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  1. The accommodations were mostly clean and practical, as Hana might have expected of her military companion. It was in a nondescript district of Palgard, close enough to the center, but far enough to be free of distractions. The working desk, however, was strewn with papers. “These are pages I’ve printed from our databases,” Delistair said. “Information about the Abysswalkers, and more interestingly, about the tower.” He pulled up a thin stack with pictures and data that would not be too difficult to obtain - information such as general dimensions, specifications, and other sorts of data required by the government. Del flipped to the next page, with a list of names and companies. “The tower is supposed to be owned by a private enterprise, a company that supplies parts for offensive and defensive systems. We are also among its clientele.” “Naturally, we should have information about those we work with, right? Especially its leader? But surprisingly, there is very little information about its Direktor. No photos, no descriptions, nothing. That seems strange to me.” Without waiting for a reply to his rhetorical question, he reached for another piece of paper. “And this,” he took a breath, then passed it to Hana. “It was an encrypted message, but I managed to decipher it. It’s an invoice for government-controlled materials. The address - it’s sent from the tower. They’re selling illegal materials. The place it’s addressed to..” He looked at Hana, his expression unreadable. “That’s the village I was raised in. It doesn’t exist anymore.” @spacegy4
  2. Heroes and Villains Episode 1 A City Abandoned [Jake "Skylord" Evans begins to talk] For years the city of Palgard has been plagued by anarchy. What is left of its government and city officials are corrupt, their every move determined by the wills and desires of the factions which rule the city. During the day it is almost as if Palgard is a normal city. Men and women go to work. Children go to school. People buy and sell, talk and laugh, love and hate. When the sun is out those behind the scenes stay right where they are- in the darkness of Palgard. Generally the string pullers are the wealthy and the powerful, oligarchs who watch the ongoings of Palgard with ominous gazes. The law enforcement departments are defunct, arresting the bare minimum to maintain some appearance of functionality. Right and true officers are hard to find; usually fired before they can climb so much as a single rank for not "falling in line." If a politician is not someone behind the scenes, they are on that person's payroll. Like a mafia, crime organizations aren't separate from the city government. In fact, the city government is all but controlled by the crime organizations. Some areas are better than others as the ruler of the territory is more kind. Two years ago, however, the Terrenus government built Martial Town. A sort of haven and alternative city for those in Palgard, a way to escape the horror that rules them and their loved ones. Many fled Palgard for the seeming Oasis, yet, many stayed. Palgard is their homes and they refused to leave. Some even convinced themselves that Palgard wasn't all that bad. Or that Martial Town wouldn't be all that better. As Martial Town grew, Palgard became more and more chaotic. Especially when the three leading factions ceased their activity. The Terrenus Peacekeeper Renata Saratxaga and her military soldiers left Palgard soon after Martial Town started to grow. The Bandit King Sanu Toak and Captain of Industry Hana Alenko have both vanished, disappeared into whatever dark place they crawled to. Perhaps they even left Palgard. With the sudden vacuum of power swallowing and drowning Palgard, many factions reared their heads in attempt to grab control of the failing city. And that's when things in Palgard took an odd turn. Heroes and Villains started to appear. And not in terms of "good person" and "bad person." At first these people were dubbed "Masks" regardless of whether they were a hero or villain. The term slowly separated into Heroes and Villains, some more popular or successful than others, though the general slang for Heroes and Villains is still Masks. Some may thrive in Palgard's dysfunction. Some may strive to fix it. Others just fighting to survive and save their loved ones. Others for revenge. This is the story of those Heroes and Villains. [Jake "Skylord" Evans stops to talking] [Episode begins early in the afternoon February 5th] Cast: @Ataraxy as Jake "Skylord" Evans | Hero & Naomi "Wraith" Collins | Anti-Hero @danzilla3 as Apex | Other @Tyler as Cory "Poltergeist" Karsk | Villain @SteamWarden as Chloe "Night Dragon" Benoit | Anti-Hero @Die Shize as Kolvern "Red Hands" Rikalsky | Villain @vielle as Diana "Beast" D'Angelo | Anti-Hero @Thotification as The Godmother | Other @Sanonymous as Steve "???" King | Hero @Unicorgi as Jonathan "Shadeglass" Smith | Hero @Wade as Calvin "Blueblood" Church | Villain @SweetCyanide as Cicero "???" Chardonnay | ???
  3. In the year 026 AO, Palgard sustained deliberate, catastrophic damage to its infrastructure and leadership, causing innumerous civilian casualties and the collapse of the Mega-City’s government. The world had become bedlam, and anarchy ruled the streets. Normal, everyday citizens, bolstered by a host of mercenaries and visiting anarchists, revolted, rioted, and ransacked the hurting megatropolis. The city had been ruined, if not in form, then in spirit. Death had come for it again. But as in the past, Palgard has refused to succumb. Its newly appointed PeaceKeeper appeared following the city’s fall, and with her came the word of law, and imperial strength enough to enforce it. She marched at the head of a great confederacy of soldiers levied from surrounding cities and communities. They brought a measure of order to the chaos, carving out a section of the city for reclamation. Their mission objective was simple: bring Palgard back into the fold, for empire, for the Saint King, for Gaia. In its early days—a year now—Martial Town was earthen fortifications raised up from streets cleared of debris and people. Martial Town today now encompasses all of the the surrounding neighborhoods, repairing, or otherwise repurposing, the apartments, storefronts, and the high rise buildings that yet stood in defiance of Palgard’s defeat. And with its growth, so, too, did its population rise. Soldiers brought their families, refugees sought safety, and opportunists followed the flow of commerce as rumors of the Way Gate’s reactivation reinvigorated the local economy and renewed interest in the city. Hub thread - multiple locations This renewed interest in the city does not bring just growth and opportunity however, but also conflict and strife, as not all citizens are willing to live under military thumb. While the majority of Martial Town, especially its central, regularly patrolled military district, is safe to travel and live, its burgeoning borders and hanger-on communities see significantly higher rates of crime than elsewhere in Terrenus. These peripheral neighborhoods are owned by gangs and tribes of anarchists, sometimes backed by enterprising capitalists, and are further bolstered by the sudden influx of illegal trade brought on by missing military supplies, a black market trail speculatively originating from northern Palgard, and a nebulous network of underground contacts seeking the opportunities afforded by a city in disarray. Life can be good in Martial Town, or it can be very bad indeed. In order to fight against rampant unemployment and poverty, the occupying military has decreased much of its recruitment from outside of the city, focusing instead on paying adventurers, mercenaries, civilians and the occasional specialist party, keeping the city’s internal economy churning, if only barely, through frequent objective-based undertakings and the rebuilding of infrastructure. Toward this end, many of the black market deals, underground contracts, and use of illegal technology in the district is tolerated within limits. Just beyond the Way Gate facility, another community has formed from within Palgard, made up of the Weland expats that sought safety in numbers after the collapse of the city’s government. Their desperation made them susceptible to the Bessho-kai, a family of wealthy entrepreneurs that had stricken an accord with the people, offering protection in exchange for labor and small favors, but who now hold the district in their clinched fist. The Bessho-kai keep their streets free of outside influences, but their own people are nearly as bad as the anarchists. There is a foot soldier on every street corner, and an eye or an ear always watching for troublemakers or potential threats. They harass the people for what little they have, and recruit their children, perpetuating a cycle of violence and extortion. Magic and technology are not at war. Like much of Terrenus, they are instead blended and mixed together, until where the one begins and the other ends cannot be easily distinguished. However, much of the heavily regulated, illegal, and obscure technology kept off the streets has fallen into use by anyone aware of, and able to afford, the black market of Palgard. Most of the technology is benign. City-wide communications are now easily available, and prosthetics, both bleeding edge and crude knockoffs, some owed to Hell’s Gate, others Last Chance, can be acquired with no red tape or government interference. Then there are the killing implements. Cybernetics and magical augmentations designed to make recipients harder to kill while also making them more efficient at the act themselves. Bone-lacing, retractable claws, subdermal implants and vision enhancements, equipment normally associated with military wetwork can be acquired and utilized with little to no interference from the government. For a price. Humans, elves, orcs, dwarves and other, Martial Town and its immediate surroundings are made up of many, of a diverse, hodgepodge people whose differences have allowed them to adapt even to its current circumstances. They move ever forward as cutthroats meet military task force, or corporate backed mercenaries. The poor and the downtrodden pick up weapons and fight back, choosing one side or the other, or neither. They exist in flux alongside their city. Order and chaos flowing one way, then the other.
