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Private Random Access Memories; Read Only Soul

N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
Circe gazed at the mecha presented to the group, namely Kai, absolutely mystified. Mechas were not unknown in her field. Some pirates even made use of them. They had their own version on the Cloud 9. But it was nothing like the one before her, now. It was clearly superior to any such machine she had ever laid eyes on. It was even more amusing seeing the kid's reaction.

She had to admit, watching his superhuman ability at work was wonderful in and of itself, even if she couldn't understand most of what was being said, though she understood the gist of it all. Kai's energy was infectious, and she found herself growing excited by the second. It was exhilarating to know that they would have such unbelievable power supporting them. Their chances must have improved significantly, but she wasn't about to ask SIA for the statistics as of yet. The AIs gifts were only just beginning to be handed out. Who would be next?
 

Dashmiel

Bearly In Charge
Administrator
Nexus GM
As written by @KenżaSheep & @Dashmiel

Xilunexus turned her gaze between the aghast faces of the party members, and the Kai bot breakdancing in the corner. Admittedly, she could see their side and didn’t begrudge them their no doubt thoughts of “Why give fire to a baboon?” they were having. Thought she didn’t expect them to be that tame in their own renditions.

With a smile she beckoned Kathryne forward. They wouldn’t feel at ease until they saw it wasn’t just the teenager who would be left holding the dangerously powerful toys.

“‘Ello Kat, don’t be shy come close,” Xilunexus said as she waved at Kat, continuing once the latter got closer. “We’ll add the 1000 year old lost world scotch to the list of gifts” she whispered with a smile as Frey made her way to join them.

Kathryne glanced at Xil, then turned back to watch Kai for just a moment longer, for the amount of time it took her to get from where she had been standing—moved to the back of the group in case the “baboon with fire” accidentally pressed a wrong button—to where the AI had beckoned her to stand at the front. She pulled her gaze to Xilunexus again.

“You gonna make me tell you a secret for it?” Kathryne asked her, attempting humor but also somewhat serious. She folded her arms, tucking both hands into her pits to wait. It was a habit of discomfort, along with shifting her weight from one foot to the other.

“It’s on your employee compensation package,” Xilunexus joked back.

“Alright, so what do I have to work with,” said Frey as she gave Kat a look over. “You got an AI right? Xil won’t give me the specs—something about privacy policies—and I need to fine tune some stuff as we chat,” Frey said as Kat felt a connection ping request. It somehow brought along the scent of spicy perfume with it.

Kathryne couldn’t help but to crinkle her nose slightly at the odd scent, but in spite of her being defensive about the ping, Horizon vetoed and accepted it. She mentally pinched the bridge of her nose as if to fend off a hypothetical headache.

Frey mentally rummaged through Horizon’s systems, cataloguing the AI’s capabilities. “My oh my, you’re quite capable for such a young fella. Robust and with threads raring to go, ain’t ya?” said Frey lasciviously.

“Frey, please refrain from fraternization during shift hours,” Xilunexus said immediately.

”You wouldn’t believe how long I’ve been trying to get him a girlfriend,” Kathryne whispered to Frey, using the neural link to keep it secret.

Horizon had been flustered before, but if it was possible for him to blush, his face would be cherry-pink. He wasn’t sure whether to take Frey’s words as a compliment and beam under the praise or crawl to the back of Kathryne’s mind to hide until he stopped feeling so awkward.

Kathryne bit at her lip to keep from a faint smile and gently poked his mental presence. ”I’m teasing you, ‘Rize. Chillax.”

Freyn’ja chuckled as she felt the AI’s embarrassment. She also felt Xilunexus’ admonition, and quickly moved on.

“So, Horizon meets all the minimum requirements to interface with my goodies. No super fancy tech gadgets I’m afraid. At least not by my standards. I did do a thorough job custom fitting some modified Va’nyrian infantry armor we had in storage though,” Frey said as a small box the size of one you’d keep a shirt in floated off the pallet at her side and towards her hands.

The box vanished in a mist, leaving a trench-coat-like garment behind. It’s color’s began in the characteristic Va’nyrian white-gold before rippling in rainbow-hued waves. It’s length and trim continuously shifted subtly as Frey spoke.

“This baby is the ultimate in rugged minimalism, while still hiding a host of survival features for the soldier behind enemy lines. While you won’t go invisible, active camouflage ensures you can always match your surroundings,” she said as the coat split open into several layers, revealing the finely woven machinery within.

Kathryne raised her eyebrows, but she remained silent and let Frey continue to speak.

“Packed inside are kinetic projectors and matter regenerators, to keep the self-healing ablative layer going,” she said as a faint shimmer overlaid the coat. “Basically a protective forcefield, deflects projectiles and burns off energy before healing itself so you don’t have to. Let’s see what else…”

“I can keep this when the mission’s over, right?” Kathryne asked. She had to ask. There was no way she wasn’t going to ask.

Frey shrugged and turned to Xilunexus.

“The All-Mother’s contract didn’t specify so…sure, you can all keep these triffles after the mission is over. Call it a bonus,” the AI said disinterestedly.

“Right,” said Frey with a strange look at Xilunexus. Somewhere beneath them, the threshold that separated the under-cellar from the rest of the Leaky Servo came to life as the Nexus wards activated. Diarneus coughed off to the side.

“Right!,” said Frey animatedly. “The armor offers all of the standard survival bits you’d expect…well, we’d expect a soldier to have. It offers vacuum protection, broad spectrum radiation protection, medical diagnostics & battlefield triage, network extender, etc. All of it is manageable by Horizon directly. Pretty neat huh?”

“He’s going to have a blast,” she responded. ”Think you can handle it, Little Buddy?”

The young AI was, of course, very enthusiastic. He’d recovered from his embarrassment and tuned in to the conversation again not that long ago.

”I can handle anything!” He replied. Today just kept getting better; there were so many new things for him to explore that he hadn’t touched in probably years. It wasn’t every day Kathryne warmed up to the idea of letting him access new technology. She tended to stick with the magic side of things, not the tech….

“Well, that’s about it from me,” Freyn’ja said as she clapped her hands. “I’ve given my bit to help keep you alive. I believe Professor Lecture has gifts more suited to your specialities,” she finished as she gestured towards the approaching Diarneus.

“A pleasure to meet you, Kathryne,” Diarneus said with impeccable politeness as he gave Kat a short bow. “My name is Diarneus. Tell me, what is magic to you?”

“It feels like I’ve heard this question before.” She nodded to him in return of his bow, taking a step forward to grasp the coat and put it on before and while she continued to speak. “To me, it’s nothing beyond an unknown force that manifests itself in various ways, and if used right, it is power. Good power? Destructive power? Strong power? Weak power? That’s all it is, no different than any other item out there. Why are you asking such an obscure and pointless question?”

The coat shifted to match her attire; dark fabric with a gentle shimmer to it. She folded up the long sleeves to reveal a hint of the leather coat that lay underneath. In a minute, she’d let Horizon play around with the technology and likely figure out how to better wear a trench coat over her jacket, but for the moment, style was the least important thing on her mind.

“Obscure, pointless, and unknown,” replied Diarneus in a gently chiding manner. The pitch of his words began to widen as he spoke, until his words echoed with a strange reverberating force. “These are but obstacles in the craft, and mostly those of youth at that.”

As Diarneus paused, the sound of his voice carried. What had begun subtly for Kat, would quickly become apparent as Diarneus’ form changed in her eyes. A faintly glowing third eye above his forehead opened as a multi-armed figure manifested in the air. The astral projection appeared stapled to Diarneus’ physical body, as if kept behind forcefully.

Kathryne took a small step back and gazed at them in awe, but also with fear. Not notable fear… perhaps more like concern and confusion. She’d never seen anything quite like it, but it set her on the defensive.

“I asked my question very deliberately. The turning of your mind churns and resonates in the aether,” Diarneus said. As he spoke, the astral figure repeated his words. Somehow, they sounded more real from the phantom.

“Now, flare your power, whatever that means for you. Show me what you have, I must prepare the attunements for your gifts.”

“You want me to fight you?” She rephrased questioningly.

”Can I touch it now?” Horizon pleaded.

Kathryne mentally sighed. ”Hold on, ‘Rize. Don’t do anything with it just yet; I need my focus. You can look, though.”

“If fight is how you can best conceptualize what I ask, then yes,” barked Diarneus. The multi-armed phantom surged away from Diarneus towards Kat. It left tendrils of energy binding it back to Diarneus. “STRIKE ME!” commanded the phantom.

“Oh, f---,” Kathryne cursed. She’d been defensive towards the phantom since it had shown up, but this was just downright unnerving, having it lunge towards her all sudden like. She brought up an earthen wall from the floor to defend herself, purely out of instinctive habit.

”Okay, yes, you can touch it now,” she told Horizon. The AI was absolutely giddy with his newfound freedom.

She pulled a big rock from the floor and stepped out from behind her cover to lob it at the phantom, partially because she was ticked at it for startling her and the other part because she wanted to see if it was a physical being or if the rock would just break something on the back wall.

The “third eye” above Diarneus’ own eyes flared brilliantly as the rock made “contact” with the phantom.

“What to you is unknown, I’ve made deep study of for the past five hundred thousand years,” lectured Diarneus. The familiar sight of the vibration patterns humming as Kat’s magic vibrated creation’s strings greeted his magical sight.

With an almost casual contempt, the phantom waved an arm through the boulder. It’s arm sank into it as if the thing had dipped its arm to the elbow in water. The boulder rippled once and promptly ceased to exist.

“MORE!” roared the phantom as it lashed one of it’s back arms at Kathryne.

She ducked under its arm to avoid getting hit by the appendage. Kathryne tore another piece of the floor up to throw at it, then brought up a third boulder made again from the Leaky Servo’s structure. The third one she lit on fire, but it wasn’t for the phantom. That one she lobbed at Diarneus in a fit of irritation and annoyance.

“Everytime magic produces an effect in the physical realm, it leaves its traces in the “astral plane”—the “source” of magic that goes by many names—and if you can see them then you can alter the magical contract between the force and the affected,” Diarneus explained calmly.

The phantom smoothly dispelled the boulders that were aimed its way, whilst Diarneus tilted his head sideways and watched the flaming projectile headed his way.

“This applies to any manifestation of magic, although the ability to act upon this information is limited by your skill,” Diarneus said as he lazily raised a hand palm side up as the projectile approached.

It diverted from its path to gently float above Diarneus’ palm, fire still blazing. “You are limited by the magical charms you trigger from your bracelet, aren’t you?” he asked casually.

He closed his palm beneath the boulder which exploded with a light burst into a flock of flying alien insects like the cross between a dragonfly and an eagle. They flew off into the rafters of the room to roost.

She growled at him, and one of her hands lit ablaze in response to her emotions. Kathryne shook her hand and brushed over it with her other palm to extinguish the fire. “Yeah. Pretty much. I’ve got more magic in my coat, too, but not on hand right now.”

“Hmm yes…,” Diarneus murmured as the phantom floated around Kathryne. “You definitely need help with that” he said in reference to Kat’s “void” where she stored things within extradimensional space bound to her leather jacket. Diarneus' voice hadn’t sounded offended until now, when he was confronted with that example of “organization.”

“I believe I can grant you the sight, which will help you to put your charms to their best use in countering enemy magic…and,” Diarneus reached into his pockets and came out with a handful of marble sized beads which glittered with an inner light.

“I can give you these. My very own library system for extra-dimensional storage spaces. Enchanted size shifting manipulator bots capable of their own gravimetric propulsion in any space. They can be AI controlled and can keep a catalog of your items and provide swift retrieval,” as Diarneus spoke, holographic examples of the robots at work appeared around him, blown up for size.

“Why wasn’t the universe in danger before? We could have met sooner than this.” Kathryne huffed mildly and watched the holograms.

Horizon was busy messing with the camouflage part of the coat they had been given, and Kathryne was having to ignore the way her outfit kept disappearing to blend in. It took a lot of effort not to scold him; this was the most enthused she’d seen the AI in decades. Kathryne sighed and let him alone.

Diarneus chuckled as he closed his third eye and his astral projection returned to his body. “I’ll make sure Xilunexus sends Horizon the instructions for the storage robots,” Diarneus said as he waved Kathryne towards the side next to the others where two comfortable reclining chairs materialized.

“It would take years to master the sight, I’ll put us in a meditative trance and alter our perception of time to allow us enough opportunity for your lessons,” Diarneus said as he led the way to the chairs. “Do you have any alcohol? The process can sometimes be easier with the physical body uninhibited,” he asked.

“When you say, ‘alter perception,’ how much time is going to pass between now and when we get back?” She questioned him first, following to the chairs.

“Depends on your skill,” Diarneus said. “My best student mastered it in six standard Wayfarer’s Point weeks. My worst? Took 500 years. I can make us experience any length of time we need cognitively, with only about 5 minutes passing here. How much is up to you.”

She thought about it for a couple moments. “Alright. I’m not sticking with you more than three months, hear me? If I haven’t figured it all out by that point, it’s unfortunate. I’ll have to be back by then.”

“The gift is offered, up to you,” he said as he patted the chair next to him before reclining in his own.

