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Old 12/27/2010   #151

- KERR NORDSTROM; the ferry to Crawsus -

So what if Terra is missing?

Why is it so important to go get her back?

What the hell did she even contribute anyway?

Why am I still here?

Kerr couldn’t sleep.

It wasn’t that the leather chair of the Winnebago was uncomfortable. It would have made a reasonable bed for any of them, once he had lowered it as far backwards as it was permitted to recline.

But Kerr couldn’t sleep.

He lay with his eyes closed and had let his mind wander. But there was no sweet release from the gnawing indistinct thoughts that clawed at his mind. Too much had happened too quickly for him to simply rest. Even in this new country they weren’t safe. They were still being hunted, still being manipulated.

Two new faces to go alongside all the other new ones, and old ones that he had been re?introduced to over the past few days.

Why am I still here?

Four new faces today, Kerr thought back. Their faces still burned hot and vivid into his mind and anger began slowly burning at the thought of one of them. The girl, Mileina, and her two cronies. Destrillians, working against them. He bristled at the thought.

Why? He couldn’t put his finger on why. The thought made him uncomfortable. Why did he feel like this?

He put it out of his mind for now. His mind turning its attention to the much more rational, to what Lokka had told them before the Destrillians had left to explore the ferry. Mileina had lied. Lied to them. The hairs on the back of his head stood up the more he thought about it. He couldn’t help but feel like the deeper they went into Audoula, the bigger the bullseye stretched out over the back of their heads became.

Mileina had betrayed them. Who was to say Telran wasn’t about to do the same? The Destrillians who had taken up residence in Audoula all seemed to have their own agenda. They were working for the enemy, fulfilling their own designs.

Kerr felt a slow, uncomfortable boil in the pit of his stomach at how familiar that criticism sounded.

I suppose that’s how the rest of them see me.

The uncomfortable thought itched at the back of his mind.

Maybe it had always been there. Maybe it had just taken this confrontation with other Destrillians to reveal itself to him. But it had always been there. Growing. Festering.

Kerr turned over on his side. What was really stopping him from leaving now? The thought was maddening. Conversely, it had been the better option to stay in the group for safety when they were in Artolia. But now, here in Audoula, where it felt like they were walking straight into the lion’s den, staying in this group seemed to be the option with the least chance of survival.

It would be so easy to slip out of the Winnebago, jump over the rails and swim to the shoreline. In a matter of hours, he would have been able to disappear off the grid entirely. In a few days he probably would have been able to make it off the continent. There was no purpose to this. Rescuing Terra only to be cut down by opponents who controlled the chess board itself, who could out-fight and out-think them at every turn.

Without realising it, he felt an arm lash out and strike against the dashboard. The pain that lanced up from his knuckles was soothing. It shut out the thoughts racing through his mind. Brought him back down to reality.

Escaping would be useless. There was no telling how much influence Mileina and her group had over the country. The possibility of him being detected and killed still rose exponentially whilst he was on his own. At least with the group then there was a better fighting chance.

So, no matter what crazy plans they came up with, he would go along with them, if only for now. When the odds improved, then he would leave. Their current course of action was a fast path to a shallow grave. It was all too much to think about. Constantly thinking about the machinations of the vague unknowable forces mobilising against them. Constantly having to watch his own back, knowing that whatever borrowed time his goodwill had bought his presence with the group was slowly but surely running out.

They are weak, they are annoying, they took every opportunity to make the wrong move at every stage of any plan.

His thought process was fast, deafening him inside his own head. Barely conscious of what he was doing, he left the Winnebago, slamming the door so hard that the Winnebago’s chasis rocked to and fro as though it was caught in a strong wind.

If any of the Destrillians spotted him, or if he had seen them, then neither party made any attempt to gesture to the other. His vision so streamlined that the notion of actually seeing the others never even occurred to him.

The cool night time air was refreshing on his skin, even causing him to slightly shiver slightly in the chill. In his rush for a change of scenery from the interior of the Winnebago, Kerr had completely forgotten to put on his hood or his coat, leaving him clad in nothing but his boots, jeans and a t-shirt that looked slightly too big for him.

He walked to the railing and closed his eyes, breathing in a deep lungful of fresh sea air. He could feel his mind winding down as his pitch black eyes focused on the dark land mass ahead of them. It was nearly time to disembark.

Good, he concluded, happy to be moving again. The more direction he was given, then the less time his mind had time to dwell on the uncomfortable realities of his situation.

At least in Viola there was always a clear path, clear objectives. The same could be said for out here in the real world. But there was no sense of security anymore. No way to tell about whether the current course of action was right or wrong.

Not since he had been asked to put down Ariel’s insurrection had Kerr’s mind felt so heavy. So overburdened with choices and consequences. With the overpowering white noise of confusion.

Just go along with them for now.

His grip tightened on the railing.

Staying with these weaklings will only get me killed.

Ariel had lied. No matter where he was, the sky still remained the same.
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Old 12/27/2010   #152

Lokka Kayne: The Ferry

It was usually pleasant. The night sky's overwhelming presence usually only presented itself in a way that allowed calm. But not tonight. It blanketed the ocean that night, torturing the minds of those that took it in. Lokka stood on the port side, obsessively discerning where the ocean ended and the sky began. It seemed like it was the only thing that mattered. If he could find that place, and then count the stars in the sky, then everything would begin to make sense again. Everything would go back to normal. The lines between good and evil would represent themselves, as would those between friend and foe. But the sea was pitch black tonight, it's dark shade replicating that of the engulfing ceiling of this world. It was too much. Why wouldn't the answer present itself?

Lokka's coat swayed in the wind, the cold breeze running through his fingertips as his arms leaned over the side of the ferry. His arms still shook as they had before, but not from the cold. He had bloodstains on the palm of his hand, the result of anxiously burying his nails into them to stay composed. His fist tightened as his mind searched for the answer, the only answer he needed. Almost desperatly he scowered the area in front of him for any sign of fish or marine plantlife. There could be no fish in the sky you see, and this would be the obvious deciding factor at this point. But it was dark, and nothing could be seen other than the night blue-black sky.

He peered over the side, glancing down a fair few metres below him. That was definitly water because this was a ferry, and not an airship. He could see the ripples in the water made by the boat. Yes this definitly water, but where did the water end? There were no other ferrys or boats out tonight so there were no defining marks to judge this. Lokka looked further down, trying to now measure up the distance between himself and the water. If he could jump down and then start swimming, sooner or later the sea would end.

No, no. That didn't make any sense. Did it?

If the sea would end, then the land would begin.

And following the land would not bring me to the sky.

So how, how am I supposed to find the sky?

His fist slammed down against the railing, re-shaping it to accomodate his hand. He paced back and forth a few times, trying to assess his next important move. Would it be a wise choice to measure the average distance between the stars in the sky? No, there was no such necessary equipment available for use. Oh but maybe...

Yes, the sun. When the sun came up, it would come up into the sky. The sunset would present itself where the sea ended and the sky began. Daytime would usher in a time when his question could be answered.

But then, what next? What happens when the sun does come up, and the line between water and air is defined. What would happen next?

No. That answered couldn't be answered yet. Certainly not. There was not enough evidence present to decide the next most logical move if we didn't even know what was up and what was down. No, too much to think about now. We will wait, for the sun.

Come on. You're better than this.

What was that?

We've been through harder stuff than this. Use your head.

How can I?

But the silent echo was no more. The brief return to something stable had crumbled away as fast as it had resurfaced. With it brought new answers, new questions. With it brought a fear. A fear of time repeating itself. No. Not this time.

Reject common sense to make the impossible possible!

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Old 12/29/2010   #153

Castiel De Lioncourt – The Outlander Club


His muscles ached as he brought his full weight up again.

Why the fuck am I even here?


His wounded side hesitant to the exercise.

Who the fuck is this Mr White?


His breathing laboured by the strain on his body.

Maybe I should just torture him a little and find out exactly how he knows about Destrillians?


His temper masking all other emotion.

Ah fuck it might as well have some fun while I wait.

One hundred!

His body hitting the floor with a crunch.

Grinning, Castiel looked around the room, each object in it foreign to him yet now all belonging to him. He didn’t even understand what half of it did and had to be told by an attendant that the mannequin like stone figure was in fact art and not a makeshift punching bag. His body didn’t want to move, the pain in his skull from falling while hanging upside down was a good reminder not to lose his cool so quickly, the crack in the marble from where his head had hit it would also act as a reminder to hook his legs tighter around the bar the next time he wished to do sit-ups.
Rubbing his head, Castiel enjoyed the sensation that pain brought to him. Pain meant that you were alive, that you managed to survive another day! How many of his kind died wishing they could feel pain outside the walls of Viola? Sure his head hurt like hell and as a result from his graceful landing his I.Q probably dropped to that of a goldfish but hey he was happy, he was free, he was alive.

I hope the others are as lucky

He was tired, not physically but mentally. Since he had returned from Telran’s clinic he had been agitated, he didn’t know why but his skin had seemed like it was on fire and the only release he had was when he punched a chunk that resembled a head from the stone figure that lingered in the kitchen area. Something was going on outside, something big and here he was helpless and clueless to what was occurring outside of his little home. Even the workout hadn’t done the job in which he had hoped; his body was strange to him. His muscles more defined than that of the scrawny red-eyed child that had fought for his life in Viola, his senses keener, his anger…
Well it was suffice to say his anger had also developed in the years he had been frozen, twenty years of the same re-occurring nightmare certainly left it’s mark.

Even now when he closed his eyes for the slightest second he could see hear the sound of his handlers head smashing against the floor, the soft whimper of Tao begging him to stop as the life was beaten out of the woman before them.

Castiel STOP! Please! You’re killing her!

Her voice was like a whisper against the sound of his handlers skull breaking, the sound of bone snapping eventually fading to a dull thump as blood and brains were all but spread across the ground. The lifeless skull of his handler fell to the ground and relief washed over him, it was like waking up for the first time, he felt no remorse, he felt no pain, he merely felt alive!
Tao’s face however would haunt him for the rest of his life, his friend had watched everything he had done, she had pleaded with him and tried to pry him away from his handler only to be pushed aside herself. Now she merely sat in the corner furthest from him, her face awash with unimaginable pain and anger as the blood slowly seeped toward her like a crimson tide.

Castiel shook his head and tried to bury the memory yet again. He knew the memory would never fade until he made amends to Tao, she had to know how sorry he was and that he never meant to scare her. All he could do was live in hope that the other Destrillians all survived and that she was one of those to whom Mr White had gathered Intel on.

Soon we will see if this nightmare will end

First thing was first though; he needed a shower…badly.
His body resisted at first but as he stood he took the time to stretch out his muscles working the knots that had formed from hanging upside down. His head still throbbed but that would go away in a few minutes. Throwing off his top and trousers Castiel enjoyed the cool air on his naked body and stood still for a few seconds. With a careful glance in the mirror he was glad to see the redness around his recent tattoo’s had faded considerably and his stitches remained intact. Luckily the healing process for a Destrillian was far greater than that of a normal human, he carefully prodded the area around the wound and silently thanked Telran for the neat work he had done in stitching him up. Scars still scattered his body but he remembered the story of each one like it was yesterday. With an audible gruff Castiel grabbed a towel from the many stashes of linen and made his way to the shower.

An hour later Castiel was back lounging on the large settee in the main lounge area, opting for a loose fitting black t-shirt and faded blue jeans he was comfortable to the point that sleep nearly engulfed him. He knew that Mr White’s goons would appear at any moment and he couldn’t tempt fate by sleeping through their arrival. He already had trust issues when it concerned Mr White and his far too convenient knowledge of Destrillians, he wouldn’t let the man catch him unaware. Flicking through the TV channels it was all Castiel could do to keep his sanity, he was developing cabin fever and it had only been four hours since he last went on a run around the neighbourhood. If it weren’t for the fact that news about the Destrillian escape hadn’t been spread across every major network news company he would have turned the TV off and went on another run. As it stood however the news broadcasters were more than happy to oblige the public fears of monsters running riot across the border, not knowing that the monsters themselves were far closer to home than they suspected.

“Hey kid, the boss sent us to pick you up! Let us in will ya it’s pouring with rain out here!” Castiel stared at the door leading to the back entrance of the club; walking towards it he unlocked the heavy bolt and pushed the door open with ease. The men standing on the other end of the door however looked worse for wear. Both dressed in what was at one point expensive designer suits much like the ones he himself now owned, however the men seemed more like drowned rats than suave businessmen. The two men bellowed past both eager for the shelter the club provided from the rain, the taller of the two must have frequented the club before since he knew exactly where to go to get his hands on the bottles of alcohol that were hidden under the kitchen counters. “Make yourselves at home why don’t you.” He remarked as the second man made his way to grab a drink from his colleague’s bottle.
Neither even batted an eyelid at Castiel as they each took it in turns to take large gulps from the bottle, dripping rainwater everywhere as they moved. “Listen kid why don’t you make yourself fucking useful and get this Castiel guy so we can get the fuck out of here” The tall man had balls it seemed “Yeah, the boss told us not to fuck with this guy so you better hurry off and get him before we teach you a lesson for leaving us standing out there for so long” Castiel merely stayed still, he already disliked both the dim witted humans but knew they were his transport and that he needed to fulfil his end of the bargain if he wanted more information on the remaining Destrillians. “So tell me, this Castiel guy you were told not to fuck with. Was he around my height, my build, had tattoo’s on his right hand side just like me and could snap your necks like twigs if he wanted to?” Staring at each of the goon’s Castiel could actually see the mental “OH SHIT!” as each took turns to look at the other. The taller of the two chose to speak first “Mr De Lioncourt you have to excuse us, um umm the rain you see it clouded our vision. We meant no disrespect sir!” Castiel grinned Cut the shit, leave the bottle and lets get moving I’ve already had enough of you two jackasses; I want to get this over with as soon as possible and get some sleep” The smaller goon placed the bottle back on the counter, his complexion looking remarkably whiter than it had before as he looked through the door and out towards the pouring rain. “I said MOVE!” Castiel bellowed, the two goons immediately picking up the pace and leading him to the parked SUV, within minutes he was in the car as the taller of the two tore off from the club at an incredible speed. The two remained silent the entire journey, Castiel was thankful for that at least. At least I don’t need to worry about choking them to death now he thought to himself, a silent chuckle escaped his lips and again he could see the mental “OH SHIT” from the two goons up front. “Relax, your not the intended target for tonight, just get me there in one piece and you wont have to see me again” To say you cut the tension with a knife would be an understatement, a battleaxe would probably be more apt.

For an hour and a half Castiel sat in the back of the blacked out SUV, the comfy leather seats encouraging him to stretch out and sleep. The rains slow beat against the window being the only thing keeping his mind from drifting off. He could hear the soft hum of the radio, the music almost fitting for a night such as this. The two goons were silent for the entirety of the journey; the only thing he could do to take his mind off of the monotonous boredom was to examine the human’s body language as they neared their target. Castiel knew they were getting close when the smaller of the two goons began fidgeting with his gun holster and continually shifted his weight from one side of the seat to the other. The taller of the two was slightly more subtly, if it weren’t for the fact he had both hands on the wheel I’m sure that he too would be fidgeting but for the time being his continual attempt to wriggle his ass through the floor of the SUV was all that Castiel needed to know he was at the intended target area.
“Were getting close, cut the lights and pull in behind that digger over there” the smaller of the two began un-holstering his gun, obviously he wasn’t intending on taking any chances. Turning in his seat it was the first time since they had left that the goon had looked Castiel in the face “Listen this is where we drop you off, the guys the boss wants you to take out are further in this building lot. There are shit loads of snipers up high on those steel girders and to get through your going to need to-“ “I think I get it, these guys are extremely dangerous and as a result I should be careful. Tell you what guys, come back in an hour and if you see me here you know the job was done, if not you can run back to Mr White with your tail between your legs and tell him I’m dead. Either way get the fuck out of here before someone comes to investigate the sound of this things engine.” Without so much as a second glance Castiel was out of the SUV and sprinting for the nearest set of scaffolding. He could hear the car moving slowly as to not draw attention before watching it pull back onto the nearby road and burn half its tires off in the acceleration process. Cursing himself for not killing them both Castiel sat in the darkness and closed his eyes, trying to focus on the sounds around him he could already hear four guards heading in the direction of the main gate, each with heavy footsteps and no particular effect on their breathing. Opening his eyes he knew this meant one thing, these men were packing a lot of serious gear and they were pro’s.

Night vision equipment was looped around each of their right eyes, meaning that hiding in the darkness was useless. Semi-automatic weapons were looped around their backs and each carried a high calibre pistol as well as a few nasty looking blades. Overall this would be trickier than taking down a bunch of wannabe Mafioso like he had hoped. The only good piece of news was the radio system that each of them seemed to be using. If they were trained like those at Viola then each team would have an isolated frequency and a separate group frequency for the remaining forces they may have. Since these looked more like foot soldiers than snipers it was only logical that the snipers were still on the high ground. For his plan to work he would have to track down a lone sniper first and then deal with the remaining forces after.
As the foot soldiers did their work and began patrolling the perimeter Castiel took the opportunity to climb the scaffolding, his body still ached a little from the exercise earlier but the pain meant he was still alive and tonight that was what counted. As he neared the top of the scaffolding he did his best to judge the gap in distance between the steel girders that would some day become the support struts for the building. All in all there were ten levels that he could count, for snipers to effectively cover the entire area they would most likely need to have a single sniper on each level covering a different direction, the lower to the ground level the higher the accuracy. In his mind he tried to form a full proof battle plan that involved unique heroics and wise decision making, but in the end Castiel settled for grabbing hold of the nearest girder located on a corner and trying to climb up as high as he could. The plan wasn’t necessarily the best, but it would do for now. Each movement had to silent, so making his way to the top took slightly longer than he had hoped, with a final heave however he felt the top of the strut and slowly brought his head over the girder. Sure enough a sniper was perched on the west-facing strut and was anchored in place by a secure zip line.

Wow these guys really do know what they are doing.

Heaving his remaining body up was easy when the enemy had his back to you, moving close to him while on steel girders however was a little bit harder. The wind didn’t make it easy either, all Castiel could do is pray that the sniper didn’t look up from his scope, with each step he made it closer trying his hardest to muffle the sound of his steps and not fall of the edge also. When the sniper was within reach he reached out and grabbed the man by the throat, the muffled sound of his screams never escaping as Castiel applied as much pressure as he could muster essentially crushing the mans larynx. As he tried his hardest to stop the man from creating any noise he was careless and didn’t notice the wind picking up again. A fast gale forced the rain to physically slap him sideways propelling him off the steel girder, with only a second to spare Castiel wrapped his arms around the snipers body and prayed the tether would hold both their weights. As the tether snapped with tension and halted their decent Castiel wasn’t so sure his luck would improve anytime soon, the noise of their fall had attracted the sniper on the level down from them. All Castiel could do was snatch the now dead snipers headset and set in motion his original plan, as the second sniper raised his rifle, Castiel let loose his own destructive pulse through the electronic system. Castiel knew that even though it was an electronic device the systems were devised to send out all audible noise that passed through them as long as the spectrum was within range. Castiel could hear the screams from the snipers as each in turn grabbed their headsets; increasing the power of his attack he felt the pain in his own head rise before a gunshot rang out through the night. The sniper that had been aiming at him had finally taken his shot, luckily for Castiel however the man was already falling off his own position dead. He didn’t want to take any chances and kept the pulse going for a few more seconds, more than enough time to kill the remaining sniper team.

Fuck shit wank cunt bugger!

These were the only things he could think of, his carefully thought out plan had turned into a shitfest and nearly resorted to him having his own head blown off. Now the entire area would be on alert and be heading to hear why a gunshot had been fired. Staring down below he could barely see the swinging bodies of the dead snipers. His own predicament however still sucked, his muscles in his shoulders were on fire. The climbing and sudden shock of falling had been strenuous on him and now he faced falling to death on his list of things to do. Swinging his legs, Castiel rocked the dead snipers body towards the nearest girder; his plan would almost certainly work…this time.
With a final heave he let go of the snipers body and reached for the girder, smashing his ribs into the steel framework so hard he swore he heard bone crack. His hands secured around the other side it was a struggle to get his legs hooked around the girder and finally pull his body on top.
Castiel could hear the foot soldiers making their way toward him, the enemy headset that he had acquired was suddenly buzzing to life as more and more men made their way to him. He knew that anyone tuned in to the same frequency as the others would have been affected so he could only pray that no-one was alive to report back.
Mentally willing his body to move he slowly crawled the remaining distance to the second dead snipers body, hoisting the tether up enough so he could grab the mans rifle that still clung to his body before untying the dead man and watching the body fall fast and hard through the rainy night.

First thing is first; I am NOT falling off this fucking building again!

Castiel quickly tied the tether that had belonged to the sniper around his own waist, sitting with his legs on either side of the girder he tried to balance himself as much as possible before picking up the rifle and staring through the sights. The rifle felt heavy or maybe that was due to the fact his arms themselves felt like lead weights, the sight however was thermal based and he quickly identified the incoming team of men. Taking his time he remembered the training from Viola and began dispersing the crowd of men making there way towards him. The plan worked dispersing the large crowd and thinning the twenty or so soldiers to a measly five. As the remaining five soldiers struggled to get out the line of fire Castiel tried to use the time to find the correct shared frequency, if these goons were the force that Mr White wanted taken care of then Castiel wanted to know why. As his fingers furiously fumbled through channel after channel he finally came across one with voices.

“Fuck, send reinforcements! Get everyone from teams four and five down here now! Some unknown assailant is attacking us! Position seems to be level 9 by the muzzle flashes, GODDAMNIT WHERE ARE THE SNIPERS!” Castiel grinned as he listened to the conversation intently, occasionally firing rogue shots in empty areas to keep the remaining forces on their toes. “Sir! There is no response from anyone else I-I-I I think were all that’s left! Patterson has been hit as well sir, I think it’s fatal” Castiel searched through the scope for evidence of the last remaining forces, when this didn’t lead to anything he set about his decent. Looping the rifle around his shoulder he quickly adjusted the tether and began the job of lowering himself down to the lower levels. As he lowered himself to the fifth floor the radio crackled to life again “Sir, we have orders from the team guarding Miss Mileina they are asking for an update on the combatant!” Castiel’s decent came to an immediate halt upon hearing the name.

It couldn’t be the same Mileina, it just couldn’t be!

“Sir! Miss Mileina is stating the subject is most certainly another Destrillian. We are to fall back and report back to her immediately.” Castiel knew he had to get down and quick, releasing the tension on the tether he began a quicker decent which he knew would hurt like hell. Five storeys falling happened in five seconds and Castiel cursed as his feet hit the ground, his ankles hurting like hell he un-tethered himself and began trying to run to where he believed the last of the troops were located.
Ripping the headset off Castiel tried his hardest to detect movement; shuffled steps were coming from the east side four normal and one severely laboured. As he neared the sound of the footsteps he could hear the men talk “Fuck, leave him. He’s a goner anyway just dump his body here and hurry to the truck. If were lucky we will make it out of here alive!” the sound of a body hitting the ground was all the reply Castiel needed. Rounding the corner he made it just in time to see the last of the foot soldiers make it inside a large armoured van. The van was already in motion as the last foot soldier jumped inside, the vans lights illuminated the dark deserted lot and as it turned towards him he was temporarily blinded by the sudden change in light. He could hear the van struggle for grip as the back wheels spun furiously in the sand, Castiel couldn’t see anything other than the bright light before him but as the sound of the spinning wheels stopped and the sound of the powerful engine rose he knew what to do.
Securing his own footing he faced the into the bright light and let a powerful pulse that shook the earth, the pulse itself travelled at the speed of sound and within a second the light from the van was no more. Castiel tried to focus his vision but could only see spots; he heard the crash of what was once the van before he saw it. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness again he focused on the wreckage that lay before him, the front end of the van had been crumpled like a tin can while the entire van itself had been forced backwards smashing into a concrete wall some several yards away. Castiel grinned as he viewed the wreckage before falling to one knee, his head feeling as if someone had just taken a baseball bat to it. Holding his skull between his hands he knelt there enjoying the sensation of the rain on his back until finally the pain dissipated.

