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jaistlyn

Chasing Legends

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There was a reason why mages were never placed at the frontlines of battle. To perform feats of magic, they required tremendous amounts of focus. The pressure of being at the front, facing enemies directly, was too much to handle for any but the most disciplined battle mages. Not to mention the pain of injuries, which were a major hurdle for them to withstand.

All these made it impossible for the inexperienced Meritio to fight back with his magic while he was being dragged to his doom. Panic blinded his vision, and he could do nothing more but flail helplessly. Erin, the only one who had the intention to save him, was too far away. No amount of screaming would stop the ghouls from tearing him horribly in front of her eyes.

Luckily, the boy’s saviour came in the form of an unlikely drunk, who crashed into the fray like a superhero. Meritio went down with the ghoul that had its head kicked in, crying out when the creature’s tongue ripped out of his body as he hit the ground. The roar of gunfire exploded around him. He flinched with the shots, trying to curl into a ball and make himself as small a target as possible. The corpse of a winged creature slammed down next to him, and he could barely make out the points of its pointed teeth in the afterimages of the gun’s flashes.

A hand grabbed a fistful of his shirt, yanking him up with unexpected strength. After a couple of false starts using Clive as a clutch, Meritio finally found his feet and ran alongside the gunman. He didn’t know where they were going, just that he needed to follow, follow, follow. He kept his eyes on Clive, forced his legs to keep up, and blocked out everything else. When Clive slowed down and started swearing, it took the boy moments to realize what had transpired. They were trapped. Clive gave him a grim prediction of his end, but Meritio couldn’t muster enough strength to despair. He backed up to the nearby wall and leaned against it, trying to catch his breath from the mad run. It would be a shame if he didn’t even have air in his lungs to scream when he was dying-

It hit him sooner than he thought, the light and rumbling overloading his senses. To be honest, he had expected being ripped apart to be a different sensation from this. He didn’t really feel the extreme pain that Clive had promised, and in fact he felt kind of numb, especially his left arm, which was both hot and cold and tingly. His shoulder felt pinched and tight, like someone was grabbing him and squeezing.

There were voices, which sounded strangely distant. Had the blinding light subsided? Yeah, it seemed so, but there was still something much too bright in the distance. He was still breathing though, the rhythm loud in his ears, together with the pounding beat of his heart. The rest were talking about randomly inconsequential things, like savages and fishes and plant monsters. It was hard to make out what they were saying. Then they all turned to look at him. W-what? He turned his eyes downwards slowly to see red pooling at his feet. The left side of his clothes were all stained dark with blood. His blood. “Oh g-god…” he muttered, turning a paler shade, if that was possible. It was both fascinating and horrifying, like he was looking at his own death from a distance. Wasn’t it supposed to hurt more if he was leaking that much blood?

”Fine. Get going.”

Meritio didn’t recognize the woman who was brandishing a gun at them, but he moved when the rest moved. To his credit, he only swayed a little when he followed after them, his shoes leaving dark red prints on the floor. How embarrassing, he remembered himself thinking, guilty that he had left such a mess behind. Upon reaching the lab, he all but collapsed into the available chair. He didn’t object when the doctor approached him with a strange-looking contraption on wheels and started probing him with it. A beam shot out of the machine, cutting his shirt neatly without harming him.

After pausing to give instructions to his daughter to prepare the neutralizer, Leonard pulled on a pair of rubber gloves and peeled the cloth away to expose the wound. The doctor tutted at the sight. “The creatures are savage, but that’s what serves us well. Don’t worry boy, we’ll soon make you right as rain.” He turned to the machine’s console, and pressed a few buttons. It powered up with a high-pitched whine. “This, one of my greatest creations, excites cells and redistributes them across surfaces. It reconstructs cell structures, thus closing up wounds. However, the process doesn’t create new cells, so the healed area is going to be weak for a while. Try not to over-strain your arm for a few days.” He unhooked a torch-like attachment and pointed it at the wound. “This might hurt a little.”

A warm sensation spread over Meritio’s shoulder, then escalated into a searing burn deep in his bones. Letting out a low, guttural cry, his right hand jerked up reflexively to cover the injury. Leonard caught his hand halfway and held it down firmly. The boy struggled to squirm away from the pain, but a second later, the doctor let go of him. “There. It’s done.” Shocked, Meritio ran his freed hand over his shoulder. It was still sticky with blood, but there was no break in his skin. “Wow… wow.” The effects were equivalent to magical healing from the best healers, and it took even less time than they needed. Leonard took one of the syringes from Casey, and Meritio allowed him to inject the teal liquid into his arm.  “I can’t get those spilled blood back into you though. Drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest. Now, you next.” He pointed at Clive and his bloody forearm.

“By the way dad, are you experimenting with a new substance again without telling me?” Casey asked, while holding the syringe out to whoever offered their arm for the shot. “There was a creature down there that isn’t one of my designs. It's weird, like its head got put on the wrong way. The discrambler didn’t do anything to it.”

The doctor furrowed his brow and looked up. “No, I didn't. What are you talking about?”

