The Seven Plagues

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Unread postby Endadelta » Wed Feb 13, 2008 2:34 am

(To insert later: the log of events! In summary: the shadows are defeated, but critically injure Greg; Shamash herself is somewhat wounded but better off after her own battle. The two clash and come to a stalemate, but it ultimately seems that she will be able to put him down. However, Anu, who reveals himself to be leader of the band, commands her to finish him off. Shamash quickly picks up on the fact that he (and most of the squad) are now following the Heart of Evil/Infinity Corp with far too much devotion... she was interested in simply being a killer, and not in making such attachments.

Interested in insuring that her opponent dies a far more 'peaceful' death, she defies Anu, and he sets the Heart of Evil on her for her seeming disobedience. Shamash lets Greg go and faces the being, as Greg rescues the prone Assassin and Jikuro. Assassin eventually recovers, and... well... lots of things. To come. Idran can feel free to 'continue' at this point. He knows from where and all.)

***

42 nodded. "Yeah, might as well... things seem to be coming to a head, here..."

He utilized the item Kelne had given him to do the same; he appeared to have taken the form of a rotting mask rotating on a multi-legged crux. Kelne, meanwhile, seemed to have taken on the form of a masked, clawed being of some sort.

As they descended, the walls began to rumble more and more... the sound of the Ikei began to build up continuously just beyond the wall...

... as the way continued downward, they would seemingly catch up with someone who had been ahead of them this entire time... it seemed to be... 85? She, apparently, hadn't noticed them, so intent on descent as she was. Where had she come from, though? Why was she heading this way?

42 was quite startled, to say the least; he tried to speak up, but his words caught in his throat.

***

"All excellent suggestions in their own right, I'm sure," Justin answered, mentally sighing. "However, we lack parachutes, ramming devices, and the ability to break the laws of physics. No, it seems, it's only a matter of time before we crash. If we act quickly enough, we may be able to crash in a location that will at least allow us some chance of survival..."

Justin glanced out the windshield. As luck would seemingly have it, a giant lens could be seen through said windshield... and the sight of it seemed to give him some manner of temporary cheer.

"The controls are overheating as we speak, damaged as they have been by that assassin. What I'll need you Minions to do is to utilize your shovels and create some manner of air current, and try to direct it towards the general area of the controls... what I ask may, in fact, be impossible, but it seems we have no other hope of survival at this point," Justin concluded, sighing again. He didn't enjoy placing his fate in the hands of Minions... not even his own Minions, mind, but then he hadn't been anticipating the return arrival of this assassin... perhaps yet another bit of data that had somehow been corrupted...

The battle against Aruru did not seem to be going terribly well; those who attempted to net her found that their nets were seemingly turned back upon their owners in the ultimate act of betrayal. Shovels appeared to leave a mark, but not enough to make her turn or stall her... not a good situation, one way or another.

Stephen seemed to be faring the worst. His attempts to break her parries had, ultimately failed... and she was breaking through his own attempts far too easily. It was as if she had become a completely different opponent since... what had it been? A matter of hours? How ridiculous...

Aruru's blade, as it were, had pierced and impaled Stephen... to no real effect, other than his annoyance. "Oh, I see," Aruru nodded, "... undead. Apparently conventional attacks won't be enough to finish you off..."

As she went on in this manner, Stephen made an attempt: to seize the hood that hid her facial features, hoping for perhaps a way to briefly stun or distract his opponent. And while he managed to seize it, she managed to catch his hand in the act, and prevent him from taking all of it off.

Damnit, Stephen cursed again. So much for that.

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Wed Feb 13, 2008 2:41 am

Carrying Jikuro in his arms, he makes his way back to the city, his mind set on getting her back to his home. Although he knows now it's not as safe as he would have liked it to be, it's his best choice for now. Passing through the city gates, he continues through the streets hopefully unmolested and unbothered. Once home, he brings Jikuro inside and to his own room - one slightly more decorated than the exterior, with various items and memorabilia of past "incidents" scattered about on shelves, nightstands, and other furniture. Wiping the thin layer of dust off his bed he sets her down, locks the front door (for all the good it's likely to do), and gets to cleaning up the remnants of the last time the two were here.

And when he's finished this, he sits and waits, hoping for her to, if nothing else, have a brief period of rest without worry or fear of attack.

(Also:
End Reshiki wrote:The two clash and come to a stalemate, but it ultimately seems that she will be able to put him down.

Says you. >: )

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Unread postby Endadelta » Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:30 am

Greg's return trip would actually turn out to be uneventful - something of a nice turn of events, really, given how much had been happening lately.

Once they had returned and she had been set down, she would still be out for quite some time - Greg would have a good deal of time to reflect, to say the least - until she finally began to stir. By this time, the skies remained dark, but the first light of day was slowly beginning to crack through...

Her eyes slowly opened, and they moved from spot to spot, but she did not stir. However, she did... eventually... speak.

"... I see... that I'm not quite dead yet...," she managed, speaking with a fair deal of pain as she did so. It was obvious that she was still enduring a good deal of hurt. An emotion of sorts shone within her eyes... but what this was, exactly, was difficult to tell...

***

And before he could say anything, she turned her head towards them... and, apparently, not seeing them despite looking directly at their position, moved on down the stairs. A few steps later, she disappeared...

"... what the hell?," 42 groused... still moving, obviously, but clearly annoyed by this sudden turn of events. Not that that there was much time to reflect upon this... they had seemingly run out of steps, and had come out into a larger room... where, up until now, a furious battle of sorts had apparently been raging.

