As a mercenary, Jacob had been in many desperate situations before. No matter how much planning went into a job, there was always a chance of something unexpected coming up and landing you smack in the middle of a bunch of heavily armed guards who did not fire warning shots. As a time-traveller, he’d found himself in some very bizarre circumstances. He’d been to the prehistoric era, where magic hadn’t been set in laws and energy flowed freely, warping the natives into forms relegated to myths in his present. As a high-ranked time-travelling mercenary, he’d bartered with a cult of necromancers, ended up stealing their dark tome when bribery didn’t work, then fought off a horde of undead and golems to buy the future time to send backup.
Chased by yeticops in a submarine society populated by manimals while hunting for a fruitisaur that would probably end up destroying the world with a tree? Just another day at the office.
“Stop! We have you surround! Did. Ded. …Surroundided.”
“What about other side…?”
“What about other side?”
Two of the beasts now barred his path. They were slow and stupid, but he was tired, weak, and nearly out of mana. The first few had surprised him by not only not dying for several minutes after being stabbed in the chest, but continuing to fight even after generous application of additional normally-fatal wounds. Jacob had quickly realized that his sword wasn’t cutting it and decided to just outrun whatever guards he encountered, but there always seemed to be another group of them blocking whatever path he took.
He couldn’t go around them, and going back risked facing all the guards he’d given the slip. He had no chance with a direct, physical route, and only had enough stored energy to create one tunnel a few inches wide for a few seconds. He could kill one of them that way, but the other would…
Fall over, clutching at its neck?
The mercenary wasn’t a man to question his luck. As the upright guard turned his blank stare to his prone companion, he felt a cold spark run through his brain in a way that just felt wrong. Then he felt a cold sword run through his brain. Then he didn’t feel.
By then, the first to fall had stopped moving, and a familiar pair of white gloves extracted themselves from their entanglement with meaty fingers and a crushed windpipe. They performed a mid-air high-five as their owner rounded the corner ahead, grinning sheepishly.
“You looked like you could, uh-“
“Use a hand?”
Steven scratched his neck guiltily. “I… might not have said…”
“Doesn’t matter. Let’s get moving; these guards are everywhere, and the sooner we’re gone the less likely they are to swarm us.”
One of the gloves curled into a fist and suddenly shot towards a girder overhead. There was a muffled crunch, and tiny scraps of metal rained down from above.
“Yeah, this might help some.”
The glove returned cradling the remains of a large brass beetle. One of the machine’s legs twitched pitifully, as though to compensate for the ones that had broken off. Its shell held a variety of what might have been power tools before its violent demise. The droid’s head was totally wrecked, though the intended function of its cracked glass eyes was obvious enough.
“From the insides I’d say they’re supposed to be for maintenance, but they make good mobile cameras, too. I think they're used to keep an eye on back-alleys like this one, ‘s why the guards kept catching up.”
“I… can’t say I noticed.”
“Well, I didn’t either; the gloves figured it out first. They’ve been keeping me off the radar. C’mon, I’ll show you my place.”
Curious, the swordsman followed the traveler down a corridor, up a ladder, through a window, and into a long-abandoned concrete chamber. a few wooden planks littered the floor, and a pile of sheet metal served as a makeshift table. The centerpiece of the rooom was an incongruous beanbag, which Steven immediately collapsed upon. The gloves remained at the entrance to guard against unwanted visitors, and Jacob leaned against the wall, grateful for a chance to rest.
“So, yeah. Make yourself at home. Sorry I don’t have another ‘bag, but I wasn’t really expecting…”
The swordsman chuckled. “I appreciate the thought, but I’m fine as I am.”
They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence, poorly masked under the quiet orchestra playing through Jacob’s coat. Though Steven clearly wanted to fill the void, he never quite seemed to find the words. Jacob spoke first.
“About your gloves. Our… hosts seemed to think that your handwear could create and destroy, but… they weren’t very clear on how that worked. You skipped over that detail in your own explanation as well.”
Steven shrugged. “Must have, uh, slipped my mind. But yeah, I can make things, though it takes some effort, and destroy them as well.”
“Things like what?”
“Like… anything, I guess. Sandwiches, chains, this beanbag… I made a whole biplane, once, but that was…”
The vagrant trailed off, lost for a moment in his memories. Then his gaze snapped back to the swordsman.
“Don’t ask me to make a-”
“No, no, that shouldn’t be necessary.” Jacob traced a slow path across the room. “But since you offer, I could use a few things.”
Steven frowned, hunching forward in his seat. “Like what?”
“Oh, nothing major. One or two adrenaline shots, something to hold them, and a map should suffice.”
“Oh. Well, that’s not so… I have a map with me, actually, but, uh, if you don’t mind me asking what the adrenaline's for…?”
The mercenary sighed, wary of telling others too much about himself. On the other hand, it would build trust. Trust was useful.
“I draw energy from myself to power my spells. I can store that energy in my sword, but right at the moment I’m not in peak condition. Nor,” he grumbled, holding his stained, not-glowing blade up for inspection, “do I have any energy left in here.”
“One shot for now, one shot for emergencies. If I’d had advance warning of this… contest, I’d already have some syringes on me, but at the moment you’re the only available source.”
Steven shrugged, acquiescing, as one of the gloves floated idly back to him. He seemed about to set to work, but looked up at the swordsman instead.
“Could you, uh, turn around, or something? I don't really like people… hovering, when I'm…”
“No, no, that’s fine, I understand. If you could make a cup of water as well; adrenaline tends to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I’ll just be… Is there a phone nearby? I have a call to make.”
Liss had opted to remain in the Central Security Office until this debacle had been resolved. Two of her scaly subordinates had joined her, bringing with them a flock of security specialists to replace the original incompetent chair-warmer. They had been keeping better tabs on the situation but still hadn’t made much progress. One of the humans had been located in the warehouse district, but she had apparently conscripted the aid of some sort of… glowing, transparent raptor and destroyed the one Sentinel they’d sent after her. A few more had been sent to secure the area, but the administrator had the nagging suspicion that it wouldn’t be enough. Reports of a suited man had been crisscrossing the security channels, but his location never seemed to follow any logical or even euclidean pattern. The one that could turn invisible... could turn invisible; his evasion was not terribly surprising, but it still annoyed her to no end. She didn't even know what they were doing there; if they were going to blow the dome, Hydropower was the ideal place to do it, but-
A phone rang. The phone rang. The phone they’d told people to call if they had information. Liss was sort of surprised; she’d expected the idiots this place employed to be too panicked or too dead to actually respond. She hissed, picking up the receiver. “You’ve reached Oxbow Central Security. We’re busy. Make it important and make it quick.”
“My terms are simple.”
The lizard couldn’t actually frown deeper, though her efforts were admirable. The voice at the other end sounded… odd. Most species native to Nubium had slight but identifiable vocal quirks, except of course for the Rhone, whose accents were anything but slight. No rolling S, no clicking beak, and certainly too articulate for a Yagg. With a sinking feeling, she realized that this was probably one of the humans.
“There is a green, glowing, dinosaur-like creature somewhere within this facility. The longer it lives, the more likely it will to plant one of its seeds and destroy this dome. Kill it, and the intruders in this facility will leave without a trace.”
“Who is this?”
The caller paused, seeming to mull the question over.
“How about this… When I find you, I’ll tell you. And I will find you. Have the thing dead before then, or your life will become very unpleasant. And very short.”
He’d known about the raptor. She hadn’t known about the raptor until it’d killed one of their robotic guards. Something was going on to which she wasn’t privy, and she suspected that someone, somewhere was having a wonderful laugh about it all. Liss licked her eyes irritably. “Tell me someone traced that call.”
“Don’t worry, ma’am, we know exactly where they are. Coincides with the trail of dead Beetles, too.”
The lizard exposed her jagged, carnivorous teeth, in what still didn’t quite amount to a smile. “Good. Send a squad of Sentinels down there. I want this cocky bastard dead.”
Lodged in a stone waiting for the true king of Ingland
Re: The Battle Majestic (Round 3 - Oxbow Inc.)
Hi, I will be replacing Steven until he dies. Enjoy.
Before Jacob arrived Steven had been having a little snooze to replenish his energy, confident in the knowledge that should any kind of danger approach his gloves would hurriedly wake him.
It was a particularly vivid dream, perhaps more of a memory that he could recall with perfect clarity. He was stood in the middle of verdant field in the spring. The trees around him were blossoming with fresh life; the grass underfoot was long, luxuriantly green and swaying in the breeze. The Master stood in front of him, dressed as ever in long white robes twisted around to make strange patterns from the fabric. His body was almost completely hidden beneath the robes, though where it did show, his face and his hands, he was old, his skin tan, and pulled taut over his old bones. Newly created animals, very much resembling hares and field mice scampered around his feet, as if drawn to the powerful source of life.
This was the last time he had seen the Master, he had just told him that he was going to leave to continue his search for his friend. The Master’s ancient face smiled faintly, but his eyes belied the sadness that Steven was sure the god felt. He had been with him for the best part of a year now, and though the Master liked to remain aloof Steven had been able to tell that he had appreciated the company; a fact readily apparent in the universe that had been created in the meantime, it resembled his own so much, you had to really look closely to see the difference.
The Master did not say a word, but simply reached out with one hand and created. Hovering in the air before him was a pair of pristine white gloves.
“Consider these a gift.” The Master said slowly, and he explained their function to the surprised boy. He showed him how to create and how to destroy and told him to use these powers wisely, and more importantly he told Steven that if he ever wanted to return that his gloves would show him the way.
It was only when he was sat there, creating items for Jacob, idly sifting through his thoughts that the full impact of what the Master had said struck him. If he ever wanted to return his gloves would show him the way. Suddenly he brimmed with confidence. Although he was not sure how yet, he was going to lead them out of this battle.
"Your language is hilarious," Vex said, chuckling.
Blitz looked puzzled. "Uh, okay." After a pause, he pointed to Vex's pale right arm. "That doesn't really answer the question."
Vex's grin had been ever-present through the duration of their walk thus far, only varying in width. It widened. "The best phrase you have for this is 'tripping balls'. At least, the most hilarious one." He chuckled again. "Does that mean-" He cut himself short, and continued walking. "Nevermind, you don't know either."
"Your arm," Blitz replied, brow finding new and creative ways to knit itself together, "is tripping balls?" The duo passed a huddled collection of large insectoids chittering to each other over an upended piece of machinery between two buildings. Blitz had only just begun taking these sightings as background noise after realizing Vex had somehow been rendering both of them undetectable while they walked.
"Yep. Malevolent second mind, totally gone. Another thing you and I have in common, now. Possibly." Vex sighed quietly and his smile faded somewhat. After Blitz's brief explanation of his father's presence and then absence earlier in the trek, Vex had been contemplating the nature of his previous relationship with his mental parasite. Prior aspirations of matchmaking Blitz with Iris had long since been discarded as Vex's mind churned over all the possible futures unfolding before him.
Of the few times Vex had seen fit to cause a death in his long life, even fewer had been by his own hand. It was much more satisfying to let unseen strings direct friends and foes to tear each other apart. A satisfaction he had yet to savor, however, is to let this slaughter take place between two people who shared a single body. If doing so happened to also eliminate a few of these obstacles to ending this contest, all the better.
"You're not going to be more specific, are you?" Blitz asked.
Vex was reasonably certain that Blitz's father was still clinging to some dark cranny of Blitz's brain. He knew all too well that entities like that wouldn't just disappear without cause. To make such a mental hitchhiker return could be an interesting study of a torn psyche, and could prove to be useful and informative to Vex's own situation.
But, more importantly to Vex, it could be fun.
"I was slipped a hallucinogenic drug while having a threesome with some Firestar natives. I went on a spirit journey and my world's dream god guided me and not Magog back," Vex replied, pressing on through the several conflicting expression that were trying to assert themselves on Blitz's face. "So. Do you miss him?"
"I have a son too, you know. I mean, I've had several throughout the years. Have only one currently, though."
"I-what? You have-"
"Real pain in the ass, this one. If I was a voice in HIS head, I would certainly have a hard time keeping my mouth shut for... what's it been now, about six hours?"
Blitz's face had been falling steadily over the last several seconds and seemed close to crashing. He took a deep breath and swallowed the whiplash in his perception of what he'd hoped would be this barbaric contest's savior. "I don't miss him," he finally replied, in a meek voice.
Vex stopped walking abruptly, and Blitz stumbled to a halt in an effort to remain at his side. The former deity stepped closer and leaned forward, making Blitz uncomfortably aware of exactly what their height difference meant. And that grin, the grin that was growing more and more impossible on Vex's strange, alien face, reminded Blitz of something he'd seen once, in a reflection, when his father the killer was awake.
"Don't be too hard on the killer," Vex said, his voice low, almost predatory. Blitz's one remaining pupil dilated. He wondered if he'd said the word "killer" aloud, or just thought it, or if there was even a difference. He wondered if his shoulders had always felt this heavy, and he wondered whether everything was usually this red. "May I call him killer? You never gave me a name."
Blitz blinked and his mind rolled over the implicit question. A name, what name? Mr. Wykerr? Had he gone his whole life not knowing his father's first name? His thoughts, instead of plowing forward wherever he chose, seemed to be fighting a current towards an unknown and frightening destination. His father's name simply wasn't there. It may never have been. "I don't...don't know?"
Vex stepped back now, but Blitz was having trouble focusing. "Of course you don't, Wykerr. Mister Wykerr." The redness that seemed to be overtaking Blitz's vision pulsed, and he felt his face grow hot. Anger bubbled up in him, and the damn satyr's smile was just getting bigger and bigger. "You shouldn't be too hard on the killer, because there's a little bit of killer in all of us," Vex continued. He took another step back, towards two birdlike creatures huddled over what looked like a smartphone. Background noise. Another step. "I'll admit," Vex began again, "it's been a while for me." Not background noise. Victims.
"Stop!" Blitz yelled. He pulled at his hair with both hands. "Get out of my head! Stop it!"
"You're in your head too, though, Wykerr. And so's killer. Maybe. You can't blame it all on me."
Vex's hand reached out for the nearest bird. Blitz cried out again. "Stop! Just... why? Don't!" His inability to articulate himself was amplifying his frustration. He was swimming upstream against a current he couldn't fight.
"Why not?" Vex replied, his hands hovering inches from the bird's neck.
