Things only went from worse to even worser. That’s not a word and that’s the point. This wasn’t even conceivable. Fucking vampires? And he let him bite him? Wasn’t he afraid of turning? And then he has metal burned into his skin? I was way out of my depth here.
This thing in front of us — and it was a thing, there was no way an entire town was afraid of a boy. The vampire and and my dream friend both reacted negatively. They seemed to know what is going on. We followed with no hesitation. Nox and Ant were both first to put up their hands.
The town was in shambles barely looked like anyone could live in these conditions. But everyone looked healthy that I saw. Which wasn’t many, but still. Even the warrior who’d pulled us inside looked clean despite the wounds inflicted upon him.
They walked us through the streets to a small building where they shoved us through the door. We stumbled through, the only good thing was there was no windows and when they locked the door we were alone.
“What the fuck is going on?”
Ryan laughed. “I don’t know. Looks like they want your friend here. Tell us why you can’t just give him the ring?”
Nox helped the vampire sit down and pull his garb off then sat down against the far wall pulling at his own garb. I’d seen him nearly naked before, but as he unzipped the shirt without a zipper I stared at him with wide eyes. His chest glowed underneath the white t-shirt.
He pulled his arms from the jumpsuit and let it hang from his waist and pulled the t-shirt off. A metal feather was embedded into his chest above his heart. I’d seen it before. But there was nothing like seeing it in person. I fought the urge to reach out and touch him. There was red and black ink over half of his body. His body…
“I was told that the Phoenix feather is what keeps me alive. The nanites that make up its outer shell are in my blood. It integrates technology and biologies. Without me Nyx dies, without him I die. The nanites fused the ring to my body, same with the eye and commination nodes. I have to be careful how long tech touches my skin. The nanites use my body heat and that from the faux plane inside the feather to power the devices and my abilities. So cut it off and it fails immediately.”
“How is any of this even possible?” I asked.
“Magic, science, all of it.” Nox said. “You’re from Shift #0 I know it sound dramatic and impossible.” He held out his hand with the ring, “Look for yourself.”
I took his hand, his long fingers curled around mine as he pulled me closer. I sat down on the ground in front of him, his hand in mine as I looked. But it was the length of his fingers, the softness of his skin that made me look deeper. I wanted to touch him more. I used my other hand to trace the metal on his middle finger. There was no delineation. No gap, no way it was coming off his hand.
I turned my attention to the feather on his chest. His fingers still in my hand as I reached across with the other and felt the feather in his chest. I jerked it back. He was hot — in more ways than one. “Sorry.” he whispered. He closed his eyes and smiled softly. “Go ahead, its cooler now.”
He smiled. “I can control my temperature.”
I couldn’t help but reach out and touch him again, this time the metal was cool to my finger tips, and there was no seam here either from flesh to metal and back. The red and black ink butted up to the edge of the metal almost as seamless.
Ryan laughed behind us, “Maybe we should give them the room.”
I looked up at Nox’s face and there was bliss etched on it. His head pressed back against the wall.
Ant’s voice was soft from the chair Nox had put him on across the room. “Touch is rare for Strays like him. I’m sure the glow doesn’t help.”
“Stray?” I asked.
“A drifter without an anchor.” Nox said. “Not a term I like.”
“No one touches you?” I asked softly.
“They are afraid of drifting. My parents hugged me and loved me it’s not a problem. My father is a drifter, my dad is his anchor. I am not a haphephobe. It’s not lack of touch that has me in bliss.” His brown eyes looked at me with a small smile. “It’s his touch. Imagined it more times than I can count. Can’t touch an echo.”
“I dream about you.” I said.
“I know. I’m awake when I see you, you were at my house when the girl manifested this morning.”
“You killed her.” I said.
“Temporal rage and a zombie. Like your mother. Something making echoes manifest and they are going crazy too.”
Alex Brizo is an Inquisitive Dream walking Explorer with latent talents who Commands Mental Powers and is an Anchor from Shift #0
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Abilities: telepathic, hedge magic, decipher, dreamcraft, bond, mental link with drifter, create anchor
Weapons: stun stick 0, unarmed 2 – eased
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Numenera, the Cypher System, No Thank You, Evil!, Invisible Sun, and their respective logos are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. All Monte Cook Games characters and character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof, are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC. Content derived from Monte Cook Games publications is © 2013-2022 Monte Cook Games, LLC.