Tangled Webs

Lofty Skies

Chapter Three: In lonely lands

The ward was soothing grey, illuminated by diffuse light from no visible source. The Poppy knew, if she bothered to think about it, that the light was just a manipulation of plothole technology, but that wasn't why she was here in FicPsych. Anya, she projected softly, and one on of the three beds a humanoid figure raised a shaky hand.

The Poppy moved to Anya's side. The Slasher opened one eye slightly. "Not... who I expected," she murmured. Her voice was barely audible, but her scarred mind - so obviously attacked that the Poppy could barely bring herself to touch it - conveyed the intent.

You talked to your friend Montgomery about your concerns, the Flower explained. When you were taken ill like your partners, he brought the news to me.

"Good old Osbert," Anya coughed. "It hurts to think, you know? And I resisted better than the others. I can't imagine how hard it is for them."

The Poppy didn't move, but extended her perception field to take in the still forms on the other beds. I think... that they are beyond such concerns, she said carefully.

Anya closed her eye. "I expect I'll join them soon," she said, a faint smile touching her lips. "That'll make Osbert the Second Agent. He'll love that."

Doctor Fitzgerald is working on your case personally, the Poppy said hastily. If anyone can help you, save you from this sickness-

"No one can," Anya said. "I'm not ill, Poppy. This isn't an accident. He did this."

The Poppy fluttered her petals. He? The doctor?

"No. Him. The one we recruited. That mysterious... somebody." Anya shivered. "I knew there was something wrong with him from the very beginning. He's evil. I don't know - I can't remember what he is, where he came from. He made sure of that."

We can save you, the Poppy insisted. We can find out who he is, work out countermeasures-

"There's no time," Anya said flatly. "He's already gotten his claws into the minds of half the PPC. And he's still in my head. By now he knows I'm talking to you. He'll kill me." Anya shook her head, barely a motion at all. "I'm not scared. I thought I would be. Maybe he's taken that as well."

I will fight him, the Poppy said. I, and anyone I can find willing to help. I will avenge Josephine and Suzay - and you.

"You'll have more to avenge, I think," Anya whispered. "Poppy, for your own sake - don't let him touch you. Don't spend too long near him. He can reshape you - make you his-"

She cut off, her eyes snapping open, filled with madness. "Die!" she screamed, as the Poppy tumbled backwards. "Die die die diediedie-!" She convulsed, arching up on the bed, let out a gasp that sounded almost surprised, and lay still. The Poppy reached desperately for Anya's fading psyche and felt one last thought. Thank you, Anya's mind whispered, and flickered out.

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