Pocket D was heaving! New Years Eve and it seemed that most of Paragon City and Etoile Islands had decamped to dance the new decade in, ignoring the pedants who insisted the new decade didn’t start until next year! The Kallisti Girls were, of course, making a night of it. Wolf and her pack was hanging out in the Winter Chalet with several other animal trainers, lions, wolves and dogs chasing each other all over the ski slopes. Fae was flying above the crowd looping the loop and dancing with a ‘frolic’ of faeries buzzing over everyone’s heads and raining fairy dust over the collected throng.

Gold, Friar, Red, Scarlett and several others were dancing on the raised podium the packed core of the club. Fae zoomed around and hovered over Gold and Friar.


“Oh no, who gave her caffeine! We’re never going to get her to slow down!” Gold shouted over the noise.

“We just need to make sure someone catches her when she crashes!” Friar leaped upside down and span on one hand in a dance move she’d adapted from her quarterstaff training. Her specially adapted mini-skirt stuck to her and preserved her modesty as she span around. Even still a number of men dancing close by stumbled in their own dance, with some of them receiving a slap from their partners for watching too closely!

The music changed and Gold grabbed Friar “I need a drink!” she yelled in Friar’s ear.

“Feeble blaster!” Friar laughed and grabbed hold of her hand and led her across the crowded dance floor, brute strength forging a path through the dancers. They made their way to the upper level redside where the bar wasn’t quite so crowded. Pushing aside a couple of Arachnos soldiers who glared at the cute blonde girl in the low cut mini-dress who was obviously a lot stronger than she looked. Friar simply raised an eyebrow and they gave her space at the bar.

Getting served was no problem using the sparking smile she’d learned from Gold, the barman came over to her, bypassing several others who waved their cash angrily. Taking the two bottle of chilled water, she pushed her way back out to find her Angel – a gang of catgirls rushed past squealing and laughing as they chased each other through the crowd, eliciting shouts and curses as they jostled their way through. Gold was standing by a table, next to Mercedes Sheldon their friend from the Midnighter Club. She and Gold had been friends for a long time, both of their fathers knew each other, Mercedes’ father being an antique specialist and Gold’s father being a historian.

“Friar darling, lovely to see you!” Mercedes hugged her as Friar handed the water bottle to Gold. “I was just telling Kallisti that you had been on my mind recently – can you come and see me at the Club sometime soon? I’ve been hearing a lot about you and your demon killing staff and I wanted to see you in action!”

“I’ll come and see you tomorrow – unless you are on holiday?” Friar held the cold water bottle to her forehead to cool down.

“No holidays fighting evil is there?” Mercedes grinned, waving her wine glass toward a coterie of Arachnos Widows gathered at an adjacent table. This was obviously not her first or even second glass of wine! “Oh god, there is Percy – hide me darling, he’ll try to chat me up again!” The two Kallistis flanked Mercedes and edged toward the bar as Percy Winkly fought his way through the crowd, heading towards the entrance to the Winter chalet.

“You’re safe now” laughed Gold. “I remember when I had to save him in Croatoa, he was constantly trying to chat me up afterwards, I regretted wearing the metallic swimsuit for that mission” The other girls laughed.

“Hey its almost time!” Friar grabbed Gold’s hand and waved at Mercedes with her other hand, trying not to spill the water. “See you later!” Pushing their way to the edge of the balcony Gold grabbed Friar around the waist and activated her hover power. Jumping out over the rail they floated across to the other Kallistis, attracting a flock of fairies as they flew. Kallisti Fae flew in ever faster circles around them her singing so high pitched they could only just hear it!

“If she goes supersonic I’m not paying for the sonic boom damage!” Gold lowered them to the dance floor near Red and Scarlett. Bronze was nearby dancing with a half-bull half-man and Sapphire had folded her wings away but her glowing eyes were easy to spot in the semi-darkness. The DJ lowered the music volume.

“Okay folks it that time… counting down to a new year and decade! FIVE…”

They all took up the chant: “FOUR… THREE… TWO… ONE… HAPPY NEW YEAR!” Fireworks and explosions went off all over the club. Gold held Friar close and kissed her.

“Happy New Year! This has been the BEST but the next will be BETTER!” Friar held her tightly and closed her eyes, revelling in the moment. This was the first time she had ever celebrated the New Year, in fact it was the first time she had been aware of the new year, it was not something that anyone cared about on her world. She was enjoying the new traditions she was learning about in what she now considered her home.

