Originally Posted by Hijack
'You humans have such a skewed perspective of time. You believe that a year is a long time, that a decade is an age. You believe that a century is an eternity. You are all so fleeting. You are like fucking mayflies, born and dead in a day. You have no concept of a long time; hundreds of years... millions...' Thane paused. 'I'll make you a deal Algernon. It's a good deal and you would do well to take it.' He walked over to Algernon's prone form and picked up his discarded gun. 'I'll kill off the competition, one by one. All you have to do is provide me with the weaponry to do so.' Thane aimed the gun at the wall and sighted down it. 'Better weaponry than this.' he thinks. 'Maybe... did you have a thing called a flamethrower in your universe? One of those would be very helpful against the Ouroborous creature.' He turned his attention back to Algernon where he lay on the floor, tossing his weapon back at him. ''I imagine you're probably wondering what is in this deal for you. I won't insult your intelligence and tell you that I'll keep you alive. You know that I will kill you the moment you have outlived your usefulness. But...' Thane paused, his eyes narrowing menacingly and a sense of smug satisfaction spreading through his thoughts. '...if you don't I will leave you with that pain for what feels like a very long time. And I'm not really a human, so when I say a long time, I mean a LONG TIME. So Algernon, you in?'
Avatar by the wonderful Pharmacy~
Acacia stumbled backwards, lines extending from the colony as its horrible chittering picked up. Aic attempted to reassert herself, sensing Acacia's vulnerability.
Look at little miss lionhearted. What was this about surviving without me, hmm?
Shut up! Get out of my head!
You know I can't just do that. I'm a part of you.
One of the Ouroborites flung forward from the group, and began chewing on Acacia's arm. She screamed silently, whipped out her pistol and shot at it, sending it slightly backwards, and began walking backwards from the approaching mob. She quickly bumped against a wall, trapped.
A glowing red sphere whizzed right past Acacia, slightly heating her up, and headed towards Ouroborous. The front bugs emitted a horrible noise as they were burned off by the ensuing wall of fire, and the remainder went backwards to wait until it dissipated. Holly walked up to Acacia, trembling. "Well, well. What have we here?"
Acacia stared at the elf, wearing a pronounced grimace. "H-holly! Nice to see you!" Holly responded to this by ripping a page out of a book and slapping Acacia, sending pure fear coursing through her veins. "Save it, you. I want the other one out here." Acacia collapsed to the ground and curled up. "No! I'm not letting her out! I refuse!" She gritted her teeth as the vision of Aic within her head became flanked by various monstrosities. That's quite enough, Acacia. Let's give Holly what she wants, since she saved us and all.
Aic blinked and shook her head, sending the fear away. She slowly rose and walked over to Holly, giving her a kiss on the cheek. The elf grinned. "Alright, then, there's the Acacia I wanted to see! Now, could you explain this little discrepancy to me?"
"Please, the name's Aic. and absolutely."
Avatar by Lankie.
Algernon could barely focus on what Thane was saying to him. His head was still pounding and he was trying to think past the pain and concentrate on something more serious because he would not be someone's slave. He had to escape. There was always a way to escape, right? He had escaped these sorts of situations before, right?
But whenever he tried to think of a plan, his brain stopped, as if the pain had built up a barricade in his mind. Was there something he was carrying that could help? Or something he could create? Or--
'I'm waiting,' Thane said, gently pressing a foot in Algernon's side as if reminding him just who was causing this horrible pain.
There was no way out of it. At least not right now. "Alright!" he shouted, a little louder than he intended before repeating, in a softer, defeated tone. "Alright. I'll do it." A slight pause. "And yes, I know what a flamethrower is..."
With all the satisfaction and smugness a demonic entity could muster, Thane finally let him stand up again. 'Good.' Algernon grimaced at the floor as he pocketed his gun. His new 'partner' continued. 'The Ouroborous is near. There are also two others, but I'm sure they won't matter. Make a flamethrower.'
'Yes,' Thane replied, clearly impatient. 'What other time would I want it?'
"Well, but, my memories will get eaten as long as it's--"
'You make memories continuously, it's not as though you will ever run out. Flamethrower. Now.'
Algernon winced again and held in a sigh. He didn't even know what flamethrowers looked like. But it didn't seem as though he could use it as an excuse. (And it didn't actually seem to matter in any case.) So reluctantly, he held out his hands and concentrated and eventually, a flamethrower misted into view. He almost fell forward under the weight of the pack of some sort of alcohol which was connected to a long tube that seemed to end in a sort of rifle-ish shape. Thane grabbed it immediately as Algernon leaned against a wall, watching blankly as the barely-human form tested it out. As Algernon felt childhood and recent memories alike vanish, he couldn't help but feel annoyance for when he would have to condemn the flamethrower and the dispersed alcohol (or whatever it turns into) to non-existence again.
Thane shouldered the pack at last. 'Good. Let's go.'
Aic ran a hand over the stubble on her head and sighed, observing Ouroborous ash float down around the two of them. She idly flicked some away from her.
â€œI'd love to chat more, but we're going to get eaten if we stand around. A rather tough setback to recover from, as I understand it.â€ She glanced at Holly out of the corner of her eye, smiling.
â€œSo let's find ourselves somewhere a little quieter.â€
With a small grating chuckle she tipped back the elf and scooped her up into her arms with a single smooth movement. After bestowing a small kiss upon the nose of the slightly surprised manipulator, she picked up the pace, breaking into an all out sprint down the corridor with only an occasional glance back to assure herself that the bizarre bugs had not caught up with them just yet. Her white coat swept out behind her with all the majesty of a cloak and her eyes were blazed with pure joy. Her eyes caught Holly's, and she winked.
Suddenly, Aic skidded violently and jumped sideways down an adjoined corridor. A single heavy-looking door opposed them. It was promptly kicked open, with little more than a small squeak from Holly. She surveyed the room sternly, noting the rather snazzy tall stools appreciatively. Aic lowered the elf down so she could find her feet again.
