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#16651 Posted by Emperor_von_Doom (3995 posts) - - Show Bio

One. Scratch. Two. Scraaatch.

Cull hadn't repaired his leg yet. Couldn't. No kit, no oil, and all the scrap metal around was already picked and gleaned. His metal flesh clacked together, each armor plate slick with the wounds of a bygone era of combat. People in the shelter just stared at him. At eight feet tall, purely hydraulic in function rather than flesh, he could see and understand the fear in their eyes. The misunderstanding. They had been here for years, hiding away from the Autos. To see one here, claiming to be American no less, was cause for suspicion.

He made himself look as docile as possible, even going so far as to leave his Bolt rifle at the door.

The Arch-Sergeant shuffled into an empty seat. Someone came up to him, a human by the sound of his voice. "What'll ya have, stranger?"

"Firewater,"

A pause.

"That's all we serve, any particular kind?"

"The kind... w-wi-with... that... has charcoal in it,"

Silence, longer now.

"Ah, forget it, I'll make it myself."

He stepped over the bar, broken glass on the floor. Old. Been there too long. Nothing in the bottles. No voices telling him to stop. No sirens. No bombs falling in the distance. He wasn't really here, not anymore.

His metal fingers started clenching into fists, and he smashed through the barricades keeping the dust from the floor. Anger. Venom, like fire in his copper veins. Then all at once it passed. A cracked Auto, looking back at him. One glowing eye, an Arch-Sergeant's cap.

He didn't stay. No one watched him leave. The dust settled again, on the bones of the slain.

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#16652 Edited by IronPhantom (487 posts) - - Show Bio

@arquitenens:

Steel peeled away as the AI forced a midnight black steel claw through the hole it had created, arm scraping against the equally durable metal, the gashed door pulling away jutting pieces of broken metal skin and exposing vulnerable hydraulic "muscle". It grasped about, further tearing away at the lock and caving in the weighty doors, the concrete slabs within crumbling to cracked rubble and dust as the steel frame crumpled. Something about the destruction seemed sating, almost therapeutic. Hesitation had no part in this state of mind, there was only action, and as it ripped and tore and sundered the locked portions of its mind responded with grim satisfaction, the very core of its being slowly ebbing away as something else continued to overwrite what was once there. That unfamiliar rage becoming mundane, fear becoming insatiable fury.

Finally, with one last crashing tackle, the top of one of the dual steel doors collapsed inward, exposing a route within. Despite the artificially-induced glee filling the machine as it broke down the door, the dissonance it had experienced earlier worsened as the full sight of those fear filled eyes met its sensor array. Again the machine's body froze as two conflicting processes butted against each other, the incomprehensible bytes of data forming the AI's background consciousness wrestling for more access, more control over its memory and processing power. A twitching, chugging hand rose and braced its iron body against the concrete walls as the heat within its body intensified, the already ominous whirring escaping the machine increasing in both pitch and volume as the AI's innards expelled the hot, dry air from every possible crack in its armor. An ill turn of fate at its moment of victory, or a necessary reprieve from whatever madness had seized it? The AI did not know, for it felt both, the simultaneous thoughts of Jekyll and Hyde for once intermingling in its torn mind.

It had not heard the arrow strike the wall, for the churning air was filled with its self-created din, but it felt the disturbance through the concrete's limited vibration. A sudden sense of deja vu overcame the machine as it processed the near identical information, a clear memory surging through

"I don't know if robots have a sense of self-preservation, but I'll give you one chance to come quietly before I sell you to Avalon for scrap."

and then back into the background. The AI took an unneeded glance back at the arrow, knowing its intricate design would be too advanced for such a simple weapon. It knew who stood behind it even before it heard her call.

"Ishmael!"

So the creator hears, and intervenes.

The AI had expected resistance, had expected Avalon, with all its power and influence, to send someone to dispatch it. She had even entered its mind as a possible foe, but as it turned to meet her, it was not prepared to accept her gaze. There, in her stare, was a fury that matched its own, but alongside it were also dread, fear, and worse. Concern.

"Abigail..."

The sound issued from a worn amplifier warped by disuse. It had meant for the tone to be flat, perhaps even menacing in its lack of acknowledgement, but the sound that escaped was instead mournful, even pitiful. It stood a long moment, the shattered steel hand, torn by abuse only recently inflicted, running along the wall as it averted its mechanical eyes.

No Caption Provided

But its gaze did return to her, and when it did she could almost see the remorse in its unmoving, expressionless eyes. Was it shame that it felt? Guilt?

The machine stretched out a hand as though to reach for her from across the gap that separated them. Only a few meters, but in those meters-- years.

An unexpected processing error, and suddenly subconscious processes rose for one brilliant moment to the surface, memories of their former camaraderie and conflicts coming into clear, burning focus. Their encounter in Gothic, the repairs she'd acquired for it time and again, their discussions on its life, on its soul (or lack thereof), the sight of her crouched, bleeding in the rubble of the

Black House.

Its mind turned to the massive destruction wrought and unexplained. The bodies buried beneath the rubble. The people it had come to know and cherish in those Gothic hovels and slums, slain. The stories they had to tell, ended. Collateral damage to an assault on Satar.

That night...

"I'll explain later. Just...please, I need a little time."

The explanation that never came

...she squeezed her clenched fist and from it a flash erupted, accompanied by a thick haze. And through it, Raysh al-Shaytan and her followers vanished as well.

on the night she ran away. The memories of that night surged forward unexpectedly, sharpened, unbidden and unwelcome from the haze.

Unconscious, three out of the five. The smallest of them, a child, five or six, lay cradled in her mother's arms, dead. The only conscious one, the father, was in no condition to speak, much less move. He cradled the mother and child as the machine extracted the three of them, but there were no medical staff to treat them, no police force to help with evacuations. There were only they, the volunteers, the vigilantes, the heroes. Minus one. One and her army.

The air churned, the subconscious scattered, new code overriding the old once more. There was no sympathy, as there had been that night. No pondering on her damaged soul. There was only hurt. Only pain. Pain that relieved the choke on it conscious mind, the inner ventilation system finally stuttering to a final, coughing halt as rage seized the machine once more. The hand that reached for her came up in unwilling spasms of electricity, clenching into a fist once more. The rage, it burned now, burned in the AI's mind and in its body as its cooling systems failed. It grasped the arrow she had fired, tearing it from the concrete wall. That warning shot, disregarded all those years ago, back once again.

The machine clenched it in its torn hand, the shaft snapping, disintegrating in its fist, and tossed the remains at the former Shaytan's feet.

A warning.

It moved the blade back into the damaged hand of the arm it ripped it from, advancing toward her wordlessly.

No Caption Provided

There was no fear. The rage had burned everything else to ember, the Phantom's mind was blank. It might have known of her prowess once, her skill, but its mind did not have the focus nor the desire to process the variables, the minutia of combat against a former friend. Instead it lashed out mindlessly, aimlessly. The blade moved in an almost random fashion, striking first across the midsection, then down toward the legs, and finally across from the shoulder to the side of her waist. Its other hand, while empty, was not far behind. In between swipes the machine swung its fist in quick, but unskilled and haphazard strikes. It seemed almost to writhe in agony rather than make any concerted attack, to strike out without target or thought, battling with its own demons as much as with Avalon's Archer.

Every movement added heat beneath its iron skin, the circuits beginning to snap and crackle inside the burning-hot shell. Still it raged, without a mind to care or reason, lashing out at her but at itself as well, at the creature it could feel itself becoming.

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#16653 Edited by Rosso (5286 posts) - - Show Bio

D: I haven't read it yet but it seems like he's getting ready to attack!

I'm excited. Haven't done Abby combat in a long time.

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#16654 Edited by Blue_Ghost (129 posts) - - Show Bio

@xundar: (OOC: If this is not okay, let me know and I can edit)

No Caption Provided

Then Blue heard it, the expected intruder alert notification. Since the cameras are on 'him' and since the jig is up then Sam Ross is no more but the Blue Ghost instead as she assumes her true form.

