Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Esoteric
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Esoteric Coquette

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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Esoteric
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Esoteric Coquette

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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Esoteric
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Esoteric Coquette

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Annelle Caldera
The Slums District


Anne's eyes shot open to the sound of static crackling in her ear. She groaned, trying to worm her stiff body from between the front seats of the vehicle. Another crackle of static burst in her ear, it made her wince and her head throb harder. She ripped the ear piece off and put it in her pocket. She waited for the haze of unconsciousness to lift off of her as she sat back in the drivers seat, feeling her joints creak with stiffness. She let her eyes close with a sigh, trying to ignore the pounding throb coming from the knot on her head. A creature flashed before her eyelids, blue, grotesque, hungry.

She sat forward in a panic, her heart fluttering as she remembered why exactly she was here. She peered out the driver's window just now noticing the downpour of rain. She must have been really out of it. From what she could see through the storm the street was rather empty, heavily damaged, but empty. There weren't even any corpses to speak of, which Anne thought was weird, unless whatever the creatures were had been beaten pack. Would the beasts have the sentience to do that? Or would they even care?

Anne opened the driver door gingerly, only to have a howling wind rip it from her hands and throw it fully opened. Anne stepped out into the icy chill of the rainfall, carefully observing her surroundings. There were claw marks covering the van, and blood smears that the rain was still working on washing away. She walked around the back of the van, noting the rends in asphalt roads, the flickering streetlamps, and flames flickering from the interiors of other buildings. A war must have been raging on this street.

"Oh.. gross.." Anne breathed, ignoring her disgust at the hand gripping the rear hatch release. Just, the hand. She wiped the rain off the windows and looked in the back of the van, but didn't see anything of use. Just some seats and empty bags, it was likely that whatever war had raged on this street most of the useful supplies were long gone. Anne sighed, wishing for some heavier firepower. She stepped up onto the sidewalk, getting some cover from the angle of the rain. A moment later a flat, metal case was in her hand—her cigarettes.

A thin trail of sweet smoke followed Anne as she huffed her way down the street, trying to keep herself focused and prevent the panic from returning. Still, her hand shook slightly as she brought it to her lips once more, taking a heavy drag on the small narcotic. Her boots crunched over shattered glass and she had to move around jagged edges of blown out buildings. She visually pictured the core, locating her person after her wild escape through the maintenance tunnels. She figured she was roughly a hundred miles from either the Station, and Neon. She continued straight at the next intersection instead of turning, heading for the Station District.

She crouched low next to the combined destruction of a bench, and a trashcan, twisted and partially melted together. Up ahead one of the glowing creatures was walking around. It would go a few steps, lift it's.. face to the rain, and then repeat the pattern. 'The rain must be inhibiting them somehow' Anne reasoned, they seemed to have no trouble trying to swarm her in the darkness. Still, she wondered how she would get past it, a fight was out of the question. After seeing what those creatures could do, and the trail of evidence, Anne was in no mood to test those facts. She was deciding how best to go around when an interceptor flew overheard, its engines whining shrilly. It was about four stories up and a searchlight was scanning the streets. Was it looking for survivors? Anne wasn't about to chance a rescue for that creature tore her limb from limb.

"STAY INDOORS," a speaker mounted on the nose of the vehicle commanded, "THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL," Anne let out the tiniest of huffs. Anytime that line was ever used, the situation was definitely not under control. Speaking of things she couldn't control, her friend up in the road had disappeared. She took that as a good time to move forward. Dropping the butt of her ciggie she moved in a fast crouch, trying to watch everything at once. The spotlight swept over her, moved past a few feet, and then swept back on her.

"STAY INDOORS," the speaker commanded. Anne cursed, hoping her legs had been warmed up enough as she took off down the road. The interceptor turned to follow her with the light, barking commands over the loud speaker. Two things suddenly just clicked for Anne, as she threw a glance over her shoulder. Using a loud speaker was a terrible idea, and this aircraft must have drawn every creature in the area for at least a mile. She stopped, for just a moment, blaming it on human nature to watch the disastrous as one of the creatures leapt from a fifth story window. It torpedo'd directly into the cockpit of the interceptor. Anne watched, stunned, as the aircraft spun and dipped in altitude, whirling in a haphazard spin down the street. The following explosion jarred her senses, now that, was loud. Once more, she ran for her life.

The echoing calls of the creatures only spurred her faster as they were drawn towards the noise. Her heart pounded in her chest as she booked it straight up the center of the road, dodging around abandoned APD vehicels and piles of debris. She could see the large sign ahead notifying her of the entrance to the magrails, hopefully whatever these things were, they weren't also magnetic, that would be absurd. Up ahead a small swarm of glowing bodies were moving towards the crash site, no doubt they could also hear the screams of the the pilots, and anybody else who had been on board. She turned hard, ignoring the warning buzz that told her she was not connected to the uplink to get on the rails as she hopped up the platforms. The beasts had caught wind of her, and turned up to pursue, easily leaping across the moving plates.

Anne sprinted down the acceleration stretch, doing her best to ignore the snarling, hungering growls behind her. Whatever situation this was, it definitely was not contained. She ran across the foot lanes, hopped the barrier in the the vehicles lanes, and finally flipped on her mag splints. The acceleration was gruelingly slow, anne tucked low, grabbing her knees as the magnetizing system brought her up to speed. It took a handful of nail biting moments for her to begin to out distance her pursuers, though she had refused to look back they were barely audible now. She let out a heavy sigh, dodging around abandoned vehicles. The creatures had gotten up here too, and it looked devastating. She wondered what the death tolls were, as she banked upwards to merge onto the industrial sized mag rails. Here too, there was only the wreckage of an attack humankind had lost.

She sped past abandoned cars, ripped right through stagnant puddles of blood. She worked her legs, as if she were wearing roller blades, feeling the cold rain bite her face as she picked up more speed. At this rate, she would be out of the sector within the hour. The cars became denser, and Anne made the decision to move back over to the personnel roadway, a small, smooth metal lane that was free of congestion. Once back up to speed, she let herself relax some, looking out over the cityscape. There were more interceptors in the air than she'd ever seen in her life, and some harrier transports as well. She let out a bitter laugh, whatever the situation was, it was out of control.

Anne reached back into her pocket, putting on her ear piece once more. Immediately she was greeted with an automated voice. She had eleven missed calls, and a handful of unread messages. She looked around her, noting the lack of certain demise, and decided now was a good time to review the messages. The network was moving slow, she noticed, as she tried to load up her messages.

"Buffering? Buffering messages? The Fuck?" The groaned in irritation. The government must be trying to do something, perhaps contain the panic by isolating The Core. Actually, she mused, that's exactly what they would do. Once the citizens caught wind of this, they would be heading towards the sectors in droves. They'd never let the happen, if she knew the government, especially President Rox, he'd try to contain this situation. Nothing was greater than his power. Anne let out another bitter laugh.

No doubt the gates would be sealed before word of this even spread through the masses, containing the panicked hysteria that would sweep through the sector. If whatever this was had the sky full, perhaps it wasn't safe. The tunnels must have been infested. Anne bit her lip, trying to think of her options. Knowing APD tactics, they would form a perimeter, giving ground only when it was soaked in blood. She doubted she'd make it past the defensive line, they were probably shooting anything that moved, if not constantly attacked by whatever those creatures were.

Anne swept a hand through her hair, trying to piece everything together. She could head home, lay low, hope she would be passed over. She didn't have a lot of food though. She cursed, looking at her wrist pad. The network down here must have finally stabilized long enough for her to finish loading her messages. Nearly everything was from her father, which she promptly ignored, and Elliot, who she tried to call back—But the line went flat.

"It would be just like you Mr.President, blocking communication," She complained, gritting her teeth as she brought up the most recent voice message.

"Anne," The voice of Elliot began, through waves of static,"Communication is going haywire..- ..department is mobilizing..- ..I'm getting out of here..- our friends..-" The rest of the message was incomprehensible through the growing interference. Anne sighed, yet another puzzle. Elliot mentioned their mutual friends, which meant he must have called the Liberata to come pick him up. That was good, but she new Marx wouldn't try to get past the defensive line. Over the horizon, Anne could see the colors for both Syndustries and Digicorp in the sky, meaning that everyone was being called to contain this thing. How had so many of these creatures bred so quickly? Come to think of it, the slums were pretty empty when she first arrived.. usually there were thousands of dirty bodies milling about. Were these two events related?

