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The Abyssal Paradox

Titan's Fall

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a part of The Abyssal Paradox, by XianEvermor.

March, 2045. A dangerous murderer has struck again.

XianEvermor holds sovereignty over Titan's Fall, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

541 readers have been here.

Setting

A group effort between the Tinker's Union, Texas state government, and several notable corporations. Titan's Fall is the single largest piece of Tinker-Tech on the planet.
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Titan's Fall

March, 2045. A dangerous murderer has struck again.

Minimap

Titan's Fall is a part of The Abyssal Paradox.

8 Characters Here

Yue Bayushi [15] Queen of the Damned. The Templar's Silver Fang.
Jericho-Jemma Alborn [12] "I will always change. I will never be the same."
Zolya Erling [9] The painter of magic
Raudd Erling [9] Gambler, stonecarver, mercenary and immortal
Temujin [8] Renegade Cyber Ninja
Alexander Dalton [6] A kindhearted but stalwart Defender
Máire Morgan [4] A knight-errant, of a sort.
Kiran Kingsley [0] "Trust me . . . I'm a Doctor~"

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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi
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It was arrogance to believe that she could main-tank with a Great Sword. At least that had been the sentiment before the first pull. It was always this way. She always had to prove herself. People are slaves to convention.

The meta is law.

You’re a Damage Dealer if you wield Great Sword. Köttur don’t have the Vitality to tank.

Closed minded thinking.

Classes aren’t race-locked. Great Sword is an allowable weapon for Paladin. All builds are viable… Although having preternatural reaction speed did help with landing the microscopic perfect-parry window.

The stale dungeon air whistled past her furred ears as she darted across the arena with a [Cover Move], intercepting a sword meant for the surprised healer with her body. It clashed loudly against her armor, and the goblin wielding it had just enough time to squawk in fear as she brought her Great Sword down on its head. The blade cleaved its green skinned body in twain, and she lunged forward to cleave the three behind it, charging into the surprised swarm.

The group’s Thief had been thrown into a large pack of the pests after eating an avoidable knockback from the mid-boss, and was apologizing profusely. She channeled Aether into her blade as she caught the Minotaur’s enormous club with its edge, and the blinding [Flash] caused the beast to recoil long enough for her to [Pommel Strike] right into its slavering jaw and stun it.

Her HUD chirped in her peripheral vision with an incoming call from the Templar main office, to which she groaned audibly. She deftly slapped a goblin sword away with the flat of her blade and sent it clattering into a dungeon hallway while she considered if she would answer it.

"It’s my day off," she muttered as the line connected. She’d begun backpedaling around the reeling Minotaur to herd the goblins into a tight pack around it.

"I’m aware," the voice replied. He sounded tired. Probably up all night again working on a project or following up on someone else’s investigation. "You’ll want to take this one."

"I can’t be the judge of that?" She asked, raising an eyebrow, and her sword as pillars of brilliant Aethereal light erupted from the ground around her.

"New case. Murder down near Errant Park, another Deviant kill."

"Send Máire," she answered curtly, shoulder-checking a goblin that was trying to escape the pack.

"She’s busy. Modus Operandi suggests Tragedy Killer," he replied with a hint of annoyance. She flinched, causing her to mistime a parry, though a quick correction allowed her to blunt the attack against her shoulder pauldron and avoid getting stunned. The purple fur on her tail bristled, and it flicked in irritation.

“Oh! Shit!” Blurted the Life Mage in response to the spike in damage.

"Yes, exactly." She rolled her slitted amber eyes and drove her blade into the stone at her feet. Aetheric wings erupted from her back and the party huddled behind her while the Dark Wizard summoned his most powerful spell. The ultimate destruction magic: [Meteor]!

"I’m never going to find a static raid with these schedule irregularities. This is untenable," she muttered grumpily as a massive celestial rock (from orbit, presumably) struck the Minotaur with earth-shattering force. The shockwave slammed against the Aetheric barrier in front of her, and the roaring flames licked at the rippling cone of shelter surrounding the party behind her.

"Yue, you have literal superpowers and fight villains straight out of comic books for a living, but finding a group for Final Odyssey is what you’re worried about? Outrageous." Yue squinted, as if her glare could penetrate the digital veil between them. Final Odyssey was serious business. "The officer on scene is expecting you in twenty minutes," he explained, and then the line disconnected with a click of finality.


March 11th, 2045 - 4:15am - Templar Tower, Texas, USA


Yue’s eyes fluttered open, squinting at the harsh glare of her apartment’s lights. Though they were dimmed considerably, the light still glinted brightly off the sterile black and white “iPhone” aesthetic of her furniture and stabbed like daggers deep inter her skull. The real world was harsh and unpleasant, as a flicker of movement in her peripheral vision reminded her. One of the specters she’d unfortunately become accustomed to seeing, much like the ephemeral Sprites and Spirits in Final Odyssey. Though, they possessed a vaguely terrifying presence instead of the colorful sprites and faeries of the game world.

She sat up sluggishly and choked down the medication she needed to control the hallucinations, curling her lip at the bitter taste as she slid the NeuroTrode headset back onto its charging dock. The vague tingle of blocked pain signals crawling up her body as she stood told her that she hadn’t quite recovered from the previous day’s training. Just another day of grinding until she could get back to the only place she truly felt comfortable in her own skin.

Why couldn’t people just behave?

“Good morning Miss Bayushi. I apologize for the interruption of your usual session; the call came through on Priority. The details of your appointment have been uploaded to your HUD. Coffee is brewing and the shower has been primed to your preferred temperature,” the suite AI informed in a pleasant English accent.

"Thank you, Sovereign," she croaked, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes and forcing herself to get out of bed and lurch towards the alluring smell of coffee. "Police report, please," she requested, gulping the coffee down haphazardly. Sovereign always made a perfect cup, at the perfect temperature to drink without scalding oneself. It was a shame she didn’t have time to actually enjoy it.

The AI read off the currently known details of the police report while she hurriedly showered, slipped into her armored under-suit, and then buckled in the rest of her Templar armor uniform. Apparently, a body had been found in an alley on Tower 46 near Errant Park, about a quarter-mile from a well-known diner: Atomic Jann’s… which was famous for their world tier coffee and pastries, amongst other things. Yue scrunched her toes against the wave of anxiety at that information: Atomic Jann’s was one of her regular haunts. She couldn’t help her mind jumping to the immediate possibility that her identity may be compromised, the killer was looking specifically for her, and this was just a crime of opportunity.

The fact that the victim’s identity had been confirmed as Cowgirl Blizzard, an ice manipulating Deviant contracted to a small private organization somewhere in the Corporate sector only made the unease stronger. It wasn’t a perfect match, but the similarities in their appearance was enough to make her skin crawl.

She dismissed the picture from her HUD and steeled herself against the stomach churning near-falling sensation of the mag-lift plummeting from the tower’s peak towards her destination on the 46th floor. Sovereign continued to inform her in a cool, collected tone as she brought up the other related case files and skimmed through them. Five other known victims so far.

"Sovereign, do we have enough information to make a profile?"

“I’ll do my best, Miss… Of the known victims, the targets are comprised of all races and genders. Mainly Deviants from private organizations, though the killer seems to be attracted to targets with a level of notoriety or fame. Of the six crimes, three victims were sponsored by commercial entities. Our newest victim recently released a promotional video for Lucid Dreams corporation and their flagship product, ‘Final Odyssey,’” explained Sovereign.

"Yes, I remember," shuddered Yue. She had declined that same offer… well… Silver Fang did, since it involved revealing the name of her in-game character. A thinly veiled attempt to figure out her true identity no doubt. She wasn’t aware of anyone else in the Templar living complex that played except maybe Ion… they had only sent the offer out to female Templar, however, which may be telling. Sairyn and the Evangeline, the two highest ranking Templar in the area, shut that down before anyone had been stupid enough to accept.

Yue did file that fact away to follow up on later, however… at the very least it would give her an excuse to visit the development studio of her favorite piece of media!

