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[Dead] Bury the Ashes (Closed)

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Ash stared at the piles of goo as Phoebe related her ideas about Maleficence to him. This served the dual purposes of both releasing the burn of shame that had filled his gut from earlier, and creating a new idea.

“If we can…” he said distractedly as the last of their victims dissolved into the muck, as the Red Door opened.

Ash was a highly trained weapon without as highly trained a mind. As mentioned earlier, his capability for game-changing was as high as his penchant for chaos. In that, Ash and Maleficence were a perfect storm. Exactly like a martyr holds onto their pain, he was too proud to let go of Maleficence— but he was not so rigid in his pride that he would not adapt Maleficence to his own purposes. For the first time, thanks to Phoebe, he considered that he might actually do something productive with it instead of clinging onto it like his favorite Achille’s heel.

<Can you climb?>

‘Trees? Yes. This? I don’t know.’

When she looked at Ash, Phoebe would already see him grabbing a small trash bin and flipping it upside down. Testing it to see if it would hold his weight, he lifted himself and twisted the small lever embedded in the hatch. A linoleum pop and their entryway into the shaft was set. He examined the cables, the rafters along the sides, a ladder! Doing a quick pullup, he landed his forearm on top of the elevator and got his other arm through the opening, exiting with the rest of his body before looking up and sending a mental image of their progress to Shikai. Then he bent down to the opening, reaching a hand down for Phoebe.

‘At least the cab is beneath us, so if it comes up we’ll be on top of it.’

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"If we can…"

"We can do anything."

Off of anyone else's tongue, the platitude might have fallen as flat as the two Dead would be if the elevator lurched into motion. Still, from Phoebe, it was an idle statement of fact loosed easily, almost off-handedly, with little more fanfare than a hallway how-do-you-do.  Tucking her head inside the elevator, she squinted- watching Ash with curiosity as the boy resourcefully pieced together a solution and used it to clamber up and through the hatch onto the car's roof.

'At least the cab is beneath us, so if it comes up we'll be on top of it.'

< I'm not sure that's better?>

Leaping, Phoebe grabbed the boy's wrist and half lifted, half telekinetically pushed herself up and onto the roof with his help.  Could she have just levitated?  Maybe, going wasn't the issue with 'flying'; the issue was stopping.  Now atop the car, she waved a hand toward the ladder, then followed Ash up the metal rungs toward the closed doors above.  Those she began to work on as she climbed, wedging a sliver of psionics through the door and unfurling it out across the floor.  No bumps, no lumps, no humanoid shapes - why would Amirah take a meeting outside?  It's so much more vulnerable in the open.

<Seems empty.>  This, to Ash and Shikai.  <They must have moved to the roof.>

The elevator doors screeched as Phoebe wedged them open with her thoughts- if there was anyone on this floor, they certainly would hear them coming.  It was a tactical vulnerability in their assault; there just wasn't a good way to come at Amirah that didn't leave them vulnerable at the onset.  In all circumstances, the Dead would enter directly into a room where their target more than likely had left security.  Short of an all-out assault, blasting through a wall, or some other such nonsense, it would be challenging to enter with the upper hand.

As it turned out, the second floor was as empty as Phoebe's telekinetics had told her, but the door to Amirah's office was open, and once Phoebe had shoved the Mindgorger over the edge and pulled herself up onto the tiled slate floor, she flashed an upraised palm at Ash and disappeared into the office's sconce-lit interior.  A moment later, she reappeared, a smirk twisting her pretty lips as she gripped the door jamb and waggled a metal-bound collection of paper cards at him.

<She writes everything down.  There isn't even a data vault in the office for anyone to have hacked into.  No wonder her calendar was empty. >

A beat.

<Her technical staff must love her.>

Turning, Phoebe tossed the info cards back into the office and ran one hand back through her violet locks as she continued broadcasting her thoughts to her two accomplices.

<Anyway, her visitor is just a run-of-the-mill drug slinger-- minimal operational impact.  Shikai, we're entering the roof-level in one minute - be prepared to join as a second wave.

Ready to make a mess?>

Meeting Ash's eyes, Phoebe watched the boy before offering him a slanted grin as she strode back toward the elevator shaft, bending mid-step to snatch her spear from its place.  Beneath the edge of her leathers, the whorls and swirls painted across her pale musculature flared as she tapped their embedded energies and drew them forward, where they curled, poised at the apex of her thoughts like a serpent's fangs. 