The most noticeable feature of the room, clearly, was a gigantic machine of some sort built into the rightmost wall. It held a gate-like structure in the central part of its form, and a flicker of purple-black light could be seen filtering within. Perhaps one could presume that this would form a portal of some sort...?

Just beyond this stood Astrynax, surrounded by what seemed to be a horde of slaughtered Ikei. The mage seemed a bit weary at this point, and this was no surprise... he had seemingly just gone through an entire army of the mutants.

He was tired, to be certain, but he had enough energy to look in their general direction. Seemingly startled, he ignored any outburts 42 and/or Kelne may have formed, sending out a flurry of fireballs in their general direction.

***

Stephen growled and squirmed as Aruru held him, swinging him aloft and flinging him into the Minions who were more likely than not attempting to chip away at her back again.

The entire lot, minions and all, collapsed in a seeming pile, and Aruru approached, fairly annoyed. "Give this up... this ship will be going down in a short amount of time, anyway. Accept your end, and it won't be so bad..."

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:21 am

Gazing out the window, Greg's watching the slow sunrise when Jikuro finally awakens. Turning, his attention's pulled from the window as she speaks, bringing him towards her bedside. He sits besides her, taking her hand and squeezing it gently as he smiles down to her, speaking quietly.

"Nope, you've still got some fight in you. Don't worry, we're safe for now. And I'll get you to a healer soon as th' sun comes up. Anything I can get you 'til then? Food, water?"

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Unread postby Kelne » Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:21 am

Kelne, trusting in his fireproofed cloak to protect him, stepped directly into the path of the fireballs, intending to shield 42 from them. He dropped the disguise as he did so.

As the dust settled, he said, loudly, "Why is it that I never wind up wearing the right bloody disguise at the right time?" That statement ought to be easily eloquent enough to drive home that he was not, in fact, an Ikei, and thus at least cause Astrynax to pause before unleashing further hell.

--------------

A substantial breeze had been set up by various minions waving shovels about. 32's contribution to the situation was to kick the side of the console and refer to it as a worthless piece of junk.

"What?" he asked in response to various stares, "It worked for that mechanic guy."

Bashing Aruru with shovels did not appear to be working all that well. Nor did fanning her in order to cool her down (a course of action initiated by the somewhat confused #163). A new plan was called for. And #-90 was just the Anti-minion to execute it.

"Deploy... The Big net!"

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Unread postby Endadelta » Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:22 pm

"... you wouldn't happen to have any painkiller on hand, would you?," she queried, forming something of a small, if pained, smile. "Or, failing that, alcohol? The more my mind is dulled, the better."

She winced slightly as she continued to speak. "... not that I'm not glad to see you... but how exactly did I get here? The hours have been a blur since... that incident."

***

42 swiftly stepped back, indeed allowing Kelne to take the brunt of the attack. Well, perhaps 'brunt' was the incorrect term of choice, as the fireproof cloak did its work. 42 also followed Kelne in dropping his Ikei disguise, somewhat glad to have ditched the mutant appearance once again.

Disguises dropped, and statement uttered, caused Astrynax to indeed pause before sighing in annoyance. At the very least, however, he did drop his hands to a more relaxed position. "Oh, it's you. You certainly took your time in getting here, didn't you? But, then, I suppose you've had your hands full lounging about while I've been down here, attempting to clean out the immediate area."

With that, he turned towards the gate machine. "There were... quite a few of them in here, with the device. Certainly very suspect..."

***

Justin, seemingly torn between partial malfunctions and standard annoyance over Minion antics, simply shook his head at 32. "Possibly, but given our current position, it won't help us all that much."

Following this, the area that 32 had struck with his kick cracked open, and a series of crackling wires flopped out, scattering a good deal of metallic debris onto the floor in the process. 32 had apparently somehow made the problem worse...

The attempted air current, however, seemed to be set into motion, and was already working towards the controls. Justin swiftly moved to said controls, attempting to commandeer them, and he managed to adjust the ship... ever so slightly. He turned back to the assembled Minions on air current duty, and simply ordered, "Faster! Bring out the... true power of those shovels!"

Stephen swiftly picked himself up, blade readied. He glared in frustration at the approaching Aruru, attempting to find a weak spot in her defenses but finding none. It seemed as if nothing could be done...

Aruru did not seem to take much notice of the fanning, though she did little more than flick away those Minions who continued to attempt to bash her with shovels. And so a desperate plan was carried out...

Those equipped with nets (mostly Anti-Minions, but a number of Minions had also seemingly caught on... to say nothing of those equipped here and there with the somewhat bizarre idea of the shovel-net) swiftly moved in tandem, bringing the nets together into a single swipe... and somehow forming one gigantic net in the process. With a dramatic thrust through the air, it came clattering down onto Aruru, completely encompassing her in its net-like form.

She paused, most likely not expecting this attempt at an attack. "A... net, huh?"

Stephen also stared, but shook his head, regaining his composure and readying for an attack once again. "All right, then! You've got her! What next?"

It seemed that, in order to subdue this most deadly of opponents, the assembled Net Squad would have to think... quickly!

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:39 pm

With a soft chuckle, Greg stands. "I think I can find something. Just rest, I'll be right back." Stepping out, it doesn't take him long to find the half-full bottle of cider; placed back to chill, thankfully. Pouring her a glass, he takes it back in, taking back his seat and handing it to her carefully, helping her up if need be.