  4. It had been a while since the teenager had settled in. Her sights were not only set on conquest of the remains of Palgard, but on other things far greater. On her spare time the engineer turned over rumors, manuscripts and other information from various sources. It was mostly technical information and reports on prospective enemy forces and the success or failure of a given operation, but other mysterious goodies were peppered throughout. Most of this allegedly extraneous information was simply passed over, but there was one item that gave a chill to her nerves. There was a log of a ship that came into the industry controlled port, but a physical description of the individual who allegedly departed the craft was missing. Taking up a techno-magical tablet she browsed through the surveillance footage to the given log time. No person was seen departing the ship for the entirety of its visit. Was there an intrusion into the surveillance network or what other trickery could potentially be at play? Sanu knew a few things about sailing craft and potential mysteries they could bring, but so unfortunately he was on an extended vacation. This anomaly would need to be investigated, but another just as important event would occur first. What could that possibly be? A lunch meeting of course! The Direktor had eyes and ears all over the city. The surveillance which not limited to the industrial district found an individual of interest. A particular blue haired mercenary whom she'd briefly met before. Curiosity bade discovering what the individual was up to. Caerula would receive an invitation to meet with the General'ny Direktor in a private upper floor of the Zephyrus tower. Should Cae accept and approach the tower at the appointed time she would be met with an armored and armed escort consisting of firearm equipped soldiers. Soon taken off the path of the regularly traveled lower levels a lift would take her up and up and up. Once they departed the lift the lead soldier would direct Cae to a door which slid open upon approach. Hana could be seen sitting at a table with two settings of food and an empty chair across from her. "Welcome back. Things have changed a bit since we last met."
  5. Something was brewing in bandit controlled territory. The self proclaimed Bandit King had gone silent, with the apparent cause a mystery. Had he simply opted to walk off or had another individual forcefully usurped the throne? The only sure way to find out as dangerous as it would be was to travel there. The stronghold of leader was deep in anarchist dominated territory where the military lacked permanent and precise surveillance, and an act as simple as travelling there held tremendous risk. Opting to take action on limited intelligence the Lieutenant opted to foray into bandit controlled territory after taking a brief shortcut through an industrialist area. Hana carefully traveled while wearing little to no association with the Terrenus military nor was she exceedingly well armed to avoid attracting unneeded attention. Significant progress was made as the teenager would soon be reaching the heart. The farther she traveled it seemed the anarchists and bandits appeared more and more nervous and restless. Was another outside power waging a campaign against them? Approaching a stopping point in an alley the girl leaned against a wall to rest before being interrupted by the sound of nearby footsteps. A duo of unsavory fellows pulled out of the shadows behind to confront the seemingly unarmed teenager. One sported a club crudely fashioned from a destroyed structural bar, and the other a seemingly poorly maintained hand gun. As Hana turned and walked the opposite way she quickly found that a third individual blocked that path. "If you're looking for valuables I'll be sorry to break it to you that I don't have any. All I have is some rations. You want it then go for it." With that she'd toss her pack to the opposite wall while hoping the action created enough diversion to consider how she'd get through this without drawing too much attention to herself.
  6. When TITAN fell, it left a hole in need of filling, not only in Palgard, but in all of Terrenus. Vespera couldn’t be everywhere at once, and Palgard was her home, so it was in Palgard that her new calling presented itself. The hand that loaded the gun and the finger that pulled the trigger, they belonged to her, but not in quite the same sense as her time in TITAN. Then, she was a spy, an assassin, and a thief, on the prowl in her homeland for those that would do it harm. Now, there was no connection to something larger, no central intelligence to guide her. Martin Strauss, Director of TITAN, was gone — so long, you old bastard — and he was the nucleus, the foundation on which the organization was built. No Strauss, no TITAN, no orders; so where did that leave her? “The report, Ves.” Vespera looked up to find a man — John Bishop, Dougton, no rank; nobody held rank anymore — sliding a manilla folder forward across her desk, toward her. He dismissed himself. Like the lack of rank, there was a lack of decorum, with nobody technically subordinate to anyone else. Instead their group was a loose confederation of like minded individuals, former agents, military operatives, gumshoes, and even a few ex-gangers. All working together to help the people of Palgard, providing supplies, protection, and information, whatever was needed, whenever it was needed. A cooperative that she was nominally in charge of. They answered to her, as much as anyone answered to anyone else. A precarious position for her to be in when surrounded by blacker-than-black types that could kill you and dispose of your body with minimal effort. In Palgard, that would be just dumping her out in the street for the unusually large packs of rats. She sat behind a large desk, one of the few they found to be serviceable, in what had been an abandoned office building. It was their base of operations now, controlling the back way into Martial Town — through the tunnels, alleyways, and back roads — against trespassers. Their primary concern today being the large gangs based out of the northern section of the city, much reduced today, partly thanks to the efforts of her people, than when the city first fell. Shuffling through the papers the folder contained, Vespera selected one in particular for close examination; it was a high resolution map of the city, newly printed from the offices of Renata Saratxaga, and, circled in red, an outpost on the edge of anarchist territory. Dark blips along the roads and the fortified buildings suggested people, but Vespera ignored them to focus instead on the defenses. She smoothed a blond lock from over her right eye, tucking it behind an ear. Sub-dermal veins of green and black light spread from the golden artifice, its color at odds with its natural blue neighbor, as the map was submitted to active recall. The next paper Vespera pulled from the stack was a list of names, her people’s names, included for their skill in sabotage and assassination, and their determination to get the job done. “Gedeon, Fenna, Kolos, and Anton,” she said the names out loud to commit them to memory, tapping the finger of her free hand on the desk, the nail clicking, the sensation of touch and sound a mnemonic technique. She could have committed them, like the map, to her active recall, but that was a temporary thing, not a fitting memorial. “Two groups of two, or one group of three with a solo infiltrator?” She pulled up her mental image of the map, double checking egress and fortifications, and recalled the underlying maze of sewer and rail systems beneath the city, factoring in ease of access and exposure, but decided it was getting here nowhere. Both options held certain drawbacks, just as both had benefits. She stood and gathered up the loose files, stuffing them back into their folder before dropping it with a smack onto the desk. “Fenna takes the sewers,” she announced loud enough fro the room to hear, now, with her concentration broken, distinctly aware of the noise her fellow conspirators generated. Several dozen people stopped what they were doing to focus on her. “Get Gedeon, Kolos, and Anton through the passage on Sundown Lane. They’ll sabotage the stockpile. Tell Fenna we don’t need Helmut alive.” No rank, no decorum, but there was a mission. Without it, they had nothing. Vespera thought, maybe the PeaceKeeper had her own way of doing things, and maybe she wouldn’t approve, but they — Juno — had their way. It was the only way they knew. “How’d you do it, Strauss?” Vespera asked to no one in particular. “This bites.” She spun lazily around in her chair, kicking at the floor to complete the turn, a glass of dark wine, the color of blood, in one hand, and a faded photo of herself in the other. The office had cleared out for the night. Which was good, since this was where she slept most days. She brought the photo up and inspected it, remembering how young she was then, and how little time had passed despite how old she now felt. It was little wonder that the Strauss that haunted her memory was such a grouchy old bastard.
  7. THE ABYSSWALKERS: TERRENUS BRANCH HQ - More information will be added in the future -
  8. Thunder rolled overhead as the rain fell around them, so loud that it masked their movement through the city. Spotlights lit the mouth of every alley, narrowly missing them as they shot through one and into another, throwing themselves around a corner to exit behind a squat building with broken windows, its interior silhouetted as a light passed over its front, revealing clothing racks and mannequin displays. “Fuck me, but that was fun, eh, Fenna?” Gedeon grinned, showing teeth filed to points, the expression only falling away when Fenna, herself a stunning combination of looks and confidence, directed a glare full of murderous intent at him. Between the two of them, Kolos would put his money on her. Gedeon might be two times her size, more metal than man these days, with two prosthetic arms, both possessing an array of hidden hardware, but Fenna could melt steel with her mind. Out of the three of them, Fenna scared Kolos the most. One day Gedeon would push his luck too far and Fenna would kill them both to prove a point. “Leave her be, Gedeon. For fuck’s sake, we just lost Anton.” “You don’t know that!” Fenna growled, causing Kolos to bite back his own response. She continued, “He killed Helmut. He could still have escaped. Anton was the best of all of us.” “Helmut killed himself and Anton’s dead as shit — blown to smithereens — along with whatever Helmut wanted to hide.” “Thanks Gedeon,” Kolos said. Gedeon gave him a thumb’s up in response. The sounds of pursuit died off as levitating platforms, armored transports, and men on foot trudged through the city, until they faded away entirely. Everyone released sighs of relief, deflating as the tension left them. “Too damn close.” Gedeon shrugged the water from his face, for what little good it did. He was soaked through; they were all soaked through. Kolos wondered if Gedeon’s prosthetics would rust or not. He received them from a company in Last Chance, not known for their quality, just their low prices. “You calling?” Kolos nodded, turning away from the group to talk into dark slab of metal that represented his lifeline to Juno HQ. He explained the situation, hurrying to ensure nothing of importance was lost, always worried that their pursuers would some back. Not until they reached Juno would they be able to relax. Vigilance, until then. When his connection to Juno was terminated, he put the device away and looked down at the trash strewn streets, where a man lay prone, his arms and legs tied together. He did not move. “What about him?” Kolos asked. “Interrogate here, or home?” “Kill him.” Fenna said. “Take him with us; Ves’ll have our balls if we don’t.” “Kill him,” Fenna emphasized. “Later, Fenna. I don’t like the idea of going the rest of the way with deadweight—” “Like you’re the one carrying him,” said Gedeon “—but Gedeon’s right, and you know it, Fenna. Ves will want to have a word with him herself. The guy’s supposed to be dead.” “He will be soon enough,” Fenna muttered. Gedeon gathered the man back up, throwing him over his shoulder roughly, unburden by the additional weight. Benefits of Orchish ancestry, Kolos figured. Better Gedeon carrying their old lieutenant than Fenna or Kolos himself. Having said what he did out of necessity, he still didn’t trust himself not to open the bastard’s neck. It was better than the traitor deserved. Kolos looked away from the group. The walls of the alley glowed softly with luminescent paints, showing outlines of bulbous letters, obscene drawings, and gang tags. More importantly, under it all, the markers that lead the way to one of Juno’s safe houses. From there, they could get anywhere in the city. “Let’s go.”
