Episode 09: Punky The Provider
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The seventh day of our travels, much like the sixth, began in what had become a typical fashion for my allies and me before I began pushing our vehicles in pursuit of my next child. All things considered, I was making excellent progress in my goal. With three of my children murdered and the fourth one, Ultros the Undying, being kept incapacitated until I found the means of killing them.

Unfortunately, with Ultros being in such close proximity to me, it was difficult for me to locate my next child. My route while pushing the car was rather hectic and disorderly, involving me traveling too far in one direction and needing to correct it a short while later, while also needing to avoid the vast number of hazards that were in my way. Anything from plateaus that rose out from nowhere, or large holes that went down several miles into the Earth. When that was not a hazard, a pile of discarded vehicles was, and while it would be fairly simple for me to shove them out of my way, doing so becomes difficult when there is a line of several hundred vehicles obscuring my path.

Nevertheless, I continued my trek, making use of the limited daylight allotted from me as my allies and I traveled from the dingy motel we spent the sixth night in into a setting I honestly would not expect. A medium-sized city. Cities held the intrinsic benefit of allowing a large number of people to share in accessible resources and for industries to flourish within their confines. However, they were not an advantageous place to reside in following the upheaval of society. They lacked natural resources that may be harvested or grown and were reduced to little more than concrete ruins.

This city was no different. The damages done to it were intense enough to topple buildings over, blocking off entire streets. While some structures stood tall, many of them were damaged in some way. Windows were shattered, ceilings had caved in, and various debris, mostly cars, had penetrated the walls of some buildings. It was a desolate place that was devoid of much vegetation beyond a few trees that continued to flourish, the occasional overgrown park, and a few tufts of weeds that had begun growing out of the decaying cement and asphalt that coated the ground.

Bodies were another common encounter. The streets contained a sizable number of picked away skeletons that wore the decayed remnants of clothing, while certain vehicles contained more grotesque examples of corpses. The skies were home to a few birds, mostly pigeons and crows, that searched this area for various scraps they could consume. Similarly to the rodents and cockroaches that dashed across the rubble coated streets without much of a care.

Due to the messy and cluttered routes that made up most streets, I decided it would be best to leave the Blazing Beelzebub behind for a while. To make the vehicle less conspicuous compared to the tattered vehicles that littered the street, I chose to hide the vehicle inside of a parking garage, sandwiching it between two other cars in order to make the pristine and high-class vehicle stand out less.

One parked and placed well within the walls of this city, Zedaki, Jack, and I set out to search for my fifth child, who resided near the center of this city from what I could tell. As we walked, I implored my allies to be careful of their surroundings, to stay behind me if things get hectic, and to flee if necessary. This child either inherited my more intellectual talents or my ability to transform matter. Both of which would be potentially devastating in the wrong hands, and if this child were both skilled and aggressive enough, they could easily destroy me, not unlike how I was nearly killed by B-17 and Marz.

I was disgusted with the weakness I expressed during those encounters, my inability to properly strategize, to carefully gauge the situation. My lack of intellect and dependent relationship with my allies irked me as the three of us traveled, not unlike my surroundings. I had grown used to the sight of the world being a constant reminder of the atrocities I wrought upon this Earth, but the sight of a destroyed city, and the ability to view the damage in such detail, made it all the worse.

We ventured onwards, avoiding clumps of rubble, the husks of cars, and various other debris that had been expunged from nearby buildings. Such as sinks, toilets, file cabinets, or full cubicles. While I was able to move most things out of my way with ease, on account of my enhanced strength, I continued to struggle to pinpoint the location of my fifth child. This left my allies and I wandering back and forward for quite a while, zigzagging through every other block while I tried to keep my bearings.

As our wandering commenced, I looked at my allies in more detail. Jack was gripping onto her stained blue crowbar, as usual, shuffling behind me and darting her eyes around. She likely was not used to areas like this, filled with hiding spots that could easily be taken advantage of, and quite possibly had not walked through a city since the Cataclysm. I reminded her to stay near me, and stay at my side, rather than shuffling behind me. She did just that, while I slowed my walking speed slightly for her own sake.