“Cause of death, extreme dismemberment, likely from a Deviant power of unknown origin. Each scene appears to be specially curated to remove evidence of struggle. However, the officer on scene of the most recent incident is reporting abnormally low temperature and signs of freezing in the surrounding area, indicating that a fight did occur.”

"That might be a break: there was barely anything at the other crime scenes. Our killer is very meticulous about cleaning up signs of their presence."

“Indeed,” answered Sovereign as the lift came to a halt and the doors slid open.

"Ugh," grunted Yue, holding up a hand to block the blinding searchlight of the drone that was waiting for her. It blooped something grumpily at her before turning its large, wasp-like body and zipping off towards the crime scene with impressive speed. Yue blinked several times to clear the blots in her vision before taking a deep breath.

As the familiar, invigorating burn of energy spread out from her lungs to fill her body, she squinted against the sudden change in brightness of her HUD. She took a moment to allow her eyes adjust, observing the flame-like crimson light bleeding through her armor which, apparently, only she could see.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Máire Morgan
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March 11th, 2045 - 4:31am - Templar Tower, Texas, USA



"What’s the traffic like? Can you green-light me to the crime scene, or do we need to take the expressway?" Asked Yue as she jogged out into the street.

“Traffic is within estimated norms for this hour, sparse vehicles and no slowdowns to speak of. The optimal route has been uploaded to your HUD, and traffic will be rerouted to accommodate you.”

"Sugoi, thank you Sovereign," chirped Yue. She would only need to have an average travel speed of about 180 miles per hour to arrive at the crime-scene in the allotted time. The buildings, and street lamps became a blur as she pushed off a curb, causing the trees to sway from the back-blast of her sudden acceleration.

“Cooooommmmpeeeeennnsssaattiiing fooor tiiimee diilaation due to accelerated brainwaves,” informed Sovereign. Yue had accelerated her perceptions in order to give herself a larger window to react at the speeds she was traveling. Speaking was difficult like this, so she just concentrated on her breathing. Sovereign could more or less interpret what she was thinking through the Neuro-HUD interface.

Continue analysis, please.

“Of course, milady.” Yue felt her cheeks flush. Sovereign was such a charmer. “There is a high probability that the killer is a Hunter / Stalker. The evidence collected thus far suggests that each ambush was meticulously prepared, including removing signs of struggle at each crime scene. The length of time between each crime indicates that subjects are thoroughly studied beforehand, and the killer likely has intimate knowledge of each victim, their schedule, practices, and habits. While not impossible to get this knowledge from 3rd party sources, it’s likely the killer introduced themselves into each victim’s inner circle. I’m compiling a list of known associates and correlating data as we speak.”

I hope this doesn’t impact the release of Final Odyssey’s next content patch,

“Unable to speculate,” replied Sovereign to the thought when her mind wandered for just a split second. She felt her cheeks flush and flustered for a few moments before getting back on track.

Oh! Uh… right. Um, given the level of care in removing evidence, could you estimate how long could a killer like this go unnoticed?

“Indefinitely,” Sovereign replied with chilling finality. “Elaboration: The care in which evidence is removed suggests intimate knowledge of crime scene practices and the investigative process. Judging by the way each crime scene has been prepared, this killer has likely been operating in secrecy for an indeterminate time.”

Yue mulled on that statement for a long moment, dialing up the time dilation until the world was practically at a standstill. The route Sovereign had given her took her to one of the exterior walls for a short distance, and she gazed out the window for a long minute while suspended between steps. The horizon past the crowded urban crush of skyscrapers and neon was just beginning to turn ruddy with the morning sun. Buildings, lights, and advertisements stretched beneath the reinforced transparent aluminum windowpane. The corporations crowded to the absolute borders of each of the city’s massive sector plates with only the chasms into the Abyss of unknown depth halting their progress. The green glow of DocWagon’s serpent embraced cross loomed in the corner over the smaller corporations that pushed mercilessly against its borders.

Her eyes focused on her reflection, blotting out the dystopian Corpo-Scape like an unwanted stain and finding the idyllic patch of grass and carefully curated gardens of the tower swaying listlessly in her passing. The ‘stars’ from the Tower’s simulated night sky gleamed above her. A Blue Bird hovered peacefully over its nest between wingbeats.

Bottled paradise…

“Sorry? I didn’t understand that.” Sovereign’s voice snapped her back to the present, and she continued down the causeway, rounding a corner and turning away from the Tower exterior.

Nothing.


March 11th, 2045 - 4:40am - Templar Tower, Texas, USA



Yue had arrived at the crime scene, and for a long while all she could do was stare numbly. The pure savagery was overwhelming. The frigid air stung her sinuses, and her breath poured out of her mask vents in voluminous clouds, yet she felt an oppressive heat pressing against her skin through her armor. Sovereign had prevented the Tower’s climate control system from normalizing the temperature in the area in order to preserve the crime scene. She tried to ignore the swirling mass of blue light around which the temperature disturbance appeared to be centered, since the CSI crew seemed to be paying it no mind.

She did watch curiously as a passerby stopped near the disturbance and appeared to rub the light between his fingers like he was sampling a fine silk. He seemed startled to find her gaze upon him and flustered back and forth for a long moment before shuffling along quickly… was he translucent? She blinked hard to clear her eyes.

Investigator highlighting an object with red holographics startled her back to her senses, prompting her to move farther into the crime scene. It was grizzly: the victim’s body had been sliced into many pieces and spread across the alley floor. The entire alley was practically painted with blood, and the CSI wasn’t even sure if he could account for the entire body. Yet, just like the other scenes there were no other obvious signs of struggle. No foot prints. No finger prints. No weapon. The blood didn’t appear to be disturbed in any fashion save that it was all frozen… which was a new development.

The cuts were too clean. Even a mono-filament blade left microscopic striations on bone and muscle. As far as she could tell with the equipment on hand, the body appeared to have been dismembered at a molecular level. Yue’s gaze was drawn to the red holographic, outlining an object that was left behind. The killer’s calling card: a two-toned black and white “Tragedy” drama mask with something written in blood upon it.

"Die Raffgier," she pronounced clumsily, after directing Investigator to give her a close-up of the image.

“Avarice,” translated Sovereign.

"Bring up the other mask images?" she asked, putting them all together. "Die Begierde… Der Grimm… Das Begehren… Die Völlerei… Die Faulheit," she muttered, reading the translations in her HUD. "What’s missing?"

“Die Prahlerei, if the pattern holds,” answered Sovereign.

"Oh. Ion’s next," she muttered at the translation, sarcastically at first. "Sovereign, put a watch on Ion please," she reconsidered, after the gnawing feeling in her gut wouldn’t go away.

Yue only vaguely registered Sovereign’s response as she had locked eyes with a full body apparition. She slowly rolled the bitter aftertaste of the medication that coffee couldn’t quite mask over the surface of her tongue as if to confirm that, yes, she did indeed take it. The CSI walked through it, scattering its wraith-like form and startling a strong flinch out of her. Its hand raised and pointed at something in the distance as it dispersed, drawing her gaze.

It was a small irregularity on the rooftop of one of the buildings several blocks away. The mechanical whir of her visor’s optics struggling to zoom in on it pierced the silence, and though the image was muddy, there was clearly someone standing there, and observing the crime scene from afar.

A witness maybe?

She slipped out of direct sight from the building before streaking down a side-street and several alleys to keep herself out of sight. Her speed wasn’t subtle, but the scant seconds it took for her to reach the location was likely faster than the reactions of the stranger. Yue approached the building from behind and leapt gingerly to the rooftop. Her landing made the stranger flinch, but not turn around.

"Excuse me," Yue hesitated. ‘The ghost I saw pointed you out’ probably wasn’t the best introduction. She just held out her palm awkwardly with her Templar badge projected onto it holographically instead.