"And your other question...well, I brought you here. I figured it was th' closest thing to a safe place for us right now. And about the rest...Shamash..."

He looks off, sighing. "She's dead. And for good, I think; her partners probably aren't eager t' bring her back. She saved us, weird as it is. Apparently they've started worshiping that...thing. We were fighting, she...well, she came close again. But she wouldn't finish it. Same reason she didn't finish you two, I'm thinking. She refused to sacrifice us t' it, said it wasn't the death she wanted for us or something. She argued with her boss, he brought that creature out, and she...gave us a chance to escape while she fought it off. We made it...she didn't.

"Seems like she gave it a nasty blow, though. She was still breathing at first when we found her, at least, so she must've done something pretty rough to it. So I think we've got at least a bit of time without worry. Thank the gods for small favors, I s'pose."

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Unread postby Endadelta » Tue Feb 19, 2008 4:57 pm

Waving off any attempts at further assistance, she managed to pull herself up, wincing as she did so. She took the glass and gave it a good swig, nodding towards Greg gratefully as she did so.

Despite the efforts of the alcohol, she was still in a good deal of pain, and it took her some time to respond to Greg's answer. "I... had a feeling something had happened to her. In a way, I can never truly forgive her... but... to die that way..."

She paused, that particular emotion in her eyes flickering once more. "That creature... if she managed to hurt it..."

She paused once more, looking towards Greg with a mixture of fear and suspicion. "... the creature. Did the leader of the group give it a name? I need to know for certain."

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:01 pm

Slowly nodding, Greg responds. "They did, yeah. The Heart of Evil, they said it was. Why? I mean...I showed it to you...there's not more than one of those things, is there?"

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Unread postby Kelne » Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:20 am

"We lock her in the safe," was 85's prompt response, "Do we have a safe, not-Boss?"

------------------

"Indeed," Kelne said, "Unfortunately, we have something rather nasty on our tail, which will no doubt be wanting to use the gate for something suitably unholy. I suppose there will be terrible consequences if we try to disable it behind us? Assuming the whole setup isn't a trap, of course."

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Unread postby Endadelta » Sat Mar 15, 2008 2:50 am

Jikuro was silent for an additional moment. She began to speak again, but she kept her eyes averted from Greg's.

"... listen. We've come this far, so I feel I should probably be a bit more honest with you about the situation," she began, speaking slowly but with certainty. "... I haven't been terribly specific about how I came to be here, have I?"

She paused, once more, before looking directly at him and continuing to speak. "I can tell you... I was not escaping from anyone. I didn't come here to settle down. The group of assassins were, ultimately, only part of my motivation for coming here...

... you may have guessed it by now... my main objective was finding the Heart of Evil, and it seems that, because of you, I've succeeded, at least in part."

***

"No," came Justin's reply. "I suppose that, in all of their infinite wisdom, Infinity simply didn't bank on the necessity of safes, particularly those made for holding hired killers."

"Damn it! What the hell... freaking nets... what?!," Aruru groused, clawing at the nets which held her, at least for the moment, in place. "Nets?! NETS?! Many things I've been attacked with.... but NETS? WHAT." She seemed quite displeased by the predicament, yet she had failed to react to it as of yet. Perhaps the simple act of having nets used against her in such a manner caused her to mentally stop and question the meaning of such. Who could say?

Stephen facepalmed. "Are you idiots saying you were planning to toss her into a safe that you weren't even sure existed? What the hell do you plan to do when she escapes from there? It may be a collaboration of nets, but... still. Just a net."

***

Astrynax snorted. "You speak as if I somehow have some all-encompassing knowledge of this device. All I know is that they told me to find a machine bearing this likeness and use it to return - somehow I was hoping for something a bit more direct and obvious to use than this... thing."

He looked around the 'room' for a bit, snorted, and kicked a random Ikei's somewhat charred corpse. "As it is, I was just now able to deal with the last of these creatures. I'd say it's a fair trade; I've cleared the area for you. You can be the one to figure out this machine, as well as what potentially terrible consequences may come of using the thing."

42 glanced at the machine before turning back to the passageway. "I would say to take your time... it seems that, for the moment, the noise following us has stopped. Rather suspicious, really, but we're not in much of a position to question it."

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Sat Mar 15, 2008 3:04 am

Watching her, Greg speaks slowly, hoping to hear the answer to his next question he'd greatly prefer.

"...Finding it for what? What did you want it for?"

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Unread postby Endadelta » Sat Mar 15, 2008 3:19 am

"... Greg, before I answer your question, I want you to consider something. Think back to the Heart of Evil... to the forms it has taken. Has it ever manifested itself in a form you thought curious or unbefitting to its 'true' nature?:

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Sat Mar 15, 2008 3:39 am

"Well...yeah. It's shown up as a moogle a couple of times. I figured it was just to throw people off, to let it travel around without suspicion.

"...Is there something else to it than that?"

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Unread postby Endadelta » Sat Mar 15, 2008 4:39 am

"Gregory... the Heart of Evil..."

"... it consumes beings. You may or may not know of that... it devours them, body, mind, and soul, and takes advantage of the items it has absorbed into its being. You see, it needs these things in order to maintain itself and prevent itself from... separating.

I presume you have seen the Heart as... a simple mass of sorts, yes? Did it seem loose, twitchy, uncontrollable? It needs a form of sorts, a form that it has comprehended and can easily control, before it can restrain and... manage itself.

This moogle form you saw it in... would you not agree that the moogle being you saw was more... well... 'together' than the swarming black mass you may have seen elsewhere? I believe what you saw was an unfortunate being once devoured by the Heart... a corpse used to hold it back, so to speak.

