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No, it was more he was emptying the cases and filling them with plastic explosive and other bits of shrapnel. Though hollowing put the pencils to fill those with explosive might also have been an idea he was working with.

Patrolling, it was such a simple thing. Yet something that Penny often found herself involved in, now more than ever in fact since her home now housed more than just her. Sometimes she would go out with some of the other girls from the Sanctuary to help teach them, other times to hunt with them. This time though she was out on her own.

Which wasn’t an unusual thing really, Penny was always up, and almost always active after all. It was at times like this that she used the act of Patrolling to help sort through her thoughts. The girls back at the Sanctuary could also contact her through the computer she had left behind. Wasn’t the best option, but it was all they had at the moment.

Still her route took her across the city, as she always enjoyed the heights that the taller buildings offered, both for the view and the solitude.

This time, however, she’d end up not being entirely alone.

‘Penny Asimov,’ said a voice through a small portal that opened numerous meters to her left, leading to but a dark room in an apartment from her perspective. It was too small to jump through, but big enough to potentially punch through, maybe. ‘I am Mariette Pedersen. I wish to speak with you,’ Mariette told, currently hiding on the other side of the portal, using another small portal to bring her mouth closer to that portal. She knew of Penny’s fierce physical capability. She wanted to avoid taking chances.

Penny’s initial reaction to the portal opening up was spinning to face it while also dropping into a defensive stance. As the Portal itself was proof enough of who was interrupting her rather sedate patrol. She would end up sliding out of it as Mariette spoke however, not that Penny trusted the portal wielding witch, but at this point the opportunity for an ambush had been lost.

“You wanted to talk to me” Penny would reply as she walked closer to the portal, making sure to stop just out of arm's length of the point of punctured space. “I have to admit that I didn’t see this coming. Why me?”

‘Because you’ve taken up the mantle as Cindy’s successor,’ Mariette told, and then decided to rearrange herself a little. It was a shame not to see one another, after all. As such, she opened portals and brought two full-sized mirrors that she placed in two different apartments in Penrose. She then opened multiple portals, so the light from Penny went to a mirror that reflected the light into a portal meeting a different mirror that reflected through another portal where finally Mariette stood, a girl in dark dress, eyepatch, white hair, holding Bunny and looking to Penny, through two portals and two mirrors’ reflection.

‘Cindy and I had a deal,’ Mariette said. ‘I would provide information and resources to her, and in turn I received goods and anything she felt she didn’t need, perhaps her prisoners or criminals if she had any, exactly what she’d give me was up in the air. She had my number. Sadly, her reign was cut short before our alliance could be properly utilized. Tell me, do you still keep the Talos that I gifted her? Where are those automatons now?’

“No” Penny would reply after a moment of contemplation. The robotic girl was impressed at the very roundabout way that Mariette had made it so they would be facing each other. The contortions of space were interesting to track not that they told Penny anything about where the Portal Witch was. “They were destroyed at the Rave, few things can stand up to the amount of frenzied girls that were there, less when you add in the Ascendency.” She would explain as she stepped closer to the portal no longer worried about a sudden ambush.

“I take it the Beach is when this agreement was settled?” Penny would ask, recalling the time that Cindy had wanted to meet with Mariette. “I can definitely see the advantages.” She would add giving a pointed look at the portal she stood in front of. “But I’m less inclined to agree to one myself, after all you’ve got enemies gunning for you. Still I’m willing to at least hear you out.”

‘… Hmpf. What an utter waste,’ Mariette said with a tinge of annoyance at the fate of the Talos. ‘Used properly, they could have formed the backbone of an army…’ she sighed, thinking of what a mistake it had been to gift those things to the supposed Queen. Anyway, that aside…

‘You are correct, it was at the beach. She could gift me things I wanted, and as such I could support her little claim to power. She was going to fight a war with Beacon and all, after all. Given your connection to Beacon, I suppose that’s at an end…’ Mariette squeezed her little Bunny, before continuing to talk.

‘I could guide the remaining refugees of Beacon to your Sanctuary. I could help you unify them, give a good word for those that doubt you, and dissuade them from infighting. I can watch the whole city at once, I don’t miss any riots or battles. I can always be there, if so needed. … But before I offer any of that, I wish to know what you intend to do with them. What do you wish to accomplish, as the new queen? The Ascendancy isn’t going to stop hunting monsters, and the monsters won’t stand for it forever…’ Mariette asked, inspecting Penny as she did.

“My intentions are simple. I intend to give Sanctuary.” Penny would say as she folded her arms across her midsection. “Half the magical world wants to kill us, the other half wants to enslave us. I just want to give us a place where we can be safe and not be taken advantage of. I don’t trust the Mint, I don’t trust the Ascendency, and I don’t trust most Patrons, save for the Gods. Because at least they declare their intentions upfront usually.”

“My goal is peace. Most of us are here for eternity, afterall, and I’d rather not have that time be spent on pointless bloodshed. I’m not assuming that peace will come easily and sadly it won’t come cheaply. Why do you want to know?”

‘Peace, huh. So, when the Ascendancy decides to raid the monster girls and dark girls of Penrose, which side do you stand on? The side of Beacon, or the side of the corrupted? In a strange twist, you’re an ally of both, are you not?’ Mariette asked, staring at Penny through the reflections.

‘Regardless, I am asking in order to make sure you’re not going to force the girls under your charge to make a decision they don’t want to make. Beacon has these purifying coins that removes all forms of darkness and monster-attributes from their souls. Thing is, you could so easily bring these coins forth into the Sanctuary, and tell them “this is your chance for true safety”… and I wouldn’t agree to that. Some diversity is what gives our world colour, is it not? If we offered a machine that would turn black people white and offered it as a solution to racism, the black community would be deeply offended, and this is much the same thing. You see what I’m saying?’ Mariette asked at the end, her gaze sharp.

“You mean these?” Penny would ask as a White coin slid out from her plam for her to hold up. “I am well acquainted with them. After all, I was the first person to experience their effects.” A moment later the coin would slide back into Penny’s frame “Thing is, I agree with you, but for very different reasons. Plenty of people don’t fit into their gender upon birth, and I know from experience that the same can be applied to species.” She would keep her gaze locked onto Mariette as she spoke, never blinking and hardly moving. “But. That cuts both ways. There are girls out there that have been forced into a shape that they hate, trapped by the very people that have dragged them into this world without any thought to their consideration. This coin is for them, and I will not deny those that want the chance to be free the only key that I am aware of to open those bindings.”

Mariette held a passive expression as she listened to Penny’s words. ‘Yeah, that’s fair. If they truly want an out, that’s fair. However, you have to be careful with your position as queen, here. You could very easily create an environment where the girls will feel pressured to use the coin even if they don’t want to, or perhaps pressured against it despite wanting to depending on the reactions of the crowd. That aside. Why does the coin force the user to become an agent of Beacon? Why make purification the same as joining the ranks of those who once hunted you down? Why does it do that?’ Mariette asked, her expression and tone blank.

“No one has had a need for it yet, but trust me I know that I have to be careful with them. Their scarcity on my end should go some way from preventing such an environment however.” She would explain. Penny was also struck by the odd realization that she and Mariette shared a lot of the same worries and concerns for the girls here in Penrose. Something that she wasn’t really sure how to deal with considering they also were kind of avowed enemies due to Beacon. Idly she wondered if this is how the rest of Beacon felt towards the friendlier monster girls in the city.

“I can’t say for certain why they do that, but I have my theories.” She would go on to say instead “Could be a bit of retaliation, you and people like you have kidnapped Beacon’s members and found ways around the Spark. These coins are a quick way to save those kidnapped and brainwashed girls. Could also be simple ignorance, they are a part of Beacon so why would it not bring people closer to Beacon. As you can’t discount the fact that before me, no one in Beacon really interacted with the corrupted girls, at least not openly, so from the outside looking in it is easy to see corruption as a curse. Could also be fear, Beacon hasn’t had many friends in the city and that was before their HQ got bombed and the Ascendency moved in. They could have simply felt they needed more people on their side.”

“But something tells me you didn’t ask those questions simply to hear my thoughts on the matter did you?”

Mariette kept quiet as she listened to Penny’s words, slightly tilting her head, still holding Bunny close. After that last question, Mariette kept quiet. ‘You seem reasonable,’ Mariette eventually concluded, ‘unlike your predecessor. Which may actually be a disappointment, Cindy seemed like she was about to force some big changes. Perhaps it’s for the better that the changes come by a steady hand, compared to a forceful one. But maybe the steady hand won’t be able to break the barrier of status quo, whereas the forceful one would? Time will tell,’ she said with a shrug.

‘I’ve been tasked with delivering items to you. Before I did that, I wanted to get an impression of who you are. I have gotten my impression now. I have what I came for.’ With Light-magic on her side, she could tell that Penny was sincere. ‘I also had the objective of introducing myself to the new queen. The offer I had with Cindy is still open. Provide me with the monsters you capture or artifacts you don’t need, because I can offer them to my patron to keep him happy, and we want him happy, that’s good for everyone, and in exchange I can help you out in various ways that depend on what your current issue is.’

‘Other than that…’ Mariette slowed down a little. ‘… Justine von Visceral is back. You were there last time we fought her. She’s liable to attack my mansion, as well as anywhere else. I thought you should know, if you somehow did not,’ Mariette said, looking at Penny.

“I am aware that Justine is back. I don’t trust her, I have nothing but reasons to distrust her. The thing is that I could say the same about you, it’s not quite the same degree of distrust, but I know very little about you except that you worked alongside Justine once before and that you have double crossed Alicia.” Penny would point out, more curious than anything. A lot of people seemed to be judging her nowadays, one more person didn’t really seem to matter all that much.

“So what is a reason I should have to expect anything else from you? For as far as I can tell most of your agreements end in a double crossing of some sort.” She would speak not with condemnation in her voice, but simple fact. For if she intended to be Queen, trusting Mariette blindly at this point would be foolhardy. But the enemy of my enemy and all that was at least reason enough to give a chance for the mirror-touched girl to state her case. Penny was used to being in the middle of twisted webs of intrigue after all.

Mariette looked away from Penny, her expression taken by a mild degree of regret. She kept quiet numerous seconds, before speaking. ‘I didn’t… mean to double-cross her,’ Mariette began, taking a heavy breath before looking to Penny again.

‘After defeating Caroline, I infiltrated Justine’s palace through a different direction than the rest of you, meaning to catch her unawares. On the way I ran into all the captured girls and Justine’s treasury. I freed the girls and took the contents of the treasury, for it made no sense to leave it where it lay. I… I was going to let the girls go home, but that’s…’ she sighed a little.

‘… that was when Asengav took what I had claimed, and congratulated me on a job well done. I couldn’t tell him I had been meaning to let the girls go. You don’t tell a Horror that. In that regard, yes, I double-crossed Alicia and is serving just distrust. But… I didn’t mean to,’ she stated, her voice not nearly as confident as previously, staring with a slightly sad eye at Penny.

Penny stayed utterly motionless as she listened to Mariette, her eyes drilling into the younger girl’s face as she spoke, giving no indication of her internal thoughts or feelings on the story she had just been given. In fact it would be a few silent moments before Penny did anything. “I’m going to give you a chance.” She would say her voice calm even though her eyes remained focused. “It sounds like you have a valid reason for your actions. But there are three things you should know in case you are lying to me.” She would go on to say as she rose one arm up to touch the portal in front of her, black lightning arcing from it at her touch.

