Chapter 79:



“… As clean up, medical crews, evacuations—and various relief efforts on route as I speak, the damage done on this day at the very least will be cleaned up,” Tabby’s words brought clarity back.

The augmented reality visage captured her subtler, nuanced facial expressions. She smiled, but even small as it was, had clear signs of it being an effort. Her eyes, looking “directly” to the viewer, glanced about briefly—readying for something that might come.

That was why, she sighed and dropped the pleasantries.

“Folks… What happened today, is going to take some considerable time for us to… Understand. The toll, the lives forever changed. More importantly… The sense of… I struggle to find the words. But the sense of our greatest achievement—to be able to rebound as a species.”

The girl wiped her face with her hand, letting it flop to her side. Her expression forlorn. Exhausted.

“…I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know what to do. I’m talking, but there’s… It’s just noise. Vocalization of one of the many minds that just can’t accept what happened here. Not only as ultraviolence, but… There’s just no grid for this. From this point on, things have to change. Because like it or not, it’s changing without our input, our say…”

Then she nodded. Maybe more to herself than anybody.

“…But change is a science, I feel. We see it happen, we found various ways where it manifests. And more importantly, it can be used for great good or terrible evil. It’s up to us to make this next journey of the human race a much better, less painful one. For those we lost. For those who were irreversibly broken. And for us, that has to continue on for them and ourselves…”


Of all the things Stark could’ve saw in her dazed state, she was surprised when an angel soared across the air, and landed right next to her.

Grace—both quickly yet tenderly—grabbed the beaten girl and cradled her in her arms.

“Oh my god baby—what happened?!” Grace panicked.

Stark just shook her head. “Sulked. The universe paid me back in kind—”

Grace quickly pulled her in, trying her damnedest not to crush her due to her frail status. Rocking gently yet holding close for good measure.

“Hey… Look at the bright side… There’s no world wasting, I’m still here so you don’t go and do all that—”

“Stark, you’re literally in pieces and yet you find a way to needle me for that?” there was a hint of annoyance, but clearly outweighed by her shaking tone and her caring whisper.

“Humor’s a good tool for diffusing really tough situations…”

“So you find my declaration of love from literally from my heart funny,” Grace snarked back. “Who’s the jerk about this now~?”

“Hey, they expect me to rampage once my humanity’s gone—you’re the superhero here,” Stark then sticked out her tongue. “…You couldn’t see that, yeah, I’m kinda running low on brain RAM today—”

Grace grabbed Stark by her shoulders, leaned in and softly pressed her lips on hers. She pulled back, and Stark followed up weakly, but made it linger to compensate.

“Oh god, it’s horrible out there, hunbun…” Grace aged in that one second. “Just horrible. No one knows what to do now. People aren’t just… Losing the point. They’re actively tossing it away.”

Stark nodded, steadily raising her mangled hand—the sight of which made Grace’s eyes glossy.

But Stark pressed on, grasping her lover’s cheek, using her thumb to softly caress. Grace closed her eyes, with beads of tears at the edges, and leaned into it.

“I know. I know… But it’s natural.”

“Stark—” despite her eyes closed and expression soft, her brow did furrow.

“It’s not… I’m not doing that s-word—My usual s-word, but… Yeah. We should be at a loss right now. We just lost a lot of things, all in quick session. A societal yearning… It can be dangerous. We seen how dangerous it can be. All we can really do now… Is heal this time. Let this tragedy pass. If we don’t let go now, if we do… Try using this as foundation. We’re going to destroy ourselves.”

Grace sighed and sighed deeply. Stark proceeded to kiss her forehead, still weak.

“Besides, you have to listen to me. I’m the bedridden one right now.”

Grace opened her eyes and shot a playful glare.

“Stark Terri, I will use my usual methods and then heal you after,” Grace grumbled pathetically.

“Then I’ll truly break up with you—”

“What about razing the world~?”

“I’ll stop you and we’ll have an emotional, love-infused duel of fates.”

“Jeez, and you say that you have idea what ‘sexual’ is,” she knowingly winked—which caused Stark to shudder a tad.

“i know we’re like having a private moment on some technicality—can we, create or establish a private moment for private moments?”

“You’re making it woooooorse~”

Stark found her face flushed with redness. It was still such a foreign concept, even with years of this and already faced intimacy on semi-regular basis.

“now you’re—taking advantage of a poor, injured lady and lewding her. is your zeal without limit--?”

Grace rolled her eyes, and presented her maimed hand. “Like everything else about us, we’re on the same level, so it’s fine—”

Stark looked at it, taking it just as quick as Grace grabbed her, studying it.