  9. @supernal@Mag [MT1:1] Paroxysm vs Fennis Ursai // command [CISHCHAT] // 26548AO 0RAT ::The lower dimensional manifold in the casino is being used for waste disposal. The owner is feeding people into it. Sometimes they’re still alive. // command [CISHCHAT] // 84511KD 0PIL ::Fire is currently ascendant in Palgard. Related? // command [CISHCHAT] // 26548AO 0RAT ::It’s possible, I guess. Sequential feedback resonance indicated pyretic particulates that gel when introduced to water. Sounds like a recipe for fire. // command [CISHCHAT] // 84511KD 0PIL ::Oh. Want to investigate? // command [CISHCHAT] // 26548AO 0RAT ::can’t lol. I’m in a fight rn. Tbh, I think he likes me. He keeps flirting. Hold on. // command [CISHCHAT] // 23583LL 0FCL ::hey guys anyone in great pine barrens rn? lol, let got gnawed off by a teletype
  10. No matter where he treads, the reactions are all the same. A lone being that identifies as human in form approaches several others with a aura seeping through his body. To everyone he encounters or attempts to approach, he is a large red flag this afternoon. No rage emits from each turn down, no emotional spectrum is highlighted, it's simply comfort over opinion. He isn't lost, for he has no home. He isn't starving, for he has no appetite. He is craving the words of someone brave enough...to point him to the nearest bar. "Assassin" A man mutters and scurries away. "Heretic" another says retreating. "Civilian" the authorities called him. There is a simple exchange of words between the masked man and the guards of justice, then after a finger point towards the north, they part ways. An hour of travel and the masked man is at it again, searching for another guide, he asks questions about directions to several landscapes, makes his way there, and continues on. No GPS, just plain old fashioned touring. "This is where out of work masters go?" He says to a random woman passing him by at a monument. The strangers keep themselves complacent. "Isolation" is the nickname his inner demon has given him. All of his hard work has led him to being dismissed from school, out of a job, and now on the road seeking a new course. His latest breakthrough has yet to undergo tests. He is very eager to demonstrate his power...but to what cause? A white wooden bench in the middle of the town. A nice place for him to unclip his "Dark Knight Awakens" book from the back of his belt and start his first chapter this sunny afternoon.
  11. The home of Guin, a young adventurer living in Martial Town slums. A small middle floor studio apartment Guin has managed to repair or otherwise clean the run down apartment into a livable environment. Few in amenities it has a tub, an old mana impulse stove, a ice enchanted fridge and an old twin sized bed. For the occasional company she keeps a small table with three chairs in the center of the room. It is not heated, and while it has electricity it is far from reliable and frequently goes out. Guin enjoys being home, and can often be found winding down after an odd job or adventure. All in all it a simple home on the outskirts of Martial Town, a deeply dangerous area that rarely has visitors. Guin does not own this apartment, and instead rents it from a faceless multinational housing corporation - any defaulting on the rent means she is quickly evicted, for Martial Town has limited tenant protection laws. [OOC - This is a hub thread for my character Guin where I will roleplay her in between quests/jobs/adventures, it is open to visitors - if you'd like to interact with Guin at her home throw a knock on her door!]
  12. The Noodle Shop Layout Sharpmate's Noodle Shop has only a single floor and serves noodles that have been described as dazzlingly mediocre. This fare here is always cheap, always filling, and always no less than decent tasting. It is open 24 hours a day, more popular late at night than any other time of day, always has at least three customers, and the wooden sign that hangs in front of the window has lettering of a faded lilac which somehow manages to remain legible. Thread History Ruiser and Luna Beneath The Surface . . .
  13. A bowl of lukewarm noodles was sat in front of Pilot, for which he nodded his thanks. Although he did not posses the olfactory system necessary to properly appreciate the fare, Pilot still found that their presence satisfied an emotional component essential to his affectations. It was a personal, self-satisfying pretense, but Pilot maintained his fantasy, his enjoyment, of life. He reached out a hand to the bowl, causing the metal digit to clink softly against the ceramic as the two touched; Pilot moved the bowl by a fraction of an inch, and then nudged it again after a moment of silent appraisal. Sharpmate ignored him, as did the three other customers in the restaurant. Pilot ignored them too. It was a quarter before nine and the sun had already set in Palgard. Outside crickets chirped alongside the distant noises of city life, dogs barking, people shouting, and a scream or two just within audible range. These sounds Pilot had come to associate with the city, as the sound of Palgard's beating pulse, not a thundering crescendo, but a low, quiet murmur as the city struggled in its recovery. For all its metal and cement, the city was as alive as the people inhabiting it, Pilot knew. It was as alive as he was. His adventures this evening would lead him into that dormant city. Him, and several others. The first of whom should be arriving within the next minute. Pilot ceased his attempt at finding the best possible position for the bowl, and turned his thoughts instead to his recently assembled team, to Finn Cavalcante, Babette Marx, and the twins Candie & Sunny Scarborough. The former, having been sponsored by Pilot in the past, was whom he was most familiar with. Finn Cavalcante had not only proven himself useful, but integral to the successful completion of a mission in Yh'mi some time ago; it had cemented Mr. Cavalcante's position as an associate of the Handymen. The other three he was not familiar with, but they had been contracted through the regular channels; they possessed interesting aspects each, and the necessary skills for the job; Pilot was excited to observe how they performed tonight. Taken with the idea of adding to the CISH repository a handful of capable freelancers. But those thoughts would have to wait. In the mean time, the dullahan stared at his noodles with intense concentration, and then slowly slid the bowl to the customer directly beside him, displacing the man's drink as he did so, and, having received no response, the two continued to ignore one another. The entire team would need to assemble before Pilot could give his briefing, and afterward he would deposit them on location, less than a city block away from their objective.
  14. The city square bustled in a way that Ellen was totally unused to. From her seat on a fountain in the middle of the square, the mage observed her surroundings, and nowhere in sight were the orderly queues and determined steps that characterized the citizenry of many a Terran city. No, the people of Palgard meandered. Here was a gnome, walking this way and that, no signs of having any set destination in mind. There was a group of young toughs, maybe pirates or peacekeepers (not the federal kind), impossible to tell in this chaotic place. And there were a procession of Drow, looking as lost amidst the mess as she felt, there group hissing at any who strayed too close and trying to protect themselves from the piercing southern sun. Ellen shook her head at the madness. Some number of wanderers were to be expected in any city, but this was the first time Ellen had ever encountered an entire population of them. Watching other people stroll make her think back to her own trip into the city. Fortunately her journey to the interior of Palgard had been uneventful. For all the warnings of chaos and anarchy, Palgard seemed relatively peaceful. Sure, everyone was more furtive, and she got more distrustful glares than she would have elsewhere, but she hadn't been mugged or assaulted, contrary to her expectations. Of course, by this point she was so bored that she almost wanted to be waylaid. It would be an ample excuse to use some magic. Ellen suppressed the urge with a grimace. Only a fool went looking for trouble in a city already know for it. And besides, time enough in the future for casting and analyzing, if the reports the lab had received were correct. Self-animating elementals, in a city! The research liaison couldn't wait to get her hands on one and disassemble it, drop by drop of the magic water sustaining them. Just the thought of it almost made her drool. This urge she did fail to suppress, and soon she felt a bit of dribble on her chin. Quick as she could she wiped it away with her sleeve, giving a sheepish glance to see if anyone had noticed. One of the shopkeepers was giving her a weird look, and a small group of children were staring at her from an alley, no doubt thinking her an easy mark. Irritated, Ellen snapped her fingers, creating a small spark of flame that extinguished itself as quick as it had appeared with a *pop.* The spell, originally made for lightning apparatus used for smoking, was also useful as a warning, and the children quickly turned their attention elsewhere. Ellen allowed herself a self-satisfied smirk, before she realized she'd given in to the urge to use some magic after all. And there was two lapses in discipline in as many minutes. She sighed. Not even two hours in this city and it was already getting to her. She relished the research opportunity, but sooner she and her companions finished up here the better. Speaking of which, where were they? Ellen had been waiting at the meeting place for a while now and she didn't see either of them. She was pretty easy to miss, and she was getting worried they'd all missed one another. Wouldn't that be a great way to start of this nonsense.