"Because you'll..." he searched his memories for some hard-edged ethical quip he could throw out at him, and only came up with his own memories. His father killing innocent people with his body. Blitz's objection to those moments was all he could hold on to like this. "Because you'll feel bad! Because there's no reason, because he's- you don't even-"
There was no joy in the distinctive feeling of vertebrae snapping apart, the quick, ragged breath, the look of surprise and horror, quickly glazed over. The limp body dropped inelegantly in a ragged heap from four-fingered hands. Vex didn't have the cold-hearted rush of a killer looking for another notch in his belt.
He relished the moment all the same.
The bird's compatriot jumped up in surprise and backed away. Blitz's mind snapped into full focus, and complete silence fell over them both. He closed his eyes and lowered his head. Vex's smile had finally dropped off his face, and he stood there staring at Blitz, whose breath was ragged with repressed sobs.
"I do feel bad," Vex said, unflinchingly. "I feel guilt, and sorrow, and it's beautiful. It's the first fucking time I've been able to feel it for a hundred and eighty years without having it immediately turn into rage and anguish. The first time I can just feel bad, without putting the damn universe in danger." Blitz's mismatched hands balled themselves into fists at his side, and small sparks of static jumping between them and his body. "You said you don't miss him, you don't miss this feeling, but I know better. Killer."
No matter how tightly Blitz squeezed his eyes shut, he couldn't block out the overpowering redness. He heaved and loudly sucked air into his lungs. A new thought bubbled its way up to the surface in his mind, and he knew it was his own.
Vex needed to die.
A massive arc of blue lightning burst from Blitz's body, tearing a hot red gouge through the sheet metal wall of the storage crate behind Vex. Blitz opened his eyes, one of them red. "Lionel," he said, grinning cruelly. "But Mr. Wykerr will do for you."
"Cute," said a voice in Lionel's ear, Vex's grin chasing the rest of him into transparency. "Sorry I couldn't be here to meet you." The scarred man sneered around him in every direction, and then up towards the glass ceiling, and the ocean hanging above him. "A suggestion, Lionel?" continued the disembodied voice. "Make it rain."
With all the problems already on her plate, Liss was less than thrilled to receive yet another call.
"It's Bartleby, ma'am! He just suddenly dropped dead right in front of me! I've got no idea what happened..."
"Thank you, Francis. I think I know how to handle it."
The invisible intruder. Why had he chosen to strike? Bartleby was an unlikely assassination target, and she saw no reason for the intruder to give away his position...
Unless he was trying to draw attention away from an associate elsewhere.
"Well. Now we can narrow down our cloaked intruder's position. We'll send in a squad of sentinels to track him down. And I want increased security in every high-value area. We don't know what these humans are after, but I don't want to take any chances."
"As for the raptor... Bring it in alive if at all possible. The one thing we know is that the humans want it dead, and that means we need to know why before we decide what to do with it."
Her subordinates leapt to work.
Make it rain? Lionel mused. I like the way this satyr thinks. But before that, I'll need an umbrella.
His thoughts were interrupted by the loud yells of a Yagg running towards him.
Ah, of course. He's not covering me any more. Well, that's a minor inconvenience...
For just a moment, Lionel turned his attention to the other part of his mind.
Blitz, my boy, there's a bad man coming after us. Would you like Daddy to take care of him?
The mental reply was that of a frightened child.
Yes, D-Daddy... don't- don't let him hurt me...
Don't worry, son. Daddy's here. Daddy will keep you safe.
The Yagg charged. Lionel blasted it with a bolt; it groaned with pain, but continued its charge. Nonetheless, a few more blasts downed the brute easily.
"That was almost interesting," he said.
It's all right, Blitz. The bad man can't hurt you now. But there are other bad men who still want to hurt you.
Will... Will you stop them, Daddy?
Of course. I won't let anybody hurt my precious baby boy.
And so Lionel went looking for more bad men to stop. For Blitz's sake, of course.
"Another human?" Liss hissed angrily. "And he can shoot lightning from his hand?"
"Yes, ma'am," said the Dejaan on the other end. "At least, that's what it looked like to me. I was lucky to get out, he took down three Yaggs and a sentinel!"
"How many humans are there in this facility?" Liss growled as she slammed down the receiver. "When this is dealt with, we will have a full review of security procedures! I want to know how a breach on this scale happened and what we're going to do about it!"
Lionel was beginning to grow bored. The Yaggs had no real sense of tactics, and the robotic sentinels weren't designed to take in as much electricity as he could send out.
Perhaps it was time to focus on the battle he'd been brought here for.
Blitz. There are more like Vex. Brought here with us to fight until only one survives.
They'll try to kill us, Blitz. They have to.
I... I don't wanna die, Daddy!
I can stop them, Blitz. I can make sure they won't hurt you. Will you let me?
Lodged in a stone waiting for the true king of Ingland
Re: The Battle Majestic (Round 3 - Oxbow Inc.)
Jacob climbed back through the window and into what Steven had started to think of as his little hidey-hole. Steven had just finished off the items Jacob had asked for. The water had been a sinch, even though he couldn't help but think the creation of such a mundane item was somewhat a waste of his abilities, and his energy. The pouch was also relatively low effort, Steven did however feel somewhat drained from the creation of the adrenaline.
"There you are." Steven said, letting himself relax.
"Thanks for these." Jacob said, dismissively. He snatched up a syringe from the pouch and checked it for air bubbles. Steven forced himself through his lethargy and got to his feet.
"I had a thought." Steven awkwardly broached the conversation. "I think I might have a way out of here..."
"Hmm?" Jacob murmured dubiously. "How do you figure that?" Steven hesitated. The Master had been pretty clear that he shouldn't tell anyone about him or the gloves... but he'd already told Jacob about the gloves, and if this worked he would be meeting The Master in person soon enough. Steven guessed it would be probably be okay.
"These gloves aren't mine..." He began, as Jacob rolled up his sleeve. "No, that isn't right. The gloves are mine, but the powers are borrowed. I knew a man, not a man really I suppose, he was called The Master. He made the gloves for me." He paused as Jacob plunged the syringe into his wrist. Jacob breathed in deeply, gripping hold of the table for support, as the adrenaline rushed through his system.
"Go on." He said after a moment. "I don't see how this gets us out of here so far." He took the glass of water and drank deeply as Steven elaborated.
"When he gave me these gloves he told me that if I ever needed to return they would show me the way back."
"I guess it's worth a shot." He said, clearly not expecting much from the endeavour. He gathered up his stuff, slipping the pouch of adrenaline into a pocket and stopped for a moment to appreciate the vibrant indigo glow of his sword. Having done so he turned to Steven. "Come on then." he said.
Steven got to his feet, and took a deep breath. He felt anxious, being honest to himself Steven believed that escape was his only way of getting out of this battle alive. He was just a kid who happened to have a pair of magic gloves, how could he seriously compete with the others? If it failed it didn't mean he was just going to give up, but barring someone else coming up with a brilliant plan he was pretty much doomed. On the other hand if he succeeded and they escaped he couldn't expect S and Talis to give up on them. They would give chase, and he would be singled out as the one who had led the escape.
He must have been thinking about it for a while because Jacob cleared his throat awkwardly. "Whenever you're ready." He said.
Steven nodded and mentally issued his command. For a moment the gloves hung lifelessly in the air and Steven thought that they couldn't do it. Then they darted through the window that was the only entrance or exit to his hidey-hole and down through the trapdoor in the room beyond.
Jacob raised an eyebrow. "I guess maybe you might be on to something after all."
They climbed through the window after the gloves, pausing at the trapdoor as gunfire rang out in the corridor below. It was swiftly punctuated with the sound of something pounding into metal. Several blows and then the sound of tearing, at which point the gunfire stopped. Jacob dropped down to the floor below, and Steven climbed down after him.
In the corridor below Steven's gloves high fived over a tangled mess of machinery that had previously been a Sentinel. In the distance the sound of more machines heading their way.
"I think they might be onto us." Jacob said with a frown.
Iris followed the Tender, the metronomic lashings of its tail hampered by the scabs of bark settling over the bullet wounds. It was hungry, it had a bullet lodged in its midriff somewhere, and Oxbow stunk of metal and dry.
And worst of all.
While Sen's manners and capacity for gratitude were at an all-time low about now, his present desire to spread the nearest unfortunate's entrails about the facility was hampered - by a mental note saying he shouldn't kill this particular unfortunate. The one who seemed insistent on following the Tender, albeit at a safe distance.
Sen was in an unsurprising state of high dudgeon, and jabbered with murderous exasperation at Iris. She replied with a generic pacifying tone, which didn't improve his mood any. He struck up a staccato spitting noise, and angrily smacked at an unyielding building.
A bug whined by his head, failed to take a hint when the Tender swatted at it with a snarl, and came round again. Sen ducked, crichked irritably when several more buzzed from an alleyway, and failed to heed Iris' warning as he ducked beneath one-
-and lunged. An approximate thousand dollars' worth of technology met a needly end in Sen's jaws. It wasn't until a second persistent, robotic bug slammed into Sen's neck, pin-like legs clamped around its sharp-tipped vial of sedative, that the Tender spat out bits of glass and metal.
It rose to its feet, already groggy. Sen couldn't remember ever sitting down, and damnit that human was telling him something was wrong, that Sen had to get up, as if that wasn't painfully obvious. Least, it might've been. Processing things didn't seem worth the increasing effort. Unsurprising, considering the prototype tranquiliser - wider physiological effects as-yet untested - had downed an (obviously volunteered) Yagg in under a minute.
The Sentinels' footfalls echoed up the street. Iris was trying and failing to push the Tender back up. He croak-chirped angrily; suspecting it was all her fault. Several spectral wildcats leapt from nowhere; lunged at the wicked machines. Iris spat a curse as a single swing of a gattling-gun arm scattered them into mist; she promised Sen she'd rescue him and ran.
The clanking and thudding followed her only a short way, arrested before long by a parting round of bullets. The last of the bots scattered off the twitching Tender like the flies they were, sedative pumped into the green. Two Sentinels grappled with the delirious, still-grouchy Sen, their guns unsuited to transporting motile fruit.
"No. No skeleton."
"… Mollusc, then?"
"Doesn't look like a mollusc."
"Gonna find out in five minutes, anyway."
"What'll be left of it, anyway. Stupid sent'nils prolly shot it to pieces."
"Trent. You just saw it on the screen. Like, just– wait, where'd you go?"
"Jes' git over here an' tell me; Vorn. Can't hear you over these damn clankin' sent'nils."
Vorn sighed, and grumbled a "wait" to his avian co-worker. He wondered if Trent knew it was his brother that had been done in by vicious new labguest. The Yagg supposed not. He ran a cursory glance over the flagged email from Liss (damn, this thing must be trouble) before checking the lab's supply of sedatives.
Vorn's calculations as to how many hours' supply they had were interrupted by screeches of alarm, and metal on concrete. He ran to the holding bay to find a foul-tempered raptor unsuccessfully trying to gnaw a Sentinel's optical sensors off. Trent was cowering under a desk; the Yagg got his patient's attention with a roar, and an uppercut full of syringes.
"Out," was all Vorn growled to the Sentinels. He was pretty sure they didn't follow orders, but there would be someone controlling them. At least, he supposed so. The Yagg grabbed a still-scrabbling Sen in a headlock with one arm, and its legs in another meaty fist.
The Deejan followed at a distance he sincerely hoped seemed (to Vorn) eager to help, and practically flew to the Yagg's aid when he told him to strap the Tender down on the bench.
"Then call for extra help," grunted Vorn, from the depths of the supply cupboard. Trent gave the creaking monstrosity a nervous glance, before dashing for the phone.
"He's shorted out half the Sentinels, and the Yaggs are too, well, dumb to actually fight effectively. Not sure how we're going to handle this, ma'am."
Liss groaned. This wasn't going well. "Stall him while I get the lab working on a Sentinel more resistant to electricity. That's really our only option at this point."
"I'm not sure we can even..." The squawking on the other end suddenly stopped.
Then a human voice cut in.
"Hello. My name is Lionel Wykerr. I'm going to kill you all, and there's nothing you can do about it. I thought you might like to know."
Lionel laughed as he tossed the communicator aside and searched the bird-man's clothes. Amusing as it was to taunt the authorities, the real reason he had bothered with the bird-creature in the first place was that he needed a map. He had simply gone after the first important-looking person he came across, in hopes that his target would have one.
As it turned out, he did. Lionel looked over it, and found the perfect spot to cause the most damage. He drew out his path with a stolen pen, and put the map in his pocket.
Then he ran down the hallway. Three Sentinels stood in his way, but he knew they were no threat by now. He simply fried their circuits and walked past them with a dismissive yawn.
Alton Oxbow was a very hands-off CEO. Which is to say, his entire contribution to the company which bore his name was owning it. Yes, he received reports every so often, but he never bothered to read them. The important part was that he was receiving his paycheck.
But every once in a while, he got it into his head that he should have a look around the place. Not that he'd have a clue if anything were actually wrong, but it was good to keep up appearances, he reasoned.
Naturally, he never announced his visits in advance. It was more exciting that way. At least, that's how he felt about it.
He was about to get more excitement than he could handle.
As he stepped out of his luxury transport, he decided to begin his impromptu tour with the laboratories.
He regretted the decision about ten minutes later, largely due to the human woman who was holding a knife to his throat.
Last edited by Dragon Fogel; 10-06-2011 at 10:29 PM.
Iris had found the best dressed citizen to take as her hostage. They were always more important the better they were dressed; it was true throughout history for almost every culture. This male stood out like a sore thumb. He even got signs of respect from several of his own kind. So she followed him, keeping herself expertly hidden. As he rounded a corner she silently stepped behind him, grabbing hold of his chin with her free hand while the knife was pressed against his throat.
“You will listen to me closely. I am a stranger in your lands and I am very dangerous. I will not hesitate to kill you.”
She let that sink in as he came to terms with the situation. She felt his pulse quicken, and his hands began to shake. She became slightly worried that her hostage might even urinate himself.
“W-what do you want?”
Freedom. Your subordinates captured something recently. I want it released.”
“I don’t have that kind of authority, I’m just rich.”
“Normally, that would probably be true. But your importance changes as a hostage.”
