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X-DREAMERS [mission 01: ash and sand]

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#Duke and Jowan#

 

Dynarst knew that the Inquisitors held power incomprehensible to the common skaa. He thought that Lefevre might have stood a slim chance, at best, with what seemed like his otherworldly pushing abilities, and part of him cautioned against having blind faith in a man he had just met but claimed to have the power of a god on his side. He doubted his claims -- until Bronze Bridge fell to pieces. It suddenly very seemed strange to swear upon the Lord Ruler's name.

 

The force of the encounter between the two beings had bent the steelwork of the bridge and caused it to collapse into the canal below. He had seen the glow of pure power emanate from before the Duke, strong, visible, and reaching into the heavens; he had seen him stand toe to toe with a servant of the Lord Ruler and emerge alive.

 

Dynarst runs towards them, stumbling cover the cobblestones in his haste.

 

"Duke, Duke Lefevre, are you alright?" he manages to say between huffs. From his feats, his mind constructed the Duke was an invisible, untiring, and ambitious figure, but he too seemed as exhausted as any other man after a brutal fight for survival -- it was in his eyes. Dynarst didn't know if his humanity reassured him or worried him. "And you too, ah..." the skaa addresses Jowan. He presses his lips together at the sight of the tear in the other man's forearm "I know someone--" he begins then stumbles on his own words, "--there should be a place around here who can take us in for a bit, at least before--before you smash into another Inquisitor or worse--"

 

The skaa suddenly stops his babbling and his gaze is focused in a point in the air behind the duo, on a rapidly approaching arrowhead-like object whizzing over the water. It didn't take many seconds for him to see that the flying item was, terrifyingly, made entirely of metal and was as tall as two men standing.

 

"What in the mist's name is that?" he whispers. He struggles to help both Duke and Jowan back to their feet and usher them to somewhere safe, before the metallic monster -- which seemed like another terrible innovation from the Lord Ruler -- would spot them for elimination.

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[ interrupted coronation : duke -- ; ] 

 

It is a relief to see Dynarst, and Duke is quickly finding out just how stable of a presence the other man now commands in his heart, even if they have met only moments ago. Perhaps that is his folly -- picking up strangers, wanderers, broken things, forbidden champions. 

 

But never once has he regretted the choices that have led him to the present, and Duke feels the tightness pressing against his chest relax as Dynarst speaks of a place -- of shelter, of aid, and Duke smiles internally to himself. Had he not befriended the strange peasant in the street -- well, they certainly would be closing a lot of doors right this second. 

 

"Perfectly fine," he responds automatically, albeit his voice is tight and he spares a worried glance for Jowan. Despite his own tiredness, it is nothing he is not aware of -- he has fought a war and shielded himself against Elias, after all -- but what worries him more than his own condition, which will undoubtedly restore after a night's -- or perhaps a fortnight's -- worth of rest, he is concerned for the status of a party member that he has promised to protect.

 

He has never let down those dear to him, not once -- and that is a promise that ties Vylcan to him. 

 

"This place," Duke says urgently, not giving Dynarst a chance to respond to his earlier words, "where --"

 

He is interrupted from his question by Dynarst's shock, and Duke turns with a feeling of dread steadily building in his chest. He turns just as he hears Dynarst whisper; a quiet, horrified kind of rushed note, and Duke feels his entire posture tense when he realises -- something is approaching, fast

 

It is a creature made of metal, shiny silver with a sharp red gaze reflecting the light, and the shine of the metal one's coat against the sun brings back the glare of the Inquisitor's eyeless sockets to Duke's mind.

 

He swallows then, looking around -- there is no way they can handle another fight, not with the battleground like this and the exhaustion of his suddenly depleted magic weighing heavily on his mind, but -- he will not back down, either, not when there is much to protect.

 

He spares a glance for Dynarst and Jowan, seeing Dynarst's pale face trying to rush them to safety, and he scrambles to his feet to the best of his ability; he feels faint, but only slightly, and he might have used either Dynarst or Jowan as a support to push himself up in the first place, but Duke angles himself correctly and squints into the distance at the approaching figure. 


There is a strange mixture of fear and apprehension in his throat, but Duke feels his emotions suddenly clear away when he realises --


"Wait," he says. "I recognise him."

 

It is the metal machine from the tea party, the one that had removed the other machine -- the brown-toned one -- and subsequently saved him from an untimely death. Duke thinks that perhaps the other is owed a thanks for his actions, but at the same time -- why was he here? 

 

Duke tries to think back to see if the machine had perhaps accompanied them on their mission, but no -- he would have noticed such a large member of their party, he thinks. But still -- Duke will not take chances, and he does not like the speed at which the other is approaching. An attack?

 

He brushes past Dynarst then, hoping the other will get the hint to begin retreat, and instead walks a couple steps towards the ruined rubble of the bridge, attempting to draw the attention of their ally. He does not want to put a shield up now -- not when he can feel his body's magic desperately trying to work up the resources to keep him standing in the first place, and he is not a fan of spontaneous organ failure -- but if it is absolutely needed he will not hesitate. He still does not know what drove the copper-toned one to attack him, and it is this looming question that keeps him suspicious. 

 

"Hello again," Duke calls out, his voice loud -- perhaps engaging in conversation will stop the other's fast descent, because Duke really does not want to be thrown into the water on top of all the things that has happened to him already, and he has taken enough beatings to last a lifetime.

 

"I don't believe I got your name last time," he says. "You'll have to forgive me; busy bleeding over the floor, and all that."

 

Despite his calm, friendly words, Duke's posture is tense, his feet together, and with the slightest shake in his frame; he is prepared to draw up a barrier, should the mech not freeze, but he does not like his chances -- between burning up internally or getting slammed off the bridge, he wonders which one he might have a higher chance of surviving against. 

 

Perhaps the water. He has never learnt to swim -- but perhaps Dynarst or Jowan know how. Or -- he could run, at this Duke begins to devise a plan should the other turn out offensive. He has no intention of picking a battle he cannot win, not when they are so vulnerable here. The cube in his pocket is stable despite repeated beatings, and he knows -- he only has to run to grab Jowan and Dynarst, and recall to safety. 

 

He will have some explaining to do to Xander, but he'll choose the Nohrian king's disapproval over death -- if it comes down to that, even if Duke does not like tainting reputations. 

 

"What brings you here?" 

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   Fallen Bronze Bridge - The Few at the Scene

 

   The bridge was in shambles. The remaining steel supports creaked and leaned, and massive boulders littered the bottom of the canal, hindering the barges below. Typheus killed his speed up above the destruction, quickly surveying it and the surrounding canal for the obvious, umber form of a 56 Pusher model, or perhaps her ridiculously-terrifyingly-cute laughter... yet, the scene was vacant, even of the odd robed people that occupied the streets where he had materialized. The collapse of the large bridge must have made them flee.
   Well, people tend to scream when they see Fiddlesticks, so listen for screaming, the white mech told himself. He hovered in place and swiveled, listening past the roar of his thrusters, but didn't catch any sounds of panic; rather, he heard a loud greeting echo across the canal.
   Typheus spun in place, and he quickly recognized the forms of three people at the other end of the bridge: the only ones around at the moment. The mousier one quickly hid behind the other, as he stepped daringly close to the remaining bridge's edge. The mech's visuals focused on the figure: white cape, blonde hair, the weird black mark under one eye and the bizarre heeled boots... Duke? Fiddlesticks's near-meal?
 

   Typheus zipped right up to the man before coming to a full stop in front of him, just a few feet away from his face, and hovered there, folding his arms. Despite the sudden rush, Duke maintained a light tone, saying, "I don't believe I got your name last time. You'll have to forgive me; busy bleeding over the floor, and all that."
   The 36 model's gaze flickered for a second as two threads - one laughing and the other too serious to care - canceled out into uncertainty. This bridge had obviously just collapsed, and here Duke was making smalltalk? He flicked his eye over to man next to him... Jowan the mage, he remembered... and then the stranger hiding behind him. Neither had a composure quite as steady as his.
   Rather than introduce himself, Typheus instead excused, "Fiddlesticks is impulsive, but I can tell you she was either hungry, or mad that you're a match for her. She tends to destroy opposition." His voice was grim and flat. "Where did she go? The bridge didn't fall apart by itself; unless it can't handle two hundred thirty pounds of man walking across it." He looked at the mousy man again to try and figure out who he was, but more readily recognized that Jowan had a recent bandage on his arm; the same arm that was bandaged before, during the tea party, actually. "You were attacked," the mech guessed, although he didn't readily attribute it to his partner. She was a lot more violent and destructive; she wouldn't make a scratch on someone's arm and then leave. That meant that something else had been here...