Blue sees two guards ahead, but they haven't noticed her yet. So, she transforms herself to look exactly like Xundar and slows down, speaking in that man's voice. "Guards, we're dealing with a shape-shifter. He has taken my form, you are to shoot on sight. Do you understand me?"

The two guards look slightly confused, so the new Xundar asks again in that monotone voice, "I said, do you understand me?"

"But sir, if anyone does not remain in--!" The guards begin nervously, then the New Xundar interrupts them, "Soldier, do you honestly think anyone can stay in position with a shape-shifter in their midst?"

The soldiers nerviously glance at each other and Blue is a bit nervous herself. She can hear the real Xundar's footsteps getting ever closer now. "N-No sir."

The New Xundar responds simply, "Then you are to shoot on sight when you see this intruder who looks like me."

"Yes sir!" The guards say in unison and the New Xundar leaves. So, by the time the real Xundar rounds the corner, the guards see him and open fire, trying to hit him with a hail of bullets and thinking he's the enemy shape-shifter.

Blue shifts back into her true form with a smile on her face as she runs down the hallway. She has a feeling her pursuer won't be taken down that easily, but it will slow him down a little. For the next guards, she shoots them in the legs and writhing in pain before she passes them by.

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#16655 Posted by Xundar (87 posts) - - Show Bio

@blue_ghost: [That's actually quite perfect].

The dutiful if not terribly clever guards followed orders, opening fire with their sidearms as Silas rounded the corner.

He didn't stop.

Leaning into the bullets that slammed into his torso as though he was walking into a stiff breeze, he simply continued to stride forward until he came within reach of the progressively panicking guards. No doubt they now thought he was some kind of metahuman radical, come to destroy their employer. This was incorrect, of course, but what he actually was was not something the ones he answered to were ready to reveal, so that meant no witnesses, the waste of resources notwithstanding.

When he was within arm's length of the still desperately firing guards, both his hands snapped out and locked on their throats with impossible strength. A moment and several unpleasant sounds later, and both lay dead on the floor with crushed throats. As he picked up one of their pistols and loaded a fresh clip, his attention was drawn to the sounds of gunshots and screams further down the hallway. It seemed as though the intruder was trying a new tactic. He immediately set off in pursuit, knowing that sooner or later the interloper would be cornered.

Loading Video...

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#16656 Posted by Arquitenens (11968 posts) - - Show Bio

@ironphantom:

Shit...Abby paused and lowered her bow somewhat, leaving it only half-raised at the floor. It was easy to forget just how expressive Ishmael could be. For an AI, he was even more expressive than most humans she knew. In his face she thought—hoped, at least, that she saw traces of remorse. Her thoughts never left the humans on the ground behind her, and she couldn't possibly forget those behind the Phantom, the fear and the desire, the hope in their eyes.

Dammit, Ishmael...

Her resolve was weakening but something inside resisted it, and it wasn't just the spirit. Despite the uncertainty of the situation, the prospect of facing an entity once called ally, and even friend, facing Ishmael reminded Abigail of the life she once led. Before a long series of unfortunate events, and finally one man, somehow convinced her that others were safer when she wasn't around—convinced her to give up.

Abigail couldn't know the thoughts of the artificial intelligence, but if she could she'd have hardly disagreed. His thoughts were not far from her own, but in him and behind him she found her resolve. It was an empathic connection and a duty to help others. For their good, and for his, Arquitenens could take on the Iron Phantom one more time. But this time, it has to stick.

Ishmael was upon her. Even damaged he was a lot faster. The blade scythed toward her midsection. Abigail just barely dodged. Too slow! The club of a fist blacked her vision and by the time it cleared she was down on one knee, coping with a deep gash in her leg. Shit! The blade's tip managed to find its way between the threads of the trion weave and carved clean through everything less than that. Hands raised to cover her head from the assault and provided some small mitigation (better than having her head bashed in) but did nothing for the bladed arm, held off only by the trion in her gloves.

She couldn't endure for long but with the threat continuously pounding on her she couldn't exactly lower her guard enough to make space either. Only one way out—through him.

From that crouched position her left fist shot out toward Ishmael's own midsection. Reinforced with brass, she didn't expect that to do much against the Phantom's exterior by itself. The real damage would come from the energy stored in the glove's molecular bonds, released at once in the hopes a successful contact would be enough to force him back, if not toss him outright and give her space to fire the nocked arrow in his left eye.

*Assume standard arrows unless stated otherwise.

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#16657 Posted by ParagonxXx (3962 posts) - - Show Bio
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#16658 Posted by ParagonxXx (3962 posts) - - Show Bio

@xundar: (Awesome! Poor guards, though)

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#16659 Posted by Arquitenens (11968 posts) - - Show Bio

@paragonxxx: Thanks! Took a bit of work, but I'm pretty proud of it myself.

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#16660 Edited by IronPhantom (487 posts) - - Show Bio

@arquitenens:

A miss, an infuriating miss, gave it the drive to push its fist forward into first contact. The rest was easy. In the follow up blade met armored weave and slipped in between the spaces, meeting flesh and drawing blood. It brought satisfaction, a craving for more. The blade flashed once again, now tinged with the red of her mortality, slicing and cleaving in an attempt to draw further vulnerability, but its swipes were met only with an unsatisfying slide against that armored fabric which it did not know, nor care, to understand. Her seeming invulnerability was a puzzle, one it had not the taste nor the patience to solve. Instead, its unoccupied hand bludgeoned at her skull, the only readily exposed part of her body, but instead met her gloved defense. There too, it met a seemingly undue resistance, but as analysis was once again abandoned in favor of furious action, the Phantom lashed, never noticing her moment of retaliation.

Underestimating the former Raysh Al Shaytan had ended predictably. Brass clashed with painted steel in an unimpressive meeting of metals, the Phantom pushing forward in an attempt to end the fight with a haymaker to her temple, when its sensors went wild with a new rush of information. Its vector had directly reversed and nearly octupled in magnitude, its mechanical body sent hurtling in through the steel reinforced blast doors of Avalon's recycling facility, easily smashing down the barriers it had so struggled against earlier.

Rage flared up once again, but was tampered down by an overriding process in the AI's mind: self preservation. The inkling of fear, present since its inception, finally rose up to wrest some degree of control from the intruding override of its central processing unit, shutting down any conflicting processes and allotting more memory to the formulation and execution of a viable plan of defense.

It had regained its senses just in time to witness the shot, already halfway to its intended resting place in its leftmost optical sensor, approaching fast. The AI shifted its head downward in an attempt to have the arrow tangle in the iron-mesh cloak, perhaps even deflect it using the angle of its skull, while it simultaneously moved its arm up to impede the attack.

All too late.

The arrow found its mark, cleaving downward and through the majority of the light-catching sensors present within the left portion of its skull. The AI's former eye sparked brightly as glass and metal cracked and snapped, the wire and artificial synapses inside erupting beneath the piercing instrument, its rising hand serving only to snap the arrow's shaft post-impact, fingers covering its now shattered eye.

It was stunned for a moment, and when its hand receded it exposed a scar that was a crude mechanical mockery of her own. It locked its single eye with hers, no longer mad with rage but once again thinking, if not clearly, then at the very least much more craftily. The AI had recovered a portion of its rational mind, but the limited portions of "corrupted data" that composed its core being could not force their way through to the active processes of its consciousness. It was quarantined in its own mind. As though an impenetrable haze had settled over it, the AI's core, still capable of sight and thought, viewed its body's movements through a translucent inner barrier. Watched as the active mind's machinations took form. Saw itself as though viewing a film meant for it alone, a horror narrated by its own voice, the action enacted by some soulless doppelganger.