She quietly led him through the labs, urging that if he so much as twitched she would rip out his throat and find a better bargaining chip. What kind of effect it was having on him was obvious. His neck was dripping with sweat, but it wouldn’t affect her if she needed to drag her knife across and end his life. It was awkward making him take the lead steps, and was constantly asking where they were going. Iris just kept him heading where there were fewer people to find them, but to make sure they got somewhere with important people. Eventually they would either be caught and Iris made to flee, or she would coerce someone into releasing her acquaintance. She managed to hear anyone approaching and hide accordingly, but it was a slow process. While Iris’s patience was tested her captive was noticing her gait had a flaw every fifth step. She had the faintest of limps, but with her holding him so closely he couldn’t help but realise it sooner or later.
“Is there something wrong with your leg?”
“My legs are fine.”
While Iris wouldn’t admit to being injured she knew that the bullet wound in the back of her thigh was going to need a more serious treatment than the quick administration of a mixture of drugs to keep down the pain and stop infection. While she wasn’t losing blood anymore the wound was going to slow her down if she didn’t do something about it. But she had more pressing matters to take care of. Without Sen she would have a larger problem trying to create chaos. She was sure it would be destructive in any environment but she needed it alive. Or did she?
She didn’t know if she could take any of the Tender’s seeds, and even if she managed to she would quickly be hunted down by the green creature. Still, the idea was viable in some situations so she planned to do so if she ever got the chance. Perhaps if it was dying she would rip it off and escape. She doubted it would relinquish one willingly, and taking one out of the soil would be impossible with its rate of growth.
As they rounded the corner and the CEO punched in an entry key they stepped into a very populated room. Large machines were positioned over an overturned and restrained Sen, their purpose lost on Iris. Heads turned to see the CEO, black stone knife pressed against his throat, and a small hand clutching the hilt. She peered over the man’s shoulder and saw the Tender in its moment of weakness, and glared at the respective assailants.
“Well, this worked out better than I had expected. Now, hand over the Tender to me, and nobody has to die needlessly.” To emphasize her words she let the knife wobble enough to draw blood.
As each creature conversed over what to do, the lead scientist took the initiative and drew a gun. The first shot impacted on the skull of the CEO, and the second went through his neck, missing Iris by mere centimetres. She manoeuvred to keep the body between herself and the scientist, and launched the corpse forward.
“That was a very bad idea” She said, summoning the ancestral spirit powers eating a god had blessed her with. Spectral tendrils snaked around her body, changing shapes as she covered herself in vaguely animal-like features. The claws of a wolverine, the legs of a buck, and the horns of a ram. She charged forward and butted the lead in the head, breaking the features that made up his face. She spun on her leg and kicked out with a hoof at the larger, obviously dumber creature that served as its bodyguard and crushed more than several ribs in its chest. She then launched the wounded avian into a second Yagg, while she leapt above and clawed through its eyes. She made short work of the remaining animalistic humanoids in the room, keeping them suppressed with her speed and reflexes. After the last Yagg collapsed on the floor she examined her handy work. The only living beings were a Yagg bleeding to death, the avian crying over a very broken face, and a larger creature Iris couldn't recognise, and kept alive because she was curious about it. She kept it unconscious for the moment. Dispelling her spirits she grabbed the debeaked man and pointed her knife directly into its eye.
“What have you done to the beast?”
“Ah *cough*, well, to tell you that I might have to get... technical.”
Last edited by Drakenforge; 08-13-2011 at 08:08 PM.
Originally Posted by MalkyTop
I need to delve into dick territory.
23:55 Sanzh - wouldn't penis math be cockulus
23:55 TheDeleter - Prickonometry?
23:56 Schazer - dongrivatives?
23:56 Jacquerel - arithmadicks
23:57 DragonFogel - On that note, I'm going to finish up the leftover lasagna.
23:57 Drakenforge - Try finding out how that connects to the conversation at hand
23:59 Schazer - laswangna
00:00 Pinary - (Did anyone raise sexponential functions in the punwall? I must admit, I only got a chance to skim it.)
00:00 Schazer - I am pretty much just
00:00 Schazer - inserting dicks wherever the opportunity presents itself
00:00 Pinary - You sound like a teenage guy
00:00 Drakenforge - She gets that a lot.
There was a large, central area on the map. Lionel's path would take him right through it. That could potentially pose a problem; if they realized he was heading that way, they might send more Yaggs than he could handle.
As a result, he was doing a lot of doubling back. He wanted their reports to suggest he was heading in a different direction; hopefully, they wouldn't catch on until he was already securely at his destination. Granted, he expected there to be some sort of defense in that area, but he didn't need them stepping it up even more.
Jacob was not in the best of moods. He'd just taken an adrenaline shot, and he was already back to dealing with these big, dumb, hard-to-kill things. And also robots. He had more mana now, true, but that didn't mean he could just squander it.
"Where exactly are we going?" he asked Steven. Steven shrugged in return.
"I don't know. I'm just following the gloves."
Jacob groaned. Then he groaned even louder when he realized something.
"Didn't you say you had a map?"
"Yeah?" Steven paused as his gloves floated ahead; there was a rather discomforting scream a few moments later. Jacob wasn't sure he wanted to know the details, but he continued regardless.
"We could have had them point out where we're going! I could have made us a portal there! Or at least closer, depends on how far off it is... But now we need them to fight these guards and we're probably not going to get a very long break to let them point it out."
Steven unfolded the map.
"Well... Actually, we might be able to. Maybe. There's this big central area, see? If what we're looking for isn't here, then we'll have to go through there anyhow. And if it is here... well, we'll throw off the guards, at least?"
"I guess it's a plan. Get the gloves over here. Just watch, the place'll be flooded with guards..."
‘The place’ was colloquially known as Crossroads for being the single largest intersection besides that at The Spire. Crossroads wasn’t heavily guarded because the human intruders were actually expected to come through, but because most roads in the sector ended up passing through there, and all the guards just managed to sort of end up there at some point or another anyway.
Crossroads was also home to at least four bars, giving security both off- and on-duty ample reason to stick around.
“Well, I have some good news, I think. We’re not actually stopping here.”
Jacob and Steven were hiding out on the rooftop of one such bar (Leech’s – tagline ‘100% BAC’, which about as many of its patrons didn’t get), scanning the streets for a route that wouldn’t get them killed. They weren’t doing very well.
“What’s the catch?”
“Oh, well, uh… I – that is, they – don’t… exactly know where to go.”
The chronomancer’s expression oscillated between incredulity and frustration, before settling on a gradually deepening scowl and exaggerated hand gestures.
“Great. Fantastic. Wonderful! Find the tiniest sliver of a chance to get us out of here, then manage both to get lost despite not needing a goddamned map earlier, and wind up in a big, open area filled with hostile robots and monsters. No, that’s fine. We were only wandering aimlessly for, what, a half-hour? Could’ve dealt with that psychotic fruit, but no! I decided to tag along with you. Ah well. No great loss, I’m sure.” His eye twitched a bit.
“Hey! It’s not that bad. We haven’t been spotted yet, and we’re not exactly lost. My gloves –”
“No, wait! Don’t tell me. They have a… feeeeeling… that somewhere around here is some clue or path that will put them back on the right track, but they can’t look around for it until all the guards are gone, mm?”
He received a disembodied thumbs-up.
“Two for fucking two.”
Jacob groaned and slumped over onto his back, staring blankly at the sky. Sea. Dome. Thing.
“Are you done?”
Steven was very decidedly not looking at his companion. “If you didn’t want to tag along you should have left sooner. Hell, if I’d known you were going to whine so much I’d have ditched you myself. I’ve been doing just fine on my own for most of my life and most of this round, and to hell with you if you’re going to give up here just because of a few setbacks. Yeah, things are hard right now. In my experience, things are always hard and will never stop being hard. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.”
He sighed, expression softening some as he turned to face Jacob. “Look, I of all people know that this isn’t exactly the most foolproof plan. I’m running on a hunch and a cryptic message, but I’m going to press on and see where this goes. I want to get out of this battle, and I don’t want to kill everyone to do it. This is the only way I can see of doing that.”
The wanderer snatched up his binoculars and, shrugging, turned back to the scenic view of so many people that wanted him dead. “If you don’t want to help, fine by me. But don’t be an asshole about it.”
Jacob forced himself up from prone, quizzical expression falling flat against Steven’s back. “The hell happened to you?”
“It’s… a long story. I don’t really like to talk about it. …Uh?”
Irregular flashes of light shone from a far alley. A nearby neon sign flickered and died. Some curious Yagg wandered over only to receive arcs of lightning to the chest and head. They caught fire, and Steven recoiled.
“Looks like we have some… extra company. Only a matter of time before we ran into one of us, really, but… Blitz is here, and he doesn’t look… er, he looks more less-happy than, uh… well, he’s killing a bunch of people.”
There was a pause, and Steven turned to find the knight quite unexpectedly smiling. “What? No complaints this time?”
“Nope. He wants a fight, he’ll get a fight. Cant think of a better lure for these guards than two humans duking it out. Just stay safe until you and your gloves have an opportunity to explore freely. I’ll… catch up later. Somehow.”
The wanderer started to speak, but space bent and Jacob was gone.
And then he was back again.
“I, uh… Look after my chestpiece, would you? Poor choice to wear in a thunderstorm, y’know.”
“I was gonna say…”
The place was flooded with guards.
Lionel wasn’t expecting quite as many as there were – sure, maybe a few, since this place seemed vaguely important for reasons he couldn’t place, but… this was practically a small army. What was here that warranted so much protection?
Daddy, I’m scared…
Don’t worry, son. Everything will be-
He paused to electrocute a stray Yagg that had followed the trail of broken machines and charred corpses left in his wake.
Lionel whipped around to find a rather familiar figure leaning casually against a wall, idly scanning his sword for flaws.
Hey! He, he tried to kill me, at that tree!
I remember that, son. He will be… duly repaid.
The cripple's fingertips crackled with energy and his cast began to unravel. The knight would make a nice change of pace from this facility’s security detail. Those space-bending abilities were somewhat worrying, and he didn’t really understand how the man had been able to dodge lightning in plate armor earlier, but no matter. Lionel would kill him eventually.
All for his son’s safety, of course.
Mr. Wykerr had planned to gloat, but his train of thought was interrupted when collision with a burning, half-dead Yagg experiencing gravity at a 90 degree angle knocked him out of the alley and into the midst of Crossroads.
Iris growled. She motioned, impatient, for the Deejan to get to his feet, but he just shook his head and kept making agonised noises through what was left of his beak. With a sigh, she yanked him up without protest and shoved him at the operating table. It had only just dawned on the woman the source of the sickly creaking under the mess of straps and metal must've been, and she wasted no time in ordering Trent to release the creature.
The avian appraised her for one long moment, wondering if letting the psychopath human kill him would be a preferable end to staving her off with half-truths and technical jargon, then grinned with a noise like a particularly juicy steak being trod on. Trent turned his back on Iris, and began unclamping and unstrapping the Tender.
"Let me see his face," she commanded. Sen sounded like he was trying to scream his lunatic face off, but his jaws were welded shut. With no wish whatsoever to do as Iris ordered, Trent took as long as he could spare loosening the ties round a protesting limb before tiredly traipsing round the table.
He flipped a few catches; tried not to recoil as Sen threw off the cap pinning his head down. (Trent was kind of beyond fear at this point; it had more to do with Iris' knife at his back again.)
"Take that thing off."
"You do it," spat the Deejan. The Tender had acclimatised to those drugs very, very fast. Judging by the way the imprisoning hull was starting to creak and bend in a way it shouldn't, Trent figured there'd be another minute or so before it got loose. The monster had already woken up, and was doing the best it could – restrained as it was - to club him senseless with its own muzzled head.
Dortul, was she speaking to it? More to the point, was it listening? The way its arm swung about just as soon as Trent unstrapped it to smack her in the face said no, but there was always the chance it was confused and scared and violent rather than stupid and malicious and violent.
No, scratch that. It shrugged off the mess of straps and buckles and other restraints, and silenced its saviour's pleas for him to listen with a shriek and a smack across the face. Trent smiled as best as he could at that, and ducked out before someone or something stopped being distracted long enough to finish rearranging his face.
"I'm trying to help you!"
Sen just flicked his ear-crests, too agitated to actually make words out of what Iris was saying. He tried to lift himself up, but his right limb collapsed under him, bringing the killer fruit crashing back down onto the operating table with an impotent hiss. Iris stood shakily, trying to move around the room to see what was wrong the Tender, but it screeched, trying and failing again to stand.
A final tantrum-like shriek, and Sen found balance upon one, splayed-out claw. The Tender lost it again as he slipped off the table and fell to the floor in an ungainly mess, but stood quicker this time, tipping gingerly over as it tested how much weight its mangled arm would bear.
He twisted round with difficulty, and snarled at the woman, before crawling in some completely arbitrary direction (from Iris' point of view, anyway). His right arm hung, near-useless, from a gaping asymmetry where his shoulder – and its seed pod – used to be.
Sen managed a few hopping steps before stumbling again, screaming at a seemingly-arbitrary corridor. Iris ignored common sense and tried to get close enough to heal him. He smacked her away with another irritable backhand, and kept on screaming.
Lionel got to his feet slowly. He was somewhat surprised that he had survived the sudden attack; Helix could most likely have simply flattened him.
Then he looked around and the guards out in the open, and realized that the swordsman most likely had other plans.
Jacob stepped out nonchalantly, lifted his arm, and three Deejan guards suddenly found themselves lifted off the ground and flung toward Wykerr.
Lionel reacted more quickly this time, and got out of the way as the guards collided. He fired off a bolt in Jacob's general direction; while the swordsman had removed his plate armor, his sword would serve as a strong attractor and conductor.
It did, as the Yagg whose stomach Jacob had thrust his sword into soon found out firsthand.
After that, the guards collectively settled on a strategy of "stay away while they take care of each other, pick up the pieces afterwards".
In a small, relatively isolated laboratory, a Rhone and two Deejans were examining what they had been told was "a sample taken from a captured specimen".
A simpler term would have been "Sen's shoulder". They had only received the sample a few minutes ago, and had been rather oblivious to the disaster unfolding around them.
"Unusual," Zill muttered, more to himself than to his fellow scientists. "This is certainly plant matter, but it is unlike any I have seen before."
"What's this?" Gaiz asked, poking at a grapefruit-sized lump in the mass of green. "It seems different from the rest of the sample."
Zill carefully pulled the object out for closer examination.