The figure was covered by a hooded black cloak, and judging by the silhouette was female… well she didn’t think a man would be wearing boots with such high heels at least. She shouldn’t judge, it was 2045 and men could wear whatever they wanted after all. Belted at her waist was a sabre of high-quality judging from the ornate scabbard. Yue guessed there was a pistol holstered on the woman’s opposite hip, judging by the way her hand darted towards it.

“Bedaurlich…” the woman’s mechanically disguised voice muttered. Yue’s eyes widened as the translation rolled into her HUD, a pang of unease gripping her chest.

Regrettable.

The woman flickered and vanished before Yue could accelerate. Someone faster than her?? An oppressive sense of danger urged her to dart forward and turn around. Yue’s eyes met with the blank stare of a black and white “Tragedy” mask, and a gloved hand outstretched towards her back. Yue’s feet were just touching the rooftop, but she could already feel her boots failing to achieve traction. Yue blinked involuntarily, and when her eyes opened the woman was gone.

Yue went to dig her toes into the rooftop to try and gain enough friction to react, but her vision went dark, and the building was suddenly no longer beneath her. She fell out of acceleration when her breath caught in her chest, flailing uncomfortably for any kind of purchase. She knew she’d had quite a bit of momentum from trying to dodge, but she was definitely falling. It felt like an eternity with her heart racing in her ears and the adrenaline pounding in her skull, but it only took a few seconds for her to catch her breath, regain acceleration, and suspend herself in the void.

Sovereign?

No Connection scrawled with agonizing sluggishness across her HUD. A couple agonizing minutes in the void passed as she fumbled with the HUD menus to switch into Time Dilation mode manually. She dare not let go of her acceleration until she had a chance to figure out what was happening. No Tower connection… GPS location unknown, no satellite connection. Yue flicked the HUD into flight mode and was rewarded with an artificial horizon. Whatever happened had left her inverted, but with a point of reference she was able to orient herself to Terra-Firma and scan the void below her. After some adjustments she was able to make out some terrain and, in the distance, lights?

Was she over the Corporate Sector? No, not any part that she recognized at least. She oriented herself towards the lights, her armor’s control surfaces flicking in and out in response to her body to stabilize her fall. It felt like ages, but she was able to use the HUD to map out her trajectory and calculate a rough spot where she would land: an open area outside what she guessed was a town, between the fringes and a large… forest? She couldn’t tell. She took a moment to load one of her wrist launchers with a canister of “Belly Flop” from her belt, then spread her arms and legs and manually deployed all of the suit’s control surfaces to slow her descent as much as possible.

The stabilizers strained for a while, but subsequently ripped free of her suit after doing not nearly enough. She oriented her legs towards the landing zone and aimed her wrist launcher at it, manually dialing up the power to maximum before aiming carefully and firing. The device sparked and sputtered white smoke after discharging, and the cartridge detonated into a large mass of viscous green gel below. All that was left to do was trust her calculations.

She exhaled slowly, releasing her energy, closing her eyes, and trying her best to remove all the tension from her body. Even with her eyes closed she felt the earth rush up to greet her. Her rump slapped the mass of green gel unceremoniously.

Ah, fuck was all that she had time to think. The gel wasn’t really designed for angular velocity and moments after impact, though it did slow her somewhat, she felt herself get ejected from the other side and smash into the earth. Yue slid and tumbled for what felt like ages before she finally came to rest, leaving behind a pillar of dust and a trail of metal debris in her wake. Her armor thankfully absorbed the majority of the damage, though she struggled to remain conscious. At least for the moment, she was unable to move.


March 11th, 2045 - 5:10am - Templar HQ, Texas, USA



“Sir. Lady Bayushi encountered a hostile Deviant during her investigation, and a connection with her HUD has been lost,” Sovereign explained cooly. Sairyn’s eyes fluttered open, squinting against the glare of his work lamp. He’d fallen asleep at his work bench again. “Sir?”

"Dispatch Máire to her last known position… and organize a search party just in case."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Máire Morgan
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March 11, 2045 - 4:16 A.M. - Corporate Kingdom, Texas, U.S.A

The lobby was dark, the only light filtering in off the street through the shuttered windows or peeking through the crack under the door behind the reception desk. Bodies moved in the shadows, glancing headlights from passing streetcars reflecting off patchwork chrome bodies, some armed. Two figures knelt whimpering behind the counter, hands bound and duct tape placed over their mouths. A flickering hologram of a woman in a lab coat stood by the sealed front door, replaying the same soundbites anytime one of the other figures moved too close to it.

”Welcome to Renrako Cybernetic Solutions! How can we improve your life today?”

“Can’t you shut that thing off?” One of the armed intruders snapped.

“Just shut up and keep an eye out for cops.”

“Street’s clear,” spoke up the one peering through the blinds. A glowing reticle spun lazily on the side of his forehead. “Nothing on the cop chatter, it’s all about some deviant killed up in Templar Tower.”

The first of the intruders rested his rifle against his shoulder, a sneer forming across his face. “And not long until the boss is done. Once we have that chip-”

“How many times do I have to tell you to shut up?” snapped the second, bare metallic spheres spinning in her eye sockets as she glared at him. “Your cybernetics frying your brain or something? Short term memory loss?”

The man opened his mouth to argue, but was interrupted by the man at the window. “Hold on, I think we’ve got company. Someone smoking on the roof out-”

A long blade shot through the window and impaled his face.

”Templars!” the woman yelled, her left arm splitting apart to reveal a three-barreled gun inside. She wheeled toward the window, firing wildly through the glass, a great roar of lead that deafened the building and echoed across the street. Another sword shot out of the darkness, hitting her shoulder and sending the woman to one knee before it was joined by two more in her chest and throat.

The last of the men leapt behind the desk for cover, priming his rifle as two of his companions burst through the rear door. He shouted at them to get down, raising his gun over the top of the desk to fire at whoever their assailant was without looking. The pulsed fire filled the room with red light and the stench of burning ozone. The front door was reduced to cinders and shrapnel as the concentrated energy rained into the street outside,

“Do you know who it is?!” one of the others yelled over the cacophony, a minigun rising up out of his broad metal shoulder.

“Who cares?!” the last barked back, a demented and predatory smile on his blade-thin face. “No one messes with the fucking Rippers!” segmented metal tail rising up from under his shirt. It fired a concentrated beam of energy out of the front of the clinic, sweeping one way and then the other.

More blades shot through the mixed fire, first severing the laser tail and then skewering the head of the man with the minigun, sending him toppling backward as he continued emptying magazines into the roof of the building before his gun fell silent.

A hooded figure was approaching through the dust.

“Shit!!” The tailed man rushed forward, his fingers splitting apart into bird’s nests of razor blades as he lunged at the one who had dared cross the Rippers. He lunged like a wild animal, slashing in a frenzy. The figure stepped back then spun around him, a sword appearing in their hand halfway through the turn before severing the Ripper’s head in a single motion. The corpse took several stumbling steps forward, arms still spasming wildly, then fell to its knees, where it remained as the Templar turned back toward the counter. The last of the Rippers realized somewhere in the back of his mind that he’d stopped firing.

Barely two minutes had passed.

“By authority of the Templar order, invested by the city of Titan’s Fall,”the woman spoke softly, her words inflected by an Irish accent. “You are ordered to stand down.” Her eyes bore none of the mercy this line offered.

The Ripper stumbled back from the desk and raised his arms, his energy rifle falling to the ground by the two hostages, who whimpered in fear as they tried to inch away from the weapon. “I-I surren-” He was cut off as a blade shot through his head from the side. His body listed, then slumped to the floor.

The templar woman lowered her hood as she stepped around the side of the reception desk. The swords which littered the bodies all dissipated into fine metallic sand, flowing back toward her and sinking into the skin beneath her clothing. She tilted her head to regard the two hostages, being met only with muffled screams and frantic attempts to scoot away from the woman. She made to step toward them, then sighed and desisted, opting instead to squat down in the rubble. She extended her arm outward with the palm up, a holographic display of the Templar logo flickering into view.

