The Return of Spiral
Timeline: January 2nd
It had been strange to return to Townsend Tower. Stranger still to return amidst the destruction that had made national news.
It wasn’t the same Tower that Lauren McArthurs remembered - if her memories could even be trusted. Things were familiar, but not, at the same time. Since she’d spoken to Bryan and fled Shady Side for Atlanta with Deo, strange memories had begun to resurface. Memories that corroborated the things Bryan had told her. Memories of a life she couldn’t really remember living.
It was very confusing.
Her skin and hair were overwhelmed with purple now, glowing spirals on her skin that seemed to brighten when she felt strong emotions or when she was embarrassed about something, grand swirls that spiralled around her torso and extended lazy twirls down her arms, legs, and neck. Her hair looked like she’d gotten thick purple highlights, but the strands felt more like slender fiber optic filaments than hair. She’d stopped trying to hide them. For one, it had become next to impossible, and besides, the mutations of many of the others around them were much more intense than glowing purple skin.
She’d been given a place to stay when she first arrived, but had been told that Bryan was unavailable. She found herself feeling disappointed by that. There was something about the strange boy that made her feel more at ease, and she’d looked forward to seeing him again. Instead, she was told that she could meet with the new headmaster of the school, a woman by the name of Syn. She’d set up the meeting around the woman’s apparently hectic schedule, and was currently on her way to the D-room to introduce herself, walking toward it with very little need to consult the directions that had been given to her. She wondered what this conversation would entail, whether Syn would confirm Bryan’s story and welcome her or whether she would come out of this even more confused than before.
Syn was already in the Danger Room, which was running a scene of peace and tranquility. A low, white table, surrounded by soft looking, matching pillows sat in the middle of a beautiful green garden, with a small pond to one side, swans swimming idly by, and four rows of sweet smelling cherry trees in full bloom surrounding it. There was an ebony tea set, with cherry branches in bloom painted on it, sitting in the middle of the table. The headmistress, wearing a set of black robes stitched with the outline of a golden dragon, sat at one end of the short table, seemingly lost in thought.
The door slid open and Lauren stepped inside. She took a moment to appreciate the setting, a soft, peaceful smile settling on her lips before she turned to the small Asian woman at the table. “Syn?” She asked tentatively, taking a step closer. “My name is Lauren McArthurs. I believe you were expecting me?”
The diminutive woman stood, her motions quick and dexterous, and she offered the purple-haired woman a low bow, her hands steepled in front of her. “I am Absynthe Drake. Most simply call me Syn. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Missus McArthurs. I apologize for how long that it’s taken for me to get to this meeting. Please, sit and let’s chat.”
“I understand that you’re quite busy.” Lauren offered, giving a slightly awkward bow to mirror Syn’s own before moving toward the table as directed, kneeling on one of the pillows. “I appreciate that you could see me at all. Thank you.”
“You’re quite welcome. While my title is headmistress, it’s my job to see to all of the denizens of the Tower. That has been quite challenging of late,” Syn said with a slight chuckle, settling back onto her pillow, legs crossed, just as gracefully as she had stood. She motioned towards the tea set and said, “It is a soothing, natural blend. Help yourself. I’m certain that you have many questions. I hope that I can help with those. OG told me that you knew Bryan in the other world. As far as I know, I did not exist in that particular realm, but he has told me many stories over the centuries.”
“I’d love to hear them.” Lauren smiled softly as she poured herself some tea. “I am only starting to remember that life. It’s confusing. Bryan met with me in Shady Side before I came here, and he helped to answer a few of my questions, but you’re right, I do have many more.” She gave a small sigh as she lifted the tea to her lips and took a small, delicate sip. “Mmm. Delicious. Thank you.”
“Again, you’re quite welcome. I really wish that Bryan were here to answer your questions,” Syn said, waiting for Lauren to finish with her tea, before pouring out a small cup of her own. “He’s seeking answers to a riddle that could affect this realm, so I can’t really complain too much. Still, it was rather sudden, and I wasn’t expecting to be handed the Tower any time soon. If ever. We’ve had a number of awakenings happen lately, which leads me to believe that something is coming. Something big. Thus the delay in our meeting. I will answer your questions to the best of my ability. Anything that I can’t answer, I will at least promise to research for you.”