“…I’m sorry that I wasn’t there to help,” Stark sounded small. “I could’ve made—all the excuses—any single—”

Grace chuckled softly, grabbing her hand with the other. “No. You’re so introspective and smart that you knew someone had to do the job no one ever thinks about… You taught me about how rushing into do something can undo it just as easy. And about accepting that I can’t just help everyone before I went insane. So, from your other side of the coin—don’t worry about it.”

Stark’s eyes lit up warmly, somehow portraying a warm sadness in them. “I… Uh… Yeah.”

More importantly—” the girl in white leaned in, nuzzling her lover’s flushed cheek. “Take your own damn advice for once, you—

Stark laughed and not only took it but her girlfriend’s kindness within the dark.

As they were the only two on the crumbled road, it made the various thoughts—pounding within the strange one’s head—just a bit more bearable.


Mr. Davenport just put a photo down, and it wasn’t even his.

“I promise. I promise I’ll make this right. Even if you can’t see it finally bare fruit.”

It was an old war photo, Conrad Miller being in the center with his squadron around him. Mr. Davenport wanted to salute, to give the ultimate grand gesture, but he wasn’t sure if he could.

Especially someone like him.

He got up from the desk, and heard a knock on the door. And even before he could ask—Diana Blake stormed in.

“And where were you--?” Mr. Davenport asked, with a squint.

“Exac—unlike you,” she spat back, putting her hands onto her labcoat’s pockets.

“…This was his office, y’know?” the man looked around himself, seeing everything broken or rendered down. “All of his stuff—I couldn’t bare to… Take it all out yet. Just when I worked up the nerve… It all gets destroyed anyways…”

Diana made a very purposely groan and used her head to roll her eyes.

“Save any and all sentimentality for the speech you’re gonna do,” Diana crossed her arms. “Not really the time for it, right now.”

“…Fine. If we’re to talk business… I thought you encrypted the data. You had to because it’s protocol. So how did she find her files—easily, at that?”

“From what I understand—sympathy,” Diana shrugged. “We had stragglers that related to her plight, overrid everything as soon as I escaped. It’s just the world we’re in now, can’t trust anyone with research anymore.”

“Shall we recruit and bolster security as we go forward, then?”

Who walked out of the door and raised that question, was none other than “JoJo”. They had their hands behind their back, stern expression framed with their diagonal fringe on display as they looked towards their superiors.

“There’s a lot to do, I’m afraid…” Mr. Davenport. “I know you both came for some kind of status report for the rest, and… I don’t really have anything concrete. Not right now. I only have my thoughts.”

“Oooh, hopefully it’ll go nicely with the mood board, too!” Diana snarked.

“There’s also been talks about meeting for what they referred to… As ‘End Chapter talks’,” JoJo informed. “No other details beyond that, sir.”

“…Well that’s ominous,” Mr. Davenport said flat out. “But something that we have to deal with later. Come on, you two. Time to address the state of everything.”


Teleporting, onto the makeshift stage fashioned of Seedy Island, was something of a karmic brick for Davenport. When he claimed the town, land and sea of this realm all those years ago—he didn’t have anything planned for this and the many other “useless” islands that surrounded old Davenport—hence the name.

Now he’s going to be making the most important speech of his life, on something he considered a joke.

He walked forward, perched above a few feet of the crowd of evacs. The latter boats in the final waves of the conflict where volunteers, thus couldn’t handle the multiple people jumping on for so long, leaving them here as more reinforcements came.

He didn’t have a podium, he didn’t have a script. Just him, only surrounded by people.

“…Folks, I…” he begun. “…Is there truly anything to say? We have been singlehandedly thrusted into a new frontier of human history. We have to—say to ourselves—that we know live within a fantasy, where magic powers, and monsters, and weird lands are a staple of living. It’s confusing. It’s terrible. And as much as we wanted it to be over… Today shows that it can’t be put an end to.”

He put his hands together, squeezing them. “I’m not here to tell you things are crazy, you know that. And I’m not here to tell you that I’m forced to change from my ways due to the new responsibilities we have—there’s no choice for me not to.”

He pointed, his hands still together with two fingers on each being pointed forward. “What I’m telling you is that we’re going to do right. We’re going to be the leading, guiding light within this terrible time. Because, despite this unprecedented event, this is still a new beginning… New attitudes, new technology, the purest cultural reset we have ever experienced. Let’s walk forward, because you all are deserving to get something back. Let us walk forward, so we can put this day behind us.”

Grace suddenly flew in, causing a lot of startled gasping. Reading the climate, she drifted down softly onto the “stage”.