Meanwhile, Zedaki continued looking at the scenery with a sort of wistful melancholy, indirectly urging me to begin conversing with her.

“Does being in a destroyed city like this unnerve you,” I asked.

“I grew up in a decently big city,” Zedaki began, “and just looking at this… it makes me really wonder whether my city is in the shitter. I mean, Jack said that this country is in a pretty good state all things considered. So what are the odds that my country is a whole hell of a lot worse? Though, I guess it doesn’t matter. I’d like to see my home again someday, but everything that made that place home won’t be there to greet me if I ever returned. My friends, my family, all my stuff, it’s all probably gone. Even then, you really can’t go back to normal after everything that happened. I know you will try, Abigale, but who knows how long it’ll take for things to even resemble the world of 7 years ago.”

I took a deep breath as I was once again approached by the duty I owed to the world. There was nothing I could do at the moment, as I could not even properly formulate a plan until I regained my intellect, so I simply took Zedaki’s comment in stride before redirecting my attention towards Jack.

“I know that Zedaki lived in Perth, but where did you live before the Cataclysm Jack?”

“I, um, I lived in a small town in Northern California. I didn’t go to the city very much when I was younger, so being in one now is kind of… unsettling. I really only knew about cities from movies and such, so being in one with no people just seems… kinda wrong.”

I thought about saying something to Jack in response to her answer, but I was quickly distracted by something. In front of us, another person had turned a corner and was looking directly at my group. They were armed, holding an assault rifle, and wearing a military uniform of sorts. Before I could do much more than register their presence, they spoke in a deep yet somewhat shrill voice, shouting at the three of us to “get on the fucking ground!”

He aimed their weapon at me and stood tall, waiting for his commands to be abided. I quickly turned back to see a disgruntled Zedaki and a terrified Jack and told them both to get on the ground. Not wanting to put my allies in harm’s way any further, I also complied with this man’s orders, laying my body prone on the ground. He slowly made his way over the quarter of a block that separated us, keeping his weapon trained on my group. As he continued, reaching 5 meters from my person, he stopped and dropped his weapon.

Looking at his face, I saw his eyes locking with mine, staring at me with uncertainty. Sweat was developing from his brow, and as I looked down at the rest of his face, I realized that he wore the expression of terror. His limbs shook uneasily in his loose clothing, and the intimidation that someone in uniform typically demanded was completely missing from him. He was frightened, vulnerable, and unarmed. I had my opening, and I took it, rushing up from the ground and swiftly tackling the man down, placing my weight upon him while kicking the assault rifle back towards Jack and Zedaki.

He blurted out a series of grunts and gags from under my weight. Wanting answers, I grabbed him by his arms with ease and propped him against the exterior wall of a nearby building. I carefully positioned him, placing my arms so that his struggling would be minimized, while his legs were left dangling above the ground.

I then looked down at this man’s face. He looked to be young, possibly even younger than Jack, with his curly hair cut short and a thin beard adorning his face. His tan skin was glistening with sweat, and his expression was locked while his head gyrated around. He was clearly intimidated by me, and as I looked into his dark eyes, I knew he would tell me everything I wanted to know.

“Who are you?” I asked calmly and directly.

“I— I— I’m Gregg. My name’s Gregg.”

“Well, Gregg, what are you doing here?”

“I was… just following my patrol route…. I— erm, I am part of a group. We’re call— we’re called Zil!”

“Tell me about Zil.”

“Zil is a— it’s a… Oh my fucking god, please do not kill me.”

“I gain nothing by killing you. I am simply asking you a question. If you are willing to talk and not run away, I will let you down.”

“Okay, okay. You can let me down. I won’t try anything. I promise!”

“Good,” I muttered before letting Gregg down and backing up three steps.

He leaned against the wall to maintain his balance as he continued to look at me, clearly aware of who I was, and appropriately terrified. I momentarily looked over to my side, noticing how both Jack and Zedaki were nowhere to be seen, and the same could be said for the assault rifle. I assumed they left to hide while I continued my interrogation.

