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  1. Argi was almost prepared to collapse. He hadn't eaten properly in... what, a week? Since arriving in Casper, he had quickly realised that the only meals one could find within the city were ones that you could pay for - whether paying for the whole service or just ingredients - and he had run out of money soon enough, though he hadn't had much left by the time he got here anyway. While the possibility of work had crossed his mind, he realised there was no time to try and find it - he had to warn everyone of the danger in Dougton. So, he had. Day in, day out, Argi had gone from the 'shantytown' in which he had made himself resident, to the 'train station' that lay at the city's heart. He knew Ignatz to possess a similar hub of transport, and indeed, from what he had briefly read of the map, it seemed the two were connected. Either way, he knew many travellers would pass through it, and he had hoped at least some had skill enough with sword or spell, and an understanding of the situation's urgency, as to convince them to join in his quest. It... hadn't gone well. Some were simply dismissive. The military were dealing with it. If it was such a big threat, wouldn't we have been told? How much do you pay anyway? Ultimately the frustration became too much each evening, and the young man from the mountains retreated to the broken shelter of an overturned boat, both to bawl his eyes out, and to then get some sleep. A few times he had been awoken from it. Once by a friendly face warning him that the city police - responsible for enforcing law and order in the urban area - had been searching for him, thinking he had committed murder in Dougton. That night he found a different wreck to hide in. A few days later, having enjoyed the luxury of a corner that didn't pool with rain water - he was awoken to find someone trying to steal the boots off his feet, at which point he panicked and likely caved in their nose with his heel. It was back to the first boat after that. Then to the station again, with the increasingly decayed remnants of the Enrele he had procured. More and more he felt like the crazed individual he was aware that the people here saw him as. Vaguely, he had a feeling that someone, somewhere, had said that the definition of insanity was to try something over and over again, to somehow expect different results. So what a relief then, however strange it should be, that someone actually talked to him. More than one, even. Some perhaps were motivated by the sheer novelty of it all; maybe thinking him some overly dramatic storyteller, more than someone with a true fear upon his mind. There were however those that lingered. A few faces perhaps proving familiar, even. Though still somewhat set to collapse, Argi's confidence had grown considerably. People were listening. Ready to join him in this fight, when all he had to offer was the opportunity itself. Even without food in his stomach, or clean clothes, he was half-prepared to leap right from the crate had used as a podium, and rush right back to Dougton with this small force! But another came. One that extended a piece of parchment to him. There was an awkward moment as he was forced to explain that he was still working on being able to speak Terran, and even moreso read it. So the messenger - revealed to be a child as they spoke - told him simply that he, and any others present, should come to the 'Wyrm's Bane', before they departed. What might have otherwise been an hours long search for some pub or vessel by the name was cut rather drastically short by Argi's revelation that he had, in fact, seen that ship - and it was a ship, which he had come to know as how Terrans ascribed very large boats - every day for the last several days. It was, as he would show to his entourage, a junked vessel that had sat along the coast of the shantytown in which he had been living; how long, he obviously was uninformed enough as to know. But with its name emblazoned across the side - if missing a few letters, presumably having fallen somewhere into the water below - its identity was unmistakable. Further, Argi and any others would quickly realise, the lights were on. At least, in one part of the ship they are. That was enough to convince Argi, reduced to carrying the parasite's corpse in a bag he had salvaged from the area, to step aboard. Through halls that were caked in dust, coated in cobwebs, and browned by rust - or perhaps mould - the man from the mountains walked, until arriving at a large, open room, in which they was arranged a vast table, and around it, several more that had been waiting for seemingly quite a while. Argi could see one person in particular sat at the table that had an... air around her, which he quickly took to mean that this had all been at her arrangement. "Are you... here about the Enrele?" He asked first, just to make sure that no-one had gotten lost in coming here, before he quite simply spilled out the parasite - what little was left of it - upon the table. Its sacs had burst, and its stingers chipped, but still seeing it like this unnerved the very man that had brought it here. Not sure it wouldn't somehow just pop up from the table and attack. "Because I fight them. Going to fight Aleth. Promised the children in Dougton." Argi made his simple declaration, and waited to hear what the response would be...
