Farewell, Part 3
rating: +1+x

Last time on Nexus:
Farewell, Part 2

Elli hacked away at the keys as if in a fever, while chaos gradually erupted throughout the technologized Corbenic. Of course, the other computing centers accessed by HUB 1 had tried to break the connection, but her malware was too fast. First, Elli had hijacked all the computing power of the three moons and, as a result, brought life on them to an almost complete standstill. Only the telephone lines she left alone, because she was expecting a call. She had sent her number up to the Impenetrable.

Outside, teams from the Three Moons Initiative were trying to get to them, but were stopped by the security system, which was now fully in Ellis' hands. She estimated they had about three hours before someone managed to burn a hole in the bulkhead to the server room, but by then it would be far too late.

It was already far too late.

More and more electronics in the world were becoming part of her vast zombie network. Military systems failed or went haywire, communication lines were disrupted, and power went out in thousands of regions.

Drones, small and large, much touted by the Three Moons Initiative, activated on their own and began preying on soldiers. The military bases were rocked by bombings, with Elli careful to leave the building Chloe was in alone. Tracking her down had been easy, her capture was a fairly high priority, which also applied to all the data related to it.

"Mischief managed," she grinned, leaning against the wall. "And now it's time to wait."

Spiegel's face grew paler as she listened to the soldier's report. She was still in the room where the white-haired girl was held captive. Something had cracked the ☽☽☽ Initiative's networks and was spreading furiously without anything that could be done about it. The equipment in hundreds of military bases meanwhile was hunting for its owners.

Frustrated, she turned to the girl.

Threats didn't work here. If they tried to torture the girl and Elli overheard, she would give them hell.

"What did she do? Please stop her!" she therefore begged.

"Not even going to contemplate that," was the miffed reply. "Apart from the fact that I can't. It's up to you guys alone to appease her."

"But how are we supposed to do that? We don't even know where she is?" the general asked, perplexed.

"First of all," the girl began, "could you take off my handcuffs to at least try to give an impression of an organization that is willing to give in."

"And then?"

"And then fervently hope your boss knows what's good for you."

President Niang was feverishly working on his computer when it began to flicker. An error message popped up, showing him a phone number.

Now that, too.

He had enough on his plate with this damn hacker attack. The Impenetrable was almost completely cut off from Corbenic, that's why it took forever for his commands to get through. He didn't need any delays.

The error message popped up again.

Niang, annoyed, pushed it away again and continued working.

The message came again. Several times. So fast that Niang couldn't click it away fast enough. It soon filled his entire screen.

Someone wanted something from him…

He asked himself if he should call personally and then decided for yes. It was probably the hacker, and he would just settle for him.

He picked up his cell phone and dialed the number.

It took a little while for the call to go through.

"Yolo?" a female voice answered squeakily.

"This is Niang, Eternal President and Commander-in-Chief of the ☽☽☽ Initiative. Who are you and what do you want?"

"This is Elli."

Niang's heart sank into his pants. This was exactly what the Great Weaver had warned him about….

"You're behind this mess, aren't you?"

"Indeed," was the confirmation. "But I'm willing to release your networks again, provided you meet my demands."

Niang sighed.

"What do you want us to give you?"

"First, I want them to immediately release my little friend Chloe Winter. Then I want her brought to me. And to make sure that works from a logistic perspective, you get her to the Impenetrable. I'll be there as well, because I demand an audience with your boss."

The Eternal President was momentarily speechless.

"You are blackmailing the Great Weaver?"

"Niang, I have a simple motto, it's 'Don't make me come over there!' What you're experiencing here is what happens when gods think they can piss me off."

Niang regained his composure.

"Don't make a fool of yourself. The high-born Seventh Prince of Corbenic doesn't have to deal with you. You only have a limited amount of time left. Our troops are advancing on you right now and we'll figure out how to get our systems back on track. We're fourteen thousand years ahead of where you came to us from."

"Cute. You seem to forget that I was originally born in a time billions of years ahead of us. Sure, eventually you might figure out what I did, assuming the Striders don't catch on before then, but you'd have to keep the monster Yetis in the dark for at least a billion and a half years, in my estimation, and there I'm still applying the standards for an unimpaired level of progress. After all, my malware is secured against divine intervention."