  15. OOC Medical supplies meant to combat a highly infectious disease have gone missing. Without them an untold number of refugees are sure to suffer and eventually expire. Palgard lore OOC thread The mission, and the unit consequently attached, were both jokingly referred to as Club Med. The team was capable and diverse. They were loaded onto a Rail on Tia and sent southwards to Palgard. The station at Palgard was in disrepair and could not receive them, so they would stop 40 miles short and cover the rest of the distance in the Wilds via horseless wagon. It would take them four hours to arrive at Palgard at the wagon's mechanical pace, which they could ride in relative comfort in the covered wagon bed meanwhile the driver kept them on course. Cadmium of the Wastelands Border Patrol was assigned to the unit because of his superior tracking and hunting abilities. Command had no strict confirmation as yet to the cause of the lost supplies, but given the turgid state of anarchy in and around Palgard, the Central analysts felt comfortably secure conditionally assuming that bandits were behind the whole thing. He was given command of the unit so long as the mission parameters revolved around the finding of individuals or a group – should they parameters change to primarily require diplomacy and legal strategy, or combat strategy, Command would shift leadership accordingly. Alexander, at least as far as Cadmium was informed, was brought in because of his federally vested authority to exercise law nationwide and his information gathering expertise. The analysts anticipated that the trail lead them into and through the nearly lawless and tumultuous cityscape of Palgard. With Alexander, they wouldn't have to worry which side of the Rail tracks they were on when arresting someone, and his experience with shadier elements would know doubt come in handy when working through the criminal underworld. Lex, at least as far as Cadmium was informed, was brought in because of his combat proficiency. They were all soldiers. They all knew how to fight. Alexander dealt regularly with felons and gangsters. In the Wastelands Cadmium was in a constant struggle against the massive, magically resistant Suujali. But Alexander was primarily a Communications officer, and though Operations himself, Cadmium was most experienced acting out of a small group against the ravages of nature. Lex was trained in both offensive and utility applications of his elemental ability, was groomed to apply strategy as a whole and to groups of human-like intellects, and was schooled in armored vehicles and heavy artillery. Club Med was solid. They were on the Rail now, racing towards Palgard at hundreds of miles an hour, the landscape a blur of natural tones. Cadmium gracelessly pressed his forehead against the window in the storage compartment that the trio rode in, eyes flicking side to side as he hopelessly tried to keep up with the rapidly changing world. Without turning to the two others, he made a confession. "I haven't killed anyone before. You think that's gonna be a problem?"
  16. @sheep @supernal @Paroxysm Only fourteen seconds separated Lysander Angelis from four-o-clock in the afternoon. The seconds ticked away on his wristwatch, tapping the skin beneath like a mechanical heartbeat. Nine, eight. Soft brown eyes scanned the crowd with an intensity that belied their warmth, constantly gathering data for a mind that never stopped calculating. Approximately forty percent of the masses were female, with thirty-five percent of this sub-category toting children. The remaining sixty percent were male, with the majority wearing clothes stained with grease and blood and dirt. Only five percent of the crowd wore military attire, and they were moving quickly, almost distractedly, though not without purpose. Lysander squinted, his eyes unfocusing slightly to filter the mob for the telltale light blue of a soldier's uniform; his estimate decreased from five percent to four as a few blue shapes shifted from view. The seconds continued to pass: three. Two. One. “Today, ladies and gentlemen, you will see a magic trick unlike any other.” A tall man stood in front of the Odin Haze monument deep within Martial town, a careful distance from the ring of excrement that encircled the statue. His long, silvery hair was loose and curled around his shoulders in a decidedly tasteful fashion, and he wore work clothes similar to every other man and woman who bustled through the square. In his eyes, however, shone a fire that promised much more than a magic trick. “Today, you will see Odin Haze bow his head to you, the people.” At that, a few passersby stopped and stared, not really believing in the gentleman’s words, but willing to waste a few minutes if watching the statue of Odin Haze eat shit was even a remote possibility. Lysander cleared his throat, and continued. “But first- many of you may know me as Lysander Angelis,” he shouted, though the only people in this Gaia-forsaken city who knew his name were probably in their homes and enjoying their smuggled contraband. “I have come to call my brothers and sisters to arms against the injustice in Palgard.” A few more people stepped up, curious as to how a man dared speak on injustice in the center of Martial Town. It was a risk, sure. Lysander knew there was a statistically relevant chance that he’d end up leaving the square in chains. But he had done extensive planning before his speech, analyzing the rounds of guards, measuring his own volume, checking escape routes, doing a few mathematical calculations- and he concluded that, provided he adhered to his own plan, there was a very high chance of success. He had the impartial goddesses of Science and Logic on his side. One crucial element to his endeavor was the spell currently running on the statue’s neck. He had paid a child to scamper up the side of the statue in the middle of the night, and slather a magical ‘adhesive’ in a ring around the smooth marble of Haze’s neck. The substance was of Lysander’s own creation, and allowed him to cast spells on the statue in a very specific location he would ordinarily have trouble reaching. Earlier this morning, he had cast a burning spell imperceptible to the casual observer, a thin ring of fire circling Haze’s neck like a noose. Even now, it burned. “No education system. Unsafe labor conditions. A crumbling infrastructure. The government has created an incubator in which criminals are born and raised to maturity, and fail to lift a finger as these criminals continue to tear Palgard apart. To add insult to injury, they would have us rebuild our city- at a profit.” The last word came out in a hiss, sending shivers down the man’s spine. He could see that his words were having an impact on the crowd, which emboldened him to continue. “We must come to a practical realization: we cannot entrust the management of our lives to lords, priests, politicians, and generals- least of all our saint king, Odin Haze.” Between 24 and 35 head nods followed this statement, well past the threshold of initiation. Pleased, Lysander took a deep, measured breath, and continued. “We must take democracy seriously. We must refuse to exist in the shadow of a king who claims to have seen the light.” Slowly, imperceptively, one of Lysander’s hands slipped into one of his trouser pockets, and his fingers closed around a thin glass tube. In a carefully crafted, poignant pause, he rolled the vial between his index and middle finger and thumb, the glass remarkably cool to the touch. Similarly cool brown eyes scanned the crowd, not so much collecting data as drinking in the attention at this point; although he was a man without emotion, the visionary did possess a primal thirst for recognition- even power. He considered himself to be the optimal leader: unbiased by feelings, emotion, and empathy, he could make entirely objective decisions based on data and logic. It was not ill-intent, therefore, that had driven him to take action. Lysander lifted a hand into the air, pinching his thumb and forefingers together almost delicately. “His pretty empire has taken so long to build, but now, with a snap of history’s fingers, down it goes.” One hand snapped in coordination with his speech. The other, still nestled in his trouser pocket … Squeezing his thumb and forefingers together caused the thin spell vial to snap, a cool, twisting air slipping through his fingers as the magic was released. In an instant the blistering heat lining Odin Haze’s neck was be replaced by a burning cold, and an ear-splitting CRACK rang across the square. The crowd fell completely silent, eyes wide and searching for the source of the jarring noise. A sharp gasp permeated the silence, a hand snapping out to point at the grand marble state towering above. “The head! It’s-“ A grating crack drowned out the last of the man’s words as the head of Odin Haze tottered forward, tearing itself from the body in a strangely macabre fashion. It fell through the air for what seemed like an eternity, though Lysander had already gone through the calculations and knew that only 2.47 seconds had passed before the head of Odin Haze slammed into the ground with a massive BANG. Silence. Then one scream. Then many. “You cannot buy the revolution,” he cried over the raucous crowd, a wolf standing tall and still among a swarm of sheep. “You cannot make the revolution.” There were uniforms in the mix now, light blue patches of cloth fighting their way through hordes and hordes of browns, greys, blacks. The panic was impossible to permeate. “You can only be the revolution.” It wasn’t long now; already Lysander heard the brusque shouting of the guardsmen through the screams of the people. His voice carried over them all. “It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” His speech resolved, the anarchist jumped over the wall of excrement to stand next to the hunk of marble that had once been Odin Haze’s head. A hand came to rest on the marble, still cool to the touch, while the other rummaged in a pocket for something small- ah, yes, here it was. Lysander tossed the small object, which was nothing more than a pebble, into the air, muttering a few words under his breath. Energy flowed out of his body as the mass associated with Odin Haze’s head transferred itself to the pebble. In an instant, the pebble had grown into a massive rock, and crashed to the ground with another marvelous BANG. By contrast, the statue’s head rested in the center of Lysander’s palm, small, light, and no more interesting than the dismembered head joint of a child’s doll. He slipped it into his pocket. It was time to disappear.
