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Private Random Access Memories; Read Only Soul

Machina Somnium

Tired Edgerunner
Mentor
Forum Moderator: Creative Forums
Benefactor
Life on the Edge GM
Truly, Ezrael had lost count of the amount of times he had found himself laying on the ground that day. Had it even been a day?, Perhaps cycle was a better word for it. This time though, he didn't have the will to lift himself up. Or the urge. If anything else was coming, it would have showed up by now. And if it was going to, then it could Sit and Wait it's goddamn turn. Because this cervitaur needed to lay down.

He did, he was already doing it after their... Hurried, to put it lightly, entrance to the mine. He found himself laying on his side. So next he focused on untangling his legs, and rolled onto his back. In the last few hours his mind had been through entirely too much. So he rested on his back, legs sort of in the air. He took a deep breath, opened his mouth and let out a relieved bleat. His antlers made laying down awkward, but he did it anyway.

So five, em... four people could imitate the aura? Bioscan? Of a god. Not literally a god, but technically and in practice he could act like one. So he was one. A mortal being with immense power, and a beautiful name, Alaxel. Back in Ezrael's time he would have gathered quite a following and conquered lands. For sure. He looked forward to meeting him. Starbreath, a glorious name. Fit for a warrior. Even if their current location? Didn't sound fond of him. Whatever that voice had been.

His anxiety did make sure to remind him, too. That while the rest of the abilities that had been added up to emulate Alaxel's presence were unique from his companions... His lance wasn't. Ezra himself was just a bearer, an avatar? For it. It was something he'd have to accept, it seemed. The rest were more powerful than anything. The youngest in particular. But Ezra wasn't, and it was something to keep in mind.

Even if they suddenly had the need to move rapidly, Ezra was confident Jace could drag him along again... Ugh. His ear twitched. There were words to be had with his companions. The closest to him was Circe. He reached to tap her where he could reach from the floor, with his hand.

"Hey? How are you keeping up?" He asked, his voice a bit raspy.
 
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Adorable Homewrecker
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Only once the elevator was sealed and had settled into a steady pace did Jace let out the breath it felt like he'd been holding since that... thing started charging its weapon, leaning back against the elevator wall and sliding down to sit with a heavy sigh of relief. In years of fighting-- of even just hearing what all the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of their city could do, he couldn't have imagined seeing something like that outside of a movie or video game. It could have annihilated the entire city that was the length and breadth of his experience before being dumped into Nexus. Just thinking about it made him feel small.

"So, you glad I stowed away with you yet?"

He glanced up in time to see the last remnants of cyan light fading around Kai's edges as the younger boy emerged from the shell of the drone the Va'nyr had gifted him, stretching his arms out behind his head luxuriously - like he'd just climbed out of a long car trip rather than manifested out of digital space.

Jace smirked and huffed a quiet laugh. "Alright, sure. We'd all be dead already if not for you. That what you want to hear?"

"Yikes, morbid. Why would I wanna hear that?" Kai replied with a snort, pacing over to slide down the wall next to him and prop his head back against the metal. He ran one hand through his messy mop of white hair. "I'd much prefer more positive forms of praise. Endless gratitude, validation, 'wow, Kai, you were so right'. That sort of thing."

Shaking his head, Jace couldn't help but laugh again under his breath. "You're unbelievable. And sure, you were right that I needed your help. But you didn't know that before you tagged along."

"And you didn't know shit either, Sparks. So it looks like we're both in the wrong, yet also somehow right. Story of my life." Kai sighed and stretched his legs out. "You know what sucks?"

Jace gave him a sidelong look. "A lot of things, right now. I'm assuming you have something specific in mind?"

Kai nodded emphatically. "The size of this pond, that's what sucks."

"Come again?" Jace raised an eyebrow. "Pond?"

"Yeah. Pond. Meropis was a small pond, turns out. And I was a shark in it. But now it looks like we found the ocean, and sharks aren't such hot shit anymore. There's whales, and like, megalodons didn't go extinct, and there's a kraken hiding behind every coral bed." Kai tucked his knees up to his chest and leaned on them. "Even just the size of this place. Turns out, planets are fucking big! Who knew? I mean, obviously we knew, but it's a whole lot different learning the theory about it to doing the scans and plotting out how long it'd take to get from A to B. Meropis wasn't even as big as one of their regular-ass cities."

Jace gave him a wan smile and nodded. It seemed like he wasn't the only one feeling out of his depth. "I know how you feel," he murmured. "This whole place- not just here, but everything since we fell through those portals. It's like we spent the last decade learning the rules to the world's least fair game, only for someone to come along and tell us that was just the tutorial level."

Kai grinned across at him. "Sparks, was that a video game metaphor for my benefit? I'm touched."

"You're not the only one that plays games, V," Jace remarked with a quirk of his eyebrow. "I just don't make it such a big part of my personality."

"Hey! What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means you're a nerd," Jace stated flatly, reaching across to ruffle Kai's hair and snort a laugh.

Kai batted his hand away with a disgruntled huff. "Hey, I've saved your life way too many times for you to patronise me, Pikachu boy."

"Sorry, you're actually a few short for that tier of benefits." Jace replied, folding his arms behind his head. "That's our platinum subscription, you're still working your way through silver. I almost die a lot, V. You've got some catching up to do if you wanna get on the leaderboard."

"You know... fair," Kai smirked. "Me and Cal did have a bet over whether you were actually just trying to chat up the infirmary guy with how often you got yourself sent there."

"Ab?" Jace snorted. "Nah. Not my type. Besides, I'm pretty sure he and Misha had some kind of thing going on. Not that either of them were going to admit it within the next decade."

"Ooh, that's some good tea," Kai grinned. "Filing that one away for future blackmail once we get back."

Once we get back.

Jace chewed over the words in his mind. It had been a while since he used them seriously. It wasn't that he'd given up on the idea - far from it. It was why he was here, after all. But at some point it had gone from a determined certainty to... a hope. Something he didn't want to bet too heavily on, in case...

... well, now he supposed the alternative was they died out here. Before that, though, it had just been in case they couldn't. It had felt irresponsible to bet everything on that hope. To not plan for a future where they couldn't return. He'd had to turn his efforts to the immediate-term: building something for them in that new world, so that the people relying on him could get by.

"You think we'll do it?" He found himself asking the question without even thinking about it, staring up at the wall as the rockface slowly slid past. "Get back?"

Kai looked across at him with a frown, bright blue eyes almost accusatory. "Of course we fucking will," he muttered. "That's the whole point of being here. Don't get all pessimistic on me now, Sparks. You're supposed to be the smiley one."

"I'd say that was more Keiji's thing," Jace remarked idly.

Kai shrugged and rolled his eyes. "You had better jokes. He was just happy because he didn't know any better."

"Harsh." Jace snorted.

"Look, thinking wasn't his strong suit, okay?" Kai shook his head. "Whatever. My point is: don't you start getting fucking existential on me now. And I know I started it, but I don't care. Big pond, ocean, whatever, doesn't matter. When I set my mind to something, I make it happen. Corp couldn't stop me, CHIREN couldn't stop me, and this fucking apocalyptic wasteland and its planet-busting robots aren't gonna stop me either. I'm not about to let myself get stuck out here and not even get to enjoy the city that I busted my ass to liberate. Fuck that. So yeah, we're gonna do it. Don't ask stupid questions."

Kai was right. Or if he wasn't, at the very least he had the right attitude to be wrong with. There wasn't any point wondering over their success at this point. They would either succeed, or they wouldn't be alive to regret failing. "Yeah, yeah, alright," Jace let out a long breath. "You really grew up over the last year, you know?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Kai side-eyed him suspiciously.

"I'm saying if you put me in an elevator with the you from when we first met and told me we were gonna be there for however many hours we're stuck here, I'd have shot myself." Jace replied flatly, huffing a laugh. "And you'd definitely have already hopped into one of those machines and been turned into a horrific meatsuit for evil-Xil by now."