* * *

The road from Statesman Plaza to Christie Apartments was quiet at this time in the morning, well except for the gang of Kallistis walking home after the New Year party. Friar walked beside Gold, carrying a sleeping Fae in her arms. Fae was curled up, hugging her spoon close to her chest, snuggled up comfortably against Friar. Occasionally she would murmur and a burst of fairy dust would surround them. Friar looked down at her affectionately, memories long buried of holding her baby in her arms surfaced and she felt her eyes filling.

She looked at Gold, still skipping along and singing to herself, Red and Scarlett holding hands and Bronze and Sapphire laughing as they shared a joke. Flame was missing from the group though, last seen snogging some hero type, both surrounded by flames – hopefully the fire department would be able to cope with whatever happened where they ended up! She could handle the memories now, even the most heartbreaking ones – she had a new family now who she loved and was loved in return. Gold came to her side and looked down at Fae.

“She’s so cute when she’s asleep and quiet” she put her arm around Friar. Friar rested her head against Gold’s.

“What a year its been, I can’t believe how much has changed.” she said quietly.

“Well we’ve got a new year to enjoy now and a lot of badges to collect!” Gold pirouetted and held her arms out to encompass the world. Friar smiled, but a nagging doubt was in her mind – what was it Mercedes wanted to see her about?

Kallisti sat peacefully on the inner wall of the cloister quadrangle, watching a nest of ants that had been disturbed by the lay brethren tending the monastery garden. The disturbance had exposed the ant eggs and so workers were scurrying here and there to move the vulnerable white eggs to a new place of safety. In the meantime, larger winged ants were patrolling and forming a protective perimeter to defend the nest. The organisational competence of the ants reminded her of a few months before when she and many of her fellow monks formed a protective cordon around a village under attack from the hell-demons to allow the safe evacuation of the inhabitants. Considering there was no Arch-Prelate to arrange the tactical plan, the ants seemed perfectly capable of coordinating their activity in a very similar manner. The thought then struck Kallisti: Maybe the ants DID have their own Arch-Prelate to do the tactical planning, they just didn’t wear the cockade hat like Arch-Prelate Horsa! She smiled to herself at the thought of a giant ant wearing the gold-trimmed cockade hat.

At that moment the bell rang for supper so she shifted her soul-bound quarterstaff to its hidden safe place from across her knees and stood up. The late afternoon sun was settling down behind the peaked roof of the refectory beyond the other side of the cloister, so she moved toward the pathway that led through the garden, joining up with her fellow martial friars, looking forward to their supper. Although shorter than most of her brothers and sisters in the Order, she made up for that with a fierce passion when wielding her quarterstaff so that many underestimated her abilities. With her long blonde hair – something she took pride in considering how much effort it took to maintain it under the circumstances – she was often misjudged. Dressed in her favourite leather trousers and buckskin waistcoat, she walked with a confident stride, glancing over at the younger male novices who watched her with greedy eyes. So preoccupied, she almost walked straight into the tall figure of the Arch-Prelate standing at the arched gateway from the garden.

“Ahh Friar Kallisti, I am so pleased to see you.” The tall man said, looking down at her shorter figure. His face was pockmarked by a childhood disease and his left ear had had a chunk ripped out of it at some point in the past. Arch-Prelate Horsa was one of the longest serving members of the Order of Norton Folgate and had an intimidating manner with most people, but for some reason Kallisti found his presence reassuring. “I noticed you in deep contemplation just now, I hope it was a rewarding moment?”

“Yes Your Grace, the ant’s nest reminded me of our recent defence of Wokingham.” The Arch-Prelate raised an eyebrow questioningly. “The ants seemed to automatically know what each one should do without, it seemed, anyone giving them orders. It made me wonder if they have an antish version of an Arch-Prelate.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth she regretted them – comparing the second-in-command of their martial order of monks to an ant was not the best way to impress your superiors!

The Arch-Prelate pursed his lips and rocked back on his heels for a moment. “I think that may be so. I believe Deacon Bartholomew has been studying the hierarchies that develop in societies, not just human but animal, insect and most importantly for our work in Demonic societies. He postulates that some of these societies don’t conform to the same pyramidal structures that our own monastic society follows, but are often more communal. Very good, I am pleased that your contemplations have born intellectual fruit wouldn’t you say?” He smiled at her, his lips drawing thin but his eyes remaining judgemental. She bobbed her head in supplication.

