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Larke Sterling

"Nobody does the wrong thing for the sake of it."

0 · 281 views · located in The Wasteland

a character in “A Gifted World”, as played by scoundrelboots

Description

Image

Full Name: Larke Charles Sterling

Nicknames/Aliases: Songbird/Feathers/Lark Starling

Age: 27

Gender: Male

Gift: Life-force transfer, specializing in healing


Loyalty: Erubescan; Prisoner/Researcher


Description:
    6'2", reasonably muscled build
    Gaunt, tired facial features; obviously handsome, and more obviously worn
    Pale skin, with recessed veins and similar marks of hard living
    Hazel-green eyes and medium blonde hair, rumpled but well-kept
    Extremely large wings with tawny and gold feathers; often drag the ground at the tips
    Prisoner alarm/tracking bracelet around left wrist

Personality: Charming and smooth talking, but honestly well-meaning with a kind heart.


Skills:
    Partial medical school training
    Basic combat skills
    Flight
    Practiced liar/socialite

Weaknesses:
    Reluctant to deal damage
    Limited combat experience
    Trusting
    Addictive personality/drug habits


Brief History: Larke was born and raised in the Erubescan faction nearly two decades before the war grew hot. His family was wealthy and trained him as a proper Erubescan gentleman, along with his younger brother Aaron. At age 16, he went to college on an accelerated medical track to use his healing gift. Seven years later, his kind heart proved a detriment- He could not handle the stress of facing patient deaths. He developed a drinking problem, and then a narcotics addiction as he tried to live with the pressure of his job.

He was fired and expelled from training, and turned to heroin to feed his addiction. His family turned him out, but his brother remained loyal. Eventually, Larke's influence led Aaron to steal Larke's drugs behind his back, and Aaron accidentally overdosed. Larke found his brother dead, and turned himself in: He was sentenced to 10 years in Erubesco with a service stipulation, charged with possession and manslaughter.

In Erubesco, he was experimented on as his "service." His healing factor was abused and manipulated to force the growth of wings as part of a commissioned experiment, and after two years of jail time, he was moved into a cell with Wanderer, Drake Coleman. Larke became sympathetic toward the cruel treatment and plight Drake faced, and aided his escape during the Wanderer's raid on the base.

Larke was not able to escape, and reconditioned in training by Erubescan authorities. The intention was for him to fulfill the remainder of his service sentence in combat, but his kind disposition was eventually ruled too much of a battlefield liability. He was transferred to research work, and now aids Oren in the autopsy labs.

Other: Larke is a big squishy pushover who wants everyone to be a good guy.

So begins...

Larke Sterling's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dawn Memoli Character Portrait: Mina Aldridge Character Portrait: Larke Sterling Character Portrait: Rei Character Portrait: Kayla Chandler Character Portrait: Toby Schippers Character Portrait: Seraphina Iclosis Character Portrait: Talin Melardos

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Perviously, in the Ash...

  • Doctor Oren Kovalenko was captured in her attempt to return Helena to the Citadel, and detained in Pierrot's "pocket dimension" while undergoing interrogation by Spire and Montana.
  • Toby found a scrawny cat, and it followed him home.
  • The Wanderers were disrupted in the midst of a midday breakfast when several resident Sensors noticed an approaching presence. A small party of Wanderers, including Sera, Dawn, Kayla, Toby, Reith, Mina, and Talin moved out to confront the threat.

Our story continues in the midst of this action...

There were several certainties out in the waste.

There was, for instance, the certainty that the sun would set in the west. There was also a certainty that one needed water, food, and shelter to live, or that it was hot or if it was raining. A mind reader was allowed a few more certainties, however. Like being certain of when your traveling partners were worrying about supplies, or thinking of how easy it could be to slit your throat in your sleep.

Of course, there were many uncertainties to balance the truths out, but Dawn could allow herself to be sure of a few things, like how this child with the mind of a man had come to them alone. The sudden hint of a presence in the horizon, however, made her much more doubtful. Startled, she reached out to try and enter this new stranger’s mind, but it was still too far for her to properly get a read on.

She drew back again, lips pursed in an effort to keep them from drawing into a proper frown. Another stranger just seemed a bit too coincidental.

Dawn suddenly paused, stiffening slightly. However, they had, admittedly, been getting an influx of unexpected guests lately. Her own thoughts returned to the train they had been on when the first visitor had arrived, and she cast a wary glance over to Toby.