“I’m Cruaidín Catutchenn,” she said, giving the “hero name” she’d been assigned as a Templar operative. “I came to…” She trailed off, noting the terror in their eyes which refused to abate. She sighed again, looking away as she stood. “Someone will arrive soon to assist you,” she finished simply, stepping over the broken door into the back of the building.

It was a small operating room, intended for the attachment and maintenance of cybernetic enhancements. The clinic itself sat beneath a larger research lab, and was intended mainly for use by a special “subscriber list” of clients. At the center of the room, lying on the operating table and hooked up to an IV drip, was the leader of the invading Ripper cell, the back of his head sitting open and the metal cranial casing sitting on a medical tray to the side. They seem to have been in the middle of changing the neurolink chip which helped to manage his prosthetics.

It didn’t matter. A small radial circle appeared in the corner of her vision as she made a call to Templar HQ. “This is Máire Morgan,” she said the instant the call was picked up. I’ve secured Michael Dewey. The rest of his cell members were eliminated, unavoidably.” She paused for a moment, setting Dewey’s cranial casing back onto his skull. “There are two hostages in need of assistance.”



March 11, 2045 - 5:08 A.M. - Templar Tower, Texas, U.S.A.



Máire didn’t like the Tower. It felt claustrophobic, despite the open space; the artificial weather made her feel as if she were living in a snow globe. She sat on the roof of a building overlooking a small plaza, a cup of black tea warming her hands.

Transport was always quick to respond, even outside the Tower itself. Máire had managed to hand off the target and returned… “home”... in as little as half an hour, and had taken the momentary respite before she would be expected to hop back into action to… Well, it wasn’t really breakfast, but it was something. Sitting still was nice sometimes.

Spoken too soon. The posh English voice of Bayushi’s pet robot voice spoke up in her ear as she had lifted her cup to take a drink, and she closed her eyes as she lowered it back into her lap.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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March 11, 2045, 5:19 AM - The Outskirts, Texas, U.S.A.



The world was a difficult thing to understand and traverse. Over ruins and broken earth did the many legs carry the body. Pitch black, syrupy, warm fluid pulsed across skin and bone, before settling back beneath a layer of carapace.
There was an ear-shattering bang earlier, some impact that shook the floor beneath the feet of the form as it moved. Originally, only two legs took it forth, and while that was fast enough, the terrain was not agreeable enough. So it dropped to all fours, and let the changes flow through.

It traveled for only a short time, the now numerous legs making locomotion far easier. The carapace of its form scraped and rustled against itself as it moved, giving rise to a sound not dissimilar to the rasp of leaves.
Its’ vision was an odd thing. Unseen pits in the front of its form let the world come in through thermographic views. Four rows of proper eyes aided in the view, and as the legs moved, the humanoid shape that had crashed into the ground not but perhaps… a short time ago.
The mind of the creature understood time in the way that a dog or a cat might. It didn’t matter in the end.

Yue, though the creature did not know her name, would have been aware of the sound of multiple footfalls drumming violently into the dirt. She had seconds before eight chitinous legs came into easy view just before her, with thick strands of hair— No. Legs. Yet more, smaller, legs thrashed on the carapace of the bear sized spider that exploded into her worldview. It reared back as it approached her, revealing that its thorax continued for a solid ten more feet. An almost centipede-esque extension of form exposed itself.

Legs that ended in wickedly sharp points, with yet more smaller legs flailing wildly all across the body. The entirety of the creature pulsed with myriad colors, as if it’s chitin couldn’t settle on a shade of black, red, brown, gold, or blue. The more spider-like legs on the front spread out as it went to slam itself down onto Yue, a predator's brain recognizing an ‘easy’ meal faster than it could consider danger.
The sound of rustling leaves revealed itself to be the sound of shuddering insectile legs. A hunger pulsed in the stomach, and a low shuddering hiss exploded unconsciously from the creature.

There was just barely enough time for it to miss, and the monstrosity would be damned before its prey could get away. It took note of her armor, her wounds— Or at the least— The lack of any easily exposed ones. Ink shuddered in the fangs as venom made for paralyzing and necrotizing dripped.

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Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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Yue struggled to keep her eyes open. it wouldn't do to fall unconscious in an unknown place, but her body wasn't cooperating. She grunted against the sharp prickle of the muted pain signals in her hips and chest. She was thrashed, and felt tenderized with bruises. Her initial impact had flipped her forward and slammed her head first into the terrain, shearing off the armor plating and gouging the sensitive electronics beneath. There were definitely a number of scrapes, particularly on her arms which had taken the brunt of the punishment from protecting her head.

She was just about to succumb to the lethargy of unconsciousness when she heard it... Skittering.

Her eyes bolted open, her skin crawling with the adrenalin of discomfort. That sound... it was the same sound that that giant spiders in Final Odyssey made that elicited such a visceral reaction from her. There was an entire dungeon of content she just couldn't do because it was filled to the brim with giant spider.

Her skin was absolutely crawling and she struggled to keep from hyperventilating, but it was okay. As long as she kept her back to the bad, it wasn't real. Finally, she was able to force her limbs to move shakily. The optics in her helmet were destroyed so she couldn't see anything. Yue reached up and pried her helmet off, letting her long ebon hair spill out onto the ground, still slightly damp from her shower. It was ruined, but not worthless: she hastily stripped out the Neurolink, processing & data core, and as much of the electronics she could salvage in the scant few seconds she had as the skittering grew louder.
She slowly turned her head to look at the source and instantly regretted it. The spike of fear was like ice water pouring down her spine, and though her entire body was numb with adrenalin she was frozen in place.

The eyes... THE EYES! TOO MANY EYES! TOO MANY LEGS! WHY DOES IT HAVE SO MANY LEGS?!

Legs upon legs upon legs... it reared up. Her body moved involuntarily, as she sucked in a ragged breath and with a burst of power threw herself away from the monster, showering it with dust and debris as it crashed down where she'd been laying. Yue scrambled to her feet, turning towards the creature and letting out an involuntary squeal of fear and disgust as it began skittering towards her. She fumbled with her utility belt, and a handful of flat discs scattered onto the ground when she tried to arm her surviving wrist launcher.

"O-oh!" She squeaked, as they flashed red once and armed. Yue fell over, scrambling to get away as the creature lunged for her again and got a face full of pressurized jets of sand for its efforts. Her hands grasped for anything as she pushed herself up again and threw with everything she was worth. A fist sized rock bounced lamely off the creature's chitin: she couldn't control her breath and summon her strength, she was hyperventilating.

With all her options exhausted she did the only other thing her body would let her do: Run. Away. Direction not important. Just away.

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Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Máire Morgan
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March 11, 2045, 5:22 A.M. - Templar Tower, Texas, U.S.A.

The alleyway was a mess, that was obvious before Máire even reached it. The street around the entrance was closed off by the time she arrived on-site; a predictably immediate reaction to the disappearance of one of their own. A couple of police stood near the holographic barriers at either end, but didn't pass through - for all the talk of tower law enforcement and the Templars being on the same side, everyone knew where the cops stood in the eyes of the Order.

Máire's gaze flitted briefly over the rooftops opposite the alley as she crossed through the baricade, the guards stepping back silently as the holographic line beeped green. One of the buildings has a floating red tag on it, marking it as Bayushi's last known location. An Investigator drone hovered nearby, scanning everything in the area for lack of better direction. She turned toward the crime scene in the alley, and the CSI stood as he met her eyes.

"Any leads yet?" Máire asked, taking note of the frozen chunks scattered about the alley. The cold mist filling the area had done wonders to preserve everything; the blood hadn't even spread from where it had first fallen.

"Not yet," the CSI answered apologetically. "We're doing what we can. It's possible she was ambushed," he moved past her out of the alley, raising his hand to indicate the opposite building as he spoke. "Given how meticulous the Tragedy Killer has been so far, this was likely planned from the start. We're working under the asumption that they employed some sort of cyberware to jam her signal, knocked her out, and took her to a seperate location quickly. I have drones all over the neighborhood, looking for any sign of which route they might have taken."