Damn, she was probably right about that, unfortunately. But Niang wasn't giving up so easily. The dignity of JALAKÅRA and the ☽☽☽ Initiative was at stake. They were worth more than a single human life.

"The way they're dealing with me, you seem to forget that we have a security against you, too."

The voice on the phone grew noticeably icier.

"So you're saying you would torture or even kill an innocent little girl just so your boss wouldn't have to make changes to his schedule? I have the option here of nuclear destruction of all military bases and by your answer just now I am tempted to blow some up. Your people may be able to recover from nuclear disintegration, but they're going to be pretty pissed. Especially if I blow some nice holes in their moons. What I've done so far has just been finger exercises."

Niang wondered how she had gotten the codes. They were actually protected against digital access.

However, Elli had broken into the ☽☽☽ Initiative's most secure networks. It was possible that she was bluffing, but it was equally likely that she was speaking the truth. It infuriated him that he couldn't read this woman.

"And you think we are monsters?", Niang assured himself with suppressed anger.

"I know what I did," it came back bitingly. "But I will do it again if it prevents others from sinking as low as I have. So, what's your answer? As soon as I've talked to JALAKÅRA, I'll withdraw from your networks and you can go on blithely imposing your culture and way of life on other people. So what do you say?"

Niang bit his lips….

"There we go…", Elli mocked annoyed, while being taken to the Impenetrable in a spaceship.

Niang had turned out to be insightful in the end. He wasn't the Eternal President for nothing. Elli had stopped the rampaging of the military machines as a sign of good faith, but had programmed them to resist any attempt to tie them up or otherwise restrain them. And their truce had a timer….

After Niang had agreed, HUB-1's security had been lifted and they, Dean, and Lin had been notably politely complimented outside and to a rocket launch pad. They had been traveling through the stars ever since.

The Impenetrable had come into view a while ago. It looked like a massive spider web the diameter of a moon. Now they seemed to be reaching the last part of their journey.

Elli noticed another of the cigar-shaped white ships, which seemed to have the same destination some distance away from them.

Along with them, there were about thirty guards on the ship; they couldn't fit more in here besides the two pilots.

Finally, they reached a docking station near the center of the Impenetrable and disembarked.

Niang seemed to keep his word, because another ship landed next to them. And out came…

"Chloe!" shouted Elli, absent-mindedly slapping the face of the guard who tried to stop her. Others tried to reach for her, but Dean determinedly put his arms on their shoulders.

"Easy, guys. This is a touching reunion," he growled.

Chloe was not restrained and scurried between the legs of the guard woman who stood in Elli's way. The two met halfway and fell into each other's arms.

"Are you all right, Chloe?" asked Elli anxiously. "They didn't do anything to you, did they?"

She noticed a bump on Chloe's forehead with burgeoning anger.

She seemed to read Elli's expression, because she hastily replied, "That was me, Elli!" before she could explode.

She heard footsteps approaching. A guard from the fortress, recognizable by the black spider web on his white tactical armor, reared up in front of them.

"Elli, right?" he asked. "The Seventh Prince of Corbenic awaits you."

"Damn right of him to do so," Elli replied bitingly, and rose.

The whole procession of seventy guards and four civilians in all started moving. The aisles were all spider silk, harder than diamond, but just as radiant.

"Elli?" asked Chloe from the side. "What did you mean by 'your time is up'? I can take you back if you want."

Elli had been dreading that question.

"It-it's more complicated than that, Chloe."

She avoided looking Chloe in the eye.

"Why? If you still have commitments, I can come get you later. I have your time machine," Chloe offered.

Elli sighed in anguish.

"No, Chloe, that… Look, I've had enough time to think here and-and when this is over, then, then we'll part ways, I'm afraid…"

"What?" asked Chloe, startled, "but why?"

Elli sighed in anguish.

"Look Chloe, we-"

"We're here," the guard reported.

"Oh, thank the monster tarantula," Elli gasped in relief.

They stood before a massive double door.

"You will enter alone," the guard instructed them. "President Niang will personally guarantee that no harm will come to your companions."

