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The Age of Gifted » Arcs » West District Conflict

Freedom Fighter/Wanter Terror suspect Rick Ronin is spotted in the Erubescan West District, a residential suburb of the Citadel City. He seeks food and gains help from citizens who seem not to recognize him. After being recognized and reported by Knight Saffir Fisher, an Erubescan Strike team forms and teleports to engage.

As written by: darkshadowolf99, VitaminHeart, ianna_334, scoundrelboots, wolfsong4640, MisterMagicMuffin, thebagel264

18 pieces and 16 characters involved, written by 7 different authors.

2 places involved

So begins...

West District Conflict

The WastelandSetting: The Wasteland

*(Location is near the Erubesco Citadel)*

Nightmares mixed with the pain associated with starvation kept waking Rick throughout the night. Now the sun illuminated the nearby town but Rick was in no hurry to get up out of his pile of ash in the nearby Wasteland. He wasn’t sure he had the strength to pull himself out of his “bed”.

‘What is the point of trying? If I succeed, then it would mean hours of mindless wandering…well…I should actually head toward that town,’ he thought to himself. ‘If it really is a town.’ Lately Rick couldn’t trust his perception of reality. While he lay there, face full of ash, two opposite images flashed before him. One was an image of the town, the other a gruesome swamp.

Rick closed his eyes to erase both images.

‘What is real? All of my memories seemed so real but now…’ he continued to think as he remembered the feel of plastic in the center of his chest. The item embedded in his chest all this time was some hunk of blue plastic instead of a powerful sapphire. That was just the beginning of his confusion. Each memory he had cracked, making room for a new memory that contradicted the other one.

The most shocking aspect was the complete loss of his powers. ‘Did I even have powers to begin with?’

He opened his eyes, the image of the swamp was gone leaving just the town in its wake. Making it likely that this image was the true one. Rick has gone stretches of time without rations many times before, but now he’d gone too long without food and probably wouldn’t last another day.

‘That town would have food and water, but it is so much easier to just lay here and wait for death…so…much…easier…’ he closed his eyes and waited.

“Ah…” Rick sighed opening his eyes once again. “Damn it!” he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t just lay there and die, he had to try to survive. Just like always. His past was shattered but his will to survive wasn’t. He positioned his left hand under his chest and kept his right hand by his face. With his remaining strength he pushed the uneven ground failing to lift himself up even slightly.
This failure only strengthened his resolved to live.

‘I’m not gravity’s bitch,’ he thought to himself. He tried again pushing with more strength than he realized he still had in the tank. This time his upper body lifted up off of the ground, ash clinging to his face and clothes. Rick brought his knees up under him and pushed himself up to a standing position. He’d done it.

Gravity seemed heavier than normal, no doubt due to his weakened state, and he had to fight just to keep standing. Rick brushed the ashes off him as best he could without using too much effort. Leaving him still fairly dirty but in doing so he noted something odd. His muscle tone was still intact. Instead of the skeleton like figure of a man whose body was eating itself, Rick retained the muscular physique of a weight lifter with a high protein diet. His black sleeveless shirt didn’t diminish how much his chest stuck out while his arms were just as strong looking as he remembered. His black shorts hid the strength of his lower body fairly well, but he could still see the muscle definition in his calves. His dirty black and blue sneakers completely hid his feet, but how strong could a foot look anyway?

Rick touched his short dirty blond hair at the front feeling it sticking up in that area. It wasn’t sticking up in a bed head kind of way but in a stylized way that could be done with static electricity. With the muscle definition and his hair sticking up at the front, Rick found a small glimmer of hope that he still had his powers somewhere locked inside him somewhere waiting to be unlocked.

In the mean time, he’d have to rely on only his perseverance to make it to the town. So he slowed drudged through the Wasteland.
An hour later he was there and he immediately regretted coming. Erubesco propaganda was everywhere. Though it could just be a town that supports Erubesco, but with Rick’s luck there is probably at least one Erubesco base nearby. Rick felt vulnerable just standing on the outskirts of the town since he was one of the founding members of the Wanderers. Not to mention the discomfort of not having any powers to protect himself with. After all, just the other day a random group of thugs beat him up, took his supplies, and killed his friend Belle. If he couldn’t handle random thugs then surely he couldn’t handle highly trained Erubesco soldiers. Erubesco wouldn’t care that he’d left the Wanderers and they definitely would still care about all of the death and destruction he caused them in the past. Erubesco wasn’t likely to take pity on him for being powerless, they’d probably capitalize on it instead.

Rick looked back at the Wasteland, the image of which flickered with the image of a massive grave yard with plenty of open graves. Turning back to the town, Rick’s vision flickered the image of Candy Land with giant pieces of meat cart-wheeling down the streets. Rick stood there watching the illusion play out the spectacle.

“Eh…close enough,” He said walking further into the town.

His speed was still sloth like from his weakening knees but he walked in a fortunate direction. His vision removed all traces of the false Candy Land and dancing meat products to reveal a convenient store of sorts. Rick went inside passing the front counter. The young lady behind it was quiet friendly, “Welcome back –oh I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else. But it’s always great to meet new people. I’m Shelby, what’s your name?” Shelby asked in a true morning person fashion.

Rick looked at her but didn’t stop walking, he didn’t mind being friendly but the need to survive dictated his actions. He was getting food NOW. Plus his name could be infamous around here so it was best not to use it. Lying always made Rick feel uncomfortable and he was bad it anyway so saying nothing was his default setting.

The lady was clearly upset by Rick’s rudeness but she didn’t say anything, she just watched him head over to the food aisle. Rick found himself with enough food to fill his belly and still have some left over for the trip out of the town. He thought back to the thugs and how they stole everything from him and left him to die. Rick settled for one meat stick, an apple, and a twenty ounce bottle of water.

Before anyone could say anything, Rick wolfed down the food and chugged the entirety of the water bottle. That small amount of food was enough to restore his strength to a decent level, thought it would be smart not to do anything too strenuous until he got more food. Eating such a small amount just made his stomach ache more in attempts to persuade him to keep eating. He resisted the urge to dive face first into the shelves of food and devour everything. Then he resisted that urge again while he threw his trash away in a nearby waste bin and found his way to a bin of maps. He opened one up and learned his surroundings as best he could. He could no longer afford to mindlessly travel to unknown destinations, he was lucky this time but next time he might just starve to death.

“Excuse me sir! You have to pay for those.” Shelby insisted from her position behind the counter.

‘Time to go,’ he thought to himself closing up the map. Rick walked back towards the front door, map in hand. Shelby insisted again but Rick didn’t stop. “I don’t have any money…sorry,” he did say.

“Hey you stop!” a man declared trying to stop Rick. Rick gave him a shove and the man fell backwards into a display of cookies.
Rick left the store in a hurry secretly proud that there was still enough strength in his body to jostle people out of his way, even if it still wasn’t super strength. Rick jogged down the street fast enough to get away but still retain as much of his renewed energy as possible.

Every foot fall angered Rick, the further he got from the convenient store the more he hated himself, and by the time he felt like he’d gotten away the more he was convinced that he needed to go back. His left foot hit the ground taking him off the sidewalk away from the main street.

Tucked away in an alley covered in shadows, he lingered quietly. Rick looked up at the morning sky but saw no light. Looking back down plunged him deeper into darkness. Looking around was pretty useless for he could hardly see anything.
Through the shroud he found ordinary things. There was a compact mirror with missing pieces of glass from its multiple cracks. Rick could see the banana peel on the ground, the army doll stripped of its uniform, and the overflowing dumpster.

“No. It’s not true. I’m still me,” Rick tried to assure himself.

‘Am I?’ he questioned himself with a flare up of rage. ‘This isn’t the first time that I’ve lost my powers but this is the first time that I’ve ran away to hide from danger,’ he reminded himself.

“This time…it feels…different,” Rick responded to himself out loud. Speaking his thoughts out loud in this manner was helpful for him. Doing this was the best way he could clarify his thoughts and if there was ever a time when he needed clarity, it was now.

‘It shouldn’t matter if it’s different. I am supposed to be a warrior with or without my powers. And yet here I am hiding from average town’s folk, being fearful of Erubesco, and letting those punks kill Belle. I let them kill Belle.’

Rick was quiet after that thought. His shoulders drooped, his heart sank, and his eyes cast down. “I know…” he admitted.
His stomach growled. Eating enough to survive another day isn’t satisfying at all. He didn’t care; he couldn’t care not while the thought of Belle was so fresh in his mind.

“I know…” he said plainly. The weight of that moment grew heavier on his psyche. “I know…” sadness crept into his tone. “I know…” he said, his body weakening. Rick could see that beautiful woman vividly die before his eyes.

A spark. It felt familiar yet altogether foreign.

