Bianca Tallin/Bianca Tallin
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity To seize everything you ever wanted, one moment, Would you capture it or just let it slip?
2002. King’s Row
The skies were alive with fire over Paragon City.
People were screaming and fleeing amid the chaos, though there was nowhere to truly run. Alicia Tallin had a destination though. As the Rikti appeared out of nowhere, appearing suddenly without warning and slaughtering every human being they encountered, she managed to elude their sight not just once but on too many occasions in the last hour to count. As soon as it had started, she ran from the coin operated laundry where she worked without saying anything to anyone. There was no one she could have told anyway, because her boss was not there. He generally left about midday to make his rounds and collect the change from the other facility he owned across town. Alicia did not know whether he was caught up in this horrible day or not, but she prayed that he was still alive.
The earth was being invaded. She did not know what they were, but during her manic flight through the city because the buses were not running, she had heard the word Rikti associated with them. She did not care what they were called though. She only cared about three things at that moment.
Bianca… her oldest. Twelve this year and doing well in school, better than she ever had in years past. Well enough to give hope to Alicia that her daughter might escape the slum that was King’s Row.
David… her only son. Seven years old. Mischief and laughter and love all tied up in one sweet package.
Rachel… her baby, born just last year.
Bianca had reluctantly agreed to babysit because the elderly woman who normally took fifty dollars a week to watch her kids had a doctor’s appointment that day. So there was no adult there. Alicia knew the kids had to be terrified. And there was no one there for them. No father. No man at all. Only Bianca.
So Alicia ran for home. How many miles? She could not know. And then she was only a few blocks away when the telltale sounds of the Rikti appearing in the Row started again. All around her. She crashed full tilt into one of them. The alien, emotionless expression did not change as it stumbled, then balanced itself. It turned its rifled in her direction.
Unlike it, Alicia Tallin could not balance herself. She plunged straight down into the hard pavement of the sidewalk. She rolled once, then twice and came to a halt. She turned. The creature’s intent was clear. They were not here to show mercy after all. They were here to kill. The alien’s finger tightened on the trigger of its rifle.
And then in a blinding blur, it was not there.
Alicia gasped. She heard the pounding of fists on the alien’s flesh. Then the scene seemed to clear and she realized what she was seeing. Back Alley Brawler. He was here. Among the people of the Row. He was here to protect them, as was his promise to the people. He did not see her. He was too busy with what he was doing. But he’d saved her.
Alicia made it back to her feet. The apartment building was only a few blocks away from her. She began to run again. One block. Then two. She could see it in the distance now. A thunderous roar sounded somewhere behind her, but she was so intent on her children that she did not turn back to see what it was. She made it up the steps just as the Rikti dropship downed by Statesman crashed into the side of the building. The world shuddered and Alicia was flung forward into the lobby. She made it to a knee, but that was when there was a terrible wrenching sound, as if all the rage of Heaven was going to come down on her.
The highest ceilings collapsed first, each one adding weight and creating an inevitable chain reaction. Within seconds, the weight of fifteen stories bore down on the lobby. The floor beneath her collapsed. Alicia fell for a timeless moment. She opened her mouth in soundless denial. The scream simply would not come. The thought of her children was all consuming. The pain was enormous. She could not thing. And then she landed in a crumbled heap on top of the exposed rebar, which plunged through her torso. Everything was pain. Everything.
Time passed and she slipped closer to death. It was dark. And she was alone. The only sounds were her gasps and moans and the breathing in the darkness that grew ever more rapid.
Then there was light. Alicia blinked. She had very little time left. Her eyelids fluttered. The light itself was painful after the time in the darkness. A pair of kind and sorrowful eyes gazed down at her. Statesman had seen war. He knew what coming death looked like. He knew there was nothing he could do for her except to be there at the moment she passed.
Her lips moved. He leaned closer. Alicia whispered, somewhere between a moan and a plea, “My… babies… please find them…”
Marcus Cole hugged the dying woman, “You have my promise.”