“Thank you Your Grace, I was never a particularly good student…”

“Except with the quarterstaff thankfully!” he interrupted her. “And it is for that I have been seeking you out. I have a special job for you that needs your particular skills.” He noticed Kallisti’s eyes glancing at the retreating line of monks heading towards the refectory. “You will have your supper in good time, for now come with me and we shall discuss the nature of this task.” His crooked finger beckoned her away from supper toward the administration wing of the cloister. He explained as they walked. “You were a novice when the Great Schism occurred a few years back so you are familiar with the revelation that the church authorities had been in collusion for centuries with the demonic forces that had invaded us in the distant past. That the apparent stalemate our seemingly never-ending war with the demon invaders was a deliberate ploy, arranged generations ago by the leaders of the church who had negotiated a pact with the demons to allow them to co-exist on this Earth, while bolstering their own authority and maintaining their hold over the populace.”

Kallisti nodded, trying to ignore the rumbling in her stomach as she caught the faintest aroma of cooked meat drifting from the refectory. This was going to be one of the Arch-Prelates interminable lectures, but at least she was walking with him and unlikely do doze off like she had done multiple times in the seminary classrooms!

“Once this arrangement was revealed a great many of us who had sacrificed the lives of loved ones and colleagues rebelled against their authority and broke away. Since then we have managed in our fight again the demons to achieve vastly greater success once we discovered the debilitating weaknesses built into the magics that bound our soul-weapons to us. The belief that our soul weapons destroyed the demons on defeat was a cornerstone of our teachings for hundreds of years, when in reality all that happened was the defeated demon was transported back to it original home plane of existence, ready to be summoned back to the fight again. In all those years we had barely whittled down any of the enemy’s vast hoards, while they had preyed upon us mercilessly.”

Kallisti nodded again, remembering the last sight of her father and mother as they threw her to safety from the riverbank where they had been trapped by a pack of demons. A rowing boat had rescued the six year old girl from the water and delivered her into the care of the Order of Norton Folgate where she had spent the last 20 odd years training for and then becoming a demon hunter.

“Since then, we have learned how to overcome the deliberate sabotage of our teachings and your quarterstaff and those of your cohorts in the martial orders are fully capable of dispatching the demons permanently meaning we are finally  driving the demon hoards out of our lands.” His eyes lit up with the zealous passion he felt when discussing the war with the demons. “However, a situation has come up that concerns me and I believe I need your particular talents…” he smiled at her beneficently.

* * *

Crawling through the foul smelling, muddy ditch Kallisti cursed silently under her breath… “Walk in the park, easy in easy out… its never them who have to crawl through the filth!” Finally she reached the culvert that meant she could climb up onto the road that would lead her to her destination. The twilight masked her appearance from the ditch and she climbed out onto the deserted roadway. Off in the distance she could see a ruined church spire poking above the trees along the road that curved around to the village. She had been forced to dress down from her privileged clothing in the monastery and now wore the ragged homespun garments of the local peasantry. She had rebelled when the surgeon had approached with shears to cut her hair short, threatening him with her quarterstaff until it was agreed she could use a glamour spell to hide her hair instead. She was going undercover in this village across the other side of the country to the monastery in Oxford for this important mission that the Arch-Prelate had entrusted her with.

Hunching over, she shuffled along the road to the village as if worn down by the harsh peasant toil. A farmer’s horse and cart approached from the direction of the village and the farmer glared at her as he got nearer. “We don need nun o yur kin round these pards” he cursed at her with his thick accent. “Damn reffergees!” he cracked the whip to drive the horse onwards. It was going to be one of those days, she just knew it!

As she approached the outskirts of the village, she became aware in the gathering darkness of a crowd assembled at the crossroads at the middle of this small village. Imaginatively called Crossways, the village had grown up around an important crossroads between two major roads. Now it was on the ragged front line in the war between the demons and the forces of good. Getting closer, she could see the focus of attention was a cart with two people stood in the back. One was hunched, hooded and had a rope tied around their neck, the rope leading up to the bough of a sturdy oak tree that grew on one corner of the crossroads. The other was a fat man with greasy hair and an overcoat with metal buttons. This marked him out as a wealthier villager and likely the head man. He was speaking quietly to the assembled crowd, gesturing violently toward the hooded person and waving in the direction to his right toward the ruined church.

Suddenly the village elder grabbed the hood and ripped it away from the other standing in the cart to reveal a bewildered looking older man, with thinning grey hair and rheumy eyes who looked around rather confused. “Behold the consort of devils!” Kallisti could finally hear what was being said having approached unnoticed.