His eye brows sank downward at the tips, his gaze sharpened. “I know, I know, I know, I know, I knowIknowIknowIknowIknowIknow I KNOW!” he exploded with passion. “I’ll get those punks! Right after I get my powers back! I will have them again I will! But in the mean time…I’m going to need to survive, I’m going to need to train my skills, I’m going to need a reliable food source, and I’m going to need to know more about electricity.”

The alleyway seemed to brighten in Rick’s eyes. He opened the map that was still tightly gripped in his hand. After looking at it for only a short period of time Rick confirmed his earlier prediction. Not far from this town is the Erubesco Citadel and everything else was Wasteland. The rest of the map provided little more useful information but it was enough to get him going on his mission.

“I’ll head in the opposite direction of the Citadel but I’m going to have to make do with living in this town until I’m ready to move on.” Rick decided his plan was good enough to start so he closed the map and folded it several times to make it pocket sized. With the map put away in his left pocket Rick stepped toward the exit of the alleyway with his right foot.

Before he could go, his blue eyes with the yellow tint around the pupils noticed the stripped army doll again. Lying next to it seemed to be a miniature plastic army boot. After looking at the doll for a second an urge welled up and he found himself walking over to the doll. Rick reached down and placed the boot on the doll’s right foot then sat it down against the wall of the alley. Stepping with his right foot, Rick walked away from the alley with new resolve.
Out of the alley back on the main street, Rick didn’t see anyone who was obviously looking for him. No one was pursuing him for his very recent crime.

‘I guess I should consider myself lucky,’ he thought to himself. Remembering the map he stole, Rick walked eastward which was the opposite direction of where the Citadel is located. In the long run it wouldn’t make him much safer but it seemed to be safest direction to go, based on the little information he had. His map only had street names, major landmarks, and the rough location where the Wastelands were.

Food, information, and training were the three objectives for him to locate. Rick’s stomach rumbled, “Shut up,” Rick said punching himself in the gut. He winced for a moment not expecting the punch to hurt as much as it did.

He wandered on.

‘Apparently most of my pain tolerance came from my super strength, without it…I’ll have to build it back up the hard way.’ As he traveled through the business district of the town, Rick hit himself in the stomach with his fists. He didn’t hit himself real hard just with a consistent amount of force. It didn’t take long for a dull heated pain to develop in his stomach from the strikes. His stomach growled angrily in protest but Rick continued.

‘It’ll be worth it,’ he thought to himself. From time to time he switched up his target to his ribs, chest, and even his face. The people walking by stared at the strange man whom was beating himself. Rick wanted to be annoyed by the negative attention but he couldn’t blame them. ‘I must look pretty stupid,’ he admitted to himself.

Time passed and still Rick only found office buildings. No food stores, no martial arts dojo, and no library.

He stopped, ‘I need a new strategy…if I had my super strength I could leap high into the sky and take a look around or if I had my lightning powers then I could lightning propel myself around the town until I found what I was looking for…but then I wouldn’t to stay in this town in first place…’

Rick looked around; many of the office buildings were tall. One of the buildings had brick ledges underneath each window. Rick stepped up on the first ledge the length and width of which was just large enough for Rick’s frame. Though his heels did hang off the side a bit. The strength of the ledge seemed to be enough to hold his weight. Rick reached up above his head to grab the ledge of the window a level above him. He pushed off with his feet and pulled up with his arms.

Rick rested his chest on the ledge, he rested for a second before he pushed his body up high enough to get a foot up onto the ledge. He brought his second foot up as he pushed and pulled himself up. Rick held onto the frame of the window to steady himself as he got up. He repeated this process until he was halfway up the building, his limbs where starting to shake and his energy was nearly depleted.

The window he was in front of opened up suddenly, “What are you doing up here? Are you crazy?” a man asked from behind the open glass. The startled Rick didn’t know what to say. “Seriously man you’re going to get yourself killed. Come inside and walk down the steps to the ground floor,” the man insisted.

“I need to get to the roof, I’ll get there one way or another,” Rick responded with confidence.

“One way or another huh? If it’s all the same to you, why don’t you come inside and use the stairs to get to the roof?” the man asked.

Rick was taken aback by the suggestion, ‘It couldn’t be that easy,’ he thought to himself, his response to the man was in the same vein. “I wouldn’t be allowed to.”

“Did you try asking?”


“So instead of trying the simplest way, because you were afraid to ask, you just decided to try the dumbest most dangerous way instead?”


“Come on inside,” the man used his telepathy to pull Rick inside the building placing him gently feet first on the ground. He closed the window, locked it, and then gestured outward with his hand towards the stairs. “This way crazy man,” he led the way with Rick following not far behind. Rick stayed quiet deep in thought while they walked up the numerous steps.

The man escorted Rick to the top level to a large meeting room. “This isn’t the roof,” Rick said plainly.

“Well, you were right, we actually don’t allow people on the roof for no reason but since you are so determined I will offer you the next best thing.” The man unlocked the meeting room door letting them both inside. It was a standard meeting room full of chairs, a long table, and office supplies. The room also had many large windows on each side of the room allowing Rick to see out in all directions. “If you’re trying to kill yourself don’t bother, I’ll stop you with my telepathy,” the man informed Rick.

Rick went to the closest window immediately taking in the sights of the town. “It’s nothing like that…I’m just looking…” No matter which window he looked through Rick only saw more office buildings.

“Glad to hear it…find what you were looking for?” the man asked.

Rick stepped away from the window he was currently at, “No,” he said heading for the door. “Thanks for bringing me here anyway.”

“What were you looking for?”


“Seriously? You think that’s going to fly with me? I caught you scaling up the side of my work building; you must’ve been looking for something important. Come on crazy man, maybe I can help you find it.”

“…” Rick was looking at the man like he had three heads which were glowing with different colors.

“What? You’re afraid to ask again? Do you just prefer to do things the hard way or-”

“I’m just used to it,” Rick interrupted. “I…I’m looking for a library.” Rick’s stomach growled loudly. “And…a place where I can get some free food,” Rick added sheepishly.

The man pulled a smart phone out of his dress pants pocket quickly jumping onto the internet.

**** “Libraries are obsolete you should check out our Information Stations, they have top of the line technology and work like a high tech internet café,” the man informed Rick. Rick stared blankly at the man.

“Or…you could use a library…the closest one here is by the out skirts of town not far from the Citadel.”

“No.” Rick’s almost fearful reaction, or as fearful as Rick gets at least, earned a surprised look from the business man. Thinking quickly, “It’s too far. I need something closer.”

“Sorry there isn’t anything closer. Unless, you checkout an Information Station… it looks like there is one… at Jeffway Road and Crandwalk Avenue. You’re not going to find anything closer, do you want to know where that is?” *****

Rick opened his map holding it out to the man, “Can you show me on the map?” Rick asked.

“Look at that, you can ask for help. I’m proud of you.” He said taking the map before pulling out a clicky topped pen from his tailored suit pocket. The man, who clicked the top of the pen to open it, was in his forties looking successful and well-to-do. Even his pen was fancy looking.

“Okay, we are here,” he said showing Rick as he spoke. The man placed a black mark on the map indicating where they were now. “Over here is Jeffway Road and this is where it intersects with Crandwalk Avenue which is where the Information Station is, you’ll be able to get the same knowledge that you would from an old fashioned library but way more convenient.”

The man made another black mark on the map to indicate the Information Station. “As for free food you’re out of luck. Every food place requires payment. But if you’re truly desperate for food there might be one option you could try.” The man made another mark on the map that was much farther away from the other two marks. “If you find yourself down this way look up my old neighbors, they are a lonely old couple who lost all of their kids in the war. They might be willing to take you in for a few days in exchange for company. You’ll probably have to endure an earful of long tedious stories with no punch lines though. And if you ever need anything you can come by here and I’ll help you out however I can.”

Rick took back his map from the man, “Why did you help me and would you keep helping me?” he asked.

“Why not?” he answered.

The map was placed back inside Rick’s pocket. “Thank you.” Rick said simply as he left the room.

“Just ask for Andrew if you decide to come back!” the man called out.

Rick made his way down the steps and out the building. His destination was the Information Station but his mind was on Andrew and what just happened.

Rick’s view of the world and himself was starting to change.

Arriving at the Information Station, Rick found himself at a complete loss at what to do. There were about a dozen visors attached to big black metal boxes and twice as many laptops attached to a desk. He made his way further inside cringing slightly from his hunger pains. Rick walked past the few people who were situated by a desk and a machine. Rick looked around trying to find the books.

‘That Andrew guy said I could find books here. Or wait. No, he said that I could get information here just like a library,’ he reminded himself. ‘So could that mean there aren’t any books in this place?’ looking around verified his theory to be correct. There were no books in the room at all. ‘How am I supposed to learn about electricity, lightning, and martial arts without any books?’