"I know," Elli countered with a slight sneer. "That's because he's aware of what will happen if you so much as touch a hair on their heads."

"The Great Weaver awaits you, along with the Central Cabal."

The door swung open as if by magic and Elli stepped through.

The room was quite high and devoid of furnishings. Spider silk shone everywhere, glowing from within.

Above her were thirteen boxes in the walls, from which members of the cabal, clad in blue hooded cloaks, looked down at her appraisingly. And some fifty feet above her, Er hung from the ceiling….

"WHAT'S GOIN'!", Elli greeted the round loudly, waving.

"Greetings…", JALAKÅRAS slow voice sounded.

It happened with some delay. He seemed to have been trying to impress Elli with mind control. But as already proved, her mind withstood even gods…

"I have to say… I'm quite amazed at the lengths… you can go to. But even if I could have guessed… that it's in your power to get through here, I don't… know what you have to talk to me about…. So, what is your desire?"

"Oh, save your butt-kissing, you better daddy-long-legs," Elli called up to him.

Shouts of indignation rose from among the cabal.

Elli felt reality fall.

She erased the process that had triggered the phenomenon and instead incorporated her own change as the fluctuation reached its lowest point for a fraction of a second.

As a result, JALAKÅRA fell from the ceiling.

Elli took a few steps back, then the Great Weaver hit the floor with a loud crash.

The fact that the doors behind her did not swing open to admit guards told Elie that the room was apparently vibration and sound proof.

The massive spider rolled heavily onto its belly with surprise on its face and rose.

"That's better," Elli growled. "Now we're talking eye-to-eye, or at least on the same ground with each other, JALAKÅRA."

"HOW DARE YOU!!!" came from the box.


Again, a jolt went through reality and the cabal was gone.

The weaver looked around searchingly.

"Amazing… Where did you… sent them?"

"Croaking Cave. I'll give them an hour until they get back here."

JALAKÅRA regarded Elli with undisguised fascination.

"I get downright scared…when I imagine the heights…we could reach…if you were part of the cabal…"

"But the Damnation Committee won't let that happen," Elli countered darkly. "I've wiped out entire universes, JALAKÅRA, remember?"

"I know…" countered the Great Weaver. "And for that… you were cursed by the Council of Eight…. Never to find rest in the world of the living…"


Elli's mouth dropped open and closed. At least five times.

"Wa- Wa- Wai- Wai- Wait a minute, I'm a foreign body in the cosmos, JALAKÅRA. A curse shouldn't even be necessary."

"Don't be ridiculous…" laughed the Seventh Prince of Corbenic. "If universes actually thought of you as something they couldn't…. allow… you wouldn't be able to enter them at all…. No no… The huge bounty on your name1… your clash with the astral being…. In Site-132… your capture by the SKP3… all the life-threatening events you got caught up in…. even the detector's findings that led you to your little girl…. All orchestrated by us with tiny manipulations… of the worlds of the living…"

He stomped toward Elli with a sneer on his face.

"Did you really think… you could destroy worlds… without being punished for it by someone other than yourself? Surely… not even the Scarlet King or gods of even greater power could… dream of reaching you in the Nexus… even if they tried to break in by force… but did you think you were immune to divine retribution on the outside? You are absolutely… adorable…"

Then JALAKÅRAS face abruptly became gentle.

"But that has now come to an end…. For I have changed your curse a little…. It told you to help the humans and other life forms…. And this you have done… For an unimaginably long time…"

If his goal was to catch Elli off guard, he managed to do so.

For about two seconds.

The gears in her brain were turning so fast they seemed to be traveling backwards in time.

"You used me and the other seven from the Council of Eight. To further your plans? Wow. I mean, wow! That's such an asshole move that I could have thought of it."

"I'll take that as a… compliment…"

"So, what good did it do you? You might have a few million more people on your side to kick the Striders' asses, but other than that?"

"We now have… the Nexus…," JALAKÅRA explained. "And the… Who runs it like no one else ever could…"

"Yeah, that's why," Elli interjected, picking her ear with her pinky. "You know, I was actually just going to ask you to release him so Chloe could go again, but you know what? I'm going to go. I'm going back to the world of the living. Because I know you're going to inflict the same fate on her that you did on me."