Just as soon as she had, the scientist shot over to the door again where she leant out into the corridor.
â€œNo sign of the fleas. Doesn't mean they're not coming,â€ Aic gasped, swinging around to the slam the door shut and grabbing a stool to prop under the door handle. â€œBut that just means we have time to prepare a proper siege. They'll get bored of hammering against a door eventually anyway.â€
She darted away again, this time seizing a hefty desk and heaving it across the room, where it replaced the significantly less impressive stool. Satisfied, Aic hoisted herself up onto the desk and met Holly's stare with her head propped up in her hands.
For a few seconds Aic simply took her in. Every little detail was noted and marveled at.
â€œI've never met anyone like you before,â€ she declared at last, her panting mostly faded already. â€œTell me about yourself. Just who are you, Ms Holly Tallbirch?â€
Holly smiled and leaned back in another stool. "I asked first, but fine. Let's see... I'm an elf, I come from a line of nobles, I learned magic at a young age, and oh yes." At this she grinned. "I enjoy others' pain. I love nothing more than simply putting someone through incredible, excruciating misery; or disrupting their well-laid plans; or crumbling their entire lives around them, never letting them know why. Of course, if they did know why, they'd only feel worse about the whole endeavor. And do you know why that is... Aic?"
"Because you have the power; you can do it, and nobody can stop you from doing it, and thus you don't target anyone in particular." She smiled as well. "You just ruin the life of anyone you come across, be they big or small, don't you, Ms. Tallbirch?
Holly nodded. "Precisely. All the lives I've ruined, they've simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of course, that's not all I do, as you've seen." At this, she leapt out of her stool, dashed over to Aic, and planted another kiss on her. "You know, Aic, you're the first person I've ever really liked. I think I'll have to kill you last." She briefly brought her whip out and twirled it in the air before returning it to its spot on her belt. "I really will regret it, you know."
"Thanks for that."
"You know what I like about you, Aic, besides our 'mutual interests'? You don't seem to beat around the bush like that Acacia. You let others know what you think and feel, whether they're going to like it or not." The elf tossed her ponytail back, giving Aic a long, loving stare. "You should grow your hair out. Anyway, why don't you tell me about yourself now? I'm rather curious about this whole 'two Acacias' thing myself."
Avatar by Lankie.
Satisfied that his unwilling new ally had given him a working flamethrower, or approximation thereof, Thane sets off out of the room. Algernon lingers inside in the hope that in his eagerness to kill Ouroborous, Thane might have simply forgotten about him.
'You would do well not to waste our time.' Thane thinks pointedly, reappearing in the doorway. Algernon grumbles under his breath and follows the old one into the corridors. Thane proceeds down the corridors in a zig-zagged fashion, knowing where Ouroborous is, but not knowing the circuitous layout of the corridors necessary to navigate to it. Algernon follows him ruefully, watching him carefully waiting for an opportunity to make his escape. Along the way Thane notices that a classroom which they are passing is occupied by a pair of minds; Acacia Skammer and one that had not yet been identified. Though disappointed that his trap at the Peace Room did not claim her life Thane pays little attention, she is irrevelant, a problem that he will end when the time comes.
As they proceed down the corridor the faint drone of chirping Ouroborites grows louder, as Ouroborous changes direction, heading to those who smell of fresh blood. As it grows louder Algernon instinctively clamps his hands over his ears to blot out the screeching. Thane readies his flamethrower, and turns to Algernon.
'I can help if you wish.' He thinks. 'I can drown out the noise with something pleasant.'
"No." Algernon replies instantly. He shivers involuntarily at the thought of what a monster such as Thane would think of as pleasant.
'Whether you like it or not we are allies.' Thane thinks, as if concluding the topic there. Thane glances around. 'This way.' he thinks as he gestures down the corridor they have come from. Catching sight of an inquisitive glance from Algernon Thane elaborates.'It is coming for us. We will engage it on our terms.' Thane leads the pair of them to a stairwell, positions himself on the first step up to the higher floor and indicates that Algernon get further up. 'This is perfect' he thinks. 'If your equipment proves ineffectual, or fails me (for whatever reason), it will provide us with ample opportunity to flee.' The old one readies the flamethrower and waits.
Avatar by the wonderful Pharmacy~
Your RESERVE has been STOLEN by the infamous WHOOSH!, a terrible miscreant suspected of MURDER and BAD WRITING.
Aic smiled acidly.
"Two Acacias? That would be a pain in the ass. No, Acacia is the just the name of the other person in my head who sometimes likes to take our body out for a spin, regardless of whether I'm giving permission or not," she drawled, half winking again.
"But don't worry. I'm the real one."
Yet in the next moment her smile fell away, and her gaze dropped down from Holly's face.
"Butâ€¦ she's strange. Sometimes I think there might be another layer beneath her. Masquerading with her name, but it's something more like me. And the rain thing. She's got this weird deal with rain. Acacia's hiding a memory from me, something that links back to this rain. And yetâ€¦"
Aic raised her head, where she ignored Holly in favour of the sight beyond her. A pair of windows sat resolutely in the wall, opportunely illuminated for that moment by a lightning flash. But even that did not banish the water that pounded the glass so stoically. Aic leapt across the room, gliding closer until she touched the cold glass with one hand.
"And yet, I think, if I asked her, she would show it to me without a moment's hesitation. The memory, that is. What sense does that make?"
Skammer removed her hand from the glass and turned slowly around to face Holly. Aic was trembling, her face pale and a single tear cutting it's shining path down her right cheek.
"I'm so, so scared of whatever she saw the day. The day the rain came down, and she remembered. I'm scared of what that memory contains, and why she cares enough to make sure I don't see it. That's what spooks me the most. That she actually gives a damn about me, on this single matter. Why?"