What Rick didn’t know is that the laptops had access to the internet and the visors attached to the metal boxes were actually the latest in virtual reality learning software and both were more than capable of providing the information Rick was seeking.

Rick sat down in front of a random laptop and clutched his stomach while his stomach growled. Part of him wondered if he was in the wrong place.
Knight Saffir Fisher hadn't had the easiest few weeks.

Going from a happy enough, if rather dull stint at some tiny outpost where the most they saw most days was a feral dog tripping the motion detectors to having half her squad killed while she bled to death half crushed under a fallen locker.

After all that had taken place, the Citadel City seemed very strangely peaceful by comparison.

It had been her first time venturing outside since...the incident. At least partially because it had taken a good week or so for her to feel steady on her feet after getting her shredded spinal chord hastily put together by a healer. She could mostly feel all of her toes, and whilst the weakness she still felt was enough to excuse her from active duty for a while, there was only so long she could use it as an excuse to stay in the Citadel and avoid seeing people. Well. People aside from Mel.

Besides, it wasn't enjoyable or healthy to be stuck sitting around with too much time on her hands.
She would usually go and bother her squadmate under the guise of having something constructive to ask him, but Mel was busy with his strange new roommate, some morose-looking guy billeted there. Saff didn't feel any particular desire to join in on Mel's attempt to introduce the kid to the facilities of the Citadel, so going out to buy some much needed groceries seemed a good second option.

The young Knight, having donned some civilian clothes, strolled along one of the streets with a plastic bag full of groceries in each hand, and her brightly coloured headphones pulled up over her dyed hair. Military issue earpiece hung loose around her neck. It was protocol that she kept it on hand in case of an emergency callup...but it didn't say she had to keep it on...especially when her powers would let her pick up even minute activity on the thing without even lifting the phones. Sound manip was far from the most prestigious of abilities, but it did come with a few handy perks.

She was toying with the idea of picking up some coffee for her, Mel and his new roomie, on the basis that whatever stuff the Citadel catering bought in tasted like baby puke, and debating on if she should make sure emo guy didn't have some kind of dairy allergy, when something cross her path that made both bags of groceries collapse into the paving slabs at her feet. A pot of peach flavoured yoghurt rolled along the walkway, in the direction that Saffir had just seen the figure of Rick Ronin, the wanted terrorist, stroll into some shop. Like it was the most normal thing in the world.

Swallowing down the bile that rose in her throat from panic, the knightess veered hurriedly off her path, dashing into an alley off to one side from the building. Once there the sound of electronic music swiftly cut out as she wrenched down her headphones and fumbled with the communicator, ending up holding it to her ear with a shaky hand and snapping to the emergency channel.

"C-calling Emergency Channel. Knight Saffir Fisher c-calling in from city. Just logged my location on the system. Just s-sighted terrorist inside city. Rick Ronin. I repeat. He is inside the city at this location. How should I proceed?"

The CitadelSetting: The Citadel

In events of a call to the emergency channel, the call was broadcast to both the highest and lowest commanding ranks. Transmission to any of the ranks in between were to be determined by the recipients.

Nicola Varren was one of those. Up with the sun, he’d already been working for a few hours, currently arranging schedules before anything urgent or necessary came up. From his behaviour when Fisher called in, one would have thought he’d been waiting for this very news, eyes closing for a moment while the man gave a resigned sigh, before calling up surveillance. From there, he was able to view the tapes and determine that yes, in fact, that was Rick Ronin.

Eyes narrowing, Nicola began to deal with the situation. First, a flag on all the guards around the perimeter, because Ronin had walked in and someone had missed it. Next, a message to surveillance for someone to go through the tapes and track Ronin’s path through their City. Third, alerts to Grand Chancellors and Chancellors, to be prepared to be called to deal with the high level threat posed.

Finally, as more of a precaution than anything.
“Good morning, Commander Botrelle.” His voice was a bit harder than he would normally use when addressing this specific commander, but then again, this was a serious call. “I assume you got the alert, Ronin is within striking distance of the Citadel. I’m leaving first response in your capable hands, while I organize a strike team if necessary. Your clearance for personnel request,” he worked as he spoke, and his words became true just before he said them, “has been brought to the highest level. You have access to any gifts currently stationed in the area. Glory to Erubesco.”

That taken care of, the Viceroy deigned to take a look at the Knight who had made the call, then swore softly as he recognized the name from a rather harrowing report.
“Miss Fisher.” He patched himself through to her earpiece, speaking in a soft soothing voice. “Thank you for your alert, and Knights are on their way to deal with the threat. Your orders are not to engage. With the first group, someone will be along to escort you to back to the Citadel. I repeat, do not engage.” Nicola sent through a request for a teleporter to pop over and bring the young lady to medical bay. The notes on her file were clear, and Saffir Fisher was not yet cleared to fight.

Nicola was paying especial attention to things like that after the mess with Botrelle that he had returned home to.
The Erubescan Command-on-call system was neither complex nor refined, but it got the job done: According to Citadel policy, any Knight Commander not otherwise engaged or officially off-duty had to have their earpiece tapped into the system, and a minimum of one Knight Commander had to be available to take such calls at any time, day or night. 

Commander Botrelle happened to be the one tasked with covering Thursday mornings. 

So, when her earpiece buzzed with the double beep signaling the start of an emergency broadcast, her surprise was muted to little more than a slight flinch. She passed in whatever condolence she had been offering Kora, halting conversation with one raised finger and a gesture toward the communication device. 

“Emergency,” she mouthed, fingers already flying across the surface of her tablet to pull up the video feeds before Nicola could so much as grant staffing permission. The former softness of the Commander’s face and voice were wiped away in an instant, replaced by calculating focus. Her lips pursed as she worked, gears turning in her mind as she took in the angles and details of the situation: 

Ronin was in the West District Library— a building with a twenty-five current occupants, three of whom were minors, seven of whom were library staff. One main entrance, two emergency exits, and no roof outlet. There was a cafe across the street, a modern art gallery to the building’s left, and several other smaller shops. 

The civilian population at risk was massive; at minimum, the library would need to be evacuated before anyone could proceed. 

Her tongue clicked against the roof of her mouth with impatient frustration for a moment, and then she pulled up the Citadel’s available troop listing. 

She began flicking names on the spreadsheet open to profiles, swiping those she wanted to use to the right in a column labeled with the date and an urgent tag. Two teleporters, one sniper by the name of Nathan Chandler, and a (somewhat hesitantly added) Serf Cadriel had already been compiled when Varren opened her clearances to the entire on-call Citadel force.

She began flicking more names to the right: Sniper Makorai Saika, tank Jack Rousimoff, and the dual-gifted Lindsey Nightingale.

“Thank you, sir,” she said to Varren, “Our team will be on the ground in fifteen minutes, max.”

Her nail hovered over one more name, and she glanced up at Kora. Her friend was battered, bruised, and potentially still bleeding under her bandages. 
Ready to be shipped to the front lines, if nobody came up for a better plan. 

“Get dressed in something decent,” she ordered, “Ronin’s in the city. If you can’t fight, you’re pardoned.” The name “Kora Norrevinter” flew into Lulu’s right column.

She tapped on the list, setting the selected troops into “Alert mode.” A series of beeps would sound on their ear intercoms.

This is Commander Botrelle,” she said, speaking into her radio as she shrugged off her suit jacket and strode toward Kora’s door. She set off down the hall at a jog. “If you are reading this message, you have been drafted as part of an immediate emergency response team. Terrorist Rick Ronin has been spotted in the West District. You are to rendezvous at the teleport bay in five minutes. Civilian attire. This is not optional.” 

The force of Skip's embrace lifted the little experiment's feet clean off of the floor. She might have been rather uncomfortable by being seized in such a manner by most other people, but more than anything Caddie was overjoyed to see Skip, one of the only people she could unironically call her friend, back and safe. The smile on her face tugged at the stitches at the corner of her mouth, revealing some of her dreadful jagged teeth, but it wasn't much of a concern at the time.

Having dusted herself off a little and recovered her still-intact drink from the floor, she began listening to what had taken place.

With the experiment's revelation about a one certain knight commander, a number of things that had happened lately made far more sense. Though a number of other things made far less. Like the now troubling implication that Commander Botrelle had a soul and some sort of sense of decency. At least Caddie didn't need to feel quite so let down about helping her then. She'd always been feeling a little like her sense of empathy had rather ruined her opportunity for revenge. One time she had any measure of power over someone who'd made her life difficult, and she'd ended up offering first aid.