"I..." Kai started to protest, then sighed and folded his arms. "Okay, maybe I did have a little bit of an invincibility complex before that one time I got shot. And maybe I was a little bit of an asshole to most of you."

"A little bit?"

"Fine! A lot!" Kai rolled his eyes and elbowed him. "I still saved all your asses."

"And never miss an opportunity to remind us of it..." Jace murmured with a smile. "Just take the compliment, you ass. What I'm trying to say is: I'm glad you're here."

"Yeah, well," Kai leaned his head back against the metal of the wall again. "Guess I could've asked for worse company to be thrown through the wormhole with. Can you imagine if it had been Kyou instead?"

"Oh, you'd definitely be dead by now."

"Right?"
 

N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
They were covered in an inky black darkness as they plummeted. It took teleporting them gently against the ceiling to not slam into it from the force of the fall. The speed alone had the potential to crush them; she didn’t want to go and test that theory.

The lights came on, the elevator finally slowed, and they landed on the right surface. Circe’s body flashed hot; then cold, again, as she focused on suppressing Alaxel’s rage. But then she heard it.


As the machine spoke, Circe was bursting at the seams with a hatred so cold and familiar, it made her skin crawl. Long ago, it would have been impossible to tell the difference between someone else’s feelings and her own after pulling such a move.


This was Alaxel’s rage, bursting asunder like an eternal flame. It didn’t belong to her. She knew that. But when the voice droned on in her head, she seethed. She held on, like an addict chasing a fix.

It was a heavy thing to hold, with all its nuanced complexities, coupled by a millennia of memories. She was on her knees, shaking madly. Her stomach seized up and she retched a trail of spit and bile. It was all there was.

Ezra reached out. His pure and silent touch, even against the Va'nyrian armor, was like water falling from the heavens, coursing through the scorching fire in a cleansing wave. All that was left was a wisp of smoke, fading away like an old memory.

Circe collapsed onto her back, completely breathless. Bewildered, she gaped at the ceiling, then laughed, and laughed, then coughed. Had she finally lost it? The absence of Alaxel’s emotions carved something out of her, and there was a horrible aching pain in her head and limbs.

“Is everyone alive?” Circe gasped hoarsely after clearing her throat and taking a long sip of water. She had never been so parched. “At this rate, I‘ll be gray by morning. Think I could pull off the look?” Who was she kidding? Of course she could.

Ezra gave her a funny look, visibly confused by her words.

"Probably?... I too would rather not repeat today's series of events. I think I have a headache building up" He said with a sigh, just looking at Circe from the floor.

“Of course you do,” she grumbled, “We almost died. Or maybe we’re dead, and this is our eternal punishment in hell. Ugh. I’ve been sick more times than I’d like in a single day.You have no idea how terrible it smells in here.”

If that wasn’t punishment enough, she didn’t know what was. Where was the air freshener when you needed it? She pulled off her helmet, now that it was safe to, relishing the fresh air on her flushed face. Breathing became a lot easier. Strands of sweaty hair pressed to her forehead.

Ezra’s only reaction to that, was a snort, and he wrinkled his nose for a moment. But didn't say if he smelled it or not.

"I hoped not to run into death fire. But I suppose that was too much… I apologise for putting us all in danger, I am very sorry. But I can't promise it won't happen again if the circumstances are repeated." Said the Cervitaur then, glancing at the two kids nearby. He would talk to them as well, later.

His fear was so real. She had heard it, felt it in her core. Circe wanted to console him. She wanted to help him overcome it. She wanted to help him understand.

“Don’t be,” she said, “Sorry, I mean. Can’t say I would have done anything differently had I been in your shoes… but if you’re really that concerned, maybe I can help. It’s a simple meditation we Seekers use to help us overcome our fears.”

Circe couldn’t even port them to safety. But Jace managed to save their asses, anyway. It was Kai that saved the day before him. They couldn’t have opened that door without them, either, and she doubted Jace could use that lance properly by himself. Point is, the All-mother chose them all for a reason. They had to believe it.

"I tried It, after the war. Similar stuff to… what you're suggesting. At least it sounds like it. It helped, but not much and not for long. I'd rather… next time, if possible, blind me or remind me to close my eyes. So thank you, but my mind is my own, it's one of the few things I get to keep private." Said Ezra in response, stretching his legs a bit.

“Fair enough,” Circe closed her eyes, letting out a deep sigh as her back ached, “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

Her comment made Ezra giggle a bit, and then he started openly laughing.

"If you're too old… hell, then I must be a fossil, and the Va'nyrian should be dust!!!"

Circe blinked then chuckled under her breath.

“I can’t die here,” she said softly, her fingers squeezing around their hold on SEA to keep them from trembling, “not yet. Blue would find a way to kill me again in the afterlife. She’s tenacious that way.” Circe smiled at the thought.

"I don't think we get an afterlife if we do die here. It may happen, though. Just don't fear it. Death will come for us all eventually." Said Ezra once his laughter died out, but somehow the topic didn't sour his mood in the slightest. He smiled as he talked about the possibility of dying.

“I hope that’s true,” she said, “if there is one, I’ll surely burn for all my misdeeds. But I’m not risking everything for nothing.” Her name. Her reputation. Her friends and family. Everything. She did everything for them.

"That is a way to see it. I hope to choose my death when it comes. Wouldn't you rather choose?" He asked Circe, tilting his head.

“Aye,” she agreed with a grin, “We will see each other on the other side of this, one way or the other. May our souls ever be unconquerable.”

He nodded with certainty and hummed in affirmation.

Circe wasn’t concerned with her ability. She always put up a good fight, but at the end of the day, she knew those two kids were more powerful, more capable than them.

“I underestimated you kids. I owe you both a debt of gratitude. Maybe when this is all over, pilot to pilot, I’ll let you drive Tsukuyomi. You’d like her. She's a corvette-class light frigate. One hell of a ride….”

Within seconds, she was out.
 
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Adorable Homewrecker
Benefactor
Glancing up at Circe when she addressed them, Jace flashed her a wry smile. “I’ve never driven anything bigger than a car before, so you might wanna reconsider that offer.”

“Tch, maybe she was just talking to me. Look, if I can figure out a mega-tank-drone, I can figure out a spaceship, easy,” Kai chimed in with a grin. “Gimme five minutes with spaceship simulator and I’ll be a pro.”

Jace rolled his eyes. “Sure. That aside, you’re welcome. We couldn’t have gotten through that door without you either, so… it’s all good. We’re young, but we’ve seen enough conflict to know our way around it.”

He huffed a laugh. “I say that, but the kinds of conflict I’m used to are nothing like this. So qyou’re not wrong to think we’re just kind of making it up as we go along.”

They lapsed back into quiet then, and before long Circe’s breathing fell into the steady rhythm of sleep. Kai had pulled up some sort of game on his hololink to keep himself busy as the elevator trundled slowly downwards, while Jace was still simply taking the time to come down from the adrenaline of the fight and the escape.

Ezra took a few minutes of silence to organise his thoughts and rest. He watched Circe fall asleep, so easily that he envied her. And then he rolled over and stood up, walking over to Jace.

"May I have a word with you?" He asked, gently. His ears were close to his head, and he scratched at his right back ankle with his left.

Jace looked up at the cervitaur, then nodded. “Sure, figured this was coming,” he remarked, pushing himself to his feet. “Not exactly anywhere private to talk here, but I doubt we’d be able to keep this little turd from eavesdropping anyway.”

“Rude,” Kai remarked without looking up.

“Yeah, it was meant to be,” Jace smirked then took a few paces away, nodding for Ezra to follow.

With a nod, Ezra waited politely before following Jace along a couple of paces.

"I will start with an apology. I'm sorry I put us in danger, but with fire, it's an issue I cannot control. I can't say I'm sorry I got mad over being… thrown into it, though… I am also grateful that you did that, and basically saved my life. Eh, this all sounded better in my head." He spoke fast, a bit too fast, but at least he didn't switch over to Tauren.