She wiped away the tears accumulating in her eyes. Suddenly, she paused with her hand frozen in the act and stared at Holly like she'd never seen her standing there before. Entranced, she slowly cleared away the last of the tears she'd almost shed. Aic murmured something.
"Pardon?" Holly frowned at Aic, tilting her head to the side. "What-"
"Take the rain away," Aic repeated, her face regaining some of it's previous colour. Her eyes were dancing, despite the cold slam of despair that hung deep in their depths. "Obviously not the memory, that's impossible. But she needs that rain, Holly! She clings to it like her life depends on it! The rain is a part of her, tied to an emotion she handcuffed herself to. Take that away, andâ€¦"
Aic halted for a moment, her words seeming to fail her. She shrugged, throwing her hands up.
"The bitch'll just die."
Holly stared at Aic, face quickly moving into a visible frown. "Aic, I... come here." She went over to her and looked her over, wondering what she was thinking. I don't get it. She's just some human. Why should I care? Holly stared at Aic, taking in every detail; the small imperfections in her skin, the shade of grey that painted her irises, and embraced her. "It's going to be alright, Aic."
The elf focused with all her might, drawing the sadness out of Aic and turning it to water, trickling out of her hands and onto the floor, and for the first time she could remember, Holly cried. "It's going to... it's going to be alright, Aic. I can't get rid of it all, b-but I'll... I'll take the rain away." Aic smiled. "Thank you, Holly..."
Holly suddenly looked down again. She hadn't drawn out that much sadness, had-- no. "Oh crap. Oh crap oh crap oh crap. It's getting worse. Aic, we have to get out of here. The room's flooding." She quickly ran over to the barricade and did her best to move the desk from its spot.
Avatar by Lankie.
Things I currently dislike: Life. Why's it got to take so much time away from my precious internetting?
Barely audible to the Countess' water- and Ouroborite juice-soaked listening instruments above the expulsions of a decimated bathroom fixture, the background shifted as for a split second, the rain desisted.
There was little time to contemplate it as the torrent redoubled its efforts in tandem with an crash from above. In her bitchy way, the Countess assumed such a spectacularly unsubtle show of destruction was Holly's doing. One spring-loaded kick at the pipe, and the shower was redirected upwards, into a now-buzzing light. One well-aimed hand-drier later, the Countess exited a much darker bathroom. The water pooling under the door, as evidenced by a jittering, gently smoking Ouroborite, was electrified. Neglecting to eat this one, the Countess held onto it as she scuttled off looking for someone else to mess with.
Pluck sipped his cup of tea, and quickly realized that he vastly preferred coffee. He should have had the large tortoise think of that instead.
"Uh huh. So, ancient Rome, huh? Sounds like you're pretty powerful."
"IT WAS MERELY A STANDARD TIME ASSIGNMENT. THE STUDENT KNOWN AS CARLYLE QUANTIS DID PARTICULARLY WELL ON HIS THE ASSIGNMENT BY RETURNING WITH THE CROWN OF JULIUS CASER."
"Well, that sure is fascinating. Say, you wouldn't be able to, I don't know, use those powers of yours to get me out of this mess, would you?"
"WHICH MESS ARE YOU REFERRING TO?"
"The whole fight to the death thing? Crazy manipulative bastard brought me and others here to fight until we all die? I mentioned it in detail 10 minutes ago."
"I APOLOGIZE, FOR MY MEMORY HAS BEEN A BIT HAZY AS OF LATE. FOR EXAMPLE, I WAS DYING, AND ASKED CARLYLE TO FETCH ME A GOAT BEZOAR"
"What the hell's a bezoar?"
"IT CAN BE DEFINED AS A MASS FOUND IN AN INTESTINAL TRACT, USUALLY MADE UP OF HAIR AND UNDIGESTED VEGETABLES."
"Gross. So, something about your memory?"
"I AM STILL HERE TODAY, AND YET I AM NOT QUITE SURE IF CARLYLE SUCCEEDED IN HIS QUEST."
"I suppose that would be a little odd. So, what about using your powers to help me with my problem?"
"WHAT PROBLEM WOULD THAT BE?"
Pluck sighed. It didn't seem he would be getting anywhere with this line of requesting. He mentally cursed at the Controller, not actually having any evidence, but still assuming that the memory blocks in Immortus were his fault.
His train of thought was soon interrupted by an approaching sound.
"IT IS RAINING RATHER HARD AND THERE MUST BE A HOLE IN THE ROOF."
"That came out of nowhere."
"THAT IS THE SOUND OF RUNNING WATER."
"Oh, alright. That, uh, what?"
The water wasn't particularly torrential, but it did come in faster than Pluck had expected, him not expecting any at all, and a shallow puddle quickly started spreading across the entire basement.
"This could prove problematic. Hey, Immortus, bud, could you do me a favor, and just let your mind wander for a moment? Think of a sunny afternoon by the lake. A couple is in a rowboat, holding hands. Focus on the rowboat, floating gently on the water."
A few moments later, a rowboat appeared next to Pluck, with intricate designs on the side. All in all, it was a rather nice rowboat. The kind you would see in a painting of a perfect day.
"WILL THAT SUFFICE?"
Pluck sat in the boat, waiting for the water to rise enough for it to float. Judging by the rate at which it spread, it wouldn't take more than a few minutes.
"Yes, I think it should. Thank you. So... tell me more about this Carlyle kid."
The ceiling to the floor above creaked and bowed as water escaped through cracks that were forming and splashed down into the puddles that littered the second floor hallways. This was of course irrelevant to Ouroborous. Its Ouroborites had been frustrated that the cry for help they had received had not resulted in easy prey, but now they noted the same delicious scent. They skittered through puddles of rainwater, unaware of how fragile the floor above them was becoming, lost in the intoxicating aroma of blood.