Máire looked back toward the alley. "Tragedy Killer."

"That's right." The CSI jogged back over to her, holding out his palm where a holographic display of an asian woman in a cowboy hat, a snowflake decal adorning her right cheek, smiling brightly for the camera. "Silver Fang was investigating the most recent victim, ID'd as Cowboy Blizzard - sorry, Cowgirl Blizzard, whole things got me a bit rattled right now - who was found about two hours ago, give or take."

"Odd name to give a child," Máire muttered, crouching down and running the tips of her cloved fingers faintly over the top of one of the blood splatters.

The man behind her sputtered for a brief moment. "An- uh, Anna Tseng, though that's still officially restricted by NDA with her contractor." He dismissed the hologram from his palm, shifting his feet nervously before continuing. "Pattern was consistent with TK's other victims. No evidence, no witnesses. I, uh. I think Silver Fang was looking for an aerial view of the scene, maybe?"

"No witnesses?" Máire lifted her head, gazing down the alleyway toward the opposite street. "The diner staff didn't see anything? No one wandered in from off the street or looked through a window?"

The CSI exchanged glances with the other members of his crew. "It was late, a little after two. The diner closes at midnight, and with the tower lights turned down for the night cycle-"

"Found quickly enough, though."

"I- I suppose?"

"The Tragedy Killer's m.o. involves leaving crime scenes clear of evidence?"

The man rallied at this. "That's right. The killer seems to handle all their kills slowly and methodically, planned out weeks or perhaps months in advance. They always take the time to scour the scene of any evidence or signs of struggle, aside from the… body, and their calling card."

"And there are no witnesses."

"Right," he answered slowly, as if Máire were being intentionally difficult. "They're very careful about that."

"On a public street, behind a popular eatery, with targets who are more often than not household names?"

"What are you driving at here?" the CSI interrogated. "Is this supposed to be related to Silver Fang's disappearance, or are you just using the opportunity to snipe someone else's case, cos if that's what's going on here I'll call the Tower and have them send someone-"

"A killer who leaves no evidence they were there," Máire interrupted, standing and brushing herself off. "Who kills without struggle, with no witnesses, leaving their victims in pieces." She gestured around the alleyway, to the frozen blood spatter and remains of the former hero. "Pieces which all fell from different directions."

"...Right, their brutality is part of what makes the lack of evidence so frus-"

"What brutality?" Máire was growing weary of the Tower's lax hiring standards. She turned to regard the CSI and his team with a withering gaze. "What can you think of that would manage the killer's m.o. and also spirit away one of the Templar's strongest heroes in a split second?"


The man's mouth hung open slightly as his eyes searched the alleyway, the gears turning in his mind to connect the dots he'd been presented with. "Well- That's- If-"

He closed his eyes, tilting his face up to the sky and letting his shoulders go slack as he let out a groan of frustration which came with seeing an answer so obvious it could only be seen after it had already been pointed out. Máire patted him once on the shoulder as she left the alley, a reticle spinning in the corner of her vision as she contacted the tower.

"Arcanist, I need a scan of all areas within 30 kilometers of the tower for spatial distortions matching the energy signature at Silver Fang's last recorded coordinates," she pulled her hood up, then rolled her shoulder as a thin blade manifested in the air beside her. With a flick of her arm it shot toward the city skyline, a tether forming between its hilt and her wrist, sending her into the air behind her blade as soon as she grabbed it. "We're chasing a teleporter."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Raudd Erling Character Portrait: Zolya Erling Character Portrait: Alexander Dalton Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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The food kept running! Kept not being consumed!

The humanoid shape of Yue was a beacon of luminescent light in the eyes and mind of the creature. It slammed down onto the ground again, fangs piercing the dirt and leaf-litter of the ground as she once again just managed to dart away. Then she tore off towards ... Something in the distance.
The monster, the beast, the creature, thought it might be a mound, a wall, a mountain or cliff? It knew not what it could have been. But the creature chased her nonetheless.

It had been two light-dark cycles since it had fled from where it once had been, in that strange place deeper and further away. The lands around that place had been cracked and aglow in every way and everywhere. The creature felt better there, even if the air felt like it was trying to compress it into itself every time it left the waters of its 'tank'.

Now it was hungry, it hadn't eaten in ... some odd amount of time, since it escaped. The size it was maintaining was too much, and so the 'centipede' half pulsed with that black ichor the people in odd suits called 'ink'. As the lower half came to rejoin the many legged upper half, the body pulsed again. A pair of twitching, buzzing wings sprouted from the joiner space between abdomen and cephalothorax. They were large things, and as the creature shrank itself down to just about the size of some canine, the wings once again shifted. A split second decision that the monster made in the heat of the chase. The area was too dense with tree, and the form it was in was too large for flight anyhow... So it lengthened and strengthened the legs that it had.

The rustling sound grew ever louder as it closed in on Yue once again, the fangs of the mouth splitting apart to expose writhing legs and claws behind the massive needles of death. If it caught her, it would drag her kicking and screaming down a throat filled with points and joints.
Again it surged forth, fury mounting as the edge of one leg just barely scraped the back of a relatively armored calf. It took a moment for the creature to recognize just how slow it was moving. The fury, mounting before, was now beginning to boil over. There were thoughts bouncing around within its mind, ranging from nonsensical observations to 'It cannot outrun me if I grow smaller, leaner... I need practice. I will practice on it.'
And so the creature committed to an ideal that it would perhaps later regret. It put on a surge of speed, and a chitinous limb slammed into the small of Yue's back, sending her ever harder forward.

And then it made the first non-rustling sound yet. A horrid scream, like that of a wounded woman mixed with the warbling cacophony of some train-like horn. It was undercut with an echoing hiss. A stream of nonsensical noises followed soon after, as J-3 did everything in its' power to drive the fear of the prey ever higher.
It screamed another time, spikes of chitin and writhing movement slamming into the ground around Yue as she rolled and dodged and survived the onslaught. Their path kept leading them forth, and as J-3 made yet another scream, this one crafted from the screeching caterwaul of a feline in pain that was stitched together with the call of some bird-of-prey, it kept forcing Yue towards the unknown... Mound? Mountain? The unknown thing in the distance. It wouldn't be too far now.

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Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Raudd Erling Character Portrait: Zolya Erling Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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March 11, 2045, 5:20 AM - The Stoneworks, Texas, U.S.A


Illuminated by the dim light from outside the open window sat a figure a bowl with a thick liquid dyed a bright yellow in one hand and a thin brush in the other carefully tracing over the lines drawn in pencil on the fabric in front of it. Though for some it might seem far too early to be awake and productive, Zolya found it far more relaxing to put the strokes onto the canvas without the interruption of the bustle of life outside. Less things which could disturb her mid-stroke and have to clean up the small mistakes it caused. After a particularly long stroke she rested her brush on the rim of the bowl and with her now free hand she probed around for the cup of tea she had put on the table next to her, the scent of lemongrass teasing her as her hand felt around for the handle of the cup, yet her gaze refused to move away from the project in front of her.

Though before she could even get to enjoy her tea a shadow moving across her main light source and the flapping of wings interrupted her. As Zolya looked over to the windowsill there sat one of Zolya's ravens looking straight at her, the constellations that made up it's existence shifting around as it opened it's beak in a muttled caw. Visions rushed into Zolya's mind not all clear, but two came through vividly the vision of a templar falling from the skies and one of a woman running from what looked like a particularly disturbing abomination from below.

Incessant cawing from damn near a dozen ravens awakened Raudd from his slumber. While he wasn't exactly adverse to waking up early, it would have been nice to have more than... Four hours of sleep, he confirmed looking at the clock across the room. Knowing the only thing that could move the ravens in this manner would be his sister he poked his head out of the window and unsurprisingly there she stood.

"Raudd we have a problem, there is an abomination nearby chasing someone."

"Isn't it too soon for another incursion?"