Her finger came out of her ear with a "plop."

"Why do we have to be enemies?" asked JALAKÅRA. "I could kill your protégé… Kill her painlessly and let her come back here…. Maybe not right now… But when she has become a young adult…. We could, with her help… finally break away from Corbenic and help humanity throughout the multiverse…. You have seen them… the terrible futures…. dead worlds... that don't even let their dead restCivilizations... where the many die for the good of the few... I grant you absolution… from your sins… You could live here in Corbenic or in any other world…. and get the family you so desperately want…"

Elli said nothing for a while. She was thinking.

Then she slowly opened her mouth.

"How long did you have to watch me to figure out what I wanted?"

"Irrelevant…", JALAKÅRA rebuffed. "What should interest you… Is that I can grant you your wishes…. Join us… so we can protect… the ones we love…"

Elli raised an eyebrow in annoyance.

"Forget it, longlegs. I'll tell you how this works. You release the Nexus, and we get the hell out of here. And you and your cronies will leave us alone. And then you hope I never have a reason to come back here again. Or you'll have been the boss here for the longest time."

"You're threatening me?" asked JALAKÅRA, not offended, but curious. "Certainly… you have outsmarted and blackmailed gods in the past…. But you stand before me alone and without your greatest weapon…. I cannot use my power against you…. but…"

He lifted one leg and held it over Elli. If he dropped it, he would crush her.

"Why don't you accept… and find… after all this time…? finally find happiness?"

Elli looked him firmly in the eye.

"The thing about lifelong curses is this, oh great silk producer. You come to terms with it. No matter how many candy canes you shove up my ass, you used me without my consent. You have nothing I covet enough to put myself in the service of your oh-so-great Three Moons Initiative. Release the Nexus, or see what happens."

"I refuse to waste … such potential!" thundered JALAKÅRA, now actually angry. "You may be more crafty… than the whole initiative put together… But apparently your arrogance blinds you…. I will subject you and your accomplices to the worst tortures…. until you beg… to be able to serve the good of the humanities!"

Elli closed her eyes.

It was time…

"Is that your final word?" she asked, eyes closed.


Elli grinned.

"Then I strongly suggest you put me back together right away."


JALAKÅRA let his leg whip down, but Elli registered it only peripherally. Time became so slow that it almost seemed to stand still.

She found herself inside herself. In never-ending blackness.

Together with Ku.

The stay in Elli's mind had changed him. While Elli could not tap into his power, his own consciousness was seen by her body as an intruder, a virus to be contained and destroyed.

Accordingly, he had begun to fray. His torso was now nothing but papery shreds, and the decay was gradually working its way down his limbs and neck.

Elli estimated that it might have taken him another fifteen years to be completely swallowed up by her psyche. For her, that would have been another final death sentence had she then tried to use his power. But fortunately, he still had enough self-consciousness to be a separate entity.

Despite his miserable condition, he greeted her with a smile.

"Is it time?" he asked.

"It sure is," Elli replied. "I've got a monster job for you there."

"About time," the dead god grumbled with amusement. "It's extremely boring in here. I can't handle your memories, the coding is absolutely abominable."

"Manufacturer-related," was all Elli replied.

"I had more fun in Chloe than I did in you…" mused the corpse.

"There are so many things wrong with that sentence!" agitated Elli.

"Noticed it right after I said it," Ku replied dryly. "So, what do you wish for."

"You know exactly what I want, Silver Eyes," Elli replied coldly.

Ku nodded.

"Truly, a splendid end for a god who has destroyed his world…"

He began to crumble little by little….

Elli opened her eyes still smiling.

They were silver, as if she had two metal balls in her skull instead of eyes.

Even before the great weaver reached her with his leg, Elli exploded into a thousand pieces.

HÉKATI-BØGAL was shoveling another hand of screaming people into her when she suddenly noticed something about her hand. It began to disintegrate. Tiny pieces detached themselves from it and trickled to the ground. The Witch Queen placed a healing spell over herself, but the process seemed to accelerate little by little.