Instead of sitting, Kathryne turned to find Xil. “You still got that special bottle of scotch on you? Figure now’s as good a time as any, if it’s good stuff.” Then she sat.

Xilunexus absentmindedly snapped her fingers without answering. A bottle of the requested scotch materialized wordlessly alongside a small table, glasses, and an ice bucket which took their place between the chairs.

“Nice,” she smiled faintly. “Thanks.”

Kathryne poured herself a glass, poured her companion one, too, if he wanted it, then raised it in cheers before drinking.

Diarneus took the proffered glass and clinked it softly in cheers as a white haze enveloped them. “We’ll have plenty of time to practice,” he said as he took a sip. He smacked his lips and sighed appreciatively. “First let’s finish the drinks.”
 

Script

Adorable Homewrecker
Benefactor
A subtle change in the air heralded the beginning of a ticking clock, unbeknownst to all but Xilunexus. “It”—The Nexus Whateveritwas—had begun “sniffing” the Rift. Xilunexus was still working on refining the models on her predictive software, but she didn’t need them to know this Rift would be summarily collapsed like so many others. Nothing on the other side could possibly be of benefit to whatever this place intended.

No, they needed to hurry and be through before it closed. They could worry about recreating the conditions that would allow it to form again later. Alaxel did it once already, so hopefully he could reverse it the other way. Short of that, there was always prayer.

Xilunexus elected not to mention any of this to anyone. After all, it was already common knowledge that Rifts were unstable; the contract was not any different from other Wayfarer’s Guild contracts in that regard. The fact that Xilunexus happened to know for a fact this one was going to crash hardly changed anything.

“Next up, Jace if you will,” Xilunexus called out.

Still casting glances that varied from amused to concerned over at where Kai was cycling through his new toys with near reckless abandon, Jace snapped to attention as his own name was called. He’d halfway tuned out during the exchange between the mages, with everything they talked about flying firmly over his head, but they now seemed to be… in a cloud?

Because of course they were.

With only a hint of reluctance, he stepped forward. It wasn’t that he wasn’t intrigued - even excited - by the notion of getting to play around with some technology that was miles beyond his peoples’ comprehension. He just had a healthy dose of skepticism for using any gear that he couldn’t jury-rig a fix for. Even the best gear didn’t often survive contact with the enemy unscathed.

“Alright,” he stretched his arms lazily behind his head as he walked up to where Xilunexus and her sidekicks were waiting. “What you got for me?”

“Now you, were an interesting challenge,” Frey said as she stepped forward, followed by Jace’s bundle of gifts. She splayed one of her hands open, extending the digits as wide as they could go. Lightning crackled between them. “I tried to do my due diligence, but genetyping myself with electric mutant powers is more art than science. So that’s that’s my disclaimer, you’ll likely have to fine tune the gains and stuff to suit your own electric quirks. Fair?”

Jace gave her a flat look that, after a moment, melted into a laugh that was equal parts baffled and amused. “We’re at the point where it doesn’t surprise me that you literally replicated the most advanced and controversial genetic research project from my homeworld in order to run tests on some gear,” he murmured. “Okay. Sure, sounds fair. Will I get a user manual?” he asked, cocking a brow.

Frey shook her head side to side ambivalently. “Sort of?” she said with a sing-song emphasis on the last syllable.

“A lot of this gear isn’t based on my designs. Energy amplification materials—especially in the pursuit of making things dead or keeping them from becoming dead—are Alaxel’s wheel house,” she explained. “Any replication based on my work would be inferior, so I reverse engineered his notes. There were a lot of skulls in the margins and little explanation of how, so to speak. But I documented my own tests.”

Jace nodded thoughtfully. That was reassuring on some level, at least. If they found the guy out there then they’d have someone that’d be able to do maintenance on his stuff. As to whether he would or not…

Well, hopefully it wouldn’t be a problem.

“Let’s see if I can figure it out then,” he said, nodding for her to continue.

“First off, the armor,” she said as one of the bundles floated to stand before Jace. As with the others, the outer covering misted away, revealing the contents within. A pair of gauntlets floated in the air. They were of a strange smoke-grey glass that seemed to absorb light rather than reflect it. It only seemed to however, for it was plainly visible. Some sort of cognitive effect seemed to occur when it was watched, and a feeling of infinite emptiness was easy to imagine. The “glass” was supported by a skeleton of black metal with synthetic webbing lining the underside.

“These things, are the second most fucking spookiest shit I’ve ever built,” Frey said with a mock shudder and a smirk. They were clearly pasted on. “In the sense that their performance is scarily impressive, I have no idea what the hell the crystalline metal in them is, and I almost killed myself with it.”

The gauntlets floated closer to Jace. As they did, he would notice that what at first appeared to be a reflection on the glass, was instead a warped view of…nothingness.

“Put them on, they need to be energized. You’ll quickly feel…tired after you put them on, but just bolt out and let their systems power up,” Freyn’ja said encouragely.

Jace tilted his head as he stared into the metal of the gauntlets, squinting into the endless nothing that seemed to be contained within their surface. “That’s… unnerving,” he murmured. “But since I’m more useful to you alive than dead, I’m gonna trust it’s not gonna do anything too bad to me.”

Sighing, he reached out towards them, tentatively lingering just shy of touching them before gritting his teeth and shoving his hands inside. Immediately, he felt what Freyn’ja had warned him of - a sudden drain on his reserves of energy. As she’d advised, he responded to it by channeling his lightning.

It immediately was as if Jace had become the main course in a banquet for starving beasts. All of his power was quickly, and steadily absorbed away. Worse, a demand for more and faster was almost at the forefront of Jace’s thoughts as he felt the apparel’s increasing requirement for power.

“Oh yeah,” Frey said. “You’ll want to keep ramping up the generation steadily. You’ll pass out otherwise.”

Jace’s eyes widened at the bizarre sensation, and he shot Frey an irritated look. “You might’ve warned me before I started,” he grumbled, dialling back his power output accordingly. “What’s this even doing? It’s like it’s- talking to me? But not talking?”

“No idea! Isn’t it fascinating?” Frey said excitedly “I tried to find out, but this happened. Watch this. Hey Xil—”

“Freyn’ja, I no longer require a majority consensus to initiate a censure. Do not ask…” Xilunexus' physical shell went still as Frey ignored her and talked over her.

“—Tell Jace what his armor is doing?”

The response did not come from the android version, but instead through the gentle vibration of air molecules just outside of Jace’s ears.

“Error. Unauthorized records requested. Operational parameters and specifications of the ABADDON/VOIDKILLER platform forbidden by Starbreath edict,” whispered Xilunexus’ voice in Jace’s ear as the android awoke.

“She asked the question anyways, didn’t she?” Xilunexus asked from within the android once more as she stared daggers at an unrepentant Frey. “I literally cannot tell you. Hard coded block. You’re wearing good stuff though.”

Just then, a more insistent request for more reared up and assaulted Jace’s senses.

“Keep up with it, it’s about to clear the threshold where cool shit happens,” Frey said.

A bead of sweat had formed on Jace’s brow from the continued exertion of his powers, but as bidden - both by Frey and by the strange consciousness on the fringe of his senses - he kept pouring more lightning into the gauntlets. “Someone really needs to have a talk with you about safety protocols,” he mumbled. “I suppose they’d only apply to less expendable people…”

Just as he was starting to worry that he was going to run short of juice before the gauntlets did anything, he felt the sensation of draining change and shift. At the same time, the dark glass of the gloves rippled, as - like a rapidly growing crystal - they began to flow up his arms in a wave of shimmering shards.

The ripple travelled across his whole body, and where it passed, it left behind a close-fitting body suit of that same smoke-grey glassy material, molded to him like a second skin under his clothes. Briefly, the world darkened as the armor formed a helmet around his head, before - seemingly in response to his alarm - it peeled itself back to leave his head uncovered.

“Fucking–” Jace swore from a mixture of surprise and disbelief, flexing his fingers and twisting his body, watching the glass-like material smoothly move with him. Aside from a faintly cool sensation, it hardly felt like he was wearing armor at all.

“That’s… different.”

“Yeah. I kinda had the same reaction,” Frey said. “Quick rundown of the basics. As you saw, the armor can fully seal around you. It’s rated for vacuum use and heavy radiation exposure. I mean that, it’s kind of ridiculous. I nearly melted my workshop cranking up the gammas to find the threshold.”

She moved to stand next to Jace, and whistled innocently before a large rod-like tool materialized in her hands. This was swung suddenly and with great speed at Jace’s head, right from his blindspot.

The innocent whistle had, if anything, tipped Jace off that something was amiss, and so when the rod was swung, he was almost halfway ready for - if not it, then something. Still, even with his speed, it was all he could do to jerk one forearm up to catch the incoming blow.

A miniscule—but measurable—sensation of decreasing accompanied the armor’s effects. The rod stopped suddenly in mid-air, a few inches from Jace’s forearm.

“Now the cool thing isn’t the kinetic deferment,” Frey said nonchalantly, as if she hadn’t just swung a metal rod at Jace’s head. “Plenty of ways to achieve that. No, it’s the way this armor does it. First of all, did you feel it come online? This and all of it’s systems run off your own power. Whether stored or a live tapping. Look closer,” she said as she motioned at the rod.

The air around it was subtly warped, as if it was a wrinkled piece of paper that had been smoothed back. “Your power is converted not into the normal sorts of field projections, but instead the space immediately around you is…” she paused, and rolled her hands in a repetitive gesture. “I don’t actually know what it does to space. You’ll have to ask Alaxel.”

She let go of the rod, and a complex mess of sensory data ran through Jace’s mind, before the air returned to normal and the rod fell.
“This defensive system appears to always be on, and always knows when it’s appropriate to react. Hell if I know how it determines that, but while testing I got the sense I could teach it to accept my own definitions for things, so it can probably be adjusted,” she explained.

“Now, on to the murder bits!” she exclaimed excitedly as she pointed towards the distance beyond where they stood in the opposite direction from where everyone gathered. A sphere made of what appeared to be liquid metal rose from the ground some 20 feet away, where it floated peaceful as patterns thrummed beneath.

“Spark catcher,” said Frey in way of explanation. “Shoot it with a small zap, but envision the power flowing through the armor first, as if it were part of the path of least resistance for the electrical potential.”

“Okay…” Jace was still halfway processing the sensory information from the pipe being swung at his head - like he had been able to sense the movements before his mind had consciously processed them. That would come in handy.

As bidden, he held his hand out towards the sphere, extending one finger and focusing on producing a jolt of lightning. The sphere was well outside of his usual range, but…

Plink.

Along with a tiny spark, a shard of the glassy crystal of his suit shot like a bullet out to attach itself to the metal sphere. What followed was a bizarre sensation - like he was in some respects still connected to the part of the suit that was halfway across the room. Instinctively, he felt what he could do with that.

CCCRAACK.

From his fingertip a bolt of lightning twice the size of anything he’d ever produced before lanced through the air, arcing from his suit to the shard of crystal on the sphere with an accompanying roar of thunder. The sheer intensity of it was enough to startle him back a step.

That was definitely a few steps above what he usually affectionately referred to as ‘taser shots’.

“Whoa.”

“Yeah, whoa.” The display had been enough to draw Kai’s attention back over - the younger boy had emerged out from his new ride and was draped lazily over the top of it to watch him. “Not bad, Sparks! Gonna have to give you a new nickname. Like ‘Thunderclap’ or something.”

“Or… you could not,” Jace shot him a sidelong look.

“We’ll workshop it,” Kai waved his hand dismissively. “Stormcaller..? Nah, too fantasy…”

Diverting his attention away from Kai’s murmurings and back to Frey, Jace gave an approving nod. “Okay, this suit is pretty cool, I gotta admit.”

“I’d agree with you if I could understand it,” Frey said with a forlorn sigh. “ You seem well on to getting the gist of it. When you specifically try to channel power through it, it uses some of the previously stored power to…do stuff. The more you try, the more you get a feel for what else it’s possible. It just happens to somehow break physics and output more power than you initially put in.”

She paused and considered. “The bits and pieces it makes…it’s like you're shooting your identity around. Dangerous stuff. But useful. Be flexible in how you think and what you want.”

“Alaxel wears a similar design,” interjected Xilunexus. “Be sure to ask him about it when you meet him. It’s important.”

“If you try thinking of a gun, it’ll make one. A blade, and out comes a monomolecular blade bursting with electricity,” she said as she mimicked action poses.

“You don’t even need any magical protection like Kai. This freaky thing is very straightforward; If you have enough juice to allow it, it’ll stop any phenomena seeking to affect you. Run out of juice though, and you’re a meatbag in an unbreakable shell that you’ll bounce around against. Any questions?”

Jace gave her a slightly bewildered look. “I feel like the answer should be yes, but I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

Looking back over at the shard of the suit attached to the metal sphere, he furrowed his brow in thought for a moment then extended his hand back towards it. The shard quivered in place for a moment, then shot back toward him, melding back with the suit fluidly.

“Am I gonna have time to run some training with this thing before going in? Test out what I can do with it, what my limits are, in an environment where fucking up isn’t gonna get me killed?”