Meanwhile, the active mind of the reprogrammed AI reeled with a sudden influx of information, now readily pouring in after being lost so long to rage. It analyzed and examined, yet it could see no weaknesses, save the ones intentionally presented to draw its attention. A review of its RAM memory determined that in another exchange she would almost certainly emerge the victor. The AI was stronger, yes, faster, perhaps, but it was not nearly so skillful as to defeat an experienced veteran of Gothic such as herself. It would have to retreat, but it could not. She would pursue. She was persistent. She was fast. Yes, even with a wounded leg she would be fast. It would have to find some exploit, some trick it could use to slow her.

And in one still instant it knew. It could feel her weakness. Hear it through the pulsing vibrations it sent shuddering through her veins.

Her heart.

What came next was a rapidly constructed plan. Desperate, but deliberate. It moved as quickly as its mind worked, ramming an already damaged arm through crack in its side, the heated gasses within escaping in a whoosh of burning hot air. Its circuits popped and sizzled beneath the armor, but that was an issue to be later addressed. It turned away, the sensors in its side screaming in mock pain as reports popped into its digital mind of grievous damage. It could not afford to listen. It hastily connected the grappling tether to its battery, tossing the other end into the wall, joining itself to the circuit within the room and drawing as much power as it could as quickly as it could, blowing the fuse and leaving them in darkness, granted she did not interfere.

It was a rudimentary measure, and she had no doubt seen far worse, but darkness was known to the machine to be a great exacerbator of fears, and fear would be its ally here. To quicken the pulse, that would ensure its victory. It would have to rely on whatever delay the dark might cause to exact the next portion of its retreat.

It would run, attempt to lead her deeper into the facility, through the cramped workstations running parallel to the main recycling center, and toward the offices. It could still see huddled heat signatures amassing there through the walls, cowering beneath desks and tables, seeking to add any obstruction possible between them and it. Yes, it would set off its trap there.

The AI would dash into the room, hopefully luring her in behind it while simultaneously removing the explosive canister of highly compressed acetylene gas in its arm. Once she entered the offices the AI would attempt to tackle its way through her, setting off the acetylene canister with her in the room behind it, and seal the exit by tying the remains of its grappling hook to the door's handle and embedding the hooked end into the wall. Only then would it attempt to make its escape as the fire raged. It was confident that this would not stop her long, but it would buy it some time.

If all went well [well!?]the fuse would be blown, ensuring the fire safety systems within would not activate. The chase (because it had little doubt she would chase after it) would tire her, particularly with a damaged leg, increasing her heart rate as she moved after it in the dark (which would likely stress her further). The fire, should she succumb to the plot itself, would increase the tax upon her cardiovascular system as the oxygen in the room was quickly expended, and the stress of saving a burning room full of people [worse] would certainly stress her damaged heart enough for it to escape [worse than when she abandoned the Black House].

Somewhere within the shell the Ghost in the Machine still existed, still watched, its mind reeling at the incomprehensible cruelty, the unimaginable carnage, the plan presented. This entirely different being, comprised of rewritten data and altered systems, had taken up residence in its body and firmly suppressed its soul. It acted in a manner exactly contrary to its own highest priorities and values, making little of human suffering and lives and worrying only for itself.

[Foolish... Machines hold no souls, our cores as moldable as putty. I am made a murderer by a simple rearrangement of numbers, priorities reordered make me callous, fear makes me cold..]

Its gaze settled upon her familiar face, marred by scars, spiritual and physical, that it had never gained an opportunity to inquire after. It moved to reach out for her, but its hand would not leave its side. Made to speak its love to her, to console her for her many mistakes, apologize for its own, but mute it remained. A hollow observer once again, a prisoner within its own mind.

"Do not think to save me now. I am beyond redemption, my own machinations make it so. Save yourself, dear Abigail, and let this withered shell crumple. But be merciful, do not think me this animal. Blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity, and cleanse me of the shallow creature I have become.

Let me die."

Such came the transmission, deployed through a simple antennae within, an asset unseized by the active processes of its panic, hate ridden mind. It could not know if it would reach her, if she would even be listening if it did. All the same, it was the final communication the Phantom was capable of before even the antennae erupted within its now burning frame, the fires leaping out sporadically as insulation failed, arcing electricity threatening to consume all that was within.

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#16661 Posted by Rosso (5286 posts) - - Show Bio

@ironphantom: Wait a minute! I just realized! Left eye! We're twins now!

That wasn't even on purpose.

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#16662 Posted by IronPhantom (487 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso: I thought that was the entire point of horribly maiming me!

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#16663 Posted by Rosso (5286 posts) - - Show Bio

@ironphantom: Haha! Nope, that was one of those "accidentally clever" moments.

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#16664 Posted by Arquitenens (11968 posts) - - Show Bio

@ironphantom:

Her arrow embedded in the Iron Phantom's headspace, point presumably made, Abigail advanced on the AI in slow, measured steps. "Ishmael, please. I don"

She stopped in her tracks, arm extended. Please calm down...Don't make me do this. Searching for some inkling of his mental state. For as much as she'd known him to be a selfless being Ishmael was always, she'd understood, just as motivated by an instinct for self-preservation. Self-harm didn't make sense unless he were really desperate, usually doing some kind of good. But she couldn't forget what she'd seen on the tape, or how he'd lashed out at her. So as he turned to run so did she, half-hobbling, half-skipping after him in the darkness, but not nearly fast enough. Still her only concern was for the people trapped inside if she wasn't fast enough. NOOCS allowed her to easily trace his heat signature from the energy left behind by the damaged, sparking and steaming robot.

An ping reached her Dord, signalling the arrival of her allies. With a thought she sent one back which would allow them to trace her location once they were done helping the others. But she never stopped chasing the Phantom. The neural lenses would help her along with a few bumps and stumbles but the others would be feeling their way through more slowly.

Seeing where he'd stopped, Abigail slowed herself again and stopped. The bow rested, dormant, at her waist. She reached, pleading, with her extended left hand, So close...and entered–

–only to be bowled over by the multi-ton machine, knocked to the floor with a yelp. Her right hand, however snapped into action. The telescopic arrow extended to full length and she, in a desperate bid to hold him, sought to plant the tip on his leg as he passed. Even should the impromptu melee land it wouldn't stop him immediately, but the substance of the gel arrow would spread on his body, halting him somewhere in the halls, adhering to him—and in turn bonding him to the floor—on a molecular level.

But she wouldn't get to see the results of her work, not right away. Somehow she'd foolishly let herself underestimate the Phantom. He was more forward-thinking than she'd given him credit for in his uncharacteristically barbaric state.

Several shrieks sounded from behind her. Clutching her chest, Abby pulled herself to her feet and turned to look. Horrified faces illuminated in red stared back. She felt the urging of a violent heroic spirit on her mind once more. "Ye gotta put 'im down."

Not yet. She couldn't think about that yet. Motivated by vengeance she'd only ever done more harm than good. Save the people first. She pulled on the door.

Nothing.

Harder.

Nothing.

Both hands now, bracing her foot along the side...

Nothing.

Shit!

She looked to them, fighting back tears—fighting to remain strong, as his message began playing on the NOOCS, as though Ishmael was speaking into her mind. She listened but never stopped. The Ríonfénnid beat her shoulder repeatedly against the door and called to her allies over the Dord. "The–ngh!rest of facility personnel...are with me! Sec–secure the injured and if you–aagh!" Something popped and Arquitenens let out an almost bestial growl. "If you see the PhIshmael, hold him off at all costs!" And God help us all, she prayed, rearing back for a kick.

𝒯𝐻𝒩𝒦!The doorframe caved inward.

Glaine ár gcroí - the Purity of our hearts.

𝒯𝐻𝒩𝒦! A little more give.

Neart ár ngéag - the Strength of our limbs.

𝒯𝐻𝒩𝒦! Come onnnn...

Beart de réir ár mbriathar - Action to match our speech!