She thought back to the last time she'd been deeper into the slums, though she lived there she lived on the very edge, practically the border to the other two districts. It had probably been a few months ago, it had seemed normal back then. She frowned, putting the puzzle off as she stood up. The disengaged her splints once her speed had slowed enough, falling into a tumbling roll.

"Shit, not going this way," She noted, staring at the flaming wreckage of a bullet train splayed across the road. One of the train cars had detached and embedded itself into a nearby building, groaning in the wind. She turned around, jogging back the way she had come towards the closest exit ramp. No, it seemed she was on her own in here. If the Slums had been ignored before, it was truly abandoned now.
Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Aziraphale
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Aziraphale Queen in Da Norf

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The icy, desolate landscape of Sector 4 rolled by smoothly as the Mag Train hurtled through the wind and sleet. The single mag rail line was the only reliable method of transportation to and from the science institutes unless you wanted to get trapped in a snow storm. Not that Sector 4 was a popular destination anyway. The carriage was almost empty but for a small balding man filling out a crossword puzzle on his holographic wrist computer, the standard security guard normally stationed in each carriage and a young, skittish woman scrolling through the news on her holographic tablet.

Adley Underwood had been dreading making this trip to the Core for weeks. Sector 4 may have been a barren, lonely kind of place but at least it wasn’t hopeless, not like the Core. If it wasn’t the sectors many homeless people creating a feeling of despair then it was the hungry bankers, gang leaders and officials making life worse for those on the streets. Billions of them all piled on top of one another. It was a behavioural sink, Adley thought. Like Calhoun's rat experiments, when space was limited the population would start to turn on one another and deteriorate. The Core was a desperate, narrow existence and, anyone with half a brain knew, it couldn’t go on forever.

The change had already begun, as the Liberata movement grew each day. Adley hesitated to call it a revolution as opposed as it was. Her newsfeed was filled with stories about the latest hacks which, regardless of who actually carried them out, were accredited to the Anon. But for each successful or damaging cyber-attack there were two more stories about raid on a “terrorist” cell by the Watchmen. Amongst the white noise of terrorism and liberation she spotted a headline which read “Will new breakthrough from the Queen Institute mean safety for us all?”. The article gushed over the possibility of soldiers which could harness the power of shards to “make our streets safe again”. There was no mention of how this might be achieved, that information wasn’t available to the public, but there didn’t need to be. The propaganda was blatant.

Adley put the tablet away in disgust. This was why she was currently hurtling at hundreds of miles per hour towards the Core, to demonstrate the progress that had been made with these “incredible” shard-soldiers. Dr Harold Fairfield, her superior and friend, had sent her on this mission, as he’d called it, to provide their generous benefactors with a demonstration on their progress.

“Harry, honestly, I don’t think I’m the right person for this. You know what I’m like,” Adley had pleaded a few weeks before.

“Unfortunately, yes,” Harold said in good nature, his eyes crinkling in the corners “But as my second in command you’re also the most well informed on the research.”

When he saw that she wasn’t convinced he had placed a hand on her shoulder, sighing, “My dear girl, you are the only one I trust to not give the game away and pick up the new blood samples from our friends.”

So she had packed a bag, left a note to a friendly botanist named Mark to “please change the feed in my beehive” in greenhouse 12 whilst she was away, put on prototype #356 and boarded the Mag Train. Some hours later and she was watching the 800 foot high wall that separated Sector 4 and the Core growing rapidly on the horizon, swallowing up the sky. And me next,,Adley thinks as the wall opens its gaping maw and eats the train.

In the innards of the beast, the checkpoint, Watchmen boarded the train to check each passenger’s identification card and their approved inventory. Adley’s inventory consisted of the prototype shield Dr Fairfield had insisted she take for protection, a tank full of Haematestra infected fish and a number of compounds required for the demonstration. If it was possible for a Watchman to look incredulous in that full body armour, then the Watchman checking Adley’s inventory certainly did. Still, she was allowed through after a cursory check.

When the train began to move again, she felt her hands begin to quiver and shake. She wasn’t frightened, exactly, but nervous? Yes, definitely. And full of energy she didn’t know how to expend. She pulled out a cigarette.

“No smoking on the train,” the carriage guard announced in a gruff, superior tone. A failed Watchman, probably.

She tapped the cigarette against her lip once, twice, before putting it away again. Her fingers thrummed against the table instead, fast and repetitive. The other passenger coughed pointedly.

“Fine. It’s fine.” She muttered and sank back into her seat, eyes drifting closed. It wouldn’t be long before they arrived anyway.

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

Not much later, an expensive company owned hovercraft picked her up at The Station to carry her through the district. Adley didn’t gaze out of the window as they went, she could imagine well enough. The tall, teetering houses pressed close together and the millions upon millions of people scurrying through. Adley didn't even notice the hovercraft arrive. The door opened and a woman with a sickly sweet smile and aggressively cheerful attitude appeared, “Dr Underwood, thank you for coming. I’m Lavinia Price from DigiCorps HR team, I’ll be helping you today.”

Lavinia Price led Adley into a sleek, reflected skyscraper. In a room on the twenty-third floor, with a view overlooking the more pleasant side of the Core rather than the slums to the south, four men sat on one side of an oval table. Thre of the mean were almost identical, not in looks, but their stoic faces, rigid posture and overall pragmatic air. Cookie cutter business reps. The third was an older, portly man with a receding hair line and round, red face. He looked flustered and continuously dabbed his sweaty forehead with an embroidered handkerchief. He’s from the government then.

“Everyone, this is Dr Adley Underwood from Harold’s lab over at the Queen Instititue,” Miss Price said brighly, “Dr Underwood, this is the Syndustries rep, Jack Credence, the DigiCorp rep-“

“I don’t care.” She interrupted then, remembering what Harry had said about tact, added, “I mean, it isn’t necessary to introduce everyone. This will only be quick.”

She set down the tank of fish in front of the panel.

“These zebrafish were infected with the purified strain of Haematestra three months ago.”

She paused for effect, expecting gasps of shock and awe but their faces remained blank.

“Did anyone read the pre-information packet? It was only two pages long.”

Lavinia Price tried to save face, spluttering, “Of course Miss Underwood-“

“Dr Underwood. So you should know that fish infected with Haematestra have a life expectancy of approximately one month. We’ve slowed the disease progress considerably.”

Pausing again, the panel looked almost impressed this time so Adley ploughed ahead.

“Highthroughput screening on these fish revealed several compounds which could negate the effects of Testran, the molecule which causes the disease that is, and expand the life of the fish. We still need to make some adjustments to dosage and concentration to see if the effects can last longer but right now it seems that multiple treatments will have to be given over the life of the fish.”

She was pacing the length of the room now, hands gesticulating somewhat wildly as she spoke.

“But what about the power?” One of the business shaped cookies, Jack Credence, chimed in.

“I’m sorry?”

“The enhanced power capabilities the shards are supposed to provide.”

“Animal models aren’t like humans, Mr. Credence, they can’t harness the energy from the shards. That is a conscious process.”

“Why aren’t we testing this on humans then?”, another cookie spoke.

“People who naturally develop shard sickness deteriorate over many years, the process is far too slow to study. We’d need to infect humans with the purified strain for the time frame to even be slightly reasonable.”

Silence fell over the room and Adley immediately knew what every one of them was thinking, Let’s do that then

“Ahem, well, we can’t do that of course,” The round government official finally grumbled, “The media would have a field day.”

“They don’t have to know.” Credence said, malicious intent creeping into his voice.

“We’re legally obliged to release the nature of our experiments to the public.” Adley said, simply, “Now, shall I continue?”

----------

The meeting took longer than Adley anticipated, each representative doing their best to top the other with the most repulsive, hazardous suggestions if it meant saving money and speeding the project along. Jack Credence from Syndustries was the worst of the lot, genuine malevolence laced in his every word. At the end he had slipped her his number with an arrogant grin. Cretin. Cretin Credence. Corrupt cretin Credence., Adley repeated to herself like a mantra as she left the building, trying to calm down.

It was time for the next part of her “mission”. The part that was actually worth a damn.