“If I may…” she asked. Mr. Davenport gestured, backing away as she took center stage.

“…I wanna say that you beautiful people… Haven’t lost everything.”

There were some murmurs. She let them occur, hoping that shouting or discourse won’t ignite from it, until it died down.

“Hardship is terrible, being left with nothing after everything you’ve done… I’m here to remind that… You still did those things. You’re still capable of doing something. Not only you can regain what you’ve lost, but you’re automatically stronger because you’re still standing. I know you’re traumatized; I know you’re beaten… But you did it. The worst event and you made it here. Without heartbreak, without sorrow… But the inner light within you, it can flicker once again. And it will. So cry, yell, grieve, crumple onto the floor… it’s only because that’s a sign that light is still alive and it’s hurt like the rest of you. Keep it alive. And know that you will never truly lose anything, because you still hold it within yourself.”

People around didn’t know what to make of the statement. They only applauded, it weak because it felt weird and strange to even clap.

But Grace nodded and bowed all the same—backing away as Mr. Davenport leaned in.

“Thanks for telling them the heart part,” he said in a whisper. “Was focused on the inspiration. They’ll realize you’re right in time.”

He then gave a wink at her, and became center stage again.


With everything, from the various speeches, the state of things, and the experience living through it all—Jackie felt like talking to her parents on a phone was the hardest thing to do.

“Of course… Yes, I’m with friends… We’re just waiting for the boats to take us to where you guys are soon… Yeah, I’m stable now. Don’t worry… I know it’s hard. I still feel terrible for doing that to you… I love you too.”

She hung up, letting the Extant Medical Worker carry the phone away as she sighed a loud.

“First time getting grounded, huh?” Maddie leaned in, right next to her. “Don’t worry, the rest of us knows how it feels, we’ll coach—”

“Hush, you…” Jackie grinned a bit. “Things are fine. They’re just waiting for me now…”

“Shouldn’t be long now,” River typing away at her laptop, somehow more damaged than the one Jackie saw. “Five minutes or so, Extant patchworked a site for the timetable. Feels like how websites were when I was a kid-

Aiko was just making her arm shift again and again, chuckling in delight as her arm vibrated.

“Aiko, stop that,” Jackie sounded parental.

“Why aren’t you guys reveling in the fact we have full access now?!” Aiko exclaimed with glee. “Weeks of having this around our necks, now it’s all working!”

“Because it still looks weird and we nearly fucking strained it, genius,” Maddie spat.

Tracy felt up her arms, which still had the deepest cracks trailing down it, “Not to mention… Still damaged…”

Jackie looked at her palm, which has her crack still there. She closed it into a fist.

“Hey. Scars shrink, if you give it time.”

“I’m sure you stole that from somewhere—” Maddie scratched at her neck’s side, revealing a re:Birthmark. “I’m regretting this whole thing purely because of these marks, man. Super weird.”

Aiko rolled up her short sleeve, to unveil hers based on shoulder. “More like super cooool~”

“Not gonna lie, kinda wanted mine on my ass or something,” River flatly said with a smirk.

“what the fuck, brooke—” Maddie looked towards her.

As she snickered, Tracy giggled, joining in.

Jackie smiled at the banter, while turning her hand and looking at her own mark. Tracing it with her eyes.

“…Girls, we did something today,” Jackie began.

“… I mean yeah,” Maddie said. “We’ve been through this…”

“… Why don’t we keep doing something? About all this?”

Everyone looked at her.

“What do you mean--?” Tracy asked.


“We’re straight up getting a band together?” River looked at Jackie, pressing her glasses up.

“IIII don’t know, man—” Maddie waved her hands. “I stuck around because we’re linked now and I owed you all… We can’t be a Justice League or whatever.”

“No… But we can… Keep proving our worth. Be these underdogs—fight back against these terrible things, so that others can start doing it as well. A team of normal, everyday people—us against this fucked world.”

“…We’ll… Do lunch or something,” Maddie shrugged. “I need to talk about it more. Also, y’know, grace period of no communication from now until two weeks later. Wanna live it up because, y’know, nearly wasn’t alive—”

“I’ll do it! Consider me the first member!” Aiko practically bounced.

“…I like the lunch idea,” Tracy smiled. “Takes me back a bit… I’ll think about it more when everything’s… Presented…”

River scratched her head. “I’ll—help out when I can. Iunno how much help I’ll be but…”

Jackie, for the first time in years, smiled the biggest smile—ear to ear.

She looked up towards the starry sky, watching as the clear sky slowly but surely fade back into existence.

A/N: End of Phase 0. Thanks, for everything.

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