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Mykur: The thorn imperium

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A 20-foot sculpture? Who would want that? 

She pursed her full lips at the thought. She was clearly someone who rarely give value to any representation of art, no matter how much weight it has on a historical or aesthetical level. Her preference had always been with arms, mechanical wonders or even those objects that hold immense supernatural powers. Unfortunately, she's on duty today and with the Gingerboss beside her, the woman doesn't have much choice in this endeavor.

I find this stupid but I should bid for it. 

With a sigh, her focus drifted on the series of other bidders that began raising. She figured it isn't too late to make a bid on her own and so with great reluctance on her part, the woman raised her special stick, one with the numbers "69".

At this moment, I feel like I've lost something within me. My dignity perhaps.


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Shikai didn't listen to the specifics of what the man on the stage was saying until people began to bid on the statue. The Mistress was the most on the ball of any of them, and already had her paddle up to signal her interest. He held a numbered paddle of his own, but he wondered if this was truly the best way to obtain their prize. Of course he knew that the Dead had the resources to pay for whatever the cost ended up being; but they were on a time crunch. Whats more, the people in this room were all obscenely wealthy, and there was a great deal of interest for the item. If they decided to pursue it to the bitter end, they could be here all day.

An idea formed in his mind, a way to achieve their objective, and test out a pet project of his. From a pocket of his jacket, he retrieved a cylindrical container, from which he produced a long, thin needle. The needle had been soaking in a new paralytic agent he had been working on, one that had shown great promise in his initial tests. Today would be its first field run, and he was excited to see how it went.

Taking a moment to watch, he saw that the bidding was now between six people, including the Mistress. Silently, he moved through the crowd until he reached his target, an older man who he swiftly jabbed with the needle. Immediately the man tensed up, and no longer raised his paddle to bid. With great satisfaction, Shikai stalked through the room, jabbing each bidder besides the Mistress when they put their paddle down. A few minutes later, she was the only one raising her paddle. 

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Cain’s Mona Lisa eyes encapsulated the room as the auction began, from Black at his right to the Mistress at his left, to the distinctly empty space where Shikai had been. Now they honed in on the Mistress. If her expression didn’t describe it, trickles of her disenchantment transferred to the First Officer from the black pad stuck to her.

Don’t forget that this isn’t for that sculpture, milady. This is to get close to Keli; to get close to a legendary artifact.

As the auction ensued, he turned his attention to Black, speaking aloud. The Mistress didn’t know it, but Cain was paying close attention to her response. Teamwork mattered in the Dead. 

“I don’t want your life, Neon. I want your ships! And, to be fair, you. Alive.”

“40 schmeckles”
“50 schmeckles!”

“69,” said the disaffected Mistress. Cain continued on with Black.

“When gotten what we came here to get, I want to take it back to Terrenus on your ships. I don’t want to steal them though.”

Slowly the bids came in more and more slowly. Seamlessly with his out loud conversation with Black, Cain sent a mental link to Shikai using the black pads.

How long will the paralysis last, Shikai? We need long enough to leave with Keli and his guards before the people come back.

“Black, I think we got off on the wrong foot. I think I can turn your defunct fleet into something worth fearing again.”

Black’s eyes laid steadily on Keli, whose obsidian silhouette loomed behind the auctioneer. Keli looked naked, but his features were so smooth there were no genitalia, was no hair. Black seemed aware that the bids were dwindling, but still he responded to Cain while staring at Keli.

“What could you do to make it great?” He asked in a monotone voice.

“Much has happened in the last 20 years, Black. You feared me when we were young, but now you cannot even fathom me. I’ve got the technology to mask your fleet. Protect it. I’ve got reliable men who could do well with it. Doesn’t that change anything?”

Black paused when it appeared the Mistress was the last one raising the schmeckle paddle.

“And 420 schmeckles going once, twice, three times, sold to the pretty lady in the back!”

