Song of the Earth

It’s earlier in the afternoon than expected when Kouamé awakens. After some discussion, the two vampires included America into designing a contraption to cage Kouamé without being too cruel. When she settled on a glass cage, Cudro was a little weirded out, but Jacob liked it (and it’s his baby).

They put a couple of bags of blood inside and more on low a table outside. Hopefully that would create sufficient noise and distraction that even in the worst case scenario everyone would be fine.

It’s actually a bit early by astronomical terms when they hear the screaming, followed by crashing, but then with the sun as it is maybe that doesn’t matter as much. America arrives on the scene to find Cudro—blessed with Celerity—already on the scene. Jacob isn’t anywhere to be seen.

The former Chrononaut crawl lunges for Cudro, who easily sidesteps, trips him, and steps on his back “Grab the bloodbags, will you?” He says to America, struggling as he kneels down on the vampire. Kouamé is using all his strength against Cudro, and even with Potence, Jacob (and his childe) are a more potent generation of vampire than the Brujah.

It is shocking to see Kouame in such a feral state, but it only causes America to hesitate for a moment before she grabs the bloodbags and brings them to Cudro. “Jacob!” she cries out as she approaches.

“Jacob!” Cudro repeats with exasperation.

Jacob bounds down the stairs with a big grin on his face. “Did you know that Africa, where Kouamé is from, is actually a LOT bigger than you think?” He creates an illusion of a Galls-Peters Projection, with green continents and blue water, in the air on front of America while he takes the bags out of her hands.

Cudro is not going to be overpowered but he’s having a rough time. Jacob kneels down and baps his childe on the nose, and holds out the blood for him. The Technocrat’s face was already covered in blood, he gets more as he tears into the plastic with his fangs.

It’s a ghastly affair, but America watches nevertheless. She doesn’t recall seeing Cudro or Jacob eat. Perhaps it just wasn’t such a spectacle to remember.

She takes a step back before deciding to put one of her armored gauntlets on for good measure.

“Doing some homework?” she asks Jacob with a weak smile. It seems he’s really excited to learn about his progeny.

Once Jacob’s not looking at it the map disappears. He has other concerns. Cudro is able to get off of Kouamé—despite Jacob being much less imposing than the lisping Brujah, the ex-Technocrat doesn’t seem inclined to attack his sire. “I want to make him feel comfortable and I didn’t have time to learn click language.” All around them, the sound of ululation echoes as if in a jungle. “You might not want to do that when he’s awake,” Cudro observes, sharing a glance with America. They’re both Latino, at least.

“Isn’t he like really old and a strong-willed mage and stuff?” Cudro asks after a moment. “Why hasn’t he snapped out of it? When we were Embraced—oh wait, nevermind.” Whatever that’s in reference to is some sort of private joke between them. Jacob doesn’t react with more than a slight roll of his eyes.

Slowly comprehension seems to be coming back to Kouamé. As his frenzying lessens, Jacob offers his arm for the newly-minted vampire to drink from. It immediately makes him think of Will, and he’s glad the Adept didn’t come down here to see this.

Abruptly the Chrononaut pulls himself aware from Jacob’s arm. Kouamé Bekoe is anything but stupid, and even just coming to consciousness, he knows what this means. The scream that rips out of him is anything but mindless, anguish personified.

“Sssh,” Jacob tells him, making eye contact. The horror seems to drain out of him, replaced with resignation. “Ssssh.” He pets Kouamé on the head like a kitten, which is about his only actual experience with comforting anything, and shoots America a look like, do something.

Since Koume has been in the crawlspace, the Daughter of Ether has been pondering how to keep him from eating her while she works or sleeps. There have been no easy answers. The glass prison she’s built is a temporary solution; there will need to be a more lasting solution.

“Kouame,” she utters softly. “It’s America. You saved me at NASA, at the cost of your life. This is how Jacob saved you.”

She hopes reason will help. At least it should be the first attempted solution.

Kouamé touches his face, feeling his fangs. “My Avatar is gone,” He addresses America. No one else here knows what he lost. “I can never do Enlightened Science—what you call magick—again. I’m dead,” He says, as if to emphasize it.

“Only technically,” Cudro grunts. “Would you rather be dead?”

“We need you,” Jacob says quietly. He sounds saner than America has ever heard him.

Tears well up in America’s eyes. “Your avatar will continue on somewhere else,” she says, parroting what Eleanor told her, what she tells herself about Eleanor, Davey, and Jahan.

Her face hardens at the memory of Jahan. It causes the well of tears to spring, wetting her cheeks. “Your avatar will go on to do more great things. You have great things yet to do.”

It was difficult for her to accept that Kouamé was severed from his Avatar, from him potential, from Science. America had the benefit of time to come to terms with it. For the nascent vampire that used to be Kouamé, it is all too fresh.

Kouamé nods, several times, seeming to accept this or at least wanting to convince himself. “Yes, you need my help,” He says. He looks straight at America. “I can still help you. I have my mind.” After all this is done… If they even survive this, he can figure that out then.

America nods. “Thank you. For everything.” she says as the guilt swells and make it hard to swallow. She could choke on it but instead she accepts it, doesn’t force it down or deny it. She just lives with it.

“I don’t know about training a vampire, and honestly I don’t think the two of you do either,” she says to the pair of vampire wardens. It isn’t a criticism, just a statement but she smiles to Jacob, sympathetic that it may hurt his feelings.