Alicia Tallin passed then, forgotten and barely known, merely another victim of the Rikti invasion of 2002. She would never know of the sacrifice of the thousand or what Hero-1 did to preserve their city. Her last thought was of her children and perhaps that was as it should be. There is often little room in the greater war for the smallest losses and the smallest sacrifices, but Statesman knew enough to understand the importance of these things.
“Can you feel anyone else?” he asked the other behind him. Numina concentrated, nearly shook her head in denial, then opened her eyes.
“One. Very weak, buried very deep. I don’t know if you can reach…”
“I can, “ Statesman told her. “I will.”
And he dug. Carefully, so carefully. Numina chewed her lip, obviously distressed that he was taking the time to do this while the conflict raged around them, but he was [I]Statesman[/I]. Who was she to deny him what he believed to be important? Moments passed. Moments in which others died to the Rikti and the heroes of the city fought an impossible holding action against them. Finally, nearly thirty feet down, he found the unconscious form of the twelve-year-old girl. Both arms and one leg broken. A lung punctured. Crushed beneath a slab of concrete. But alive.
Statesman lifted her up.
Snap back to reality
Bianca Tallin tried to hold the anger inside. She really did. She tried to ignore the words of other children when they mocked her scars or said other terrible things to her. None of them knew what that day was like. She knew that they could not know. But none of that mattered sometimes. The hate seemed to feed itself, but in reality, the hate was fed by her just as much as by them.
And sometimes the rage exploded out of her like a bomb exploding.
When she had healed enough to be released from the hospital, she was much like many other children in Paragon City in those days… a war orphan. She was put into the care of the Rhode Island Department of Social Services and placed into a temporary care facility with the hopes that she might be fostered, perhaps even eventually adopted. But in the aftermath of the Rikti invasion, the market for scarred, shellshocked, twelve-year-old African American girls was relatively small. And the foster care system was overloaded. To many children had been orphaned in that one night. The temporary care facility gave way to a permanent orphanage. Low management at first, because prior to that night, Bianca Tallin had never even been in a sniff of trouble.
She had distant family out in Utah. Her cousin Sullivan Washington even offered to let her come live with him at one point, but Sully was only seventeen at the time of the Rikti invasion. Rhode Island DSS refused his request. Sully’s father, her mother’s cousin, made no such offer. He had no interest in caring for the daughter of a woman he had not seen since he was eight years old. So Bianca went into the orphanage.
The others in the orphanage were not the problem. Like her, all of them had recently seen loss firsthand in one way or another. None of them were particularly interested in exacerbating the pain of another, when his or her own pain was just beneath the surface ready to bleed again at a moment’s notice. But the hastily cobbled together orphanage in the Row was placed near the only school capable of suddenly absorbing an influx of so many new students. At her old school, Bianca had friends and a sense of place. In this new school, she was a, (in her mind at least), hideously scarred stranger.
Her sullen demeanor fed most of the student’s immediate dislike of her. The arguments started… then the fights. Her caseworker, mindful of her recent loss, tried to be patient about this at first. Nothing in her record indicated behavior such as this in the past. But the fights did not end. If nothing else, the night of the Rikti invasion left Bianca Tallin ready to fight. And if she could not fight those who killed her family, she would fight anyone and everyone in her path who would try to disparage or demean her. She would answer cruelty with violence and, in the nature of adults, it was the violence most often noticed.
Finally, one day, a girl named Emily Jackson, trying to get a rise out of her, made a crack about Bianca’s mother… and succeeded on a level she never wanted or believed possible. By the time they pulled Bianca Tallin off of her, Emily was bleeding from bite marks on her arms and hands. Three of her fingers were broken. Her abdomen was bruised so badly from so many kicks that the doctor who initially examined Emily believed that she must have internal bleeding.
At Bianca’s hearing, the judge was unsympathetic to her court appointed attorney’s plea for leniency due to Bianca’s loss. Paragon City had many war orphans during those years. None of them had put other girls into the hospital. Bianca was sentenced to the care of the Rhode Island Department of Juvenile Justice, who placed her into a high management youth detention facility until the facility management believed her ready for discharge or until she reached the age of eighteen.
This is my life and these times are so hard and it's getting even harder…
Bianca Tallin was raped for the first time when she was fourteen years old.
