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supernal

What do you know? [closed]

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The arrival of another woman with a similar story was unexpected, though it was interesting that she had the exact same experience as Erin and Darya. However, the dark-clad woman only wordlessly nodded in acknowledgement of her introduction and greeting.

That done, Erin quickly redirected her attention back to the doctor, who had went through a cycle of various eccentric actions within the last minute or so. When the mention of not having clearance came up, Erin's hand began to creep toward her holstered pistol. With the soldiers gone, she wasn't beyond resorting to violence to force out the answers she desired. Fortunately for everyone involved, the doctor promptly printed out clearance cards and offered them to the women, causing the dark-clad brunette to let her arm go limp again.

Her memory was rapidly flowing back now, causing her to recall the events that led to her suddenly being stolen from her homeworld, physically altered and finally deposited in a primitive mountainous country she never knew existed. She remembered how she had to survive for two years in that strange, dark age world, resorting to thievery and murder to get by. Then came the day she accidentally stumbled into that bizarre, trans-dimensional tavern, finding her way to Elendaron as a result. She recalled how happy she was to once again see telephone polls and motor vehicles, though she still had to endure the disappointment in realizing the place she had found was not her homeworld. Even so, the job she secured as a royal guard for young Queen Malia had given her far greater economic stability and peace-of-mind than she had in the mountain country. Her skills in stealth and silent assassination led to her being recruited as a spy for the monarchy, though she had not yet gone on many missions.

The latest thing to come to her mind was a day where she had been given her first major assignment, a task to infiltrate a band of revolutionaries in the capital's suburbs. It subsequently dawned on her that the clothing and gear she was donning right now was the same as what she had selected for that very mission. Perhaps, just maybe, that mission was what she had been doing when she blacked-out and lost her memory. It certainly seemed that way, as her memory of everything that happened after leaving the capital abruptly became a blur in her mind.

"So, you're saying..." she began to speak to the doc, all the rediscovered memories influencing the current thoughts in her mind, "That you are in some way responsible for this?"

She narrowed her eyes again, this time on the scientist. None of these people were with the queen's forces, so what the hell were they doing in Elendaron?

Edited by Tyler

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Her fingers bite into the skin of her palm as she clenches her hands, the stinging pain a hastily-made barrier against the deluge of memories pouring into her brain, and it’s too much, too much.

Not the time, not the time—!

She blocks out the half-finished image of a boy, a man—a face she knows like breathing, like the heart beating in her chest—before it can fully form in her mind’s eye.

But this, she knows now: her name is Darya Kessarin. She is a hundred and sixty-three years old. She is not from this world, but from a place she has considered home but has long since driven her out, casting her into a life of a drifter, a life of searching, always searching.

Biting down on her tongue to stop the sudden whimper building in her throat, Darya forces her gaze to focus on the new stranger named Alise and the Doc herself, who chatters a lot and hands them clearance cards in a whirlwind way that leaves her reeling a bit.

She has absolutely no prior knowledge of Forgeburg or Renovatio. It seems to line up with the memory of just arriving in this new world, the ruthless pain of realmwalking that still echoes even now in her bones.

Doctor Treiller, as she has introduced herself as, welcomes them into her department, explains something about Primal Alloy and Elendaron and what-not, and Darya’s confusion only grows. It’s too much information barely explained, so she lets her companion speak first, the insinuation cutting across the room with directness.

“Wait,” she pipes up, offering some form of counterpoint to the other woman’s question, “I’m sorry, but—what is this clearance for, exactly? What team are you asking us to be a part of?”

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Wow. Dr Treiller is showing a whole new level of frustration. Probably from a combination of whatever science she's doing, and the need for secrecy. Still, was there really a need to through the clearance cards on the ground? At least put them on a table, or hand them to someone. Nevertheless, Alise picks one up and attempts to wear it, as if it had a red string attached to it. She then puts it in her pocket.

Primal Alloy, Elendaron, a rift... there was much unfamiliarity with these things, so much that Alise is starting to doubt that recovering her memories would be of much use. Even if she had not lost her memories, or if she manages to get them back, would those memories have any help in understanding these terms, these strange events? Only the most recent of memories would help with them. Not those of her hometown.

A team that saves the world, perhaps. Or at least, one that saves the lives of countless people, in the city or otherwise. Somehow, Alise's muddled mind decides to put these concerns first, ahead of other things. Such as knowing what is going on at all, or if she is being used somehow.

"What do you mean, an experiment?" Alise raises an eyebrow. "What are we doing in this 'team'? It'd better be 'saving lives' level of important."