Jace nodded slowly in understanding. “It’s alright… I’ve known people who’ve had things like that. Phobias, PTSD, whatever it is…” he shrugged. “Maybe nobody who got hit by it as bad, but still. Guess you can’t help it.”

A frown crossed his features then. “It probably won’t be the last time we come across fire while we’re here, though. Between Alexal throwing around plasma, and just… explosions in general. Especially if the Xil here is smart enough to pick up on it and make an actual tactic of it. How are you gonna deal with that?”

He saw the cervitaur sigh, passing a hand over his face.

"I don't know that I can, not completely. When I expect it, it shouldn't be as bad. If we don't need to get close to it, better. Otherwise I can deal by not looking at it, or be snapped out of these panics of mine, with darkness. It's a big problem, when I spook. Comes from my deer side. So I'll teach you a sentence that should help, in Tauren. Just don't use it too often or it won't work. And only when I'm terrified, and about to run off and probably die."

Jace nodded slowly, taking the information in. “Okay, I can do that. And maybe Kai can figure out something with the whole darkness thing. Like… goggles or something, that you can trigger when you need it.”

Ezra's ears perked up, and his eyebrows rose.

"Oh! Right, we could do something with the armor's visor!" He patted Jace's back. "Good thinking kid!" He said, his mood improved significantly.

"Anyway, here is what you'd have to say: Tisseih er verno cav et cent tu coex, farrero. Eshrazel's bee-eehto" Ezra tried to be nice and soft, because the sentence was hard and the last word of it was practically a bleat.

"Think you can learn that?"

“Tisseih eh vemo… cav et…” Jace started to repeat, then huffed a laugh. “Okay, might take me a little more than one go over, but I can work on it.” He glanced over at the elevator’s sides and sighed. “Seems like I’ve got plenty of time, anyways.”

"Thank you Jace, truly. You have my favor and my gratitude for taking the time." Said the cervitaur with a warm smile, patting Jace's head and ruffling his hair a bit. Because he couldn't avoid it, these two kids reminded him of his sons a little. They had big hearts and brave minds.

"We can practice while Kai shows me what he mentioned earlier?, a video… game, right? I have to admit I'm still curious" he said, looking over to the other.

Kai looked up at them and flashed Ezra a grin. “Lucky for you I have a ton on my link. I feel like you’d enjoy a farming sim, that seems like a good place to start. Also, yeah, gimme like… five minutes with your fancy armor and I can figure out a program for its optics to filter anything that looks like fire.”

The cerv grinned back.

"It's just human death fire that… makes me panic, orange fire. Changing the colour should be enough" He said, patting Jace one last time and then walking over to Kai and laying down his deer half by his side. From there he looked over at Jace.

"Let me hear you repeat that sentence, young man. Tisseih er verno cav et cent…" He started, so the other could repeat it after him.

“Tisseih er verno cav et cent… tu co…” Jace sighed. “You know, let me actually just…” he fiddled with a few commands on his hololink. “There, say it again now and I can get my link to prompt me with it if I need to yell it.”

Tisseih er verno cav et cent tu coex, farrero. Eshrazel's bee-eehto,” Kai interjected without looking up from where he’d started to set up a game. “C’mon, Sparks, it’s not that hard.”

Jace snorted. “Okay, I don’t wanna hear that from you, computer-brain. You’re cheating.”

Ezrael chuckled, watching Kai with the curious video game thing.

"You'll learn it in no time, Jace. After all, If I manage with a few human languages, you can do a little Tauren."

“Here,” Kai said, pulling the small watch-like device off from around his wrist and handing it over to Ezra. “Wrap this ‘round your wrist. I should be able to hook it up to your visor. Then…”

While Kai launched into an explanation of how to play games on the hololink to Ezra, Jace took a seat a few paces away and went over the phrase Ezra had given him a few times, murmuring through it under his breath while the audio played back through his earpiece. A few repetitions in and he’d started to get the hang of it, but it’d take a while to make sure it was committed to memory.

Thankfully, as he’d noted before, right now time was something they had an abundance of.

So Ezra was happy to give Kai access to his armor via the small watch, and even happier to learn how to play a farming simulator. He got a nice blueberry farm going, and married a villager in game. But after a few hours, he could barely keep any of his four eyes open from exhaustion. Interacting with the kids was fun, eye-opening and brought back painful as well as cherished memories of his own family. So he ate some of the provisions they had brought along, thanked Kai, again, and curled up to sleep. It claimed him fast, unconsciousness, and that way he got to forget a bit about his growing headache. Even if the dreams that awaited him weren't all that nice.

While Ezra and Circe slept, the two younger members of the team remained awake for the time being. Kai remained sat against his dormant drone (from which he’d protruted a conveniently Kai-shaped seat to lounge in), occupying himself with various forms of entertainment on his link. Jace, in the meantime, opted instead simply to remain alert and on watch - just in case their elevator ride wasn’t as smooth as anticipated.

Eventually - judging by how long their descent seemed set to take - he’d take the time to catch some sleep, but until one of the others awoke, he felt it was a good idea for one of them to stay on guard.

Nothing about this place was predictable, after all.
 

N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
A vast darkness spread out like a shadow, an endless penumbra–not quite nowhere or nothing. Something floated, drifted then fell. Captured and pulled, it plummeted towards something and then BANG. Buried, forgotten. A frozen void.
Time counted down. It slowed and stretched on into a painful crawl, a trickling dissociation. On and on, and on…but then, a spark, twinkling in the endless nothing.
Digging. A response. More digging, more time. A change discovered underneath.
It breached the darkness with everlight.
The shadows danced and played on the surface before scattering and taking form.
They showed a figure, and from it the cosmos were breathed into being; Stars and galaxies swirled into spirals.
The shadows showed a star falling from the sky. A thousand figures Sprung from where it landed, like flowering buds from the seed. They shifted and changed
Shape and form, their numbers dwindling and dissolving into dust with the slow passage of time, until only few remained.
A lingering feeling of perversion,
a fundamental shift of inner nature.
Foreign, but growing in familiarity.
Surrender was inevitable. A sinking feeling.
Gravitas took hold alongside gravity.
The falling began once more.


Circe woke with a jolt on the floor, hunger and soreness racking her body. The elevator was still going down. She looked at the time to see several hours had already come and gone. Had she been asleep for that long? Damn. It wasn’t likely that she was ever going back to sleep, so she pulled herself up from the ground.

Remnants of the dream remained in her memory; she meditated on its meaning for only a moment before deciding it meant nothing.

Circe’s mind went back to the colossal machine that was almost responsible for their demise. The thought of that wretched display of destruction made her mouth go dry. Such fury and terror. Her dread might have been superseded if it hadn’t been so quiet. Even the elevator barely made a sound as they descended. Too peaceful.

Still alive.

The armor was slowly becoming suffocating. She rotated and stretched and shifted in it, taking deep, calming breaths and fluid movements, as she fought the urge to pry it off. It wouldn’t be a very wise thing to do, but also because it seemed the extreme heat had sealed parts of the suit together. Great. The flow of breath and movement helped her relax. Circe noticed Ezra asleep several paces away. She walked up to the two bored looking Jace and Kai, preoccupied with a video game or movie.

“You two should try and get some rest, if you can. I’ll take watch.”

Jace had looked up sharply at the sound of Circe’s sudden awakening, the tension ebbing from his shoulders as quickly as it had appeared when he realised what the noise was. When she made her way over, he greeted her with a small, tight smile and a nod.

“Yeah,” he answered after a pause. “That’s probably a good plan.”

Another pause, in which the internal debate over whether to ask was plain on his face before he did. “Bad dream?”

“Same old, same old–not really any worse than usual,” Circe shrugged, looking down into his tired, hazel eyes with a soft smile. She crossed her arms and leaned on one leg. “That’s what I get for falling asleep on an elevator going down.”

Circe sat down next to him–three feet apart–and crossed her legs, hands resting gently on her knees, chin lifted, back as straight as an arrow.