  17. @Prestississimo "I'm just looking for an, ah, old friend," the stranger had told her, his eyes shifting in a way that made her frown. "She's heading out in the morning. Just wanted to, ah- catch up." A suggestive wink followed. Gross. Cora was suspicious, but the man had promised her a handful of silver coins to lead him to a local inn, so she really wasn't in any position to decline. These days she was especially desperate for cash thanks to a growing frustration with Palgard, forcing her into odd jobs for shitty pay that she would have ordinarily avoided. Already this week she had babysat someone's incredibly racist grandparent, taken a wealthy tourist couple on a ride down the river at sunset, and had helped a drunk man wash alcohol-scented vomit out of his clothes before his wife got home. Needless to say, it had not been a very good week. The woman was also frustrated with herself. Just around two weeks ago she had ruined dinner with a potential friend because she had been reminded of her mother, panicked, and fled. The worst part was that Teddy had been exceedingly patient, kind, and generous during dinner, making her feel like an actual, normal person ... but she had still managed to fuck things up. After taking an hour or two to calm down, she had sat down on the dirt floor of her run-down shack, hugged her knees tightly to her chest, and stared at the wall until sleep inevitably came. Memories from that evening played through her head almost constantly, trapping her in a loop of shame. A terrifying question returned to the forefront of her mind again and again: can I ever be normal? One thing was certain: now more than ever, she needed to leave Palgard. As the sun dipped below the horizon and stars began to shine through a thin layer of smog, Cora led the stranger deep into the General'nyy Direktor's territory and across a public bridge to Martial Town. Every few minutes she would glance over her shoulder, uncomfortable moving through a declared territory. If the stranger noticed, he didn't care. In fact, the man had a nervous tick of his own, checking the papers in his bag over and over again or swiping through a specific message on his phone. They walked through the darkness in silence, the sounds of Palgardian night life echoing off of cobblestone streets and dusty brick walls. At last, they came upon the inn, a collection of warm, twinkling lights strung across an old, abandoned river barge. People loitered on the surrounding lawn, smoke curling through the light of streetlamps and into the cool night air. Music was playing inside the inn- a sea shanty, with boisterous voices spilling out of open doors and windows. Cora perked up a bit, and hummed along as she led her client closer toward the inn. When the pair had reached the ramp leading up to the inn's front door, Cora turned to the man and folded her arms. "There. The Floating Goat Tavern and Inn." The man squirmed a bit under her narrowed eyes as he fished a few coins from his pocket. He dropped them into her open palm, tipped his hat, and began to walk up the creaking plank. Although the light was dim, it didn't take Cora long to figure out she had been cheated. "Hey, you wait," she shouted, stomping up the ramp. "You promised me silver. This is tin." The man glanced over his shoulder, and Cora saw a cruel glint in his blue eyes. Light reflected off of something steely in his hand that she was sure he hadn't been holding before. "Beggars can't be choosers," he sneered, and disappeared into the open doorway. The sailor stood there for a second, stunned. Then, with a mumbled curse and tightened fists, she followed him up the ramp and into the Floating Goat. Inside the inn, a piano played a lively tune while grinning men swung bottles and twirled women while waitresses gracefully maneuvered around them. Music, drunken shouts, and roaring laughter filled the room; the cheer was almost tangible. It took Cora a moment to focus her attention away from the delicious smell wafting from a nearby table, but it didn't take her long to locate her client. He was small, cloaked in a dark trenchcoat, and moved through the room like a stream water through loose pebbles. Frowning, she pursued him, though not without some difficulty. After having lost sight of the man for a minute or two, she finally spied him climbing a ladder up to the residential quarters, and followed at a distance. As soon as her head poked up through the floor of the residential area, the raucous noise of the lobby died away- Cora guessed there was some sort of hush charm cast on the opening hatch. She climbed up the last few rungs of the ladder and silently hopped onto the old wooden floor, careful not to step on what she thought would be loose or creaky floorboards. The hallway was dark, lit only by a few old-fashioned lamps hung on the walls between every other door. Up ahead, however, a lone figure turned a corner: her client. Once again Cora thought she saw the glint of steel in his hand, which continued to concern her. What did a man visiting his side chick need a knife for? She crept down the hallway on quiet, swift feet, and eventually gathered up the courage to peek around the corner. The stranger was hunched over a doorknob about twenty paces away, a metallic rattling sound echoing down the empty hallway. A moment later, the door swung open, and he entered like a shadow. Huh. The woman followed. Cora didn't want to enter the room to find man and woman doing the nasty, but some inner voice insisted that something was not right. Taking a deep breath, she pushed open the door and slipped inside. It didn't take her eyes long to adjust to the darkness. On one side of the room, there was a bed; a tangle of red hair peeked out from between the sheets, completely still. Asleep. On the other side of the room, light shone through an unusually large porthole to illuminate a cluttered desk absolutely covered with papers and books. It was difficult to make out the complete contents of the desk, because, hunched over the assortment of papers and texts stood a man dressed in black, his hands busily shuffling through the material. It was her client. He was a bloody thief. Outraged, the sailor leaped forward with the grace and silence of a cat and ripped his shoulder around to face her. "What the hell do you think you're-" her angry whisper was interrupted by the shock of raw electricity entering her body. That steely glint hadn't been a dagger after all. Charmed with some sort of a force spell, the taser sent Cora's body flying backward, and she hit a wardrobe on the opposite wall with a loud thump. Dazed, she barely registered the shape of a man climbing through the porthole and dropping out of sight, a small stack of papers fluttering in his fist. She dipped briefly out of consciousness.
  18. @roboblu The first thing I noticed were the trench coats. It was bright outside, and the sun gave their brownish figures a dull luster, kinda like vomit. There was roughly fifteen of them all bunched up in a mob, and I had the faint idea that they weren’t here to join me for a smoke. Carter was inside holding down the fort. No doubt harassing the bartender now that he had no one to talk to. I wanted to buzz that fancy chip in his head, tell him ‘Hey man, get your shiny ass out here’ but I wasn’t going anywhere near my phone. One of the coats was already pointing his gun at me, and reaching for my pockets would only end in a fatal case of bullets. I took one last drag of the cigarette, then crushed it under my heel. “Gentleman.” I nodded curtly. “Anything I can help you with?” By now, they had surrounded me. The entire front of the bar was lined in pukey fashion, and the sudden amassing of uniforms signalled to bystanders that it was time to clear out. “You remember who we are?” the man with the gun asked. Of course I remembered. “Might have to refresh my memory. I’ve run through, like, eight gangs recently.” “You shot our boss two weeks ago.” “Like I said, I do that a lot. Gonna have to be more speci-“ In that instant, someone laid a fat one on me. Stars flared across my vision, and bone-deep pain splintered in my right cheekbone. An involuntary groan fled my lips. I felt my hands ball themselves into fists, but I let the moment pass. Slowly, I brought my head up to look the coats in the eyes again. The one to my right (presumably the one who hit me) was breathing heavily, and I wasn’t surprised to find barred teeth in the marks of a tantrum. “We should just kill him!” He spoke in a harsh whisper, his hands all ablaze. “Right here, right now!” The one with the gun gave him a calm look that put my stomach on edge. “And then what? Let the fuck who hired him run free?” “He’s screwing with us!“ “I know. And he’ll he pay for it later.” The man suddenly dragged his gaze back to me, and I spotted something sadistic in those cold blue eyes. “I promise.” The fatter, angrier man huffed on, then slowly he managed to regain his composure. Taking a step back, he readjusted his fedora. Meanwhile, the gunman resumed our little palaver. “So this is what’s going to happen. You’re going to give us your guns, then you’re going to come with us. Try anything funny and we’ll shoot you. Clear?" “Crystal,” I said flatly. The man nodded. Just as he gestured for one of his guys to grab my guns, the bar door creaked open. An enthusiastic voice rang out behind the wall of coats. “Gentlemen, hello!" A pause. "Is there a problem here?” A couple of them turned around, with a few more craning their necks. “Look pal,” I heard one say. “You better walk away if you know what's-“ In an abrupt flash of movement, the man’s head spun a solid 180 degrees. He died instantly. The metallic hand that punched him quickly swatted at another coat’s face, sending him crashing into a few of his buddies with a wide backhand that also killed him. Not missing a beat, I whipped out my revolver, and fired off six hasty rounds. Next thing I knew, I was darting down the street. A cacophony of vulgar yelling erupted, and the sound of gunfire preceded the bullet whizzing past my ear. I heard a heavy pounding of steps rapidly catch up to me, and, quickly, I looked back. Carter, in all his titanically huge and robotic magnificence, was behind me. “You don’t know much I love you right now!” I shouted between breaths. “Believe me, the feeling’s not mutual.” Carter replied in his usual cheery tone. Bullets pinged off his back but he didn’t seem to care. “Boat?” I yelled. Unbeknownst to me, Carter shook his head. “It’s under repair right now.” “Fuck.” I kept running, arms pumping and legs swinging. Carter and I careened down random alleys and streets, twisting and turning with no real indication as to where we were going. A few times I nearly crashed into someone, whereas Carter actually plowed through a food stand without slowing down. The shouting at our heels gradually receded, albeit ever so slightly. A little more distance between us and- “Oof!” You guessed it, I crashed. Rounding the corner, I ran into someone with enough force to send them toppling. I lost my balance and fell with them, though I shot my arms out in time to avoid landing right on top of them. I let out a hasty excuse, “Shit, sorry!” and began scrambling to my feet when, oddly, I froze. Lying below me were familiar green eyes I’d completely forgotten about. The same bronze skin, chestnut curls; all that was missing was the dirt and grime, and the ragged sailor’s uniform. “Cora?” A firm hand on my shoulders immediately snapped me to my senses. In the background, the vulgarities I’d been running away from grew louder by the second. “What are you doing? Let’s go!” At that moment, the Pink Spoon Bandits pounced from the alley. A quick “There!” later, and they were shooting at us. Carter hunched over Cora and I, arms spread out protectively. Bullets ricocheted off his metal shell once more, and bystanders screamed in all directions. Some even began shooting. Twisting his hand slightly backwards, Carter unleashed a blind torrent of green fire. A man screamed like a wild animal in the background, and I didn’t know if it was a bystander or one of our pursuers he hit. Either way, the gunfire had been interrupted, if only for a moment. Carter’s eyes flickered madly for a brief second, alternating between electric blue and synthesized green. His hand slightly shook. “Teddy, if you don’t get up right now, I’ll kill you myself."