She assessed her transport options. The only other time she had used the personal mag rail Adley had felt so dizzy and nauseous that she’d sworn never to board the nightmarish transportation system again. She hailed a cab instead and loaded the fish into the trunk. The inside was… not totally repulsive but Adley made sure to perch carefully at the edge of the seat and not touch anything all the same. She told the driver the address of her next meeting elsewhere in the Station District and he sped away.

On the journey, she pulled out her tablet to check her messages.

Message from “May Underwood”:
“Hello Addie, sweetie.” Said the soft, hopeful voice of Adley’s mother, “I hope you’re having a wonderful time in The Core! I hear there is so much to do there. Your brother says hello. It’s been such a long time since you last visited, maybe you could stop by now that you’re so close? Anyway, I won’t keep you! Lots of love.”


Adley deleted the message quickly. She’d reply later, if she remembered. She didn’t know how to interact with her mother anymore, in fact, she wasn’t sure she ever really did. It had always been her father, who had understood Adley’s… peculiarities and encouraged her studies.

"There's some kind of trouble ahead, a lot of traffic. I'm going to have to take the long way round," The taxi driver said.

"Uh, yeah, that's fine, go for it." Adley's confirmed, distracted.

She typed out a quick message to Harry, informing him that the meeting had gone as well as they thought it might and that she was on her way to the next “meeting”.

Glancing out she caught a group of people running together, a flash of blue following behind. She blinked once, twice to clear the image and they were gone.

The cab dropped Adley off at moderately pleasant restaurant. Within, the lighting was low and the air was filled with soft conspiratorial murmurs as if every person there had a hidden agenda. One man sat at the bar alone.

His real name was Jonathan Tuck, not that Adley would ever know this, but he was known within the organisation was Friar. Named after the man in some ancient story about a band of heroes from long before the Ark. Friar had the look of a man who had never even had time to contemplate sleep. His hair was long, black and unkempt, his pale eyes were sunken deep his skill and, Adley couldn’t help but note, he was certainly anaemic. All that really mattered was the red scarf wrapped around his throat. The sign Adley had been told to look for. Honestly, she thought it was terribly melodramatic but they had insisted on this clandestine council.

“Friar?”She asked, perching on the stool beside him.

“Yes. Hello Dr Underwood.”

They didn’t shake hands.

Friar cut straight to chase, “I don’t have the samples.”

“What do you mean you don’t have them?” Adley’s voice spiked, drawing a few eyes.

“Quiet will you.” Friar hissed, his watery eyes darting around, “The Liberata has taken note of your hard work and your frustration. There is only so much we can achieve by delivering you blood samples and testing the cures you send to us on infected shard junkies.”

Adley pressed her lips together tightly, remaining silent. The lab had been pleading for more from the Liberata for the past year.

Friar’s voice dropped so low that Adley had to lean in to hear, “We believe we can have miners in the later stages of shard sickness snuck into the Queen Institute using the Mag Train. You’ll finally be able to test and monitor the cure in real time. We’ve hired a small facility in the new complex under a fake branch of the government’s biological research department. We’ve spent months creating it, making sure it wouldn’t be noticed.”

“How are you getting hold of these men?”

“It doesn’t matter- if we didn’t liberate them, they’d only die under government “protection”.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?”

“If we were discovered, we didn’t want anyone in Fairfield’s lab to be implicated. You know what the Watchmen can do."

Adley nodded grimly. Before what they were doing had been dangerous, but this could get the entire lab killed. She grabbed her tablet, set on contacting Harry there and then and seeing what he thought of the plan but when she tried the screen only blinked uselessly at her with "no connection available".

Friar shook his head, "This building is a blackout zone, no comms devices work within. It's why we use it. It would be too risky to send him the details anyway. It's your decision."

They lapsed into silence then and the bartender, another agent it seemed, brought over two drinks. After wiping the rim of the glass with a tissue, Adley sipped at it for a while.

“Okay” she finally agreed, ” It’s the only way we can move forward. What do I have to do?”

“We’re behind schedule. We had expected to send you back tomorrow night but there have been delays. You’ll have to remain in the city for a while longer whilst we finish. When we’re done, we’ll let you know through one of our messengers.” He explained, vague on any real details.

Adley understood the need for his ambiguity, to protect her and the lab, but it made her feel like a pawn. She was part of a rebellion she barely understood. Her fingers began to thrum on the bar top in frustration. Friar watched them for a moment.

“Don’t worry, Adley.” He said with a stiff, unused kind of sympathy, “You know the contact in question. A friend of yours I believe? Annelle Caldera?”

With the business wrapped up, Friar told Adley he was to take her to temporary accommodation. Outside of the restaurant, a stagnant silence had fallen over the street. No people milling about, no cars or hovercrafts or bikes rushing by. They walked for a while with only their footsteps for company.

"Is it normally this quiet out here?" Adley inquired in hushed tones, a fear creeping over her.

"No." Friar returned, "We should probably-"

Clink. Clink. Scrrrtch. Sccrrrrttttccch.

Before they had time to contemplate the noise, a grotesque blue body threw itself from the closest alleyway, it's hideous mouth gaping. It seemed to lock onto them, the only people in the street, and lurch forward with a shriek.

Friar drew a gun from his jacket and called out, "Hey there, calm down."

"I don't think it's going to listen to reason." Adley said in a rush of breath.

"I think you're right."

Friar began to shoot indiscriminately, hitting the beast repeatedly in the chest. But it was too late, it's momentum and raw, furious hunger propelled it forward until jagged teeth were embedded in Friar's neck. Both of them fell to the floor in tangle of limbs and spray of blood. Before Adley could consider pulling the creature from Friar, another two had appeared in the street.

From beneath the mass Adley could here Friar calling weakly, "Just run!"

So she did. Adley had been called many things in her life but none of them had been "brave". She reached the restaurant doors on shaky legs and pulled only to find them locked.

"Please let me in! There's something out here!" She cried, rattling the doors, but there was no response. She stumbled back into the middle of the desserted street and stood for a moment, frozen in panic.

Somewhere close by, a speaker began to announce, "STAY INDOORS. THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL."

And beneath the warning call, the shrieks of the monsters began to grow.
Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Damiann47
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Damiann47 Local Planetary Body

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Such a tiny, cramp apartment room that she called home, but at least she had somewhere to call home which was a lot more than too many could say. All things considered Karen woke up that morning feeling alright, her head somewhat pounding due to a slight hangover, but what else was new in her life? While sitting on the very edge of her narrow bed she reached for her flask, and took a few gulps from the metal container. The drink are quite rough as it poured down her throat, but fortunately she managed to choke down the alcohol anyway. With a sigh she placed the flask back down on a nearby table then grabbed her watch, on the LED screen she made out the time as 7:46 AM. Just enough time for breakfast...

From a small cupboard she retrieved a box of oatmeal mix, add that together with some water in a pot and that's good enough for a filling if not bland meal. As the mixture was heating up, the source of said heat coming from a portable burner, Karen took the chance to get dressed for the long day ahead of her. She pulled the orange jumpsuit over her underwear, somewhat struggling to zip the back but eventually got it, just not without a lack of effort. After that she quickly laced up her work boots and stuffed the gloves into a pocket.

By then the oatmeal was practically ready to boil over, "Shit!" she momentarily panicked and rushed over to blow the flame out. After waiting a minute for her molten breakfast to cool off, Karen poured the oatmeal into a plastic bowl while also wielding a metal spoon and thus she finally was able to start eating. In a bit of a hurry she shoveled it all down, sorta burning her mouth in the process, but better this than going hungry all day. She glanced down at her watch, 8:09, still plenty of time so there was no need for her to worry. She added the bowl to a growing pile of dirty dishes, a pile that she'll have to tackle eventually in the coming days for sure.




Karen found herself squished in the middle of a crowd of bodies, many of which smelled like week old sweat and with even a hint of vomit thrown in for good measure, it was times like these she was thankful to be used to horrible stenches, although mostly because she has had the displeasure to experience much worse smells. While it did suck to be crammed into such a place, Karen also couldn't deny how much she relied on public transportation like this, seeing as she definitely couldn't afford a pair of mag boots, or God forbid pay for cab fare everyday, at least being able make it to work made all the difference.