“First, I have a perfect memory, I won’t forget anything about this conversation and you have given me a reason to not trust you completely within it. Second I know your Banes, Justine has given out that information to Beacon. So your weaknesses are not hidden from me.” Penny would raise her hands up in front of her as she spoke in that same calm tone of voice. “Lastly” She would seem to grip the space in front of her before wrenching it open in a violent display of magic, forming a portal of her own directly from where she stood to Mariette “You won’t be able to hide from me if I go hunting for you.”

She let her words hang in the air for a moment before stepping backwards. “You said that you were tasked to deliver things to me. Mind if I ask who sent you?”

Mariette winced a bit at the arm crackling with black lightning, unsure if she was safe or not all of a sudden. She made herself ready to close the portals anyway. … Beacon knew her banes? There was a notable twinge of regret in Mariette’s expression. Did she really have to…? Life was suddenly that much more of a pain. And then lastly-

Mariette staggered back as a new portal not of her own making opened before her, she’d have fallen over if not for multiple tentacles that spread out of her shadow just in case, some stabilizing her and others placing themselves between her and Penny’s sudden appearance, her visible eye wide in shock, mouth partway open. Wh-why… can this girl do that? Mariette suddenly felt a whole lot less in control of the situation…

Apparently spared for now, but shaken to her core, Mariette stabilized herself on tentacles and gripped Bunny with both hands as she looked at Penny, suddenly afraid of the mechanized queen. She couldn’t help it, that was a direct blow to her comfort…

‘I- I cannot. I would be breaching confidentiality, as they didn’t want themselves to be known yet. I also don’t have the items currently, though I know what they’ll be and I wanted to check if I wanted you to have it. I’ll deliver the items as promised when the time comes,’ she said, wincing a little at how subservient she was sounding. ‘… And, since I feel I must, I want to explain a bit further on a certain other incident that could be held against me. After freeing the girls, I made them invade the mansion with me, because it felt like the best way I could look after them… and also because the place was littered with my banes, so I could use their help. I sent them scouting and to collect items for me, while avoiding combat.’ Now to the incident.

‘I don’t know how it happened, but somehow some of them came into conflict with Beacon girls, and some of the freed girls lost their lives. I assume this was due to a misunderstanding, the girls thought those they fought were Justine’s girls. I did not want them to get into a fight like that. I still don’t entirely understand how it happened, but I had no part in that other than making the error in judgement of sending girls just freed from Justine’s torture to scout.’ … And that was that part.

Penny would simply nod at Mariette’s words. She had a feeling she knew of which girls were being talked about, but that wasn’t really important at the moment. She did take a glance at the black tentacles that sprouted up around Mariette though a bit of information that she hadn’t had before.

She would return her gaze to Mariette, it was notably soft for the first time in this entire conversation. “I don’t blame you for their actions and I can’t argue about not telling me who it is that is sending me things. Getting you to betray them wouldn't help our relationship after all” She would say as she closed her own portal, it had served its purpose and was no longer needed.

“I wouldn’t mind knowing what they are ahead of time, however.”

Mariette did not entirely feel comforted by the softer gaze, still felt alarmed. But the acceptance of her words and the closing of the portal did go some way to make her feel a bit more comfortable, albeit she knew Penny could close that distance if she so wished. ‘… You will have to be patient, I’m afraid,’ Mariette replied to the last statement. ‘So, er… would you like my phone number?’ Mariette asked, sounding a little awkward.

“Eh, fair enough” Penny would shrug at yet another deflection, her curiosity and worry both growing a bit at this mysterious gift for her. Though the robot figured it was more a gift to her station then her directly which did mitigate the worry somewhat.

She did bite back a smirk at the offer of a phone number however, she also held back on the temptation of simply reaching out and acquiring the number herself. No need to freak Mariette out anymore then she had. “And sure” She would reply instead pulling out what looked to be a flip phone from a compartment in her leg. “Ready when you are”

Mariette fished up her phone from her Hyperspace Handbag, had a brief thought wondering if she could actually hear it ringing from in there, and then went on to exchange the number with Penny. With that done…

‘That… was all I came for,’ Mariette said, still looking spooked.

Once again Penny would nod, putting away her fake phone as well, since there was no need to keep up the pretense. Quietly she wondered how Mariette would react to learning that Penny could now track her phone anywhere in the City, but she didn’t bother informing the other girl of that.

“It's been interesting Mariette. You know where to find me” She would say turning partially to head back to the route she had been on before she had gotten side tracked. “Let me know if you find yourself in need of a key, hmm?” Penny would ask with a quirked eyebrow. She didn’t expect much from the offer, wasn’t even sure if Mariette would understand it, but she would offer it nevertheless.

Mariette dropped her phone back into the Hammerspace Handbag, nodding a bit to Penny as partially turned back. That statement, though... Mariette did have to partially reason about what she could mean. ‘… I’ll… keep it in mind,’ Mariette said, not really in a position to reply with anything else.

Penny just smiled at Mariette before fully turning back to the task she had set aside for herself. As now she had a lot more to think about then she did when she first set out on this patrol. “Catch you around” She would call over her shoulder

‘… Bye for now,’ Mariette simply said, before closing the portals, disappearing for now.

Without turning to look Penny simply leapt off the building towards the next one. leaving the rooftop empty and with no proof of the meeting that had ever happened.

Later, inside Mariette’s mansion, a somewhat skittish Mariette was seated in her dark office as one of her many girls opened the door. A girl with silver hair and a multitude of red little eyes in her hair, carried by six long black legs, a human’s torso on a spider’s body came in.

‘Yes, Mariette? You wished for my presence?’ Ronja asked, as her back leg closed the door behind her.

‘Yes. I have need of your powers,’ Mariette said, standing up and breathing out a bit heavily. ‘I need you to change one of my memories, as well as wipe the memory of me requesting the change,’ she said, looking sharply at Ronja.

‘Oh?’ the arachnid sounded out, curious. ‘Why, of course. My powers are always at your service. What do you wish to change?’

‘… I need to make sure I did not lie,’ Mariette said, breathing out a little heavily. Weather she’d recount the story to Penny again or to Alicia herself, there was no benefit to retaining the knowledge of this lie. ‘I always intended on letting the kidnapped girls go. … Understood?’

Ronja took the moment to process what had just been requested of her… before she broke out into a little giggle, smiling a sly little smile at Mariette.

‘I see. Naughty little mistress wants to change the past,’ Ronja said, then giggled some more, with Mariette feeling just the slightest apprehensive about letting this spider-girl with a token for being sadistic into her head, but still. The arachnid came closer, and Mariette made herself close her eyes as Ronja’s little smirk came closer along with the taps of her many legs.

‘Leave it to me. I will make everything… just how you want them~’

With Rachel having given them an “opportunity” for the sanctuary, the twins mostly made themselves busy prepping for that. They didn’t really know how much time they had exactly. To an extent they may have bought time since in all likelihood they would be tracing them like Penny said they would. That meant they couldn’t be the ones taking anything to the sanctuary and Cindy wouldn’t be making any personal grand entrances. With their friend being the new Queen and all they let her know they needed to talk about what the Inquisitor told them.

For the third time in a week Penny would find herself weaving into the depths of Beacon. The first time was worried, the second time was relaxed, but this time she seemed angry. To be fair her anger wasn’t very apparent, more just focused gleam in her eyes as she walked. Time forever seemed to be set against it since she got back from the beach, or maybe it was just the Ascendency.

“Janet, Jenna” Penny would greet when she got into the Lab proper “What’s this about The Ascendency and the Sanctuary?”

Janet would stand and approach. ”We’ve been given something of an ultimatum. Not that it was all that surprising considering who it was coming from.” She admitted with a sigh. ”But it’s an option and would hopefully see the Ascendancy chill out a bit in the meantime.”

“I’m listening” Penny would reply, her hands balled tightly in the fists at her sides.

”Cindy worked out a deal so we can provide those at the Sanctuary the option of purification. I don’t really think the gesture is altruistic at the moment, but should help keep some of them safe and out of the Mint’s greedy mitts.” She took a White Coin out from a stack on the workbench.

Before Penny could say much edgewise, Jenna spoke up. ”We have been considering that only offering the coin is not really fair though. Forcing people to join Beacon isn’t why we went into this kind of work. So we were thinking about providing some of these as well.” She would present a vial with the same clear sparkling liquid they showed Alicia. ”Same purification, no strings attached. It’s not a perfect option but it’s what we can do short term.” The twins would watch and wait for Penny’s response.

Penny’s anger was still visible, but it wasn’t a tangible thing, it was contained and controlled. Still when she spoke her voice was tight and flickers of red would flash across her eyes. “This is why I have issues with Cindy.” She would step forward to take a closer look at the purification potion however. “I don’t trust the Ascendency.” She would say bluntly as she examined the plethora of purification paraphernalia scatter about. ”And If I’m honest this sounds like a trap. If you go there, they will be tracking you. If you don’t they will record the number of sparks that suddenly show up and then go there.”

“The potions, these I trust, because I trust you two.” Penny would say giving both of them a hard look “But you have to understand that there is no guarantee that anyone there will want to take either of these options. Not everyone hates what they turn into, and few of them have any want to be part of Beacon at the moment.” She would shake her head “They are offering a poisoned chalice at the moment. No matter what happens we lose. We take it, the Sanctuary is found. We deny it, they have justification to purge us all. We subvert it, we have proven to be untrustworthy.”

“There is no way that this offer comes across well, on either side.” She would say sadly with a hint of disgust.

The two would be silent for a while. They knew what they were proposing was not ideal in any shape or form. They were not in a good position, and potential only made things worse going about things the way they did. ”I didn’t help by pressing the matter sooner than I should. I’m sorry. I should have…” She shook, irritated at herself for putting them in this position. ”Of course it’s a trap. We don’t have to give them the coins. We don’t even need to go there. We’ll find a way to get them delivered if we have to. I know they won’t all want it and I’m not trying to purify everyone. I want them to have a choice. I’ll get these out and leave if I have to.” She grabbed the coin and tossed back with the others where it belonged. She paused for a moment to calm herself. Shortsightedness was something she and Cindy were going to have to work on.

Turning back around Janet had composed herself well enough. ”Even so, we’re not there yet. We still have to make the things which will take time and are easy enough to delay. My thought was in the meantime we try and reach the others in Beacon and maybe even the Ascendancy by showing them that not everyone is the way they think they are. Rachel probably wouldn’t admit it, but Cindy kept her cool and made a pretty decent case. At least gave her something to think about. We can’t get too caught up in their hate. There is still hope, else I still wouldn’t be alive talking to you right now.” She wasn’t going to let things get too far off mission. Not like this was ever going to be simple. ”Also, at some point we’re going to need to let everyone else know that Cindy is still around. I feel like that’s a good opportunity to set the tone.”

“I’d keep Cindy disconnected from this.” Penny’s voce would be notably softer as she replied. “Cindy is at the moment a martyr, but if the first thing she did when she got back was to try and get the Sanctuary abandoned what they are, to join Beacon it’s going to get messy.”