Coincidences happened, but if Erubesco had been after them for this long, she highly doubted that they would just give up now.

Nevertheless, she quickly expanded the net of her broadcast once again, nestling back into the group’s heads. We have another problem, Dawn began. There’s someone else coming now- in the sky. I can’t get a read on them yet, but I should once they get close enough.

--

Distracted in her progress by the appearance of a lizard, Rei had delayed her attempts to find the others by a few minutes.

She was still kind of hungry after all.

The flicker of a shadow overhead however drew her immediate attention. Possibly she'd just spent too much time hunting animals out in the ruins that her sense of perception had gotten highly attuned to movement, or perhaps it has always been a feature of her ability's strange physiological effects, but she identified something far above that was moving. Something that was alive.

Rei stared at it, limp lizard tail still jutting from the corner of her mouth for some moments, before the mutant snapped it up and sprang off over the rubble to follow the trajectory.

Her hasty course almost caused her to jump down right into the centre of a group of other Helton residents.
The creature hurriedly cut her momentum,skidding in the dust to stand about level with the edge of a group.

"Did you see the big flying thing? It's definitely alive, but it's not moving right for a bird. " she asked, tilting her head upward again.

--

Larke, meanwhile, was wholly unaware of the situation he was drifting dangerously near to. The healer had been holding himself afloat on a warm updraft, keeping as hidden as possible behind a cloud. While there were peeks he managed to catch below, the small gathering in Helton was all but impossible to make out given his near snow blindness from the thick sheet of white he was gliding over.

The courage to swoop lower and get a better read was still beyond him; perhaps if he flew more directly over, he could descend on the back gate and take them by surprise?

--

“I’m going to check the radar” Talin announced casually, strolling away from the group. As soon as he was out of sight, he broke into a run, and was on the roof in seconds, gazing down, sharing the semi aerial view with the mind linked wanderers. Mostly for Sera’s benefit, she could create her illusion now. It was from this height, however, that he succeeded in catching a proper glimpse of their flyer, causing him to blink in shock.

It’s odd… he broadcast, tying together the image and knowledge that came with it. It says it’s a…healer? Not quite, it’s how he’s trained though, but no flight gift. Toby, do you get that?

Sera, meanwhile, directed lights to create an empty street below when looking down, although not perfect without being able to see it herself. Should we try to ground him? the young woman asked seriously, while visibly deferring to a leader with her body language.

--

Toby's eyes locked skyward. The closer the Erubescan flew, the more accurately Toby could track the movement, almost imagine a sillouette through the haze. He half-nodded at Talin's note. I thought the same. I thought there might be an aircraft, maybe, but...

There. A shadow, just for an instant, through the clouds. Like an angel of death. Maybe a bit of a clumsy angel of death.

Toby lined the beam of his arm to the tip of his .357 up to his eyeline. The heavy artillery, the rifles and submachines guns Montana had provided, lay back at base. With one shot of the .357, Toby could reliably shatter a bottle at 100 yards. Semi-reliably at 150. If he was lucky, 200. Larke would be a lot farther than that when he passed at his closest, but he was, even without his broad wingspan, a lot bigger than a bottle. Plus, Toby couldn't link his Gift to a bottle.

He felt perspiration on his forehead. What if he was a defector? Dread at the idea of feeling Larke spiral down leeched into his mental announcement: I think I have a shot.

He broadcast it as though he would ask for permission, wanting someone else to make that decision, wanting to defer like Sera. As if there was any time for permission or any authority from whom to get it. The stranger would only get farther out of range and closer to the others at the base. Toby had learned by now to somewhat detangle his emotions from others', but if he did that, he would have to disconnect entirely, and then his aim would suffer from the poor visibility. So Toby sent out more mental fibers instead, until he could feel exactly where Larke was - and could feel the pressure of the air under his wings and the moisture of the clouds, the nervousness, determination, and that heady soul-wrenching fuel that could only be loyalty. This man wasn't a defector.

Toby's lip quivered, but his hand didn't. Aiming a few feet high to adjust for the distance, he pulled the trigger, emptying his five remaining hollow-point rounds at a steep angle into the sky. He would be happy to make even one hit.
If happy was the word for it.

--

Larke blinked hard as a bright flicker crossed his vision— a flash of light from below that seemed to originate from nowhere. He squinted through the film of his goggles, but found nothing save for rubble and Ash in the streets of Helton beneath him.