The plan was shot- defeated by good ole pen and paper - and nothing Phoebe was going to do would recover it.  There would be no quick end- no slip of her knife between Amirah's vertebrae, no quiet suffocation, no smile before the twist of her neck.  There was one way onto the roof- the shaft- and with a bound, Phoebe propelled herself up and into its darkness.  Her boot hit a rusty supporting cross-bar, and she planted it there, wedging it against the metal before she shot upward, blowing through the elevator doors with the flick of her mind.  Stopping wasn't the issue now, so she didn't - as the metal screamed and exploded outward, her momentum carried her through the mess and out onto the polished metal roof.  A quick check as the First landed lay bare a concerning situation - two stunned guards by the ruined elevator, but dozens more milling around the empty tables and lounge couches, and beyond that.. Amirah and her drug slinging visitor.

In the stunned moment that accompanied Phoebe's arrival, each woman found the other's gaze and grinned.

Game on.

Edited by Noko

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Everything had been going so well.

William talked a good game; as did all cowards when under the impression that they had an advantage over those they sought to dominate. But this made him easy to manipulate; a little booze, some light flirtation, just generally stoking the morons ego. Soon he was eating out of the palm of her hand, all the while thinking he was some kind of genius negotiator; a masterful practitioner of the art of the deal. Amirah's contempt for the drug dealer could fill oceans; but her calm smile and affable demeanor betrayed nothing of her true feelings.

Then the doors of the elevator blew outwards with a shriek of tortured metal; narrowly missing the two men standing guard in front of it. Questions swirled in her mind. Who would dare? How did they get past her security? WHO THE FUCK WOULD DARE!?

All of these questions were answered when the dust settled, and she saw Phoebe Marshal standing on her roof.

Amirah's gaze met the First's, and a savage grin spread across her face at the sight. Fine. If Marshal wanted to come for her; she would be more than happy to oblige her. Calling balls of flame to her hands, she glanced over her shoulder to the large man tending the bar.

"Get the lights, won't you?"

Nodding, the bartender downed a shot he had been pouring when Phoebe had burst onto the scene. Then he looked skyward and opened his mouth as if to scream. but no sound escaped from his mouth. Instead, an inky black darkness flowed out; rising high into the sky. Soon the darkness surrounded the rooftop in a dome of night; the various lights of the VIP area and the flames of The Phoenix providing illumination.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" she shouted to her security, "Kill the bitch!"


The shaking of the building told Shikai that the battle had begun as dust and debris rained down on the dance floor. Patrons stampeded toward the exits, leaving the shinobi moving upstream against a human tide to get to the VIP elevator. Once he'd made it, he easily forced open the doors and began bounding upward. When he came to the roof, he jumped out; calling the Legendary Blade Mykur to him and beheading the guard to the right of the elevator with lethal grace.

"We'll take the small fry, you get the Bird!" Shikai cackled as he rushed to meet the charge of security goons.

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The unfurling of Phoebe's telekinetics, like water cascading across the floor, provided the information Amirah sought to keep from her.  In the tepid darkness, she was far from blind - the Phoenix's representatives, however, were a step above that.  They weren't fools; Amirah wasn't a blunted cog in a wheel, and while she may not have planned for Phoebe, she had planned for someone.  

As the Psion stretched to map the road between her and Amirah, each of the Phoenix's guards touched their temples- a tap birthed a thin red beam which curled around their head and across their eyes, providing night vision to the otherwise blind.  In the blooming fog, red shafts of light shot from their guns across empty club, each with a duel purpose- aiming, obviously, and burning flesh like a laser, less obviously.

Phoebe found her first target, feeling the roughness of his pants beneath her thoughts as he stood between her and retribution.  A thought set his fate- an invisible snake formed at his feet, looping itself around his leg.  He had time to choke out a surprised 'Wha--?" before Phoebe snatched his base out from under him, upending the man with such force that his head cracked sharply against the wooden planked floor; he lay there, still.

At the noise, a red line swung across the rooftop, sweeping across her back and searing a two-inch long brand across her bare shoulder before her telekinetic shield snapped into place and cut the laser off.  Its crimson needle ricocheted off the shield like it was a mirror and angled toward the floor, where it smoldered but was dampened by the fire-retarding treatment on the planks.  The First swore- she shot a blast toward the line's origin, knocking the guard back into the ghostly black perimeter, where he was caught instead of tumbling over the roof-deck's edge.

OOC: I realize it was Ash's turn, but I figure I'd kick off the combat.

Edited by Noko

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“We can do anything”

Ash stopped, looking back down on Phoebe. Not at her, but through the disguise, deep into her eyes. ‘Does she really think that,’ he thought. ‘Is it possible that she’s right?’ Nevertheless he pulled her up without a hitch, surprisingly so in fact, and up they went. While Phoebe surveyed the floor Ash remained beside the shaft. He knew just as well as her that even though they couldn’t detect anybody, there might still be someone or their information in there… until there wasn’t. 

