The more she looked around, the more Nicola realized she had no idea how any of this nonsense was actually working. The aspects she recognized shouldn't be behaving the way they were, even with the unintelligible nonsense happening around them. She did some math in her head, but Tom's suggestion still didn't quite add up.
"Uh, I don't know, guys. Something just doesn't feel right here- aaaaand you've done it anyway."
The glass smashes with a crystalline pop and the hurricane of souls inside is freed into the laboratory spinning and churning through the room and bettering against the minds of the intrepid idiots looking for holes- for a way in- for a new home. And the hive of souls focused in on Jackie. Crowding inside her mind and slipping inside her eyes nose mouth and ears like some sort of reverse fog machine.
As the forge shatters and ghosts flood the room, Jackie is only able to watch with a dawning horror. They hyperfixate, a thousand different eyes settling on her face before they scream towards her. There is a fraction of a second where Jackie tries to drag air into her lungs to scream, and then the air is thick, catching in her throat, drying out her nose, mouth, and eye to the point she tastes blood over her tongue. Her hands reach out for Tom, but she can't fucking see, and she can feel her body has hit the floor, but the sensations of her body seem distant, as if she were standing too close to a blazing fire. Uncomfortable, but not burning her. But everything she feels inside is boiling - her blood, her skin, everything - as too much magical energy her pours into her body endlessly. Screaming without a voice, she clutches her head and digs her fingernails into her burning skull, which feels as if it were ready to burst open and spill out onto the floor every spirit, spectre, demon, and psyche that's filled her mind.
The pain and the fear is so much, her control slips over herself. Her voice is found, and Jackie screams - it is loud, and terrified, but Jackie can barely even hear it over the cacophony of inhuman voices shrieking through every corner of her mind. Her body contorts outside her command of her mind, and Jackie tries to reach out for Tom, for anyone, to ground herself, or to beg someone to knock her out, but her lips refuse to obey her will, and her fingers reach uselessly through the air, unable to focus or recall where they are, or where she is, or who she is individually through the mess of presences fighting for control over her contorting body.
The scream fades out of her voice into a deep, shrieking howl of a beast, and Jackie feels herself roll onto her stomach. The pain fades, but horror settles over her as she realizes it's because someone else has successfully taken the reins of control from her hands. Her own voice grates like gravel, shrieking in murderous rage. Disgust rips through her - a reaction of the body, a reaction of another mind - to feel evaded by so many inferiors for the mistake a fool -
She lurches to her feet, her bones feeling as if they were being ground to dust to accomodate for so many others, and she feels her hands around Tom's jacket. Jackie is no more, and she can see that Tom realizes it by his expression as the Entity pulls him to the floor. "A useless pile of flesh and bones, meatsack!" It roars into his face, her voice distorted and layered with a voice several octaves lower than her own, it's voice carrying the uneven tones of a death rattle, "The flesh and soul of the puppet is mine! I'll tear your mind from your fucking -" Jackie's hands fall from gripping him, holding her head as the ghosts fight for control, "ENOUGH! IT is mine!"
The end of her sentence was swallowed completely by the rush of wind released from the sphere. She thought of saying "I told you so," but quickly reconsidered when she realized those were real actual souls now careening wildly around the laboratory. And in less than a heartbeat Nicola was too busy to think of anything else anyway, for the spirits began to batter against her mental defenses, looking for purchase in her body.
It took a moment for her to refocus and fight them off, but just as quickly as the offense had begun, it vanished. Nicola opened her eyes and took stock of her friends: Finn, shaken but standing, Tom, looking petrified, and Jackie- oh fuck.
What looked like maybe hundreds of spirits poured into Jackie- daring, fearless, chaotic Jackie- sending her crashing to the ground. Nicola watched, pushed beyond horror, knowing she would hear those screams in her nightmares for the rest of her life.
Jackie writhed unnaturally for a second before tearing back to her feet and reaching for the closest target, which of course was Tom. Some voice inside Nicola screamed at her to pull it together, and before she even realized what she was doing she had bolted across the lab. "No no no no no no you don't-"
By the time she got to them, Jackie- or rather, whatever was controlling her now- had released Tom and stepped back, clutching her head. Nicola could see her fighting back, but on casting out her senses could tell it wasn't just the ghosts she was struggling against. There was a dark presence to Jackie she thought she'd felt more than once, but had written it off at the time. Now she cursed herself for being so careless.
"Goddammit, you let go of her!" Nicola reached up, cupping one hand over Jackie's and covering her eyes with the purple handkerchief in the other. All the fear turned into anger, and she pushed it forward, burning towards the spirits in her friend. "Get the fuck out!"
That dark presence lashed back out at Nicola, and she let it go- her gut told her it was a problem for another time. But the howling spirits of the sphere, whoever the fuck they were, those she roared back at, dissolving their hold on Jackie's mind so they fled from her body just as quickly as they'd overwhelmed her. "Leave. My. Friends. Alone."
She directed one more wave of cleansing energy through Jackie, making sure everything but her resident darkness was gone. Once it had done its job there, the energy coalesced into a vaguely purple-tinted mist on Nicola's hands. An extension of her will, the mist rose into the air. It rapidly corralled the rogue ghosts, chasing them down the spiral staircase and shooting out the front door of the tower.