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Arch - Clockshop


Arch did little to suppress his pleased grin as Stan praised him.
“Anytime,” Arch purred, pride swelling in his chest. To him, it didn’t matter if he barely knew who the X-Dreamers were. Serving a human, and by extension humanity itself, would always put a spring in his step. Satisfied that he his task was done, Arch neatly folded his hands behind his back as a Stan turned to converse with a strange woman. Arch could not recall her name, nor was he sure he ever knew it, but he assumed that she was a fellow agent considering how amicably Stan reacted to her. While Arch was grateful that the newcomer appeared to be an ally, he could not help but frown when Stan’s demeanor turned dour.

 

“You know,” Arch began as Stan inched towards the clearing. “You needn’t be so grave. Unless you walk to the back of the building, I doubt you’ll come in contact with the sand at—” As though on cue, hideous creatures, teeth bared and claws outstretched, leaped out of the sand. Sherrkyle was out within an instant, flipping into a vertical position mid-air as a shining strong composed of blue light materialized within it. The other agents suddenly roused out of the previous peaceful atmosphere, quickly took up fighting stances.

 

“I suppose it would be too much to expect this world to be free of monsters,” Arch said. His lips curled in disgust as he pulled back Sherrkyle’s string. A magical arrow emerged from the string as it was drawn. The arrow crashed into the rat that had gnawed at Stan’s metal arm, resulting in a blue puff of smoke engulfing the creature as the arrow signed its skin. “Disgusting cur,” Arch hissed. Just as he was about to nock another arrow, the voice emitted from the cube in his pocket. Arch, startled by the sound, blinked in surprise as he glanced down at the cube. He let go of Sherrkyle, allowing the bow to float in the air as he rummaged through his pants to retrieve the cube. Someone, somehow, was talking through the cube. Arch assumed it had to be another agent, but he was unfamiliar with how long-distance communicators (that’s what it was, right?) operated. “Stan, someone appears to be trying to speak to us,” Arch said. “I’m afraid I’m not familiar with how this device works.”

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[ unexpected encounters : duke -- ; ] 

 

The robot rushing towards him makes Duke uneasy, but although his mind is a turmoil of uncertain thoughts, the blond commander holds his ground. To his relief, the machine stops mere feet away from his face, folding his arms together in a rather human-like gesture that has Duke crack a smile, relaxing slightly from his frayed nerves. 

 

"A match," he repeated, in slight disbelief. "Well, I'm honoured, but I'd rather not be attacked on the daily." Although he wants to continue his jest, the silver machine's next words has him pause, and Duke blinks, his surprise evident. 

 

"The bridge ... was me," he admits, almost sheepishly. "I might have broken a couple rules of conduct." However, he immediately sobers up upon the robot's analysis, and nods. "Yes. We'll have to seek shelter for a bit to recuperate, but it shouldn't be anything too serious." He hopes. Duke has no idea how heavily injured Jowan is, but despite that the blond does not like to entertain the idea of 'what-ifs'. The sooner he could end this conversation and seek medical treatment, the better, but all things considered this was still an X-Dreamers agent in supposed need. 

 

"You've lost your copper ... friend? Would she possibly be running around attacking monarchs?" 

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   Bronze Bridge - Hover-chat

 

   Typhues adjusted his wings to maintain his hover, lingering on Duke's words. "Broken a couple rules of conduct"... he remembered when he cared about that. It used to be his job, making sure they were followed, but then things stopped making sense and one rule conflicted with another... or, "feelings", if you were the little reptilian that wrote his software. That didn't make much sense either though, considering feelings were just physical simulations. Yet the machine was still amused by how nonchalant Duke was.

   He let his arms lower a bit at the mention of shelter, and reassessed Jowan's wound. The man behind Duke looked traumatized, but would easily recover - although it was worth noting that he couldn't be another agent, considering how the others reacted to a mech - yet, Jowan's bandage was definitely recent. Typheus flicked his scanner over it and picked up a high, localized moisture and fresh blood cells. He didn't know how Duke managed to destroy a bridge, nor how Jowan was wounded in the process, but at the very least he could use the story later to make Fiddlesticks warm up to the man. There was nothing like an overly-exaggerated story of aggression to pique her interest.

 

   Speaking of his partner, Duke unexpectedly guessed that she was lost. Typheus's face betrayed surprise, but before he could explain what happened the agent made a hilariously-probable suggestion; he couldn't help but bark out a laugh.

   "Running around? Attacking people? I ask myself when she isn't," he said, glancing at Jowan again before double-checking everyone else to make sure he wasn't glossing over other injuries. "What makes you ask? Did you see her?" he added hopefully, "Is there a monarch or a palace around in danger? She vanished during transport and... I don't know where she ended up." The mech hesitated on "I", remembering that he left Yusei behind. Hopefully he was okay... he seemed like he could handle himself.

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Cistina waited and waited for what seemed like hours, but received no reply from anyone on the other side of the cubic object. Her eyes flicked back to the man, who seemed to have noticed her pursuit and had veered off in another direction. Cistina narrowed her eyes, feeling a rush of excitement despite herself--a test for her nascent skills was rare in coming, not to mention being very needed. She flicked her eyes down again, briefly, and pressed her thumb to the side that initiated the warp before spreading her arms and tilting them back. Even in this strange world, with its ash-filled skies, she could feel the change in flow around her--If I've more experience, would I still need to spread my arms for this?--and she swooped, losing only the faintest amount of momentum. The man wasn't too far ahead--he glanced back just as she brought her arms to her side after her turn, and reached a hand into his coat. Cistina suddenly felt a sense of foreboding, a keen instinct that she didn't want to know what the man had up his sleeve. She sucked in a breath, curling up slightly as she did so, slowing down--

"Gale upon the welkin high/send arrow wind to smite my foes!" the spell threatened to erupt from her hands as the comforting swish of wind around her sang to her, but she could feel how it it still followed her direction. Like a creek flowing around a stone set in its path, the mana coursed, and Cistina jumped, her deadshot howling as it fired back from her feet and propelled her up. 

Not a moment too soon--the man whipped his hand behind him as she rose, and Cistina caught the flash of light reflecting off of metal out of the edge of her eyes. She angled down, narrowing herself as the man reacted to his missed attack, and let herself fall, winged boots, gravity, and magic working in tandem as the man looked up at her.
He seemed to focus on something behind them as she was a breath away from him. Time slowed, and his hands were in his coat again, and Cistina was just close enough to wrap her arms around his waist and release her thumb. The world twisted around them into a disconcerting cacophony of colors and sounds, and -->

Edited by Pyrowings

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Stan -- Clock shop

 

Theo had immediately sprung into action and vaulted over the counter. Stan ducked, allowing the other man to soar above him and land in front of him, spear in hand. His companion leaped into battle as well, knocking in an arrow and disintegrating one of the monsters with a single shot.

 

Youthful lot with magical powers. Figures, Stan tsked. He clutched his phone close and trained his eyes ahead in anticipation, lowering his stance to prepare to defend just as a third rat wiggled out of the sand to replace the first one. Like Lara, he was regretting leaving his bullets at home because it would have been much easier to just shoot the damn *******s, but this was alright. He couldn't imagine how much more of a pain this would all be without the help of the new recruits.

 

Ever since he joined the XDRS, he felt that his free spirit had been uncomfortably tempered. It must have been from necessity: in his decades of life he never needed to command others, and never wished to be commanded, but this crew... Back then, Vale pulled her hair out trying to teach him to stop being a loose cannon, and yet here he was, easily picking these same lessons up in another world.

 

The ring of his right iris glowed and information filled his sight. Not much of it was helpful, but he could keep track of the enemy's movements. In the meantime, his communicator began to broadcast another message. Cistina's voice was scarcely a whisper. He had to bring it close to his ear to catch it all:  "I've need of help; this anchor can bend the flow of time itself! I do not want to jeopardize the city with collateral damage from my power, so I fear I cannot retrieve the anchor alone. I daresay he is unwilling to touch the ground now--look for us in the skies!"

 

Around the same time, Arch made the remark that the communicator was trying to speak to them. "I'll explain how it works later," Stan squeezed in a reply to the angel. "Let's deal with this first! Arch, Theo, full assault! There's likely more monsters in that sand!"

 

Stan took a few steps back, away from the fray, and finally managed to give a proper answer into his phone to his teammates. The anchor bending the flow of time... "We're having a little situation on our end too, with monsters made by the sand... Our anchor here is an hourglass, so can the two be a matching set?" He waited for her reply, but nothing came. "Cistina? Cistina?! ...Duke?"