“There, see, I’ll show you.” Casey stepped over and leaned against the control panels, gazing out of the glass lookout. She squinted, then went closer to the glass, almost pressing her nose against it. “Now what is THAT!” Leaking through the bottom of the floor was an alien substance, dimly glowing yellow. It was flowing rapidly, and it took her a few moments to realize that it wasn’t exactly flowing, but rather, it was multiplying. Casey snapped back towards the group, her shotgun pointing at them again, trained on Trey, then Erin, and back to Trey again. “Get behind me, dad! I told you they were with him! Now, you all better stop whatever the fuck that is, or you’re so dead. Even the reconstructor won’t do SHIT for you if I blow a hole through your brain!” Doctor Leonard rushed over to the window. His eyes widened when he saw the blobs, then he whipped around to stare at Ignus in his suit. Then he raised a trembling finger to point at him. "You! I know where you're from!"

Edited by jaistlyn

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Trey continued his merciless slaughter amid the chaos, whipping up a whirlwind of black goo and severed ghast parts, hindered by neither the lance-like tongues that flew at him from every direction, nor the scorching tongues of flame that licked at him, his sense of pain dulled to such a degree that he didn't notice the burns and gashes that covered him head to toe. A few of the winged abominations Clive had accidentally awoken descended on him, poised to snatch him up, but Trey was ready for them. He channeled energy into his throat, and let out a fierce, ground-shaking roar, accompanied by a powerful wave of force that tore the twisted creatures asunder.

Though it may have seemed that Trey had his situation well enough in hand, he was on the verge of being overrun, as for every ghast he defeated, several more rushed in from the shadows to replace it, and the large ones were closing in right behind them. The urgency of the moment was lost on him as he was focused only on his insatiable appetite for blood. He welcomed the opportunity to further his massacre openly, grinning like the murderous psychopath he had become as he began chopping up a fresh wave. The unsealed evil had consumed his mind, and threatened to take his body and soul as well.

 But not even the incredible power granted to him by the sword would've been enough to save him from being torn to shreds by the dark horde. The numbers he faced had more than doubled since the battle began, and to make matters worse, the giants were now upon him. He tried his best carve a path through the wall of ghasts, but they piled on him so quickly that he was barely able to cut down more than a handful of them before he could longer swing his cursed weapon. As he struggled in vain to get free, the giants launched their attack. As their tongues raced at him, Trey experienced a sudden moment of clarity. He realized that he was only a breath away from death, and there was nothing he could do. He shut his eyes and prepared to face the dreadful experience. Just before tongue lances could pierce him, a blindingly bright light filled the room, and with it a loud rumbling sound.

When the light and rumbling subsided, Trey turned back to normal and collapsed, barely conscious and bleeding out. He could hear the other's vices as he lay on the floor, but sounded muffled and far away. Consciousness returned to him just in time to see Casey waving a gun at him and Erin, and he groaned and put a hand to his head. "Fuck my life. I'm so done with this bullshit. If Master Ren ever found out about this, he'd be so disappointed in me..." He looked up at Casey with an expression of great frustration. "Look, we've been through enough today. All we want to do get out of this gods forsaken'd hellhole. The only reason we're down here in the first place is because we were trying to get away from a monster some crazy-ass scientist sent after us."

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“What are you talking about dad? Who is he?” Casey asked her father.

“No time for that, all I can tell you is that this creature is far beyond anything me or Lavernius could have created. We need to make sure it doesn’t reach the vats, or it will be unstoppable!”

“How do we do that!?” Casey demanded, allowing the aim of her shotgun to waver.

“We have to destroy them. Hopefully the explosion will kill that thing too. If not, god help us.” Leonard shook his head.

“Blow it up!? Dad, this is your life’s work! This is our home! You can’t jus--” Casey protested.

Leonard clasped a hand over her mouth to shut her up, as his eyes again glanced down at the growing blob in the chamber below.

“We don’t have much time. The rest of you need to get innoculated so you don’t evolve into cockroaches or something. Then we need--”

“Cockroaches, seriously?” Erin scrunched her face at the thought, thinking it sounded like a really bad 80s horror movie trope.

“Don’t balk at the thought, cockroaches are very adaptable survivors, much more capable of withstanding stressful environment than mere humans. Naturally that makes them a prime candidate for rapid evo-- NEVER MIND THAT! Casey, shoot them up with the neutralizer, except the man in the suit, then get them all to the lift! I have to set the self-destruct sequence.” he turned to his daughter and gave her a pointed glare into her eyes, “I will not ask again.”

Casey nodded reluctantly, as Leonard finally removed his hand from her mouth.

“Fine.”

She moved quickly, injecting Clive, Trey and a reluctant Erin, also grabbing a role of bandages and tossing them to the bleeding Trey (but he ain’t got time to bleed), before ultimately motioning for them to follow her to the corridor.

“Dad? You coming?”

“Go! I just have a few more passcodes to override! I’m right behind you! Just get into the lift!”

Casey didn’t like leaving her father behind, but she knew better than to disobey him. Leading the others into a rock-walled hallway. At the end was a T-junction, but they weren't taking the right or the left, rather, they were filing into the elevator built into the wall directly in front of them. The lift was large enough to accommodate them all, luckily, and once they were all inside, they turned to wait for Leonard to arrive. But he was nowhere to be seen behind them.