  19. Sanctuary cut a lazy path across the sea of clouds, a massive, silent giant above the pockmarked city of Palgard, well above the city's ruined skyscrapers and its beleaguered populace. Its hull was pitch-black but shone with a glossy enamel, broken irregularly by triangular lights affixed into depressions in the hull, shining blue-white, some blinking, some solid and steadfast, radiating, to those with the appropriate sensitivities, power as was channeled by the mages and sorcerers of the world. Power that provided propulsion and lift, drawn from an atmosphere rich in mana, in energy that was converted through a melding of disciplines. All along its surface, Sanctuary bore the marks of its engineers, displaying numerous shutters that housed recessed contraptions, forked beams constructed onto an actuating arm, inscribed with runes and affixed with powerful crystals. In other places, sensor arrays jutted out instead, erected at the appropriate junctions, always built in redundant pairs. Topside, a declining ramp stopped abruptly at a large bulkhead, leading into the ship; and beyond that was the stunted command tower, which housed the carrier's brains, Martin Strauss. Strauss's seat was situated on a raised dais at the rear of the tower, which afforded him an imperial view over the rows of consoles and support crew that kept his castle afloat, and a gorgeous view of the outside skyscape besides. At the furthest most point of the tower, and arranged in a line that arched inward at the middle, was the network of telepaths that kept Sanctuary, and, by proxy, Strauss, connected with Terran intelligence and his T.I.T.A.N agents in the field. Strauss raised his hand to a see-through panel of light, hesitated long enough to read the data inscribed over it, and then swiped two fingers in the air to dismiss it, calling, in its place, another pane of light. He repeated the process several more times. Nearby, his navigators, one a man in his forties, the other a woman in her mid-twenties, conveyed the carrier's heading, and then confirmed course adjustments. Sanctuary was on its third lap around the city. They had received their orders a week ago, commanding the carrier to relocate to Palgard airspace and await further command. The order had not sat well with Strauss. Ostensibly, TITAN existed outside the regular chain of command, functioning alongside, but separate, the military; TITAN answered to a council of investment, and to Edward Brown and his offices in Ignatz, as well as, to an extent, the PeaceKeepers of Terrenus. Just a little over a dozen men could move TITAN across the gameboard that was continental Terrenus, and fewer yet could do it without Strauss knowing about it first. Yet Strauss found himself floundering, unable to identify where the orders had originated. The Pythian Foundation—his network of telepaths—could find no trace, and his agents in Igantz had been blocked in their efforts, and, subsequently, compromised. “Update.” Strauss spoke, absently dismissing another pane of light. “Sir,” One agent acknowledged, looking up from his console and craning his head toward Strauss. He wore a bemused expression. “PeaceKeeper Saratxaga denies having issued any orders to the Sanctuary crew, and the city itself is quiet. Martial Town isn't on lockdown, and all patrols are accounted for; I don't know why we're here, Director. Our agents all report the same; nothing is happening.” Strauss felt anxiety tighten in his belly, drawing itself into a knot of tension and frayed nerves, making him feel the weight of his ninety-something years all at once. Nothing was happening now, yet Strauss could feel a looming threat in the distance; and that there was hand at work here in the shadows. "Maintain course," Strauss ordered to the acknowledgement of his navigators, and then spoke, "Major," he did not turn to face the broad-chinned man that occupied the seat below his dais, "you have command." Martin Strauss stood from his command seat and exited the room, emerging into a long corridor of ceramic and metal, punctuated along its length by doors that Strauss knew could lock on command, and jettison the contents of the corresponding rooms with the appropriate command phrase. Keyed to specifically to his voice. He continued on his way, passing saluting agents, bustling and jostling one another, but swerving out of his way. An elevator at the end of the corridor took Strauss between floor levels, to an individual room, secured against intruders for his private use; it was the Director's quarters, his home away from home, except he rarely slept anywhere but on the carrier. Strauss entered, locked the door with a command, pausing until he heard the magnetic bolts thud into place. He breathed deep, exhaled. And then released a string of curses and expletives, issuing one oath after the other until he had exhausted every highbrow insulting phrase he had learned in his long life, and then Strauss moved onto obscenities normally associated with the sailors working along the winding coast of Casper. When he was done, Strauss turned around, released the lock on his cabin and began a slow return to the command tower.
  20. It was dawn, and while the sun creeped over the horizon, long shadows of tall skinny trees loomed over barren land. A caravan of horses pulling carriages and carts traveled down a straight and very narrow road, with nothing of worth surrounding them for miles. It was but a dry, flat valley peppered with skeletal trees, and if one were to look in all directions, they'd see nothing. Nothing but the road ahead, and behind. Nothing between the road and the east, or was it west, in this strange, empty dimension?. Directions like those didn't matter here. There was only one direction, it was forward. It made for a tediously boring travel for the dozens of travelers who journeyed this cross-dimensional road. The carriage that led the caravan was nicer than the others. Roomier, with soft cushioned seats, and pulled by two prize-worthy, sturdy mares. Inside sat a man of modest but round stature. His shiny, bald head was flushed, and his moustache twitched nervously as his bejeweled fingers fidgeted at his expensive silk robes. Tiny beads of sweat pearled at his temples, despite the cool dawn air. A nervous man, full of anxiety. He felt a tickle and cleared his throat. "We're nearly there," he said. Another traveler accompanied the man. A woman, with thick long waves of auburn hair, and eyes the color of blood.. She seemed calmer than her male companion, sitting stoically with her silk-gloved hands folded neatly over her lap. She regarded the man with a skeptical smirk. How many times had he said such things in the last few hours? She had lost count. They had been traveling for some time, much longer than she had expected. It was her first time making this journey, however it hadn't been his. In fact, the noble looking man was the leader of their caravan's expedition. The leader of a traveling sideshow, Meret Mermont smiled back at the red-headed woman. "We should be coming up to the portal any moment now..." he slipped his fingers into a hidden pocket in his robes, and felt around. Within was a warm smooth gem. Meret sighed and tucked it away, relieved. "Can you sense it, Callista?" She soured as he spoke her name. So casual, so unlike before. Before their arrangement. Callista and Meret had first met, one year ago. It was in the mystical golden city, Chrysopolis, where she reigned as a Queen, fair to her people, generous, beloved. Chrysopolis was a hidden dimension which she created to build a prosperous and peaceful kingdom that would be hidden away from the rest of the universe, formed out of the divinity of Callista herself. However, though powerful Callista was, the energy it required to build a whole new phase of reality meant a sacrifice, as all divine magic came at cost, whether man or deity. She would never have the power to leave, ever. It was a decision she had quickly made peace with; a sacrifice she would gladly make if it meant building a new world of peace and prosperity. As she tended to her kingdom and it grew to be just as she had envisioned, the more validity she felt as a ruler. As a woman with divine power, and as a Queen, she should have been fulfilled. Yet as the years drew on and on, the novelty faded, and the seclusion which she had credited for creating the masterpiece which was her kingdom, had grown to feel more like a curse. When Meret had entered her city with his traveling caravan, it had sparked something within the Queen. They very rarely had outside visitors, it took someone special to enter her dimension. Meret Mermont fancied himself special, certainly, and would travel across all dimensions as he pleased. From one land to the next, he would bring his traveling sideshow, earning a bit of coin with his unique shows and items, before moving on. She felt herself dwelling on his ability to move freely from one dimension to another, something she no longer could do. Eventually her envy led her to approach the master of ceremonies, pleading to know how he did it. He asked of her why she concerned herself with his methods of travel. “Because I want to do it too,” she had replied. To her disappointment, Meret didn’t have the power to restore Callista’s ability to move as he did across the planes of reality. It didn’t matter how he did it when it was of no use in relation to her request. Perhaps he could make a compromise, however; though it would require yet another sacrifice. She made a deal with him for passage along to the next dimension. Meret bartered that should he have to carry such a powerful vessel across the time and