trained to think at all.”
“The War Beasts were design to be obedient, to be servants to the will of some Elder God Things a dimension or two over. They weren’t given the ability to think because their masters didn’t want the hassle of them rebelling.” Seadancer explained.
“What are we going to do with it?” I asked.
“We had hoped to move it back to its home but there is a problem.” Bitter Chocolate said.
“It’s too big for us to control like that. We can keep it docile but moving it around would take a lot more brainpower than we have available.” Prismatic said as she joined us.
“Docile’s good right?” I asked.
“It is unless we lose control and then we’d have it stomping all over the city again.” Prismatic explained.
“So do we have to destroy it then?” I asked.
“We would ask you not to. This mind will make a perfect home for us. It is quiet and we can help it to grow.” Bitter Chocolate said.
“I don’t know how we can keep it in the city.” Prismatic said.
“I do!” Captain Mercury said as she, Fire Forged, Doctor Nightshade and Professor Daft joined the gestalt. “If you can hold the War Beast steady for another hour and keep its defenses down, we’ll be good to go.”
“What are you going to do to it?” I asked.
“Shrink it down to size a bit.” Fire Forge said.
* * *
We released the gestalt two hours later, an hour after Captain Mercury’s solution was in place. She’s reconfigured one of the capture spheres that Doctor Wyrd had used on Aegis and Thundercrash to be capable of affecting a target the size of the War Beast.
Apparently the capture sphere’s not only shrunk the person or thing they were capturing, they also tucked them away into a small pocket dimension. It had taken a while to expand the capture field to encompass the War Beast but in the end it had wound up in a specially modified capture sphere the size of a billiard ball and the city breathed a collective sigh of relief.
We’d held the gestalt for an extra hour after that because we wanted to make sure that the new home for the Psi-Lords really was safe and that the War Beast was secure and comfortable as well. The new gestalt experience had changed the Psi-Lords enough that they considered themselves a separate race from what they had once been. The FBMA agreed and was reaching out to them as an “Affiliate Earth Race” rather than pursuing whatever criminal charges could be brought against them.
As for the War Beast, the thinking was that it traditionally waited for thousands of years between commands from its master so there would be plenty of time to help it grow into the sentient being it was capable of becoming before then. With the right psychic reinforcement, it’s former masters were going to have a very bad if they tried to call on our War Beast’s services again.
“So, it’s basically sleeping now is that right?” I asked Prismatic telepathically. It was So. Freaking. Awesome. to be telepathic.
“Roughly. It’s mind is still alert and active and it’s body doesn’t need rest but within the pocket dimension that Mercury and the others placed it in there are no other life forms, so the War Beast’s natural instincts are to remain quiescent.” Prismatic explained.
“Not only that but with the Psi-Lords there, it’s not alone.” Seadancer said. Her telepathy was the result of a magic spell, but it synced just fine with the kind that Prismatic and I had.
“Was it hard getting out of the War Beast?” I asked her.
“Nope. Just kind of disgusting. I was in water form, so I flowed into some of its saliva. Ugh, that was gross.” Seadancer said.
“So what’s going to happen if another one of those things shows up?” I asked.
“We know what the portals that lead to their world look like now so we’ll have more warning.” Seadancer said.
“What about other things like it though?” I asked.
“I believe they will have to deal with our pet War Beast if they should be a problem.” Prismatic said with a devilish smile.
“Hey are you folks coming?” Lux asked as he ran ahead of us.
“Coming where?” I asked.
“The after-party! You do not have a fight like this and not celebrate afterwards! Come on, we’re bring in everybody who pitched in.” he said.
“But that was the whole city!”
“Exactly!” Aegis said as he and the rest of the Champions escorted us in to the stadium, followed by the biggest crowd I had ever seen in my life.