“I can take some of this stuff now and see how the girls there are feeling about it. The White coins are risky, but to help sever from a few worse off Patrons it might not be a bad idea. The potions will go a long way for those who don’t want what it is they have been forced into having.” She would walk over and pick up one of the White coins for emphasis. “Keeping it disconnected from the idea that the Ascendency put forth does still work as a token of good faith. I can also tell them that I stole it putting more distance away from the Ascendency.”

“And people of Beacon, our Beacon, would likely be easier than the Ascendency. As I don’t think Rachel cares. She is obsessed with the eradication of monsters and everyone connected to them.” Penny would shrug as there wasn’t much she could really offer on that front. “Best of luck regardless.”

Raising a hand Jenna would try and clarify just a bit. ”I’m pretty sure Cindy only ever said she would offer purification. Obviously Rachel has other ideas but they can’t say she won’t be holding to her word. There’s no real rush on connecting Cindy to the potions or the coins. Or any reason to at all to be honest. If no one knows where the potion comes from for a while it would probably be better. We were mostly talking about revealing that Cindy was still around.” She would make a gesture to Janet. ”One way or another once my sister is out doing things normally they’re bound to switch and cause some kind of scene.”

Janet would frown slightly for a moment and take a seat again. ”Maybe. There are advantages to letting it just happen organically. I’m reasonably well known as Beacon on the outside though. If we go public that Cindy and I have come to a mutual agreement for peace it could potentially disrupt the Ascendancy’s narrative. To those in Beacon that there is a chance to work together, to those outside that Beacon is not all who they believe them to be.” She would sigh. ”Perhaps though I should wait until I can talk to Ishtar. She holds a position that the Ascendancy can’t ignore.” She would brush her hair back out of her face. ”We have a couple more of the potions if you would like to take them.”

“That could work” Penny would say nodding to Janet “Letting people know that you and Cindy have come to an agreement would also help separate Beacon and the Ascendency more. As a lot of the girls out there don’t really view the two as separate. Which granted they aren't, but we here in Penrose are operating under very different interpretations of the Vows then the Ascendency is and that’s eroding the support that Beacon has here in the city.”

As she was explaining that she would be storing a few of the potions and Coins. She didn’t know the full extent of the troubles that the girls under her rule were dealing with but she doubted that there would be no one in the Sanctuary who wouldn’t want at least the potion.

”I guess we’ll see about coming up with something to put out publicly then. We’ll let you and Alicia take a look at it so we can be sure we’re putting out the right message. We’ll also see about speaking with the Cardinal. She’s still recovering so I doubt she’ll be available for very long.” Looking at their friend she would smile again. ”I think we’re still in a good position. People know that Penrose needs to be defended, we just have different ideas of how it should be done. Common cause is a good first rally point. Perhaps we should work toward that initially.” She would say tapping a finger against the side of her head. To some extent she was thinking out loud. If they wanted to succeed they were going to have to frame this correctly to avoid setting off the wrong people.

“Common cause isn’t easy to come across at the moment” Penny would point out as she turned to face her friends, leaning against the counter as she did so “At least not without an obvious target. Finding something from the Mint to point people towards will go a long way in helping people band together.” Unity in hate was hardly the best idea to start with but it was one that was proven to work.

“We could also blame Justine possibly, though at the moment that would be nothing but hot air” Penny would toss out, at this point also simply thinking aloud. It wasn’t an easy problem to solve especially with the way that the City had been rocked back to back so recently. “Shifting attention to internal affairs also might not be a bad idea. Get everyone to work on shoring up their foundations while we try to work on getting a peace of some sort established.”

A thought occurred to her then, in regards to the Cardinal and the Inquisitor. “It might not be a bad idea for me to try and talk to the Cardinal as well. Let her know that the new Queen isn’t opposed to peace.” She would give a thoughtful look to Janet as she went on “You could also bring that information to her, get the dispensation of an ambassador of some kind. Have Alica make it a title then all of can move in the open much more easily.”

Janet would lean against her own fist while she thought. ”Those are both good ideas. Alright, I’ll let her know.” Clearly she was thinking. It would be a bit before she spoke again. ”I think that’s a good direction to go for now. We could sit here and come up with plans until we’ve lost our minds.” She would ponder just a bit longer before getting up and stepping over to Penny. She would embrace her in a hug. ”Thank you, Penny. All this is really stressing me out. I promise we’ll do everything we can to help keep everyone safe.”

“Once again if I thought otherwise we wouldn’t be having this discussion” Penny would reply returning the hug. “Let me know before you send out the PSA. I’d like to let the Sanctuary know first before the rest of the City does.”

Janet would nod. ”I was thinking you should be the one to send it out anyhow. So you’ll be the first to know.” She would pat her friend on the shoulder. ”We should get back to work. Let us know how the potions are received so we know better what should be the main focus.” The twins went back to what they were working on before as Penny headed out.

“Thank you, by the way, for everything” Penny would say over her shoulder before she left in a much better mood then when she arrived.
Penny & Su

“Hey babe, get us a bed and munchies and we can have an alliance. :3”

“Is that what we’re calling it now!?”

— Penny & Su Fang

It was strange, Penny mused from her perch overlooking the Golden Trove, how life would travel through the same cycles at times. Once again she found herself watching the hotel in an effort to find someone. She hoped that this time it would end up more peacefully than last time.

There was no time like the present however. And with that, she would make her move.

Down in the hotel lobby the phone would begin to ring. No strange magic, or anything unnatural, just the phone ringing. Hopefully this would get things off on the right foot. If not, well, Penny still had her backdoor into the computer systems.

Someone picked up on the other side.

”Hey hey! This is Charlie with Charlie’s angels!” His greeting was followed with a laugh. ”Yea, welcome to the Golden Trove. I’m going to say right now that if you want an economy room you’ll have to bunk with someone. Otherwise, almost all of the luxury rooms are open! HA! So what’ll it be today?”

Right... Why did Penny think this was a good idea again? Oh yeah, because the Dragon that lurked in the hotel might have a grudge against her and she’s in no mood to get into a death match with another one so soon.

“Hi, not calling about a room, I was actually hoping to get a hold of someone from management if they are available.”

”Management? Uh, wait one second valued customer!” Penny could hear Charlie shout for a manager a few times before someone asked him a question. ”I don’t know! She didn’t say!”

The phone was handed off to the manager. “Hello, this is Su. I’m the manager. Can I help you?”

“I’m hoping so. My name is Penny Asimov and while I’m not sure if we have met, I’m pretty sure you are aware of me. I’m calling on behalf of the Sanctuary. Would now be a good time to have this talk?”

“Penny?” Penny could hear about five other people, including Charlie, say her name in an inquisitive voice. “Yes, Mika said you were no longer working for Laat. Some of my newest guests also talk about you. Um.” She hesitated. “Did you want to talk face to face? The lobby is cleared out right now, or we could talk on the roof. I think Mika found you there last time, right?” She chuckled.

“Face to face would be preferred” Penny would reply as she started walking. It was only a handful of steps from the ledge of the roof but she simply walked off it, before using her Gravity and thrusters to land gently all without breaking her stride. “And yeah that’s where she found me. Considering what I know now was a bit of luck that she was the one who found me as I was also looking for her at the time.” She would go on to reply with a grin of her own.

“Also curious to know what people have been saying about me” She’d add as she pushed open the front door to the Golden Trove. “But that’s not really why I’m here”

When Penny stood up to the glass door, she could see Su talking on the phone with her. It didn’t take her long to realize that Penny was just outside. She hung up the phone and swung her arms towards the waiting area. “Come on in.”

Once Penny entered the waiting room ,she would find no shortage of things to sit on. Though perhaps the best things to sit on were the couch or any of the chairs. All of them were covered in a red plush fabric.

“Alright.” Su exhaled before collapsing into a chair. “You have my attention.”

“First thing to ask about is if you are under Boteg’s patronage.” Penny would start, seeing as the whole potential thing with the stolen ship could end this before it ever took off. “I’m here for both a personal reason, which ties in with Boteg, and as the one running the Sanctuary.” Would be the explanation as she carefully settled into the chair next to Su.

“Mika didn’t tell you? Surprising.” Su folded her arms. There were a few people Penny didn’t recognize behind the front desk, but they mostly talked among themselves. “Regardless, I am. In fact, I am his oldest magical girl.”

“Only times I’ve talked to Mika was shortly before she jumped me and at the Beach” Penny would point out. “Figured it wouldn’t be a good idea to tempt the dragon who was after my head because of my last Patron. So I avoided this area.”

“I ask because I inadvertently stole something from him.” Penny would go on “And I’m wondering if he, or any of the girls following him thinking about it” As she spoke there would be a dull gray halo that formed above Penny’s head before passing over her rapidly. In its wake Penny would be sealed “Are holding a grudge about that. As I would like to deal with that issue if possible before trying to enter an alliance.”

“An alliance?” Su blinked. “R-right, the boat. Helga told me a little bit about that.” Her arms tightened around herself. “The boat never belonged to Boteg. It was always Amber’s. I doubt that old dragon even cares what happens to it. But it is all that remains of her.” Su didn’t blink. “Did you come to return it?”

“Oh” Penny would say simply, she wanted to be surprised at the fact that yet another Patron seemed to disregard their charge as anything other than a useful tool, but she wasn’t. She could also tell that her next answer wasn’t going to go over well. She didn’t know how Su knew Amber, but Penny got the feeling that they were close. After all, Helga and Amber had been from what she could gather..

“No” She would say after a moment, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees while she rested her chin on the back of her hands. “Partly because I don’t know how too. The Earth Bastion is connected to me in a manner I don’t understand. Less so if Boteg’s never cared for it. As I gained it while under one Patron, but it followed me to another. It’s mine now, more so than most things I own.”

“I also still need it. The Sanctuary is hidden, and for the moment the Ascendency doesn’t know where it is. I’m not expecting that to always be the case and I’ll need the Earth Bastion for when things start going sideways.”

And lastly it was hers, now truly hers, she had been the one in control when they first acquired the ship. She had to share it with Jason, much as they shared everything back then, but now it was hers. She didn’t have enough to be willing to give up what little she had.

“Of course.” Su curled her fingers into her palms. “So what’s this about an alliance?”

Penny would sit there for a moment just watching Su. “I’m sorry” She would say at last “It had never been my intention to steal it away. I don’t know what Amber meant to you, and I’m sorry that I’ve taken away a cherished keepsake. I can’t promise that I’ll give it back, I can only promise to treat it with as much care as it deserves.” Penny came here to try and clear the air then work on building an alliance. She could easily tell that the air wasn’t clear. Mending this bridge came first. She wouldn’t feel right building an alliance with Su and the rest of the Hotel with this still sitting between them, not any more.

“That’s fine, there’s no point talking about it if there’s nothing that can be done.” She placed her hands on her knees. “What do you want?”

“If you’re sure” With a shrug Penny would sit back into her seat. She could push, but there is a point where trying too much just makes things worse. “When it comes to the Sanctuary you should know that I have claimed the mantle of Queen of Penrose and I’m wanting to set up a defensive pact and trade agreements. The Golden Trove is much better at getting supplies then we are, but by the nature of those at the Sanctuary I’m willing to bet we have the larger numbers of combatants.”

