The Worst Gift, Part 3
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Last time on Nexus:
The Worst Gift, Part 2

"Mr. Maron, we collected her perhaps twenty minutes ago-"

"I will not tolerate any more interruptions!"

Fernand had stripped Angelica down to her bottom layer of clothing and strapped her to another stretcher after they had reached the bunker again and was carrying her straight to the Lumiére inducer. The assistant who had tried to stop him moved aside, startled.

His daughter resisted and screamed like a banshee, but he had to ignore that. She could not understand what a great destiny she had. She would become the incarnation of Uriel on earth. She would lead humanity to paradise. Never grow old, never die. Forever protected from the rigors of this world. Sure, her memory would be erased, but what was there in her life worth remembering? The admittedly gruesome preparations for today? What greater gift could a father give his beloved daughter?

When he arrived, Lefty was tinkering with the inducer.

"I thought we're ready," the leader of the Enfants de la Lumière blapped.

"Final adjustments, supposed to work, right?" replied Lefty calmly, closing the maintenance hatch. "And already done. No fuss needed. Should be enough to put angel in girl."

He seemed to think about it for a moment.

"Did that sound weird?" he then asked.

Several people in the room gave him a "kinda" gesture.

"Let me go!" screamed Angelica, tugging at her bonds.

Her father sighed.

"If you could only see what I see…"

Granted, the white hair gave her something noble, but she deserved better than the origin she had and not such a vile name as Chloe. If only he had stood up to her mother but times had been different back then…

He pushed Angelica under the inducer and went up to the control room together with Lefty, while his daughter did her utmost to tip over the couch.

He put his hands on the activation lever.

"Guys, I'm going to save the speech this time," he reported over the speakers. "Uriel, we give ourselves to you."

He flipped the lever and tried to ignore the screams. It didn't work…

Ku looked with concern at Chloe's cracked mind. Getting from A to B in the library had become much more difficult because the cracks were hindering him everywhere.

He was just thinking about what he could do about it when another tremor shook Chloe's mind.

The roof broke away again and the white glowing mass came back.

"Oh, here for round two?" asked Ku scowling. "Very bad timing, my friend."

Again, beams of light came shooting from all over the library, anchoring the creature.

Ku simply fired a silver beam from his hand at it. It left a huge hole in the thing but it immediately closed again.

The creature formed into a sort of sphere, enclosed by three incessantly spinning rings with eyes on the outsides. Although there was no direct connection to the rest, the creature had six feathered wings.

"More stamina this time, I guess," Ku commented, "Get out of here. This body isn't big enough for both of us."

"Ridiculous," boomed the strange entity in a voice like heavy bell ringing. "You are nothing but a dead god. A corpse without power. You can no longer keep yourself here."

"Prove it!" demanded Ku.

"Take this!" echoed the angel's voice.

It was a mental contest of strength. Both entities were trying to get inside each other's heads. Silver wrestled with white.

But as powerful as Ku was, he had only the mind power of Chloe available to him in here, while the intellect of the angel before him could not be grasped in human terms.

White covered silver. Uriel, Ku now realized, was invading his mind.

But the dead god did not give up. What he lacked in brain power, he made up for in brute strength. With his power, he attacked Uriel's body in an attempt to cut off his supply of power from outside. Uriel countered, using the power of his mind to force Ku to change his target.

Both had miscalculated. Instead of destroying each other, Ku's thwarted attack caused silver to emerge from white again. And then the two mixed with each other.

Little Chloe sleepily looked at the television in her apartment. It showed only static. She thought she recognized something behind the static, but she was too drowsy. Besides, she was already in her pajamas. The one with the kitten on it that she had gotten for her fourth birthday a few weeks ago.

Her mother suddenly stepped in front of her.

"Well, what are you still doing here?" she asked mischievously. "Don't you think it's about time to go to bed?"

"Mm…" was all Chloe could do.

She didn't want to go to sleep yet, but her mother was adamant about that. She took her daughter by the hand and led her away from the living room. The TV behind her flickered briefly, showing the image of a smoke-filled lab, before shutting off.

Impenetrable smoke had filled the room again, but the alarm had not gone off. None of the instruments showed dangerous spikes.

Fernand exhaled in relief.

"Can someone take care of the smoke?" he asked over the loudspeakers.

Down in the test area, the doors were opened, allowing the smoke to clear.

Gradually, the view of the angel became clear, which this time had melted not only the couch, but everything in its immediate vicinity. The Lumiére inducer was nothing but a pile of cinders.

Something was wrong with the light the being was emitting. It appeared silver and sick…

Two of his assistants approached Uriel, who, it could now be seen, was floating in the place where Angelica had lain before.