Soon enough her stop came up, and Karen was more than willing to regain her freedom from her prison made of humans. From there it was a matter of walking down a few blocks, a route that she had memorized well after a year of the exact same routine. The area she found herself in was an industrial district of the Slums, putting heavy industry around the same area where people were supposed to live wasn't exactly a concern it seemed. She continued down the narrow streets, trying her best not to bump into too many pedestrians, and definitely keeping away from the various puddles of chemical waste that are known to populate the streets; while she was confident her boots were more than able to protect her feet, it was just better not to take the risk at all.

Ferring Steel Co. Her place of work. On the outside the building looked just like any other example of dirty industry, gray concrete walls that were covered in spiderwebs of cracks... it was safe, probably. Karen pushed her way through a pair of faded red doors, the paint being chipped off and the color mostly all but gone. Through there she entered the worker's barracks. The room looked exactly what one may expect, a kind of shower room set up with a row of lockers lining one wall and a few benches scattered about the area. On the far side was an old fashioned bulletin board used to post everyone's job for the week, Karen had always wondered why not use a holoscreen like the rest of the civilized world, but eventually came to the conclusion it was to save money, unsurprisingly.

As she approached the board she overheard some of her coworkers talking. "Have you heard?" One asked in hushed tones.

"What?" The other responded.

"Liberata, that's what, I've heard the Watchmen raided another one of their hideouts again, they say there were no survivors."

"Damn, Liberata, huh? Don't know I feeling hearing that name more and more everyday."

Karen sighed and tried to tune the conversation out. Liberata has always been a somewhat polarizing subject for her, on one hand she would love nothing else than to topple the government and their bullshit system, that would be a dream come true. On the other, what she just despised about Liberata was the chaos they cause, direct or otherwise. The last thing she and just the normal people need was more trouble. Sure what these rebels do was to fight against the oppressors, but through every closed down street, or whatever else, it makes everyone's life that much more difficult. That's why she wasn't sure what to think about them, maybe to make progress sacrifices will had to be made, like hell would peaceful protest make a difference, so yes maybe some chaos really was needed... maybe.

She shook her mind free from these thoughts, and started to look over the assignment sheet for her name. As it turned out Karen got to be on blast furnace duty that day. Probably one of the easier jobs to be given, it definitely was easier than loading ore, and less dangerous than some other duties. When it came to operating the blast furnace there wasn't much to the actual work, but it was also perhaps the most important, i.e the one step that cannot be screwed up.

After stretching her back in preparation for many hours of mind numbing labor, she slipped on her work gloves and tapped away at her watch to clock into her shift.




8:27 PM read her watch, a twelve hour work day... holy hell she shouldn't have taken a double shift, but the extra pay was too tempting. Soon as Karen exited the foundry she went straight for her flask, workplace policy states that no worker would be allowed to drink for extremely obvious reasons, these reasons being ones she understood but still didn't like anyway. She sighed heavily, almost sounding exasperated, her flask felt way too light for her liking, and after unscrewing the top to make sure, yep, it was empty. Karen wracked her brain trying to figure out when she drank the last of the liquid, but came up empty. Damn, and I don't have anything left back home... This meant she had to make a detour before she could go home to finally call it a day.

Luckily she had a place in mind, that of course being a bar. There was one she went to fairly regularly, mostly because it was within walking distance from work. Sometimes she would go for some companionship, the conversational type, but really though it was for the cheap booze, plus it didn't hurt that it had a reputation for safety... well safe as a bar in the Slums could be. Karen turned her attention to her watch, and after some presses brought up the GPS. The small screen made it a little hard to follow unlike a proper holographic, but she had long adapted to the inconvenience.

As she expected it was a very quick walk and there she was standing in front of The Blind Harpy. There have been many occasions where Karen asked where the hell that name came from, Brad the owner of the establishment however just wouldn't give her a straight answer; something about a night of poker with a Changeling and Core Shard Dust...

Karen went straight through the front entrance, and inside found the typical bar setting. For reasons she couldn't figure out the place was actually empty of all things, almost like people didn't want to go out that night. Strange. Not including her there was only two other souls present, Brad the aforementioned owner, and a very confused, very dirty drunk who was sitting in the corner.

"Why's it so deserted in here? Seriously, its sorta creeping me out." Karen greeted as she took her usual seat at the bar.

From behind the counter there was Brad himself, a tanned man in his late forties with a bright and shiny bald head. He sighed and shrugged, "Your guess is good as mine, Tobin, don't know maybe something to do with Liberata and the Watchmen. Their war has gotten more serious and all that."

Karen chuckled, "Wouldn't surprise me, but I really can't see that preventing folk from going out, unless martial law got declared and I missed out on that... yeah, dunno got no idea."

Brad laughed in response, "Yeah and if we were under martial law I don't think that would stop you anyway, speaking of which..." He turned towards a wall filled with various bottles of booze where there he knelt down to grab one from the very bottom self. He slammed that said bottle onto the counter. "Here, just transfer the credits when you're done, like always."

For the next ten minutes at most, Karen nursed her drink not necessarily trying to get drunk fast as possible, and taking the time to socialize with the bartender. She didn't have much in the way of close friends, but she supposed Brad was something getting close to that, then again it was also supposed to be his job to make some sort decent conversation and otherwise hear out the troubles of his patrons, so who could say.

It was a sudden and very jarring scream that brought her out of the good mood. Both she and Brad turned their imminent attention to the source of the disturbance, that being to the street outside. It was also then that Karen noticed that the only other sole customer happened to be missing from his table. It didn't take much to connect the dots here.

Clearly trying not to panic, Brad slowly crouched under his counter and retrieved a set of keys, "Tobin, I'm going to check out what's going on, but I want you to lock the door after me... you understand?"

Karen also looking somewhat panicked shook her head, "But... why the hell do you want to go out there... and-"

"No arguing!" he interrupted "You're going to stay here, and lock the door behind me. That's it."

She didn't entirely get a chance to respond because without uttering another word Brad stormed his way out of the bar, in a very much brave but really stupid fashion. Now being left all alone, Karen had no other choice than to follow his instructions and ran to the door in order to lock it shut. Almost as soon as she did there again was another set of blood curdling screams of pain... these ones sounding very much like a certain bartender.

Now absolutely scared for her life, Karen scrambled away from the door and went straight to the other side of the bar counter where there she crouched down low as possible in an attempt to hide. "What the hell is happening!" She whispered to herself, her mind racing through the possibilities and none of them ended well for her.

What was going to happen to her?



Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by R31GN
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R31GN Hail to the King, Baby

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Freddy Copperfield
The Slums ⚙

"I don't wanna wake him up."

"Someone's gotta."

"Why don't you do it?"

Freddy slowly drifted into consciousness, his blurred vision pulsing in and out of focus. He jerked up suddenly with a start as he regained his bearings. Calloused hands slid desperately against paper, accidentally shoving a large pile of paper to the floor, before finding purchase on the rigid wooden surface of his desk. He raised his head, eyes scanning around the room quickly. Atop the desk at which he was seated was a large spread of paperwork, heavily marked with red pen. One sported a small dark circle -about where Freddy's face might've been resting just a moment ago. Alongside the papers was a slice of butterscotch pie, and a stack of coin. Before Freddy stood a pair of imposing figures, just in the doorway.

"That works, too." One of the two commented, crossing her arms. Lizzie seemed to always have a grimace on her face -bred in the slums of The Core, Lizzie had a rather gritty disposition. Some might call Lizzie short tempered, volatile, the like. Freddy preferred to see her as passionate. Though the tall woman was generally considered abrasive and loud by most, few brought it up to her face, as she always was looking for an excuse to start a fight. She looked down at Freddy, and raised an eyebrow at the half-eaten pie on the desk, which he quickly shoved to the side as color rose to his cheeks.

"It's real important, sir." Spoke the other figure, a man of massive proportions wringing his fingers just behind the doorway. Jack Dime shuffled forward, one hand nervously scratching at his backside. The man was strong, smart, and not bad on the eyes -a natural gang leader, if he weren't so damn timid. The man rarely carried a piece even, out of fear. As he approached closer to the desk, he pulled out a file full of papers, handing them to Freddy. The older man rubbed fatigue from his eyes, before his fingers fumbled to grab the papers. He flicked through them absentmindedly, eyes scanning them through a pair of small reading glasses.

"Johnathan Gills? What are 'ese for, he late on 'is payments again?" Freddy asked, rubbing the bridge of his eyes as he dropped the papers. He continued before they could respond. "Go to 'is place, tell him not to worry about any interest, just the payment. That'll get him to pay up. After he does, take a fingah for me." Freddy muttered, waving a hand to dismiss the two. Lizzie stepped up closer, pushing the papers back to Freddy.