Phoebe watched Ash and Ash watched Phoebe for a moment in which both understood where they must be if they were neither inside the club's basement, the club itself, or its offices; and in that moment he began making his way into the shaft so that, when she leapt up there, he was at least on the maintenance ladder by the time she flew by.

“Damn,” he started thinking to himself right about now. “I need to get some of those fancy gifts.”

It was clearer every day on the field that Ash was less capable than his Dead counterparts, and even clearer than that the fact that the man above them all was farther away than he could imagine. What’s more, there were so many ways to become ‘gifted’ in Valucre, but almost all of them were just as likely to get you killed. He decided to stow the thought away for later as he climbed, climbed and climbed toward the sounds of skidding metal and grunting grunts. 

Above he could see light from the ceiling level, and then suddenly as he approached, he couldn’t. Peeking quietly into the darkness of the blasted out elevator doors, Ash beheld first, darkness. Second, beams of light blasting from presumably Amirah’s cronies. He withdrew his head from the opening, all at once learning that the enemy had laser weapons and probably means of seeing clearly in the dark. It was best, he figured, not to expose himself until he could figure something out. Arcane emanations and the multifaceted grunts of Amirah’s bodyguards echoed in the night air of the rooftop sector of the club.

“It’s pitch black,” he said over their connection in a moment of hesitation. “I’m afraid I’d be a burden if I jumped in like this.”

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Umbrakinetics, laser guns, and magical night vision were not what Shikai had anticipated when he had signed up for this mission. But Phoebe had been up-front with him about the fact that she had precious little information about their target. The surprise was hardly a bad thing either. The thrill of combat came from the surprises that one encountered during the heat of battle. For example, he could not have predicted that Amirah would have someone in her employ with the ability to control darkness. Yet by that same token, she couldn't have known that The Dead would have someone who could do the same!

Well, control, was a bit of an overstatement. The Legendary Blade Mykur did have the ability to control darkness and shadow, but only once it had been properly awakened. Shikai had gotten good enough with the sword that it no longer drained him to use it; but he didn't currently have access to its higher abilities. But even in its dormant form, the weapon was a potent spell slicer. 

"Don't worry lad! I'll brighten things up a bit!"

The shinobi bounded into the air, easily reaching the top of the dome; and as he did he slashed at the umbral wall with his blade. While the magic at work was powerful enough that the strike didn't undo the spell completely; but he had managed to cut a wide gash into the working. Light flooded in, making it easier for those without any kind of augmented vision to see.

Landing among a cluster of guards, Shikai wasted no time slashing away at the men with the razor sharp sword. However, these men were better than just mere goons, and he took a few laser blasts as he cut them down. As the last one fell, he tossed the blade at the bartender; who dodged out of the way to let the weapon sink into the wall behind him.

"You're mine, Sunshine!"

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There were things you can prepare for, and things that you couldn't.

For someone like Amirah, a known and feared/respected member of the underworld, it wasn't a leap to think that some enterprising moron might try to launch an assault on her place of business. Working from that possibility, she could prepare her security to repel any such incursion. She could come up with various strategies; equip her men with top of the line weaponry, and psionic enhancements. Amirah had drilled her guards to the point that they could enact their roles in a combat situation practically without conscious thought. When the intruders had come up through the elevator, they had all responded with practiced precision.

But there were certain things that you couldn't train for. How did you prepare your guards for a woman who could kill them without so much as laying a finger on them? Or a man who could leap twenty feet into the air, and kill three men before the other three had even pointed their weapons at him? There was simply no way to prepare for freaks like these.

Fortunately, Amirah was a freak herself. 

She threw one of the balls of fire into the elevator; causing an explosion that would damage anyone nearby as well as incinerate any further potential intruders coming up the shaft. Next, she zeroed in on the Psion, and loosed a steady stream of fire at her.

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"It's pitch black. I'm afraid I'd be a burden if I jumped in like this."

<You fought invisible attacks from me for months..>

Her encouragement floated back on steeled thoughts, smooth despite the effort Phoebe exerted as she wove through the fight, ducking a fast-moving swipe from one of the fiery red lines as she shaped her Will into lashes that punished those near her.  She took a breath in, pushed a breath out, and cleared the area with a circular push that sent the wrought iron deck furniture scattering.  In its wake, there was nothing - just open air and claustrophobic darkness, like the Dead and their victims were already settled in their graves.  

She reached out again, her thoughts for Ash alone.

<Trust the team, Ash.  Trust the work.> 

In the pitch, her violet hair stood out in flashes as she moved, here and there in staccato chaos.  Phoebe ground her teeth; a fist flashed, curling her spine as she bent to avoid it.  The guards were closing- melee was becoming untenable- and she urged the boy forward again.  