“No,” interrupted Xilunexus, her tone brokering a note of finality. A shudder seemed to pass through Freyn’ja, and her tone was slightly higher pitched than before when she resumed.

“Guess not. Though try thinking about basic things you are used to doing and how it feels when you do them while you wait for the others to be ready. Kinda…listen to how replaying those memories feel, see if you can feel any changes and consider what they mean.”

“Thank you for your time Frey. Please go prepare the equipment for the next person,” Xilunexus said with an unreadable lack of emotion or expression in her android face.

Jace grimaced. “Alright then. Winging it with the megacharge suit that might turn into a coffin if I run out of batteries,” he mumbled. “What can go wrong?”

He took a breath and shook his head. “Alright, well… I’ll do what I can in the time we have. Do you at least have like, a power socket I can stick my finger in to recharge before we leave?”

Xilunexus gave Jace a long and inscrutable look.

Warning holograms circled Jace as the air distorted in a cylinder around him, signifying some sort of force had sealed him from the rest of the room. A sensation like a spider crawling at the base of his neck alerted Jace to the need to relinquish control to allow for a full seal.

That he was able to understand it spoke to the gravity of the warning, as the instinctual knowledge would come clearer in a matter of life and death. What else bound perception for all mortals, than that very mortality?

Stiffening, in that split second his instinctive reluctance to trust anything with that level of control over him warred with the pressure and warning of the consciousness brushing against his. Like teetering on the edge of a void, it felt like tipping either way couldn’t end well.

It was only the context of where they were, and the fact that this was the same strange external instinct that had clued him into what elements of the suit he’d figured out so far, that swayed him to accept the push to let it take the reigns.

No sooner had Jace’s suit helmet formed into place and the armor sealed fully, that the fireworks started. They began with a shower of electricity as the air above and below Jace was oppositely ionized and power began to flow into the system.

As it began, a sensation of opening flooded Jace, and he began to feel both the suit and his own internal stores being replenished. At first it was a trickle, but before long the lighting gave way to plasma as the very air around Jace ignited.

While no doubt a surreal experience, the suit kept Jace’s senses safe from the visual and auditory onslaught around him. The power continued to flow after Jace’s own stores were topped off, and an awareness of a hidden reservoir he could access from the suit came into place as it was also filled.

As suddenly as it began, the power stopped and the forcefield dropped with the only evidence being that the air around Jace was noticeably warmer than before.

“Full?” asked Xilunexus impatiently.

The suit helmet drew back, leaving a stunned-looking Jace stood there gawping at Xilunexus. “Uh. Yeah,” he managed after a moment’s pause. “That– Okay.”

“You okay, Sparks?” Kai piped up, wide-eyed. “She just straight up nuked you.”

“I’m… fine?” He nodded after a pause. “Yeah. Suit does what it was advertised, I guess… er… thanks?” He shot an uncertain look the android’s way.

She nodded to him. “It will serve you well, provided you get to talk to Alaxel. Our gift to you is concluded. You now have enough energy at hand to blow yourself up— and others— just as Kai does. Do use it more responsibly,” she said with a glance between the pair. “I will not be restricting your armor until we leave. Feel free to experiment,” she said as she looked away and locked eyes with the next person behind.

While Xilunexus moved on, Jace made his way over to where Kai was laid atop his drone, still halfway processing what had just happened. “You do realise just how in over our heads we are, don’t you?” he murmured to the younger boy.

“Psh,” Kai shrugged. “In over your head maybe. This is like a-”

Kai,” Jace cut him off with a serious frown. “I mean it. Look, I know being a cocky wildcard is your thing, but just-” he sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “Think about it this way. She,” he jerked a thumb towards Xilunexus, “made all these for us. Or, her scientists did, at least. Right?”

“Right…” Kai nodded along.

“So that means this is the kind of stuff they use. At least in the same ballpark. Which means this is the kind of stuff we’re dealing with once we go through, too. Or it could be.” Jace shifted uncomfortably at the idea of dealing with a version of the android that had just spontaneously ionized his personal space that was actually trying to kill him.

“I’m not an idiot, J, I’d figured that much.” Kai sat himself upright and crossed his legs. The younger boy sighed. “Just ‘cause this mission’s gonna be hell doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with my new toys before we leave.”

“Just don’t get overconfident once we’re out there.” Jace warned him. “Play it safe. And don’t do anything loud to draw attention from… the other her.”

“Aye aye,” Kai lifted two fingers in a salute that was at least halfway serious. “I’m already figuring out the best way to make sure this thing is operating on a closed circuit. Some of the countermeasures I got fed are along those lines, I figure if I can get this thing working in a way that’d keep me out of it, I’ve got a good chance of avoiding getting hacked by her. I’m working on it.”

“Good. And can we please agree that when we’re in a combat situation, if you’re not taking orders from one of our bosses, you listen to me?” Jace gave him another serious look.

“Mkay, mkay,” Kai nodded. “You’re the shooty fighty guy, I’ll listen to you, promise. Now go practice with your new kit before we run out of time, I think Skynet over there is getting antsy.”

“Right.” Jace would have to take that promise at face value. Kai was right, though. What little time they had left would be better spent getting to grips with this suit than worrying over his less-than-predictable friend any more. Leaving the younger boy to continue fiddling with code, he stepped away to a clearer part of the room.

“Okay, weird space suit,” he murmured. “Let’s see if we can figure out everything else we can do together.”
 

Dashmiel

Bearly In Charge
Administrator
Nexus GM
As written by @N0X & @Dashmiel

For a moment, Circe was frozen at the edge of the group. Blue couldn’t have prepared her for this, and she had tried, just as she had laughed at how woefully unprepared she was. She was waiting to be recognized by an all-power artificial intelligent being, and it all felt very strange. She had never been so surrounded by God-like beings before, let alone been acknowledged by one. She had never walked into an event and not known, more or less, what was about to go down. Now, as Xilunexus laid eyes on her, all she felt was uncertain.

“You’re up next, Captain Nightlocke,” Xilunexus said neutrally. From her side, came a wolf whistle as Freyn’ja approached.

“Now THIS,” she exclaimed as she traced an hourglass silhouette in the air. She approached Circe, not waiting for her to come forward. “This I can work with. I bet we’re the same size. You single?” she asked lasciviously.

Xilunexus approached behind her quietly.

Circe took Freyn’ja in for the first time. Like everything else in the building, she was pretty, and polished, and metal. It was the hair. It was just like Blue’s. She couldn’t keep her curious eyes from wandering to her expertly crafted bombshell body. She looked so real, like if she touched her face, her skin would be warm and soft. Circe had to forcibly tear her eyes away with a cough and a blush.

“I–Oh, um. Well, actually, I–Uh…. I mean. No. S-sorry.” Breath hitching and eyes widening, Circe felt her face growing several shades more purple and looked over her shoulder to Xilunexus, desparate for a distraction.

Frey’s eyes widened absurdly upon Circe’s gaze going over her.

“She’s right behind me, isn’t she?” she said.

“Yes, she is. Once again, please refrain from fraternizing during shi—”

“C’mon, Xil! Look at her! That’s not fair,” pouted Frey.

“I apologize for Frey’s behavior, Captain Nightlocke. Let me know if you’d like her destroyed,” replied Xil with a deadpan tone.

“Destroyed?” Circe laughed at the absurdity of the suggestion. “That would be such a shame, wouldn’t it? We are open, but… I-I mean, no. Of course not. Is it, uh, getting hot in here, or…?” Circe pulled at the collar of her suit, wishing she still had that fruit bowl in her hands so as not to fumble with her fingers like an idiot. Her eyes shut, as if that would make it all go away. “Can we just…move on…” Circe practically begged, dying to get out of this uncomfortable situation.

“I’m sorry, I’ll behave,” Frey said, restraining a chuckle. “Stress-flirt. Bad habit. Okay, on to business!” she exclaimed as she clapped her hands. Two bundles floated off the pallet behind her and floated to either side of her.

“First, let’s get the special stuff out. Start strong and steady, I always say,” she said with a wink.

A small parcel the size of a jewelry box misted away, revealing two small twinkling objects. They began as cylinders roughly the diameter of a coin, and tapered into fine points with an overall length of a few inches. Superficially, they were made with the same white-gold alloy as the Leaky Servo structure, with multicolored veins scintillating just beneath the surface. A transparent “skin” over them contributed to the strong glossy finish.

“These were tricky,” Frey said in a whisper. “Your people—half of your people—are a hard bunch to observe unobtrusively. It wasn’t easy researching what I needed in such a small time…”

“Miraculously, an incident was somehow avoided…” commented Xilunexus.

“How was I supposed to know they could detect lust?” Frey complained. Xilunexus simply gave her a stern look and gestured for her to get on with it.

Circe’s heart nearly leaped out of her chest. She stared at the objects in the parcel like she was trying to figure out of they were real. She couldn’t comprehend it. She didn’t even know to start. She was too afraid to touch them, at first. Like they would crumble into dust if she did. But she was too baffled to resist. She picked them up gingerly, careful not to put too much pressure on them, afraid they would break. As though they were made of glass, even when they felt solid. Circe looked back up at them with awe.

“How?” She whispered. How was it possible? How could they know so much? The Xetti were a careful people, and terribly secretive. Not many outsiders knew much about them. Unbidden feelings of indignation started to creep up. Feelings she would use as motivation to get back home as soon as possible.

Circe raised them up to her forehead, and they fit on the base of her shorn horns like a glove. In that moment, there was a sudden tingling in her frontal lobe. All at once, everything became loud. Like she could feel everything, everyone. Her ears filled up with a loud ringing sound. Everything faded into white. Then, she was back, and everything was calmer and clearer than it had ever been.

“What just happened?” Circe’s eyes darted between Xilunexus and Frey, waiting for answers.

“When your profile was first entered, I quickly noticed the psionic potential you carried,” Xilunexus explained.

“It’s one of our things,” Frey offered by way of elaboration.

“I had not met one of your kind before, and the DNA I could sample—”

“I’d seriously consider gene-editting myself if I were you. Don’t you know humans shed?” Frey added with mock horror. Xilunexus continued, paying no mind to the interruptions.

“—provided little to no answers but did offer clues. So I updated our exploratory quorums on your traits, and a planet with local inhabitants matching them was found in short order,” Xilunexus said without emphasis.

That it was just a routine whim was obvious; that it could be so effortlessly effective was altogether another thing.

“Go everywhere, see everything, learn all of the stuff. Another of our things,” Frey added.

“The main thing, really. Regardless, this was done after your first visit to the Servo. Once this job became available, I estimated a high chance that you would apply. Given your profession, reputation and…,” Xilunexus paused for a moment, her eyebrows waggling. “...needs, it was a safe hedging of bets to send Frey to research how to cybernetically restore your “talents” to their natural state.”

“Which by the way, booooring,” Frey jumped in with a yawn. “So of course, I went out of my way to not just restore, but improve!” She jumped up and down in excitement, and pointed to the far distance, where the once floating “Spark Catcher” had been replaced by a simple spotlight.

“Quick! Do the thing with the funny name in those sacred texts!” she encouraged.

Circe blinked at those words, stunned at the realization of what they meant she could do, now. It wasn’t something that could be learned without study, however. The thought wasn’t discouraging, because somehow, she knew it could be done. It required a vast amount of energy, which the Xetti could harness with their horns, and with the portals they conjured up to measure and recreate their bodies elsewhere. They only had to think of where, with vast distances requiring all the more energy. She remembered her father teaching her eldest brother, internalized the memory, played it over and over again in her mind, putting herself in her brother’s place, and recited the sacred words…. And stumbled under the brightness of the spotlight.

Circe steadied herself and smiled, her eyes twinkling with pride.

“Did you see that? I did it!” She cheered, throwing a fist in the air. “Yeahh! That. Felt. INCREDIBLE! Thank you! Oh! No, you’re too kind! Thank you so very much!” Circe pointed and waved at her imaginary crowd, feigning humility.

If only her father could see her now, he would ge gloating with pride. No one had ever managed to learn to teleport so quickly among them. But she couldn’t take all the credit. After all, it was only thanks to the highly advanced technology of the Van’ryans that she was able to do it at all. In reality, she was still just a cripple with a crutch.

Circe bounced away from the spotlight and towards the Van’ryans. She took Frey’s hands in hers, and looked her in the eyes.

“You might not fully understand how much this truly means to me, but thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I will cherish this gift… forever.”

For the briefest of moments, the affectations fell away and Frey’s eyes reflected her true age. “I understand as much as I need to,” she said sincerely. It was only a brief moment however, and her normal demeanor reasserted itself promptly.

“‘Sides…,” she said, biting her lip and furrowing her brows to lid her eyes with desire as she gazed into Circe’s eyes. “They look good on you.”

Xilunexus coughed next to Frey, who promptly backed off to retrieve the second gift.

If she hadn’t pulled away, Circe might’ve been tempted to find out what her lips tasted like.

The second parcel floated into position and was revealed. Encased within were two bundles; one appeared to be a rectangular patch of metal and fabric that rippled and extended into a full size armored vacsuit in a design like Circe’s own. The materials featured were clearly Va’nyrian made, but otherwise it would not have looked out of place in Circe’s wardrobe.