"Hmm. My best guess is a seed. Perhaps the specimen uses it to repro-"
He didn't finish the sentence, as he slumped over with a bullet hole in his head. Gaiz turned towards Frull in a panic, only to see his fellow Deejan holding the gun.
"What did you..."
"Quiet, or you're next," Frull said gruffly, grabbing the seed. "This is exactly the sort of thing the humans want. I'll give you a simple choice, Gaiz; you can come along with me to meet my human contact and get out of here, or I can shoot you right now."
"Let's... let's go."
"Don't worry, my friend. It's not so bad on the other side."
It was rather surprising how far Jacob and Wykerr's battle had travelled along the Crossroads; they had somehow managed to find their way to the furthest bar from their starting point.
Both men had taken their fair share of blows by now, but Jacob had gotten the worst of it. This was mostly because Blitz or whoever the hell he was now could fight from a distance more easily; it seemed he didn't have to worry about using mana effectively. Which wasn't all that fair, in Jacob's mind.
He jumped over the counter as Blitz fired another shot, which missed and hit the floor.
Then Jacob saw all the bottles and a stack of napkins and realized that he had another ranged attack at his disposal.
About ten minutes later, the bar had gone up in flames.
Iris had no choice than to let Sen take its plight elsewhere; there was no stopping the lumbering mass of green rage. If it wanted the seed back, she was just going to have to track it down. Having the senses of a wolf made it easy to locate the trail left by the scientists, but lack of footprints, plant life or animals made it not so much as difficult, but more of a challenge. It had been quite some time since she had last used any of her survival skills before she regained her body but they came flooding back just as she needed them. She silently stalked her way through the science complex and out into the backstreets. The smell of industry and abandoned chemicals threatened to choke her out, but she could still notice the telltale signs of their travel. Splashes of ichor or sap had been left abandoned as they hurried. Iris was thankful they didn’t have an expert with them or the trail would have died long ago. Eventually the populace of the area began to lurk around where she was heading so she was forced to take alternate paths. There were few open rooftops, but utilizing some spare rubble she managed to break her way through several windows and bypass buildings entirely.
If she encountered anything in her path, it would be civil and therefore easy to take down. She didn’t even feel bad for murdering a lone researcher who had taken a second to look up from the notes he was transcribing. One precise slice of her new scalpel, dipped in toxin, and the creature slumped to the floor. She learned the true prowess of her cutting tool, the toxin barely had any blood to flow into as it seeped out of the wound. These advanced creatures were fascinating, in their own way. She wished she had the time to look back through history and see how they came about. The existence of her people mattered little, they were gone and their betters had taken their place. As it should be.
Iris was something outside of that system, but she would be a top dog in this society too, just before she made it fall.
She soon encountered the corpse left behind in the wake of the seed handlers. The quick execution displeased her. His death meant nothing, served nothing. Why throw away a comrade that could have been used to slow her down, retrieve weaponry or allies. She began to get an idea of the type of person that was leading the group, and how easy it would be to manipulate this person.
She began plans to ambush them, heading off to a building which stood in their way no matter which path they took. She broke into a room overlooking the direction they were arriving from, using her improvised shortcuts to head them off. She began creating a hallucinogenic dust that would confuse whoever held the seed. She would appear as an ally, take the seed and then...
She wondered briefly what her true intentions were. She could return it to Sen, but she feared the same thing would repeat itself. She decided to take it in her own hands, manipulate the seed and force it to grow faster than it naturally would, and shatter the dome. Whichever contestant died first didn’t matter, the dome would be finished and the society ended.
Searching around, she managed to find a small metal needle sharp enough to prick skin. She was missing her own bone set and metal was something not found by her people. She began work on the plant growth mixture, using some of her powers to change the mixture into what she willed it to be. Being the god of life had its benefits. She just finished it off when she noticed the two scientists enter the alleyway bellow. She casually dropped the small bag of toxic drugs off the ledge and watched it hurtle towards them. It burst on contact with the ground, leaving them to breathe it in.
She gave it a few moments to set in before she made her way down. She made sure they were cornered before she approached them. One lead noticed her, she prepared for him to scream, yell or at least run. And yet he just offered the seed to her.
“Let’s just get this over with, shall we human?”
She stood confused. Even as the drug set in he was acting out of character. Or perhaps he had tried to set up something she never expected. She took the seed in hand as the scientist rambled on about accounts, details and other concepts foreign. He checked a handheld device and seemed satisfied with whatever lies the drugs were feeding him, and they left.
Not before he shot his last assistant in the head and left him bleeding in the alley. He turned to find that Iris was gone, having left the needle in his back, coated with a quick acting venom.
She spent the next few minutes with the seed, prodding it, injecting it and using her powers to feed it more life. She was closer to the centre of the dome now, and the smoke bellowing from the west was giving her a bad feeling. Satisfied that the seed was going to hit an incredible burst of growth when it started to shoot she abandoned it underneath a flimsy crate. She didn’t want to be this close when her plans started. She just hoped Sen wasn’t the one that died this round.
But she felt it was rather too resilient for that.
Originally Posted by MalkyTop
I need to delve into dick territory.
23:55 Sanzh - wouldn't penis math be cockulus
23:55 TheDeleter - Prickonometry?
23:56 Schazer - dongrivatives?
23:56 Jacquerel - arithmadicks
23:57 DragonFogel - On that note, I'm going to finish up the leftover lasagna.
23:57 Drakenforge - Try finding out how that connects to the conversation at hand
23:59 Schazer - laswangna
00:00 Pinary - (Did anyone raise sexponential functions in the punwall? I must admit, I only got a chance to skim it.)
00:00 Schazer - I am pretty much just
00:00 Schazer - inserting dicks wherever the opportunity presents itself
00:00 Pinary - You sound like a teenage guy
00:00 Drakenforge - She gets that a lot.
The guards had seen enough. For about a third of them, that was their favorite bar, and trying to salvage it or at the very least avenge its destruction outweighed the risk of getting involved in the fight.
About three seconds later, that analysis had to be recalculated to factor in the two Yaggs set aflame by a burning bandage, and the Deejan whose head had just been blown off by a bolt of lightning.
That still might have been enough to warrant intervention, if not for Jacob's sudden appearance through a portal. On the other side of a wall of guards.
There were about twenty guards standing between the two humans now. Blitz seemed undeterred by the obstacle. Jacob just smirked and broke into a run.
The guards opted to disperse. Blitz thanked them for their cooperation by only slaughtering four of them as he ran past.
It occurred to him that Helix might be stalling for time, but he was enjoying himself too much at the moment to particularly care for whatever trick the knight had up his sleeve.
Steven crawled through the narrow access tunnel. His gloves had been able to get here a lot more easily than he had, a fact which was annoying him quite a bit.
After a while, though, the path widened and he could stand up. He wondered if he could use the gloves to open up a more convenient route once he found... well, whatever he was looking for. He wasn't sure exactly what it was.
He soon found his answer. To his left was a heavily reinforced door, and all around him were abandoned machines and broken tables. Most of the machines were in pieces. One, in the center of the room, was glowing strangely.
He stared at the air above the glowing device - there was something different about it.
He turned to the gloves.
"This is it?" he asked.
The gloves responded by joining together and flying at the strange space. They vanished into it for a moment, then reappeared and the right glove motioned for Steven to step forward.
He did, and as he approached the oddity, a path appeared before him. He could see a familiar field on the other side; someone was standing there.
He had done it. He had found the way home.
Now he just had to tell the others. After a failed attempt at opening the door - its mechanism seemed to be jammed - he told his gloves to get to work on making an easier route in and out of here; the simplest way would be to simply start breaking it down.
Escape was within sight.
Escape was within sight.
Iris didn't particularly care who died first as long as it wasn't her or Sen. She'd found a map on one of the dead scientists, and used it to locate the most secure room in the building. Specifically, the one with the most watertight doors.
She found it, and pressed the button on the nearby access panel.
And then the damn thing wouldn't open.
Cursing, she checked the map again. There was another, similarly equipped lab not too far away. She started running towards it; she wanted to be secure when the tree's growth spurt came.
She had almost arrived, when she tripped on something.
As she picked herself up, she was soon greeted by Vex stepping out from the shadows of a nearby doorway, holding a broomstick and grinning widely. She silently cursed; she could see through the former god's illusions, but apparently she couldn't catch him hiding in a dark room and waiting for her.
"Good day, my dear Iris," Vex said. "I don't believe we've been properly introduced."
Iris smiled back.
"You just helped me make up my mind," she said, readying her knife and advancing towards Vex.
"On what?" he asked as he sidestepped her blow.
"On who should die first."
Jacob hoped that Blitz would tire himself out soon. He'd feel a lot safer if he could at least put his plate armor back on. He glanced backwards to see Blitz gaining on him, and decided to risk a speed-enhancing spell to put some distance between them fast.
As a result, by the time he turned his head back to see what was in front of him, he had gained enough distance that he was heading straight for Sen and probably wouldn't be able to stop before colliding with the beast.
His guessed proved right. He knocked the Tender over and tripped on its body. He scrambled to free himself and get to his feet as soon as possible, or at least before Blitz arrived.
Then he saw the tree burst from a nearby building. Very, very quickly.
He turned to the stunned Tender and glared at it.
"What did you do this time?" he asked disapprovingly.
Last edited by Dragon Fogel; 03-16-2012 at 09:18 PM.
Lionel slumped against a nearby lamppost to catch his breath, arm still charged should Jacob make a move. The swordsman seemed content to lounge against his giant glowing bean bag, though.
“Never like leaving a job undone. I was looking forward to running you through, too.” Jacob snorted. “Or this thing, preferably.” Sen gave a half-hearted squawk at the thumb jabbed in his face and nudged the swordsman away with his snout.
Wykerr spat. “What’s stopping you, then?” His grin seemed to split his face, and indeed the scarred corner of his mouth was trickling blood. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but he wasn’t used to prolonged combat – his kills were usually quick and quiet, and he’d come out of their block-spanning spar rather worse for the wear. “Too strong for you, am I?”
“Empty words from an arrogant kid. No,” said Jacob, standing slowly as much for dramatic effect as that his legs were friggin’ sore, “I’m not going to kill you because I’d like to get out of this stupid tournament.”
There was an awkward pause. “…Sorry, I think you have it backwards. We have to kill each other to win, and the winner-”
“There’s another way.”
Jacob would have liked to think it was the confidence with which he said it, but more likely Wykerr paused because he’d thrust his sword a couple inches into solid concrete.
“Steven’s looking for a… for a rift. A rift in space-time. I think. Something to take us out of this city, out of this world… out of this Battle. He says he knows… a… guy, who, uh, look, this is coming out all wrong. Can I start over?”
Lionel just rolled his eyes. “So the kid with the gloves says he can get us home. And you trust him?”
“…You’re getting things backwards again.”
“I’m not a very trusting person. I didn’t trust him when he first mentioned it, and I still don’t fully trust him. But!”
And for the first time in a very long time, Jacob smiled. “But I can hear it.”
“Hear… what?” Lionel snorted. “A way home? You’re not making any-”
“There’s a tear. Almost too high to register, but there’s still the tiniest whine on the edge of my perception. Like that pop when you change altitude. Hard to notice but unmistakable. Heard it many times before. At home, there’s –” He cut off abruptly, apparently remembering where he was. “Rambling again. Hate that.”
“Well that's nice and all, but there’s one small problem with your plan.” The thunderboy was on his feet again, massaging his shoulder. “You know, besides the whole 'totally implausible' thing.”
“And that is?”
“I don’t want to go home.”
Jacob’s palm reacquainted itself with his forehead. “God… Don’t tell me you’re enjoying this?”
“You’re certainly not going out of your way to avoid casualties!” He was smiling that smile again – the one you’d know if you’d seen any horror movie ever. Lionel spread his arms wide and spun in a slow circle. “Look at it! The carnage, the destruction… at least half of it was you! Hell,” he snapped, pointing accusingly at the knight, “there were certainly better ways to subdue me than rampage halfway across the city. But no! You picked the most destructive option possible.” He shrugged. “I had fun, at least.”
Wykerr’s grin turned to a scowl. “And I’m not about to let you-“
Blitz groggily came to, lying gracelessly atop something squishy and radioactive. He brought his good hand around and gently massaged his jaw, which ended up just making the pain worse. Something screeched, and Jacob came around into view.
“You were right.”
“Should’ve knocked you out sooner. Still crazy?”
“What? No, I… I’m good for now.”
“Good. Now help me figure out to steer this dumb fruit. Or sit on it, for that matter.”
"What the hell is going on?" Blitz asked. It didn't help that the last hour or so was a blur. He vaguely remembered talking with Vex, getting angry with the satyr, and then... nothing, really. Other than an odd feeling that he'd been safe for all that time.
He looked on the ground nearby and saw a number of dead guards. Then he looked at the Tender he was riding on and the swordsman desperately attempting to steer it.
He wondered where that feeling could possibly have come from.
"Well, what's going on is that we're getting the hell out of here before that tree shatters the dome and fills this place with water," Jacob said. "I guess maybe we can try to stop that, too; looks like the tree's in the same direction as the portal."
"Portal?" Blitz asked.
"Portal, rift, whatever. I'm guessing that's what it is, anyways. Steven found it and it's going to get us all out of this battle. Hopefully. Dammit, that's still not a great explanation."
"And we're trying to ride on Sen because...?"
"Because he can move faster than we can, especially carrying an unconscious guy. Now if we could just get the stupid thing to stay on track..."
As if on cue, Sen suddenly turned aside and started sniffing at a Yagg's corpse.
"See what I mean?" Jacob sighed. He gave Sen a small whack with the side of his sword. The Tender yelped and started running again.
Blitz rubbed his head. It still hurt a bit. Then something struck him.
"Wait. Can't you open portals or something? I kind of remember you doing that."
Yes I can, but I've got limited mana here and more to the point, there's already a major space-time disruption around here and it's extremely dangerous to open a portal near one of those, it could even be worse than drowning in the water.
That was what Jacob was going to say, but the helicopter started shooting at them before he could begin.
"Surrender, humans!" Liss's voice shouted through a loudspeaker. "Hand over that specimen and tell us what your government wants with us, or die here like dogs."
"Can you, uh, take care of that, Blitz?" Jacob asked. "I'm going to be a little occupied here."
Blitz shrugged, and fired a blast of lightning at the helicopter. The bolt dissipated against it immediately.