  2. @Dolor Aeternum It hadn't taken long for Violeta to sign on, once given the proper validation and reviewing of safety protocol. Ilyana had yet to sign, and it was without delay, nor surprise that she was insistent on becoming a thorn in the science departments side. Still, she had all right to request review of Patton's work before finalizing anything. The rendezvous was set to the date, and it was on this afternoon in Casper that Elizabeth had prepared for. She had been working at Ventrix Industries tirelessly since, finishing a catalyst that would work hand in hand with the use of arcane resonance. The product, termed for distribution as 'Amp' had been rushed, indefinitely, but was essential to progress at this point. Liz had prepared a few samples to showcase for Ilyana, and tapped her fingers at her desk nervously as she waited for word of Ilyana's arrival. This uneasiness wasn't without merit. Anyone worth their salt in the business world around these parts had heard about T.R.I, about Ms. Sevryn. The information Liz had gathered on her new benefactors was rather off putting, not alarming by any means, but intriguing nonetheless. Patton's primary funding for her research outside of Ventrix Industries had been provided by rather questionable sources, P.M.C's, alchemists, and those of darker practice. Practice which she was all to familiar with herself, and if brought to light, would ruin her reputation. Still, the two had more to gain from each other than not, or so Liz hoped. She had written up a non-disclosure agreement and left it with the receptionist, to be signed when Ilyana arrived, and told her to send Sevryn in when she got there. Patton had insisted that they tour the 'entire' lab as she had put it, prepared to put it all on the line and possibly come to an understanding with Ilyana; to be totally upfront and break the ice. Liz sat crossed at her desk, a seat across from her awaiting Ilyana, and another presumably for her bodyguard.
  3. Casper Port, Hospital District Central Terrenus 597, Modern Era It was almost sunset. Golden orange flooded the Casperian sky as seagulls and crows alike cawed and cooed; the city inhabitants starting to wind down and close shop for the day. As the unsuspecting civilians went about their business, a lone luxury steam-car rolled its way through the hospital district. In it was the driver and two passengers who sat facing opposite each other. The first was a red-headed woman, dressed in a bespoke top and pants fitting of a woman of her station. There was no time for dresses, corsets or makeup. This day, this night, would be all business and wearing feminine clothing would not help her this evening. Her name was Violeta Ventrix. Adopted daughter to Giuseppe Ventrix, adopted sister to Veronica Ventrix and the current scion of the Ventrix family. If she played her cards right, the Ventrix family would regain control of Ventrix industries once again. Taking her eyes off the passing scenery, her gaze turned towards the male brunette sitting opposite her. His bespectacled man's eyes were closed, but she knew he wasn't asleep. He was merely resting his eyes while keeping his other senses heightened for any danger that might approach. The spectacles were also a ruse. He wasn't visually impaired in any way, but he claimed that doing so would make any attackers underestimate him if they succeeded in knocking his glasses off. He was... weird in that way. But that didn't make him any less of a capable bodyguard. Gustav Guillemard was his name. Tall, youthful, cool as a cucumber and armed to the teeth. Violeta couldn't help but blush as she surveilled his toned and sharp facial features. Ever since she hired him, he kept to himself and never opened up about his past or how he acquired his skills. But it didn't matter at the time. She had seen first hand his prowess in