The stillness of it was chilling: It cut through the layers of his flight jacket and traveled over his skin until the hair on his arms prickled as if caught by a static cling. Rushing wind dampened any sound for miles.

He did not hear the shots leave the gun. He did feel one burry itself in his defensive vest, casting him back with a thunk. A rush of air whizzed past his head, and another somewhere near him.

And then something far more direct: A sharp, fervid pain ripped through his right wing, setting ablaze nerves he never knew he had. Feather, skin, and muscle were all ravaged into meat, and his hollow humerus shattered like a clay pigeon. As the shot crumpled inside of his body, spidering cracks splinted from his shoulder blade to the very tip of his wing.

The wind stole the scream from his lungs.

Reflexively, the wing pulled into his body just as the compromised bone snapped from the sheer air pressure rattling against it. It mangled itself in the blustering squalls, folding and twisting into a gore-splatted work of modernist origami. As Larke plummeted toward the ground, his vision swam with black and pain. There was no differentiating between his spinning vision and spinning body as he tried his damned to show his descent.

The air pressure changed, and he was sure one of his eardrums burst.

He did not know whom he was expecting to answer his cry, nor what he gasping for as his arms flailed in search of anything to hold, but his instinct to live disregarded this logic; a bird beating its wings even as the snake gobbled its head. There was no directing this fall, but rather a shallow hope that his remaining wing could provide enough air resistance to break it.

In a horrid moment of clarity, he was struck by the sudden realization that he was going to die.

And then he was struck by the ground.

More precisely, it was the pavement of a road twenty or so yards behind his shooter.

His body stone-skipped across the fractured earth, the concrete ripping flesh and clothing alike his skeleton bashed against it. While the goggles had shielded his face, it was evident that not much else on his body had been spared damage in the ordeal.

Blood flesh flecked the Ash around the Erubescan’s unconscious form, and his backpack had split open to reveal a load of partially broken medical supplies.

A shower of wayward blonde feathers still floated on the breeze, settling long after the man who had shed them.

--

Toby contorted with the scream the wind had stolen from Larke.

His spine arched with the explosion of pain in the wing he didn't have, then reversed in a fetal curl as desperate panic flooded in, twisting like a werewolf just before its first full moon. For a few seconds, he felt everything his target felt, plus a pinch of standard-fare guilt. Dizzy, Toby tried to untie his consciousness from the Erubescan before he hit the ground with same urgency he'd try to untie himself from railroad tracks in the face of an oncoming train. He didn't have time to unsnare himself completely. He watched Larke plummet and felt the crunch of the landing, and very nearly blacked out. Repressing a whimper, Toby forced his shaking limbs to understand they had not in fact been crushed after a drop from the equivalent of a small skyscraper and that he didn't need to limp, before he started walking through the snowfall of feathers.

Like any good dog on a bird hunt, Toby moved quickly toward Larke's crumpled body.

Though he didn't know whether he intended to ensure death for the wretch or to see if there was any life left to save.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dawn Memoli Character Portrait: Mina Aldridge Character Portrait: Larke Sterling Character Portrait: Rei Character Portrait: Kayla Chandler Character Portrait: Toby Schippers

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There are very few people in the world who never fade from a woman’s memory: A small handful of childhood friends, or siblings, perhaps a lover or two. These are the people whom are burned in her mind so intimately that she can tell them by their scent or stride or the sound of their feet beneath the door before they even bother to knock; the shape of their form even inside a morgue bag.

Those she knows by the curve of their spines and rise of their ribs, even when they lie broken on the ground with bullet wounds riddling their bodies.

The dust settled around the intruder’s body, and Mina’s heart fell through her stomach. A tight bitterness rose in her throat, wrapping like a pull-tie around her trachea, cutting into her flesh and forcing wetness to the edges of her eyes; eyes that could not blink or pry themselves away from the crumpled, bloody man with sandy hair and a face she could not see, but knew to be the one in her minds' eye. He smelled like cologne and aftershave, and just around his fingertips, like lighter smoke.

“I- I think we’ve got…” She took a shuffling step forward, and then froze. “He’s— um..”

The rise of his breathing halted, and her pupils went narrow. She broke into a run and slid to onto her knees in the rubble beside him, kicking up a cloud of ash and feathers as she landed. With a quick, single motion, she rolled him onto his back and tilted his chin skyward so that his lips, bloodied from where he had bitten them on impact, could part. A soft spark passed between her fingers and his skin, and his chest rose to suck in a breath.

