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Tyler last won the day on January 13 2020

Tyler had the most liked content!

About Tyler

  • Rank
    Grand Executor

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  • Gender
    Recognized as female by a Supercomputer. Still definitely more female than Zashiii
  • Location
    Frozen underground bunker command center
  • Interests
    Star Wars. RPing. Computer Games. Star Wars. Movies. NFL Football. Star Wars. Art. Legos. Star Wars. Lovecraftian Horror. Religion. Star Wars. Politics. History. Star Wars.
  • Occupation
    Graphic Designer

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  1. Mara wasn't even aware that she screwed up, or frankly that it wasn't part of the plan for Zack to grab the steel beam and drive it into the creature to secure the grappling hook more solidly. Communication in the heat of battle was never perfect, and it was fortunate that Zack was able to improvise despite what had gone wrong. The entity's efforts to protect itself by ejecting the flaming debris were fully thwarted thanks to the beam, and the flames themselves were forced deep into the midst of a giant fuel source. While being smothered in liquid, even flammable liquid, might normally smother a flame by cutting it off from oxygen, nothing of the sort happened here. In fact, something seemed to be building-up inside the creature instead. "Well, that's one way to do it," Mara remarked, before realizing the creature was starting to become violently unstable, "Oh..." In a flash, she dove for the nearest wreckage, as the Zack was already retreating away from the creature in the opposite direction, fast as he was able. Mara didn't start as soon, and didn't get a full head of steam, but she was just fast enough to dive through doorway and roll around the corner before the blob erupted. A surprisingly strong blast-wave shattered much of the building Mara was hiding in, while burning black grease went splattering in every direction, painting the street and ruins with burning goo. The wall Mara was taking cover behind collapsed, burying her in a mound of brick and petrified wood. Dinged-up and coated in dust, but ultimately uninjured, Mara powered her way through the debris and back to the surface. Bits of fire were everywhere, forcing her to watch her step carefully as she moved to exit the building. "I'M FINE, KID!" she shouted over the fire and distance, "IS THE THING DEAD? THERE AIN'T ANYTHING LEFT OF IT, RIGHT?" Where she came out was much closer to Jerry than to Zack, and she was able to wave over to him to indicate her location. They'd have to take a detour around the flames to join up with Zack, but that seemed a minor inconvenience considering everything they'd had happen to this point. "HEY! YOU SEE GHOSTY-LOCKS OVER THERE!?" she added in Zack's direction, "I THREW HER INTO A BUILDING SOMEWHERE BACK THAT WAY!"
  2. Mara wasn't able to see Zack real well through the surrounding wreckage of the fallen house, but she didn't need to see him to know what he was talking about. There was only one thing he could be talking about, and Mara at least knew the general direction that it was in. Gathering up the items, she propelled herself forward and blasted her way through the wreckage, sending splinters of wood, chunks of brick, and shards of glass exploding out behind her. The flesh wounds to her body didn't feel pleasant, but luckily most of the wreckage was frail from the years of decay and rot, so the actual damage was minimal. As she sprinted across the street, she caught sight of Zack hurling the beam and concrete out of the corner of her eye. It was an impressive feat of strength, only further motivation to test her own against his, if they both survived to be able to afford time for such a luxury. Either way, she had resolved to trust Zack and whatever plan he had concocted. He'd trusted her, and a team only worked if that trust went both ways. Upon reaching the puddle, which was slowly burning down at this point, she lowered the jacket into contact with the flames in hopes it would ignite. But it was still slow, as the moisture needed to be boiled out of the fabric before the coat itself could truly burn. Right, the lighter fluid would help get the fire going far quicker. Mara pulled out the lighter and smashed between her metal fingers, allowing the fluid to pour out of the cracks and onto the jacket. She then shoved it back into the fire, which went up in a bit of a whoosh upon contacting the small patch of fluid. It wasn't much, but it did its job. Now came the second part of the plan, which was to get the darn thing hooked into the entity. Speaking of which, the monster was starting to recover from the blow that Zack had dealt to it, which meant she needed to move quickly if she wanted to reduce the risk of it dodging or something else happening to screw things up. It was down right now, and this was the best and easiest shot she was going to get at hooking the darn thing. Once again taking off into a sprint, she readied the burning end of the grappling hook and let it fly once she was in close. It sailed slightly over the top of the beast, which was what she wanted, as it gave the hooks more real-estate to drag across and dig into. With a tug, the hooks began to dig in, and the burning coat was already starting to spread flame onto the surface of the oozy blob. Now Mara just had to try and hold it tight while getting the slack over to Zack somehow. But throwing a rope, or a cord, was not exactly the easiest thing. She had to be closer to him, and had to make the toss precise to avoid the thing getting tangled, batted out of the air, or just falling short of the mark. Thus, keeping it tight as possible, she began running around the beast. Naturally though, it did not appreciate her presence, nor presence of flaming jacket being pressed against its body. Several tentacles shot outward, trying to skewer Mara as she ran, while at the same time the thing did its best to try and eject hooks from its surface...
  3. Mara hadn't even gotten a flame to flicker when the creature attacked again, forcing Zack to dive away and also causing the building to begin to collapse. Mara had to quickly grab the jacket and roll aside, as beams and chunks of ceiling came crashing down on the spot she had just been occupying. She had to move even further to avoid more collapsing debris, but for some reason one of the outer walls, perpendicular to the one Zack was now exiting through, was holding sturdy for a moment, and the fallen beams created a triangular shelter she could use for temporary cover. She could still hear Zack shouting back at her, trying to relay his plan and instruct her on what to do. She didn't quite understand the necessity of tossing the slack of rope to him, as they were not too far separated in physical strength (they probably needed to arm wrestle after this to see who was the stronger) and there was a lot of risk in attempting to transfer the rope. But first thing was first, she had to get the darn jacket on fire, and that proved far more difficult than one would think. After wrapping it around the hooks and tearing some of the barbs through the jacket, so it wouldn't easily come loose, she began messing with her lighter again. But even once it finally came to life, the jacket did not seem to want to burn. The humid atmosphere was no doubt part of the problem, and to top it off, the jacket itself was rather damp. "Ugh, why'd that pilot have to be such a sweaty bastard!?" Mara growled, trying again and again to get any part of it to ignite. She could hear Zack struggling outside, likely growing more and more impatient by the second as she repeatedly failed to complete her end of the deal. "THE DAMN JACKET IS TOO WET!" she yelled back to him, "I CAN'T GET IT TO LIGHT!" Meanwhile, not far away... For several seconds after finally rolling to a stop, Tessa just lie still at the bottom of the caved-in basement, wincing in pain and trying to catch her breath. The glass from the window had stuck into her in several places, including her arms that were now exposed thanks to sacrificing her army tunic earlier. Nonetheless, she was alive, and the monster seemed to busy chasing Zack and Mara to bother with her. If it killed them though, it would probably come hunting for her, and she didn't have any means left with which to fight it. "Uggh..." she groaned, finally sitting up after what simultaneously felt like far too short and far too long of a time. To her right was the sloping pile of rubble, which would allow for her to ascend back to the surface if she needed to. But to her left was the gaping maw of the open basement, just beckoning her to enter if she dared. Unfortunately, it was pitch-black beyond the dim light that shined down through the hole in the ceiling above, and so entering it meant groping blindly in the dark. That was a big NOPE, especially knowing what lurked in this hellish landscape. But just when she was about to make a poor choice and try to ascend back to the surface, her foot bumped something that caused her to double-take. It looked like some sort of glow-rod, not quite a flashlight but rather a kind of elongated lantern. It was banged-up and covered with gunk, but upon snatching it from the floor and flicking the obvious power switch, it showed itself to somehow be still functional. "Huh..." Not questioning the boon, Tessa now realized