She didn't necessarily harbor any ill will towards them; who knew what they'd been in life, and what Xanthielex had done to them to put them in this state. It wasn't her job to judge those kinds of things. And so in the fresh air outside the souls dissipated, as well on their way to their final rest as Nicola could send them.
She had more pressing concerns anyway. Mainly this involved keeping Jackie, who was a good head taller than she, from dropping to the floor like a sack of potatoes once the ghosts left her. "Fuck fuck fuck," Nicola groaned, trying her best to ease her friend down gently. She at least managed not to klonk her head too hard on the stones. "Ah, shit. I'm so sorry. Yikes." Nicola slid her black sorcerer's robe off and folded it into a clumsy pillow, which she tucked under Jackie's head before sitting down heavily beside her. "Hey guys? Next time let's take more than approximately one minute before we decide to smash the big glowy sphere thing, please."
Eyes of slate latch onto Nicola's form as Jackie's body jerks to face her, a stiff puppet being pulled on strings about to snap. It snarls when Nicola's skin touches her own, rearing back as if her very touch was fire. The hold it possesses on the body is not solid enough, Jackie fighting as hard as the horde to try and reclaim her own motor control, and the sudden movement sends Jackie hard to her knees. The Entity growls, and Jackie can vaguely feel the pain of crashing to stone, but everything is distant - Nicola's voice, her touch, the silent shimmer of her magic tingling across her skin - it all feels as if Jackie is standing just behind, just slightly too far away for this to truly be her experiences. Despite the best efforts, Nicola's grip on her hand is not so easily loosened, and in a flash of purple pressed tight against her eyes, everything suddenly goes dark.
The discord hushes, for only a second, until it rises into an unrestrained chaos, every spectre trapped in her body tearing at the Entity to take control and escape the darkness. In the same moment, Jackie feels something pull at her very veins - everything lurches back, then forward. It is the tide pulling the sea back from a beach before a tsunami, gravity pulling a celestial body into an orbit - whatever it is, it pulls at every essence of Jackie's being, ripping away the spectres that tried to make her the host of their danse macabre. It is a summoning force of magic so powerful that the Entity itself must focus to battle it's pull.
It is the chance Jackie needs, and as it's attention is pulled into a battle of magical wills against Nicola, Jackie pushes forward through the exhaustion of being lost in a sea of voices, and retakes control.
Jackie gasps hard, taking in a sharp breath as she is slammed back into her body, her dissociation and ambivalence she felt being eradicated under the overwhelming experience of feeling and control. Fear pounds her heart, Nicola's arms wrapped around her to hold her up, and everything aches, her nose is bleeding and all she can see is red and all she can taste is blood. Her fingers dig into Nicola's arms tight as she struggles to catch her breath, letting the sensation of the softness of her robe under her fingers be enough to ground her, and bring her back into the experience of being alive and returned to herself.
Nicola gently lays Jackie down, - or gently as she can, handling a Jackie, a woman measurably larger than she - and tucks her robe beneath Jackie's head. Jackie's done this enough times to push herself into a recovery position, forcing herself to breathe deeply and evenly and adamantly refusing to throw up. She will not puke.
Jackie pipes up, after a few long moments of deep breathing, and her voice sounds as if she's gargled glass, "Never take advice about magic from me ever again. Fucking never again."
"I- I tried- you guys- you didn't-" Nicola spluttered. As much as she wanted it on the record that this whole disaster was preventable and she had nothing to do with it, she wisely decided there was no point in doing so.
"Aaargh. Yes, they're gone." She took her hat off, set it aside, and laid down next to Jackie. "If it helps, I probably wouldn't have taken magic advice from you anyway. But thank you, dear."
Tom mumbled something that was definitely an apology but did not oblige her invitation to vibe. Jackie's entity had some how, managed to put thefear of god and failure into into. Instead he set himself to methodically releasing the rats, which scampered out of the cages and with a surprising amount of intelligence made their way down the stairs and out of the tower the same way the ghosts were sent.
"Vibing actually usually involves an amount of pipe weed this group is just...in general....lacking," He said when he finally came back around to make sure, for himself that he hadn't killed jackie.
"You can't have pipe weed until we've finished fighting god," Finn said, like a tired mother telling a child they couldn't have candy before dinner. He reached up to brush stray hair from his face, and then winced. "Is...is there glass in my forehead?"
Tom sighed like he was denying him the right to vote and sagged a little. He knelt next to Jackie who was doing her best 'I will not hurl' face, which was about as stoic as a a five year old lost at the market, "Hey.... Don't die."
and then looking back up at fin adds;
"...Can you not feel it? Like it a lot of your face. You sure your okay, buddy?"
Nicola comes to lay down on the ground next to a miserable Jackie, and Jackie groans, "You're in the fucking blast zone, Nikki," she mutters, trying to ignore lingering screaming in her brain at the God Awful tantrum the Entity was throwing in her brain. Closing her eyes with a weary sigh, she presses her fingertips against her throbbing temples. She only opens her eyes as Thomas kneels behind her, deceptively calm despite how much guilt was written over his face moments before, "I will die, just because you told me not to. Fuck you. Also Finn, how the fuck did you get that much glass in your face? Nikki, you have the brain cell; how did he get that much glass in his face?"