Her eyes tracked about the ground, trying to look anywhere but his face as she began working with soft and deliberate motions to lay out his limbs in some semblance of a normal position: He would heal twisted, if left for too long. Her hands trailed over the mangled skin and muscle, prodding the shattered bits of bone back into place where she could.

His blood ran over her hands, but she made no move to reach for gloves.

“We’ve got an. Um…” she swallowed, and pulled the goggles away from his closed eyes, “He's a. Um. This is a shifter."

The setting changes from helton to The Wasteland

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dawn Memoli Character Portrait: Mina Aldridge Character Portrait: Larke Sterling Character Portrait: Rei Character Portrait: Kayla Chandler
  1. Meant to put this in Helton, whoops. My bad.

    by Miss Echo

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The rapid approach of the stranger had made it even more easier for the tendrils of Dawn’s Gift to reach him. It sprawled forward, rooting its claws deep into the mind of the intruder- not picking up anything of particular substance, but simply skimming the surface, gathering what information happened to flit through the man’s thoughts. He was too far, his mind too jumbled, and- why not admit it?- Dawn herself was too shaken to do any real digging at the moment. It didn’t take any special power or intelligence to connect the recent kidnapping attempt with this, after all, and even less to predict what would happen once the stranger was on Helton grounds. Dawn gnawed on her cheek, noticing with a dull awareness the sharp tang that filled her mouth.

Sensing Toby’s preparation to fire, Dawn swiftly put an end to her own probing, Gift snapping back into place like a rubber band. It wasn’t a perfect snap-back, of course- she could still very much sense the undercurrent of the group’s thoughts, and the faint drift of the stranger- but it was wasn’t as encompassing. Tolerable. Nevertheless, as the bullets passed through the trespasser, rending meat from bone and crafting bone into jagged chunks, the pain still reached her. It came from the man in throbbing waves, reflected further off Toby, who bore the brunt of the agony like it was his own. The echo that passed through Dawn was unpleasant, but nothing like her fellow empath’s; it was clean and precise, running through her brain as if someone had dragged a blade through it. A migraine. Painful, but tolerable. Wincing, guilt flowing freely through her, Dawn sent her own transmission in Toby’s direction. Nothing too big or sudden- she didn’t want to overload the Schippers brother, after all- but there nonetheless. The mental equivalent of clasping one’s shoulder in sympathy. Then the feeling was gone, and Dawn followed the others to the broken body nearby.

You didn’t need to be a doctor to see just how bad the damage was. The man’s wings was now nothing more than a tangle of flesh and sinew, body bent and contorted in the most unnatural positions possible. Alive, but only just. The sight was difficult enough to look at even for a stranger (there was something faint that registered inside her mind when she caught a glimpse of his features, although it was nothing major. The feeling was quickly brushed aside in favor of more pressing matters), but Dawn was aware of an even stronger reaction among their group’s members. Recognition, and an emotion that was too great to be anything but anguish.

Mina. She knew this man all too well.

Dawn did not comment on this. She did not ask questions, or try to prod for any further information- privacy was the least she could grant the good doctor at this moment. Instead, she braced herself, settling in a half-kneeling position nearby and forcing herself to look at the body.

“Whoever he is…” she paused, wiped her lips, then tried again. “Whoever he is, we need to get him to Clockwork. Right now.” Even with Mina’s set of skills, Dawn doubted that the stranger would last much longer like this. Dark red patches bloomed from various places on his body, spilling onto the ash beneath him, and the pools were only growing larger as the seconds ticked by. “I can call her over.”

Because, at the moment, she wasn’t sure if trying to bring the man directly over to the building would be a good idea for several reasons.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dawn Memoli Character Portrait: Gale Eden Character Portrait: Mina Aldridge Character Portrait: Larke Sterling Character Portrait: Rei Character Portrait: Kayla Chandler Character Portrait: Toby Schippers

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Toby felt Dawn's tendril of uplift like an angel offering him a hand from the mental floor he'd just crashed into. He sent a mental response, a blurry wash of gratitude. As the others gathered closer, Toby backpedaled, standing back from Larke's body. It seemed backward and hypocritical to look at the bloodied, broken heap he just shot down from a ridiculous height, and then sit there hoping the guy didn't die, but hope the guy didn't die Toby did.