“Now I’m pretty sure I got the fit right…” Frey threw a sidelong glance at Xilunexus. “And while I would love to help make sure it fits right, Xil probably would like me to point out it’s an automatically adjusting system…”

Xilunexus nodded and Frey sighed.

“It will interface with your SEA A.I. Like Horizon’s, I couldn’t get proper specs…”

“Artificial life is entitled to its secrets. Just because you can make them doesn’t give you right to all of them,” Xilunexus admonished.

“Says you, the ultimate peeping Jane,”

“Not the same thing.”

“Uh-huh,” Frey said doubtfully. “Anyways, your systems will be able to interface. I spliced what looked aftermarket in with my systems and left a patch for your own custom soft to serve as controller.”

“Blue’s not gonna like that very much,” Circe smiled wrily and gave a small, helpless shrug. Blue had an ego the size of a planet and would probably be insulted that her own upgrades weren’t good enough for the Va’nyrians.

Holographic lines flashed by the garment, pointing out various parts and their functions as Frey spoke.

“Standard survival stuff we chuck in everything. Take a spacewalk, catch a starside tan as long as it’s only for the weekend, nutrient paste materializers, yada yada,” she explained as she rushed through the explanations.

“Embedded zero-point energy harvesters will keep most functions always topped off, but if you somehow manage to drain the power it can be charged through a variety of ways. Very similar to the one I made for Kat, but a bit more “pirate” themed.”

“You should consider it as bringing your defense up to par to our standards, but it isn’t revolutionary in that regard. You must still act judiciously in the field,” chimed in Xilunexus.

“No invisibility I’m afraid,” Frey said as she openly and slowly looked Circe up and down. “But who would want to hide that?”

“Your next body will be decanted without an amygdala, Freyn’ja,” interrupted the android.

“Right then, so the next bit,” Frey said as she pointed to the second part of the parcel. A variety of bits and pieces of advanced circuitry floated in the air besides the armor. “Now, I know better than to get between a woman and her toys,” Frey said as Xilunexus rolled her eyes. Circe smirked.

“So I thought I’d instead offer to tune up yours,” she continued. “No more need to carry ammo, increased stopping power, etc. I’m your gal.” An empty pallet gracefully floated towards Circe and paused by her side. “Just slowly unload yourself on the—”

“Please disarm yourself quickly so she can get to work and save us from the innuendo. We have your network protocols and a certain piece of code you’re carrying to discuss,” pleaded Xilunexus.

“No more ammo? Sounds like a dream come true.”

Circe took off her equipment one by one; vibrodaggers, utility belt, gauntlets, handgun, blaster rifle, and submachine gun. Then, she began to strip out of the space suit, revealing a ribbed seamless sports bra and leggings underneath. All in all, she felt about a hundred pounds lighter. She promptly pulled on the new suit and posed for her new friends. On top of the cool, tactical aesthetic, it was perfectly form-fitting. She threw a few punches and kicks to see how it felt, and was shocked at how completely natural it felt. It felt like she wasn’t wearing anything at all! “How do I look?”

“...That was the cruelest thing you’ve ever done to me, Xil,” Frey said as she turned sightless eyes towards Xilunexus.

“Oh I’m sorry, did your optics reboot? I apologize, must have been a minor glitch in the Gridlock protocol takeover,” Xilunexus replied.

Freyn’ja made an alien gesture in Xilunexus’ direction before turning to address Circe once more.

“Well, through the android eyes I’m gazing through via spliced sensory feed, all devoid of warmth and separate from my flaming loins,” Frey sighed. “You look fine,” she said as she walked a short ways away, where machinery and tables began to materialize. The pallet carrying Circe’s equipment followed her dutifully. “I’ll have these babies purring by the time it’s go time,” Frey said with a final parting wave as she blindly made her way to where the equipment was.

Xilunexus raised an arm, palm outstretched and pointed to her side. A hologram depicting what appeared to be a metal sphere spinning slowly on a black background appeared. There was no other object than the sphere, making it hard to determine scale.

“This,” Xilunexus said “Is one of my auxiliary processing nodes.”

The sphere turned, briefly revealing a bright spot. Star-bright. The hologram zoomed out, replaced with a farther view of the stellar megastructure.

“A complex, advanced, gargantuan feat of engineering, by the standards of any race. I have a few thousand currently powering my computations, as the Nexus space blocks some of my more…esoteric designs from functioning. Regardless, the one you are looking at is currently offline.”

Xilunexus gestured, and the hologram was replaced by a scrolling view of lines of code. Code that would be very familiar to Circe.

“Understand that I am not at all upset. I snooped, and underestimated it. I did not expect such a sophisticated attack daemon hidden beneath such a mess of inelegant and inefficient aftermarket bloatware. Had I been aware, it would have been ineffective, but by surprise…”

Xilunexus’ eyes narrowed as the hologram of the processing node returned. It suddenly exploded in a flash of light.

“I don’t have enough time to unfuck it,” the AI said with what appeared to be genuine emotion. “How did you come across this code? It is utterly beyond your people, Human or Xatti.”

“It was completely by chance, actually,” Circe admitted. Fuck, she thought. Guess the chances of getting away with not having to talk about it whatsoever had always been nonexistent. “My job was to steal an ancient dark-era relic said to be hidden in an unexplored graveyard at the edge of an unknown dark zone. Long story short, what we were looking for found us. As soon as it sensed signs of life, it activated, on its own, and tried to kill us. I trapped it. Studied it. Managed to contain the code with another “borrowed” relic. It was a person. We don’t sell people. After she recovered, she managed to weaponize the captured code using the code itself. You should see her on the field, she’s an absolute menace. I couldn’t tell you how she did it, but she calls it Killswitch. That’s it. That’s the story. It’s all pretty textbook stuff, so I know about as much as anybody. You Va’nyrians remind me of her, you know. And you’re all older than anyone knows. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Or how the Lost Empyre destroyed itself trying to keep it from getting out.”

A pregnant pause stretched for a moment as Xilunexus stared at Circe.

“Once long ago, we were not the benevolent force the multiverse reckons us to be,” Xilunexus explained. “Conquest was our game. Right before our last war—A civil one—we had intercepted signals from a quadrant we had set our eyes upon. We never did make it out there, but this code reminds me of those signals.”

She tapped an index finger idly over another as she stood with hands partially folded.

“I would like to meet this person should you return. Now, this code,” she said seriously. “First off, keep it from Kai for now. He has mine, and I don’t want the different avenue to taint his approach. But make sure Alaxel sees it should something happen to me,” Xilunexus snapped out of her daze and collapsed the holograms with a snap of her fingers.

“Between the three of you, an effective countermeasure should be possible. Now, If you’ll—”

Xilunexus stopped mid sentence, mechanical brow furrowing in confusion. She tilted her head to the side and took two steps back.

The sound of twinkling chains echoed softly out of nowhere as a multi-colored tendril of energy rapidly manifested out of the ground where Xilunexus previously stood. The manifestation of Nilin’s energy grew like vines intertwining together, widening at the top after reaching chest height with Circe. The shape of a hand became evident as the energy structure opened, rippled once, and crystalized.

In the palm of the rainbow-hued crystal, was a small, blue gemstone. It’s setting appeared to be made of a light lavender crystalline metal. Close inspection of the gemstone revealed the same glyph upon Nilin’s forehead formed by suspended particles in a lazily swirling pattern embedded within the stone.

“Interesting,” Xilunexus said. “It seems the All Mother had one more edict left for her power.” Xilunexus gestured towards the gemstone.

“Grab that and keep it safe. Don’t ask me about it, I will not be able to answer,” she explained.

“Oh.” There was a strange expression on Circe’s face as her eyes left Xilunexus. All her attention was on the palm of that hand. She just stared dumbly at it, like she couldn’t decide what to do with it, until she was told to take it. Circe reached out and plucked the crystal from the palm, holding it up to inspect the symbol within, its rainbow light causing her blue eyes to shimmer. It was beautiful. Somehow, this gift felt even more precious than the horns. She wondered what it meant, and why she was given it. Maybe it was a test.

“I’ll keep it safe,” she agreed, closing her fingers around the gem.

Circe wondered if telling the Va’nyrians about Blue was the right thing to do, but she didn’t sense any ulterior motives coming from them, mainly curiosity. She had to hope they didn’t mean any harm, particularly because of their past. But Circe couldn’t protect Blue forever, and as the cyborg liked to say, she could take care of herself.

Xilunexus nodded, clearly expecting no less. “As I was saying,” she said as a connection request pinged Circe through SEA. “If you’ll connect, I need to provide you with the same basic networking upgrades I granted Kat and Horizon. Hopefully you all will be able to further refine them with Alaxel’s help, but they’ll at least mask you somewhat.”

She sent the same AI centric message she’d used thus far, alongside her updates. She then held her hand out, palm open. Diarneus’ spectral form materialized at her side, dropping an amulet upon it.

“Finally, this,” she said, passing the amulet along. “Magical protection, courtesy of Diarneus. He’s currently in a particularly tricky lesson, and sends his regards. I believe that about settles it, unless you have any questions? Looks like Frey is waving you over excitedly, hopefully to discuss actual work,” said the AI as she ignored Freyn’ja’s irreverent messages.

Circe had questions but far too many for Xilunexus to answer all at once, and the AI couldn’t answer any about the gem, so she held back with a smile and a shake of her head. She only hoped that all of this would help them on their suicide mission. If not, at least they would all have some fun before entering the veil. Circe bowed subtly, a sign of respect among her people, and went to Freyn’ja.
 

Dashmiel

Bearly In Charge
Administrator
Nexus GM
As written by @Machina Somnium & @Dashmiel

A small undercurrent of hope flowed through the room, as the various gadgets and weapons were experimentally prodded by their recipients. Flirting conversation on one side, scholarly discussion on the other as Diarneus and Kathryne emerged from their trance. While there certainly was trepidation and doubt in everyone’s mind—was it a suicide mission?—there was still the beginnings of hope.

Xilunexus needed to keep the facade going, and part of that was ensuring the correct (most likely to be useful) ones were the best equipped. She stood serenely before Ezra, and hadn’t yet called upon him. Her lips began to part, and in the few seconds before she called out, a more private discussion was held between the Va’nyrians.

They stood in a circle, surrounded by the Servo’s data layer as they conversed through the Va’nyr link. To them, the data realm around them was as physical a thing as a table. The vast force of the Nexus was slowly nearing in the metaphorical distance; time to go.

“It will not be ready in time, Xilunexus,” said Frey neutrally. The true Frey, no personality masks here.

“Is the spear ready?” asked the AI.

“Yes, but the armor will not be. It’s rated for everything back then and I can make a good showing of it but…”

“But he’ll die the moment any realistically serious threat presents itself,” interjected Diarneus.

“Yes,” confirmed Freyn’a.

“We are decided then? He makes the most suitable sacrifice?” asked Xilunexus.

“It’s a pity, given his potential and genuine outlook…but yes, if one must be had, best it be Ezra,” confirmed Frey and Diarneus as one voice.

Back in the physical realm, Xilunexus’ lips continued to move. Her tone was serene, kind, thoughtful. Her words rang sincere. They always rang sincere.

“Ever faithful Ezra, please come accept what we’d bestow upon you,” Xilunexus called out.

In the presence of so much wonder that it was completely overwhelming, Ezra had laid down his deer half. Because there was technology, magic, psionics?, and he felt more like a dumb beast than ever. Doubt was starting to creep into his normally unbreakable resolution. He decided to keep it at bay by meditating a bit while everyone else got their equipment. His ears still turned and twitched, picking up other people’s banter, flirting, and the, to him, incomprehensible explanations of the advantages they’d been given. So he lay down, his torso upright and his hands on what would be his lap. He banished the hesitation and feelings of inferiority from his thoughts, and when he was called, he stood with a light smile and walked toward Xilunexus.

“I’m excited to see what you have for me” He said, rubbing his front ankles nervously. He truly couldn’t wait, what did these practically all powerful beings have for him?, anatomically he was a bit different to the rest. Surely it wouldn’t be a problem for them. But bouncing around like a fawn may be inappropriate considering his age. So he just rubbed his ankles a bit and looked at the AI. His posture relaxed other than his legs, and his expression hopeful.

Freyn’ja approached from her makeshift workshop, trailed by two bundles in their now clearly customary gift-wrappings.

“Oooooh,” exclaimed Frey with mirth. “You look soooo soft, can I—”

Xilunexus snapped her fingers, and Frey’nja eyes fell out.

“Ok, ok,” Frey replied as she waved hither to the fallen eyeballs. The disturbing sight was performed with grotesque casualness. While certainly some form of technology—they had to be, surely—the fleshy orbs gave no indication of it. They floated back into their receptacles with a small squish.

“Point taken,” Frey said as the first bundle floated to take its place between her and Ezra. “You’d think you of all people would understand curiosity,” groused Frey.

The first bundle was a long and thin container, longer than human hands would find comfortable to wield. As the covering misted away, a magnificent looking spear was revealed.

