Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Perception - Part Three
Chloe started her walk home from the DoN HQ. She arrived at 80900 Market Street after what felt like an eternity. She looked up at the darkened house. It reminded her of the first time she had come home unexpectedly late from the Defender's HQ, the day her career as a caped crusader began all those months ago.
Again she decided to go around the side and through the garden, only this time she entered the house through the tea room. She looked around at the quiet, darkened room and imagined how it had been that afternoon. Her older sisters would have been good hostesses, always making sure everyone had a full cup of tea and a good time. Princess would be talking, reluctantly at first and then unstoppably, about some obscure point of Lost Desert history. Bluejay and Yanli would pop in for some snacks and Yanli would chatter a mile a minute at the guests. Kristy would wander through with Inna to make sure no one needed anything, shy Inna would not do more than reluctantly wave at everyone.
But, no Chloe, smiling brightly as she told half truths and dodging any questions that could cause her to slip. No Chloe, no word from her, and everyone wondering where she was. Her sisters thinking how rude it was for her to put her job first on today of all days, and especially without having the courtesy to send a Neomail.
Some days being a crime fighter almost didn't feel worth it.
Feeling thoroughly depressed, she walked into the living room and found Kristy sitting curled up in a chair in front of the north facing fireplace. She was reading a book and looked up at Chloe when she entered.
"Wow, you look terrible, honey. What happened?" Kristy asked, concerned.
"Oh, surprise training drill. Really annoying. I don't really want to talk about it right now," Chloe sighed as she sat on a foot-stool.
Kristy nodded sympathetically. "How about a cup of tea, sweetheart?"
Chloe noticed a pot of tea hanging near the fire and two cups on the table nearby. One was right-side up and had clearly been used, but the other was upside-down. Chloe smiled and nodded, thankful that she had a mom who cared enough to wait up late for her. Kristy got up and turned the other cup over then poured tea into both cups. She set the pot back in front of the fire and then handed Chloe the new cup. Kristy sat back down and took a sip of hers before picking up her book again. Chloe sat there holding her cup and just enjoying the warmth.
Kristy smiled at her and took another sip of her tea, then opened up her book and went back to reading. Chloe lifted the cup to her lips and took a sip. The taste was so unexpected that it caused her to swallow it wrong. Kristy looked up in alarm as Chloe coughed and spluttered.
"Honey, are you okay?" Kristy asked.
"This is Earl Grey tea," Chloe said, confused.
"Yeah, so? You like Earl Grey, it's your favorite." Kristy also seemed confused.
"I love Earl Grey tea, but you don't. You don't like Earl Grey tea," Chloe pointed out. "You don't even like the smell of the tea. But, you're drinking it right now as if you like it."
Kristy continued to look at her like she was nuts, and for a second Chloe almost doubted her own sanity.
Chloe looked around the room, and noticed something seemed wrong with it. Then it struck her, the foot-stool she was sitting on was the wrong one. Yanli had spilled a cranberry slushie all over it the week before and the stain would not come out. Kristy had ordered a new but different one that had arrived the day before. Chloe hadn't seen the new one, but she knew that the foot-stool she was sitting on had already been thrown away.
"Kristy, why is this foot-stool here? It is the wrong one. It was ruined and you got a new one," Chloe asked warily.
"What are you talking about?" Kristy asked.
Chloe dived forward and took the book from her mother's hands. It was Kristy's favorite book, she was always reading it, but Chloe never had. She looked in it and found it blank, no words printed on the page.
"What's going on here?" Chloe demanded.
"Honey, I'm gonna go contact the doctor. I'm not sure you're okay. Did you hit your head or anything?" Kristy said getting up slowly.
"I didn't hit my head, but I did lose consciousness," Chloe said slowly, thinking over her day.
"That fog that knocked all the Defenders out, we didn't even bother to scan for anomalies afterwards and make sure that we were all right. In fact, nothing that we did was proper protocol for the situation. I'm not awake; I'm in some fantasy world created by the Faerie magic. I don't know why, or what purpose this serves, but that's the only reasonable solution," Chloe theorized.
"Chloe, that's silly. Come on, let's go see the doctor, it'll be okay," Kristy said soothingly as she reached for the Zafara.
Chloe jumped back and Kristy said, "I'm not going to hurt you. Trust me."
"You're not my mom; you're some mockery of her created out of my memories!" Chloe shouted.