It happened in the game room of Crossroads, the detention facility where she was sent, in the middle of the night. The perpetrator was a forty-five year old man who served as the night shift supervisor. No other staff members were around. The one assigned to her floor was asleep in the control room at the time of the incident. Though she never knew why, Bianca never told anyone about what happened.
After that, it happened a lot. She never invited it or complained about it. She just silently endured it. It was probably that, by this point, Bianca defined herself by the amount that she suffered. As long as she suffered, she continued to live. Fighting back only resulted in the worsening of her situation, as it had when she fought back against Emily Jackson.
But that did not mean that she accepted what was happening. And it did not mean that she did not hate.
Bianca only waited.
The only person she ever talked to outside the facility was her cousin Sullivan, who spent much of the year fighting a losing battle with the state of Rhode Island to get her release from Crossroads. The judge, however, had made his intentions perfectly clear. Bianca would not be released until Crossroads deemed her ready for release. And at least one member among those who had the power to make recommendations regarding her continued stay among them now had a very vested interest in keeping her there.
So she stayed.
And she waited.
And the hatred grew inside. And then it exploded again.
On December fourteenth, 2004, she escaped. The body of the night shift supervisor was discovered the following morning approximately thirty minutes after his subordinate’s alarm clock awakened him from his nightly sleep. The sight that greeted him in the game room was both terrible and majestic. The supervisor had been stabbed thirty-seven times. His end had not been quick. His entrails were spread throughout the room. His face was frozen in endless scream of agony. He had been alive through most of it. At the end, Bianca had taken both his badge, which allowed her free exit from the facility, raising no alarms, and the keys to his car, which allowed her to transportation to wherever she wanted to go.
By the time anyone knew anything, she had disappeared into the underworld.
It only grows harder, only grows hotter…
The Circle of Thorns rarely had any interest in Mercy Island.
There were rumors, however, of a displaced spirit of the Banished Pantheon that had been trapped beneath the waves near the island. There had been a brutal conflict between Longbow forces and the Pantheon. It ended aboard one Longbow’s small nuclear submarines. All of the Longbow forces aboard were slain and most of the Pantheon undead destroyed when the sub’s nuclear core melted down, but rumors still persisted that one of the Spirits of Pain lingered down there and had been… altered… by its exposure to the radiation.
The mage Weskelan believed these rumors. He believed that whatever this spirit had become represented the first step on his journey to power. If he could trap and contain and channel this transformed spirit, it would represent a powerful weapon against both those who would oppose him, as well as his rivals within the Circle. So he had set about discovering the sunken submarine’s whereabouts and researching a manner in which to trap the spirit. He discovered a ritual that he believed would suffice for this purpose. The necessary components were relatively common. Among them was, unsurprisingly, the blood of a virgin.
The blood of the pure represented the untold potential of life. It was often necessary to channel this potential in order to correctly align power and attract the attention of something interested in corrupting such purity, as this spirit undoubtedly would. Weskelan had no virgin’s blood, but he did have a variety of underlings available to procure it for him.
His instructions were quite clear. Locate one who would not be missed. This particular ritual must be performed in the greatest secrecy. He did not want his rivals to power to discover his intent until the wild spirit was already under his control.
And so, the night the ritual was to be performed, one of the archers dumped a body-sized sack on the ground in front of him. Weskelan gazed at it impersonally, then asked, “The sacrifice?”
The archer nodded in silence. Weskelan pressed, “She is not damaged?”
“Only superficially, “ the archer answered. “We found her in a back alley in Haven, emaciated and probably starving, but she fought much harder than we expected. She actually injured Delaughter, who approached her first.”
Weskelan arched an eyebrow, turning his attention to the other subordinate, who appeared both disgruntled and abashed. Weskelan attempted to hide his amusement as he asked dryly, “You are well enough to proceed?”
“Of course, “ the Thorn Wielder snapped.
“Excellent, “ Weskelan replied, “then place her on the alter and we will begin.”