As far as what had happened... well Cadriel wished she could feel more surprised about the actions of the faction. Then again considering how she had been treated there weren't many things they could do to an experiment that would shock her. Even if it wasn't fair to do it to Skip, someone significantly less dissatisfied with things than she was. He wasn't a traitor, and if he had done something wrong it was more likely stemming from how they'd made him themselves. You couldn't create things a certain way and them blame them when it was flawed.

Still, he was back, and presumably no longer facing any kind of retribution. Things were looking up.
"Well I uh.. mopped a bunch of floors and occasionally got shouted at. Also I had to help out Commander Botrelle after Commander Avalon.... well she was hurt pretty bad and I don't know if she could've patched herself up so...I helped her get cleaned up. "

She decided to leave out the ''and then she attempted to kill me and then involved me in some kind of plot'' for the sake of expediency.

"And then this morning I was doing my usual stuff when one-eye-guy there told me I wasn't supposed to be there. But I was. Then I was going to take a break and get a drink....then I heard the wall being ripped open so..."

The large-sized knight had, by then, gotten to his feet and addressed the serf; with something she would regard as a bit of a disparaging comment. Even if she had been 'cute' she wasn't sure she liked being greeted like it...but looking like a marionette and a tub of medical waste had crashed into each other at high speed it wasn't hard to perceive such things as some kind of mockery. Sporting a lopsided frown Caddie was about to bring up the broken wall, and how fixing it wasn't part of her area of expertise, when her earpiece chirped suddenly into life. This was alarming as Cadriel could not remember the last time she'd been personally called up. Most of the time her interactions were rather a one on one basis...usually somebody shouting at her over a trivial matter. It had been an age since she'd gotten a call up.

The janitor fumbled with the device, stuffed into the bandages at the base of her neck, and clumsily pushed it into place. The large piece missing from her ear on that side made it sit a little awkwardly.

As Caddie listened, her grey eyes widened in alarm.

Emergency response team.
Civilian clothes.
Teleport bay.
Five minutes.

Trying to grip the intercom once again with her heavily bandaged hand, the little experiment spoke up in a small voice.
"Er...Commander...was I added to the list by accident? I....I'm not sure I was supposed to get this call..."


When Lulu suddenly broke off, Kora had been sat emptying about six sugar packets into her second cup of coffee, and morosely chewing on bacon and toast. She couldn't deny that she felt better for eating and drinking something sensible after days of not really taking care of herself. Still despite this, and despite her friend's assurances that she wasn't to blame, Kora could still feel the weight of accumulated shame rather heavily on her shoulders.

Regardless of the circumstances, people saw her as failure. An incompetent. She didn't want to be kept on in the Citadel out of pity. She was supposed to be an unstoppable warrior. The result of one hundred generations of breeding. It should not be this way. She had to prove it. Had to find some way to show people that she was no liability.

As if in answer to this silent request, Lulu spoke up.
All the knight needed to hear was 'Get dressed' and 'Ronin' and she was on her feet, narrowly avoiding covering half the room in coffee. As the commander departed to go and prepare, the redheaded erubescan tore through the remains of her clothes to look for some field gear that was both appropriate and moderately clean.

Civilian outfit, heat-resistor gloves in order to avoid her ability causing a great degree of collateral. No combat knife...seeing as she'd left Geri and Frecki behind. A long-sleeved hooded top top and a bit of adjusting hid most of the wounds and bandages from view. The gauze pad over her eye and cheekbone was still there... but at six and a half foot tall, with bright ginger hair and a distinct nordic accent it was not as if she was going to blend in either way.

From there, Kora was on her way to the teleport bay. That bastard again. Everything had started going wrong when she'd run across that ashrat brute. If this went well it was the perfect time for her to redeem herself in the eyes of the faction. If it didn't...well it would at least make her feel better to be against someone she had no complicated reservations about knocking out the teeth of.

The WastelandSetting: The Wasteland

"Y-yes sir." Saff stammered out, her back pressed against the wall of the building.

Do not engage.

She wasn't supposed to go in and deal with this criminal.

But she couldn't go running away. Even if it didn't interfere with extraction, anyone running about and panicking might let on that erubescan command knew about the threat. The terrorist might start killing people. She had to try and keep it together until reinforcement arrived.

Blood pounded in Saffir's ears.

How could this be happening AGAIN? She'd only gone out to got some food. Now she was staring death in the face for a second time in as many weeks. Her hands were shaking and some of the litter at her feet started to pulse with infrasound...until with difficulty the knight reigned it in.

Once again fidgetting about with the communicator she started another call in, this time on ordinary channels.
"Mel? Mel are you there? It's Saff... I'm in west district and and..." Saff's voice trembled as she took a deep breath. SHe continued, whispering, even though she could find no-one remotely in earshot.
"There's a t-terrorist in the building here. The man who set the whole base on fire. I just c-called it in...I'm waiting for Citadel response..I...I.. " S
he broke off. She had no idea what to say about it. She wasn't sure how any of this was about to pan out. Frankly, she was terrified. Even if she wasn't potentially in direct firing line as military personnel, the collateral damage Ronin caused was enough to mean her life was at risk. She half expected the building to cave in on itself or be engulfed in flames at any moment. The Knight was filled with an acute awareness that this could be her last call to...anybody, and felt a little ashamed that she had nothing more profound to say that a halting retelling and stammering.

Movies had undoubtedly lied about the concept that there was any honour in death.
Nathan blinked at the apology and was quick to hold up a hand in reassurance. "Oh, no, it's fine. I've had people ask me that before." He replied, running a hand through his hair awkwardly. "I was injured out in the field. Explosion, I believe. Woke up in the medical bay with no memory of anything before that. Now things just pop up occasionally with my migraines." He looked down at his food quietly. Despite having been asked before, it was still strange talking about it. It made his head hurt to think about the accident.

"Anyway, I forgot to ask you about your story. You told me it was sort of similar, right?" He asked. Before he could get an answer, though, Commander Botrelle's call came in through his earpiece. Immediately he was sitting up straight and listening in. His eyes narrowed at the mention of Ronin, and he stood up as the message ended. He looked at Piper.

"Sorry, but I need to go. I've just been drafted." He explained. "Talk later?" He looked at her apologetically in question before heading out of the dining hall. He made a quick trip to his room to put on civilian clothes before heading towards the teleportation bay.

The CitadelSetting: The Citadel

Lulu arrived in the teleport bay with Kora in tow just minutes after making the call, and was pleased to find that at least a portion of her requested team had managed to report: Chandler was in, as well as the two teleporters, Schmidt and Quirk, and (obviously) Norrevinter had all gathered in a timely fashion.

“No mistake, Cadriel,” she said into her earpiece, not nothing to mask her irritation at the time-wasting question, “You should be here.”

She glanced around those gathered, and the severity of her expression possibly added a good five inches to her height. “Knights,” she addressed them, and then turned to a blank wall. A flick across the clear glass of her tablet cast her screen against it, displaying a video feed of Ronin on one side, and an aerial map on the other. “Your prompt response is as appreciated as well as it is necessary— we face a crisis on our hands. You all represent— and I do mean you all, including those of you who have somehow managed to not yet drag yourselves in to be briefed as of yet, — a first line of defense for the people of the West District.”

A few more gestures of her lacquered nails directed the satellite image to zoom in, and a building plan of the library was superimposed over its image on the map. “This is where Ronin is located, currently,” she explained, motioning toward a blue dot on the plan, “on the first floor. There are two floors, and a considerable civilian populace at risk. The building has three emergency exits, highlighted in red, here… And two fire alarm pull stations, one on each floor.

“Norrevinter, you’re on the north exit. Cadriel will take the west; Rousimoff is on the South. Quirk will drop you off at a corner block away from Ronin’s view, here. I will also be dropped at this point.”

Lulu paused for a moment, circling the point with a winding motion of her finger and checking to see that Quirk understood.

When Quirk gave a nod, she proceeded.

“Schmidt, you will deposit Chandler and Saika, wherever the hell the latter is, though presumably it is on his way on two opposing roofs, here, and here. They are to load immobilizing rounds— non lethal. There’s no room for error with this many civvies around. If Ronin makes it out the door, you shoot him. And you don’t stop shooting until you are out of ammunition. I hope you read that, Saika.” 

She flicked back to the satellite camera, offering a clearer view of just how many people were around. Families crossed the street from one corner to another, and children played in a park a few blocks off. The stakes were obvious, and the margin for error was non-existent.

“When everyone is in place, I will enter the building, locate Ronin and send signal to Norrevinter. Norrevinter, you will light a smoke bomb and roll it through the door to trigger a fire alarm. With any luck, the smell of smoke will be enough to convince everyone it isn’t a drill, and make sure that Ronin doesn’t suspect he’s been caught.