About 15 minutes later the group was walking out a back entrance with Keli and four other guards exactly like him in odd, gigantic, smooth obsidian nature. Their skin appeared matte, inflexible and unlike skin. Their joints had the slightest of apertures that showed, indeed, they must at least have some android parts. When examined more, tiny studs that emulated fingerprints spiraled around their bodies.There appeared to be no eyes, just smooth divots of skin. When Keli, at the head of the diamond of towering figures they walked with, opened his mouth to speak though, all five of the beings spoke and it could be seen that their lips, teeth and tongues were real enough. All of the voices were Keli’s.

“I have spent my lives perfecting the art of human nature, and then twisting it to the farthest extents that humanity can take it. These extents are often unnatural and terrifying, breathtaking and inspiring. Many people have wondered what drives the unbelievable machine of my artistic touch. I hope you will join me at my art lot to see where my muse lies.” 

The group entered a sleek, bullet-like vessel that hovered a foot off the ground on a curb in a VIP parking lot. Tall, curving, taunting buildings loomed in a jagged circle into the black grey sky above them. There was one barred gate out of the circular lot, and the black silhouettes of Keli’s fans stared in like zombies, their eyes almost illuminated red in the light. When they saw Keli and the group, their arms even reached through the spaces between bars while they moaned like undead for their creative manipulator. The insides were like a limo, small panels of immaculate wood donning crystal glasses and beakers of liquor. Sleek blue lines gilded the seats and ceiling, illuminating Keli and his sentinels ominously. Cain entered without a second thought. Black stopped in front of the limo, staring with genuine fear in the back of his eyes if only for an instant before stepping into the void of the vehicle. Soon its doors would hiss shut and the gates would open. The only thing that saved some of the brainless fans was their diving out of the way at the last second; the driverless vehicle’s path would have plowed heedlessly over them if not. This was an opportunity for any of the operatives to ask questions of Keli. Especially the Mistress, who was supposed to be the most interested, considering the fact that she’d bought the sculpture now collecting dust back at the art exhibit. The Dead were a precise group of operatives who did clandestine things for deadly purposes, not people who just idly bought art. It just so happened that pretending to be people who idly bought art was sometimes part of being a precise group of operatives who did clandestine things for deadly purposes.

When they arrived at a glaring mansion, haunted windows glaring out at the secluded street on the hill leading down to the sea, Cain looked pointedly at the Mistress. His voice came through the psychic connection to the Mistress and Shikai, but not Black.

Heads up, Dead. This is where things get hairy.  He’s going to single you out Mistress. Come up with a reason that I have to come along. Meanwhile, if the rumors are true, he’ll try to dispose of Black and Shikai. Shikai, if you can manage to on top of saving your own skin, try to save Black. He’s imperative to future Dead operations. He’s got big boats. Really big boats.

Exiting the vehicle, and entering the building’s main foyer sure enough, the main Keli broke off from his four counterparts. He extended the wide, smooth extent of his black hand toward the Mistress.

“Miss, since you were the purchaser of the artifact you have acquired a view of my art’s true secret. The others may entertain themselves in my lounge. My other parts will lead them there.”

A doorway to the right framed with neon lights, through which a bar could be seen, is where the three sentinels headed with Shikai and Black. Down a spiral staircase is where Keli would guide the Mistress and, if the Mistress provided, Cain.

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Alone? The Dead Mistress frowned. She can't be alone with all these male strangers. Now she's scared of what these men will do to her. After all, she's just a poor, defenseless woman who could barely climb the stairs.

"Wait," the Mistress called out, "I can't go on alone. I need my adviser-" points to Cain, "-to confirm the authenticity of the statue. While I respect the auction's credibility, I fear that I would be easily tricked if I have no one I trust at my side. Please, sir. At least grant me this selfish request."

There was no need for her to put up a mask to make herself more believable. The Mistress' always had this plain innocent face that's borderline delicate and lady-like. She's more worried that she'd burst out laughing anytime soon. She can only hope that Keli will say yes.