Jace nodded. “Know that feeling. You’d think after having the same dream a hundred times it’d stop freaking you out, but nope, fresh every time.” He sighed and rolled his eyes. “I just wish my brain’d get some new material at this point.”

Circe chuckled in acknowledgment. Whatever dreams Jace had, they were deeply upsetting. His mind was troubled, that much was clear. She of all people knew how difficult they could be to live with. Circe paused, waiting to see if he would share more. But Seekers could only give the help that was requested of them.

He was quiet for a moment, then glanced across and saw her expectant expression. He flashed a smile and shook his head. “Ah, it’s nothing you wouldn’t expect. Lots of fighting, people get hurt, people don’t come back. Some of it sticks with you, I’m sure you know the deal. Memories, people…”

Jace shrugged with a sigh. “No-one ever said winning would be pretty.”

“Neither is grief,” she added quietly. There was a scream inside of him that no one else could hear. Circe didn’t look down or away, didn’t pretend to not see his grief, but looked him in the eye, so he knew his words were not lost on her. “It’s impossible to quantify the missing people in our lives, how they mattered in so many different ways you didn’t even realize. Who was she?”

The nonchalant expression on his face faded into a grimace, and Jace deflated ever so slightly as he realised just how clearly Circe could see through him. “Ah, right… empath. Mind reading. Kind of invasive. But fine, it’s not… something I’m hiding, I guess.”

He shook his head. “Her name was Gaia. She was… incredible? The heart and the brains of Phoenix. That’s what our resistance group was called. She started everything, led us almost all the way to victory, then…”

A sigh. “They sent an assassin. He joined us, worked his way up, then… took her out at the worst possible moment. In front of me. And I couldn’t stop him.”

“She does sound incredible. I’m sorry for your loss. I didn’t read your mind–,” she clarified gently, unoffended by the accusation, “–or your emotions. The people we love occupy an entire part of our souls, long after they’re gone. She is still with you, even now. Have you ever stopped to listen?” Circe closed her eyes. She could hear the echoes of her spirit, like a candle in the wind.

Jace gave a wan smile. “That’s… a nice thought,” he answered, turning to gaze off at the far wall. “And hey, maybe it’s even true for you… I don’t think I can hear that kind of thing, though.”

“Don’t knock it till you try it,” she smiled, eyes still closed, “you might be surprised.”

After a moment’s pause with a half-raised eyebrow, Jace shrugged and leaned back against the wall. “Why not, I’ll humor you. Maybe things work differently out here. Magic’s real, after all, so who knows what’s possible…”

He tilted his head back and rested it against the cool metal of the elevator wall, closing his eyes and … listening, just as bidden.

There was nothing but the steady, constant thrum of the elevator’s movement, and the occasional faint noise coming from over in Kai’s direction. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was waiting for, or even what he expected - maybe Circe would do something, maybe not. It was probably just a nice thought.

His mind ran over the maybes and might-bes for a while, until eventually his thoughts quieted down.

And when they did, finally the exertions of the day caught up with him, and he fell asleep before he thought to open his eyes again.

“You, too, Kai,” she muttered after hearing Jace’s breathing finally slow.

There was no reaction - whatever Kai was currently occupied with, it seemed he couldn’t hear her over it. The faint hum of music was coming from where he was sat.

Circe looked from under her lashes at Jace who looked about a decade younger now that he wasn’t scowling. Maybe she would ask them about their revolution, and she could tell them about how she overthrew the Pirate Lord of the Nexus. They could swap all manner of stories. When this was all over.
 
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Machina Somnium

Tired Edgerunner
Mentor
Forum Moderator: Creative Forums
Benefactor
Life on the Edge GM
As he slept, Ezra was just one among many. But he was there to mourn the death of a man who could've reversed time to save himself, and didn't. Because their war was won and his time was over. He decided that himself.

For humanity.
Against humanity.

He lay by his partner's still warm body and held on to his flesh until it was ashy and cold. They dressed him up for the occasion, so very human. A grey suit, just what he used to wear. His eyes were bright blue and open.

"Eyedah... He didn't exactly want to die" Came the words of his eldest, from his side. Like nothing was amiss. He was right, too. He was glaring at the dead body of his partner, as if he were an enemy. Really, the man, because he had chosen to be one, who had saved them all... Deserved better.

"You can't do that" whined Ezrael.

"Do what?"

"Tell me how to act. Not when you shouldn't even be here. There is much to be done." Bitterness spilled from his mouth with every word, bleat and growl. Like acidic vomit, he could feel it even. It was dripping from his lips, the taste of burned rotten flesh.

"I'm also mourning. You're not the only one who lost him..." Replied Senda. And it was enough to dry up the source of his anger. As if bitten by a wind spirit, they were left blue and covered in frost. Here he was, mad at the world for making a wisp become a man, a hero, and then forcing him to his knees to turn into a legend. He thought himself a honourable man, but there was none in taking his pain out on those he loved. So his expression softened, he leaned down and hugged his kin for a long time. His face was blurry, because of time or tears. He kissed his son on the forehead and they shared a nuzzle. Had it been winter their antlers might have gotten tangled. It should have been winter.

"Take your time here, Senda. I will get back to work" He said, gently stroking his son's face with his thumbs.

"You should stay... You've got a right to mourn"

"So does everyone else. And for them I'll forfeit mine, a thousand times over."

"I know. I just wish you were a little more selfish"

"So did Ezra. But I am selfish in my want to give." Answered Ezrael with a light, humorless laugh. But he hadn't, he had been weeping at the time.

"He'll be proud of you, and watching over us"

"I can only hope, dear" And he almost left.But Senda wasn't done talking.

"His choice of attire was peculiar" said his son, and Ezrael turned around to look at his husband's corpse, in a suit.

"It wasn't his choice, he was already dead"

"I guess... What would you want your arrangement to be?"

"A battlefield... Senda, I truly have to go"

"You choose to go."

"I must. We'll talk soon, veredah." His son had more family and friends to keep him company. So he left, to stand guard and find survivors. Skirting around the leftover fires, and the fear they instilled in his heart. He left, to think of the one glorious battle where two fools with the same name had fought side by side. The only one. The last one. To scream, and cry, and rage until he was empty. Hadn't he just been empty ever since?

But this wasn't a memory, because he was never alone. Wherever he turned there were clouds of dust, smoke and color. Two bright blue eyes, wisp eyes, watched his every move. He knew who they belonged to. But Ezrael didn't dream. Estraven did.

"Have you come to take your name back?" He asked, walking toward empty nothingness and into it. He let it envelop him and he shouted;

"What do you want??!! RETURN TO OBLIVION" He, demanded. Then he drowned in blue until the light returned, and when he opened his eyes again he stood over the broken corpses of men, women and children. The last bastion of humanity, now destroyed by his hand. Under his hooves, stepped on, where they belonged.

When he woke, the elevator was still going down and several hours had passed. He had hoped for his exhaustion to be gone, at least partially. But no relief accompanied his regained consciousness. The dream he had left him confused, but that was set aside when a wave of nausea shook through him. Somehow, he was even more tired after sleeping, and his headache hadn't receded at all. The blue eyes were still on him. So he stood, uneasy. He looked around and saw Circe, so he slowly walked toward her, stretching his arms and his body a bit. There couldn't be much time left.

"Did you get some rest?" He yawned.
 
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N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
It started with a humming as she tried to remember the words. There was a time when her voice was as lovely as a bell, but those days were long gone. Now, her voice was deeper, fuller, yet still clear.

When the words finally came, they told a story with the way they flowed, the way the tone shifted throughout the song, a story of love. It was sung softly enough so as to not wake them.

As she sang she analyzed the data being gathered by the new suit. The horn had incredible speeds at which it absorbed power, no doubt an element of the Vanryan craftsmanship. Normally, it would have taken days for her to recover from using so much power, especially to create so many portals.