"Dad!?" Casey called down the hall.

"You're all inside? Good." Leonard's voice sounded over the intercom.

The lift door immediately shut without prompt.

"DAD!? What are you DOING!?" Casey screamed.

"I'm sorry sweetie, but I have to see this through until the end. Just get as far from the cave entrance as you can once you're topside."

"NO! DAD! DON'T DO THIS!!!"

"I love you, daughter."

"NO! NONONONONO!" Casey started mashing every lift button she could find, but to no avail, for the controls had been overridden from the outside.

Soon thereafter, the lift began its ascent. Casey continued screaming into the intercom and hitting buttons, but nothing changed, and there was no further communication from Dr. Leonard. Finally she stopped, just standing there crying for a moment, her back turned to everyone else.

"This... this is all your fault." they could hear her growl under her breath.

The next movement she made was enough to telegraph exactly what her intent was, or at least it would be obvious to experienced eyes like Erin or Clive. Erin reacted immediately, fishing out her own pistol, and no doubt Clive would have had his revolver out even quicker, so that by the time Casey had her shotgun realigned, she was staring down a pair of gun barrels herself.

"None of this would have happened if it weren't for you!" she wailed.

"Lady, none of us know what the fuck is going on!" Erin snapped, "Now, either lower that shotgun, or your gonna make your father's sacrifice be in vain."

"Don't tell me what to do you, you bitch!" Casey retorted.

There was a look in the woman's teal eyes that indicated she was distraught enough to fire, regardless of the consequences. If she did in close quarters like this, it was going to get really bloody for somebody, really quick. There was a tense, silent standoff for almost half a minute, before an unexpected interruption broke the silence, luckily preventing the gunslingers from blowing each-other apart. The sound was that of the lift's ceiling hatch being opened, and a voice calling down inside.

"AHA! It is I! The Cursor!"

Then again, maybe the interruption wasn't so lucky after all...

"Excuse me a minute, will you?" Erin said to Casey, before pointing her gun up at the open hatch and unloading the clip at the Cursor's face.

Unfortunately, every bullet sizzled into oblivion before it reached him, striking an invisible force field covering the hatch opening. The Cursor just laughed mockingly at the attempt.

"I knew you'd try that! So I took the precaution of warding all the entrances to the elevator! You are all trapped! No only that, but I have rigged the lift to curse ALL OF YOU as soon as we reach the top level!" he cackled, "The Cursor strikes again! AH HAH HA! HAHAHAHAH AHA!"

Just then, the lift came to a screeching halt, having reached the top of the shaft, causing the Cursor to lose his balance.

"AAHAA-WUH-AAACKK!"

They could hear him bumping against the walls on the side of the lift, as he felt through the gap between the elevator cabin and the wall outside.

"OAF-OW-ACK-OUCH-OHCRAP-AAAAAAAAAAHHHIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!"

The echo of his scream filtered into the elevator through the open hatch, as he plummeted all the way back down the shaft.

Ding!

The door to the lift promptly opened at that moment, revealing another cavern, with an open aperture on the far end, through which was filtering the first morning rays of sunlight. A very welcome sight, no doubt, to the band of misfits. For a moment, they were all able to stand there in the elevator cabin in silence, no doubt a bit confused over all that had happened in the past few minutes.

"Sooo..." Erin trailed-off, "You don't think he was bluffing about that whole "cursing all of us" thing, do you?"

ZAP!

"Motherfucker."

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The creatures kept on coming dispite the massive beast that made attempts at consuming them. 

[scan complete, the ooze is a type of formlessbiomass]

"how long have you been scanning for?" Before nearly getting hit by a claw 

"also when did you begin to scan? I dont remember commanding you to. " thats when one of the goo oozes ran at a speed unmatched to its other counterparts.

with its odd amount of arms it rushed to smash the bloxian.

"invasive menuvers!"

dogeing at the last second before it landed in a pile of flames and sparks started flying towards him like crazy, it didnt give much effect to him though . The insane amount of creatures rushing to get a piece of them were staggering. Fortunenly the door was opened and Ignus rushed on through right before the imp closed it.

next thing he knew a bright light shined over them, were they going to explode?.

he could faintly hear some one shouting about choices of planets."was that the drunk guy?  Choices planets? I never chose this planet" if it was up to him he'll be back in his home engineering scrips to increase the gaming industry.

Of course that could never happen, he was an out cast forever a rebel now. Thats when the light was gone. It look like other scientist.

"[Warning I read that the master leach is nearing our location]" 

 

"what what? That beast is coming?"

"[Affirmative it has also begun sending wonderful reports and results, oh la la that creatures genetic structure is- i ment it is only following protocol, you see...its following you due to its nature it needs to in order to recive its next batch of commands, but unfortunately we dont have a command computer and making one requires a commanding officer due to laws of hiarchy, only those with that rank or higher may create commanding computers as to reduce spam]"

"thats a stupid rule"

thats when someone began poking at him with a needle with failed to puncture his outer layer(its not skin so....is outer layer outer shell?...)