she could enter the unseen depths of the basement. Not just could, but she probably should, because maybe there was a back way out to escape, or maybe some sort of weapon or tool she could use against the monsters. Gathering her courage, and what was left of her strength, she slowly crept into the blackness, the ancient glow-rod bathing the room in a cool, bluish light. Much of the level looked unremarkable, though much more intact than any of the buildings above. There were some piles of rotten wood and unidentifiable artifacts of rusted iron, but much of the material was built of plastic or some type of metal alloy that seemed resistant to corrosion. But curious as that was, what Tessa did not expect to find amidst the disordered ruin was a table, two chairs, a cooler and several piles of deliberately organized salvage. A non-functional lantern sat in the middle of the table, and it was joined by some alloy tools that looked like they'd been in semi-recent use. "The hell is all this?" she uttered aloud, staking-out the odd little site. It was almost as if someone had been living there after whatever the occurrence of whatever disaster befell this town. But they weren't here now, whoever they had been, and it was likely they'd been dead for some time. Or at least, Tessa only hoped it had been a normal human who could die, and not some sort of abomination that somehow developed enough intelligence to organize a miniature salvage camp like this. Regardless, she examined the site for anything of use, noting that many of the old tools were actually remarkably advanced in design, despite their appearance of years of wear and tear. One of them looked to be a small, hand-held soldering tool, which Tessa quickly snatched up and shoved into her belt. She wasn't even sure if it worked, but something else caught her eye that she wanted to investigate; a vertical slit in the wall that appeared to be some sort of recess. Upon closer inspection, Tessa found it to be a heavy sliding door that led into what had been a sealed, walk-in cooler. Of course, it had been left slightly ajar, so the seal no longer applied, but it probably had been sealed at one time. As she shined the light around the interior of the cooler, she found it was full of something that would have put Clive McTeague into a fit of joy. Alcohol. Loads of it. There was everything from beer, to wine, to vodka and various other concoctions that Tessa didn't even recognize. Most were no longer labeled, as any label made of anything but plastic or vinyl had long ago disintegrated. Many of the corks had also rotted away, leaving more than half the bottles open and filled only with puddles of putrid moisture that was more water by now than the original contents. Luckily, many were sealed with metal foil, plastic and even some sort of synthetic wax, and these appeared to be perfectly preserved. Without much regard to what could be (and in fact, were) millennia-old artifacts, Tessa grabbed a big, wide, bottle of whiskey and wrenched the synthetic cork free. She then took a long swig, finding the whisky had a poor flavor, but was nonetheless refreshing to someone who'd been hiking none-stop without water for a day and a half. It also was comfortably warming to someone who was down to their muscle shirt in a damp, cool climate that chilled the bone of even the well-dressed. "Thanks up there, if anyone," Tessa saluted the sky with the bottle, before taking another swig. She then stepped back out of the cooler, only to hear the sound of Zack and Mara's screams echoing into the basement. It was a reminder that her momentary safety was still very temporary, and that her companions were battling to the death to stay alive. If she only had some way to help them, maybe she could turn the tide... Tessa looked down at the whiskey bottle in her hand, then back at the cooler filled with prime, undisturbed, hard liquor. "Well, I've always wanted to do this..." she muttered, before getting to work.
  4. After taking a moment to catch her breath, Taylor softly urged June to come along with her, as she returned down the hall to the common area. As they did though, there seemed to be a distinct different in their surroundings. There was almost a palpable tension in the air, and beneath their feet, the floor felt like it was slowly writing and slithering beneath the misshapen carpets. But that quickly became an afterthought as they turned the corner, where a recently acquired acquaintance awaits them. Beyond all sense of logic or reason, even that of a typical zombie apocalypse or risen undead scenario, the mutilated man from the cabin, from whom Taylor had acquired the pistol, was emerging from his abode and entering the common room. His body, which shouldn't have been able to hold itself together given its pitiful condition, clung to the wall for support. The shredded meat that wrapped around his broken skeleton had turned into a horrible mass of sinewy tendrils, grasping at the surface of wall and floor to drag itself forward. As Taylor and June stepped fully into sight, the animated corpse somehow found the strength to erect itself into an upright position. What was left of the head, only the lower jaw and a few jagged fragments of skull, faced them as though it wished to address the two. Or was did it even care about June? It seemed focused on Taylor alone, and it was Taylor alone who began hearing whispers in her mind. The voice, or voices, seemed to accuse her of some grave evil, yet they were nonetheless incapable of forming a sentence intelligible enough for Taylor to know what. Chills spread through Taylor's body as the corpse raised its arm toward her, as though trying to reach or beckon to her. Then, before she could try to understand what it wanted, it suddenly began shambling forward with horribly unnatural and erratic movement. In a fit of fear, Taylor raised the pistol and fired three shots at it, screaming for it to leave her alone. The shots tore through flesh and bone with ease, yet only served to briefly slow the thing, as the injuries meant little to a body that already had no business being animated at all. Instead, the shots only seemed anger the voices, as one in particular seemed to become stronger then the rest, its tone now clearly one of accusation, though seemingly being relayed to the other voices rather than levied at Taylor directly. "Run!" Taylor pushed June toward the other hallway, hoping to reach it before the corpse could cut them off. As they ran across the room, Taylor briefly glanced to her left, gazing through the glass windows that separated the common room from the mess hall. The inside looked like a cafeteria or cafe of sorts, and outside of being in a bit of a messy, disordered state, didn't appear unnatural quite yet. But the doors seemed to have been altered somehow, and no longer looked like they could be opened normally. Taylor elected to ignore the place entirely, as there was no time to try and force them open, and she didn't dare risk having to walk on broken glass with bare feet. Instead she just pushed June onward, until they reached the other hall, and tried to sprint down the straightaway. Because of the harsh red lighting, the two nearly smashed into the end of the hallway, as it came upon them with surprising suddenness. There was yet another barricade here, but it was much further down the hall than where the one in the left corridor had been. In fact, they had gone far enough that a clearly labeled stairwell lie just to their right. Before saying anything to June though, Taylor turned around to see if the corpse was still on their tail. Indeed it was, now having switched to an even more grotesque form of locomotion. It's viscera tentacles had begun clutching the ceiling, the lead group surging forward to solidly adhere to the surface, while the previous group released itself and allowed the mangled body to swing forward toward the front tentacles. It was almost like how a child might swing across monkey bars, but obviously far more horrific. Taylor wasn't sure if it was just in her mind, or if she was truly seeing it, but it felt as though all of the black, oozing wounds and pores had morphed into eyes, each one staring at her, and only her, with unabated hate. Why? Why did it want her so much? No, why wouldn't it want her? She had stolen something from it. Perhaps the last thing to give the man comfort in his mortal life. What remnants of memory or fragments of life essence continued to hover around the body, perverted and unholy, yet still clinging to the human man's last hope for peace: the gun that would end his life before something far worse could. Perhaps she ought to offer it back to it, in hopes that such a gesture might placate its rage. "Down the stairs, June! Go!" Taylor blurted, halted at the end of the hallway for a moment of contemplation. The weapon was useless against the corpse, but perhaps it would stop following them if she gave it back. But what if it didn't? What if giving back the gun did nothing, and the creature was bent on revenge no matter what? Then all Taylor would have done is thrown away her only hope at defense in a ship that was liable to be full of many other blasphemous creatures. No, they had to get away from it, if they could. "GO! GO!" Taylor quickly followed June into the stairwell, slamming the door shut behind her and trying desperately to find a lock, if there was one, "Get to the bottom!"