“Meanwhile, I will do my best to create a decoy for Ronin while people evacuate. I won’t engage him with civilians present, if it can be avoided. If I should fail in this, it’s the job of everyone at the exits to push him back in should he try to flee, and alert everyone on their com lines to engage. If he tries to smash out a window, Chandler and Saika— shoot him.

“With any luck, though, I will be able to hold him in the building. When it is empty, snipers are to maintain their posts while the rest of out team convenes on my location to provide backup while I engage him. You are all to take any action necessary, including lethal force, to preserve civilian life and ensure Ronin is contained, in that order.” 

With the briefing complete, Commander Botrelle pivoted on her heel to face her assembled unit. 

“Are you all clear on the plan?” she asked, the steel in her voice obviously not looking for any answer other than “yes.”

Almost as an after though, she touched her earpiece, “Everyone else, do you read?”

The WastelandSetting: The Wasteland

They all said day drinking was a problem. A day drunk, Erubescian sniper was a liability, and that anything ANYTHING could happen. Anything, to Makorai, was the countless ring of endless problems that those much more responsible, and paranoid than he, worried about. Nothing really worried him, so Anything worrying him would be a bit redundant in his eyes. So Makorai, armed with the mental safety of Nothing against the Neurotic Anything had decided to start drinking at roughly nine'o'clock sharp. The first sip promised him a healthy buzz by Nine Thirty, and a comfortable drunk by quarter to eleven.

Makorai's usual eleven'o'cock spot was the canteen, he was much more an extrovert then introvert, and the joys and misery of daily life, in his opinion at least, was best spent with people you probably couldn't stand having a conversation with sober. Lately however, he had found himself in Cadriel's maintenance closet. Well, 'Found himself' probably wasn't as appropriate as 'Cadriel found him passed out on top of her cleaning supplies', but that first meeting had sparked a conversation that turned into what Makorai would consider a friendship.

So, from time to time he'd skip out on the canteen to express his disillusionment with their mutual employers, and listen to her woes with a drunken ear that was reserved for people he enjoyed. Unfortunately, it seemed the main ingredient in his mid morning cocktail, was missing, and something, or someone was holding Caddie up.

Makorai was not a completely even person sober, and much less so after having a few bumpers in his system. Their previous conversations had given him context to her daily routine, and he swore to the spirits around him if someone was spouting vitriol in her direction he'd give them the firmest part of his dissatisfaction.

"Yo!...." His face grew more contemplative, the first of the mass message had been sent to his communicator.

No way.

Fucking /Rick/

He laughed. There in the hallway, not the bitter laugh he laughed for his fallen comrades, and not the jovial laugh that expressed his happiness. He just laughed the the absurdity of what he was hearing. Rick. In the Citadel. What the fuck.

He was laughing as he fell into the wall and slid to the armoury, to promptly slide back out when he remembered he had been given clearance to store his weapon and it's attachments in his room.

Then he slid back when he realized that privileged had been revoked.


The quartermasters name was not Jeff, or ever Jeff.

"'s important. Commander /Botrelle/, yep, yep."

With a name that demanded respect, Jeff had no choice but to accept Jeff as his name, and wait for the moment he could wipe that smug look off of Makorai's face the next time he predictably lost pieces of his gear and came crawling back ten minutes before morning bugle.

He was assembling his rig with a level of affinity that transcended the mental state he was in. A dual mounted scope to brag about the peculiar, but efficient way his eyes processed stimuli. The bolt action didn't exist only to load larger caliber rounds in the chamber, but to signify that he only needed a single shot to accomplish what most did in a handful. It was a collar flair around the coat of skill he wore proudly with his swaggering walk.

"Loud and clear Commander."

He walked to the teleportation area, sniper in its case and threw up a hasty salute.

"Night Makorai reporting for duty."

Did he catch his slur? Sure a shit hoped so.

Rick’s stomach growled earning it another swift punch. A young lady nearby noticed the commotion and spectacle but stayed quiet. Rick noticed her but didn’t pay her much mind. He looked back at the laptop in front of him, black and slender. The machine was closed much like all the other ones that weren’t in use. The ones that were in use were open.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a blue screen, Rick turned toward it seeing the open laptop of a young man getting ready to play some internet games. Rick looked back at the machine before him then back at the young man’s machine. He looked at the young lady’s machine as well before looking back at his again. He lifted the front to an upright position revealing the true nature of the machine to him.

‘It’s a computer, a smaller version of those large desktop computers back at the gifted boarding school,’ he thought to himself. Rick’s memory of sitting inside the boarding school’s computer lab learning how to write a term paper cracked, splintering into many fragments. That memory was replaced by a different memory, one where he saw Erubesco scientists typing away on nearby computers while other scientists stuck needles of experimental liquid into him. That memory was replaced by one of him standing outside an electronics store. Rick was looking through the window to see one of the store employees demonstrating how a computer works to a customer.

The splintered memories caused pain to swell up in his head; Rick winced and shut his eyes as he tried to push all three memories to the back of his mind. When his eyes opened moments later his hands were on his face and his breathing was erratic. He dropped his hands to his lap revealing the young lady staring at him with a concerned yet puzzled look. Rick looked away from her deciding to focus on the open computer in front of him.

‘Which memories are real and which are fake?’ he asked himself. Rick sighed knowing that there was no real way to know.

His breathing returned to normal and he turned on the computer, it took a few minutes for the screen to completely load and it took another few minutes for Rick to remember which icon on the desktop accesses the internet. With that taken care of Rick got started on his first inquiry.

/What is electricity?/ He typed into the search engine. A dozen websites popped up offering to lower his electricity bill. Rick scrolled down to a simple dictionary definition that basically described electricity as energy that specifically comes from charged particles.

As Rick continued his research he learned about the building blocks of atoms and how atoms become positively and negatively charged. He learned how electrical currents work and how static electricity works. He also learned how draining it is to learn something new after nearly starving to death.

His brain started shutting down, his eyelids weakened, his upper body slumped but his hunger pains kept him awake. Clutching one hand on his stomach, Rick used his free hand to pantomime what he was learning while mouthing what was written on the computer. Rick has an unorthodox way of learning. Every once in awhile he tried to keep himself from wincing in pain.

“Excuse me, are you okay?” a gentle feminine voice asked Rick.

Rick looked up to see the young lady who was just across from him, is now standing right next to him.

“I’m fine,” Rick assured her.

“Are you sure? Because I couldn’t help but notice how much pain you’re in and the odd hand waving. Honestly I’m worried about you.” She held firm to her suspicion.

“I’M-” Rick cut himself off after seeing the genuine concern in her eyes. Rick’s voice softened as he continued, “I’m…just…really hungry. That’s all. Thank you for your concern.” Rick went back to staring at his computer while the lady hurried back to her seat. He thought that was the end of it but she returned not a minute later with her backpack in hand. The pack was opened with one of her hands rifling through it.

“I don’t have much to offer but I should still have ah ha! Do you like nuts?” she asked Rick.

An unnecessary question for Rick, as a person who ate anything to survive the taste of food was a luxury he couldn’t afford.

“Food is food,” he responded.

“Great. I have cashews, peanuts, a partially smashed nutria grain bar, a granola bar, and some jerky I hope this okay.” The lady placed each item of food on the table by Rick’s left hand. Before Rick could answer the young man who was playing internet games was suddenly next to him speaking.

“Seriously dude, take my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and this orange, oh and you nearly passed out several times so you’ll need this energy drink if you’re going to finish studying.” Now there was a pile of food by Rick’s right hand.

The young man continued speaking but this time to the young lady, “I’m glad you spoke up, I was too embarrassed to ask if he was alright.”

“I’m glad too, I almost didn’t but-”

Rick didn’t hear the rest of the conversation; he was engrossed by the display of kindness surrounding his hands. In the background, the young man’s game ended due to his lack of playing. Rick picked up the jerky, opened it, and started devouring it. All the while he ate with his eyes watering.

“Dude, are you crying?”

Rick put his hand to his face feeling for tears. “I guess not,” he said simply already finished the jerky and now working on the cashews.

“What’s wrong? Did we say something to upset you?” the lady asked.

“No. I’m sorry…I just…I’m not used to being treated…with such kindness, especially for no reason…thank you both so much,” Rick thanked them now tearing into the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Both the guy and girl smiled brightly. “No problem dude,” he said. “Of course, take care of yourself okay?” she implored.

Rick nodded and the two headed back to their seats. Rick took a deep cleansing breath regaining his composure.

“Ah man, oh well, I guess I have to start over,” the young man said restarting his game.

As Rick ate, his stomach calmed and the pain subsided. His energy was returning and he no longer felt sleepy.