Perhaps more roughly than usual, Delaughter grabbed the girl in the sack and moved toward the alter. He walked with a noticeable limp. Weskelan smiled to himself. He would have to glean the details of the encounter from the archer later. He was certain that it would be an entertaining story. However, entertainment would have to wait. He felt a tingle of anticipation and a burgeoning sense of triumph. Nothing could stop him now. Nothing.
Bianca’s unconscious form was dumped unceremoniously on the altar. She moaned slightly as he head hit the stone, but she did not reach full wakefulness. Both eyes were blackened during the earlier struggle. Had she not been so weak and delirious from lack of food, she might have been able to escape the Circle’s abductors as she had escaped from other human predators since coming to Mercy Island, but her struggle had not been enough.
Weskelan removed the ceremonial dagger and placed it next to the girl. He was privately a bit disgusted by her appearance. In his mind’s eye, he had envisioned an unspoiled, beautiful child, not this rather… ragged, dirty, and unkempt black girl for his sacrifice, but when time was limited and secrecy necessary…
He raised his hands. Around them the four braziers burst into flame. He faced the lapping waves, his voice rising into a chant. He could sense the presence of the powerful spirit lurking out there. The first stage was to call it to him. The chant began low, then rose. Behind him, as each stage of the painstaking ritual proceeded, his subordinates performed their duties flawlessly.
Below him, though he barely registered, he was so deep into his spellcasting, the girl stirred again and opened her eyes.
Bianca had no idea where she was. She was confused. It smelled. Someone was saying something over and over. She tried to roll over, but the archer saw her and pinned her. Then she saw the knife. Most of the time, at this point, the victim screamed. Sometimes they begged. Some few… like Bianca… thrashed and fought.
Weskelan glanced down. He saw the smoldering hatred in her eyes. The sheer rage. And he was a bit surprised that her eyes could actually unnerve him, but he had practiced the ritual so many times in recent weeks that it was second nature to him. Almost of its own volition, his left hand reached for the ceremonial dagger. He could feel the Spirit, now freed temporarily by his spell, rising from beneath the waves to confront him. Its gift of blood had to be ready at that moment.
When Bianca saw the stranger in the robes reach for the knife next to her, she took no more time to wonder where she was or what she was doing here. His intention was clear. Still pinned to the altar by the force of the archer’s grip, she went berserk. She thrashed and bucked and used all the force her small body possessed to free herself, but the man was too strong.
“Still her, “ Weskelan snapped, the perspiration from the effort of the ritual glistening on his forehead. “Still her now.”
The archer saw no alternative. He struck Bianca with all the force he could muster to get her to lie still. Blood spilled from her nose and dripped onto the stone. Weskelan’s eyes bulged at the sight. Her blood was free… not in the appropriate reliquary… it was…
It was on them in a blinding rush. Weskelan was hurled back from the altar. The archer and the thorn wielder were both consumed by the Death Spirit in an instant. They never had a chance to scream or to even realize their death was upon them. Weskelan stared in horror as the girl was lifted, suspended in mid-air, the blood still flowing unabated. He could sense the naked greed of this… whatever it was that had emerged… a combination of the radiation of the nuclear core and the Spirit of Death it had once been.
Rage. All rage that he would attempt to cheat it so. The mage felt himself begin to wither as the spirit’s power coursed through him. Unlike the others, he felt it. The being wanted, he understood, for him to feel it. For him to fear it.
“No…,” a ragged voice, a small voice, feminine, but at the same time grating and full of hate, “please… wait…”
The spirit paused. Weskelan collapsed back onto the sand. He could sense its interest in the girl whose essence it had already tasted. Its sending was much gentler than when it had addressed Weskelan.
“Let me, “ she asked, staggering to her feet, “let me. He is mine.”
Weskelan felt a strange explosion of joy from the Spirit. The girl tottered toward him, leaning over unsteadily to pick up the dagger. Weskelan began the words to a spell that would annihilate her instantly, but the Spirit’s rage washed over him, blasting all thought from his mind.