He still looked like Angelica, Fernand noted.

And then he realized that something had gone terribly wrong.

Angelica had six wings, but the right ones looked misshapen and atrophied. Her left eye now had a brilliant blue iris instead of her usual gray, while the right looked like a silver ball. She had a halo, but it was two-thirds broken into fragments that floated above her head along with the intact remainder. Her face was expressionless and her whole appearance gave the impression of being terribly wrong. As if she didn't belong in this world.

"No, no, no," Fernand muttered in despair. "Lefty, what is-"

Turning to the tinkerer, he noticed he wasn't there at all. Instead, he noticed a note on the table.

Machine worked as intended, so contract fulfilled. I left. Have fun with your angel.


"Lefty, you little…"

Fernand looked again at his assistants, who were still cautiously approaching his daughter.

"Hello?" one of them asked.

Angelica looked up. Every movement she made seemed choppy, making her whole body flicker as if she were a glitch in a video game.

And then she began to grin wider than human anatomy should allow. The corners of her mouth stretched beyond her teeth.

Madly, she tilted her head. And raised a finger with which she pointed at one of the assistants.
A silver beam of light went off in front of him, leaving a fist-sized hole in the man and all the concrete walls behind him.

With a surprised gasp, the assistant fell to the floor and remained motionless. His colleague immediately took to his heels but with another glitch-like flicker Angelika teleported in front of him still grinning grotesquely.

The unfortunate man didn't even have a chance to cry out before the girl(?) simply vaporized him with a wave of her hand.

And then it spoke with a voice that no being should possess. His ears refused to pick it up, but the message it carried reached his brain anyway.


The thing disappeared with another flicker. Outside in the hallway, Fernand heard gunshots and panicked screams.

He had to get out of here! He had to find a way to save Angelica, but he could only do that if he got out of here alive.

As quietly as possible, he left the control room and took the exit opposite the one Angelica had taken.

On the way, he heard the evacuation alarm go off. Consequently, he encountered no one on his way.


Elli realized they were too late when she heard the alarm sirens. She had wasted too much time lying bleeding in the snow and then healing.

Along with Dean, she had entered the base. They had tried to shoot at her, but if you were going to fire at Elli in a corridor while she was really pissed off, you might as well put the gun to your own knees. She sent the bullets back to sender with her Nexus portals.

"Uh, Elli?" asked Dean, walking a few feet behind her for the sake of caution. "Is it really necessary to hurt them?"

If looks could kill, Elli could have sterilized the entire solar system with the one she gave Dean in response.

"They shot first," she growled, "and I promise you, if they harmed one hair on Chloe's head, I won't limit myself to just hurting…"

"Hey, what did I do to you?", Dean got upset at the tone Elli was using to talk about him.

She raised her hands placatingly as she continued.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I know I'm usually a far mor composed but here's the thing, Dean. Right now, I'm a tiny little bit absolutely livid."

She probed the surroundings with a look that suggested a homing system with two crosshairs was working behind her forehead to take out anything that moved.

And then it targeted someone sneaking around a corner in front of them.

"YOU," Elli yelled at Chloe's father. "YOU ROTTEN LITTLE COCKROACH! WHERE IS CHLOE!"

She bridged the distance between them in an instant with two Nexus portals and caught a fist to the face.

"Don't call my daughter that…" snarled Maron.

Ellis' anger had been halfway controllable before, but now, for the very first time in her life, all barriers failed. She saw the world as if through blood-red glasses.

Elli threw herself against the man, knocking him to the ground. Then she sat astride on him and began to work his face in turn with her fists.

This man had taken her from her! Her Chloe! She belonged to her and to no one else! And whoever didn't understand that, no power in the multiverse could save him from Elli.

"WHERE. IS. MY. CHLOE!" she spat between her blows.

Maron finally came to his senses enough to grab her fists. Generally, men are physically stronger than women and unfortunately that was true in this case. The cult leader forced her backwards and then to the side.


He pulled her towards him and gave Elli a headbutt that made her see stars for a moment.

Maron took the opportunity to stagger to his feet. He then kicked Elli in the face, causing her to land on the ground and hit her head.

"Are you here to completely ruin my gift to her? You did this! You have so corrupted my Angelica that she has become- this… this thing!"

He was about to kick again, but Dean had finally approached and simply grabbed Maron by the collar with his right hand, dangling him in the air.

"We're shifting down at least five gears for now, buddy," he growled commandingly.

However, he hadn't counted on Elli getting back up, wiping the blood from her nose, and attacking Maron again with pure murderous fervor.

