Origin Point
rating: +10+x

Fuck! What did you do, Ais? What did you do?!

Aislyn paced back and forth, her eyes wide with panic.

“You’ve completely lost it. Completely fucking lost it. And now you’re lost in some forest you’ve never seen before, pacing back and forth and yelling at yourself.”

Ais stopped abruptly. She was right. This wasn’t helping. Had she said that to herself? She meant to say that to herself. Deep breaths. Deep. Breaths.

Slowly, the panic ebbed. It wasn’t gone, but it had quieted enough for her to think. She tried to piece the events of the last few hours back together. The logical part of her brain said she’d need to in order to figure out what to do next.

Everything had started on the trip back from her latest mission. No, that wasn’t quite right. Everything had been building up for much longer, she realized. This was just when it all blew up in her face.


Aislyn spent most of the return trip deep in thought. Most of the agents she had accompanied were on the other side of the transport. Made sense. Ais took up most of the side she was on, after all. Standing at a bit over six feet, no one could really call her anything other than tall. That wasn’t really the problem, though. Ais’s body was hardly human. Her skin was covered in a layer of durable golden scales, and her reptilian head was crowned with two ivory horns that curved to flow straight behind her. On her back was a large set of wings that, even when furled, still managed to occupy a significant amount of space. The four-foot-long tail didn't help either.

Not that it really bothered her. After all, she had willingly chosen to be like this. She still faintly remembered what it felt like before her first manifestation. It was as if she had just become aware that she was dreaming in a black void, and needed to decide on what she was going to look like. The memory was normally a happy one for her; she couldn’t help but laugh at herself a little. Seriously, a dragon? And not just that, but a GOLD dragon? She couldn’t just go for being a normal human or even something a little more modest. No, she just HAD to pick the most iconic fantastical creature she could. Ais couldn’t help but find her past self’s silliness amusing.

Today, though, this memory brought her no joy.

The transport slowed to a halt as they arrived back at the Foundation. The agents all moved to disembark. One of them carried the unconscious form of a young, four-year-old boy in his arms. An orphan now. She wouldn’t ever be told the details, of course. But even the Foundation couldn’t keep her from connecting the dots on her own. She knew the boy’s parents were dead because the Foundation had gotten involved. If it weren’t for them, the little boy would still be happily living with his family at home. She couldn’t help but feel responsible. Surely there was something she could have done, right? To keep this innocent family from being torn to pieces?

She tried to remind herself that, sometimes, this sort of thing just happened, despite anyone’s best intentions. It was an unfortunate inevitability. This wasn’t her first mission after all. She should know this.

She still remembered when she had started going on these missions. She'd been at the foundation for some time by then and had developed a good reputation. Always cooperative. Spotless record. Eventually, the Foundation learned that, for reasons still not really understood, Ais had what appeared to be a full immunity to cognitohazards, memes, anti-memes… anything that tried to forcibly affect her mind, really. A very useful trait to have for an organization trying to capture and contain such anomalies.

They asked if she’d be willing to help them in their efforts, and she readily agreed. They provided her with some basic training. Enough to make sure she wouldn't be a liability to the agents. Made sure she knew that there were risks. Not that she took them very seriously. She’d learned that her physical body was pretty expendable. Not only did her tough scales protect her, but any injuries she managed to suffer regardless only seemed to persist until she demanifested. Every time her body manifested once more it seemed to be in perfect condition. The minor telekinetic abilities she possessed on top of that were icing on the cake.

This all made her a good, low-risk asset. She often found herself deployed as a sort of detector or scout where the Foundation suspected mind-altering effects may be present. She enjoyed this. It made her feel helpful, and she had managed to keep some of the field agents she was with out of trouble.

The Foundation tried to make sure the missions she was sent on had a low risk of harm to her. Unfortunately, even their vast resources couldn’t always reveal everything lurking in the shadows. Despite their best efforts, Ais eventually started to run into the many horrors that tried to lurk out of sight.

Eventually, Ais started to die.

Ais shuddered and gagged as flashes of memories better left buried rose to the surface.


Ais found herself standing in the middle of a burning building, surrounded by the charred corpses of a team of field agents. One of them raised its head.

“Why did you get to live?” It croaked out in a rough, raspy voice.

“Why did we have to die?” Said another.

“You don’t deserve your life.” croaked a third.

All the bodies seemed to stir, each joining in a steady chant as they crawled towards Ais: “You don’t deserve it. You don’t deserve it…”

Ashen hands gripped her legs, trying to pull and tug Ais down into the pile of burning flesh beneath her.


Another flash of memory and she saw a toddler turn and attack its mother, driving its teeth into her eyes to devour them from their sockets. The mother stood paralyzed, unable to move, a frozen expression of pure terror plastered on her face. Until her child rammed its fist into the holes where her eyes had been and somehow turned her brain into a thick slurry, which it started to pull out and eat as well.