The last thing that Weskelan, mage of the Circle of Thorns, felt was the blade of the dagger entering the side of his neck. When it was done, she backed away, letting the blade slip from her hands. Behind her, the presence in the air regarded her curiously. It had given her what she wanted. She could sense that it wanted something in return, but she did not know what. She turned around. It spread out in their air before her, both majestic and terrifying. It placed into her mind an image of the place of its lonely imprisonment.
Freedom only comes if there is a host for me.
“I won’t be alone?”
You will never be alone.
“And you will give me what I want?”
We will give each other what we want. Show me.
So she did. And the pride that it felt was nearly more than it could bear. Bianca spread her arms wide allowing it into the deepest part of her. It rushed forward, free from its underwater prison. The power infused her. The spirit knew joy as it had never known. They were one in the same.
They were the green fire of death.
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.
Sometimes, Statesman believed, it was too much. He had received so many honors during his career that he often wearied of them. It would be somehow ungrateful, though, to refuse to attend them. It was just as incumbent on him to acknowledge their gratitude toward him as it was for him to perform the actions that they were honoring.
Which is why on June, 19th, he was sitting on a stage in Atlas Park receiving a civic award from the Firefighter’s Association of Paragon City. Numina was seated beside him, the only member of the Freedom Phalanx free to attend. He was not surprised to learn that his granddaughter had opted to send no one from the Vindicators.
He sometimes thought that his granddaughter somehow disapproved of him in certain ways.
He was barely listening to the accolades in the speech, so absorbed was he by this rather troubling line of thought that he also nearly missed the beginning of the disturbance in the crowd. Numina was already on her feet by the time he rose and saw her, a small dark-skinned girl with another woman in her grasp. A glowing, green hand poised threateningly next to the hostage’s face.
The obvious hatred in the girl’s face.
All of these things registered in the mind of Marcus Cole. So did the horrified gasps of the crowd when the young girl burned away part of the hostage’s hair. Statesman moved forward slightly, his hands raised in a placating way.
“Okay, “ he told the girl, “nobody wants anyone to get hurt, so why don’t you…?”
“Speak for yourself, “ the girl snarled at him, then cocked her head slightly as if distracted by something. Without warning, she fired a blast of pure radiation. The podium in front of the fire marshal was instantly incinerated by the pure heat of the blast. She nodded slightly as if in agreement.
“A demonstration, “ she snapped. “The next shot goes into someone alive.”
“Why don’t you just tell me what you want and we can all get out of this without…?” he started again.
“Shut up, “ the girl spat at him. “You don’t make the rules here!”
Numina’s voice was soothing, “You know where you are, child. This is Atlas Park. If you hurt this woman, there will be no shortage of those here to bring you down.”
“Yeah, “ the girl cocked her head again, “but she’ll still die, right?”
“You do not want that, “ Numina told her.
“Get out of my mind, “ the girl, for the first time, seemed to direct her obvious rage in another direction than Statesman. Her fist glowed. The heat increased. In her grip, the hostage gasped and tried to squirm. Bianca seemed to barely notice her. The threat, however, was so imminent that Statesman knew that he had to act at once.
“What is it that you want?” he asked suddenly.
“You, “ she said, for the first time not distracted in the least. Her answer was clear and came at once, “Dead.”
He was taken aback, “Do we know each other?”
Her eyes blazed, “No more questions! If you ask another, she dies now!”
Numina projected to him, “She is absolutely serious. She intends to kill if you ask her anything else.”
Without acknowledging Numina’s information, Statesman addressed Bianca, “Many have tried to kill me in the past. I assume you have a plan to do so.”
The look the child gave him was truly ugly. He knew that he had to try a different tack, “All right. What do you want me to do?”
“Come to Terra Volta, “ she told him. “One hour. Come alone. If you don’t come or don’t come alone, I won’t be there. Then I start frying random people in the street. Yeah, she’s right, one of the heroes will stop me, but you don’t want a bunch of dead people if you can stop it just by showing up, right?”
“I don’t want to fight you, “ he told her. “Maybe we can work out…”
“COME, “ she screamed, then after a small hitch, calmed down with visible effort, “to Terra Volta in an hour… you know the rules…”
With that, she dropped the woman and moved in a blur away from the park. Statesman knew that he could catch, but he also knew that he could not chance her spotting his approach and turning her power against some random passerby. So he watched her go for the moment. As expected, she moved in the direction of Liberty Harbor where the Terra Volta nuclear power facility was.