"THAT LITTLE BITCH…" she muttered, partly amazed and partly pissed off.

The Seventh Prince of Corbenic looked confusedly at the red puddle under his foot.

The woman had exploded before he could trample her, hadn't she?

Frowning, he watched as the largest of the pieces left by her began to grow.

Was he mistaken, or was dust trickling off his leg?

Closer inspection revealed that his entire body was beginning to disintegrate.

What was going on here?

His regenerative powers were more than capable of keeping the process in check at first, but it was accelerating. JALAKÅRA had to use his divine power to keep from being fullyfalling apart. And he needed more and more of it.

What was going on here?

"Then I strongly recommend you to put me back together right away."

He looked angrily at Elli. The piece was already much larger, but it would probably take another minute for her to fully regenerate.

Time he might not have.

Gritting his teeth, the Great Weaver sped up the process and restored Elli's clothes as well.

"Whoa, that was more painful than it looked…" she commented, gasping.

"What… did you do? What's happening here?", JALAKÅRA asked incredulously.

Elli grinned again. By now, he hated it when she did that.

"Oh, there's one thing I don't think you've thought about. How do you think I died, oh Bearded Tarantula?"

The Holy Sponsor was beginning to lose patience.

"You know very well that not even… the highest beings… can peek… into the Nexus… ANSWER!"

"Not in that tone, Longlegs! // You// want something from me," Elli chided him. "You know, Chloe suffered from botched apotheosis, she had swallowed a god, one far too powerful for such a vessel. Later, an angel was briefly added to the mix4, that didn't make it any better. Anyway, I took the divine power from her, but my body couldn't take it for long. But thanks to a little tweak I made in the Nexus just before I died, that god was transferred to my Corbenic body. And just now, I released its power. To make a wish…"

"Is it… my death… That you want?" asked JALAKÅRA angrily. "All you are accomplishing with this…. Is the damnation of mankind…. The other Seven will want to seize the Nexus…. It is too dangerous a weapon… in the hands of a little girl…"

"I may be drunk, but I'm not stupid, Weaver," Elli retorted piqued, raising her right hand.

As if seized by an invisible fist, JALAKÅRA was lifted into the air and smashed against the walls of the room.

While he still slid down it, gasping, trying to right himself, Elli ran-no, floated towards him with a mocking smile.

And not only that.

She now existed in a higher dimension.

Just like himself!

"I have rewritten the laws of Corbenic," she explained, "I have elevated myself to the most powerful deity…"

She grabbed the Great Weaver by the increasingly rapidly dissolving beard and pulled him down to her.

"…And told the universe that I will not tolerate any other god-like beings beside me. Once you're gone, it will be easy to open the Nexus again. Granted, I could have done it much sooner, but I wanted to give you a chance to be convinced before I destroy you."

"You shouldn't have told me…what you did…," JALAKÅRA noted. "This problem… I can just sort it out again…"

"Try it, then. Come on!", Elli challenged him with a sneer. "Make me laugh."

The Seventh Prince of Corbenic didn't need to be asked twice. With all the power he could muster, he reached out into the fabric of Corbenic's being.

He found Ellis's changes in the blink of an eye and reached for them.

A pain exploded in his head as if a sun had imploded in every cell of his body. He cried out and writhed in agony.

"Well, nice try, but the power I used and now possess once belonged to a being that was more than you will ever be," Elli noted. "I should know, I read your autopsy report, billions of years after my homeland Logos struck you down in the Dead War and sealed Corbenic forever. Did you know that? I belong to a people who could kill gods. To pass the time.

JALAKÅRA felt something rise within him that he had not felt in eons.
The fear of death.

A mere human managed to make him tremble in terror!

"What… If I release the Nexus? Will… you spare us then? Will… you disappear?"

"Hmm…", Elli made in acted thoughtfulness. "That would certainly be an option. Your disintegration will suspend if I leave Corbenic and you'll no longer be beside me as a result. I can't stand it here anyway. But, you and your kin, you cursed me. And you will do it again, for fear of me."

"We will not… bother you any further… I will show them… what you did to me…" whimpered JALAKÅRA.

He whimpered… If his executioner hadn't been standing in front of him, he would have been pissed off about it.