“Well yes, the hotel is a business. Most of the people who reside here are customers instead of citizens. Regardless, you want a nebulous amount of resources for a nebulous amount of protection.” Su reclined in her seat, and her hand came up to her cheek. “Penny, you’ve been queen for a few days, right? Let me give you some advice from someone who was also plunged into queen hood.” She flexed her fingers. “Rule number one is that your image is your greatest asset. If the public thinks you are invincible, you are invincible. If the public thinks you are petty, you are petty. A nation will rebel against a just leader if they think they are unjust.” Her eyes hardened. “Rule number two is that alliances are founded on similar interests. You’re building a nation and you need resources. Lots of resources. But why do I need protection?” She picked her head off of the seat. “The Mint wanted Cindy dead, you’ve taken her spot. I’m unsure how the Ascendancy is going to react to you creating a haven for monsters, but ‘not favorably’ is my prediction. Seems to me that agreeing to help you is a surefire way to get all that enmity directed towards me. Your protection won’t bring piece of mind, it’ll be an essential resource.”

Penny would listen quietly before letting out a small sigh. She would then stand for a moment before lifting the chair she was sitting on easily. She would set the chair directly across from Su before once again sitting down in it, Penny’s eyes just a fraction colder then they had been beforehand. “My explanation was done in good faith and with the expectation that there would be some bartering, not as a final offer. I also said trade, not tribute. We have resources, we want comforts.”

She would lean forward interlinking her hands as she rested her arms on her legs. “And if the offer of a defensive pact isn’t something that eases your mind then you haven’t been thinking far enough ahead. Mika and Helga are both listed as Monster girls in Beacon’s databases, I’m not sure about you but I’d place odds on you at the least being a Dark girl. That means there are three corrupted running a hotel that the uninformed public also uses. The Sanctuary might be a larger target but that doesn’t Mean the the Golden Trove isn’t one. Also If the Sanctuary falls completely more of them are going to flock here as another safe haven. If you want to go unnoticed then it is in your best interest to try and mitigate the fall of the Sanctuary, as if we fall you’re most likely the next target”

“In addition, you are running a business. Do you really think that if you get large enough that the Mint won’t want to try and take a part of the profits? Once again keeping me the larger target protects you from closer scrutiny.”

“Mika is a normal magical girl, so her being a monster is simply untrue. As for Helga and I, we are going to meet with the Ascendancy to discuss avenues for purification. OR MAYBE WE ALREADY HAVE HOLY SHIT THIS COLLAB MESS IS INCREDIBLE!” Su sat upright. “Who can say what the Mint actually wants? They likely already have agents in both the Golden Trove as well as Sanctuary, which makes accepting manpower from other sources unreliable. Or have you devised a way to reveal Mint operatives? The problem with corrupt girls is that most of them have used their coin already, so there’s little physical evidence linking them directly to the Mint. Any manpower I received from you would give me little reassurance for this reason.” Su gripped her armrest. “But maybe there is something you can offer us. What type of supplies do you think I have though?”

“I’ve met Mika, so I know that, but she puts up a convincing act to outsiders. And I wouldn’t recommend going to the Ascendency, go to Beacon proper, as they are two different forces within the organization.” Penny would say not changing her posture as she spoke. “And I believe that you have food and bedding. We have supplies, but they are basic, I’m wanting to give the people at the Sanctuary more variety and finding usable bedding is tricky with all of the Ascendency Patrols out and about.”

“I’m not asking for a lot, at least not so far as I see it.”

“No, I suppose you’re not.” Su folded her hands together and rest them in her lap. “Is manpower the only thing Sanctuary has to offer? Guards are only useful when there’s trouble, but magical girls who can be trusted and don’t mind menial tasks are hard to come by. If they are close acquaintances of yours, that is to say, zero percent chance of being a spy, I might be interested in them. But people are a strange resource. At least to trade for material good.”

“Not all that strange, the basis of barter after all.” Penny would say as her eyes drifted off to the side for a moment as she thought “I can’t offer anyone that fits you requirements just yet, but manpower isn’t the only thing I have to offer, just the most plentiful. I have information as well, though I’m not sure how much of it is of any use. Payment is also possible, but it would have to be case by case if that was the route taken.”

“I should mention I do think a trade route is a good idea, but a protected trade route is only as useful as the people using it. If you can get others interested, I would be more enthusiastic about the idea.” Su tapped her armrest. “What type of information do you have?”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Penny would say with a nod, it wasn’t hard to see how this meeting was going to end, and she would take all the good she could from it. “A bit of Intel on the Mint and potentially useful piece of information for Boteg. The Mint has someone capable of impersonating people, It was how they got to Cindy. Reports say that they were injured, so you should have some time before they are out and about again, but on the upside they don’t seem the kind to kill the person they are imitating.” Hard to say how useful that nugget was, but the best way to counter someone so capable of infiltration was simply raising awareness of them in the first place.

“Next bit is harder to prove, but the source is from someone that has never lied to me, so I trust it. Boteg isn’t the last of his kind. They were massacred, don’t get me wrong about that, but it wasn’t a genocide. He might have other golds out there that he could contact. What that would mean for you and the other girls under him I don’t know but it is what it is.”

“Well, I don’t think Boteg would forgive me if I didn’t follow up on that.” After rapping her fingers on the arm wrest a bit, she nodded. “Very well. Today we will negotiate what you’d like for this information. It should not take long to get what you seek, depending on the quantity.”

“A dozen blankets, two dozen pillows and any fruits that you’d be willing to part with”

“I can prepare it within a day. Have someone ready for pickup.” Su pulled out a notepad and pen. “Who did you get this information from? I would like to get details.”

“Haa. That’s where things get difficult.” Penny would reply slumping back into her chair. “As I got it from a God. In fact I got it from the God I used to serve under. I’m not comfortable saying his name, if you don’t know it already, as he’s a secretive son of a bitch as speaking it aloud is a sure fire way to get his attention. Something I’m not sure would be healthy at the moment.” She would run a hand through her hair sighing lightly as she did “As I said, he has never lied to me, which is why I trust what he was saying. It was something he mentioned when I asked why Boteg might want me dead after Mika jumped me last time I was here, he also mentioned that it could have had something to do with the ship.”[/color]

“I see. Then I will contact the terrible one at a later date.” Su folded up the notepad without writing anything down. “Third rule of being a queen is not to make any decision by yourself. That’s why royalty surround themselves with intelligent people.” Su stood up. “I will talk with all concerned parties about a possible alliance in your absence. I will stop by sanctuary later to inform you of our choice.” She extended her hand to shake.

“Ha” Penny couldn’t help but laugh at Laat’s given moniker “That fits him in far too many ways.” she would say as she too stood ignoring the wave of nostalgia that washed over her at thinking of the destructive god. “His name and breaking something old will get his attention, but no guarantee that he will answer. He keeps to himself most of the time. Hell I didn’t see him for the first few months of being his champion.”

She shook the offered hand, careful to not grip too tightly. “Thank you for your time Manager Su.”

“Just Su is fine.” She nodded. “Take care, Penny.”
@Anyone who cares.

Got informed by Vocab recently that he's not likely to be finishing up the Running with Wolves bounty. Looking for other people who might be interested in taking out the Hellhounds with Penny.
How does this affect the pay out from the Rave?
Slade said nothing as Jinn explained herself as best she could, simply nodding in understanding as she spoke. He had lost someone as well after all, multiple people if he was honest. So he understood, at least as much as it was possible for him to understand. The differences between the events were not insubstantial after all, neither were the similarities.

At her question, her simple request, he was drawn up short. Not because he didn’t know the answer, he knew the answer; he didn’t have any crayons, but because he was working to figure out if he had anything that would work in place of them. Thankfully, “I’m sorry, no crayons at the moment.” He would console her softly “I do believe I have some colored pencils however. Give me just a moment”

He would get up and head to one of his offices before he started digging through various drawers looking for the simple items. It would take him a moment to find them but he was grateful that he still had them. He had bought a few packs of higher end coloring pencils in preparation for one of his jobs. Mainly so he could tinker around with them to see if he could make a workable explosive with the limited size of the case. He kept the last one around just in case, in case of what he didn’t know, and never would have suspected this, but he was reluctant to throw something away that might have some use eventually.

Paper and pencil sharpeners were easy. As he preferred pencils to pens a lot of the times, as a properly sharped pencil was a much better weapon then a garden variety pen. That’s not to say he didn’t have any pens that did measure up to his standards but that was neither here nor there.

He would come back a few minutes later with all of the supplies he had gathered, placing everything at the end of the bed as he sat down next to it. “Not much, but we can pick up better art supplies when we go shopping” He would say, somewhat self-conscious at the fact he was almost unable to fulfill the young girls request.

‘Hmm, perhaps she wasn’t the only one affected by last night’ Slade would ponder to himself, but he place those thoughts to the side. Thinking of Grant and Joseph right now wasn’t conducive to helping Jinny after all.

.:⋮Rising to the Throne⋮:.

In the lower levels of the sanctuary, those that Cindy had spent most of her time overseeing, sat the majority of the housing space that had been added. Down here sat Cindy’s room, still untouched since she last left it. Her death had left a void within the City, and as of yet it hadn't been led to anything. But that wasn’t a case that Penny was willing to hope on maintaining itself for long.

And that led to the reason why Penny was down here, as in truth she didn’t have a room down here, having always preferred to stay in the main area, even more so now that sleep wasn’t an issue. No she was down here seeking someone else. Goblina, Cindy’s right hand. Penny needed to talk to her first, before she went ahead with her plan. Because the goblin girl deserved to know, and deserved the right to choose before everyone else.

So when Penny came across the door to Goblina’s room, she didn’t hesitate in knocking. “Goblina” Penny would call out through the door “Do you have a moment?”

Penny heard Goblina’s feet pitter patter as she rushed to open the door. “Penny? Come in, come in!” She gestured in a hurried fashion to her before shutting the door behind her.
“Did anyone follow you?” She asked, peeking through the keyhole before shaking her head.
“Doesn’t matter. What is it?” The robot girl could tell that the shorter monster girl has also had it rough ever since Cindy’s demise, having spent all her time preventing the Sanctuary from falling apart in more ways than one.

“No one that I was aware of” Penny would answer regardless of the smaller girl dismissing her own question. At the same time it wasn’t like Penny was keeping an eye out for people following her, she hadn’t tried who she was or what she was doing for the Sanctuary. On the other hand following Penny without her noticing within the Sanctuary was no small feat, all the metal here spoke to Penny as she had put herself into it back when she was first building this place.

“I wanted to talk.” She would go on “And I wanted to thank you.” Quietly she would move further into the room “Without you things would have been much worse off, I wouldn’t have been able to do half as good as you at keeping this place together” Penny just didn’t have the same rapport with most of the girls here, and there hadn’t been the time to try and build it before everything went to hell.

As she spoke she reached out her hand and three Silver Coins appeared “Payment. At the very least you deserve it for all the help.” She would explain, and Penny knew that she owed Goblina much more than this, but she couldn’t give everything she had, as she very well might need it. Considering what Penny had to say next however it was best to at least do so now, as doing it after felt too much like it would end up being a bribe.

Goblina's mouth opened wide at the sight of magical coins, and she snatched them off Penny's palm. "Thank you so much, Penny! This is going straight to the emergency budget." She pocketed the coins, and patted the pocket with a somewhat uplifted smile.

“I also wanted to talk to you about Cindy's title.” She paused here, uncertain about how painful this next part might end up being “I was thinking of taking up the mantle of Queen. Before Mint steps in, or any one like them tries to do so.” Never had she wished that Jason spent more time caring about the people here then Chloe, then she did right now, things would have been so much easier if they had.