"even if you could youll release more radiation then any of you could handle and also dont come near me my people kinda have a power siphoning ability thats always active" 

"theres a way out right?" An elevator was shown 

"ha ha fir-" nope he was not first

nor was he listening to the various conversations. That was until the eleavator closed. And Casey pulled out her shot gun "this could get messy real fast" even if he were to survive it (he probely could) the elevator would surely come crashing down.

it opened before anything could happen.

it was the cursor

"huh heard you were a tric-"

*ZZAAAPP*

he morphed into a frog made out of simple spheres of various size the suit looked a bit cramped and now he couldent move around too much lest he risk being flung to infinity or fall through the world (it happened once to me so im considering this to be the norm) "now im a frog, wait" he turned to see everyone else

and what became of they

 

 

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“Come on big guy, we have to go.” Meritio shook Trey’s shoulder after he had helped bandage him up. Although it was messy and rushed since he hadn’t much experience in doing so, it was better than nothing. “Come on, I wanna lie there and sleep too, but we can’t. We’re almost safe now, you can do this.” The boy would use all his strength to try and force Trey into a sitting position, until he got up.

It was a short walk to the lift, and once Meritio got in, he sat on the floor, and his eyes inadvertently closed. They were done now, right? The blobs would be blown to oblivion, the anglerfish monster was no longer around, and the world would be safe?

Casey’s screams jarred the boy from his drowsy state. He stared at the hysterical lady, comprehension slowly dawning in him. “He’s not gonna… .., is he?” Meritio asked, swallowing an awful lump in his throat. The only answer was Casey’s sobs, while the rest went silent.

All of a sudden, all the guns went up again, but Meritio couldn’t care less about this drama now. “Stop it!” he tried to shout above the ladies. “All of you!” Everyone went silent for a moment. He looked down then, unsure of what to say or do. “I.. I’m sorry. Let’s just get out of this. Together.” He didn’t deliver it with the tone of a leader, just with the sincerity of a weary young man.

Whatever feelings of peace that might have induced, it was promptly cut off by the opening of the hatch and the reappearance of the Cursor, who had been largely forgotten. Knowing the drill by now, Meritio braced himself for some odd spell, like having his body parts distorted or switching with someone else.

Instead, something much more terrifying happened. There was a sick squelching sound, and eyes, hundreds upon hundreds of them, opened in the walls of the lift. They looked around wildly, jolting and rotating in their sockets, then locked upon Meritio. Screaming a shrill scream that would make a girl proud, he shot out of the lift, accidentally kicking the shrunken frog-alien and sending him flying. (Poor Ignus.) The boy would have knocked straight into Trey, but instead he phased right through and stumbled. The tunnel ahead appeared to Meritio as living and undulating intestines, as if he had been swallowed by a gigantic monster. Every squish of his shoes on the fleshy walls made him sick to his stomach. It was warm, moist, and a heavy odour hung in the air. His feet slipped on the slimy fluids covering the walls, but he pounded onwards, heading for the one opening he could see.

In his hallucination, he did not see the huge web covering the exit of the cave. Meritio ran madly, and smacked himself right into the web. In his mind, it was the steep incline leading up to the monster’s mouth that prevented him from moving onwards. He pumped his legs harder, but fell on all fours instead. He desperately tried to claw his way up, but to no avail. What started as a sting on his skin from to the acids of the monster intensified into an itchy burn. He thrashed around in panic-driven fear, but only got himself more entangled with the monster’s guts.

…To the rest, it looked as if Meritio had become insane, charging into a giant sticky spider web and getting himself stuck.

 

Effect: Hallucination, Turn 1 of 2.

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Clive had been about to tell Casey that he wasn't a treasure hunter and was just looking for the nearest bar when Erin spoke up to tell her the gist of their situation. His head was still throbbing from the strain he'd put on it earlier and Clive felt like he needed a drink more than ever. He was barely able to hear or focus on the conversation in front of him without falling out right then and there. Then he'd wake up with a hangover. Oddly, this worried him much more than the possibility of being killed in his sleep and waking up in hell.

"Lavernius?" Erin cocked her head, "Like, crazy scientist in a sci-fi helmet Lavernius?"

"SEE! I TOLD YOU!" Casey shrieked, pointing her shotgun at Erin.

Clive was startled by the woman's sudden rise in anger, the impulse to shoot her beginning to grow. It didn't matter if someone had him at gunpoint as long as he still had a free arm and a weapon within arms length, something the smarter outlaws had forced themselves to learn lest they wind up dead. It was known that Clive could manage to draw and fire on someone faster than the normal eye could perceive, meaning that if you had him at gunpoint and he drew on you, you were wounded, disarmed, or dead before you could even think to pull the trigger. His speed was really handy in situations like this, but his head was killing him and he didn't trust himself to accurately shoot the shotgun out of Casey's grasp without hurting or even killing her. On top of that, there was some guy way off into the distance that he couldn't even see because of how bright it was. Even if Clive had the necessary lack of honor and coordination to shoot them both on a whim, he couldn't shoot what he couldn't see. He knew a guy that could, but Clive doubted he'd ever get that good. Maybe he could if he stopped drinking, but that was less likely to happen than hell freezing over and being filled with fluffy cushions made of cotton candy and love.