‘Everyone in this town has been so nice to me. Even that lady behind the counter at the store was nice to me until I stole that food. The guy I knocked over wasn’t nice to me but at least he was standing up for that woman and the store in general. I can’t believe how wonderful these people are and they live under the Erubescan rule,’ he thought to himself.

Rick changed topics to lightning while he continued to eat the remaining food and drink the energy drink. He was awake thanks to the food and amped up thanks to the energy drink. Rick was going through information at twice the pace as before.

‘Okay, if I understand this correctly, lightning forms in cumulous clouds. When rain, snow, or ice particles bounce off each other enough to cause an imbalance in positive or negative charges inside the cloud, then nature will try to correct itself by using lightning,’ he thought to himself paraphrasing what he learned.

He continued to think, ‘Each lightning strike is different and has several different ways it can work but a common way lightning will strike is through the cloud to ground method. In that method the clouds get overly negatively charged and the ground gets overly positively charged. The air between the clouds and the ground create a buffer that keeps the charges from reaching each other. But eventually the pressure between the charges becomes too much and the charges link up to create the electricity known as lightning. Now what allows the charges to link up?’

Rick reread a specific part of the internet article again. ‘In the cloud to ground lightning strike something called a stepped latter, no, a stepped leader forms from the clouds and goes down to the ground. The ground creates a streamer…a streamer is the same thing as a stepped leader…what’s the difference? Oh, okay. So leaders go down from the clouds looking for positive charges while streamers start from the ground and go up looking for negative charges. So they are doing similar things but going in opposite directions and they are searching for the opposite charges. Got it, but I still feel like I’m missing something. Channels, they mention channels a few times, what are channels? Channels are holes in the air that allows either the stepped leaders to transport negative charges down or streamers to transport positive charges up. When stepped leaders and streamers meet the result is lightning. Lighting neutralizes the extra charges until it builds up again starting the process over. Cool, I think I got it. Wait what’s this? St. Elmo’s fire? Apparently that’s a bluish or greenish glow that forms around things coming out of the ground, which is caused by the buildup of positive charges. If something has St. Elmo’s Fire wouldn’t it be struck by lightning since stepped leaders are searching for positive charges? Oh, it says that if you see St. Elmo’s Fire then lightning will probably strike soon.’

Rick closed out of the internet and shut down the computer. ‘I don’t think my brain can take anymore research for today. But this was a good first step, I have a lot to think about,’ he thought to himself. He got up and threw away the trash from the devoured food and stuffed the nutria grain bar and the granola bar in his pockets for later, the rest was eaten. He headed for the door but stopped by the glass door. There was a lady outside talking on a cell phone, Rick got the feeling that she was stressed about something but he dismissed it as his imagination. He looked back at the two people at the computers.

“Thanks again you two, I really appreciate what you did for me. You have no idea how much you helped me.”

The two gave a generic response. Rick’s eyes caught the other machines with goggle like items attached to metal boxes.

‘I wish I knew what those were.’ He then remembered that business guy named Andrew and the lesson he taught him.

“Hey, how do those things work?” he asked less awkwardly than he expected. The young man launched into an overly complicated explanation of the science behind the virtual reality machine all of which went completely over Rick’s head.

“Can you explain it simpler than that?”

The lady answered this time, “Basically just put the visor around your head and over your eyes. Then think about the topic you want to learn about and the machine does the rest.”

“Really? That’s awesome.”

The lady smiled, “Yes, I guess it is…you’re not from around here are you?”

“No, not at all.”

The CitadelSetting: The Citadel

As Commander Botrelle's briefing rang out in the teleportation bay and through the communicators of those absent, Lindsey's lithe figure was dashing down a hall. A string of curses was rapidly coming out of her mouth as she ran quickly to the bay. As she practically flew, she managed to avoid hitting people carrying paperwork or hot coffee. "I shouldn't be late! I am such an idiot!!" She thought angrily to herself as she reached the room. She hurried inside and quickly got into line with her comrades. "Yes, ma'am." She answered quickly, hearing her question.


Nathan looked to the door as Lindsey entered hastily. He held back a sigh and simply looked to the ceiling for a moment before nodding to Botrelle. "Yes ma'am." He responded calmly. His attention was since again redirected as Makorai entered the room. He watched the fellow sniper with narrowed eyes, catching his drunken slur. Hiding his disdain, he prayed that this wouldn't be a problem for their mission.
Jack was standing there with the serfs when he heard a series of loud beeps in his ear. It startled him and jumped back, quickly covering his ears with his hands. This only made the sound louder as it echoed in his hands now. "Oh." Still jumpy, he realized it must of been from that ear piece he forgot about. He lowered his hands and laughed softly at his mistake. What could it be for? Was it for breaking the wall? Did they really know about it already? It wouldn't surprise Jack if someone higher up had seen the whole thing. He stood still and listened to what it could of been. This is Commander Botrelle, Uh oh. It very well could of been for breaking the wall. If you are reading this message, you have been drafted as part of an immediate emergency response team. Terrorist Rick Ronin has been spotted in the West District. You are to rendezvous at the teleport bay in five minutes. Civilian attire. This is not optional. It wasn't for the wall, but something much worse. A terrorist? Immediate emergency response team? Jack felt a sliver of pride. They wanted him? Someone wanted him to be with them? It also saddened him. It wasn't for the skills he favored, but for his more harmful ones. He would have to fight people, possibly kill. He didn't want to do that, but Erubesco, his home, was being attacked. Jack had a job to do, and civilians depending on him being there.

Civilian attire? Jack was good in that concern. Five minutes? That was more a problem. How would he get there quickly? And from where he was? Jack started to quickly walk to where he needed to be, but soon enough he heard another buzz over his ear piece about not being there still. Jack started to panic. Still startled by the initial beeps, and now being rushed, he became desperate. He didn't want to disappoint, or to let any civilian lives be in danger. He figured he had already broken one wall, so why not break another? Turning to the direction of the teleporter, he ran straight towards the wall, smashing into it with his shoulder. The same crashing sound heard not too earlier was now repeated, but louder than before. Instead of a small hole, it was a giant gash. After he broke through that wall, a second wall was soon in front of him. He punched his hand through and pulled part of it out, soon smashing through that wall as well. He kept running, pushing debris behind him as he kept running.

Bits and pieces of wood, drywall, and some split electrical wire were scattered on the ground. There he stood in front of the teleporter, ready to go. His hair ruffled, his clothes dusty. A trail of holes behind him. He stood with the others hoping not to be late. It never occurred to him that he might be doing more damage to Erubesco than he might prevent. "Everyone else, do you read?" Jack smiled. "Loud and clear."
Nightingale and Cadriel were late, which was quite enough to set Commander Botrelle’s nerves on end: Lives were on the line, and this operation needed to run like a well-oiled machine. A hint of irritation flashed across her features as both came in a minute or two behind the start of her briefing, but she took no further action to call them out or draw attention. Minor mistakes were expected.

And then Makorai Goddamn Saika had the nerve to be late and drunk.

Her lips folded in on themselves and her irises locked onto the ceiling to avoid looking at him.

This was not a time to let her temper get the best of her.

“Knight Saika, what, might I ask, are you-“


A chunk of wall was demolished directly where the Commander had been projecting the map, the teleport bay’s security alarm blared to life, and a puff of sealant foam sprayed out from the wall’s broken points to close up the gap, spraying both the opening and the backside of the man who had smashed it with a pale yellow snowfall that expanded on contact. Rubble and dust were cast up into a cloud, and nearly all of the teleport bay workers turned to stare in silence.

Now, some Supervising Officers would have been fuming at this development, but “fuming” was not something that Botrelle was known to do.

She was known to tap a sharp-heeled stiletto, or drum her nearly manicured nails, or perhaps draw her rosy lips into a disappointed purse.

But she did none of these.

Her posture was rigid, and she did not so much as turn to look at Rousimoff’s graceless form. The rise and fall of her chest ceased, and she was frozen so stock still that, were it not for an incredulous blink, there were about five seconds in which it looked possible that she had literally died from disappointment at the team that had gathered.

She touched her earpiece. “Knight Kollert, I need a soldering job on the north wall of the teleport bay. Gather a prompt reconstruction team. Please.” A quick flick of her finger across her tablet surface shut down the screaming alarm.

Lulu was going to kill them.

If a vein did not burst in her brain from trying to comprehend the level of unbridled incompetency in the room, she was going to fucking kill them.

She took a slow, deliberate breath— The kind so deep that it strained against the buttons of her button-up blouse as she held it before letting it go into a sigh.

“Twenty-two thousand, four hundred, and thirty-eight,” she said softly, her tone devoid of compassion or fury. There was an edge in its quietness, the kind that seemed to lower the ambient volume of the room with its demand to be heard.