Like Dawn, Toby sensed Mina's recognition, followed by her denial. He felt sick. He hadn't thrown up about killing someone for years--he'd gotten numb, accustomed to seeing bullet holes in foreheads and helping clean up after his brother's most extensive knifework--but the nausea roiled in his stomach now. He forced it down. Mina knew him.

He didn't want to say anything, but he did. "He's not a shifter," he said. And he wanted to ask how she knew him, but he didn't. "I'm sorry," Toby mumbled, "I--I had to. He might've come here to-- I'm sorry. He can self-heal--but maybe c--but call her anyway."

At this juncture, the last thing he wanted to do was step up to the half-dead Erubescan, but caution overcame his guilt. He took a knee, careful to avoid stepping on the broken wing, collecting the stranger's two pistols from his shoulder holster, and a combat knife. They couldn't wake their intruder up for him to shoot at them. He checked pockets for any other weapons, but found only gauze, medical tape, disinfectant, and other first aid supplies. Why would Erubesco send a healer on a solo mission?

"This might be some k--kind of distraction," Toby considered aloud, holding out one of the handguns toward any of the other Wanderers who wanted to claim it. Spoils of war. He kept hold of the other one, seeing as he'd just spent his ammunition.

The setting changes from the-wasteland to Helton

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dawn Memoli Character Portrait: Mina Aldridge Character Portrait: Larke Sterling Character Portrait: Rei Character Portrait: Kayla Chandler Character Portrait: Toby Schippers

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A cool, sweaty wave of realization rolled up Mina’s spine, gripping her body with such frigidness that she could hardly feel her own face.

He was not a shifter. Dawn and Toby could sense every fiber of Mina’s being that had been praying he was.

Her tawny gaze held fixed as the others approached, watching the skin on the back of his hand knit together; tendrils reaching out to cross the red fissures until they were all but covered. She reached forward, her fingers about as steady as a wind vein in a storm, and took hold of his, cold and flecked with red. She coaxed each individual bone into its proper place, setting shattered fragments into one another to form straight lines.

His hand had grown rougher, some, but she still knew its shape; every muscle and fold and pale blue vein that ran across the back of it.

It was him.

“He doesn’t. Um—“ She shook her head, and then looked up. It was harder to cry when the tears could not run down. “He’s not. Um. Looks like he can handle it without Clockwork. As long as. Um.” Mina swallowed, forcing the rising choked sound from her voice. “As long as his heart don’t stop, he’s alright. And I can manage that bit. So.”

When Toby stepped forward and pulled the gun from its holster, her gaze narrowed. Stupid; she had not even thought to check for weapons. Because Larke didn’t shoot, and had never shot, aside from archery: The noise and recoil had made him almost as afraid as the prospect of killing something for sport.

“Don’t be sorry, Toby. You. Um,” she blinked, watching all of the medical supplies come out of their pouches and pockets, “You saved us from having- I mean. Someone would have had to... Um.”

She stopped, taking a deep breath as the squeak threatened to steal back into her tone. Toby and Dawn knew. Nobody else had to.

“Larke Sterling,” she said, and her voice only shook a bit. She held up the ID tag about his neck. “Just- Just a healer. Says on here. Medical Person- Personnel.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dawn Memoli Character Portrait: Mina Aldridge Character Portrait: Larke Sterling Character Portrait: Rei Character Portrait: Kayla Chandler Character Portrait: Toby Schippers

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As expected, Clockwork's assistance ultimately proved unnecessary- already, Dawn could see the flesh beginning to crawl back into place, covering raw muscle with a sheet of fresh white skin. The man was still from top form, of course, but she couldn’t help the spark of relief that flitted through her. Couldn’t help the way her the knot deep in her gut tightened, either, as if someone had taken a dishrag and twisted it, straining the juices.

This wasn’t right.

Many of the Wanderers own were refugees. Liberty, Erubesco- even from the Wasteland itself, in a sense. People who were just trying to make a better living for themselves than anything their old lives had offered. There were some exceptions, of course, but an overwhelming amount of them were just trying to separate themselves from their old lives. Sure, the factions tended to attack more often than not, and the risk of some level of familiarity was always present, but…not like this. Not now. Dawn’s tongue prodded lightly at the raw side of her cheek, and, wordlessly, eyes still on Mina and the stranger, she took the offered gun from Toby. She didn’t shoot- didn’t know how to, not when there had been nobody to teach her, and her Gift had served as her main method of defense for years- but the movement was automatic, and made her feel more in place. The pistol lay flat in her palm for a few moments before she tucked it away, zipping it into a free pocket of her bag for later consideration. At the very least, it felt better to be holding onto it for now.