Only one noise interrupted the sound of the rain falling, the small whimpering of a dying man that had been left behind by his comrades. Castiel composed himself the best he could, his ankles still hurt like hell from his accelerated decent and his ribs felt as if they were severely bruised. Walking to the source of the noise was easy enough and as he neared the man he saw that the poor wretch wouldn’t have long to live anyway. A bullet had penetrated the man in the stomach leaving a large hole in his uniform; blood was visibly seeping from the wound and all around the man blood pooled together leaving a grisly trail as he tried to drag himself to safety. Castiel neared the man and merely kneeled down beside him. “I-I-I I don’t want to die!” the soldier’s words already slurring. “Everyone dies at sometime, I can see your in pain and I can end this quickly and painlessly if you wish but first I need to know something” Castiel stared into the eyes of the dying soldier, his skin was deathly white and his face contorted with pain. “A-A-a- anything! Just end it please!” Castiel leaned closer to the soldier and unbuckled his own pistol; placing it against the soldier’s temple he asked his last question “The woman who you work for, is her name Mileina Grace?” The soldier nodded in reply and a gunshot filled the night.

Dropping the gun by the dead soldiers head, Castiel grimaced as he stood again. His ribs hurt like hell and as he bit his lip to stop the screams of pain escaping him he realised that lights were now on near the entrance of the lot. He looked at his watch, an hour had passed since he had been dropped off and with any luck this was his ride home.
Pushing his body to its limit he moved towards the light and laughed as he watched Mr White’s goons each leave the car carrying this time large umbrellas. “Mr De Lioncourt, are you ok?” the smaller goon had rushed to his side trying to help him stand, Castiel allowed the contact only to take some of the weight off his ankles “I’ll be fine, just help me to the car and give me a phone” the taller goon made his way over and took the other side of the injured Destrillian. “I have to admit, I never thought you would come out of this place alive. Mr White called soon after we dropped you off and informed us that new Intel had stated these men were professional militia hired by his competitors to deal with you. It seems the enemy knew that you were coming and were waiting on you. I’m sorry that you had to deal with this sir” Castiel felt his face redden I anger; Mr White’s Intel had been dead on. Too bad he had neglected to mention this before he was left alone. “What’s done is done, just help me inside the SUV and get a hold of Mr White” The two goons who had an hour before been on a mental kill list were now considered saints. Castiel was carefully raised into the SUV before he lay down across the entire back seat and felt his body finally give up. His limbs felt as if they were lead and his ankles and ribs throbbed with even the slightest movement. As the goons shut the door behind him Castiel struggled to keep his eyes open. One by one Mr White’s men piled into the SUV and as the smaller dialled their bosses number into the cell Castiel struggled to raise his hand to take the phone. “Thomas, I do hope you are calling to inform me of Mr De Lioncourt’s success” Mr White’s voice erupted down the line like he was actually nervous. “I’m a tad worse for wear but otherwise still breathing Mr White, now tell me how exactly you came into the information of this group and everything you know about their boss an old acquaintance of mine by the name of Mileina Grace!”

The drive home was long, Castiel spoke to Mr White for the entire journey struggling to keep his anger in check as the elusive man talked about backwater channels and his thoughts on the true identity of Mileina. At the end of the journey however one thing was certain, Mileina had been in power a long time and she was no friend of her fellow Destrillians.

The two goons opened the door for Castiel to get out; his body was feeling slightly better from the hours rest but his ankles and ribs still hurt like hell. Using the handrail above the door he swung his body out before grimacing when his feet touched concrete. The goons tried to help him inside but he would have none of it. Swatting them away it Castiel thanked them for their help then opened the door to the club. Once inside he barred the door shut and made his way to the bed peeling off his soaking clothes as he moved. The bruise around his ribs was one of black and purple blotches, but nothing seemed broken. As he neared the bed he merely leant forward and fell face down into the soft duvet and thought of nothing else but blissful sleep.

The phone however had a different idea.
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Old 01/02/2011   #154


When Alison Perkins arrived home, she drifted into her evening routine as if the day were no different to any other.

She had walked through the sliding glass doors as usual, past the doorman, past the security guard sat at the desk in the foyer, past the polished set of marbled steps that spiralled their way up to every floor. Each step of her heels made the same, rhythmic ‘click’ against the floor as she strode into the elevator. After a single stab of the button, the doctor would wait for three seconds before pressing it a second time. The elevator doors would slide closed, and in approximately thirty six seconds Alison Perkins would reach the seventh floor.

Almost as soon as she had passed over the threshold, Alison Perkins had kicked off her shoes with the carelessness of a teenager and cast off her coat and handbag. She waltzed into the kitchen, Marshmallow pining at her heels, mewling for attention from the long absent doctor. Marshmallow, it had to be said, was a rather ugly creature. A fluffy, housebound cat that had been obviously overfed throughout its life, Marshmallow spent most of its time either grooming itself or scratching at the upholstery. Perhaps when it was younger, it had possessed all of those charms that made most domestic pets adorable. However, with age, came the transformation typical of its kind. Its features seemed to have been squashed together, as if Marshmallow had spent the last three years attempting to break through a brick wall with its face. Whiskers had begun to droop, and once bright eyes were dulled with sleep and cataracts. So naturally, Marshmallow appeared to be constantly miserable.

It followed the doctor into the kitchen, and watched intently as the doctor poured an ample amount of food into its bowl. Then, as after each meal, it would emit a contemptuous snuffle or snort before stalking off to hide in Alison Perkins’ briefcase.

The kitchen, Alison’s acquaintances had informed her, was a fantastic investment. The pitted granite surfaces, drawers that didn’t slam when they closed, latticed windows providing a glimpse as to the content of various polished wooden cupboards, a fridge that held far more food than was feasibly edible for one person. In truth, the doctor had as much patience for cooking as she did for acquaintances in the first place, and thus would dismiss all compliments with a simple wave of the hand. The lavish kitchen was a result of Dr. Perkins’ boredom, and most of all, having more money than she knew what to do with. That was the good thing about Viola, she always thought to herself as she checked her bank balance on her PDA, it certainly knew how to treat its employees.

After pouring herself a double gin and tonic (slim-line, of course) and checking the time, she would return to the living room and rifle through her briefcase, much to the disappointment of Marshmallow, who would do its best attempt at a scowl before limping off to hide in another, equally inconvenient place. Inevitably, as the doctor did every evening, she would discover that she had left a file or three on her desk at work, and thus Alison Perkins would resign herself to the sofa with a frown on her face. There was a quiet excitement in the air as the doctor turned on the television, and her lips pursed into a smile as the news cycled through footage of the Destrillians incident from earlier in the evening.

Indeed, Alison Perkins was impressed with her progress. Not a day had gone by when the doctor had not daydreamt of various ways in which Number Six would perish in the outside world. Admittedly, most of her imagined 'deaths' would be caused by a car, a bus, or any other form of public transport, a falling brick from a construction site, electrocution from a circuit board, choking on food, falling down the stairs, or most obscurely, drowning in the shower. It was enough of a shock that she had managed to escape. Who would have thought that prototype Six, who could barely dress herself without the help of the doctor, could survive outside of Viola? How unlike her, to get herself involved with. Always stammering excuses when she was scared, always asking for permission, and begging for approval. Then again, there was always her. Alison Perkins pressed her forefinger and thumb to her forehead and reached for the file that had taken up permanent residence on the coffee table.

The file had never gathered dust, for there was always something new to consider. A genetic mutation she had overlooked, an ability that interested her, a trait that she had forgotten. Alison Perkins remembered how she had tried to explain to the younger doctors, how she would scan their faces for total concentration, pausing regularly to find they had been following her with frenzied nodding and murmurs under their breaths. Then, ultimately, she would discover that not only had they failed to understand, they had not even been listening. The thought enraged her as much as it contented her. How could they be expected to understand? Doctor Perkins belonged to a tradition of female geneticists, and had made her own reflections, her own discoveries. Each one significant, and nearly all, ground-breaking. The Destrillians were a revolution, and there she was, one of the only scientists thinking it through. It made Alison Perkins bitter, knowing that a child of science had slipped away, knowing that her child had slipped away.

The phone rang, and Alison Perkins closed the old file with a sigh.

"Alison, I take it you saw the news?"

"Malcolm, how wonderful of you to call! Isn't today just full of surprises?" The doctor sunk into her chair and wrapped the phone write around her fingers. "Now, I was just about to sit down and watch the TV and then you call for a little chat! Marvellous. Simply Marvellous."

"Does it make that thing you used to call a heart swell with pride, watching your little girl all grown up?"

"Oh certainly, especially when you consider her run in with the company darling," a smug smile played across her lips. "He was your boy, wasn't he, Abaddon? Pity. Time treats some better than others”

"They were all mine at some point," the words were muttered under his breath, "Speaking of time Alison, what have you been doing with yours since you left the company?"

"I dabble. I'm on a prolonged stint at Zenica Tech. Fantastic pay. Dull work. The staff are awfully bland."

"Zenica Tech? They offered me a contract once. Told them that if I wanted to work with retards then I'd take up a job in a special needs school." Alison Perkins frowned as she heard a snort of laughter flare up on the other end of the line. It soon disappeared, replaced by Abaddon's usual sombre tone. "What if I told you that I've been asked to deliver you a new job offer?"

She sneered. "Does it include an early retirement package? Maybe you should take them up on it."

"I think I'll be fine where I am Alison, they came to me first after all."

There was a moment’s silence before either of them broke it.

"So what is it?"

"I can't tell you over the phone. Jason Spencer would like to brief you in person."

"Is it about them?" Dr. Perkins' voice lowered to a whisper.

"It is."

"Oh my, perhaps you've lost your touch, Malcolm. It seems like Spencer needs an expert."

"Don't flatter yourself. He's bringing as many of the old staff back as he can."

"You wound me, Malcolm"

"And you bore me, Alison. Are you interested or not?"

"Perhaps. What's the pay?"

"Your old salary." Perkins raised an eyebrow. "And the chance to do actual science again. You remember what that is, right? Or has too much elementary school science ruined your memory as well as your skills?"

"My last science project was wreaking havoc on the television today. Surely that’s proof enough?"

"Does that mean you'll take the job? Spencer was quite insistent that I get you on board, but if you're happy at Zenica..."

"Yes, Yes, I'll take it." she snapped, half holding the phone away from her ear as she anticipated the smirk in Abaddon's response.

"Knew you would. A car will come by later to collect you and your things. You know the drill."

"Shall I bring my files?"

"Do it. A good amount of our old records were lost when the company went underground."

"Oh Malcolm, ever the disorganised one."

"It's a good thing you're coming back then Alison, we need a good librarian."

"Don't worry Malcolm, I hardly expect you to have enough work to file away."

"Feel free to pack your sense of humour Alison, I'd hate for you to leave something like that behind."

"Shall I pack your Valium with that?"

"You slay me."

"I suppose it's well past your bedtime, and I must be off," she paused. "I’m looking forward to your company, Malcolm."

"Always a pleasure, Alison. I'll see you soon."

Last edited by Bex; 01/02/2011 at 11:00 PM.
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Old 01/08/2011   #155

========== IDRIS SAVAGE AND TELRAN MIARA ==========
(around two A.M.)

As the exhausted Destrillians clambered back into the Keris, which had become rather somber-looking and gloomy in the darkness, there was a rather morose feeling in the air. Telran knew what to attribute it to, of course...what else would it be?

One of their number was missing.

The past few days have absolutely worn me out. The tattooed doctor rubbed his temple as he sat in quiet contemplation, the Keris continuing to trundle along. He had given the ebony-eyed Destrillian simple but specific directions on how to find the apartments he made home, then settled onto the couch, with the tiny, ghostlike girl sitting between himself and Lokka. So much has happened in such a short time. A good night's sleep will do me some good, I think...yes, he thought, with the tiniest of nods to himself, yes, just need some sleep.

As the Keris pulled up into the plaza, he went to the front of the van and pointed out where they needed to park, then, turning back toward the rest of the group, quietly said, "Eight thirteen. Second floor." As the Keris pulled to a stop in its new parking space, the group exited the metal titan, with more than a few yawns and stretches as they did so. It seemed the amber-eyed Destrillian wasn't the only one in need of some sleep.

As he led them to his front stoop, he took his keys out and spun them on his finger - an old habit, and one that Alessa had always hated. He stopped, rather abruptly, midway through the third spin. Alessa... His face fell.

His gaze drifted in the direction in which she lay.

I'm sorry...

There was a click as the door turned in the lock. "Come on in," came his voice, far weaker than he'd like. The group began to file in, the waif-like girl first, with a slight flick of her jet-black hair. After all had entered, Telran locked the door behind them, then turned back to head to his bedroom...

...only to come up short. The group was standing in the foyer, staring at him as though waiting for something. He blinked...then once again. What are they waiting for? He spread his hands as he wearily (but with a hint of amusement) said, "Make yourselves at home," then headed straight toward his bedroom, down the hallway on the right. Moments later, the hiss of running water was the only sound that could be heard as he stepped into the shower, the bathroom rapidly filling with steam.

Hot water...truly a gift from the gods...


He was running. Running, running, running to somewhere, nowhere, anywhere.

Who was he running from, or what? He didn't know, only that he couldn't let it find him. He could almost feel it behind him, breathing down his back. They were after him, yes, that's right. Or maybe he was the one chasing, searching, looking, seeking high and low for something, something that he wasn't sure where to find, or even what it was. But he would find it, he knew, he just had to keep searching.


He panicked.

More running, sweat pouring down him.

He could feel the wind of his passage, cool, now bone-chillingly cold, as he ran through the dark forest.

Forest? Yes, forest. That's right, he was in a forest.

He cleared the line of dense trees to find himself-

-staring at a scene in a warehouse.

That scene.

That day.



It, them, they, yes they, they took hold of him; brought him down; took him to the ground. Piled on him, wouldn't let him up, held him down, couldn't breathe. Now they hit him, kicked, beat him. He could feel the crack as his arm and leg broke, now a rib. The blood trickled down his face, everything ached. They grabbed him by the hair, held his head up, made him watch. Laughed.



A shriek of pain and terror and just oh god no more please no more

But it kept replaying. Over and over.

Telran woke with a start, drenched in a cold sweat, heart racing so fast he could hear it in his ears, breath ragged. He gulped in the air, trying to force himself to calm down; for a few moments his eyes darted around the room, going from place to place as though everything around him were trying to attack him. Dream...just a dream...just a dream, Telran. A dream. He ran a hand through his hair, much of which was plastered to his forehead. Damnit...that dream again...

He swung his legs out of the bed, padding along the hallway quietly, then through the living room and into the kitchen for a drink. As he gulped down a glass of water, he leaned against the counter, facing the living room, and glanced at the clock. Four am...only an hour of sleep. Damn it. He downed another glass, then placed it in the sink, heading back to bed. The cool air felt good on his exposed torso - in itself a large part of why he never slept with a shirt. It helped to dispel the horrors of the darkest corners of his mind.

He quietly returned to his bed, where he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep almost the moment his head hit the pillow.


When Telran awoke in the morning, he felt it was probably his duty to make breakfast - or at least provide something to eat. It was his apartment, after all, and the polite thing to do.

He thought for a moment, taking a mental inventory of all the things he had to eat in his apartment. He probably had enough to last himself for a few weeks, but he was only one person. Now, he was entertaining for nine - such a gathering as his home had never seen before. Especially not six other Destrillians, all of whom were likely able to pack it away just as well as he could, and three...well, he wasn't quite sure how to describe the other three, but they definitely weren't human.

Which actually raised an excellent point: he needed information. What had brought them all together? What happened to cause them to form this ragtag group and make their way to Audoula? And who or what were these not-quite-humans, and why were they allowed to tag along? So many questions, and so few answers. He needed more information.

Unfortunately, he was unlikely to get anything out of them while they were tired and hungry. And, as the host, he knew his duty.

It was time to go shopping.

Wait, wait. Why not just ask one of them to come with me? He paused to consider. It's not unreasonable, and I can have some of those questions answered. Not a bad idea, actually, he thought, nodding to himself. But...who to ask? That one brought him up short. Brow furrowed, he glanced over at the party as they lounged about in his living and dining rooms.

Let's see...

He began to look them over, visually appraising each in turn in an effort to determine which was his best option. I would do well to speak to whomever is leading the group, I think. Yes, thought he, with a nod, yes, that seems best.

It seemed clear that Fiona was his most unlikely option here.

The same could be said of the "humans", of course. And based on the way they were grouped, Lokka slightly apart from the rest, it didn't seem like he was quite the right choice, either. That left the other strangers. Thetis, he knew, had eyes only for Fiona for the time being, and was indeed fussing over her at that very moment, while Fiona, pretending to be aggravated by it all, allowed her to do so. Thetis would not be very helpful.

He turned his gaze to the others - the Destrillian sitting nearest Telran had eyes as dark as the inescapable depths of space. And those eyes were, of course, unreadable, but the way he held himself suggested that he was always ready to move at a moment's notice, as though he always suspected things to erupt into chaos. He looked slightly stiff, and the way Thetis and the redhead would occassionally glare at him seemed to indicate that there was some kind of tension there - he was not the best choice. He also hadn't spoken a word since they had come into the apartment, and had been rather terse from the get-go.

The redhead was nearest to him, and sat in between him and Thetis, almost like a mother separating her two quarreling children. She had a worried, nervous expression - she was probably fretting over the one that had been kidnapped, much like Thetis over Fiona. While it might be good to get her mind off of that, it was unlikely that she would be able to focus on answering questions. She, too, would not be of any use at the moment.

The...child? (boy? girl?)...sitting on the floor was completely oblivious to everything going on around them, and would alternately mutter to themselves, flick through channels on the TV, and dig through the refrigerator, complaining of hunger and Telran's lack of blue ice cream (he wasn't quite sure what to make of that last). While he might be able to get some information from that one, it would likely be a difficult process that would leave him with a headache - and probably very little else, truth be told. And that left...

Her, he thought, gazing at the last of his guests, a slight, ghostly pale young woman who was fiddling with her left foot, which looked to have a partially healed burn that she was poking at...which, of course, was not exactly conducive to the healing process. No, not at all, he thought, shaking his head and frowning slightly, as his professional curiosity began to take an interest. His keen eyes had only been able to discern that there was something there to begin with, up until now; now that he was really looking (albeit from across the room), the wound gave itself away as having been a second degree burn that had healed into a first degree. She sat nearest Lokka, but closest to the center of the group, almost as though the others had chosen their places in the apartment based on where she herself was and had simply radiated outwards. Come to think of it, he realized, she was the first in the apartment, wasn't she? The way she spoke; the way that every head turned when she began to talk (except Fiona's, but Telran was fairly certain that that was simply how Fiona was); that look on her face of both determination and discipline; even the fact that she alone chose to be near Lokka - everything pointed to the tiniest of them being the de facto leader of the bunch.

The only problem with this was that she was like Lokka. More quiet and reserved, and slightly apart from the others. She might want to stay with the others, or she might want to just be left alone. There was also one other teensy little problem with this - so small it wasn't even worth mentioning.

He didn't know her name.

To save himself the embarrassment of having to ask in the midst of the rest, there was only one option left. His lips pursed slightly as the thought ran through his head - he wasn't going to like this, not one bit. But he might as well get it over with, since he wasn't going to learn it through divination or osmosis, and no one would just arbitrarily tell him, completely at random.

Ahem. Oh no why did I just clear my throat telepathically. I'm sorry if this is rude of me, but I don't believe we've been introduced. Not properly, anyway. My name is Telran - Telran Miara.

There was a long pause, in which the storm-eyed Destrillian didn't even look up.

Lokka, however, did.

What are you talking about, Telran?

Oh, crap. Lokka?

Yes, Lokka. Who else would it be? Weren't you talking to me?

Telran wasn't sure how best to answer, and so he quickly turned his eyes away to avoid the viridian gaze of the Pale Shell - out of sight, out of mind - as he prepared to try again. Concentrating a bit harder seemed like a good idea. Just focus on her mind, and...

Excuse me.
While she didn't move a muscle, he could almost feel her attention snap to him.

And who is this new frequency invading my brain? the girl inquired. Despite how her expression hadn't changed a bit, there was an easygoing, joking tone in her voice.

Oh, thank heavens. The right one this time. And she seems willing enough to respond. He would have to fight to keep the relief from showing in his "voice". I'm sorry if this is a bit rude, but I didn't get a chance to properly introduce myself earlier in all the commotion. My name is Telran - Telran Miara. Oh maaan this is so awkward. I feel like I'm reading from a script.

And what a commotion it was. Lovely to meet you, Telran - the name's Idris. A twitch of a smile appeared on her thin lips. And is there a reason you're introducing yourself in such a... discreet manner?

She sees right through me...looks like I made the right choice.

Lokka's voice burst inside his head.

Telran acted as though he hadn't "heard". A pleasure to meet you, Idris, he replied, inclining his head slightly. just seemed like it would be a bit awkward to ask aloud, you know? Thank goodness I managed to avoid that, he thought, inwardly cringing.


Shut up, Lokka!

Oh, trust me, came the reply, ringing with a strange sense of resignment despite the levity, that would have been subtlety bordering on cryptic, compared to what-

Are you ignoring me, Telran?
Lokka was clearly getting annoyed.

-we've been through on the way here. It was odd, hearing somebody else laugh in your head. Now, is there anything I can do for you?

Actually...yes. Telran paused to consider how best to phrase his request. Truth be told, I rather need to get some supplies to keep everyone fed and contented for the next few days.

Lokka had lost his patience. It's like you don't even want to talk to me. Why would you start a conversation if you're not going to finish it? he demanded.

Lokka, has anybody ever told you how incredibly deafening you are? Idris' voice called back suddenly. Having more than one person communicating telepathically at a time was one thing, but having them do so with your own mind as the communication hub was just ridiculous. I can hear you from here. Do my poor overworked brain a favour, and hush. She was clearly only to be taken half-seriously as she added on, almost as an afterthought, ...even if Telran mistook you for me, that's no reason to get upset, is it? The affronted silence that greeted them both served to answer just how much that mistaking could be potentially upsetting.

Telran visibly cringed, gritting his teeth as he plowed on. I was wondering if perhaps you'd be willing to accompany me to the store? And maybe you could tell me what brings you all to my little corner of the world? It's like a surprise family reunion, he finished, a thoughtful expression on his tattooed face.

Idris laughed for real this time. It startled one or two of the others around her. "Sure, why not," she said aloud to what seemed the newest addition to the ever-growing roster of Facility Two Destrillians, standing up and testing her weight gently on her injured foot.

I'll ask about it once we leave. "Shall we, then?" he asked, gesturing toward the front door. Answering the unspoken question on the faces of the others, he said, "We're leaving to go pick up a few things; we shouldn't be gone too long."

What an unusual bunch,
Telran thought, as he shrugged on his jacket in the hallway. As he did so, it occurred to him that the smaller Destrillian - Idris, he corrected himself - seemed to have nothing to keep out the biting cold of the Audoulan fall. "Care for something a bit warmer?" he asked, gesturing toward the coat closet, which held a number of spare coats and jackets.

Idris' grey eyes flicked over the indicated closet for only a moment, as if she were noticing the hospitality and not the idea itself. "It's not too bad out," she concluded, holding up the back of her hand and wiggling her spidery fingers for him to see. Her skin was tough, moreso than normal for her kind, and she could handle the cold. Telran was a Destrillian - he would get the implication.

She flipped a lock of black hair carefully back over her shoulder as she took a sidelong glance at the rest of the group - it was clear she didn't quite trust them all to be let alone together. Then she stepped out of the living room and towards the exit.

As they reached the front door, Telran stopped, then turned to poke his head back into the living room. "And...please don't burn the place down while we're gone."