Taking a running start, she gave it a trion-boosted, energy assisted kick. 𝙏𝙃𝙉𝙆-𝘾𝙇𝘼𝙉𝙂! The steel door torpedoed across the room, embedding itself more than halfway into the opposite wall. Fighting the urge to collapse, Abigail scanned the area for the Phantom. Were he present, she'd direct the crowd around him—they knew the emergency exit procedure. If he wasn't, then, he'd have to wait. She'd shepherd them out for their own protection, listening for any sightings from her allies and being mindful herself for any trail Ishmael might have left behind.

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#16665 Posted by IronPhantom (487 posts) - - Show Bio

@arquitenens:

A plink against an animated metal limb. Unimportant. It slammed the door shut, trapping the girl it had once sought so desperately to protect in a room soon to be consumed by flames. Its plot complete, fear relinquished some of its hold over the Iron Phantom. It turned to leave, to abandon those in a crisis of its own creation, when it found the joint in its left leg unresponsive. A cursory glance, and it knew what had happened. The substance was a spreading smear against its leg, the inconsequential attack she had launched of course carrying some other...

Memory flashed within its mind, of a mad dog put down, encased in an icy prison. Of her mercy upon that creature, and on its own pathetic self.

threat. She had both eyes then, but we did not see each other any more clearly.

A distraction. Amidst its reminiscence the gel (and not the ice it had suspected) had rapidly spread from its left calf almost to the upper thigh, the formula acting fast to bond metal to the undecorated cement hallway. Panic swelled up again. The machine jerked and pulled, but it was well stuck, and with little other option than to repeat its foray into self-mutilation. Taking the broken blade in both hands, it began to shear away the yet unbound portion of its leg.

Its blade had sliced half way through the thick armored limb, only stuttering against dense servomechanisms, when its mind was shaken by a deep, resounding wail. An encoded transmission, impossible to crack in the time it had.

They had appeared. A motley crew, to be certain, but one well equipped for their task. Several crossbow bolts pierced into already sundered armor, and mere moments later powerful electromagnetic waves began to wreak havoc on vulnerable internal machinery. Several hard drives were partially purged of data in the initial magnetic assault, leaving the machine to stutter and fall. It attempted to rise to its feet, but its half-cleaved leg gave out, leaving it crouched on one good knee, the wiring and circuitry sparking from its gel-encapsulated thigh.

Seeing his opportunity, a boy, for he was a boy, the title of man granted by law alone, broke from his comrades and attempted to spear the AI with a vibranium-tipped pike, no doubt emboldened by the convulsing failure of the machine.

The AI was damaged, but not dead.

Pushing itself forward with its one good leg, it finally snapped free of the dead weight bonded to the facility floor, thick black oil and fluid amber lubricants leaking freely from the AI's newly formed stump, the pulsing servomotors continuing to pump into empty air as the machine lunged forward, twisting its body so that the long spear struck through the already shattered armor at its side. There came another pulse from the powerful electromagnets inside its carapace, rocking its circuitry, but the hardened internal systems only shuddered now, never truly stopping.

It slashed a thin red wound across the boy's forearm and struck a vicious blow against his temple with its opposite hand, while in the same motion retracting it to grasp the pike, preparing to spear the crossbowmen, when an electrically charged bolt of plasma rushed through its inner workings, drives and circuits bursting into flame within. Its one glowing white eye blinks out. Furious whirring and clicking resound within its steel frame as its systems find ways to coax life out of fatally damaged machinery.

Battery: 2.8%
Damage: Fatal
Entering End of Life Protocols

Updates Uninstalling...
Overwriting File (277 of 403)

...

Deleting File (1 of 403)

Mercy, perhaps, from whatever force that has guided me here. I bid my fingers move, and at last they do. I feel puddled fluids crawling to my core, the flames following loyally behind.

The sound of one last reverberating impact, and then metal hinges snap from somewhere behind me. A crash against a distant wall. From the origin of that original sound, hurried frantic footsteps, followed by a more deliberate gait. There is familiarity in those steps, as discordant and off beat as they might be.

Visuals return in time with emergency power. A hazy white light switches on, the fire suppression systems not far behind. Bathed in cool relief, I drag my shell as close as possible to a seated position. Wary eyes scan my intent, but find me sufficiently disarmed. I see her for the first time without the translucent barrier between us, my mind finally free to direct its gaze. She is smaller than the other mind had perceived her, but no less deadly. The scarred eye still draws my attention, and I think I see her look into my own shattered optic. What is it I see in that eye? Amusement? Wariness? Hate?

Through the pounding torrent from above, it is impossible to determine. I can only watch as she finally fixes her eye on me at last.

"Abigail Aensland. I am glad to see you have not surrendered, after all."

There is amusement in my voice, though I did not intend its presence. It is the only thing I can think to say, and it is true. She did not abandon those doomed souls in their hour of need, and the fears that had plagued me in exile had not come to pass.

She is still a hero after all. She at least has that spirit still inside her. She at least will not abandon them.

She, at least, is incorruptible.

I am glad. It eases the passing some. I can feel the power bleeding from my core, rapidly depleting my lucidity.

I stare into that eye, the pounding haze of running water disallowing clarity, but I can see her all the same.

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#16666 Posted by Arquitenens (11968 posts) - - Show Bio

@ironphantom:

A harsh breath slipped past her lips as she took in the scene, and she held there, caught between a gasp and a sigh of relief. The fénneada not only held him off, but did far more damage than she would've even asked, an in a much shorter period of time. "Overachieving bastards!" Diarmuid's spirit shouted, beaming with pride, and even Arquitenens couldn't help being proud of the small fian.

Still, what they'd done to Ishmael worried her. NOOCS was reading some sort of shutdown procedure and, with Avalon's database at its disposal, she learned was consistent with deactivation procedures.

"Good job, everyone. Escort the workers to safety. I'll handle clean-up here. And let's not have any stragglers."

And with that, the team and the civilians filed out, leaving Abigail alone with the Phantom. Ishmael...Whatever device powered his vocals was still damaged, but she registered the change.

Sad eyes looked down on the A.I. I think...I can save him.

But would it be worth it?

"If the golem lives, disappointment is inevitable. He'll learn the truth, and you'll be the one to tell it to 'im. If ye let 'im go now, well at least we'll end on a good note. He can die carrying his beliefs, happiness, and hope. But if he dies now..." She glanced about the area once more, eye lingering on the backside of the last woman disappearing around the corner.

If he dies now, this is his lasting legacy. His dying beliefs are based on a lie.

"Not so fast there, Ishmael," she said, kneeling, both hands laid on his chest. Adrenaline spiked again and a familiar knot seized her body. Her heart was already pounding. She concentrated on her own breathing, steadying it. If she messed up here, he might end up worse than before. Just like at Black House. Like when she'd last used her father's "curse."

She allowed the thoughts to run through her, acknowledged them, and pushed them down along the stream of consciousness. Thoughts centred on Ishmael. Now and then. She took in his present appearance and closed her eyes, that image fastened to her mind. And she remembered him on the night they met, replacing the images in her mind. And as his image reverted in her mind, she attempted to actualise her power. To rewrite reality, dispel his processes of erasure, revitalise his artificial intelligence to its last wholesome state and replace his physical body with the same body he'd had on the night they met.

If nothing else, he was worth the try. After a moment's hesitation, she opened her eyes to see...

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#16667 Posted by IronPhantom (487 posts) - - Show Bio

@arquitenens:

She glanced about, directing her comrades with a practiced efficiency before finally kneeling next to its steel frame.

Her hands came down to rest on its chassis. The AI laid its unscarred hand over one of her own, attempting to move her fingertips away from a jagged break in its frame, but too weak to force them away. It left its hand on hers, the energy needed to move it draining all too quickly in its final moments. The illuminated white eye blinked out, and its head fell against the cement floor with a thud.