<We need you out here.>

A shaft of crimson light shot out from behind her, just slicing past her face before two slugs shot past; it was the guard to the left of the elevator, once stunned, now aiming, firing, as the area in front of Phoebe erupted into a stream of flame.  The rush of heat hit the First like a raging torrent, quickly beginning to strip away the shield she threw up.  Like a child with a mirror, Phoebe began to shift and angle the fire, working her shield like a deflector and using the shed fire arcana to set one of the guards near her aflame.

The laser behind her emerged again, bouncing off the interior of her shield and searing through the top of her forearm, tearing a sharp curse from her painted lips.

<Gods-damnit!  Somebody get my six!>

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*hack! hack! hack!*

Each time he swung he swung harder, a grunt for every blow. A snowy haired child brought his sword down again and again on a great chunk of blessed wood. Around him was a courtyard, a loving mother sitting on the step of an open sliding door. It was late afternoon and the smell of a cooked meal wafted out from the kitchen. Behind her stood the boy’s father.

Falling to the ground in exasperation and exhaustion, the boy flung his sword away.

“I’ll never get through!” he wailed to himself.

Strong hands grabbed the boy beneath his shoulders and lifted him to a standing position. Their rough fingers took his hands in them and placed the sword firmly back into his grasp.

“Don’t give up, Ash,” said the father to his son with a hardened, prophetic gaze. “Never, ever give up.”

Here, now, the young samurai was frozen in fear. Before him lances of red javelined through the air and cries of pain from foolish friendly fire and the attacks of Ash’s comrades alike filled the darkness. What could he accomplish by heaving himself up out of the shaft but an embarrassing death and a liability to his teammates?

<You fought invisible attacks from me for months..>

How monumental the task before him seemed. How incredible everything surrounding his ascent through the Dead slammed into him in this moment. Yes, he’d fought the invisible attacks, but was that enough? She hadn’t been trying to kill him and these guys most certainly would.

“Don’t give up, Ash. Never, ever give up.”

The words of his father rang in his ears, and an inkling of strength began welling up in his chest.

"Don't worry lad! I'll brighten things up a bit!"

Then came Shikai’s slicing of the zenith of their abyssal barrier. A crescent of night sky tore through the canopy, and in this blackness it was like an intense blue ray of light penetrating down to the floor of a dank cavern.

<Trust the team, Ash.  Trust the work.> 

She was right, he thought. They were right! He was gonna get into this fight and prove something, dammit! It didn’t hurt that he could actually see a little bit now, too— that was when a ball of fire flew past him and down into the elevator shaft.

Looking back Ash watched the ball of fire descend, becoming smaller and smaller. Then it blossomed and became larger and larger, ascending at a much faster rate.

<We need you out here.>

There was just no damn choice. Panicking, scrambling, Ash dashed out of the open shaft just as a wall of fire erupted through after him. He slid, rolled, and tumbled away and out of the path of fire even as it lit his ass on fire, literally. Skidding to a stop in the three-point position with his sword around his waist, Ash immediately perceived the ball of fire growing on his back.

The explosion itself was about as self-reckless as possible on Amirah’s behalf. Now some of her own men were attempting to fling the fire off of themselves, fan it away, stop drop and roll. What’s more, the distraction had allowed him to scamper onto the scene without making too much of an impression. In order not to be caught flailing on fire, though, he needed to act fast, and unfortunately that meant… taking his clothes off.

Shirtless, pantsless, but thankfully with boots and boxers fully intact (white with heart patterns), Ash’s battle instinct had taken over. It was with this battle instinct that he would drive a blade through the throats of the Dead’s foes and, eventually, his own greatest foe.

The laser would never emerge a second time to sear a piece out of Phoebe’s forearm. As the henchman took aim at the First, he would feel a suddenly numb sensation from the knee down on his left leg as Ash’s blade found the ligaments there, chopping in an upward loop and sending the henchman into a half-backflip that landed him fatally on his neck.

If Phoebe turned, she would see Ash’s underweared figure. If she didn’t he would stand with his back to her. Either way, what came next would be the continued dismantling of Amirah’s dome of darkness and the woman herself. They turned, Ash guarding Phoebe’s six and Phoebe Ash’s, and like this Ash surveyed the room. While he surveyed, Phoebe would get the chance to replenish any psionic shield she was exhausting without his defense. By now he had well cleared his mind of the worries that had gotten his clothes charred away from him.

“They’re wearing suits. We crashed a little party, it seems.”

Meanwhile, Mykur’s wound on Amirah’s dome of darkness began widening and exposing the scene more and more. Up ahead Ash could see Amirah, her men and women swelling in numbers around her.

“Looks like we just need to fight straight into her,” he said, coming to stand side by side with the First Officer and the General as they faced Amirah and her cronies, all preparing to charge and fire at them in their various proportions. He was looking back and forth between Phoebe and Shikai. He laughed timidly in the tense moment before their clash. “Anyone have a shield I can use?”