Goblina blinked, but then nodded. "I figured. It's your place after all. Well, I was never going to corral these wild horses, so maybe you'll have a better chance at it. So, uh, what's our plans in the long term?"

Penny would sag with relief for a moment, she had been afraid for naught it seems “Long term is hard to pin down. There is a lot going on in Penrose, but that’s nothing new. My main goals, outside of keeping this place and the girls here safe, would be more renovation, working on our exit strategy and possibly getting some trustworthy allies.” Renovation would be easy, or at least not any harder than anything else going on here. The allies bit would be the hardest, but Penny already knew most, if not all, of the major factions in Penrose. The exit strategy would be the most tricky, as it involved summoning the Earth Bastion.

“Short term, I was planning on making an announcement to everyone here about picking up the title of Queen, so I could field their concerns, yours as well if you have any.”

Goblina took out a phone and jotted down notes. "Got it. I'll get everything set up for that. As for recruitment, I have a couple of ideas. Based on what I've heard, a lot of girls have been drawn to the Golden Trove hotel. It's run by magical girls, so we should get on amicable terms with them." She put the phone back in her pocket. "Another place is the Cradle; heard good things from them, though the Mint has them on a blacklist, so might be dangerous to be associated with them."

Penny couldn’t resist a snort when the potential allies were listed. She wasn’t too surprised that her networking habits would come in handy now that she was actively working to make allies, more just surprised at who it was that was first in line. “Trove might be an issue, might not. I’ll head over there in a few days personally to work that one out. If they have an issue with me I want it to stay with me. Which they might, seeing as I accidentally stole something from the Dragon that lives there.”

Goblina cringed. "Yeowch. Dragons hate it when you steal from them."

“And I’m not going to be turning away the Cradle. Any enemy of Mint is a friend of mine, after a fashion. Plus I’ve met with some of their members. They are decent people, if a bit odd. There is also the fact that I’ve talked with Veronica before” To say nothing about having the vampire on speed dial effectively. “I can definitely try talking to them a bit more once we have gotten better settled here.”

"Okay, that sounds better," Goblina responded, still typing notes.

Penny would fold her arms as she started cycling though what they had and what they needed. They had safety, for the moment, and decent, if basic, supplies. What they needed was stability, and a greater sense of safety. Comfort wouldn’t be a bad thing either, but that could take time. “After the announcement, think you could help me round up some of the Metal girls and Builders?” Penny would ask as a possibility to improve the situation they were in came to mind, to say nothing about how it dovetailed into the exit strategy she had mentioned before. “I have a project that I would like them to work on.”

"Consider it done," Goblina answered with a casual salute, before she turned a bit meek. "Not to, uh, be snoopy, but what kind of project is it?"

“Ties back into what I stole actually” Penny would reply with a snicker “I own a ship, which is also a tank, that's the size of a baseball stadium. But back before it became mine, it used to be able to fly. I’d like to get it airborne again.” She would explain with a mischievous grin.

“That would give us an immense advantage. As we could take the Sanctuary anywhere we needed too and land anywhere we needed too. It’s not going to be an easy task though, the original Sky engine’s already been scrapped, but I have a copy of the blueprints and a bit of what the original engine was turned into as well so it should be doable.”

Goblina's tooth poked out from her mouth, opened wide in surprise. "Oh wow. I can't wait to see that!" She took Penny's hand and shook it repeatedly. "I'll do my best to keep us rolling, Boss! You can count on me!"

“Of that I have no doubt” Penny would reply with a nod as she went along with the handshake. “Off to let the rest of the Sanctuary know what’s up I suppose, before that got any questions for me?”

"Well, uh…" Goblina scratched the back of her head. "I know Cindy wasn't the most fun girl around. But she really did care about us, about keeping us safe. So, uh, could we hold a memorial for her, or something like that? Nothing too fancy, of course."

Penny would blink at the question, granted it was more of request but still. "Of course. I may have built the foundation but Cindy was just as passionate about keeping the girls here safe."

She'd reach up and rub at the back of her neck "I'm more upset that I hadn't thought about it before, now that I think about it" Drawback of her mechanical nature she mused internally, focusing too much on her chosen task and all else falls to the side.

Shaking her head she'd push that aside for now. "I can make a statue in her image for it. We can set up a small area either in the main room for it as well, that way we can give everyone a chance to mourn everyone that was lost due to the Rave."

Goblina nodded with a bittersweet smile. "Yeah, that sounds good. Thanks, Boss." She made a few more notes. "Well then, that's all from me. I got a lot of work to do, but call me if anything comes up." She waved a bit, then left the room.

Penny would be right behind Goblina, glad that things went well. Now she just had to hope that her next course of action would work just as smoothly.

When Penny once again reached the main room she would start walking towards it’s center but as she did metal stairs would begin to fold out of the ground along with a small circular platform and as she ascended the stairs her presence would suddenly draw everyone’s eyes to her, Because Gravity was so much more than just a force for determining weight.

“Everyone!” She would callout as she reached the center of her platform, the stairs folding back into the ground. “I have some announcements to make.” Her voice would echo deep within the Sanctuary, a mix of Gravity and Metal only doable because of how much of herself she put into this place.

“The first, is long overdue. We all have lost people, friends and close ones, over the past few days. Either at the Rave or due to the ongoing riots.” She would slowly walk the perimeter of her platform as she spoke, unafraid to meet the eyes of the girls and boys that would gather to listen. These were the people she was going to be pledging herself to protect, and she was going to use this time to make sure she knew each of their faces. “Each of those losses is a tragedy, and after I’m done up here I’ll be setting up a memorial. Everyone is free to add to it, be it pictures, or keepsakes, or any other way you can think to honor those that you have lost. I personally will be making a statue in tribute to Cindy. For without her many of us wouldn’t be here.”

“The next announcement, and well this is one that I feel will become a discussion so feel free to speak up.” Hopefully by now most of the Sanctuary had arrived, she wanted to give them all the chance to speak up for their opinions to be heard. “We have lost Cindy to the Mint. A fierce protector, and one who always looked to keep us safe. I hope to keep that Ideal alive. To that end I am taking up her mantle as Queen of Penrose. My goals are not different from hers, to keep you safe from those that would abuse you. This Sanctuary is open to everyone who needs a place to be safe, that has not changed, but there will be people that come here to try and take advantage of us. That I will not allow. There are those that will try and dismantle this place. That I will not allow. And there are those that will try and endanger this place. That I will not allow.”

“I will state I am an enemy of the Mint and their manipulative ways, and the same can be said of the Ascendency for their acts of wholesale slaughter. I will not bow to them, and will always place myself in between them and any who call this place home. Because this is my home too, the first one that I have had since I became part of this world. And I will die before I let them take it from us.”

By the end of the speech, every Sanctuary resident's eyes were on Penny; their expressions ranging the spectrum of emotions. Whispers ran amuck, but soon enough, a single pair of hands clapped, as hard as they could; it was Goblina, crying with a scrunchy mouth.
"The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen!" She blurted out. Then, others joined in the clapping and cheering. "Long live the Queen! Long live Penny the Builder!"

It didn't take long before the entire Sanctuary rang with cheers for the new queen, the robot girl having succeeded in giving faith and hope to the downtrodden bunch.


Dina Denisova

.:⋮First of many⋮:.

Before large events there were signs. A flood would be preceded by heavy rain and thunder and a choking atmosphere. Animals being restless would be signs of earthquakes, and a red moon was a sign of a heavy fire nearby. One who could read the signs and anticipate events would no doubt end up in a privileged position.

And for Dina Denisova, the Stray Empress, it was a life that she was loath to part with. Ever since being bereaved by her highborn cradle and forced to work like another cog in the system, she had yearned for the dances of lords and ladies, of princesses, kings and queens. Her new rebirth in this world of magic and events, could provide the strike of luck she needed.

If only people weren’t so wanton and haggard. Abandoned to fend of by herself, she was well acquainted that rulers had to isolate themselves if they were to be effective. Yet a ruler without associates was essentially worthless. What was she, then, nothing more than a girl with a knack for attracting stares and some magical powers? She had to put herself in a position where she could exert the lessons long ago learned in statecraft.

Penrose would offer a nice canvas, as she had read the whispers. Change, strife, vacuum. Cindy had not been amenable enough to her presence before in her court, perhaps now it would change. A talk had to be made.

And thus, she treaded the so-called Sanctuary, an allegorical hallowed ground for all monsters. She was bearing her human disguise, as a further sign of caution… The warehouse was hushed as many of the people there huddled together in mourning. And Cindy seemed to be gone.

Yet there was one person who seemed to easily slip between the separate bands of people within the sanctuary. Bringing food and blankets, or a soft word and a moment of compassion. Her presence was both impossible to miss yet seeming sublimated into the very foundation of this place thus easily relegated to the background. After all Penny wasn’t going to simply ask these people to assist the city and sit back and forget about them. No, they were in just as much need of support as those in Beacon who had lost friends.

It was while she was getting ready to head back for some more blankets that she would lay eyes on Dina and in that moment she would go deathly still. A deep red would bleed into her eyes for a moment as all compassion flowed away from her. Yet before she would move, her entire demeanor screaming of danger and hate, she would tilt her head to the side ever so slightly.

And just like that, she would blink and the soft caring look would be back and the red vanished, with a small hint of embarrassment mixed in as well. Rubbing the back of her neck for a moment Penny would slowly approach the new girl “Sorry about that” She would apologize first and foremost “Thought you were someone else for a moment there”

“Mm.” The newcomer assessed the situation, looking right and left. She tilted her head, and in a blink… the cat ears and tail sprouted from underneath her clothes, swishing vigorously. “Whoever that must be, must be someone regal… and dangerous.” She said, purring softly as she did. It was then when the people surrounding her noticed her monstrous nature.

And they weren’t disturbed… more like, they were enraptured by it. The newcomer seemed to exude a fair aura, someone who could be helpful in these trying times. “The city seems to be in turmoil… I see many downtrodden stares, and people in need of comfort. Furthermore, whoever I wished to meet… is not here. Mayhaps...I delayed my entrance too much.” Dina tilted her head.

“No matter… I am not going to be unsympathetic to this plight, It would not be fit for my station to do so.” She added, concentrating as a luminous aura parted from her, reinforcing, healing, invigorating as she walked by. The aura of radiance of those born to occupy a throne. “Assuage your fears, you are not alone in this. I am the Empress of Strays, Dina of the Denisov…I seek your Queen. Where might I find her Highness Cindy Ford?”

“She played the part of appearing regal” Penny would agree with a hint of distaste at the thought of Chloe. Some wounds ran deep, and even though it wasn’t truly her that Chloe had betrayed she held that scar nevertheless. She pushed those thoughts aside and refocused on the newest girl to visit the Sanctuary just in time to feel Dina’s aura unfurl and blanket the area. In which Penny would only raise an eyebrow.

“Cindy is dead” She would answer solemnly “Assassinated by Mint operatives a few days ago” It was a sad truth, but Penny was more interested in the reactions that Dina might have, as the timing was just a tad suspicious considering the catgirl’s aura “For now I’m in charge of this place. Penny Asimov, the people around here call me The Builder.”