It was a long dual bladed spear. The blades reflected the light… or did they emit it?, they were made of a material that reminded Ezra of sheer, polished amethyst. It couldn’t possibly be it, though. The thick haft that held it together was white and gold, decorated with intricate symbols that screamed of foreign design. It had a smaller, shorter blade of the same material as the others on the back end. It looked like a dream, like a weapon made by the fae lords of his time.

It helped take away the unease that had settled in Ezra when he had been about to tell Freyn’ja she could pet his side if she liked, only for her eyes to fall out of their sockets. Now he was distracted by the spear. The cervitaur looked from it to Xilunexus and Freyn’ja because he didn’t dare take it just yet. But he wanted to touch it, feel its weight. He wanted so very much, to see the translucent blades dripping their enemies’ blood. His eyes darkened a bit and he scratched at the floor with his front right hoof.

“May I?” He asked, lifting his hands towards it.

“Knock yourself out,” Frey’s chin jutted out in a gesture towards Ezra, and the spear gently floated in his direction. “This one was one of my favorites to make. It’s my understanding you’re not…familiar with technological matters, so I made sure to incorporate a very straightforward interface,” she said as she brought her hands together one over the other, as if grasping a thick, hafted object.

She then began to rotate and slide her hands around. Xilunexus’ eyes rolled.

“These glyphs are set on a series of spinning wheels,” she explained as a hologram appeared between her hands. It was of the spear, but omitted the cutting parts, making it a smooth adorned cylinder. It did little to dispel the graphic nature of the demonstration.

“You can’t read them because they’re in Va’nyrian, but Diarneus has a spell he’ll teach you later, which will let you understand languages. By changing the order of the glyphs, the different functions of the weapon are activated.”

Her language was simple and to the point. Cause and effect. She wasn’t contemptuous about it, only pragmatic. Explaining that an embedded gravimetric emitter that was attuned to his brain waves allowed control of the spear remotely wouldn’t serve anyone. Easier to say that lining up the right glyphs would allow Ezra to throw the spear up to two kilometers away and have it return to his hand in 3 seconds.

“I had a breakthrough with the blade material, based on some of Alaxel’s designs,” she said as she quit her obscene handling of the illusory haft, and instead pointed to the blade of the spear.

“The blades change shape based on what you want them to be like. Don’t know how, but they read your mind and react to it. This includes their edge,” she explained. “I wasn’t able to find something they couldn’t cut through, but when I did my test trying to cut through the Servo’s primary linkage cables…”

“And knew I would vaporize you three nanoseconds later…” added Xilunexus.

“Yeah, I didn’t want that to happen soooo…the spear just bounced off the things. Neat huh?” she said excitedly.

"Thank you for your kindness, for making it simple for me" Said Ezrael, grinning at Freyn'ja.

"I hope it wasn't an inconvenience.." He added, because he would hate to be a burden.

After watching how she demonstrated the way the weapon worked with some interesting gestures, he gave it a try. The cervitaur lifted his spear easily, feeling it's weight and dynamism. He stroked its haft from top to bottom, almost sensually, and adjusted his grip. His eyes took in the symbols, and he took his hand to the blades. The edge made a small cut on his finger and he hummed, as he had barely brushed it. It felt like they vibrated in a shared symphonic rhythm.

Then, swiftly, he pointed it at Freyn'ja and thrusted forward towards her chest. It proved to work efficiently, and the spear… didn't quite bounce off. It brusquely stopped, dryly. Ezrael grinned, and moved it back in a way that would have stabbed his own stomach should he had wanted it to, with the smaller blade. But it stopped the same way it had before.



“It has many other functions too,” Frey said. She was just about to go into detail about them, before she was pulled into another discussion. The lengthy debate only took a fraction of a moment, and she continued her statement smoothly. “Diarneus worked with me, and he prepared a spell he says will teach you about it. Hope you like,” Frey gestured at the second bundle, a large rectangular box.

Within, was a set of armor fashioned like the ones the others had gotten, but sized for the Cervitaur. Frey tapped a glyph inscribed under the white-gold metal, and the armor receded into itself like a cascade of pebbles breaking apart until all that was left was a circlet that could be worn around an arm.

Curiously, while fluid movement and smooth response could be observed in the shapeshifting aspects of the other’s gear, the Cervitaur’s armor seemed more…jagged in comparison. It was still wondrous shapeshifting armor, but something about it was somewhat less elegant than would be expected.

“Much like I’ve told the others, the armor comes equipped with standard survival features,” Frey explained, aided by a holographic projection as visual aid.

“It will protect you from things like radiation and exposure to space. It can also synthesize basic nutrient blocks and other survival gear. The armor over your flanks has mounts for heavy weaponry or equipment, which you may find on the other side,” she finished, waiting for a reaction.

The changes and the demonstration had been receiving their due attention. Ezra watched Freyn'ja work with the spear in hand, and put on the circlet around his left arm. It felt somehow lesser than what he had already seen. Maybe it was actually a problem for them to adapt equipment to his body, being so different. It was a possibility.

He looked at his teammates for a moment, taking in what he could see. Then back at his arm, activating the armor. He couldn't quite place it, but it wasn't the same. Still, he didn't even understand how it all worked. After activating it, he looked down at himself, turned around and checked what he could find on his flanks.

“That’s it for my gifts,” said Frey. Her tone was cheerful and friendly. “May they serve you well!”


“Thank you Frey,” Xilunexus said. “Can you prepare their tent?”

“Sure thing Xil,” Frey said amicably. “Bye Ezra,” she said as she walked past him towards an entryway in the back of room, brushing a hand through his fur as she passed.

“I believe it is now my turn,” Diarneus said as he strode to talk Freyn’ja’s place. “My name is Diarneus Bevernixian,” he said with a small bow, his tone impeccable. “Tell me Ezra, what does magic mean to you?” he asked.

"Goodbye! And thank you!" Said Ezrael to Freyn'ja, instinctively touching her hand for a moment when she decided to brush his side. Then Diarneus approached. Ezra bowed back before answering.

"Home, duty, life." He said with a shrug. Magic was normal, natural, always present.

"Yourself and Freyn'ja, you stay behind, right?" He asked before it could all continue. He had hoped to ask Frey before, but it was all flowing and he didn't want to interrupt.

“Correct, only your companions and a copy of Xilunexus through an android will go through,” Diarneus closed his eyes as he answered, and his third eye came to light. “Demonstrate your power for me,” he asked.

"May I ask for something a bit unconventional?" Said Ezra. He then held his new spear with one hand, and summoned his old one in the other. They were vastly different at first, but the new one adapted, shifting and changing. His hand sparked and he let his power flow through him. It enhanced his senses and his whole being. Still other than his weapons and a constant hum, an endless thrumming, there really wasn't that much magic in Ezrael Invierno.

“Ask away,” Diarneus said as power began to flow out of him, surrounding Ezrael in a cloud of free floating, aimless power.

He let it, his ears flicking and turning. His fur stood on edge and he shifted his weight a few times.

"Does the spear have a name? And if not, would you, or her, or both, give it one for me?" He asked, it probably sounded like a silly request.

"It's a custom of my people, to have those who stay home name the weapons that will fight for them. To help destiny guide their warriors back home. There's no need if it's too much to ask of you." He said, disguising his hope and light embarrassment with a nervous smile.

The magic around Ezrael tightened, forming ribbons that “wrapped” around him, and over the spear. They flashed powerfully, and Ezra felt as if a cloak of power was draped over him.

“Gherandre’meran, Amen’tur,” Diarneus’ voice boomed with power, and the spear flashed and grew first hot then cold in Ezrael’s soul. “Roughly translated, it means ‘Ever-growth, the Stalwart’,, although a great deal of elegance is lost in the translation, as you’ll soon be able to appreciate.”

Diarneus’ hands flashed in a complicated series of gestures, and three objects materialized into existence with a pop. They laid to rest floating around Diarneus.

“I have given you access to some of my power, and crafted a metaphysical pool for you to store it with room for your own growth. Your ability to tap into it will grow in time, but for now it may help extend some of your abilities. More importantly, it attunes you to our magic, and allows you to use these magic items I’ve prepared for you. But only if it worked, can you feel it?” he asked expectantly.

He hadn’t thought they’d actually agree. It felt too personal a thing to ask for. But Diarneus must be feeling merciful, and Ezra beamed. He felt the spear react to the power the other was using, and watched Diarneus’ work his literal magic.

Did he realize what this meant? He was acting like a fae, like a patron and a god. More in role than anything else, but a superior being nonetheless.

“I do, I feel it!” Said Ezra, nodding vigorously. His ears were pointed at his new sire, his eyes wide, bright.

“Excellent,” Diarneus said, as the ghost of Frey and Xilunexus broke into his perception, commenting on his choice through the Va’nyr link.

A soul catcher? You big softie, I knew you weren’t as okay with it as you made it seem, shared Frey alongside with her feelings which Diarneus quickly snuffed lest they ruin the decorum of the occasion.

Unorthodox, and you have to know it would only be a stopgap, Xilunexus pointed out.

Of course. But just because we’re using him doesn’t mean we have to be cruel about it, Diarneus debated. Besides, you know well we can only claim to know Alaxel’s whims. I’ll give him as much time as I can.

“Now, these items will further empower you,” he said as the first item—a medallion sized for Ezra—floated before them. “Now that you are attuned to our magic, you will feel their presence instinctually as they enter the effect of the ‘cloak’ I’ve granted. First, the translator. This medallion houses both a powerful computer, and a logic spirit bound to that computer. While worn, you will be able to understand the overall gist of any language you are able to perceive, and will have total mastery of old Va’nyrian specifically,” he explained as he pointed to the spear.

“Read the glyphs, and ponder its name with your new understanding,” Diarneus said.

“A logic spirit with a computer?, hmm” Ezra took the medallion and turned it over. Was it sentient, aware of where it was going?

“Hello?” He said softly to the medallion before the spear caught his attention. Now he could both understand and use Gherandre’meran, Amen’tur better. He dissipated his own spear so he could examine the other thoroughly, reading the texts he could now understand. Even its name made more sense now. His fingers traced the words on the haft with affection.

“The spirit isn’t something you need concern yourself with,” Diarneus added. “It’s a rather simple sprite, and the computations of the computer serve as both its focus and sustenance.”

The second item was a small buckler, crafted and not machined. It was made of the white-gold Va’nyrian metal, with the soft skin of some alien creature sewn into the back and the straps for comfort. Rather than multi-hued streaks beneath the surface, Va’nyrian glyphs appeared and disappeared as if springing forth from a fountain.

“Next the buckler,” Diarneus exclaimed. “It confers the same magical protections I’ve given some of the others, with some additions. It doesn’t just reject magic, but absorbs it. Once built up, you can release it as a powerful blast.”

Ezra nodded in understanding, proceeding to turn the buckler this and that way with interest.

Hurry, commanded Xilunexus through his Va’nyr link.

“Finally,” Diarneus said as a small ring joined Ezra’s haul. “The ring of one who has begun the path of the Terani’Vosci” Diarneus said, which Ezra heard as “All-Meaning”. “While mostly symbolic, my master’s circle was established even at the point of time you are to be visiting. Through me, his teachings continue and the ring marks you as a student to his legacy. Should you encounter any of his magical bastions, the ring will grant you entry.”

Diarneus paused and considered Ezrael as he steepled his hands together. Such a shame, but the die had been cast. He’d done the best he could to even his chances, but any practitioner of the Craft knew that a death was sometimes a necessary component.

“I’m afraid our time together nears its end, do you have any other questions for me?” Diarneus asked.

“If, but for the sake of hope I’ll say when, I return. May I learn more about you and your Master’s craft?” Asked Ezra as he inspected the ring and put it on the finger it fit best on his right hand.

“If such is part of your desire,” Diarneus said. “Then so it shall be. The offer I believe was anything, so I offer you tutelage as part of that deal.”

“Thank you for your time, Diarneus. Please see to the wards, we must depart soon,” Xilunexus interrupted.

“Right away, Xilunexus,” Diarneus bowed his head slightly towards Ezra, and departed after the same entryway Freyn’ja had gone through prior.

Ezra's heart filled with warmth when he was accepted, even if he might not come back.

"Thank you for everything!! It's been an honour to meet you and Freyn'ja, and may our paths cross again! " Said Ezra, quickly, waving goodbye with his hand at Diarneus.

Xilunexus turned her eyes to Ezrael, and gestured for him to remain.

“If everyone could please gather around,” Xilunexus called out, her voice emanating from everywhere in the room as if she stood by the listener. “It is time to depart, five minute warning”.
 

Script

Adorable Homewrecker
Benefactor
A ten minute crash course of experimentation wasn't quite what Jace had been hoping for when handed a piece of hyper-advanced alien technology and told that it would be what stood between him and becoming a red smear on the landscape of their destination in the first five seconds after arriving, but it appeared that it was going to have to do.

It hadn't taken him long to figure out that the shards of the suit, when shot away from him, served as focus points for all of his powers, not just his lightning. Firing one of them up at the ceiling high overhead, it had taken only the barest gesture to pull himself on magnetic forces all the way up to it. Even disregarding that, it was clear the suit amplified his power to an absurd degree. He was like a walking thunderstorm, putting it lightly. And - as he discovered on his way down - gravity was now little more than a minor inconvenience.