If you have been able to see it as you have... then you should consider yourself lucky to not have been devoured..."

There was obviously more for Jikuro to say, but she stopped, perhaps to give Greg some time to mull over what she had stated.

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:08 am

"...Jikuro, I know how dangerous it is. I know what it can do, and I've even felt it before in my dreams. That's why I don't understand why you'd want t' look for that thing."

Reaching out, he carefully takes her chin, turning her head to look at him if not fought, and continues with a smile.

"...Y' trust me, right? Whatever the reason was, I can take it. I'm worried 'bout you, and 'bout what you might be trying t' hide from me. But I think it's somethin' I need t' know. And I know it's somethin' you can tell me."

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Unread postby Kelne » Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:39 am

32 snapped his fingers, "Hypnosis," He said decisively, "We hypnotise her into thinking she's locked in a safe. No, wait, nobody knows hypnosis. I suppose we could just throw her out the window," he shrugged. It seemed like such an inelegant solution.

-----------------------

"Right. Watch the entrance, would you?" Kelne strode forward, regarding the mechanism with extreme suspicion. Nevertheless, he laid a hand against it, trying to get a feel for the energies bound up inside it and what made it tick.

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Unread postby Endadelta » Sat Mar 15, 2008 7:57 pm

Jikuro hesitated to speak once more, but she grasped Greg's hand with her own and nodded slightly, the emotion in her eyes hardening as she did so. "Yes... there is no reason for me to hesitate in speaking at this juncture."

She sighed, distancing herself from Greg a bit as she more fully sat up, presumably ready to speak at length. "You know I was an employee of the Infinity Corporation... but whatever I've told you about my former position was simply a falsehood on my part.

I was directly involved in the research concerning the Heart of Evil. It is, in a sense, connected to me... I assisted in its development and further manifestation. I saw it develop by way of devouring any number of hapless sods... and took notes.

Understand that the Heart has been around for quite some time... hundreds, perhaps thousands of years... or even more. But it only managed to maintain the dangerous state it has now as a result of the work that we... myself, as well as the other Infinity researchers... have conducted.

Those assassins... if they told you that I have a 'purpose' or 'greater meaning'... then that was in reference to what I have just now told you," she stated, eyes steady and emotions hidden away. Judging by her expression, there was more to say... but she seemed willing to allow Greg some time for his own reaction.

***

Aruru growled, seemingly regaining her composure after the sheer oddity of her capture had washed over her. "Fucking... NETS?! WHAT?! ARRGH!"

With these words of anguished annoyance out in the air, she broke into a run, aiming to break through any of the assorted Minions in her way... and, of course, pulling the net material with her as she did so. This resulted in an unsurprising tug-of-war... one she had started with little to no fair warning.

Stephen readied his blade once again. "Well, if you idiots can somehow manage to pull your act together, I suppose we can throw her out into the abyss..."

Justin, meanwhile, was still struggling with the devastated control deck. It seemed that the shovel-wind effort had succeeded... in part, and he was maintaining a limited form of control over the ship. No sarcastic commentary on the situation, though.

***

Astrynax snorted and took a stance halfway between 42 and Kelne... presumably wanting to keep an eye on both the machine and the passageway. 42, meanwhile, simply nodded and kept an eye on the way. There was no apparent noise as of yet, and thus no reason for him to report on anything awry...

... which left Kelne to his task, of course. So, there the machine was. The central part consisted of what appeared to be a large metallic frame for what would most likely be a portal of some sort. To the left, a large metallic tube, filled with some sort of liquid and connected to the central frame by a veritable net of cables. To the right, an identical tube... with a small control panel adorning its frontal area. A series of buttons, switches, and levers naturally adorned the panel, along with what appeared to be a miniature Infinity logo.

From what he could tell, there was indeed some sort of energy swirling about in the machine... somewhat dormant and weak, but still there. Trying to gain a feel for the specifics of said energy would cause him to recall the nearly endless series of portals he had traversed through earlier on in life... it seemed that this machine, were it to work, would be able to indeed create a portal for travel.

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Sat Mar 15, 2008 8:11 pm

Squeezing her hand, he nods, a general look of understanding crossing his face.

"...You're trying t' atone, then? Make up for things by stopping it, or trying to at least."

After falling silent for a bit, he speaks up again.

"Then the murders...were they thanks t' this creature or something? Why mentalists, though? There something special 'bout them?"

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Unread postby Endadelta » Sun Mar 16, 2008 12:23 am

"Looking back on it, now, I do feel badly for those who have fallen victim to the Heart, but I cannot honestly say that I am here to 'atone' for what I have done... if you wish to interpret it in that way, I suppose that is fine...

As far as I can tell, the specific murder of those who used psychic abilities was not the intention of the group... perhaps the intention of one assassin in particular, yes, but not the group at large.

But what they have not revealed, of course, is that there has been a reason for these seemingly senseless deaths. You see... as I have stated, the Heart gains power from those it has devoured. And while it has certainly acquired a good deal of energy from those who have passed on here... as well as, potentially, elsewhere... it is still nowhere near where it used to be.

The group of people marked for assassination... I believe you showed me their picture? For the most part, that was the group responsible for defeating the Heart of Evil when it was at its most powerful. Its defeat caused its form to splinter and spread throughout all of existence. Those pieces that managed to remain... together, in a sense, were few and far between, and fairly weak.