Dean thought the time had come to intervene as the calming pole and subjected Elli to the same treatment as Maron. Then he held them both as far apart as possible.

"LET ME DOWN," Elli yelled angrily, kicking at the air.

"HOLD YOUR BREATH, ELLI," Dean returned angrily. "That's not you."

Then he turned to Maron.

"And to you. I can understand Elli to some extent, I wouldn't feel bad about kicking your teeth in. What happened to Chloe!"

"Her name is Angelika," Maron insisted angrily.

"You want me to put Elli back down?" asked Dean dryly.

"Okay, Okay," Maron rebuffed. "We tried to put Uriel in her but, something went wrong. She's… I have no idea what she's become. She floats around killing everyone she comes across."

"What have you done…" came tonelessly from Elli.

She could barely contain herself. Rationality had no place in her world right now, but she forced some in with extreme effort, for Dean's sake.

"We-we put Uriel into her to make her his incarnation"; explained the cult leader.

Rationality threatened to disappear again…

"You tried to make Chloe a proxy for a metaphysical entity? Do you realize that in doing so you have erased her entire memory, her entire identity!"?

"Indeed," Maron confirmed. "But what are some memories if you never have to experience suffering for them ever again?"

"Sorrow that you inflicted on her," Elli hissed.

"I know," Maron admitted. "And I was ashamed of it, but it was all for her own good. Everything I do has been for the good of my daughter. Everything I do is mercy."

And that's when Ellis's anger faded.

Hadn't she unwittingly pressured Chloe, too? Out of misguided kindness?

"Put me down, Dean," she asked much more calmly than she had a moment ago.

"Does that mean you understand my motives?" asked Maron. "Then let me go. I need to fix this.

"I understand them," Elli confirmed composedly. "But 'understanding' is something completely different from 'approving'. Where's Chloe? Maybe it's not all too late."

Dean and Elli were suddenly knocked over as the ground bulged and cracked beneath their feet. Maron slapped the ground next to Dean.

Flickering like a graphics glitch, Chloe floated out, her face contorted into a grotesque grin. She regarded the three people in front of her with a sneer.

"Angelika!" the cultist finally brought forth, and scrambled to her feet.

A flicker, and Chloe had turned to face him.

"A̸͖̋n̵̹̐g̴̨͛è̷̪-̶̦̒.̴̦̅.̶̖̀.̵̨͆ ̶̛̖-̵͙͂l̶͛ͅį̸͑k̴̬̔â̸͕?̷̼͝"

"Yes," her father cheered with relief. "Angelika, I'm sorry, I'll fix it! I-"

Chloe's expression changed from scorn to boundless anger in the blink of an eye.


That was the last thing Maron said before he burst into silver flames. He screamed and writhed on the ground, but nothing managed to extinguish the flames. Within seconds, the fire ate through his clothes, reaching his body, and it wasn't long before his screams died away. Not even ashes remained of him.

Elli had watched the process with eyes widened in fear.

"Chloe…" she whispered in despair. "What have they done to you!"

Apparently, Uriel's power had combined with Ku's. The power of two beings completely alien to each other, one dead and one alive, one from here and one from another reality, both put into a body that could not bear them.

The process that united so many impossibilities had triggered a matrix error in this universe. Chloe was now some kind of bug, something that existed in this world even though it should not be possible according to the governing laws of nature, probably driven by the last thoughts she had had as a human. Anger and pure desperation.

"Chloe?" asked Elli. "Can you hear me? Are you in there somewhere?"

The personified error turned to her.


Her mother tucked Chloe in. She was still afraid to be alone in the dark, so a night light shone in the corner of her small room.

The warm, soft bed made the already tired Chloe even sleepier.

"Sleep tight," her mother purred with a smile.

Chloe closed her eyes.

"Chloe? Can you hear me? Are you in there somewhere?"

She sat up in surprise.

"Hey, it's night time now!" her mother reprimanded her.

"Did you hear that?" asked Chloe, completely ignoring it.

She knew that voice from somewhere…

"I'm sure it's just the neighbors," her mother waved her off and gently pushed her back again.

Chloe noticed something as she did so.

She couldn't make out the woman's face.

It was as if something was preventing her from matching the features in the face to anyone.

"Mom?" asked Chloe anxiously. "What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing's wrong with me. What's going to be? Now go to sleep."


Chloe tried to resist her mother's gentle pressure.


"Please say something," Elli begged the creature that had once been Chloe.

It only tilted its head in confusion.

There was silence for a while.

Then the thing let out a scream that was felt more than heard, and grabbed its skull with its hands as it twitched uncontrollably.