  5. If Mara wasn't sure just how deceptively strong and sturdy Zack was, she given a good indication of it when he slammed into her. A normal youth his size would probably have broken a few of his own bones trying to hit Mara like that, but instead it was the cyborg who felt like she was getting the worse of the blow. "I deserved that..." she groaned from the floor, realizing it was probably karmic justice for what she just did to Tessa. She barely had time to sit up when Zack shoved Jerry's coat into her hands and asked about the grappling hook. She had completely forgotten she had that. "Right!" she pulled it off her belt, "We gotta, wait... where's the blowtorch...!?" She realized she had either dropped it or had it fall off her belt somewhere outside. Zack likely figured that without it, they had no way to start a fire, but Mara urged him not to go anywhere, as she reached into one of her pockets and pulled out a cigarette lighter. A half-used pack of lite cigarettes fell out as fumbled around to grab the lighter. "Shit..." she muttered, not bothering to recover them as she tried to get the lighter to ignite.
  6. Mara lingered a bit to watch the bodies burn, just to make sure they didn’t somehow stand back up and turn into flaming undead abominations. Luckily they did not, and she soon followed Tessa in rejoining Zack, Jerry and the mercenary. It was a slow effort, as neither woman was in a rush now that the apparent threat had passed. As they walked, Mara took note of how Tessa was moving even slower than before. The girl had shown admirable resolve to this point, and Mara was impressed with her endurance, all things considered. But Tessa was not enhanced like her or Zack, and what’s more, she’d lost a fair amount of blood, was dehydrating, and had been walking for two and a half days straight, the last several hours on an injured leg. Hopefully the mercenary dropship was not far from here, as Mara was not sure how much longer Tessa (or Jerry or the merc for that matter) could keep up. "Very. I'd guess that black stuff was some kinda oil, 'cept it sure as heck doesn't smell like oil," Mara replied. Zack was right, there was no time to stop and rest, much as their three reluctant companions needed it. Even if one discounted the obvious motivation to keep moving (the monsters no doubt still stalking them in the mist), there was still a battle going on outside, and they needed to somehow find their way back to it. But lucky didn't appear to be on their side today, as it was not more than a couple minutes into resuming their hike when the mercenary stopped to point out the blob adhered to the shattered house. Mara also stopped to focus on it, her eyes able to zoom in and get a better look. She immediately regretted stopping, and wished they had just passed it by without noticing. Maybe it might not have noticed them in return. But they did stop, and it did notice them. "Is that... what you saw?" Mara glanced back at Tessa. "This is much bigger..." Tessa gulped. "Keep going," Mara urged, at the same time as Zack was "Noping" his way across the street with the merc in-tow. But the entity was not content to let them merely leave. As it floated away from the building it had previously been resting on, it suddenly lashed out with powerful, piercing tendrils, the first of which made quick work of a half-standing building just in front of Zack. "Shit!" Mara growled, realizing they were too late. More tendrils began shooting out at everyone who was standing, Tessa just nearly evading being skewered by one, which nonetheless lacerated one of her exposed arms in a splatter of blood. Mara was able to more easily dodge them, but it was apparent that outside of Zack, the others stood no chance. The mercenary, who tried to flee for his life, was easily harpooned through the skull, and drawn rapidly back into the mass as though he were a fish hooked by an angler. In the process he dropped the electronic device he had been using to guide them, but while that was fortunate, the place where it had fallen was not. There was no possibility of recovering it right now, and Mara remained focused on keeping her remaining companions alive. The death of the mercenary was no big loss, as he truly deserved no less than what he got. Horrific as it might have seemed to watch him consumed by the blob, the reality was he was probably already brain-dead by the time he got there, and Mara had watched far worse happen to fully conscious people. Like that one fool who thought he could threaten a coastal town into declaring him their king by cloning and trying to mind-control some ancient extra-dimensional shark he called a Megalodon. That worked out for him about as well as one would expect. Nevertheless, Mara didn't intend to watch any of the others get speared and eaten, alive or dead, by this disgusting blob-thing. "Sorry about this!" Mara suddenly lunged over to Tessa, grabbing the girl and hurling her through the nearby window of a roofless building. Mara could see what looked like rubble slowing downward into a caved-in basement just beyond that window, so she hoped Tessa would simply roll down to the lower level and out of sight. It was the best that could be hoped for, as a second or two longer in the open and the girl would surely be killed. Even with the skill Tessa evidentially possessed, she was in no condition to try and battle an entity as fast and deadly as what they were now facing. That momentary distraction nearly cost Mara dearly though, as another tendril shot by her head, just grazing her shoulder and shaving some hair free. It was fortunate she had kept herself in a constant state of movement, or that second delay would have been her last. Mara wasn't sure that even her alloy skeleton would be strong enough to withstand the force of the creature's thrusts. Sprinting down the road, she ducked and dodged several more attempts, while glancing back to make sure it wasn't attacking the building she'd tossed Tessa into. Luckily, it didn't seem it was, and even if it did, Tessa would hopefully be smart enough to remain in the lower level, where the straight-shooting tendrils wouldn't reach. The bounty hunter scanned her surroundings to try and locate Zack, but he had evidently moved the opposite direction as her, and the creature appeared to be following, and focusing, him instead of her. That was particularly unfair because Zack was still being weighed down by Jerry, and it was borderline a miracle that this hadn't gotten him killed yet. "Shouldn't exhaust yourself screaming, kid," Mara muttered to herself, obviously in a tone that Zack wouldn't hear. Leaping away from another attack, Mara landed solidly and set her feet. She was still carrying Tessa's gun-barrel torch, though there was little left of the burning jacket. Nevertheless, she hoped that the cinders would be just enough to spark an tiny flame, which given the flammability of the previous monsters, should easily be enough to turn the whole thing into an inferno. Thus, as she landed, she propped the metal tube in her hand like a javelin, and hurled it with full force as the large writhing mass. The pipe penetrated the oily blob like it was butter, and for a moment, the heat from the cinders seemed to generate smoke and even spark a small flame. But this creature was not the same as the tar men, as it suddenly began violently spasming, while spewing ichor out of the spot where it had been struck. The entity forcibly ejected black slime out of its own body, a spitting out the gun barrel in the process. The fire expanded on what had been splatted on the pavement, but the entity itself had been purged of any threat to its own well-being. "You bitch!" Mara grimaced, as suddenly the monster angrily shifted its attacks away from Zack and toward her. But at least she accomplished the goal of drawing its attention...
