Episode 11: Athena The All-Knowing
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I did not sleep during the seventh night of my journey. Prior nights, I lacked anything to invest myself in and sought sleep as a means of accelerating myself to the next day. I would have busied myself for the duration of the night, but I lacked anything to invest myself in. And with my intellect being what it was, I was not in the mood to contemplate things for hours on end. However, earlier in the day I obtained two of my most valuable abilities, my immortality and Real Booting, and felt the need to test them. I began by crafting the most complicated objects I could recall the inner workings of, which were sadly far more limited than I would have wanted. After satisfying myself in that regard, I began coming up with the most lethal ways I could harm myself, including poisoning, explosions, dismemberment, massive blunt trauma, and more. All of which I recovered from in seconds.

By the time I finished my experimentation, I used my Real Boot abilities to craft myself a new outfit, one that, unlike all the others I had worn and destroyed across this adventure, would properly fit my proportions. I settled on a black suit with a red dress shirt, along with some plain black dress shoes. It has been my go-to outfit for the past few decades, so it was easy for me to recreate it. Wearing this outfit brought with it a sense of completeness, like I was one step closer to being myself, yet there still remained one more piece I was still missing.

However, I could not very well abandon my allies to hunt for my seventh child, and seeing as how it was the middle of the night, I had to find some way to preoccupy myself. Foreseeing tomorrow as being the final day of the journey, I chose to begin creating parting gifts of sorts for Jack and Zedaki, in the form of essentials and survival-related items. Clothing that I based on what I observed their measurements to be. Copious amounts of non-perishable foods to keep them going for weeks on end. A water filtration system, first aid supplies, and anything else that was within my limited ability.

By the time night fell and dawn broke, I had finished what I set out to do and began creating breakfast for Jack and Zedaki. I toiled over my discarded cooking aids from the prior night and sought to create everything I needed to prepare a robust breakfast, the largest meal that either of them would have had in years. French toast, eggs, pancakes, potato hash, and bacon were all presented before them as they emerged from their dwelling, and they wasted little time eating it. They laced lavish praise with comments on the unusual taste of the meal, and once the two finished their plates, I presented them with my other creations.

I busied myself by stocking the Blazing Beelzebub with the supplies while Jack and Zedaki busied themselves with their new wardrobes, returning to the dwelling to change, and emerging half an hour later as a pair. Zedaki has dressed herself for the upcoming winter, donning a crimson peacoat with white buttons, a pair of light grey pants, and some black boots that went halfway to her knees. She wore a look of confidence on her face as she looked off into the world, clearly satisfied by how she looked, and I had to agree that she looked especially stylish in the clothes I crafted for her.

Meanwhile, Jack settled on a violet sweater, a dark blue denim jacket, a pair of black skinny jeans, and a pair of sneakers that only loosely went with the rest of her outfit. She looked cute and youthful in her outfit, but she still conducted herself with a shakiness and shyness, despite having revealed her deepest secret to us and been met with acceptance.

Once we exchanged our pleasantries and left the cooking aids for the next traveler who came by, it was time for us to depart. It was an hour after sunrise by the time we left, and my senses told me to head northwest, bringing our journey into what I could only assume to be central California.

The actual travel was the same as it always was. I pushed the Blazing Beelzebub through the post-apocalyptic landscape before us while the chattering of Jack and Zedaki filled the air, and I was left alone to stew with my thoughts. While I was grateful for each of my regained abilities, each one of them was a further reminder of what I was lacking, of what abilities I should possess. Only one remained, yet it felt more crucial than any other. More than Real Booting, more than my immortality, and more than my enhanced strength and agility. My intellect. I have felt like an idiot since I woke up in the Flare Foundation over a week ago, and more than anything else, that sense, that feeling of inferiority, of lacking something so crucial to my definition of my very self, has been the most crushing and haunting.

I have felt foggy, distant, and indecisive. I have made many mistakes, many brash actions, yet I could not think of anything better at the time. I was a shadow of who I once was, and because of that, I continued to travel day and night, rarely stopping my pushing of the Blazing Beelzebub, knowing that I could keep going endlessly now with all of my other powers regained. I had the brawn and bulk I had grown so accustomed to, so I may as well use it to regain my brains, as it were.

It was in the early afternoon when I finally reached the spot where I would reclaim my lost attribute, and the setting seemed a bit too appropriate. I found myself at a small college, a university comprised of multiple buildings that mirrored the sights that I had seen throughout my journey thus far. The Earth was disturbed, a series of young trees and bushes had taken hold of fertile unkempt soil, and the buildings themselves ran the gamut.