“I will repeat myself once more. Tell me more about Zil,” I said while I crossed my arms.

“Zil is… Zil is a group that wants to bring order to the world. We want to rebuild society back up.”

“Which you intend to do by threatening others for wandering into your territory?”

“I… I was not expecting to see anyone else. We never do. I panicked. I saw three people, a group, and our communication system was down, so I couldn’t call for backup, so I… I really messed up.”

I let out a brief sigh before inquiring about a rather obvious possibility.

“Where is your base? I believe that your organization may be related to someone very important to me.”

“Oh… Of course. You’re here for her. You… you’re the real Abigale Quinlan, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am. Who is this ‘her’ you speak of?”

“I… I don’t know a lot about the details. I was only brought into the Brotherhood— Brotherhood of Zil that is, a few months ago. But I, um, I will take you to the base. I’ll take you to her.”

“I can find her on my own. How large is this Brotherhood of Zil?”

“…We’re only 22 people.”

“Understood. Thank you for your cooperation. Unfortunately, I cannot let you leave in your current state.”

With that, I braced the man’s neck and knocked him unconscious. I did not want him to return and warn his allies, but I also needed him to be incapacitated for a while. Not wanting to bind and return to free him later, I figured this was the best option.

Shortly after laying Gregg down, ensuring that he would be in as little discomfort as possible, I turned back to look for Jack and Zedaki, both of whom had left their hiding spot and were looking at me, clearly having heard what Gregg told me. Zedaki was also carrying Gregg’s gun.

“So, what’s the plan?” Zedaki quickly asked, being pleasantly punctual.

“Considering the small number of people who belong to Zil, and how well armed they appear to be, I believe that it would be best if I went in alone,” I explained. “I should have little difficulty withstanding their gunfire if they choose to be aggressive, and I do not want to place either of you into any more danger than necessary.”

“Logical and straightforward, as I’d figure. But I’m going to ask you to make one modification.”

“And what exactly is that?”

“I’m going with you.”

“Are you truly that eager to immerse yourself in danger?”

“No. I mentioned that some raiders attacked Madeco. They killed Raiyne, and for that, I killed them. But I forgot their name… until now. I do not wish to needlessly claim the lives of humans, but I owe a debt to you, and if the only way I can repay it is with blood, then so be it.”

“I… no, that’s not it. I just want to see him. The leader of Zil. I just want some closure, and to say some things to him. I’ve put my bloodstained jacket aside for a reason. I killed because things were shit, and I was desperate. Because I was scarce and other people were like cockroaches clinging to the scraps left by a fallen society. But in about a week, or whatever, that’ll be a thing of the past. Isn’t that right, Abigale?

I smiled as I heard Zedaki’s reply, allowing her confidence within me to settle in. She trusted me enough to give up murder. If there was anyone in my life who told me something so profound, it was not in my fractured mind.

“Heh. Yes, I suppose so. Truthfully, I have not thought too much about my plans after regaining my full power. By doing so, my thought process will become far… clearer. But yes, you may come with me. Stay behind me, out of sight, and only return to my side when I give you the signal.”

“Always cautious when it comes to us mortals, eh? Fine. I don’t mind taking it easy.”

“As for you, Jack,” I said, redirecting my attention, “I want you to stay inside the Blazing Beelzebub. Stay out of sight and don’t open the doors for anyone but us. Understood?”

“Um, yes, Abigale,” Jack murmured from the background. “I’ll stay out of trouble. But before you go… can I ask you for something?”

“Of course,” I immediately replied.

“I, um, I’m not sure how exactly I should say this, but can I… hug you?”

I smirked at her words and crouched down to wrap my arms around her while she did the same. She began rubbing my back while I rubbed hers and continued to hold me for ten seconds before I pulled out. I then stood up and patted her on the head. Her face beamed as I did so, only to dim once my fingers left her scalp. As Zedaki and I walked away, she gave us a stuttered “see ya later” before running off to the car.

