Chapter 3:

First Connection

Archangel Accelerate

A silhouette walked forward from a maelstrom of dust. In-between her shallow breaths, Aurora got a fuzzy look at the stranger. Graying hair, combat boots, and a dirty field jacket revealed a lifetime of fighting. The scars of this violent life clashed with the man’s bright disposition, gleefully staring down his shadowed opponent.

“Name’s Frederick. Call me Fritz. No time for formalities, Miss Aventador. You know how to use this thing right?”

As Fritz threw a heavy satchel at Aurora’s feet, she felt the world around her begin closing in.

“Aurora, look! What’s happening?!”, Lucy cried.

The maddening crowds down the alleyway gave way to a pitch-black void. As the smell of saltwater disappeared, an endless black void consumed the space above them like a slow-moving tidal wave. Only a claustrophobic area around them was illuminated. When the spell was complete, Brunhilda locked her prisoners within a violet ring of fire, a blazing oasis in a sea of darkness. Only the concrete at their feet could stabilize them.

“Ha! Building a fighting arena for us?”, Felix jeered.

“No, you ignorant buffoon, I’d rather not make this any more public than it already is. I wanted to kill these fools quickly and quietly, but I’ll guess I’ll have to kill you too.”

“What about your friend? Not inviting him to the party?”

“He’s dead weight, someone I tag along for grunt work. He’ll be awake by the time I exit this void, after I leave your dead bodies in it.”

Fritz loosened up for a moment, looking comically exasperated.

“You know Hilda, here’s your problem. You’re no fun! You can’t enjoy battle the way I do, can’t appreciate how romantic fighting on the edge of life can be!”

Brunhilda’s face twitched in anger. Her flames roared.

“You would mock me, degenerate? THEN YOU CAN MOCK ME FROM THE GRAVE!”

The shadowed woman transformed into a raging fireball, hurling herself towards the trio. Aurora crawled back until she felt the violet prison surrounding her sting the back of her neck. Their only salvation would be this stranger in front of them, the steel encasing his arms crawling up his shoulders as he prepared to block.

“Get back!”, Fritz cried.

Lucy shifted her gaze from the fire and turned towards the satchel.

“Aurora, the bag! Open it up!”

Aurora squeezed her eyes tight, hoping for a brief moment of respite that would never come.

I can’t run away now, not again.

Aurora crawled over the satchel with quivering hands. As Lucy ran over, she saw a light flash in the darkness. The stranger was recklessly charging into the approaching fireball.

“Ha! I’ve fought you one too many times to fall for that bluff! If you want to go head-on, Hilda, THEN BRING IT!”

Brunhilda's demonic voice roared into the void, screaming at Fritz.


In the distance, Aurora and Lucy froze upon Brunhilda and Fritz's impact. An echo of rattling steel overcame their senses.


Fritz had caught Brunhilda’s haymaker with only a few inches to spare. His metallic arms rattled against the force of Hilda’s lunge. Veins of steel crawled up his legs as he entrenched himself into the darkness.

“What? No ignorant comment? No stupid joke? Is this not funny anymore?,” Brunhilda said, taunting Fritz in return.

“Haah….. just writer’s block.”

Fritz looked behind and saw the girls frozen in shock.

“Hey! What are you waiting for, USE THE RELIC! And don’t worry about finding a vein, just inject it!”

They opened the satchel and pulled out a jet black rectangular device, along with a small case containing a syringe of clear serum. As Aurora anxiously handled the device, she activated the touchscreen. A yes-or-no prompt appeared.

Hello. Would you like to make the connection?

Sweat dripped down Aurora’s face as time moved in slow motion. She froze again, overcome with panicked thoughts.

I don’t know, I don’t know. What is this, what’s happening? I don’t know.

“AURORA! Snap out of it! If we don’t help him, we will die!”, Lucy cried.

Fritz extended his metallic arms, shoving Hilda away from him. He felt the burning glow of the relic stitched to him. Clamping his overextended arms back into position, he began another taunt.

“Aaah… now what a coincidence, we both were looking for the same person. I didn’t think you guys would get to her first!”

“Fools like you never change. Almost baptized by my violet fires, and now you’re back with your obnoxious chatter,” replied Brunhilda.

“What a shame, I figured you would tell me what you guys were up to. But I suppose I’ll be silent as well. Besides, a gentleman never tells.”

Hilda created a long whip of fire and began her next assault. The two warriors continued their combat, arms of steel ripping against a lightning-fast blaze. Their long-distance combat created a dazzling light show while sparks drifted into the void around them.