Dina’s poise wasn’t broken upon hearing the news, although she casted her gaze down, her ears and tail following suit. “Is that so… truly a pity. Then again they are profiteers.” Dina said. “To be a Queen is to sleep with a dagger under a bed, always waiting for the one who will plunge into you from the shadows.” The cat girl answered. “We had… our differences, but she shall be missed. Not many people left with her veterancy nowadays.” She said, her gaze recovering and setting herself on to Penny.

“Asimov huh? Should it not be Asimova? Has no one taught you about ancestry?” Dina said, as she then was distracted by a trembling girl by her side, and decided to kneel and whisper a couple of words of encouragement, before rising once more.

“Originally I had come to seek a spot in the court, as this situation brought forth opportunities. I have no shame in admitting that. Hm.” She added, eyeing Penny. “Are you going to aim for that throne, I wonder…”

Penny simply watched Dina as she spoke, it would be perhaps noticeable to the other girl that Penny never seemed phased by the enchanting aura.and instead simply kept her gaze clear and focused. “Considering my ancestry, Asimov fits much much better then Asimova, and I can’t help but think that more than just Queens live a life in which they must watch the shadows, so you’ll have to excuse me for finding you rather suspicious. All things considered.” She would say after a moment.

“Regardless, I built this place to act as a safe haven. So you are welcomed to stay. As for seeking a spot in the Queen’s court...” She would pause and give Dina a piercing look, one that seemed to measure all there was about Dina, and when Penny next spoke there was weight behind her words that had been lacking beforehand. “Prove yourself to be for the girls here, to be willing to give back to those that have nothing but this roof over their heads and I will consider listening to your council. For whilethey call me Builder, That does not mean I have not claimed Queen as well.”

Dina looked at Penny, raising an eyebrow. Well, sometimes people were guarded like that. Being confused for that other person, whoever that was, probably had soured her disposition. “Hmm….” She purred, looking at the girls, and then at Penny. “Magic does queer things.” So, Penny had once been a boy. “Mayhaps I should share a bit of personal history. Denisov family was once one of the noble retainers of the Tsar. Roughly a hundred years ago, the Bolsheviks took everything and kicked us from grace. I’ve raised five children on my own, and then I became a magical girl. Believe me when I say, I know what it feels like.” Dina added, as she turned her back on Penny eyeing the other girls.

“Food is mostly taken care of. Healing and blankets are too. Now we need to fortify, and gather resources.” She said to herself and nobody in particular, as she put her hand on her mouth… and whistled, a second specialization briefly becoming active over her aura. Beast.

A score of eyes peered from the dark that surrounded the warehouse, before rushing past the entrance. Half a dozen cats of all sorts of pelts and sizes surrounded Dina, eyes staring. But these cats weren’t definitely normal. Each and everyone of them had two tails instead of one, as well as vivid eyes betraying abnormal intelligence.

“I have a task for you, Bakenekos. This haggard place, make it more amenable.” Dina commanded firmly, as she swished her tail, eyes peeking at the magical creatures.

“Um, what about the reward?” One of them, the apparent leader, talked back in a woman's voice.

“Fine, I will treat you all to fatty tuna Sushi once we’re done here. These poor girls don’t have much on their own.” Dina grumbled. People always were demanding things upfront. Did they not trust her word anymore?

“Yay!” Every single of the creatures said, before activating their magic… and becoming something taller and more human(… ). Complete in a maid suit.

Dina let the cat maids do the job that Penny had been doing earlier. “Hmm, that should make it a little better.” She added, before beginning to pick all of the youngest magical girl refugees by the hand and getting them to a secluded corner, before clearing her throat.

“Been a while since I did this, so...ahem.” She began to sing a Lullaby.

Penny hadn’t been expecting such an immediate and direct response to what she said and was knocked back onto her heels at the sudden influx of assistance. “Well, now I feel like an ass” She would comment to herself while she waited for Dina to finish her lullaby. Snoopy floating about watching the catmaids wandering around helping comfort people.

“Seems I owe you another apology” Penny would say as she strode forward once the song was tapering down. “Hopefully that doesn’t become a habit on my part. Thanks for the help though.”

“Didn’t mean to be so suspicious of you, just timing, appearance, and skill set just seemed too good to be true.”

Dina let herself rise, while tucking the tired and now sleeping girls under the blankets, as she rose once more, her ears twitching upon the mention of apology. “Hm.” She paused as she saw the maids she had summoned going on and about. “No need. I am doing this for myself too. It’s highly unlikely I will go anywhere in this town without building a good rapport with certain factions. This one seemed a good starting point.” She tilted her head. “Don’t you think so, Builder? It also helped my past resonated with your plight a bit.”

She added. “I was to be an aide of Princess Anastasia at some point. But the Bolsheviks meddled. I too suffered the lash of unchecked potential, even if my feline features are often more a boon than a curse. And as a result, I was left alone.” She said, performing a good curtsy.

“Offer me a court, and I shall give you my best statecraft. That’s all I can say”

“I would agree that this place is a good place to start” Penny would say, offering Dina her hand. “And call me Penny. Come on, I’ll introduce you the the rest of the girls that are part of the court”

Penrose harbor was an interesting place. During the peak seasons it was a surprisingly sedate place despite the fact that there was a decent beach for people to spend time at. Perhaps it had something to do with the small shipping company that held warehouses in the area that kept people away, or perhaps it was simply not a very often thought about location due to the lack of good seaside activities.

Either way, with the city in lockdown, and it being winter, it wasn’t a very visited part of the city. So when a flash of light deposited a rather plan looking kid atop one of the warehouses overlooking the water late one evening no one was around to see it.

The kid in question was exhausted, not in a physical sense, more in a mental one, and he had come here to get a piece of solitude. A rare thing for the normally affable member of Beacon, but if Kyle was being honest, and he did try to be so to himself whenever he could, he needed a break from the normal ebb of the city. It was depressing, doubly so when one could actually feel the emotional flow of the City. The rave, the Riots, the everything. It wasn’t a good place at the moment, but Kyle knew that was only temporary, just sometimes it takes a moment for things to start getting better.

… Of course he shows up on top of a building. Why wouldn't he? He finally appears where she’s been waiting for him, and he appears where she can’t get to without transforming. It's like he's intentionally annoying her.

Freya closed the phone she'd been dragging along, hurried over to grab the ladder they’d prepared just in case, and placed it on the opposite side of the warehouse in question. She ascended, sighed a bit as she reached the roof, and then started her calm walk over. Still, based on her past experience, he likely already knew she was here…

Some time into Kyle's respite, gentle steps could be heard from behind him. It was the sound of sandals walking across the roof towards him.

‘Don't turn around. I’m not here to fight, but I'd still rather you do not see me. I wish to speak to you, trickster,’ Freya said, untransformed, wrapped perhaps oddly in a traditionally eastern outfit, for that was her attire of choice untransformed.

True to Freya’s assumptions Kyle did in fact know she was there before she started talking to him, though it had more to do with the fact that moving a ladder around isn’t exactly a quiet affair, than anything magical. On the other hand the only reason he was able to hear the ladder being moved from up here was due to innate magic so it was perhaps a moot point.

He would let out a contemplative hum at Freya’s request, but he didn’t bother to move from his seated position, not seeming to care overly much that she was advancing towards him. “Well, I can tell that you have in fact met me” He would say after a moment a smile on his face at being dubbed trickster “And I’m fine with a conversation. Normally I’m the one hunting others down so that I can try and get one started, refreshing change of pace if I do say so” He was still facing towards the water as he spoke and it seemed like he would honor the request not to turn around.

That hope was quickly dashed as he turned his head to look over his shoulder at his new guest. “Not going to go without knowing who I’m talking to though” Kyle would say with a shrug. Taking in Freya’s untransformed appearance for a moment before turning back to watching the sunset “What is it you wanted to talk to me about?”

Freya, in her untransformed state, had short black hair, brown-yellowish eyes, and wearing this definitely Japanese-inspired garment, in addition to that she was pretty short and underdeveloped, her stature disguising that her body was as old as a Magical Girl’s body was normally allowed to be… and she gave him a mildly unhappy frown as he looked over her, but not acting past that until he had finished. As a reply to the question…

‘… I see that your arm is back in its socket. That’s good. I’d prefer if you didn’t hold a grudge against me for it,’ she said, and then kept quiet for the simple reason to gauge his reaction to her reveal.

Kyle would chuckle slightly at Freya’s annoyance of him looking at her “Face for a face is only fair” He would say before waving his still healing limb “Nah, no need for a grudge. I mean I kinda figured it was what was going to happen with how focused you were, and I’m just not the type to hold grudges, I don’t like carrying around the toxicity” He would explain, not bothered too much on if it tipped his hand with his magic, he pulled some pretty esoteric tricks back at the park as it was, not to mention they could have had a Third Eye there as well.

He wasn’t too worried about his question being dodged, she had come to him after all, he was confident they would get around to it eventually.

Freya nodded slightly in reply, her initial annoyance quelled by how accepting he was about having had his arm ripped out on the field of battle. Then she could go straight to the point.

‘You trapped me with your magic, and made me feel what you feel being part of Beacon. I had a less than positive reaction. You told me that one can still find warmth within this world. This made me wonder, how you’d react if I told you my story. I wanted to speak to you again. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually wanted anything. I’m not going to tell you anything that may give Beacon an edge against my companions, and this includes my name, but… do you mind if I tell you a story?’ she asked, standing in place, looking intently at Kyle.

Internally Kyle had already decided he was going to stick around and listen. Honestly it wouldn’t really matter who it was on the other side of this conversation, Kyle liked helping people. The only reason his response wasn’t as instant as his decision was so that he had a moment to temper his hope and his dread. He doubted that it was a pleasant story(‘Duh’) but he also needed to remind himself that there was no guarantee that he would be able to do anything more than be a willing ear.

Still “I’m willing to listen to anything you want to say” Would come the honest reply “I’ll let you know that I’m likely to turn around during the telling at some point though. I don’t like talking to people without seeing them, it always feels disingenuous, dubbly so when they are telling me something personal.” He would tack on as a warning, even if he hadn't turned back round to face her just yet.

‘... Alright, that’s fine. You’ve already seen me, after all, and there’s probably a high likelihood some representative of Beacon is watching me now, anyway, so the reasoning of keeping my untransformed appearance secret probably didn’t apply anyway,’ Freya said with a sigh. ‘Alright. Here goes. So…’

‘I'm from a different world. That world looked a lot different from your world, as the existence of Magical Girls was public knowledge and our governments were employing us as military. This, of course, meant we had villains upon villains doing anything they could to take control of the world's magic, to make themselves more powerful. But time and time again, we were sent and successfully destroyed the villains. I was a part of a mighty empire, I was one of their strongest warriors, I had friends and family, all of that. All of that which you were offering me, I had plenty. Yet…’

‘A sort of creature appeared. We called it the were-lamia. It was created from some sort of mad magic scientist experiment. It was a fast, ferocious beast, and anyone they bit also became a were-lamia. Each one of them was so strong it needed five magical girls to reliably destroy one without casualties. We acted as we always did. We sent a massive force to destroy them at range with powerful magic, rendering their physical might useless. What reason did we have to think this was anything but just another threat to deal with? We were dealing with these things once a fortnight…’

‘We eliminated the first batch without issue. Yet, one of them must have gotten past us, and entered a city. The next day, we woke up to havoc, with the were-lamia’s numbering thousands. We tried to nuke them, but they were so fast, they’d already reached neighboring cities. They tore apart our world, sparing nobody. We battled them in a long, arduous war, with far more setbacks than victories. I faced them more times than I could count in bloody battles to save our world, to defend the last walls defending everyone I cared about. Yet, I wasn’t enough. I was finally bitten, and the last I saw as the beast’s transformation overtook me was how the were-lamia were breaking through the walls of the last bastion of my people…’

‘I was spared. The patron I now serve stopped the transformation part-way, giving me the strength of a were-lamia yet retaining my own mind… as long as I feed regularly, that is,’ she said, shuddering a little as she shared that. She didn’t know what Kyle thought of devourers. ‘… Yet, I was alone. Should you visit my world now, it’s dead. The were-lamia devoured everything until there was nothing left, and when other sources of flesh vanished they started preying on one another, until finally the last ones starved to death. And I had lost everything.’