  7. In reality, Mara wasn't actually joking. Of course, she made it look like she was, but if she was going to waste her time dressing his wounds, she was going to use the best means at her disposal. She may have even considered using it on Tessa's wound, were it not for the fact that it was already bandaged up by the time the blowtorch was found. Speaking of Tessa, she finally reached the trio, with Jerry in tow. As the mercenary went to leave, Mara did what she was doing earlier and scooped up his rifle. She then held it out to Tessa, who paused and stared at Mara a moment. "You're the only one I trust to know how to use this thing," Mara stated bluntly, not having much confidence Zack could or would even want to use it, and having less than no confidence that Jerry could use it for anything but accidentally getting them all killed. Tessa nodded and took the weapon, though she slung it over her shoulder for the walk, while continuing to use her makeshift crutch to steady her injured leg. With everyone accounted for, they set out to parts unknown. The walk was certainly harder on the non-enhanced people than the enhanced ones. Beyond the simple fact that Zack and Mara were physically superior, Jerry was clearly out-of-shape, the merc was injured, in pain, and had lost a lot blood, and Tessa was also injured and slow thanks to blood loss. Alas, there was neither food, nor water, with which they could replenish their strength. By the time they had scaled the latest incline, Jerry was collapsing from exhaustion, and the mercenary looked paler than he had when they started out. Tessa also sat down, wincing in pain and panting heavily. Of course, she was already wiped-out when they first found her, so it was impressive she was still going at this point. As Zack began yelling at the mercenary, accusing him of leading the group the wrong way, Mara stepped over to one of the burned-out buildings and kicked through some of the wreckage. After a moment, her foot hooked a rectangular metal plate, which looked to be in decent condition outside of this charred outer appearance. Curious, Mara picked it up and brushed some of the soot away, revealing the etched wording beneath. It became clear after a moment that the plate was an inspection certificate, dated 617 by the Lumin Health Department. "Six-seventeen? That's... over two-thousand years ago," Mara remarked to herself, somehow still finding ways to be surprised, "Lumin, never heard of it..." Thus far, this entire floating island (if it was merely an island) had seemed to be completely separate from the rest of the chunks of the city that had been wrenched out of the ground and tossed into orbit around the massive energy pillar. But now it looked like something more; it appeared that a piece of a city that was destroyed over two millennia ago was plopped right onto it. "Any of you ever heard of--" Mara whirled around to see Zack retreating from the edge of the cliff they had just pulled themselves over, a manic look on his face like he had just seen something he did not want to tangle with. Surely it was whatever had been attacking Tessa and the mercenary. Speaking of which, everyone was quickly on their feet and trying to push themselves ahead and away from whatever was about to pull itself over the ledge. Zack stopped to throw a chunk of concrete at the face of what was apparently a humanoid as it came into view, and while the hurl would have been enough to end a normal man, whatever this thing now was, it was not normal. "Not good..." Mara positioned herself nearest to the rear, hoping to keep the others in front of her, though she wasn't sure she'd really be able to do anything to save them if they were unable to keep going. Even so, she pulled out her revolver and sent a couple blasts into the nearest of the pursuers. The impact knocked one off its feet and slowed another, but it proved only a temporary setback as the abominations seemed unable to be killed by such means. Mara would only be wasting what little ammunition she had left if she kept shooting. "You need fire!" Tessa huffed, trying to pull off her army tunic as she hobbled along, "Guns won't work!" "Yeah, like this is gonna do anything!" Mara snapped back, pulling out the blowtorch and staring at the dense, but tiny flame it produced. "Clothes? Yeah, that would work, who's got--" Mara turned to look at the others, only to have Tessa's tunic hit her in the face. "I... I don't think we can outrun them anymore..." the girl wheezed, holding out the broken gun barrel she was using as a crutch for Mara to take, "We gotta try to kill them!" "KEEP MOVING!" Mara snapped, grabbing the metal shaft and quickly wrapping the jacket around it, "Don't stop!" She then lit the tunic ablaze with the blow torch, but kept both items in-hand just in case. The flame would not last long though, as the material was not likely sturdy enough to keep for more than a few minutes. She needed to make use of it quickly. Looking to her right, she noticed the mercenary was fading fast, and one of the tar-men was rapidly gaining on him. Quickly shifting her trajectory in that direction, Mara swung across her body in an effort to strike the possessed man. She missed, as the second the torch reached that spot, the tar-man disappeared and reappeared just ahead of Mara and to her left, on the opposite side of where he'd been previously. And now he was more interested in Mara, and about to reach around to grab her. Luckily, Mara was fast, and she backswung the torch to its original position, striking the tar-man in the back. The Tin Man uniform he was wearing did catch on fire, but that was not the thing that blazed the most. The drooling streams of inky liquid that contacted the torch caught on fire instantly, rapidly engulfing the entire body. The tar-man made no sound, still trapped in disturbing silence, as it broke-off its attack and began flailing in place. The others immediately began to put some distance between themselves and Mara, which was not what the cyborg wanted. If they backed-off only long enough for the torch to go out, then renew their attack afterward, the result would be as undesirable as if no torch had ever been lit. But, the relative ease at which the black substance caught on fire was encouraging. It was almost like it was a petroleum product, though the stench it let-off, which was only noticeable when they got close, seemed to indicate something more organic and far less... of this world. But so long as it burned, Mara didn't care where it came from or what it was. "Take this!" Mara quickly shoved the shaft torch into the mercenary's hand, as he was the closest one and the one most at risk of being overtaken at the moment, "Keep them off you!" She then regarded the blowtorch. The flame could easily and quickly be turned on and off, which was exactly what she needed. If she could keep it off long enough to draw them in to her, then light it at the last moment and set them off, she could maybe pull this off. It was risky as hell, since the blowtorch had little range and required her to get extra close to the abominations, but there was simply no other way to dispose of these things. There was literally only one other choice, and that was leave either Tessa or the mercenary to die, and carry the other off the way Zack was with Jerry. But that would slow her down regardless of her strength, and the tar-men would likely keep chasing them until eventually eventually Zack and Mara could run no more. "Hey, silver! Can you knock 'em down for me?" Mara shouted over to Tessa. "I THOUGHT YOU SAID TO KEEP MOVING!?" Tessa blurted, eyes bulging as she tried to push herself beyond her limits. Much as Mara would have preferred Zack's help here, he was too far ahead of them and had his hands full carrying Jerry, so the young Norko soldier was going to have to do. "When I tell you, turn and light 'em up!" Mara urged. Tessa let out an angry growl as she pulled the gun off her shoulder and checked to make sure it was ready to fire. "NOW!" The two woman both immediately pivoted and began skidding, as the younger raised the assault rifle to her shoulder and began sending bullets into the first of the tar-men she could sight. Mara, on the other hand, used the divot caused by her skid to suddenly propel herself back at the oncoming monsters. The blowtorch flashed to life just as Mara reached the first. Trying to hit these things was ridiculously hard, as their flickering motions made it very difficult to know where they'd be next. But it only took minimal contact to set the tar ablaze, and soon two of the four possessed men were now being fried from the inside-out. Tessa desperately switched back-and-forth between the surviving two, trying to keep them knocked over and held back with controlled bursts from the assault rifle. Mara had luckily disposed of her original target quickly, and she rushed over to take-on one of the two going after Tessa. Unfortunately, this one was not as easily dispatched, as Mara's first swipe with the blowtorch missed entirely. The tar man made several dizzying movements, causing Mara to swing and lunch several times in vain. Suddenly, Mara found it standing directly to her left flank, opposite the blowtorch and about to grab her. Her metallic arm immediately shot outward, grabbing the face of the tar man and pushing it to full extension to try and keep him away. Rather than reach past the arm and grab at Mara's body though, the tar man instead grappled Mara's arm so she couldn't let go. To the bounty hunter's horror, the black tar began to seep out of the man's eyes, between her fingers, and into the panels that made up her arm. The stuff, whatever it was, was clearly sentient and was going to try and take-over the machinery inside her arm, or at the least worm its way through until it reached flesh. "Ya fuckin' little!" Mara sneered, torching her own arm with the blowtorch as quickly as she could reach it. The subsequent blaze followed the tar right into the inner workings of the arm, sending pain signals through the mechanical circuits and to Mara's brain, causing her to cry out in agony. But it also followed the tar right back into the possessed man's head, quickly turning the host into an inferno as well. Growling in pain and fury, Mara grit her teeth as she clamped her fingers together, crushing the tar man's face, before tossing him away, his grip on her arm now limp. "HEY!!!" Mara turned to find Tessa trying to bash the last tar man back with the butt of the assault rifle, the weapon having run out of bullets. In a flash, Mara sprinted across the distance, grabbing at the hair on the back of the possessed merc's head with her still burning metal arm. Successfully catching the mullet of the man, she yanked him away from Tessa and toward her, while bringing the blowtorch up to the side of his face, just beside the temple and touching the flame to the streams of black ink flowing along his head there. The mercenary quickly began to ignite, and so Mara tugged the hair again and tossed him aside, so she wouldn't catch fire with him. The tar man fell to the ground and burst into flame within seconds, flailing silently as skin, clothing and tar all burned away. "Oh yeah, I'm on a hot streak today! Or rather, you are!" Mara taunted the burning bodies with a satisfied laugh, before turning and noticing Tessa glaring at her. "Seriously? That's just corny," the white-haired girl deadpanned. "..." Mara looked back at the burning bodies, then back at Tessa, then at the increasingly distant Zack, Jerry and mercenary, then back at Tessa again, "Just... let's go..."