battle and she wasn't going to waste a precious resource such as him. If he wasn't her bodyguard, she wouldn't have minded taking him in as part of the Ventrix family... but that matter would be settled another time. "We're almost at the headquarters, Miss Violeta." The chauffeur announced. "Where would you like for me to wait for you?" "It's alright Sebastian. You may go home to your family after this." Violeta replied, a gentle smile gracing her lips. "I'm afraid Gustav and I may be held up at headquarters longer than I suspect. If your services are needed, I'll call for you." "As you wish Miss Violeta." The chauffeur nodded. "You think they'll listen to you?" Gustav piped up, his steely gaze piercing right into the red-head's soul. And Violeta gazed right back at him. "You mean the old coots?" Violeta quirked a brow. "They'll listen. But I hardly think they'll be willing to give up their shares to me willingly. Whatever little of them that father passed to Veronica are now legally transferred to me. It may not be much, but at least it entitles me a seat on the board of directors. Now that the bastard Vincent is gone, I'll have to make sure the company is brought into the fold. I owe that to father, at the very least." The bodyguard took off his glasses and cleaned them absent-midedly. "There'll be chaos, you know. Everyone will try to vie for Vincent's seat. But if none of them can come to an agreement, they'll try to push the company to go public." "You don't think I know that?" She replied, biting her thumb. "That's the worst case scenario. Going public will allow them to cash their investment and run with the profits. They'll bankrupt Ventrix industries and the Ventrix family will be the owner of nothing more than a shell of what it was... with majority shares controlled by people we don't know. But I will prevent that from happening. They think with my father dead and Veronica currently indisposed that they can do whatever they want. But my existence will throw a wrench in their plans. The red head smirked. "They'll panic and try to stop me from gaining control. The decision making process will take weeks. If I can gather majority shares compared to all of them combined, they'll have no choice but to do whatever I say. But the more shares I gain, the bigger the target on my back. I'll need you more than ever, Gustav." "I need to know... " Leaning forwards slightly with a pleading expression on her face, she took the bodyguard's hand in hers. "You'll be going into this with both eyes open. Once started, there is no going back. Are you prepared to go all the way with me, Gustav?" The brunette looked down at the woman. This strong, fiery, independent lady, baring her request with heartfelt emotion and conviction. It was rare that she show this side of her to him. Then again, this was the reason why he took up the job in the first place. Violeta was an interesting woman, and perhaps tonight would be more interesting than all other nights of his past combined. A small smile teased at the corner of his lips as he leant forward, his face almost upon hers as she blushed at his sudden act. "Yes." He replied with equal conviction. "Yes, I am prepared to go all the way... my good mistress Ventrix." Violeta smiled. "Good. I knew I could count on you, Gustav. When all this is over, lets go on vacation. I think it'll be a welcome change of pace don't you think?" The bodyguard chuckled as he placed his glasses back on. "Yes, I'm sure it will be." The luxury steam-car turned and passed through the gates of the Ventrix headquarters, stopping at the building's entrance. Both individuals exited the vehicle and stepped in front of the massive, victorian-esque doors. Standing side by side, heiress and bodyguard turned to look at each other. "Ready?" Violeta asked, and Gustav nodded. "Ready when you are, Miss Ventrix."