Water from the floors above was pouring straight down the centre of the winding staircase, a fast flowing waterfall plummeting down to the basement, but this was not a detail that Algernon was paying much attention to. He was staring at the old one, in fear and a kind of horrifed awe. Thane was staring intently ahead, a picture of unwavering, unfaltering concentration, untinged with emotion, unburdened by morality. Thane was ruthless, almost mechanical, in his actions, seeming to flourish in this horrific battle. Algernon hated him, it was his fault that one by one his memories were slipping away from him. His worm slurped hungrily as the memories of a treasured Christmas morning simply disappeared. He had not brought an object into the world for as long a time as this before. He could not keep Thane's weapon around for much longer. He thought it would probably be best not to mention it.
Thane watched the door intently, feeling the nervous and disapproving glare of Algernon from behind him. This did not bother him, in fact so long as he killed the swarm of insects he felt that Algernon's services would be rendered unnecessary and he could be terminated at his earliest convenience. He could feel two minds approaching; the first was the swarm mind of Ouroborous, the second was familiar, but slightly different, the mind of one of Maxl's demons.
'We have company.' Thane irritably informed his reluctant ally, who barely even acknowledged this thought.
Lust stamped down the corridor, practically oblivious to her surroundings, lost in a furious haze. She had never felt like this before, she felt hot, her jacket collar too tight, her head buzzing as she replayed events that had led her to this. She didn't even notice as her naked feet plunged into the filthy water that had pooled here and there in the corridor. She slammed open the door to the stairwell, and her gaze alighted on Thane and she just exploded.
"You!" she exclaimed as she marched towards him, not even noticing the flamethrower he held. "If it's not that elven bitch it's you!"
'Get out of here Maxl.'
"No!" Lust exclaimed "I will not do as you say, monster! I will not let you and Holly and whoever else wants to try toy with us, like we are nothing. We are the Deadly Sins! You will respect us! You will fear us! Let me show you why."
Thane was infuriated. His plan was about to be up in smoke at the hands of a broken man and his demon entourage. Thane raised his flamethrower, though he had been hesitant to use it on anything other than Ourborous, he would make an exception to get this stupid, spoilt, beautiful monster out of his face. His finger paused on the flamethrower's trigger for a second before he dropped it entirely, reaching out for Lust's face, bringing her close to him and kissing her deeply, driven by some bizarre instinct. At least that was what he had intended, lacking a mouth he ended up pressing his tentacled face up against hers rather ineffectually. Lust's knee made contact with his groin and she pulled away grinning wickedly.
Algernon was off. As Thane slowly folded to his knees, Algernon took off up the stairs. This wasn't quite the opportunity that he had been expecting but he was a fool if he didn't make use of it. He reached the third floor, the highest that the stairwell went and saw the doors. They were bulging outwards, with water shooting violently through the cracks. They creaked ominously as he slowly came to a stop and started backing back down the stairs.
Lust's grin didn't leave her face as Thane collapsed to his knees. She reached down and picked up the flamethrower that he had discarded, aiming it at his face. Her finger on the trigger when suddenly the noise of screeching Ourborites drowned out the world.
Algernon stuffed his fingers in his ears, and stumbled down the stairs and back to where he had started. Looming in the stairwell door was Ouroborous. His heart sank, overall this was probably inevitable but he had hoped that it would take longer than this. He sank to his knees, his head feeling like someone was prodding around inside it with a drill.
Lust stood there bemused. For a second there it had sounded like Ourborous had been right on top of them, now she couldn't hear a thing. It was like someone had stuffed her ears with cotton wool. She banged the flamethrower experimentally against the wall and didn't hear a thing.
'It's behind you' Thane thought, through the sensations that his human body just couldn't seem to ignore. 'Quickly before it kills both of us.'
Lust perplexedly glanced around. Ouroborous was practically on top of her, its disgusting insects silently pouring into the stairwell. She fumbled the flamethrower towards it, hesitating only momentarily before pulling the trigger back and letting the flames fly into the creature. She watched as it thrashed and screeched as fire spread throughout the Ouroborous. She laughed loudly cackling, though completely silent to her ears. Suddenly the flamethrower misted out of existence as Algernon could no longer sustain it. Enough damage had been done. Ouroborous was retreating back down the corridors.
Ouroborous was in pain, some Ouroborites perishing in the flames, others flinging themselves wildly around, smashing into walls with heavy thuds. The ceiling quivered and shook with every blow. Three quarters of the swarm, those who had suffered only superficial burns or not even been charred, fled from the writhing mass. The burning Ouroborites smashed into the walls again and the ceiling cracked open, flooding the corridors with water from the floor above. The weakened ceiling began to plummet onto the floor below, crashing down with thuds and squelches, exposing the second floor to the angry storm that still lashed down heavy rain onto the school and extinguishing the flames of the beserking Ouroborites.
As Ouroborous took off down the corridors Thane climbed to his feet, with Lust's reluctant aid. Algernon regaining use of his body, but not his composure, ran down the stairs past them, pausing only to tell them to watch out (which neither of them heard, thanks to Thane temporarily shutting down the aural portions of their brains). The doors on the floor above crashed open, a wave of water slamming down the stairs. Algernon, Thane and Lust began fled down the stairs to the first floor as the floor above them collapsed.
Avatar by the wonderful Pharmacy~
It wasn't exactly easy to keep ahead of a wave of water especially when running down a stairwell already covered with water. Algernon was slightly ahead of the other two because of his head start, until he slipped which caused both Thane and Lust to trip over him and then all three got caught in the wave of water that tumbled down angrily onto them. The wall of rain water shoved them down the stairs and out into the hallway (whereupon Algernon hit his head on the wall) before draining down to flood the basement even more.
The ceiling creaked ominously as they slowly recovered. Algernon stood up carefully, his legs shaking slightly, and coughed out some water and blood. His head was numb from all those memories lost, still ringing from the latest aural attack, throbbing from that horrible trip down the stairs...actually, it was possible that there was no place on his body that wasn't aching somewhat. He was soaking wet and he was sure he accidentally bit his tongue when his head collided with the floor.