His fear was gone, but his awareness of his situation was not.

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<That's a good look on you..>

In the darkness and the rage, Phoebe found her humor and a fair bit of appreciation as she glimpsed the half-garbed samurai, mid-spin and dragging the Mindgorger out with a flourish.  She teased, but not cruelly - and as she slowed to a halt, encouraging space with the wide carve of her spear's blade, she winked at Ash before turning her attention to the oozing burn on the top of her arm.  

"Looks like we just need to fight straight into her.  

Anyone have a shield I can use?"

A glance up from the aching wound across the ruined club top spied a small, metal, cocktail table and with a thought Phoebe snatched it and jerked it over toward the gathered Dead.  The hardened alloy screamed as each leg was invisibly wrenched free and the fourth was smashed, pounded into place with unseen hammers, and bent until it resembled a buckler's double handles.  For a moment Phoebe held it aloft, examining it, her sharp eyes finding faults and adjusting until it was good enough given the situation- better than nothing, certainly, and she gave a little shrug as she directed it over to Ash.

"Will that work?  Remind me to get you a tactical underlay.  Honestly, " she added, bisecting the sentence with a deep breath which she pushed out, still recovering if one gauged by the flush pinking her cheeks.  "I thought we had already had you geared up- sorry for that getting missed.  I'll keep their fire off of you," A look took in Shikai before she continued, "both, as much as I can.

If I can stay distant, I can cut their angles to attack.  Just stay smart about your charge lines.  Covering you gets harder if they spread out- so, a pincher assault would be ideal.  Come in diagonal from the edges, fight on one side, and peel inward to surround once you hit the back.  It's harder with these numbers, but you're both good enough to do it."

A beat passed, a natural pause in which Phoebe dropped to a crouch and studied the gathering attackers who were, in turn, studying them.  In the silence, the First snatched bits and pieces of the air and her Will, and wove them end over end until a shimmer betrayed the rising barrier between the two groups.  There was an uneasy stillness which grew, marinading in anticipation, and Phoebe had no want to see it shattered by a surprise bullet.  When combat renewed, it wouldn't be with the Dead caught unaware.

As Phoebe wove, she thought, spinning through the scenarios and rubbing a growing bruise on the side of her knee.  After a moment, she spoke, "If she's smart, she'll come out while the flanks are engaged and chance the one-on-one with me."  A glance checked Ash and Shikai, watching for agreement or counter points.  "If that happens, I won't be able to cover you anymore - in that case, stay mobile, and pair up to cover each other's back.

I'll prioritize the guns."

Spoiler

Apparently I love 'time-outs' in the middle of combat.

 

Edited by Noko

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"You heard the lady," Shikai winked at Ash, "I'll take right, you go left. I think our friendly bartender is a bit more than you can handle at the moment."

More goons were coming in hard, and Shikai rushed to halt their charge with the kind of gratuitous violence that would make any hired thug rethink the value of their employment. Hands suddenly filled with shuriken, he flung a salvo of sharp metal at the approaching men. Despite what movies had ingrained in the popular consciousness, shuriken where rarely one-hit kills; usually deployed to distract or perhaps poison an opponent. When thrown with the practiced precision of a trained shinobi however, more than a few would find their way to the throats and eyes of their targets. The General managed to take down five of the men charging toward him with that technique, injuring most of the others.

Now he met the guards head on; quickly finding that he was grateful he had kept up his training in unarmed combat after acquiring Mykur. Admittedly, he hadn't done as many anti-energy weapon drills as he should have; mostly out of complacency. He had been dodging bullets for years, but lasers presented a new challenge. The bolts were faster than any bullet, and while he could still evade them, it was much harder to avoid a dozen such blasts from multiple angles. Unfortunately, this meant that he did get scorched by multiple shots; though he still managed to avoid lethal areas. He wanted to hold off on activating his Revenant Jutsu until he could turn his attention to Amirah; who seemed like the opponent he would most need it against.

Once he had closed the distance between him and the shooters, he was once again back in his element. The first man he could reach was swiftly disarmed and used as a shield against his comrades; though that word may have been to strong seeing as how his supposed allies had no problem blasting him. Reaching down, Shikai grabbed the sidearm at his shields hip, and began to fire on the other goons. His training with lasers wasn't extensive, so he would wait until he was right on top of a target before firing. His patience was rewarded as he landed shot after shot; the scent of burnt flesh rising in the air. By the time the weapon ran empty, all the gunners were down.