  4. ✦ At this point, it'd been already clear that Raine was not a fan of bustling markets and persuasive shopkeepers. But here she was, drenched in the docks of Casper, sitting beside a seagull who had been kind enough to offer her a bit of company as she shivered from the cold. Her garments were soaking with seawater and the scent of salt, grimacing as she removed a piece of kelp from inside her shirt. Her robe blanketed the moss-greased dock, sticking to the muck and painting the white cloth with a gracious mix of brown and green like a horrible palette. With a look of exhaustion, she hugged her now ruined boots and looked straight ahead, a blank stare spacing off into the coastal view alongside the seagull that pecked at her clothes. Needless to say, she needed a break. Merlin was taking one; after he fainted and Raine crashed head-first into the ocean. Though it was a good thing he fainted when land was spotted, lest she be doomed by sea creatures that lurk down in the deep. A wand materializes in her left hand, flicking it and watched as her magic squeezed out it's last drops before exhaling it's last breath. An offended 'ah!' escapes her, and she pouts down at the wand in her hand. Of course. Raine flicked her wrist once more and the wand dissipated into stardust, surprising the seagull. Then - her pouch took shape in her right, and stuck half of her arm inside. She pulls out the last mana potion and looks at it—hesitates for a moment—then sighing, pulled out the cork and downed the vial without a second thought. The liquid was sharp—unpleasant until you get used to it, like incredibly bitter, incredibly cold mint sliding down your throat as you feel your lungs coat in layers upon layers of frost. But, each potion are crafted exceptionally different, and it just so happens that Raine had bought a nasty one. The effect is almost immediate, her ice-bitten eyes humming blue in response to the influx of magic absorbed in her body, fuming a nebula-like form of gas that got expelled in a brief burp. The seagull snapped it's neck and glanced up at Raine, with a twitching beak and a fluffy heaving chest. She glanced back and a silence between them was exchanged. It wasn't a few seconds later that Raine slid the empty vial in her pouch and shooed the bird away. ―――――――――――――――――――――–– "Now, how bout I give ya a discount fer' the dress?" "Ah, uh?" Raine stumbles and tilts her head from the proposition made by the elderly woman, her previous clothes folded into a wet mess as she glanced at herself in the mirror. Her skirt was parted in the center, revealing a pair of black shorts and her ruined leather boots. "A dis—count?" Her face wrinkled in a hearty laugh. "Yes, yes! Just pay me half, darlin'. Ya prob'ly caught a cold, eh?" A new dress and robe! Murmur shall be so pleased to hear about it. A child-like glee escaped her as she left the tailor shop, waving goodbye after the witch had gifted the hag a glass flower in return for her generosity. Raine smiled under her hood, happily walking down the street as if she were stepping on clouds under the cloudless sky. She doesn't get to enjoy this sort of peaceful moment every now and then when there isn't something, someone pouncing at her neck. Quite frankly, she's fortunate enough not to be hunted down by a witch hunter, assuming if they're still out there looking for hags to burn. Nonetheless, she continued her carefree adventures around the town of Casper. She looked at flowers and watched seagulls, taking in the fresh coastal air while a skirt chased behind her legs. Her delicate hand pulled on the robes, gusts of cold wind picked up from the ocean breezing past her. It was the first time that she's ever come to Casper, awed by the cultural differences of her own hometown. Though she had intended to look for a bakery, it would seem that fate had other plans. Raine passes by a corner, and skids to a halt. A group of people have crowded at a sight she herself cannot see. At first, she is uneasy—overcome by a sense of curiosity yet overcome by a sense of anxiety. She stands there—undecided—until her legs had begun to move on their own. As the people whisper and murmur, the robed woman tip-toes and looks through the gaps of bodies that hide the gruesome truth. Perhaps it would be better if she hadn't tried to look. @vielle