"Okay," Kristy said soothingly. "Maybe this is some weird fantasy or something created by Faerie magic. Maybe I can help you get out of here?"
Chloe frowned; that was too easy. Why would this fantasy want to give in so easily? Then it struck her, wish fulfillment. While she had been enjoying the warmth of the drink, she had been wishing that it was Earl Grey, since she knew that it couldn't be since Kristy was drinking it. Maybe this fantasy was geared towards pleasing her in hopes of getting whatever the Faerie wanted. Chloe hoped that could be its downfall.
She focused her mind on one thing, waking up. She wanted to wake up. Fake Kristy's eyes went glassy and she stopped reaching for her. The entire room seemed to waver. But, try as she might, it wouldn't go away and let her wake up. She switched tactics. The spell was too strong for pure willpower, but maybe she could convince it to let her out.
"How do I wake up?" Chloe asked. "I don't want to stay in here anymore. I want a way out, a way to really wake up."
"There are many doors in this house, aren't there? Only one of them leads out. Only one chance, only one door leads out," Kristy answered.
Chloe's mind reeled; there were many doors in her house. The mansion consisted of forty-three rooms, and most rooms had more than one door leading into them. How in the world was she going to be able to pick the right door?
All the rooms on the ground floor that didn't lead outside had glass doors separating each room, mostly as a sound barrier. She looked around and noticed that all the doors in the room were open. She picked the south door and started running. She entered the ballroom and looked around. The door to the library was closed and so was the one to the garden. The south door that led to the parlor was open. Chloe hurried through it, but didn't stop in the room, instead hurrying up the steps to the foyer and down to the front door. It was the only door in that room and it led outside. It was the only door that truly led out of the property.
Hoping she had chosen right, she threw open the door and was blinded by the light.
"Ow, that hurt!" Chloe complained as she regained consciousness.
She looked around herself. She was lying on the floor of the elevator, her hand still gripping the blaster, her glasses lying on the floor in front of her. Lightning was also in the elevator, still unconscious, the fog thick around them. Her initial response was to hold her breath, but then she realized that was stupid, because she would already have been unconscious again if was going to affect her.
She got up on her hands and knees and put her glasses back on. She crawled over to Lightning and shook him.
"Come on, wake up, Lightning! It's just a dream; you've got to wake up!" Chloe cried.
Lightning didn't respond and Chloe realized that he was either going to have to figure it out for himself like she did, or Chloe was going to have to force the counterspell out of the Air Faerie who cast it. She got up and opened the elevator doors, then pulled Lightning out and left him in the hall. She got back in the elevator and pressed the button for the first floor.
She adjusted her blaster level so that it should immobilize the Faerie, but not knock her out, so that she would hopefully be able to force her to tell the counterspell. Just like in the dream, Chloe put her back to the wall and waited for the doors to open. When they did, she carefully peered around them, but the Faerie was nowhere to be seen.
She crept down the hall to the control room and looked in. The Faerie was sitting in the chair in front of the console; her eyes closed, as if she was concentrating. Horrified, Chloe realized what the point of the illusion was.
The Faerie was probably watching Judge Hog or Loraine's illusions to obtain their passwords and other important information about the Defenders. Chloe had to act before she got them and got away with important information about the Defenders. Or worse, let Colonel Iniquitous and Veronica in while all the Defenders were in a helpless stupor.
Chloe stepped into the room and took aim. Despite the seeming trance, the Faerie sprang upright with a hiss and dodged the shot. She spun on Chloe and fired a blast of Air energy. Chloe dived to the side and somersaulted back to her feet, taking another shot. It missed, and the Faerie sent another blast of energy at her. It hit, knocking Chloe to the ground. The Air Faerie leapt into the air and dived at her.
Chloe lost her grip on the blaster as she went down and it slid just out of reach. She knew better than to try to retrieve the weapon, and instead sprang to her feet, with barely a moment to spare. She caught the Faerie's arm as she came down at her, using the force of the Faerie's attack to throw her onto her back on the ground. The Faerie spun, using her body to knock Chloe off her feet. She kicked Chloe away from her, inadvertently pushing Chloe back towards the blaster.
Chloe grabbed the blaster, rolled up onto one knee, and fired, hitting the Faerie while she was still scrambling to get up. The Faerie dropped to the ground immobilized.
To be continued...