Perhaps it was a matter of getting older, and it was the years that created the difference. Twenty years could have bridged the gap in her abilities. Her calculative brain began to theorize. Even as she watched the energy levels rise, she meditated, looking, searching for a clue as to what they would come across next.

Circe heard him wake and stand before he walked over, and she brought her awareness forward from her meditative trance to greet him.

“Aye,” she turned her head up at him without her eyes opening, “yourself?”

He shook his head, sitting beside her. That was, sitting with his deer half only. Not laying down fully.

"I got some sleep, but somehow I've woken up even more tired… I think I should eat something" He said, because it was true. And only because of that. Since he had absolutely zero apetite.

“The paste doesn’t taste too terrible,” she reassured, “it has a strange way of adjusting to your taste buds. Va'nyrian tech. No doubt. I wonder how they do it. Nanotech? I could certainly use it on my ship.” Circe had caved in to the demands of her aching belly after everyone was already fast asleep and tested it herself, hours ago. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad. Still, having known starvation like a very old friend, she refused to complain.

"I've eaten the most disgusting shit on my travels, really. So the taste won't be a complaint. I just hope I can stomach it, twice and all" He said, laying down fully and starting his little picnic. The paste, like Circe said, was quite tolerable. So the cervitaur hummed with pleasure. His stomach protested, his first stomach, and that was bad news. So he grimaced.

“You and me both,” she smirked, cracking an eye open to catch him wincing, “you’ll need your strength. Just take it slow.”

Circe closed her eyes again just as an orange glow penetrated her eyelids. Curious, she opened them to see a seething cauldron; an inferno, spewing red hot molten lava. The only thing separating them from it was a simple force field. Her heart nearly leapt from her chest, and she moved quickly to shield her hand over the cervitaur’s eyes. How deep did this tunnel go?

Ezra's hand quickly shot up to grab Circe's, automatically. He just held it though, and pressed it closer, against his own face. But he was smiling.

"I appreciate your efforts, my friend, but I can still see. And lava doesn't quite have the same effect on me" He said, since he had another uncovered set of eyes further up. But her hand felt nice, like a little pet. So he kept his ears focused on her, and continued eating.

Circe laughed at herself, then smiled, happy to provide some level of comfort for him.

“I suppose this means we’re close to our destination,” she sighed.

He nodded, tracing little lines over the back of her hand and fingers.

"I wish we had more time to rest, and that the kids could sleep a bit more. I can't help it, they remind me of my sons…" The melancholy and sadness were quite visible on him, in the way his posture shifted, and his ears drooped. Even his fur looked flatter.

“Ezra,” Circe began, the quiet concern heavy in her voice. She didn’t want to admit how they had grown on her during their short time together. She had been so proud, so cold, for so long. Captain Nightlocke was quickly becoming a stranger. “Let me lend you my strength.”

He shook his head and moved her hand away from his lower eyes.

"You need it. I've got my own, Circe. But thank you" He answered, keeping her hand in his anyway, and giving it a few taps.

“Fair enough,” Circe whispered, hesitantly. Her free hand clenched into a fist before she sat back and let her legs stretch out, keeping her other hand on him. As she watched the lava, bubbling and boiling, the flames of her heart ignited.

Twice he had refused her help by now. He sighed, because if he didn't feel better soon then he'd be glad to accept her help. But he didn't want to have to do it, and take it from her.

"You'll need it, maybe next time you'll strike down as many foes as I did" He said, as an attempt to lighten the mood. Because he had lost count after the third one he had killed, and never started counting hers.

“In your dreams, old man,” Circe chuckled,“I’m certain I took out at least twice as many.”

He grinned, excited that his plan to improve the mood a bit had worked!

"You wish! Ah but my dreams, I just had the most… disturbing experience with them. Did you have a peaceful sleep? I wouldn't be surprised if some vibrations here provoked nightmares." He said, remembering those blue eyes, a too green season, and the wrong words coming out of his mouth.

“Hmm,” Circe hummed, “one of those existential ones. Too much to grasp all at once, you know? A true nightmare for a Seeker of Knowledge.” The bitter smile on her face told all. Circe didn’t want to pry, so she merely waited for him to tell her about it.
He nodded, and since she shared… he figured he could do the same.

"I dreamed of… well, I thought it was a memory. I dream of past moments a lot. But some details were wrong. Very wrong. And that's unusual and quite upsetting. I felt watched, I still do. It makes me itchy" he said, shaking one of his legs a bit to get rid of the unpleasant feeling. Maybe he wasn't as ready to share the full details of it as he thought.

“It’s alright,” she said, gently petting his forehead, “you don’t have to say any more.” It was probably likely that they were still being watched. If not by the Va'nyrian ghosts, then by a wholly corrupt, all-powerful AI supercomputer.

He snorted, and nodded.

"Maybe we should wake them, before we get too close to the end of the journey? We don't know what's waiting for us at the bottom." He said, standing slowly and looking in the direction of the two kids. His stomach wasn't happy about that… but he could deal with it.

“Aye,” Circe agreed, quickly hopping to her feet.
 
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Script

Adorable Homewrecker
Benefactor
Jace was easy enough to rouse from his slumber - he was a relatively light sleeper, it seemed, and by the time they'd gotten within a few feet of him their footsteps had tugged him back to the waking world with a bleary blink. Once he'd stirred, he volunteered to be the one to rouse Kai, and made his way over to where the younger boy had passed out still watching something on his hololink.

He somehow looked even younger asleep - maybe it was the missing presence of that perpetually cocky grin, or maybe it was just the fact he wasn't talking in circles around him. If Jace hadn't known better, it'd have been easy to mistake him for an innocent.

But this was the same guy who'd tossed fuel onto the fire of revolution by not only publishing the dirty laundry of every Corp exec on so many places on the net that their CyberSec team couldn't take them down faster than they were being put up, but also by blowing up a luxury hotel. He'd known him as Verity long before he'd known him as Kai, and his opinion of the anonymous cyberterrorist hadn't been the highest.

The ends didn't always justify the means.

But he'd grown a lot, since then. He'd had to. And now they were... friends? Yeah. Even if they might not have spent quite so long in one another's company were it not for being tossed through the same damn wormhole, he was pretty sure he'd have counted him as a friend before this.

Crouching down, Jace shook Kai's arm to stir him. Then shook a little harder. Then jabbed him in the ribs.

"Mmnng... five more minutes," Kai grumbled, rolling over in place.

Jace snorted. "C'mon, idiot, get up. We're almost there. Need to be ready in case there's trouble waiting for us."

Still grumbling under his breath, Kai did push himself upright and rub at his face. "Uhg, fine."

"What were you even watching that kept you up?" Jace asked with an amused quirk of his eyebrow.

"Uh..." Kai broke eye contact shiftily. "Just a movie."

Well, that was the least convincing answer to anything Jace had ever heard. Curiosity immediately roused, his eyebrow rose further. "Just a movie? Not gonna be any more specific than that?"

"It was- just some shitty anime, Jace, you wouldn't care," Kai protested, voice still groggy with sleep.

"Hmm..." Jace's eyes flashed with mischief, and before the younger boy had time to react, his hand darted out in a blur to pluck the hololink from his wrist. While Kai was still yelping his protest, Jace had slipped the link on and told it to play the most recent video file. Lucky for him it was still unlocked from when Kai was showing games to Ezra before they'd slept.

He was greeted not by some embarrassingly weird or horny cartoon, as he'd expected, but by a recording of a conversation with a familiar face, a boy with once-neat blonde hair now unkempt from weeks spent away from the world of luxuries and personal stylists.

"We'll get through this," Cal's expression was soft, as warm as Jace had ever seen the endearingly awkward ex-Zen. He was sat facing him -- or Kai, presumably, being the one whose point of view he was looking through -- in what Jace recognised as one of the tiny bunk rooms of Phoenix HQ. "C'mon, it's not like you to doubt yourself, even-"

Cal's words were interrupted as the recording abruptly cut out into nothing, leaving Jace looking back at a red-faced Kai with the telltale glow of his powers lingering in his eyes. "Fuck you, Sparks, get outta my stuff!" he snapped, pulling the link off of Jace's wrist.