The air was crisp with the coming of autumn as the two Destrillians walked along the sidewalks linging the streets of Crawsus. It was a city where you could get anywhere fairly quickly by simply walking, though some did indeed travel by vehicle. Somehow, Audoula had escaped the ravages of air pollution and stayed fresh and lush through the ages, unlike most of its neighbors.

"So, Idris."

The girl glanced up and to the side. "Mmm?"

"The last time I saw six Destrilians together was two years ago. Viola," he said quietly. His eyes slid out of focus as the memory flashed through his mind.

"And the last time I saw it was four, but here we are," she said simply. "What're you getting at, Telran - dodging the question doesn't make it any more subtle when you finally have to ask it." The words weren't harsh, but they did carry the hint of impatience that clearly stated she wasn't used to mincing words.

Definitely the right choice. "What happened?" he asked, with a half-shrug. "Viola never intended for us to be free. At the second lab, we happened to be set loose when Viola went under. That was two years ago. But you said you've been out for four...before then." Telran paused for a moment while he searched for the right words. "Why did they set you free, while we remained imprisoned?" he asked, looking down at Idris. He was surprised to hear a faint trace of bitterness in his voice. He hardly ever showed any emotion other than bemusement or mild annoyance. On the other hand...when was the last time he'd had a talk with his own kind?

"Oh don't tell me you don't know," Idris said, stopping on the sidewalk. She gave Telran a critical look, but there was a genuine confusion behind it.

"Know?" he replied, cocking an eyebrow.

So he didn't know, then. "I thought the news would have covered it, what with Spencer making a break for it, but I suppose I'm wrong." It was her turn to remember, now. "The facility was trashed by a bit of a wronged experiment. We rode the shockwave out...not all of us made it." Pause. She shoved Eve's face out of her mind and continued. "We broke out ourselves, Telran. We didn't even know there was a second facility 'till a few days ago."

"Mmm...I see." So they weren't freed - they escaped. "The news forgot to mention that detail." As they continued to walk, he considered what this meant. They escaped... "So you've spent all of this time together and still managed to stay off the radar? Impressive," he said, allowing admiration to creep into his voice.

"Define time." A derisive smirk twisted her pale face. "We've stayed well clear of one another, with one or two exceptions."

It appeared as though Telran had hit a nerve. "If you weren't near each other, then why-" He stopped. I can't believe I missed it. "The motel." He said it as though there were no question, yet glanced at his new acquaintance for confirmation. She nodded.

"And between then and now?"

"We've run." It was said in such a way that there really didn't seem any more to it. She started walking again. "It started with two - Thetis and Kerr, you know them. Blue hair and the perpetual scowl." She allowed herself a small, mirthless chuckle before continuing. "They dragged everyone else to the motel like magnets. We escaped into the sewers and picked up a few more of the group, Lokka among them. Then we were chased out of the city."

Ah, so that's how Lokka fits into it all. And Black Eyes is Kerr...and here I thought he was insulting me when I introduced myself. "Chased? Must've been a hell of an enemy to chase seven Destrillians and...whatever the other three are out of Artolia." A memory drifted into the back of his mind, a memory of his own border crossing: men shouting, guns firing, searing pain of razor wire as it cut through his skin. "I take it that's how you got that burn, then," he said thoughtfully, gazing along the street ahead of them.

"Eight, actually," the girl replied, thinking of Kram. "But one went back to right all his wrongdoings, or something to that effect. And yes." The 'yes' was said a bit slower, as she took the time to glance down at the aforementioned injury. "But it's healing well. No big deal."

There was another...? This time, however, he was back in familiar territory. "Would you mind if I took a look at it? It may be more of a deal than you think." Recalling the way she had stood at the apartment (and how she's walking now, come to think of it), he paused before adding, "It looks as though it's causing you a bit of...discomfort, is all."

"Discomfort isn't all that bad," she replied with a winsome smile. "Being who we are, we can't afford to get too comfortable. Besides, I've had plenty worse than this. If it's not almost gone by tomorrow, you can do what you want to it." She set her eyes on the outline of the grocery store that was their destination, nodding towards it to indicate they were almost there.

"I'll hold you to that," came his answer, smiling down at Idris with his lopsided smile.


"So you said there was an eighth?" Telran asked, as he took hold of a shopping cart and began to push it towards the entrance of the store. "Anyone I'd know, by chance?"

"Maybe," Idris replied lightly. "Know a guy named Kram?"

"You met Kram?" he asked. "...well then," said he, bemused.

"Sounds like you know him, alright." The girl laughed as they turned into an aisle to begin with their task.

"He was at facility two, yes," he replied, unable to hide the smile that had been threatening to break out on his face any longer. "Is he still out to save everyone?"

"Oh, so you definitely know him, then." A thoughtful look crossed her face as she plucked a few different cans of soup from their place on the shelf and delicately tossed them into the cart. "He's not that bad, really - not anymore. Met him on the way to the motel and I can see why you have the look on your face that you do. But a lot happened between there and here, and he's grown up. A bit."

"Mmm...I see," he nodded. "Good. We weren't exactly friends, but I'm glad he's doing well. Not dwelling on what happened..." His words trailed off, talking more to himself than Idris. He reached for a loaf or two of bread absentmindedly and slowly placed them in the cart.

"What happened?" the slight woman repeated, arching an eyebrow. The two had turned the corner into the next aisle before Telran replied.

"Well...Kram and one of the other Destrillians. They were close. Tried to escape and failed. Viola did some pretty awful things to her afterward, and then she was gone. Kram blamed himself for not being able to protect her, and he killed quite a few scientists before they brought him down. Put him in stasis." He closed his eyes. Oh, Tao...may you find peace in the embrace of the afterworld.

Idris said nothing in reply to that, but a blink of surprise did escape her composure. How could she have forgotten? Kram had explained it all to her in Emma's kitchen. He'd explained a lot to her, really...enough that she should have been able to piece everything together much sooner. So much for being whipsmart; having been deprived of a good puzzle for years now had dulled her skill.

They turned into an aisle of frozen foods and the cold air raised the hairs on the back of the metal Destrillian's neck. While they grabbed this and that from the shelves and their list grew shorter, Idris decided it was time to ask.

"And what about you?"

Now it was Telran's turn to be caught off guard. "Me?" he asked, a tone of genuine stupefaction in his voice, his head turning toward Idris.

"When the walls of Viola came crashing down around your head, where did you end up?"

"Ah." The golden-eyed Destrillian continued down the aisle for a bit, stopping to eye some coffee-flavored ice cream before replying, his back to Idris. "I find it somewhat ironic that we were freed by a power outage," said Telran, gazing thoughtfully at his own hands. "We scattered to the four winds; I made my way through Artolia on foot. Broke through the checkpoint at the border, and have been here in Crawsus ever since." He turned back to the cart, decision made - ice cream in his hand. "One of the gangs thought they would fleece me, and then brought me on when they found out how wrong they were," he continued, expression unreadable. "They gave me my own clinic in exchange for my services as a cover for their drug dealing. I've never been too keen on the dealing, but...a deal is a deal." He turned back and picked up a few other flavors of ice cream before he spoke again. "Kept me free and fed, and let me save lives while honing my skills. And my powers as well," he finished, somewhat defensively.

"I see." And then with that voice that told you she already knew the answer - "And are you happy here?"

This time he could not hide his change in expression from Idris' sharp eyes. "Not anymore." The silence he got back was worth more than anything she could have said. What would she have said to that anyway, asides from 'I understand'? They were Destrillians - they understood from day one.

This was not a subject he wanted to continue. "How about you?" He let go of the cart a moment as he pushed to spread his hands in a gesture of deference. "How have the years been to you?"

"Kind, I suppose. Enough, anyway." Idris rolled her skinny shoulders in a shrug. "It's been an interesting ride so far. I never settled anywhere - the world's just too big to be happy with whatever little comfort zone you have, right?"

Telran felt the point of her words, intended or no. Maybe she's right. "Were you happy there?" echoing the storm-eyed girl's words.

"Depends on where 'there' is," she said back, with a playful tone. She pulled open one of the refrigerator doors and took out a carton of milk, placing it down gently on the bottom of the cart.

"For ten people? Better get three," he said with a chuckle. She returned a smile and grabbed another two, then, almost as an afterthough, one of soy, before shutting the door again. "In Artolia. With the others," Telran continued.

Idris was still facing the cart as he said it, so he didn't see the smile drop for a moment - the pale girl swiftly hitched it back up to where it was supposed to be. "Remember those exceptions I mentioned? I wasn't one of them."

Her evasiveness did not escape Telran's notice. "Ah." They walked along in silence for a moment, before he broke it with a murmur. "A lonely existence, ours."

Silence. "Maybe. Maybe not." She stacked a few boxes of pizza on top of their growing pile of groceries. "Things change."

He raised an eyebrow in reply. "Do they?" Do they, really? "I hope you're right."

"Only one way to find out," Idris replied airily--for all the world she sounded as if she were discussing the whole subject with perfect casualness, but there was something beneath the surface of her lighthearted words. She reached a hand out and picked up a few steaks from the end of the aisle.

"And what's that?" came the reply.

"I wonder." The smile said she wasn't going to let on any further than that.

They continued on in silence for a while, stopping occasionally to pick up things that caught their eye: more cans of soup (in various flavors; baked potato and bacon in particular caught Telran's attention); paper towels (I just know I'm going to run out); numerous bags of candy (well, we do have a small child with us); and a handful of other items. As they pulled around to the next aisle, Telran stopped.

The coffee (and tea, but coffee was more important to Telran, at this point) aisle.

Idris looked at Telran, then down at the assorted cans of pure ground-up caffeine. Then back to Telran. "You're kidding me," she said, sounding almost incredulous in her disbelief. Then again, why shouldn't Destrillians drink coffee?

"Someone's never had a good cup of coffee," Telran said seriously. "Granted, it tastes awful on its own, but you should never understimate the value of a good cup of coffee." He raised a finger to emphasize his point. "It has less effect on us than it does humans - no crash - but it's still good at keeping you going, particularly if you haven't eaten in a while."

Idris just shook her head and sighed. "If you say so," was her only reply, but the joke had returned to her voice.

"I'll be sure and make you some when we get back, hm?" he said, beaming. "No one makes a cup of coffee quite like I do."

"I suppose I'll try it." She eased a can of the stuff off the shelf, standing on tiptoe to get at it. "But don't get too upset if I don't like it."

"Fair enough," he replied with a smile. I'm actually enjoying this. "So, what do you think - tea, or no tea?" he asked, as they paused two thirds of the way down the aisle, where the coffee ended and the store's massive stock of tea began.

"Well Fiona sure isn't going to drink it, and I don't think Thetis will even be able to drink anything without retching it back up, she's so stressed out." Idris shook her head, one corner of her mouth twitching up the tiniest bit as she continued. "I don't know about Jettison and Nova. Kerr could probably use a cup, he's so tightwound - not that I think he'd take one. Stolz is just weird enough that they might enjoy it. Maybe Lokka, too. Emma would probably think of it as cannibalization," she said, breaking off as her tinkling laugh rang out. "And Terra m--"

She stopped. She sighed. She didn't know. And it wasn't like Terra was around to tell her.

So many names I don't know, though Telran, sighing on the inside. "You're probably right about Thetis...though it might calm her nerves a bit. I'm not so worried about Lokka," he said with a slight smile. "If I know him, he probably needs something other than just water in his system." He thought for a moment. "I think it's more of a question of whether or not Kerr trusts me enough to drink something I made, though. And...I don't know who the other people are," he said with a hint of surprise in his voice, as though he couldn't believe he'd forgotten to ask something to obvious yet. "Although I'm pretty sure I can guess which one Stolz is now," he said with a short laugh.

"And I'm pretty sure you're correct in your guessing," Idris said back, although she didn't sound quite right. She was staring at the shelves of tea with a light scowl on her face.

"What's wrong?" Telran asked. The change in her tone of voice had not escaped his notice, and the look on her face made the need to read her body language quite unnecessary. Idris shook her head slightly.

"Just thinking..." she trailed off, then started again. "Terra. I just hope she's alright."

"She was the one that Mileina took, then," came the soft reply. Thetis told me the one I saw with green hair and glasses was called Terra. Mileina kidnapped a brunette, though. Maybe she dyes it? She did have the glasses...

"She's the one, yeah."

"We'll get her back, Idris. Don't worry." Telran reached out to place a reassuring hand on Idris' shoulder, then hesitated for but an instant before his hand was there. "She's going to be okay."

Grey eyes observed the second comforting hand on her shoulder in as many days. Either she made a really pitiful sight, or Idris had just been having too many bad things happening to her at once lately. The latter seemed much more plausible. "You're right, of course," she said after a pause. "We'll get her back."

"It must be hard," Telran said, as he withdrew his hand. "Being the leader of the group, I mean. Having to hold it together for the sake of the others."

"Why would--" Idris stopped in her tracks, giving him a strange look. "What?" Her expression shifted through a few different choices but eventually settled on half-amused, half-bemused. "Me? Leader? No, no - Lokka's the one with the plan, and Kerr's the one who got us here. I'm just... keeping everyone together is all." The two Destrillians walked down the fruit and vegetable aisle, each grabbing plastic bags to throw food inside.

"Humility...the sign of a true leader." Telran's expression shifted from one of curiosity to a playful smirk. "A leader isn't always the one who calls the shots, or has all the ideas," he said, shaking his head. "A leader is someone that people gravitate toward. Someone who draws and...binds...the group together," he finished with a smile, as he placed a number of apples into a bag. The cart was now full to overflowing, with each new item added to the pile cascading down the mound slightly before coming to a stop.

"Hmmm." The grey-eyed Destrillian seemed to think on that a moment, but ultimately she just shrugged it off with an "If you say so."

"So who are those other people - Emma, Jettison, and Nova? And why did humans and..." Telran came to a brief pause. "...and whatever Stolz is come along?" Definitely not human, he told himself. They had reached an aisle for ethnic foods - an aisle he knew all too well, for it was here that many of the ingredients for lasagna were housed. Which didn't seem like a bad idea, as it would produce enough to easily feed the entire group. With enough remaining for leftovers, of course.

"Well, Emma's the one with the red hair and all those freckles," the pale woman began. "Jettison is the stoic girl with the raggedy clothing, and Nova's the huge guy she's always sitting near. As for the reasoning behind having... people not like us, follow us? To be perfectly honest, I haven't the slightest." She watched Telran as he picked out one or two things off the shelf and carefully placed them in what little space remained in the cart. "I haven't quite had the time to ask, but it's quite clear that whatever they wanted, it wasn't just a little adventure. They all have their own agendas - we just don't know what those happen to be, yet."

"Somehow, I'm sure we factor into those agendas," Telran said, a cynical edge to his voice. There's always a reason. There's always something they want from us. They always have some plan for us. Nothing ever changes. He sighed as he reached for another bag of noodles. "I suppose we'll find out in time."

"We always do." Idris gave Telran a good long look. "And I see you've begun to use 'we' comfortably by now. Counting on being included?"

"Mmm," he replied, with a nod, then gazed into Idris' eyes for the briefest of moments before continuing. "There is no place in this world for us, except with each other." We are not meant to find happiness in the broadness of the world.

The words made Idris laugh, for some reason. "You're telling me."

Telran thought about Idris' words as they walked on - the strangers, Mileina, what they'd been through, herself. Terra. The thoughts churned through his mind like the choppy waters of the ocean in a storm, ever shifting, never resting. His mind was on the odds of returning to the apartment to find it demolished and in a state of utter ruin as they turned onto an aisle filled with nothing but shelves filled to the brim with box after colorful box of cereal.

"Any preference?" he asked, indicating the vast array of whole grains, fiber, and marshmallows that spread out before them - a vast expanse of cereal, as far as the eye could see.

Idris raised her eyebrows - was he serious? Of course he was. The girl flicked her dark hair out of her eyes as she scanned all the colourful boxes around her; Idris, having not exactly had a normal life for the past four years, hadn't often had the chance to acclimatize to regular, everyday routine. There were some things that she just didn't know. Her cereal preference was one of those things.

"Mmm," she said, pressing her lips together in indecision, narrowing her eyes. Had the humans never once thought that maybe they had a bit too much choice? It was ridiculous trying to single out one thing to try amongst all the variety. Slowly, she moved down the aisle, giving each new type of cereal a quick once-over before moving on.

When she finally found what she was looking for, she was surprised as anybody. It had only just managed to catch her eye, up on the very top shelf - the only reason she'd seen it at all was because of the bright orange and yellow colouring on the box.

That's the one, she thought. For a second she thought she might have had it before, but on a closer inspection, she couldn't recall having ever seen the stuff before in her life. It just looked appealing is all.

"Up there," she said, pointing with one finger. She tried to get it herself, standing as high up on tiptoe as possible, but no matter how she strained her pale arm it couldn't quite reach. (Telran's smile grew ever larger with each attempt.) She considered just using the metal in the shelf to knock it down, but thought it better not to risk it.

She turned to Telran with wide grey eyes and a pleading smile showing too many teeth to be quite as innocent as she hoped it would be. Telran wiped the grin off his face, but not quite fast enough.

"Golden Treatos? Simple enough," he said, reaching out to take hold of the colorful box Idris had pointed to.

"Thank you," said the girl, watching as the box of cereal was balanced precariously at the very top of the pile of groceries. The sunny disposition of the stuff portrayed it to be both disgusting and delicious all at once - rather a childish choice, but she figured if she was only going to get to do this once, she may as well go all the way. Telran just smiled at her again...though, as Idris had learned, Telran said many things through his smile, just like she did - you certainly couldn't count on being able to read his eyes. And she was beginning to be able to read the differences in those smiles.

And this one said "oh-look-at-you-you're-so-short-isn't-that-cute."

So she twitched a finger and the shelf broke, and boxes of cereal rained down right on top of his two-toned head. A lot of them.

Telran just stood there, blinking, as wave after wave of cardboard fell upon him.

When the deluge finally reached its end, he had only one word to say: "Touché."

Idris just flashed him a wry grin. "Maybe we ought to check out before we're forced to clean this mess up," she said.

"Good idea," replied the golden-eyed Destrillian, flashing a look over his shoulder. "I'm not really interested in 'cleanup on aisle seven'."

"Nor am I. Shall we?"

"Let's shall." They made a dash for the front of the store, where they waited in what appeared to be the shortest line. The wait was long, as the woman ahead of them felt the need to bring many coupons and not enough identification for her check to be run - and, of course, people didn't stare at the two Destrillians' appearances. Oh, no. Not at all.

As they finished checking out and began to walk out the front doors with their cart, Telran had a sudden thought that brought him up short.



"How are we going to carry all of this back home?"

The smaller Destrillian was silent. She looked down at the shopping cart full of groceries. Slowly, her expression became more thoughtful, and if you looked closely, you could see her eyes focus less on the food in the cart, and more on the cart the food was in. "Well," she began, drawing the word out, "I might have an idea."

"An idea?" He looked at her suspiciously. "What kind of idea?"


The sun had risen higher while the two Destrillians had been grocery shopping - it had raised the temperature just enough to not be considered cold. The warmth from the sunlight contrasted against the frigid breeze and created a perfectly balanced climate, wonderful for walking home in.

Or in Idris and Telran's case, wonderful for pushing a stolen shopping cart home in.

Ah, jeez. I can't believe I'm stealing a shopping cart from the grocery store, Telran thought as they made their way along the street. He glanced at Idris, a curiously thoughtful expression on his face. This is just the sort of thing she would do...

His thoughts trailed off as they wandered back to her. No, thought he, shaking his head, no. Don't think about that. Focus on something else. But what? Think, think, think, thinking I wonder what will happen when we get back I hope the place is still there and Stolz hasn't done anything weird to the carpet I wonder if Lokka will like the tea I wonder how Fiona is ooh that's right I should probably stop by the clinic now that I have the chance...


The girl looked up. "Mmhmm?"

"My clinic's not far from here. You mind if we stop by there on the way back? Fiona's stable, but fading fast. Might be able to buy her more time..." he said, ochre eyes gazing off into the distance.

Idris' grey eyes darkened at the mention of Fiona. Fiona, who was still so sick despite the treatment she was getting, who was still holding on through little more than sheer willpower. Who would leave behind a very broken Thetis if she went.

"Why would you even ask that question? Let's go," she replied at last.


Ten minutes later, they were approaching Astra Clinic. The small, apologetic sign he had placed on the door was still there, though it was clear numerous people had still attempted to gain entry. There was also a note stuck in the door, as Telran learned when he unlocked and opened it. Lightning-quick reflexes enabled him to easily snag it as it fluttered toward the ground, and he read it as he continued into the clinic, turning on the lights absentmindedly as he went. "Come on in. Make yourself at home - this won't take too long," he said, spreading his arms in a gesture of welcome, and tossing the note onto the vacant desk as he entered the hallway.

"You're too kind." Idris carefully manoeuvered the shopping cart into a safe place, and then spent a good long moment just taking in the sight of the clinic, the way her years of training had wired her. It was a small establishment, but professional - the gang Telran had mentioned before had certainly been willing to pay up for his services. From the number of chairs set out, it seemed as if the place saw its fair share of business; the air smelled clean and sterile, but not so much as to make her wrinkle her nose in discomfort, like Viola used to.

Once her brain had decided it had enough information on the surroundings to be satisfied, she took up a delicate perch on the edge of the desk against the wall, watching the doctor move around his clinic.

Telran went into his office and looked at the phone. The answering machine had far, far too many messages on it for his taste. His face fell, and, with a resigned sigh, he pressed "play" and let them start to rattle off as he went about his business. He first checked that window (after last time, he wasn't having anyone else entering when the clinic was closed), then, deciding it was secure enough, went back out into the hall and passed into exam room one.

"So what do you think?" he called. "It's nothing fancy, but it does the trick."

"It's nice," Idris called back, swinging her legs a little bit. "Feels efficient, but well lived-in. You're lucky."

"Lucky?" he asked, returning to the waiting area, a number of medications in his hand as he began storing them in the messenger bag he always left here for this very reason. "How's that?"

"This place was... is? more than just a clinic to you. I can tell." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "There's this warmth to it. Happy memories are plentiful here."

"Ah." Telran's reply was more terse than usual, even taking his taciturn nature into account. "Happy memories and warmth, huh?" His face lost its own warmth entirely. "It was more the company than anything else."

Idris opened her sharp grey eyes and observed Telran's expression. She didn't say anything - again, the silence did more than any words could. She just sat very still, and thought quietly about what that sentence meant.

The sign on the door had been there a while. Why had that been? The other Destrillian had his own office down the hall, she knew that, but here she was sitting pretty on another desk. A clinic couldn't be run entirely solo. The slight woman glanced down near her hand, where a nameplate lay innocently.

"So where is she, Telran?"

He stiffened.

"Dead," he whispered. There was an exhalation of breath as he closed his eyes. "She's dead," he said softly.

Instinct confirmed. Idris curled her toes inside her ballet flats. "How close were you?"

"I wonder." His tiny chuckle was completely devoid of mirth. "She was my only friend. It..." He looked out the window thoughtfully, searching for the right words. " might have been more, had things turned out otherwise." He turned to face Idris, his eyes slightly glazed, the light in them gone, blinking slowly. "Someone used her to get to me. They killed her right in front of my eyes. I watched her die." He slowly closed his eyes again. "I couldn't save her. It's been six days," he said hoarsely. His golden eyes opened again, and he moved his bag to the floor as he sat down on the chair it had once occupied.

"It doesn't feel that way, does it." It wasn't a question. The pale Destrillian slipped off the desk and took up a new seat closer to Telran. She sighed. "Who was the aforementioned someone?"

In the brief moment of silence that followed, the sunlight streaming through the window grew dim as a large cloud passed overhead. Telran's eyes glowed with fury. "I have no idea." He looked Idris dead in the eye. "But I will find them." He spoke this last quietly, yet with an undeniable venom.