“Bur thas the ol curate, he ain’t no arm to naybody” said a man at the front of the crowd, grinning and looking around to the rest of the crowd for support. The other villagers shuffled away from him, looking guiltily in any direction but at him.

“You defend him, Marcus Braithwite?” The village elder glared at the speaker.

“Um well now is not like that Reg, mate, its jus I dun know if he dun any harm to any folks – was he dun then?” he shuffled his feet.

“I told you, consorted with demons he has!” Reg, the village elder shook his fist at the captive on the cart.

“Consorted how? Invite em for tea and honey? he makes some good honey does the curate there” There were some suppressed chortling in the crowd of villagers. Kallisti suddenly realised that the curate on the cart about to be hung for “consorting with demons” was the target of her mission. All because the sodding Arch-Prelate wanted some of this special honey!

“You dare mock me Marcus Braithwaite! You dare question my authority?” The village elder’s face was turning red with rage and his voice was getting louder.

“Reg, you are my little brother, o course I question yer authority coz you are an intolerant bugger whose always causing trouble, now stop being a total wanker and let the curate go, or I’ll tell our mam and she’ll take a belt to yer!” There was a chorus of laughter from the villagers as Marcus stepped toward the back of the cart and mounted the box that had been placed to help climb up. His first attempt to get onto the cart failed and he struggled with his balance, making a big play of waving his arms about as the villagers laughed at his antics.

“You are making me a laughing stock! This is serious business, I saw him meeting with strangers from beyond the river they were obviously demons!” Reg continued to argue, his voice turning more wheedling and less authoritative.

“The-they wanted to buy my honey! They were from Salisbury, they weren’t demons, they were solicitors!” The curate pleaded.

“Blimey, that makes em worse’n demons” laughed Marcus, “Hang the bugger for consorting with lawyers!” He finally climbed on the cart and lifted the loop of rope from around the curate’s neck. “Reg, who the bloody hell tort you to tie knots? This is bloody useless!” he said, showing the badly knotted rope to the villagers who laughed again. Only Kallisti noticed the difference in Reg’s face as the crowd mocked him… a slight swelling of the forehead and a shudder passing through him.

“Here we go!” she muttered, summoning her soul-bound quarterstaff as the demon masquerading as Reg the village elder exploded from within the fleshy disguise, showering the crowd with the grisly remnants of the late village elder. With a roar, the huge winged and brimstone shrouded demon reached out for the curate, the local representative of the church and its most dangerous enemy – or so it thought. Reacting instinctively, Kallisti unerringly leapt into the space between the demon and the curate, knocking the demon back, over the side of the cart and away from the villagers.

The quarterstaff spun in her hands creating a moving shield between the demon and the villagers, protecting them as it spat poisonous green icor that was mostly harmlessly deflected. A spattering fell on the homespun Kallisti wore so with a fierce tug, she ripped it away, revealing her leather trousers and waistcoat. With a single word, she dropped the glamour that concealed her hair – she always believed that appearances in a fight were all important, so for an oh so mighty demon to be bested by a pretty girl with long blonde hair seemed so much more humiliating for the demons!

“Friar! Ha, you think you can beat m…” the demon’s words were cut short as the quarterstaff spun again and broke its jaw. Spinning again it was rammed into its midriff and again into the side of its head, the blows coming fast and accurate. Bellowing in pain, the demon tried to get up but its feet were swept out from under and it watched in horror as this small blonde girl leapt high into the air bringing her quarterstaff down with a mighty blow that split the demon’s skull and buried the end a foot into the brain of the demon. The magical energies that bound the demonic flesh together dissipated and the demon’s body liquefied and then evaporated. The butt of Kallisti’s quarterstaff was buried several inches into the packed dirt of the roadway, so with a tug she pulled it out and turned back to the shocked villagers.

“Yup, I think I can beat a demon.” She said, sending the quarterstaff to its safe place. She swing herself back up on the cart landing lightly beside the curate and untieing the ropes that bound his hands. “Hello I’m Kallisti, Arch-Prelate Horsa asked me to come and get some honey from you.” she smiled. “He also told me he thought there might be a demon trying to infiltrate the village, seems he was right!”

“Bugger me, wot the hell did Reg av to go and get himself et by a sodding demon!” There were tears in Marcus’s eyes. Kallisti hugged him.