“The terrain ahead is hazardous,” I said, turning to Zedaki. “I can run through it with ease, but you take your time. Once the coast is clear, I’ll call for you.”

“Sure thing. Just don’t kill their leader before I get there… unless you want me to go the rest of my life without this closure.”

I snickered at Zedaki’s morbid comment before leaving her behind. She was not my concern at the moment, and I began dashing onwards, focusing on the next child’s location and by extension, the Brotherhood of Zil. My destination had me pivoting over massive mounds of rubble before stumbling into one of the better preserved and smaller buildings this city had to offer. Just outside of the building were a series of tents, all guarded by a chain-link fence. It was a settlement based both inside and outside a building, walled off from potential threats, not unlike Madeco. I briefly wondered why they would even bother with an outdoor part of their settlement, but I quickly developed a theory. Modern buildings were not designed to preserve or make the most of daylight, and with no power or lights, it would have been difficult to live in them very comfortably as people would be unable to see.

Having discarded any semblance of stealth I had previously adopted, I chose to simply walk towards the facility, unarmed and unobscured by whatever refuse was scattered across the streets. This quickly caused somebody patrolling the exterior of the gamp to notice my presence. Somebody in a familiar military-esque garment and also wielding a firearm that was aimed in my general direction.

They quickly shouted some vague warning to get on the ground while pointing their firearm at me, but I was not in the mood for another interrogation. I simply wanted to get what I desired and leave. So I spoke loudly and clearly, walking slowly and calmly as I approached the building.

“My name is Abigale Quinlan. One of your scouts informed me that you apprehended someone I am interested in. I suggest you hand her over to me. I would like to end this quickly, and without any needless conflict.”

The member of Zil before me looked perplexed and began looking over to their sides as if searching for somebody else to handle this situation. As I continued walking forward, I saw others who were rushing towards them from the camp itself. All of them did much like their ally and pointed their firearms at me as a means of intimidation. It came as no surprise when one of them attempted to fire at me, hitting me in my stomach. I winced upon impact, but quickly regained my composure and walked forward.

“I repeat. I wish you no harm. Simply provide me with the person I am looking for and I shall leave you as you are”

While unnerved, the group of what had grown into five soldiers stood their ground, refusing to respond to my remarks and looking at themselves in hopes that one of them would tell the others what their orders were. As this happened and as I grew closer, they began to notice my bullet wound peeking out from the dress shirt of my already damaged suit, gradually sealing itself away while the bullet was pushed out of my body. Within a minute, the wound was fully sealed while my clothing retained a bullet hole.

By the time that had happened, I was surrounded by the soldiers. I sighed as I moved towards the one in front of me, the lone female soldier of the quintet, and grabbed their gun. I took it apart, bent its components, and reduced this mighty weapon into an unusable scattering of metal and plastic bits that I let drop onto the asphalt before me. My feat and the speed of my actions further perplexed those around me, their gasps filling their air as the pieces of the firearm fell onto the ground. It was then that I turned to the newly disarmed guard and repeated my comments once more.

“I know that you, the Brotherhood of Zil, are in possession of someone who is capable of great things. If you do not bring me to this person, your gun is not the only thing I’ll break. Understood?”

I followed up my words with a snap of my fingers, causing a small explosion to pop in front of the female soldier’s face. My threats were then met with mumbles from the soldiers, but soon enough the guard in front of me responded.

“I’ll take you to the boss,” she said as if she were deliberating the reality of the situation before her.

“You’ll take us to your boss,” I replied before raising the volume of my voice. “ZEDAKI! We have escorted access to Zil’s base. No casualties!”

Silence followed as the soldiers looked at me befuddled, only for the sound of boots on concrete to steadily grow in volume as Zedaki ran towards me. She stopped on her heels once she reached me, and shot a glare of disdain to the soldiers who looked at her, but said nothing. And Zedaki in turn said nothing to me, merely offering a nod.