Actually, that sounds pretty scary too. Maybe worse.

Clive resigned himself to the possibility of an altercation as he listened to Erin and the two scientists talk. He figured that if it came to it, Casey would shoot Erin first and and he'd make up some story about how she was keeping them all hostage with some sort of magical spell. That one usually worked. Or did it? He couldn't remember because he was drunk.

Erin seemed to have the right idea in finding common ground with the people holding them up. Clive could tell she was experienced with this kind of thing, knowing that the best way to defeat your enemy is to make them a friend. When he heard the man on the tower speak about his wife, he felt bad that he wanted to laugh. Not in the mocking way, but because his feelings towards his wife and his apparent experience were synonymous with Clive's, which was actually a little depressing and pathetic. The cowboy couldn't help but feel a bit of respect for the guy, although he figured him an idiot for getting tied down with an apparently murderous kid before he realized the error in his thinking. For that, he'd laugh at him mockingly later. AFTER he got a another drink.

Erin's false empathy did the trick though. Leonard told his daughter to escort them up into the tower, which she did. She never stopped aiming her gun at them, but this was to be expected. She escorted them to the tower and into a snazzy looking lift found at the base of it. It took them all the way to the top of the tower, Clive leaning against one its walls to cope with his exhaustion and pain. His shoulder wasn't bleeding as bad as Meritio's but it still hurt. His thoughts veered to a kid he knew that always accompanied this other kid named Charlie. Clive considered Charlie to be a troublesome runt, but a fun one. His partner on the other hand, was a ball of nerves and paranoia. He was also tough enough to eat a bowl of nails without the milk, and that could be literal. He'd once seen him cave a guys skull with a headbutt through a titanium helm after yanking a jagged sword out of his own gut, but here he was groaning over an injured shoulder. It made him feel like less of a man, but he'd never admit that. He wasn't soft. That punk just wasn't normal.

The ride up couldn't have lasted more than thirty seconds, but it felt like several minutes to Clive. Standing still for so long was causing his adrenaline to wear off, and his mind was a mix of pain and a desire for alcohol. Well, I guess I can't really call it a mix if his desire for a drink occupied over eighty percent of his brain.

Once they reached the top, Clive stumbled out and plopped down on a couch along one of the walls. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh, daydreaming of endless vats of his favorite alcoholic beverage. He smiled happily as he imagined himself swimming in a pool of wine the size of a lake, guzzling it down endlessly with no need for oxygen. He imagined the taste, the burning, acid-like sensation going down his throat, Erin's naked form swimming towards him-

"AGH!" Clive eyes shot open in horror. He looked around him frantically and placed a hand on his chest. "The hell did that come from?" he mumbled, his heart-rate starting to return to normal. His eyes shot over to the group, Casey still pointing her shotgun at his tag-a-longs as Leonard spoke. He eyed Erin, taking note that she was fully clothed. He let out a sigh of relief before shaking his head and sitting back and tipping his hat over his eyes. He refused to try and make sense of his fantasy, determined to consider it just some random thought. Regardless of his denial, he couldn't relax anymore. His head was till throbbing like mad.

“I can’t get those spilled blood back into you though. Drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest. Now, you next.” He pointed at Clive and his bloody forearm.

Clive tipped his hate back up to see Leonard approaching him. He wasn't holding a weapon, but dragging along some weird device instead. Clive wasn't sure what it was, so he reacted with caution accordingly.

"Whoa, there!" he said, casually pointing his gun in Leonard's direction. "What'chu doin'? What is that?"

"I'd explain," started Dr. Leonard, his nose turning up after smelling Clive's breath. "But I think I'm just gonna have to give you the abridged version."

"A bridge?" repeated Clive with a cocked eyebrow. "I don't want no damned bridge. How the hell're you gonna give me a bridge?"

Leonard sighed and rubbed a hand down his face.

"That is not what I-"

"Who walks up to a man and offers im' a bridge?" interrupted Clive, shaking his head in confusion. "You don't look like no bridge salesman."

"I don't want to-"

"I met a bridge salesman once." Clive continued, looking up in recollection. "I was post'a capture him and take im' ta' jail for scamming people. He'd go to small villages and offer to build em' a bridge, but when they gave im' the muneh, he'd skip town and do the same someplace else. So when I found him, you know what I told im'?"

Leonard's mouth was slightly agape in irritated disbelief as he gave Clive a deadpan look.

"What?" he said blandly, humoring the cowboy.

"I told him I sell bridges too." Clive nodded with a smile. "I sell bridges that take ya' to the afterlife. And this here?" Clive held up his gun and shook it a little. "Is my bridge."

"That was a wonderful story." Leonard slow clapped with a blank expression.

"Thank you." Clive nodded appreciatively.

"But I'm not a bridge solicitor." said Leonard. "I'm trying to heal that shoulder of yours."

Clive squinted at him, his eyes going down to the device he was carrying and then to Meritio, who was rolling around his no longer injured shoulder. He looked back up to Leonard.