“I’m sorry it had to be like this, they are sneaky buggers with glib tongues and tempting whiles. He probably didn’t even know it was a demon he was dealing with.” she explained. “That is why the demon went after Curate Patterson here, as he is your first line of defence against the evil, aren’t you curate?”

“Um well yes, thank you young lady, it was um fortunate you happened to be here!” the curate fumbled in his robes to pull out some wire framed spectacles. “Ah Mortimer, would you be so kind as to um, clear up this , um… mess” The curate spoke to a tall young man in the front of the crowd, awkwardly holding his hat in his hands, with several gobbets of pink flesh still stuck to his clothes. With a start the man realised he was being spoken to

“Oh yes, soir, I’ll get that dun right away.” he replied, looking around again as if a spell had been broken.

“Come along Marcus and Friar Kallisti, I think a nice cup of tea and some honey will do us the world of good.” He patted Marcus on the shoulder and moved to climb down from the back of the cart. “Oh whats this?” Suddenly at the front of the cart a swirling black eddy of nothingness had appeared. Kallisti felt it pulling at her and resisted, grabbing the curate’s arm as she felt herself dragged toward the rift in space.

“What the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu……” lifted off her feet she was bodily dragged into the void, her scream fading into a vast distance. With a pop the rift vanished.

“Well bugger me!” Marcus stood astonished. “I always said them Friars had some funny ways!”

* * *

Coughing, Kallisti woke up on her back on some grass beside a stream. To one side were trees and further along she could see a wooden bridge crossing the stream. What was that awful smell in the air – a sort of burned, oily smell. Getting unsteadily to her feet, she checked herself over – everything seemed to be in its right place. She reached for her quarterstaff in its safe place… after momentary hesitation, as if reaching a bit further than normal, she felt its reassuring sturdiness in her hands. She closed her eyes and focussed on her inner core, checking for any signs of sneaky demonic corruption… everything was fine. So where was she?

Moving forward, she came out from under the tree cover and stood open mouthed at the sight of huge blue shimmering walls reaching up into the sky. What brand of demonic trickery is this? Then she noticed the shambling mounds of ooze loitering just upstream – hmm a new type of demon! This was familiar territory so her instincts took over and her quarterstaff spun whirled and leapt into action, scattering lumps of gelatinous ooze everywhere. Having defeated the demons, Kallisti moved further downstream toward the bridge and the lake that came into view. How many ooze demons were there here? This place had a serious infestation problem! Then she heard the voices:

“Somewhere over this way!” she heard a female voice say. The accent was very refined, almost aristocratic, although different from what she had heard on the few times she had been privileged to visit the Royal Court in Windsor. Looking up Kallisti saw a golden flash above the trees and then landing lightly on the ground a few feet away a blonde girl dressed in golden armour! “Well hello and welcome to Paragon City, although it might be a bit different from the one you are used to!” she said smiling. With a shock Kallisti recognised the girl – it was her own face! It was obviously a demonic trick! Without thinking her quarterstaff appeared and she leapt to fight this evil demonic doppelgänger, swinging her quarterstaff to… CLUNK!

The familiar sound of quarterstaff against quarterstaff brought her back to the endless hours of training and she reacted immediately with a counter-thrust – CLUNK A spin and a sweep to knock them down – CLUNK

Standing before her with a serious frown and a very familiar looking quarterstaff was another doppelgänger. This one however was dressed in a green strapless bustier with a skirt cut short at the front but with an interesting flowing longer style behind. Briefly Kallisti wondered how the other one managed to keep everything inside the strapless corset without having wardrobe malfunctions. Bah, the demon was distracting her from the fighting! Dropping into the defensive combat stance she watched her opponent while trying to block out the voices from others that were gathering.

“Hey its another Friar, oo this could be interesting” this from a small flying fairy-like demon also with her own face but weirdly coloured hair.

“Hmmm another alternate similar to Friar’s I wonder what might be different” This from one that was very obviously a demon, with horns and bronze-coloured skin.

“Anyone bring the popcorn?” This from a wanton creature wearing black fishnet stockings, an extremely short skirt and wearing some sort of black reflective eye coverings.

Her opponent watched her carefully then made a move which she countered easily – she knew exactly what this evil doppelgänger was trying to do – it was as if it was reading her mind! She focussed on the metal blocks and felt a peace descend over her, as if she was in another place, watching on and controlling the actions. There was a flurry of fast blows, each of which was parried by the other. They both circled warily.