"I really should review our projects more often," Liss cackled. "Here I thought we'd have to start from scratch to outfit a Sentinel with electrical shielding, but it turned out we already had this prototype almost ready to go. It just needed a few finishing touches."
"Uh, looks like I can't help here," Blitz said, turning back to Jacob. Then he saw the open portal in front of them.
"Why didn't you do that sooner?" he asked.
"Because up until a minute ago, things weren't quite bad enough to risk destroying the universe."
Before Blitz could finish, Sen ran into the portal, dragging his passengers along.
Iris prepared for another lunge, but Vex was ready this time. As she moved forward, he swung his broomstick at her legs, knocking her to the ground again.
Before Iris could get up, she felt a hand close around her throat. Slowly, Vex lifted her off the ground, then carefully turned his arm slightly so she was facing him.
"Honestly, I was hoping you'd give me a better fight," he said with a smirk. "Oh well, I suppose I've had plenty of experience with women disappointing me..."
Before Vex could say any more, he was interrupted by a kick to his chin and a knife slash across his forearm. He howled in pain and dropped Iris. She quickly pulled herself off the ground and charged at Vex again, but he leapt back just in time.
"This almost makes me wish Magog was still there," Vex growled, rubbing the wound on his arm. "But on the bright side, you've earned yourself a second chance to impress me."
"Shut up," Iris growled. "I don't care what you think about me. I just care about seeing you dead."
"You're not the first woman to tell me that, you know."
She hurled her knife at his face. He tried to move out of the way, but it still nicked his shoulder as it flew past.
"That may have made you feel better," he said as Iris leapt towards him, "but it wasn't particularly smart to throw away your only weapon."
Iris reached into her medicine pouch and pulled out some powder.
"And it's not too smart to make assumptions about how many weapons somebody has," she said, blowing the powder into Vex's face.
Soon, Vex felt groggy, and his vision went blurry. Iris's fists struck him in the face repeatedly, and he could barely even tell he was feeling any pain. Desperately, he clung to his broomstick in an attempt to just stay upright. It was not a very successful attempt.
Iris smirked, and headed down the hall to retrieve her dagger. It was time to finish the job, and beating Vex to death with a broomstick would take too long. Besides, if she cut him in the right places, he might bleed to death even if someone else died first in the flood.
As she bent down to pick it up, a glove flew at her and punched her in the face.
When she regained her composure enough to process what happened, she saw one glove waving at her and the other flying away with her knife, towards Steven, wearing Jacob's plate vest.
"You're dead," she snarled, smacking the nearest glove out of her way and running after the other one.
"I guess that means you don't want to hear about how I found a way out of this battle," Steven replied, taking the knife. "Oh well, I guess we'll just leave you behind."
Iris suddenly leapt at him, before he could react. She tackled him to the ground, and he dropped the knife. She held his throat down with one hand, and reached for the knife with the other.
Just in time to have a panicking Tender appear from nowhere, run over her outstretched hand and then trip, depositing its passengers uncomfortably on the floor.
Jacob groaned, saw what was happening, and quickly grabbed Iris' arms.
"Blitz!" he shouted. "Help Steven, if he chokes to death we're probably not getting out of here."
Blitz nodded, and pulled Iris' hand away. Steven gasped in relief.
"How'd you get here so fast?" he asked. "I didn't even see you coming! Or hear, for that matter."
Blitz, Jacob, and Iris simply stared behind him. Steven turned around to see what it was.
There was a glowing portal in the hallway. A stream of light had emerged from it, and was passing through the doorway his gloves had taken apart a few minutes ago.
"Jacob," Blitz said, sounding worried. "Did we just destroy the universe?"
Liss was frustrated. The humans had evaded her, and she had no idea how - they'd simply disappeared. She wondered if it was cloaking technology, but a few sweeps of the area with her guns suggested that if it was pure invisibility, then they had found a good source of cover very fast.
Sighing, she turned her attention to the large tree, which was still growing. This was clearly some sort of weapon the humans had unleashed on Oxbow; if she couldn't catch the saboteurs, she could at least save the company. She flew in closer and opened fire.
A branch suddenly shot up through the cockpit, shattering its glass. It continued through the roof, clogging up the helicopter's rotor.
"That settles it," Liss grumbled. "Once I get out of here, I'm tendering my resignation."
When two portals get too close to each other, and they weren't both carefully made to prevent a reaction, sometimes they resonate. They get drawn to each other's energy, basically. I couldn't quite tell exactly where the portal was when I heard it, so I had to take a gamble and hope for the best. And it didn't work out and they're resonating. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing; most of the time, the resonance is just a temporary phenomenon. Give it maybe ten minutes and it just fizzles out. But sometimes it doesn't, and then it starts dragging other things into it. Until there's nothing to drag in any more.
That was what Jacob would say if he had time to give a full explanation. Since he didn't, he summed it up with his suggested solution as Steven's gloves surrounded Iris and Sen with a large chain.
"We can either hope it goes away, or we can try to shut it down."
"How do we shut it down?" Steven asked. "Close the portals?"
"We could, and that would stop it, technically, but it would also mean we blow up the planet instead of the universe. I'm going to call that Plan B."
"What's Plan A?" Blitz asked. "We do have a Plan A, right?"
"Well... sort of. To be honest, it's really crazy and could still get us all killed if something goes wrong."
The building started to shake as a massive root burst through the ground nearby.
"I think I can take that risk," Blitz said.
"Well, okay. Basically, we're going to feed the resonance - that's the thingy the portals are doing, technical term - into this tree."
Steven and Blitz blinked.
"How does that work?" Steven asked.
"I'll explain if it does. Basically, though, we'll need my magic and your gloves, since they created the portals in question, and also a large energy source. Like, say, a lot of electricity."
"I got it. All right, just tell me what to do."
As Jacob shouted out instructions, Iris tried to slip out of Steven's chains. She wasn't following Jacob's explanation too closely, but she was unlikely to get a distraction this effective again.
From what little she heard and understood, Jacob was going to hasten the tree's growth even more. That suited her purposes just fine, but she needed to get to safety first. Slowly, she made her way out, and ran down the corridor. Vex would regain his senses soon; she needed to be safely behind the lab's doors before then, leaving the others to die in the flood. She considered rescuing Sen, but the Tender only seemed interested in staring at the strange lights Jacob and the others were producing with their ritual.
She just had to hope he was more resistant to water pressure than at least one of the others, she supposed.
Jacob did see her escape, but as she wasn't actually trying to mess them up, he sighed and just let her go. There wasn't enough time. Iris laughed, pressed a button beside the thick doors, and they slid open. She walked in, and they closed behind her; a nearby console marked "LOCKDOWN" ensured she wouldn't be followed. Now all she had to do was wait.
"Why won't this stupid copter do anything?" Liss shouted at no one in particular, as she frantically pressed buttons. The helicopter's guns struck the trunk of the tree, but it was too large now for the bullets to have any real effect. Other buttons simply turned the radio and air conditioner on or off. The ejector seat was jammed. (If Liss had read through the documentation, she would know that this one was an issue the development team was still trying to fix)
Finally, one button got the rotors spinning again, very fast. As they moved, they started to chop right through the branch keeping Liss stuck.
Unfortunately, the same mechanism soon caused the blades to simply fly off of the helicopter entirely, and sent the body of the vehicle plummeting down to the facility below.
"Phew," Jacob said, as the resonance vanished and the portals with it. "That worked. Now I guess we'd better find that crazy lady while we wait for this area to become temporally stable again."
The ground shook, and dozens of roots popped out. Sen made strange noises that might have been mistaken for excitement.
"If that happens before the tree crushes us to death now that we've sped up its growth rate, that is," Jacob added. "Let's go."
They ran down the hall, and found Vex gradually regaining consciousness. Steven tended to him while Jacob took a look at the door.
"I think she's in here," he muttered as he jammed on the control button. "But she's locked us out. Guess she's hoping the tree gets us first, or the water when it breaks this dome."
"It took my gloves about ten minutes to break down the other lab's door," Steven said.
"Do it," Jacob grumbled. "For all I know, she's crazy enough to kill herself just to keep us from escaping. Blitz, you blast it, too. I'll... well, I could ram it, but that's probably dangerous while there's lightning flying around and oh hey, Steven, I'm going to want my armor back."
Steven took off the plate vest, and Jacob put it back on, staying some distance away from Blitz. The gloves got to work on the door, and Blitz fired on it, electrifying it.
It was only two minutes later that they heard the crash on the other side.
Liss stepped out of the helicopter. The landing had been rough, but at least she'd survived. She looked down and saw a human woman pinned under it; the woman groaned in pain.
"Well. It looks like I caught one of the saboteurs, at least. I'll turn you into security before I write my resignation letter. They'll probably give you medical attention, though frankly I don't think you deserve it."
"Drop dead, bitch," Iris growled.
Directly above, a rapidly-growing branch of the World Tree struck the outer dome. It broke through instantly, and water began pouring in, right over the hole in the roof that Liss' helicopter had made.
In mere seconds, the secured lab was flooded with water. As Iris' consciousness faded, she found herself wishing she'd used stronger last words.
The seemingly endless expanse of black, pierced only by the needle of a catwalk attached to nothing, reverberated with the rhythmic clack of a pair of feet stalking unhurriedly towards the catwalk's end; a certain kind of shoe can be made specifically for the impressive sound they make while walking, and these feet had seen fit to outfit themselves with such a pair: they weren't particularly flashy or eye-catching, but spoke quietly of their quality in the hushed voice of wealth beyond the need for extravagance. The legs above – and the rest of the body attached to them – were similarly clad: a pantsuit rose from the darkness, a deep charcoal grey with near-invisible pinstripes; the whole thing accentuated its wearer's femininity without being form-fitting, setting an image of confidence and power and influence. The woman inside certainly lived up to that image, her hard features framed with a still-youthful bob cut but etched with the hints of a glower lurking behind her impassivity; every touch of her minimal makeup was applied flawlessly, and her unadorned hands were folded pensively behind her back. Her eyes never moved from the small platform at the far end of the spaceless room, her step never faltering and the ring of her shoes on metal omnipresent.
She was a woman of obvious bearing, in short, and accentuated it at every turn by playing it down.
By the time she'd reached her goal, the man holed up there had clearly been driven near-frantic by the sound of her approach and whatever business he'd been occupied with at the bank of monitors and levers that had been erected where once a chaise lounge had stood. The woman stopped just short of the platform, hands still folded behind her and no word passing her lips; for just over a minute, the man made as though to ignore her, waiting for her to make the first move. Eventually, though, his impatience got the best of him and he turned around to snap.
"What do you wa– oh, it's you."
Having recognized her, he sighed with a measure of barely-concealed relief and turned back to his work.
"Look, tell your boss I don't have time for any of his pointless collusion or scheming or whatever he's calling it these days. The Executive has me up to my wrists in work for this battle, and I can't get away to go play at conspiracies over a tea set that doesn't work."
"We both know that's not true."
Talis turned around again, opening his mouth to speak, but was quickly headed off.
"And in any case, you misunderstand the reason for my visit. The Organizer has no desire to 'collude' with you – in fact, I speculate that he sees no reason to associate with you at all."
Talis snorted. "Well, isn't that charming. The old snob's finally too good for me?"
"There is no reason for him to interfere with those not involved with the execution of the Grand Battles, Talis."
There was silence for a few beats, silence as there can only be in a place that was either nonexistent or doing its best to seem so.
"So, that's how it's going to be then?"
"I expected the pair of you to have taken care of this some time ago."
The Organizer shrugged. "You know I had too much of a stake in this little kerfluffle to go and tidy up the Executive's mess."
"And this was worth delaying for? The Observer completely unharmed, your favorite – the one you actually stepped into the battle for – dead, and the idiot now unequivocally aware of your clumsy attempts on him?"
Smiling with the Composer's own mouth, the Organizer stepped uncomfortably close to her. "Gosh, I never expected you to take that sort of a tone with me! I hope you can see once you calm down a little everything that I accomplished here was worth it. The Observer chained in place by a zombie and some crates, his whole realm reduced to a little pocket that a human wizard would be ashamed of? I think–" here, the Composer's nose was nearly being smashed back against her face by its double as Ms. Dorcy discretely stepped backwards– "that perhaps you should take some time to calm down and look again at where you are and just what happened here."
With a nearly audible snap, the tension in the air suddenly disappeared and the lilac-themed Composer stepped away from the bluer one, grinning unthreateningly and gesturing widely. "Besides, it was always my plan to wait until one of the contestants had died before I made a move! It's much more dramatic if it happens in a transition, don't you think?"
Unflappable and icy as ever, the Composer shrugged noncommittally. "I don't understand why you would choose to favor drama over certainty here. With Bryce d–" she glanced over at the Diarist, who was still occupied with his books. "With The Overseer missing, the Charlatan has been getting rather antsy. I doubt he'd ever make a move, of course, but he was just the first one to find out. One of those other pretenders could have done any number of things while you were out here playing with your toys. The whole reason I approached you was to forestall someone less competent or worthy trying something foolish with an unattended battle while I was busy with... other matters."
"Yes, of course I know that. But let's face it: what could someone like Zaire or The Controller do? I'd know if they got their fingers in our little pie, and I wouldn't bother sending my friend in that situation. I'd go have a talk with them myself!"
There was a short pause while the Composer imagined that "talk" before she spoke up again. "Why are you sending her in any case? I thought you were hoping to get your hands back into grandmastering yourself."
"It just seems appropriate," he shrugged. "Sruix and Talis ran the whole show from minute one anyway, I thought it would make sense to have a subordinate of mine take over for them."
From a certain perspective – one that had to be squinted at through any eyes other than the Organizer's – it made some kind of sense. It was certainly the kind of thought she'd come to expect from him, in any case. The Composer turned to Ms. Dorcy.
"You'd better get on with it, then. The old shamaness is being crushed as we waste time speaking."
Ms. Dorcy nodded and spread her hands wide; she seemed to disassemble and disappear in the space of less than a second, leaving behind a whisper that sounded a lot like "Time is immaterial" and a bit too smug for the Composer's liking.
"So you think you're just going to come in here and wrench the battle out of my hands, then?"
The woman shook her head, expression still blank. "No. I think I'm going to come in here and you're going to give me control of the battle. You will then allow me to strip you of most of your power and see to it that you are killed."
