Book 2, Chapter 21 - Phasing

Cloudhawk lost consciousness after the blow from Frozen Dirge.

Frost de Winter was stronger than he could fathom, and his relic weapon only made him more terrifying. The spear was flung at him faster than a bullet from a gun, and he was frozen in its power before he could react. His organs and consciousness didn’t stop but they might as well have. Frozen Dirge had put him in a sort of hibernation.

A man could live for twenty-four hours in this state. Unless he found a way out or if Frost de Winter released him, after twenty-four hours he would die. But how could he get free? There was no way for Cloudhawk to resist once he was already locked in ice. All of his faculties, even thought, were frozen solid. He could wield the might of the heavens and still be stuck. And even if by some miracle he escaped, so what? He wasn’t getting out of Skycloud’s richly guarded prison.

Yet Cloudhawk was far from a normal man. The moment he started to freeze his body began to unconsciously react. His skin tightened and his internal organs were stimulated, all as a means to stave off complete shock. The result was that the slightest bit of vitality sparked within him. Four or five hours after he was locked away, elements in his blood began to stir. A sluggish pulse began to pump through him, his heart struggling to manage twenty beats a minute [1]. His body reacted to the environment more like a cold-blooded animal. For a normal person it would be worse if shock did not completely set in. With the body’s processes and metabolism slowly churning they would quickly spiral into disarray and death would come within seconds. [2]

But Cloudhawk wasn’t dead yet. He was coming back to life.

Cold! So goddamn cold!

Those were his first thoughts as his brain reawakened. The cold seeped down into his soul, he couldn’t feel anything but the biting freeze. He couldn’t hear, see, or even breathe – there was only the cold like a bottomless black pit he couldn’t crawl out from. His mind filled with despair and terror.

Awakening from within the block of ice was an incredible display of survivability and adaptation, but it wasn’t a happy occasion. Sure, Cloudhawk was awake, but he still didn’t have a way to get out from inside the icy prison. His limbs were stiff and without sensation, the ice was as solid as iron.

Frost de Winter, this absolute fuck! When I get free I’ll make sure to tear your corpse apart and piss on the pieces!

Cloudhawk was too upset to give up. He hadn’t walked thousands of miles and worked this hard to get into Skycloud Domain, only to see the inside of an elysian dungeon. He’d only seen a fraction of the city before that rat-faced prick framed him.

He trusted Selene. She wouldn’t have done anything to harm him. 

His heart started to beat faster and the blood rushed through his veins. But the more he came back to life the more suffocating his situation became. Calling to any of his relics was difficult beyond measure. His only hope was the stone around his neck.

His predicament was strikingly similar to the one he’d found himself in when locked in a tank under Blackwater Base. If the stone listened to him maybe he could phase out of here like last time. He shut his eyes and tried to think back to when the stone had answered him.

Empty… Empty… completely empty your mind.

With every passing moment the cold became more intense, a rebound reaction from the hot blood struggling to warm him up. But he pushed it out of his mind and tried to focus. He eventually slipped into a complete state of emptiness.

The world around him disappeared. Only his consciousness remained.

Cloudhawk listened to the strange stone’s melody. Its abstract song grew louder until in the end its resonance became countless threads of light. They shivered like the strings of a harp and coalesced at a single point. A door… they made a strange, shimmering door.

The door opened. A flood of light from inside swallowed up the darkness that consumed him.

The guards posted outside, wfrom where they were standing, could see a light shining from the human ice sculpture where the chest would be. Like a star it glinted beneath the layers of frost, bringing with it an old and vigorous power.

As for Cloudhawk, he found himself somewhere strange and new.

All around him was a vast and turbulent sea, and from within it an ancient consciousness stirred.

He knew everything he saw around him was an illusion, it was all coming from the stone. The sea wasn’t a sea at all, but the psychic force of its previous owner that he’d somehow sealed within the mysterious item. Only Cloudhawk could resonate with it, only he was able to make this psychic will his own – an inheritance left behind by the enigmatic former master.

Now, once again, it roused from its slumber.

Cloudhawk was pleased to be here again and knelt amidst the undulating waters. As he concentrated his will again the sea became a whirlpool, spewing violent power from its vortex. Cloudhawk knew what was coming, the pain that it would bring. But he also knew that it meant he would awaken stronger than before. He had been confronted with just how feeble and pathetic he was, so he welcomed the pain no matter how excruciating. It could crash down on him like a sea of knives and he would accept it gladly.

As the surging tides continued, it began to show signs of evaporation. The young wastelander focused as much as he could, persisting against the agony. He could feel that this time he was absorbing much more than either of the two times before. When he finally reached his limit Cloudhawk’s psychic powers felt more expansive than ever. He felt as though he could finally master the stone. All he had to do was bring the full might of his mind to bear and the artifact would respond.

Quickly! Quickly! Just as he was about to lose control the stone erupted with a pulse of radiation invisible to the eye.

Rays of power didn’t shoot out but instead permeated through time and space, infusing this pocket of reality with its will. The prison cell was transformed into a font of potency. Then, with a flash of light, cracks began to appear all across the icy sculpture. However the prisoner inside had vanished without a trace.