Now abruptly feeling bad, Jace held his hands up placatingly. "Right, yeah... okay, my bad. I thought... well, I thought it'd just be something embarrassing 'cause it was dumb. Or horny."

"Yeah, and it'd have been none of your fucking business then, either," Kai muttered. "Invasive motherfucker."

"Yeah, okay, I'm sorry..." Jace sighed. If he had to guess, he'd say that recording was probably from before their last mission into the Corp's HQ. He paused, chewing his lip for a moment before going on. "You know... you'll see him again soon."

"Course I know that," Kai muttered, stoically refusing to look in Jace's direction. "Soon as we're done here on this stupid-ass death planet."

"Soon as," Jace agreed. "And when we get back, we'll be big damn heroes for finding us a real planet to start fresh on. There'll be forests, and real animals, and real sun... they're not gonna believe it."

It took a moment, but Kai's scowl did soften a little at that, and he let out a sigh. "Yeah. Guess that'll make it all worth it, huh?"

"Damn right. I wasn't about to settle for just going back to the status quo. If I'm going on a death-mission to death-planet to find some queen's super-death-husband, the least they can do is make things a damn lot better for us when we get back." Jace grinned at him. "Now c'mon, let's get ready to greet whatever's waiting for us at the bottom of this probably-a-death-mine. Eat your paste."

"Yeah, yeah, alright. But keep your hands off my shit in the future," Kai shot him a glare.

"Promise. And I also promise not to tell Cal you have recordings of him saved to gaze at longingly when you miss him," Jace replied with a smirk.

Kai flushed red again "I- shut up! It wasn't- those were from the memory banks, it's automatic!"

"Suuuure," Jace laughed as he stepped away to leave Kai to get ready. "A likely excuse."
 

Dashmiel

Bearly In Charge
Administrator
Nexus GM
The group had left the warm magma glow behind a few hours ago, and returned to the boring game of ‘I Spy the Geological Strata’ as one kind of uniform rock-face giving way to another resumed as the provided onsite entertainment. They persisted onwards for another hour or so, each awake and involved in their own small tasks. The steady hum of the descending elevator was interrupted for the first time by a cheery set of tones that practically said “PSA Alert Chime” in every sound based language everywhere, immediately followed by a neutral-toned female voice and an indication that a new data drop was available to download from a local network.

Rigorous testing on their part would reveal the data to be safe, and the only file in the network node they were addressed to. It represented a text excerpt of the announcement the voice made. It was translated in the Nexus trade dialect, Ezrael’s Tauren, and the ancient version of Va’nyrian programmed in all of their gear.

The voice was the exact same default voice they’d heard Xilunexus speak with during those occasions that they’d seen the AI deviate from her own personalized voice for one reason or another:

“Esteemed guests, thank you for your patience during the ongoing emergency-descent procedures,” it announced placidly. “Please stand by for momentary weightlessness as we enter the Jintra’nir Void-Zone. On behalf of the Jintra’nir Mine management team, we hope you enjoy the view.”

A sudden sense of weightlessness accompanied a change of scenery, as the static view of impassable stone gave way to nothingness. The steady hum of the platform took a new melody unto itself as a new piece of unseen machinery came to life under their feet. Almost as soon as it left, gravity returned again, although a sense of motion was not apparent.

Off in the inky blackness beyond the confines of the platform, a brilliant spark flared to life. It appeared as the merest of specks far in the distance. A lonely pinprick star in an empty firmament. It faded from their view over the span of a couple of seconds, but in that time a few others similarly came to being. The process repeated itself for about 10 seconds, as little pinpricks of light in the seemingly endless distance came and went. They seemed to originate from every direction except from behind where they’d come from.

They couldn’t see beneath them due to the circumference of the platform being larger than the containment field holding their atmosphere in. Aside from the pinpricks of light, the expanse was a featureless void as far as their eyes could see. By this point, reports from their various scans and sweeps would be ready with the numbers, should they wish to get measurements of the bizarre space. And provided they could get their minds away from the spectacle.

Two pinpricks of light came into being next to each other with their boundaries touching, and light flooded the universe.

A flurry of kilometer long jagged bolts of lighting in every color their eyes could see exploded from the initial intersection of the points. As they arced they illuminated the gargantuan gray crystals permeating the void, growing throughout the space in elegant interlocking fractal patterns hundreds of kilometers a stretch. The energy flared as it went into each crystal and was amplified before exploding outwards in its own cascade of energy.

The viciously beautiful cycle continued at the speed of light, as a wave of power traveled at lightspeed towards them. It revealed a wonderland of crystal farther than their eyes (but not their scanners) could see, as the energy crackled and hopped crystal to crystal.

The containment field around them darkened as the wave of power washed over them. While their Va’nyrian upgrades recognized the space they stood upon as safe (discrete fins extended a few millimeters somewhere on all of their suits), every other sensor they possessed screeched at them. Every sector of the electromagnetic spectrum was well represented in the beautifully deadly display, and every instrument set to quantify the available energy maxed out as the wave saturated every literal physical nook and cranny of the space it traveled over.

Their part in the center of the spectacle lasted but a second (during which time their Va’nyrian-enhanced gear reported a successful 4% charge) as the wave spread on away from them. Interesting (but boring) physics occurred as the wave passed and before the space behind returned to hard vacuum. However, this was overshadowed by the way the continuous spreading of the light-wall outlined the contours of the space. Now their eyes could catch the barest glimpse of what their scanners were telling them: Va’nyria’s heart was a crystal filled vacuum void 750 miles in radius where an inner core should have been.

The light show also revealed the mountain sized crystals they weaved between at high speeds as their platform made its way towards their destination. It angled slightly downwards, giving them a view ahead. Nestled at the root where one of the gargantuan crystals sprouted from the rocky surface, was a carved entryway with a landing pad awaiting their platform.

It was carved out of the crystal itself. Two thick ornate columns flanked an opening 200 feet tall, large enough to accommodate even the largest of mining machinery. It seemed that the wall to either side of the opening once featured some sort of tableau carved in bas relief. This was evident in some of the intact portions still visible upon the crystal. Assorted figures and iconography were plentiful enough to know some sort of story was once depicted here, but large portions of the entryway appeared to have been melted away, erasing the artwork which once graced the entrance.

As the platform gracely landed, they could see through to the opening a dozen yards away.

Beyond the fanciful entryway, it seemed that more familiar Va’nyrian decor awaited as the crystal gave way to metal and polymer walls and flooring. Before they could see much farther however, a hologram appeared before them on the landing pad, just at the edge of their platform.

It was a near splitting image of Xilunexus. The hair was an ashen blonde instead of Xil’s blue bob, and the nose and ears were ever so slightly different. Yet for all that, they could have been twin sisters. The hologram spoke, in the same voice that had greeted them at the elevator.

“Welcome esteemed guests. I see you visit us under Starbreath’s Ident-Key,” the figure said with a polite sort-of bow followed by a hand gesture over her forehead. “If you are accompanying him, he’s already left the facility via the express tram to Aman’Ter City ten hours ago. Would you like me to show you the way?”
 

Machina Somnium

Tired Edgerunner
Mentor
Forum Moderator: Creative Forums
Benefactor
Life on the Edge GM
The Magma's glow was slowly left behind, and Ezra ended up laying his deer half back down. Truth be told, there wasn't that much to do but prepare for what was coming. He felt more serene now, knowing he wouldn't see orange fire at all. Thanks to Kai!, he also missed his video game character already. It was a cute thing, the farming simulator where he could get to know townspeople and partake in festivals. So very nostalgic, he almost wept while playing. But that may require an explanation he wasn't ready to give, so he held back his feelings and tears. A voice ended up interrupting his nostalgia, for the best. And some text came up on the inside of his helmet, so he could read it. It was even translated into Tauren, which both surprised and instilled fear and wariness in him. How?... But he didn't have a lot of time to dwell on it. They got an interesting welcome and discovered a landscape of light and crystals. It reminded Ezra of glass nymphs and golems. Beautiful and savage. The pinnacle of it all when they were struck by the underground lightning. It was as terrifying as it was amazing. And his instincts drove him to nervously pace, and when they were hit but unaffected, stand perfectly still.