  5. "You want me to go where?" "We want you to go to the Full Deck and do a full and thorough investigation of the vessel. The military sucks at its job." "So lemme get this straight. You're going to pay me to gamble and fuck whores?" "Look Richard, I'm not telling you to go gamble and fuck whores. I'm just saying, go do a thorough investigation, explore every option, leave no stone unturned. If you end up gambling and sleeping with some guys and gals in the process of your investigation, so be it." Richard's head cants to the left as he looks at the F.I.S.T. director, about an inch and half of messy dirty blonde hair flops to the side. "Look, that last job was carried out by that cat who is a peacekeeper now. I don't know what you think I'll find." Richard is met with a dismissive shrug from the director. "Nothing good comes from Last Chance. Nothing good comes from gambling or prostitutes. It isn't a question of if they are dirty, the question is how dirty. Can we clean it up with a dustpan or do we need bleach? I don't know why you're arguing with me. If you don't find anything what's the worst that happens? You got paid to have a good time." Rolling his head back, Richard leans back into his chair to stare at the ceiling fan. Reaching into the inner breast pocket of his coat, he pulls out a cigarette from a silver cigarette case and a matte black lighter. Placing one in his mouth and using the other to light it, he takes a few puffs before finally looking back at the director. "You're right. I shouldn't be bitchin' about a good time." Pocketing the lighter as he stands, he walks a few feet past the director before coming to a stop. "You bought me a ticket, yeah?" "No. Buy your own, we will reimburse you for it later after you file a claim." The director responds, while turning to face the agent. Before Richard has a chance to protest the director ushers him out of the door of the F.I.S.T. regional field office. "Stay out of trouble, Richard." Approaching the dock a few hours later, Richard negotiates the throngs of people lining up to board the Full Deck. His trek ends at the ticket booth where a handful of tin pieces and a marked silver piece are traded. "Thanks doll." The comments made in parting. The depthless apertures of his eyes dilate, causing the bleak voids to overtake the brown irises allowing him to fully ingest his surroundings. There is a bachelorette party, a few businessmen, a lot of geriatrics, and about a half dozen other people that he can't place into any specific group. The spread doesn't surprise him and is by all accounts unremarkable. But, truth be told, a good front should be indistinguishable from a legitimate business. Crossing the brow onto the main deck he immediately parts from the herd, and works his way to the aft of the vessel. Upon reaching the stern he leans into the bulwark and peers into Casper proper. The city is haloed by noon light, but just past its limits the obvious signs of a stormfront can be seen. "Well, it'll either be gorgeous sailing or a vomit storm." His own comment gets his brain firing as he suddenly realizes he's never been on a vessel before. Shit, do I get seasick? Guess there is only one way to find out. As the last passenger boards, the gangway is raised and the Full Deck's propellers begin to churn up water. Within seconds the vessel begins to push off from the docks and then turns southeast to head out into the bay. Taking just a moment to appreciate the grandeur of the casino ship, Richard eventually pushes off from the railing to head into the gambling hall. It's time to finally earn his pay.
  6. We're heading in. All medical aircraft, report. HGS Asclepius, reporting in. All systems are green. We are en route to the rally point, over. This is HGS Semmelweis. reporting. Our board is green. We are also proceeding to the rally point, over. HGS Jenner, reporting. We are as green as Gaia's gift and Oscar Mike to the rally point, over. This is HGS Glasmann. HGS Asclepius, HGS Semmelweis, and HGS Jenner, standby for landing. Autonomous security units have established a secure perimeter for you to commence work on Biohazard Level 4 Research and Treatment Facilities. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT deploy personnel or reclaim materials from the site. You are only inserting autonomous labor units. Do not proceed to stage two without clearance. I repeat, do not proceed to stage two without clearance. All medical aircraft, acknowledge. HGS Asclepius acknowledges. HGS Semmelweis acknowledges. HGS Jenner acknowledges. HGS Glasmann confirms. Stay safe, over. Approximately 5,760 kilometers divide the City of Casper from the City of Hell's Gate. For reference, that distance is roughly half of the span of Terrenus (tracing parallels or meridians). In an era of growing uncertainty, in a once prosperous land now fraught with peril and despair, the majority insulated themselves from the cursed miasma twilight unleashed. Shut within their unassailable spires, soldiers held vigil as the parade of lights on the horizon died away. Darkness besieged the people of Terrenus, and the bulk of the population seemed content to deny that the evil which so rigorously erased their neighbors would ever pose a threat to their omnipotent city-states. Our city is a cut above the rest, they protest. Our guardians are invincible. Our technology is a miracle. Our gods will alight on our battlements to protect us, just wait and see! Just wait and see... Scarce were those who would forsake the relative safety and comfort of their homes to challenge the powers of the void. A gallant few stood tall, and as they fell, one-by-one, sovereigns, roused from eternal slumber by a dying prayer, gathered to grant their hearts' desire. In memory of deceased, they pledged they would restore peace to these embattled