Some were penetrated by giant stone spires, others were overrun by nature due to shattered glass hallways, and others looked to have weathered the storm of modernity well. At least based on their exteriors. However, my senses had sharpened since the elimination of all of my other children, and I knew precisely where my next child was. They resided within a building that was more or less unscathed by the Cataclysm. A library that had been built many decades ago, and was architecturally most remarkable due to a greenhouse that was erected on the building’s roof.

It was an choice aesthetically, yet one that I could not help but admire given the current situation. It would be an excellent way for one to continue to grow food, while not leaving the vicinity of the library, a place rife with knowledge to accrue and things to preoccupy one’s time. It was the sort of thing I could have seen myself doing if I needed to wait out this disaster, though as that thought broiled in my mind, my expression changed from that or admiration to dread.

If my past children were any indication, the possibility was high that this child was misusing my power, my intellect. As somebody who knew everything I knew, with my stolen understanding of human culture and psychology could have been able to form a cult, especially in a setting as hopeless as this.

However, there was little need to worry about such a matter. I was invincible for all intents and purposes and knew that I could overpower whatever measures this child may possess. It was because of this that I once again requested that my allies allow me to go in alone, and neither of them even attempted to stop me.

I requested that they hold back near the edge of the university, to keep watch and flee if anything abnormal were to occur, while I solemnly and calmly walked towards the library on my own, hoping to draw out whatever defenses laid in wait for intruders such as me. Which never happened. I reached the library with no interruptions and promptly opened up the front door.

Inside, I was surprised to see that the library had what looked to be emergency lights activated, indicating that this building had power flowing through it, which I would expect. While obscure, solar panel technology was not overly complicated, and installing it for a building like this would have been simple for my child. That is, assuming they even were the ones to install it and that such a fixture was not already installed prior to the solar flare I unleashed upon the world. With a sigh, I began dismissing my theorizing and instead chose to not dawdle in the what-ifs while my goal was in such close proximity. I quickly traversed past the well-maintained interior of the library, through a small reading area, and up to the stairwell, following the dim lights up to the third of four floors.

As I opened up the door, I quickly found who I was looking for. Beyond several shelves of books that all looked undisturbed, there were a series of chairs and tables, all empty… except for a single person. One who was rapidly reading through a book while a desk lamp illuminated the pages for them. I called out to them, ushering a simple hello to garner their attention. They looked up at me and immediately shut their book before standing up and walking to me.

Through the dim emergency lights, I could only slowly make out details about this person, yet it was obvious that she was another one of my children. Wearing a university branded sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants, she was very similar to me in stature, a tall woman of a dark complexion who possessed unmistakable red eyes. Her hair was notably longer than my own though, and her face bore a sense of unmistakable youth, as one often sees in teenagers and those in their early twenties. She looked like a college student, that much is certain, but she was also composed, calm, and looked as if she knew both who I was and why I was here. Because she did.

“Hello. Abigale Quinlan, I presume?” She stated in a voice and inflection only slightly lighter than my own.

“Yes. Do you know why I am here?” I repeated.

“I have my theories. From what I have been told, you are my biological mother, and I am, effectively, a clone of yours that has been given one of the many abilities that helped you do a great number of things throughout your life. Including the destruction of much of the developed world. The Cataclysm. As for why you are here, I have two theories, one of which is more likely than the other. Either you desire to meet me and pursue some sort of familial relationship, or you desire to kill me. It really is quite macabre how simple yet extreme those two options are, is it not?”

“Yes, it is. Your second theory was correct. I am here to kill you. Your intellect was originally something I possessed, yet it was removed from me upon your birth. The only way I may reclaim it is if you perish. Once I have my intellect restored to that beyond basic human capabilities, then I can begin rebuilding this world.”

“I expected as much. I suppose I can do little but accept such a fate. I know that you possess many other abilities and, based on the way you are presenting yourself, I assume you have retained at least some of them. The immortality, the Real Booting, the Snap Burst, enhanced strength, and so forth. With any of those, you can easily kill me yourself. Especially after I sent my students away.”


“Yes. I spent a year teaching a group of thirty people how to best function as a society, embedded them with the knowledge to function in this world, and helped them develop the skills needed to survive. They are undergoing their first winter alone, as I had them leave this university early in the spring to start growing their crops and settling their homes. They were my second class, yet I do not have a third. There are only so many people left in this world, and my students are at least somewhat equipped to become teachers themselves now.”

“So, you have been helping people for quite some time now.”