You see, by orchestrating these acts and attempting to feed the Heart of Evil more in the way of shadows, they hope to bring it back up to a stronger state... and they seem to be doing fairly well in that regard. If it becomes powerful enough, it may even be able to bring those scattered shards back together again...

... needless to say, if that were to happen on this world, dire consequences would result."

She stopped speaking for a moment, but she kept her eyes locked on Greg, hoping that he would understand the seriousness of this all.

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Sun Mar 16, 2008 1:41 am

Taking in what she says, Greg nods after a spell.

"...I think I know what'd happen. While I was...gone...I had a vision. I think it's...what we'll face if we fail. All the death, the carnage...across this world and others. People slaughtered...it's something we have t' stop. I knew it before, but seeing it...it's different now."

"So...what're we gonna do t' stop it, hmm?" With a smirk, he squeezes her hand, giving a small chuckle.

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Unread postby Kelne » Sun Mar 16, 2008 4:45 am

It was all too damned easy. There was a trap here, he knew it. Then he frowned. There had been a lot of energy flowing through the tower. Far more than the machine seemed to be drawing. If it wasn't being channeled here, then where?

Kelne cast about, attempting to discern an answer to this riddle.

----------------

32 responded to this piece of unprovoked difficulty by encasing Aruru in a globe of water. After all, nets were used on stuff in the water, so adding water could only help the situation.

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Unread postby Endadelta » Tue Mar 18, 2008 2:10 pm

Jikuro could not smirk back. While she didn't drop her hand from Greg's grasp, something obviously still troubled her. "The problem that still remains," she finally uttered, "... along with everything else, anyhow... is the fact that there is no conventional means of destroying it. When it was defeated, it was scattered into pieces, sure enough... but it still lived on.

The work we've done on it was simply... too good.

... if we're going to have a chance at doing something about the Heart of Evil, though, we'll need those who were in the picture. They're the ones who fought with it before... they were able to somehow gather the strength necessary to push it back... if we could bring them together again, then we might be able to prevent the inevitable."

A small smirk returned to her lips, and she used Greg's grasp of hand to bring herself up and onto the floor. She stumbled a bit as she did so, clearly still somewhat pained.

***

Kelne's investigation would uncover something interesting... there did indeed appear to be an energy well of some sort further below their feet. Whatever was generating the power that apparently circulated throughout the Nerve Tower was still some distance down.

Astrynax, apparently sensing hesitation, broke the silence of the moment. "Is there something wrong? I'd rather not remain on this devastated world much longer, given the choice..."

***

Aruru was englobed within water, and the shock of the magic stopped her one-sided tug of war for at least a moment. Perhaps this would give the Minions a chance to tug back?

At that very moment, however, Justin was struggling to reposition the ship... they were still going down, despite his best efforts to maintain it. The best part, however, was the fact that they were heading directly for a gigantic lens. Collision was imminent.

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Tue Mar 18, 2008 2:24 pm

Looking at her with concern as she stands, Greg tries to gently urge her back to bed, just enough to give some resistance. "Hey, now, you're still hurt. Don't push yourself too much just yet. Jus' rest for...another hour, all right? Get your strength back up an' all."

Whatever she does, though, Greg stays near, sitting next to her if she lies back down, or helping to support her if she refuses. And after a moment's pause, he speaks up. "...Y' know...I'm not sure why exactly, but I was still around after I...died. I saw what y' did for me out in the woods. And I jus'...well...thanks. It meant a lot, that y'd do that for me. Even if I was dead at th' time.

"...How much did Shamash tell you 'bout what happened to me? I'm not even sure how much she knew...Did she say anything besides just that I was back?"

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Unread postby Endadelta » Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:10 pm

Jikuro shook him off. "No, no... I'll... be fine. This is no time to rest on our laurels..." She allowed him to support her, however, as she was still having a bit of difficulty standing.

Despite this difficulty, Greg's statement caused a shy smirk to remain on Jikuro's face. "... it seemed only right. You had helped me, and yet in return you found only a gruesome death... in a way, I should apologize for bringing you into all of this..."

"... as far as she goes... or... went, rather... she and her companion didn't say much, especially not to me. From what I can recall, amidst the pain, the two were mumbling about something, and your name was brought up. Not very helpful, I'm afraid."

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:27 pm

"You've got nothing t' apologize for, Jikuro. I had plenty of chances t' back out of all this, and I've turned them all down." Looking to her, he returns the smirk as he continues, "I'm not going t' let you face all this without me, all right?

"And...yeah, I guess maybe she didn't know. I...or my ghost, or whatever...got pulled into another world through some kinda lens or something. Mostly buried just outside town. Any chance you know anything about that sorta thing? It led to a mirror on the other side; it broke, but I've still got the shards with me if you want a look. There's something strong 'bout them. I can't even scan them without half-blinding myself, and even just holding one...that's how I got that vision I mentioned just now."

Glancing off, he sighs. "That creature...he's attacking there too. I wish I could've helped...folks there didn't seem t' have much of a good life as it is, even without this mess. But I had t' choose between helping there or helping here."

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Unread postby Kelne » Tue Mar 18, 2008 6:24 pm

Kelne shook his head, donning his translation glasses and using them to examine the console in hopes of figuring out how to operate the mechanism. He didn't think he was going to be using the thing just yet, but it wouldn't hurt to know how to when the time came. Nor was he going to make Astrynax remain if he wanted to leave.

"Working on it," he said, "In the meantime, could you take a look at the energy flows around here and give me your opinion?" He doubted Astrynax would have any insights beyond what he himself had determined, but it never hurt to ask.