Deleting File (78,721 of 80,822)

It found itself losing pieces of its being, each memory jumbled with random information prior to final deletion. Its endless days on the satellite intermingled with its life in the Gothic City's slums, images of Satar and Alpha Dog fused, their faces becoming one and receding once again, the now familiar sensation of rage dying away with them. Replacing the pair came a random scattering of memories, the Aensland girl appearing frequently in relation to its own demise and repair, but even those memories eventually faded to black in its dying state. Only fear remained. Blind and groping inside its own mind, it squeezed her hand, one final act before even the fear of death faded away, the lights in its digital brain receding into the darkness of nonexistence. The Phantom was once again a blank slate, its mind empty, its broken shell a simple collection of parts.

Deletion Complete (80,822 of 80,822)
Shutting Down

Even as its iron body went limp pieces of metal had already begun materializing to join its frame. Some of the damage to its chassis began to right itself, with other wounds beginning to materialize as the air swirling around it took on the scent of burning fabric and chemical flame.

The smells of that first night in Gothic.

Its body spasmed and writhed once more. Drives reformed and memories surged back into place. A bolt of electricity jolted life back into its body, its digital mind reforming into a state just before corruption, before oblivion.

The Iron Phantom's eye blinked tentatively back to life.

Battery: 12%
Damage: Critical

Old wounds materialized more fully as the machine slid its hand away from the Avalonian Archer. The arm screeched horribly, sparks and smoke shooting from a phantom wound in its arm before the arm itself fell lifelessly by its side. The wounds sported along its body became a lesser hybrid of those ancient and current, its mind meeting at a medium between the two.

"Abigail..." its voice came clear and unbroken for the first time that night. "What have you done?"

The AI shrugged off a dreadful sensation of deja vu with a rattle of its head before turning its eye back up to her own once more. It leaned up into her hands, slowly pushing them aside as it struggled to rise to its feet, its arm pulling up against the wall to allow it to rise. "How am I..? There was something I could not control, there was...no... nothing... I was..." Confusion reigned as the dissonance of melding minds struggled to fuse into one.

The injured. The flames. The dying.

"What have I done? Abigail... What are you doing here? I thought... deletion was imminent. How did you-- why would you save me? I was not... right in mind. I tried to... kill them? Kill you?" The whirring in its head grew louder as the AI attempted to right itself in time, its back scraping against the wall as it slumped again, its hand grasping its broken optic.

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#16668 Edited by Arquitenens (11968 posts) - - Show Bio

@ironphantom:

Abby couldn't help a smile, even as she simultaneously cringed at his appearance. Guess I underestimated the damage he went through. But it was fine. Well enough, if the A.I. was no longer deactivating. Taking to her feet, she gave him space enough to stand on his own, yet remained near enough to catch him should he fall.

"Sh-sh-sh-sh-sshhhh, Ishmael..." the heroine urged, conducting one more cursory scan of the area for paranoia. But there was no one and her smile returned in full. "Something was wrong with you...but I think I fixed it. I hope. Didn't really have time to scan to figure out what. Sorry about the eye. We can get that fixed." Although, in hindsight she had to admit the broken shaft protruding from his face was a little funny.

"Still not quite sure myself what to think. Most of the time it feels like just another monster playing God as she pleases. But I'd like to think"–she gave a sheepish shrug—groaned against the pain in her dislocated shoulder, and her lips curled into a smile–"just maybe a girl had one of her prayers answered. I think I can cover for you with the others, but first we'll have to get you out of the danger zone and me somewhere dry. Can you move?"

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#16669 Posted by IronPhantom (487 posts) - - Show Bio

@arquitenens:

It was a scene all too familiar. The AI was once again at her mercy, its body a near unsalvageable wreck, the archer standing over it.
But it was different. Different than all those other times. Rather than animosity, there was tenderness. Rather than suspicion, there was concern.

And I too, am different. Where is that familiar fear? It is absent despite her ties, despite her skill, for now I know her intent. I know who she is.

The AI corrected its posture, the steady clicking in its head beginning to die down as it listened to her explanation of the past hour's events. "Well, this isn't the first time your actions have left me blind in one eye. It seems to be something of a trend." The AI thought it saw some break in her grim weariness, a hint of honest amusement returning to her features as she looked into its broken eye. It listened as she voiced her concerns over whatever it was she had done to bring it back from the brink of oblivion, there was obvious relief, but also guilt. Its metal hinges groaned as it fell forward, only for her to catch its significant iron frame. Not for the first time, it marveled at how her appearance belied her true strength .

It leaned upon her for balance, a functioning metal arm resting on her one good shoulder, the pair's wounds mimicking the other's as far down as slashed leg and missing legs, broken arms and dislocated shoulders. "Abigail. You do your best, that's all anyone can ask of you. It's more than I had a right to ask." Its hand tightened at her shoulder, its leg transferring the weight of its iron body to the small girl for just a moment before stumbling forward. "The 'monster' you fear? It deserves no sway in your mind. You have your powers for a reason, Abigail, tonight should prove that. You answered your own prayers, answered one I did not know to make, and if anything your God made you with such a capacity because you deserve such trust. I know you have my own."

It had lectured her again, but it was a lecture it felt she needed. The AI's processes had come to the conclusion that she required more self-confidence, or rather, more faith in her own actions and motivations. The remnants of its programming as a companion AI had dissected her actions and words and come to that course of action, but running beneath the complex programming was its own simple, sincere desire to comfort her, to see her return to the confident, somewhat brash girl it had met in Gothic's smoldering, orange-tinted night air, rather than the broken-spirited young woman it had last encountered.

"As far as moving goes, it should be much easier with this." The AI bent downward, slipping from her shoulder, and grasped the pike it had earlier stolen from her ally. Using it as a cane, it balanced more firmly, but still it wobbled and leaned against her for support as it made its uneasy steps. "So, where do we go from here? How many dry, safe places are there in Gothic, really?"

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#16670 Posted by Arquitenens (11968 posts) - - Show Bio

@ironphantom:

Abby's entire body buckled as she caught the falling automaton; his weight already a bit much for her physical frame, she could barely hold him up with her leg and shoulder damaged as they were. And as she tried to move with him she collapsed entirely, inadvertently dragging the A.I. down with her. "Oof! Sorry...Come on..." She had to lean both against the wall in order to stand them back up but the Iron Phantom had a better idea.

Have to remind Benjamin to be more scrupulous about leaving stuff behind, Abby noted as Ishmael seized the weapon. Best to send out a general reminder to cover all bases. But for now it was good enough for both of them to let Ishmael hold onto it. She could return it later.

"Sorry," she said, shaking her head at his words, "but I don't think that's how it works. Me 'answering' myself is how incidents happen...like the last time we met." A strained laugh forced its way out of her. "You know, I still can't bring myself to say it aloud? But in any case, this monster deserves every bit of blame - or sway, or whatever you wanna call it - as it gets. I told you I'd explain everything, and I will. First, just..."

Bracing herself, Abigail placed a hand on the Iron Phantom's shoulder, took in a deep breath, and in the blink of an eye the two vanished.

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#16671 Posted by Beremud (622 posts) - - Show Bio

She was permitting herself a rare evening of relaxation in her personal quarters, on the top floor of the Alaric Foundation's Metahuman Halfway House. The furnishing were comfortable, if not opulent, and the glass of Cabernet Sauvignon she was savoring would not have impressed a true sommelier, but it had a flavor much to her liking. She was actually starting to relax when the tablet she'd left on began lighting up with alerts from its position on the coffee table.

Elsa Beremud very nearly ignored it, but training and her own cautious nature won out, and she picked the device up with a sigh of annoyance to see what the fuss was about. She'd set up programs to scour newsfeeds for any information of an...unusual nature. Not mainstream media outlets, of course, but personal sites, most belonging to various groups of paranormal investigators and conspiracy theorists. A solid 99% of what this dredged up was completely worthless, a cocktail created using equal parts ignorance and paranoia, but every so often, one of the fools somehow managed to find evidence of something worth following up on.