  8. Thankfully, the manic expression on Zack's face softened somewhat and he backed off without issue. Mara appreciated that despite his apparent penchant for near-insanity, Zack seemed capable of controlling said madness when needed. And in all fairness to him, pretty much everyone who lived the mercenary life, or didn't grow up in the cushy comfort of one of the small handful of stable towns, had to be at least a little insane. Ironically, being slightly insane was sometimes the best way to stay sane. The mercenary proved much more cooperative now, though his claim that the terrain was changing was concerning. Was Tessa unfamiliar with their current surroundings because those surroundings had literally changed after she passed over them? The weirdness of this place just kept getting weirder. Luckily, it sounded like the mercs' ship was functional, so maybe they wouldn't have to travel any further on foot than necessary, provided the creatures hadn't torn it apart of course. "Sure," Mara had turned to pick up the merc's dropped rifle, but she quickly stood back up turned back around. Only now she had the blowtorch in her hand. "Cauterization is the quickest way to stop the bleeding, after all," she smirked. "Nineteen," Tessa answered Jerry, pulling the cap down a little more tightly down over her head as she did, "It's always been this color, even when I was a baby." She then brushed past him and headed toward Zack and Mara, something in her tone of voice seeming to indicate the topic was a sore one for her. Maybe there was a reason she cared about having a hat on so much, even if the hat had several gaping bullet holes in it.
  9. It certainly wasn't out of sympathy for the man that Mara intervened. Indeed, she had been about to adopt the "bad cop" counterpart to Zack's "good cop", but the moment that the fool spat in the younger merc's eye, that entire idea went out the window. The cyborg could see the rage building up in Zack's face, and remembering what he had done to the thug in the hotel not so long ago, she knew this guy was about to be maimed beyond usefulness. And thus, she found herself in the unfamiliar territory of having to play the "good cop", as she quickly put her cybernetic hand against his chest to hold him back. "We need him in one piece if he's going to be of any use to us," she said to him, giving him a stern look indicating for him to get a hold of himself. Once she was confident Zack was not about to snap and attack her, a distinct possibility for someone in Zack's mental state, Mara lowered her arm and turned back at the mercenary. "I see you value appendages," she began, putting a fist on the necklace of ears and ripping it off his neck, "If you'd like to keep yours, I suggest you cooperate without question or complaint. I'm only holding him back once, see?" As the mercenary gave a whimpering nod of acknowledgement, Mara grabbed him by the collar and pulled him to his feet as she stood up herself. "Good, then we all understand each-other." As this was going on, Tessa had limped over to recover her hat, which now had a couple of bullet holes in it. Even after sticking her finger through them and sighing, she flipped it back over her head and turned back toward the others. First thing she noticed was not the three mercs though, but Jerry, who was sitting there staring at her. "What're you looking at?" she scowled at him.
  10. When the terrain began to shift to rocky, uneven terrain, Mara had glanced over at Tessa several times to see if this looked familiar to her. Unfortunately, the terrain shift appeared only to confuse the younger woman, whose travels had brought her from a region of much flatter ground. In fact, that area had been so smooth as to be almost polished, and while she thought she had taken the right route back to it when they left Jerry's ship, her sense of direction had apparently been way off. But she had no idea where else to go, and while she shifted direction once or twice, it didn't seem to make a difference. One way or another, it appeared they were destined to wander further and further into the quasi-mountainous region. Finally, Mara put a hand on Tessa's and gave her a questioning expression, to which Tessa only threw up her hands and shrugged her shoulders, having all but given up trying to maintain the facade of knowing where she was going. Just then, a shot rang out through the fog, and Tessa suddenly clutched her left elbow in pain. Mara grabbed the girl and pulled the both of them behind a rock, while behind her, Zack did the same for Jerry. Based on the man's accent, Mara quickly concluded he was not a Norkotian or Forsthaven native; probably another mercenary who had arrived in town to participate in the war. While he could have been on any of the three sides, the tone of voice he had seemed to indicate to Mara that his reason for attacking them had nothing to do with politics or uniforms. He was scared shitless, probably by the same things that had been attacking Tessa all this time. Talking him down was probably not going to work in his current state-of-mind. "Shit... what now?" Tessa hissed, clutching her elbow and wincing in pain, as the bullet had grazed the bone in addition to tearing through the skin. "Shh," Mara hushed Tessa, before swiping the girl's military cap off her head, then taking away her makeshift crutch. "Hey, that's mine..." Tessa protested, apparently not liking to have her head uncovered. Mara ignored her, instead propping the hat atop the gun barrel, then handing it back to Tessa. She then drew out her revolver and motioned for Tessa to move closer to the corner of the rock. "When I tell you, stick that out there." Tessa glared at Mara angrily, her own defiant attitude ready to tell the mercenary to buzz off and deal with the problem some other way. But there was a flicker in Mara's golden eyes that made Tessa think twice about it, and so she instead reluctantly nodded and moved into position. Mara then began switching through her vision modes, finding that infrared was the best functioning one in this fog. She then moved to the opposite end of the rock from Tessa and raised her hand in a fist. After a moment, she changed her gesture to a finger point, pointing specifically toward the end of the rock. Tessa complied and slowly stuck the hat out around the corner on the pole, which caught the mercenary's attention after a couple seconds. As soon as Mara heard the movement and gunshots, she quickly lunged out of cover and took aim with her handgun. The merc was still aiming at Tessa's hat, but he seemed to spot Mara right away. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to get his gun turned toward the cyborg before a magnum bullet tore through his right shoulder, knocking him off his feet and causing him to fire wildly into the sky. Hoping that Zack had also been paying attention and would join in, Mara charged forward to try and properly disarm the mercenary before he could recover.