-----------------

The minions, taking advantage of the momentary lapse, started dragging Aruru in the direction of the deck. In the absense of other instructions, it seemed they were going to throw her over the side.

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Unread postby Endadelta » Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:41 pm

"... yes, I do understand that. I regret, though, that something about you will be changed after this. Everyone who has fought this thing, or those who essentially contributed to it... their lives have altered irreversibly after the fact. Clearly, your life has certainly been impacted, but the worst is yet to come. If you had never taken the job... well..."

She cleared her throat slightly before speaking again. "Pardon me... you're right. I know you're in this until the very end... I appreciate it." She brushed back her purple and black hair as she seemed to consider the full ramifications of such.

"A gigantic lens, though...? Can't say as I do... sure, I know about portals... gateways to here and there. Infinity loved the goddamned things. ... but lenses? Yeah, I can look at them if you want me too, but I don't know what I could actually tell ya about them," she continued, shrugging her shoulders at Greg. "Maybe we could find someone who knows... maybe one of the people in the picture? Same with that other world... don't know what I can tell you about it, except sorry to hear it."

***

"Yeah, fine," groused Astrynax, turning away, evidently concentrating on how the energy worked within this tower. 42, meanwhile, remained by the passageway, taking a few tentative steps upward with his blade.

The translation glasses, meanwhile, did their work, and the accompanying text on the control panel became recognizable.

There appeared to be two levers, one at each side of the panel. One lever read 'Begin Initialization Process'. The other lever read 'Stall Process'. A small glass window lingered near the top center, and behind it there appeared to be a gauge of some sort, ranging from 'E' to 'S'. The needle, naturally, rested on 'E'.

Below the panel there were several different buttons. There seemed to be... 26 in all, ranging from 'A' to 'Z'. The colors of the buttons alternated on a regular basis between red and blue.

Just below the panel there was a small note, with the text reading as follows...

"From High Command.

To those employees who need to make use of the energy within, remember that the machine must first be initialized. The operator would next activate the machine by way of entering the key phrase via numeric code, distinguished by alternation between the distinct color phases.

To those who cannot recall the phrase, refer to Page 4091 of your Agent's Manual.

Alex."

Just below this note there was an even smaller one...

"The phrase is also proffered. Take advantage of it when you can. If you do not, your way is closed."

And, somewhat inexplicably, one more followed just after...

"find #96"

***

The lapse seemed to be effective enough for the Minions to nearly heft her up onto the deck... and the plan, for once, seemed to be going so well...

... save for the inevitable collision the ship made with the approaching lens. The sound of shattering glass filled the entire ship, and within moments the entire ship had plunged through and beyond the lens-shaped portal of sorts...

... and it was with that that the ship began its final descent, streaking downward at an alarming rate.

Naturally, such a sudden collision threw all of the passengers within the ship around. Those minions who had been hefting Aruru upward onto the deck would find that, all of a sudden, they were going back down into the ship. Oh dear.

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Unread postby Kelne » Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:09 pm

"Wonderful. The blasted thing requires a password. Found in an agent's handbook which, naturally, we don't have." Kelne looked predictably annoyed. Kelne waved a hand at the note, inviting anybody who cared to to take a look.

----------------

The tumbling eventually came to a halt with various people entangled in the net and working to extricate themselves. One or two made their way back on deck to see where they'd wound up.

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:18 am

With his free hand, Greg retrieves one of the glass shards, carefully handing it to Jikuro and letting her look as he replies, helping her to (assumedly) the door as they walk along. "Maybe, yeah. And I guess we're back to finding them, then? Hopefully we'll have better luck this time with that. But before we start in on that again, I want to get you to a healer. And before you argue, if we do end up running into someone we'd rather not see today, we'll both have better luck if you're healed up.

"And about having regrets, worrying about what might've been and all...well, I'm thinking of it this way. I'm something of a mentalist myself, don't forget. So as far as I know, even as bad as things might be for me, and how I might end up after everything, things're still better off for thanks to me taking that job. If I hadn't, I might be worse than dead right now along with the rest of all them." Turning to her, he smiles with a chuckle. "In a way, I guess that means you saved my life first, hmm? So thinking about things that way, I'd say that makes us even, by the way."

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Unread postby Endadelta » Fri Apr 11, 2008 12:27 pm

Astrynax clicked his tongue once or twice before speaking. "There is indeed a greater source of power coming from some distance below us. If I were to wager the distance... perhaps 20... 30 floors? Several feet, to say the least... and needless to say, hundreds of these creatures filling in the gaps from here to there. Some carrying an energy signature that I would consider almost ridiculously powerful.

... not exactly encouraging," the mage groused, looking towards Kelne with a look of annoyance. "So you can do nothing with the machine here... and are instead forcing our little trio to traipse downwards through hordes of those mutated creatures? Goddamned lovely."

42, apparently finding nothing to remain concerned about from his guard post, walked over to the meeting in progress. "Further down, you say..."

The mage nodded, glancing at 42 with a curiously angry glint in his eyes.

"... by any chance, did you pick up on any sign of water further below?"

"... water?" The mage paused, concentrated for a bit, and then nodded. "... yes, I suppose so. There appears to be some sort of water flow in the lower levels which, interestingly enough, carries its own unique energy. How did you..."

"... I'm... not sure," 42 replied in turn, shaking his head. "Something about pure water..."

***

The minions would find, first off, that the ship had managed to somehow radically alter itself between the time they had come through the lens and the time at which they had crashed... a matter of moments, perhaps?