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Although frantic and clearly distressed, the scientist retained those faculties which were most prized by her station; which is to say she not only noticed Erin's skepticism, she responded to it in kind, narrowing her eyes at the narrow eyes. Part of her ease in identifying Erin's scrutiny was familiarity – she had been the brunt of wave after wave of it from every soldier trapped in this hellscape with her. She got enough of it from those who suffered under her command, and she wasn't going to take the same from a know-nothing, mud-covered stranger.

The Doc puffed her chest out, jabbed a finger in the air Erin's way, and then deflated, letting the air flow through fluttering lips in full realization of the futility of her anger in this moment, and in the cascade of moments to come. The woman was hurt, confused, a stranger among strangers in a still stranger land. Her frustration was the most natural thing in the world – perhaps the only natural thing left int his one.

"I suppose so, in some way, for us in the town perhaps. In the same way a captain is to blame for owning a ship and daring to steer it, knowing that storms might batter it, that monsters might rise up from the deep and assault it. And every sailor who signs the charter knows the risks attendant to their duty. I take the blame for that, but not for the storm . . . or for the monsters."

Then, to Darya.

"That clearance means you aren't civilians. It means if you come across card readers, and they're functional, you don't have to break the door down. You don't have the clearance to know about the nature of our military experiment, but now I can tell you the stuff that actually matters, and maintain operational security. Operational security must be maintained at all costs."

The Doc said this over and over again, like a mantra which she used to shield her from the insanity of their surroundings, or a bond with which to keep her own sanity intact.

Poised to continue, she cut herself off when Alise spoke. For the first time since each party laid eyes on the other, Treiller found reason enough to smile.

"Yes yes, that's it! It's exactly that important. You three may be the only ones capable of saving all of us. There's no point in going over my designs unless any of you have a degree in materials ecology." She paused, in case they did, and then continued. "And even then, time is of the essence.

"You've seen the veil yes? The shimmering air to the north? Past that is the lab, and in the experimental wing is the isotope I need. With it, I . . . mostly believe that I can catapult us out. The problem is we're all dying. 'Dying'." She put air-quotes around her repeat.

"This place is wicking life-force from us. The longer we stay, the more, I suppose, insubstantial we become. More like . . . it, more like all of this around us, and less like home. Past the veil the entropy rate accelerates. For any of us to go after the isotope is a death sentence, but you three have been here less than a day . . . you can help yourself by helping us."

Edited by supernal

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"So basically..."

Erin had to take a moment to try and piece-together the picture from what she was hearing, but at least there seemed enough coherent information this time to get the idea of what was needed.

"You're saying we're all... dying... disintegrating or something... and because us three are still the most intact, we're the only one can survive long enough to march into the middle of all this and get the doohickey you need."

Ever the paranoid skeptic, she crossed her arms and readied herself to deliver a new line of questions. She didn't survive this long to just accept the word of a crazy scientist, she needed to feel assured she wasn't being used as a sacrificial lamb just so the others could live.

"But exactly why can't we all just hop into your vehicles and drive away from all this? Why do we need to "catapult"? And for that matter, how long will it take to get this "catapult" ready after we return, presuming we return?"

Erin wasn't about to die on the floor while waiting for the scientist to finish constructing her device. If she was ever going to risk doing what the doc wanted, she needed to know that this device was ready to use in time to actually save her too.

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(OOC: posting out of order)

This time, rather than foment her own frustration, the question made her laugh.

"So you've got that degree then? I can just hand over the data and you'll understand it?"

Treiller shook her head. Her words, taken in the abstract, were both reductive and dismissive; put into the context of their own experiences, of waking up in this world, of having spent who-knows-how-long battling against who-knows-what, of correctly identifying and internalizing the fact that she, they, are all dying or already dead, and one could interpret that tone with fear and desperation instead.

"If we could just 'drive away', you'd find this facility empty. Please understand that all alleged 'low hanging fruit' has been plucked, and when I say time is of the essence, I mean it.

"We aren't . . . " Treiller sat herself down brusquely and worked her hands through the air as if the answers were there for the taking but the grains were too fine and continued to slip through her fingers.

"We aren't home-adjacent. This isn't Valucre. We weren't picked up and put on another street in the same neighborhood, to use a clumsy and simplified metaphor. We're navigating an entirely new reality map. If you don't believe me, you can use that terminal," She pointed to the same one which produced their clearance cards. "To access all of my unsecured notes. If you want to get the experience firsthand go out and try it, try to get past our perimeter.

"But when you die, that'll only leave two to get the isotope. I like our chances better with three. The machine is mostly built but there are some configurations that I can only do when the isotope is loaded. Four hours, five at the outset, from the moment you put the isotope in my hands to the moment we can leave."

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Darya watches the two women volley words back and forth across the short distance with pursed lips, a faint sense of anxiety clenching in her gut at the casual discussion of dwindling life-force and time ticking down fast and saving the world, or at least themselves.