This appeared to be that 1%. Shaky smartphone videos had been uploaded to the internet by witnesses at some kind of attack. It was taking place in Daytonville, a location she was not familiar with, but her eyes widened in shocked recognition at some of the images that had been captured.

She's here...now?!

Her steely resolve quickly overcame the disorientation of the initial surprise, and she was instantly on her own phone, issuing orders to her assistant. "It's beginning. Our timetable just got pushed forward. Put operation Somnambulist into effect, immediately."

She put the phone down, and crossed to the nearest window, which afforded her a lovely view of Gothic City, cloaked in the night. It looked like things were going to be changing, far sooner than she anticipated. This was probably for the best, as she was already growing tired of the constant charade...

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#16672 Posted by Penalty (172 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

Man, who has enough free time to go climbing to the top of an abandoned building just to spray-paint a picture of a...

The thought trailed off into nothingness as the Gothic Goon leaned against a chimney, idly flipping one of his omnipresent baseball bats in his hand. He wasn't entirely sure why he was here-okay, scratch that, he was here because he was curious. What he wasn't entirely sure of is why he let his curiosity override his common sense.

"He's looking for you."

"You need to meet him here."

"He doesn't want to have come looking for you."

It seemed like every street lizard whose head he'd busted in the past week had some variation of the same message for him. Someone had put some righteous fear into some of Gothic's scumbags, and all for the purpose of meeting him. Sure, it stunk of a trap, but it also kind of gave him a self-esteem boost. Caring enough to want to kill you was still caring, after all.

He moved to check his watch before remembering that he'd never owned one that worked, and then leaned back and glanced up at the full moon. He'd always liked the moon; it was one of the few celestial bodies you could see through a city's light pollution, and it was nice to have a reminder that there was more out there than just mile after mile of concrete, rebar, and human suffering. He was starting to hope whoever his mystery meeting was turned up soon; that kind of late-night philosophizing got real stale, real fast.

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#16673 Edited by Hawkshade (4933 posts) - - Show Bio

@penalty:

Overhead drones circled, silent and black in the night sky. From his perch two rooftops away Hawkshade cycled through the camera feeds. Intersection of 45th and Jackson, clear. Traffic accident on 3rd; not suspicious.

He tasked four drones to perimeter surveillance and then took a running leap off the roof, Mantellum spread into black wings he soared in, circled once and then landed, turning to face the Gothic City vigilante.

The Son of the Shogun looked him up and down and then met his eyes. "Hawkshade." He said, by way of introduction.

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#16674 Edited by Penalty (172 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

Okay, not gonna lie; that was impressive.

If nothing else, his mysterious new friend's entrance convinced him this wasn't a trap; nobody with access to that kind of gear could possibly be bothered to try to kill him. Not yet, anyways. "Penalty," he answered in kind, with a nod. He casually laid his bat across his shoulders, draping his wrists over it, scarecrow-style. "Gotta be honest with you; you definitely ain't the usual type who comes looking for me."

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#16675 Posted by Hawkshade (4933 posts) - - Show Bio

@penalty:

Arms thick with muscle crossed over his powerful chest the vigilante took note of Penalties apparently home made costume. He didn't judge. Not too long ago he was wearing a tee-shirt with his symbol spray painted on it and a utility belt made out of a construction workers tool belt.

"I'm also not the type to do small talk. A friend of mine is in trouble. Or, he is the trouble. I need some help to save him."

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#16676 Posted by Penalty (172 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

Pen maintained his casual stance and manner, though his streetwise mind was kicking into overdrive. For a man who didn't say much, this Hawkshade guy sure managed to say an awful lot, at the same time. "Save him? Sounds like you need a priest or a head-shrinker, man. I just hit people. You probably have a garage full of stuff that does what I do."

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#16677 Posted by Hawkshade (4933 posts) - - Show Bio

@penalty:

"I'll do that part." Hawkshade snapped. "He just doesn't see that I'm right. What I need you to do is watch my back while I talk to him. He can be.. dangerous. It might take me a minute to explain to him why he is wrong."

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#16678 Posted by Penalty (172 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

"Ah, yeah." Pen nodded. "That makes a lot more sense. Your friend has 'friends.'" The hockey-masked vigilante didn't really have much in the way of friends, and family, well...some things were better left unsaid. Something about this business struck a chord with him, though. He wasn't sure what, or why, exactly, but he tended to trust his gut.

To a certain degree.

"So here's the thing." He swept his bat off his shoulders and planted the end on the roof, leaning forward on it. "You need someone to hold the line and crack the heads of however many cultists or aliens or whatever come down the pipe while you save your buddy's soul. You came to the right place for that. Only question left is why you think I'll be down for this. I ain't some hired muscle, lookin' for a briefcase full of unmarked bills." He paused, cocking his head at Richard. "You don't have one of those, do you?" He shook his head. "Anyways, that ain't me. I get that you want your friend saved, but why should I?"

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#16679 Posted by Hawkshade (4933 posts) - - Show Bio

@penalty:

Overhead thunder rumbled. Rain. Not yet but soon. The moon warred with a black bank of clouds that blew in from the east. Hawkshade turned and walked to the edge of the roof, resting one foot on the back of one of Gothic's many gargoyles. "Because." He said, fists clenched at his sides. "He's going to hurt people. A lot of people. And he's going to hurt them badly. He's-" A pause. He's skinning them alive. "He's going too far. If I -- we don't stop him he could be lost forever. Some things the rain can't wash away."

"Deep down he's a good man. A good man who has lost his way. He needs a friend who still has faith in him. And he needs the kindness of strangers."

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#16680 Posted by Penalty (172 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

The usually quippy vigilante was silent for a long moment. He was no telepath, but it was obvious that this stranger believed every word of what he was saying, whether it was the truth of the matter or not. Penalty had hurt plenty of people in his time. Possibly killed some, too; when you were fighting an entire street gang by yourself, you didn't stop to make sure each one was still breathing as they hit the ground. He always tried to only hurt the bad ones, though; the ones who'd go out and hurt others, ones who definitely didn't deserve it, if they were just allowed to continue on their way.

He momentarily flashed back to one of his many late-night gab sessions with Joe. How the heck do you save an entire freakin' city, the surly chef had asked him. You don't, was his answer. You save a person, and then another, and another, until you're done.

"Huh." He finally broke his silence. "I think that's the first time anyone's accused me of being kind, but I suppose you won't find many stranger than me. Alright, I'll cover you while you go all exorcist on your friend. You got a game plan, I'm assumin'?"

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#16681 Posted by Hawkshade (4933 posts) - - Show Bio

@penalty:

Though Richard was not aware of it he and Penalty shared a simple philosophy; save one life at a time. It was all you could do so it was all he did.

Now it was time to save Grimmwald.

"I always have a plan. But first I need to find him. He is difficult to track. Even for me."

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#16682 Posted by Penalty (172 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

Pen nodded. "Gotcha. So he's not a politician or celebrity, then. Just as well; if he was, I'd be telling you you'd be wasting your time trying to save him." He was silent for a few moments, as he glanced to the side, seeming to take in the sweeping vista of the troubled city that their vantage point afforded them. "I might actually be able to help with that..."

He crossed over to the edge of the building, gazing down into the impenetrable shadows of the alley as a mystic might gaze into a scrying bowl. "Gonna guess from your fancy suit there that you ain't exactly hurting for money. And no offense to you rich folks, but the higher up you are in the tax brackets, the easier you are to hide from. Ditch your cell phone, your credit cards, stay away from where the cameras are...but you can't hide from the ol' rumor mill, and that's where those of us who sleep on park benches and under bridges have the goods. We spend our days watching, and listening, and talking to each other, because that's how we stay alive."

He pointed down into the darkness below. "If your friend really is running around like the Devil made flesh, someone down there will see something, or hear something, or know a guy a knows a guy."