“The fighting styles are remarkably similar.” The black clad demon said. “Well not surprising they probably had the same teachers if their timelines were close enough together” replied the horned demon. She heard their words but they were meaningless to her. All that mattered was the flow of the fight – the lunge, repost and counter attack. It was as mesmerising as one of the best training exercises with the staff mistress. That gave her an idea…

She stumbled and ducked forward to draw her attacker into range – this always worked! It was a tricked she’d discovered by accident during one of her sparring practices with Peter. She felt a glow at the thought of Peter – she hadn’t seen him in months! Instead of trying to take advantage of the stumble, her opponent instead skipped to one side and thrust her quarterstaff between Kallisti’s feet and twisted round. She leapt into the air to avoid being tripped – nobody had ever done that before!

“You learned that with Peter” said her opponent, obviously reading her mind. “Did he die in your world too? Eaten by the Demon Lord when Oxford fell?”

For the first time she faltered. “Oxford will NEVER fall!” she snarled. This time it was her opponent who faltered.

“You stopped the Great Demon Plague? Your timeline is different!” then she said the phrase that marked her for death – the secret signum phrase known only by the schismatic, the old phrase that had been used for hundreds of years for the hunters to identify each other but had been corrupted by the Anti-Pope.

“Die Spawn of demonic corruption, you and all of your Arcanium followers will die when we finally drive out the corruption!” With a fierceness she had not felt since the battles of the schism, she launched attack after attack against her opponent who started backing up parrying each blow as it came until a loose stone under her foot made her hesitate fractionally and Kallisti’s staff swept her feet from under her. With a cry of triumph she launched her Sky Splitter attack, leaping into the air to bring the staff down in the killing blow but the attack never landed, instead bouncing off a blue opalescent globe that exploded from her fallen opponent and knocked her back.

“Hey, when did you switch to Barrier Destiny!” The demon dressed in gold said. Her opponent got to her feet, still surrounded by the shimmering blue globe. She dismissed her quarterstaff and stood over Kallisti.

“We are not demons who have stolen your face – I thought the same when I first arrived.” She knelt on the grass at her side. “My name is also Kallisti – we are all Kallistis, but we are from different worlds. You trained with Peter and Simon and Grace and Amanda. You loved Simon like a brother but loved Peter in a different way? I miss them all, their memory will be in my heart forever. Their sacrifice never forgotten.” There was such tragedy in this girl’s face that Kallisti felt a lump in her throat.

“They can’t be dead I was with Simon yesterday, he helped me get my gear.” The girl jerked back, shocked.

“My Simon died when we lost the battle for Wokingham when we lost so many brothers and sisters.”

“What are you talking about, we won the battle for Wokingham.” This was obviously another demonic trick to get her to lower her defences.

“Interesting, the timelines diverged somewhere recently.” The demon with horns spoke again. Kallisti braced herself for another demonic attack.

“So we didn’t have popcorn, anyone want an ice cream?” the demon dressed in black shrugged and turned away. The small flying one clapped her hands excitedly and buzzed around at high speed. “No sugar for you Fae, I’ve seen the mess you leave! Come on I know a place that does vegan ice cream, should be okay for you!”

“Oh do stop that, we’re not demons and not going to attack you.” Her opponent shook her head irritably. The gesture was so familiar she found herself doing it in sympathy. “We are from worlds that are very similar – like you I was trained by Staff Mistress Anderson to fight demons, but there are differences. You must tell me what happened – why did you attack me so violently when I gave you the signum phrase? What is the ‘schism’?”

“This is nothing more than a demonic hallucination to confuse me, to get me to deny the schism and fall for your Arcanium tricks! We know the schismatics plotted with the demons for centuries, paying sacrifices to keep the demons from taking over, maintaining their own power over the people and preserving their authority!” Her words had a profound effect on this other girl. She rocked back on her haunches as if slapped, the colour draining form her face.

“You are telling me that the Arcanium authorities on your world conspired with the Demons?”

“You should know, you are a schismatic – your use of the signum proves that! We stopped using that a dozen or more years ago during the Great Schism, when we drove out the Arcanist conspirators and began our reconquest of the demonic territories!”