Idris thought about that answer. Eventually, she nodded her agreement--and now it was her turn to delicately place her hand on Telran's knee. "You have other friends, now, you know," she said, trying for a tone that was kind without being pitying. He didn't need pity.

Telran's turned his head to look back at Idris, golden ochre on steel grey. His gaze retained its fierceness for a fleeting moment, and then both it and his face softened somewhat. "Friends?" he asked, his voice colored by curiosity and skepticism. "From what you've said, you can all barely get along - much less be friends." The sunlight returned, the cloud having passed on.

It took every bit of her iron willpower to keep the girl from reacting to that sentence. "Rephrase," she replied, with a voice that was an odd mix of exasperation and determination. "You have another friend now."

"Another friend, huh?" he said thoughtfully, as though he were considering the prospect. I wonder. "Well then," he said, his face slowly breaking into a smile. "Thank you, Idris," he said, offering her his large hand. One can never have too many friends. And our kind tend to have precious few to begin with.

The relief was evident on her face for only the most miniscule fraction of an instant before she fought it down; she clasped his hand warmly in both of hers, returning his smile with the grin only she could pull off. Then a question popped into her mind.

"What was that note stuck in the door?" Idris inquired, glancing around for where he'd put it.

"Ah. That." He stood, walking over to Alessa's now empty desk, and picked up the slip of paper he'd tossed there before. "It was a note, yes." He raised an eyebrow, watching her for a reaction to his next words. "From another of the Destrillians from the second lab."

The small girl's laughter rang out in the otherwise silent clinic. "Why does that not surprise me?" she finally said, shaking her head. "I would've been more shocked if you'd said it was somebody who'd felt the need to write a particularly scathing letter about how you'd closed up shop temporarily and stuck it there for you to see. Really." Her eyes danced with the sort of satisfied amusement she'd had when they'd stolen the shopping cart. "So who are they?"

"Oh, don't worry. I'm sure I'll get one of those soon enough," he replied darkly. Handing her the note, he said, "His name is Castiel," though it was entirely unnecessary, as his name was signed at the bottom.

Idris read the note - or she started to, anyway, before a terribly unladylike snort escaped her. "'Bright Spark'? Slick," she commented.

"Not my choice of nicknames, trust me," he grumbled. The other Destrillian just flashed him a wicked smile and continued on. In moments she had finished scanning the small slip of paper, and set it down on the chair beside her, a perplexed look scrunching up her pale brow.

"'Our mutual friends'," she intoned, looking up at Telran. "How does he know we're here? I mean, the Keris doesn't exactly fade into the background, but..." She cast a quick glance about the clinic, as if expecting somebody to be hiding in a corner, watching.

"Your departure from Osea wasn't exactly...low key," he replied, a playful note to his voice. His expression hardened somewhat, and suddenly. Doesn't explain the message though. Even then, how would he know they're here? Does he know they're here? Said he has "information". What information? Must be important, or he wouldn't have bothered. Hmm. "Strange that he would have left that, though. When he was here, he barely said a word. One word, in fact - my name." He frowned. "I wonder..."

"So he's been here before - why didn't he stick around the first time off?" the pale woman asked, tilting her head to one side a bit.

"Hm." Telran stroked his chin before replying, as if considering. "No idea. Made his way in through an open window one night with a nasty cut on his arm." He'd made sure to check that it was locked just a moment ago - no one liked unexpected guests. "I was walking around, trying to clear my head a bit, and found myself standing outside. Came inside as he fell in - nasty cracking sound his head made as it broke my floor. He passed out on the floor...didn't say a word to me after he woke up. I'd sewn him up, and then he was on his way," Telran finished, spreading his hands in an almost shrug.

There was a quick silence as Idris processed the information, before she nodded in acceptance. "Seems like he's regretting that decision," she started, plucking the note up off the seat and handing it back to Telran. "Or at least, he's found some reason to come back to you. Are you going to call him?"

He gazed at it for a moment. "Good question." He picked his bag back up, then slipped the note into a side pocket. "I'll have to think about it." He looked over at Idris before explaining. "He was a bit of a loose cannon...unpredictable. Met the same fate as Kram, in the end - sealed away in stasis. And after what happened with Mileina...we must be cautious."

"You're telling me. That's twice now that another one of our kind's screwed us over." Idris stood up, brushing off her dress lightly. "I think all of us've learned to watch our step around other Destrillians." She eyed the bag in Telran's hand for a moment, and wondered exactly how much of what was in it would be needed to do the job it needed to do. How much had he even been able to do for Fiona in the first place? Idris thought back to how Fiona had looked at Telran's place: not dead, but certainly not healthy. A question formed itself on the tip of her tongue.

"How much more can you do for her?" she said, nodding a little at the bag of medical supplies.

He frowned in reply, brow furrowed. "Watch our step", and then that she doesn't trust me, then. Then again, I suppose I can't blame her for that. Thanks so much for that, Mileina. But then, I could be reading too much into it...might not have meant that at all. And she hasn't done anything to warrant suspicion, fact, she's been very nice. Why do that if she wasn't serious? Wouldn't make sense. "Friend"...this is going to take some getting used to. "Honestly? Very little." He sighed. "Whatever she's been poisoned with is something I've never seen before. The most I can do, without a real cure, is slow it down a bit." He looked at the metal Destrillian, his gaze hard, voice serious. "She will die without it - there is no other option."

"All right." It was all she really could say. She nodded, almost to herself, and picked herself up to go get the shopping cart from its place in the corner. "We ready to go, then?"

Compartmentalizing...and she says she's not the leader. He nodded. "Unless you've changed your mind and are just dying to have a Cherry Honey bandage," he said with an impish grin lighting up his features. "It's the most popular, you know. All the children go crazy for them - sometimes I think they get hurt just to see which one they'll get."

"Children will be children," Idris responded with a laugh. She grabbed hold of the cart with one hand and dragged it backwards out of its resting place, swerving it around to face the exit. "I wouldn't want to be the person to take that one last bandage out of the box - they might cry over it. Or worse, they might hunt me down and tear it from my poor delicate wound."

Telran rolled his eyes. "It wouldn't be the first time, believe me." He closed up his bag, then carefully situated it in its familiar spot at his hip, strap going up and across his tattooed chest and neck and over his shoulder. "But that's Audoula - everyone feels entitled," he said, a touch bitter. These children got to fight over who got the best bandage, while he, and the others, had been robbed of their childhoods entirely. They had no idea how lucky they really were.

"Don't they just?" She shook her head in derision, clicking her tongue. "Giant mansions and acres of private backyard and any lesson they can ask for. Spoiled to all hell."

Telran arched an eyebrow. "Sore subject?"

"I just--no." The pale woman stopped, the slightest of frowns creasing her brow as what she'd said caught up with her. "Not really. It's... the truth, isn't it though?" She found herself almost actually asking for confirmation on that point.

He smiled kindly. "It could be. I wouldn't know...what little of my childhood I remember was spent in a tube, if you recall."

"Quite." She shook her head. "Know how you feel there."

The pair began to walk out, Telran turning off the lights along the way. As he locked the door behind them, a thought occured to him.



He hesitated for a moment. "This...this is probably a stupid question, you...remember?" He looked at her, the question in his eyes, along with curiosity, and a sort of hunger - a hunger for the truth. He realized the question might need clarification. "Before, I mean."

The Gunmetal Glint's step faltered. She stopped, looking up at the small white clouds that had filled the sky since they were last outside, and then let a soft sigh escape her. "Some. More now than a few days ago - there was this... event," she said, not wanting to go into detail about their adventures in Jettison's nightclub, "during the escape, that opened things up to me a little more, I think. Not even particularly much. It's less of a rememberance and more of a new possibility of remembering, whereas before it seemed pretty damn impossible."

I see. The Destrillian with the two-toned hair had another of those far-off looks on his face. The words came slowly as he spoke, almost as though he hadn't heard Idris at all. "That's...good. Maybe, someday, I will be able to have even that much." He shook his head. "What I wouldn't give to know." A sigh escaped the tall, golden-eyed male.

Idris shifted her left foot in its flat as she scrutinized her companion. "You mean to say you've never remembered anything? Not even dreams? Nothing?" Every Destrillian she knew had had at least one strangely familiar flashback in their cryo-sleep - hearing of someone who hadn't simply added further to Telran's oddity.

He spread his hands. "Nothing." An expression flitted across his face, quick as lightning, gone almost immediately - it could have just been a twitch. "But..." There was a pause here, infinitesimal, before he began to stroke the right side of his neck - his tattoos. "It seems unlikely to have been Viola that gave me these," he said quietly.

"So they were always there, then," Idris said, shifting her focus to the markings on the Destrillian's skin. "I'd wondered." She narrowed her eyes in thought, slowly beginning to push the cart forwards again. "Well if Viola couldn't even get rid of the physical remnants of whatever past you have, the chances're pretty slim that they got the rest of it out of you, either. I'm sure it's still there, somewhere."

They walked along in silence for a while.

"Thank you, Idris."

She arched an eyebrow beneath her wig. "For what?"

"For listening. Talking. Humoring me." He looked her in the eyes; it seemed to him (though it could easily have been a trick of the light) that they had lost their cold, steel grey feel, though their color had not changed a bit. He felt...warmth coming from them. "For your friendship."

Idris considered the words carefully; she studied Telran's strange, pupil-less eyes as she did so. Was this sort of familiarity new to him? Or was it just that he'd never had another Destrillian around to understand? She'd done nothing out of the ordinary, after all.

Nothing out of your ordinary, she reminded herself. It was true - when compared with most of the other Destrillians, Idris Savage could look pretty human, when she wanted to. Could be pretty human, when she wanted to. And humans were much better at the whole communication spiel than her kind could ever hope to be. It went against every fibre of their beings to be otherwise.

But maybe not hers.

"Is that all?" she said, her elfin grin lighting up her face. "Well, you're welcome for it, Mr. Miara."

He smiled in return. "So," he said cheerfully, "shall we see if our luck held out while we were gone, or if my home has exploded and we need to run for our lives from the military?"

"Been there, done that, and all I got was that lousy Keris," Idris retorted playfully, pointing with a finger at the aforementioned vehicle, parked in the near distance. They were almost back, and there was no tower of smoke to indicate that anything had gone particularly wrong since they'd left.

So much the better.
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Old 01/09/2011   #156

JETTISON BRAND; the ferry to Crawsus

The cigarette ash floated sideways, carried by the wind and eventually swallowed by the sea foam under them. Jettison threw away the last of the stub and turned around to keep an eye on the van they sitting on the ferry.
The take-home message was that no Destrillian was to be immediately trusted.

Not a complete surprise, considering the group already had issues trusting themselves.

"Worst. Superweapons. Ever." Nova breathed cigarette smoke out through his nostrils, the wide-mouthed grin usually on his face replaced by a confused smile. "And you say that these things were supposed to be the shit defending our grand ol' motherland?"

"Still too human," Jettison mused. Nova had recounted the events of the fight to her, although she was smart enough to glean the facts from whatever glorious fiction he had concocted by his own. For one, Nova may have been partially bulletproof and impervious to pain, but she was pretty sure he was not as fireproof as he had claimed to be.

"Hah! And what does that make you, girl?"

No answer. What was there to say? She had her own problems, but she had not broken out from Denann from her own free will. It was insubordination that had nearly cost her her life. In retrospect, she was no better. Which, perhaps, was why she was here. But she was never one to look a potential gift horse in the mouth.
She came to a decision on what she had to do.

“We need to recon.”

“What? You mad?” Nova tossed what remained of his cigarette stub over the railing. “This ain’t our home game, baby. You need to play this real careful, ‘cause this ain’t the Zone, and this ain’t the team we’re used to.”

“I am fully aware of that.”

“So I guess you totally coo-koo then, huh.”

“Mileina, you said?”

Nova sighed, exasperation crossing his features. “Yeah, girl. Mileina. Mileina something-or-other. Big-shot company mook from some group called Limnades.”

Jettison reclined a fraction further back on the railguard, formulating and considering her plan of approach as the ferry approached dock.


The moment her body clock struck the desired hour, Jettison’s eyes flew open, adjusted to the pitch blackness immediately to reaffirm her surroundings. The dim vertical crack of slightly-lesser darkness to her side indicated dawn approaching in about two hours. By far, not enough for the average person to function normally, but perfect enough for Jettison to make her move on the city.

She pushed open the double doors and climbed out of the closet, unraveling the sticky tape attaching the kitchen knife to her wrist, and made her way to the apartment bathroom to wash herself and her clothes.

Standing directly under an unrelenting stream of icy-cold water with every drop chilling every square inch of her skin allowed her mind to focus into crystal clarity.

There were pedal bikes and public transport to borrow, cities to explore and borders to cross, and a Limnades corporation to keep tabs on. Jettison checked her battered wristwatch as she reclothed herself and climbed out a balcony window without any fuss.

Back before breakfast.
死の果までも追い掛けます、 探し出し

RIP in peace old sig lolol 04/2015

Don't believe your eyes? Don't be surprised.

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Old 01/16/2011   #157
Alessa Gillespie


“Ugh, the roads are awful,”
Jeorgia Michaels complained, wiping sweat off of her forehead. Her husband had attempted earlier that day to get back to Osea, only to find the only way into the city being blocked off by lines of cars that were miles long and reaching a realization there was no way they were going to get into the hospital that they had requested months earlier.

She was early, and they both realized that. But due to what the doctor had told her earlier in the week, the dark-skinned woman desperately wanted to make certain their baby would come into the world safe and sound. But if Osea was going to be in complete chaos, she couldn’t actually figure out how that was going to happen. Brent could see her distress, and attempted to calm her by giving her a kiss on the cheek, “Don’t worry Jeorgie, I’m sure we’ll make it there.”

She pushed her seat back and pushed it down, lying onto her back. “I don’t even care. You could take me to a vet and if they can deliver the kid, I won’t care,” his black haired wife grumbled, closing her eyes. The whole thing was making her feel exhausted. Brent touched her arm softly, but pulled it away when he realized she was trying to sleep. “Mind turning on the radio? It’ll block out the noise of the traffic.”

He smiled and tried turning it to one of her favorite stations, though apparently they were too far from it to be able to get any sort of reception from it. He ended up turning the radio to the Artolian news, as dull as that was.

“—the military has already claimed that that they have the Destrillian menace in custody. The government has decided that the city of Osea should continue to be under military lockdown until the citizens can rest assured of their safety from these creatures. As such, we reiterate that the policy for this lockdown is that no one shall allow anyone but active military vehicles into and out of the city. It is recommended that if there is something that is desperately needed from Osea, that you arrange for it to be shipped to you or if a medical emergency, please contact doctors in the nearby cities of Tavro or Gamezia. It—“

Jeorgia groaned loudly in annoyance, “I doubt those Destrill-whatsits care if I want to deliver my baby at the right goddamn hospital. Ugh…” Regretfully, Brent had to turn himself around from the traffic and start in another direction. Where else would he be able to take his wife? He doubted she much wanted to head back to base and ask the doctor there to deliver their kid. He gnawed on his own tongue, trying to remember another excellent doctor besides that guy.

“Hey, I’m gonna try to get us another hospital, I think I have the number of this really great doctor in Audoula…”
He looked over and saw that she had fallen asleep. Once he got to a relatively deserted side road off of the highway, he grabbed a blanket from the back seat and pulled it over her. From this rather lonely stretch of road he could see far off into the distance of the highway leading into the city: he saw the reason for the backed up traffic. The highway into Osea looked rather brutally beaten up, and even though it was evident there were repairs being done, it looked like it was going to stay that way for a while. Who the hell could have done that?

Either way, he and his wife needed to find somewhere to sleep for the night. He took the advice of the radio and started heading toward Gamezia. He started to think about what the radio had said… ‘the Destrillian menace’, much like his boss had warned him a couple of days ago. Much like his boss had said his little sister apparently was. Just thinking about it was as if he had reopened an old wound, remembering that somber face of an 11 year old girl with glasses that made her eyes look like those of a dragonfly. The destruction on the highway… there was no way he could picture that same girl doing that.

He assumed there had to be more of these ‘Destrillian’ people out there, though honestly, although he had heard that a guy named Jason Spencer had gone to trial about them and that they had something to do with Viola (which may or may not have also been tried, he had no idea), he had no idea what they were or who they were. Though his boss was starting to look increasingly correct about them being dangerous: if they were able to mess with roads like that, then who knew what they could have done to the human body. He wished he’d paid more attention to this whole Destrillian thing now, considering his sister was apparently one of them.

He drove almost most of the day, finally making it farther than Gamezia and closer to the only good doctor he'd been recommended. If he had to estimate, he'd say he was decently close to the Audoulan border, and pretty close to Crawsus. He knew his superiors wouldn't be too pleased he didn't use one of the doctors from Artolia, but he had his own money stashed away in case he needed to pay the other doctor. "Jeorgie? We're at a motel, did you want to come in with me?"

She groggily opened her eyes and huffed out a laugh, "Are we pretending to be Mary and Joeseph now?"She sat her seat up and shook her head, "No, I don't really want to do anymore walking than I have to, but if you want me there--"

"Don't worry about it! I'll come and get you when I have the room,"
He said, giving her a kiss and hopping out of the car, making his way to the office. It wasn't the nicest looking place, but it didn't look like it was badly kept by any means. Shockingly average, if he had to give the place an assessment of any sort. A middle aged woman sat behind a desk, quietly smoking a cigarette.

She put it out in a marble ashtray, smiling at Brent with slightly yellowed teeth, "Hey there, were you wanting a room? I need your ID and a credit card, we don't want any weirdos showing up here, if you know what I mean."

Honestly, he didn't. But he got out his military ID and a card anyways, mentioning, "Uh, I don't want a honeymoon suite or, er, anything like that."

She laughed a little, flicking her eyes from the card to his face, nodding to herself, and writing down some information from his cards. "109's open, here you are." She handed him some keys and gave him the same grin she must have given every person who was immediately able to pay. "If you need anything or check out, just come here, okay?"

He nodded and mumbled out a 'thank you' and headed back to the van to get his wife, "I got the room! It's one of the ones on the ground here, so it shouldn't be any problem."He opened her door for her and helped her out, though standing caused her rather obvious pain, "You're sure everything's okay, right?"

She noticed his look of worry and flashed him a smile which ended up more like a grimace, "I'm fine, hon, let's just get to the room."

He helped her shuffle to the room, letting her rest on the bed as her eyebrows knotted together in pain. He really needed to get her to a doctor soon... didn't he have the number of that doctor his own physician recommended? He got out his wallet and shuffled through the various cards he had, finding the card of his own doctor and finding a random number written on the back, in his doctor's nearly unreadable handwriting.

That had to be the one he was looking for. He got out his phone and dialed the numbers, praying that someone was actually in the clinic.

The phone rang and rang, and just when it seemed as though no one would pick up, the receiver crackled.

"Hello, Astra Clinic, Dr. Astra speaking,"
came the sound of a practised but tired sounding male voice on the other end of the phone.

"Hi, I'm Brent Michaels with the Artolian army,"
He paused. Was that really the right thing to say? "Uh, not that something of that nature really matters but, uh, my wife is pregnant and we lost the hospital she was going to deliver at. So I was wondering if maybe you might have an opening and could help out?"

There was a slight pause, almost as though the doctor was considering. "Where are you?"

"Uh, actually, I'm at Medigo, right by the border of Artolia and Audola. Uh, I know I probably should have called beforehand, but I was sorta worried and panicking over my wife and, er. Yeah."
Congratulations, Brent, you've managed to sound like a total moron over the phone with a medical practitioner. Would you like to continue?

"It doesn't matter,"
came the reply. "Get here as soon as you're able." Another pause. "You'll have the clinic to yourselves."

He choked on spittle when he said that. Brent had to cough for a good minute before what he actually said sank in, "Yeah, um, I think the earliest I could get there would be by tomorrow, my wife really can't move very well and I'm hoping that her getting a good night's sleep will help... is that okay, sir?"

This time, the voice's tone was decidedly more amused. "That's fine. And...Brent, you said your name was? You don't need to be quite so formal, you know."

"Sorry sir. ERM, Doctor Astra. Thanks for being avaliable on such short notice, we'll try to be there as soon as everything gets sorted out,"
He said, looking over at his wife. She wasn't quite asleep, her eyes half-open and her breathing slow and steady. He couldn't get over the fact she still looked pained, "We'll be there as soon as possible. I promise."

"You should try and calm down...for your sake, as much as theirs. Don't worry so much. They'll be fine."

"Thanks, I'll try. Um, well we will see you tomorrow then, doctor. Thanks again!"

"It's nothing, really. Until tomorrow, Mr. Michaels."

"Yeah, thanks. Bye for now,"
He looked back at his wife and sat next to her. He was about to tell her that he’d managed to get a doctor and that there wasn’t anything to worry about anymore, but he realized she’d managed to fall asleep again, despite the pain she’d been in. Brent kissed her forehead, hoping it wouldn’t wake her up, and laid down on the bed next to her. She reached around his waist and nuzzled his back, apparently she wasn’t quite as asleep as he’d assumed. He reached up and turned out the light, realizing he needed to take a page out of her book as far as calmness went.

They’d be in Audoula by tomorrow and Doctor Astra would deliver their baby. There wasn’t anything to worry about he reassured himself letting out a sigh and falling asleep next to Jeorgia.

is daddy still a good man?
like a shotgun needs an outcome

don't trust the ones who shake with their left hand



can you fight a legendary creature?

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Old 01/18/2011   #158

”Brenda, I really care about you, but I can’t go on like this anymore. I can’t live a lie!” Click. ”This fall… Christian Keaton is… ACTION COP: TWO.” Click. ”I’m the monkey here, and you’re the organ grinder-“ Click. “It's nearly midnight... It was midnight was it not? When Cinderella's world fell apart?” “You’ll never get away with this, Emperor Droa!” Click.”You’re not my mother!” “Yes I am!” Click. ”Only through faith can we overcome the damage that these Destrillians have-“ Click.

The sun had risen over three hours ago, and Thetis had been awake even longer. Long before her companions had stirred from their slumps and long before Idris and Telran had decided that food shopping was of the utmost importance. Jettison seemed to have disappeared, and the others were busying themselves by pacing back and forth across the room, staring idly out of a window or exploring Telran’s apartment. Why wouldn’t they? After all, they just had so much time to kill. It wasn’t as if there was any sense of urgency to their situation – oh no, not at all, not one bit. It wasn’t as if anyone was, well, dying or anything. Thetis frowned and stabbed another button on the remote.

“Goddamnit! I'm a dermatopathologist, not a miracle worker!"

Thetis was watching TV; what else was there to do? Maybe if they were in Osea, she could have done something, like find some money to help them, get the food for free, or even find a better doctor. She would have been at home and not stuck for ideas in some foreign country, wasting time in some deadbeat doctor’s apartment. He hadn’t helped Fiona at all. She had passed out with the same symptoms nearly as soon as he and Idris had left. Why had Telran even brought them here? Did he think that it would be the perfect opportunity for them to catch up on the TV? Thetis sighed as she tried to make herself more comfortable on the living room floor. They had only left Villnore because none of them could think of a better idea. Thetis switched the channel.

“-because all the buzz this week is about Limnades! Famous for developing the cure to Myosinar’s syndrome, Limnades has numerous medical milestones under its belt. Creators of ‘Rejuvenate’, the proven anti-aging ointment, and the ultimate weight-loss companion, ‘Leosan’, Limnades has been the biggest name in pharmaceuticals for the last ten years. The CEO, viscount Maruca Avidez has invited companies from all across Alyvyssia to present their latest innovations at the Limnades Health Summit in Villnore this week. Those expected to attend are-“

It took a few seconds for Thetis to process the host’s words. She swore she had heard of Limnades before; wasn’t that where Lokka had first met Milleina? It was Milleina who had taken Terra. Who worked for Limnades. Who had the technology to cure seemingly ‘incurable’ diseases. She shuffled a little closer to the television as the woman began to explain Limnades’ latest research into another illness Thetis could barely pronounce. Each link began to bind together. This was all too perfect. Of course it would have been her who would figure it out. The others didn’t have a clue, either far too busy mulling over Terra’ predicament (which, in fairness, was their fault) or simply content with wasting their time living the high life. No-one had even spared Fiona a thought. Thetis dug her fingers into the carpet and turned to face the fire Destrillian. Limnades was their only option. Springing to her feet, the water prototype laid her shirt over Fiona and brushed a stray bang from between orange eyes.