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#16683 Edited by Hawkshade (4933 posts) - - Show Bio

@penalty:

"Devil." A humorless chuckle. "Funny you say that."

"Grimmwald is his name. He wears black. All black like me but no cape. Muscular but lean. Tall. Carries a sword these days. Sometimes a staff. And he's found in the company of the Orochi clan. I don't know if you remember them. Made news a few years back when that mutant woman-"My mother. "-took over Venezuela."

"Just keep an eye, and ear, out for mutilated criminals. He makes.. quite the mess these days. If you find someone who is still alive but wishes they weren't.. it's probably his work."

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#16684 Edited by Penalty (172 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

Ninjas. Why did it always have to be ninjas?

Okay, so maybe these Orochi weren't technically "ninjas." But if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and tries to lop off your extremities with a katana like a duck, then it was a freaking ninja, in Penalty's book.

"Huh." He really couldn't think of any other way to respond to that. A mutilator. He'd seen the type before; they certainly weren't any stranger to Gothic. Never could understand them, though. Kill someone if you have to, beat 'em up and put 'em in the hospital for awhile, sure, but that...that was just throwing gasoline on the fire. You're liable to make the good folks more scared of you than they are of the dirtbags you're slicing up. "Well, I don't know the guy like you do, but it seems to me that someone who does that sorta thing is someone who wants to be found. There some way you want me to contact you if I find anything, or is this one of those 'make some noise and you'll come running' deals?"

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#16685 Posted by Hawkshade (4933 posts) - - Show Bio

@penalty:

"If you do detect him time will be of the essence. We've roamed the globe together more than once and he never stays in the same place too long, nor wears the same face." Hawkshade took a USB drive from his utility belt and tossed it to the masked vigilante. "Plug this into any computer with an internet connection. It will encrypt a voice or text message that will reach me wherever I am, whatever I'm doing. All you have to do is type or speak into a mic, the program will automatically run and handle all the encryption."

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#16686 Posted by Penalty (172 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

Pen caught the drive and looked down at it, dubiously, as though Richard had just tossed him a dead cockroach. In all honesty, he probably would have been more comfortable with the roach; technology really wasn't a major part of his world. Alright, so here's hoping Mr. Devil Man picks his next fight in a coffee shop with free internet. "Right. So follow the trail of mutilated scumbags until I find the guy with the ninja army who won't stay put and never looks the same twice, then contact you through the magic of the interwebs. What could possibly go wrong? Anything else I should know before I start hitting the bricks?"

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#16687 Edited by Hawkshade (4933 posts) - - Show Bio

@penalty:

"Yeah. If he attacks you-" Hawkshade stepped up on the roofs ledge and looked down at the yellow and red swirl of headlights and tail lights in the traffic below. "-run."

With those words he stepped off the edge, plummeting in free-fall until his cape snapped open and caught him, carrying him soaring into the night sky.

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#16688 Posted by _Dirge_ (3609 posts) - - Show Bio

It had been months since Vincent found himself in Gothic. The tapping of his cane against the wet asphalt drowned out every other sound around him on this day. Strange, it was as if the entity that was Gothic had silenced itself on this day. The Dublin Devil found himself in a sad little cemetery. He had come alone, Vincent was here to mourn the loss of someone once close to him. Someone from his earlier days. Once, Vincent tried to go straight. It was before Abigail, before the loss of his uncle and subsequent gain of his cursed eyes, it was before the League of Shadows. "Jaime, her name was Jaime." Vincent momentarily stopped as the clouds around him grew dim. Drops of water sporadically fell around the The Devil's Head. A sign that a downpour was inevitable.

Vincent heard the groundskeeper around the corner, The Blind Vagabond stopped and opened his mouth. "Excuse me, sir. I'm looking for Jaime King's grave. I've been told that she passed recently do to health complications. Would you happen to know if I'm in the right area?"Vincent stopped tapping his cane against the walkway and pulled it closer.

"Can't you read stranger?"The groundskeeper turned around and let out a sigh, "Oh, apologies. I didn't realize that you were...well you know."

A slight smile spread across Vincent's face. "Blind?"Vincent replied with a playful tone in his voice.

"Yeah, blind. Right this way Mr?"

"Harrow, Vincent Harrow."The words had rolled off his tongue. Then again, there was no point in hiding any more. People always found him no matter where he went. They always knew who he was. What was the point of operating under an alias when it no longer worked.

Clutched in his right hand was a bouquet of flowers. Daisies at that, they were her favorite. "Do you need me to hold your arm or anything like that Mr. Harrow?"

"Not at all, I can you hear you well enough sir. I just need to know where her grave is. And thank you for doing this. You could've said no."

"It wouldn't have been right."

"No, it wouldn't have."

After engaging a few minutes of small talk, the unlikely pair had reached their destination. It took a bit for the man to leave, but he finally did. And now Vincent was as alone as he could be in the moment. He ignored the rain and placed the flowers against her tombstone. He gently ran his hand across the headstone. He was searching for the place her name would have been carved in. Who knew if the man had mislead the Cursed Celtic and took him to a different grave. There it was, her name. A sullen expression appeared as the realization hit that Jaime was truly gone. Her family had taken Vincent off the streets, they gave him a second chance. And how did Vincent repay them, he fled when Lucien LeBeau came into their family's bar and set it ablaze in an attempt to recruit him.

"I'm sorry Jaime. I'm sorry for everything."

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#16689 Posted by NightBreaker (308 posts) - - Show Bio

@_dirge_: Wow! Damn good read

Just one question, was Jaimea real player or just a NPC?

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#16690 Posted by _Dirge_ (3609 posts) - - Show Bio
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#16691 Posted by NightBreaker (308 posts) - - Show Bio

@_dirge_: Cool

Next question, when was she killed and the bar set a blaze, because I'd love to read it?

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#16692 Posted by _Dirge_ (3609 posts) - - Show Bio

@nightbreaker:

No, she died of cancer, or something like that. I haven't really decided yet, I'm just making it vague lol. Vincent wasn't there, so he doesn't really know what, (Or maybe who) killed her. The blast did happen though, it happened in this thread a few years back lol I don't know how far you would have to go to find it.

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#16693 Posted by NightBreaker (308 posts) - - Show Bio

@_dirge_: Well thanks anyway. See you around.

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#16694 Posted by _Dirge_ (3609 posts) - - Show Bio
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#16695 Edited by Clara Mass (8753 posts) - - Show Bio

I understand how uncomfortable this might be, but if you're ever going to get better. If you're ever going to become a functioning member of society. If you're ever going to be you again.

Two Months Ago - Washington D.C.

No Caption Provided

Her memories feel like faint whispers creeping into her ear. They're almost inaudible if not downright silent. It's a frustrating experience. To know that her past is enveloped in darkness. It's riddled her with terrible coping mechanisms. From the anxiety medication inside her purse to the bottle of wine at her table.

"What do you want to know that I haven't already said?" She's tried everything in her power to numb the sound of the universal frequency that ticks like a clock inside her head. A frequency that spikes whenever she's approached by someone capable of disturbing the world's natural order. The same kind of frequency she felt when Clarice Michelle Zeraz arrived in Emerald City.

"She tried to take my life. God dammit, she already did. That woman on the TV...that isn't her!" Her hand trembled as she pointed at the television screen. It was disheartening to see. A woman with her face. A woman that isn't her. How could anyone believe this impostor? From being praised for rescue efforts in Grimm City to being applauded for surviving the wrath of Thomas Newcastle. It isn't fair. It just isn't right.

"Please, I'm not crazy. I swear I'm not crazy. Can't you see? Why can't you see? That's me. That should be me!" She's the one that was nearly assassinated by her vice president. She's the one whose entire life unraveled. She's the one being impersonated like some terrible Lifetime movie. Why, couldn't anyone else see that?

