Since Perspectives is mainly a writing exercise with no obligation to consider the stories written for the series canon, I used October '09's topic to take a stab at something I'd been toying with and lightly foreshadowing doing to the Androgyne, as something of a test run before committing to the idea in-game. At this point, Ani had been playing at being 3 different people for a few months while plotting revenge against Countess Crey and secretly keeping an eye out for eir friends in the Reciprocators: the flamboyant and villainous Androgyne, the grim and heroic Kings Arrow, and Arrow's secret identity of Nathan Crowne; I wanted to explore the idea of the stress and effort of maintaining eir lies finally flat-out breaking eir mind. I slightly regret then running with this angle in-game, since it over-complicated an already complicated situation, but overall I think it played out well.
It was a rare moment of quiet in the Misfit Mansion. Ani hadn't called ahead, though there was at least one person there e would have hesitantly trusted with the knowledge of eir arrival. E'd asked too much in the way of secrecy from Katze of late, though; besides, e was only making the delivery. Kit would have called ahead to make sure someone would be along to receive it. Ani materialized from between the dimensions in the Mansion foyer, one hand releasing the thrashing tendril of darkness, a thread of fate, e had pulled emself along to bring em here. The other arm was wrapped around the small girl clinging to eir side, her eyes shining with Kheldian light. Kitsuki Kaijuko's adopted daughter, Anne, fused with the remnants of the Kheldian once called Mirzam to aid in her escape.
Far behind them, in a warehouse in the Rogue Isles, Ani had left several actors hired to pose as guards writhing in an agony they hadn't signed up for with much of their own identities erased by eir transgenic radiation. They'd be compensated well at least, the payment e'd wired beforehand to Dervish should have covered the cost of a trip through the local mediports to correct the damage, with enough left over to buy their continued silence; there would be no mistaking Ani's involvement now, and e had placed emself firmly in the Dirge of Despair's sights while deflecting any suspicion of Dervish's betrayal as the endangerment of a child encroached on one of the loudmouthed villain's few scruples.
E set Anne down and turned to face back the direction they had come from, hands weaving through the air as they danced through the mass of threads e saw in search of a few select ones. Each of the ones e sought e grasped in turn and pulled on with a sharp, demanding tug, yanking the people at the end of them to eir side as e willed the threads to shorten, accelerating the meeting each thread's existence pointed to. One by one the rest of those who had been kidnapped with Anne materialized in the foyer, the family stunned by the series of jumps across space they had made as Ani pulled them along in eir wake. The Grants looked as if they wanted to thank em, but the cool stare with which e regarded them through eyes glowing a warning sickly green gave them pause. "You're safe now, in Salamanca. Er, a not-too-haunted part. There's places you can sit through here."
E offered a hand to Anne who, unlike the Grants, wasn't bothered at all by Ani's aloofness and took it without reservation, and led all of them through to the rec room that adjoined the foyer, gesturing around and indicating all should make themselves comfortable. Ani turned to Anne and lowered to one knee, checking her over and brushing some dust and cobwebs that must have clung to her on their way out of the warehouse off her jacket; she looked a little dismayed by the mother-henning but she was happy enough to be free and soon to see Kit again that she tolerated the grooming. "Your mom'll be here soon, sweetie. Tell her to text me, let me know that everything's okay, I have to--" Eir lips continued to move for a moment but e'd stopped talking, staring past Anne as e glimpsed the movement of a dark figure at the end of the corridor that led to the ring of portal stones at the center of the Mansion.
They weren't alone here after all. E rose to eir feet, leaving Anne watching em with a note of bewildered concern. E touched a finger to eir lips and gestured for her to go wait with the Grants, and took a step towards the portal room. A niggling voice in the back of eir mind urged em to leave; Anne and the Grants were safe, e'd seen the matter to its resolution as e'd promised Kit e would long before Crey's manipulations yanked the rug out from under eir entire life and forced eir return to the Isles. E was a villain again, as a part of em had grimly consigned to believing was eir fate all along, and e couldn't risk being caught in the city, even by the Misfits. E couldn't bring emself to go just yet though. Not until e was sure eir eyes weren't playing tricks on em.