"Oh." Clive said simply. "Sorry. I can get things a little confused when I haven't had my drink, you know?"

"I couldn't tell." Leonard replied with mild, mock surprise.

"Speakin' of which-"

"No. I don't have any." Leonard said with a shake of his head as he leaned down to examine Clive's wound. "Now please refrain from talking while I work on you. Your breath is making my eyes sting."

Clive shut his mouth in an over-exaggerated way and motioned like he was zipping it up. He then tipped his hat back down and closed his eyes as he let the doctor work. He tried not to let it bother him that the the doctor wasn't tending to his wounds in the traditional way Clive was used to. Back in his home town, alcohol was a common go to for doctors when it came to disinfecting a wound.

"Oh!" shuddered Clive when he felt the sting of the devices ray. "Damn, that smarts!"

"Easy there." said Leonard calmly as he hovered torch-like apparatus above Clive's shoulder. The doctor watched with prideful fascination as Clives wound mended, happy that he was getting a chance to test his invention. "Almost done."

"Ya'll doctors always say that s***!" sneered Clive as he peeked at what the doctor was doing. He'd been healed by magic before, but this was different. It seemed to be working faster, but Clive could feel everything. Whenever he was tended to by healing magic, it filled him with a warm feeling that wasn't painful at all. He couldn't say the same for the punk that always riding with Charlie though. Healing spells always set him on fire.

Clive chuckled at the memory as Leonard began to speak with Casey about the halved creature at the door. Clive couldn't quite understand it, something about a 'discrambler' doing something to it. Leonard also didn't seem to know what she was talking about, but when Casey stepped over to a window to point down, her face contorted into a look of horror.

“Now what is THAT!” yelled the young girl, startling both Clive and Leonard. Clive's gaze shot over to Casey, who was now pointing her shotgun at Erin and Trey.

"Little girl, what is your problem no-"

“Get behind me, dad! I told you they were with him! Now, you all better stop whatever the fuck that is, or you’re so dead. Even the reconstructor won’t do SHIT for you if I blow a hole through your brain!” Casey cut Clive off, that crazy look in her eyes again. Doctor Leonard hurried over to the window and peeked out of it. Clive wanted to follow, but he didn't want Casey blowing his head off on impulse. The doctor then whirled around and angrily pointed a finger at Ignus.

"You! I know where you're from!" shouted the doctor.

"What's goin' on!?" said Clive as he got up from his seat, rolling around his recently healed shoulder. Casey and Leonard seemed to ignore him as they began bickering with one another. It ended when Leonard clasped a hand over his daughters mouth, spouting something about everyone needing to get inoculated. Clive had no idea what that meant. As Leonard began to go into the specifics of why cockroaches were one of the most adaptable creatures on the planet, Clive began to hear something. He squinted as he tried to drown out everyone's talking and zero in on the strange gurgling noises echoing throughout the space outside the tower.

"Oh, hell." said Clive, his face going a bit pale. He wasn't sure what scared him more. The fact that it had gotten in there somehow or the fact that it'd managed to find them despite the winding caves leading there. Whatever the case, he hoped it'd gotten to Fraiser on its way in.

Clive winced jolted when Casey suddenly shoved a syringe in his arm and injected him with something.

"Ow!" Clive yelped, giving Casey an angry look. "What'd you do that fer'?!"

“Dad? You coming?” said Casey, ignoring Clive's mild ire.

“Go! I just have a few more passcodes to override! I’m right behind you! Just get into the lift!” answered Leonard. Clive didn't hesitate, not wanting to waste any time in getting away from whatever that thing was that had been chasing after them. Casey led them down a rock hallway leading out of the room. Once he and the others were inside the lift at the end of it, Casey called back to her father. It was at that moment that Clive got a bad feeling in his gut. As if right on cue, the door to the lift shut.

"DAD!? What are you DOING!?" Casey screamed.

"I'm sorry sweetie, but I have to see this through until the end. Just get as far from the cave entrance as you can once you're topside." came Leonard's voice through an intercom inside the lift. Clive watched with a rock in his gut as Casey slammed her hands against the lift door and began calling out to her father ferociously. She hammered the controls inside the lift, trying to get the door to open, but it was to no avail. Leonard had locked it down from the lab.

Casey continued screaming in protest even when the lift began to rise, Clive looking over to her with a heavy, forlorn look. He watched her slam her fist against the door, each hit becoming less and less forceful as he sobs began to intensify. Clive sighed and took off his hat, placing it against his chest as he looked to the floor. He listened to Casey cry, forcing his drunken mind to empathize with the girl. It wasn't too difficult for him though. He could vouch that little was more painful than losing a guardian.

Her sobs started to become quieter as her hands slid down the door in defeat, the lift hundreds of feet from the lab by now. Clive didn't even need to look up to see what was going to happen next. Casey spun around and pointed her shot gun at them, Clive slowly raising his head to look her in the eyes. He didn't draw on her. He didn't really need to. His gun was holstered, but even with his headache, it'd be easy to pop a kill shot at such a close range.

"None of this would have happened if it weren't for you!" Casey wailed.