“You’re welcome,” Kouamé says after a moment. He didn’t expect to be here, in this situation. None of them did. But they’re here, and America isn’t dead or being tortured.

Perhaps can be enough for him.

“I know plenty,” Jacob says. “Kouamé is 9th generation so watered-down vampires like Cudro can’t Dominate him.” Cudro hits him in the upper back hard enough to make him grunt. “Mage blood makes you more powerful but is addictive. Never mix ammonia and bleach and potato skins can’t go in the garbage disposal.” Bet you didn’t know that, America.

“And and… You can probably make illusions.” He makes a hallway sized t-rex, green and roaring, and puts an illusion of a screaming face over America. Everyone hears America scream.

“Jacob,” the screaming/not-screaming America says sharply but with a smile. “You’ll wake everybody up!” After the seemingly endless series of harrowing experiences, the chantry is likely silent with the heavy sleep of the surviving cabal.

“Can you make illusions, Kouamé?” she asks curiously. America touches Jacob’s arm to encourage him to teach the young vampire.

Jacob cuts the illusion, focusing on the ex-Chrononaut. He extends his hand, and a golden piece of clockwork appears out of nowhere. It’s not quite the same quality as Jacob’s illusions—if America kinda squints she can see through it, and she knows it’s an illusion—with Jacob she knows it’s an illusion but doesn’t just know it.

“Illusions are easiest. Tick, tick?” The Ravnos asks him.

“What?” Kouamé looks at America to interpret. He didn’t pick his sire here.

America chuckles. “Can you make the clockwork turn, make the pieces work together as they would if they were real?” she asks, assuming this is what Jacob meant.

She watches with rapt curiosity. Jacob’s illusions, while amazing, weren’t like this. The potential Kouame has to make something vibrant, detailed, intricate is great.

They think differently. Jacob’s illusions tend toward the cartoonish but he’s not much of an artist. Kouamé’s, thus far, focus on the small scale.

For a long time nothing happens. Then Jacob speaks up. “You need to use some of your blood. It can’t just happen. Your blood powers it.”

The Ivoirian gasps, quiet and sudden at whatever sensation he feels. Then the second hand ticks forward, making sound and motion.

“I could do that,” Jacob sounds pleased. “Can you talk to animals? We need animals here.” The vampire starts muttering something, and two of the chantry’s cats come calling—Jacob’s eternal kitten Sunshine, and Will’s Ada. He picks Ada up, putting her in Kouamé’s face. “Say hi.”

Sunshine pushes at America’s ankle for attention. The ghouled kitten can make her own illusions, and is as strong as a dog when she wants to be. Which… isn’t that strong. But for a kitten it’s pretty amazing.

The push at her leg does not go unnoticed by the Daughter of Ether. America has enjoyed Sunshine’s company in the chantry. She leans down to scoop the super-kitten up for some snuggles and scritches.

She watches Kouamé’s next step in training, curious by how the Chrononaut turned vampire is adapting.

The Chrononaut is just kind of rolling with this unexpected lesson. It gives him something else to focus on. And… it means he’s not entirely useless. “Hi,” He says, humoring the vampire shoving a kitten in his face.

“Not like that. Say it so she understands.” Jacob chides him. “America does it and she doesn’t even go here. No she doesn’t,” He adds, talking to the cat. She mewls at him. “She says America really likes Home Depot,” Jacob translates, making a veiled stab at America’s sexuality again.

“That’s not what she said,” Kouamé says slowly. “I understood her. She—”

“Ssssh.” Jacob interrupts. “You’re still learning. She said, America, Home Depot.” He breaks into the kind of cat baby talk people use for those last three words.

“Look, this is interesting and all, but I was a mage. A Technocrat. One of the most Enlightened Time Adepts in the world. If all I’m getting in return is some petty parlor tricks…”

“Maybe not all.” Jacob says mildly. Pulling a knife with his other hand, he slashes suddenly at Kouamé’s arm. “Jacob!” Cudro shouts. The Ivoirian pulls back, startled, but there is no wound.

America blushes brightly at the veiling remark. It wasn’t that long ago that she was struggling with her own sexuality, protecting herself by bullying others. Still, she does smile. Here she can be safe, here people haven’t judged, least of all Jacob.

Her face turns into a frown when Kouame brings up what he’s lost. She understands quite well. It isn’t until Jacob slashes at the former Chrononaut with a knife that she speaks up, well mostly just making a loud exclamation of shock. Exclamation mark!

“Fortitude,” Cudro explains while he looks at his arm. “It means you absorb damage. Sometimes even sunlight and fire. We’re not testing those,” the Brujah says to Jacon sharply.

Jacob happily throws the knife back over his shoulder toward the crawlspace like it’s an illusion, but of course it’s not. “Let’s go hang out for a while before I have to give you to Alethia and the Prince,” He says cheerfully.

“Wait, what? Give me to them?”

America smiles at Jacob, happy that he came to that conclusion as well. She touches his shoulder and nods, looking then to Kouame. “Vampire university, right?”

The Void Engineer relaxes a little bit. At least he knows those vampires. Better than Jacob, really. “I suppose so. What are the rest of you doing now?” The ex-Chrononaut missed all the planning.

“I was finishing up on a project to find and track these homonculi,” America says, gesturing back at the workshop. “Well, that was before I slept like a rock. I’m with you, Kouamé. I’ll make sure you get to where you’re going.”

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