E walked down the short corridor, the soles of eir boots clomping softly against the Mansion's stone floor, and down the steps that led to the room full of floating stones enchanted to deliver those who activated them to any corner of the city. Aside from the gradually fading sound of the Grant family's excited murmuring at being free of the madman who had taken them all hostage, there was no sound but the mystical hum of the stones and Ani's own breathing. Off to the right around a corner leading to Katze's dimly lit workshop, e saw another flicker of movement against the shadows, a small swirl of black and dark gold cloth, the tail end of a cape.
Ani's heartbeat quickened and a cold sweat broke over eir brow. There was only one Reciprocator or Misfit e could think of that wore a black and gold cape. A pale green shine began to emanate from the fingertips of one hand as e primed eir radiation, while the other hand drifted through the air, spidering from thread to thread as e moved to keep a loose but ready grasp on one which could quickly take em to safety. E stalked slowly and cautiously towards the workshop.
The lights were off, the only illumination coming from the passage to the nearby firing range and the computer screen at the Cleanbot's vacant maintenance station. Shadows danced and shifted as the screensaver scrolled through pictures of Katze's son and her mother, and the air carried a scent of ozone from the crackling Jacob's ladders scattered among Heroisch's equipment. As Ani moved deeper into the room, e heard a rustle of cloth from the shadowed corner where the Misfits kept warded chests for storing potentially dangerous artifacts recovered in the course of their crime-busting until they could be secured by MAGI or the Midnighters. Eir head snapped towards the sound, and for a long moment Ani didn't breathe, the baleful green glow fading from eir eyes as e stared, a chill finger dragging down eir spine.
A dark, lean shape stood there, dressed in black from head to toe with a mask that rose to long swooping points above his head. On his chest, a golden shape caught just enough light to make out its design. A crown. Ani's mouth moved, but no sound came out. Eir hand tightened around the thread e had ready, and eir arm tensed to pull emself along it and away from the Mansion, but the Kings Arrow interrupted em. E couldn't make out any movement under the mask, but the grim, mocking rasp of the Kings Arrow reached em nevertheless. "Should be the end of it."
Ani felt dizzy. E wet eir lips and remained still as e tried to speak, "Wh..."
"Beth's back, now Anne. Elly--well. She'll get there."
"Who are you?"
"You know." E did. E hated admitting it, but e did.
"...you can't be here." Dizziness became nausea as Ani tried to talk emself out of having this conversation.
"Finished your unfinished business. Nothing left here for the Androgyne."
"...you know that's not true. There's just...there's nothing I can do here now. I'm a fugi--"
"A coward. Murderer. The Androgyne, a hero? Joke, always was. Showed your colors. Think this is a game."
"This...what choice did I have? Beam wasn't about to give up the Citadel, how else was I going to be free to help--"
"Could have stayed. Let them decide: you worth the risk? Maybe afraid to find out."
"I would have been a distraction, just dug them a deeper hole making them work around harboring me. It's been better this way, I'm free to--"
"Selfish. Want it both ways, have your fun. Play dress up. Don't realize what it's costing you."
"Case in point."
Ani pressed a hand to eir temple and tried not to scream in frustration, a thin whine escaping clenched teeth. "This is the only way. It's not finished. The best way I can help them, I can do what they can't, go places they can't."
"Not can't. Won't. Always another way. What makes them heroes. And you, not."
"She has to answer for what she's done. To them. To me."
"Will. Just not your way."
"You can't stop what's coming."
The Kings Arrow stepped out of the corner, gliding with silent footfalls up to the Androgyne. He stood so close e couldn't doubt eir eyes. "...You sure?"
Ani glared balefully, the shine finally returning to eir eyes. E opened eir mouth to speak again but was interrupted.
"Ani?" It was Anne, standing in the doorway from the portal room, calling eir name quietly, worried. E wasn't sure how long she'd been there.
Ani looked back quickly, but the Kings Arrow was gone. E looked again to the girl expectantly, swallowing dryly.
"Why are you talking to yourself?"