Noticing her friend’s resolve, Aurora realized the gravity of the situation. She pressed “Yes” on the touchscreen. Similar to the interface she had purchased in the market, a twisted rope of flesh like worms extended out the sides, crawling in the air towards Aurora’s head. Lucy pulled back in shock. Aurora noticed a fleshy object within.

“S-so this is how these things work. Sorry you didn’t get any time to prepare.”, Lucy said.

“I know. It’s OK. I have to do this. Like you said, we don’t have a choice.”

Fritz looked behind himself. Snapping one of his arms back to his body, he pointed at Lucy and cried out.


Aurora squeezed her eyes shut as the tentacles approached her. Before she could take another deep breath, the worms snapped against her temple.


“Guilty one….”

A disembodied voice echoed throughout the tunnel. But in that instant, the only listener forgot the feeling of their own body. The barriers between them and others had broken, as they felt themselves melting into a primordial ooze. Minutes that felt like an eternity passed. The listener felt themselves harden in this warm ocean. As they did, their sense of self solidified, breaking away from the unified whole. They remembered their own person-hood, and opened their eyes.

“Aaah…. W-where am I? I-I, ugh….”

Aurora looked around, as she floated through a tunnel of blue plasma.

“W-woah! H-help me! What’s happening!?”

Aurora flailed her arms and legs cartoonishly, spinning herself into vertigo. Suddenly, everything came back to her.

“L-LUCY! That man! Where are you guys? Where is everyone? HELP!”

That voice, androgynous and otherworldly, called out again to Aurora.

“Guilty one…. we are now of one flesh.”

Guilty one?, thought Aurora. The voice continued.

“In exchange for my power, we have become one, and I have been given new life. A clash of ideals lies before you, a struggle born from your fateful encounter. But the truth will only lie in the discovery of a firm resolve. Guilty one, will you accept my power?”

“Power…. what power?”

“The power to alter your cruel fate.”

Aurora drifted through the passage, ruminating on this proposal.

I want to see her again. I don’t want to fail her anymore. I can be redeemed, and finally move on.

“I will ask you again. Will you accept my power?”

“Yes”, said Aurora.

Time froze. The blue plasma circling around Aurora found itself locked in place. But, like a railgun charging itself up, Aurora found herself accelerating down the endless path. Plasma dazzled around her as she was flung down the chamber. The hair on her arms stood on end. At the edge of terminal velocity, one name was planted in her mind. One name to mark the divine power she had received.



“Alright…. here goes nothing!”, yelled Lucy.

Lucy jammed the serum into Aurora’s arm. She jolted awake, her heart pounding. The world around her appeared as a hazy blur.

“Aurora! Aurora, are you ok? W-what did that thing do to you?”, Lucy cried, waving her arms in front of Aurora’s face. Before she could react, a wave of heat rushed over them.

“YOU! ARE! REALLY! STUBBORN! OLD! MAN!”, screamed Brunhilda through an onslaught of frenzied punches. Fritz held firm, but was pushed back with each blazing attack. Sweat dripped down his steel guard.

Aurora felt energy surging through her. Lightning flickered around her body, and her dirty blonde hair stood on end. In a frenzy of heat, she took off her rain jacket and threw it onto the concrete, revealing only a T-shirt with charred sleeves.

“W-what? Lightning…. this must be…. the power I was given.”

Aurora noticed Fritz ahead of her. Turning his head while struggling with Brunhilda, he noticed the lightning searing through her arms and legs.

“YES! NOW, HELP ME!”, he cried.

“What do I do? Why did this happen?”


Exhausted, Brunhilda backed off from her assault.

Ok, here’s my only chance, thought Aurora.

As Aurora lunged forward, her body quickly accelerated, whipping itself in Brunhilda’s direction.


Aurora, now seemingly a ball of lightning, tumbled through the air. The power that was given to her was stronger than her body could handle. Aurora heard the roar of Brunhilda’s violet flames as she flew towards her target.

“What th-,“ said Brunhilda.

A loud crash echoed into the void as the two warriors scraped across the concrete. Long streaks of burn marks followed their bodies in ragged lines. Fritz looked on and smiled.

“Haah…. nice….. glad this one didn’t pass out,” commented Fritz.

“AURORA!”, Lucy cried.

Aurora opened her eyes in a daze. The burnt concrete in front of her twisted and spun. Attempting to regain her composure, Aurora weakly stood back on her knees.