He was reminded of being young, small, extremely so. One time when he was curled down in the tall grass waiting for his mother to come and say there was no danger ahead. It was a hot, stormy day, and he ate a lot of dandelya flowers. Lightning had struck a nearby tree and lit it on fire, green. And even once it was over, his fur wouldn't lay flat. So he waited to see what came next. His mind still trying to assimilate what happened. Back then, the storm's consequences.

Now, the light, giant crystals, and the electricity. Their beauty too great to be understood in such little time. So he took in what he could, and would do his best to commit it to memory.

As they reached the end of their platform bound journey, Ezrael couldn't help but lament whatever had happened to the story on the walls. He was an admirer of history, many civilizations chose engravings and similar techniques for their durability. Monsters had, definitely. He had done a lot of carving himself back in the day. But these were… not ruined, there was a lot to be learned still. But they were missing something, and were affected by some weapon. Their state was all but natural. Beyond the decorated walls and the vastly tall entrance, there was an ounce of va'nyrian familiarity. To what little they had seen. But it was still very welcome.

It was nice, would have been nicer. But they were interrupted by a familiar face. It didn't matter if the hair was different. That was their guide! The cervitaur was so surprised he just stood there, mouth half hanging open, and he tilted his head. A couple of steps forward as the hologram finished speaking, not yet leaving the platform, before he said quietly;

"Xilunexus?..." He asked, before even thinking about the other question. He watched the hologram, mesmerized. Sure it was the same voice from before, but voices were easier to copy. Images were as well, weren't they? But this was… an illusion, no? It had to be!
 

N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
Circe couldn’t tear her eyes away from the twinkling lights–and even if she had been able to, she would have been left feeling hollow. It wasn’t simply that they were like stars penetrating the void, or that such a simple thing could bring so much longing, yet it was.

The brilliant lights and colors of the universe came together in a powerful flash of lightning–a pure and beautiful and terrifying display that made her heart leap in her chest and the hairs on her skin stand on end.

Circe sat atop a hill that overlooked pillars and spires of tree and stone, like an ancient temple. Thick light of magenta and gold blanketed the land in a glowing halo. Blades of soft lavender grass passed between her fingers. The smell of rain and sage was in the air.

Circe blinked, and it was gone, replaced the feeling of inertia as they gently came to a stop at what could have very well been the center of their world. The ringing in her ears faded quickly. She traced the lines of the demonic face on the mask over her helmet before securing it over her head. There was a 4% increase to the suit’s power reserves–from 70% to 74%.

“Look alive, boys,” Circe said, voice lilting as she cradled her gun.

The ancient, enormous doors opened before them–taller than any ancient building she had ever laid eyes on (which was many). The chamber was vast, with endless walls carved with what could have been decorative designs–at a first glance. Upon closed inspection, the walls were carefully and meticulously etched with images depicting a long forgotten past–where Va’nyria was alive.

With time, Circe would have once taken the time to study these images religiously. What had begun as a desperate quest to find a way back home had grown into genuine curiosity–of discovery and adventure. It had given her purpose, drive. Instead, she had SEA take in as much data as she could.

The part of her that felt woefully unprepared still screamed. Normally she would have investigated the place and gathered information for a time instead of rushing through half-blind. It made her skin itch. But they didn’t have time, and it was likely that they wouldn’t get another change, another try. If she stopped to think for too long, she might lose her nerve.

Someone familiar was there to greet them.

“Deep breath,” she spoke to Ezra through the com link, sensing his nervousness. Circe did not step off the platform to greet the hologram, when she otherwise would have. This felt wrong.

“Oh, hello,” she said, lips curling into a smile that revealed her canines. Circe was careful, wary, nervous, but kept calm. Xilunexus’ last words echoed in her mind.

This is the last time you hear from me. Remind Alaxel, and tell him I’ll be waiting where it began.

“Wouldn’t happen to be Xilunexus’ evil twin, would you?”
 

Script

Adorable Homewrecker
Benefactor
The light show and the cavernous space were eerily reminiscent of the ride up to confront CHIREN -- going from the self-contained cityscape of Meropis into the vast, cavernous hull of the colony ship that held all the necessary machinery to keep it running and ignorant. Strange lights in the distance, strange sounds, confused scanners...

Kai was just glad that this time, there weren't any mind-blowing revelations to contend with for now. Even if the fireworks were more impressive.

"Hollow planet," he murmured. "Huh. Physics behind that must be whacky."

"I don't know much about that, but even I know that sounds like something that shouldn't work," Jace added with a frown. "Or at least not normally."

"And what's been normal about this place so far?" Kai snorted a laugh. "I'm sure there's an answer somewhere in this data, but we can worry about the science of it later. Looks like we've reached the bottom. I better armor up. Just in case, y'know?"

"Good plan." Jace nodded, taking a moment to roll his shoulders and stretch. Better to be prepared for trouble than complacent, just because they were far from the surface's dangers. He was sure the depths had their own.

Kai dissolved into a flash of blue light that was swallowed into the drone, which had sat dormant for the duration of their descent, and now lifted itself again upon its spidery legs and moved to join the other three as the elevator set down. Not more than a few moments later, they were joined by unexpected company.

"She's not Xil," Kai's voice played out from the drone. "Similar, but different. She's not hooked up to the main network, so she's not got evil-Xil's claws in her either."

"So we can trust it?" Jace cast him a look.

"Seems like she's just doing her job, so I don't see why not." Kai's avatar shrugged, then turned his focus onto the hologram. "Sure! We're eager to catch up, but this is our first time here, so... lead on!"
 

Dashmiel

Bearly In Charge
Administrator
Nexus GM
The placid smile never left the hologram’s face, although a small glitch in the holographic medium presented itself upon the mention of Xilunexus’ name. It was minute and momentary, a small twitching of the hologram’s right eyelid easily mistaken for a muscle twitch.

“Apologies esteemed guest,” the hologram said in reply to Ezrael. “Your compatriot has the right of it. I am Xael, the xenial unit in charge of planetary development.” The hologram’s smile tugged slightly wider in one corner as it addressed Circe.

“We’re as close to sisters as you could say artificial intelligences to be, though I’d argue I’m the nice one.” Xael’s hologram extended an arm, pointing towards the corridor behind her. A stream of light materialized like mist condensing, and unfurled to highlight a path.

“The facility is large and complex. Please, allow me to show you the quickest route to the tramways,” she said as a new data drop became available for them. It was a flawlessly accurate map of the path highlighted, terminating in what did indeed appear to be an ideal location for a transit hub based on what they could decipher of the map and associated data they could gather on their own.
 
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N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
Circe smirked at Xael. She liked her more already.

Circe shook her head, taking in the dark scenery, idly wondering when the last time mortals set foot in these lands, if ever. The path lit up with a soft light, piercing through the darkness. It felt peaceful. Silent. An eerie juxtaposition.

Doubt echoed wearily in her mind and she questioned what awaited them beyond. To walk forward meant to trust the artificial intelligent being, and it was not something she was quite yet willing to do. But there was something else she trusted–or someone.

Emotions whirled up a storm inside her. Activating the key and connected her to Alaxel and the connection remained strong. Their destinies were entwined so tightly together. Circe had felt it in Nilin before, her worry, concern, grief, dread. Alaxel was being reckless, she had said.

Circe had thought either he must’ve not had any care in the world about getting himself killed or he knew that it wouldn’t matter in the end. That he must’ve thought whatever happened held no real significance to tomorrow. The guilt ate away at her now that she knew how wrong she had been to assume his motivations, having felt it–his searching, horror, guilt, fury, hurry–in the very core of her being. It wasn’t something that could easily be shaken. It was that feeling, that race against time that made her walk forward with long strides, as if she was seeing through his eyes.