What do you think?

Although the thought was half to herself, Thetis wished that Fiona could hear it. The moment passed, and the blue-haired girl took a deep breath before taking centre stage in front of the television. With a deep breath, she began.

"I have an idea," she raised her voice a little, fully conscious of the others had taken to blocking her out. "We need to go back to Villnore and check out Limnades."

Thetis paused for a minute to gauge the reactions of her fellow Destrillians. Fiona was still unconscious, Kerr looked as nonplussed as usual, Emma looked as distraught as she had when they arrived, Lokka looked like he would explode at the slightest comment, Stolz wasn't even paying attention, and Nova looked... well, like Nova usually looked.

"Milleina worked for Limnades, and Limnades cure things, like diseases and stuff," the blue-haired girl began pacing the room as she counted the reasons on her fingers. ”We can fix Fiona and get Terra back!" Thetis was nearly swayed by her own enthusiasm. Then again, it was a good plan. Or more accurately, the only plan.

"How?" Kerr was the one to break the uncomfortable silence, crossing his arms and twisting his face into an expression that was more unreadable than usual.

"It's obvious, WE KILL THE BATMAN " Thetis spat at Kerr before rounding on the others once more. "We just need to infiltrate Limnades, find a cure and then find Terra."

Her answer was followed by another long silence. Under the gaze of every Destrillian, Thetis felt herself began to crack. Luckily, the water prototype was granted a reprieve in the front door opening to reveal Telran, Idris and a precariously over-stuffed shopping cart.

Telran's response to the collective stare of the group was simple: ”I thought you might be hungry."

"It doesn't matter," the blue-haired girl murmured as she ushered the Destrillians (and the shopping cart) into the living room. "I have a plan."

"A plan?" he echoed, moving through the living room into the kitchen to put away the groceries, Idris close behind.

"A plan to kill two birds with one stone," Thetis added proudly.

After all, how hard could it be?

Last edited by Bex; 01/19/2011 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 01/24/2011   #159

Hannah Fey - Somewhere in south-west Audola.

"There you go Emerald. Good as new!"

The dog jumped up at her as she pet its back. The redhead giggled as the little brown dog stood up on its hind legs, his tounge drooping down as the fur on his head was ruffled by the gentle feminine hand that had cured his torn ligament. He had been walking on it out in the country-side for days after having been hit by a passing vehicle. Stuart Dirson had figured that he had been injured of at least two days before they had picked him up. It was a miracle that he had managed to stay alive so long. Hannah had insisted upon his return that the dog simply needed to be treated herbally for a proper recovery, although how she might manage to fool him now that Emerald was back to full health might become a problem.

"Now if anybody asks, you got better all on your own. Understood?"

The dog stared inquisitively at her for a few moments, as if processing the information. He then dropped back down onto all-fours and started running circles with the intent on catching his tail. Hannah laughed and made her way out of the barn, being sure to shut the door on her way out. Only two days ago she had inadvertedly managed to let out one of the rabbits. Her pace slowed as she walked back to the cottage, taking in every bit of scenery there was the gather. It was a rather open place, full of green fields and the occasional spot of thick woodland. The kind of place where a person may want to raise a family. She took a deep breath of the country air before opening the door to the cottage. She slipped off her shoes as she entered, a mannerism she had picked up quickly in her short time here.

"Is that you Hannah?" came a call from the kitchen.

"Yes it's me, Mrs Dirson."

"Oh child, how many times have I told you now. Call me Nichola. Mrs Dirson makes me sound like an old lady, and I ain't quite there yet!" She replied in a joking tone.

"If you insist." She replied with a grin.

"I hope you're hungry young one. I didn't know what everybody wanted so I made a little of everything."

"Sounds lovely." she called out, slipping her beige coat off and hanging it on the rack. "Can I give you a hand with anything?"

"Nonsense honey. You go make yourself comfortable, I'll shout for you when it's ready."


She made her way upstairs, appreciating the little things such as the colour of the wallpaper and the natural decorations that made up this old building. She had never seen pleasant looking interiors like this before now, and it was still quite new to her. Hannah reached the top of the stairs and made her way to the first bedroom on the right. The Dirsons kept it as a guest room whenever they had company, but Stuart had mentioned early on that this was a very rare occurence. The room had become Hannah's when the Dirson's offered her shelter. As she opened the door and entered, she couldn't believe the sight that presented itself to her. The room was spotless, completely tidy. Hannah had felt guilty that she had left it in such a mess when she departed that morning, but it seemed that Mrs Dirson was a fan of keeping things neat.

The room had few of Hannah's own possessions in it. When she reached Audola, she didn't have much but a few credits, her PDAs and the clothes on her back. And of course one other...item. She saw one of the PDAs sitting atop the bedside counter. Her mind travelled past the room she was in, as she stared at the item. It was just sitting there. The fact that it wasn't flashing meant that it hadn't received any new messages or update.

Nothing at all?

They should have found something by now

She'd heard a news report on the television about Destrillian activity in Osea, just days after she had left there. It could be coincidence, but at the same time it was a path forward. She'd used the alias 'Prism' to contact some of those still active in Osea to get further information. It had been a few days, and there had been no response at all. This was strange. The contacts would usually have picked up some intel, or simply replied to the message. But there was no response whatsoever, meaning something wasn't right.

The PDA had brought back the memories of Osea. Of her past there. Of everything that had happened the last few weeks. She let her eye lids close as it all came rushing back.


14 days earlier.

Eyes flickering open. Nothing but a dark room. Wait. This dark room. It's the same as the one before. The one before what?

Can't remember. Where am I? What am I doing here? Still, don't remember. What's going on?

Have to get up. Have to force my body up. Have to get out of here. Find out what is happening. Find out....who I am.


Body still rough, all over. Need to be careful. Legs, heavy under the pressure. Need to walk down these stairs, get out of here. And go where?

No, doesn't matter. Need to leave here.

One step at a time. A slip could be fatal. What...are these?

Bodies. A lot of bodies. All dead. What happened her- Wait! Starting to remember. Had to come here. Had to kill these men. This gun. Belongs Head hurts too much, pick it up and keep moving. Last step.

What time is this, it is night outside. Have I been....asleep? No, not now. Keep moving. More bodies, more bodies, more bodies. Whyy so many dead. Another body, another body, another- WAIT! That one! Not like the others. That one, different. That one.


The redhead stumbled over to the floor where the orange-haired man lay, scraping her knee on the concrete as she fell. She ignored it, her mind was already working in overdrive. She remembered a little. She had come here with Deyn. They had some kind of mission to kill a target. Something went wrong and Hannah must have got knocked out, Deyn was clearly injured afterwards.

"Come on Deyn get up. Get up Deyn!" she rolled his body over so he was facing upwards. She start pressing down on his chest. "This can't be it. You need to get up, like I did. We have to-"

Her expression froze as she grabbed his arm, his flesh. The skin. It was ice cold, just like the outside was. He had been here for longer than a few hours. She rubbed his arm, desperatly trying to warm it up. Trying to get the blood flowing.

"Come on Deyn, you're tough. You can fight this off!"

She kept trying. She persisted. She stayed there for hours, doing everything she could to wake him up. Three hours had gone by, tears dropped onto his face as she knelt above him. She couldn't do anything to save him, nothing at all. She stayed there for a while longer.

More memories had come back to her. Where she was. The orange zone, a place where criminals prospered. A place where she had come to do some good. Her and Deyn worked here, as mercenaries. Taking jobs from the good, and taking down the bad that requested their aid. What they were. Destrillians. Something less than human, but also something more.

Not all of it made sense. She hadn't been knocked out. She'd been shot. The bullet had gone through her chest, paralyzed her. Killed her. No way she could have survived that. Not even a Destrillian could sustain that kind of injury. But she had. Two full days had passed since their organized attack. She'd been unconcious the whole time. Then there was the matter of the wound, or rather the lack of one. Her body hadn't even a scratch on it, let alone a bullet wound. Even her knee that she'd scraped a few hours ago had completely healed over.

Hannah was a smart girl. She took out a short knife that Deyn kept on his belt, and made a small cut across her knuckles. She watched for minutes as the blood dried, the skin scabbed and ultimately returned to flesh. Some of the changes were visible to the eye. No way could this be normal. Now wasn't the time. She'd gained a lot more control over her cognitive functions in the hours that had passed.

She had nowhere to go. All that they had been fighting for here in Osea. It had all gone to waste. What was there to do?

Hannah took out Deyn's PDA accessing his medical records, ones stored and kept by Viola. He'd always kept the file, as a reminder of his personal limits. She couldn't save Deyn, but he had been her only friend. She could give him what he deserved. Hannah accessed Deyn's personal history and found his place of birth, a small village in the south-west of Audola.

She had nothing left in this city. It was time to get out. She stood to her feet, later bending down and picking up Deyn. He was a heavy guy, but all Destrillians were naturally stronger than the average human. She hurled him over her shoulder and began walking out of the side-alley that led her there in the first place.

It didn't take her long to secure a ride out of the city. An SMG can be quite convincing at the best of times. She got in the small two-door car that she had commandeered, watching as the innocent citizen scattered to the streets, yelling for help. Even he should know that wasn't a wise choice in The Orange Zone. The road out of Osea was relatively simple, although she ran into a little bit of traffic entering the motorway.

Hannah was driving for three days straight after this. Mostly because of her lack of a map, and the fact that she had to incapicate three police officers which each stopped her, inquiring as to her passenger's condition. Hannah didn't even remember learning to drive, probably still part of the dribble of memories that had yet to come back to her.

Her car finally pulled up 3 miles outside of the small town of Malora, her destination. Her car ran out of gas conveniently early, so she exited the car and with great mental strength, picked up her friend once again.

"Who'd have thought it would come to this?" She spoke out loud, fully aware that nobody could truely hear her. "We were supposed to be better than them, stronger."

Tears began rolling down her face as she carried on walking, traversing grassy plains to stay off the beaten path.

"Is this what we have to look forward to, killed before our time?" she wiped a tear from her cheek. "The world is just a dark place isn't it? We can't even see the path ahead of us."

She eventually reached a large oak tree. It stood alone atop the hill, away from everything. From the hill you could make a small town in the distance. It was safe to assume that was where Deyn had grown up, not that he would have remembered. She laid him down on the ground, grunting as she released the heavy pressure from her shoulder. Not risking the walk into town, and leaving Deyn's body, she took the knife off of his belt a final time and began digging a hole; using nothing but her bare hands and the knife to severe the occasional root from the tree.

It took hours, and night had fallen once again by the time it had reach a reasonable depth. She wiped her fringe with the sleeve of her coat and set down the knife. She stared up at the stars for a few moments, taking in the rare clear sky, before taking her seat next to Deyn's body, her back against the tree.


Maybe we have to walk blindly into the dark.

We can't stand still that's for sure.

And we know what's behind us. Nothing but more dark.

There's a lot out there. Maybe I might find something worth saving.

She glanced down at Deyn momentarily, taking in his facial features for the first time since finding him. Funny. During the days he had always had an aggressive streak. Even his snoring sounded angry, and from time to time he would look about ready to burst. Now though, there was something different. He was calm. Peaceful. Something about him gave her a chance to hope.

As for me. I'm going to keep walking into it.

If I die, then at least I did what I could.

You have a new path to walk.

You must now walk through the light.

Maybe you can show me the way some day.

She stood up, clutching the knife close her chest. She stared upward now, over the darkened horizon, into nothingness.

"The world is a dark place. Maybe I can make it brighter before I die."

Hours later, when Deyn had been laid to rest, Hannah prepared to carry on moving. She stared down at the grave, completely bare aside from the Senna SMG laid down on the middle. Hannah smiled, reminded of Deyn's penchant for weaponry. And with that she left, taking Deyn's large knife with her and leaving nothing more but a carving on the oak tree:


The next day was spent walking. She had no idea where she was going, but Hannah decided that she would head back in the direction of the way she came. She had been walking for what seemed like the whole day. Her body didn't get tired so easily though, even if she moved up to jogging pace.

Whilst keeping up her current walking pace, Hannah had a brainwave. Both her own and Deyn's PDA's were operational. Whilst working out of Osea, Hannah had created the alias for herself known as 'Prism' to form a network of contacts throughout the city. Only trusted informers laid within the network. She briefly remembers using these contacts for a variety of purposes. One that came to mind at this point was for collection. It was a risky move, but it was worth a shot. She used the PDA to send out a message to a few selected contacts, requesting aid.

Unfortunately she still needed to eat, and there was no sign of civilisation as far as she could see. When the hunger got to a point of feeling uncomfortable she was forced to make a decision. She figured that if she set up camp and went to sleep, then she would sleep through the discomfort. There wasn't much of a camp to set up however and the purple-eyed girl took to sleeping between two large trees with her dirty coat thrown over her. It was more than she could have hoped for, and as the sun went down, the girl's eyelids drooped, entering her into a deep sleep brought on by days of sleep deprivation.

Unaware to Hannah, she managed to sleep through the entirety of the next day and wound up being awoken at roughly 5:AM the morning after. A dark-haired tall man with torch had shone it enough in her general direction for it to wake her. She was confused at first, but remained calm regardless. The man, on the other hand, was even more confused. He had come out here searching for an injured fox, and instead found a young lady curled up on the ground.

"Are you ok ma'am?"

"I....think so." came the muffled response.

"What are you doing all the way out here on your own? Closest town is 14 miles that way." He pointed back behind Hannah, the way she had come from.

"I'm not from around here." She replied, not sure where this conversation was heading.

"Well I can see that, you're sleeping on the ground. Come on, why don't you let me take you back to the cottage. My wife will be fixing up some breakfast soon, and you look like you could do with a good meal and fresh set of clothes."

"That's too kind of you sir."

"Ah don't mention it. Spend most of my time bringing strays back the house. Atleast this time I found one that was house-trained. And please, call me Stuart."

"It's nice to meet you Stuart, the name's -


"Hannah! Time for dinner." Came the yell from the downstairs kitchen.

"I'm coming Mrs-.. Nichola." She yelled back.

Before she left the room she opened a drawer underneath the bedside table and stared into it. Deyn's knife lay there in the drawer. Something to remember him by. God knows she needed it.

Reject common sense to make the impossible possible!

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Old 01/24/2011   #160

----------------------OSEA MEDIA DISTRICT-----------------------

Looking out the window of the office on the top floor of IBC Headquarters, Resal Demonio gazed out at the night sky over the city of Osea.

“This isn't looking good.”

“Many things aren't, but prey which are you talking about now?” Asked the man sitting at the desk in the centre of the office. He was Lawfer Grey, CEO of IBC, a man in his 60's with grey hair and a thick mustache, wearing an expensive double-breasted suit which was unsurprisingly also grey.

“The Destrillians, they came here sooner than expected. Originally my superiors predicted the Army would drive them out of the city right away, but it seems at least one of them couldn't simply wait and had to start meddling in affairs here. Really some people are just plain rude.” Resal said with a pout and crossed her arms.

“Well unfortunately what's done is done, however now the Destrillians have left the city so it should no longer be of any concern for the time being.” Lawfer replied, however Resal didn't find the words reassuring.

“I wouldn't go so far as to say that. One of those little bastards is apparently the child of our dear starlet, and from the looks of things he's a stubborn one with little forethought, so I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to pull another suicide mission to save Mommy.”

Lawfer sat forward in his chair and thought for a moment, then asked his associate “Do these Destrillians pose any threat to the organization?” The question provoked a small burst of laughter from Resal.

“Not in the slightest, Sir. They are scattered, disorganized little children being hunted by every authoritative organization from here to Audoula, while we have our roots planted in all corners of this continent and even beyond that – There is no place they can run, there is nowhere we won't find them.”

Lawfer couldn't help but smirk at her words. “You certainly sound sure of yourself, however they did manage to repel the army and evade IRIN, that alone makes them dangerous at the least.”

Resal turned away from the window to look over towards the man. “Oh believe me, Sir, there are things far worse in this world than Destrillians”.

Before Lawfer was able to question her words, a blue light began to flash on Lawfer's phone. “Silent alarm has been tripped, perhaps you weren't far off the mark with your assumptions Ms Demonio.”

Not a moment after, the phone rang. Lawfer looked at Resal who strolled over to the desk and picked up the phone.

“Resal Demonio there you say?........Well isn't that just grand........The usual intimidating garble: We're strongly affiliated with IRIN and then remind them about the two birds they have in the air nearby.” Resal was hoping that playing the IRIN card would scare off these thugs, as usually these type run at the thought of Seth Vargas coming after them.

"That's precisely why I initiated this game in the first place, miss. Is she still on the line?" The voice of who was probably the ringleader could be heard through the phone. Resal was not particularly amused at this point, mere walk-in Terrorists like these didn't measure to her level.

"Amateurs...yes I'm still here and I can hear you for that matter." She taunted at the voice on the other end. It seemed that got his attention as whoever it was picked up the phone to address her directly.

"Please. I am wounded by that statement, Ms. Demonio. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Zao Hong, Xi Qinese assassin and current leader of the Fabrizio family. And I'm here to settle matters on the behalf of my Destrillian, Kramskov Niet."

Oh just peachy, the Destrillian hired a foreigner that likes to play mob boss.

“Excuse me for a moment, Miss Demonio,” The voice said. Resal did not consider this to be a very productive start to the conversation.

“What's happening now?” Lawfer asked.

Resal shrugged. “Not really sure. I think he's yelling at someone, sounds rather distraught as well.”

“First Destrillians and now Terrorists, this interference simply cannot continue.”

“My sentiments exactly. Don't worry, Sir, I'll handle this little boy.”

Having apparently finished shouting at whatever he had been, Zao returned to address Resal. "Now where were we, Ms. Demonio? Ah yes... I believe we were negotiating the terms of settlement between the Destrillian and his mother?"

"Are we now? Very well, humor me and list your demands." Resal replied, her tone was not a particularly serious one.

"Well, let's be honest. Why would you require the boy's mother for such minuscule profits? Surely you and I can enter into a greater investment in other ventures than make use of her? I don't mind, in fact I support your ideas of using innocent guinea pigs to a greater cause...It's just hmmm," Zao trailed off. "The boy's mother is known to me. Can I offer something of a greater exchange?" He said gently, he did not want to anger Resal and thus laid a small bluff in order to make her comply subtly to his plans. He presumed she wasn't informed of Kram's implied slaughter at the 13th floor just yet.

Resal chuckled at the words. "You're taking a lot of assumptions there. For starters do you know what I intend to do with the woman? And can you be so sure the profit will be minuscule? Or for that matter that you are able to gauge what I consider to be worth more than our dear starlet? Perhaps you should consider these things first or I might just become insulted."

"I don't," Zao mused. "I just know what you intend to do is grieve the Destrillian by using his mother for inhumane experiments. Having lost my own to the current leader of Xi Qin, I do not support your venture despite my love for your ruthlessness. This is a problem I wish to see resolved, or else I'm just sending damaged goods of a Destrillian to Jason Spencer." Zao said calmly, in regards to his plan of gaining the Violan President's favor by presenting him Kram.

Resal's eyes widened at the last two words to leave the man's mouth, followed by a sly grin. It all made sense now. "Well then, seems you are able to figure some things out, little boy. You would have guessed right that I intend to use our dear 'Andrea Cameron' for experimentation to spite that Destrillian, but really it's only half the reason." Resal paused for a moment to let out a small laugh before continuing. "You see, simply put, I'm doing this because I enjoy it. The suffering it causes is just so satisfying that I simply never pass up the opportunity when it arises, why, it reminds me of better times when I was able to do as I wish, and destroy who or what I wanted.... my those times in Thalassa... oh I'm sorry I must have drifted off. But as you can tell, I'm very interested in this subject, so if you indeed have something you believe is a greater exchange I suggest you lay it on the table."

Zao smiled beyond the phone. "You truly are a muse to me, Resal. Pardon this young boy's fetishes for older women. But if you seek pleasure in suffering and death that much, I present to you a gift that is far greater in magnitude and equivalent to genocide: The People of The Orange Zone. They will all mostly die and suffer in vain as IRIN and The military will be unable to stop the apocalyptic gas attack that awaits them at my command. If you wish to see this spectacle sooner, it can be arranged. But all I ask is Kramskov's mother...Venus Alcesteos be in my hands. I do not seek the profit she so possesses. Merely the boy's mind be at ease before I have Mr. Spencer enslave him. I will return the debt 3 fold if you are to comply now." Zao said, dropping his gentle voice and reverting to a serious tone. Hopefully, this chat with her would buy enough time for Kram to just snatch Venus out before The muse finds out of his deceit.

"Oh have you now? Really I must say, amuses me at the least. I'm thinking that right now you believe this little stunt will make me back down and give you what you want, or at least keep me busy while you pull off something else that I may or may not be already aware of. Sad news for you is that it won't work on me, because I couldn't care actually scratch that, I want you to do it. Go on, set off your little attack, kill them all and let the army scurry around like lost children. If you really intend to do it then do it, otherwise my thoughts are correct and you're just a pathetic little boy who likes to talk big."

Zao's mind was whirring with anger and fury. To make matters worse, it was awfully noisy outside... birds chirping wildly, distant screams of disarray, explosions from Andy's signals... This was getting to his head. Kram had better hurry the fuck up, he thought before going back at Resal.

"You speak to the hand that killed countless polititians, Damascus' inferior super weapons and other businessmen of your stature. You think me incapable of performing genocide? Then you are in for a big surprise, muse. Have at it, I will entertain you. But in payment, I intend to snatch Venus now with or without your consent. The Destrillian has already approached her room, with your men dead at the roar of Osea's madness. You get front row seats... right now." Zao paused, covering the phone to prevent her from listening. But even then, his yells were ever so loud and commanding ranging from "Andy...detonate...everything... now!!" the other end was filled with objections of his own men.

A gun shot rang at the other end.

"Any fucking questions? good." Zao returned to the line, breathing heavily and slowly unhinged.

"It begins now. Watch from your tower, muse. Whilst I go and collect what is rightfully mine." he sneered.

"Got you." Resal's voice echoed from not only the phone, but every part of the room. At that moment all the television screens and monitors in the lobby lit up, revealing the face of a woman with long dark red hair and a sinister grin on her face.

"Little boy, you have no idea what you've just so foolishly thrown yourself into. I was entirely banking on you setting off your little bomb and you just now gone and done that. So now both IRIN and the military shall be sending everything they have away from here and into the Orange Zone. And do you know what that means little boy?"

"The hard part has been resolved then. I intend to settle this without their interference, this changes things... I originally wanted a game of chess with Seth Vargas. But you will have to do, my muse." he sat at the receptionist's chair akin to an Emperor sitting at his throne. At the far end, a corpse of one of the mobsters lay lifeless.

"The gasses have been set, everybody dies. It is irrelevant."
he smirked as he eyed her own eyes. Lei was gawking at her while the rest of the mob eyed her with fear.

"Oh I think it is very much relevant, now that no authoritative forces shall be coming..." She paused to lick her lips before adding. "It means no one will witness what I'm about to do." And as the words left her mouth, all the screens went blank.

“Not very subtle are you?” Lawfer said calmly, despite the fireworks show going off outside in the Orange Zone.

“When someone has the nerve to threaten me I expect them to follow through with it, despite the outcome.” She replied, as the two of them turned their heads to observe the fires rising from the city slums.

“It was of no concern to us anyway. The Orange Zone is a hive to the lowest forms of life, that young boy was foolish to think such an act would in any way intimidate us.”

“Indeed he is, Sir. Now that IRIN and the army are gone, we are able to deploy that which none are to know we possess.” She said with a grin.