“What do you intend to do?” Numina asked.
“Have them evacuate Power Island, “ he told her. “With no innocent bystanders there for her to threaten, I should be able to subdue her without anyone being hurt. I want to know who she is though. This has a strange personal sort of feel to it, but I have never seen this girl before.”
“Yes, you have, “ Numina told him.
“You recognize her, “ he asked with surprise.
“No, “ she admitted. “But there is an absolute certainty that screams from her mind that she knows you. Just it screams from her that she is a divided being.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“It is difficult to explain, “ she told him, “There is something else inside of her… and I think that something else is the one that is actually planning this. She seems… to desire it… but I don’t think she would be able to plan what to actually do. Whatever it is, it seems to be pulling some of her strings.”
“Hrm, “ he answered and considered for a moment, “All right. Do you have time today?”
“To work with you?” she asked. “Certainly.”
“Stay out of sight, “ he told her. “If she was serious about killing the woman in the crowd, she’s probably also pretty serious about her other threats if I don’t go by her game plan.”
“Don’t worry, “ Numina told him, “she will never know I am there.”
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow.
The feeling of speed was transcendent as she raced across the water toward the island.
The other exulted with her, simultaneously feeding her emotion and feeding off it. It knew that it would have other experience to feed it on this day, for it was old… old enough to have experienced much of this world’s history. It remembered the only thing that had nearly slain the strongest one. It could use the special one, this child who had given herself to it, to duplicate that event, refine it, and succeed where those others had failed.
And this death above all others would be the sweetest.
She reached the outer gates. Despite Statesman’s warning, an hour had not been enough to evacuate the island, but they knew she was coming.
Wait. There and there.
She saw the locations of the security forces in her mind. The anger simmered that the man who had cost her everything would not listen to her? Did he not believe her? Did he think she would not follow through on her warnings? She would show him. She would…
The world seemed to explode in her mind. The rage blossomed.
The radioactive heat that surrounded her burned through the outside retaining wall in the blink of an eye. The security patrol positioned behind it had no chance at all. Most had barely turned in her direction before the nuclear fire broiled them alive. Bianca could feel the [I]other’s[/I] delight and satisfaction in their deaths. Its delight was palpable and she felt warm contentment travel through her.
“That’s what you want?” she whispered.
More. it agreed.
Somehow she knew where to go. She traveled the halls in a heartbeat. Statesman was too late for the next security patrol. Too late for the scientist in the hallway. Too late for the two engineers in the upper control room. Across catwalks and through tunnels she traveled, moving ever closer to her goal… the radioactive core of the plant.
“What do I do?” she asked when she neared the place, for she truly did not know.
The Death Spirit knew. And it told her how.
She had just reached the cooling rods when the entire building seemed to shudder. He was here. He was finally here and she had the chance to put paid to a life of pain and four years of suffering. The green fire pulsed inside her in synergy with the massive energy that rested so very close to her. Just burn through that place there and it would all be hers…
Not yet. Wait for him.
Statesman entered the room and she felt the thrill of fear because she realized he had seen what she had done outside. She knew that, unlike at the park, he was now angry… definitely angry at her, but also perhaps angry that his inaction there had cost lives here. But Statesman knew that he could not save everyone, no matter what he might want.
The words were stone from him. She was taken aback that he had found out so easily who she was, but she supposed that it was only a matter of time after all. And he had the entire world to work with. Under those circumstances, an hour was like a lifetime.
She was more surprised by how small her voice was when she answered, how weak she sounded, “You took everything from me…”
He looked stricken briefly, because he now knew where he had seen her before. Once he found her name and referenced her picture in the DJJ files, it was no small matter to connect her to the name of Alicia Tallin, whose name he had honored as a brave woman who only wanted to reach her children on the night of the Rikti invasion. He did not want to hurt this woman’s daughter. But people were dead. And he was the Statesman.