"Not quite. There's more. Katy Kandor. Emily Smith. Joseph Hunter." Lizzie said, pointing to the individual pages in the file.

"Them's the tenants from apartment 23, yeah?" Freddy interrupted, recognizing the pattern.

"That's right. Don't think we can plan on collecting rent from any of them, though." Lizzie said, eliciting a confused look from Freddy. Before he asked, she flipped to the back of the file, where multiple photographs of dead bodies were enclosed. "Dewalt sent us these just an hour ago. Everyone in the apartment, torn apart. Said he had some trouble pulling any cash off of them -something about it being hard to tell where one body started and another ended." She said, emotionless. Freddy looked at the photos for just a moment, before shutting his eyes tight and shoving them to the side. He rubbed his eyelids, standing up from his desk.

"Goddamn it. Call Dewalt, Foal, and Herman. We're goin' for a walk." Freddy said, pulling his gun from the desk drawer, and tucking it into his belt.

---⚙---

Walking down the road, Freddy's crew did not cut much of an imposing figure, but anyone who had been in the slums for more than a day knew better than to interrupt the party. They murmured amongst themselves as they walked, introspecting the possible causes of apartment 23's massacre. Freddy frowned, feeling something very off in the air. He put a hand up, getting the attention of the group. "Oi, is it just me, or is there a 'ell of a lot less gunfire than usual?" Freddy asked, looking around with narrowed eyes. Feeling a chilled drop of water splash on his face, Freddy let out a sigh, and lit a cigar. Puffing out a cloud of smoke, he felt a comfortable warmth reinvigorate him.

"It's probably nothing. Don't get so worked up, Teddy." Spoke the rough voice of John Dewalt, a man who seemed to perpetually have a gun in hand. Freddy shrugged, taking another puff before he again began walking. It didn't take the group long to arrive at the building, sanctioned off by Watchman tape. Not missing a step, Freddy ripped through the tape blocking off the door as he strode into the apartment, greeted by the weak chime of a bell, and the heavy stench of death. He coughed as he walked in, quickly switching from breathing through his nose to through his mouth. Even that didn't help cut down on the smell, so he held his handkerchief up to his nose, breathing through his would-be gas mask. Many of the corpses were lined up here -or at least they had been in the photographs. All that remained were pools of blood and scratches across the walls.

"What happened, Dew? The spooks take the bodies or something?" Asked a trembling Dime.

"Nah, can't be. White hats never clean up the mess for us -something weird is going on here." John answered gruffly.

"Whatever it is, I ain't a fan. Dime, you and Dewalt start lettin' next of kin know. Sooner th' better. Herman, Foal, Lizzie? You're wif me. We've got some sleuthin' to do." Freddy said, making a large sweeping motion with his hands.

---⚙---

The four made their way to the nearest mag train, Freddy's preferred method of transportation. When the passing bullet train was forced to slow in anticipation of an upcoming curve in the rail, Freddy and his crew took the opportunity to board. Less than legal, yes, but certainly expedited. When they arrived in the car, Lizzie spoke up.

"Usually the train's busier. More than... zero people." She said, obviously made uncomfortable by the lack of people aboard. Freddy stepped forward, making his way up through the car. Completely deserted, which he found odd. The group had boarded on the second car -it was unusual to find an open space in any of the first five cars. He frowned, hand moving to his gun.

"Somefin' about today is rubbin' me the wrong way. Keep 'em eyes wide open, dunno what's goin' on but I reckon it ain't gonna be pretty." The man grumbled, head perking up as he heard a curious sound.

Clink... Clink... Clink...

The sound echoed throughout the car, followed by a loud crash from behind. The group whirled around to find the source of the noise, Lizzy and Herman each whipping out their weapon of choice. In the car behind them, loud banging, scratching, and unearthly howls could be heard and almost felt, reverberating throughout. Lizzie moved towards the door that separated the cars, fire in her eyes, but was stopped by a gentle hand on her shoulder. Freddy pulled her back, raising a heavily ringed hand to put a finger up to his lips as he backed away from the door slowly.

Lizzie, disgruntled, holstered her weapon and followed Freddy. He pulled out one of his tablet computers, and quickly flicked through the applications, before he found his messaging application. A notification popped up, signaling a missed message.

>D: Shit hit the fan Fred, call ASAP

Fred's naturally shaky fingers struggled to type out a response as he rolled his cigar around his mouth.

>F: What's wrong Dimes?

>D: Everything's deserted. Watch is on high alert. Something's fucking with our slums.

>D: ...They're saying some crazy shit.

>F: What kind of crazy shit?

Freddy's only response was a spinning circle, infuriatingly slow as it politely notified Freddy that he had a poor connection. He frowned, sending off a second message.

>F: Stay safe out there.
>Sending...

>Sending...

>Message failed. Try again?


The train itself shook heavily, akin to a plane going through turbulence. A loud thud resounded, shivering the locomotive again. Freddy frowned, looking to the windows of the bullet train. He saw a glowing blue blur, before the train thudded again. Pulling out his small leather bound journal, Freddy jotted down a few notes, before being interrupted by yet another shuddering of the vehicle -this time feeling as if they had just run over a body. Another identical bump followed -then another, and another, and finally one massive bump. Everyone on the train could feel it -the unnatural shriek of the train being derailed from its magnetic line. Freddy hit the floor, arms spread wide to bring Lizzie and Foal down with him. The trio braced themselves against the floor, followed closely by Herman.

B O O M


---⚙---

When he awoke, he was wreathed in flame and smoke. The train has splayed itself across the road, burning a charred mark of carnage in it's wake. Shaking his head to properly awaken himself, Freddy saw a pair of Lizzies walking away, supporting a pair of Foals on their shoulder. Freddy squinted, raising himself up to his feet slowly. Slowly, the two pairs of people blurred into one, limping down the street. Freddy took a deep breath, quickly checking that his faculties were all in order, before sprinting after the two of them. Though he appeared old and weak, Freddy had plenty of juice in him yet.

"STAY INDOORS"

Came the commanding voice from above. Freddy looked skyward, spotting the interceptor as it flew towards the sky. He put an arm around both Lizzie and Foal, leaning in close.

"Either of ye seen Herman?" He asked gruffly, ears still ringing. He guided the two of them towards the nearby exit ramp as they walked, slowed by Foals limping. A dark stain bore through his pant leg, slowly growing. As if in response, a loud scream was heard from the train wreckage. Herman leapt from the broken window of the crumpled train, superhuman speed pushing him towards the group. He was cut short as a blue glow sped behind even swifter. Claws punctured bone and flesh alike, stopping Herman in his tracks.

A low gurgle followed a spurt of blood from the burly man's mouth as his bright blue eyes glazed over. He reached behind him in a futile gesture, hand brushing gently across his murderers flesh. A frenzy of action, the glowing blue creature seemed hardly finished, as it brought it's claws down, rending the flesh of Herman's corpse. It let out a harsh growl, before sprinting towards Freddy and his entourage. Though the creature made uncannily fast progress, it was struck down before it made any significant distance -where it once had a head filled with toothy spikes, after the loud report of a gunshot, this head was replaced for the most part with large red-hot chunks of metal.

Freddy grimaced, holstering The Chunder, as he looked down at the headless corpse. "Are the two of ye okay? We need ta find somewhere to hole up 'till we can figure out what in the bloody hell is goin' on." He said, scanning the area. He motioned to Lizzy and Foal, and they followed him to the road, where they walked close to a line of buildings obscured in shadow.

"THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL."
Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by NuttsnBolts
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NuttsnBolts Keeper of Keys

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R A C H A E L M O R T O N
The girl known known as Gaze

A searing pain shot through Rachael's back, stinging profusely as her skin opened up to the stagnant, dank air. It wasn't the first, and it surely wasn't the last, but each time she experienced this abuse her eyes would start to water. They filled with salty, cold tears that gently trickled down her face towards the edge of her semi-numb lip; a place where she could taste the sadness and hurt she was expressing. As much as she wanted to wipe away the wet pain from her face, she couldn't do it, not when her hands were bound and lifted above her head.

