The Longest Battle – Ch 08 – Small Solutions to Big Problems

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    It wasn’t the first time Minnie had caught a girl who was falling from the top of a building, but it was the first time the girl had struggled to keep falling.

    “Stop pushing against the edge, you’re going to pull us both over.” Minnie demanded, as the dark haired girl whose wrists she was holding kicked and struggled to break free.

    “Let go. Let me fall. It’s got to end now.” the girl demanded.

    Minnie considered ignoring the girl’s pleas. There were a few options on the table that she could work through before letting the girl plummet to her very likely demise. The easiest, and most tempting option was for Minnie to reveal herself for who she truly was.

    As “Minnie”, she was a diminutive slip of a girl, attending college at Clarefield University for the second semester of her freshman year. As far as her classmates knew, Minnie was an honors student. One whose schedule was kept insanely busy by her coursework and extracurricular activities. That was true as far as it went, but calling Minnie’s time away from campus “extracurricular activites” didn’t really do her justice. Where other students played sports or worked part time jobs, Minnie spent her time stopping alien invasions, battling the forces of Dark Faerie Queens and helping Dragons integrate into modern society peacefully.

    Most of the time that she was performing those super heroic feats though she didn’t go by the name Minnie and she wasn’t a tiny slip of a girl. As “Taurus”, she stood over seven feet tall and out massed most of the ultralight hybrid cars that were on the road.

    Through highschool Minnie hadn’t bothered with a secret identity. It would have been easy to set one up given the transformation she underwent when she changed from girl to Minotaur but setting up a secret identity and maintaining one are completely different things. To keep her secret she would have had to lie to the people who knew her and come up with a series of explanations for why she was never around when trouble showed up. There were plenty of heroes who managed that, but Minnie hadn’t felt the need to join their anonymous ranks. After people first discovered who and what she was, she’d found that she’d liked the attention and liked having people know they could call on her when they were in trouble.

    The four years as a public super hero in high shool had been great but being a celebrity can be trying too. Minnie loved heroing, loved being Taurus, but when it came time to move on, she noticed that she felt a bit homesick for being just Minnie too.

    College is a place to prove yourself for many young adults and Minnie didn’t want to miss that aspect of it either. She knew her celebrity might earn her better grades and a smoother ride to her degree and she decided to avoid that at all costs. Taurus had plenty of things that she could be proud of, this was a chance for the “Minnie” in her to show what she could do.

    “Pride goeth before the fall.” Minnie muttered. If it came down to the choice between keeping her secret identity or letting the girl fall, Minnie knew she’d have to transform but she still had a good enough grip on the girl’s hand to try a simpler option; talking to her.

    “Tell me what has to end. Tell me why you’re doing this.” Minnie said.

    “I’m cursed.” the girl whimpered.

    “That’s not worth killing yourself over. I know half a dozen people who can break curses.” Minnie said. Even as a girl, Minnie’s strength was still far beyond what any human her size should have been able to managed, so holding on wasn’t a problem. The issue was that one of mass. No amount of super strength can help you if there’s nothing to grab onto to, which was exactly the case with the ice slicked and steeply sloped roof of the Clarefield Student Center.

    “You don’t understand. Just let me go!” the girl screamed.

    “Not happening.” Minnie assured her.

    “Why! Why did you stop me!” the girl cried.

    “I’ve had bad days too. Once upon a time I had the worst day I could ever imagine, and then the day after that was worse. Things are better now, but I never would have seen today if I’d given up like I wanted to back then.” Minnie said.

    “Things can never get better for me.” the girl said.

    “Never’s an awfully long time.” Minnie said.

    “You can’t break my curse, it’s the only thing keeping me alive. But it’s destroying other people and it’s got to be stopped! Please, let me do this. I don’t want to keep hurting people!” the girl said.

    “This isn’t the way to do that. There’s a better option than this. There is always a better option than this!” Minnie yelled at the girl.

    “Not for me.” the girl said.

    “How about this; I’ll make you a deal. You stop fighting and let me pull you up, then we go see one of my friends, if she can’t help you, you can walk away and do whatever you want.” Minnie said.

    The girl was silent for a dozen heart beats as she considered the offer. She was also still which meant that Minnie was able to start inching back up the frozen rooftop millimeter by millimeter.