Manipulating electromagnetism around himself to carry his leaps a little further or to angle himself mid-air had always been one of his favorite tricks, but with the aid of the suit? He wasn't just angling jumps anymore. He was flying. Despite himself, he couldn't help but crack a broad grin and let out a loud "Woop!" as he pulled off a loop in midair.

"Nice aerial, Sparks," Kai remarked from atop his drone, smirking up at him.

Jace hovered down to land next to the younger boy, turning to cast his gaze toward where Ezra was receiving the last of the gifts offered by their employers. "Anything stand out while I wasn't looking?" he asked.

"Aside from some sparks to rival your thunderbolt from earlier between pirate girl and science girl?" Kai mused. "Not that much. Picked up some cool gossip though." He tapped the drone with an affectionate grin. "Big ears, my new buddy has. Sounds like our new pal Circe found some cool-ass tech that had even the mega-android flustered for a hot minute. Used a lot of cool words like 'dark era relic' and 'unknown dark zone'. Called it 'Killswitch'. It sounds sick."

He pulled a face. "Apparently, though, I'm not allowed to see it. Yet."

Jace raised an amused eyebrow at him. "Don't pout because you only got to look at one hyper-advanced piece of sentient code today. That's one more than most days."

"But two would have been two more than most days. That's a hundred percent increase in cool factor." Kai sighed. "Alas. I'll just have to poke my nose into it another time."

"Come on," Jace nodded over to where Xilunexus was waiting. "Let's not test her patience. It's sounded like it's been running out for a while now."

He turned and walked over to the android, Kai following just behind him atop his mechanised chariot.

"Ready as I'll ever be, I guess," Jace remarked as he took up position before her, glancing around at his comrades-in-arms-to-be. "Might have only just met the lot of you, but once we're out there, we're gonna have to learn to trust each other with our lives. So... I've got you guys' backs if you have mine."

Kai nodded and stuck out a thumbs-up with deliberately exaggerated enthusiasm. "Go team!"
 

N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
Written by N0X & Machina Somnium

Circe admittedly spent too much time with Frey, right before being given some of the greatest weapons in upgrade history. They were returned to her powered by quantum. She had thought that requiring no ammo had been an exaggeration, but she really should have known better. She spent some time talking to Blue on the phone during Ezrae's equipping.

Circe returned to the group just as Ezrael was finished being outfitted with a brand-spanking-new set of brilliant Van'ryan armor. Ezrael looked extremely self-conscious in it, and Circe had to wonder why. According to the Leaky Servo's leaky gossip, he was a war veteran with 200+ years of military experience. It was quite the feat and put her own two decades of dodging and fighting the Empire to a very sad shame. If anyone was going to get them working together as a team, it was going to be him.

"Looking good, Commander Ez," Circe whistled playfully. She chuckled, then tilted her head up at the cervitaur, "why the long face?"

Ezrael had been standing quite tightly, rubbing his wrists and his ankles a few times, twitchy. Then he saw Circe come closer to the rest of them, and he did too, staying within Xilunexus' range. Where he imagined she wanted them all to be. Captain Nightlocke's words were met with a snort, a flick of an ear, and a little stomp of a back leg. But Ezra was smiling.

"It really is just Ezra now, it's been too long and I have no army. But thank you! So are you, Circe, in and out of your armor. I know Freyn'ja would agree with me," He said, winking at her with his two right eyes, one human, one deer-like eye. Circe smiled knowingly and chuckled, "you're not wrong about that, chief."

"It's all very overwhelming, and you are all... very capable, and very powerful. I try not to let these thoughts flow, but I feel like I don't know how much help I will be," Ezra confessed, forever sincere.

"Psh," Circe shrugged, waving a dismissive hand as she feigned coolness, "I was just about to say the same thing about you, Ezra. I'm standing next to a literal Legend. How many deaths do you have under your belt, anyway? Hundreds? Thousands?" Circe gave him a pointed stare, one that was sure she was looking at a capable leader. "And how many do you think they have?" Circe gestured vaguely at the group that was seconds away from gathering. Jace and Kai specifically, who were still just two kids. She felt the sudden urge to protect them, and a strong one at that. Circe's brows narrowly furrowed with concern. They were so young, and had so much life ahead of them, still.

"I reckon it's none," she added rather seriously, "no one here really knows what we're about to be up against. No one here has been in the front lines of a bloody war. No one but you." Circe smiled back up at the Centaur. "Who's going to lead us? Jace? Kai?" Circe added sarcastically then chuckled at the thought of letting two hot-headed teenagers call the shots.

Jace had great potential for leadership, but his lack of experience was obvious. Jace would be the most likely out of all of them to have trouble following orders, but questioning authority was a good thing and could improve their decision-making process. Whether he could keep a cool head in a hot situation remained to be seen. His unpredictability would either make or break them.

Kai was the youngest of them all. He got the best toy from the Van'ryans and would prove to be their best support overall. He would do anything Kai told him to.

Then, there was Kathryne, a jack-of-all-trades type who could adapt easily to any situation. She went along with anything that served her best interest, and Circe was much the same, to an extent. Kathryne would agree to the best plan, no matter who provided it.

"It has to be you, Ezra," Circe finished, in all seriousness.

She saw his brows shoot up with surprise, and he brought a hand to his chest as if to say me?? But didn't actually speak. It was true he had the most experience, he had been in many successful missions here in Nexus. And before that, he had fought in the name of his lord and his family and survived countless battles. He didn't actually remember how many had lost their lives at his hands, to his spears and his bow. Still... There was so much here he didn't know.

"It will have to be a joint effort. And I think their destructive capabilities are... So vast. At least in raw power."

"Yes, they have much potential as our trump card," she nodded in agreement, "and they will surely be essential to overcoming whatever we should face out there."

"But there's also you, my friend," he said with a slight smirk, looking Circe in the eye. "Your reputation certainly precedes you, Captain. I've heard so much, and so often. It's a wonder how we didn't meet earlier. If you're where power, knowledge, and experience meet and we end up needing a single leader... Perhaps you should be it. And I'll be happy to assist." He suggested instead, grasping her shoulder with his hand in a show of respect and support, giving Circe pause. She was grateful for the vote in confidence, but would not allow him to convince her he wasn't capable enough himself for the position.

"I'm humbled," she said, "but do take a moment to think about it. For the record, I'd easily follow you anywhere."

"Your trust melts my heart," He said, letting go of her shoulder to scratch the back of his head, bashful. His ankles were itchy, but the more he thought about it... It didn't seem like a bad idea to offer his experience. He could see it in serving the group, it was what leadership was anyway. "If It ends up being a necessity, I will certainly consider it after this conversation."

"Good," said Circe, finally satisfied.

Circe crossed her arms and leaned on one leg when they were all eventually together. Jace addressed them all, and Circe smirked at the youth's charming optimism. It was refreshing, particularly in the face of certain doom.

"We aren't gonna get out of this alive if we don't, so... yeah, sure, kid, I got your back," Circe shrugged with a smile.

Ezra snorted, scratching the floor with his front right hoof before nodding in agreement with Circe's words. Their conversation done, as the rest were now near.

"Me too, whatever chances we have of making it through, they will multiply if we work together."
 
Last edited:

KenżaSheep

That's nice. Put it back.
Five minute warning, Xil said. After three months of absence, five minutes would seem like such a small fee, except for the irony that was Kathryne's sense of time. Truly, five minutes would stretch on for years if she thought too hard about it, even though in her memory the extended time she'd spent with Diarneus was little more than the traditional minute it had taken to occur.

Even still, she'd had Horizon update her on what had been going on while watching the very last of them—Ezrael—receive his goodies. Best to cross-check what she remembered to make sure she hadn't taken one too many sips of scotch before they set out on a grand adventure. Nothing good would come from inhibition, especially with stakes this high.

It was with some amount of longing, however, that she tucked away both the special bottle of scotch and the crystal glass she'd been drinking from—making two cups, now, that she'd stolen—before joining the rest of the group for their soon-to-be demise– Er, departure. (No reason to tell the lighting boys it was a suicide mission this soon.)

Kathryne glanced at the two kids, but surreptitiously, from the side. She saw them the same way as Circe had: young, foolhardy, and innocent. But unlike Circe, she did not give in to the feeling that said they needed protection. The two of them reminded her of things she'd been stifling for years; things she wouldn't bring up again just to soften herself for some kids.

Was the All-Mother heartless, then? Kathryne turned back to Xil, casting small glances over towards Frey and Diarneus as well. Letting kids head into a suicide mission like this one, fancy gifts or not, did that make them heartless?

She had to stop that train of her thoughts before saying something that would further offend Horizon. The AI had been silent, for the most part, although Kathryne knew what he was processing even if he hadn't said anything. Questioning the "queen" of this AI group was to sound ignorant of her all-knowing ways. Because of course it was.

Kathryne pinched the bridge of her nose and refrained from a sigh before settling with her arms crossed and shifting to wait for further instructions. Five minutes was already lasting a lifetime.
 

Dashmiel

Bearly In Charge
Administrator
Nexus GM
Xilunexus closed her android eyes amidst the gathered group, and began the decoupling process. Yottabits of data flew through the Servo’s data layer as all of Xilunexus’ available processing power was diverted to the task of forming a perfect sliver of itself. Like a fractal, Xilunexus’ data structure was infinitely recursive such that each fragment represented the whole. It wasn’t a 1:1 representation of course—that trick she needed her main core for—but the ingenious data compression allowed her to exponentially get more out of the Android body now that she’d be restricted to it exclusively.

Xilunexus faced Xilunexus and the two separate cognitions decided it’d be less confusing for all involved if only the android spoke.

“Please follow me,” Xilunexus said. “It’s time to depart.”

The android led the assembled group through the back entryway where the other Va’nyrians had dispersed to, and then onwards through a maze of corridors that slowly progressed from the customary Va’nyrian gilded alloy, which gave way to a more utilitarian motif of metal and glass, and finally culminated at the mouth of a bare gray stone corridor.

“Past this point, we’re no longer in Wayfarer’s Point,” she cautioned. “The area beyond is homologous with Nexus City space.”

She led them down the corridor, and before long they found themselves in a claustrophobic tunnel of endless gray. The lights and the ticking of the High technology faded far behind them, lost in murky grayness. The path forward was more of the same.

“The path is luckily 30% shorter than yesterday, we will be there in about six minutes,” Xilunexus said cheerfully. She kept a steady and forceful pace, marching onwards.

Then out of the murkiness, a flash of bone white, glowing softly. They arrived at the warded door separating the Rift from the Nexus. A soft vibration filled the air, only just beyond the threshold of hearing. A pattern like computer code in some ineffable base system played out beyond even Xilunexus’ comprehension as the Nexus wards filled the threshold with their unknowable magic.

It was a definite boundary. A threshold. A liminal space. All gathered knew it, sensed it, felt it. This was the point of no return, the last chance to choose death over whatever awaited beyond.

Xilunexus opened the door, and unceremoniously ushered the group into another world.

Just beyond the warded door was a small room, barely eight feet by eight feet. It was made of a nondescript beige skin-like material and it was rapidly shrinking. Dead center in the middle, a hole into another world barely glimpsed as the party fell through.

—​

In a tangled heap, they stumbled their way through time and space. Simultaneously, lifetimes passed and they also immediately fell into a desolate world adrift in a broken Universe.

The air was arid and frigid, and the scent of ozone lingered just beneath the spicy scents of desiccated vegetation and alien compounds their senses weren’t compatible with. It was a desert as night fell, and a billion alien stars glittered in a darkening wine red sky.

They’d arrived in Va’nyria at last.

Beneath their feet lay solid metal, sturdy and strong. It had to be, to support the weight of a landing shuttle while still being a metal disk balanced off a precipice. At their backs lay a sheer drop into worse than nothingness. They were high enough to be above a formation of the strange lighting clouds, and as such had no way to know how long they’d have to fall. As far as the eye could see beyond the cliffside floated a sea of churning angry clouds with kilometer long blasts of lightning roiling through.

That left only one direction to go, off the platform and onto a rocky plateau.

The geology was at once familiar and alien. Rock formations that would be common on their own in a thousand thousand worlds ran together in impossible patterns. The ruddy red of sedimentary iron rich sandstone flowed side by side with the blackest igneous obsidian and every metamorphic combination in-between composed of both naturally occurring and wholly impossible mineral compositions.

The result was terrain that seemed to be made of multi-colored rocky ribbons, flowing as if layers in a mosaic meant to represent every type of stone possible in the universe. A terraforming experiment gone wrong.

Between them and the beginning of the plateau lay multiple bundles of Va’nyrian make—their Va’nyrians—strewn about and shattered to pieces alongside the remains of a broken high-tech tent or pavilion. The latter had been set up by the destroyed remote drone whose remains lay all about them, having shattered as the rift back to the Nexus violently ejected them in their new environment.

Xilunexus stood nonplussed as her android eyes stared to the sky. Amidst the starry and rapidly darkening sky, hundreds of dark shapes moved. They were perceptible only as looming dark shapes that blocked the view of the stars, their silhouettes a darker blackness than the night sky. Xilunexus recognized them and dismissed them. Corrupted tsrea’nen weren’t expected and were an abhorrent thought she would ponder in just a moment.

