Episode 14: Flare The Fallen
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After the conclusion to my battle with Flare, I expected her to offer some form of resistance, to lash out at me in her newly depowered state. While she clearly retained some of the abilities I inherited, their extent was far less than what she possessed during the beginning of our fight, enough to make her a non-threat to me. However, instead of throwing the sort of tantrum I had anticipated, she seemed out of sorts, distant, and after staring at me blankly for a few seconds, she stood up and… began to sing.

Her singing voice was strong, and while she sang, she chose to prance about the forest we were in, moving elegantly around the coniferous trees around us. She moved like an individual under the influence of a potent narcotic, unaware of what they are doing, the world around them, or the fact that they were prancing about topless.

Aa-aah! La la la la la la la la la!
Do not be angry, do not go away, be right here and forever please stay!
Wound tighter and tighter, fed up, so brighter. Nobody here, I’m nobody at all!
I’m doing so well have you heard? You see, you see? I’m such a good girl!
Cute as a button you heard? You see, you see?
This girl, so good, in pain, I strive, you’ll see!
Love me I say, love me I say, love me I say, more and more!
Love me this way, love me this way, until it breaks my fucking brain!
Torturing me! Torturing me! I am not free! Broke from the curse hurting me!
Nobody can stop me now!

As I observed her actions, I drew closer to Flare, trying to piece together the cause of her erratic behavior that, keeping in mind how eccentric her previous behavior was, still struck me as alarming. Yet instead of stopping this song after reaching a breaking point, she went onto a second verse.

Grow as I may, like a sweet summer’s day, know that this lady will stay just the same.
They’ll hurt and bleed, we need more for feed, get people, more people, I would always scream!
I was the best in my class they’d attest, I’m the girl far above all the rest. Yes.
Far better than two, better than all you. People, oh people, look only at me!
Love me I say, love me this way, love me I say, take what you want to me!
Taking from me, taking from me, all that I am and all that I keep.
Screaming for help, it’s not enough, screaming for more, I couldn’t give you up…
and… I’m sorry… I am just so sorry.

It was around there that Flare’s song stopped maintaining anything close to melodic substance and morphed into something else. As if she broke free of a trance and was coming back to reality.

“I deserve it! I fucking deserve it all! Billions of blood have stained my fucking hands, my soul, and it is all my fault. All because of them! No! Because of me. I did this! To you, to the world. I’d say that I’m fucking sorry, but that won’t fix things after I rammed my disgusting dick into everything and just fucked this world until it couldn’t even moan in pain anymore! Aren’t I so fucking happy today?”

With that, Flare fell flat against the ground, dropping back first, and landing her head against a rock as she fell. She flinched upon impact but did not seem concerned about it. She remained still for a few moments, staring up at the sky once again, before she turned to her side, balled up her body into a fetal position, and began to cry.

I was unsurprised to see a breakdown such as this, but the exact nature of it, along with some aspects of the song she sang, caused me to pause and rethink my assumptions about Flare. While I could have easily justified killing her here, my curiosity was piqued by her words, and I had questions I wanted answers for. As such, I waited for her to calm down, to stand herself up, and to cease her crying, which took roughly 3 minutes.

“Are you all right?” I asked Flare.

“No… No I’m not. I… I was just hit with a lot of things back there and… oh goodness, what have I done? Everything… everything really was my fault… My selfishness, my egotism… it’s the reason why so many had to die. That so much is lost. It made sense in the moment, but now… now that I’ve lost… it is all too obvious. I’m sorry Abigale Quinlan. I’m sorry for everything.”

I was taken aback after hearing Flare speak. Her tone, her words, and even the sound of her voice all took a notable shift, almost as if she had become a different person, despite looking exactly the same as she did when we first met… except topless. Wondering if this shift also brought with it an increase in modesty, I Real Booted a jacket for Flare to wear. She slowly took it out of my hands and put it on herself before sighing and looking at me with a dejected expression.

“I… I… Can I ask something of you, Abigale?”

“You may ask.”

“Could I tell you my story? I know that you probably have better things to do, and there’s not really anything stopping you from, well, killing me, but I really want to get some things off of my chest. Figuratively, of course.”

“Very well. Your behavior since your defeat has been rather… eccentric, so I must admit that I am at least a little curious about you.”

“Thank you, Abigale. Sorry if I end up rambling for a while because I’m not entirely sure how to tell this to someone. In fact, I’m not really even sure where to start other than, well, my beginning. In 1987 I was born as the second child of Kenneth and Eleanore Flare, the presidents of the illustrious Flare Foundation. Since its inception over a century ago, the Foundation has become a prominent force in many industries and has amassed excessive wealth and power. While the Foundation was historically headed by members of the Flare family, after my father dedicated so much of his youth to studying and training to become the next company president, he decided that he wanted his children to live comfortable lives where they were free to pursue any aspiration they desired.”