  11. "It's a flesh wound, I'll live," Tessa answered curtly, accepting a hand up from Mara. "He who travels fastest, travels alone," Mara glared at Jerry, "You are free to go your own way at any time. Otherwise, grow a pair and deal with it." She looked back at Zack, and was about to say something to him; perhaps chide him for wasting his time with childish arguments, or suggesting a route they should take, when Tessa spoke-up. "Don't you guys have a ship? We should just get back in and leave this place," she urged. "We can't, our fuel tank ruptured," Mara replied, "We wouldn't get far." "Can you weld it shut with that torch?" Tessa inquired, motioning at the blowtorch that Mara was now holding. "Doesn't do any good with an empty tank, and even if it isn't empty, the flame will just ignite whatever is left and blow us up," Mara shook her head, "We'll need fresh fuel and-or a new tank." Tessa sighed, disappointed to say the least. But after a second, a thought came to her. "I think those mercenaries who captured me mentioned they had crash-landed here somewhere. I never saw their ship, but maybe we can salvage the fuel tank and whatever else we need to fix yours. Not that it's likely we'd be able to find it, and then find our way back, but there's literally nothing else out here besides the creatures in the mist," she suggested. "If we come across it, we'll consider it," Mara acknowledged, "But either way, we're wasting daylight standing here talking about it. If you think you can walk, we should get moving." Tessa tested her leg a little, before nodding. The wound was painful, but luckily it was just that, and there was no structural damage that prevented her from being able to walk on it. Mara then gave Zack a nod and motioned for him and Jerry to follow.
  12. Mara's worries appeared to be unfounded, as no creature or alien being was there to ambush them as she pulled the door open. There were a couple of weapons left in the bay, and Zack directed Jerry to pick up the pistol lying in the corner. Mara did not oppose, since she figured a gun would be more valuable to a potentially unskilled fighter than a blade, and Jerry didn't have the demeanor of a skilled fighter. Of course, she still didn't trust him, but she also know she couldn't expect someone to cross this place with them unarmed. And it would be in his best interest to not betray her and Zack anyway. Zack grabbed the pair of gas masks, offering one to Mara soon thereafter. Mara nodded and took it, before clipping it to her belt. Even as she was doing that though, she noticed Zack's eyes lock onto something in the fog, which prompted her to very slowly turn to face whatever it was. As soon as she spotted the figure, she began cycling through her vision modes. Oddly, it seemed like there was some sort of unnatural disturbance in the fog, which made almost every mode except her default mode almost unusable. The pilot suddenly screamed and tried to unload the pistol clip at the figure in the fog, but luckily for that figure, the gun was empty. Mara was left questioning her own judgement now, wondering if it wasn't safer for Jerry to be unarmed not because of his potential for betrayal, but for his potential of idiocy. Mara looked back at the figure, and sure enough, the closer she came, the more she could be recognized as the young soldier woman they'd been traveling with in the underground region. Zack had been around Tessa much longer than Mara though, so the the bounty hunter had never really committed the girl's name to memory. "Stay alert, just in case," Mara said softly, before stepping out of the bay and onto the rocky surface, "Remember she was working for that Spire agent." By the time Tessa and the trio reached one-another, it was obvious that Tessa had been through the ringer. Her uniform was tattered and her body was littered with minor injures, as well as a much more major one on her left leg. That leg injury was still bleeding, in-fact, and the already pale girl now looked almost as white as her hair thanks to blood-loss. In her left hand was appeared to be a broken off gun barrel, with one end notably blackened as though it had been on fire, and with fragments of equally singed clothing still clinging to it. It looked like it had been used as a makeshift torch, but the fire had since gone out, and now it had been converted into a crutch. "You... you guys are alive..." Tessa huffed as she stopped just in front of the three, "Heh..." With that, she collapsed, though Mara quickly lunged forward and caught her before she could bust her head open on the rocky ground. Tessa wasn't unconscious, but she was definitely too exhausted to stand any longer. Mara laid her down on the ground and moved to look at the leg, which needed to be bound-up before the girl could lose any more blood. "What happened to you?" Mara asked, pulling out a small knife and cutting the pant leg away from the wound, "Were you attacked?" "They... they're afraid of fire... get fire," Tessa managed to respond. "Check the ship for anything we can use to make fire," Mara turned to Jerry and Zack, "and be quick about it." While the two men were busy looking for any tool or object that could be used for that purpose, Mara began binding up Tessa's leg with whatever clean pieces of fabric she could get out of the remnants of the pant leg. Right now, the bounty hunter really wished she had taken the time to grab more gear before coming here to Forsthaven, but there had been a rush to get her here, so she was barely able to grab more than her revolver and a couple of flashbangs, the latter of which had already been used. Hopefully they could get Tessa out of here before that leg got infected. "You still haven't answered my question," Mara continued, "What happened to you?" Tessa winced as the bandage was pulled tight on her leg, though when her dark brown eyes opened again, she noticed Zack and Jerry returning from the ship with a blowtorch that they'd found in the ship's tool compartment. Just that fact alone helped her relax a little. "There's something in the fog. It's big, black, covered in eyes and... doesn't seem to have a set form. It's just a blob or something, but it... it can harden itself and cut like steel. It's been chasing me for... two days." "Two days?" Mara questioned incredulously. "Yeah... yeah, ever since we got teleported here from the cave." "That was barely a two hours ago," Mara shook her head, "Wait, we?" Tessa took in a deep breath and sat up, looking between Mara and the returning Zack and Jerry. After a moment of gathering herself, she began her story from the beginning. The last thing she remembered was holding a gun to Mara's head in the cave, then looking up to see massive rocks falling from the ceiling straight toward her. But before she could be crushed though, she was suddenly blinded by a flash of light, and by the time her eyesight returned, she was no longer in the cave, but standing on a vast, black plain of obsidian-like rock. A thick fog covered the landscape in every direction, and neither person nor landmark could be seen. "Hello!?" she called-out into the void, though there was no answer. Shaking her head, she stood there a moment, unsure if she was even alive anymore. Perhaps this was the afterlife, some sort of purgatory or gateway realm, or maybe hell itself, manifested as nothing but hopeless desolation rather than the molten innards of the earth. As she stood there, she thought about what she had been doing a moment ago, and everything that had lead up to it. "Wait..." she shook her head, realizing something was wrong, as she had two sets of memories in her head, one that told her she was an undercover Spire agent, the other telling her she was a Norkotian citizen. Were anyone there to observe her, they'd see a myriad of expressions cross the girl's face as she stood there alone in the mist, remembering. She soon realized that the memories of the Spire agent were fading, growing weaker, while her true memories, that of her life in Norkotia, being raised by her grandfather, dropping out of middle school because she had trouble learning (and staying out of fights with the boys), having a baby when she was not prepared for the burden, and finally joining the military to try and provide for the kid when she realized she could not, were all returning more vivid than ever. Then her memory centered on one moment, a few hours before in the radio tower. She had just noticed the twitch of movement from the figure under the sheet on the floor, when all of a sudden she was completely discombobulated by being ripped out of her body and thrown into the one belonging to the girl known as Layla. She then remembered seeing her own face staring back at her, as Layla grabbed a hold of her and choked her out. But it was also after that moment, that she had begun to think she was a Spire agent, and only after that moment. "That... that bitch did something to me," Tessa growled aloud, realizing now that it had to be some sort of metahuman power that had been used on her, "I'm gonna kill her, I'm