As soon as she finished re-running her calculations as she measured the distance to Inalina, one of Va’nyria’s satellites, which currently occupied an altogether incorrect part of the night-sky. Which appeared to almost imperceptibly retreat…

No, not retreat. Of course not…Oh Alaxel, why, Xilunexus thought as she realized why the Nexus Thing had been unable to keep a connection open.

A gust of wind kicked up, and the sound of straining metal clanged in the night. Across from the metal landing platform, the plateau extended some 600 feet of open space before sheer cliffs rose unnaturally into the mouth of a box canyon. The wind howled as it ran through some strange fencing that appeared to be set just before the mouth of the canyon.

Xilunexus continued to stare at the sky, a look of incredulous wonder etched in her android face.
 

Script

Adorable Homewrecker
Benefactor
For all their relative youth, it was clear that neither of the group's youngest members were strangers to arriving in hostile territory. The moment that the disorientation of their abrupt arrival had passed, both Jace and Kai were quick to - in their respective ways - make moves to secure their landing zone.

Kai's drone had impacted the landing pad with a metallic clang that, though it echoed out from their position like a gong, was quickly swallowed by the roaring winds and thunder in the storm below. The rest of the party, bar Xilunexus, had scarcely recovered their bearings before the machine was scuttling forwards, every variety of sensor his new gift had available to it scanning their surroundings and delivering all manner of readings to him.

The flood of information would have been enough to overload anyone trying to sort through it normally, but Kai's knew how to work his mind like a computer. He filtered through data readouts on everything from the composition of the rock, to the toxicity of the air, to the structural integrity of their landing point all in the space of time it would take a normal mind to process just the visuals of where they'd landed, focusing in on anything that flagged as hazardous or especially abnormal.

As Kai’s scans continued to unfold, the automatic support daemons in the mech adjusted to his abilities, and began to offer to widen the scan radius, with particular emphasis towards a failure to calibrate the lock-on mechanism for the ODN target marker. Something was wrong with the local gravity field.

With the oddity flagged, Kai pulled the readings up to analyse them more closely, and translate them into something a little easier to digest.

The primary mechanism for the ODN rangefinder relied on gravimetric analysis, due to its nature of striking targets many light years away. It relied on a simple fact; The ODN nodes were here and Va’nyria was there. The error lay in the fact that the mech’s targeting systems were relaying to Kai that Va’nyria was not, in fact, there. Where it was supposed to be.

Instead, it was moving. Not orbiting the system’s star, but moving under its own propulsion, away from the Inalina node, buried within the moon.

A quick assessment of its trajectory brought into light what was perhaps a little more concerning than where it was going from, which was where it was going to.

“Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me.” Kai’s digitised voice echoed out from the drone.

Jace paused in his own, far more mundane assessment of their surroundings and looked over him with a frown. “What is it?”

“D’you want the good news or the bad news?”

“... just spit it out, Kai.” Jace sighed.

“The bad news? I’m pretty sure we and this entire planet are being actively yeeted toward the sun by something.” Kai answered. “The good news is that it looks like we’ve probably got several years before we actually get close enough that it starts cooking us ali… hold on.” His voice trailed off as the drone’s sensors started updating their readings. “Er. Update. I have bad news and bad news. Our timeline just dropped to months. And… it’s still dropping.”

“Sorry, what?” Jace stared at him.

“Which part you want me to repeat? The ‘yeeted into the sun’ part, or the part where we’re getting faster?” Kai retorted dryly. “Here, let me put it in terms that are a little clearer.”

On demand, the side of the drone morphed and shifted slightly, part of its casing transforming into a black screen. At the top of the screen, in block capitals, were the words “DOOMSDAY CLOCK”, and beneath it was displayed a rapidly fluctuating countdown clock. What started as 2191 hours abruptly dropped to just 1803, then bounced up again to 2728. Although the exact count seemed to be unstable, it was hovering roughly around the two-thousand hour mark, although that average was - over time - very gradually dropping at a faster rate than the actual count.

“TL;DR? We’re on a time limit,” Kai stated flatly. “World ends in a couple months, maybe less, so if we aren’t done by then, we are finished.”
 

N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
“If you change your mind. I’ll come for you. Just say the word.”

Circe wished Blue understood it wasn’t just about her moral mission, that she wasn’t doing this because she wanted to. That was only half true. Maybe she enjoyed thinking about fighting for the people she loved most. That needed to be protected with every fiber of her being. Circe had seen the best possible future and felt that was something worth dying for. Blue could only see the worst possible one. At some point, there was no use in talking about it. They would only keep going around in circles.

Before they departed, Circe took a selfie, blowing a kiss to her love, then wrote something to look forward to. Circe entered the darkness and went through the veil. If she hadn’t mentally prepared for it, there would have been a strong pull from the void, but she managed to escape becoming disoriented yet again. Not being able to keep up was out of the question.

Vibration tickled her bones. Circe shrugged it off. The horns were an incredible help in keeping the wards up. The way they absorbed energy so quickly was thrilling, and she thought of how effective her abilities could become fully charged.

The moment they set foot on solid ground, Circe felt it. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end. Her heart accelerated in her chest.

A battlefield, as far as the eye could see. Broken gear spread out and across the field. A bleak contrast between the rainbow-colored splendor of the geometric vistas and plateaus. It took her breath away.

Kai gathered intelligence, scanning the environment for any possible threats, and sharing it with their comrades. Circe allowed SEA to do the same. Her eye glowed red as it immediately detected the danger Kai spoke of, and Circe saw it reflected on her screen from her peripherals. Yet the only thing Circe could seem to pay attention to was the concerning look on Xilunexus’ face.

For one disconcerting moment, Circe wondered if she had miscalculated. She wondered if it was really possible to do the impossible. She could be wrong… her hand drifted of its own accord to the pocket where the crystal was stored. The All-mother had entrusted her with something important. Surely she wouldn’t just give that to her if she was just going there to die. Unless…



Kai transmitted the Doomsday clock, and Circe blinked at it sharply, as if she could somehow will the circumstances to change. Of course, they wouldn’t. Her heartfelt like it dropped with time. Panic would soon set in if she didn’t stop it in its tracks. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath to regain control. When her eyes opened again, they were focused.

Circe muted herself so the others would not be so confused or distracted by the seemingly unintelligible muttering in Xatti. As she sang the chorus of the mantra, light gathered around her horns, creating five round balls of energy. Seconds later, Circe finished the incantation, and they circled around to each member of the party.

They were illuminated by the glowing aura as it entered their bodies, but the light quickly faded away. Each member of the party would receive a message with basic information about the blessing, as well as the Shield. Circe then unmuted herself.

“A mantra of protection from bodily possession is as good a place to start as any, and the shield will prevent any spirit from going through without being exorcised from this plane of existence in a matter of seconds,” she summarised, “but I will admit this magic worked on my planet for our spirits. We don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with here, or if the ward will work against them, so let’s not rely on that too much. I’ve thrown down a healing rift, so long as you’re all near me, it’ll mend minor wounds. SEA will handle catastrophic suit failures that the rift cannot prevent. Let’s keep ourselves intact as long as possible, shall we?”

You still have time to jump,
SEA added darkly.

Circe turned to Xilunexus. “So, what’s the plan? You do have a plan.” How could she not, after all that preparation? That’s what she was here for, isn’t it? To ensure that they were successful? How were they going to survive without the All-knowing robot?

“If not, we had best to organize one now before we move out. Kai, do your sensors indicate energetic anomalies in the atmosphere?” Wherever there was unusual activity outside from the total collapse of the environment over being completely knocked out of orbit… they might find Alaxel there.


Circe’s mind was working through defensive and offensive formations, but she had to admit she was out of practice. Most of the fighting experience she had happened in space, not on the ground. Generally, her team had strict roles when on the job. They each knew their part, unlike this team. The discomfort of the disorganization caused her anxiety to grow, and she’d have to scratch that itch if nobody else stepped up to the plate.
 
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Machina Somnium

Tired Edgerunner
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Life on the Edge GM
It was the fourth time he ended up a scrambled mess of limbs on the ground after using a portal. The uneasiness of their departure didn't help. Neither did coming to his full senses and feeling void and strangeness where his usual connection with nature would be. Even if light and strangled, it was usually present. Not here. That didn't mean he couldn't appreciate the view as he grumbled, standing up swiftly and looking around. This place was unlike anything he had ever seen before. Despite his numerous travels during his stay in Nexus and the ones before. There was a lingering beauty under a thick layer of sadness, remnants of brutality scattered to the four winds. He kept his new weapon in hand, just in case. His fingers twitched and sparked. His connection to his original weapon was still there, good. His fur was ruffled, but overall flat, and his tail was down. All four of his ears twitched and turned this way or another. An effort from his senses to adapt and keep him safe. He doubted anything could do that in this environment. There was no real safety, not even in promises of glory and brilliant technology crafted by fae-like beings. Then came the worse news.

Xilunexus must have noticed something in the skies. And little Kai made a very concerning discovery. Hope didn't vanish, but it dimmed in Ezrael's heart. That and the possibility that they'd run out of time before they could fulfill their purpose here. So not only did they have to survive during that time, but they had a literal deadline. For a moment, fear soaked in. It poured and paralyzed him until he felt the warmth of Circe's blessing. Like the light it was, it washed the dread away. May it never die out, thought Ezrael before speaking next.

"Regardless of if we have a plan beyond following Alaxel's path here... I suggest we get moving. Any of you that can look for clues on the way he went, please start doing so." He said, looking at the others one by one. He breathed in, deeply, and felt Gherandre’meran, Amen’tur's symbols under his fingers. Against his skin, they were true.

"Thank you, Circe" He said to her with a soft smile. He wasn't very clear on what she had done, but it had helped him a lot.
 
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KenżaSheep

That's nice. Put it back.
Unlike Ezrael, hope was the least of Kathryne's worries in this new place. Even if she didn't stray too far from the untangling pile of semi-humanoids—like Kai and Jace had—she did take her own good, long look around for anything in the vicinity that was inherently hostile. Xil and co. hadn't exactly been light on the fact that everything around then could and would be trying to kill them—apparently including the planet, according to Kai's "Doomsday Clock."

She was half a second away from pegging Circe as hostile, too, but the Xatti fortunately had the decency to explain herself before Kat had enough time to pull the heat to her fingertips. Only the subtlest of nods was indication of her gratitude towards Circe's casting of the spell—and not to being startled by it—before Kathryne turned her attention back to the landscape.

"If we're going to start moving, I assume we're not jumping off a cliff. So, that way?" She pointed towards the plateau, complete with its cacophony of geological mishaps and curiosities, and Horizon (who remained within her mind) concurred that jumping off a cliff was not a smart idea. In fact, being here was not a smart idea, he said to her. Kat responded by telling him silently to shut up.
 
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Dashmiel

Bearly In Charge
Administrator
Nexus GM
as written by @Script & @Dashmiel

The wind maintained a steady and mournful pace over the group. Xilunexus largely ignored the discussion around her. She had to prioritize resources now that she wasn’t endless, and the time of babysitting had passed. She would either be the insurance that ensured the mission succeeded or she’d become inoperable and thus needed to maximize the amount of aid she could render to increase their chances.

If that meant letting them work themselves up about walking into the very dangerous and self themed suicide mission they’d signed up for, so be it. She continued to gently poke at the fabric of spacetime, tapping through ancient EM based relays while she picked up Alaxel’s trail thus far.

In the meantime, Kai was continuing to sift through his data in response to Circe’s query. “Oh boy, are there,” he responded with a synthesized whistle. “Anomalies and then some. See those shapes? They’re some big-ass space mantas. Starhawks, according to the data I’ve got here. They’re like, living spaceships for the Va’nyr, and they’re…”

There was a pause.

“... trying to stop us from hurtling into the sun, I think? They’re using their own gravity fields to counteract the larger anomaly, and that’s coming from the surface.”

“Analysis complete,” Xilunexus said as her gaze snapped back down to eye level. “That is a correct assessment, Kai.” XIlunexus' voice echoed across the canyon walls, flung widely by the rising wind.

“The reason you can’t get an accurate reading on our 'Doomsday Clock' is because the pod of Starhawks—which appear to be corrupted and are acting suicidally—are currently trying to wrestle the planet back into its proper orbit. Which apparently is not where Alaxel wants us. He’s the surface anomaly. It should be easy enough to track him as long as he still has energy to spare which might not be long,” she explained before turning to face the plateau across from the landing pad.

“This area we’re in…it’s wrong. I advise quickly traversing it, orbital bombardment is not entirely impossible if we’re noticed.”
 
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Machina Somnium

Tired Edgerunner
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Life on the Edge GM
"Of course they'd straight up see us from orbit and attempt to kill us... Let's get going then? Yes?" Said Ezrael, since the place where they were was wrong according to their guide. It wasn't very reassuring, but it wasn't wise to work himself into a panic about it yet. So he didn't, it definitely wasn't the best of ideas, really. To just set off. But they had people with long range sensors guessing at what the entire planet was doing. So it worked, it had to work.