"Chloe?" asked Elli. "What's wrong!"

"G̸̳̮͇͌͒̒ȍ̸̯̀ ̵̼̣̰͒̚a̵̟̱͛̂w̴̜̟͋͂ͅa̷͔̖̠̐̏̔ý̷͔̮̍̆!̸̛͍̓͝"


Elli took a step toward the creature that was writhing in obvious pain.

"Chloe, I can help you!"

" S̵̼͔̓͆͆C̴͉͛͌͘͝R̷̰̥̤̯̈́Ä̶̻̳̤̘́̋̾̔A̷̛̻̭͕̐̑ͅA̶̢̰̠̰͑Ä̸͈́͋͆̅Ä̴̩̝́̔Â̴͓̜͎̊A̸̭̋ͅM̵̩̬̓̅!̸̘̜̱͎̓̊͠"

It was as if Elli and Dean were grabbed by an invisible hand and flung away. They slapped the ground a few feet away.

The bunker around them began to shake, breaking apart into pieces amid Chloe's agonized shrieks. The debris gathered in growing rows that began to dance in wide arcs around the creature.

Another scream from the creature created an icy wind that carried sharp ice and sucked the heat from Elli's bones, so strong that she rolled even further away until the ground disappeared beneath them. Dean slithered behind her on sudden black ice. Elli registered the ruins of the bunker below her as she fell, creating portals in the walls of a ruined room into which they fell.

The failed angel above them, meanwhile, curled up and had a thick carapace of ice coated over it.

Thankfully, the meadows of the Nexus were extra soft when Elli and Dean hit them.
Dean was the first back on his feet.

"So what now?" he asked.

"Now we go rescue Chloe," Elli declared firmly, creating a new portal as she stood upright again.

"Do you have any plan," Dean wanted to know.

He looked more than skeptical.

"If you have a better idea, I'm all ears," Elli growled, stepping out of the Nexus.

About twenty meters away, amid the ruins of the bunker, loomed the monolith in which the Chloe creature was encased. The Nexus had been opened in a doorway that had miraculously remained intact. Or maybe on purpose. Chloe was struggling in there. It had retreated to obliterate her at its leisure, which meant it was afraid of her. And that meant Chloe and Elli could win!

The force of the storm demanded everything from her to even stay on her feet. Chunks of concrete constantly floated by, threatening to smash her skull in. Elli tried to take a step forward, but the cold weakened her so much that she threatened to topple backward.

Dean behind her caught her.

"Let's hope your non-plan works!" he shouted over the howling of the storm.

He was too heavy to be blown away by the winds, so he simply pulled Elli along with him. It was just as well, because Elli was freezing miserably despite her thick clothes. Her whole body shivered, her teeth chattered uncontrollably, and hoarfrost began to form on her eyelashes.

"We're coming, Chloe!" she called through the storm.

"Mom, you're hurting me!" wailed Chloe as her mother began to push her down on the mattress with more and more weight.

"Go to sleep!" she repeated, "You should have been dreaming long ago like all good boys and girls!"

"We're coming, Chloe!"

There was that voice again.

"Mom, who's that?" asked Chloe.

"No one of consequence! Sleep!"

Chloe associated something positive with that voice. But also negative? She couldn't make up her mind.

She decided to listen while trying to fight her mother.

Elli's hands began to turn blue when they finally reached the monolith. This seemed to be where the eye of the storm was, because Elli was able to stand on her own.

"Don't worry, we'll get you out of there!"

She hit the ice and immediately realized her mistake.

This wasn't ice. This was diamond. Elli felt no pain thanks to her hypothermia, but this impenetrable barrier made her lose heart. Chloe couldn't possibly hear her.


She punched the mineral repeatedly in desperation.

"Chloe, I'm here! Elli is here! Please, come out!"

She turned hastily.

"Dean, help me!"

"How?" he asked. "I can't get through there any more than you can. Don't you have something in your purse?"

Of course!

Elli got out her pan and began pounding on the diamond. Individual pieces began to chip away under the indestructible steel.

Diamond might be the hardest material known to mankind up to this point, but its fracture toughness was nothing to write home about. You could smash a diamond with a normal hammer, like the one she handed Dean. But it would still take far too long for them to reach the creature.

"Hang in there, Chloe!"

Chloe's mother, meanwhile, was squeezing the air out of her to make her faint. But she continued to listen.

"Chloe, I'm here. Elli's here! Please, come out!"


An image flickered through her mind. As if through a kaleidoscope, she saw a blonde woman and a tall, black-haired man standing by her. They seemed to be knocking on some kind of glass, behind which was Chloe.