“This led to me and my sister, who was five years older than me, being given a great deal of freedom so long as we kept up with our studies, which was easy thanks to our amazing personal teachers. For as long as I could remember, my sister was the creative sort. Drawing, painting, coming up with stories, expressing herself in a wide variety of ways, and always trying to include me in her activities. She was affectionate, nurturing, and overall loving. I could not have imagined a better sibling. Naturally, her brilliance drew much of our parent’s attention, and because of their hectic work schedules, they rarely ever had time for me. Though, I didn’t really mind at first, as I always had my sister by my side.”

“I don’t know if I can properly express how much I cared for her. I… I loved her. I loved everything about her and wanted to be just like her. Her personality, her talents, her appearance, I was too young to understand my feelings, but I deeply and truly envied everything about her. I tried following in her footsteps, trying to both impress her along with my parents. I spent days on a project, honing and refining it to the best of my abilities, as my sister often did with her own work, before finally feeling satisfied with the final product. When I went to present it to my parents though, they were… far from kind.”

“They said that I was being derivative, a poor imitation, and that I should try to do something on my own, rather than mirroring the talents of my sister. I had always felt like I was second in their eyes, and at that moment, I sure as shit felt like a number two. I was left dejected, rejected, and disheartened. All I had truly wanted throughout my life, I received. I had all the tutors, toys, and games I could have ever wished for when growing up, but I never felt like I truly had my parent’s love… and after I tried my hardest to impress them, they did not even give me the time of day, insulting me before leaving to handle other matters.”

“I did, eventually, years later, learn why they were so dismissive of me. My parents were incredibly busy people, and at the time, they were dealing with financial hardships, trying to expand the company, and prevent undue influence from affecting their leadership. They were stressed out more than they had ever been in the past, and simply did not have time, even for their 12-year-old child. It was not that they hated me, it’s that they were in such a nasty position that they were keen to hate everything.”

“Regardless of context though, I was mortified by their words and took them as deeply and severely as I could. From that sorrow came anger. Hatred. Fury. Spite. Et cetera. In such a state, it was hard for me to so much as think straight, let alone rationally, and, in my young vengeful hormone-riddled mind, I devised a half-brained plan that… would ruin so much. I called my parents in for a meeting, telling them that it was of vital importance. They came to one of our many meeting rooms to discuss the matter with me, cynically remarking about how I was eating away at their valuable time with my drivel. Then, once we were all alone, I sat them down and pulled out the weapons I had prepared. A kitchen knife and a metal mallet. Two tools that would not be the most effective weapons, but hatred is a powerful force, and because of that, my parents were reduced to unidentifiable piles of flesh in mere minutes…”

“By the end, I was doused in their blood and had gone manic from the rush of murder. I knew what I was doing was reprehensible, but the satisfaction I felt was great, and the sense of bloodlust that was going through me at the time had me continuously stabbing and mashing what remained. That’s when the door to the meeting room opened and, well, I jumped at whoever came in. I was so far gone that I did not even look at who it was until my hammer had struck them square in the forehead. It was none other than my sister, and once I struck her, her body limply fell to the floor.”

“After that… I cannot say I remember many specifics. But I do know what happened. My sister was left comatose. Her condition was poor, her chance of waking up was low, and due to the trauma I inflicted on her, in the event that she did wake up, she would not be the same person. So, in a sense, the sister I knew was already dead. And I killed her.”

I could not accept this and sought the aid of every doctor my family had connections with, searching for ways in which I could keep her alive, and eventually, after countless conversations, I found a doctor crazy and skilled enough to help bring my sister back, at least, in a way.”

“I intentionally never knew the details of the process, but I do know this. My body became that of my sister’s as far as it could within the capabilities of modern science circa 1999. We were the same blood type, our tissue matched, and we were very much the best-case scenario for a procedure like this. By the end of the surgeries, after several weeks, I looked at myself in the mirror and no longer saw myself looking back at me. I saw my sister. I saw Maxxie.”

“To any casual observer, I now was my sister, and I spent the ensuing years trying to copy everything else. Her voice, her mannerisms, her talents. I dedicated myself to being Maxxie, and from a legal perspective, I made it so that I was Maxxie. The world thought that the person who I used to be died along with my parents in an undisclosed accident, while their precious daughter, Maxxie Flare, was appointed as the head of their company.”

“I spent years overjoyed at the act of being my sister, of vicariously living her life and, in my mind, truly believing that I was her, rejecting any stray thoughts about ever being anyone else, and instead choosing to believe my own version of events. That it was my disgruntled sibling who murdered my parents, before taking a weapon to… himself and ending… his life. I believed that for two decades until, well, it all came back to me. Just now.”

“While those years brought me much joy, it was slowly becoming apparent to me that I was… changing. I was looking ever so slightly worse and could feel my personality gradually drift away from what it used to be. I was getting older, and there were two things that I feared with that. Remembering my parents, how they seemed to grow cynical in their old age, bitter, disrespectful, and rude. I did not want the same thing to befall me. To befall Maxxie. But possibly more than that, I did not want to die. To see Maxxie truly leave this world for good.”