While she waited for his reply, her mind began recalling all the information from the auction catalogue. If they are going to finesse this place, she'd better steal all she needs.

Exalta weapons. Black Exalta Prisms. A shield of healing. Cobran alpha wolf furs. Ballard Bay shield of healing. The elusive Vintel berries. A half-dead monster from Moonwood, ready for binding. And a baby phoenix, ready for bonding.

Then the rare materials. Bloodstones. Elemental Stones. Celuro. Stryderian scales. Runestones. And more. 

Edited by Thotification

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The plan had gone off without a hitch, and soon they were the proud owners of the statue; and had attracted the attention of the creepy obsidian man. It wasn't long after that they found themselves in some kind of vehicle that was tailor made to show off how rich its owner was. Cain warned him that Keli was probably going to try to kill him and black when they arrived; which didn't surprise the shinobi at all. Fighting while protecting Black would be difficult, but he was fairly certain that he could do it.

As soon as they were through the front door, Shikai was already planning. Keli had barely finished speaking before he slung his arm around Black's shoulder and boisterously dragged him toward the lounge. While they walked, he spoke under his breath so that the man could hear him.

"Listen up. These guys are gonna try to kill us in a few minutes. When they do, get behind the bar and take cover. I'll handle them and tell you when it's safe to come out."

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The black pads donned by each operative were such helpful devices. Being able to plan as they went instead of being forced to improvise at every turn had worked to their advantage in that Cain could now come with the Mistress and Keli. This, he thought, would give him the perfect vantage point from which to snatch anything valuable he found in Keli’s underdwelling. The First Officer more than trusted Shikai with protecting Black. It hadn’t been said, but Cain was growing increasingly fond of his work. Being in proximity to Black for long enough was always sure to produce certain lavish opportunities, and Black needed goading to join with the Dead, so Shikai’s placement was a dual-pronged strategy.

One of the two sentinels with Shikai and Black moved behind the bar, asking what drinks they fancied. Black was quick with a dark old-fashioned, seeming more keen to drink than relish in the creepy neon bar and the second abyssal silhouette that sat beside him, facing the pair. While one of them was making drinks, the other sentinel sitting still, something seemed off. Like, of course they were basically inhuman cyborgs, but besides that the cordiality changed shades as soon as the original Keli left with the Mistress and Cain. Black’s perpetually yawning eyes looked at Shikai over the rim of his glass backlaid with fear. Black had an almost uncanny ability for conveying emotion with his eyes. What’s happening, they asked.

Don’t do anything until they attack you, said Cain. We have to get as close as we can to Mykur down here.

“So,” said Black uneasily as if he had heard Cain imploring them to act natural but simply couldn’t muster the ability. Neon’s eyes didn’t wander from Shikai, but the underlying discomfort in them was still evident. “Shikai, how long have you known the Mistress?” 

Meanwhile, Keli eyed Cain, and in that exact moment something Cain rarely did occured. He deactivated the Big O around his wrist, releasing his connections to all his puppets and masked his aura so that, when Keli activated magic sensors behind the visors that had become of his eyes, Rose appeared as little more than a low level enchanter. 

The longer I have to mask my magic in front of Keli, the worse, came his voice in the Mistress’s head as they walked down a neon blue spiral staircase out of Shikai and Black’s sight. Soon the staircase was leading down a cylinder of glass. It gets harder to reestablish the longer I don't maintain it.

Outside the glass was a seemingly endless expanse of utter blackness. It seemed, when looking close enough, that pairs of barely visible red dots were stationed in a gargantuan gridded circle all around them. At the bottom of the staircase was a perfect rectangle of red light.

“Come see the exclusive view of what I have done for all these years. Know the recipe that is my greatness,” said the large artist before venturing through the plane of red.

Cain walked directly beside him, fingers sliding along the red glass, eyes roving daringly the expanse into which they plunged. He entered the portal in lock step with Keli, daring the artist to instill more fear in him. Now, inside Keli’s sanctum, Cain waited for the right moment to unveil himself to Keli.