She is in no way ready for any sort of world-saving, not when she knows, deep in her marrow, that she has failed saving the one that has always mattered the most.

Don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t—

The moment the Doc mentions the terminal, her feet lead her forward to the machine. Darya listens with one ear to the conversation still unfolding around her as she takes a moment to assess how to use the unfamiliar technology and then to access the necessary information, taking note of whatever seems important to know for this mission the Doc has abruptly placed on their shoulders.

She quietly beckons the others to read the notes if they wish it, then turns her attention back to Doctor Treiller. “You wish for us to deliver this isotope back to you, and then you can bring us all out of here?”

Darya knows she can bypass all of this, that she can simply summon the power to realmwalk to elsewhere, to safety, to wherever she can resume her search unhindered. However, the underlying ache simmering under her skin tells her it may very well kill her to try realmwalking too recently to her last one. Also, she cannot leave these people to fend for themselves, not when she can help. She can do that, at the very least.

“Is there anything we need to know about that lab?” Darya tilts her head, locks her gaze with that of the Doc’s. “You mentioned a veil, some sort of shimmering air. Is that, um, bad?”

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Somehow, Alise felt less fear and more determination. Her top priority is saving others' lives, and everything else seems to pale in comparison to that.

"Well, even after bringing the isotope back, there's about 5 hours of what i'm gonna guess would be protecting this area while Dr Treiller does her thing with the machine, then ensure everyone gets catapulted out. But the first step would be getting our hands on the isotope."

Alise looks down at her hands, and the glowing runic tattoos upon it. She can feel her memories of her own powers returning... only a small fraction of her memories, but her memories nevertheless...

She looks back up at Dr Treiller. Her face is not of anger or mistrust, merely a seriousness one would have in a discussion.

"Is that shimmering air - or anything in the experimental lab, or the isotope for that matter - going to interact badly with magic? Or even with our very being? Should we have a plan beyond 'dash in, nab the isotope, dash out' ?"

Edited by HotPizza

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There is a veritable wealth of knowledge in the doctor's private notes. The sheer amounts suggests that the Renovations have been here, wherever here was, for months. There's enough content that it would require hours of studious scrutiny to distill all potentially valuable information, but a few quick skims confirm parts of the doctor's story - personal reflections suggested they had more soldiers and scientists when they started, by a wide margin, than they had seen so far; that many of them had been 'lost to the veil; that the soldiers had grown increasingly restless, despite the need for operational security because this could be mass hypnosis, arcane delusion, or even a virtual world designed to separate them from their military intel.

It further confirms that the doctor has speculated, and for her purposes confirmed, that they are in a new world, that they have executed experiments to figure this out as well as hypothesize a way back, that doing so had cost many lives, and that the 'isotope I need is in the damned lab'.

Darya also found, outside of the doctor's notes and one of the only files in plain view, a map of Forgeburg with a legend of the buildings.

"There are two primary threats – walking turrets and, the others. Your cards will grant you access to any facility in Forgeburg and should disarm most security measures. Locks, alarms, man-traps, so on. But something went wrong with the turrets in the transition. Their boards got fried or something, I don't know, I'm not that kind of engineer.

"They have machine guns. Erratic mind you, damaged by our soldiers when we needed to push them back shortly after the transition. But still. Missiles  . . . not very many, but still. Partial ballistic shields. Laser weaponry. But the heat sinks don't work at all, they overheat easily, and these models have mounted optical sights. You have to be in their line of sight, and the sights aren't heavy-duty; they're meant to be regularly replaced."

She turned to Alise.

"Quite frankly, I don't know enough about magic or this place to say. We didn't have many magicians on the crew so our experiments were limited. It seems to trigger no issues but I don’t know if it's that spells in a specific domain are stable and others aren't, or that they skew towards chaos with frequency or if a certain amplitude is reached.

"As for the others, well . . . I don't know enough about them. I haven't been able to do experiments on them because I lost most of my analysts and researchers doing the experiments that gave us the few answers we have. And, well, they became the others or . . . or I don't know. I don't know if it's this place, or something to do with Halcyon, but when they died they . . . I don't know.

"Halcyon made 'zombies' which responded to 'white magic' with aggression rather than compliance. Like I said I don't really get magic. But these others, they're like zombies but different. They look I don't know, like they're a part of everything. That's all I can really say.

"I must sound like an idiot. I don't really understand all of this so that means I can't really explain it but I'll try. Who, what, we are, where we came from, I'll say that we have a certain 'feature-set' or 'aspect' congruent with our 'home dimension'. The longer we stay here, the more we're saturated with the dominant aspect of this other dimension, and the more our feature-set normalizes against the environment. Congregating in a single location makes our combined aspect stronger. It's what's allowed us to survive this long. The veil is the perimeter. Beyond that you move out of our aspect and into the surrounding aspect, which is why it's important that you don't longer. Hours are fine, and hours it will take I imagine, but I advise against any overnight camping."