"How the fuck did you lose sight of her?!?" The violent question had just as much weight as the torture, ignoring every aspect of Rachael's disabilities as Julius demanded answers from his property. He didn't seem to care about his oppressive actions, he only wanted the answers. The gift of sight was given to her through his sources and he believed he had every right to question why it wasn't used to the best of it's ability.

Another agonising snap came towards Rachael's back, a plastic coated cord with lengths of thin metal woven inside. The girl grimaced in pain, attempting to open her mouth in order to speak out, to answer the Leech. Haunting gasps were all that managed to escape, a sign that her body was tensing up too much. Julius noticed this, realising that it was going to be more difficult for him to obtain any more information and so he turned his head around to glance at one of the other gang members. His empty, narrow eyes pierced into the soul of his own underling, giving the man an order without even voicing a single command.

With haste and speed the chosen lackey rushed towards Rachael's side, reached up and unhitched the chain from the hanging hook. Rachael's body fell limp as she dropped to her knees, slipping to the side and hitting the steel floor with her right shoulder. She panted and shivered, breathing out continual cold puffs of air as they left a fog trail on the metal surface. A loose jacket was placed over her half naked body, causing her to tense up in into the fetal position, even as the others lifted up her arms to unbuckle the leather bounds around her wrist. Finally she felt as though she was being released from this horror show that Julius so enjoyed.

As she laid there she could feel the heavy vibrations of feet that came towards her, the sound pounding throughout the room. A boot stepped on her arm, forcing her to roll onto her back and look up to the ceiling. She could see a shadow blocking the harsh light, overpowering her with it's presence.

"Drop the mask..."

Rachael hesitated.

"Drop the fucking mask!!!"

The shield closed down over her eyes and a digital image distorted it's way into existence, revealing a face that instilled fear into the unarmed female. The thick, angular eyebrows; the solid, defined nose; and the wavy, walnut hair... all defining features that she recognised so effortlessly. If the man wasn't sick and twisted in the mind he would have made a pretty attractive squeeze. Still he crouched down to her gritting his razor like teeth, dangling a pistol above her forehead with the trigger millimetres from his finger.

"You're gonna find that Splicer for me, aren't you?"

Rachael nodded instantly, only to see Julius' upper lip twitch.

"I will! I will!!!" She was quick to answer, knowing that by not doing so she was only begging for him to dish out another flogging.

"And you are going to put a bullet in her god-damn-brain!" Rachael's teeth began to chatter at the thought of murdering a such close friend, a changling by the name of Elisha.

Elisha was such a good friend and Gaze didn't understand why she left like she did, why she used the thick crowds of Neon to her advantage, why she escaped the stranglehold of the Leech. Rachael was removed from The Beds several years earlier but remained loyal to Julius, always returning and obeying his every order. Elisha didn't and she used this as an opportunity to find freedom leaving the helpless gearhead to explain why The Leaches were now down one worker.

His hand grabbed the back of Rachael's head clenching her hair into a tight fist, causing her to let out a slight shrill of pain, and lifted it up towards the Gang Leader. He placed his forehead against hers before raising his lips to give her a sweet kiss where they had just touched.

"You'll always be my favourite —" he whispered tenderly with a tone that felt more like a lie than the truth, "—but do not disappoint me."

♦ ♦ ♦


The blind girl wandered the streets of Neon, occasionally bumping into pedestrians when they didn't pay attention to where they were stumbling. Normally she would use her visor to help guide her way and avoid such unneeded confrontations, but instead she wanted to rely on her memory of the world around her. A simple tactic that she used to block out the tormenting memories of people like Julius, and thus allowing her to gradually regain the little humanity that she had left.

She listened to the ambient sounds, hearing through the music and voices a set of pinging steps that was currently in use by the general population. She knew exactly where she was, she had been here many times before. Her arms were wrapped around her body and holding in what little warmth she had. As she pulled out her right hand from the tight grip she reached for her wrist watch and tapped the screen; she needed confirmation from another source. A light beeping sound was announced before a digitally announced message called out to her.

>Location: Neon Magrail Network

The device was a godsend at times, helping Gaze know exactly where she was if she wasn't quite used to the area, but it was also a curse. The locator doubled as a beacon and sent back information on her whereabouts to Julius. Every little gift that she had to survive in this world had some way to hold her down, to keep her chained up and subject to the control of others. The one gadget that didn't fall into this category was her Magrail Boots.

Gaze entered the rail network, stepping onto the platform as her boots latched into the magnetic field. She felt a sudden rush as she began to accelerate forward; wind whipping through her hair, the sense of speed pressing against her body. It had a relaxing effect much like the feeling of running away from her problems. This was something she needed as she tapped the screen once more.

>Destination: The Slums

It wouldn't take long for her to reach the district, completely unaware of what nightmares she was walking into.
Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Meth Quokka
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Meth Quokka This Was Nutter's Idea

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He felt the hard butt of the rifle against his shoulder, even against the padding and protection that his armour encased him with. While most would consider it a pain, in these circumstances it was a reassuring touch like that of a mother to a crying babe they were comforted to sleep, it comforted him to calm. Even those things, those monsters that they’d come into contact with had been torn apart by the double-core bullets that the Interdictor rifles his squad carried. They were a fearsome foe, seemingly born of darkness and fear, with their talons tearing people asunder, yet the first bunch they’d run into had been blown apart by a well-placed ambush and a good squeeze of the trigger. Yet as he rose from the ground, his head ringing and his vision swimming, he wondered just how it’d gone so far wrong.




As they’d pushed through thirty minutes earlier, it’d been like a hot knife through butter and they’d clove their way into the sector. Yet the creatures seemed to learn and adapt, moulding to his tactics as if he were trying to punch a puddle of oil. They’d made great progress into the target building, taking down only a few stray foes with remorseless precision, their bodies thudding to the floor with a wet smack; the otherworldly teal goo draining from the charred holes in the creatures. They reached the data terminal with a surprising ease, securing the room the room with a mechanical precision and started the data transfer; a contract he’d taken a considerable fee from a very desperate corporation. The entire operation had been entirely uneventful, that is until they’d returned to the lobby. Konrad and Albert had stepped out of the elevator first, followed by Raen, Isabella and finally Maximus, into the lobby which was reminiscent of a warzone after the medical teams had swept through, there were scorch marks and bullet holes, blood sprays and a few spots of goo but no bodies to be seen anywhere. The whole scene was intermittently lit with a ghostly aura, a mix of continuous low light and flickering bright light from the array of industrial grade lights damaged by the firefight which had torn the façade of the lobby asunder.

Konrad, an absolute mountain of a man, made it to the centre of the room, near a large reception desk when one of those things had launched itself over the desk and plunged one of it’s claws into the man’s shoulder. He rocked back on his feet with a pained howl but managed to jam his finger on the trigger of his rifle pummelling the creature with a number of rounds. The barrage of double-cored rounds had a shocking effect as it exploded in a torrent of teal fluid, showering the squad. Raen had managed to shield his eyes with arm yet as his head snapped back he felt chilled to the bone by the sight of 30 sets of glowing teal stripes between them and the exit. In that instance the light above them flicked on, revealing a huddled mass of the creatures who let out a chorus of bloodcurdling shrieks.

“Contact front!” he yelled over the comm link, his voice barely holding flat even despite his considerable training and experience. All that he’d seen, all he’d done and all who he’d killed he had never been prepared for this horrific situation and that knowledge that he knew nothing chilled him to the core. His mind, ever the sharp weapon, snapped into action and within a millisecond his voice was calm and rang with authority “One clip burst, aim low, firing retreat to the stairs. Double time, now!”

With a tremendous speed the squad reacted to his command, squeezing the triggers of their Interdictors blazing out a tremendous stream of bullets which thudded into a variety of lower limbs, the secondary detonation shunting the creatures to the ground. Konrad and Albert as the two furthest forward dropped behind first five metres behind the second row until the second row leapfrogged them back, repeating the cycle until they reached the stairs. The horde chasing them down were largely slowed by the toppling bodies allowing them to hit the stairs and start climbing up. Two grenades were rolled down the stairs after they’d turned the first corner, coming to rest at the foot of the first creature before it detonated in a pillar of white hot flames vaporizing all that it touched in its expansion outwards. Raen and his squad crossed the first floor, the flames licking their heels by the time they leapt out of the window, seconds before they were detonated outwards in a shower of glass. The concussive waved knocked Raen into the ground hard, nearly cracking a few ribs, but the protection from his armour saved him from any major injury.