Lawfer was as equally content with this fact. “Excellent, with the use of 'him' we can settle this our way, which in this case I'm sure I can leave this situation in your capable hands.”

“It shall be my pleasure, Sir.” Resal replied, then withdrew her phone from her jacket and pressed a specific button on it.

“Hurrikan, we have intruders. Deal with them.”

Hey who wants to come home with me?!
Ok that wasn't very smart but totally worth it!
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Old 01/29/2011   #161



Early barely noticed the last trace of Vanaheimr disappear from his rear-view mirror as he drove towards Osea.

By the time he had finished at IRIN’s public archives, night proper had set in, leaving the city lit by electric light. A decade or so of military experience, both front-line and black ops, had taught him the wisdom of getting a good night’s sleep when you could.

The Animus hunt would leave him surviving on cat-naps for anything up to a month. With that in mind, he counted his money once he had left the building, having avoided the frosty presence of Ms Hayle. Satisfied he had enough for a room for the night, he made his way back to the civilian district of the city. After a quick check on the Keris to ensure it wouldn’t fall foul of any parking by-laws, he climbed inside, inserted the comms earpiece and contacted Creed.

>Early?< Creed asked in bemusement. >Isn’t it late where you are?<

“There’s only an hour’s difference,” he said patiently. He knew that the intelligence officer would be well aware of that, and was only engaging in what he probably thought was witty banter.

Creed chuckled. It sounded hollow. >Well, to what do I owe the honour?< There was all of a half-minute pause before he added. >Make it quick. Hartnell’s just come back as if a pack of Avernus hounds were following him.<


>If there is, and it involves you, you’ll know soon enough,< Creed promised.

Early brushed it aside. “Just a quick sitrep; IRIN hasn’t had any direct contact with an Animus. However, the attacks in Osea have come to their attention. While the news outlets here are calling them murders, IRIN have noted that the vics have been ‘partially eaten’ and codified them as animal attacks.”

>That’s worrying,< Creed muttered. >I’ll bring it up with the governor and Hartnell. Anything else?<

“I’ve made a contact in IRIN’s Secret Service,” Early said. “She’s going to pass on any further reports they get of these unusual ‘animal attacks’.”

>…In return?< Creed’s usual jocular tone was lacking in this last sentence.

“I pass on any intel -- firsthand interaction or rumours -- I gain regarding, aah, some NHH’s they’re interested in.”

>…I believe I know the ones you mean,< Creed said carefully. >Do you have any data to supplement our own on those entities?<

“They’re ElMs,” Early said, using the Damascan military shorthand for elemental manipulators. “But I expect you already knew that.”

>If my guess is right, we do,< Creed said. >CCI returned that intel back in these manipulators development phase.<

“Carabans ghuf duu silr*,” Early muttered. Creed chuckled at the proverb.

>Your pronunciation could do with some work, but I have to agree. What’s your current course of action?<

“Bed down here for the night, preferably at a hostelry of some sort. Get up at daybreak and hope to get to Osea by sundown,” Early said.

>Good thinking,< Creed said. >But don’t be surprised if you get tangled up in the road network around the capital. From when I’ve been involved in diplomatic functions there, I can tell you it sees more traffic than Damascan roads.<

“Understood. Early out,” he replied.


Early pulled himself back into the Keris the next morning, the slice of toast the hotel had given him as breakfast clenched firmly between his lips.

He had overslept. By less than an hour admittedly, but it was still inconvenient. What was worse was the mindless survey he had to fill out before they would let him settle his bill. There was a bed, a roof and four walls, all in good condition. That was all that mattered. But what did he think of the facilities? Did he have any suggestions for improvements?

He pulled the Keris out into the flow of traffic heading out of the city, taking bites out of the toast as it crawled along. An ugly thought occurred to him, and he opened the driver’s side window. Leaning out, he looked down the row of traffic and grunted in annoyance. At the head of the queue was a checkpoint similar to the one he had entered the city through.

He pulled his head back in and closed the window. He angled the rear view mirror to check how his wig was sitting on his head. He smiled mirthlessly at his reflection. He looked passable, and that was what mattered. He re-angled the mirror back to its correct position as he finished the slice of toast.

Five minutes later, Early had reached the head of the queue. He was surprised that he recognised the young man approaching him, until the face fell into place.

“Mr Reynolds,” Corporal Blackmore said. “Did you have any luck with your research?”

“Corporal Blackmore,” Nate nodded in recognition. “Yeah I did, matter of fact. More than I was expecting to, truth be told. You gonna be needing my ID again?”

“I’m afraid so,” Blackmore said, drawing the retinal scanner from its holster.

“No worries,” Nate said, pulling his head back inside the van. Early cussed under his breath at the delay, but was grateful he’d had the foresight to leave Nate’s ID card within easy reach.

“Here ya go,” Nate said, leaning back out the window, card in hand.

“Thank you, sir,” Blackmore said, taking the card and inserting it in the scanner. As he did so, it pinged and an amber light lit up. Blackmore frowned and leant in to see the readout. Early felt his muscles tense, and threw a quick glance at the grip of the Trevelyan peaking out from his holdall.

“That bad?” Nate asked conversationally.

Blackmore jerked and looked at him worriedly. He ejected the card and handed it back to him like it might bite.

“I’m, ah, sorry to detain you, MrReynoldsSIR, I, ah, didn’t realise you were with the IRIN Secret Service, SIR,” Corporal Blackmore said hurriedly.

Early smiled inwardly, and made a note to thank Vier the next time he spoke to her for greasing the wheels.

“No worries, Corporal,” Nate smiled outwardly. “You’re just doing your duty.”

“Thank you, sir,” Blackmore said. He saluted once. “Ah, I believe we’re done here, sir. You may move along when ready, sir.”

“Thanks Corporal,” Nate said. “Oh, and, uh, at ease.”

Early shifted the Keris into gear and pulled it through the checkpoint. He exhaled slowly in a mixture of relief and amazement.


He had just passed the five mile mark when his earpiece blipped at him. With a frown, Early retrieved it from the dashboard where he had placed it after leaving Vanaheimr.

He placed it in his ear, and lightly tapped it on. As he rubbed his throat to activate the microphone implanted under his skin, he could hear some hurried conversation.

>--ive miles! That should be out of their backyard enough! Yes, the IFF** beacon confirms he’s that far out!<

“Early,” he announced himself. “Creed? You sound agitated.” He buried his own annoyance. He was aware that he had an IFF beacon fitted to the Keris, but he would have thought this far into Artolia would be outside the maximum range. He also didn’t see any need for them to be using it to monitor his movements.

>Early,< Creed said. >We have a shitstorm breaking. Your Neo-Damascan is too crude for us to do this with anything less than a maximum security channel. Allow us to confirm IRIN won’t be able to hear it as clearly as a frakking weather forecast a moment.<

“Wilco,” Early said.

>Clear?< Creed asked someone at his end. >Yes? Well, damnit, use the codes to bring CCI encryption into it. Yes, that WILL mean Carabas can easily listen in to the conversation, but as they know all the god-frakking details already, that doesn’t give me cause for concern!<

Early remained silent throughout this.

>Clear? Good.<

“Must be serious, if you’re willing to let Josefson get a drop on you,” Early said.

>Josefson is the source,< Creed sighed. >It’s… A couple of Caraban agents have gone rogue… And, well…<

As Creed seemed to be trying to collect his thoughts, Early just thought about that last statement. He knew it was possible for ops to go rogue: that had been the whole point of his first job in Damascus. Carabas had hired him to track down and put down a trio of defectors. He had managed to find and deal with two of them, but the third had remained at large. Despite that, Carabas had seemed pleased with his work.

His employment with Carabas had been strange from start to finish. They had done a mind-scan along with a normal physical when they had initially hired him, to ensure he wasn’t a sleeper agent. Something had seemed to impress them, as they asked if he could maintain regular check-ups with them. He had been told at the time they were doing research into what made good ‘survivors’, as they had euphemistically described it. He had wondered since discovering about the Animus, and that they were only one freak-show amongst dozens in Damascus, whether this ‘research’ had anything to do with Carabas’s super-soldier project.

>You know of Hephaestus?< Creed said.

“Used to be the capital of Damascus. Disappeared one night. With thunder and lightning according to some accounts,” Early said. “Creed, even hicks in Ruam know of Hephaestus and its non-crater.”

>There was lightning, according to our accounts,< Creed said. >One clap of thunder, caused by displaced air. Early, as you’ve probably heard rumoured, Hephaestus was a Volsung created event. An experiment that…over-reached.<

Early swallowed convulsively. “How big of a shitstorm is heading for you to be breaking out what must be alpha-level intel?”

>Alpha-minus, actually,< Creed said. >These rogue agents have details of the experiment. Copies were given to each Volsung branch in case… well, this happened. When several of the facilities were breached during the Schism, Carabas agents were sent in to recover all intel above epsilon-level. This trio found the details of the Hephaestus Experiment, and… We believe they’re trying to sell them to the black market.<

“So other countries can wipe out their own capitals,” Early said snidely.

>THINK,< Creed said. >Hephaestus was what happened when it went wrong. What would have happened if it went right? I don’t have the clearance-- I’m not sure Blake does either.<

“I get the picture,” Early said. “Abort current mission?”

>Negative,< Creed said. >We need that rogue Animus dealt with first. Continue to Osea. Give it a week. If you’re unable to find it, call in, and we’ll deploy… Well, Hartnell’s put in a request for one of the allied Animus to have the job if you…< Creed tailed off. >…Fail.<

“The old man wants to throw the job to one of his pets if I get my guts torn out,” Early smirked. “OK, do we have any further intel on the quarry?”

>Hartnell believes it’s a Sekhmet Animus… uh, they’re leonine, rather than the lupine Lykaon you’ve encountered so far,< Creed said.

“Big cat, got it,” Early said, putting his foot down and overtaking a car. “The rogue ops, any intel for me to go on for that?”

>We believe they’ve fled to Audoula,< Creed said. >Once you’ve dealt with the Animus, head for the border. We’ll be upgrading you.<

“Upgrading?” Early repeated.

>Yes. You’re driving a Keris Normandy, correct?< Creed asked.

“Uh, I know there are two models of the Keris,” Early said. “One civvie, one military. I’ve got a civvie model. I chose one with the extra armour.”

>The Normandy is the civilian model,< Creed said. >We’re going to outfit you with a Hastings, the military model. The armour is better as standard, has some concealed mounted weaponry, gun racks… You’ll love it.<

“Throw in a Ciaphas, and we have a deal,” Early said.

>A Ciaphas?< Creed asked. >They’re…almost antiques.<

“I used to have one, but it got busted on my job for Carabas,” Early said. “The Trevelyan has a similar weight and grip, but…”

>The Ciaphas is more intuitive, understood,< Creed said. >No promises. Oh, one final thing; aid. If you need any while in Osea, Carabas and Chulainn co-operated in forming a shadow company there. It’s used for distributing Volsung products. It’s called--<

“Omnis Freight Co. Ltd.,” Early said. “Sonuvabitch, knew I recognised the name from somewhere. It was through them that Carabas contacted me in the first place.”

>H-how is that relevant?< Creed asked. Asperity and incredulity mixed in his voice.

“An Omnis Freight staff member was a possible vic of the Animus I’m hunting,” Early explained. “Do they have any idea that it might have been a Volsung creation that killed one of their own?”

>I doubt it,< Creed said. >Keep mission intel tight. If anything, let them think Volsung knows about this monster and wants to study it.<

“Understood. Early out.”


As Early pulled into Osea shortly after dusk, he kept an ear on the local radio station. Breaking local news was always the most reliable.

There were signs of conflict in the city. Smoke trailing above the skyline, hints of flickering fire in places. The radio kept mentioning Destrillians, and stressing how important it was to stay inside.

Early decided it was prudent to get to Omnis Freight’s offices as fast as he could. He pulled the Keris over to one side, and pulled out a tattered map of Osea from a glove compartment.

As he was checking it, he heard a bump on the roof and swore under his breath. The door next to him creaked slightly as someone tried to force it open.

“I hear ya knocking… but ya can’t come in,” Early said quietly to himself. He smirked to himself and completed the old song lyric. “So go back where ya bin.”

Early was more than slightly surprised when sparks of flame blossomed at seemingly random places, that were vital to the door’s integrity. Eventually the door was pried open by a young girl with a shock of fire-coloured hair and golden eyes. She grinned evilly and reached in to grab him by the collar.

“What the hell?”


*“Carabans know too much” - an old proverb in Damascus, due to the popular stereotype of the people of Carabas and their involvement with espionage work.

**Identifier Friend/Foe - an electronic signal emitted by a beacon to confirm that an incoming vehicle is friendly.
I work all day and I think all night
I break my body, but that's all right
Cos it'll take all my mind and all my might
To keep one step ahead of you
L.E. Modesitt, Jr wrote: Sometimes cynicism is the last refuge of the idealist.
As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn't measure up.
You think water moves fast? You should see ice. It moves like it has a mind. Like it knows it killed the world once and got a taste for murder.
Gym Leader Kris sprite by Brooke

Sam Vimes arrested a dragon... and carries the law with him like an Ampharos
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Last edited by Mantichorus; 02/26/2011 at 10:36 AM.
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Old 02/03/2011   #162


Two nights had passed in this apartment and Kerr had barely slept.

This was hardly unusual. Kerr usually slept very little, and the past few nights since the group left Osea had proved no exception.

The first night, hours before Thetis had gotten up to watch television, or Telran had been up to prepare the others breakfast, Kerr had been awake. It seemed bizarre to him that any Destrillian could have settled in such a place. It was even more jarring than the cosy human dwelling that Emma and Terra had found themselves living in. That place had given off an air of convenience. The best that they could manage.

This place, however, suggested success. The apparently expensive decor and space enough to house their entire party all pointed to a man who had excelled at his chosen profession and profited from it. It was beyond pretending to be human for appearance’s sake. It was a literal integration into society, a faultless camouflage that no other Destrillian who had attempted to start a new life had been able to pull off. It was as unnerving as it was impressive.

He had spent his first sleepless night on the streets around the apartment, slipping out in the dead of night hadn’t been too hard with most of the group exhausted and slumbering quietly. Pulling the hood up over his head and stalking the streets, he committed the road map to memory, taking note of the roads that were still busy at night. These would be the ones to avoid in case they needed a quick escape. They would not have time to get lost.

On his way back up to bed he declined to take the elevator and instead used one of the two back service stairways. One of them had a faulty lock that was easily pushed aside, and the other was stuck fast. In the event of needing to evacuate the apartment quickly, he knew which staircase to take.

Memorising these facts and going over these scenarios in his mind was good, he had decided. Nobody else seemed to be giving the matter too much thought. They were all too preoccupied with their own problems. Thetis over Fiona, and Emma over Terra. Even Telran, judging by his frequently reserved nature, seemed to be carrying some baggage of his own. None of them were thinking about the group as a whole.

The thought that Kerr seemed to be the only one who did sat unpleasantly in his mind, unable to simply disappear completely every time he rationalised it away as being his best chance for survival.

The rest of the day had been spent covertly checking Telran’s apartment, and occasionally looting what he could find for supplies. He was completely sure that the others hadn’t been paying much attention to him as he explored. They were all too blinded by the problems right in front of their own faces to notice Kerr’s apparently aimless wandering. However, he had drawn a very curious look from Jettison as he inspected the rack of knives in the kitchen, making a mental note to pocket one of them after dark. He was a soldier, he felt naked without a weapon.

Then the Destrillians had discussed what to do next.
Kerr closed his eyes and frowned uneasily in the armchair he had found himself pretending to sleep in for the night. The discussion that had taken place the previous afternoon was still turning itself over in his mind.

He wasn’t sure he felt contempt for the water Destrillian’s incomplete and childish attempt at a strategic operation, or grateful for her giving him something else to think about.

"All we have to do is sneak inside!" Thetis tried to remain as calm as possible, completely ignoring Telran and Kerr as they caught each other's eye. "Trust me, it'll be easy if we smash up all the cameras."

"Sneak inside?" Kerr replied, his voice heavy with scepticism. "That's the extent of your plan?

"At least I've thought of something, Kerr."

"You haven't thought of anything," Kerr snarled back at her. "Your plan involves wandering completely blind into a building that we know nothing about." Telran nodded his agreement as he moved toward the unconscious Fiona and began unloading his bag.

"It's better than anything you could have come up with!" The blue-haired girl shrieked as she jabbed an accusing finger at her companions. "I didn't lose Terra, you did! And the second I come up with a plan, it's garbage? You're so full of- "

"If it wasn't for me, you'd still be being useless and crying over her corpse back in Osea," Kerr instantly snapped back at her, gesturing pointedly toward the pale form of Fiona lying on the sofa.

"If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't BE HERE!"

"Enough." Idris had only just returned from carrying all the groceries into the kitchen, to find the group once again bickering. Aiming a hard stare at the two usual culprits, she spoke. "First of all, there is absolutely no use placing blame on anybody about Terra. It's happened and the only thing we can do now, is to try and fix it." She shot a quick glance in Emma's direction but the redhead wasn't looking, so she continued. "Secondly, you're both right--and you're both wrong. Thetis," she said, turning to face the girl head-on, "your idea is a good one, but that's all it is. An idea. It's a wonderful start but we need to flesh it out before we can say it's a go. Alright?"

Kerr said nothing in response to Idris' intervention, resorting to glaring at her and trying to quell the sharp edge of anger that seemed to be driving itself upward through him.

"Whatever." Thetis mumbled and stared at the carpet.

"Good enough." The small Destrillian cast an eye about the room. "Fiona's quite clearly done for if we don't find a cure--which we don't have, so I've heard," she added, looking at Telran. "And if there's any one place in the country that we might find Terra, it'll be there. So it seems we have a need to break into Limnades." Determination set her pale lips in a thin line. "How?"

"What do we know about the building?" Kerr turned to ask Telran, hoping that the calmness he was forcing into his voice to keep it level wasn't too noticeable.

"All it takes is one look at the place," the doctor replied. "It's the most intimidating building in Villnore, and headquarters of one of the largest corporations on the continent." He glanced at Thetis from the corner of his eye. "It goes without saying that it will be heavily guarded."

"We could always sneak in the back." The water Destrillian scanned the expressions of her comrades. "Every big corporation has a goods entrance, right?" Thetis began to cycle through the recon strategies she had learnt in Viola. "But if we're gonna make it, we'll need to be a smaller group. A quieter group."

"Agreed. But I somehow doubt it will be that easy," Telran said quietly, as he began to medicate Fiona for the second time in as many days. "There's more to sneaking into a building undetected than disguises and smashing cameras."

"What other choice do we have?" Thetis responded curtly, gritting her teeth as she watched the doctor inject Fiona with yet more random chemicals.

"We don't, and we know it--so stop taking everybody's criticism personally." Idris sat down carefully on the coffee table, looking at Thetis with a stern expression. "We're not attacking what you're saying, we're elaborating. Telran's right, we most definitely can't just go in with half a proper plan and hope. We really need to think this through."

A moment of silence passed over the collective before it was broken by the most sombre of their number. "What about Terra?" Emma asked quietly, without taking her eyes off the spot on the carpet she'd been staring at all day.

"We don't even know if Terra's still alive or not; at least with Limnades we still have a shot at saving Fiona."

The freckled redhead's gaze snapped to Thetis the moment she uttered the comment. "Terra's alive, I just know it! Besides, they wouldn't have gone through the trouble of taking her away otherwise. How dare you imply that Terra might be dead!" Her words were shaky, but she believed in what she said all the same.

"Emma's probably right," Telran said, gazing almost absentmindedly at the pulsing verdant veins in Fiona's shoulder as he spoke. "So we have to somehow find a way to cure Fiona, while also trying to find and rescue Terra." With a tiny sigh, he closed his eyes and shook his head. "I don't suppose I need to point out how many things can go wrong here, do I?"

"No," Idris replied, with her usual tongue-in-cheek tone. "You don't."

"We don't even know if it's possible to save Fiona at this point." Kerr added, his expressionless voice perfectly masking any emotion that might have been present in that bleak statement.

"If we don't do anything, Fiona won't last much longer," said Telran, frowning. "But Kerr's right. Without a plan, we'll be lucky to make it out with our own lives, much less save Fiona's."

"Well, if Kerr wasn't such a downer all the time we might be able to stay positive and think more clearly."

"I am the only one thinking clearly," Kerr snapped back, irritated by the fact that Emma's sole contribution to the discussion had been to criticise him. "It's far more likely that we can find Terra alive than we can find some miracle cure for Fiona. That's what we should focus on," he concluded, forcing some measure of calm into his voice.

"But you still think that we can't even save Terra, I bet!"

"Kerr's speciality doesn't lie in saving lives," Thetis snarled and shot a glare at the gravity Destrillian. "Not that I care what you say, but I'm still going to find a cure for Fiona." She paused for thought before continuing. "If you have a problem, take it up with her when she's fixed."

"Kidnapping somebody when you could have killed them right then and there doesn't make any sense. Terra's still alive and you're wasting your time," Kerr insisted. This pattern of thinking made sense in his head; Mileina had had the chance to kill Terra during their skirmish. Instead, she had chosen to kidnap her.

Emma simply crossed her arms over her chest in a huff, refusing to acknowledge that Kerr was agreeing with her for once.

"Emma," Idris began, although her next words were aimed at more than just the one Destrillian, "we're going to do everything we can to save Terra and Fiona - neither is going to get right or priority." She rolled her shoulders in their sockets, a physical act to loosen up the tension crackling in the air around her. "It's all a matter of what we can do for both of them, and how much of what we try goes right." She narrowed her eyes almost imperceptibly. "And also how much faith we put in our ability to cooperate."

Emma aimed her frustrated sights at the far wall, preserving her self-righteousness. She would rather ignore the rest of the squabble and focus on her best friend's rescue.

The newcomer spoke next, as he finished emptying one syringe into Fiona and prepared the next. "Pardon my saying so, but you seem to be doing a bang-up job of that."

Emma's glare could curdle milk. "Like you can say anything. You weren't even THERE for most of it--"

"ALRIGHT THAT'S ENOUGH!" the unexpected voice of Stolz shouted at the group. They continued to sit on the floor next to the sofa with their eyes closed and a clearly annoyed expression on their face.

There was a long moment before anyone spoke again.

Thetis then turned her attention to an unsuspecting Telran for support. "He'd know what could cure Fiona. He's a doctor."

Telran gave a weary sigh. "Whatever it is that's poisoning her isn't responding to any antidotes or antivenins that are available to the public, legal or otherwise, on this continent, and not because I don't know what I'm doing," he said, beginning to lose his temper. If there was one thing he had never taken well to, it was comments which called into question his medical prowess, as though he were some fraud selling Molewhale oil. "If we had the time, I could take a sample and analyze the poison, and try and engineer an antidote from there." His eyes narrowed just a fraction further. "But we don't have that kind of time, do we?"

"And I already said," Thetis insisted, raising her hands defensively. "If anyone is going to have a cure, it'll be Limnades. There has to be someone there that knows how to fix it."

"Pardon my interruption". Stolz chimed in with an unusually serious sounding voice. "But by any chance did Fiona have contact with the green-haired man from the club back in Osea?"

"Yes," Lokka spoke out. "She fought with him at The Mirage. We both did. I'm not sure what she was exposed to but their encounter was...cut short." His eyes rested on Nova for a few moments as he finished his sentence.

"Hrmm...I see. It all makes sense then. The man she was fighting is known as Vollerei, a Lyverius whose ability deals in acids and poisonous substances. If this virus isn't responding to any sort of treatment then I'm positive that this is his handiwork."

"Ly-vare-ee-os?" Thetis crossed her arms and cocked an eyebrow at Stolz. Pronunciation had never been her forte. Honestly? She felt a little humiliated. Before, no-one had even bothered to bring up when Fiona had been poisoned, or who by. In fact, not even Fiona had said anything about it. A deep breath calmed her churning stomach, and Thetis returned her attention to the others.