gonna..." Suddenly, a pair of gunshots rang through the void, causing Tessa to whirl around in the direction she thought they came from. She wasn't sure she was facing the right way, but she had no better guess, so she began sprinting in that direction. As she ran, she was sure she could hear voices through the fog, two ladies speaking to one another. As she got closer, she recognized the both of them, particularly the younger one. Gripping her gun all the more tightly, Tessa slowed her pace as she drew near, eventually reaching a slow creep as she tried to hear what was being said. "Ha! Rebuild? Ding-dong, hello! Your city is fucking dead, Mayor Cordoza! DEAD!" It was Layla's voice, that much was obvious. And she was clearly speaking to Cordoza, who must have been there with her. "Assuming, for one second, that this is not the imprint of where your city once stood, and somehow we're somewhere else entirely and the city is still standing somewhere, THEN, what's going to happen over the next forty-eight hours, is that an army of scavengers and slavers from the Underground are going to descend on the ruins and pick it clean of every person and valuable that is left intact. And on top of that, you're going to have scores of treasure-seekers, renegade scientists, and of course the Spire, combing through and pulverizing the wreckage to find your precious Ace. Tessa finally spotted them in the fog, Layla on her feet and holding a pistol that was aimed at Cordoza, who was on her knees. A third person appeared to be lying motionless on the ground, their head propped on Cordoza's lap. "Speaking of which though, I’ve got a call to make to Spire Command... So lucky for you, I'll put your out of your misery right here,” Layla sneered, her grip seeming to tighten on the handgun, “Good bye and good riddance, Mayor Cordoza." Tessa didn't have time to think, she just raised her own weapon and fired, a single bullet tearing through the fog and impacting Layla in the skull. Layla let out a surprised gasp, as Tessa advanced on the scene and announced her presence. "You busted into my head uninvited first," she growled at Layla, who somehow managed to turn to face her, despite the hole through her head, "Just thought I’d return the favor." Layla just made some sort of incoherent mumbling sound, as her eyes rolled into her head. She still remained on her feet for just a couple more seconds, before a faint beeping sound could be heard. Suddenly, the Spire agent’s head exploded, sending charred pieces of brain and bone in every direction. The headless body then finally tipped over and hit the ground with a thud. "The hell?" Tessa approached the body, wondering what had happened. She quickly realized that it didn't matter, so she instead turned to face Cordoza, who was still on her knees. The person she was holding appeared to be Valerie, who had two bullet wounds in her gut and a knife stabbed into her chest, and appeared to already be dead. Cordoza though, had a couple holes in her own abdomen, and appeared to be just barely holding on. "Shit," Tessa ran over and grabbed Cordoza as she wobbled in place, helping the older woman lie down, "I got here too late, I'm sorry." "No," Cordoza shook her head, "You're here now, that's enough." She reached up and grabbed Tessa's hand, gripping it tightly. "Don't... don't let it happen, please. Don't let what she said happen to Forsthaven. I know it's still out there... and I can't do anything else for it, but..." Cordoza began coughing up blood as she closed her eyes. "Tell your leader... tell Joseph Tynes... it's in his hands now. A city is not in its building, it's in its people. The Forsthaven people are now his responsibility. Tell him that, please," the dying woman begged. Tessa nodded, already feeling the warmth draining from Cordoza's grip. "I will," Tessa nodded. Cordoza weakly smiled, her breathing ragged and shallow now. "Thank you." With that, she passed, leaving Tessa alone in the misty void. The Norkotian girl stood up, sighing as she removed the knife from Valerie's body, then approached Lalya's corpse to recover the gun. She paused a moment over the body though, staring down at the pathetic headless heap with contempt. "This morning, I didn't know what I was fighting for," she said aloud, though no one alive was there to hear, "But... now I know what I'm fighting against." She recovered the pistol and shoved it in her belt, then looked around. There was nothing but fog in every direction though, fog and the disturbingly smooth stone ground. With no sun, nor any other way to tell what direction was what, she realized she just had to pick a direction at random. After finally picking one, she set out on a journey that she wasn't sure had an end to it. If this was what was left of the city after the flash, then who knew how long she'd have to wonder directionlessly before she escaped it. Who even knew if Tynes and the rest of the Norkotians were even alive? She had to hope they were, and that this place, whatever it was, had an end... somewhere. But as she set out, she realized that this place was not just some little patch of anomalous landscape. On the contrary, it was huge, and it seemed to go on forever. Hours went by, and darkness began to descend on the misty void. The damp chill in the air easily penetrated through Tessa's lightweight desert uniform, leaving her shivering and rubbing her arms as she walked on and on. Then came a moment of hope; a blurry light somewhere up ahead. Feeling a surge of energy, she picked up the pace and hurried toward it, soon perceiving the sound of voices around what appeared to be a small campfire. Unfortunately, whatever momentary joy she felt at finding warmth and humanity in this desolate wasteland was quickly washed away as she came within sight of the fire. The men that surrounded it were not soldiers, nor even Forsthaven militiamen, but rather a small group of three mercenaries that looked very much like the type of thugs the Tin Man had shown up in town using. "Shit!" Tessa hissed, skidding to a halt, but a moment too late. "Hey! Lookie here, mates!" one of the mercenaries perked up. "It's a girl!" another exclaimed. "Heh-heh, com're sweetheart!" the third grinned, rising to his feet. Not having time to turn and run, but also not desiring to leave the vicinity of a warm fire, as small and pathetic as this one was, Tessa did the only thing she could do; she raised her gun to blow the three thugs away. Before she could fire though, a fourth merc suddenly burst out of the fog with a machete in hand, swinging for her arms. Tessa was forced to duck back to avoid being disarmed in a far to literal fashion. The machete man's swing had exposed him though, and Tessa fired a bullet straight through his chest, which was now right in front of her barrel. Unfortunately, the distraction caused by that merc had given the other three plenty of time to rush Tessa and overpower her. Even with her martial arts expertise, three men holding her down was just too much for Tessa. Ten minutes later, she was sitting by the fire, her hands and legs bound with crude cords, listening to the three surviving mercs arguing over who got to ravish her first. They didn't seem to care a single iota for the fourth man that had been shot, but that was to be expected from this sort of scum. In fact, they didn't even move him from the place he fell, and Tessa occasionally glanced back at the corpse and the machete that lie beside it. After about a half-hour of arguing, shoving, and even a little fighting, the three goons had still not made a decision on who got to go first. Night had fallen fully, and the darkness was darker than any darkness Tessa had ever seen before. Being a city girl, she was used to the night being lit-up by street lamps and neon signs, but there was nothing of the sort here. But the silent stillness, interrupted only by distant rumbles of thunder from the storm that not seemed quite far away, was far more disturbing. As the three tussled on the far side of the fire from Tessa, the sound of footsteps could be heard approaching the camp. The thugs didn't seem to notice, but Tessa didn't call attention to it, hoping the newcomers would be hostile to the trio. Her heart sank when several more Tin Man mercs stepped into the light, their visible arrival finally prompting the three goons to stop fighting. "Hey, took you guys long enough!" the first mercenary snapped at the new arrivals, "But the girl is ours, don't even think about it." "Mine you mean!" the second mercenary immediately tried to restart the argument. "Don't you start that up again! We still- hey!" the first mercenary tried to shut up his comrade, before he felt one of the newly arrived mercs put a hand on his shoulder and start digging into it with his fingers, "What are you doing?!?" The mercenary took a single step back, which drew the man grabbing him into the firelight just enough that he could make out the details of the attacker's face. It was at this point that Tessa could first perceive that something was very wrong