He involuntary clutched his side, his head ringing from the concussive force of the blast before he became aware of an alarm bleeping inside his helmet. Groggily, his eyes refocused, washing back the oceans of murkiness that flooded over his vision, until his registered the life monitor alarm that signalled that suit four had no life signs; they’d lost Konrad. His head rose slowly from the bunched ball it’d voluntarily become as he saw Konrad impaled against a building by a large steel girder; it punctured straight through his chest leaving no chance of survival.

“Shit!” he exclaimed to no-one in particular, “Alpha 4 is down, retreat to the Hunchback, I repeat run to the goddamn Hunchback!” His squad rose with a groggy speed, many clutching various body parts that had become inflamed from their ill-fated escaped from the office building. A quick glance towards the building revealed a twisted, burning that collapsed on itself with a devastating ferocity. The goo still stuck to them as they reached their armoured vehicle, a bastion of safety in the vicious scene they found themselves implanted in. Raen plugged the memory stick into the uplink terminal of the vehicle as his squad divested themselves of the signs of battle, replacing empty clips and wiping goo off with an obvious disgust.

“What about Konrad sir? We can’t just leave him there” came the voice of Isabella, ever as melodic and enchanting as Raen found it; his heartbeat involuntarily rose and he found himself thinking of that time on the beach when they’d discovered so much about each other.

Raen’s head snapped up, “there’s nothing we can do now, we need to exfill the hell out of here. These things are just mindless creatures, they left a damned ambush for us with that exit. Once the uplink finishes, we’re free to take up the government defence contract and we can rendezvous with beta squad. Trust me, the credits they’re paying fixes the company. As for his body, well we’ll give him a viking funeral” he said as he pulled a high explosive grenade from the bandolier set onto his power armour. Albert started the Hunchback with a throaty hrummm , powering the monstrous engine away from the wreckage that’d once been a corporate facility before a small sphere flew out of the open hatch of the vehicle, nestling itself at the feet of the impaled body.

No-one looked as the column of flame engulfed his body as they were all entranced by the maintenance of their gear besides Raen who instead was focused incoming connection screen which engulfed the previously uploading display. It was Elliot, that hacker that had done so much for Raen in the past, saved his bacon even in a situation where Watchmen had come a little close to a slightly illicit operation they’d been forced to undertake. “What the hell do you need right now Elliot? We’re in goddamn bedlam out here?” he answered the call with, barely containing his anger at the interruption.

“What the hell do you need right now Elliot? We’re in goddamn bedlam out here!” he answered the call with, his anger barely contained at the unexpected interruption.

A bitter laugh resounded over the comms link, "You're telling me man," Elliot started gravely, "I need a favor."

"A favour? I'm stuck here with some kind of freakish blue monsters, pushing the containment lines back and you want me to do a favour for you? I'm making my way back to the containment lines now, what the hell can be so important that you call in that favour from me?" The trepidation was almost clear is his voice, no-one on a voice channel had seen what he'd seen; none of them knew just what was lurking in the darkness.

"I know," Elliot affirmed, the visuals from Anne's feed were still playing on a loop in his mind, "I have a mutual friend stuck on the wrong side of the line.. I'm sending you a picture through the private server, you know the one right?"

"You and your friends, if I didn't owe you for that job then I'd be hanging up right now. Just how close am I? My squad is already down one, these things out here aren't playing around."

Elliot sighed, looking at his phone once more—Still no messages from Anne. "Somewhere up in the north east quadrant, last I saw she was blacked out in a police van. Here, I'm sending you her last known location, and her address, just in case."

An address buzzed through, it was less than a hundred miles from them; an easy enough trip in the Hunchback but at the rate the containment lines were failing, the Slums were not a place to be anymore. "I'm sorry you lost your girl, but it's not my problem. Look my tactical feed is saying that the containment lines are failing, there just aren't enough men to hold them. I'm not getting stuck behind just because you thought you could ask me nicely."

"Nicely?" Elliot's shrug could almost be heard over the comms, "Can't blame a guy for trying to stay pleasant, bringing up dirty memories always leaves a bad taste on the tongue, doesn't it Raen?"

"Damn it Elliot, we had to blow up the damn building we were in to escape those hellspawn. Just what do you think you have on me that'll make me want to save your friend? You don't even have anywhere close to the amount of credits it'd take."

"Curious thing that, it's not what I have, it's what I took off of a certain corporation's servers. Turns out a prototype when missing that they want back real bad, Sound familiar?" Elliot asked, the frustration palpable in his voice with every second wasted.

"Besides Raen," Elliot continued, "Would you really leave an unarmed woman to defend herself out there? You'd practically just have to pick her up, and drive her to safety, or is that beyond your abilities?"

Raen's heart sank as he remembered that cursed job he had to contact Elliot over, it'd been a contract to steal some Reaper level tech from Syndustries, only once they'd pulled it a tracking chip had been activated. He'd contacted Elliot, as a highly recommended hacker, to fix the issue but he'd never imagined that the guy would keep it up his sleeve. "Damn it man, I paid for that job to be private, we're going to have some words about this when I'm back. But we'll save your woman, don't you ever dare doubt what I can do. I hope you remember that when this is over because I will fucking come for you, with the Core as my witness."

Raen was almost shaking with rage as he finished, that little computer punk had wound him right up until he noticed that the voice bar was stuck in a transmission loop. "FUCK!" he cursed loudly, causing his squad to peer up at him. The damned rat hadn't even got all of his message, but Raen had bigger issues to worry about. There was a girl out there that needed saving, else all he'd built would come crashing to the ground. "We've got a new mission, VIP recovery. It's a girl, a friend of an associate. We ride in hard, grab the girl then run like hell for the containment lines. We're down one, but it'll be like babysitting; strap in, we're punching it."

The autopilot snapped the new coordinate in place, instantly shifting the armoured vehicle into the optimal route to reach the last known coordinate. The vehicle shot off, relying on the inbuilt navigation system to navigate the maze that lay before them. His squad were readying the weapons they had assembled ahead of them; they’d not brought spare clips in the Hunchback, a decision Raen felt he might just live to regret.
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by vosenedich
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The office was busy as usual with the changing shifts, there was much groaning and yawning going about as the tired officers finally called it a night and the reluctant morning shift begun at a crawling speed. Lilyth had arrived a good three hours earlier that day to sort out the final details for the day's worth of operations and was kissing her third cigarette goodbye. Finally her crew was filling in the room; the new recruits stared confused at the large holographic board displaying the entirety of The Core, densly packed with hundreds of alerts and indicators.

"Oh heck no, it's too early for this Lily." exclaimed her second in command as she walked past Lilyth and through the hologram, which flickered at the interferenced, up to the counter with a hot cup of coffee. Sergeant Kathryn Willows was a lively girl still in her late 20's, with a slender shape that attracted more than a few eyes. They'd been working together for quite a few years now and she'd been essential to maintain the crew's spirits up after Lilyth's harsh drills.

"It's never too early to go clean up the streets, Kat." Lilyth shot an icy glance at the two new recruits, who seemed to have taken a liking to the Sergeant's treatment and were growing complacent. "Now, I've got word from HQ that a Liberata cell might have infiltrated a corporate buidling near the border of the slums. Right here..." she pointed a gloved finger at a red flashing dot on the proyection of The Core, "..and it seems our boy, Del Santo, might be involved in this one. So y'all know what that means!"

"Fuck" the whisper came out at a near-unison from all but the two recruits, who looked around for an explanation. "Come on, time to gear up, we leave in 10'." Kathryn handed one of them her half finished coffee and patted the other on the shoulder.




It was rush hour out there, and despite the update pushed onto the GPS system and the barricades set up around the block, there seemed to be an ever-present sea of people bustling about, oggling the sieged building.

"This is the Police. We have your surrounded. Hand yourselves in and you will be spared." she hated the cliche, but it was protocol to give the criminals a chance to repent. The 'sparing' usually was a straight trip to Sector 3, or the shooting range, but the public needn't know that. Lilyth lowered the megaphone after the single attempt and turned to face the twenty fully armoured Watchmen under her command.

"Sorin, take Alpha. Matt, take Beta. Kathryn you stick with me, we're taking Gamma for a test drive." she smiled maliciously before polarizing her visor.