 

~~~

 

((to be continued/Cam to be posted in a bit))

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Lara looked around for something to grab to swing at the rats. She noticed that, about a meter from her feet, was a large splintering block of wood. Lara had a bright idea. She picked it up and got ready to swing. If one managed to make its way to her, she could at least knock the **** back. It was the least she could do to defend herself. If she had something better, an attack would have been wise, but this was all she had. It only she were good at baseball, but at least her aim was great. Lara took a deep breath and blew some of her bangs out of her face. She was ready to send one of these things flying.

 

One of the rats jumped towards her, the sand flying all over the place. It chomped down on Lara’s calf and started dragging her towards the sand. Lara smacked it hard in the head to make its bite loosen. Then she kicked it back towards the sand. Another went flying at her face, but she flipped back and smacked into its chin with her boot. “These b******s are worse than the wolves I’ve had to fight.” Lara sighed when she had a brief moment to breathe, but…

 

One more started sniffing the blood on her calf. She could feel its whiskers rubbing against her leg, and she jumped back a foot before driving it across the room with her wooden board. She took a few more deep breaths. Lara resolved that as soon as she got to base, she was going to go to the bazaar and gather some materials for a gym. Or she would go home and train a bit. But she absolutely needed to get back into the swing of things. Lara glanced at Stan, ready for any orders he might have. If she could be of use, damn straight she would.

Edited by Mikasa361

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#Stan, Lara, Badu, Arch, Theo#

 

Cam's expression is focused, unreadable. One arm was wrapped around the post of a shelf. The heavy iron of the rack shifted a little when she used her Allomancy to pull the metal-armed man out of harm's way, threatening to nearly fall on her.

 

The move was as instinctual as shielding one's face to protect from a blow. For a dozen overwhelming heartbeats she wasn't sure if she had helped the situation or not; Stan Gulliver lost his balance and toppled to the floor, vulnerable to the snapping jaws of the monsters.

 

Just leave it to the professionals, she had been told in the past -- and it was true, half the time, that she had caused more trouble whenever she tried to help, but... but her heart was weighed heavy by the possibility that she could have done something to prevent all of this. Maybe if the hourglass was in her care at the time, or if she managed to hold out for another few hours, no one would have needed to die. Maybe if she had started her search on her own a little earlier, these strangers wouldn't need to risk their humanity for this.

 

The angel's four wings made him look like an apparition born from the mists, his arrows destroying these monsters with ease; the spear man had the force of the storms at his command, and even judo-flip woman had the bravery to rush in for an attack against the whipping tails of the giant rats. Cam looks towards the woman with the doctor mask, who was running her fingers over the vials on her person as if to decide which one to use.

 

Cam furrowed her brows. Everyone else was busy fighting, sand creatures included. It was time to see what she could drag out of the sand.

 

Focusing in on the blue lines in her vision, Cam ducks down in front of the counter and takes in a deep breath, holding it while she flares her iron. Her body slams against the stone as if attracted by a powerful magnet, but the fixture does not budge -- instead, the clocks and parts and trinkets at the back of the shop all suddenly fly forward in a silvery hailstorm. Cabinets creak and fall over from the sudden pull, crashing into the sand and scattering a couple rats, and the things buried inside the dangerous dust also began to roll themselves along the ground towards her.

 

All of these items start falling again when she realizes with horror that her reserves were all gone from the burst. Completing their flight path, the lighter objects like spare bolts and utensils clatter to the ground near the entrance, showering Badu, while most of the heavier objects are caught on the other side of the counter. Cam slumps to the ground on her side, too exhausted to decide what to do next.

 

~~~

 

Stan -- Clockshop

 

It felt like a million knives were being flung towards him -- although not many of the UFOs were actually knives. Stan ducked and rolled to the side, kicking a rat out of the way in the process, and watched slack-jawed as things were just literally flying off the shelves. The magic of this world was really something frightening, and he couldn't help but feel a chill in his bones.

 

Even if her timing was a little bad, it seemed like Cam had the right idea -- now they could begin to see if the anchor was among the pile--

 

His phone buzzed in his hand.

 

It wasn't in the pile.

 

According to the pointer, it was still in the sand, and he could see it.

 

"There it is!" he shouted, pointing a finger at the half-buried artefact. The hourglass was ornate, unmistakable, and despite being empty it still glowed with a similar power to the one embodied in the rats. It looked large enough for him to need to hold it in two hands. It appeared to be decorated with a cagelike iron filigree, making it look like a lantern with its shining core. "See that conveniently glowing hourglass half in the sand? That's the one!"