“Ugh…. uh….”

She felt a wet sensation on her face as her nose began to bleed. Her lightning twitched, cracking the ground. As the world came into focus she found herself face to face with a deep indigo portal. Behind her, Brunhilda wiped her face, her hands dirty with wet lipstick and blood. Her muddy black cloak flapped in the fiery winds, singed edges still glowing with embers.

“That doesn’t belong to you. Degenerates like you need to stop soiling our blessings.”

Aurora was encircled. The indigo portals around her left her no way to escape. They lightly throbbed, like an artery pumping blood. Brunhilda’s flames began to ignite when she pointed her scarred arm towards Aurora.

Entzünden.”, she whispered.

Fire spit out of the portals. With nowhere to run, Aurora ducked onto the ground and narrowly dodged the flames. With every sharp move, lightning flickered on her body.

She’s distracted, here’s my chance. I’ll have the kid hit her with everything that relic’s got, thought Fritz.

As Aurora twitched in pain below the edge of the fire, Fritz charged Brunhilda. Her spells were powerful, but often time-intensive. Fritz took this as a chance to strike. Twisting his body like a javelin thrower, he whipped his stretched metallic arms towards Brunhilda, pinning her to the ground.

“Agh!”, Brunhilda cried.

The portals evaporated, and Aurora was freed from the flames. She looked over to Fritz, who was struggling against Brunhilda as his arms shook and rattled meters away from his body.


Lucy, staring at the action from a distance, found herself unable to act. The relationship dynamic hadn’t changed over the time they’d known each other. Their roles often swapped when normal chatter turned into action, with the cheerful and silly Lucy becoming the reliable one. This was an unfamiliar feeling for her. There was nothing she could do as Aurora clumsily ejected herself into the air with a powerful leap, lightning shattering around her legs.

“Ah-ahhh!”, Aurora screamed. The scene of the battle, a violet light spot in an ocean of darkness, grew smaller and smaller as she flung into the air above. Aurora slowed to a stop.

“How do I, where, W-WHAT DO I DO!”

Without the comfort of the ground at her feet, Aurora flapped her legs in the air.

“Ok. Ok. I have superpowers. I think. I’m gonna, I’m gonna put this in your hands, whatever you are!,” said Aurora into the void.

She accelerated towards the ground. The force of air whipped her hand back as she wound up a punch. A ball of lightning began to surround her.

“A-ah!”, Aurora cried, the power too much for her weak body. Below her, Brunhilda remained pinned to the ground.

“Ha! Where’d your useful idiot go, degenerate? It’s only a matter of time before I burn through you!”, Brunhilda said while gripping Fritz’s arms. Fritz twitched in pain. Brunhilda continued to taunt him.

“Your parlor tricks won’t work for lo-“

Brunhilda looked above, immediately blinded.


A powerful blast emanated from Brunhilda, as Fritz retracted his arms. The concrete rattled. Fritz and Lucy tripped into the ground, lacking anything to hang onto. In the corner of her vision, Lucy saw a body launch out of the blast radius towards her. It was Aurora. Backing away, Lucy saw the still electrified body slide onto the ground in front of her.


“Uh-ugh…. L-Lucy?!”, the dizzied Aurora said while trying, and failing, to stand herself back up. The ring of fire that illuminated this alternate dimension extinguished. After being left in the darkness for a few moments, the bazaar reappeared around them. Brunhilda’s spell had terminated. Since they were returned to this world relative to their position in Brunhilda’s fabricated realm, Fritz found himself tangled in a shopkeeper’s tent. Aurora passed out as he ran over to the alleyway.

“Haha! Not bad kid! I knew we would defeat that evil bitch!”, Fritz said, running over before being slapped by Lucy.

“Hey! She’s passed out, we got to get her to the hospital now! What happened to that woman?”

“Oh, she’s over there. Other guy is still out cold.”

Down the alleyway, sparks buzzed off of a prone body. Fritz continued, more serious this time.

“Hospital won’t do you any good. Besides, they’ll be back. You take this, I’ll carry her. Come on, follow me.”

Lucy took Aurora’s shattered interface in her hand. In disbelief of the world they were just thrown into, she looked at Fritz’s back as he carried Aurora down the alleyway.

“Come on! Guards will probably be here soon!”, he cried.

Resolving to support Aurora, Lucy ran ahead, her sneakers splashing in the puddles at her feet.

N. D. Skordilis