He was quite disoriented for a number of reasons. But still, he saw a chance to escape and wasn't about to let that disappear. Even if it was possible he had a broken limb.
The school appeared to be ready to collapse around them. It was best to find somewhere safe, a place that preferably wouldn't come down on top of him, but for whatever reason, his addled brain told him to go downstairs, yes, downstairs where all the water is going down to and where it would be easy to get trapped in. A flooding basement was the perfect place to recuperate.
"I hope you two will be very happy together," he blurted out to the two groaning odd couple before taking a step, staggering around in the flooded hallway, and then slipping down the stairs again. He quickly found himself underwater and thrashing about like a very confused fish. This time he bit his cheek.
Algernon continued to flounder until a strong arm lifted him out of the water and dragged him onto a boat. He coughed out even more water, blinked blearily at the figure in front of him and said, "Bluh?"
"You alright?" Pluck asked, though he could already guess the answer just by glancing at the rather disheveled guy in front of him.
Algernon struggled with this question. "No?" he guessed.
The werewolf shrugged. "Well, you're not drowning in knee-deep water, so you're fine enough. Oh, by the way, meet Immortus. The giant tortoise."
Algernon vaguely focused on Immortus, still looking rather bemused, though that was a reasonable expression to take on when facing a giant tortoise. "Uh?"
"A PLEASURE TO MEET YOU TOO."
"Anything interesting going on upstairs?"
"The...school is collapsing...?"
"Huh. That would be bad. Hey, I didn't notice you wearing that locket before. Was that always there?"
Algernon paused before frantically fumbling with the locket. Once opened, the locket revealed little water and a slightly damp, but not too damaged, photo. Then he remembered the backpack.
Immortus and Pluck watched as Algernon whipped the damp backpack off his back and started rummaging around in it. "Oh no..." The black-haired packrat sadly started tossing out most of his collected items. A clump of wet paper towels, crumbly chalk, almost all of the markers...and...what was this on the carrots...? Oh yeah, he put some clay in here too. It seemed that he only had some pencils, a marker and one salvageable makeshift bomb left.
Pluck stared at him as he dumped the messy carrot-clay hybrid overboard and wiped his hands on his pants. "...Why were you carrying around a lump of clay...?"
"ARE YOU STEALING FROM THE SCHOOL, YOUNG MAN?" the thunderous voice of Immortus chimed in, sounding a tad disapproving.
Algernon had recovered enough to know that lying would be good in this situation but had yet to recover enough to lie convincingly. "No...?"
Pluck sighed. "No, he didn't steal from the school."
"WHO'S STEALING FROM WHAT?"
This was incredibly stressful.
Even as she tried to run up the slippery, storm-barren stairs, Lust knew that trying to escape the inevitable collapse of the building was unavoidable. Even as the thought crossed her mind, the stairs began to crumble and shatter, and before she knew it, Lust had been thrown from stable ground into a whirlwind of things, none of them describable with words; there were currents thrashing about, and a constant pounding that shook the walls (or whatever exactly was around her at the time) and all that she could think about is that she really didn't want to be in her body right now, but for some reason she'd lost seemingly all contact with the others since she'd gone off on her little tangent. As much as she tried to cry out to someone, Wrath, Greed, any of the others, the spiritual bond seemed to be flooded out by something else.
She had one hell of a headache, to boot. The pounding and thrashing definately wasn't helping the matter, and soon Lust found that she was floating in a giant pool of water. She looked around, desperately, for walls, but for some reason, the only thing surrounding her was an unforgiving black.
The sound of thunder echoed throughout the void. Another.
Fighting back panic, she managed to steady herself in the water and skim about a bit, finding a seemingly invisible barrier everytime she swam too far. She spent a good half-minute doing this before, suddenly, Lust heard the voices of some of the other contestants slowly coming into focus. They were distant enough she couldn't make out who they belonged to, but she was glad to hear them nonetheless. She swam as hard as she could towards them, but again she slammed into an invisible wall, which as she watched, was slowly becoming not as invisible anymore. A rustish red color began to fade into the four surrounding, and as she felt them the texture of rough bricks began to wave over her fingers. Before she realized it she was back in the school again, having washed inside one of the first-floor classrooms. The water was slowly flooding in, the levels rising, and while it was only at her waist, it was rising at an alarming rate.
She scrambled out of the doorframe, towards the stairs, and frantically tried to climb them again. She heard Algernon's voice (and two other, unfimiliar ones) distant from her, but the only thought registering in Lust's head is that she needed to get out, escape, and get to higher and safer ground. While she slipped on the stairs time and time again, she was reminded by a small piece of cement that has dislodged itself and made a loud plunk in the water that, oh right, the school was fucking collapsing around them.
Dear god, she thought, she was going to die here wasn't she? Panicking, Lust curled up into a ball and let the current drag her about for awhile, clinging to her soaked jeans and jacket, waiting for either death or escape to come. She closed her eyes tightly and didn't open them until she felt a faint breeze on her cheek. She unfurled after awhile and stood, letting the water gush out of her clothes for awhile, and surveyed her surroundings. She made a note to get new clothes as soon as possible, aside from the problem at hand.
She was standing on solid ground. It was just as soaked as the rest of the place, but she was glad to see that she wasn't floating anymore. As she stood to her knees, she suddenly found that she was in the parking lot of the school, which was utterly deserted. The rain was heavy and pounded down on her face as she looked up at the clouds, but it didn't seem as bad as the Controller had described it. She chuckled. Was he just going on false pretenses? It seemed silly that a demigod such as he, who could kill them off as he pleased, wouldn't even make true of his own assertions. She assumed that in reality, the Controller was not as powerful as he'd advertised, and couldn't even create and entire world; forced to lie in order to make the contestants hesitant to leave. She was making a mental note of it for later when she first heard the faint sound of what seemed to be a gurgled train in the background. It was hard to hear over the sound of the rain, but it grew clearer and closer. Staring at the source of the noise, befuddled, Lust watched in terror as the massive twister hovering above the school came into focus, and tossed a mangled car her way. It hit the ground a couple hundred meters away, and promptly exploded, leaving nothing but a crushed, mangled frame left.