 

~~~~~~~

 

#Duke, Jowan, Typheus#


"Wait," Duke said. "I recognize him." 

 

The hero with the power of a god shook himself out of Dynarst's grip, dragging himself back to the bridge one exhausted step at a time to meet the metallic monster face to face. Dynarst takes a few steps back behind Jowan, but not too many -- he fears that the flying creature might just snatch Lefevre away when he is not looking.

 

Thankfully, it stops just shy of hitting the white-caped man. It takes Dynarst a solid amount of time to convince himself that the metal beast was friendly. That Lefevre had strange friends. Strange, terrifying friends that may be able to fight a god.
 

The creature's one glowing eye seemed to stare straight into Dynarst with judgement and disapproval. Its horizontal eyelid made its expression into one that was perpetually squinting or frowning like a merciless taskmaster, and this unnerved the skaa -- even when its attention was drawn away by the Duke's silly banter, Dynarst kept feeling he was being closely watched.

 

Words keep getting caught in his throat. He could mutter them with shaking lips. He wanted to tell them that they should get going, Lefevre's metal friend included, and that he knew someone who might be able to help Jowan, but he could not muster the courage. Instead, he manages to gesture widely, waving his arms to get the attention of the man and the machine and draw it away from whatever interesting conversation they were having.

 

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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Lara’s jaw dropped when she saw Stan flying back. She didn’t expect this girl to have such an odd power, but she first needed to focus on these rats before she could really do anything else. There were two left, but they were the more ruthless of the bunch. One chomped into her arm, which made Lara screech in pain. She pinched its face to make its jaw unhinge, making sure to dig her nails in and ensure more pain to the damn beast. It let go, and Lara sent it flying across the room, leaving it to crawl into a crack in the wall. Lara focused on the last rat, smacking it hard in the snout with the board. It made a sickening crack! as it went flying across the room and smacked rear-first into the wall. She grinned, satisfied with her work. Then she took a look at Stan, who was now busy with yelling for either Duke or Cistina.

 

She shrugged. There was the artifact, all shiny and obvious. The usual, at least for her. Lara decided that she was going to go for it. She started by trying to reach for it with the board. Alas, the plan failed, as she instead pushed it a little further back. Frustrated, Lara huffed and looked around the room. There was, in fact, plenty of things she could grab dangling from the ceiling. There were chains and racks galore, perhaps to hold various items in the shop. It didn’t matter, they were hers to use now. She needed to hang from something in order to grab that hourglass. It wasn’t like she could navigate through the sand and grab it that way, not unless she wanted to die. At least, she hoped for death instead of remaining a monster forever. Who knew if there was a cure for that?

 

Lara noticed the wall. There were plenty of handholds, she could definitely scale the wall. Grabbing those first few chains on the ceiling would be a bit of a pain, but they were manageable. So she began her trek, placing her hands and feet wherever there was a good place to do so. That was the easy part. Her next task was much more daunting. The first chain was barely in reach, but she was able to grasp it and swing to the next one. Not too shabby, she thought. She grinned as she approached that glistening object she was ready to hang from the chain and grab.

 

That’s when it happened.

 

Lara lost her grip as she tried to move to the next chain, screaming as she fell right into the sand. She heard one person scream as she fell,

 

LARA!

 

 

“Lara-love, where are you?” Amelia asked as Lara hid behind the piano. She could barely hold back a small chuckling as she hid from her mother, curled up underneath the little bench. “Lara, Winston just made dinner, would you like to eat?” Amelia looked around, trying to find her little girl as she soon spotted a little red hair ribbon under the piano bench. She smiled. “I guess she isn’t here. I need to tell Richard, he shouldn’t like that at all. Oh, where ever could she be?”

 

Lara giggled. “I’m here, Mother!” She called. Little Lara somersaulted from under the bench and held her arms up, expecting a hug from her mother. Amelia scooped the five-year-old in her arms and kissed her forehead.

 

“Oh, heavens! You had me worried, child.” Lara giggled.

 

I got you good, didn’t I?” She cuddled her mama and smirked. “I chose the best hiding spot, didn’t I?” Amelia chuckled and rolled her eyes.

 

“Yes, Lara-love. You did. You most certainly did.

 

 

This was the site. This was the site she and Winston had found traces of the sword piece. This was the last one, Peru. Where she lost most of her friends. Where she lost Amanda, but where she and Anaya grew much closer. The wound was so fresh, Lara knew she couldn’t deal with this pain for too long. She just needed to get the sword piece and get the ever-living hell out of there. Maybe she would show the piece to Anaya, or even show her the completed product, with that pride she had every time she was able to find a new artifact. This sword was going to lead her to her mother, she knew it well. She just needed to be patient and level-headed.

 

She noticed something very, very strange as soon as she made it to the stone dais. There was a man already there, with what looked to be a… Colorful horse? They were facing off against some strange monster that seemed almost draconic. Lars pulled out her shotgun, shooting it three times in the back before it slithered into the abyss surrounding the dais. She heard a screech as the thing lost its footing and land with a sickening thud. The man and the horse turned to face Lara, the man holding the fragment of sword in his gloved hands.

 

She took a minute to observe the unfamiliar duo. The horse was especially strange- it was purple, which was most certainly not a natural color, not at all. Its dark blue mane and tail had one single magenta streak, and appeared to have wings and a horn. Was this some sort of Pegasus-unicorn mix? Lara was unsure. Then there was the man, who was dressed in the most peculiar fashion. He wore a green dress shirt and black dress slacks, both were very strange since he was obviously exploring. Lara didn’t get it. He also wore gloves on his hands. The man had to have been sweating. What put it all together were the soul patch and the goggles. She had to admit, he was fairly easy on the eyes, but his choice of clothing was very impractical. The man smirked when he saw her, saying:

 

"A bit dangerous to be parading around in daisy dukes, ain't it? I don't know who you're trying to impress out here in the wilderness."

 

Lara remembered being annoyed but also amused by his comment. She had decided to join their team from the moment Stan said “extra-dimensional squad”.

 

Lara refused to let those memories pass her by. She still had yet to find her mother! There was no way she could go like this. Lara refused to become one of those monsters, but she had realized that was her fate. So she decided to instead make one last sacrifice. She was going to go and grab that hourglass.

 

It was a matter of seconds before she felt the pain rip through her body, and her body suddenly feeling much heavier. Lara screamed in pain, feeling as if she were set on fire. She dragged further through the sand, writhing as she did so. The sight must have been awful, she thought to herself, but she kept trudging forward, If she was going to lose her humanity, the very least she could do was throw Stan the hourglass and finish the mission. If this would be her last mission, then she needed to accept that fact and do her best.

 

Moving forward, she reached her hand out and clasped her hand around the glass…

 

Everything seemed to snap back into focus. Lara felt no pain, no heaviness, she felt... Normal. Yes. Normal. Lara stared at the hourglass as she held it, noting how much it seemed to shine. This saved her. Lara grinned and guffawed. 

 

I... I’m OKAY! A-HA, I’m alright!” She rejoiced as she clutched the hourglass closer to her. Relieved and overjoyed, she trudged through the sand and made her way to safer ground. 

Edited by Mikasa361

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[ spear of devotion : theo -- ; ] 

 

Theo cannot help but stifle his delight as he watches the metal-armed man all but fly across the room, pulled by an invisible force primarily lead by his arm. It is not as if he has any particular reason to hate the other man -- who is now apparently on their side as part of the X-Dreamers, now and forever -- but the sight of his arm reminds Theo a little too much of a certain demon-armed young man with a single bright blue hair, and the knight involuntarily shudders in response. 

 

He has never really mentioned the past when he travelled alone, too involved in making the best of the present with Arch by his side, but Theo has to admit -- sometimes he fears opening his eyes and seeing Ezekiel's cursed face close in his proximity instead of that of his beloved. 

 

Almost on cue, Theo looks around, as if merely thinking the half-demon's name could somehow sprout the annoying cat into existence. What if he popped into this world only to assault random children and press his face up against Arch's?

 

Absolutely not. 

 

Theo is distracted in his thoughts, and it takes the knight a second to bring himself back to the present. In the meantime, his -- teammates? -- have begun to fight the rats rising up from the sands, and --

 

What?

 

The items in the shop are flying, drawn by the same force that had pulled Stan away from danger only a second beforehand, and Theo looks back. The girl -- so it seems she is more powerful than at first glance. 

 

But her magic disappears suddenly just as it had shifted the items in the room, but it seems it was just enough. Stan calls out and Theo zeroes in on the hourglass immediately, lying harmlessly half-buried in the sand, and the knight twirls one of his spears in his hand, adjusting his grip.

 

They do not have time to play around, if the call that had come from the communicator is any indication, and Theo decides just so as he joins his spears together, twirling the weapon around. The spinning blades flash with electricity as he feels red lightning jolt from his fingertips, and, well --

 

If they cannot cross the sand to reach the hourglass, he will shock it towards him. Hopefully Arch has sense to draw up a shield, but if not -- the angel's flying state will ensure he is not harmed, and Theo is otherwise invincible, and everyone else -- well, they'll recover. 

 

He's only going to run a tiny shock through the bottom of the shop. Otherwise, he doesn't think Arch will forgive him if he crashes a house down on the two of them -- not after last time. 

 

He stops spinning abruptly and the air before him cracks with thunder, the lightning angered by its sudden stop in momentum, and Theo thrusts the spear down. 

 

"Legio--"

 

He cuts off abruptly, because what the hell.

 

He watches as the brown-haired girl -- what was her name? Lauren? -- falls into the sand directly where he is about to aim his strike, and just as she falls the metal-armed man screams out and there is a certain -- desperation in his voice that Theo almost recognises.

 

Well, he can't really think about that now, not when -- 

 

"Ahhh!" Accompanied by a scream, as is custom, he redirects the lightning as quickly as he can, the pent-up energy sizzling between his fingers, because he is not about to directly electrocute a teammate -- seriously, what? -- and Theo watches as the ground lights up momentarily with red fire and lightning shoots straight up from where he was about to shoot just a moment ago, cleaving a path into the heavens.

 

Cleared from potentially murdering someone, Theo separates his spears and huffs, gathering himself from his position as he brushes himself off and stares as the brown-haired girl makes her way towards them, easily moving through the sand.

 

Well, that was a lot less anticlimactic than he expected, and yet Theo cannot help but feel the pressure in his chest relax at knowing the girl -- someone dear to Stan, perhaps? -- is not ... gone. 

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Jowan

 

A feeling of dread settles in Jowan’s stomach even as he reaches over to start unwinding the bandage. He and Duke were both too exhausted for another fight, but he should have seen this coming. They should have kept moving instead of stopping to talk about their feelings, of all things. Now they’d die, and it’ll be his fault because he should have said something. The dull realization hurts, but he’s so tired. Maybe they could create enough of a delay to allow Dynarst to escape. 

 

Before he can muster up the courage to let the blood start flowing again Duke claims to recognize the metal beast hurtling towards them. Jowan squints; he’s not sure how Duke recognizes much when it’s moving so quickly and erratically. The pounding in his chest doesn’t help, telling him to run, but his feet remain planted on the ground. 

He tells himself that it’s because Dynarst is relying on him, but in truth he’s not sure if he’d be able to move if he tried. 

 

He’s amazed by Duke’s ability to stand tall in the face of a giant robot stopping feet from him; even Jowan stumbles backward, despite being farther away than Duke is. He hopes that it’s bravery and not a lack of reflexes that keeps Duke from moving, anyway. 

 

Now that the creature has stopped, he’s able to recognize it as well. Was… was that one Fiddlesticks? He knows that there are two of the terrifying robot things and that the other one was darker, but he can’t remember which was which. Has she come to finish the job and kill Duke? 

 

A few drops of blood fall to the cobblestones at his feet, but he waits. The tension in the air is so thick that he can barely draw breath. Duke’s dry comment about bleeding out doesn’t help -- Jowan doesn’t want to hear about Duke nearly dying, not when he’s so likely to die for real now. 

 

The robot goes straight to business, not even bothering to introduce himself. He’s not Fiddlesticks, at least, but he’s looking for her and that’s enough to convince Jowan that he should stay as far from the robot as possible. Maybe it’s not very heroic, but he wants to leave, to find whatever shelter Dynarst proposed. He doesn’t know how to interrupt to say this -- it feels like any sudden movement he makes could result in the robot focusing that yellow eye on him. 
 

Edited by Zor

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[ a man of many talents : duke -- ; ] 

 

Duke flinches back -- a split second's movement, too slight to be noticed if one was not paying close enough attention, but a betrayal of his feelings nonetheless -- at the sudden sound of the robot's voice, a harsh, mechanical sound that escapes the silver beast's soundbox that Duke only later recognises as a laugh. He is relaxed, outwardly, towards Typheus, only because he does not want those currently watching this conversation to worry, but the blond is wary. By all means the silver machine is much more suited for conversation than his partner, the brown-metal robot, but that does not mean he is not wary -- and if not slightly afraid. If the machine wanted to, he could crush Duke here and now -- and the blond is all too aware that his magic reserves are low, and the simple act of keeping the connection between him and Vylcan even remotely present is already seeping into vital reserves.

 