With my ally by my side, the female soldier then began escorting us into the building her organization was built around. She maintained silence as she slowly walked in front of me, clearly perturbed by how I was looming over behind her, while she herself only appeared to be armed with a knife sheathed along her waist. After walking up the stairs, the three of us reached a disheveled office, only dimly lit by sunlight. It was eerily empty, vacant, but as we continued to walk through it, we came across a desk facing a window, where a man solemnly sat, papers scattered across the large wooden structure before him. His eyes were tracing us the moment we approached him, and as he looked at the three of us, he rose up from his chair, wearing a scowl of contempt

His face was withered and worn, both by age and what I could only assume to be a hard life. His hair was short, thin, receding, and possessed a faint greyish blonde hue. His eyes were a clear light blue that would be innocent on the appropriate face, but looked icy and menacing from his sharp and masculinely sculpted face, with its hard pronounced features. He was wearing what looked like a modified version of the military garments as the other members of Zil, and had a large amount of muscle beneath it, in spite of his body’s apparent age. He was an intimidating man, but he looked at me with what could only be perceived as malice. A grueling sense of hatred that made me question if he would spit on, strike, or simply shoot me in the face.

“Let us be,” the man ordered the escort, his voice like a stone road.

“I thought I’d never see you again. At least I hoped for as much.”

The coarse man then turned his head towards the white-haired woman in red behind me. She stared at him with her blue eyes, while his expression morphed from that of confusion to frustration.

“Dick Kikansky, was it?” Zedaki asked the man, to which he snorted.

“I didn’t recognize you without that bloody trenchcoat of yours. Was taking the lives of one of my squads not enough?”

“It was enough to alleviate me of my frustrations and fury. And trust me, I want little more than to pull our my sword and slice your fucking head in two. But that won’t solve anything, it won’t bring Raiyne back, and it would only make your pitiful little apocalyptic militia group to become even more scattered, violent, and destructive.”

“Well, if you don’t want my life, the fuck do you want?” Kikansky replied, his voice disinterested and monotone.

“This, to see you again, hoveling in a ruined city, clinging to the past, while I am working to forge a future, with my good friend here . And to call you what you are. Scum. A vicious animal that uses might to assert dominance over the weak, extorting them of what they have, while giving nothing back to them. You dress yourself as soldiers, and call yourself a Brotherhood, but you ain’t shit but a group of honorless thieves. How you managed to survive so long truly is a mystery… except I know the answer. You stockpiled weapons to thrive in an environment like this, but instead you languish. I helped create and run a society with food production and electricity. What do you have to show for it? A bunch of tents and some concrete hovel?”

“Do you have a point or something, or are you just here to rub my face in your shit?”

“Heh, I guess that’s what I really am here to do, now isn’t it? But I think I’ve said my piece, and found my closure. So Abigale, my dear, please take the stage.”

As Zedaki finished her conversation, I took her place before Kikansky, and looked him squarely in the eye. A look of disdain painted his face, implying we had history, but it was one I had no recollection of.

“I’m afraid I do not know who you are,” I said to the man. “My memory has been faint since I woke up a few days ago.”

“Heh. What’s that? Some half-assed excuse to dodge your responsibilities? I was contracted by the Flare Foundation to find you. To hunt you down after you spent so many centuries living in the shadows. You tried to kill me, but sure enough, even an immortal cannot do much against a truckload of nitroglycerin. I brought you to them so they could do whatever kind of experiments they wanted, got paid, and less than a month later, all that cash became worthless after you started sending the world down an endless shit pipe that has been clogged for the better half of a decade at this point.”

I had no memory of what he was talking about, but he certainly filled a hole that had been prominent in my mind for quite some time. He was a link to my past that helped make this present landscape make sense, and while I could have inquired him for additional information, I had doubts he knew much about the Flare Foundation. He sounded more like a mercenary more than anything else, and one facing the consequences of his actions.

“I understand you have someone I might be interested in. I would like you to bring them to me.”

I reiterated my calm request, wanting to get through this encounter without needing to stir up any bad blood that may exist between the two of us. While I was dubious about this man from his appearance and the tone he adopted, I truly did not want to end his life. I already had more blood on my hands than most people could even fathom.

“Heh. Fine. Not like there’s shit I can do to stop you. I’ll take you to her. Follow me.”