lands or else perish in the attempt. Gaps had formed in the line heroes held. Cracks spiderwebbed across radiant stars, and they crumbled into sublime powder mingled with blood-soaked earth. Inner turmoil, avarice and pride, had set their kindred against them. Bewitched by corrupted source, iniquity seized their holdfast and eroded the foundation which empowered their works. All would soon be lost if the operations of the void and the Wyrm were not disrupted, yet the vessels of light and the awakened sovereigns were tidily segregated by artificial boundaries into petty organizations vying for power and prestige. So it was that the cities of Terrenus had become city-states, lending nominal aid to one another to sustain the overinflated egos of charlatans turned prince or captain of industry. Undaunted by the obstacles awaiting along its path, House Glasmann mobilized with the sole purpose of providing much needed succor to the denizens of Casper. Never before had House Glasmann taken such an active role in disaster response or military matters. Historically, House Glasmann was reclusive and elitist but dependable when tasked with a mission. Sure, the products they released were revolutionary and reasonably priced - their product lines, ranging from standard "Medical Slough." a compact, imperishable healing paste, and robotic surgical suites to custom living prosthetics, including vital organs, and intricate vitrification tanks, were incredible, but House Glasmann... House Glasmann was almost completely detached from the people of Terrenus. Friends of the Glasmann family within Hell's Gate only knew Lord and Lady Glasmann by name. Servants of the Glasmann family were born, lived, and presumably died on the Glasmann estate - every single member of their personal staff was born into a family that had dutifully served House Glasmann for centuries. The media and the military had no information on the contemporary Lord or Lady Glasmann. On the rare occasions that the family would entertain guests, they were always eccentric sorts, and no guest visited the household more than once per generation. The Glasmanns were odd ducks, to say the least, and the public at large had no clue what they ought to think about the nondescript geniuses who, at times, quietly donated their products and expertise to save strangers' lives when they had nowhere else to turn. The Glasmanns were an enigma; they would sometimes respond to written correspondence, but their letters were always formal and impersonal. Only the downtrodden workers of Hell's Gate who swallowed their pride and accepted the charity of others knew of House Glasmann's pet projects, the high-tech farms silently sprouting up in formerly abandoned warehouses within different sectors of Hell's Gate that donated all of their produce and a number of the fish they reared in order to maintain their meticulously-regulated microhabitats to the economically disadvantaged and the pro bono shuttle service that transported the very same segment of the population to a free, state-of-the-art clinic owned by House Glasmann. To most, House Glasmann is a legend; it remained so obscure for such a long duration of time, in fact, that no one even thought to enlist its help in combating the plague that hit Hell's Gate in recent days. That all changed when Caeceila came of age. Like her parents, Caeceila Glasmann very nearly had no history. There was a record of her birth generated by House Glasmann's personal doctor. There were records of her inoculations, though those were generated by, you guessed it, another doctor on House Glasmann's payroll. Aside from that documentation, Caeceila Glasmann didn't exist. She didn't exist until about a month before that fateful day she resolved to crash the Red Festival and avenge the innocent blood that the fledgling Legion of Doom and the Terrenus Military had spilled. When the Terrenus Military attempted to condition Caeceila as a military asset, she repeatedly refused to engage their psychic specialist in combat, heavily implying that she would have wiped it from reality had she struck it in her rage. She is classified as a "military contractor," though she doesn't respect the chain of command and would be a vocal critic of several of the Terrenus Military's practices if anyone cared to listen to her opinions (almost nobody does). Central reports that she has assembled a private army in Hell's Gate, and her ruthless, if not wholeheartedly demented, brand of heroism connotes she has every intention of applying it to external and internal conflicts without the consent of the military officials. All this considered, it would be alarming to witness the fleet of House Glasmann airships converging on Casper if House Glasmann hadn't been expressly invited to the city by command to develop a vaccine against the plague, cure infected patients within the desolate city, and provide medical and general humanitarian relief to all persons within the City of Casper. The lightweight alloy plating the oversized transports, dedicated medical craft escorted by a