with the newly arrived mercs. Their bodies were convulsing unnaturally, and their heads seemed unable to stop from twitching too and fro. They didn't make any noise, not words, nor screams nor moans, just dead silence save the ruffling of their clothes. "Wha--AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!" the first mercenary exploded into wails of agony, as his arm was suddenly torn from his torso at the shoulder. Not daring to sit still and watch a second longer, Tessa jumped up and hopped her way over the dead man and his machete. She could barely see where she was going, the firelight not extending out this far. But she knew by memory where it was, and feeling around on the ground eventually produced the tool she needed. Behind her, she could hear the three mercenaries screaming and trying to fight, as the new arrivals wordlessly began to tear them apart. Under the shadow of this new danger, it felt to Tessa like it took forever to position the machete and get the cords cut. But at long last, her hands were freed, and it proved much easier to cut her feet loose after that. Only then did she finally look up again to see what was happening. It wasn't pretty. One of the mercs was already in so many pieces that Tessa wasn't sure where he was anymore. The second was screaming and wailing, but had already had all his limbs torn off and was now having his innards pulled out before his eyes. The last one, still on his feet, had a pistol in his hand, one of the two that Tessa had been carrying actually, and was trying to back away while shooting at the attackers. However, he tripped and fell into the fire, accidentally flinging the gun over his head, and catching fire himself soon after. Staying as low as she could to avoid detection, Tessa quickly scrambled for the gun, which had landed not far from her. At the same time though, she watched as the mercenary stood up, the fire rapidly overtaking his clothes and immolating him alive. Much to her surprise though, the monstrous attackers shied away from him, seemingly adverse to the flames engulfing his body. Using that to her advantage, she finally found the pistol, stood up and took aim. With some well placed shots, she dropped each of the attacks in-turn, before running out of bullets just as she reached the last enemy. That enemy had now noticed her, but she moved to keep the fire between her and it. The thing seemed completely unwilling to just go through the fire, and kept trying to move around it. Using that to her advantage, she pivoted around until she was able to find a new weapon, this one being an assault rifle that had been dropped by one of the now dead mercenaries. Once she had that in hand, killing the last one was an easy affair. She planned then to try to drag as many of the bodies away from the fire as possible and spend the night there, as there was nowhere better to be in a place like this. But that illusion was shattered almost as soon as it was formed. The deranged mercenaries, which had seemed dead at first, once again began to stir. Tessa tried to shoot them down again, but that was once again only temporary, and she knew she didn't have many bullets left. After desperately picking whatever gear and weapons she could from amidst the viscera, she sprinted off into the black flog... The demonic mercenaries did not catch up with her that night, despite her worst fears. However, she soon realized something else was stalking her in the mist. The attacks came quickly and suddenly, and she barely evaded them when they came. A strange mass of dark, iridescent material, with no consistent shape or form, covered in greenish eyes that seemed to form and then dissipate continuously, was all Tessa could describe it as. When its tentacles would lash out, the tips would seem to harden into claws, which tore at her clothing and flesh. Bullets seemed useless against it, and only fire could ward it off. Eventually, during the course of the second day, the possessed mercenaries found her again. It was then that she finally concluded that they were indeed possessed. A black ooze, not unlike that of the blob monster, was oozing out of every part of their bodies. No doubt it was related to the blob monster, and that explained why they both feared fire so much. With each encounter, Tessa's defenses lessened bit by bit. The rifle ran out of bullets, and was eventually torn apart, the barrel becoming a torch for Tessa to use in warding off the attacks. Whatever other weapons she had left were lost or rendered useless one-by-one. Her field rations dwindled, her water supply was now gone, and soon she had nothing left but the broken rifle barrel. At long last, as the second day neared its end, Tessa heard the sound of an aircraft flying overhead. It was then that the last, and worst attack came, and she only got away by shoving her cigarette lighter (she didn't smoke, but this was a standard-issue piece of equipment for soldiers) into one of the eyes of the blob creature, and barely limping away with a severe gash in her leg. Then, with her blood running freely as she tried to put distance between her and the monster, and with no means left with which to fight it, Tessa finally spotted the shape of a vehicle in the distance...
  13. Realizing that there was no reason to believe that they had dislodged whatever was on the roof, Mara expected that whatever it was would soon come clawing its way toward the cockpit. But nothing of the sort happened, and the issue of the fog soon seemed to take precedence in Zack and Jerry's minds. Certainly it was worrisome, but Mara kept a hand on her revolver, mind still on the thing that likely was just holding on for dear life now. However, when the massive, flat block of dark-colored rock emerged from the fog, Mara narrowed her eyes and realized there was definitely something going on here. While most Tears were small, and usually only leaked in the mysterious Tear-Energy that gave Meta's (and certain high-tech weapons) their power, it was certainly not unheard of for trinkets, animals, people and even things like mountains and entire biomes to come across the void from another world into this one. There were numerous points of interest dotting this world's landscape that had originated from a Tear at some point in the increasingly long history of the post-Breach world. Mara was about to suggest that they avoid this mass, when Zack echoed her sentiment. Unfortunately, as Jerry noted in response, they had little choice, what with their fuel now rapidly declining. Landing on an alien block of onyx was still a better risk than plummeting straight down to certain doom below. And so they landed, with Mara removing her seat straps just as the ship was touching down. She pulled her revolver out, expecting that the entity on the roof would likely be on the move now that it no longer had to fear being thrown off. She had just passed Zack and begun to grip the door handle, when Zack and the pilot's conversation took a unexpected turn. "That was you??" Mara put a hand over her mouth, trying to suppress a girlish giggle at the thought. "Damn, Zack... now I'm not sure what to do with you after we're done here. Do I buy you a drink, or retire on your bounty?" Mara chuckled, cocking her head in a playful manner as she often did, her tone of voice indicating she wasn't serious about the latter implication, "I'll have to think about that one." She paused after that though, the smile slowly fading from her lips as she noticed the blue fog overtaking the cockpit, and with the vehicle off, the surprising absence of sound of any kind. Even the rain and thunder were like distant echoes far away, even though they had not left the locality of the storm. "I don't like this place, but if we must proceed on foot, then we must. That thing from before might still be out there, and there's no telling what else could be lurking in that fog. Stay close and don't lose sight of each-other. If any of the weapons from the Tin Man's goons are still somehow in the bay after all that maneuvering, then arm yourself quickly, pilot." Turning around, she slowly drew open the cockpit door, weapon in hand, expecting something to already be waiting for them on the other side...
  14. More of Zack's work, just some fun little drawings he did which I colored:
  15. Mara allowed Zack enough time to brace himself, and the pilot enough time to consider what he was doing. Once she felt satisfied those two were in-place, the only two things she needed was to make sure they weren't about to fly into a giant pile of falling debris, and she wanted the thing on the roof to be moving. There was a better chance of dislodging it if it potentially had one less hand, paw, tentacle, or whatever, making contact to the metal surface. "Steady..." she hissed. They were in a clear zone, at least for the next few seconds, though that was something that could change awful fast. And so she waited a moment longer, until she heard one step, then another, atop the airship. "Now!"
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