Another flash and she felt a hard, piercing sensation running through her chest, piercing right through her heart. Another flash, and now she felt as if her muscles, tendons, and ligaments were being slowly, oh so slowly, peeled apart as she laid in a pool of her own hot blood. Another flash, and -


Ais doubled over on the floor of the empty transport gasping for breath. These sorts of breakdowns were becoming more and more common. She had been lucky so far. The more major episodes, like the one she was experiencing right now, hadn’t occurred where anyone could directly witness them. If someone asked about a recording or her odd behavior during a more minor breakdown she’d just make up an excuse.

In a world of unexplained strangeness, this was pretty easy. Her body alone let her claim she could hear high-pitched frequencies that were disorienting her, smell things others could not… At this point, she was almost scared to think about how many incorrect pieces of information lurked in her file.

Even her psych evals were easy to fool. They couldn’t probe her mind, so all she had to do was smile and act cheerful. Even if she was screaming inside.

But Ais knew she couldn’t keep this up. She knew her mind was breaking.

She resolved to ask to no longer be sent out. It was a painful thing to do. She hated being confined to her cell, even if she was given one that was a bit roomier to account for her extra bulk. She still felt caged. Trapped.

But they would find out about her deteriorating mind eventually if she didn’t stop, and she didn’t want to think about what would happen then.

Ais was knocking on the door to an office a few minutes later. A short, silhouetted figure motioned her inside.

“Hello Dr. Wakely,” Ais said as she entered.

The short researcher looked up from her computer screen. “Ah, SC- ahem. Ais. Hello.”

Ais gave her a small grin. “Thanks.” She said. She hated being called by her official designation.

Dr. Wakely nodded. “Is this about your mission? You don’t need to worry. The agents already filled me in.”

“… Is the kid okay?”

“Yes, he will be. We gave him some amnestics. He’ll think we’re a special hospital that his parents have sent him to for his condition.”

“But… his parents are dead.”

“You know we can't tell him that.”

“Yes b-”

Dr. Wakely raised a hand to cut her off. “Look, Ais. I know you’ve been upset since Dr. Fritz was removed from the project. Things like this certainly don't help. Maybe you need to take some time?”

Dr. Wakely was right. Wasn’t that why Ais was here in the first place? She should just go and rest… But the doctor had unintentionally hit upon a sore subject. Dr. Fritz was the original head researcher assigned to Ais. She had become close to him, until one day he was just… gone. Without a word. Without warning.

“You still haven’t even told me WHY he was removed.”

Dr. Wakely sighed. “We’ve been over that. It’s classified. At a high level. I’m only barely qualified to know why.”

“Why can’t you even tell me if something bad’s happened to him?!”

“Ais, you know how the procedures work!”

“Why are those the procedures? Why are we even doing any of this?! Dr. Fritz just disappears-”

“Ais-”

“We’re out orphaning children-”

Ais!

“And I can’t even get a basic explanation on anything!? Wha-”

Enough!

“Will you shut up for five seconds!”

Ais wasn’t even thinking anymore. She took the thin, spectral arms that represented her telekinetic ability within her mind and sent one of them flying towards the smaller woman. It passed through her throat and formed a wall of force over her trachea, making it impossible for her to breathe, let alone speak.

The doctor sat in shock as she felt her diaphragm trying fruitlessly to pull air into her lungs. No one had known Ais could exert her telekinetic force on something’s internals. Even Ais herself had assumed she could only use her abilities on something she could see.

Dr. Wakely was a high-level researcher, however, and she had been trained for just this sort of thing. Her mind quickly deduced that her predicament was Ais’s doing. She also knew there would be a guard stationed outside. After all that shouting he was sure to burst in at the slightest hint of commotion. The small doctor began to move for an emergency alarm on her desk.

Ais’s burning anger was quickly replaced by icy panic as she realized what was going on. She couldn’t get in trouble now. She couldn't. It would ruin everything.

She balled another of her spectral arms into a wad of kinetic force and hurled it at Dr. Wakely. It connected with her cheek. The smaller women went tumbling from her chair. Ais’s mind was too flustered to track her movements enough to keep the telekinetic plug manifested on her trachea, and it dissipated as a result.

Ais slid down to the floor on her knees, tears forming in her eyes. “What did I do? Oh no. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

There was a loud banging on the door. “Dr. Wakely?! Are you okay?!”

Ais turned to look at the door in terror.

Ais demanifested herself in her panic. The guard burst into the room just in time to see her body fade away like a wisp of smoke.


Ais would manifest again in the woods surrounding the facility around an hour later.

She would briefly panic and yell at herself.

She would remember everything that happened before.

Knowing she had just assaulted a high-level Foundation employee and ran, she would come to the conclusion she was now being hunted.

And then one single, overwhelming thought would enter her head:

RUN

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