"Now that you say.... Wait, that's not the problem. It's chasing a templar."

"A templar? That changes things... How did they get all the way down here anyways?"

"She fell..."

"She fell? How the hell do you survive falling that far?"

"I-I, don't know... But can you come down now we need to get moving...Eh, take a second to get dressed though, no showing the goods before the second date."

"Sigh Look... I'm not you. I'm not stupid."

After a few Rushed moments of getting dressed and gathering up his gear Raudd walked out of the door. Zolya only gave him a nod as she got on the back of a stag and rode off in the direction she expected to be able to intercept with a couple wolves and a few of the ravens in tow. Raudd still kept in the dark about where exactly this templar had made their landing joined up next to Zolya after jumping on the other stag Zolya had prepared.

"So... Where are we headed?"

"She's just a bit beyond Shield-Town, somewhere between Shield-Town and the forest by now probably and headed roughly towards the Stoneworks."

"Shield-Town... Can't we just let him deal with this?"

"I just have this eerie feeling he might not be enough to deal with it alone... Besides we wouldn't want our little princess to miss her prince charming, now do we? She looked real cute. Just your type."

"...That's...Ugh... That's wonderful. I don't have a clue what you think is my type, but since you're having an 'eerie feeling' I guess we'll have to check it out now don't we."

A playful "Yup" from Zolya was what Raudd decided would be the end of their little conversation preferring to run the rest of the way in silence rather than allow his sister to divulge even further whatever fantasy was playing inside that mind of hers.

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Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Temujin Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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Upon the outskirts of the town, far away from the attention of J-3 and Yue, a lean, black-and-purple form perched upon a rooftop. His oversized eye saw the night as bright as the day. His vision was a green-tinted screen bordered by shifting bars and text that monitored his vitality, stamina, structural integrity, and other information he never bothered to sift through.

His name was Temujin. Cyber ninja. Vigilante. Slayer of men and beasts and anything in-between. By chance, his hunts had taken him here today, to this frontier, where what looked like a shooting star had fallen.

...Except it wasn't a shooting star, he realised, as his single eye dilated its light and magnified his vision thrice fold. A red cross gleamed like fresh blood upon silver metal. The red cross… of the Templars.

Heat rose within Temujin’s chassis. The Templars. Titan’s Fall’s premier superhero team. The overly-long dick of the law. Corrupt, shriveled, useless law. Nothing but slaves with gilded collars. Slaves to this city, and the wretched forces which drove its fate.

It was then that Temujin noticed something else. Something that whipped his gaze into attention. Roiling, bubbling, shifting. He couldn’t make out a silhouette, even with his one good eye. A shapeless thing of many legs and eyes and teeth, its horrid screams inspiring equally horrid visions of violence within the cyber ninja’s mind. It chased the Templar, and to her credit, she had evaded it well… but for how long?

The cyber ninja vaulted over the ledge, and fell. Down, far, further. The wind rushed past his body without feeling, and his feet kissed the earth without sound. His stealth field engaged, masking his form and colours into shimmering air as he ran, and ran, and ran, the barest hint of his footsteps obscured by the terrible screams of the monster, which grew louder and louder as he closed the distance.

Those screams.

He would silence them.

Temujin leaned forward, dug his foot, then leapt - above and over the creature. A sickle emerged from his invisible arm - in a searingly bright green colour - and sliced upside the creature.

Plasma seared and splattered ink as it dragged through flesh, cutting deeper than any metal blade. By the time J-3 noticed, the blade had disappeared, and the shifting air landed on his feet. Soundless, but not quite sightless, as he backed away to create some distance.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Máire Morgan Character Portrait: Raudd Erling Character Portrait: Zolya Erling Character Portrait: Temujin Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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The screams.

It was so similar to the horrid screeching the spider monsters in Final Odyssey that her eyes flicked up and right to check her session status. Part of her hoped to find the faint, comforting glow of the server clock. Something struck her leg while she was checking and sent her staggering, though the death blow didn't seem to come. The creature made increasingly awful noises, which overrode the urge to look back and identify the source of the additional noises. Instead she covered her ears and ran harder.

Yue took a big gulp of air and held her breath: it was the only way to control her breathing long enough to activate her powers. Her body complained as the surge of energy rattled through her bones. It was just enough for a couple quicksteps. She covered her face and prayed her feet wouldn't get caught on the uneven terrain. Her lips flinched as her knees slammed into the suit's limiter, not quite hard enough to exceed its threshold. In two shocking bursts which sent dust and detritus flying in her wake she managed to gain about a one hundred meter lead on the creature.

The explosive rush of air left her ears ringing, and the hard edges of her surviving armor plates glowed faintly with heat. The rest of the exposed under-suit trailed tendrils of white smoke, filling the air with the acrid stench of burnt polysilicates. Her feet slid unsteadily for several meters as she fought to steady herself long enough to achieve friction and waves of lightheadedness washed over her. As she was catching her breath some kind of movement in the darkness ahead caught her attention... animals? Or they would be if they weren't bathed in concentrated spectral light.

"This is not... the time for this!" She choked between ragged breaths, deciding she would ignore the illusions like every other normal person and press on.

If she could just regain her composure for long enough to strike a decisive blow she could end this, instead of continuing to run and hoping it would leash back to its spawning point like a good monster. Yue forced herself to take a handful of shaky, but controlled breaths before planting her feet and swiveling on her heels. Her momentum carried her several yards as she reached into her utility belt for a weapon, however, her eyes met with the creature's... and though it had changed form, somehow the screaming maw of fangs and finger-like digits was somehow worse than the monstrous spider-centipede. A visceral flinch unintentionally flung a handful of Stratagem discs out of the pouch. She was able to save most of them by hurriedly slamming the pouch shut, but four bounced onto the ground, scattering and rolling for a few meters in each cardinal direction around her before falling flat and clicking to the ground. The single red LED blink on each one was the only indication that they'd armed.

"Ah fuck."


March 11, 2015 - Templar HQ, Texas, USA



"Cru... Crua... Crui... Máire, There's... a lot of data," muttered Sairyn. He sipped his coffee a little louder than intended through the Vox, and nearly spit it back out. It was still much too hot to drink, but he needed all his faculties. "Our chief not-withstanding, there are three teleportation-class Movers residing in Templar tower. It took a little while to filter out their signatures but I have a search area for you," he explained, pausing to upload the data to her HUD. Sovereign highlighted an area along the chasm dividing the sector 1 and 2 plates with the highest concentration of signatures, as well as a few other probable areas in the other Estates.

"I probably don't need to tell you this, but there's two types of Teleportation-class Movers: the kind that need to see their landing point, and the kind that can go anywhere they've been before. We really hope it's the former... which is what the data appears to suggest, otherwise there's no telling where Fang could have ended up."

Sairyn sighed as he blew into his cup in an attempt to lower the temperature of his coffee to something less than flesh-searing. Maybe he should trust the AI to... no. He banished the thought when it elicited a sudden spike of paranoia in his core. With his free hand he tapped noisily on the array of slates orbiting lazily around him.

"I've dispatched a fleet of Tracer drones to assist and expand our search area. For now I will stay here and relay the data to your HUD in real-time but... if you run into the perp you better call for backup; don't think I missed the mountain of paperwork your scuffle with the Rippers is generating," he hissed with obvious annoyance. "And, obviously, it goes without saying that while we prefer to apprehend the suspect alive, if you feel threatened you are authorized to murder them to death. Protect yourself first, I'm not losing any more agents today."

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Character Portrait: Alexander Dalton
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In the undercity below Titan’s Fall, there is a lovely district colloquially referred to as “Shield-Town.” Being built out of what was once a gigantic scrap heap, the excess metal was bolted, welded, and slapped together over the years into arguably the most stable and fortified of all the under cities districts. Which was a good thing when the entirety of said town is the territory of a rogue metahuman. A metahuman that is the definition of the word Tank.