He does not want to be reminded of such things. In the back of his mind, Duke thinks it would be morbidly hilarious if Lifen lost both family members because they sucked at managing magic correctly, above all things.

 

And then Duke feels his chest tighten at the thought of people he has promised not to think about -- not now, not when things have changed -- and so the blond shakes himself and focuses on the conversation at hand.

 

"Sorry," Duke says. "I'm afraid not. We've been a little bit preoccupied with other issues at hand." Curiously, Duke turns his head at the machine's words, and dips his head to the large, foreboding castle in the distance.

 

"That -- was a joke, but if you're looking for a monarch, there's your best bet -- but I don't know if rushing in is a good idea." Duke hesitates, thinking about the metal-eyed man they had just fought and his strange abilities and the way his sword had flung itself into the distance. 

 

He drops his voice, quietly relaying information; he does not want to get caught in a discussion of their impending futures here -- because it does not look very bright, but since when have the odds stopped him? -- but he figures the robot, as a fellow agent, deserves any and all information. If only he could relay that to Cistina somehow, but the wind mage has seemed to have disappeared with the billowing breeze.

 

"The guards -- they have strange abilities regarding metal. I'm not quite clear on what exactly, but considering ..." Duke casts a doubtful glance at the machine before him, sleek in shiny silver. "I advise you to find your ... friend as quickly as possible." 

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   Collapsed Bridge - Some Anxiety in this Casual Chat

   Duke gives himself a shake, looking troubled, and Typheus studied him in curiosity at his reply. "Other issues"? Maybe those are what caused the bridge to collapse. Well, at least they weren't things Fiddlesticks was involved in; that was both good news and bad news, in more ways than one. The machine tried to hide his disappointment, tapping his claws on one arm and taking a moment to check his fuel reserves, before catching Duke's gesture as he spoke of a "castle". He flew up a story's height to check behind him without singeing anyone.
   The giant spires in the distance. So that was a palace, not a fort? Or perhaps a mix of both, with the way it looks. Something about the aesthetic, combined with a suspecting hint birthed from Duke's joke, made him guess that Fiddlesticks went there - he has told her multiple times to head toward an obvious landmark when lost - but she could be ignoring that advice right now, or even on the other side of the planet for all he knew. It stressed his processor to think about all of the different possible fates she could have succumbed to. Still, his threads churned, considering how hard it would be to fly into the palace... maybe he was underestimating this world. To perch up at it highest peak though and send a ping out for her across this town, city, or whatever settlement it was, was his best bet for finding her directly; otherwise he would be forced to fly over it repeatedly, hoping she wasn't somehow underground or in a building, and then he would have to survey the land outside... and who knew how big this world was. Not even prior experience helped him with a starting point, because Fiddlesticks was hard to track because she just kept moving. When the Empire had to search for her they literally spread their scouts within screeching distance of each other and listened for gunshots!
   The more he thought about it, the more overwhelming it became. He returned to the group, vexed, noting that Jowan hadn't said anything, and still he had nothing to say. He just watched him cautiously, ignoring his bandaged wound, with the man behind him making this... strange... flailing gesture. Emotions were flicking through his face so fast the mech couldn't read him. Urgency?

   Duke's voice brings Typheus back to the conversation, but he had lowered it in caution, making it hard to hear over the thrusters. Typheus promptly dashed over to his left side and switched them off, landing with a heavy thunk. He left his wings flared so they cooled off, digesting Duke's words over the thrusters' dying whirs, and quickly he drew some connections between them and Stan's hours-old report.
   "The metal-benders," he recalled aloud, "I had assumed that we were immune to them... I have a glass coating - among many - that resists magnetism. Fiddlesticks has her own magnetic defenses." He blinked, figuratively frowning at the blonde. He also said 'strange', and I can't assume he doesn't know about magnetism, his thoughts interjected. He remembered the ability Elise showed off... but did Yusei's metal disc have a magnet retardant? Did it even matter? Yet, she did have to hold onto her own guard so she didn't fall over... weakness? Of her, or the ability?
   So many details, no time to find them all.
   "I think I know what you're talking about. I met a higher-class citizen here, and she could pull metal," Typheus divulged to the agent, "She called it 'ironpulling', and implied there was more than one way to manipulate metal. I can tell you more," he began to speak slowly, "but who is that man, and why is he doing that?" He looked pointedly at the quivering person behind Jowan, then paused for a moment to try and read him more clearly. His distress reminded him of scientists' grimaces whenever management came to check on the mechs, but also of the rebel machines when they were afraid. "...Are one of your 'issues' coming back?"

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#Yusei#

 

 

Mr. Fudo's two monsters had vanished. Elise shields her eyes with her hand and and squints through the light and wind born from the awesome power of the summon, while her manor's guards are caught between fear and duty at the sight of the creature. It rivaled the height of many skaa apartments, with a serpentine body that shone like polished silver and patches that looked like they were made of a precious gemstone. Elise predicts that with a strike of its claws or its powerful tail, it could easily topple her family's keep and turn the stonework to rubble.

 

The hole in the wall suddenly did not appear to be such a big problem anymore.

 

The noble girl stills her breath and steadies her voice. She tucks her arms behind her, crossing her fingers and giving her hands a tight squeeze to ground herself. With her bravado suddenly gone, she has a harder time keeping her composure. "I liked the cute little bird a little more, aha," she tries to jest, adding in a laugh. "But this is really really impressive! But I have to ask one more thing: what brings you and your summons to this place, Mr. Fudo? Like, in general?"

 

It was plain to everyone present that none of Elise's subordinates are willing to fight the stranger -- and by extension, his monster -- should the need arise. Even a mistborn wouldn't even know where to begin. Or perhaps his metal contraption was the source of his summoning power, and damaging it would render the creature null and void? Elise does not particularly want to find out whether or not that were the case.

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Arch | Clockshop

 

Heeding Stan’s instructions, Arch ignored the voice emitting from the cube and placed it back in the pocket he retrieved it from.
“Of course,” Arch said with an affirmative nod. “I’ll deal with it later.” With a wave of his hand, Sherrkyle reopened itself. It flew in front of Arch who expertly pulled back its magical string until it was taut. As the magic in the string grew, a blue light growing in intensity as an arrow formed, Arch watched one of his companions leap towards the rats with a plank of wood in hand. Arch watched the woman in mild admiration as she sent the rats flying across the room. Aiming at one of the rats she had attacked, Arch released the arrow, shooting the creature right in the stomach.

 

Arch quickly notched another arrow, aiming at another rat when the room suddenly exploded. Everything from the furniture to the various trinkets shook as though hit by an earthquake. The smaller objects not tied to the foundation of the house or too heavy to be lifted by the strange force soared through the air. Arch quickly lowered his bow, the magic arrow dissipating, as shielded his body with his wings. The shields he had placed on his companions was near its time limit, but Arch was sure it would last long enough to deal with whatever was currently happening. Arch, who didn’t bother shielding himself, gritting his teeth as he felt a sharp, metal object snag onto his wings for several seconds before being pulled away by the mysterious force. Smaller less-pointed objects battered Arch’s wings, causing him to tighten his grip on Sherrkyle.

 

Not too long after the objects began flying, they clattered to the ground. Arch stood up, sparing a glance at the small trickle of blood staining one of his white feathers, before assessing the situation. Stan pointed towards an hourglass concealed in the sand, but before Arch could do anything the woman from earlier hastily went after it. Arch looked over at his partner, noting that Theo appeared to be fine, before looking for the girl from earlier. She wasn’t in plain view which was enough to make Arch worried something happened to her.

 

Commanding Sherrkyle to float by his side, Arch swiftly strolled towards the entrance of the shop, looking for anywhere she could possibly be. It wasn’t hard to locate the girl. She had hidden herself underneath a counter that most of the objects had seemingly flown towards. She looked exhausted slumped up against the side of the counter which didn’t make sense since Arch didn’t see her participating in the battle. That was, unless, she was doing something else. Something like pulling everything in the room towards her.

 

Deciding he could ask questions later, Arch kneeled down in the front of the girl.
“Miss, are you alright?” Arch asked. He couldn’t spot any obvious injuries on her person, but Arch knew better than to assume everything was okay. Even if she wasn’t injured, fatigue was a beast all of its own. Before Arch could open his mouth to ask the girl another question, red light filled the room. Arch recognized the little red flames dancing at his feet just in time to shield both him and the girl from the light emanating from the lightning Theo shot into the ceiling, yelling aloud. Just as the light faded away, Arch quickly stood back up and shot a glare in Theo’s direction.

 

“Had I known you were so keen on blowing up the building, I would have thrown you out of here before the fight started!” Arch yelled at Theo. “Stop throwing lightning around in close quarters!” Confident Theo had heard him, Arch ducked back down to face the girl. “Forgive my yelling,” Arch said. “I hope you aren’t badly hurt.” Arch inched one of his arms towards the girl. He didn’t want to touch her without permission but wanted to give her the chance to lean on him if she needed to.

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[ a light night : duke -- ; ] 

 

The machine, while he is polite and rather lovely to converse with -- really, much better than his brown counterpart -- is also giving Duke a headache. The blond forces a smile as Typheus' whirling motors die down, the other having settled to continue their talk, but the sudden lack of background noise is making Duke all too aware of his own inhibitions.

 

He has to hold on. They are not at safety yet, not quite, and there is still much he wants to do -- make sure those he cares about are alright, for one. And the communicators? Cistina had dashed off in the madness of battle, and although he does not doubt the wind priestess can hold her own he is still concerned by the sudden lack of one of their party. What was it that Stan had said? Stick together?

 

However, what he wants and what he needs are two different things, and he can feel his body beginning to slow down, his thoughts sluggish. More than likely most of his magic is being drawn towards Vylcan's recovery -- and sustaining his presence within Duke's body, considering they are in unfamiliar lands -- and that does not leave him much else by which to use for other functions, such as thinking and talking. 

 

"I see," he replies, trying to keep his voice steady. Metal-benders ... it would seem like Typheus' words held truth, and Duke has seen enough throughout his years that new ways of using magic do not surprise him. The ability to manipulate iron ... it seems almost unfair, this ability that would grant the user advantage against nearly all of their enemies in battle, and with a pang Duke remembers how his sword had flown across the bridge, never to be seen again. 

 

Duke, Vylcan says, and the blond jumps. The fairy is not supposed to be speaking right now, all things considered. 

 

Rest, Vylcan says again, his voice inside Duke's head only adding to the blond's growing headache, and Vylcan's stressed command plays against his frayed nerves. 

 

At the machine's question, Duke blinks, temporarily confused. "Man --?" He raises a hand to the back of his head, pressing the palm of his hand against his hair in an attempt to ward off the sudden headache, but then --

 

"Oh," Duke says, as his arm falls down limply. "Whoops," the blond says, chuckling slightly, giving Typheus the faintest flash of a nervous gaze. "Must be nerves," the blond offers, shifting to turn to look behind him to see what the robot is referring to, but instead of turning his body completely Duke staggers and gives an awkward half-hop.

 

Internally screaming -- he rested, they sat down, he talked to Jowan for a bit, that should be enough, why is it not enough -- Duke hesitates for a split second, caught in this position, before he feels his legs give out underneath him and he gives into the darkness before he even feels the wind rifling through his hair at his fall and the ground slowly drawing closer. 

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#Duke, Jowan, Typheus#

 

"Duke Lefevre!"

 

Dynarst shouts. He finally finds his voice and he reaches an arm into the air towards the Duke but the Duke is many steps out of reach -- the skaa feels helpless when the hero collapses suddenly and the giant metal beast reaches for his falling form. For a heavy heartbeat he thinks the shining white monster might open a hidden maw and swallow Lefevre whole, but instead it held the young man delicately between its claws. Almost lovingly, or as tenderly as a creature made of many knives could be.

 

Dynarst's mouth is agape and his entire expression is dragged down with a frown of concern and confusion. He doesn't realize that had been forgetting to breathe. He glances at Sir Jowan beside him but the other man, much braver than he, had already run forward to see his companion despite his bloody sleeve and his own exhaustion.

 

He beckons them all to follow him. It seemed like they really did need somewhere to rest and recover.

 