‘What I learned then is that we only need to fail once. One time is all it takes, then all we care about vanishes. I’d been part of the force that stopped each apocalypse-of-the-month for decades, winning hundreds of battles… yet one loss. One loss, and it was all ruined. With this in mind, I decided never to feel companionship again, not to care about anyone. I am but a warrior fielded by my patron, surviving as I can, for there is nothing else left for me. I don’t want to feel that pain, ever again,’ she said, breathing out, feeling… a tad miserable.

‘… And that’s why I declined your offering, that day in the Penrose Gardens. I hoped to make you understand my reasoning a bit more with my story.’

And that was the story of how Freya became known as the Union Beast. A union between Freya’s human mind, and the murderous beast known as the were-lamia. With that told, Freya looked to Kyle, once again looking to gauge his reaction.

True to his word Kyle would have turned around mid story. but he didn’t speak up, he just sat there attentively letting Freya tell her story. No smile on his face, as he knew going in that it wasn’t going to be a happy one. He would take a moment to more fully digest what he was told before saying anything but when he did “I think you and Penny would get along”

“Or at least she could be a good friend for you.” He didn’t seem too worried about the seeming non sequitur “But I also think you took the wrong message from what you went through, or at least you’ve not thought it through very deeply since.” He would go on to say as he leaned back on his arms, letting his gaze drift up to the darkened sky. “I can’t say I can really grasp the enormity of what you went through. I could understand the emotions sure, but I know well enough that wouldn’t do it justice. Closest I can relate it to would be the Rave I suppose, but that’s getting a bit off track”

He would shake his head before returning his gaze, soft and to a degree understanding, to Freya “As I said I think you took the wrong message, closing yourself off while it will make it so that you never feel the pain of sudden loss that is true. Yet I don’t need my magic to tell that you feel miserable, I mean it helps, but we are ostensibly enemies. You don’t owe me an explanation for why you turned me down. Yet you must have been looking out for me with not an insubstantial amount of effort to find me so quickly after touchdown. To me, that seems like you're lonely, and as an Empath take it from me, I know how self destructive that can be.”

“And yeah, you are right about only needing to lose once to have everything fall apart. But Apathy? That’s not a solution. Because it spreads. And eventually not even your own life is worth anything anymore.” He would explain with a shake of his head and a shrug “I’ll take the ups that come with the downs over that bleak grey any day, because there is always a chance of things getting better but only so long as you are willing to keep trying.”

Freya kept quiet and listened, raising an eyebrow at the mention of Penny but otherwise remaining as she was. When Kyle got though the bulk of his point her expression looked unconvinced. She spoke first after numerous moments of silence.

‘I’m just going to say my process of thoughts out loud right now,’ she started with, and then opened her mouth again.

‘It would have been so easy for me to write you off as just another naive child. So often have I seen my companions play together, and I'd seen them as children yet to mature from a proper tragedy. I even encouraged a hesitant one to take part in their innocent games, likening myself to an adult telling a child to play before they grow up and no longer have the capability. All this time, I viewed their random bonding as setting themselves up for disaster, distastefully distancing myself from all forms of entertainment and companionship for I knew what reward eventually awaited them. I did not envy them in the slightest, but kept quiet knowing I wouldn’t change their ways by simply talking to them. But you’re saying, all this time, I’m the one that held onto the wrong lesson? I feel a bit insulted,’ she said and sighed at the end, but then removed her frown and stared at him decently blankly.

‘But now I’ve gone through all the effort to find and talk to you about this. This because I couldn’t possibly have spoken about this with one of my companions, they’d have felt obligated to try to befriend me, and want it or not, I’d potentially have grown fond of them by virtue of the connection forged by me opening up to them. With that in mind, let’s take this experiment a bit further,’ she said, taking a break again now.

‘So. What would you have me do?’ Freya asked, seemingly serious.

“In my opinion, yes” Kyle would say sitting more forward “Because you are either still consumed with the pain or are still ruled by the fear that stemmed from your loss. You haven't moved on. To borrow your analogy. You’re still a child, now simply using a nightlight because you are afraid of the dark”

“So it shouldn’t be very surprising that I would recommend finding a friend” He would go on to say shrugging as he did “I'm a rather big proponent of the power of friendship after all. I’d offer, but even though we are talking at the moment I get the feeling that we are still on opposing sides.”

‘Ugh,’ … Yeah, that didn’t feel good to hear. She wasn’t even convinced he was right. ‘… Not going to happen in one day. I’m going to need to sleep on the idea, if it’s going to go somewhere.’

She then looked over Kyle a bit, her expression blank. ‘We don’t really have anything against Beacon. It’s just, we’re monsters, you’re typically hunting us, so it’s good reasoning to research what new stuff you acquire to possibly use against us… I think the reasoning was. I don’t know. I was just following orders,’ Freya said, shrugging at the end.

“Yeah I get that” Kyle would agree with a nod as he leaned back “If you do find out that you want to try making a friend I would once again recommend Penny. She’d understand where you are coming from better than most, as she went through something similar” He would explain.

“And the White coins aren't weapons. They are for purification. Granted they override Patron connections, but that is more to help those stuck with Horror’s as Patrons then anything.”

‘Yeah, I understand. I don’t particularly believe my companions would do anything to mess that business up for those who actually want to use one,’ Freya said about the White Coins, and then looked out over the view again.

‘Penny, huh. I’ll keep that name in mind. … Do you have anything else you’d like to say before I leave?’ Freya asked, because she felt pretty done.

“Thank you” Kyle would say after a moment of thought “For being willing to come and talk to me. With the Ascendency in town I was afraid that no one was willing to talk to Beacon anymore.” He would say with a nod and wide smile.

Those words said, Freya’s look at Kyle softened somewhat, breathing out lightly from her nose as she turned away from him. ‘I will say the same. Thank you for being willing to talk to the likes of me, as well. If everyone was a bit more like you, it would have solved a lot of problems,’ she replied.

“Anytime” He would say as he turned back to the water, his smile having grown due to the compliment.

With that, Freya started walking back over the roof of the warehouse, and eventually descended the ladder on the far side again, in order to depart away into the city and out of sight.

Kyle would wait until he heard the ladder being retracted before he would vanish in a small flash of light. He had come here to get a bit of solitude and received something much more valuable. So it was time for him to get back to work.

That and paperwork, once again he was thankful that he had the foresight to add in a clause about non hostile interactions in his contract but the paperwork always sucked.

“This’ll teach ya to knock me out and wipe my memories like some disposable side character!”

— Binky

Penny would take a moment to herself as she stood outside the door that led to Binky’s lab. A moment to reflect on just how fast it was that her life had changed in the last forty eight hours. It wasn’t as much of a surprise anymore when it happened, she understood now, better then she had ever done so before, that she was likely forever touched by that ever changing chaos, and if she was honest she had taken solace in that fact.

But that had nothing to do with why she was here.

Pushing open the door Penny would take a look around for the wayward scientist, one she held a debt of gratitude towards. “Hey Binky, it’s Penny” She would call out as she moved further into the lab in her search.

Binky jumped at Penny’s sudden appearance, but regained their composure quickly. After so many surprise visits, she must have been getting used to Penny.

”Oh hiya bud.” Binky greeted Penny with a wave. ”You keep getting better with every incarnation huh?” She rubbed her chin. ”So it was a success then? No pains or abnormalities?” The green haired girl gestured at Penny with a smile. ”Except for the appearance, of course.”

“As far as I can tell yeah.” Penny would answer with a nod “Ran a full diagnostic shortly after the reforging and everything came back green. There was one bit that was odd.” It was hard to put into words, even though Penny’s aura plainly told the story, but it was easily apparent to the robotic girl that she was locked in, for lack of a better way to describe it, as a Monstergirl now. “But it’s more a result of how I went about fixing things I think. Other than that I feel great, so I’d call it a complete success. Thank you again for the help” She would reiterate placing a hand on BInky shoulder as she spoke. She didn’t want to contemplate where she would be right now if not for BInky’s assistance.

“On that, I was wondering if now would be a good time to fulfill my end of the bargain” Taking a step back she’d give Binky an easy going smile “It’s the least I could do at this point”

”Oh, I don’t think that that will be necessary anymore.” Binky placed a hand on Penny’s. ”I mean I think if she really wanted to find me, she’d have done it already. That was why I didn’t press going with you last time you were here. It doesn’t matter that much to me.” Binky grinned. ”But if you feel you owe me, it might be interesting to take a closer look at you.”

”Totally!” A second Binky who looked just like the first stepped into the room. ”Like, I sooooooo wanna peak under the hood!” Binky prodded at her metal frame.

A third Binky, like a silent assassin, dropped down from the ceiling and attempted to hug Penny from behind. She would both run afoul of one of Penny’s new passive systems as a gravimetric barrier would repulse the surprise hug, at least until Penny fully realized what it was and let her through. ”It could probably help with research! Yes, there’s a lot here to research. Everything needs to be thoroughly examined.”

A forth binky was darting around with a camera, taking pictures from every single angle. ”I am genuinely curious what’s under those metal plates myself. Especially the face, it’s so smooth compared to everything else!”

One of the closets made a muffled noise. Penny’s heat sensors could pick up something roughly Binky’s height on the other side of the door. Oddly it was floating off the ground, like it had been pinned to the ceiling somehow.

All things said Penny was giving all of the gathered Binky’s with a suspicious look, one that only got worse when she noted the hidden Binky sized reading.

“Uh huh” Penny would give the gathered Binky’s another once over “Going to take more than that to get me to bare it all for you” She would say as she walked towards the closet, not bothering to allow any of the current Binkys to stop her, before opening it.

To say that she was surprised to see yet another BInky tied up and hanging within the closet, would be something of a lie, the fact that the other four Binkys instantly fled once she opened the door was something of a surprise however. “Do they do stuff like this often?” Penny would ask the Binky in the closet as she set about getting them down.

”Quite often, yes.” Binky stood upright, but her arms were still bound to her sides because of all the rope wound around her. She almost looked like a spool. ”They hate me, so they’ll do things like this. The twins usually catch on quickly enough, but they’re getting better at impersonating me.” Binky looked up at Penny. ”And hello.” Binky didn’t smile. There were giant bags under her eyelids and her hair shot out in every direction. ”The coin does appear to have worked. I take it the second you is alright as well?”

“They got the peace they’ve been wanting” Would be Penny’s reply to the real Binky’s question, as she set about freeing Binky from her cocoon of ropes.