With that, Kikansky began taking Zedaki and I away from his desk and into another room. This room, illuminated thanks to a large hole in a street-facing wall, contained a young woman in ragged clothing, surrounded by several plastic containers. One with water, one with stones, one with bullets, one with dirt, and one with some brownish gruel.

The woman was yet another one of my children. Her distinct red eyes, darker skin tone, and jet black hair were all immediate signifiers. She looked to be a young adult, perhaps a teenager, and was in a rather pitiful state. She looked malnourished, confused, neglected, and genuinely filthy. She resembled a prisoner, and based on her apparent living conditions, such an analogy was quite appropriate. She looked on at both myself and Kikansky with fear and confusion, recoiling into a corner while covering her face with her hands, rubbing her shoulder-length hair.

Based on the containers before her, I could only assume that she was tasked with Real Booting supplies for the Brotherhood of Zil, all while imprisoned in this room. Yet just by glancing at the bullets in the faint light, I could tell they were malformed. Creating new matter required an intrinsic understanding of what one was building, and I had doubts that this girl truly understood how bullets worked. As for the dirt and food, it was a far simpler process to turn dirt into something edible, but based on the consistency of the brownish sludge kept in the jug next to her, I assumed it was far from appetizing. At least the water looked drinkable.

With this, I had found my Real Booting child and was one step closer to completing my goal. I simply needed to snap my fingers, have her head burst open, and wait for her body to disintegrate and rejoin with my own. Yet, doing so felt… wrong. Unlike my other children, excluding the infant, she was not hostile. She was weak, frail, and nothing but a prisoner. A slave. I began examining closer, causing her discomfort as she moaned softly while I placed my hands over her person. Fresh scars, wounds, bruises, and most damning of all, the scent of sex coated her being. Putting things together, she was likely abused both physically and sexually by the Brotherhood of Zil, and the thought of that just made me sick. Nothing about her was intimidating, and given her divine abilities, she deserved to be pampered and treated as a queen, not locked away into a dimly lit room.

I pitied her. Whatever disdain I had channeled when I approached my other children was robbed of my being, and even though I could have bashed her skull against the wall… I refused to succumb to such brutality and end such a sad existence in such a wretched way. She had to die… but she could die away from this cruel and abusive environment. She could die quickly and painlessly. And I was committed to making that a reality.

“Hello there, my name is Abigale. I am going to take you away from here. What’s your name?” I said in the most soothing voice I could muster.

“Punky. I’m Punky,” she responded in a broken voice, sounding as if she were on the verge of tears.

“Can you walk on your own Punky?” I asked, noticing how she was crawling along the floor.

“No… ma’am.”

“Then I’ll carry you.”

As I moved down to grab Punky by the back and legs, Kikansky let out a heavy sigh, as if he were annoyed by how I was taking her away from him. I prepared to open my mouth to make a comment on the inhumane conditions he subjected Punky to, but Zedaki spoke before I could.

“Just when I think you can’t get any worse, I learn that you’re a slaver and a pederast. I’m really starting to regret my decision, because all I can think of right now is how nice it’d be seeing your head spliced open like an overripe tomato.”

“Heh. If you want to kill me go ahead. At this point, that might not be so bad. I’ve lost just about everything else. You already killed my old team and I had to replace them with these greenhorn shitheads. And it’s not like my family survived all of this. So if you want to slice me, shoot me, or have little miss genocide have her way with me, go ahead. I’d say you both already took everything away, but I’m sure you’d just say I did this all to myself. …And you wouldn’t even be fucking wrong.”

I scowled at Kikansky as he chuckled to himself, while Zedaki did the same, rubbing her fingers across the hilt of her sheathed blade. She looked at me, clearly contemplating whether or not she should break her self-appointed oath. I shook my head in response, to which she sighed, releasing her sword and turning her back away from Kikansky.

It was a decision I found myself reconciling with, but as I mused to myself, I reached the conclusion that a pathetic man like him did not deserve death. At least, not in a situation like this. A situation where the majority of mankind had perished. All because of me. All because of actions that I can only attempt to remedy for the ensuing years, decades, and centuries.