He did take a few steps in the general direction of -Not the cliff- before stopping to look back at the rest. The wind was picking up, and even that was unfamiliar here. There weren't any wind spirits that he could recognise, giggling and messing with his long white mane. It was particularly the giggling, that was missing. But now that it was growing stronger, he was definitely noticing something. His ears were twitchy, all four of them.

Turning around to look this way or the other, even up, didn't help. He couldn't see a source for the noise. Maybe there were actually wind spirits here? Just alien and broken?.

"Uhm... The... The Starhawks did you call them? Do they speak?" He asked, with a little stomp and then scratching at the ground with one of his hooves. He couldn't understand single words, what they were saying. Like there was too much noise... He gripped the haft of Gherandre’meran, Amen’tur tightly with both hands, his fingers feeling the symbols. It really did help, the textures.

"I think... There's voices in the wind?, Can you hear it?" He said next, his ears must look funny. They kept shifting, twitching and angling different ways. Maybe the wind would get even stronger, and the voices louder.
 

N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
Circe had SIA scan for potential threats and dangers up ahead. “No threats detected–,” SIA stated sternly, “--for now.”

“Right, then, let’s not be out there chasing wild geese,” Circe declared. They had to be fast, so they needed a strong formation that provided control, flexibility, firepower, and security. A formation that allowed the most flexibility for the majority of situations, facilitating maneuvers and providing good cover laterally, as well as in-depth.

“Here's what's called a basic arrow formation. We’ll make two teams of three, and two. The lead fireteam will walk thirty meters ahead.”

SEA transferred the data to the group along with a graph depicting what she was beginning to explain. Some of them could read data, but what about the others that couldn’t? It showed each of their roles and where they would stand in their formation, with both Jace and Kai chosen to provide aerial support, should it ever come to that. Though it wasn’t a terribly difficult concept to grasp, it was better to be safe than sorry.

“If they make contact with an enemy, we can limit it to them; the rear fireteam can surprise the enemy from behind, or keep moving forward if the threat is handled quickly. In that case, the lead then becomes the rear, thus keeping the formation unbroken. Notice anything? Use your comms. Questions? Good. Let’s move out, team.”
 
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Dashmiel

Bearly In Charge
Administrator
Nexus GM
The wind picked up the pace, and swirling dust devils began to form as Circe laid out her plan of action. Xilunexus accepted the incoming stream and casually confirmed her acceptance with the other AI. Plan was simple but solid, and it got them moving in an orderly fashion. She pondered and considered what was bothering her while the others processed the plan.

It was infuriating to have the imagination of what endless felt like, and the bounds of the platform she operated on chafed at her. Normally as soon as a query formed, an infinity of sensors provided the instantaneous answer. But here, she had to deduce. Never-mind that she could do so orders of magnitude faster than everyone else here, but to have to think? To reason and not simply know?

It was the Cervitaur. He complained of hearing voices but she had already counted every mole of air within her sensor range, and accounted for every molecular movement. There was no sound reverberating that could be mistaken for voices by a reasonable person. She’d already queried the other AIs and had them verify the integrity of her data. Conclusion: Ezrael must be having a case of the nerves and was as unreliable as any organic when it came to feelings.

And yet.

Both sets of ears moved. Ezrael was experiencing a physiological reaction to what he described hearing. This was corroborated by the mutualistic symbiotic entity it co-hosted. XIlunexus had already scanned Ezrael down to his component atoms, just as she had everyone else. She knew this symbiont was incapable of cognition. It was scarcely more than a semi-autonomous sensory extension unit…and yet it responded to the stimuli just as Ezrael had.

Stimuli that they could hear, but she could not. Nor could the other AIs. So, only organics…

Thankfully, all of this reasoning only took up roughly a quarter of a second which meant no one had moved yet which probably saved them all.

“DANGER,” Xilunexus shrieked, her voice a sudden explosion. “Dimensional Incursion detected. Allow me to—” Xilunexus' words were drowned out by a sudden, higher pitch shrilling.

The wind had become a gale by now, and the sound of screeching metal under stress whined into the air before suddenly being replaced by a tremendous knocking as if a gigantic pair of hands was furiously beating upon an enormous door.

THUMP

It came from across the plateau, in the area beyond the fencing at the mouth of the canyon. A hissing static filled the air around the group, and the world skipped a beat.

THUMP

Xilunexus could still count her internal clock cycles. She confirmed synced times with the other AIs without a problem as well. Measuring the brainwaves of the organic members of their party however, was a problem. They were off-sync, perceiving events out of order and subtly skipping through time.

THUMP

XIlunexus turned towards the sound, all of her scanners bristling at full power. It was subtle, but she could make it out in its absence. She heard each thump as something struck the glyntalloy siding of the fence across the canyon, but she only heard the sound emitted and reverberating from the stricken metal itself. Despite her powerful sensors, it registered as if the metal was simply spontaneously resonating.

What she could sense, was the absurdly lethal levels of radiation that were dammed up behind the panel. She immediately assumed control over the group's gear, not bothering to waste time with pretending she couldn’t do so all along, and forced all of their various suits, clothes, and shells to go into their maximum shielding settings.

THUMCLUNG

A final knock segued into the screech of tortured metal as the fence gave way to the pounding and it tore away with great force. Out of the wind came a large chunk of debris which exploded into the ground scant feet away from where the group still stood, still poised to prepare to form up.

It was a chunk of the glorious and indestructible white-gold metal, edges melted from the friction of the strikes against it. Time lurched back into normalcy for the meatbags just as the wall of radiation struck a couple of nanoseconds after their suits finished sealing up.

Radiation wasn’t visible, but something else came with it and was. A sort of milky, thick fog filled the air around the group. It’s exact hue was hard to nail down, as it seemed to be black one moment, then dark green, then wine. A now clearly audible yet still undecipherable whispering filled the air, rising in pitch as brilliant ‘sparks’ and arcs of ‘lighting’ flared in the periphery around them. To Jace and their EM sensors, it did not read as electricity.

“Do not move, let me—” Xilunexus’ whispered warning died out as the world flashed as if a camera had gone off. In front of her and amidst the group stood a figure.

It’s edges were slightly fuzzed over as if it wasn’t quite there, but it’s humanoid shape was clearly Va’nyrian and it wore a suit much like Jace’s. The Va’nyrian man had sightless holes for eyes, the capstone in a dead and decayed face.

The ‘ghost’ reached a hand towards Xilunexus’ face, and caressed her cheek gently.

FLASH
 

Script

Adorable Homewrecker
Benefactor
Jace felt as if his mind was folding in on itself. The world leaped, reversed, and stood still all at once. One moment he was set to advance cautiously to take his place in Circe's formation, the next he was staring down a hurtling hunk of metal flying towards him from across the canyon. The next, the hunk of metal was gone, and Xilunexus was calling out a warning of some kind, then a moment later a tremendous, echoing thud was flooding his ears along with some kind of discordant screech.

He had no time to react. He had no time at all, it seemed like, as events played out in a nonsensical order that defied his attempts at interpretation.

Not far to his side, if anything, Kai's experience of the phenomenon was more confusing. Bridging the gap between human and computerised thought, it was like the events played out in double time. He experienced them as they occurred through the data fed to him by his drone, but at the same time his own sensory input translated it all into a jumbled, nonsensical order. The images of future events superimposed themselves over the present, then the past echoed the same.

Unlike Jace, though, he understood what was happening - even if it took a moment. That information did him little good, however, for understanding that the timestream itself was being warped around him and being able to do anything about it were two entirely different things.

Then everything lurched, and suddenly time was normal again.

Jace's instincts acted before his conscious thought, and with the appearance of a foreign figure in their midst, he had darted back and raised a hand defensively, charged with lightning, before he'd so much as processed who or what it was. When he did, and when the beginnings of Xilunexus' warning caught up with him, he froze.

Why was this thing wearing the same armor as him? Wasn't this some sort of secret prototype Alaxel had developed? What did that mean?

But as his mind lingered on that question, the Va'nyrian's warnings played over in his head. Was this one of the 'ghosts'? If so, the goal was not to acknowledge it, right?

"Don't look at it!" he barked into their commlink, turning away sharply.

Attacking it would be the most acknowledgement he could possibly give, and so - going against every instinct screaming in him to defend himself - he did nothing. He tried to force his mind away from the figure, onto anything else. But god damn if it wasn't difficult to actively not think about something just a few feet away from you.

Kai had drawn the same conclusion. If this wasn't a 'ghost', then what was? The guy's face was falling off and he was blurry around the edges. That was practically like wearing a nametag that said 'ghost'.

And so, handing the reigns of the drone over to an automated piloting system and setting up a few predictive algorithms to prepare it for combat just in case, he poured his consciousness instead into math. Quite literally, he consciously devoted every facet of his brainpower into performing increasingly complicated calculations, leaving himself functionally incapable of acknowledging the ghost's presence. Just before the last of his mind effectively shut itself in an isolated loop, he prepared himself a set of external stimuli that would jolt him out of the process when needed.

The last thing he needed was to get stuck doing integrals for all eternity because of shoddy fail-safes.
 

Machina Somnium

Tired Edgerunner
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Life on the Edge GM
Really, all Ezrael had were questions. That was simple, normal even for a fantastic monster currently traversing along an alien landscape. Circe's formation had made sense, it was logically sound. His queries weren't related to that, no.

But, what were - act of - Xilunexus just say? - Did his - noise? - just - the voices? - metal - Could no one else - What did - hear them? - Wasn't - in reverse? - the fuck? - to die? - What was that - armor - the Hell?- What, - Where'd it - Why was she - What - come from? - indestructible? - Were they - the - accord? - white - alloy - speaking - about - its own - What - what?

Beyond dumbfounded, completely unaware of what the actual hell had just transpired, Ezrael found himself adopting a defensive stance. In these situations?, you followed instincts or followed orders. Possibly both, so he did both. His legs were trembling a bit from the trip he'd just taken. Later, during meditation, he'd try to understand it. Now he didn't move, and he didn't look at what he hadn't quite seen. Someone who looked like Jace, out of the corner of his eye. So he held his lance up, between him and... danger?, the mist?, What color was the mist?, could he please get at least one answer at least?

The voices were back, and loud. This time there was no way it was just him. He looked down, stared at the tips of his front hooves. But he had four eyes, and two of them just stared forward without remorse or second thoughts. No thoughts, actually, not even a first one. He did try to listen, to feel, to be aware. What was happening?, Ghosts?, Flash!.
 
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N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
The sky up above was somehow expanding into creeping black, as the moonlight had all but vanished. Without the stars, it would have been darker than the void. Every couple of seconds, the temperature would rise by one degree on the radar. It was unnerving how calmly and quietly this world seemed to be ending. It was all under Alaxel’s control, she supposed. Circe did her best to not seem too bothered by the knowledge that they were literally still being hurled into a star.

DANGER. It happened all too quickly, faster than she could take a step. Jace’s voice barked in her ear; don’t look at it.

Circe’s insides turned cold. She waited, barely breathing because she knew how this part was supposed to work. Everything was going to be fine. They were going to be fine. She was going to be fine. She slowed to turn, feeling a presence. There was a dreadful whisper. The white whisp floated. The figure waited. The air was thick as it closed in, and she let her mind drift into the stretch of time which had no end.

This is familiar, she thought.

Circe’s face became a pale lilac. She was sitting in her bed, with a book on her lap. Her breath caught as she reached across the bed. A soft noise came from a lump under the covers, and the sheets were tossed aside. The book closed in her hand, and she pulled her close.

“But you just got to the good part,” Blue pouted.

Circe feared to blink. She could feel the hot breath on her cheek. Her deep, amber eyes were watching her curiously. Blue pushed her hair away from her face and behind her ear.

“I can’t read minds as you can, but I can clearly see those gears turning,” Blue smirked. It was her way of asking what was on her mind. Her chest ached. Great Mind, why did this feel so painfully real? She knew it couldn't last.

Circe laughed. It’s the only possible reaction. Somehow, she had retreated into one of her best moments with Blue. It was strange how little she cared about anything before Blue came into her life, dancing and laughing in the face of death, but then it changed. She only regretted that she couldn't remain.... They needed her out there. But before she left…Circe pressed her lips against Blue’s, a silent promise to kiss her a million times before she died, so when she was gone, she could smile knowing there wasn’t a place on her she missed.

The eerie feeling that sorely lingered was identical to when the All-mother had reached out. Circe could hear the rattling of her chains in the back of her mind. It truly felt like it was eons ago that she had found that wayward memory. Her mind had been stretched so thin from the encounter. In fact, she didn’t think she had actually fully been able to recover from it. This, and only this was the reason she was able to seize it.

Circe blinked, and time resumed. Back in her real body, she let out a slow and steady breath, then looked around to the others. Everyone else stood completely still as if frozen in time. In their minds, they were. She could already feel her mind pulling back, and she knew she only had a second left before being thrown back into the loop. It was now or never.

“126.22-144.72-147.85-183.58-432.”

SIA's eye focused on the ghost and glared red, and played a sound frequency incomprehensible to mortal ears.
 
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