"Lady, none of us know what the fuck is going on!" Erin snapped, "Now, either lower that shotgun, or your gonna make your father's sacrifice be in vain."

"Don't tell me what to do you, you bitch!" Casey retorted.

"I'm sorry." Clive said simply. The coldness in Casey's eyes was numbing now. All sense was beginning to leave her mind. She'd shoot. He was sure of it. He knew because it had been exactly what he'd done when he was a kid. Clive's gaze hardened. He'd made that mistake and it'd ruined his life and ended countless others.

"I AM...sorry." said Clive, Casey's pupils shaking with rage soon to manifest into blood lust. "If you feel that shooting one of us is gonna make you feel better, fine. I get it. You wanna explode. But just know that-"

"AHA! It is I! The Cursor!"

Clive's eyes narrowed in utter rage and irritation, his gun out and shooting up into the hatch on the lift in a fraction of a second. Erin did the same, but neither of them got the result they wanted. Their bullets just seemed to...disappear.

"You son of a b****!" growled Clive as stared up into the Cursor with a look that could kill. The menace merely laughed at them, explaining that he'd warded the lift and set it to curse them all the moment it reached the top. Then he laughed again, making Clive make the decision right then and there to put him on his hit-list.

Then...a flash of white.

Clive shut his eyes hard and tried to raise a hand to shield his face, but fell forwards when he did so. When the blinding white receded, Clive noticed that he was on the floor, chin-first.

And that he was looking down a furry snout. He reached up a hand to touch it, but it wasn't a hand. It was a paw. He tried to scream but all that came out was a bark. Freaking out even more, he shakily rose on all fours in an attempt to get some manner of control to stabilize his mind. He turned to look behind him and his fears were confirmed. He had a tail. His body was covered in tan fur with brown spots. He was barely coming up to Erin's waist standing on all fours.

He was a dog. He still had his hat atop his head and his peacekeeper was strapped to his chest via a leather harness but still...he was a dog. And not even breed of dog he liked! He was a St. Bernard!

He tried to scream again, but he only succeeded in barking again. He stood there motionless, trying to come to terms with what he was now and why. Then he remembered the Cursor. His eyes narrowed and he bared his fangs, beginning to growl loudly. He spun around in search of the nuisance and smacked his snout into one of the walls of the lift, whinnying in pain when he did so. He fell onto his side in a daze, but was back on his feet and growling in a matter of seconds. He didn't care how long it took. The Cursor was a dead man. Point-blank and simple. He'd kill him slow too. Maybe shoot him in the knees and gut before making him crawl through a desert as he guzzled water behind him. Then he'd-

Wait.

What was that smell?

Clive knew that smell. He knew that smell better than any other scent in existence. It was the smell of happiness. Of relief. Of salvation. It was the smell of that which he'd set out to find when he'd gotten up that morning. He sniffed the air frantically as he searched for it's source, taking no note of Meritio's very noticeable insanity, Trey's ghost-like body, the space-suit toting frog that had suddenly appeared, or the rain-cloud above Erin's head. No, he could not waste time concerning himself with such trivial things. But where was it? They were in another cave and the smell stayed consistent no matter where he trotted or sniffed. It was as if it were coming from...

He looked down.

Spoiler

saint-bernard-puppy-with-rescue-beer-keg

Bound to his neck by a dark brown collar was a large, wooden jug that hung just above his chest. His eyes went wide as he sat on his haunches and, through the almighty power of will and desire, undid his collar with his paws. He then bit the cork off the end of the barrel that kept its contents inside and raised the jug high above his mouth. He drank the alcohol inside with all the ferocity of...a wild animal? Despite his elongated features, he didn't let a single drop spill to the floor.

After the keg was empty, he let out a long, happy sigh and dropped it to the floor. His headache had sub-sided and had been replaced with that warm, fuzzy feeling he'd grown accustomed to. He didn't know what specific type of alcohol he'd just drank, but it'd hit the spot. He felt grateful. Yes, so grateful that any hard feelings he'd had towards the Cursor were immediately forgotten.

"WOOF!" he barked happily.

"HEY!"

Confused and startled by the loud yell, Clive turned around. There was no one there. This was strange, because he could have sworn Casey was standing in the lift. Where had she gone?

"HEEEEEY!" came the shout, this time far angrier. Clive looked down and saw what appeared to be an ornate looking falchion lying on the ground. "WHAT THE F***!!?? I CAN'T MOVE!"

Clive stepped back. The voice was coming from the falchion. Not only did it shake every time he heard it, but the teal colored gem in the pommel of the weapon would glow as well. There was something swirling inside the gem. Clive squinted to get a better look. It looked like a blue mist of some kind, only it was in the shape of a face.

Casey's face.

Clive tilted his head to the right in confusion, the way all dogs do when they're trying to hear something more clearly.

 

Edited by zackrobbman

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Erin winced when the Cursor's spell went off, cussing under her breath as she felt something happen to her. At first, she thought something terrible was happening to her skin, and that her entire body was getting heavier and colder. But after a second or two, she opened her eyes, realizing that it was wasn't quite so dramatic.