With Punky slung in my arms like a young child, I followed Zedaki out of the building and began the lengthy walk back to the Blazing Beelzebub. As we walked, Zedaki remained silent, keeping her thoughts contained within her own head beyond. And I did the same, at least until the young woman between my arms began talking to me.

“Are you my mommy?” She asked in a quiet voice.

“Yes, Punky. I am your mother. However, this is the first time I ever have been allowed to meet you, and I’m afraid to say that it will be the last. You see, the world was not always like this. It was destroyed years ago, and it needs to be repaired. I am the only one who can do it, or at least, the only one who can do it effectively. And to do so, I will need your powers.”

“My power to turn things into other things?”

“Yes, my child. Your Real Booting abilities were being used by the people who captured you, yet they are beyond your own comprehension, I can assure you. You seemed to be creating simple objects, but you can create nearly anything in the world. You simply need to be able to imagine it and picture it with your mind’s eye.”

“Oh. Maxxie always used to say that I could do a lot more if I were smarter and said I could even heal owies. But I was always too stupid for my own good.”


“The lady who took care of me when I was a baby. She was the queen of the Flare Foundation. She said I could create buildings if I really wanted to, but I could barely even make a sandwich…. I’m so useless.”

“No, you are not useless, you just were never meant to house such abilities.”

“And now I’m being killed for being so stupid, aren’t I?”

“No, Punky. That is not why. I need your powers, and I will inherit them once you die. After I gain your powers and the powers of my other children, only then can the world be mended into something resembling what it once was. It is unfortunate, but necessary for the good of humanity.”

“Okay, then mommy… so why aren’t you killing me now?”

“Because… because I can tell you have had a rough life. You were not hostile towards me, and you were scared. I dislike killing or harming innocents… or anyone to be truly honest. That’s why I allowed the people who imprisoned you to live. I desire there to be no more conflict in this world. Seeing as how I am the one responsible for what happened to the world. For the Cataclysm. The ultimate conflict. And for you, I want you to die someplace happier. It means little beyond sentimentality, but even if you go nowhere when you perish, and your existence truly ends, I want your final moments to be jovial ones.”

“I don’t really get it, but… thank you mommy.”

Following that sole conversation, the trek was quiet, and soon enough, Zedaki and I made it to the parking garage where the Blazing Beelzebub was stored. As we entered, Zedaki was quick to announce our presence, but once the echo had spread through the concrete construct, all we were met with was a harsh groaning sound. Immediately, I laid Punky down on the concrete floor before joining Zedaki as she rushed over to the car, where we found two figures outside it. One dressed in the attire of a Zil thug, with a familiar blue crowbar sticking out of his face. Blood covered the floor around him, and the cold of death lingered over his person.

The second… was none other than Jack. She was leaning up against the car, and clenching her shoulder. Blood had stained her clothes, and her face was growing pale. While the wound itself was not too severe from the looks of it, a simple gunshot, she was losing a lot of blood, and needed immediate medical attention. My mind began racing as I reviewed my fragmented mind for knowledge on how I could treat a wound like this without my Real Booting abilities. Something I had not done in decades, if not centuries. I wracked my brain for the answers while Zedaki sifted throughout the car trunk for supplies. But before she could bring them over to Jack, I heard a sharp and guttural yell from behind me.

Looking back, I saw Punky, with a large sharp object lodged into her neck. Before I could even respond, she removed it and jammed it back in there, repeatedly stabbing herself while shouting through her pain, the blood flooding over the concrete beneath her and clogging up her throat. It was a baffling display at first glance, but in reality, I could only see it as a noble sacrifice. Punky recalled what I had told her and was killing herself so that I could use my Real Boot abilities again… giving me the power to help Jack with her wound.

A sense of bitterness and admiration began clenching away at the core of my being as I watched Punky kill herself in such a brutal manner. Sobbing and screaming before her body fell onto the ground. I went over to approach her as her body twitched, but by the time I touched her skin, her body was already decaying into ash. Ash that, like it had many times before, began circling around me before joining my body once more.