(OOC: omg 666 words omg are you in hell)

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Son of a bitch. How many more worlds was she just going to stumble into? Erin hadn't wanted to believe the doctor at first, but the consequences of not believing seemed to be getting increasingly dire. Not to mention, everything seemed really off in this place, which seemed to lend credence to the scientist's assertions.

"Well shit, fine then." she finally gave up her tiresome questioning, "If we're going to do this, let's do it then."

She began backing toward the exit, giving the doctor another couple moments to add anything else of value that she could, before it was too late. Presuming all that was there to be said had been said though, Erin departed the structure and waited for the other two ladies to catch up. While she did, she positioned herself so she could spot the distance "shimmering", so that she could know where they needed to go. She still didn't like this idea, but at this point, she was rolling a dice. Either they were lying, and going into this nexus was sure to kill them all, or they were telling the truth, in which case the nexus still might kill them, but so will going anywhere else or doing anything else.

"Great..." she uttered to herself.

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"Wow... I haven't heard of half this stuff. I'm rather reliant on my magic, which I'm not even sure will be, well, reliable now. Not that I understood my magic fully to begin with, that was for... someone else." Alise stares at the runic tattoos along her arms. "Guess I'll just have to work something out."

"I do wonder how illusions work on optical sights, or how my flight will be affected in the danger zone. Oh! Before I forget." She twirls the fingers of her left hand. The white rune on her wrist glows brightly. Soon, bright white energy flows from the rune, along her hand, and to her fingertips.  The twirling action stirs the energy together, until it forms two discs of light, in the same bright white color as the energy that made it.

Alise turns to face Erin and Darya. "If either of you two don't mind, could I place these discs on you? 

Alise will toss a disc to each woman who accepts.

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Taking a short moment to collect her thoughts, Darya breathes in slow, breathes in deep. She mentally pictures out the map of Forgeburg taken from the terminal and studies it before nodding. “Seems a bit too dangerous,” she murmurs in response to the extensive list of turret weaponry the Doc rattles off. If anything, the mission leans towards the suicidal, but what other choice do they have?

The conversation then turns to the discussion of magic, and something deep in her core pulses at the thought. As far as she can tell, she does not seem to have any sort of runes on her body, nor even the faintest whiff of magical ability, but there is a deep thrumming in her bones that Darya is sure must be something supernatural. The spark of color—green? Gold? It’s too faded to distinguish clearly—makes itself known again between one blink and the next, and she observes the faint thread flying out into the distance before it disappears once more.

Curious. Darya files it away for further scrutiny.

The Doc makes mention of zombies, which takes a bit of restraint not to snort at, then explains the implicit time limit they have for the retrieval. “Well then, perhaps we shouldn’t waste any more time.” Darya smiles, tight but determined, at Doctor Treiller. “We’ll see you soon, Doctor,” she nods her head before pivoting on her heel to follow her first companion out of the building. She stops in her tracks when a flare of white light blazes to life over Alise’s skin, assembling itself into round shapes entwined around the woman’s fingers.

"If either of you two don't mind, could I place these discs on you?”

She hesitates, wary of this unknown magical variable, but only for a moment. “Sure,” Darya says, catching the disc as the woman tosses it over. She glances down at the shimmering light in her palm, then raises her curious gaze to Alise. “What does it do?”

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Erin crossed her arms rather than offer to accept the magic disk, her inherent distrust of people displaying itself for the umpteenth today. It was surprising she hadn't suspected the soldiers of trying to poison her with the stew they'd given her! Wait... what if they did...?

"I won't take anything until I know what it does." she stated, echoing Darya's question, but in a more skeptical, accusatory tone.

Of course, if Alise provided a satisfactory response, she'd maybe take her glowing disk then, but not before. In the meantime, she continued to try and edge the group outside, intending to keep them moving even as they spoke. As they moved on toward the veil, Erin spotted a structure to their right, situated in the center of the city square. Curious if it held any further clues about the people they were dealing with, she motioned for her companions to follow her toward the object. As they drew closer, it became apparent that it was a memorial of some sort, which straddled the edge of the veil nearby. Closer inspection revealed it to be a memorial for some benefactor or philanthropist that Erin didn't recognize, making it useless information to her. Maybe it would have been useful if she had the resources to look the person up, but she obviously didn't.

"Well that was a waste of time." she grumbled, stepping away from the structure and gazing into the veil beyond, "You two ready for this?"

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