When they entered the square of light,  the entire room around them illuminated as if the tube down had just been darkly tinted. Now they stood in what looked like a massive, futuristic hangar with human sized cells filling every wall, except for one steel corridor leading out each of the four walls. There was one Keli standing inside each cell, frozen, inactive. On the ground there were circular platforms raised about three feet in the air, each platform donning a statue demonstrating some form of human anguish. Some were singular figures with their fingers curled, heads thrown back in despair. Some were amalgams of ten, sometimes fifteen people embroiled in horrific orgy. Genitalia and faces, backs and legs were mashed together in the warp of Keli’s finished product. Centaurian figures of the human wretch adorned every platform, each of them both beautiful and disturbingly real in their one-of-a-kind proportions.

Keli looped around almost each one, saying nothing as if the extent of his perfect black, studded palm were sufficient regalement for each display. On the far side of the hangar bay were two empty pads standing adjacent to one another. Keli led the trio up a set of roll-around stairs onto one of the pads.

“Now, good buyers, I will show you how I make these displays.” 

Keli extended his hand to the nearest steel corridor. From within the slanting black could be heard heavy footsteps. Then, after a minute, two sentinels identical to Keli and his clones exited the darkness dragging figures that were indescribable at first. They looked like dead bodies, but weren’t. They were certainly living humans, except malnourished and unconscious. The sentinels, lifting the bodies easily, one by the ankle and one by the wrist, tossed the two humans in a heap on the adjacent platform and then resumed standing still. The pale, meak bodies were naked, burlap sacks tied over their heads. It was hard to tell because they were so skinny, but the genitals were a dead giveaway; one of them was a female and one of them a male. 

As that happened, a screen rose before the platform on which the three stood. The screen was split into four quadrants. From left to right the quadrants were white, green, red, black. Kelis shifted his fixed facade toward them and his digitally rendered voice came. Now genuine interest in what they chose could be heard in his voice.

“What kind of piece would you like to see? Something that embodies life, the sweet cycle out of youth and into ripe age? Perhaps, something that embodies a positive emotion like love, the caress of someone for whom you carr? Or maybe you have a darker fancy, and you want to see something that embodies a negative emotion like hatred or anger, fear maybe... Or, do you think, could you handle something that embodies death?”

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Cain whispered in his ear, and Shikai wondered how many more times it would take before his leader was satisfied. It was true that he was a bloodthirsty psychopath who loved the thrill of battle; but he was also a professional. He asked for a whiskey sour once sat at the bar, and took in his surroundings. The room was small, not much room to move around; which meant he wouldn't be leaping around once the music started. With Black on his right side, that put one goon on his left side, and one behind the bar. He figured he would take out the bartender first; since he had the most unobstructed view of his companion. If goon number two moved faster, he could quickly interpose himself between the man and Black.

After taking a sip of his drink, he smiled over at Black, "Oh, we go waaaay back! She's pretty hot huh? I would have made a move already, but apparently she has a boyfriend."

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The woman turned to look at Cain. She understood the struggle of trying to contain one's magical prowess but she's already doing that every second of the day. It was a mere side-effect of presence, one that if left unchecked, would be very dangerous to the regular people. This is why people rarely detect any magical energy within her as she herself is subconsciously containing her presence lest everyone within five meters of her be squashed by the weight of her very being.

Keli's recipe is definitely not the greatest. That much the woman understood. She had seen worse back in her days with the Legion of Doom and the occasional artist within the ranks of the moonwitch's cult. Still, she found it highly disturbing that someone like Keli could keep on doing such disgusting without repercussions. He must have some form of influence within this land.

However, she was more than angry at the macabre display. No man should be reduced to such a pitiful state. The woman would have struck Keli down right here and right now but now is not the time to attack. She must be patient. For now, she will play her part.

"I want life. I want to see a masterpiece filled with life and hope."

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