~~~

 

Dynarst places a hand on the wall of one of the winding alleyways of Luthadel's settlements. He did not know the pathways of this sector very well, however, the inner streets offered shelter from searching eyes seeking Duke, and offered a way to hide a metal creature as tall as two men. He is not entirely sure where he is going, judging by the looping path he realized he was following; never before had he felt so much pressure performing any task, and throughout the trek he would look back at Lefevre's limp body and remind himself that he had to hurry.

 

He had only been in this part of the city a few times; up until now, Dynarst had been as model a citizen as a low class skaa could be: he was there where he needed to be, when he needed to be, doing what he had to do. He was not foolish enough to challenge nobles. One lived long by keeping their eyes on the ground and being unremarkable enough to avoid being targeted.

 

And yet... Whatever force above the Lord Ruler had chosen him as a witness to hope itself. He wouldn't be able to live as he did before, even if he wished to forget it all. It was as if Lefevre had infused within him a new vigor that compelled him to tug at his chains and scratch at his shackles. It was as if he had witnessed the Survivor, and now he understood why so many skaa still speak of rebellion despite having historically been massacred time and time again.

 

The skaa stops in front of a modest wooden door like any other. He glances left, then right to make sure no one was there, and tapped the door with his knuckles. "Grigor?" he calls. "It's Dynarst. I've been giving your offer a think."

 

A previously concealed panel on the door slides open and a pair of startling blue eyes stare out of the peephole. They widen, and the panel in the door slams shut. "Lord above, what the mists is that?!" A man's voice shouts from the other side. "Straight looks like something the Lord Ruler cooked up in a nightmare. You ain't sold out to the Garrison, have you?"

 

"The Garrison tried to punch me in the face today, right he did." Dynarst lets out a bitter laugh. "Can't say it wasn't for no reason. Got too close to someone dressed like a noble."

 

The door slowly creaks open, revealing a shorter but sharper man who seemed in slightly better shape than Dynarst: he was skaa and dressed plainly, but his skin was not sticky with soot or sweat, almost as if he rarely went outside under the oppressive sun. Dynarst had never seen a skaa other than Grigor with a noble's blue irises and he had always suspected that he might not be skaa at all. It was hard to tell who was a halfbreed, these days.

 

The shorter man, Grigor, shoos them all (with the exception of the metal monster) through the door and into the modest one room house. With some help, Dynarst carries Duke up one flight of stairs into a room of several cots -- some occupied by exhausted bodies but many of them empty -- and lowers him into a bed. It is not the most luxurious of settings, but it must have been better than the hard cobblestones rendered scalding by the sun.

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Stan -- Clock Shop

 

"LARA!!"

 

Stan's voice ripped through the air like Theo's red lightning -- sudden, vivid, and destructive. It felt like everyone was yelling, all at the same time, adding to the pandemonium, but to Stan all of the chaos suddenly seemed very far, far away. The crisp smell of ozone and gasoline graced his nose, though he could not tell if it was because of the electric attack or simply a hallucination brought on by surfacing memories.

 

Why do people like to play the damn hero all the time?

 

A hero might have dived in to save her before the sand's effect settled in. He was no hero. For all his bravado, he hated that he now was a coward when things actually mattered. For a frightening moment he forgot everything the Extra-Dimensional Restoration Squad had given him; he just wanted his one job again at the Vesta Defense Department, or to be a lone journeyman, to take his own risks and free others from danger. To stop thinking too hard and let his instincts guide him in fast paced games of life and death.


He didn't like to take charge. Every time he did, everything fell apart. He would have been better off not bringing anyone along at all, whether it was an encounter with the steel-eyed demons, his weapon experiments, or his patrols aboard a ship traveling through space.

 

Despite himself his grip tightened around his phone, threatening to crush it between his fingers. It wouldn't matter if he broke it, anyway, and severed the line between he and the other groups -- there might not have been any other groups left to contact. Neither Duke nor Cistina had answered since their calls for aid, and Stan's guilt welled in his throat the longer the radio silence persisted. The XDRS had been successful in all their ventures up until now, and now their streak had ended. He had caused a total party wipe through a chain of a dozen mistakes.

 

Even if he did prevent the group from splitting, he wasn't sure if it would have changed anything. He was so obsessed with things that were elsewhere that he ended up paying the price of his companion's humanity.