space between dimensions, then it would require a greater power than he possessed. He posed a trade she would grow to regret. “It would be just for the trip,” he had said. “Yes…” Callista said, the memory of those days lingering in her mind after a moment of thick silence. “I do sense it…” Her gaze dropped to his robes, to where she had seen him fiddling before. She knew what he had been palming. It was what she had traded for this one way trip, her power as a Goddess, syphoned from her being and contained in a simple little gem. Her lips thinned out, the fire in her blood rising. She could just lean across and snatch it, it would be so easy… But no, she knew Meret was the only one who could bend the rules of time and space for her and end her stale existence trapped within a cage of her own making. “Indeed,” Meret noticed her scarlet eyes boring into him, and smiled. He reached into his robes again, as her gaze followed like a hungry dog. His fingers grasped something cool, teasing around the object as Meret reveled in the Goddess’s stare, before finally plucking out a small glass vial. Callista had been eyeing him hungrily, even if it was subconsciously, however she was painfully aware of her disappointment when her eyes fell upon the palm-sized vial. It contained a viscous black fluid, corked and safe. “What’s that?” She asked, sullen in her demure. “This, my Lady is what will open our portal to your new home,” Meret said. Callista was beginning to vibrate with anxiety when their carriage came to a sudden halt. She peeked out the window, but there was nothing but endless grass and field, and the flooding orange glow of the rising sun. She pondered, why travel so long to open the portal way out here? However she was far to anxious to ask any questions. She simply watched as Meret stepped out of the carriage and walked around to the front of the horses, walking a few meters ahead. Callista stepped out as well, curious, as she saw him pause in the middle of the road. He held the vial up in front of him, and pulled the cork. she watched as the thick fluid poured out at his feet as he overturned the glass vial, until it was empty and he tossed it aside, stepping back quickly a few paces as he did. It was then that the noise of rushing air drowned out all sound, and a small black tear appeared in the space before him, rippling outward like a drop of ink. Meret ran back towards the carriage. “Amazing,” Callista marveled, as Meret rushed her back into their humble chariot. “It won’t last forever. We’ve got to get everyone through before it closes,” he pressed, signaling the driver to move on ahead. “What was in that vial?” Callista asked as their carriage lurched forward. She peered out the window eagerly as they approached the portal in the road. “A concoction of my own design, though I won’t divulge the ingredients. I will say, however, that it reacts with the wavelengths of certain dimensional hotspots, the glass of the vial blocks those waves until I open it and pour the liquid out. Clever, don’t you think?” he said, his mustache twitching. “What are you, some kind of alchemist?” She asked, turning to look at him with a scrutinizing eye and one cocked brow. “If it pleases you to call me such, then yes, you could call me an alchemist of sorts,” he replied. His eyes twinkled like there was more to him being just an ‘alchemist of sorts’, however he said nothing further, as they entered the void of the portal, consumed in blackness as Meret and Callista left the world of Chrysopolis behind,
  21. SEPTEMBER 18th, 12 AO - PALGARD The smoke curled lazily from the tip of his cigarette, a puff and sizzle of tobacco-laced steam at every encounter between the rain and the embers. Auroch took a deep pull, tasting the damp of the city air, the destitution of the littered streets, the crows cawing like a faraway bell in the overcast sky. An exhale, and a cloud of grey disappeared into the gray air without a trace. Palgard was, as always, a fine mess today. The man idly flicked ashes into the sewage-stained cobble. The smell of wet gunmetal, of grease and gutter, nestled quietly in the back of the throat like a cold. The tank that rumbled down Florence Street was less quiet, smashing aside the storefronts and livelihoods that crowded both sides, the street-level facades of the tenements. A second soon followed, cleaning up what the first had missed. Hollow eyes stared from the unpowered depths of the homes, men, women, children, watching the vehicles roll by, mechanical, magitech – the touch of an alien world and its alien people, breaking their street apart. They were shanties, patios of recycled glass, rusted, corrugated metal, facades of driftwood and a flotsam of trash. Their tables were pallets, their seats stumps of pier-wood. The tank drivers carried on, the bump of splintering property unconcerning. Palgard had no word for collateral. He grew tired of the choking scent of poverty. The soldier stamped the cigarette into the muddy stone as the bay doors of the second vehicle crashed into the torn street with a clang, giving birth to a platoon of soldiers. Auroch’s eyes swept over them wearily. They clutched ruin to their chests, mismatched clothes the fashion of the day. Mud-splattered camouflage, wet dust and the blue of liquid cement smeared on their pant legs. No uniforms. Uniforms meant pride. Uniforms meant order, justice, an association. Nobody wanted to be associated with this – this wreckage of a street, a week or month already stolen from these beggars’ lives. Nobody wanted to remember, or be remembered, in the filthy heart of Palgard. It was a group of nobodies, unrecognizable faces that lined up in a rank before the soldier. Colonel Auroch Jindal fumbled for another cigarette unconsciously. The cold and the rain had begun to soak into his bones. The blue plastic of a poncho crinkled unceremoniously as his lighter struggled to life. The tanks died down, engines quieting inside a haze of gasoline and exhaust. Soon, only the click of the flint and the splatter of rain on plastic and pavement remained to break the oppressive silence. “Well,” Auroch tried to begin, before the softly burning cigarette slipped and fell into the mud. The soldiers’ gazes did not follow the spot of flame. Neither did the Colonel’s. “We are here today to destroy. As it’s always been, seems like. That’s all I remember, at least. Briefing?” “Sir.” A taller man, jeans and a hoodie, pale face streaked with mud stepped out with an envelope. He looked like a common thug. They all did. Jindal thumbed through the rapidly dampening papers, leaning against the tread of a tank. Thugs with hardware. “Yes. Ahem. Damn, it’s dark – someone get the headlights.” The slow whine of the tank grew into a steady hum as the floodlights opened, scattering a ray of vicious white down the street. The terrified reflections of eyes flickered in the shadows. “The target – the city blocks starting at the intersection of Florence Street and Rapscully Street, until Seventails Avenue and Opium Way.” Jindal committed the map to memory, then dropped the parchment to dissolve in the water. “That’ll be all. We have these two tanks and you people. Small operation. Let’s hurry up and be done with it. Damned freezing here, boys.” “Yes, sir.” The unit dispersed, climbing into the protected nooks of the tanks as the engines began to revive into a roar. Jindal had scaled up to the turret of the first, when: “Sir?” Auroch turned. A single, blond boy stood there, nervous. The gun didn’t look quite right in his hand. He sighed, and reached out a hand. “Up you go, boy. First mission?” A blush made it across his face as he took the weathered hand graciously, stepping up onto the tank with a bit of effort. “N-no, sir. I mean yes – but that wasn’t—“ The Colonel gave the sign, and the tanks began their slow rumble towards Rapscully Street, the people of the streetside desperately trying to shove their possessions indoors before the tanks passed by. Jindal had found another cigarette, staring thoughtfully at the townsfolk. “What is it?” Put on the spot, the young soldier paled, unprepared for interrogation. Words fumbled out of his mouth. “Well, I thought, see, I – I didn’t hear, maybe I wasn’t listening, but...did you ever tell us who it is we’re fighting?” It was quiet. The scrape of treads against cobblestone bounced hollowly off the concrete facades. Jindal rifled through the papers in his memory, having forgotten – or never paid attention to – the answer. Finally, as the intersection rumbled into view – the aged, weary colonel pushed himself up to a standing position. “It never mattered, son. If it helps you sleep better at night, it’s a bundle of Desecrators who’ve gotten their hands on some nasty stuff. We’re going to burn everything they have to the ground, destroy their research and personnel. You know the stories, boy. Can’t have Desecrators running loose.” “We have reached the target. Prepare munitions. There may be defenses, so be on your guard.” The soldier sighed, a rush of relief coloring his cheeks. “I see. That’s…that’s good.” “But here’s what I don’t see,” Jindal turned around, the shadow of the man cast on the boy by the half-light of the clouds. His eyes glinted maliciously. “Why it matters a whit to you who we’re fightin’, because who we’re killin’ is something else entirely. Because to destroy this place, is to destroy a thousand homes. We don’t control anything but the guns in our hands. This place is going to burn down to the ground – people and all – and that’s all on us.” He whirled on his feet, a giant of a man. “OPEN FIRE!” And the sky lit up with the beginnings of a block of Palgard in flames.