"Wonderful…", Elli rejoiced. "But if I ever get the feeling that anyone in Corbenic wants to mess with me, I will return, because I now know how to get here. And even if I leave my divinity here, it will welcome me back with open arms when I return and sweep you under the rug."

She approached the right eye of the great weaver and looked into it with a diabolical expression.

"So, JALAKÅRA, don't make me come over here…"

"U- Understood…"

Then Elli seemed to think of something else.

"Oh, and make sure Lin gets a halfway decent job and housing."

Niang had been cited to the Sacred Sponsor, along with the Central Cabal, who had some hoarfrost on their robes.

He was startled when he caught sight of JALAKÅRA. He was hanging in his web and seemed to be recovering from a bath in acid, only very gradually regenerating the wounds on his body.

"My lord, what happened? Where is the Irregularity?" he asked, startled.

"She's gone…", JALAKÅRA explained exhaustedly. "I will have to get in touch with the other Seven later… for the same thing has happened to them as to me…. But first to you… I want everyone in Corbenic to hear this…. There is someone… whom we must not anger anymore…"

The Nexus opened and Elli and Chloe stepped out of the closet.

An old woman sat crocheting in a rocking chair in front of them, staring at them in puzzlement.

"What are you doing in my closet?" she asked, startled. "And who are you, anyway?"

Elli sucked in a sharp breath.

"You'll excuse me, good lady, where and in what year are we?"

"York, 1825," the woman said curtly. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"We'll be out of here in a minute," Elli promised, shoving Chloe back into the closet.

"Hey! What-," chimed in from behind them before the Nexus closed again.

"If you allow, I'll take the Nexus back, Chloe," Elli said as she re-entered the living room.

Chloe nodded jerky.

Then she frowned.

"How do I do it?" she asked.

"Just make a wish. The Nexus knows what to do, unless you've already built in backups in case of mind control."

Chloe shrugged and did as instructed.

It clicked and crackled for a while.

After that, Elli successfully pulled a violet out of her nose.

"Ah, missed this a bit already, thanks Chloe."

"Don't get this place dirty again," Dean admonished.

He was busy putting the furnishings back down neatly.

They had left Corbenic directly through the door to JALAKÅRA's chamber, much to the disbelief of everyone present, who had only stared at the disintegrating spider. In between, after several failed attempts, Chloe had headed for HUB 1, where Elli had quickly entered the 516-digit code that completely erased her programs. Their departure had then been accompanied by a tremendous earthquake as the Nexus ferried back to this world.

Lin had been left in the care of the Three Moons Initiative. Elli was sure that JALAKÅRA knew what to do with her.

"Elli?" asked Chloe abruptly. "What did you mean that we would part ways?"

Elli made a sad face. I guess now it was finally time…

"Well, I've had long enough and too little to do, so I've been thinking about our relationship. And… You… Chloe… We… We're not healthy for each other…"

"But why, Elli? You saved my life. And I saved yours. I wouldn't say that's unhealthy."

A sorrowful smile crept onto Elli's face.

"Chloe, I attacked three world-spanning superpowers for you and nearly wiped out a universe. And on top of that, I've committed numerous minor offenses. I've never gotten so angry in such a short period of time. And you? What do you do when I'm not around?"

"Waiting until you come back-" Chloe replied, breaking off.

Elli just nodded, smiling sadly.

"I'm preventing you from having a normal life, Chloe."

"But I don't want a normal life, Elli," Chloe retorted angrily. "I want us to stay together. I'm not terminally ill anymore, and you're back from the dead. What else can happen to us?"

"The question is more about who we happen to, Chloe," Elli returned. "Do you really want to spend your whole life traveling the worlds? Never have a family of your own? Become like me?"

To punctuate her words, she took out her flask and drank.

"But you're my family, Elli," Chloe tried desperately. "You and Dean. I don't need more!"

"And what do you think will happen if you die again because of me, Chloe?" asked Elli seriously. "Do you want to risk me destroying an entire world again? Or you getting stranded in a strange world somewhere? This time we don't have Divine Intervention to save us."

Tears welled up in Chloe's eyes.