Once Penny untied Binky, she rubbed her arms. ”The longer we linger here, the more desperate my clones will be to, um, examine you. That is what I feel at least.” She rubbed her eyes. ”That is to say I would appreciate you escorting me to Penrose Middle School. It’s just a crater now, but I’m sure she’ll drop by if we go there.”

“Sounds like a plan. Don’t really want to get into a position where I am forced to banish a clone of yours” Penny would say as she turned to lead the way to the middle school “You want to stop by the cafeteria or a gas station and pick up some coffee? You look like you could use some. I’d recommend some sleep but I get the feeling that would be ignored.”

”Meeting with Betty would fix a lot of this.” She pointed all over her face with her finger. ”I’m also strapped for cash. I don’t think I could afford a cup of coffee.” She tapped her fingers together. ”Unless...”

Binky and Penny had arrived at the old site for Penrose middle school. The green haired researcher had gotten a small coffee to go and was now leaning against a charred fence post.

”I don’t like relying on coffee, but thank you. This is a lot better than what I can make myself.” She slurped from the cup and wiped her sleeve on her arm. It was cold out, and Binky’s uniform wasn’t the warmest. There were goosebumps all over her skin. ”We shouldn’t have to wait long. Thank you again for bringing me out here. The outer alliance makes going outside troublesome.”

“Yeah I can see how that would have made going out and about solo rough” Penny would agree as she scanned the surroundings. She had to admit she wasn’t sure if this place had been blasted before or after the Ascendency showed up but the desolation that it evoked was the same regardless.

“Hard to say if it will be better or worse considering what happened at the Park a couple of nights ago.” It was too early to gauge what the loss of leadership within the Outer alliance would lead to, to say nothing about Penny picking up Cindy’s title.

“Why are you so certain that they will find out that we are here?” She would go on to ask bringing her gaze back around to Binky “Because without a coat it’s just going to get worse, would have stopped for you to grab one if I had known you didn’t have sealing”

”It’s alright.” Binky slurped their coffee again. ”You could say we have something of a connection.” She forced a smile.

Not long afterwards, something bubbled in the center of the crater. Dark forms took the shape of humans as they ventured into the light. The first shape shrugged the darkness off of itself, revealing the person underneath.


“Binky, I was wondering when you’d come out here.”

”It’s been hectic.” Binky looked around. ”I’m surprised you didn’t come for me sooner.”

“The ascendancy has made doing anything with Beacon difficult. But your stay wasn’t that bad was it?” She turned to Penny. “Who are you?”

”That’s Penny..”

“No. No she is not.”

“I’m starting to see what you meant Binky” Penny would say with a sigh. A few questions she had now have been answered, just not in the way she had been expecting.

“Hey Veronica” she would greet with a half hearted wave “I am Penny. got a systems update a few days ago hence the new look” She would explain before pinging Veronica with the comms unit she had gotten from the vampire to further prove she was who she said she was. Because Penny had a feeling Veronica could tell that which most others wouldn’t or couldn’t.

Veronica squinted her eyes. “It has been a confusing few weeks. Perhaps the full story can wait.”

Binky looked to the second shape coming out of the inky darkness. While a magical girl emerged from it, it was not one that Penny recognized. A white haired girl carrying an assault rifle.

”H-hello Remedy!” Binky lifted a hand to her chin and looked around. ”Excuse me Veronica,I’m glad to see you, but I was really looking forward to seeing Betty.”

Veronica looked at Binky for a moment. The same way an office drone might look at a stack of paperwork on a Monday. She slid a ring off of her finger and held it out to Binky. It looked like an ordinary ring, save the large ruby it was decorated with.

Binky shuffled closer and held out her hand, to which Veronica lowered the ring into. ”I don’t understand.”

“It’s her soul stone.” Veronica folded her arms behind her back. “Justine was going to attack an innocent magical girl, and she rushed to her defense. Her body was corrupted, but her soul remains safe inside that ring.”

Binky’s hands trembled. She curled her fingers around the ring and sunk to the ground. ”Justine has her body then?”

“I’m not sure. She left with it, I know that much.” Binky hung her head, but Veronica continued to speak. “Justine bit her, so she was likely corrupted like the other girls who worked under her were.” The green haired girl sniffled, Veronica started to pace. “Best case scenario, the body doesn’t function without the soul, and Justine sees fit to destroy it. If she does that, then Betty will return with her body in a month’s time. Though I think it’s far more likely that Justine would have other uses for her body. To display it as a trophy, among other things.” Veronica stood behind Binky. “Perhaps Justine’s curse doesn’t need Betty’s soul to work, in which case she would still have control over her body. If that happened then we may never get Betty back. She’s turned girls into monsters before, she might decide to do something like that again.” By this point Binky was balling. Veronica gave her a moment to grieve before kneeling down and wrapping her arms around Binky’s neck. “But I don’t plan on letting her keep Betty. I have a score to settle with her. She will pay for every atrocity she has ever committed. When I’m done with her, she will regret every action that led up to this point. Her entire life will feel like a string of bad choices.” She hugged Binky against her chest. “You and Betty will be reunited, like you would have been tonight.” Binky sniffled, but she seemed to be calming down. Veronica let go of her. “Would you like to help me save Betty?”

The timid magical girl didn’t need time to think about it. She wiped away her tears, wiped the snot off on her arm, and stood up. She turned to Veronica and clasped her hands together. ”I will do whatever it takes to bring her back!”

The former coin broker rose to her feet and looked to Penny. “I’m not sure what’s off with you, but it’s clear you don’t want to talk about it. Quite honestly, it doesn’t interest me.” She folded her arms behind her back. “What interests me is putting an end to the Mint, Justine, and any other forces that would harm this wonderful city. For that I will need magical girls. Strong ones.” She spread her arms. “Would you be interested in joining the Cradle’s cause?”

It was interesting to watch Veronica convince Binky to come back into the fold, a mix of cold fact, emotional plea, and the answer to a desperate situation. It stung to see because Penny had fallen for it herself once, yet Veronica had left the Mint, so Penny didn’t feel the need to speak up against Binky’s choice, besides from the sounds of things Binky had been cut off, rather than tried to flee so she doubted that she could do much to keep them apart other then turning Binky into an actual prisoner.

Penny would simply raise an eye after she was addressed again, silently expressing her doubt at Veronica’s claim of not wanting to know, before shrugging “I doubt that many people get to hear more then one sales pitches from you” would be her reply as she loosely crossed her arms in front of her “And while I can see the benefits, not to mention my own personal interest in keeping Penrose safe, last time I dealt with you I jumped in without reading the fine print so I would prefer to know what the catch is up front this time. If you don’t mind?”

“Veronica the Mint coin broker is a different animal than Veronica the Cradle mother.” She placed a hand on Binky’s shoulder. “The Mint keeps secrets from everyone, including their own people. The Cradle is much more open about its work. We have a Glimmr account and everyone knows who my agents are. This makes conventional espionage tricky, but not impossible. We don’t disclose active operations to the public, but we declassify missions much faster than the Mint does. We’re a tightly knit group that’s proud of what we do.” Binky had stopped sniffling by this point. “Also unlike the Mint, things are set up so that agents don’t become debtors. I don’t gain anything by penalizing my agents for requiring special help. You’ve worked with Beacon, correct? Then you probably understand some of the Cradle’s capabilities.” She shrugged. “You can imagine the drawbacks. Being so exposed does put a target on you from other organizations, We’re not nearly as large as Beacon or Mint, and our numbers even pale to most puchuu. On a more ‘personal’ level, I’m connected to everyone’s thoughts. Technically I can dig up anything that is housed in your mind. This is in place to ensure traitors do not emerge in our ranks rather than some pointless display of mental voyeurism.” Veronica lifted her hand, and a contract appeared with a puff of smoke. “If you wish to see the ‘fine print’, you may inspect the contract.”

It would be easy to see the exact moment that Penny found the deal untenable, and it was the moment that Veronica mentioned that she would have free access to Penny’s mind. Penny flinched away at that, as it was perhaps her greatest fear at this point. Someone having more power or influence over her mind then she did. It didn’t matter how well she understood on an intellectual level that wasn’t the case, the simple existence of that back door being a requirement shut down any chance of Penny joining the cradle. Not that the odds were very high in the first place.

That said she would still take the contract and read it over before speaking. “I know that you are a different person from when you used to work with the Mint. Otherwise I wouldn’t still be a part of this conversation. I agree that Mint and Justine need to be shut down and to that end I am willing to work with you, When it comes to working towards keeping Penrose safe and reversing the disastrous state the city has fallen into I am willing to work with you.” She would raise her eyes off the contract before rolling it back up unsigned and offering it back to Veronica.

“But I can't agree to giving you, or anyone, free access to my mind. For any reason.” She would meet Veronica’s eyes “Until that changes I will never join your cradle, but I will still work alongside you towards the betterment of this city, if you would allow that.”

“More or less what I was expecting.” The contract was swallowed up by a shadow. “Though you must understand why that is necessary in my line of work. The Mint is everywhere, and the privacy of my agent’s thoughts is not worth more than their safety. My terms will never change.” She pointed at Penny. Especially for you. You were working for the Mint, Laat, and Beacon all at the same time. You were double and triple crossing people right out of the gate.” She gave Penny a sideways glance. “Or were you? I’m not convinced that Jason is the one rattling around in there. Your mind looked familiar, but-.”

“That’s because Jason is gone” Penny would interrupt. “Chloe’s latest betrayal finally broke him and when we used the Red Coin, he gave over everything before cutting himself out. He won't be coming back.” She didn’t want to be telling them all this, but Veronica already could tell the important part, and she could figure the rest out easily enough by looking into BInky’s memories if she was as intelligent as Penny assumed. So if people were going to learn, it was because Penny was going to tell them, she wouldn’t bury the truth that deeply.

“I am Penny, I have only ever been Penny. And while we have never directly met before now” She would say gesturing between herself and Veronica “I was there when you and Jason first did. I can’t claim that my actions would have been drastically different from his, but I can say that I am trying to learn from his mistakes and that I am trying to be a better person then he was.” For as much as she wasn’t Jason, she also was to a degree.

“I don’t begrudge you not trusting me, but at least understand that the only thing I have that is truly mine are a scant handful of memories and thoughts. I want those to stay mine, as I have nothing else.”

“Sentiment.” She rolled her shoulders before gesturing towards Binky. “I came here for Binky, and I won’t stay here any longer than I have to. You helped bring us together, intentional or not. We may work together in the future. Under special circumstances of course.” Veronica folded her arms. “Regardless, I hope you don’t repeat your predecessor’s mistakes. I may have betrayed the mint, but I have never betrayed my agents.” She stepped into the crater, and disappeared inside a shadow.

Binky’s eyes were still red from crying, but there was a strange look of determination in her eyes. She turned to Penny and bowed ”Thanks for the coffee!” She lifted her head. ”If you ever want to get in contact with us, just come here.” Binky followed Veronica into the crater, and the medic trailed behind her. Before long, Penny was alone.

“Gods be damned, you are still confusing” Penny would mutter to herself once she was alone, before shrugging and turning to leave. She would stop at the edge of the property simply looking back at the spot that Veronica and Binky had left. Wondering. She would eventually turn away and continue on her way. There were people that needed her help, and the only thing she could do at the moment was take things one step at a time.

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