“I – I… they conspired against us… is this what Mercedes found with my staff…”

“The lie about the soul-staff killing demons? We fixed that sabotage – we now kill them, not just banish them. Show me your staff!” She felt the girl beside her reach into the safe place and her staff was in her hands. Kallisti looked at her. The girl nodded, allowing her to touch the staff. Closing her eyes she felt for the staff’s essence and there it was the tiny twist that reduced its effectiveness. She adjusted the twist and felt the staff become alive with energy. As she did so she touched the soul of the other girl… it was… it was HER! This wasn’t a demon it was her own soul – but what overwhelming tragedy and sadness it held! She pulled away quickly and returned to the real world suddenly aware of the tears running down her cheeks. “They did it to you… they did it to you…”  she whispered, the memory of the evil sacrifice the other Kallisti had suffered broke her heart – the ultimate evil perpetrated by the authorities before the schism, the innocent souls sacrificed to appease the demons!

Now she knew that this was not a demon, whatever it was this was herself, a version who had gone through unimaginable loss. The two demon hunters held each other tightly, the emotions washing over them both. She felt another hand touch her shoulder and opened her eyes. The Kallisti dressed in gold smiled at her, the smile of an angel.

“Welcome to the Kallistiverse!”

Kallisti Sable peered over the top of her mirror shades, sitting at a table in a slightly run-down diner in Old Sough in the region of Paragon City which shared her name, Kallisti Wharf. Dressed in tight black leather trousers and a biker jacket over her low-cut bustier, she was trying to be inconspicuous, but it was not a natural thing for her, having grown up as a show-off and showman. She picked idly at the overly sugared danish pastry before her and grimaced as she sipped from the mug of ‘tea’ the diner had reluctantly brewed for her. The tea was a pale milky brown that felt like it should be chewed more than drunk. She was not used to full-fat milk in her tea any more but calling this stuff ‘tea’ was probably an offence against trade descriptions!

The dinner front door opened with a bang and in strode a tall, fierce-looking blonde woman wearing a full body skin tight metallic jumpsuit in purple with gold ‘spider’ flashes and matching ridiculously tall-heeled boots. Sable smiled “Bloody hell girl you know how to make an inconspicuous entrance don’tcha?”

“Huh?” Kallisti Purple sat down at the table across from her. The waitress came over carrying a menu, looking between the two very similar looking women curiously. “You! You haven’t seen either of us have you?” Purple scowled at the waitress.

“Whatever you say ma’am” she replied with a tone of resignation – it was going to be one of THOSE days! “What can I get you?”

“Is that tea?” Purple gestured dismissively at Sable’s mug. “Bring me a pot of BOILING water, a clean mug and some cold semi-skimmed milk and one of those pastries too.” she demanded brusquely. The waitress shrugged, recognising the English accent and accepting the weird demands. In this part of town you didn’t ask questions or show too much curiosity.

“Always got to be the villain huh?” Sable chortled.

“Its part of the act” replied Purple, relaxing her overbearing demeanour and smiling. “Being a Night Widow has certain responsibilities and one of those is intimidating the splods and basically being a right cow. Its great fun but does sometimes get tiring. So wassup with you? Bored of slicing and dicing?” Purple nodded to the Katana poking up behind Sable’s head.

“Took me ages to wash the bloody Rikti goo out of my outfit after the last Mothership Raid. Do they never tire of trying to take that fucking thing down – the Rikti seem to have an inexhaustible supply of morons who will jump in the bowl with a large crowd of heroes only to get slaughtered in seconds. They just need to drop a nuke on the damn thing and be done with it… preferably while the heroes are raiding it!”

“Fuckwits the lot of them!” snorted Purple. “Speaking of which, hows the ‘Kallistiverse’ holding out for you? Jeeze I can’t believe they came up with a name for it, fuck me!”

The waitress returned with a tray with Purple’s order. Purple opened the pot of ‘boiling’ water and sniffed dismissively “If thats boiling then I’ve turned into a brain-dead energy blaster!” From a pocket in the side of her jumpsuit she fished out a teabag, dropped it into the mug and poured the hot water over it.

“Is that a Tetley teabag?” Sable leaned forward.

“Yup, got them sent over from England, there is an ex-pats website where you can order all sorts of proper English stuff, they even smuggle in PROPER bacon!”

“Send me the address then, I don’t want to rely on Gold’s parents never know what they might blab!”

“Nah they’re okay, went to see them a few months back – Platinum told me they were very non-judgemental with her and you KNOW how mental she is!” Purple twirled her finger next to her temple. “They also don’t blab to the airhead.”

“Ha, you’ve seen Red then?” Kallisti Red was the originator of the airhead description.