One by one, various medical supplies were produced from the intruder- from Larke Sterling’s pockets. Pills, bandages, gauze. Aside from the meager weaponry that had been on him, there was nothing that smacked of the man being some kind of special Erubescian soldier or anything. Combined with the self-healing, there was no evidence of the tag being a ruse of some sort. Everything about him screamed “medic”. Dawn didn’t have to look to see that the idea didn’t sit well with the others, either- Toby had even announced it, after all. She looked upwards, as if a group of agents would suddenly materialize from thin air, then threw out her Gift again- away from this horrid scene, away from Helton, as far as she could send it without it ceasing to function properly. Like this, Dawn could feel those around her- less so than before, her ability was less potent the more spread out it was- and the bodies going about their business within the city boundaries, like some kind of organic radar of sorts. She circled her range a few times, trying to find, sightless, a trap or ambush or...something that would make a semblance of sense, but there was nothing. It was after the fourth of fifth round that Dawn retracted her antennae, shook her head, then turned her gaze back upon the group.

“Nothing,” she said, softly. “Unless there’s some kind of suppressor, it’s...It’s just him.”

It was the least satisfying explanation, and a conclusion that even Dawn herself couldn’t help but doubt.

The setting changes from helton to The Wasteland

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Larke Sterling Character Portrait: Rei Character Portrait: Hel

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Hel had taken advantage of the relative inattention of her de facto caretaker in order to leave the breakfast she'd been sort-of eating in order to slip outside.

The girl seemed to have a rather uncanny skill at moving silently.

Because of this, the red-haired child was soon outside within the ruins, where the group had gathered around the crumbled shape on the concrete.

Helena made her way over without a great deal of hesitation.

Some people might have regarded her ease around the scene of carnage as rather unsettling. She walked over to the broken man and started casually scooping up a few handfuls of of the bloodied feathers from the floor and stuffing them in the pockets of her hoodie.

Well, it was a bit unsettling.

Though judged on the benchmark of a girl who had, the day before, stabbed a teleporter to death without the slightest moment's hesitation.

Considering, this was pretty mild for Hel.


She paused for moment in her collection, stopping and eyeing the man with a brief tilt of the head from side to side, like a small dog trying to identify if movement was that of an animal.

"He knows my dad." she declared, with a half-frown.
"Is he going to die?
--

Rei, whilst surprised by this sudden and rather gruesome turn of events, was not exactly horrified by seing a man rash to earth and splatter on the city's surface. She hadn't expected it, but considering some of the stuff she'd seen and experiences recently, it didn't elicit the horror it might have on someone who'd never eaten a dead soldier. Upon catching sight of the diminutive gifted approaching however, Rei became visibly more uncomfortable. Her face might have gone pale in the situation had she not always looked practically white-skinned at the best of times.

"Well. Uh. It looked like you all have this under control so I guess I'll....go do some other thing." the mutant mumbled as she edged her way backward and attempted to avoid the attentions of the little hellspawn.

Helena was certainly not above picking on Rei for any reason. Boredom, mainly. She had all the impulsivity and capriciousness of someone her age and the power and capacity for cruelty that far far outstripped it, and that made for a pretty horrifying combination.

Maybe this new appearance would distract the little monster from tormenting her.
Rei felt moderately bad hoping for that, admittedly....though she couldn't help but feel it was, at this point, someone else's turn to be forced to eat rocks and old tin cans by some pint sized demon from hell.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dawn Memoli Character Portrait: Spire Schippers Character Portrait: Mina Aldridge Character Portrait: Larke Sterling Character Portrait: Rei Character Portrait: Hel Character Portrait: Kayla Chandler Character Portrait: Toby Schippers

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The way Hel honed straight toward a scene of carnage like a shark in bloodied water was uncanny.

“Hel,” said Spire, slowing his run to a walk when he saw the group, and Hel thankfully unharmed. “Hey. Don’t do that,” he panted.

And he didn’t mean the stuffing bloody feathers in her pockets; that behavior didn’t even strike him as odd for a six-year-old. At her age, he had enjoyed twisting the necks of small mammals and fingerpainting with their blood, back before he escalated to bigger prey.