“Using the many resources of the Flare Foundation, I researched ways to prolong one’s life indefinitely, and while there were many scientific advancements that could potentially allow for such a thing, there was one theory, a myth of sorts, that caught my eye. It was found by one of the brightest employees in the entire conglomerate and consisted of small articles, stories, and insignificant anecdotes that pointed to a mysterious woman. A tall woman with a dark complexion, red eyes, and powers beyond human comprehension. Stories of her seemed to permeate throughout the centuries, and a few mentioned her resistance to lethal wounds, and being able to recover from an explosive blast. She went by many names over the years, but I eventually learned of her true name. Abigale Quinlan.”

“I hired many people to hunt you down, to find you, all so that I could meet with you… but you were not okay with just meeting, causing me to take more drastic measures. I had to invest resources into containing you, experimenting on you, and tormenting you in hopes that you would share your secrets of immortality with me… but you didn’t. Instead, you destroyed everything in an attempt to free yourself, grew insane from immense torture, and eventually fell into a sort of coma once you left the world in a dilapidated state.”

“I survived the assault, as did my organization, and we used what remaining resources we had to experiment on you, taking all the samples we could possibly want or need, all before breeding you with yourself. This gave way to offsprings that were tested on, trained, and treated with love and affection… but before we could make any significant progress, they managed to escape one way or another. With the exception of being your first child. Fiona. I called her my daughter, raised her when I could, and developed a close bond with her. You already know what happened from there. Once you escaped, I was a mess, went to Fiona, and she melded her body with mine, giving me all your powers.”

“In the end… I regret everything I did. To you. To my parents. To my sister. To the world. To the people at the Flare Foundation, all of those who died because of my hysteria and poor leadership. And for what I did to Jack during her stay at the Foundation. I… my sister always was very open when it came to things sexually… perhaps a little too open. She did not know the word, but she was pansexual, she was open to loving anyone and anything, and found the kinkier side of sexual situations… fascinating. I somehow thought this meant that she would love fucking kids.”

“I became a parody of the person I so desperately wanted to mirror all of my life. Ignoring all of the context and subtext that made her up, as I was desperately clinging to fading memories. Her personality, demeanor, everything I started doing, everything you saw me do while I was fighting you, was just a bastardization of who Maxxie truly was. I’m such a fucking idiot. Just one insane emotionally damaged idiot who went and ruined most of the world because she didn’t want her sister to die.”

“Flare—” I interjected as her story seemingly came to an end.

“Please, call me Terra. It’s the name I was thinking of calling myself before… before I ruined everything. Back when my aspirations had some semblance of normalcy to them. Back when I just wanted to be a girl who was loved and accepted by her family.”

“Terra… you are a dangerous person and have done untold harm to the world and human society at large. I view you as the person responsible for so much of what happened, and I do hate you for what you have done. Your past does not excuse your actions when they are this severe, and I think you know this.”

“I do. So what now? Are you gonna kill me?”

“…No. I feel that my power is fully regained. How you managed to survive the process, or retain some of your abilities, is a mystery to me. However, you no longer seem to bear ill will in your intentions, and so long as I do not hear about you doing anything reprehensible, I will allow you to continue to live. Assuming that is what you want.”

“Heh. It’d be pretty pathetic to ask for death after all of this. But… I’m surprised you’re just letting me go like this.”

“I do not enjoy killing. I view it as a necessary action in dire times, and while I will kill to ensure my own survival, I do not see you as a threat to me or really to anyone in your current state. If anything, I am curious as to how you will cope, both with your emotional loss and with your newfound powers. Most notably, immortality.”

“Well… thank you, Abigale. I’ll do all that I can with this new life you gave me. But before that… I think I need to figure out just who I am now.”

“Very well. Goodbye Terra Flare.”

“Yeah. Goodbye Abigale Quinlan.”

As our conversation came to a close, I looked upwards and took off into the sky, leaving Terra to fend for herself. I soared contemplatively, reflecting on Terra’s past as I looked at the world around me, reminding myself of the magnitude of what my future would hold. I passed over the battleground between Flare and I as I made my way to the university, where I found Jack and Zedaki, standing watch for me.

I carried them with me as I flew through the sky, traveling hundreds of kilometers and returning to Madeco, where I dropped them off. They spent the night reconvening with the denizens of the settlement, while I worked from midnight until dawn, Real Booting supplies for this settlement before I woke up Jack and Zedaki to bid them farewell.

I kept one of my promises to them. And now, with my might and intellect restored, it was time for the other half. The world was a vast place, there was a lot wrong with it, and I was the only one with the power to usher it into a new era. It would take decades, if not centuries, to restore and rebuild what was lost, but with my mind clear and my power greater than it had ever been before, I knew that I, more than any other being in the world, was the one who could bring hope and prosperity back to this tattered world.