No matter where she went, there were people and environments trying to brutally murder her. Lust had never been put under such pressure before. All the horrible deeds she'd done suddenly flashed before her very eyes, and between gasps she begged profusely to the nothingness for forgiveness of what she'd done. Gasps were interrupted by tears. Tears, by gasps. She seemed less to speak and more to babble, and eventually she fell to her knees, holding herself up only with her trembling arms. She fell to the hard gravel of the parking lot, and looked up into the sky, an unwieldy mix of gray and black.
Terrified and alone, Lust curled up into a ball again and waited for someone to make the bad things go away.
Thane was sat on the cracked tiles of the first floor hallway, where the rush of water had spat him out. The lockers and even the walls that surrounded him were cracked and dripping with water, anything inside was likely to have been damaged beyond recognition. Thane was angry. It was not very often that Thane felt an emotion. To him emotions were weakness, a vulnerable spot through which an enemy can attack. It did not matter if it was compassion, fear, or as it was in this case, anger. All of these things made you weak, made you manipulatible to a clever foe. Thane believed that cold logical thinking would always triumph. He pushed the anger away, discounting that she had ruined his opportunity to ambush Ouroborous. If he saw her he would not hesitate to snap her spine like a twig, and probably enjoy it too, but otherwise he would remain focused.
Logically Ouroborous was the priority target; large dangerous and difficult to kill. On one hand killing other competitors before Ouroborous meant less potential distractions when he had to eventually face Ouroborous but on the other hand it meant an opportunity lost. As Thane had realised before all his opponents possessed powerful abilities that could be useful and removing any one of them meant permanently losing access to that ability. In the same vein it became imperative that Ouroborous was dealt with quickly simply due to Algernon's frailty. His ability would be indispensible against Ouroborous, and delaying to kill other enemies gave those enemies the opportunity to kill Algernon. In short nothing had changed. Thane would locate Algernon and proceed with the plan, perhaps waiting before instructing Algernon to create weaponry for him this time.
Thane extended his senses again. Algernon was below him, in the basement with another unidentified mind, while Maxl appeared to have left the building. Interesting but irrelevant. Thane turned around and walked down the stairs to the basement, submerging himself beneath the water without hesitation. Although he moved somewhat sluggishly, weighed down by his plate armour, Thane swam directly towards Algernon, surfacing in the black caves in which he had found himself at the start of the battle. Algernon was sat in a small boat with the werewolf who The Controller had identified as Pluck. They were sat talking in front of an enormous statue of a tortoise, or so Thane presumed. As the tortoise responded to them, Thane stared in disbelief. He clearly felt the prescence of only two minds in this room, the tortoise was not one of them. Thane swam over to the boat and climbed aboard, surprising both Algernon and Pluck, though his stare was fixed on Immortus.
Algernon groaned mournfully as Thane climbed onto the small boat, his mind racing. Thane clearly wasn't going to give up, and he refused to be what amounted to his slave. He would not give up more of his precious memories at the whims of a monster. He was in this battle to kill and Thane was certainly one person who deserved it. Algernon acted fast, producing his bulletless gun and aiming it at the old one, preparing a think a bullet or two into existence.
'That will not be necessary Algernon.' Thane thought calmly, his gaze still affixed on Immortus. 'What are you?' Thane inquired of the turtle.
"I AM IMMORTUS." The voice of the tortoise echoed throughout the flooding caves. In the classroom chips of plaster fell from the weakened ceiling with every word that Immortus spoke.
'No I do not care who you are, I asked what you are.' Thane thought back unfazed. Immortus frowned, so much as a giant tortoise can frown and eventually responded.
"I AM A SCHOOLTEACHER HERE. I TEACH HISTORY."
'No.' Thane thought harshly. 'What kind of thing are you?' Thane pointed at Algernon. 'He is a human with a worm on his head' then at Pluck. 'He is a werewolf. I am half human and half old one. What manner of being are you?' Thane stared at the tortoise in silence.
"Are you kidding?" Pluck started bewildered, but Algernon glared him into silence, grateful that the old one was not paying attention to them.
"ARE YOU BLIND?" Immortus bellowed. "I AM A TORTOISE."
'Liar.' Thane thought, as he clumsily lashed out with his soulblade, pain shooting through his arm from where it had not yet healed, regardless he had made his point. The blade had peirced the tortoise's skin and exposed the wiring underneath. 'You are a machine. A construct of The Controller. This is why I was unable to sense your mind when I was down here. Because you do not have one.'. Thane paused, glancing down at Algernon and Pluck. Suddenly their minds were filled with fear. 'What is your purpose, machine?'
Avatar by the wonderful Pharmacy~
Aic blinked and wiped her eyes, a little oblivious to Holly's panic. She stared, dazed, at her frantic efforts to clear the barricade away until a little of the direness of the situation pervaded her tired mind. She muttered some expletive as she took a few steps towards the desk, slowed down by the resistance of the murky water.
"Hey, Holly, I just wanted to sayâ€¦" she mumbled and tripped over the words, then ground to halt. "Sayâ€¦"
Unable to finish, the botanist passed out. The resulting splash as she crumpled like paper to the floor was more than enough to solicit total panic.
Holly dived for the watery body, only to have her scrabblings ended abruptly a moment later when the body's hand lashed upwards and gripped both of her wrists in the one hand. It lifted it's face from the floodwater, and it was quite obvious even with the water running over her face that Acacia was in residence.
"Hello, Holly. We need to talk."
She glanced over the elf with only the smallest twitch of dissent among her facial features. "And don't attempt to try and get Aic back. She's out cold, no thanks to you," she replied coolly to the elf's enraged expression.
With a small grunt she used to her free hand to get up, flick the water off of her fortunately waterproof clothing and to gesture a little along to her speech.