“Something... big?” Lauren paled slightly. “What kind of something?”
“Historically speaking, whenever there is a large increase in metahuman awakenings, it has to do with some drastic change in the world that threatens the survival of humanity,” Syn explained, then sipped at her tea. She sighed a bit, still holding the small enamel cup in her hands. “We have a few things going on, like the recent, mass appearance of aliens that seem hellbent on world domination, a new villain that seems to think that he’d be best to rule the world, and Bryan thinks that there’s a possibility of something else, though he gave me very few details. Not only are there more awakenings, but they’re powerful mutants. It makes me worry that we’re facing something that’s going to take a lot of proverbial firepower to overcome.”
“I’m not sure if I have much firepower - and I haven’t awoken in this world - but I’m willing to help in any way that I can.” Lauren promised. “The world that I’m starting to remember wasn’t, well, entirely safe for metahumans, but it was a world where we were more widely accepted. The town I’m from was one of the few places that didn’t... entirely... agree with that sentiment.” She shook her head slightly. “I have three children. A girl and two boys. I was told that my eldest two were carriers of the x-gene - we were able to test for it in that world. My youngest was...” Her voice caught slightly. “When things changed and those of us who came to this world arrived, I was pregnant, only I didn’t realize it. My youngest is the son of a metahuman I knew here. Donovan James. I... Bryan told me that he didn’t survive the transition, but he was Excelsior. Very powerful, very skilled. Our son will most likely be meta as well. I don’t know if you have any children, but there’s something about being a parent that wants to make you change the world for your children. To make it a better place. If something is coming, I want to help, but more than that, I want to help make this world a place where my children will be able to live without being afraid of who they are - or who might attack them for it.”
Syn listened silently as Lauren spoke, sipping at her tea, nodding here and there. When she spoke again, she set the cup down on the table in front of her, then folded her hands in her lap. “We can test for the gene now, which isn’t something that is widely known. We keep that secret for a reason. I have no children of my own. My bloodline makes me particularly vulnerable to certain powerful artifacts. I spent a good number of years being controlled by one such object, until Bryan broke that curse. I’ve purposefully kept myself from bearing offspring, considering that my blood could make them slaves to another madman with that power. However, the denizens of this tower, the students at the Academy, may as well be my children. I’m just as fiercely protective of them as I would be of any of my own blood. So, I do understand that sentiment. It is why we do what we do here, as well as our activism at the government levels. If your children are carriers, there’s a possibility that they won’t awaken, but from the sound of it, this may be the safest place for them. Bryan mentioned that your husband isn’t exactly meta-friendly, which worries me. Your help would be appreciated, no matter how small you may think that would be. But something tells me that you’re more powerful than you know, so far. We should test you, and we should try to awaken you to your full powers.”
Lauren nodded. “Travis thought so.” She paused. “Err, Travis Townsend, the former headmaster, in the previous world. I don’t really understand the memories that are coming to the surface, but he pushed me to train - harder than I was willing to, I’m afraid to admit. I had... connections... to ancient pantheons and civilizations and could access the Mirror Realm. I... I can’t remember much else, but I know he thought that my abilities would be noteworthy once I’d developed them. I regret that I didn’t work on them more in those days. I’m willing to do so now, and to follow your guidance about how you’d like to try to awaken me.” Lauren paused. “Though... I should warn you, the first time I awakened, I, um...” Her spirals brightened a little, her skin and hair taking on a faint, embarrassed luminescence. “I destroyed an entire city block. My children are safe from my husband for now, but if it’s alright with you, I’d prefer to send for them after I’ve awoken. Just in case.”
“I do know of Travis Townsend. The Tower and Academy are named for him, after all. I regret never having been able to meet him.” Syn chuckled, giving the embarrassed woman a gentle smile. “We’ll do your awakening here, in the danger room. It’s the safest possible place to do such a thing, considering that we have very powerful protections in place. We can completely suppress your power in this room, if necessary. I do understand your hesitance, however. I cannot claim to know, or understand your powers, as yet, but we do have a number of professionals that are responsible for figuring such things out. You will be the key to that, though. As I tell all of our new arrivals, the harder you work, the more you learn, and the more comfortable that you become with your abilities.”