I wasted little time mourning her loss and instead returned to Jack. In my absence, Zedaki had begun treating Jack’s wound, starting by removing the bullet, which she popped out onto the concrete floor. While I was sure Zedaki could treat the wound, I had gained a more effective way of doing so and pushed her aside accordingly. I placed my right hand over Jack’s bleeding shoulder and thought intently. With the bullet already removed, I could mend the injuries incurred internally and have her skin seal the wound completely. There would still be a lasting pain, and a bruise would appear where the wound once was, but it would send her nicely along the road to recovery.

It was a process that I developed over many years, sealing the wounds of soldiers and treating whatever injuries they could have developed, injuries that could have otherwise meant their death. It was a technique and process that was almost second nature to me, but without my intricate understanding of human physiology behind me, I did not dare try to fully repair her shoulder. For now, I merely focused on sealing her wound, preventing any further damages, and putting her body on the road to recovery, rather than healing her outright

Afterward, Jack stopped her predictable muffled sobbing, and she looked on at me with a mixture of awe and gratitude. She touched her wound, wincing in the process, but enveloped me in a hardy hug upon realizing that it had been sealed effectively. I hugged her back, and we remained like that for a minute, holding each other in our arms while I rubbed her small limber back.

“Thank you, Abigale,” Jack murmured into my ear. “For everything, but especially this. I’m so sorry I was so careless…”

“No, you were not careless. I do not know exactly what happened, but you were attacked, defended yourself, and were harmed in the process. Come. Grab your crowbar and let us leave this place. Your wound may be sealed, but it will take some time before your shoulder mends itself.”

With that, Zedaki drove all of us out of the city using the Blazing Beelzebub. We headed to the outskirts and then went another kilometer for good measure before stopping, as per my directions. After ensuring that both Jack and Zedaki were safe and secure after the encounter, I went out to the back of the car. I thought about telling them what I was going to do, but I figured it was clear to them already.

From the trunk, I pulled out Ultros and freed them of their constraints. Both to give them one last opportunity to move freely, and to take them away into a small woodland area, before the inevitable. I walked them about a hundred meters away from the vehicle before stopping them. Despite Ultros’ apparent lack of intelligence, they seemed aware of what I was going to do and looked at me smugly before making their final remark.

“Now you think you can kill Ultros? Go ahead and make my days!”

I did not offer Ultros a verbal response and instead spoke through my actions. I grabbed them by their mane of unkempt hair and clenched my fingers against their skull as I exerted my will onto their body, imagining and picturing the resolution I wanted to see, for everything that Ultros is and ever was to be reduced to nothing more than ash. The exact composition of the ash I had absorbed was a mystery to me, but as I sought to transform their being into cremation ash, my body absorbed theirs.

As the process commenced, with Ultros’s body being crumbled away into powder on an atomic level, they screamed in primal agony as everything they were and would ever be returned to me, thus bestowing upon me one of my most essential abilities. True immortality.

I kept this goal in mind as the process carried on over two grueling and ceaseless minutes, with the sound of Ultros’s shrill voice still echoing throughout my ears even after they were robbed of their brain and mouth. But through intense focus and determination, I achieved my goal. Every cell of Ultros’s person had been reduced to ash, and that ash had returned to my person. As I looked at my symbolically bloodied hands, I could not help but smile, for I know it was worth the sacrifice.

Still alone, I tested these powers by reaching into a nearby tree, using my Real Booting ability to pull out a simple knife from the bark, one that I used to tear off my left hand. It wiggled around for three seconds while a numb pain came over me before the appendage returned to my being. I smiled once more. After all of these hardships, I was back. I had the powers that had come to define me as a being, yet there was still one thing that prevented me from truly feeling like Abigale Quinlan, like myself. My mind.

There was only one child left, and I could feel them. The sense was faint, likely over a hundred kilometers away, but as I looked off to the west, at the sun as it set, ending the first week of this adventure, of this odyssey of mine, I knew, the third and final act was near.