Stolz simply sighed. "Seems like I should just explain everything from the top, so if you would all please listen carefully for a moment." Then finished by opening their eyes to reveal their pupils now in the shape of long, reptile-like slits.

A screech of "HOLY--" accompanied Thetis as the Destrillian practically took a leap backwards. It was a surprise to say the least. She hadn't expected Stolz to suddenly turn into one of those serpent monsters she had seen on Cherry Honey. More embarrassingly, she seemed to be the only one that had been openly rattled by this revelation; Emma and Idris looked like they'd seen it before, and the others were too outwardly stoic to give much of a reaction. With a clearing of the throat, Thetis brushed herself down and retook her prior position.

"First I'll get this out of the way by telling you that I am a Lyverius; I've already been over this with a couple of you now." The different tone of voice and the way they were now talking made it seem as though this was an entirely different person to the regular insane Stolz.

"Next, the most important question; 'What exactly is a Lyverius?’ Well, the short answer is they are the creatures that precede Destrillians - beings that are born with their powers naturally rather than engineered in a lab. Their powers can range far beyond that of just control over elements, and the use of those powers is next to unlimited thanks to an extra organ attached to the brain, which creates a chemical to negate the migraines your kind suffers from." Stolz paused for a moment to let everyone absorb that information.

"Now to the most important factor. There is a group of Lyverius out there with the explicit intent of killing every last one of you. Why? As I've told a number of you before I don't have the exact answer. However, I do know that a number of these Lyverius had ties to the former Viola corporation and its president, so my guess is the motive lies somewhere in that."

"And to the final question I'm sure most of you are asking right now. If Lyverius are the ones trying to kill you and I'm also a Lyverius, what reason do you have to trust me? Well the answer there would be that if I had the intention to kill you then don't you think I would have done it right now rather than tell you all this information? Also, if you consider the fact you all know next to nothing about these beings, who are clearly more powerful than you, then at this point I'm the best chance you have to staying ahead of them." Stolz stopped to catch their breath then finished by saying. "Now that we've gotten all that out of the way, are there any questions?"

"Did the Lyverius take Terra?" Kerr asked. If he had been troubled or threatened by the massive amount of information that Stolz had just dumped on the group then he didn't show it. Though he was now standing upright, not leaning against the wall. The situation now had the Destrillian's full attention.

"Most likely," Stolz replied bluntly. "The man in charge of Limnades, Viscount Maruca Avidez, is a Lyverius, and I've heard he had Destrillians in his service, which is probably what that Mileina person turned out to be. Now if memory serves me correctly, Avidez is supposed to be some sort of scientist so if he has Terra alive, then it's most likely he plans to make Terra into one of those drones that were following Mileina around."

"Do you think they're holding Terra at Limnades HQ?" Thetis asked, still reeling from the information dump.

"Probably not; there're too many humans there which would raise too many questions if Destrillians were being experimented on. The most probable place they'd be keeping Terra would be Avidez's chateau, just north of Villnore."

"And how are we supposed to sashay right on into a private building like that?" Idris inquired, raising an eyebrow.

"As luck would have it, there is a ball being held at the very same chateau. I suppose if we were able to infiltrate that event then we could locate Terra via the ability you Destrillians posses to sense each other. Of course, then comes the difficult part." Stolz replied with a chuckle.

"Which is?" Kerr grunted.

"That event will be swarming with Avidez's personal guard, along with those other Destrillians you encountered earlier. And of course Avidez will be there, and possible other Lyverius as well. The only fortune we'd have is that these people probably don't wish their true identities to be out in the open as much as everyone here doesn't, in that case they won't do anything if we don't."

Lokka stood for a moment, considering everything the questionable youth had to say. His eyes searched the room a little, delving ever so slightly into the thought patterns of those around him. "Risky. Bigger than anything else we've dealt with; could potentially endanger ourselves, and Terra; more than we can handle. But - it's our only option." He focused for a few seconds, sorting all of the new information he'd just gathered, before addressing the group.

"We'll need a good plan."

Stolz closed their eyes once again. "I've grown tired of speaking. I'm sure the other one can think of a way to get you inside the Chateau." Stolz went completely quiet, then opened their eyes again which were now the regular, bright ones everyone was used to seeing.

"Oh hey! Sorry if scary me upset any of you; they do things like that," Stolz said, now back to their regular, hyperactive self.

Nova blinked for a second, still taking in the obscurity of the event that had just passed. "You got PROBLEMS, son."

"You said we needed a plan?" Kerr spoke to Lokka, pinching the bridge of his nose as Stolz returned to their normal manner of speaking, which was about as friendly to his ear drums as a bucket full of knives is to a plaster wall.

"Escaping from Osea had its difficulties, and that was just humans tailing us - most of the time. This needs more than a basic outline. We need to cover our asses here."

Telran, who had silently taken in all of this information, now spoke. "The Mileina I knew was never stupid. They'll be expecting us to come for Terra. It's almost certain that we'll have to confront them." He looked at Lokka. "It's supposed to be a masquerade ball, right?"

Lokka considered the implications briefly. "Disguises would be a wise move. Not enough though, as Destrillians we are still innately obvious to our kin." He took a short breather "Another thing. We'll need two groups. We have two objectives here."

"Smaller groups oughtn't be a problem for us," Idris said, emphasizing the last word in a way that might've been taken as accusing, almost. "We'll be less noticeable to Mileina if there are fewer of us to call up recognition."

"Even if we're noticeable to Mileina, it doesn't matter," Kerr chimed in, irritated by his fellow Destrillians' planning. "Weren't you listening? Avidez' Destrillians want to conceal themselves as much as we do. They won't risk making a scene just to kill us." Truth be told, he wasn't too sure about that last part.

"As much as we do?" Lokka glanced at the dark-eyed Destrillian. "Last I checked you were engaged in combat in the middle of the day back in Osea. We don't truly know what they want right now - with us, OR with Terra."

"Yes," said Telran drily, "if you were looking to stay under the radar, you've certainly done a marvellous job." He paused for a moment to consider. "Even if they know we're coming, though, Kerr's right - they're going to be hesitant to make a move openly. But," he said thoughtfully, "I don't think they'll have Terra somewhere that's open to the public. They'd probably be keeping her somewhere quiet, away from prying eyes."

Their train of thought was interrupted with a quiet tapping noise at the window. Jettison, hanging from some ledge, patiently waited for them to open the window for her. Telran stared at her and blinked, then moved to open the window. "....there's a door, you know," he said quietly, as she clambered in and he closed the window behind her.

"It'll take more than disguises for us to..." Thetis trailed off as she watched Jettison climb through the window "...blend in."

"Depends on the people who go." Idris surveyed the group sitting around the room, evaluating everybody's outstanding traits. "There are a good two or three of us who are normal enough to do the job."

"I'm going." Kerr spoke up, though he too seemed lost in thought as he considered the plan. The revelation took none of the Destrillians by surprise.

"Going where?" Telran asked. "To save Fiona, or to rescue Terra?"

Kerr didn't even dignify this question with a response.

"To the ball, I would guess." The hint of a smile in Idris’ voice was not welcome. "Because Kerr is mostly normal, of course. And we all know how he just loves Fiona."

Telran just rolled his eyes. "She is rather charming, after all." There was a sharp intake of breath from Thetis as she swallowed a retort.

"Well, I'll be going myself, if it's all the same to you," the smallest of the Destrillians affirmed, then looked at Emma. "And I'd think you want to go too, Emma?"

"Of course," the freckled girl replied vehemently, a slow but undeniable seedling of hope beginning to grow as the plan was more and more detailed.

"Yes. Me too," Lokka announced. "I've had enough experience with this kind of operation before."

"I can be wherever you need me to be." Jettison fidgeted with the yarn bracelet on her wrist, taking out a rag from her pocket and scribbling something indecipherable on it with a lump of charcoal.

"I'm going to Limnades - alone, if I have to," Thetis said boldly before glancing at the others. "If you want to come, come. If you don't, whatever."

"You won't be going alone," spoke the golden-eyed Destrillian, turning to face Thetis. "I'm going with you." Thetis' scowl was replaced with a confident smile, which was returned by the doctor.

"You been practicing your shit, babe?" Nova prodded Jettison's shoulder with the stub of his elbow. "Cause y'all are gonna need a different type of boogie."

"I have sufficient experience in the character role."

"Then I guess I'll tag along with this kiddo, haha. I'll bust the doors for you." Nova reached out to tousle Thetis' hair in a ridiculously rough manner, barely taking notice of the way in which she recoiled. "100 percent heart and iron, baby. Believe that."

"Alrighty, I think I should be able to dig up the locations of a service entrance at Avidez's place, then when we're inside, well too late for them to stop us! Oh and one other thing I just remembered! The two magical change-appearance peoples don't register any differently than normal peoples to me, so I'm guessing that's the same for the baddies. So then....ummm what was I saying here? Oh that's right! If the rest of us stay in the ball area, Avidez and his goons won't be paying any.....line. Right. Won't be paying any attention to the super mega huge amount of human signal deedlies so they could then wander off to look around and stuff like that....I think that's how it was supposed to come out." Stolz chirped out awkwardly, almost as though the last part of what they said was being told to them by an unseen force.


Most of the group stared blankly at the large man, not feeling the team spirit that Nova was attempting to inspire.

Finished with this aspect of the conversation, Lokka strode across the room. "Come on. We have work to do."


Thetis was free to fuss over Fiona all she wanted, but having her wander into a Lyverius occupied facility in a blind and reckless attempt to save Fiona’s life made her a liability. The likelihood of that mission even succeeding was miniscule.

Telran’s involvement also baffled him. Truthfully, the gravity Destrillian admitted that he was having a hard time understanding the latest addition to their squad. Sometimes he seemed thoroughly Destrillian, with the rigid, detached professionalism of himself or Lokka, and at others, very different. His reasoning to go with Thetis made no sense.

Nothing about the last few days made sense.
Kerr opened his eyes and picked himself up out of his seat, carefully stepping over the members of the group who were sleeping on the floor. He hadn’t noticed it until the discussion the previous day, but now that they were all living in such a small space, it had become glaringly apparent exactly how large their group had become.

He entered the bathroom and immediately his eyes locked with those of his reflection in the mirror. More specifically, they were drawn to the livid red scar that was forming in a crescent moon shape over his left eye. He was sure it wasn’t the only one that he had picked up over the past few days, but it was certainly the most visible; an unpleasant memento of the fight that had started this whole affair.

Kerr turned on the tap and stooped down to drink the cold water, only momentarily distracted from the unpleasant thought that it was Stolz of all people who had guaranteed them a way into the ball to rescue Terra. The thought of having to trust something so important to somebody else was enough to make the gravity Destrillian uncomfortable, but having to trust it to Stolz made him outright anxious. Stolz, who could barely string together a coherent sentence without lapsing into annoying and irrelevant day-dreams.

No, if needs be there would be another way in, even if it meant slitting the throats of the doormen to find it. At least it was a costume ball, so they didn’t have to worry too much about blending in once they got inside. Not that this was going to be an issue for Kerr, he reminded himself. His eyes were the only thing that gave him away. Though now that he actually settled down to look at it, he did note the way uneven and patchy way in which he had dyed his hair. Especially at the temples and along the fringe, small stretches of his original hair colour now stood out rather prominently.

Finding a costume would be the priority problem, Kerr decided. But there was still a day left to prepare. Hopefully, it would be more than enough time to salvage this ramshackle mess that the others had called a ‘plan’.

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Old 02/13/2011   #163


A crack of light spilt across Telran's bedsheets as Thetis pushed open the door. Like the rest of her companions, the doctor was still asleep. Much to the others' chagrin, the water Destrillian had taken the liberty of moving Fiona into the guest bedroom. It had been a couple of days since Thetis had a substantial amount of rest, and it was beginning to take its toll. Her shoulders drooped, red rings hung beneath her eyes and her face was sunken and gray. Telran didn't stir as she stepped into his room. Thetis shut the door behind her. "Telran?" she whispered. He didn't move. Typical. With a frustrated sigh, the water prototype rapped her knuckles against the door. "Telran!"

"Mrrrph." The slumbering Destrillian barely stirred, having always been a rather deep sleeper. He shifted position, now lying on his stomach, as he continued to dream. Unfortunately, Thetis' patience had run out a good week ago.

"Wake UP!" the water Destrillian punctuated the last word with a thump between Telran's shoulder blades.

The electric prototype awoke with a start, twisting around with inhuman speed as he grabbed out at whatever it was that had decided to put an end to his wonderful dream. Much to his surprise, as he realized about four seconds after he'd pinned her body beneath his on the bed, he found that it was someone with yellow eyes - someone he knew - who had crept into his room for who-knew-what reason. For once, the blue-haired girl was grateful for the darkness. At least Telran wouldn't be able to see the blush that rose into her cheeks.

"Umm..." Thetis struggled for words as she attempted to rationalise their precarious position. "Good morning?"

"...Thetis?" he asked groggily. He blinked at her a few times, the feral look in his eyes of a beast awakened fading away, before looking at the clock. "It's nearly four thirty in the morning," he said, voice raw and gravelly.

"Yes," she replied testily, flexing her wrists under his grip. "Can you let me go now?"

"Oh. Sorry." He instantly released his grip on her, sitting up on the edge of the bed now. The cool air on his bare torso was galvanizing, removing the last vestiges of sleep that lingered on the edges of periphery. "You okay?" He knew he hadn't used enough force to injure her, but it was, he'd found, the polite thing to do in these situations.

"Fine." Now was no time for whining. Whether out of pride or some form of misguided self-preservation, the water Destrillian had been avoiding the severity of Fiona's condition. But there was no denying that the flame prototype would be dead in twenty-four hours. Thetis flicked the switch on the bed-side lamp before propping herself against the head-board. "We need to talk." A lump formed in the hollow of her throat. More than anything, Thetis felt like screaming, shouting, howling until her throat was raw. She glanced at her hands. They were trembling.

"Talk?" he asked, yawning widely and beginning a series of stretches. The tendons in his back and shoulders made a slightly audible pop, and a sustained grunt escaped him, one of both exertion and pleasure. Stretching always felt very good.

"About Limnades," she mumbled. The bed-sheets twisted beneath her fingers as the blue-haired girl did her best to avoid Telran's gaze. "Fiona won't last another day."

I know that...I told you this myself. Why doesn't anyone ever listen? He didn't say this aloud, of course. Instead, he simply nodded and said, in a polite tone suggesting she continue, "Yes?"

"We need a-" Thetis paused mid-sentence. Telran's boxers looked far too small for him. After a couple of moments' thought, the water prototype stared questioningly at her companion. Surely he must have been uncomfortable. "Are you okay? Those look kinda...." she struggled for words "...tight."

"Hm?" He followed her gaze. "Ah. Morning wood," he said, as a means of explanation, feeling no embarrassment or shame. Thetis' head tilted as she looked back at him, a puzzled look on her face. "...don't tell me you've never heard of an erection before?" he asked. Thetis didn't quite know how to respond, so settled with a shake of the head and another blank stare.

"Normally it indicates sexual arousal," he said, the corners of his mouth turning up into the most faint of smiles, "but in this case it's because I've just woken up. It's a guy thing," he said with a shrug. As he did, something clicked in the back of his mind.

"Thetis," he said, a look of the utmost curiosity on his face, "...are you a virgin?"

Thetis jerked bolt upright, eyes wide, brows raised. Now there was one question hadn't expected. Even so, she was affronted; offended, almost. She had heard the term on TV before, and was fully aware of its connotations. Never before had the blue-haired Destrillian felt such an overwhelming desire for the ground to open up and swallow her. "N-no!" Thetis stammered, her cheeks reddening. "I-I just, i-it's just-" the water prototype stumbled over her words in a fluster as she struggled to explain herself.

"It's just?"

"O-only with..." Thetis muttered something inaudible under her breath.

"Ah." He closed his eyes as he nodded slightly to himself. "That explains quite a bit, doesn't it?" The golden eyes opened again and locked onto hers. "You were saying?"

Thankful for the shift in discussion, Thetis quickly regained her composure. "Right. We need to think of a plan, and quickly." She tucked a stray bang behind her ear. "If we're infiltrating, we'll need disguises, and good ones at that. Do you have any ideas?"

He thought on this a moment before answering, sitting down on the edge of the bed and resting his elbows on his knees. "I think..." he said slowly, "that some type of delivery personnel would be the least conspicuous disguise that we'd be able to come up with."

"Like a courier? We'll probably have to hijack a delivery truck." Thetis paused. After the disaster with Kram's bike, it would be a cold day in hell before she sat behind a wheel again. Thetis shuffled a little closer to Telran and crossed her legs. "Can you drive?"

He replied with a nod and a grunt. "Where will we get this truck, though?"

"Steal it," she said. "All we have to do is find one."

"Makes sense," the electric Destrillian said with a nod.

"And you know Villnore better than any of us, right?" Thetis reasoned. "We should be able to hijack one in no time." There was a moment's silence between the pair of them. "Well?"

"You picked me up on my first trip to Villnore," he admitted, a look of chagrin creeping into his features. "So I'm not sure just how much help I would be in that regard."

"Oh," Thetis' shoulders slumped. That would certainly make things more complicated. "I guess it doesn't make too much of a difference," she lied. It couldn't be too hard to find a courier company in a city that big, but trying to steal one in the wide-open would be suicide. They were Destrillians, and with Artolia and the Lyverius already gunning for them, Thetis didn't want to give the Audoulan army an inch.

"I think,' Telran said slowly, after a moment's silence, "that if we were to commandeer a vehicle here, we might have less trouble getting back to Villnore in the first place." He glanced at Thetis. "The armored Keris sort of stands out, you see."

"You're right," she said, falling back onto the mattress Planning had never been her forte. Springing from the bed, Thetis gave a drawn out sigh and walked to the door. "We should probably get going before dawn. You ready?"

"You mind if I at least get some coffee in me first?"

"Suit yourself."

"Thetis?" Telran said as she turned to leave.

"Yes?" the blue-haired girl glanced over her shoulder at the electricity Destrillian.

"You owe me a good night's sleep," he said, raising an eyebrow as the hint of a smirk spread across his face.

A smile curled at the corners of Thetis' lips. With a twitch of the fingers in farewell, she left without another word.

Telran sighed.

"If I wanted sleep, it looks like I threw in with the wrong bunch," he murmured, heading to the closet to grab the first shirt he saw.


Over the sound of classic rock blaring from the radio of the delivery van, Thetis couldn't help but celebrate. She hammered on the dashboard to the music as Telran drove down the winding streets back to his apartment. After all, there had been so few chances to let loose recently; why shouldn't she? Now they had all the tools they needed to infiltrate Limnades, they'd be able to cure Fiona in no time. Both Destrillians had grins plastered over their faces, and on occasion, Telran would sing along to songs on the radio.

The gentle strumming of a guitar began to play, as a new song began. Half an eye on the road, Telran whipped his head in Thetis' direction as the first few bars of lyrics began.

Just a small-town girl,
Livin' in a lonely woooorld

One of Telran's lopsided smiles was spread wide across his face as he sang along. While she usually wouldn't have been seen dead singing outside the confines of the shower, the water prototype couldn't help herself. So, bobbing her head to the music, Thetis joined in.

YouTube Video

She took the midnight train,
Goin' anywhereeee

By the chorus, the pair of Destrillians had entered a full-blown duet. Each of them crooned the words and made odd flailing dance moves with their arms.

Dooooon't stop
Hold on to that feeeeeeeeeeeeelin'!


The first stage of their plan had come and gone. And in Thetis' view? It had been almost disappointingly easy. Humans were so gullible. Telran had needed a little persuasion (in the end, Thetis had just shoved him behind the reversing van), but ultimately, the plan came off without a hitch. While the humans argued whose fault it was that they had hit an innocent pedestrian, the water Destrillian leapt into the front seat. After a couple of minutes attempting to evaluate the complexities of the gear-box, Thetis threw caution to the wind. She had seen this on TV before. Things were going perfectly; the engine started with a twist of the key, and the car began to move when she pressed down on the pedal. Flawless execution.

That was, until Thetis realised the van had been left in reverse.

Three unconscious delivery men, a slew of curses from behind the wheel and one nearly dead Telran later, the pair of Destrillians had made off with three uniforms and a perfectly functioning vehicle.

"Thetis?" Telran had said, clambering into the driver's seat, a large knot beginning to form on the back of his head. The water Destrillian avoided his glare.

"Is there a problem?" she asked, glancing in the rear-view mirror as they pulled away.

"...never get behind the wheel ever again, please."


Telran had never really cared much for driving, preferring instead to spend his time walking about Crawsus. That said, he was more than capable of driving a stick, and so the triumphant duo managed to return to his apartment, now the nest of the group of outlaw science experiments gone wrong he called family.

Loosely speaking, of course.

Dawn had just begun to break as they hopped out of their new acquisition. The others would be stirring soon, beginning their own preparations for the dual assaults slated for the evening. Thetis turned to face her companion as he locked the van behind them. Maybe some Destrillians were trustworthy. She smiled.

"Thanks, Telran."

"Thanks? For what?"

She shuffled nervously on the spot. "Y'know, helping."

"Oh." He stood silently for a moment, unsure of what to say. The silence hung just long enough to become awkward before he spoke again. "'He who understands you is closer to you than your own brother. For it can happen that even your parents are unable either to grasp the secret of your heart or to appreciate your true worth.'"

Thetis lowered her gaze to the side-walk to hide the confusion on her face. With a slight shrug, the water prototype pushed her way into the apartment. "If you say so."

Telran's smiled warmly at the smaller Destrillian. "It means that we are Destrillians - and we are the only ones who understand what that means. We're all we have, Thetis." He tilted his head slightly to the right. "Of course I'll help, to the best of my ability."

She grinned and held the door for the electricity Destrillian.

"Limnades, here we come!"

Last edited by Bex; 02/17/2011 at 02:57 PM.
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Old 02/13/2011   #164

-IDRIS SAVAGE; Telran's Apartment, Villnore-

One day was left before Viscount Maruca Avidez held his well-to-do ball in his lakeside chateau in the fairytale Audoulan landscape north of Villnore. One day was left, before the Health Summit was to be held at Limnades and all the leading scientists in the field convened to praise each other. One day was left before, unbeknownst to the rest of the waking world, a small group of doubting yet diligent Destrillians were to break into the most well-guarded building for miles around, and another group were to infiltrate an event which every sense, every reason, every shred of instinct and logic told them to avoid.
One day left, until the cure for number four was either lost or found. One day left, until number three was found, or lost.

One day…

Number nine, herself, was in a constantly fluctuating mood. One moment, she would be filled with the warm, strong confidence that her kind had been created for this sort of job, and although their skills were rusty and neglected, they would still pull through. Because it was what they did.
But the next moment she would be overcome by the staggering absurdity of it all. She could hardly think about what meagre arguments for their cooperation existed without cringing—the run to the apartment? Trivial. The escape from Osea? Pah. It all paled to coincidence and sheer, dumb luck. But then number nine would remember that no matter how clumsily they had macheted through the thicket of obstacles, they had done it. And repeat.

With one day left, though, there were other things on her mind than the general outcome of their newest harebrained scheme. It wouldn’t matter what might become of the end, if everything went awry from the beginning, after all – it was the duty of every Destrillian on the Limnades team to dig up as much information as they possibly could on the building’s inside mechanics and its security. It was the duty of the other group, the ball group—her group—to be well-informed on the adversaries that would be lurking therein, to recall from back in the old days what it felt like to be the meaning of stealth…and to figure out how, exactly, they were going to blend in amidst people they would really rather not have to deal with.

She knew what a Lyverius was. She had known before almost anyone else.
And she knew what it meant, to be quick and flitting and deadly. She had never forgotten.

But Idris Savage desperately needed something to wear.