In an instant, Cloudhawk was transported to a strange reality without sound or light or life. There was nothing except threads of vibration. Some were linear and others were closed loops but every one of them hummed. Like strings from an instrument each of them had a unique melody, incessantly plucked by an invisible hand.

They were all around him, hundreds upon millions of threads reaching into the infinite distance. However, as he watched they gathered together like a tapestry and the world was rebuilt.

What happened? I didn’t phase out of here!

More than once Cloudhawk had experienced the power of the stone, he was expecting it to work the same way this time. Only, that wasn’t what happened. He was stuck here in a place between reality and illusion, somewhere both real and false. The physical world was still there all around him, but somehow he had become dislodged from it. 

Perhaps his current situation could be explained with a strained metaphor. If he could stride from one dimension to another then he was stuck here between steps. One foot was planted in the reality he’d come from, and the other was stuck in the one he’d wished to go to. Now he was caught in the between place, separate from the material plane but not from space-time.

 Or maybe it could be put another way.

He was caught in the middle of a doorway. He felt weightless while a repulsive force thrust him away from the block of ice. He simply floated away like a balloon.

“What the hell…?”

Cloudhawk floated in the aether, impotently flailing his arms. One hand struck a wall, but to his surprise he felt nothing. In fact he never touched the wall at all, his hand just slipped right through it. Shortly afterward another resisting force knocked him back.

Cloudhawk looked down at his hand then back at the wall.

He saw it with his own eyes, his fingers had passed right through but he never felt a thing. They passed through without any sort of reaction at all, not even leaving a mark on the wall. Like it never happened.

Was he unable to touch anything?

Next, Cloudhawk looked down at his chest where the stone was gently humming. All around him was a field of mysterious power that was quickly draining his psychic energy. He thought for a moment and then his situation became clear.

The stone was like a relic, one that allowed him to pass between dimensions. Only, phasing was an unreliable and random process, Cloudhawk didn’t have the power to move freely from one to the other. However, after drawing more power from the psychic sea he’d become stronger – strong enough to call on the stone’s abilities.

But summoning the power of the stone didn’t mean he could slip from one reality to another at will. Strictly speaking, he was in a between space where he could see everything around him but couldn’t interact with the world.

That was how he was able to get out of the icy block. And now that he was free from it he could escape this prison. Cloudhawk tried to move forward, but in this weightless state suspended in air he couldn’t budge. As the seconds ticked by and his psychic powers diminished he grew more and more anxious. If he didn’t think of something soon he wasn’t going anywhere.

Right! The cloak!

Cloudhawk channeled some of his will into the cloak. Its special properties made moving easier so that even here he could move around with a little effort.

The two relics together synergized well.

Cloudhawk couldn’t waste any time. Like a swimmer he desperately swung his arms and legs, heading for the wall. His head reached what should have been an impenetrable obstacle, but within the sphere of power created by the stone it felt more like pressing against the edge of a balloon.

“Shit, goddamnit!”

Cloudhawk’s head passed through the wall then stopped. The rest of his body was stuck on the other side. He flailed and kicked and wriggled in all sorts of ways that made him look utterly ridiculous. But no matter how he tried he was being stopped. He discovered that the obstacle was the layer of metal coating the other side of the wall.

Now he was understanding the boundaries.

Using the power of the stone Cloudhawk could dislodge himself from his dimension. It made him effectively a ghost. However, everything that existed in real space left its mark here in the between place, and the more mass it had the more dense it was here. The more powerful the energy within it was, the more repulsive it became.

Floating through the air took no effort at all, but trying to slip through a wall was much more difficult. This went doubly so for metal prisons. Metal was, after all, much more dense than air or stone. He struggled and struggled, using all the strength he had until eventually he managed to slip passed the barrier.

“Da-… damn! That was tiring!”

His whole body hurt after that ordeal like he was being suffocated. He’d used a lot of his psychic energy, to the point where he knew he only had a few more seconds left. Once he was out of the prison he saw that the whole area was crawling with guards. Luckily, he swam right passed them and no one seemed to notice.

Great, but not something he had time to gloat over. He had to go!

Cloudhawk floundered like a man about to drown, his limbs flailing comically in exaggerated motions. He darted up toward the ceiling then bounced off like a soap bubble. However with another few moments of struggle he bungled through.

Great!

Ah! He felt a deep sense of relief. It felt pretty great when walls couldn’t stop you!

Quite a helpful ability to those in the business of theft and murder, he had to admit. He could move around this heavily fortified place like he didn’t exist. There wasn’t a prison in all the world that could lock him up!


1. Sixty is normal.

2. Shock and hypothermia, which presumably Cloudhawk is suffering from, are different but present similarly. Shock is the rapid drop of blood pressure which leads to cell and organ death within a few hours. Hypothermia is defined at a body temperature below 96 degrees, sever hypothermia below 90 where fatality is almost 100% without severe intervention. Hypothermia causes heart dysrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats leading to heart attacks and/or clots) and renal (kidney) failure within a few hours.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

RWX's Thoughts

Phasing at will sounds very useful...