“Certainly. With intellect comes a desire to use said intellect, and what better way to use knowledge than to spread it amongst others? Oh, but I talk too much. It is a particularly nasty habit that I have formed. I will not resist your efforts to kill me, and will simply ask that you make things as painless as possible.”

“…At first, I did not feel bad about killing my children, but now… No. I must become myself again. I must have all my abilities restored. Only then can I help this world and help seek redemption for the destruction I have caused. I tire of thinking with such a lacking mind. Before I kill you, I must ask, what is your name?”

“I was named Athena, after the Greek goddess. However, it is time for my intellect to return to its original owner. I appreciate what you gave me Abigale, or should I say, mother. But, I understand that my time has come. I will not pry on any longer. After all, you have a world to save.”

With that final line, Athena bowed, as if honoring me and presenting herself for me to kill. In response, I reached into a nearby wall and pulled out a short sword. I held it high before slicing it down and severing Athena’s neck, causing her head to call to the floor while a pool of blood began seeping from her body as it tumbled to the floor. I murmured a goodbye to her as I let my blade fall onto the carpeting beneath me while I exited the building. The ash followed me as I left for the stairs, being fully absorbed into my being before I made it to the stairwell proper. Walking down to the first floor, I gradually realized that this ability, if it could even be called that, would come to me far more slowly than others. I could feel my mind expanding from what I absorbed from Athena, yet it was a gradual process, as opposed to the sudden rush that I had grown used to.

It was… disappointing in a sense, but whatever upset I felt was undermined by the satisfaction that washed across my being. I left the library with a genuine smile. I was whole. I was complete. I had regained what was taken from me. I almost cried as I looked up at the afternoon sun and walked through the field of autumn colored trees, back to the Blazing Beelzebub, eager to inform my allies of my success, yet also a bit melancholic that my journey ended without their involvement. I shook my head to dismiss such worries and tried to lose myself in the environment of the ravaged campus… only to slow my pace as I asked myself a question.

“If I am complete, then how did I cause all this?”

I had previously hypothesized that it was due to an ability that I gained during my torture on behalf of the Flare Foundation, and I could tell that I was lacking said ability even after having eliminated my final child. Things did not quite add up, but before I could begin flexing my mental muscles once more, I had made it to the Blazing Beelzebub and was greeted by Jack and Zedaki as the two of them rushed out of the car to greet me and inquire about what happened in the library.

“Things went well,” I responded. “My last child willingly sacrificed themselves to me, believing that doing so was best for humanity.”

“Really? Seems like a bit of an anti-climax, dontcha think?” Zedaki quipped nonchalantly.

“Yes, but I am hardly upset by the lack of bombast concluding this journey,” I said with a modicum of snark in my voice. “After everything we have been through over the past week, including the murderous child with the ability to cause explosions with a simple snap of his fingers, and the behemoth with inhuman strength and agility, I consider myself lucky that two of my children willingly gave up their lives for the greater good.”

“So, um, what are we going to do now?” Jack meekly asked as she fiddled with her crowbar.

“My plan for what to do after defeating my final child was vaguely to restore the world, yet the exact details will require days of planning. In the meantime, I believe that it would be best if I take the two of you back to Madeco. I shall use my regained abilities to fortify your settlement for the upcoming winter, while formulating a plan for what to do, making use of my newly restored intellect.”

“Intellect?” Jack echoed back at me.

“Yes, I have brought this up before. Since my awakening, I have felt foggy and mentally slow, unable to properly articulate my thoughts or remember things I once knew completely. My final child possessed a great intellect, which is gradually being transferred to me, as it were. You could say that I am getting smarter every moment. I am unsure how long it will take for my mind to be fully restored, but once it is, I shall begin devising the restoration plan for humanity, and begin the process of repairing the world as best I can.”

“That sounds like a pretty solid plan, well, more solid than anything I could come up with,” Zedaki remarked. “I guess we should head off ASAP. It will probably take a couple of days before we reach Madeco again, but maybe you and your ‘restored intellect’ will come up with a faster route while pushing the car forward.”

With that remark, Zedaki began making her way back to the Blazing Beelzebub while Jack and myself followed. I momentarily paused, feeling as if something was amiss, before dismissing such superstition and continuing forward to the familiar red electric car. Zedaki slyly made her way to the vehicle, ready to sit back while I did all the hard work and chat it up with Jack for another few hours before sunset.

But before she could make it into the car proper, something happened. From the sky, a large metal spear came piercing down and penetrated the hood of the car, stabbing through the engine and causing the entire vehicle to bounce from the impact. The three of us were left momentarily paralyzed by this sight, and right as I registered what happened, I realized that I could hear a ticking noise come from the car… or rather the spear penetrating it. Wasting no time, I grabbed both Jack and Zedaki, carrying the two of them away from the vehicle before a concussive coom erupted from behind me.