“Let’s move,” she said with a slight edge.
 
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Machina Somnium

Tired Edgerunner
Mentor
Forum Moderator: Creative Forums
Benefactor
Life on the Edge GM
Ah, a sibling-like connection made plenty of sense. He hadn't realised it could happen in machines, and would have loved a conversation on it. But it occurred to him it may be similar to goops. When two or more were born of the same cores and the same viscous pool, they were siblings. AI may be family if they had the same creators, developers or came from the same materials.

"My most sincere apologies then, Xael." He said, admitting to his error with a little bit of shame.

"Your guidance is very welcome, thank y-ou.." He hadn't taken more than a few steps forward when he felt another wave of nausea. That, plus a headache that wouldn't go away. This time, though, he almost felt the need to lean down and retch. A cold shiver went through his spine, as he continued his walk, a bit slower, less eager for knowledge and discovery. More focused on what he could remember eating. It should be fine, the rest of them looked alright and nobody had complained. Maybe it was late effect from the fear the orange fire had instilled in him. It had been so sudden, he hadn't had time to mentally prepare. So it made sense for it to cause him a general malaise, or to have other physical repercussions.

The new map did show up on his visual interface, in his helmet. He looked at it, understanding very little. He was distracted anyway. For the sake of prevention, asking didn't seem like a bad idea.

"Are you all feeling alright? Physically, I mean." He could disguise it as a check on them, in case combat became more than an implied possibility.
 

Script

Adorable Homewrecker
Benefactor
"Big on their X names, I guess," Jace murmured. His eyes lingered briefly on Circe as she paused and seemed to focus, supposing she must have been using her abilities in some way to ascertain how readily they should follow the AI's direction. Not that he imagined it had emotions in the traditional sense, but he'd gathered that the captain's abilities went beyond simply being able to tell what a person was feeling. If neither she nor Kai saw a reason not to follow it, then he'd trust them. "Alright." He nodded to Circe and stepped forward, beginning to follow the path laid out for them.

He glanced across at Ezra at the cervitaur's question and nodded. "Doing fine. No injuries from the battle, and I'm rested enough from the trip down."

"No damage to report here either. Power levels took a bit of a hit from how ham I went up top, but hopefully that won't be like, a regular thing. Speaking of, though, there wouldn't happen to be any handy fuel caches down here, would there Xael?" Kai directed the question to the hologram as they walked.
 

Dashmiel

Bearly In Charge
Administrator
Nexus GM
Xael's reply came the moment the request was done being voiced. "Of course esteemed guest. You stand where nearly all of Va'nyria's power is produced. One moment please." Xael's hologram dissipated, leaving behind a metallic mist that clumped together until it formed four tear drop shapes which flew to hover over each of them. "Your gear isn't coded in the system, so direct transference isn't possible," Xael's voice said perfectly audible from nowhere in particular. "Think of the objects as lighting rods. To guide the Jin'tavar—the Flowing Power River—stream to your equipment's collector scoops," the AI explained with the increasingly characteristic eagerness to be of service.

"By the time you reach the tramways, your reserves should be filled. Please let me know if I can be of further service," she said helpfully.

The way forward led them through the grand entryway and into the corridor beyond. It was instantly familiar. It was the same utilitarian motif of metal and glass that was found past the Xilunexus’ backroom in the leaky servo. Here the floor was a cool bluish metal, with a narrow black carpet to soften their footfalls. The walls were composed of a burnished gray metal striated with glass veins where the energy flow they had seen outside pulsed in miniature as the facility gathered the Jin’Tavar stream. Their equipment once again sprouted the small fin-like collectors and began to gain a steady charge that surged with the scintillating pulses of energy in the walls.

A few dozen meters down the corridor, the wall to their right was replaced by a wide transparent-metal section, clear as a window and taking up three-fourths of the wall space. Beyond, they got their first glimpse at the Jin’tranir crystal mines. This section overlooked an automated warehouse of sorts, where sleek robotic machines mainly made of karametal performed impossibly fast and precise manipulation of their unfathomable bundles.

The platform extended for several hundred feet before a steep drop-off into unseen depths broke it up for another fifty feet or so. Another similar platform was visible past that, with slightly different machines at slightly different tasks. So on and so forth past the extent of their visibility. The area they were in and the work spaces below were illuminated by the same unobstructedly omnipresent lighting-without-a-source that was favored by the Va’nyrians. It was steady and even as always, except that somewhere in the distance beyond the window some flickering was taking place.

“At your current rate of speed, you should arrive at the tramway in about 30 minutes. It’s a short 5 minute ride to Aman’Ter city from there. I apologize that you must walk so far, esteemed guests. The personal transport system was ordered shut down by Alaxel.”

Her words were confirmed by the map, where it indicated that they had another 10 minutes or so of a straight corridor to traverse before they needed to take their first turn.
 

N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
Jace’s comment earned him a chuckle.

“Aye,” she said, “Wonder what our names would be in Va’nyrian. Would they have so many X’s, Xael?” Since Xael seemed to enjoy being helpful, and they had so much time on their hands as they walked, maybe they could keep a conversation going with the hologram. The constant silence was starting to be unnerving. Her skin crawled as her anxiety rose, and Circe did not enjoy occupying her time with simple video games.

Ancient languages always had a way of twisting names into something entirely new, and she was genuinely curious about the Va’nyrians naming customs. Circe had enjoyed learning that much in her studies. It was never a surprise, but always a pleasure. So far, she could recite her name in about a dozen different dialects lost to time. Her original name, that is.

Xael told them how long it would take for them to get there, and Circe frowned. The suit was quite comfortable but her feet were starting to ache. How many hours had they spent walking, already? Why would Alaxel do such a stupid thing? Damn him.

“Any chance that can be changed?” Circe asked Xael, but looked over to Kai, eyes full of mischief.

A cold chill ran down her spine when Ezra asked them how they were faring, the same sinking feeling in the pit of her gut that she’d had before their ‘kill count contest’. She could hear it in his voice, the strength that seeped from his bones that was more than just a sickness. Something was terribly wrong, but Circe pressed her lips together and marched on.

“Could be better,” Circe said, in response. “Could be worse. All I know is, as soon as I get home, I’m going to pop these boots off and devour a quart of strawberry açaí ice cream.” Drizzled in human blood for an extra kick, she almost added, but didn’t want to scare the children. They could hear the amusement in her voice. “How about you, Commander? Are you feeling alright?” She asked, checking Ezra’s biometrics in their shared network.
 
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Dashmiel

Bearly In Charge
Administrator
Nexus GM
"I won't fault you for the small sample size in a civilization of trillions, esteemed guests," Xael's voice said with a hint of playful chiding in her tone. "Especially given the fact that I know meeting my makers can be...intense when they're caught in the wrong mood, and unless I'm mistaken you've only been acquainted with them but shortly it seems. Xilunexus and I are part of the same program, codenamed Xenial Caretaker Initiative. Gherin, the individual who headed that project has...an unfortunate penchant for puns and wordplay," she explained.

Her tone turned meek and apologetic before she continued; "Unfortunately esteemed guests, I cannot lift the lockdown on the transport system. That requires direct authorization from one of the All Mother's Hands. Alaxel as mentioned is in Amen'Ter City, and Abbotrona’in has not logged into the facility in 31 of your days."
 

Script

Adorable Homewrecker
Benefactor
"Well, can't is a strong word..." Kai mused, before Jace shot him a warning look.

"No unnecessary risks," he chided. "Thirty minutes isn't going to make or break anything. Besides, we could use the charging time, right?"

On screen, Kai's avatar sighed dramatically and waved a dismissive hand. "Fine, fine... you're no fun, Sparks. We can do it the long way, but only because it means I'll get to fire more missiles without worrying about running out of juice."
 
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