“That is the number of civilian lives immediately at risk in the West District. That many men, women, and children are depending on nine upstanding military troops of the Kingdom they have pledged their allegiance to to keep them alive. They are counting on nine punctual, sober troops ,who are capable of following basic orders without causing major structural damage to sensitive, secure areas for no justifiable reason.”

Her pale green glare was fixed on the back wall, staring directly between the torsos of Nightingale and Chandler without actually looking at either of them.

“If you are not capable of fulfilling these requirements, or understanding the weight of these stakes, you will excuse yourself immediately.”She paused, letting the silence linger in the area for a moment, and then nodded to Quirk.

“Put our snipers in position,” she ordered, and with a nod Quirk moved first to Chandler and then to Saika. “Nightingale, you’re with Cadriel at the West entrance. Schmidt, move everyone. And stand by near the drop point for the withdrawal operation.”

Schmidt gave an apprehensive nod and began working around the circle, vanishing each member of the team off to the corner, ending with Commander Botrelle.
Mel could hear his own blood throbbing against his eardrum, washing out the back half of what Coleman had to say. To say that it bothered him would have been an understatement, but it was not a tragedy he had any right to claim.

His right hand crossed his body to rub at the jagged scar on the opposite palm, the only physical trace left by the bullet that had shot his gun out of reach. Comparatively speaking, it was a very, very small price to have paid, given what had befallen the rest of his comrades.

“Doesn’t bother me,” he said as he picked up a cafeteria tray, putting on the practiced smile he had learned to use in front of his case counselor. “It’s in the past, anyhow. And there’s nothing that’s going to—“

Transmission from Knight Saffir Fisher

His hand flew to his earpiece, upon hearing the computerized butchering of Saff’s name, pressing the gadget in so that he could hear the transmission clearly.

“Hey, Saff. What’s—“

His face went pale.

The plastic tray clattered from his hands to drop against the cobbles, and Mel’s boots squeaked against the floor as he turned and pounded toward the doors. A waxy pallor blanched over his skin, standing out against the ring of cold sweat seeping through his shirt collar.

“I’m coming, Saff. Hold on. Are you sheltering?” Of course she was hiding. Stupid, stupid Mel. His raced down a stairwell taking the steps two at a time. He nearly took out a pair of Knight Squires on their way to training, but he paid them no heed as their shoulders clipped against his.

“What’s your 20? I- I’m going to the station now, okay? I’m going to grab the subtrain over—“

No. If Ronin were in the West District, incoming public transit would surely be closed, or rerouted.

“I’m coming, okay? I’ll grab a lift and be over there as soon as I can. Citadel response will be there before I am. You’re gonna be okay—“ His knees were shaking as he ran through the Citadel’s front entrance and over the wide wooden bridge across into the city.

The last time he had promised Knight Fisher that she would be alright, there was a case of lockers on top of her, and her blood was pooling in a slick puddle on the ground, which his boots slipped in when he tried to push the shelf up to free her. The ground had been wet from a burst pipe in the wall, and less than five yards away the bodies of Zhao and Lowy lay still with death. There was someone else coming down the hatch to the shelter, with quick steps and laughing conversation and—

He shook his head and began holding out his hand to flag a driver. “I’m on my way, Saffir. You’re alright,”

If Coleman or anyone else had followed his frantic flight from the building, he had not paid them any heed.
Kora, for her part, simply stood with her arms folded, regarding this arrival rather skeptically, before looking over to Lulu in a manner that asked 'Is this really what you've chosen for a squad?'

"We've got a door you know." she remarked drily, somewhat pleased, considering her current situation, that she was looking the best out of all of them. She was on time, sober, and hadn't broken any Erubescan property...well not recently anyway. And nothing as extensive as breaking through walls.

And it wasn't by lack of capability.

Kora was only down by about a foot in height on the other knight, and she had long been quite famous (or infamous) for destructive capacity.

At least at this rate she was not in danger of any of the team making her look bad.

Her skepticism was only reinforced upon seeing the small figure of Serf Caddie stepped through the enormous gap in the wall, with a look of exasperated resignation on er face at the destruction.

Caddie had arrived in time to catch most of the Commander's lecture, and was almost certain she was not exactly in favour either.. but in all fairness it was hard to be prompt when you'd neither had any civilian clothes, nor had any real means to purchase them, for years. She didn't get out much. Well, she didn't get out at all. Generally speaking the height of Caddie's social life was talking with Saika whilst she tried to get to the drain cleaner he was lying on top of.

Her current outfit had been stolen rather hastily out of a cart of laundry, and some things left in a locker room by the teleport bay, so consisted of a slightly faded mauve sun dress, a hoodie at least two sizes too large for her tiny frame, and a pair of sneakers.
The lack of uniform didn't seem to diminish the strangeness of her appearance. If anything it worked completely the other way with more grubby bandages left on show.

But it was the best she could do in a hurry.
Plus it was not like she really cared that much for Lulu's approval.
She wasn't even sure why she was here.
Why send a janitor to do a Knight's job?
Still, if her work told her anything it was not to bother asking why.
Hopefully she could just get this over with and not end up vapourized.

The WastelandSetting: The Wasteland

“Where are you from?” the young lady asked Rick with genuine interest. She has never ventured out of the town but has a healthy curiosity about life beyond these boarders.

Rick just shook his slowly, “Nowhere.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to pry into your life, I understand if you don’t want to tell me,” she added with disappointment in her voice.

“You miss understood me,” he said calmly. “I’m from nowhere. I’ve spent my whole life looking for a home and a family but I never found either. I thought I had gotten one once but…it didn’t work out. I just live where I live until I live somewhere else, so I pretty much live nowhere,” Rick explained.

“Really? That’s so sad.”

“Dude, that’s harsh,” the young man said agreeing with the young lady.

“It’s fine.” Rick fell into silent contemplation. He wondered why he was telling these strangers any of this, it was completely unlike him. He hasn’t really felt like himself for awhile now. His whole life has become a mystery to himself leaving him with just the terrible feelings from that life, a life that he may never have had.

‘These are good people and I don’t feel bad telling them things about me so why not tell them?’ he questioned himself.

He continued, “It’s difficult to find purpose living the way I do. It can be scary because there is a real possibility that I’ll never find my purpose…I may never be able to do anything good for this world…” Rick fell silent once again.

Before the other two people responded they considered what to say. The silence became extremely awkward. Neither one of them knew what to say. If they knew anything about Rick and/or were friends with him then maybe they’d be able to quickly come up with a reassuring response, maybe. Knowing Rick could also make that task even harder. There is a reason why Erubesco and Liberty consider Rick to be a terrorist.

The lady came up with something to say but didn’t get the chance to say it for Rick was reaching over to the virtual reality visor.

“I have to try this before I go,” Rick said abruptly stopping the lady from speaking.

He slipped the visor over his head to his eyes. The cushion framing his eyes were comfortable yet awkward and scratchy to Rick.

‘Probably something that you get used to over time,’ he thought. He remembered what the lady said about how to use the machine.

‘Show me…martial arts wisdom.’ Instantly a life like image of an older gentleman dressed in a traditional martial arts garment, the style and name of the garment Rick didn’t know. The gentleman was standing on one of the many rolling hills full of lush green grass. The sky was a bright light blue with wispy white puffy clouds gently floating by. A cool breeze took the edge off the heat from the sun.

The young man and lady chuckled as Rick visibly jumped from his initial reaction to the world he was seeing. It was always entertaining to watch someone use those machines for the first time.

Rick couldn’t believe how real this virtual world was. He could feel the heat from the sun, the chill from the wind, the delicate points from the bending grass against his bare feet.

‘Why aren’t I wearing shoes?’ he wondered. To his surprise his thoughts came out as words.

“Because one does not wear shoes in the Holy Hills of Meditation,” said the gentleman.

‘Wow, this so cool. I can’t believe I’m talking to you right now.’

“Cool indeed. I am happy to speak with you as well.”

The visor for the virtual reality does several things for the wearer. For one, it detects the wearer’s brain function, determining which part of the brain is being used. Thanks to extensive research on brain mapping and functionality, the visor is able to predict, with sixty percent accuracy, what the wearer is thinking. The visor then sends that information through the tube to the metal box that it’s connected to. Each metal box houses a direct and personal link to the internet. The box locates an internet video that best matches the wearer’s mental request. The box then sends the video back up to the visor which plays the video. Finally the visor implants subliminal messages to the wearer via tiny speakers, located throughout the band, which whisper soft spoken messages that are supposed to enhance the video.