"Let's get this clear before we go any further. I'm not going to hurt you, just as long as you don't try to mess me up with any of your little tricks. Right now I just want to get out of here alive." She paused to remove a sodden piece of paper from her coat. "And don't try to take the goddamn rain away again. It's a waste of your talents," she added, then looked Holly straight in the eyes. Acacia's face was customarily blank, but a thunder storm was going on behind those steel grey eyes.
"You might be wondering what's with the change in policy since we met last," she said flatly.
She broke her gaze away and turned her head and eyes to the rain still pounding against the window.
"I'm dead, Ms Tallbirch. I've been dead ever since I was entered into this contest. Whatever comes next is just a bonus."
She released her grip on Holly's arms, and shrugged.
"So do what you want. Fall in love with Aic. Kill us. Go on a rampage. Whatever. It's just a corpse talking, after all."
Having said all she needed to, Acacia shunted the desk out of the way and splashed her way out into the corridor.
Algernon and Pluck stared at the exposed wiring, both very confused. But while Pluck's curiosity was piqued, Algernon, who had just witnessed a horrible torture, been made a slave, was subjected to that Ouroborous screech thing at least three times, had close encounters with monster bugs and unsettling robot women and a giant tortoise, almost drowned, and then found out that the giant tortoise was actually a robot, just wanted to ignore the whole thing and hope it would resolve itself. After gazing at the tortoise with a very bewildered expression, he shook himself out of the trance, stared down at his pistol and poured water out of its barrel.
"It's a robot?" Pluck said. Thane briefly pondered why people really felt the need to state the obvious all the time. "That's stupid. That's soap-opera stupid." The werewolf chuckled nervously, trying to ease his fear out of the way.
'And yet here we are.'
Algernon felt this was exactly the right time to shrug off his vest and start wringing it out. He didn't intend on staying uncomfortably wet for much longer.
"How can a robot imagine?"
"I AM A VERY ADVANCED ROBOT," Immortusbot bellowed helpfully. "MADE FOR DISPENSING HISTORY INTO THE MALLEABLE MINDS OF TEENAGE STUDENTS--"
'Stop it. Don't lie to me. You were made by The Controller. I want to know why.'
"WHO IS THE CONTROLLER?"
After mulling it over, Algernon ultimately decided that now was not the time to take off his shirt and settled for just wringing the bottom out.
"Hey, maybe it's telling the truth," Pluck cut in. "I mean, there's another robot teacher on the second floor..."
"YES, WE HERE AT FOCAL HIGH SUPPORT ROBOTS."
'Was it in the shape of a giant tortoise?'
"...No," Pluck grudgingly conceded. "And it was pretty crappy-looking too."
With nothing else to wring water from, Algernon settled for just staring down at the water's surface. The basement was really filling up now...it was maybe...waist deep now? Maybe even deeper. He stared nervously at the ceiling. It seemed uncomfortably close now.
'There is no reason for anybody to go to the trouble of building a giant tortoise robot besides deceit. I don't believe any of the contestants really have the power to create a giant tortoise robot. So that leaves The Controller.'
"YOUR LOGIC IS FLAWED."
"Couldn't it just be related to the people of this universe? It doesn't have to be related to the battle or anything."
Staring at the water level some more, Algernon's eyes were eventually drawn to the open gash in Immortusbot's disguise. With exposed wires. "Uh. Do either of you guys think a giant tortoise robot is waterproof?"
Wait, what? You thought this was a reserve for me? Hell no. This un's for Ix.
Thane was weary of this line of discussion already. It was clear that The Controller was being smart with whatever this machine was for. His psychic abilities meant that he could do little to force a confession from the machine. In fact as he ran through his memories of the introductions between the contestants he could think of only one competitor who might be able to help him extract the information he needed.
'I need to go and get someone. You two make sure that this machine does not attempt to flee.' Thane thought to the pair and then leapt from the boat into the dark waters that were rapidly filling this enclosed space. He swam back into the classroom, but as he tried the door he found that it would not budge. It didn't feel locked so much as though something heavy had been placed on the other side in a deliberate act of sabotage. He attempted to shove the door open with his shoulder, an act which damaged him more than the surprisingly sturdy door. He was not getting through this way. Thane surfaced for a moment, took a deep breath and then swam back into the caves. He wasted no time and began communicating before he had even left the classroom. 'The way is blocked.' He thought grimly. 'Machine, I need you to tell me your purpose right now.'
"I AM A TEACHING ROBOT." The Immortusbot bellowed. "ALL THE CHILDREN AT THIS SCHOOL ARE ALSO ROBOTS."
As Thane swam back towards the boat he saw Pluck and Algernon leap into the water, undoubtedly rushing to try and escape from this cavern. Perhaps they would make it. Thane certainly hoped that Algernon's talent would not die so easily. He didn't even bother with the boat this time. Thane pushed it away and floated in the water in front of the Immortusbot. From here he could see it's intricate circuitry. The whirring cameras that made up it's eyes, and the speakers that made up it's mouth.
'Machine, do you have any self preservation built into you?' He asked it.
"AS A TEACHER I REQUIRE LOTS OF SELF PRESERVATION." The Immortusbot replied, it's now obviously mechanical voice shaking the room.
'If you do not tell me your function immediately I will drag you under the water and electrocute the both of us.' Thane thought, his resolve made of steel.
"AS A HUMAN YOUR SELF PRESERVATION INSTINCT WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO DO THIS." The Immortusbot said dismissively.
'Do you know of the Old Ones, machine?' Thane thought.
"AS A HISTORY TEACHER I KNOW A LOT ABOUT THE OLD ONES. THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS, THE ROMANS, THE GREEKS. THEY ARE ALL VERY OLD."