“You can’t run off without asking, okay kid?” Spire said, recovering his calm. “Not when the labs are trying to get you back.”

Spire had looked away from the girl for maybe ten seconds while talking to Soren in the kitchen. She’d been five feet away from him. Her picked-at plate sat at the table, but she’d vanished. Last time she’d disappeared from under his nose, it was because an Erubescan speedster had tried to abduct her, so her sudden disappearance was understandable cause for alarm. This time, he’d launched after her so fast he might as well have been a speedster himself.

But now he showed no sign of his momentary panic. He stood as cool as carved stone, and addressed the group at large. "Well," he drawled. "We've been getting a lot of unwanted company lately, haven't we?"

Spire nudged Hel away from the battered Larke. He didn’t want her poking around too close the body, since Spire could tell by the general fussing that their avian friend was still alive. Fine. If he lived, maybe he could join the speedster in Pierrot’s extra-dimensional hell. And maybe eventually someone would acknowledge that the most practical solution was to let Spire cut both their throats. Trying to extract information from the speedster could tide him over for a while, but it did more to whet his thirst than anything else. At the end of the day, torture in and of itself felt empty--just pointless indulgence. Taking a life--that mattered. It combined all the satisfaction of ridding the world of one more corrupt creature with the empowering feeling of control, and the electrifying sensation of steel slicing flesh, of slick, warm blood between his fingertips. Spire would get his fix, the Wanderers wouldn’t have to waste resources on dangerous prisoners, and Hel would have an abundant supply of feathers for whatever craft project she appeared to be planning. He didn’t see the problem. Everyone would be happy. But especially Spire. Spire would be very happy.

Okay.

Focus.

Spire’s pale eyes peeled away from the vulnerable form of the unconscious crash victim, pushed his hands into the deep pockets of his coat, and turned to his younger brother. “You okay? What happened?”

“I’m not hurt. I shot him down,” Toby said hoarsely. “He’s Erubescan.”

Spire nodded, and, not perceiving the difference between “okay” and “not hurt,” he moved on to other matters. “How does he know your dad?” he asked Hel, always a little grated by the mention of Commander Green for a combination of reasons that tended to confuse him.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dawn Memoli Character Portrait: Spire Schippers Character Portrait: Mina Aldridge Character Portrait: Larke Sterling Character Portrait: Rei Character Portrait: Hel Character Portrait: Kayla Chandler Character Portrait: Toby Schippers Character Portrait: Seraphina Iclosis Character Portrait: Talin Melardos

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Strangely enough, it was with a sense of both relief and discomfort which Dawn regarded Spire’s approach. Discomfort because the older Schippers’ thoughts weren’t the most pleasant thing to be witness to (even now, she could feel the soft undercurrent regarding the prisoners, and quickly began trying to tune the whole thing out), and relief because, well. As odd as it was, the man had become a sort of guardian to Hel throughout the weeks that she had been with the Wanderers. While he wasn’t exactly the first choice she would have when it came to caretakers, Dawn doubted that Hel would obey if they tried keeping her away from Larke’s body. Even if Spire saw nothing wrong with Hel’s...recent behavior, he seemed at least set on keeping her away from the stranger at the time being.

Running a hand over her lips, Dawn rose, giving a soft “that’s okay” in response to Rei’s slipping away- although her eyes remained firmly locked upon Larke, as if half expecting him to suddenly rise and start walking around. Any doubts were gone now: their visitor was Erubescian. That meant that, if the Helton curse rang true- which it did, Dawn had seen more than enough examples to be sure by now- and if Larke Sterling was still a loyal man, then he wouldn’t have much time left lying out around here.

Something needed to be done with him, that was for sure.

“No,” she said. Forcing herself to look away from the body, Dawn gave a firm, deliberate shake of her head, clutching one arm with the other. “No, Hel, he’s not going to die.”

Not this one, at least.

“We should, um. We do have to put him somewhere, though. Maybe we could have Pierrot…” She trailed off, the note of hesitance clear in her voice. Mina obviously knew Larke, which made the matter much more...difficult. Personal, really. She doubted that when the man woke up, the meeting would be pleasant- especially if they welcomed him by tossing him in Pierrot’s portalland and leaving him to see his fellow Erubescian inside, her tendons open and drooling.