    “Ok.” the girl said as though only that single symbol could force its way out past the pain she was carrying inside.

***

    “So tell me what this curse of yours is like?” Adella asked.

    Minne had known Adella for almost five years and had worked with the formerly Evil Faerie Queen on numerous occasions. Somewhere along the line they’d lost count of who owed who more favors, so turning up on Adella’s doorstep just after midnight with a forlorn and desperate girl in tow didn’t register to Minnie as anything she even needed to call ahead about.

    For her part, Adella hadn’t been at all surprised to see Minnie and Clarice turn up in the middle of the night. There’d been a few simple portents that had told her she’d have an interesting evening.

    “I was dying, I have a degenerative neural disease. Or I had one. The disease was cured, but the damage was too severe. Everything was shutting down.” Clarice said, sipping at the hot tea that Adella had set out and waiting for them when they arrived.

    “Was it the cure that cursed you?” Minnie asked.

    “No. The cure was just a new technology. It worked fine. I just got it too late. I knew that too. I heard the doctor’s talking. I was laying in the bed when they told my mother I wasn’t going to make it. I kind of ran away. I didnt want them to see me.” Clarice said.

    “How did you run if you were that hurt?” Minnie asked.

    “I didn’t know at the time, I just did it. I ran outside and up to a bluff near the hospital. I was watching the sky, thinking it was the last time I was going to see it when I saw a star go shooting by in front of the moon. I don’t know why but I reached out to grab it and that’s when I fell.” Clarice said.

    “But something caught you didn’t it?” Adella said.

    “Yes.” Clarica said, the word half choked off despite its brevity.

    “What was it?” Minnie asked.

    “A Quicksilver spirit.” Adella said.

    “An evil fairie?” Minnie groaned. Her history with the Fair Folk hadn’t been a particular happy one in many cases. There were a few she could stand to spend time with but a vastly larger number who moved her straight through angry to “murderous rage” on the sight of them.

    “The thing that caught you, it changed you did it not?” Adella asked.

    “I didn’t notice at first, but yes.” Clarice said.

    “Can you transform?” Minnie asked, thinking uncomfortably of her own alternate form and the fairie tortures she’d been put through to get it.

    “Not like that. Not when I want to. Sometimes, I just get prettier though.” Clarica said.

    “Why would that be bad?” Minne asked.

    “Because it’s not a physical change. It’s a perceptual one. Her aura has been infected by the Quicksilver.” Adella said and then continued, “The Quicksilver is bonded to her and has duplicated her damaged neural tissues. She’s right that to break the curse would kill her.”

    Clarice released a breath she’d been holding, but stayed silent otherwise.

    “I’m still not seeing why you woud want to.” Minnie said.

    “Because it’s eating people too.” Clarice said.

    “Eating people?” Minnie asked.

    “Near the full moon, people get interested in me. Its a different person each time, because once the full moon ends, they’re gone. I don’t know where they go, I just know that I lose time, sometimes an hour, sometimes a day and then they’re not around anymore.” Clarice said.

    “And you think you’re eating them?” Minnie asked, disbelief written all over her face.

    “I don’t know. I don’t know that I’m not either though. Somethings happening to them though!” Clarice said.

    “Yes. Something is happening to them.” Adella agreed. “However it’s not that you’re eating them. They are being taken. The one’s who the Quicksilver selects to entice are marked by it. It takes their sanity and banishes them to the Moon, or at least a pocket dimension that hosts the Moon’s lunatic spirits.”

    “That’s why I need to die. It’s too horrible!” Clarice said, tears rolling down her cheeks.

    “Die? Oh no, that would make it much worse. It’s only because it’s bound to you that the Quicksilver isn’t spreading a wave of madness over this entire city. I’m afraid you have to live or there will be nothing to hold the lunatic spirits in check.” Adella said.

    “So what can we do?” Minnie asked.

    “Pay a visit to the Lunatic Moon. If we can find the missing pieces of the Quicksilver, we can cure its madness and integrate it fully into Miss Clarice.” Adella said.

    “And if we can’t?”

    “Then we’ll go irrevocably insane ourselves.” Adella said.

    Minne laughed.

    “Sanity is overrated.”

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