Lauren nodded silently. “I intend to work hard. I don’t want to make the same mistakes I did last time, now that I have a second chance.” She paused for a moment, staring at her teacup before looking back at Syn. “In the previous world, I was bonded to nano blacks. I... I had a... a sliver, I think was the term. I... was wondering... is this something that you offer to your students as well, or is that a remnant of the past?”
“Not all of our students are offered the bonding with the nano. Though, it’s not unheard of. We have a couple of them that are considered dangerous enough that we’ve offered it to. One could sneeze and hurt people, tear down buildings, with sonic powers. Another is basically a walking, talking laser that can burn down anything organic at a range of five hundred feet in all directions if she loses control. The nano helps us to curtail such accidents. I have to admit that I’m honestly surprised that you didn’t come through with it, as most of the others did.”
“Really?” Lauren blinked. “I... I don’t remember anything about the transition, to be honest, but there had been times when I was separated from Isolde before. Well, one time. I’m afraid I can’t explain why I don’t have my nano anymore.” She paused with a small frown. “I wonder if Neith was trying to give me what she thought I wanted...”
“Neith?” Syn asked curiously, an eyebrow arching over one red-reptilian eye curiously. She paused for a moment, as though lost briefly in thought, then said, “Like I said, I don’t even know if I was even around in the other realm, much less remember a transition.”
“The mother goddess of the Egyptian pantheon. Well... a mother goddess, I suppose. She was also the goddess of weaving, I think.” Lauren gave a small shrug. “I, um... I had a... connection... to some of the old Egyptian gods. And an Aztec one. And, um, the mother goddess of the Minoan pantheon was my stepmother. Not that I believed in them as gods - I’m Protestant - but, well...” She rubbed at her forehead and her spirals started to glow a little again. “It’s... complicated. It gives me a bit of a headache to think about it all, truthfully.”
Syn gave a soft laugh. “I can imagine that it would. There are others here that you may have known. Some of them have at least some memory of the other world. Some have little memory of it though. It seems to have affected individuals differently. But most of them came through the transition with their nano intact. Though, according to Bryan, some never made it through at all. At least not that we’ve found, even though we have been looking recently.”
Lauren nodded. “If... if you do find Donovan James...” Her voice trailed off. “Bryan said he was gone, but... I-I... I’d like to meet him. Who did make the transition?”
“Like I said, we’re still searching. If we do find him, I’ll let you know,” Syn stated, pouring herself another cup of the still steaming tea. “As for who made it through, that we’re aware of, you know of Bryan. The Edwins, Tamar, Esperanza. Our chef made it through, as did OG. From what I understand, she’s about as cantankerous as always.”
“Hey now!” OG said over the comm system, causing Syn to grin mischievously. “I know that I resemble that remark, but still. You could let Betty Crocker figure that out on her own.”
“I could,” the diminutive dragon lady responded, chuckling lightly. “But what would be the fun in that?”
A digital sounding huff came over the comm, and OG seemed to ignored Syn’s remark to say, “ By the way, I think that Tamar is trying to break your record for number of cookies baked in a single day.”
Lauren chuckled, a warm smile curling up the corners of her pink lips. “I’ve missed you, too, OG. Please let Tamar know that I’ll be up to her challenge, and she needs to use more butter in her shortbread.”
OG chuckled. “Let the cook-off begin! I wish that I could judge that properly, but my lack of taste buds, or a mouth, really, makes that difficult at best. I’ll have to count on everyone else for that task.”
Lauren smiled, biting her lip slightly. “OG?”
“Yes, Lauren?” OG asked, a touch of curiosity in her digital tone.
“Is... is Isolde still here?” Lauren’s voice was quiet, and perhaps a little vulnerable.
There was a bit of a pause before the Tower’s digital overseer spoke. “Until you bond with a nano in this realm, we won’t know. At present, she isn’t here. Just as you weren’t until Bryan found you.”