"But, Elli…" came choked from her, "I… What am I going to do without you… I- I don't have anyone else."

"Are you sure about that?" asked Elli. "Do you think your biological family consists only of your mother? Do you think no one else will help you if you ask?"

She stepped toward Chloe and took her in her arms.

"I know you don't understand, but in time you will. And it's not like I'm leaving you forever. I'll always look out for you. And one day, who knows…"

"You won't change your mind?" asked Chloe sadly."


She noticed Chloe clawing into her jacket.

"Can… Can I at least stay here until I fall asleep then? For a goodbye."

Elli looked questioningly at Dean, who just shrugged.

Chloe held out for a surprisingly long time, probably as a side effect of her release from Ku. Her body now had much more energy at its disposal, which it had to cope with again. They took one last tour of the Nexus, had dinner, and watched movie after movie on the couch in Ellis' home theater.

But finally came the moment Elli had so dreaded. Chloe closed her eyes for good and sank against her shoulder.

Elli sighed sadly, dressed Chloe in pajamas with the power of the Nexus, carried her out through her closet, and tucked her in on the bed.

She gazed at the peacefully sleeping face for a very long time. She couldn't bring herself to leave.

Dean stepped behind her.

"I told you, Elli, you would just make yourself miserable, but no, you wouldn't listen5…"

A soft "Tuck!" rang out as Elli smacked his chest.

"Like you won't miss her," she whispered angrily.

Dean nodded.

"Quite. She's one of a kind. And always will be. But everything comes to an end. You should know that better than anyone."

Elli sighed again.

"I'll be right there, Dean. One more thing…"

One more time, just one more time, she wanted to act like a real mother to Chloe. She leaned down to her and kissed her gently on the forehead.

Then she followed Dean to the old, heavy wooden wardrobe and closed the creaking door to the behind her…

Chloe refused to wake up. She didn't want to wake up. If she woke up, then it was over, then Elli was gone. Probably forever.

But finally her body prevailed.

She reluctantly sat up.

This was her room. It seemed like an infinitely long time since she had been in here.

She looked at her alarm clock. Ten past eleven…

Why hadn't it rung?

Then it occurred to Chloe what day of the week it was.

An eternity ago she had been preparing to go to bed on Friday… A glance at her cell phone told her that Elli had probably delivered her right on time, probably so as not to trigger a time paradox.

Depressed, she got dressed and shuffled into the living room.

There lay her mother, snoring on the sofa. She probably hadn't even realized that someone had broken into her apartment and kidnapped her daughter…

This was her life. The life of little, defenseless Chloe Winter.

Did it really have to go on like this? Was this all that awaited her?

Chloe took a deep breath.

"No!" she said firmly.

It wasn't long before a bucket of cold water emptied over Cassandra Winter.

Snorting and spitting, she sat up bolt upright.

"What the- Chloe, what are you-"

She fell silent, probably because she noticed Chloe's expression.

"Chloe?" she asked, puzzled.

"Mom, we need to talk…" came grimly from her daughter.

Her school fell into a collective depression when on Monday the pictures of Ms. Jäger and Mr. Weiß were displayed in the entrance hall, along with a large bouquet of lilies. Apparently, they had both been victims of a car accident.

It was a punch to the gut for everyone else, but irrelevant to Chloe. Elli had drilled enough into them to attain a master's degree course with an A average.

At the entrance to her class, she was intercepted by Susanne.

She grinned maliciously.

"Yo," she said, "Chloe, now that Ms. Jäger is gone, it's time for you get back to-"

"I got you on tape," Chloe hissed angrily. "And I'll have you thrown out of school if you ever try any shit with me again…"

The girl made a face that only people who are attacked by a fluffy bunny can make. She raised her hands defensively as Chloe walked past her.

Elli might not have wanted Chloe to become like her. But there was one thing she was guaranteed to take from her.

If you can't beat them, blackmail them…

Lawrence stood motionless in a hexahedron-shaped force field prison. The fields glowed a dull orange. The whole structure stood in an all-white cube-shaped room, for Elli had not given too much thought to the architecture. The room was indestructible and allowed no telepathic or ontokinetic influences to pass through it except hers, so that would have to do.