She knew these two, only…. How?

Gradually, she ran out of oxygen. Chloe's field of vision began to narrow.

They seemed to want to help her, but how could they? Chloe was here alone with her mother. She was too weak.

"Little puny Chloe…"

She knew those words. She remembered them. She knew they weren't true. There was someone watching over her, giving her strength. Sure, she wasn't perfect, and she had managed to make Chloe really loathe her, but who was flawless?

Wait… Her?

Chloe knew the gender of the person, so….

Her thoughts slowed down the longer her mother choked her. She knew this situation. Didn't Elli have her in her dreams1… ELLI!

Everything came back.

"You're not my mother!" she choked out, grabbing her hands with hers.

They didn't belong to a four-year-old, but to someone ten years older. Chloe managed to force this doppelganger's grip enough to regain her breath.

Was she mistaken, or was her room bigger than before?

In fact, the dimensions of the place kept stretching… To make room for the broadly grinning, silver-eyed monster that rose from black shadows behind her attacker.

"So. You have noticed that I'm too much work and therefore focused on the mind that gives me shape," Ku rumbled amused. "Clever, but you missed one thing, Uriel."

Her mother's image flickered. White light and feathered wings shone through.

"Chloe is unbreakable…"

With a mighty roar, the Ku monster lunged at Uriel, who cried out in shock and let go of Chloe. But before Ku's jaws could close around him, he dissolved into pure light.

A crackle ran through Chloe's memory library as the cracks in it gradually disappeared. The black book stopped turning pages and slowly closed.

However, no more chains closed around it. It remained on its pedestal. It was now nothing more than a memory.

Granny Nikitin, along with the other villagers, watched the whirlwind raging in the distance, even lifting debris from the ground. Suddenly, chunks began to fall and the weather phenomenon began to dissipate.

Cheers became loud, while some sighed in disappointment. Granny Nikitin for her part stretched out her hand to the policeman Alexei next to her. She had a wager to collect.

Ellis's fingers had left all feeling when, after her last blow, the pan flew out of her hand and fell clattering to the floor beside her. She could no longer move her hands.

But her last blow had been enough. Cracks stretched across the monolith before it simply burst apart. The thing inside shone with bright light, firing a white beam toward the sky. Meanwhile, the matrix error resolved itself, releasing Chloe, who fell out of the monolith after the beam dried up. Elli was just fast enough to catch her.

The wind around them stopped blowing and the flying concrete debris fell to the ground. Chloe's body heat began to thaw Elli's fingers so she could move them again.

"El-li…" muttered Chloe, exhausted.

"Don't talk!" admonished Elli, searching in her pocket with one hand.

"I'm sorry…", Chloe finally brought out fervent and started coughing terribly. She was vomiting blood.

Ku had been bad enough but Uriel had finally pushed the envelope. No one could say how much longer she could stay alive.

Elli finally found what she was looking for and clumsily popped a panacea into Chloe's mouth.

Unfortunately, this was only a temporary solution. Ku's influence would soon break Chloe's existence completely.

"It's okay, Chloe," Elli comforted her, "We all say things sometimes that are better left unsaid."

Dean, meanwhile, looked around.

"It's amazing that we ran into you of all people, Chloe," he remarked.

"It wasn't a coincidence," Elli explained. "Ku probably only noticed Chloe because of her empyreal resonance energy as she trundled through the Null Space2. To think what would have happened if we had never met…"

Elli stood up and let Chloe stand on her own two feet. She was pretty wobbly.

"Come on, let's get you home for now. I can let the village know later, too. You need rest."

Chloe nodded wearily.

Elli gathered up her pan, finally took a good swig from her flask after a few unsuccessful attempts to open it, which finally brought her back up to operating temperature, and led Chloe to the door from which she had come earlier. Dean trotted along behind. Ahead of them, the entrance to the Nexus opened.

Was Elli mistaken, or did she hear shouts of surprise from the Nex-.


A massive hand encased in black painted metal slid out of the blackness. It belonged to a huge power armor that grabbed Elli and Chloe by the arm and pulled them through the portal. A second took care of Dean.

Instead of their Nexus, they found themselves in a laboratory test field with concrete gray walls. In the center was a cannon-like machine aimed directly at the portal they came from. But it was probably not meant to fire, because weapons were pointed at them from all directions for that purpose.

"Hello, Elli," said Lawrence3 smugly.

He stood next to the machine, dressed in a lab coat, and grinned derisively.

That wasn't the worst of it, though.

Next time on Nexus:
Destroyer of Worlds, Part 1

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