The landmass that they had crashed into was that of an utterly barren wasteland; sand and rock stretched on for miles in any given direction. A hazy red fog hung over the scene, though there was no sign of a sun (or moon) in the sky. The ship itself had nearly collapsed in upon itself by way of collision; the nose of the ship had become utterly flat, the control deck had been turned into a veritable pile of mechanical debris, and the upper deck had caved inward upon the ship. The scene was almost comical, despite the horrible and seemingly irreversible damage done.

The minions would also find that Aruru had somehow extracted herself from the net. A trail of blood appeared to lead from the ship to a distant point, but whether or not they wished to follow that path was their call. Stephen was up and about, attempting to remove his cape from a collapsed wall without tearing it. And Justin...

Justin was in the pilot's seat, as before. He had somehow acquired a top hat, a set of dance shoes, and a cane. He crooned in a voice that was unmistakably Kelne's, yet the content was.... somehow quite wrong...

"Daisy... Daisy... give me your answer true, I'm half crazy all for the love of you..."

***

Jikuro took the shard in her hands, making sure not to accidentally cut herself with the sharp item, and inspected it as best as she was able. She seemed to pause for a moment, and her eyes appeared to glaze over for a moment... however, this was short-lived, and she shook her head, handing the shard just as carefully back to Greg. "Can't say I saw anything, really. Maybe it depends upon the person?"

She shook her hand at his help, seemingly preferring to maintain a slow, steady, yet independent pace in light of her injuries. "I won't argue with you on the healer... a professional one would probably do some good right about now. And the risk of running into another one of the assassins is still high... Shamash was only one, and six more, including their leader, obviously remain... hopefully we can find one of these other people before such happens..."

Greg's statement caused her to stare at him for a moment, perhaps considering the weight of his statement, before allowing herself to smile back. "I... suppose you are right. As it stands... you are least alive and in good spirits. It could be worse... for both of us." With that, she set a firm hand on his shoulder and gave him a friendly squeeze.

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Unread postby Kelne » Fri Apr 11, 2008 7:24 pm

"You feeling alright, Not-Boss?" 32 asked worriedly, "You kinda sound all the way crazy." None of the others seemed overly inclined to move yet, drawn in by the strange behaviour of their leader.

---------------------

Meanwhile, another reluctant leader was engaged in some moderately strange behaviour of his own. Specifically, he was contemplating whether to just cut his losses, blow up the damned mechanism (and the tower, while he was at it), and living out his life here.

Unfortunately, this would involve cutting off his arm to stop the blight, and waging an endless war against the Ikei. Granted, he seemed to be waging an endless war anyway, but at least it was against the masters, rather than the pawns.

"Flooding them out does hold a certain appeal," Kelne said, "Though that might make getting at this power source more difficult." He wasn't going to make mention of 42's suspicious knowledge at this point. The man clearly had all manner of things rattling around in his brain.

"Quite frankly, I'd wouldn't mind finding some way of dealing with this lot permanently in the least. For the sake of the poor sods who call this world home, if nothing else. That said, if we find a manual or a plausible code, we use them. Questions?"

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Sat Apr 12, 2008 8:25 am

With little else to say, Greg heads out, leading Jikuro through the streets of Doma to the closest healer. Keeping an eye on her, he watches for any stumbles, mostly keeping back but there to help her when she needs it. And all the while, he keeps his eyes and ears open around them, wary for any sign of the assassins that might be lurking about. For now, the question of the mirror shards is a minor issue...yet, the odd connection they seem to have with him still lurks in the back of his mind, a thought that he can't help but mull over every so often. And though some of it is pure worry, being Greg he can't help but consider how he might be able to use it to his advantage in the future.

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Unread postby Endadelta » Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:01 pm

"Hrm... yes... yes, I'm all right," Justin responded after a moment's time, shaking his head ever-so-slightly. "I've been having slight... issues as of late, and a particular song came to mind... a favorite of Dr. Chandra's, I believe..."

He slowly came to stand, a look of annoyance gradually spreading over his facial features as he began to take in the full extent of damage done to the ship. "Wonderful... we certainly arrived at our intended destination, but that Infinity assassin expedited our trip somewhat. Unless this world just happens to have the materials needed to repair the damage done - which I doubt - we're going to be stuck here unless we can find some other sort of way off."

Stephen finally managed to tug away his cape, which sadly bore minor tears in its surface - a necessary sacrifice for further movement, unfortunately. He sniffed and looked up towards Justin. "So, then... you intended to take us to this horrible planet? Might I ask why?"

"Either I haven't been explaining the point clearly enough, or you haven't been listening," Justin replied, allowing a small smirk to flourish on his face. "This is the world that Kelne - my brother of sorts, and the 'Boss' for about half of the Minions you see here - is trapped on. The original plan was to pick him up and head back to Gaera... but, well, that won't be occurring, naturally enough. We'll have to find him and meet up with him ourselves."

***

Astrynax grumbled. "Well, then, if you've spent enough time accomplishing all of nothing here, I'll be on my way."

He proceeded to rudely brush past 42, who swiftly turned and glared at the mage. "What the hell? You're the one complaining about the number of Ikei just below, yet you're already willing to go off on your own?"

The mage scoffed. "I was able to reach this point, wasn't I? And what have I obtained by hanging around here with you two? Absolutely zero in terms of net gain. I'll reach that point first, and perhaps I'll meet you there. Depends upon how eager I am to return..."