My allies and I all turned our heads after the noise dissipated, leaving a ringing sound resonating throughout our ears. The vehicle that had served as an invaluable asset for the past week had been reduced to a pile of burning machinery and supplies. Everything we had kept stored in the vehicle had been incinerated, and the remains were already unsalvageable.

I turned to look at Jack, her face wrapped with confusion and fear as she was left awestruck by the scene, while Zedaki’s face bore an even more dire expression. Zedaki had explained her life’s story throughout our journey, and it was clear that she valued the things she carried, well beyond practical reasons. She walked out of the car with nothing on her, meaning that her jacket, a memento of her lost lover which she had placed in the car after her battleworn hat was incinerated. Her blade and rifle, two weapons that she wielded with a great sense of familiarity, were destroyed. While the vehicle itself, a surprising and incredibly useful gift she miraculously came into contact with that served her well throughout our journey, was left burning before her.

Unable to contain her grief and frustration, Zedaki broke away from her usual composed demeanor and began wailing vigorously at the sight before her, sobbing and shouting as she flailed herself about, left senseless after seemingly losing everything in this world that she valued. I let her go as she began venting her frustrations, before turning over to Jack, still locked in one of my arms.

Her face was twisted from Zedaki’s loud shouts, which she tried repressing by covering her ears. Seconds later, her face spontaneously straightened out and she adopted a similar expression to Zedaki. She whispered to herself, “my dress” before breaking away from my loose grip to dash through the burning rubble for her own memento, while still holding onto her crowbar. I called out to her, imploring her to cease such reckless actions, but before I could do any more than that, I was knocked back by an immense force.

I had not been maintaining my focus and had failed to notice the world around me. As a result, I found myself pinned to the ground with a familiar-looking metal spear penetrating my chest. I coughed up blood as I realized my situation, and promptly acted upon it, ignoring all other factors around me. Just as the spear began to tick, I began converting its contents into sand, causing the explosive components to fail, and preventing myself from being caught in an explosion. The sigh of my body being impaled like that was enough to grab the attention of Jack and Zedaki, who broke away from their panicked daze and came over to me.

Before they could reach me, my chest had already healed itself, and my eyes were darting around, searching for who or what could have been responsible for these explosive spears. The ground around us was barren of any humans or even animals, and the rooftops were clear from my perspective. But as I brought my eyes further upwards, I found a suspicious figure floating in midair. I called to them, and they replied by gracefully floating down, transforming from a speck-like silhouette into a full figure that stood before the flaming wreckage of the Blazing Beelzebub.

As I looked at them, a shiver was sent down my spine. Their dark brown complexion and crimson eyes were clear enough signs that they were one of my children, and my senses quickly confirmed just that. However, something about this person seemed… off. My prior children all bore a resemblance to me and were clearly identifiable as such, but as I stared at the adult woman before me, I began to take note of just how different our bodies were.

Her hair was a silky silver that flowed down past her collarbone. Her face was rounder, softer, and adorned with black freckles. Her figure was more voluptuous than my own, with large breasts and a plump rear. All encased in a tight deep violet bodysuit that acted as a second skin for this person before me. She stood at 1.9 meters tall but was further elevated by a pair of heels that brought her to my height. She looked at the three of us with a malicious grin while adopting an almost exaggerated sway as she walked towards us.

In turn, I walked towards her, gesturing to Jack and Zedaki as I went forward and took care of this encounter on my own. They seemed to understand as I began quickly pacing myself closer to this woman, whose smile only grew as I drew closer. Once we were less than a meter apart, we both stopped and proceeded to glare at one another in silence. I waited for her to make the first move, to show me her abilities so I could counter, while also running through battle scenarios as best as I could with my not yet fully restored intellect. Noticing my hardened stance, the woman snickered at me, shutting her eyes as she laughed to herself.

“Who are you?” I asked this mysterious person.

“Hmph. Is that any way to address one of your daughters? I must say mother, I really expected a more loving greeting than that,” The woman replied, her voice sounding distinctly unique from my own, coming off as far more bubbly and childish.

“I asked you who you were.”

“I know. I just want to savor the moment. After all, this is the first time we ever had a real conversation.”

“You tried to kill me. I have no reason to converse with you. I simply want to know who you are before I kill you.”

“Oh, so presumptuous. You always seemed like a stubborn and fickle bitch though, so I’m hardly surprised. If you must know, mother Quinlan, I am your eldest child, and my name is… Flare. Flare. The. Fury.”