Alexander Dalton was bored out of his skull. Fully kitted out in his Aegis costume, the man lounged on top of one of Shield-Town’s taller buildings. Today has been going slow. He was in between jobs from Nowhere and there hadn’t been any tech left at his place for maintenance lately. He had hoped going out to patrol would have led him to some sort of action. Two and a half hours in, nothing. Not a peep. A monster hunt would be great right now. Heck even some dumb new villain. This whole day has been nothing but dreck, I want something to happen. I don’t even care what.

Radio static coming from his helmet, which was currently laying on the roof two feet from Alex, snapped him out of his sulking. A quick systems check later and a familiar voice came through the com link.

”Are you seriously still moping around on some rooftop my guy?” Dean’s voice came in thick with fake disappointment.”Says the man who can’t pick up any vid or chatter on anything worth my time. Seriously, if it were anymore peaceful I’d think I was in some other city. Not the ass crack of Titan’s fall deep underground.” Alex sat up with a grunt and began to stretch.

”Cant have every day be full of excitement Boss. Most people are kind of intimidated by you after all. I mean a Brute with Force fields and versatile as yours? If I didn’t know any better I’d be calling bullshit.” Alex rolled his eyes and snorted. ”When you put it like that, it sounds like I should try branching out. Maybe see if any of the others would like some extra hands in the other territories.” Wasn’t a bad idea all things considered. Shield-Town was a tight knit community that didn’t take crap from anyone, powered or not. That couldn’t be said the same for any of the other districts. Dean made a humming sound on the other end, mulling over the idea. ”Might be onto something there. Been a bit since you’ve kept tabs on the other rogue’s and their problems yeah? Wouldn’t hurt to put some of them on the horn an- wouh hold that thought.” Welp, there goes boredom.

The armored rouge instantly went on edge. ”Got something?” There was a few seconds of silence before Dean let out a long whistle. ”Picking up chatter of someone being chased by a beast. Bit early for an incursion and the thing seems to be alone. Hold up. . . . Shit people think it’s a Templar from topside. How the fuck?? Alex had similar thoughts. How, Why, and what was a Templar member doing all the way down here? If he was quick enough, he could hopefully get some answers. Aegis’s eyes flashed a bright sky blue through the lenses of his helmet as he got himself warmed up ”Need a location Dean.” he could practically hear his best friend’s smirk coming from the other end. ”way ahead of ya buddy. Go ahead and get moving.” The rogue didn’t was already leaping off the building, using his power to catapult himself through the air towards his destination.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Raudd Erling Character Portrait: Zolya Erling Character Portrait: Alexander Dalton Character Portrait: Temujin Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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March 11, 2045 - Just Outside the UnderCity, Texas, U.S.A.



The pain is what caught its attention first. The feeling of some sharp, impossibly hot blade carving through one leg and part of the thorax. The screams became real pained ones, and as J-3 turned their head to attempt some sort of confirmation of assault, the prey spirited away; pouring on speed that startled J-3.

A shuddering sound echoed out of the spider-esque form, like the beginning of someone chattering their teeth together if their teeth were made from the dried husks of grasshopper exoskeletons. Ink exploded over the form, and as four legs pulled back into the mass, the form shifted and grew. As the ink again settled, J-3 let out one last screech, rearing back on two legs instead of four as a pair of twisted forelimbs stretched into the air.
It looked as if someone had plucked off half the legs of a spider, and replaced the last two front legs with the blades of a praying mantis. The back legs were massive now, thick and dense. Hands rested at the ends of the forelimbs, eight digits writhing with a barely repressed frustration of losing the main prey item.

The form crouched, and as carapace grinded together with a sickening squeal and crunch, J-3 launched itself forward. Two massive eyes, pure black orbs that sat in the ‘face’ of its form, took note of faintly glowing forms further towards the … Mountain? Mountain.
And so J-3 rocketed forth, covering a fair distance with a speed that was nearly unnatural. When the glowing forms revealed themselves to be animals made from a tantalizing light, J-3 swung their arms. Chitin and keratin slashed out; aiming for whatever these creatures could have been. No killing blows meant, only aiming to maim so that they could be hunted down and consumed next.

The first prey was a beacon in the near distance now. J-3 could see them, feel them in a way. It would eat them too. It had to, too much energy was used this chase alone for it to not at the least try and consume that prey whole.

J-3 arrived in silence before Yue, no screaming, no shouting, no screeching. Not even a chitter or squeak, nary a growl or grunt. One chitinous leg landed on dirt and leaf litter, the other leg came to rest just beside a disk of metal and plastic. J-3 had exactly enough time to notice three others, to begin leaning towards Yue, and to realize it had made a grave error. There was… A sound. A sound unlike anything familiar to the ink-beast. To Yue, it was the sound of someone pulling the pin on an air compressor, and then dropping it in whipped cream.

An explosion of foam and chemical blind sided J-3, who was already halfway bent over the trap and towards Yue. Their “torso”, legs, and most of their arms and the bottom of their “head” were swiftly encapsulated. The needle point of a clawed digit came to a halt just before Yue’s nose, and as the situation settled in J-3s thoughts… They screamed yet again, rage and fear blasting out from a quartet of spider-fangs that made up their face. They began thrashing against the now hardening foam, unknowing of the other threats that were chasing them down. The foam was quickly growing rubber-like, firm enough that they couldn't simply yank away.

Ink pulsed in their core, and another belting scream leapt from them; the sound of an eagle’s screech and a hyena’s cackling chortle, with the undertone of a multitude of crickets chirping and buzzing. They were trapped.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Raudd Erling Character Portrait: Zolya Erling Character Portrait: Temujin Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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#, as written by chaotix14
It wasn't hard to track their way to the monster Zolya had seen in her visions, didn't even need to use the ravens she had specfically brought along for that reason. It's demented screams worked like a beacon giving the two a clear heading, though it was moving fast enough warrant to aim just a bit towards where he should be heading, at least it seemed to be moving in a fairly straight line.

It wasn't long until the monster came into sight. "That's not what it looked like in the vision... Fuck, it's a shapeshifter Raudd." Zolya realized as she watched the grotesque scene of the beings roiling inky mass moving around forming massive mantis blades in apparent retaliation to whatever it was that was attacking it. However instead of going into a melee with it's attacked it made a rush towards the two with a burst of speed.

A flurry of strikes from it's various appendages weaved their way through their ranks, the ravens had been far out of it's reach, but the same couldn't be said for the wolves a several of which had been knocked onto the ground or thrown a distance depending on the angles of the impacts. As it came for the two deer riders at the back though Raudd had managed to position his deer in front of Zolya and into the path of the monster. The deer lowered his head as to ensure only the large antler structure would be in the path of the appendages, combined with some dexterous parries and blocks from it's rider they managed to deflect all of the blows with only the deer being pushed back a minor amount from the repeated impacts. But it seemed that was all the attention the creature had for their pack, as it sped of towards it's original prey once more.

"I'm going to charge it, you keep your distance and send in the wolves when they've recovered." Raudd exclaimed as he directed his deer into the charge. Axe and shield raised anticipating the possibility of the creature turning around and going after him again. However as the creature reached it's prey it suddenly stopped, as if trying to taunt it... Or it just realized what mistake it had made as an explosion of foam engulfed it's body.

Raudd having given chase close to it now too realized he was going to end up in whatever that foam was, it was too late for the deer to stop it's charge it was going to hit it, but he managed to throw himself off it's back and rolled past the foam encasement. "Well... This is gonna suck." he said as he rolled over some kind of metallic disk with a bright red LED on it, instantly realizing that that was probably what had caught the monster as well.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Raudd Erling Character Portrait: Zolya Erling Character Portrait: Alexander Dalton Character Portrait: Temujin Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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Yue staggered back a step as the creature was ensnared in the sticky elastic foam compound, narrowly avoiding an intimate encounter with one of its razor sharp claws. She'd been frozen by the unnerving silence as it approached her, and now was just relieved it had been a restraining stratagem. If it had been a Flash or Belly Flop she'd probably be dealing with an injury, or worse if she was judging the slickness of the talon correctly.