Talis laughed then, a manic explosion of sinister guffaws that he'd perfected over many years of careful evil. Standing up and straightening his monocle, he loomed threateningly over the woman in front of him. "You must be joking. I could destroy you, right now, right where you stand."
She shook her head, hair swishing softly across her chin. "You of all people must know I am deadly serious. Your Grandmaster is dead, and everyone who could care knows it. Even with the power you made sure to secret away for yourself, you are no Grandmaster."
He dropped any pretense of friendliness or restraint that had remained after he stood up and snarled. I don't have to be. Not yet. I have more than enough to keep this going until I've got what I need, and far more than enough to deal with you."
His hand scythed through the air in a wicked slap, but the woman had anticipated him and stepped backwards.
"It's so sad to see an incarnation like yourself adopt their role too wholeheartedly. You're not thinking ahead, Talis. Surely you don't think you could ever hold your own against the Organizer?"
"By the time he's figured out what's happened," he seethed, "and gotten around to doing anything about it, I won't have to."
"Fortunately for me, then..."
The woman finally brought her hands around in front of her; in them, there was an orb of such sublime metadarkness that the billowing blackness that surrounded the pair seemed to fade to a mangy grey.
"I won't have to wait for his intervention."
In another place entirely, a coruscating space filled with shapes and sound and light, the workshop of some mad god or madder mathematician, a hairy creature happily tinkered on a workbench that seemed to exist in several dimensions beyond those concerned with mere matter. With its hair tied back this way, though, it was rather obvious "creature" wasn't truly the right word; perhaps "man" was closer, but the way his hands sporadically disappeared into a reality adjacent to the one he existed in as he worked suggested that "man" was a better descriptor of his shape than his nature.
Sruix, as he liked to call himself when he wasn't being coerced into organizing barbarism, was as happy as he'd been in some time. Talis, doubtlessly for unfathomably evil reasons –although he couldn't really be blamed for that – had shouldered most of the burden for running the competition lately, and Sruix wasn't very interested in foiling any nefarious plots that let him do as he pleased and disengage from the bloody business of multidimensional arena combat. He still had some duties, of course – with the Executive off doing (or more likely, seeing that the doing was accomplished by someone) whatever he was doing, Talis couldn't handle everything himself. Most of what Sruix had to deal with was simple and automatable, though, and he liked that. Just adjusting a few universal constants occasionally didn't really seem much like administrating a battle to the death, so it was easy to ignore the implications if he wanted to.
For some time, most of Sruix's new duties had been re-relegated to a few machines and apparatuses of his own design, and the peace of mind and quiet they'd lent him was much appreciated. He thought less and less about them as time went on; by now, only hours had passed for his in-name charges, but he'd had several months to himself to pursue his eclectic interests. It'd been weeks since he'd had to do anything to do with the Battle Majestic, and in a willful act of forgetfulness, he'd managed to completely set it out of his mind.
Until a light began flashing and a siren wailing, that is; a small computer that had been gathering dust since its creation, needing no intervention and doing little itself, suddenly roared to life, screaming in a language of klaxons about something truly horrible.
Not sure what was happening, Sruix stood and approached his cursed creations. After a bit of poking around, his colorless eyes widened and bushy eyebrows shot upwards with alarm.
Talis recoiled, baring his teeth in shock and rage, nearly colliding with his station as he backed hurriedly away.
"You... You... I can't believe you'd bring that here!"
"You can now see just how serious I am, then."
"You'd destroy yourself!"
"Would I? Surely you don't assume I would come without some way to protect myself or escape."
"There's no such way."
"Just think for a moment, Talis. Who is my master?"
There was another pause.
"And with you gone – not just dead, as you well know, but utterly annihilated – and this place with you, and your pathetic associate, and every echo that remained of the Executive... All it would take is the Organizer to come behind and pick up the pieces. And even if I had no way to save myself as I claim, my loss is of no consequence to me. All that matters is that his goals are accomplished, and they will be. But you, you desire nothing more than your own well-being and extension."
"The choice is yours, Talis. Death, or endless, undying cessation."
Talis's eyes darted back and forth, looking for an out.
"But without me, just think about what would happen to countless worlds as they stagnate without the force of evil to counter and define their goodness!"
"That's immaterial. Even if it weren't, though, you are once again proving you have lost yourself in the mask of your position: you are not irreplaceable, Talis. When you are gone, rather than merely missing, someone else will rise to fill the void. Perhaps some interested party in our social circle will see to it; perhaps not. Either way, your uniqueness falls far short of your belief in it."
Talis was once again interrupted, but this time not by the woman menacing him. A door that did not exist banged open, and the thud of footsteps once again filled the empty hall. Rather than a confident stride, though, these were a panicked sprint, accompanied periodically by a hysterical shout of "Talis! Taaaaliiiis!"
A being of Chaos and words and hatred barreled through the impermeable boundaries between realities. It shouldn't have been able to, by all rights, but it had learned much since it had learned the word Mind. And it had been shown many things by a certain word that had smiled as it whispered. Behind it, if "behind" could truly be said to have any meaning in the circumstances, it left a wake of its new Chaos as realities clashed and wove themselves together. Holes in reality patched themselves up as best as they could, but with no hand to guide them in repairing damage that sought to spread further as it was fixed, the fixes were clumsy, blended affairs that left natural laws seeping between worlds. It was not Magog's Chaos, but it was the only Chaos Magog had left. The only Chaos that could exist with words. Magog tried to relish its Chaos, but Magog was not a being well-adapted for relishing anything. It ground its teeth and sped up.
The smiling words had shown it how the way it had followed the Julia word's thread could be applied to other things. How it could find the Vex word, how it could go there, how it could gain its freedom and its Chaos by destroying the Vex word. The smiling words gave Magog all the words it needed and all the power it already had, and they had pointed the way.
Magog did not have words like lie, yet. But Magog had words like destroy.
Sruix panted as he arrived, too preoccupied to notice the tableau in front of him for what it was.
"It's breached the universe. I think it's probably breached a whole lot of them by now. It shouldn't be able to, and certainly not that violently!" Mistaking Talis's expression for confusion, he clarified: "Magog, I mean. You remember how back on Firestar–"
"Of course I remember. I also remember you were supposed to be dealing with this. But at the moment, there are more important things–"
"No there aren't!" It was an unusual outburst for the genteel hairball. "Look, it's not just going for Vex. I wouldn't care less if it were, but this is really bad, Talis!"
The woman, still holding her orb, raised an eyebrow and looked between the two men in front of her. "What is, then?"
Sruix looked at her, unrecognizing and failing to notice the object that had so terrified Talis, and stumbled out "Well, uh, see... I plotted its trajectory – which I don't mind telling you is tricky in a multiversal context – and... It's coming here."
Neither Talis nor the woman Sruix supposed was his guest looked astonished enough at this announcement. After waiting a moment to see if anything else was forthcoming, Talis blurted out "So?"
"So?!" Sruix goggled with a combination of terror and surprise. "What do you mean, so?"
"I mean so what, you fuzzbrained waste of time! It's a stupid fragment of a stupid little god of chaos. Even you should be able to handle that once it gets here!"
"No, look, see, this is why I keep trying to talk to you about reality architecture, but you just never want to listen. It's shredding universal boundaries! This place isn't real, it's artificial. As soon as Magog penetrates the membrane, this whole place will go like a balloon that's been popped by a shotgun! We can't even leave because of the interference his approach is kicking up all around us. We have to get in contact with the Executor, and we don't have time to–"
The woman's face finally resolved itself into a genuine expression of disdainful surprise. "This is how you run a battle?"
Sruix looked like he would be more embarrassed if he had the luxury of time for it. "Well, I–"
She waved a hand. "Shut up. Both of you just... Shut up. This is absurd. I can't believe–*look, I'll deal with this. This sort of thing is practically my specialty."
Sruix rubbed the back of his head nervously. "Well, see, that's great, but... I think it'll probably keep coming back. It's following the signature of–"
"Then I will deal with that too. Talis, bring your incompetent friend here up to speed while I handle things. You'd better have made a decision by the time I get back, or I will pick the hard way for you."
She was gone again, vanishing piecemeal but swiftly into the aether.
"What was that all about, then?"
Threads laid themselves out, a tangled and near-incomprehensible web of spacial and extraspacial information. A snarl was forming and spreading itself out, a nasty ball of frays and breaks at odds with the chaotic but pristine tapestry around it. It seemed to be moving randomly, with no real goal, but a keen eye could spot the method to its madness; a keener one would have spotted the means.
Sruix had been right: it would have kept coming back, even if diverted or halted. His tacit assumption, however – that it for whatever reason wanted to destroy the Executive's realm or those in it – seemed to be wrong. As a delicate hand reached in to touch Magog's fragmentary and inchoate mind, it became apparent the little shard of Chaos seemed to think its other half was at the end of this particular thread. The being behind that hand tried to quietly change Magog's mind, to tell it to follow another thread in pursuit of Vex, but some other force had seen to it that its mind and its Mind wouldn't not be swayed.
Seeing no other option, the hand did what it had hoped to avoid, and roughly plucked the center of the snarl out of the chaotic order of the multiverse. With no other way to ensure another snarl didn't form, it did the same to Vex even as Iris breathed her last breath.
In a world of greys and angles and curves, Vex opened his eyes. He was surprised for a moment, having anticipated another transition and lecture as he'd experienced before, but that surprise vanished before long. Perhaps his handlers were becoming even more fearful, he considered with a smile. They were unwilling to even directly interact with him anymore. Well, he'd show them–
An almost feminine figure stepped out from behind one of the geometric spires that were all the god could see. She was astonishingly androgynous, as though someone had taken the perfect average of every human that had ever existed and resolved them into flesh. She was dressed in a bland grey garment, and when she spoke, it was in a voice that couldn't have matched her appearance more perfectly.
Vex wasn't unduly surprised to be addressed by name; it wouldn't have been the first time the inhabitants of a new round had been forewarned about the combatants' appearance, after all. He reached out to her mind to find words to respond with, and was stunned to be effortlessly repelled.
"There will be no need for that. I'm merely here to tell you that you are no longer beholden to those beings that stole you from your previous life to participate in what they called the Battle Majestic. You are free."
Eyes narrowing, Vex replied in his own tongue. "Then where am I?"
"This is Urlaia, a endless plane of pure, undisturbed order. It has proven to be the most secure place to sequester Magog, and by necessity you were placed here as well."
Speaking carefully, mind racing, Vex simply said "That doesn't seem like freedom."
"Perhaps not. If you would like to pursue a truer freedom from a place where chaos does not exist, you are welcome to."
And with that, she was gone.
Back in the Executive's erstwhile lair, Talis was lounging angrily on his chair. He didn't bother to look up as the woman reappeared, straightening her collar and sleeves.
"Where is Sruix?"
"He's hiding. Of course he's hiding, what did you expect? He tried to run, but he couldn't. We really are stuck here."
Talis shrugged. "You win. I'll go quietly."
"Just like that?"
This time, his facade of calm acceptance disappeared, and he shouted, kicking angrily at a nearby console. "Of course not just like that! What the bloody fucking hells other choice do I have? You knew from the second you came here you were going to win. So fuck you and kill me quick before I lose my temper and do something I'll regret for longer than eternity."
The woman smiled a reserved little grin. "Quick isn't quite what I had in mind."
Microseconds after Vex had left Oxbow, Inc., Sen, Jacob, Blitz, and Steven vanished as well. They were treated to another period of blackness and immobility, as they'd become accustomed to, but this time it went on for longer and no-one appeared to say anything. After a timeless period that would have been forever or moments, clipped footsteps thundered around them and a female figure faded out of the darkness.
"Hello," she said. "Before we begin, I would like to inform you all that there have been some changes you may be interested in. This battle is now under new management. Its previous caretakers – S and Talis – as well as their employer – one being calling itself the Executive – have been ousted to make room for more efficient workers."
"Given that, this competition is now under my purview. I look forward to leveraging your unique skills in a collaborative undertaking that will doubtlessly prove in the top percent of such endeavors. Of course, only the top percent of you will be around to appreciate it, but that was already established."
"You may be wondering what happened to the petty tyrants you first met, who did their best to intimidate you into doing their bidding and ignore the opportunities in front of you. I myself wondered about that for a time, but I believe I have devised a solution to the mutual satisfaction of myself and the surviving four of you: S and Talis will accompany you for the duration of this competition, in a significantly-reduced capacity from their previous position. They will, in fact be physically present and vulnerable as long as they survive; their deaths will not end a round, of course, but do present interesting possibilities."
"Similarly interesting possibilities are much more available to you under this administration than the previous, in fact; where they fretted and bullied and tried to ensure you were at each other's throats, I am allowing much more creative freedom in your process. Seek escape if you must; form alliances, mingle with the locals, do nothing but survive. Kill, if it pleases you. But remember that if your attempts become dull or falter, I will also be taking a much more hands-on approach to management. My direct intervention should not be required, but will be actualized if need be."
"Now, I've taken enough of your time; I will introduce myself and your next round, and we can all get back to work. You may call me the Executrix, and this–"
The blackness all around faded, and the Executrix waved a hand at the light that flooded in.
"is your new office."
The contestants were suspended in midair, surrounded on all sides by sunlight and picturesque puffy clouds. What ground they could see below was largely flat and scrubby, but so little was obvious that it was hard to draw any conclusions; in any case, what truly drew the eye was the sky around them. Clouds on all sides had been sculpted into gothic castles and quaint villages; in the distance, humanoid figures could be seen moving about rolling hills and immaterial fields, apparently supported by the cloudy landscape.
"It is a world of fancy and fantasy, of queens and dragons and witches. I encourage you to explore it, if it pleases you; my biggest request is that you simply avoid the obvious anticlimax of falling from the sky and ending the round prematurely. I will disperse you, giving you all time to yourselves before getting together; some will find themselves far above the world below, while others will be planted on firm soil."
"And one last thing before I set you loose: due to some clerical oversight, it is no longer possible for Vexmagog to continue in this battle. I have replaced him with a very interesting new member for your group, and encourage you all to get to know her. This may prove challenging, but I assure you she wants nothing more than to make your acquaintance."
A woman appeared by the Executrix's side; she was clearly just as immobilized as the others, an expression of just-forming surprise frozen on her face. Aside from that, she was surprisingly forgettable; rather average, with clothes that seemed to suggest she'd dressed to deflect attention rather than attract it.