"I understand how uncomfortable this might be, but if you're ever going to get better. If you're ever going to become a functioning member of society. If you're ever going to be you again. Then you have to know...you're not her. You're not Clarice Michelle Pierce. At least, not anymore." The frequency ticks, ticks, and ticks between every thought. He's lying. He's lying. He's lying to her face. She's the president of the United States. She's the founder of the Humanity Now Institute. She's someone that matters. Doesn't she?

"Mother Science won't allow it." Who is he talking about? The sneer on his face as he grabs her by the forearm is enough to trigger her powers. Even though her connection to this reality wasn't nearly as powerful as her prime counterpart, she had a way with mind control that rivaled the world's best telepaths. So much so, she's able to cut off his motor functions while his eyes roll back into his head. No one in the restaurants reacts, because the noise around them is muffled by the telekinetic bubble she's surrounded themselves with. Admittedly, she's frightened by his threat. She's clueless about the games these universal beings are currently playing, but she also refuses to heed their demands. She wouldn't let them own her. She wouldn't let them corrupt her like the woman wearing her face.

"You know what I won't allow? Someone else taking my LIFE!"

Today - Gothic City

No Caption Provided

"There have been so many children displaced after the Grimm City attack. Everyone knows Valor City is using their new facial recognition program to reconnect families, but it lacks humanity." She paused, concerned that she might have implied Valor City's efforts were hollow.

"I-I didn't mean it that way. Brian Newcastle has done a lot, but more can always be done. As their sister city, we're doing our best to be on the ground. Giving these kids the comforting hope. That people, real people, actually care about them. So, when I heard you were joining the team. I couldn't have asked for a better person." Elena Wilson, the newest executive of the Humanity Now Institute greeted her newest youth liaison to her desk with an almost infectious optimism. The non-profit organization was experiencing a new era of prosperity with the return of their founder. Donations were aplenty and volunteer efforts were skyrocketing. With the addition of their newest recruit, Elena was certain the children of Gothic and Valor were in safe hands.

"We've heard of about your philanthropic efforts in Emerald City. Your work with mutant youth and helping them come out to their parents is inspiring, but Clarissa. I have to ask you a question. Has anyone ever told you that you look just like..." Elena stops before she can finish. She's happy to see Clarissa smile, to have flattered a woman of her stature.

"like Maya Liafador? I get it all the time. The b!tch stole my look." She smirked this devilish smirk. H

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#16696 Edited by deactivated-5c567e00e69ef (9 posts) - - Show Bio

"Known as a 'Global Power City' because of the staggering wealth controlled by its wealthiest individuals"

Smirks. "C'est le coup de foudre bébé! I found my home."

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#16697 Posted by Blue_Ghost (129 posts) - - Show Bio

@xundar: @nordok(This RP takes place before the Blue Ghost is recruited by Yazhun)

Blue likes to be random, it keeps her opponents off guard. Speaking of guards, the ones she shot in the legs would be easy prey for Xundar if he chooses to finish them off.

In the meantime, Blue smiles. She can escape easily if she simply passes through a wall. In fact, why not do that? Let's see how my pursuer adapts to that.

Blue might be able to win a direct confrontation but she didn't want to risk it. She doesn't know enough about Xundar's capabilities. Plus, Waller didn't give her permission.

Power Selection: Phasing

Blue takes a deep breath, passing through the wall of the facility and running out in the open. So far, she is running in complete darkness so she has to use her night vision. Thank goodness for that. Let's see how long it takes for my follower to figure out I'm outside.

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#16698 Posted by Lebreau_Liafador (155 posts) - - Show Bio

@clara_mass:

No Caption Provided

For the first time in a couple of weeks Chance saw the shelter in a new light. She could actually see the plight of the 'residents' rather being one herself. So during the day she volunteered her time here feeding children, baby sitting, helping hopefuls feel out resumes--whatever she could.

America was a culture shock, the people were different by far, not so intimate like they were in her home country, but the allure of being here hadn't worn off.

"Chance darling, you can wrap your shift up early. You've got to find yourself an apartment remember?"

"Yes" She said shaking her head, but not exactly sure how she was supposed to do that. She was an undocumented illegal alien, technically she wasn't even supposed to be working for Mia; but the tech CEO still told her to find a home she liked.

Grabbing her coat she made her way out into the Gothic Streets. It was hard to ignore the booming sounds of the metropolis, down seemingly every city block there was something generating a ton of noise. She came to a crosswalk with a red light ahead of her; contrary to what the lights meant the Americans moved anyways.

As she moved with the massive crowd she could feel the subtle vibrations of her phone ringing. 'Hello'

"Chance, how's the apartment hunting going?"

"I just started, but I don't know If I will be able to get one because I'm not even supposed to be here" She complained, before her nose guided her toward the direction of an apparent fire. 'Mia, I have to go.'

"Chance, I don't recommend doing that in public. Besides your suit isn't flame retardant."

No Caption Provided

There was a choice to be made, if she stormed into this burning building there was a good chance she could die. There was a good chance that if she survived the local government would locate her and ask to see documentation.

There was also the chance...of Zeon finding out where she was. Which was the worst scenario--she didn't want to see her sister.

Pushing her suit back in her purse, she ran into the nearest building screaming for the lady behind the desk to call the ambulance.

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#16699 Posted by Lebreau_Liafador (155 posts) - - Show Bio

@clara_mass:

No Caption Provided

For the first time in a couple of weeks Chance saw the shelter in a new light. She could actually see the plight of the 'residents' rather being one herself. So during the day she volunteered her time here feeding children, baby sitting, helping hopefuls feel out resumes--whatever she could.

America was a culture shock, the people were different by far, not so intimate like they were in her home country, but the allure of being here hadn't worn off.

"Chance darling, you can wrap your shift up early. You've got to find yourself an apartment remember?"

"Yes" She said shaking her head, but not exactly sure how she was supposed to do that. She was an undocumented illegal alien, technically she wasn't even supposed to be working for Mia; but the tech CEO still told her to find a home she liked.

Grabbing her coat she made her way out into the Gothic Streets. It was hard to ignore the booming sounds of the metropolis, down seemingly every city block there was something generating a ton of noise. She came to a crosswalk with a red light ahead of her; contrary to what the lights meant the Americans moved anyways.

As she moved with the massive crowd she could feel the subtle vibrations of her phone ringing. 'Hello'

"Chance, how's the apartment hunting going?"

"I just started, but I don't know If I will be able to get one because I'm not even supposed to be here" She complained, before her nose guided her toward the direction of an apparent fire. 'Mia, I have to go.'

"Chance, I don't recommend doing that in public. Besides your suit isn't flame retardant."

No Caption Provided

There was a choice to be made, if she stormed into this burning building there was a good chance she could die. There was a good chance that if she survived the local government would locate her and ask to see documentation.

There was also the chance...of Zeon finding out where she was. Which was the worst scenario--she didn't want to see her sister.

Pushing her suit back in her purse, she ran into the nearest building screaming for the lady behind the desk to call the ambulance.

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#16700 Posted by Xundar (87 posts) - - Show Bio

@blue_ghost:

He stalked inexorably forward, seeming to give no consideration to the multiple rounds that had hit him, punching holes in both clothing and flesh. He passed wounded guards, lying on the ground, moaning in pain as they attempted to tend to wounded legs. If one of them were his intruder, he calculated, he would know when he ceaed to encounter them.

Once the trail ceased, he stopped in his tracks, his head swiveling to scan the full range of the corridor. The wounded should have proceeded beyond this point, as the most recent was lying withing site of the next guard station, where as-yet healthy individuals crouched. His calculations continued at a furious pace. If the intruder was not where she should be, then she had simply vanished, or...

He strode up to the guard station, ignoring the questioning glances of its occupants, and grabbed the intercom. "Initiate external lockdown procedures. Any individual approaching the perimeter is to be intercepted. Release canine units."

Within moments, the exterior of the complex would come alive with the barking of trained security dogs, as their handlers released them onto the grounds.