Now that left the guards confident enough in their abilities to fancy themselves melee specialists. Five of them were bearing down on Shikai now; each wielding a different weapon. The lead goon was met with the shinobis stolen gun right to the face, which knocked him flat on his ass. Second and third reached him at the same time; one swinging a bat, the other an axe. The pair coordinated well, one going high and the other low. Eventually he found a gap in their timing and dispatched both with a shot to the throat that sent both to the ground sputtering blood. The next goon had a pair of brass knuckles, and he kept the General on his toes with a flurry of punches that would have pulverized bone or brick alike. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't distracting enough for Shikai not to notice the man with the spear sneaking up behind him. Just as the sneaky goon lunged forward with a thrust, the shinobi dodged out of the way and let the attack impale the brawler through the chest. A quick elbow strike to the throat of the surprised spearman sent him falling to the ground with his friend. By now the first man had gotten to his feet and was charging with his sword raised high above his head. Shikai dodged the blow easily, and finished with, of course, a throat strike.

"You're up next, Sunshine!" he taunted the bartender. 

The big man's expression barely shifted from a grimace; and he made a gesture with his fingers that sent tendrils of shadow rocketing from the dome enclosing the rooftop. Shikai managed to dodge all of them, flipping backwards to give himself a little space. That was when he noticed that each of the over a dozen tendrils had impaled a fallen guard. Bodies twitching as the tendrils spread through their bodies, the men were soon raised like grotesque puppets to face their killer.

"Got a few tricks up your sleeve, eh?" Shikai grinned and bounced on his feet like a boxer, "Bring it on!"

With the smallest twitch of his lips to indicate his faint amusement, the bartender sent his puppets charging toward the shinobi.

 

Edited by danzilla3

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Things were not going as planned.

For a time it seemed like Amirah's forces had checked the forward momentum of her uninvited guests; and that victory was now simply a matter of wearing them down. Then the kid, whom she had largely written off, had sprung into action and sliced apart her men. Meanwhile, a pale man she dimly remembered as one of the strippers who worked at the club had torn through another cohort of guards before regrouping with his friends. Two dozen men dead, and only minor injuries sustained by the opposing force. What a fucking disgrace this was.

Now the remainder of her men gathered around her, the enemies pause giving Amirah time to plan her own next move. If the psychic bitch were as smart as she seemed, she would send the other two to flank the Phoenix while drawing her fire. So she divided her surviving men in half, and sent them to meet the coming assault. Then she focused her own powers until heat and light radiated off her like a miniature sun.

Strangely, now was the moment she truly had time to appreciate just who she was fighting. Phoebe Marshal was supposed to be just another nobody that Amirah and her Totem had crushed on their path; but she refused to accept that fate. No, she had survived, come back, and honestly, if the woman had built herself a new life away from her group, Amirah could have almost respected that kind of determination. What she could NOT respect, was that Marshall had killed four of her dearest friends in the world; men and women who she would have given anything for. All of them dead, and their blood was on Her hands.

"Marshall!"

Suddenly things began moving again, and Amirah charged; jets of fire from her feet propelling her like a bullet while fire swirled around her outstretched fists. She would collide with the barrier with devastating force. The floor beneath her was burned and melted away as The Phoenixes rage climbed to heights previously unknown to her.

"I'll kill you, you bitch!" she snarled, "I'll rip off your arms and legs before I burn that pretty face off!"

Amirah began to throw punch after punch at Phoebe's barrier; fists wreathed in flame that detonated with building-shaking force. Phoebe was close enough to see tears well up in The Phoenixes eyes before evaporating in the immense heat that surrounded her. Yet even as she wept for her fallen comrades, a face splitting grin adorned her face; eyes wild with fury. 

"You killed them! I'LL FUCKING BURN YOU ALIVE!"

Edited by danzilla3

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‘What am I to be,’ Ash thought as the cocktail table twisted midair in Phoebe’s grasp, as it turned to-and-fro like a CADD model of a shield before hovering into his grasp. ‘In a place where people are so strong?’ Phoebe’s directions weren’t necessarily background noise, but he only listened enough to hear them while he examined the enemy. They seemed to be somewhat more organized now, and their various armaments were drawn. Behind them stood Amirah wreathed in flame. ‘What am I supposed to be besides afraid?’

As evening air poured through the widening tear in the shadowspell above them, Ash bolstered his shield. He tightened the grasp around his nimble blade’s hilt.

“You heard the lady.”

Ash snapped out of his reverie, looking at Shikai. The General looked so ready, not just ready but totally hyped to execute the orders of the First! The General and the First… How would he ever get close to the Architect if he couldn’t even survive amongst these ranks?

"I'll take right, you go left. I think our friendly bartender is a bit more than you can handle at the moment."

Bass pulsed below them, its throbbing tempo faster and faster, building to a climax alongside which both groups’ tension seemed ready to burst. Not unexpected, but instantaneously, the entire room was filled with magic and steel. In the beating darkness the entire room exploded into microcosms of chaos. These were moments in which the future Ash would thrive because of this very night.