 

Companion... Was that even the right word? Teammate, comrade... None of those words described the depth of what he felt toward her -- joking aside -- and losing Lara brought to his mind Chanel who he was convinced he killed through his errors. Drawing parallels seemed only natural.

 

Chanel used to be more than a friend. He realized too late that Lara might have been, as well.


"I... I’m okay!"

 

What?

 

The woman's voice was free of the pain it suffered a moment ago. It snapped him back to the present. The modest watch shop came back into focus.

 

She was... laughing?

 

"I’m alright!"

 

The moment she found her way out of the sand, anchor in hand, he tossed his phone aside and pounced. He threw his arms around her and nearly topped them both back into the sand, but he was mindful of keeping his balance. Maybe he was overstepping boundaries, but this one time would be an exception, if she ever asked.

 

"I'm sorry," he whispered into her hair. The words are a soft whine, and they were the words he wished he could say to the other woman who had been gone long ago. He tried not to cry.  "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm so glad that you're okay."

 

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Lara had just gotten out of the sand when she felt a weight collide with her and two arms sliding around her. “I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm so glad that you're okay.Lara was shocked when she heard the voice she usually heard, this time in a very soft almost-cry. It sounded like Stan wanted to start crying, but for some reason he couldn’t bring himself to do it. She wanted to do so many things, to  grab his face and press her lips against his, to take him home and tuck him into bed and make sure he got some good rest, to hold him and never let go. Right now, her task was to let his emotions confirm to her what she had been hoping was the case for longer than she could afford to admit. For now, she hesitantly wrapped her arms around Stan, wondering if this was too much. It seemed that it wasn’t, since he seemed to hold her just a little closer when she did that. Lara was unsure how to say it, but she figured it would be a good idea to say something and reassure him that she was okay. She carefully placed her right hand on his left cheek, stroking the bit of stubble that was growing.

 

Shhh…. Shhh…. I’m alright… It’s okay… Shh…” Lara buried her face in the crook of his neck, taking in the scent, the smell of sweat and a hint of gasoline and…and… him. It didn’t matter to her at the moment, but she liked the occasions when he wore his cologne. It gave him that distinct smell that associated her with some pretty damned good memories. Memories that could only have been made possible in this multi-dimensional trainwreck. She had to hand it to the X-DREAMERS, for giving her something to want to fight for other than her father’s reputation. “You can cry if you need to,” she whispered gently in his ear. Lara moved her head and planted a gentle peck on his cheek not occupied by her hand. Maybe that was too much, but she didn’t care. It was how her mother would tell her everything was alright, through a kiss on the cheek or on the head. So oh well, he was going to have to deal with it.

 

Lara rocked the both of them side to side, something else that reassured her as a child. She wanted Stan to feel okay, that was her goal. Once he was calm, and back to his normal self, that was the time Lara would step away and they could return to their task at hand. For now, Lara held Stan tight, nuzzling his neck and continuing to rock them both.

Edited by Mikasa361

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Stan -- Clock Shop

 

His sudden swell of emotion dispersed and his cheeks glowed red from the touch of her lips. This was so different from the Lara he knew, who was callous, unyielding, and untouchable. Perhaps it was indeed true that every woman had a spot of hidden tenderness -- a hidden side of themselves that Stan could never hope to understand.

 

"You did it," he said, nuzzling her with his cheek before breaking the embrace. "Good job. We got it, so we should wrap it up here and see if Duke and Cistina are alright."

 

Some of her blood finds his way onto his clothes, but he doesn't seem to notice. After all, she was alive and she was herself. That's all that mattered.

 

~~~

 

#Stan, Lara, Theo, Arch, Badu#

 

"I'm alright." Cam feels her limbs grow weary but she forces herself to steel her expression and sit straight under the angel's gaze. She is uncomfortable exposing her weakness but her body doesn't seem to work right for the first two seconds (though thankfully, his attention was briefly elsewhere while she recovered). She looks at his outstretched hand and the silhouette of his four, birdlike wings and decides, just this once, to take the charity offered to her.

 

"You're bleeding," the young girl says after Arch helps her to her feet. She lifts a hand to point at one of his white feathers that was now partially streaked with red. She was unsure if it was because of her pull or because of the monsters, and she doesn't think it is worth asking.

 

Far behind her, some rubble and dirt suddenly falls from the hole Theo struck into the ceiling. Stan tilts his head up to take a better look, and to his horror he realizes that the 'dirt' was in fact more sand and that the light shining down from the hole was suddenly eclipsed by a dark form, eyes white and empty, cheeks sunken, skin dried like a raisin.

 

The sand creature crawls through the hole in the created by the misdirected attack, its spindly limbs and sharp fingernails grabbing onto the spaces between stone and wood as it rapidly skitters along a wall. The monster is human in shape but abnormally bony and disproportionately slender, with the tattered clothing on its form another hint to what it used to be.

 

Further back in the room, Badu clears her throat, her mask concealing a positively thrilling smile and her hand juggling the weight of a blight grenade.

 

~~~

((Badu, Cam and Arch, Stan and Lara, Theo

vs.

Sand Tinkerer x1

 

Roll for initiative!))

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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Jowan

 

He’s exhausted and wishes that he could sit down on the ground again, but he follows Dynarst without complaint. The path that he follows hardly seems straight, and almost seems to loop back on itself a few times, but Jowan assumes that Dynarst has a reason for that. Maybe it’s to keep people from following them. 

 

The house, like the others around it, is small and coated in a thick layer of ash and grime. Jowan is less sure that the concealed panel in the door is standard, but he questions neither it nor the “offer” that Dynarst mentions.

 

His suspicions about the house not being entirely legal are increased by the number of cots, both occupied and otherwise, on the top floor. It’s convenient for their purposes, at least, even if Jowan is concerned that they’re getting wrapped up in something that they shouldn’t be. Maybe it’s too late to worry about that; Duke had already antagonized the local authorities enough, and maybe he wasn’t wrong to. 

 

He wrings his hands as Dynarst places Duke on the bed, concerned. Duke’s chest rises and falls slowly but steadily, and there is an almost peaceful expression on his face. It’s worrisome that he’s been out for so long, but he doesn’t seem to be dying. Perhaps he's just sleeping deeply enough to not be woken by a giant metal golem carrying him around. It's a comforting thought, at least. 

 

Jowan could use some sleep himself. Calling it “a long day” was a bit of an understatement -- he’d gone from nearly being made Tranquil to being dragged to the Gateway to this. The only time he’d really been able to rest (if one could call it that) was when he’d had a shower, and that itself had been confusing enough. 

 

He’s not sure if he wants to be asleep when Duke wakes up, though -- surely waking up in an unfamiliar place would be disconcerting. There’s still a few things that he needs to do first as well, like trying to contact Stan and the others. Would they be worried? He doesn't think that getting into a fight like this was part of the plan, especially because the Anchor is nowhere nearby, now. 

 

“Thank you,” he says to the blue-eyed man, Grigor. For a moment he bites his lip and bunches his eyebrows together, wondering how to explain. He quickly decides that he shouldn’t bother trying, and instead continues with, “Could I have some water? And food?” He doesn’t think much of the question, only thinking about how he hasn’t eaten for hours and how faint he feels. 
 

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Yusei | Down to business

 

He frightened her. The shift in her body language, the slight adjustment to her tone... Yusei had factored in her possible reaction when he summoned Stardust. She was, after all, just a young girl. He gave her credit for concealing her unease as well as she managed. Beside him, Stardust lowered itself until its yellow gaze found the man's face. Almost absently, Yusei brought a hand up to lightly touch the large dragon's jaw. Typheus had gone and he had no further intentions of terrifying the girl (or her guards, for that matter). 

 

In a much calmer display than its entrance, Stardust Dragon dissolved into light, sprinkling out of existence like a shower of sparks as the light on his duel disc faded. A moment after, so did the glow of his Mark. Stuffing his gloved hands into his pant pockets, he considered Elise's question and evaluated what he should share. Glancing at the guards surrounding them, he took note of their postures, no longer as stiff from the possibility of an immediate threat. Some, however, were coming back to readiness as if they only momentarily forgot what he could do.

 

He couldn't give himself away as an escort and he couldn't reveal that an ally was missing. Briefly, he wondered if Fiddlesticks' absence was related to his and Typheus' unfortunate spawning location. It was likely and he made a more bolded mental note about conferring with Pascal and Stan. 

 

Yusei kept his shoulders relaxed, his posture easy, to erase much of the threat he painted himself as. Finally, "I'm searching for something." It wasn't an exact lie and he could handle partial truths. "I'm not sure who, but someone accidentally brought an object to your city that doesn't belong here. I think it might be what's responsible for the strange sand that's appearing around here," he explained. Pausing, he watched as several guards fidgeted, armor clattering softly with their anxious movements. They knew what he was talking about. Good. That could make things easier. 