“Yeah we had a few drinks a couple weeks back, damn she can put that stuff away! Brilliant bar fight after but they objected to me stabbing people… whatever! ‘Scuse me, Night Widow, evil an all that?”

“Fuckwits!” It was Sable’s turn to say it this time. “So word is Bronze is making progress with trying to backtrack the rifts. Every time one opens she gets a bit more info and is building up a model of the rift structure or some such… Oh…” Sable looked up at the newest arrival in the diner. Taller than both of them, but with bronze-coloured skin and distinctive curved horns sprouting from the sides of her temples, Kallisti Bronze was unmistakable.

“Yeah I invited her along as well, she’s cool and not a blabbermouth.”

“Well no not when you are my major funding source for the ongoing research.” Bronze sat down beside Sable who slid across the bench seat to make room. Casually Bronze gripped the pot of hot water in both hands and within seconds it was boiling. Sable dumped her mug of ‘tea’ into a nearby plant pot, Bronze waved to the waitress for another mug and Purple fished out two extra teabags. Once they all had mugs of properly brewed tea, Bronze continued.

“At first I though that this was multiple rifts in spacetime that kept bringing us here, but actually its just one rift that keeps coming back. What I’m concerned about is what happens to it in the intervening periods? Does it go away or does it work continuously but elsewhere? I can now detect when it opens in this timeline and its focus is Paragon City because this is where it was triggered, but what if it also works in other Paragon Cities – I mean if it take other Kallistis out of their home timelines and doesn’t always bring them here but dumps them in other Paragon Cities?”

The other two Kallistis frowned, not understanding the problem. Bronze rolled her eyes.

“Some of those Paragon Cities are radioactive wastelands, some have been overrun with Rikti, some don’t even exist, just rubble-strewn outer space where the planet Earth used to be!”

“Okay so thats not our problem though right?” Purple shrugged “I mean we can’t go looking in these other dimension thingys can we?”

Bronze stirred her tea with her finger. “Not without the resources of something like Portal Corp, and even then its hard to control where the other end of the portal ends up.”

“But what’s this to do with opening a rift to send us back to our own timelines?” Sable was bored with the conversation so far.

“Well in order to do that I need to build up a theoretical model of how the bloody thing works in the first place before I can hope to control it. Only then can I begfin to work out how to trace a path back to your home timelines and be able to open a portal.”

“So what else do you need?” Another familiar female voice joined it, overlaid with a trace of old English accent. The three Kallistis looked around at the newcomer. Kallisti the Friar sat at a table the other side of the diner, wearing a hooded overcoat, unnoticed by them all before now.

“How did she…” Sable started.

“Sweetie I’ve been tracking demons my whole life, following you was trivial.” Friar walked over to their table and shrugged. “I knew you were up to something Sable, you are always up to something!” Sable opened her mouth to speak – Friar held up her hand. “I don’t really care about your shenanigans, been there done that, came back, so I’m not one to judge.” She gestured to the waitress for a fourth mug and Purple duly obliged with another teabag.

“With the arrival of Monk, I now know I HAVE to get back to my timeline. The Arcanium have betrayed my people and I have to stop them. As much as I love being here – ” the other girls tried to cover their grins, “I know that I cannot stay here while my people are being hunted and murdered for a lie. I have to get back there and put a stop to it!”

“Spoken like a true hero!” sneered Purple.

“There is a time and a place for heroes, this world has it easy where there are rules and arrangements and there is a place for heroes to be nice. We all know that is not how it really works out there in the wild. Out there you do what must be done and morality is a fine luxury to think about after you’ve done what must.”

“Damn and I thought you were a sweet little goody goody!” Sable shook her head.

“I am when it suits, but I grew up and lived in a horror story, it makes you hard inside and no matter how much I love Gold and all the others, I’ve seen the real evil in this world as well as my own.” She glanced at Purple. “You’re not real evil my dear, you are the acceptable face of evil. The real evil is the inequality, abuse of power and brutality that we see every day here. The privileged taking whatever and whoever they want, answerable to nobody, untouchable and unaccountable.” She glared at the mug in her hand so fiercely that Bronze reached out to touch her hand gently. Friar looked up at her and smiled, the moment of rage gone.

“So what more do you need to continue the research?”

“I’ve got some ideas of what would help, but it might mean getting Portal Corp involved – or at least some of their gear.”

“I’m in for relieving them of some resources” said Purple. Sable nodded “Me too, you in Friar?”

Kallisti the Friar smiled sweetly, “Fuck yeah!”