Numina’s voice reached his mind, It is certain. There is something else inside of her. It is far more pronounced than it was in the park, now that she has killed again. It is growing stronger. If she continues to kill, soon I doubt there will be anything left of her but a shell.
“Lives were at stake that night, “ he told the girl. “Your mother…”
“YOU don’t talk about my mother, “ Bianca screamed at him and the radiation pulsed, shearing cleanly through one of the cooling rods in front of her, melting it like so much ice cream in the summer sun. The Death Spirit sent waves of contentment through her, willing her to act, the sheer the others, to free the nuclear power of the reactor, channel it, send it as one great wave at this man, and watch him die.
Statesman took a step forward and the second cooling rod went in the blink of an eye. If the reactor melted down, all of Independence Port would die, all of Paragon City would be exposed. Generations of radiation sickness. It would be worse than Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl combined. Paragon City would be a dead spot on the earth. He had to stop her.
Bianca screamed soundless rage, letting it blossom and explode. The third cooling rod withered beneath the fire inside her. Statesman was almost there. She saw him, the same eyes her mother saw just before she died, but there was no kindness there as there had been then, only determination and accusation. The green fire hit him and he staggered.
The other was overjoyed. Bianca Tallin was all hate. The fourth rod was right there in front of her. Her hand was poised. Statesman recovered, but understood that though he might stop her in the aftermath… the meltdown was coming. Numina would gather others, keep it contained somehow, but… it was coming.
Then Numina struck.
Bianca was abruptly confused by the sudden internal shriek of the [I]other[/I]. It was all wordless denial and desperation. She knew somehow that the killer of her family had not kept his word again. He had brought someone else here, but she could see no one else. The Death Spirit was trying tell her though, trying to convey to her what she must do. She need only hold onto it to keep it with her. Though the psychic presence was very powerful, she could not separate them as she intended to as long as Bianca held strong and continued to anchor it.
Intuitively, she started to block Numina and the heroine felt her control over the spirit inside the girl begin to slip. It happened in a heartbeat, but she felt Statesman’s hand close around her. Snarling, she let the green fire erupt from her, poisoning the room, but he kept her hand away from the cooling rod.
HOLD ONTO ME! KILL HIM! NOW!
Bianca… child… listen to me…
“Don’t wanna…, “ Bianca whispered.
See what it intends for you.
PAY NO ATTENTION!
But Bianca did. And she saw. And she knew in that moment that the spirit had betrayed her as all eventually betrayed her or hurt her or used her. And she let it go… let Numina take it away… heard its last soundless scream as she collapsed in Statesman’s grasp, hung limply by the one arm that he still held.
Statesman gazed down at the girl for a moment. She was a killer, but at that moment, she seemed very, very lost and helpless. He remembered that moment on the street and her mother and his promise. Numina appeared beside him, her eyes as sympathetic as his own.
“You stopped what was inside of her?” he asked, though he suspected he already knew the answer.
She nodded, then knelt down next to the girl, “It is over, Bianca. You are safe now.”
The girl violently shook her head in mute denial through the tears.
Knowing the telepathic link was still active, Statesman asked, “Was it that thing all along? Will she heal now that it is gone?”
I am not sure, Numina answered, we both saw her file. I think she probably murdered that man in the group home long before whatever happened that let that Spirit possess her.
Statesman was dissatisfied with that and his friend could tell that he obviously did not want to believe it. And though she could sympathize with his wish for the memory of that night to remain as it was… the he had kept his promise to the dying woman in King’s and found her daughter buried beneath thirty feet of concrete… that he had preserved the girl’s life and that the moment had been a sort of self-benediction for him… Numina believed that the story of Bianca Tallin was not done.
As if in immediate confirmation of this suspicion, the girl suddenly hitched away from Statesman’s grasp in revulsion and he saw that the rage and hate in her eyes was not gone. Though the power was gone, the promise of death in her face remained.
“One day, “ she told him. “Somehow. I’m gonna find everyone you love and I’m gonna kill them one by one. You don’t believe me? I’ll find a way. I don’t know how… but I will.”
She buried her face and finally whispered, “You took everything from me.”