 

“I hadn’t meant to appear here, certainly not in the fashion that I did. There were a few errors that occurred and placed me here instead of at your city’s gates,” Yusei continued after the short pause. He kept his eyes upon Elise’s face but his next words were aimed at the guards. “What do you know about the strange sand and where is it located?” At the end of his question, his gaze drifted towards the guards so they understood who he was addressing.

Edited by ValidEmotions

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   The Need to Recover...
 

   Duke smiles at Typheus's question; how he could still be so lighthearted, the machine didn't know. Apparently though he was also lightheaded.
   "Duke Lefevre!" the horrified shout rang out - and thankfully, no thud followed it! A quick sweep of his claws, edges down, had caught the man mid-drop toward the ash-ridden cobblestone ground. For a split second Typheus didn't know why he lunged forward so suddenly, but quickly dismissed it as his programming: protecting allies was something he failed to do too often.
   The mech looked up, a bit surprised at the shock and fear on Jowan's and his friend's faces. Nothing was said though; it only took a moment for the understanding to sink in that yes, Duke hadn't hit the ground, which was for the better considering how fragile humans were. The man behind Jowan then paused with a look of confusion on his face, before relaxing, just a little bit.
   He's not running away, Typheus realized, finally observing how close the man looked to the poor people that had scattered from Elises' house. Is he a friend of the agents'? He looked at Jowan, but he seemed more worried about Duke, and the mech adjusted how the latter draped over his claws so he wouldn't nick him or let him fall. When Duke lay on his side in his palms, there was a sort of unspoken, mutual satisfaction, and the unknown man began to retreat, waving for the duo to follow. Typheus let Jowan go first, trusting how calm he was around the man, before taking the rear of the group.
 

   They were quickly led into an alleyway, which led to a maze of tighter and tighter alleys almost too small for the mech to fit through. He kept his knees bent and shuffled after Jowan and his friend, aware of how conspicuous he was but at least thankful that the buildings were taller than him, and the few other people skulking the alleyways quickly disappeared when they heard him coming. That was good, as it meant there was no screaming, but it also enlightened Typheus to a worrying fact: if Fiddlesticks was lost in one of these mazes, and everyone ran at the thunderous noise of a machine walking around - and he was the quiet one! - then he couldn't rely on the telltale sounds of panic and destruction to find her. If she had some sense, she would periodically power-jump over the city... that might be his best bet for now.
   The buildings crowded together more closely as they went on, as if they denied him entrance into these more private, winding places, but finally the strange peasant-man stopped at one inconspicuous building among others. He looked around to make sure the four of them were alone - which they were, whether it was because of Typheus or by chance - before giving the door a soft, single knock. The machine bent down as far as he could while the man called for someone named "Grigor" on the other side, introducing himself as "Dynarst", and checked Duke: still breathing, and still passed out. Whatever "issue" they had at the bridge did not play nice.
 

   Typheus began scanning Duke for signs of bleeding, only listening as Dynarst spoke to his friend, just to stop at a loud thunk! He turned his scanner off and looked at the little wooden door, curious of the words the voice from within shouted. Lord Ruler? Garrison? Are 'The Mists' their version of Alkinest? The glow of his eye dimmed in a frown. I... guess it's not the first time someone compared me to a Retainer...
   After Dynarst assured the man - giving Typheus a couple more clues about the bridge incident - the door cautiously opened. Behind it is another man, not unlike Dynarst in appearance, but a bit shorter and cleaner. He looked everyone over with sharp eyes, particularly wary of Typheus. He couldn't blame him; the last thing he expected was a warm reception. The man, presumably Grigor, ushered Jowan and Dynarst in, and Typheus handed Duke down to be carried inside by the three. The door was quick to shut in his face, and the machine carefully listened to the footsteps inside the building... then stood up to stare through the second window building. He was relieved to see the three men bring Duke to a cot and lay him down on it, in clear view and close enough he could speak to them. Jowan looked the most nervous of them, and Typheus recalled all the way back to the Gateway, remembering how he had attacked someone out of fright and Twilight had to cuff him. It was almost funny, looking back on it... maybe he shouldn't leave Jowan there with the two men of this world and an unconscious Duke.
 

   But Fiddlesticks, his threads reminded him, and the mech muffled a sigh from his air intake. Fiddlesticks could handle herself; she can't handle strange environments and danger. He had thought this hundreds of times, and at least five times in the past hour; so why was he still so reluctant to go looking for her? He left Yusei, so he could leave Jowan, but he also had no confirmation that Yusei was still okay. If he really didn't trust these people he could leave them with a warning of what he'd do if he returned and they were worse off, and maybe even pose as the Garrison, but he hesitated to even do that!
   The machine stared at Duke's immobile form for several more minutes, his threads churning and trying to prioritize what he needed to do. Finally, he decided that lingering there would only attract attention to the building and make Grigor nervous, so he backed out of the alleyway to an intersection he could turn in and left, not thinking of notifying Jowan first. With any luck, he'll be back with Fiddlesticks soon, and even though she was more conspicuous than the Superiority model their combined might should stave off any more of Duke's "issues". Then, they could do what they intended to do on this mission: help with finding the anchor.
 

   ...an Unchecked Danger
 

   Across the canal, a few miles closer to Kredik Shaw and many miles away from Typheus as he took flight again, something large, foreign, and humming was clomping around in the city. Her humming sounded happy, but it was laced with anxiety and apprehensive pauses whenever a skaa shouted or closed a door at her sudden appearance.
   Fiddlesticks didn't have a clue where she was. She felt as though she had been suspended in time for many long, hesitant seconds, like a program that had almost finished booting, then suddenly she was standing in some big, open area and her foot was wet and a bunch of humans were screaming. Turns out, she spawned on a fountain, or what used to be one; what shocked her most though was that Yusei and Typheus were gone. Just gone. It was obvious that they were separated during the teleport, but where? Who was in the wrong spot, them or her? Regardless, she knew that plenty of times Typheus told her to stay put if she was lost... but that was hard to do when she had stood conspicuously among panicking ash people. Now that she had fled the scene though and run into much smaller groups of them scattered around this seemingly-endless, semi-primitive city, she found them to be as exciting as the mice and frogs the scientists tested her with: small, quick, and always finding interesting corners to squeeze into! At first she was concerned that they would call for some bigger force to go after her, but everywhere she went there lacked law officials to stop her, so she was becoming quite comfortable with her down-the-middle-of-the-street trots, looking around with avid curiosity, half looking for something she knew and half spectating like a tourist.


   Fiddlesticks slowed her prompt pace upon passing a rather grand building. She didn't recognize the architecture, but it had an intense vibe she liked, with tall, triangular windows and large spires, and everything was molded down to details smaller than her scanner. It was clearly a human design, and there was some writing on the building somehow emphasizing its importance. She squinted at the foreign scribbles, etched with something that reflected the dull, orange light.
   "Um... house... chair... squiggly lines... circle? Circle pile?" she muttered, "That doesn't make any sense..." Despite the curiosity, she didn't think much of it, instead swiveling to survey the empty street. For a city, it was either nearly dead or everyone was good at hiding...
   Right as she thought that, she caught something glinting at the end of the street. Her ears perked up and she stepped back from the building, staring at the object as it approached. It looked like a person, but there was also something off with it... it kept flashing as though it had sheet metal for hair, but it also didn't have hair.
   The umber mech blinked and stepped out into the middle of the street, looking up past the person to see if it was alone, and it was; and still boldly approaching. In the near distance stood the immense spires of whatever incredible building she wanted to visit but couldn't find her way to; maybe this person came from there? Any building that big and imposing had to have a ruler or governing group in it, and surely someone would have phoned them by now... did these people even have phones? Maybe that was the metal on the person's head.


   She patiently waited for the human to keep approaching, wondering and naive. She wasn't opposed to learning that these people were nice, and maybe even apologizing for spawning on their fountain, but it was odd that only one had come up to greet her so far. Though at least odd customs were excusable; this new person revealed something much more bizarre:
   Nails. There were nails in the person's eyes, she was sure of it, and there was a sequence of symbols etched on his grim face. He looked like the walking result of some bizarre occult ritual. Fiddlestick's ears flared up higher in growing unease as the person kept walking, as sure in his step as if he could see her.
   She felt a confusing flurry of conflicting threads: is this a foe, or just a weird-looking friend?

Edited by skwerl56767

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