Running, sprinting in an arc to his left around the enemies that sloped in toward the nearest of them, his makeshift shield held to the right side, Ash vaulted this steel furniture and hid behind that overturned table. In the interlude between his cover, solid rounds pelted against his psychically enforced cocktail shield and magic rounds made the table’s metal searing hot against his skin. Within the flashing lights and the distraction of his teammates, though, Ash finally made his way to the far left flank of Amirah’s men while she and the brunt of them were distracted by the louder foes. Ash was smart enough to realize that, here, his best element was stealth.

After enough circling, enough evasion through the depths of the club’s vast VIP deck, Ash found that he had escaped the observation of Amirah’s men. Grabbing a black tablecloth and covering his naked whiteness, he crept through the darkness until he was behind the center of Amirah’s forces.

Just as he found himself in the storage area behind the bar, where most of the alcohol was kept, the heat from Amirah’s immense surge in energy washed through the room. Through a porthole window, Ash could see the forces giving way to the General only to be partially revived by the bartender. He could also see, from behind the engulfed Amirah, the First preparing to face off with her.

‘What am I to be,’ he thought, ‘if I cannot be afraid?’

"You killed them! I'LL FUCKING BURN YOU ALIVE!"

“Hey, bitch!”

‘Brave. If I cannot be afraid, then I must be brave…’

If Amirah turned, she would see the white-haired boy in boxers and boots just after he kicked the doors open from the back room of the bar, his sword-arm launching forward with its blade aimed like a masterful dart for her center mass.

"BURN THIS!"

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"Marshall!"

Oh good, she remembered.

A wide, cavernous smile split Phoebe's face like an ax-head-- it thinned her lips, slashing red against her teeth's wicked white, and lining it all with the promise of oblivion.  It was as unbound and unchecked as the winds, unburdened by the expectation of apologies and flying free with a mettle sail and not a single fuck to weigh her down.  

There was gonna be murder tonight.

Invisible shields were birthed and directed at advantageous angles as the First unleashed her Will- cutting lines and fracturing the lasers, leading them back or to the side until the air looked like a wild cat's cradle, and the distant riflemen couldn't take a shot without worrying if they were going to hit themselves or their allies.  The effect was pure chaos- ricochets and rebounds struck through the air seemingly at random, but their arcs always seeming to bend toward Amirah's forces, or worse, Amirah herself.  It was treacherous in the shifting half-light, and as Phoebe choreographed the battle like a master puppeteer, the screams of her surprised opposition took to the air.  

She couldn't intercept all the projectiles, but she sure put a dent in the assault.  Shikai and Ash had their promised cover- what they made of it was up to them.

At least until Amirah charged.

She hit Phoebe's barrier with an incomprehensible force- it rocked the First, sending her skidding backward and tearing ravines into the floor as her psionic hooks grabbed the wood, anchoring, only to be snapped off with the force Amirah delivered.  The inside of Phoebe's head rung- for a terrifying breath, she was alone in her thoughts before the Mindgorger came roaring back and banished the darkness hovering at the edge of her vision.

"I'll kill you, you bitch!" Amirah snarled as she pummeled Phoebe's barrier, "I'll rip off your arms and legs before I burn that pretty face off!"

"Treville said something similar before I made boots out of him," countered the First, her own pained tears unconsciously welling to the points of her eyes as Amirah's assault cracked her skull from the inside.  Every blow from the Phoenix's flame wrapped fists was a gift-wrapped implosion within the Psion's head- a jack-hammer, tipped with dynamite, fueled with fission, which forced Phoebe to pull back her efforts from support and focus them on defending Amirah's onslaught.  Worse, she was losing ground.

"I really.." she began, spitting the words through her teeth.

Need..

You to stop that..  

Her want never manifested verbally.  Instead, the metaphorical cracks in Phoebe's skull began to manifest as actual fractures in her barrier- fissures that she could see, that she could watch splinter and streak off to create new rifts until the entirety of the wall threatened to collapse in time with her consciousness.

"You killed them! I'LL FUCKING BURN YOU ALIVE!"

"Maybe.." acknowledged Phoebe, grimacing as she forced her legs to move and body to uncurl from the crouch Amirah had driven her to.  The nuclear force reverberating in her thoughts was becoming numbing; like a head-banger at a club, she grew indifferent to it- not immune, but the shocking level of force was more expected with every blast that hit her.  Eventually, she stood and flashed Amirah a ghastly grin as the cracks in her barrier finally joined, and it crumbled, falling down in a tumble like the ruins of some great civilization.