'You misunderstand me.' Thane thought. 'The Old Ones are beings from outside of the universe. Older than civilisations, older than planets, older than entire universes.' He paused. 'I was an old one once, but look at me now. I am nothing. I am a tiny little human being with just a hint of the Old Ones about him. I am insignificant. I do not count. As an Old One I would lay waste to entire civilisations, dominate entire planets. Now I cannot even kill a bug monster. I cannot stand being seperated from my true essence. I want this competition to be over as quickly as possible and fuck me if I haven't just found a way to do just that.' He paused, his eyes gleaming with a hopelessness and an awful malevolence. 'So machine, what will it be?'
"I AM A CONSTRUCTION OF THE CONTROLLER." The Immortusbot said. "I AM PROGRAMMED TO GUARD A POWERFUL ITEM TO ENSURE IT DOES NOT FALL INTO THE HANDS OF THE COMPETITORS OF THE GRADUAL MASSACRE."
'Give it to me.' Thane thought.
"BUT I AM TO GUARD-" The Immortusbot stopped, suddenly interrupted by Thane gripping hold of it's shell. "OKAY OKAY." The Immortusbot's shell slid open. Thane climbed atop it, reaching in and pulling out an old and dusty scroll. He could feel the power emanating from it. This scroll meant self-sufficency. With this much power he would not need to rely on Algernon, or any of the other contestants. He could pick them off one by one, in whatever order he chose. This scroll meant that he had his way home. He knelt down on the enormous machine's back, broke the waxen seal and unrolled it.
For a moment he had no words. He stared blankly at the baffling scroll.
'What is this?' he thought furiously. 'What is this worthless scrap of paper?'
"IT IS THE MAP OF ROME." The Immortusbot announced.
Avatar by the wonderful Pharmacy~
The Countess' ticking march through the ankle-deep waters on the first floor paused for a moment as the whole building trembled, then quickened again as a thunderous crash signaled the upper floors collapsing. Moments later, the lights overhead gave one final flicker, before giving up for good as a tiny wave rippled up the corridor.
Skittering through the gloom, steps masked with the now-worryingly proximal patter of rain on the roof, the Countess headed for the main doors of the school; pausing at the top of the stairs beneath the shelter of the eaves. A vicious twister whipped its way across the parking lot, snatching up a car and dashing it on the concrete. Glancing into the wind, the amalgam noted the black clouds heading their way, and called out to the ragged little scrap curled near the wreck of the sedan.
"Come on out of the rain, my dear."
Lust raised her weary head, fervently hoping this was a friendly face. Though the Countess' nightmarish features could hardly qualify as 'friendly' under the best of circumstances, it was someone who hadn't tried to kill her. Lust wasn't going to quibble, but a terrified glance up at the decapitated silhouette of the building made it clear she'd rather take her chances out in the storm. The amalgam raised its claws in supplication, the mangled left pointed to the stampeding thunderhead.
Lust admired the weatherbeaten, dented shape of the left hand, against the surgically-precise lines of the right. Jaws ratcheted open, smirking with needles; the pitted fingers twitched, beckoning. The demon weighed up her options for only a few moments more, then stood and stalked over to the Countess. The wind was picking up; the rain finding its bite again.
"Really, it's not so bad in here," trilled the Countess, hastening the demon in and pulling the main doors shut behind her, trying to drown out the disconcerting creaks with her false cheerfulness.
"Despicable scum we've been forced to fight? This loathsome battle to the death?" Lust nodded, and the Countess laughed in that trilling falsetto. "They're rats, darling. Crawling in the basement like the filth they are. I could barely stand their squeaking, I nearly shut the doors on them and let the poor things drown." The spider's grin widened as the sadistic words sent Lust cowering, dragging out Wrath.
"Hello, dear. To whom do I have the sinful pleasure of speaking?"
"Quit your chiming, clockwork, and tell me which ones were down there."
"Wrath, I presume? Hmm... No female voices, I'm afraid. If you'd care to do the dirty work, please, be my guest. Then it's simply you and me against those harlots, and with any luck we may find a way out without distractions. What do you say?"
Wrath had no time to ask how the Countess knew about his run-in with Acacia and Holly, but the monster's logic was sound. "Fine. But any scheming and I won't pause to kill you. In fact," he snarled, drawing his knife, "you lead the way." The Countess shrugged as she headed for the stairs, fastidiously extracting a twitching bit of leg from the gears in her side.
They reached the downward staircase with minimum disturbance, pausing only when a crack in the ceiling showered water or plaster, or when they were interrupted by an ominous groan. The Countess glanced around, and slid her fingers behind a block of lockers, trying to lever them out. Pleased to have something to do other than walking, Wrath yanked it out and rammed it in place.
"Now, we wait."
Wrath scowled at this proposition, then grinned. "Or," he suggested, "I see how much damage you can take, clockwork, to make sure you won't try stabbing me in the back." A fist swung forward, and connected with the skull of cogs, the Countess crashing into a locker, her previously closed jaw springing fully open with the impact (the instrument that modulated her voice had no need of oxygen, and didn't need her to open her mouth).
A lone Ouroborite, freed from its steely prison, tumbled out and was pierced by a wayward steel foot, its ichor darkening the water around it. Wrath, worked into a fury, didn't see it in the gloom, instead sinking the knife into the Countess' shoulder with the protesting squeal of metal on metal. The Countess was downed with a kick to the legs, when her clear voice sang out again, unnervingly unchanged by the attack.
From the cracks in the ceiling, Ouroborites were swarming. Wrath ceased his assault and saw all down the corridor, they were dropping through from the upper floor, gathering in their droves as they approached the stink emitted by their dead comrade, and its cries of fresh meat. Their skittering steps were audible as they scrabbled across the walls, the tops of the lockers, all over each other in their frenzy. Wrath had fled; leaving a barely-comprehending Lucas to stare, frozen with shock at his predicament, at the Countess. A clicking, jarring chuckle joined Ouroboros' cacophony as the horde gathered, paused, then closed the ring around Lucas as one hungry wave.
"Just keep perfectly still, dear."