Well then. All that's left to do is to finish it.

Yue reached into her pouch and slid a black disk into her hand, slightly larger than the others. She was about to press her thumb to it when the creature started shrieking again, causing an involuntary shudder down her spine.

"Nope," she said, with an accompanying noise of unease and disgust. Yue turned on her heels, deciding to leave the creature to its sticky fate. Eventually the compound would deteriorate enough for it to escape, and she intended to be long gone when that happened... or at least that was the plan before a deer came barreling at her carrying a... Viking?

"What?!" was all she managed before the deer slammed into the creature, and the Viking did an impressive backflip onto... she squinted... the disc had a simple illustration of a bucket peppered with dots before the LED on it lit up. It detonated with a crack of rapidly decompressing space, not unlike a gunshot as about fifty-six liters of compressed sand were launched up in a narrow pillar beneath him.

Yue shielded her face with a hand and sidestepped to avoid getting any in her eyes or mouth. She fought the waves of lightheaded dissociation as she struggled to reconcile what she understood to be reality with what she was experiencing. The soft crunch of her foot landing on a plastic disc stopped her retreat.

POW!

A gush of foaming water sprayed out from under her foot, sending her crashing hard into the ground and soaking her in a slick soapy solution.

"Ugh. Clearly I'm in Hell," she muttered, as she tried to gain enough purchase to get back on her feet.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Raudd Erling Character Portrait: Zolya Erling Character Portrait: Alexander Dalton Character Portrait: Temujin Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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March 11, 2045 - Just Outside the UnderCity, Texas, U.S.A.



J-3 went silent once again as, without much preamble or warning beyond the thud of hoof against ground, a brilliantly glowing deer of light and tangibility slammed into them. Their mind rolled in the confines of its formed skull as they quickly shifted focus to the nearest opponent; the stag.

Ink boiled and rolled across the chitin of J-3s body, and for only a brief moment, their core glimpsed the world in pure clarity, before being subsumed by meat and bone once again. Their form rapidly shifted and became subsumed by the ink that spread over it. A rapidly forming limb and claw combo slashed out within moments, spearing the deer by the throat as J-3 attempted to leap away from the trap in the same breath as they tried to yank their new prey. Ink pulsed yet again, and with a horrendous screech, J-3 expressed a show of power they hadn’t yet demonstrated.

The deer vanished under a swarm of pitch-black tendrils, small as capillaries, that sucked up the glowing light that the creature gave off. “Yes! YES! MORE!” It screamed, a voice distorted by liquid and the buzzing-crackle of insect wings and tiger roar. Their new form was humanoid, riddled with horns and spines and fur and scales, with eight arms and four legs, and a long stinger-tipped tail that dripped venom. The veins of ink vanished from the air and back into the monster, receding into an unnaturally spherical head, a maw full of teeth and writhing tongues snapping shut. A rush of energy pulsed through them, and J-3 reflexively pushed on that space within them where water churned.

Their form exploded with liquid, as a brackish flow of salt-water began pouring from the entirety of J-3s body without cessation. Gallon upon gallon began flowing out from their flesh, and they turned once again to Yue, eyeless orb of a skull locking directly on her scrabbling form in her attempt to stand. It looked towards the Viking man as well, though it knew not what a Viking was, and belted another scream at him.

They launched at the Viking first. Intending on gaining yet more fuel for their now refreshed pyre. He was off balance, and thus, an easy target.
The first prey could wait.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Raudd Erling Character Portrait: Zolya Erling Character Portrait: Alexander Dalton Character Portrait: Temujin Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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Temujin's systems rang with alarm. The creature shifted, twisted, screeched. Its movements were a show of pure chaos; nearly incomprehensible for the cyber ninja. His false heart pumped adrenaline throughout his false body, and he dodged - far, backwards, into a flip, the swift movement bringing more of his wiry form into light as he landed right on his feet.

"What manner of aberration are you?!" Temujin grunted under his breath. The cyber ninja kept his distance and dashed, into the shadows, to maintain his subterfuge. A head-on fight with that cacophony of appendages and teeth would be suicide for him.

It was then that Temujin saw more coming - two riders, clad in robes and charging upon deers, with what looked like a cavalry of ravens and wolves. It seemed like something straight out of a painting.

"Good. More meat shields," Temujin thought, then backed off further.

...And it was good that he kept his distance, as dust and air erupted and added to the chaos, which the abomination took advantage of to lunge towards the viking.

Temujin's vision honed in on the monster. He sprinted into a leap above Yue, then fired a wire from his palm, its end tipped with a triple-pointed claw that shot far and dug straight into the formless ink.

Stab!

Yue felt a presence land behind her.

"Take this."

A machine-toned voice spoke. A shimmering wire slipped onto her palm. From her peripherals, she saw more of the cloaked figure. Knees bent, back hunched, arms tugging as hard as it could at the same wire.

"HNKH!"

The wire straightened and tensed as Temujin yanked at J-3 back with all his might. His hands trembled, and there was a sound of grating metal. He couldn't do this alone.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yue Bayushi Character Portrait: Raudd Erling Character Portrait: Zolya Erling Character Portrait: Temujin Character Portrait: Jericho-Jemma Alborn
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#, as written by chaotix14
While Raudd was very glad the landmine he hit wasn't another of those foam trap thingies, there was part of him that wished it had been a regular landmine instead as the jet of sand pounded into his armor finding the little gaps between it and even finding it's way into his eyes and his nose. At the same time Zolya had no other choice but to watch as the creature absorbed her poor deer and drained it until it fizzled out of existence it's form and light disappearing in the blink of an eye as if it never existed in the first place.

He barely had any time to register what had happened to him before the shapeshifter went after him once again and in another new form something akin to those Hindu gods. Instead of jumping up from his position to mount a defense Raudd allowed the creature to get close, drawing it in with a false sense of the injury helped by the bleeding wounds caused by the abrasion of the sand.

As the creature came withing range of his axe he swiveled around going from his laying position to one of combat readiness as he swung the axe at one of the outstretched arms of the shapeshifter. What followed was a flurry axe strikes aimed at the creatures body each strike flowing into the next making sure to leave as few gaps as possible on his right side for his opponent to counterattack with it's arms. All the while on his left arm he was using his shield to fend off, bash and jab at the arms that the axe swings couldn't cover though he was very much aware that he neither had enough arms to cover the disadvantage nor did his vision blurred by the grains of sand on his cornea help the matter with him being limited to reacting to the movement of the appendages rather than being able to land pinpoint strikes. Drops of sweat mixed with blood fell to the ground as Raudd assailed and carved into the creature like he was the rabid animal in the situation a smile forming on his face as the smell of the blood hit his nose.

At the same time another entity decided to enter the fray sinking a hook of sorts into the creature, attempting to contain it perhaps... Or foolishly trying to protect Raudd from it's assault not realizing it wasn't a desperate defense but rather a frenzied aggression fed by the first shot of adrenaline Raudd had felt in weeks.

Whatever the case may have been Zolya took the opportunity to to unleash the pack, the wolves making hit and run attacks on the creature's back and sides using their claws rather than their teeth trying to avoid making contact with the inky mass for long enough that it could gain traction on them and devour them just like the deer before. The crows on the other hand took it upon themselves to grab the wire with their talons and help whatever was holding the end of that wire with it's job.

Zolya herself closed the distance as well keeping her book open on a page with what she assumed would be the best defensive spell against this creature, still mounted on the deer she came up behind the group making sure to keep Raudd between her and the shapeshifter as an extra precaution. She looked down on the Templar noticing how she had been soaked by what looked to be soapy water. "Hmm, that looks rather unpleasant." She uttered as as she lifted her hand from the book.

If Yue looked in Zolya's direction she could see an ice blue shimmer form around one of the rings before moments later a gust of air was launched from it aimed at the soap stricken Templar in an attempt to at least get the worst of that liquid off her.