"And do recall that your company numbers seven, now."
She flicked her fingers, sending her contestants away in spiraling columns of light.
Hello everyone! As you all know, I am now running this here thing. As you likely did not, I have obtained a replacement in the form of the lovely Miss Pharmacy to keep our ensemble at full strength. She has graciously provided a character, detailed below:
Username: Pharmacy Name: Eryntse Gender: Femme Race: Good Question Colour: The most fabulous kind! (#ff5c4 Weapon: Eryntse is a roughly seven-foot long and two-foot wide cylinder of solid flesh. Although she is not what you consider a monster equivalent of a pro-wrestler, she does have enough girth to pin an average-sized person to the ground without any contest. In addition, she has six pairs of arms - this five-fingered strings of flesh are surprisingly strong for their noodly nature and thus hard to escape.
All twelves appendages are incredibly sensitive. Thus, for personal safety reasons, retractable into her body. However, she usually has two out for convenience. The other ten buried deep within her body save for the fingers which support her caterpillar-like crawl aganist gravity.
Abilities: Eryntse's species is practically an engima, but not too unfamilar. She has what could be called a weak form of "glamour" - an electic fusion of illusionism and empathy. In a blink of an eye, she cloaks herself with an appearance that is certainly less monstrous. Her choice of illusion is independent of her genuine anatomy - she tends to choose forgettable, but moderately attractive crowd-standers. Regardless of size and nature of the illusion, her mass and actual size is still conserved.
Her glamour is foolproof enough to trick cameras and recordable disguises. However, the strength of her illusions are inversely porportional to the number of people around her. Also, her disguises could be easily broken if she is sufficiently surprised (which is not that hard) or emotionally hurt (which is pretty dang easy).
Description: Eyeless. Stout. Flesh soft and suede-like. Small, hidden mouth. Anaconda-like teeth. Body filled with runny aromatic paste. Moves in sinous, wavy motions.
Eryntse speaks in a conniving but flirtuous manner. However, she could be overwhelming and annoying as she enjoys listening to herself talk. Prone to histronics. Incredibly sociable. Friendly. Clingy, even. Has no concept of personal space - or secrets even. In other words, incredibly brash and gossipy. Her conversations tend to be empty-talk though - she usually rehashes recent events or dishes out petty opinions.
Eryntse thrives for other's company. She has made it her utmost goal to find a Best Friend, which is exactly what it sounds like. Has a tendency to scheme towards that particular wish and her actions show, although she is remarkably short-sighted and careless with her plans.
Lastly, Eryntse has an unstoppable fascination for the tactile. Enjoys running her hands through fabrics, furs, and other various textures. Sometimes drapes such things over her thick body in an attempt to "remember" them. However, this addiction is essentially self-defeating to her friend-making quest - Eryntse has a tendency to pull at people's lapels and palm their hair. Although she absolutely means no harm, her actions are understandably construed as "creepy" and "uncalled for."
Any reminder of that has a tendency to leave her at tears.
Biography: "OH. MY GOD."
It was supposed to like every other after-dinner job. Thirty minutes of calorie goodness burnt away. Go home. Done. However, now it seems that his nightly route has been interrupted by a monstrous snake. Forunately, it did not seem like it was planning to eat him. It was more like - it was caressing his windbreaker with its many hands. After his panicking was gone, his fear died along too - replaced with smouldering annoyance, especially since he realized he was still in its noodly grasp.
"Would you let me go." He grumbled, attempting to wriggle out of its grasp. "I have work tomorrow. You know."
The snake-thing hummed in reply, continuing to methodically tug at elastic bands of his jacket. Apparently the words had bounced off her ears (he was pretty sure it sounded like a she) - or maybe she was just simply ignoring him. Either way, her reply made the the trapped jogger feel a bit crestfallen, considering that she was more focused on his jacket than his talk.
Wait, that's it! He furiously worked at his zipper, frantically tugging his tag in various directions until he finally found the most prudent method. As soon as his arms were free from the grasp of his sleeves, the runner immediately bolted - leaving his favorite windbreaker in the hands of that alien beast. As the trees quickened to a blur around him, he wondered, just wondered if that enormous slug was tailing him.
In the end, he managed to get back to the safety of his comfortable house in time. As he began yet another jogging routine, he found his windbreaker on the manicured grass. Wrinkly. Sloppy with grass stains, but yet still here. It was almost as if it was dropped on the floor. This was incredibly strange considering he had a feeling, just a feeling -
- that she was taken somewhere else.
Have fun with her!
As for the round itself, well, there's not much more defined about it than the vague description up there; this battle finally has a MSPAFA round, except that it's an ETFA round. Enjoy!
I'm sure I meant to say something that I'm forgetting to, so if you have any questions, please ask! This post was a bit of a monster, tying up a number of loose ends from around GB canon, so if something slipped through the cracks, I won't be offended by you bringing it up.
Last edited by SleepingOrange; 03-31-2012 at 06:45 PM.
Eryntse always considered herself an optimist. She tend to have a bright viewpoint on things, which is not surprising, considering she always make the simple quest of friend-scheming into a Sisyphean task thanks to her, er, peculiarities. At least, she was alive - that was a start. Her illusion was still activated- thank goodness!
She continued to be incredibly fussy over her status. Was she clean? Was she uninjured? Was she suffering any symptoms of some wacky disease she made up on the spot? The list of petty trivialities goes on and on. She did not want to totally surprise everyone - that would be incredibly embarrassing. The disguised woman never liked the feeling of embarrassment
especially when she was a couple of thousand feet in the air.
Eryntse was not stupid; she knew her situation - clinging to a cloud, her nervous grip ruining the perfect contours of the sky-formed fluffiness. The airy goodness of the crushed cumulus provided her with some comfort - reminiscent of a human pillow or an adorable bunny. However, that still did not change the fact that she was in the air. On a cloud. A fall away from the gravitas of Newtonian-induced death.
She really needed to do something - preferably getting away from this spot.
Eryntse carefully slip her body around the cloud, reaching a stringy limb onto a nearby neighbor - a difficult task considering that her destination was so close and yet so far! Fortunately, she was stubborn. In a few tries, she managed to hook the cottony surface with a couple of fingers. With the grace of a pink walrus, she flopped onto her chosen cloud, squirming and struggling with tension.
She continued her strategy, flopping from nearby cloud to cloud. It was a slow, incredibly inefficient method with the clumsiness she was not used to. Eryntse wished there was a more practical method - She suffered a gamut of dead ends, close calls, and near-fatal missteps (if she truly had legs anyway). Regardless, she was making progress and that was all that matters dammit!
She was not used to being this fast. Fatigue and soreness was catching up on all twelve - oh wait - four limbs (Yes, yes she totally was not a wormy monstrosity, no siree). As if that was not enough, she also was completely lost! At her sixth cloud, she was getting quite frazzled at this rather uncomfortable situation.
Luckily, there was a quaint castle sparkling in the distance. It was a magnificent piece of work carved from glossy alabaster - the epitome of medieval fantasy architecture resting on condensed water vapor. Eryntse found to be very pretty, even though she technically did not have eyes.
Perhaps, she could get directions? Maybe meet those wonderful people (she knew them to be wonderful, she knew it) that the strange lady introduced? Eryntse attempted to keep that smouldering hope existent as she flumped onto yet another cloud. This time, it was castle-wards. Maybe she could finally finish her quest afterwards!
She giggled. Despite the dangerous heights, the disguised Eryntse was quite excited.
Lodged in a stone waiting for the true king of Ingland
Re: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Given the unusually long amount of time spent in the black void between rounds, by the time the Executrix had explained the changes in their situation and scattered them across this new locale Steven’s disappointment and anger at being unable to escape had worn away. The change in management, as the Executrix had put it, was of no concern to him. The battle was still the same thing as it had been before, only with a different person to blame for it. Even with the death of Iris and the replacement of Vexmagog he still didn’t really believe he stood a chance of winning this battle. If he wanted to survive, escape remained his only viable option. He was surprised to see that he still had his gloves, he had felt for sure that had his escape attempt failed they would have been taken from him and he would have been left even more defenceless than he was already.
He was thinking about how the gloves worked. He was certain that the path he found that led to the Master’s world could not have been a natural occurrence; that to some extent it was a thing created by his gloves but he lacked the ability to explain why they had needed that exact spot. Perhaps that was something he would be able to answer as he attempted to repeat his success.
The voice startled him out of his thoughts, reminded him that he was in a potentially hostile environment and that he should be paying more attention to what was going on around him. As he whirled around, he raised his fists and his gloves matched this pose as they floated a couple of inches in front of him. A quick glance at the faces that met him and he quickly dropped his hands to his sides and felt embarrassed at taking such a hostile action.
“Hello.” He replied embarrassedly.
Standing before him was a multicoloured cluster of regal looking women. The one standing closest to Steven was wearing a strapless lazuli dress that matched her paler cerulean skin. Her hair was a mass of navy curls that cascaded down her back and was topped off with a tiara set with sapphires. The group of women behind her were dressed in equally formal attire that matched their differing skin colours; an elegant ruffled ballgown in goldenrod contrasted against the jasmine skin of one, a long flowing dress of emerald trailed behind the one with skin the colour of jade. They all looked apprehensive at Steven’s presence in the grey chamber, as if unsure whether to be relieved that he was here, or worried.
“I’m… um… sorry if I interrupted anything.” Steven said awkwardly. “I’ll just… go…” He glanced around the room looking for a way out, as the expression of the brightly coloured women only grew more confused. He eventually found a sturdy looking door on the wall behind him and tried to let himself out, only to find it was locked.
“Are you here to rescue us?”
Nestled in the clouds, in the shadow of a jagged and icy blue citadel was a tiny little village. It was little more than a crossroads and a couple of midnight blue buildings. Here was where the two former co-hosts of this battle had been deposited. Sruix, with his tidy pinstripe suit and his flowing golden hair, had taken a seat upon a waist high stone wall and was looking out at the view of the contested skies. Distant spots of colour were all that were visible of the numerous castles. Talis was significantly less relaxed. He paced back and forth along the cobbled street, muttering curses under his breath, directing them all towards the so-called Executrix, his black cape billowing out behind him as he did so.
“Okay.” He said, eventually coming to a stop. “It seems to me that our best shot is to head to the grey queen’s castle.”
“Mhm?”Sruix raised an eyebrow as he cast his gaze in Talis’ direction.“Why would we want to go there?”
“Come now S,” Talis cajoled, “you know this setting as well as I… It seems only logical that it would be the focus of the round, does it not?”
“Well, maybe.”Sruix replied.“But previous rounds have taught me to assume little about our contestants… and even if we were to assume that that would be the ‘focus of the round’ as you put it, why would we head towards the most dangerous place in the entire setting? Wouldn’t we be better off hunkering down here, or even better, making our way over to the fuchsia palace?”The fuschia palace was so far upon the periphery of the round that the idea of anyone finding them there was laughable.
“If you do not want to survive this battle, then yes, by all means run and hide.” Talis snapped.
“What do you mean?”Sruix asked. Talis looked at him exasperated.
“Look, I know you have always insisted on identifying as one of ‘the good guys’ but surely that does not mean that you’re meekly going to accept your own demise?” Talis asked. “Surely you have not just been sitting there admiring the scenery while I have been coming up with a way to get us out of this situation?” There was a pause between the two and after a long moment Talis took a seat next to Sruix. “Our powers are limited and we’ve been dumped amongst people who want to see us dead. Unless we take action we will end up dead one way or another. We have a slight advantage, albeit one that potentially diminishes with every second that passes; we know this environment and we’ve been watching, or well, I’ve been watching them for three entire rounds.”
“You still haven’t given a compelling reason to head into the thick of battle.”Sruix replied. He stood up and walked a couple of steps away from his former co-host.“I’d say you’ve made a better case for avoiding it entirely.”
“The gloves.” Talis explained. “If you’d been watching at the end of the last round you would have seen that they have some rather surprising functionality. If we get hold of them then we can get out of here. It is quite frankly our only chance.”
“And to where do we run once we have escaped?”Sruix asked, turning on his heel to face Talis.
“You know that I cannot say.” Talis replied. “Not while she is out there listening.” Sruix frowned but did not disagree. “You just have to trust me S; rest assured that I know exactly what I am doing.” There was another silence as Talis climbed to his feet and joined his colleague in the middle of the empty crossroads.
“Okay.”Sruix said eventually.“How do we get to the grey queen’s castle then? I suppose you have a plan for that too?”
“I had rather hoped we could charter a flight.” Talis replied glancing around the sapphire village. “Let’s check this place out, see if it is as deserted as it seems.”
“Rescue you?” Steven repeated dumbly. It was possibly the first time in his life that someone had really expected something of him. Before the battle he’d been a wanderer, sightseeing through many different dimensions, no responsibilities to tie him down. Since the battle had began, okay maybe every now and again someone wanted him to make them something, but that wasn’t really him they wanted, it was the gloves. Looking at the desperate faces of the women in front of him, he just knew he did not want to let them down. “…yes.” He said eventually. “So what am I rescuing you from again?”
“Useless.” The voice belonged to a woman who very neatly blended into the pale grey of the cell. Her skin was a glossy pearly white, her dress elegant glittering silver; it matched the long plait of hair that ran halfway down her back. She bore the most unimpressed expression of all the women who stood before him. “He doesn’t know what he is doing. Did none of you see he can’t even open the door? He’s as much a prisoner as any of us.”
“Except,” the lady in green looked him up and down, “I don’t imagine the grey queen will have much use for him.” She paused. “Probably throw him from the battlements first opportunity she gets.”
“Give him a chance.” The woman dressed in purple insisted hopefully. “He’s just getting his bearings, he’ll have that door open in a minute, and then he’ll bravely battle his way through the grey queen’s merciless minions and have us back to our rightful homes before you know it.”
“Hah.” The lady in green scoffed.
“More likely he’ll want to take us home with him, back to the surface.” An orange coloured woman casually suggested. “They probably don’t have any decent queens upon the surface, that’s why they have to come up here and kidnap us.”
“Now you mention it he does look sort of surfacey.” The white woman replied. “No colour co-ordination, and look at that brown jacket. That’s surface dweller attire if I’ve ever seen it.” There was a sort of murmur of acceptance, as though this had just become immutable fact.
“Hey!” Steven snapped. “Could you stop talking about me like I’m not even here? Okay so I don’t exactly know what is going on and I’m not from round here, but I want to help.”