The smile fell from Lauren’s lips, replaced with a sad, slightly lonely expression. “I see. Thank you, OG.”
“Don’t lose hope, Betty Crocker,” OG said, her voice soft. “I’m sure she’s out there somewhere, waiting for you just as much as you’re waiting for her.”
A small, wistful smile returned. “I can hope, OG. Maybe... maybe the others are, too.”
“That’s a hope that we all have,” OG said, then the comm went silent.
Syn looked at Lauren with a soft smile. “We’ll figure things out. I’ll have a chat with Seamus about getting you set up with a nano. You had one in the other world, I see no reason to restrict you here.”
“Thank you.” Lauren said softly. “I appreciate that. I imagine that the nano will help with my awakening, as well. When would you like to schedule trying to arrange for that to happen?”
“I will speak to Seamus about it today,” Syn said, after another sip of tea. “I’m certain that we can work it in soon. We’re still dealing with a rather large influx of people, but that’s starting to level out now. You’re free to utilize the Tower’s facilities, though I would ask that if you’re going to work on your powers, please schedule time in one of the danger rooms. It’s just safer for everyone involved.”
“Of course.” Lauren nodded. “I wouldn’t dream of using them elsewhere, at least not until I’m sure I understand them again. Once I’ve awakened, well... there are some things I am looking forward to trying again.”
“I think that I’d be in that same frame of mine if I lost my powers for any length of time,” Syn said with a chuckle. “I’ve been rather attached to them since birth, though. I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now. I also want you to feel free to seek someone to talk to about what’s going on. If not me, then we have counselors on staff, or you could seek one of the ones that you remember from the other world, since they may be able to understand your position a bit more.”
“Honestly, my memories from the old world are a little bit... scattered.” Lauren gave a small chuckle, her spirals glowing faintly. “But, I will find someone to speak to, thank you. This whole experience has been fairly humbling. I am curious to see if the Mirror changed the same way that our world did.”
“Your memories should return in time, especially since you’re already remembering things,” Syn said, smiling gently at the woman across from her. “It will be easier to adapt once we get you into a nano and properly awakened. Then you should have more answers.”
“Then I look forward to hearing from you about your talk with... Seamus, was it?” Lauren asked, standing up. She extended a hand with a warm smile. “Thank you. It feels... good... to be here. I hope that I can be helpful.”
The Tower’s diminutive administrator stood, and took Lauren’s hand, her grip surprisingly firm, yet not overly so. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Spiral. I will contact you as soon as I speak with the elder Doctor Edwin. I hope that you can learn to call Townsend Tower your home and feel comfortable here. And I’m certain that we can find some way of putting your abilities to good use. The Tower is much like a city in its own right, so please, take some time and relax a bit.”
“Truthfully, as odd as it may sound, I feel as though most of my life to this point - with the exception of the last few weeks, my, erm, changes and coming here, has been time to relax. Perhaps, while I wait, I could do something to help with the restoration of the mall or helping all the newcomers settle in?” She offered.
“I think we can find something for you to do,” Syn said, smiling at Lauren for a moment. “Let’s get you into a nano first though,” she said, looking the purple-hued woman over briefly. “Just to make sure that your powers don’t decide to make a full appearance in a sensitive area.”
Lauren nodded. “Of course. A sensible precaution. I’ll wait to hear from you - and I’ll stay out of largely populated areas until I do.”
“Thank you. I promise that it won’t be long. I know that being cooped up isn’t necessarily a good thing for most people,” Syn said, bowing slightly. “I’ll see if we can get it done quickly, so we could use your skills. How do you feel about working with children? Once we know that you’re safe, that is.”
“Certainly.” Lauren smiled. “Whatever you need me to do.”
“Wonderful!” Syn said, moving towards the door and motioning for Lauren to come with her. “We have far too few childcare workers all of a sudden and could definitely use the help in that area. I hope that you will excuse me. I have a lot of meetings to attend to. I have enjoyed this meeting though. It’s gone far better than a few that I’ve had lately.”
“Of course. Thank you again for taking the time to see me.” Lauren smiled, following Syn. “I hope that we’ll speak again soon. ”