Nov 19, 2019 12:52 AM
S&S&S and Valkyries in Element!verse
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Yggdrasil has fruited.

Neon finds the baby crying in its newly opened pod, protesting the cold air and harsh light. She plucks it from its stem and looks it over carefully. Strong and healthy, ready for placement. She carries it to the Council to report as much.

It is Aether who coos to the baby as he shifts it between the Plane and realspace for the first time, adjusting its swaddling cloth to keep it warm. "You're the cutest little Element, yes you are," he tells it. "Yes you are!"

He leaves the infant in the care of one Mrs. Kyrie, whose residence he invites himself into without knocking. "My partner is handling your patients as we speak," he tells her, "and you should find them cured at your next meeting with them. If there are any issues, you have our contact information."

Before he leaves, Aether bends over the baby one last time and kisses it on the forehead. "I can't wait to see you again in a few years," he tells it.

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The baby...babies. Baby baby baby.

She's a very cute baby. And, like a lot of other times in her life when such a course of action is unwise, Ms. Ronnie Kyrie gets attached.

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Six months later, Oak is banging his head against the council table. The table is also oak. That might be ironic, or something, he's not sure.

"Look," he says, "I know it's very important that we find placements for all these babies. But do you know why we have all these babies? Because we lost a dozen Operatives on one case. Four of them were on the Council. We're so shorthanded it's not even funny. Could we please consider pulling out some of our old files and seeing if any of the families we discarded could be considered eligible?"

"Those files were discarded for good reasons," Neon says severely. "We cannot put our next generation at risk."

Didymium raises her hand. "Has anyone considered," she says, "that if we pick three more families out of the discard file, we can all go take a nap."

"Move to return families removed from the selection pool into consideration," Oak says.

Hands go up around the table. The next day, Aether shows up in the Kyrie kitchen. "This is an unusual request," he says to Ronnie Kyrie, who is in the middle of dinner, "but would you consider fostering another child? Similar compensation would be offered."

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Ronnie says yes in about a second.

This baby isn't quite as smiley as the last one, but Ronnie falls in love all the same.

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"Okay," says Didymium, "we maybe should have seen this one coming."

The dead Operatives had partners. The partners are dropping like flies, overworking themselves into exhaustion or requesting the most dangerous assignments or just going into their bathrooms alone with a pill bottle and not coming out again. It happens, with Time Agents who lose their partners.

This time, Aether doesn't call ahead. He shows up at the foot of Ronnie's bed in the middle of the night, with circles under his eyes and a baby in his arms. "Baby," he says tersely, and plops it down on the bed.

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Ronnie responds with a fist pump.

This is a very happy baby! And she gets along great with the other two!

The four of them are very, very happy.

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A couple of years later, the Kyries once again have an otherworldly visitor. This time, though, he isn't bringing a baby.

"Hi!" Aether says, crouching down to Sara's level. "You don't remember me, but I met you when you were very little. I'm here to bring you and Miranda to a special camp. Rose can come too, but not until she's a little older."

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Sara blows a raspberry in Aether's face. Not out of malice, just because Aether's there.

"Are we gonna go camp right now?" she says.

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Aether is unoffended!

"Sure are, sweetheart," he says, taking her hand and scooping up her smaller sister. The world wavers around them worryingly, and then--

--they're in a playroom!

It's pretty conventional-looking, with beanbag chairs and building blocks and a play kitchen and low shelves with various interesting toys. If you look carefully, there's a few less conventional items among the toys, like the enormous bin of clear plastic cubes with a small item mounted inside each one. Big windows let in streaming sunlight through cheery yellow curtains. A woman who looks to be a little past middle age sits in a big, cushiony armchair and oversees the room.

There are also some other children here! A few of them are older than Sara, but most of them are just her age or a little younger.

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Some of them...

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...look friendlier...

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...than others.

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Miranda doesn't care about how relatively friendly the respective people are, because she saw blocks so of course she is going to go play with the blocks.

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But Sara is excited! She heads right for the smiley one!

"Hi!" she says. "I'm Sara. I'm five years old!"

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She is indeed very smiley! She has a selection of colorful tops, and is trying to see how many of them she can get spinning at once, but they keep bumping into each other and falling over.

"I'm Jocasta," she says, "and I'm six years old" -- in a tone that suggests this is clearly a vastly superior age to be.

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"You are not!" Sara says, indignant. She's the oldest.

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Jocasta looks befuddled as to how to respond to this assertion.

"...am too?" she tries, tentatively.

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Sara senses weakness and pounces on it.

"No way!" she says. "You don't look six! Can you do a cartwheel? I can do a cartwheel!"

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"I don't think you can really do a cartwheel for real."

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"Yes I can! Watch this," she says.

She does a cartwheel! It's a pretty good cartwheel, for a five-year-old.

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"I can do that," says Jocasta, failing spectacularly.

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"See? You can't really be six years old if you can't to a cartwheel," Sara says matter-of-fairly.

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Jocasta has nothing to say in the face of this unassailable logic.

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Someone else, however, has been listening resentfully. "You can't not even count right! Years old aren't like that."

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"I can count!" Sara says indignantly. "I can count all the way to twenty."

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"Well I can count to fifteen," he retorts, secure in his superiority.

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