It was now the morning after everybody had gathered in Telran’s living room to discuss what they were to do about the mass of problems pressing upon them; when the meeting had been adjourned, mostly signalled by Stolz pulling a box of markers out of nowhere and starting to draw on their arms and by the way Kerr’s scowl had read “we’re finished here,” Idris had simply up and left. The girl had used every precious second of the dusky evening; she’d spent hours outside, prowling the streets of Crawsus, learning bit by bit how the land was laid out and adding it to her mental map of the town. When at last she’d decided she could do no more to scope her surroundings, she had returned to the house, exchanged a few afterwords with Emma and Lokka, wiped the sweat off of Fiona’s brow with one cool, pale hand, and then gone to bed.

And now she had one day to figure out how she was to transform herself into a dazzling member of posh society, fit to draw all eyes at the fanciest of fancy masquerades. She could do it, for sure. She was Idris – she’d always had a bittersweet flare for the dramatic. But she needed money to do it, and in their travels the Destrillians had never thought much about the mundane problems such as funding.
So Idris got her thinktank on, and began to brainstorm as she unfurled her body from the little space on the floor between the couch and the wall (Telran had tried to give her some sort of proper bedding, but she had spent too many years on rooftops for it to make any difference.) Rolling up onto the balls of her feet and stretching her arms up to the ceiling, feeling her ribcage expand out and up as she breathed in, Idris produced in her mind a list of possibilities and then undertook the process of crossing things off.

I couldn’t just steal it. That would be too risky, considering the amount I’d need – sure I could nick a few bills (as she had discovered in the past two days that Audoula, while accepting the Artolian currency of credits, still clung to the old ways of paper money) but that’s nothing compared to the sum I’m thinking I’ll need. So that’s out, then.
I hardly think anybody in the group has any money, the slight Destrillian continued as she walked to Telran’s kitchen, opened up the fridge, and pulled out leftovers from last night’s dinner. She had never learned to cook and, Kram’s one-off lesson in Emma’s kitchen notwithstanding, had never bothered to try, either. The off-track thought called up an image of Kram’s face in her mind, and absently she wondered how the boy was faring on his own. Hopefully, he hadn’t gotten himself killed—or worse.

But now was not the time to think on things like that. Idris took a plate from one of the cupboards, piled different bits of leftovers onto it until the plate resembled a piece of modern art and not a meal, and then stuck it in the microwave. Set the timer. Sat on the table. And thought.

Lokka used up the last of his credits on that restaurant, so he wouldn’t be of any use here. Telran probably has more than enough… Idris shook her head, dismissing the idea before it had the chance to grow. But we’ve already taken such advantage of his hospitality. And if I remember from the grocery bill, we’ve also already taken advantage of his finances.

The microwave signalled loudly that it had finished warming her food – she was off the table and opening the door before it had a second chance to ring, lest it wake anybody up. Idris knew that there were a few of her companions already awake, as she was - in fact from the feel of it, some of them were already out of the apartment. But that didn’t mean she could be careless enough to deprive anybody else of the sleep they all deserved. Pulling the warm plate out of the machine—and noting with some satisfaction as she did that the bruise on her hand had disappeared—Idris placed her meal on the table and then scouted about for the cutlery.
It took a few moments of rifling through drawers, but she nabbed herself a fork and knife and then settled down to enjoy breakfast as the sun rose up above the horizon.

I’ll just earn it myself, she concluded eventually. I’m a Destrillian, and a damn fine one at that. I can do anything—earning a couple hundred off odd jobs or talents of mine should be easy. Automatically she began to sift through her list of talents, trying to pick out the ones that could be useful to her. Disjointed but relevant memories surfaced one after another, in reverse order from the present, giving her insight into what she could do and why she would bother to do it:

The fight with Mileina. I don’t think anybody here needs a fighting talent. Shame.

Waiting in the Winnebago. There’s lots in there I could probably hawk off… but it’s all been ruined thanks to the escape.

The ‘merci’ thrown effortlessly back over her shoulder as the Destrillians exited the Audoulan restaurant. I’d forgotten I could understand Audoulan… a little, at least. But everybody speaks it here – that barely scrapes me by as being able to make money off them all.

Leaning against a statue of a huntress in an old cobblestoned courtyard.

She stopped mid-chew. Slowly swallowed her mouthful, and then looked down at her plate. And then at her fork.


"There," the blonde Destrillian took a swift moment to appreciate her work before sweeping it under one arm, and fleeing Telran’s apartment before anybody could see what she’d done. Idris made her way back to the ferry, looking around surreptitiously in case any one of her comrades should be thinking of doing the same thing; when she stepped onto the boat, she swept an analytical look across the entire length of it, and only when she was secure in the knowledge that nobody she knew was around did she sit down on a chair on the upper deck, let the breeze play on her skin, and let her breadwinner rest on her lap.
She had had a lot of fun deforming Telran’s silverware, to be honest. Glancing about furtively while she’d grabbed all the spoons and forks and knives from the drawer and laid them all out on the table, wondering what to sculpt with them—it had been comforting, almost, to be allowed such an enjoyment. She hadn’t had a chance to sculpt anything since the makeshift sandals in Emma’s apartment and those had hardly counted as art. No, Idris had had plenty more fun devising exactly what she was going to make.
Devising it was as far as she’d gotten, though, as unfortunately Idris had to hide her work from the others—they wouldn’t understand. Asides from Emma, Idris was fairly certain that every Destrillian in the apartment was so okay with stealing what they needed that the mere thought of trying to give back to the economy was startling. Not her. She wanted to do this with class.
And hiding this was not a task easily undertaken when there were over ten people in one place. Upset at being bereft of her chance to unwind, to let her years of skill and training take over to make something truly worth the money she was to make from it, Idris had instead opted for the quicker, less time-consuming option.
She twisted each implement around itself and then around its fellows, again and again, adding more and more and looping them through one another with increasing complexity until finally, after about fifteen minutes of this, she’d held in her hands what resembled some sort of spiralling wireframe packed into globe shape.

It was certainly beneath her level of talent. But it’d have to do.

And besides, the girl reasoned with herself, shaking a strand of black hair out of her face—people considered just about anything worth a couple hundred, if they were told it was modern art.

And as for Telran’s missing silverware? “Well, it’d cost less to replace this than it would to buy me a decent dress. It all works out, in a hodgepodge sort of way,” was number nine’s answer to her own question, spoken back out to the breeze that smelled of lakes and lush landscape and a healthy, wealthy people. It was truly beautiful, this country, and Idris only wished she had the time to experience it properly; not in the midst of all the chaos she found herself in. The sights and sounds and smells had this fantastic way of feeling old and familiar, like they’d been there forever, but new and refreshing at the same time. And it made her smile.


It took Idris about two hours, once she’d stepped off the ferry and into Villnore, for her to find a collector to sell to. In her travels she had seen plenty of the daily life that the people of Villnore experienced, and she drank it in with rapt interest: the bustling streets, the open markets of the older areas in the city, the quaint houses and the families that lived within them.
Then, as she moved into the heart of the city, she was witness to the more high-end side: the skyscraping buildings that she would give anything to lay claim to as she had done with the roofs of the buildings in Osea; the outrageous fashions that the women sported, and the slick suits the men did; the lilting sound of the language, swelling up and down everywhere, a giggling anecdote here, a shouted insult there, all beautiful no matter what the intent. The more she heard it, the more she understood it.

In the bright sun of high noon, surrounded by others on an artsy pedestrian street, she found herself facing the impressive window display of the shop she was about to chance. It looked about right – her ‘masterpiece’ would fit in with the things that were shown off and sold here. Idris had sold one or two of her creations to people in Osea before, but she had no idea how one was supposed to go about it formally.
Only one way to find out. Allons-y, I suppose.
And with her lopsided grin she sidled on in.

The shopkeeper was interested the moment she put her work on the table; he was even more interested when she spun her story for him. “Je viens de Skullper,” "I come from Skullper," she began, using her basic knowledge of world geography to pick an exotic and attractive country.
“Je suis une artiste, venu à l’Audoula pour que je peux vendre mes œuvres. Cela, c’est ma dernière pièce.” "I'm an artist, visiting Audoula to sell my work. This here, is my last piece." She flashed her winning smile and told him of how she’d crafted the thing from the silver found in surplus in the ground of Skullper, and how it had been on display in most of the country’s art museums before she’d decided it was time to move it overseas.
Idris was a good liar. She’d been trained for it for years. The shopkeeper ate up every word, the glint of calculation in his eye: how much would buyers be willing to pay for such a bizarre and deliciously foreign piece? Audoulans thrived on culture.
“Combien?” ”How much?” he asked her finally. Idris took a look at her ‘work of art’ and juxtaposed it against the rough idea of the sort of dress she wanted for the ball.
“Neuf cent, s’il-vous-plait.” “Nine hundred, if you please.”
The shopkeeper’s gaze instantly went business-like. Cold and hard. Edging for a deal.
“Six cent cinquante.” ”Six hundred fifty.”
Idris raised an eyebrow.
“…moi, je part maintenant.” “…I’m leaving.”
“Sept cent!” "Seven hundred!”
“Huit cent, ou je chercherai quelqu’un un petit peu plus de bon ton.” “Eight hundred, or I’ll find someone with a bit more taste.”
Idris was enjoying herself too much
to give the poor man a break. There was a moment of tense silence as she smiled her best condescending-artist smile and he scrutinized her work for anything he could nitpick at to knock the price down. There was nothing.
“…d’accord. Huit cent dollars et pas un autre sou.” “…fine. Eight hundred and not another cent.”
“Bon.” Idris whisked her hair over one shoulder and took the crisp bills from the shopkeeper, thanking him as she went on her way, leaving her impromptu silverware disaster in his hands.

Well that was easier than I thought it was going to be, the Destrillian thought as she – for lack of anywhere else to store them – slipped the bills into her ballet flats and started strolling down the pedestrian street, enjoying the feel of window shopping. She’d never had a proper chance to do this; sure, she’d spent plenty of time skipping around the commerce districts in Osea, but she’d never had the background knowledge that anything she wanted, she could buy. And it was nice. She could get used to life here; everything was to her taste. Elegant in both new and old ways of living, graceful, and with a bit of a dramatic side to it all. Even the language came naturally to her—although as soon as that thought occurred, an abrupt curiosity descended upon her.
Why is it so easy? A light crease appeared on her brow as she considered this, walking leisurely down the street. Viola never taught us foreign languages – we were never meant to leave Artolia. I bet training for alien situations was further down on the list, saved for when we were totally dedicated to their cause. She wrinkled her nose in distaste at the thought. Thinking about Viola never does do me any good.
Then what is it? She peered into window after window, never satisfied with what she saw. I heard it once or twice in Osea, sure – Audoulan is Artolia’s second language – but never enough to actually learn anything. I’m good, but not that good. It’s not that the language comes easy; it’s that I know the language.
There really was only one explanation left.

She stopped, looking at her reflection in the window of a ridiculously expensive dress shop. Her tiny, pale little frame, glowing in the early afternoon light, poised like a lady in her frayed, but clean, white summer dress. She took in the subtle definition of her wiry muscles beneath her skin, the slenderness of her shoulders and the delicately pointed chin counterbalanced by a strong jaw. The high cheekbones, and the big grey doe eyes with their steely undercutting edge.
Her eyes flicked up to the reflection of the street behind her, with its jewelry stands in the middle of the cobblestoned road and its dozens of cafés and artisan shops; looking beyond that, she saw the cityscape in the background, and looking at herself and her juxtaposition with it all, something clicked.
We’ve met before, haven’t we, Audoula.

The moment she thought it, it felt right. The hints were undeniable – from the morning on the roof of the Winnebago right up until now, clue after clue had been presented to her. “I am so dense,” she said to herself, her voice starting quiet and slowly rising in excitement. “I am so, so horribly dense. It all makes sense.” The realization left her feeling light as air; her lips quirked into a smile of unadulterated glee. She’d remembered something. It wasn’t much but it was definitely something—and it gave her some groundwork to build on.
When we’re clear of all the trouble we’re in right now, the Gunmetal Glint decided, stepping into the dress shop, I’m coming right back here to see what I can find.

Opulence assaulted her from every angle the moment the door tinkled shut behind her. These dresses were certainly fit for masquerade balls – the lavish designs were chock full of detailwork and bright dyes and good, expensive fabrics. Idris spent at least half an hour just looking through them all, before at last, on the second floor, near the window looking out on the pedestrian street, she found it.
It was a tiny thing, which suited her just fine. The dress was modeled after some sort of butterfly or other; it was strapless, beginning close-fit at the breasts and hugging the body until the waist, where it puffed out into a flurry of gorgeously painted wings.
She had to try it. It was modeled on a mannequin, but as far as she could see there were no other copies. Idris turned, then, to the shopkeeper for assistance; the woman was old and retained a sense of dignified chic about herself, and was more than happy to help a young lady with a dress once it was clear that she actually intended to buy it.
“Vous semblez tellement belle, ma cher,” “You look so beautiful in it, my dear,” the salesclerk commented as Idris stepped lightly out of the changing room to view herself in the mirror. It did look quite stunning on her, she had to say—Idris had never worn much colour, but if Kram’s scarf had proven anything, she could work reds. The deep blacks and the luscious warm colours of the dress attested to that, as the contrast to her complexion made her skin look like milk, soft and smooth and white as could be. She ran her hands down her sides and smoothed out the bustle of fluttering wings, and she liked the feel of it all against her hands.
“Je pourrai prendre le robe pour le moment, si vous voulez chercher une autre choix,” “I could hold the dress for a moment if you want to look for another choice,” the salesclerk said, but Idris shook her head.
“Non, ceci est parfait. Combien d’argent coute-t-il, encore?” “No, this is perfect. How much does it cost, again?The small girl went back into the changing room, slipping out of the masquerade dress and back into her own plain one, fishing out the bills from her ballet flats. She popped her head out between the thick curtains and handed the salesclerk the dress, and then pulled her shoes back on and followed the older woman to the cash.
“Cinq cent vingt, cher.” “Five hundred twenty, dear.”
“C’est raisonable, ça,” “That’s reasonable,” the Destrillian replied with a nod, handing over three of her four 200$ bills and watching the dress get wrapped carefully in sparkling tissue paper before being put in those sorts of strong paper bags you get from posh clothing shops. As she received her change, Idris noticed the display of accessories behind the counter… a shelf of masks among them.
“Madame,” she began, a slow smile beginning to form on her face, “quel masque pensez-vous verra le mieux avec le robe?” “Which mask, do you think, would go the best with the dress?” The salesclerk tapped her wizened fingers on the counter a moment, considering, before turning to inspect each one. After a minute or two, she turned back around with something Idris could really appreciate.
“Je vous le donnerai pour une autre cinquante, parce-que je vois que vous l’aimez beaucoup, et vous êtes une douce petite femme,” “I’ll sell it to you for another fifty, because I can see you love it, and you’re a sweet young lady,”the older woman said as Idris gently took the mask from her hands and examined it. Her face was shining with delight – it was only fitting, of course, that the thing be intricately curlicued out of metal. There was no ribbon to tie it with, for the silver was tweaked in such a way as to curl over one’s ears to keep it in place. Idris herself could double its security later, by angling the metal here and there to mould perfectly to her face.
“Oh merci, madame – c’est absolument formidable!” Idris gave the salesclerk another fifty and, after the mask had also been carefully wrapped and placed in the bag, she blew a kiss behind her and then whirled out the door.

The rest of the afternoon flew by. Number nine explored the pedestrian roads of Villnore, swinging her bag at her side, enjoying the day for all it was worth and soaking in what she now knew to be something precious to her. She bought a pair of pretty, strappy sandals to go along with the dress—and then realized the rest of her funds should’ve been spent on necessities, as she had no idea when the next bomb would drop on the Destrillians’ heads. Luckily, when she wasn’t shopping for decadence, the pricing was quite easy to handle: roundabout another hundred bought her a pair of cropped white cargos, two long tank tops, a few different coloured leggings (the season was getting colder,) and another pair of flats.

Being Idris, and feeling the need to act at least a little bit Destrillian, she did steal the leather tote she was now using to carry all that. No way was she paying that much for some dressed-up cowhide. But class prevailed for the most part.

With her 5$ bill, she splurged and bought herself a small box of Audoulan sweets. The chocolate and boiled candy looked as whimsical as it tasted; number nine rarely had the chance for a treat and she savoured the one brightly-coloured candy all the way back to the ferry for Crawsus.
I’ve still got a hundred on me, the wiry woman thought on the ride back. That’ll be saved for when we need it – I have a feeling our trouble’s going to cost us a bit. Sucking on her sweet, Idris rifled through her purchases, looking for all the world like a regular Audoulan girl coming home from a shopping trip.

And in a way she was.

Idris stepped off the boat and made her way back to Telran’s place, head held high, breathing in the scent of the evening air. She was accomplished. She was coming back with a substantial sum of money, a more-than-adequate costume for the masquerade tomorrow… and also with something else. Something of more value.
Knowledge. The pale girl smiled her smile as she knocked on Telran’s front door, waiting patiently to be let in—waiting with a hint of mischief, for the look on the face of whoever was to open the door for her.
She was coming back with memories. New, old memories—barely there but peeking their shy little heads out from the forgotten depths of her mind. Fuzzy and scratchy as if shown on an old film reel, yet feeling fresh as the day they were made.


One day left.

“Bon soir.”

She was ready.

Disappear with the stars and come back alive.

Last edited by Baldy; 02/13/2011 at 10:26 PM.
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Old 02/14/2011   #165
Alessa Gillespie

Same day, same simulation, same everything. Well, perhaps it was a different day, Elvan had been terrible at keeping track of things like days and years while he spent time here. It may as well have been some strange repeating dream that he had night after night. Maybe he was a killer dreaming of being a normal person, maybe he was a normal person dreaming of being a killer, who could remember anymore.

But like he always did after fighting in that psuedoreality, he was cooking dinner for people who he'd rather didn't watch him make it. Some ratatouille and meringue for the troops, as it were. He finished up quietly and started to carefully put the still-warm dishes of food into containers for storage.

As she headed back to her room to get ready to depart, Lorelei felt the familiar void in space that was Elvan as he worked. She continued on, with a faint smile on her lips. She changed into her traveling clothes, set aside from her other, day-to-day garments: the durable yet comfortable pants; the long-sleeved top that kept her so warm; her belt, with its quartet of flashbang grenades clipped to it; and her favorite jacket, which, along with her muffler, kept her warm in her travels.

As she changed, she thought about the coming mission. She was somewhat disappointed that she wouldn't be able to terminate the targets, but Mister Spencer wished for as little bloodshed as possible - and she would uphold his request, much as it rankled. She still found the thought that she hadn't been previously allowed to eliminate the traitorous ingrates unbelievable. After all Mister Spencer had done for them, they turned their backs on him? It seemed like only the five of them were still loyal - Salem, Elvan, and the rest.

A growl broke the silence - a growl that came from Lorelei's stomach. She hadn't realized how hungry she was, but the thought of Elvan reminded her that he'd been up to something in the kitchen. And so she headed back in that direction, where she could hear the soft hiss of his suit, as the empty space moved about, stopping when she reached her destination.

With a prickle of realization that someone was there, he turned to the doorway and saw someone familiar. "Oh, hello Pyrope. How odd to see you out and about! Tell me, were you hungry? I didn't want to put all of the food I fixed in the fridge again," he said with a twinge of excitement. He missed interacting with some of the other inhabitants of the mansion.

"Hi, Elvan," she replied with a smile. "And yes, actually - starved. I can't remember the last time I ate. What's on the menu?"

"Some ratatouille with meringue for dessert
," He said, stepping aside. He set down the spoon he was planning on using to scoop up the main course into another bowl. "Let's see, where do we put the plates again..." It'd been so long since he'd had to get one for someone he'd half-forgotten.

She laughed. "You're asking the wrong person, there. They still don't allow me anywhere near the dishes - not after what happened the last time I was in here unsupervised."

He eventually had to look through most of the cupboards to find a plate for her, "Did you want me to get it for you or can you get it yourself?"

"I can get it myself, thanks," she replied, a little more quickly than was polite. "I'm just a little be left alone with cupboard of plates."

Elvan made a serious effort not to laugh, and managed to make a noise something like a cough instead. Sensitivity was not his forte. "Tell me how you like it! I almost never get feedback on what I make, honestly."

It rankled to need someone to find her a plate, but without it, she'd be eating out of the dish, and she knew better than to think Elvan would let her get away with it. "Well, I'm not that picky, really. But your food's always excellent...even the weird stuff whose names I can't pronounce." She made a face.

"Perhaps you could request that we get more... conventional cookbooks around here then
," Elvan stated cheerfully, "Oh, don't forget the meringue, they're on the cookie pan right next to the ratatouille if you want one."

"Thanks," she replied. She heaped a small pile of ratatouille onto the plate, and placed a meringue on it as well. She hesitated for a moment, then glanced over her shoulder at Elvan before snatching another of the still-warm cookies and taking a large bite from it.

"Oh, wow," she said between bites, "this is sooo good." She then snatched up two more of the cookies and piled them onto the plate before polishing off the one she'd just started.

"Thank you~"
Elvan sang in a gleefully sing-song manner. It had been a long while since he'd been praised for his cooking, and hearing someone say nice things about something he had prepared made him feel like a little kid. "By the way, is there any reason you're carrying the firepower? Even I don't walk around the mansion with grenades on my belt."

She nodded, mouth still full. She swallowed, then said, "Yeah - just came back from seeing Mister Spencer. He's sending me on a mission." She took a bite of her ratatouille, chewing with a thoughtful look on her face. "Supposed to meet up with someone in Audoula."

At the name 'Spencer' Elvan's expression suddenly became gleeful; not that it was visible or anything. "How exciting! I wish they let me go outside, but I can understand why they haven't. Is it another Destrillian?"

"Two." She shoveled another bite of the vegetables into her mouth before going on. "Supposed to bring them back alive. of them, anyway." She sighed. "But I'm not supposed to get too involved, which means I can't get rid of the other one."

He took a seat on a nearby stool, "Do you know their names? I mean, even if my intel is sort of dated, it'd give me an idea of what they want you to do in the mission."

Lorelei shook her head. "Huh uh. Just a pair of sealed dossies." She frowned. "Not like I can read them, anyway."

"What a shame. Well, they must believe in your abilities to assign you to it, so I'm sure you'll do great. Did you want me to pack any food for the trip for you?"
he asked.

She smiled warmly. "I'd love it, but Mister Spencer wants me on the job immediately. I'm sure I can scrounge up something while I'm out." As she finished her last bit of ratatouille, she took her plate over to the sink and gently laid in the hot, soapy water. As she glided back toward the kitchen door, she stopped and slowly turned back toward Elvan, almost as though she were reconsidering. "Um...actually...would it be okay if I took some of these meringues?"

"Not a problem~"
He said, nodding to the pan of cookies, "Just leave some for Finn, I wanted her to try them too."

There was no hiding the elation on her face. She raced back to the pan and crammed a dozen of them into one of the small plastic storage bags that was nearby. "Thanks Elvan!" she said as she made her way over to him, encircling the taller Destrillian's torso with her arms in what would have been an awkward one-sided hug were they both capable of sight. "See you soon!" said she in a singsong voice, almost floating out of the kitchen in eleation.

He smiled a little, though affection always left him feeling a little weird given he imagined most people did not attempt to hug through plastic wrap or anything even vaugely like it. Either way, he needed to pack up what she hadn't eaten into some storage containers lest it grow stale.

He dropped the remaining cookies in a seperate plastic container and left it on the countertop for the other residents of the mansion. He hummed to himself as he spooned the rest of the ratatouille into a glass bowl and sealed it with a plastic top. The suited boy pushed the dish into the fridge, noticing a black marker that was stuck on the side of the refridgerator.

He removed the cap and silently wrote 'Good luck out there, Pyrope! : )' onto the plastic bag she had left out. Cap replaced onto the marker, he made his own way out of the kitchen.

is daddy still a good man?
like a shotgun needs an outcome

don't trust the ones who shake with their left hand



can you fight a legendary creature?


Last edited by Alessa Gillespie; 02/14/2011 at 02:40 AM.
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