Elli had her fingers thoughtfully outstretched over the button in a console that would release the man.

After careful consideration, she allowed the desk to crumble to dust, which was subsequently erased.

She left the room and removed the door from existence behind her. Lawrence was trapped in time, even if he unfroze, he would likely retain severe brain damage from Chloe's takeover, having been dragged into the Nexus even before Elli had been able to take care of the god6.

And who knows, maybe one day he would actually have a positive use.

Elli drunk to this resolution with her flask.

Then she began to cry unrestrainedly.

She missed Chloe…

Eight years later

Chloe's heart was racing like crazy. She just wasn't sure if her wedding dress fit decently. There was a kink, there was a wrinkle, and where had she gotten the idea that she looked good with her shoulders bare!!!?

She had already had to put all kinds of black ribbons in her hair to make it stand out against the dress, because her natural hair color had never returned.

"Chloe, are you okay?"

An old woman had stepped up behind her. She looked part amused and part concerned.

"Oh grandma, we can't do this like this, we have to kind of-"

"Now don't puff yourself up like an excited chicken, that's awful, jeez!" she rumbled. "Today's your big day, do you want to shake like a leaf all day?"


Esme Winter was a very imposing woman, quite fat, but small for it. Her hair was nowhere near as white as Chloe's, but you could see her age. Chloe had met her after forcing her mother to reconnect with her family. She had been received coldly, but Chloe had been welcomed warmly. However, the relationship between mother and daughter had hardly improved since then, which was why she had not been invited to the wedding.

Under the gaze of Grandma Esme, however, Chloe forced herself to come down again.

"You're not usually like this," her grandmother urged her. "Just show up like you always do, cool and sublime."

"Okay, okay," Chloe confirmed excitedly, taking a deep breath. "Got it…"

Then she opened the door to the great hall.

Chloe had refused to even enter a church for the wedding because of her past with her father, so they had rented a large banquet hall.

Great applause came her way as she met her groom.

She had met Vincent after her school days. He was a wiry young man with carefully groomed hair and a full beard. He wore a festive, light gray tailcoat.

Chloe actually managed to keep her poker face on during the wedding ceremony, but she was glad when Vincent was finally allowed to kiss the bride. He of course did the daring act, of course, tipping Chloe over abruptly and saving her from hitting the floor with a hug, then the kiss took place.

Cheers and applause followed.

It took a while for everything to settle down, and the real celebration began.

It was a tradition among the Winters that at weddings they would, to tell in an orderly fashion in front of everyone present, who had given what gifts, and they would do so in as gloating and dry a manner as possible. There was everything, kitchen utensils, a toolbox, chocolates, an axe from Uncle Paul for income splitting[[Footnote]] Translator's note: The joke makes more sense in German, where income splitting translates to "spousal splitting" [[/footnote]] and, of course, lots of alcohol.

Grandpa Jochen, the bald man with a walrus' moustache who gave the talk, got lots of laughter, but then looked in wonder at a final, large gift basket.

He checked it against the list again and shook his head.

"Hmm, do any of you know who this one belongs to? It wasn't here earlier. Chloe, dear, I think there's a picture of you."

Chloe got up from her seat and looked curiously at what extra had arrived.

The basket contained lots of strong-looking spirits with names she'd never heard before, a shovelful of fine candy in a variety of wrappers, extremely exotic-looking fruit, a silver hip flask, and a frying pan.

And a photograph.

Chloe put her hand over her mouth in shock, trying to hold back tears.

She was in the picture when she was a child. Behind her shone a massive golden tree7. And with her in the picture, flanking her on the left and right…

She was still dreaming of their adventures…

Hectically, she looked around among those present. But the two were nowhere to be seen….

Chloe would have found their faces in a crowd even after fifty years. But they hadn't mingled among this one. They weren't there.

"Chloe, are you all right," her grandfather asked anxiously.

"Yes, Grandpa," Chloe said, a little depressed. "It's just-"

And then she heard it. It came from the waitress in the reception room.

"But dear ma'am, I can't just let you and your husband in without an invitation!"

Before anyone could hold her back, Chloe sprinted past the puzzled guests to the door…

The End

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License