The messages are barely heard but describe what the wearer should be feeling, smelling, and hearing tricking the wearer’s brain into thinking that he/she is fully experiencing the other senses. The subliminal messages work about seventy percent of the time. When the virtual reality machine miss interprets the wearer’s thoughts, the wearer always has the option to activate a virtual keypad so one could more accurately interact with the machine. When everything is working properly, the wearer’s conversation with the virtual world doesn’t need to be spoken out loud and therefore unheard by the nearby people in reality. Also, the wearer doesn’t need to move to interact with the virtual world under that principle unless, of course, the wearer wants to or needs to.
Since Rick is completely unaware of how this machine works, his brain is easier to trick believing the virtual world is more than just a video. Other users who are more familiar with the machine often notice the subliminal messages and ruin its effectiveness.

“You seek martial arts wisdom?” the gentleman asked.

‘Yes. I am seeking strength. You see I lost my super strength and I need it back. Is there a way martial arts can help?’ Rick answered before inquiring for more information.

“You do not need martial arts to find what is not missing,” the man replied.

‘Oh it’s missing, it’s completely gone.’

“One’s true strength comes from within, seek anywhere else and you’ll always be without.”

‘Okay... are you talking about metaphorical strength like will power? Because it doesn’t seem like that can really apply to actual physical strength, especially not super strength,’ Rick challenged.

“All strength starts from within especially super strength, how do you expect to do super feats without first being super?”

‘I can’t tell if you are being stupid or being really wise, but maybe I’m just having a hard time processing this. I’m still mentally fried from all things I’ve learned about lightning and electricity. I think I should switch gears…how do I go to the next…thing?’

Being unfamiliar with the workings of this new device, Rick found it difficult to navigate to a new scene. As he attempted, the man stayed offering Rick more advice that made no sense for what Rick was thinking.

Eventually Rick thought, ‘I just want some kick boxing instructions!’ to which the image shifted to a dojo scene.

The virtual instructors in the new video, showed Rick the basics, to remind him how everything is supposed to look. Rick then realized just how crappy his techniques have been while he relied on his super strength during fist fights. Everything he did was riddled with imperfections. Yet they worked on his opponents.

Next they taught him subtle differences in stance, footwork, and body position to maximize his speed, power, and effectiveness. Rick relearned blocks and counters that he stopped using years ago when he realized that most people couldn’t hurt him because his super strength.

Realization struck him. He wasn’t winning fights because of his martial art skills but because his strength made up for his lack of form.

‘Which is why Neutralize was always so hard to knock out. He’d neutralize my powers leaving me too weak and too unpolished to do any real damage to him,’ he figured out.

Rick then practiced his slips, bob-n-weaves, and evasive foot movements. Rick practiced those moves in the real world as he was doing them in the virtual world. He went over a couple of power techniques and a couple speed techniques. He was about to start the sparing portion of the training when Rick felt something was wrong in his gut.

Rick took off the virtual visor dropping on the desk in front of him. His critical gaze searched the room. He ignored the laughing townsfolk whom fed him earlier. Rick didn’t know what he was looking for but it would be something dangerous. Rick had learned to listen to his gut when it spoke, for it was usually accurate at alerting him when he was in danger. It had saved his life more than once.

There was nothing out of the ordinary in that room. The people were still joking about the spectacle that Rick made while using the virtual reality equipment. Rick ignored it as he tried to focus on the meaning of the feeling in his gut. It was a familiar feeling, one that he felt not too long ago and yet he couldn’t quiet place it.

‘What happened the last time I felt this?’ he mentally wondered. ‘I was with the Wanderers, I got this feeling and then…Neutralize hit me with his powers and then…a bullet hit me in the head.’ Rick’s eyes widened as he immediately dropped to the ground and rolled away from the windows under a desk.

There was no gunshot, no broken glass, and no screams of terror just surprised gasps and snorts from the other people in the room. Rick touched his body searching for blood but found nothing.

‘Shit,’ he thought realizing that nothing attacked him.

‘I still have to figure out what the fuck is going on, trying to find the danger is just as likely to get me killed.’ Rick knew he couldn’t afford to lament about the situation, so he started to army crawl through the table legs and chair legs toward the windows, his eyes were laser focused on the surrounding area outside the library.

“Dude what are you doing?” The young man asked.

“GET AWAY FROM ME! STAY AWAY FROM THE WINDOWS!” Rick roared freezing both the young man and the young lady in their seats.

Rick reached the last desk, his final piece of concealment until he reached the wall nearest to the windows. ‘One, two, three!’ Rick hopped to his knees and dashed to the wall. Rick lay flat against the bottom of the wall making him as small a target as possible.

Still no bullets. Rick shifted himself to the farthest corner of the building. His heart was racing as he prepared for the riskiest maneuver yet. Rick stood up, exposing himself to would be snipers before wedging his back deep into the corner. Visibility of his body was greatly decreased while wedged in that corner. Hopefully it would be enough to keep him safe. He was positioned so that he could dive further into the library at the first sign of danger but still be able to look out the window to search for snipers or other Erubesco soldiers. He leaned his head back slightly to get a better look out the window, he first checked up at the roofs of the nearby buildings.


Rick’s eyes swept the streets finding regular townsfolk going about their day like everything was normal. Rick checked the roofs again then the streets again. Nothing dangerous or even suspicious. This made him a little paranoid. His gut is rarely wrong, but rarely didn’t mean never. Rick frowned. One last check of the roofs and street, he then remembered the windows of the other buildings and checked them quickly but carefully. Again there was nothing.

He sprinted to the center of the room and looked around for the undetected danger he was sure he felt. Rick’s heart slowed to a normal pace when his search came up empty again.

‘I guess there is nothing to worry about,’ he thought relaxing a bit. ‘Maybe my lack of powers in enemy territory has started to get me on edge,’ he continued to think.

“Sorry about that you two, I thought something was…wrong. But everything is fine, you can move again.” Explaining himself felt as funny as it must’ve sounded.

‘I should leave, even if nothing is wrong,’ he thought to himself. ‘It’s probably the best move.’ He was completely unaware that in less than a minute an Erubesco team was about to converge on his position.
Makorai Saika's belief in the divine was a convenient thing. Spirits inhabiting the bits and pieces of mortal life. It was a belief system void of restraint and greater moral struggles. It required little to no effort on his part, and also allowed him to humanize any inanimate object to the point on conversation when he was six cups over the legal limit. That being said, the convenient appearance of Jack, highlighting as what he was supposed to find atop the beanstalk, stole Commander Botrelle's attention like the marginally hotter guy at the bar.

Makorai nodded in Jack's direction. Thankful he was alive. Thankful he was a gifted being with such an immense drive to cause unneeded destruction that no one had time to check on the blood alcohol level coursing through his veins was Jack was on the move. 'Keep doing you man'. Makorai nodded encouragingly. Keep doing you man, keep doing you. This small bit of amusement now done, he took a moment to cast a sniper's eye to the motley crew assembled to safeguard ten thousand plus civilians in the face of this Wanderer epidemic. He expected Kora. If she hadn't been called officially he'd in the least expect her here arguing with the Knight Commander about going, all anger and swirls of red hair a second from becoming angry and sentient themselves. Cadriel was..a surprise, so much so that the genuine look of concern that inevitably formed on his face took a few beats to resettle into the RDF he wore so casually.

Next was Linsday, which sort of went without saying for him. Nathan however, bothered him for a multitude of reasons that he wasn't about to go over whilst he was in the middle of emptying his mind of all the background noise. Which, in itself wasn't a terribly impressive feat considering Saika usually didn't have much going on up there anyhow.

"Something heartwarming, something sarc-"

Teleportation took him and the, "astic" to his assigned building. It was athletically pleasing, and like most buildings in the city, took its cues from the old world artisans who's masonry had withstood the test of time long enough to be replicated in their modern era.

For Makorai, this meant he had cover, and a multitude of positions that left him largely invisible to the naked eye. Currently, he was sat behind a particularly skyward arch, attaching the three foot plus long barrel to a consol that switched between anti-personnel, and anti-material on the fly. Gravity stabilizers locked the mechanisms in place, and a series of scope glasses, akin to the pre war mechanisms used for judging ones eye strength, appeared in front of the scope.

Their application ranges from locating electromagnetic disturbances to thermal hear, even the absence of heat. A second scope, fitted with the same enhancements as the first was slid into its docking port.

It was a personal request, one that was useless on most sniper rigs, and probably more at home in a virtual game then a snatch and grab operation. Most was the key word here. Makorai wasn't 'most' snipers, and his ability to use both his right and left as master eyes, independent of the others, made this fantasy rig deadly in his hands.

More deadly then his companion sniper perhaps, has he'd strapped a series of lethal rounds to his inner thigh.

Dangerous thing to be shooting live rounds into a crowd, but in his mind? He was a bit separate from the rest.

Not cocky.


"Arguably handsome reporting in, over."