nimble manned fighter squadron and dozens of small, unmanned drones, scintillate gloriously in the light of the morning sun. In contrast to the muddy wreckage resting on the earth, the presence of the lustrous celestial giants is a vow that normalcy shall be restored. Unperturbed by the wind, massive metal pods ejected by the fleet rain from the skies, guided by golden beams of energy projected by eyelike orbs. Within thirty seconds of the final impact, swarms of orbs and remotely manipulated cubes wrench the containers open, extracting sterile packets of material and loading them into orbs with emerald irises. The cubes assemble and load themselves into collapsible heavy construction equipment. Orbs with crimson irises weld metal joints with immense precision, some toggling the color of their irises a fraction of a second after their jobs are complete and rendezvousing with teams of orbs completing other work. The emerald eyes dispense layer after layer of material, zooming along preset paths as they print walls and flooring to match the shielded, prefabricated modules golden eyes cart down from the HGS Semmelweis. By midday, in just under four hours, the clean facility, while by no means complete, has been tested for contaminants and is ready for all House Glasmann vessels to dock. Autonomous security teams, patrolling mazes of concertina wire and dragon's teeth they erected hours before, ward off interlopers without exception. Whether visitors are citizens, civilians, active military members, or representatives of the associated press makes no difference. While the silvery humanoid robots and the spidery artillery units are, in a phrase, intimidating by design, they are slow to resort to violence. After a machine issue a verbal warning to troublemakers attempting to breach the perimeter, an operator assumes control of the unit and politely asks the perpetrator to be patient for just a little longer while Glasmann Cryonics finishes setting up. Only one person is forcibly ejected before the facility, which is still under construction, opens to individuals in need of urgent care. The triage center opens at this time as well, admitting persons who require medical services unrelated to the plague such as treatment of a new or preexisting medical condition. Oddly, military officials are not allowed on site at this point unless they fall into one of the two categories listed above. The explanations offered to military personnel who do not insist on speaking to Caeceila Glasmann directly always involve plague carriers and the possibility of inadvertent contamination of sterile equipment.
  7. Those Left Behind "How eagerly commerce makes use of the waste That falls from the furnace or mill in its haste. And fortunes are wrung from the smallest of things That once were ignored, turning men into kings." - Edwin Leibfreed, The Ragman The city never stops. Not for us. Thousands dead now; We roll the bodies out in stacks a dozen high. The incinerators burn day and night, pouring black smoke into the air around the shipping district. Casper's population is withering, and the survivors drift through the streets in the oppressive silence of grief. But still she goes rolling along. Those millenary of lives, even piled one atop the other in grotesque masses, do not tip the scales of priority against her bloated cult of commerce and industry. Three wretched months have passed since the first signs of plague surfaced in the tenement blocks near the wharf. The Phoenix Regent's quarantine came a week later, and though well-meaning, turned the streets closest to Paul's hospital into an incubator for the disease. All his best researchers still had no explanation for the epidemic, much less a cure. And so the city moved on, civil servants scrambling to come up with a plan to adapt and continue business as usual, plague or no. One of the measures had been to commission an Emergency Support unit -- a pretty name for the two hundred or so untrained, ragtag personnel they marshaled and assigned petty tasks to help manage the daily operations of containing the epidemic. Another, the mass distribution of anti-pathogenic masks to the three million surviving residents that still lived in high-risk areas. Press releases sent across the continent urged its trade allies not to break off the free exchange of goods between them and painted optimistic fables of an end to this plague dawning close on the horizon. The military dedicated manpower to bolstering the protection of the vulnerable city, and sent small, elite groups on missions to put an end to this public health crisis. Amidst this push for normalcy from city authorities, the rank and file citizens did not have the luxury of surrendering their lives to the disruption. They were expected to suit up, dry their eyes, and get back to work.
  8. Sorbin stood in the center of Casper, gazing around him. Now where would I go in order to find a place where I might ply my trade, and perhaps rise in prestige in a well-respected organization?
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