“That is no way to speak to your betters.” The lady in green snapped. “We are the queens of this realm and we will be treated with the respect we deserve.”
There was a murmuring of assent, punctuated by an “I told you he wanted to help” from the lilac skinned queen.
“It’s all very well and good that the mud dweller wants to help,” the white queen replied, “but look at him, what is he going to do?” The queens fell silent and gazed at Steven expectantly, as though he was about to perform the world’s greatest magic trick. Though most of them were offering their best withering glares, the blue queen looked quietly hopeful and the purple queen appeared positively giddy. She looked like she was barely containing the urge to give him the thumbs up.
“Okay, your majesties.” He said. “I’ll show you what I can do.” He turned and stared at the door thoughtfully as he tried to work out the best way to get it open and get his entourage of bitchy queens he had rather unexpectedly acquired to safety. “Umm… This may take a minute.”
It had been an even more confusing transition than usual for Blitz, and he needed some time to gather his thoughts. Or rather, he would have, if not for the fact that his current circumstances were leading him towards a very specific set of thoughts.
"AAAGGGHHH! I'M FALLING!"
And just as Blitz cleared his head enough to wonder why the Executrix had seen fit to deposit him in the middle of the sky, virtually guaranteeing a swift end to the round, he found himself hitting something very soft.
He breathed a sigh of relief, which lasted exactly long enough for him to discover that the very soft cloud he had landed on was also very springy. He bounced up into the air, then started to fall again.
At first it was disorienting, but after a few more bounces Blitz was starting to enjoy the experience. He started turning around in mid-bounce in hopes of finding somewhere else to go.
Unfortunately, a knight on a winged horse was blocking his view. The knight reached out an arm and grabbed him on the next bounce.
"Let's have a look at your license, young man," the knight said, angrily.
"My, uh, license?" Blitz asked, a bit puzzled.
"Your cloud-bouncing license! Don't try to feign ignorance with me, not unless you have your ignorance-feigning license ready at hand."
"But I don't know anything about any licenses! I just appeared in midair!" Blitz protested.
"Really?" the knight asked, sounding curious.
"Yes! I thought I was going to die!"
"I see," the knight said, pausing for a moment. "So we can add suddenly appearing in midair without a license and unauthorized plummeting to your doom to your list of crimes! My, you'll be in the dungeon for quite some time with that record. Good thing I caught you early, you're clearly a troublemaker!"
Before Blitz could protest, the knight struck him in the head with a nightstick and he started to fall unconscious. He could just hear the words "and now falling unconscious without a license!" before he blacked out.
The knights on duty in the gatehouse were less than impressed, to say the least.
"Who is that, and why is he draped over your shoulder like a fresh-speared skyminnow?" Sir Twenty-Five meant that to sound more bored than authoritative, but the dresscode-helmet gave everything he said that officious little boom.
"Looks like a surface-worlder," beamed the knight. "Caught him bouncing on clouds without a license."
"We don't arrest people for that," Sir Thirty-One eventually said. He felt a bit dumber having to say this aloud, but considering Twenty-Five had seniority he was bound to get lumped with it.
"Oh." The errant knight shuffled his feet. "How about falling unconscious without a license?"
"Get out," replied Sir Twenty-Five. "Leave the surface-worlder here, for pity's sake," he exploded, as the clearly-thirdscore degenerate trudged out.
The senior knight sighed, helm resting upon a gauntletted palm. "The Moonlight Queen's still got ours prisoner, yes?"
"I think so, sir." Twenty-Five sighed again, being in the Oldest Dozen made it socially acceptable for him to consider himself Too Old For This Shit. "Take the prisoner to recuperate in her quarters, then. Then go shove that dysfunctional suit out the South Tower. He's an embarrassment to the two dozen good knights before me."
Thirty-One saluted, consciously deciding to not point out that Sir Fifteen probably wouldn't approve of being talked about like a dragon had eaten him already.
Sen materialised ten feet or so above a bed of coals. Only some truly gymnastic flailing landed him mostly outside it, but he leapt up with a furious shriek nonetheless.
"Pa, is that really a dragon?" The viking pup sounded sceptical, but dragons normally flew down from the heavens rather than popping into existence.
They also had wings. And were usually a fair bit larger. The Tender ran laps around the "summoning circle" (more of a draconic landing pad, when you thought about it), screaming at the ring of vikings standing shoulder-to-shoulder and waggling flaming torches in his face when he got too close.
In eight well-respected years as Chief Dragonslayer, Kollskeg the Unarmoured hadn't actually seen a baby dragon. That was his current estimation of the creature, although the eventual conclusion was more "No chance of that feeding the whole village for winter. Best let it free, lest its mother comes raining hellfire looking for it."
Sen needed no invitation as the bemused beardfolk parted ranks. Running only into a shield and a blacksmith's sign on his way out of town, the envoy galloped off into a meadow of goats. They hardly seemed concerned with the interloper until one snuck up and tried to nibble Sen's tail; it received a seed-pod to the head for its troubles and sent its companions in a bleating panic over the hill.
Crests rising and falling in quick, nervous succession, Sen finally relaxed, and snuffled about. This meadow was nice. It was flowers and a few hills and lots of grass and not many trees and big, heavy clouds full of rain dabbed amongst a bright blue sky where the sun was sure to shine.
It was beautiful. Sen wasted no time digging a hole, and dropping his remaining shoulder-pod into it.
Sen's head shot up from dirt-shovelling at the mewling and clanking of goats running back over the hill. He swiped at one as it trotted by, making sure they left his tree well alone, then loped over the crest to investigate.
Two grey humans greeted him - one metal and bent all the wrong ways and lying in a dent of earth, another - like the strange Wolf-friend who had bothered him no end - on the next rolling hill across from Sen.
It called out a greeting, and Sen chirruped one back. Tender and witch approached each other slowly, eventually standing either side of the broken knight. She proferred a hand, and he a snout. She said something Sen didn't discern words from, but understood to be soothing and friendly, and obligingly introduced himself, much to her surprise. She paused, thinking, while the Tender took a disparaging sniff of the suit of armour, then slowly took off her charcoal hat.
Sen blinked, wondering what just happened, and where the girl had vanished off to. The Tender took an experimental step back, then lost its balance and fell over.
"Damnit," growled Sen, scrabbling around in the grass.
After an unnecessarily long period of time, the tiny pink dot amongst the clouds managed to reach the objective of her choice - namely the giant gravity-defying castle in the distance. Being a being made mostly of muscle and a hydrostatic skeleton (but you did not just heard that), the arduous journey to her destination was pretty much a cakewalk to her. In due time, the disguised Eryntse managed to latch her fingers onto the edge of the floating castle and host her girth onto the platform. Despite the uneventful journey, she rather not attempt this stunt again.
Eryntse peered over the edge of the architecture, nervously taking in the terrifying realization known as “really freaking high.” The mere sight of the clouds and and distant villages - made miniscule by perspective of height was making her uneasy. Being a ground-dwelling denizen for a majority of her life, Eryntse was never fond of heights - or high places really. Despite the dangers of such neck-breaking (she was not quite sure if she had a neck to break) distance, Eryntse was pretty sure she could get used to it.
The place she was pulled from was not her original home. Her true place of origin was much more familiar, more comfortable - with mundane architecture and her prosaic kind. She had a comfortable life and a decent job, but she felt so lonely in that place - which was why she moved! Well, more like accidentally thrown into that place. She remembered the first time she was in that dimension - so foreign, so strange. So many bewildering sights. So many things! But you would find the best friends in the strangest of places and this quaint place was no different. So she said to her petty nervousness - oh well!
With a skip to a step and a smile on her face, Eryntse turned to the castle.
Wow, the castle looked even more impressive up-close than far-away. It was a marvelous piece of medieval work - although the sign “SIX FOR GOLD POLICE DEPARTMENT” in Blackletter made the massive stronghold slightly out of place. A place full of best friends! Eryntse piped in her thoughts. She had not forgotten her quest - her quest for platonic companionship and this place seemed like a great contender for the completion of her goal. It seemed large enough after all.
But wait! She needed to change her disguise to something more thematic! Her current one was a bit too modern for this fancy castle - and its probable denizens too. Eryntse was not too familiar with ye olde medieval history and its encompassing fairy tales, but from what she remembered poring over books in the library from her previous place (while in camouflage of course), castles did have a tendency to have princesses.
So that means she needed to be a princess!
And so she did. Well, she did look a princess, but it was more “A” for effort than for execution. There was something off about her femininely royal disguise. It was a smidge too frilly, too pink. There were a tad excess of jewels and ribbony decorations. The crown was too shiny, too large. She probably smeared up a bit too much lipstick, maybe eyeshadow too. If dresses were a battle majestic, Eryntse’s was a massacre most awful and indeed, her “princess” disguise looked awful.
“I’m a beautiful princess!” Eryntse squealed oblivious to the trainwreck that was her clothes. Somewhere in the multiverse, a fashion designer was weeping most tragically but fortunately, his wasted tears do not matter.
Eryntse was prepared.
Meanwhile in the Six For Gold Police Department, the errant knights were taking a short respite what in modern terms, could be called a “coffee break.” Just because they were nameless underlings who looked similar to each other (and sometimes it was hard to tell from each other) does not mean they could not afford the simple siesta of some food and drink. Of course, like any other workplace full of employees, the knights were mincing talk.
“Man, I get no respect,” Thirteen grumbled as he furiously consumed the cheese - despite having his helmet on.
“Don't worry,” Fourteen sighed as he siphoned some barley water through the sieve of his headgear. “In due time, they will forget about that incident.”
Before Thirteen could retort, there was this massive CRASH that made every knight jump in surprise. “The castle has been breached!” “Danger!” “Panic!” The arcane-powered alarms screeched their warnings. What could this danger be? Who would breach such a place? All personnel unsheathed their swords and hoisted on their shields, ready to give their lives to protect their place of work from this unknown threat.
However, the castle underlings did not quite except the intrude to be a royal. Well, a royal that looked like an colorblind unicorn was her tailor.
“Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” The royal fashion disaster smiled, her greeting of a waving hand becoming a blur.
The knights looked at each other. If they had visible expressions, they would be slacked-jaw bewilderment. Not a sorcerer, a dragon, or some sort of eldtrich invertebrate, but a royal! A royal! Of all the intrusions! What type of royalty could she be? A duchess? A princess? Perhaps even a Queen? The knights stared nervously, there was one thing they could do.
“Wait, where are you taking me?” The woman squeaked - her nervous tone uncharacteristic for a noble.
Thirteen and Fourteen took each of her hands and lead her down the hallway. They could not just drag her away - she was royalty after all.
What happened... oh, right, that stupid knight knocked me out. Guess this must be the dungeon...?
Blitz looked around as his vision gradually returned, expecting to see a dingy old cell. Instead, he found himself lying on a large pink bed, in an ornate bedroom.
Whoa. Do they treat their prisoners really well here or something? Or did somebody get me out of that mess? Blitz slowly sat up and lifted himself off the bed. Either way, sticking around here probably isn't a bad idea. It's better than getting involved in this battle again...
And then Blitz screamed as the memories flooded in.
Thirty-Three sighed. Guard duty was boring, and guard duty with Forty-Eight was even worse thanks to his frequent attempts to lighten the mood.
"So why do you think the Moonlight Queen's been attacking us even though she already has our Queen?" Forty-Eight asked. "If you ask me, it's because she's been spending too much time in the thicker parts of the sky. It's clouding her judgement! Ha ha ha!"
And that was one of his better jokes.
It didn't help that Thirty-Three barely had any idea why they were guarding the Royal Quarters. Thirty-One had explained something about a prisoner who hadn't actually committed any crimes, but he'd been in such a rush with his explanation that barely anything was clear, and he'd run off before Thirty-Three could ask any questions.
The scream came as a relief, in a way; it gave him an excuse to actually do something. He told Forty-Eight to stay outside, not so much to leave the door guarded as to keep the younger knight's inanities away from him.
Inside, Thirty-Three found the young man kneeling on the floor, sobbing.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"No, Daddy! Why did you hurt them?" Blitz shrieked in a voice that sounded far too young for a man of his age. He looked up, and seemed to notice the knight for the first time. "Stay away! He'll hurt you, too! He's after everyone!"
Thirty-Three had never dealt with a crazed prisoner before, much less a crazed prisoner who evidently hadn't done anything wrong. He was unsure of whether he should knock the young man out, run away, or try to calm him.
He ultimately settled on gathering more information. And backing away for a quicker escape, just in case it came to that.
"Who is this 'he'?" the knight asked, taking a careful step back.
"Daddy," Blitz replied, still crying. "Daddy told me he was saving me from the bad men, but he really just wanted to kill them! And now Daddy's mad! I don't know how long I can stop him!"
Thirty-Three took six significantly less-careful steps back as he tried to think of another question. His train of thought was interrupted by the stranger, who was now speaking in a different, and far more discomforting, voice.
"Blitz, my boy," he said calmly, "you don't understand. They would have killed you. It was better this way."
"No!" the boy shouted back. "No more killing! I just want you to go away!"
"Look at this man," the other voice said. "Just look at him. You can't even see his face. That's because his face would give away his feelings. He hates you, fears you. He wants you destroyed."
Thirty-Three felt this was putting him on the spot a bit. Granted, he was afraid, that much was true; but he didn't particularly want this youth destroyed. He tried to think about how to respond, but the childlike voice soon broke that up.
"No! You're lying to me! Just like you did before! Stop it, Daddy! Stop it! I don't want to see him hurt!"
"No? Well, then perhaps you should close your eyes, my dear boy."
Blitz's arm started glowing. Not wanting to see what happened next, Thirty-Three rushed out the door and slammed it shut, leaving Forty-Eight dumbfounded.
And then a bolt of lightning flung the door off its hinges, right into Forty-Eight. He was knocked to the floor, and had barely picked himself up before he saw his attacker more closely. Blitz slowly walked out, laughing wickedly as sparks crackled around his body."
"You can't stop me any more, my boy. I'll protect you, whether you like it or not."
For clarity, because I couldn't see a way to easily fit it in the post: Blitz (now Lionel) can't actively try to kill anyone. However, he has no intention of giving that away to his potential victims.
Basically, he's trying to scare them just for kicks.
Last edited by Dragon Fogel; 05-24-2012 at 11:24 PM.