"Hey, bitch!"  Ash's voice rang out with manufactured defiance as a hint of white darted amongst the shadow like a rabbit's tail- Phoebe looked for the red hearts, the ones on his boxers, not on his metaphorical sleeve, and capped the swell of sick that threatened to rise as she saw him emerge.

There was brave..  and there was stupid.  The line between the two was often very thin, and it was questionable which side of it Ash was on at the moment he decided to charge an established warlord, who was already on the attack, with explosive flame jets for hands, all while wearing nothing more than his skivvies and a determined expression.  The cherry on top was the yell, Phoebe thought, which both announced his attack and allowed Amirah time to target him.

"BURN THIS!"

"Ash..." A swell of panic flew across Phoebe's face as she watched the boy charge; as she anticipated, and guestimated, and ended up at a thousand different ways she was going to watch Amirah have a hibachi party with Ash's pale body, then decided that was unacceptable.  She shifted her hips; a pivot carried her backward at an angle as Amirah's flame-wrapped fist shot toward her face.  Her thoughts were manic-calculations- a race of this and that as she summoned the nothingness between the boy and his target, as time slowed and she wove, and she built, and she carved him safety from nothing more than her Want.  The result was a thin, flexible skin that stretched between the pair like a net.  He would run through it; it would grab and cling, deflecting the fire's destruction and giving him a chance, which was why she was smiling as Amirah's fist slammed into her face and knocked her off her feet and into the far wall. 

As she flew, she tossed one last psionic hail-mary, shoving Amirah a half-step toward Ash; a minor hit, just enough to disrupt her balance and timing, before Phoebe slammed into the wall and landed in an avalanche of group-photos, signed dollar bills, and celebrity glamour shots, shaking her head as she tried to reassemble reality from its fuzzy, blackened, puzzle piece, edges.

Edited by Noko

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Posted (edited)

Pain is one of the most vital senses humans possess.

While it may not seem like much of a boon when you stub your toe on the way out to the fridge for a midnight snack; pain provides information essential to survival. A sharp jolt of discomfort is nature's way of telling organic beings to stop doing stupid crap; or that something has gone wrong in the body. Lacking any kind of indicator to alert a person that they're putting to much strain on the body, humans would quickly degrade into sacks of broken bone and ruined flesh. Knowing when to stop was one of the most basic skills a warrior needs to keep themselves alive.

Unfortunately, injury matters little to puppets.

This obvious, but crucial point was currently becoming clear to Shikai as he fought the group of corpses being controlled by their former comrade behind the bar. Moving with deceptive speed through spasmodic twitches of their bodies, their irregular attack patterns had thrown the shinobi off at first; but he adapted quickly. Soon he was effortlessly dodging and countering with strikes that would cripple or kill normal people. But these men were already dead, and the grievous wounds inflicted upon them did nothing to hinder the man controlling them. Even once the damage to the bodies machinery prevented them from conventional attacks, the bartender could still simply fling them forward like biological projectiles. 

Yet despite this, Shikai's keen mind had already come up with a way to break through this impasse. With a flick of his wrist, Mykur ripped itself from the wall behind the Bartender and flew toward its master; slicing open the bald mans shoulder as it went. Snatching it out of the air, the shinobi continued his dance with the puppets; but they were moving to a new beat now, The Spell Slicer cut through the dead men like they weren't even there, and soon there was nothing left but blood chunks of meat that could not be easily recognized as being of human origin. Without missing a beat, the tendrils that had once controlled the corpses now turned toward him; stabbing and slashing at him like knives.

"You don't miss a beat, do ya?!"

Shikai was just fast enough to dodge the tendrils; but breaking away to attack would leave him open to being skewered. Perfect. Breaking into a sprint, he rushed toward the Bartender; one hand weaving signs as he moved. Seizing his opportunity, the Bartender called the tendrils forward; running the General through on spears of shadow. Going limp, the legendary blade fell from his grasp. For the first time in the evening the bald man allowed himself a small smile. Confidant of his victory, he wasn't prepared when Shikai's foot lashed out, catching the hilt of the blade and sending it flying like a spear at his opponent. The sword punched through his chest, this time going completely through the wall behind him. Blood gushed from his mouth as the shinobi looked up, skin pale and eyes red.

"Gotcha."

Already looking to his comrades as the Bartender slumped to the floor, Shikai saw the scene unfolding in slow motion. Fast as he was, he knew he wouldn't be able to cross the distance fast enough to take advantage of the opening Phoebe had opened in Amirah's guard. But maybe he could help another way. Weaving signs as fast as he could, he activated his muscle enhancement jutsu just as Phoebe took a punch that sent her flying. Right arm now practically splitting with muscle, he punched the roof, causing a fracture racing towards The Phoenix. 

He just hoped it would reach in time.

 

Edited by danzilla3

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