  22. @Wade With the sunrise peeking in and out of a mottled cloud cover and cool winds blowing over a sea of rippling cattails lining the river shore, Cora Morgan was experiencing an uncharacteristic lack of motivation. For years she had worked day after day doing hard manual labor in Palgard, and for what- maybe a handful of coins? As she sipped from a scuffed tin mug of coffee, the woman absent-mindedly ran a hand through her thick chestnut curls, staring distantly out at the river. A recent run-in with a small local gang had left her questioning her purpose here: it seemed so long ago that she had first laid eyes on Palgard, tears welling in her bright green eyes at the possibility of a better future. The original plan had been to sit in Palgard for a few years, work her ass off, and eventually save enough money to move to Casper and begin a simple but respectable new life. And here she was, still sitting, still living with only a handful of coins in a decaying shanty. She had no friends, no family, and nothing to brighten her days but the occasional cup of bitter coffee ... Sometimes the misery was enough to make her consider returning to a criminal lifestyle in order to make ends meet. No. Not an option. Cora sighed, downed the rest of her coffee, and leaned back to place the tin cup inside the doorway of her crummy shanty. Bronze skin glinting in the morning sun, she stood and arched into a stretch, feeling her knees and back pop as she did so. You're getting soft, Morgan, the woman thought, and another frustrated sigh left her lips. Exhaustion had followed hard on her heels since having taken a beating several days ago, an annoying byproduct of her magically-enhanced physical resilience. She had come out of the fight without any serious injuries, but the energy she had expended in staying unbroken had left her feeling tired and irritable- not to mention stiff. For a moment the woman stood still in the cool morning breeze and closed her eyes, the sun shining through her eyelids to create a lovely rosy glow. Golden red light covered her skin and filled her insides with warmth, and in that moment Cora decided that she would not go to work catching fish, clams, crabs, and river birds as usual. No, today would be her day off. First ... The sailor's brows furrowed in deep thought, contemplating her options. First, she wanted to take a nap. Strangely reinvigorated at the prospect of more sleep, Cora trotted down the dirt path leading to the river, tugged her skiff out of the reeds, and released it into the flow of the water. The boat floated downriver a few paces, then held fast; it was still tied to a post on the shore, but the slight bobbing and swaying of the water would help calm her nerves. The shadow of a smile played about the woman's lips as she waded into the water and climbed into the skiff- why had she never thought to take a day off before? She removed the twin daggers from her knapsack and then laid her head on the soft leather, wiggling a little to settle the base of her skull against the lumpy contents of the bag. Not wanting to leave herself undefended even in sleep, the woman continued to hold the daggers tightly as she neatly folded her hands across her chest. And then, posed much like a warrior sailing off to Valhalla on a funeral pyre, Cora rocked gently to sleep on the swiftly moving river.
  23. Palgard was, in Lorwold's view, perfect. Not in any normal sense, no, it was perfect because the unorganized and dirty qualities of the city were the perfect conditions for bugs to thrive. He called them to him, millions and millions, having them amass in one black cloud over the hole-in-the-ground tavern he was currently sitting. It was incredibly small, only about 20x10 feet, and currently had four patrons other then himself. A young girl no older than 12 walked between them, offering drinks and food and such. Suddenly, as she walked by one man with several empty mugs around him, she was grabbed by the hand. The man was clearly drunk and would end up hurting the girl. "Why don't you come out back with me missy," he growled. It was phrased as an order, not an offer. Hundreds and hundreds of ants dropped through the cracks in the ceiling above him. He roared in pain, a result of the insects stinging without injecting venom. The girl used the distraction to slip into the kitchen and the man sprinted to the door. Just as Lorwold's recent victim fled out the door, the man he was supposed to be meeting walked through. He was clean shaven and neat, dressed in a black overcoat over slacks and a nice shirt. Lorwold hid a few bugs in the sleeves of the coat. "I take it you're Lorwold Zanzaren?" The man's voice was high pitched and serious, straight to the point. Lorwold had a feeling he would like this man. Not in a romantic or even friendly way, more that he admired the fact he didn't see the need for pointless small talk. "Yes. I'm here for the job." "How much do you think you can deliver in one day?" The man questioned. The Bug Lord smiled. "It depends. Do you have enough for the entire Anarchy Sector?"
  24. @Art in Music In an ordinary city, twilight was a time for bashful lovers, for strolls in the park under lamp-lit paths, for children running and laughing and trying to catch winking fairy bugs in the growing darkness. In a city full of anarchists and criminals, however, sundown provided a necessary cover of darkness for what were often illicit affairs. In Palgard, monsters lurked in the shadows. Well, monsters and Cora Morgan, who really just wanted a bagel. Only pausing for a moment to contemplate the pink- and orange-splashed sky peeking through alleyways and the tops of buildings, Cora trotted through the corroded streets of Palgard toward a local bakery just south of the General'nyy Direktor's territory. She was careful not to stray far from view of the river, whose rushing silver waters provided some comfort as the shadows grew longer and the air grew cooler. Although the young woman was not fearful of the night, she was too smart to feel cocky, and knew that bigger and badder people were walking the streets along with her. Her intention was to dart into the alley behind the bakery, fish a leftover piece of bread from the garbage, and hastily retreat to the modest shanty she'd called home for the past few years- all before the sun dipped below the horizon. It was an endeavor she'd successfully completed several times a week ever since noticing the huge bags of stale bread this particular bakery discarded each night. Cora didn't understand the massive waste, but she didn't question it, either. After all, one man's trash was another man's supper. At last the young sailor reached her destination, and wasted no time in trotting over to the garbage bin planted next to the back door of the establishment. Lifting the lid and peering inside, she was delighted to find a small pile of stale bread waiting for her. True to her intentions, Cora snatched a few loaves from the top of the bin and shoved them into her knapsack, and was just about to retreat from the alley when she heard the echo of footsteps approaching on the cobblestones. These weren't shy footsteps, either; whoever approached was not concerned with stealth, and that raised a few red flags. Cora slowly replaced the lid on the garbage bin, adjusted the strap of her knapsack, and began walking briskly into the shadows at the other end of the alley. She did not get far. "Hold it, Molly," A voice called out behind her. Cora froze in her tracks, though her mind was racing. 'Molly' was slang for 'prostitute'- this gent was probably looking for a poke after a long day of work. Maybe after realizing his mistake, the man would look elsewhere; on the other hand, horny men were not exactly known for their compliance. Slowly, Cora turned. "Not a Molly," she called out, and squinted to discern the figure against the bright sunset. Immediately she realized that there was not one man, but three, which raised a few more red flags. The foremost was young, probably around her age, and held himself confidently: the loud stepper. Two older men hung back behind him, and though less brazen, looked more cautious, more experienced, and were thus more dangerous. Cora guessed they were older thugs assigned to watch the son or heir of a local ganglord, as criminals generally didn't go out whoring in groups. Well, the young woman thought, gripping her knapsack tightly, That's not necessarily true. The younger man gave a long, impressed whistle. "Hold on- that a Crimson Wave tat I see?" One of Cora's hands instinctively touched the tattoo of a curling wave just beneath her collarbone. She was shocked. Although her mother had been notorious for her work on the streets of Last Chance, the Crimson Waves had not been a particularly large or powerful gang- certainly not large enough to have gained notoriety hundreds of miles away in Palgard. The man saw her confusion, and gave a chuckle. "Me n' my brother came over from Last Chance a few years past. Heard the Waves haven't been doing too good lately, huh." The man chuckled again, and Cora bristled. Although she sought to leave her criminal past behind her, a primal part of her being was insulted. Seeing this, the young man quieted down, looking thoughtful. "Y'know, we could use fresh blood like yours. You spoken for in Palgard?" The woman's green eyes narrowed, and whatever instinct that had been holding her legs in place suddenly vanished. She strode forward, shouldering past the small group of men. "No, I'm done with that." "Rather fuck your way to the top, eh? Typical of a Wave." Cora froze in her tracks once more, and looked over her shoulder, a steely glint in her bright green eyes. "If you can't say something nice," she spat, and sang a few short, high notes. Immediately the young man's eyes widened and he clawed at his face. The spittle in his mouth had been frozen, gluing his lips firmly shut. It was then that the older men sprang. Cora could see something steely glinting in one man's grip, but she didn't look for long. These men were fast, and she'd need to incapacitate at least one before risking an escape. In a flash she had her own twin daggers in hand, and blocked an incoming blow before feinting and ducking out of reach of the other man. This alley was small, which was to her advantage, but darkness was falling fast. She'd need a stroke of luck to get out of this alive.
  25. With in the the City of Palgard there are many bars and holes within the walls where one can organize a meeting. Upon rotten docks over poisoned water, crowded by dilapidated buildings, is the worst bar of all. It wreaks of unwashed men, black mold, fish, and cigarette smoke. This fine and putrid establishment was creatively named "Bar". It is at here the journey begins. Grey green thick smoke began collecting in the back tables of the "Bar". The smoke was unnatural in its movements and it coalesced into a transparent hunched over skeleton. The skeleton straitened up and the smoke hardened into the features of smartly dressed older woman. Professor Doctor Renés had rematerialized in dramatic fashion. She appeared positively ghoulish; while holding a lit tobacco pipe in her left hand and big smile on her face that showed deep wrinkles. She stood six feet tall, wearing a brown sport coat, vest, and matching slacks. She was thin and sun damaged skin clung to her bones and yet she looked spry for her years. Her hair was voluminous and white. Her eyes were enchanted, warm, and disarming. Her irises were mahogany in color and the color changed the harder you looked at them. They were the eyes of your beloved granny, your favorite uncle, your long missed lover. She looked at a brass watch on her left hand, and raised her eyebrows. People in the bar paused and silently greeted the doctor, she was regular at the "Bar". But she was not the normal clientele. All the same she made this place her second home. Dr. Renés sat down at the largest of the tables and waited while puffing on her pipe. A rat scurried across the floor. Early this month she had peppered the city with flyers. The flyers suggested a quest for riches and the chance to vanquish evil. The meeting place was here at the "Bar" this very evening. @supernal @amenities
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