He shot a quick glance towards Kelne as he proceeded to head off. "... just so you know, though... the hostilities between us may have been temporarily settled, but I, by no means, have given up on my original goal of going after the Moogle."

With that, he left. Kelne could attempt to stop him, if he wished, but more likely than not, Astrynax would not stay and listen for long.

42 sighed. "What with all of this... knowledge... cropping back up in my head... and that asshole friend of yours jerkin' us around and then heading off on his own... well, this has most definitely not been the experience I figured I'd have escorting you further down into the Tower."

He leaned against a wall for a moment, inspecting his blade as he did so. He seemed quite... tired at the moment. "It's always been one thing after another these days. As long as I can remember, I've always had to fight... I've fought for people who have given up, fought for people who are content to wallow about in their own self-pity... and for what? To protect them from a group of creatures which never seem to stop coming? Returning to the village earlier, I thought I could rest... but then with you there... ugh..."

He sighed and came back to a full stance, shaking his head a bit. "Never mind my concerns... I've had all of this rattling about in my head for a while. Let's get moving, shall we?"

***

The two ambled onward, and before long, they were drawing close to what one would presume to be a healer's establishment.

However, with only a few steps remaining between the two and the entrance, she stopped... and looked around suspiciously. "... I know that healing is the best idea, but I can't help but wonder whether there's a trap of some sort waiting for us in there...

... after nearly being killed two or three times, I wouldn't be surprised if yet another attempt on my life was waiting for me..."

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:34 pm

"You might be right, but we don't really have much of a choice. We've got t' get you healed up, Jikuro. And I'll be sure t' stick by you while we're there, just in case. Not much, but it's the best I can offer right now." Giving her a smile, he appraises the area around the building, looking for any sign or hint that she might be right, and they might want to move on to a different healer's.

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Unread postby Endadelta » Thu Apr 17, 2008 1:36 pm

From what Greg could tell, there were no threats forthcoming... the area was danger-free. For the moment, anyhow.

The healer's establishment was a fairly small, but comfortable looking shop; the exterior was modeled so as to look more like a home and less like a miniature hospital. The structure was sturdy, and the paint job was clean and detailed. There was a sign identifying the name of the healer as well as hours available, but said information had oddly been painted out, leaving little more than a gigantic blotch of white paint.

Upon entry, Greg and Jikuro would find a waiting room of sorts. The room was nicely furnished, with a plush carpet, red wallpaper, an overhanging candelabra, and a large assortment of chairs, set around three or four distinct tables. Upon each table sat an assortment of books, presumably for reading during one's wait. One chair was currently being utilized by what appeared to be a woman, hiding her face in her arms... or perhaps she had fallen asleep, based upon the snoring she was producing. She appeared to be wearing a robe or cloak of some sort...

Beyond this area was a counter of sorts and a door that presumably led back to the healing area. There was no one presently at the counter, but there appeared to be a bell! Furthermore, on the door, there was a sign. The sign read, "Please ring bell for service". Hmmm... what could all of this mean?

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Thu Apr 17, 2008 1:40 pm

With no obvious threats just yet, Greg leads Jikuro to a chair. Making sure she's all right for now, he scans the sleeping woman's mind just to be safe, taking a glimpse of her surface thoughts and making sure everything looks on the up and up. "Relax for now, hmm? I'll take care of th' rest."

Assuming the woman seems to be no threat, he heads to the bell, following the directions appropriately and waiting for whoever's supposed to be manning this place.

If she isn't, however...well, that'll lead to a different set of circumstances entirely.

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Unread postby Endadelta » Thu Apr 17, 2008 1:52 pm

Jikuro was quick to take a seat, but she apparently lacked interest in reading one of the myriad novels available; she, instead, looked around the area, taking particular notice of the woman seated. She nodded to Greg's statement, perhaps a bit relieved that her prior paranoia had no actual basis.

A quick scan of the woman's mind would reveal a whirlwind of thoughts going to and fro therein; something about a Moogle, an apparent mage in a cloak, a burning building, shadows, Doman guards... and Shamash. From what he could tell... at least, from what he could pick up on in this woman's thoughts... she and a Moogle of some sort had gotten into a scuffle with Shamash, and guards had apparently been involved.

Were Greg to still remember the photo of the targets, he may find the appearance of both the moogle and the mage somewhat familiar...

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Unread postby Idran1701 » Thu Apr 17, 2008 2:21 pm

Surprised at the apparent bit of luck they've stumbled into, he looks over the woman more closely, trying to think if he recognizes her. After coming up blank, he frowns but quickly shakes it off. He can speak to her later; for now, they need healing.

Heading to the counter, he rings the bell, peeking past it for any sign of someone on duty. "Anyone here?"

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Unread postby Kelne » Thu Apr 17, 2008 5:41 pm

With the issue of Justin's sanity resolved (for now at least), the assembled minions set about putting the place to rights as best they could, tidying up the scattered wreckage and mopping up the trail of blood. Some wandered out on deck to take a look at this strange new world.

--------------

Kelne sighed, "Same old Astrynax. You watch, he'll get himself in over his head sooner or later." He neglected to mention whether he'd be expected or inclined to bail him out. Probably not to the former, and probably to the latter, more was the pity.

He started on his way, making more or less in the direction he imagined this 'pure water' to be and continuing to speak as he did so, "I wish I could give you some encouragement. Unfortunately, if history is anything to go by, things will only get worse as time goes by. If it helps, I give us reasonable odds of finding somebody responsible whose teeth you can kick in."

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