She was just getting wet.

Rain was down-pouring on her, which made no sense, given she was still in the lift. Looking up, she found a little black rain cloud floating above her head, dousing her with its infinite supply of fresh-smelling rainwater. It wasn't entirely the worst thing that could happen, she supposed.

Except for the fact that she was drenched already.

"Ugh... that stupid prick..." she grumbled, holstering her empty handgun and turning to look at the rest of the crew.

Turns out, she actually was the lucky one this time. The spaceman was not immediately visible, but Trey was... but only partially. It was as though he had become a literal hologram, being half-transparent like a ghost. Despite not normally being the sort of person to unnecessarily touch other people, Erin couldn't resist but wave a hand through the big guy's arm. As expected, it passed right through him.

"Ha..." she actually smiled slightly in amusement.

She nearly fell over though, when Meritio literally ran right through Trey in front of her, the boy making terrified noises as he stumbled out into the cave leading to freedom. What the heck had gotten into him? Maybe he just wanted to get outside the cave quickly, Erin supposed. In any case, Erin's gaze shifted toward where Clive had been standing, finding that what now stood there was a St. Bernard in a cowboy hat and a gunbelt. Also a keg of something was wrapped around his neck. 

"Cowboy, that you...?" Erin raised an eyebrow.

If the hat and belt weren't already a freakin' obvious giveaway, the the fact that the dog somehow managed to open the little keg, filling the room with the aroma of alcohol, and began drinking every last drop of liquid dry. Yep, definitely the cowboy. Still, how did he suddenly wind up with that keg? He didn't have it before, and it made no sense that... oh wait...

"Uh, you better hope those weren't your clothes transformed into alcohol." she pointed-out to him.

I mean, how else can you explain it? It certainly didn't make sense for the Cursor to randomly add a container of booze as part of his curse, especially not to a man who desperately wanted it so bad. And since the dog was not fully dressed... well, those clothes had to go somewhere, didn't they? Great, now the cowboy was probably going to be nude when the curse wore off. And when it came to the idea of seeing one-another naked, the feeling was not a mutual one. Unfortunately, just the thought of it conjured up mental images that Erin immediately wished she could unsee.

"I'm gonna go outside..." she sighed, her feet making a sloshing sound thanks to the puddle she was now standing in.

"HEY! HEEEEEY! WHAT THE F***!!?? I CAN'T MOVE!"

"Eh?" Erin stopped, remembering Casey was also supposed to be there too. 

The sound of the shouting turned out to be a thick, one-sided sword lying on the floor. Clive was already looking at it in curiosity, but Erin promptly joined him. Unlike the cowboy dog though, she was able to reach down and pick Casey up, allowing her to be examined more closely. The weapon was oddly colored, with the hilt being a combination of white, blue and black, precisely the colors of Casey's clothing. Also the blade was a very light bronze color, similar in hue to human skin. To top it off, of course, was the teal gem, inside which was the foggy face of the woman herself.

"HEY! DON'T TOUCH ME!" Casey snapped.

"Not like you can do anything about it." Erin remarked, "Gotta say, I think it's an improvement."

"Put me down this instant!"

"Naw."

Erin turned and started heading out of the lift, figuring Trey and Clive could follow on their own. She didn't know where the alien went, but she wasn't sure she cared. Half of this was his fault already. Instead she turned her attention down the tunnel, only to find Meritio tangled in a spider web about half-way down, thrashing and screaming madly.

"Damn it, kid..."

Ignoring Casey's angry banter, Erin advanced toward the boy, but stopped when she saw a shadow begin to loom over him. Of course, any spider web large enough to trap a human meant that there were also spiders large enough to eat a human. And one of them was just now crawling down from the dark, unseen ceiling, looking to put the boy out of his misery. 

"Sonnuva..."

Her gun was empty and her bow would take to long to get out. She only knew one way to save him before the spider poisoned him or something like that.

"HEY! What are yo--- AAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIHHHHHHH!!!" Casey shrieked as Erin hurled the falchion girl at the spider.

Casey's blade embedded into the spider's backside, causing it to recoil away from Meritio, screeching in pain. The attack also prompted it to turn around toward Erin, but the woman was already pulling out her bow and arrows. The spider hissed at her, but she wasn't scared of it in the least. One shaft was shot right down its throat, a second landed at the base of one of its legs, while the third went right between the eyes. All eight of them. The oversized arachnid promptly collapsed to the floor with a thud, its rain-soaked slayer standing over it victoriously.

"You ain't got nothin' on Frostbite spiders, bitch." Erin taunted the corpse, before yanking out her arrows, rinsing them the rainwater, then restoring them to her quiver.

A chittering sound from above caused her to freeze in-place, however. Slowly looking up, she found that there were about a dozen octets of red, glowing eyes staring down at her from the darkness above.

"..."

"...."

"....."

"Time to go!"

Erin ripped Casey out of the dead spider's behind...

"I feel... sullied..."

...and began hacking away the webs that were imprisoning Meritio. Once the kid was free, Erin grabbed him and pulled him along toward the entrance, hoping the rest of the group was right behind her. 

Edited by Tyler

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