"Yessir" the echo came through her helmet a fraction after her unit saluted and got into position.

The Liberata inside the building prepared makeshift barricades from furniture and vehicles to hide behind, and were poking the muzzles of their rifles through. A gunfight was inevitable at this point, but that did little difference to Lilyth, her crew was well equiped and capable of dealing with couple dozen rebels with stolen weapons.

"Alpha Squad, I need you on the western building, third floor. Hold." A string of orders was being barked out into the silent channels. "Beta Squad, take the northern building and await my signal." She turned to look at Kathryn and the newest squad members. They are just a bunch of kids. "Gamma Squad, get on the Hunchback. We're going in."




The opening moves had been on point, the Liberata hadn't prepared for a full-in assault and had had a hard time retaliating after their barricades were turned against them. The Hunchback sat in the middle of the building hanging from the wires it ripped on it's way down from the third floor. The fight had simply taken longer than expected, as the new recruits were just as beffudled by the Lieutenant's tactics as the enemy had been. Nearly two hours had gone by in the ceaseless gunfire inside the building.

"Two injured, no casualties. What's the status on Del Santo?" Lilith asked over the comms, impatient as she kicked over a corpse looking for a facial match-up.

"Nothing here" Kathryn was the first to report on the first floor. "Second floor's clear. He's not here either" was Matt's report. "Third floor's a bust, sir. Seems the data was fake." Sorin pitched in, confirming Lilyth suspicion. But then another voice came through the comms:

"Heimdall Unit, there's a request for backup in the slums. We lost contact with last dispatch moments ago. Please come in." the operator from HQ, a voice she rarely got to hear lately. And for a good reason.

"This is Lieutenant Lilyth Ruskin, state your rank and division, this is a reserved channel." she wasn't happy with the sudden request and it was clear in her voice. I didn't get all the way up here to go play hide and seek.

"Sergeant Azerix, Logistics, ma'am. The Colonel requested I pass this message to you: 'We're stretched thin today. Get your ass moving.'. Do you copy ma'am?" the operator a poor young boy playing lackey to the Colonel, and got the brunt of it too.

Lilth sighed as she looked the reading on her crew. "I copy. We'll take care of it immediately. Get someone to clean up here and let AT know the Del Santo info was a bust." she closed the comms channel to HQ with a furious flick of her head and then gestured to resume her local comms. "Congrats everyone, as a reward we're getting double shifts today. Now get your asses on the move, we're heading to the slums. Go, go, go!"




Where there had been hundreds of thousands people a few hours ago, there were now a mere dozens, and interceptors were making their rounds in the sky. The Hunchbacks made their way through the empty streets into the slums, when they came to a sudden halt. "Where the fuck is everyone?" Kathryn was leaning over the wheel, turning her head left and right, but the only movement in sight was from the interceptors. "HQ, what's going-" she paused mid-sentence and looked at Lilyth with a hint of fear in her eyes. "We're on high alert. Channels are on priority-only mode."

Silence fell over everyone on the Hunchback. Lilyth took off her helmet and grabbed a smoke from the board. She had it on her lips when Kathryn intervened "Sir, you know-" an open hand told her to shut up as Lilyth lit up her cigarette. Silence resumed as she took a long puff of smoke. "Keep driving" she said with smoke slowly coming from her mouth. "Matt, stay close behind" she said sternly over the vehicle to vehicle channel.

"STAY INDOORS. THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL." an interceptor flew overhead while playing their message on loop. Is it that bad?. Lilyth grabbed her bolt gun and made sure to load a fresh cartridge. She stood up to face the to face the crew onboard. "ETA minus 10 minutes. I want everyone ready for action, we have no idea what's out there and HQ is not respon-" she was cut short by the sudden blow to the side of the Hunchback which nearly tipped it on it's side.

"THE FUCK WAS THAT?!" Kat cryed out from the pilot seat. "KAT! GET US TO COVER NOW!" Lilyth barked at her from he sore seat on the floor. She was looking at a noticeable dent on the inside of the Hunchback. What did they hit us with? "MATT! STATUS!" she nearly screamed at the board. But there was only the rumbling of the engine and the annoying scaping of metal pieces.

Lilyth turned her head to the window. There she noticed the cyan ghastly face staring into the vehicle. "Everyone...out...NOW!"

Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Firecracker_
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Firecracker_ ever wonder if you're better off dead?

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One could peer straight into Heaven, it seemed, the sky was so clear, casting the richest blue Sector One had seen in awhile. The week prior had been muddled by overcast skies and scattered rain showers, but today, it was simply exquisite, if not a little humid. The orchestras of birds and bugs sang aloud from the trees densely packed all around, and small animals could be seen scurrying freely from shrub to shrub, looking for food on another peaceful day.

In the villages nestled in between the sprawling forests, foot traffic was bustling, as everyone wanted to get out and enjoy the first clear day the Sector had seen in awhile. Amongst the humble yet scenic small buildings of the Sector’s towns, villagers filled the sidewalks to the brim, smiles plastered over all their faces, waving at every person they recognized. Children and their parents ran amok in the forested hills outside the cities, the elderly ventured out to tend to their plants and water their gardens or do other elderly people things. Everything seemed so picturesque, straight out of a movie made for the same kids that were currently running around the Sector, far detached from their holo-screens and media sets. The entire Sector seemed to be out and about, enjoying the view.

Except for one man.

This man was roughly nose deep in the dirt, slightly confused as to why his vision had suddenly gone black. Somewhat moist and pungent soil rubbed off on his clothes and face, its cool embrace lingering for a moment, before he finally stood. He wobbily lifted himself from the ground, taking a moment to regain his balance before wiping the dirt off his clothes.

”God fucking dammit.”

Amias’ hand brushed off his designer jacket, and then moved upwards to wipe his face off. He squinted perpetually, hiding his eyes from the obnoxiously bright sunlight that moistened his skin and made his head pound in pain.

”Buncha fuckin’ bullshit, uneven bullshit path…”The man muttered angrily to himself.”....know why I even live all the fuck way out here, bullshit fuckin’ sector…”

Unsteadily, but determined, the man continued forward, eyes squinted towards the ground, indifferent to the blooming spring flowers and radiant green trees around him. The few strangers that crossed his path simply walked around, not wanting to bother the angry looking man in a staring contest with the ground, who was covered in dirt and smelled like a cheap strip joint.

After what felt like a walk through a room full of never ending flashbangs, Amias finally stumbled his way to the steps that led up to his front door. Stopping, and taking a few deep breaths, Amias prepared him for the hardest challenge he’d faced in many ages. One more large exhale, and he began his ascent. One foot in front of the other, he took his steps slowly. Oops, he didn’t lift his foot up high enough and nearly ate the step in front of him. This was going to take a bit.

Everest had been conquered, and the painter had finally reached the summit: his front door. Something resembling a smile crawled across Amias’ tired and weary face as he began reaching in his pocket, searching for his keys. His hand struck something moist, which made Amias immediately withdraw his hand in horror. Swallowing his fear, he reached back in, pinched the moist item between two fingers, and yanked it out. In the artist’s hand sat a pair of frilly pink thong underwear, which were still considerably wet and smelled of something close to death, but also not too detached from sweaty sex. Amias shuttered and gagged as he threw it into the bush besides his porch. He didn’t want to look for his keys anymore. Instead, he began banging on the door.

”Bules!”

---


Stepping into his cool, air conditioned home, Amias sloughed off his jacket, and it landed in a pile on the floor around his feet. The door of a small cabinet adjacent the door opened as he reached inside it without looking, grabbing a few dryer sheets out of a small cardstock box. With a grimace, he rubbed the scented sheets all over his body, making sure to get all of his clothes, and even most of his skin.

”You can’t magically erase the smell of hooker and sweat with just dryer sheets, you know that, don’t you Amy?” Spoke up an amused Bules, as he leaned over to pick up Amias’ jacket.

”Fuck off, old man, can’t you see I’m in pain? I thought you liked Lavender and Orange scent, anyways?” Amias muttered as he gave up trying to smell good, and simply began slipping his pants and shirt off, his shoes already lying toppled over in front of the door.

Bules laughed heartily, and reached in his pocket, pulling out one of Amias’ cigars. “Need one of these, you lightweight?” He rumbled in his deep, Eastern American voice.

”Christ, no, you goddamn sadist. Where are my opiates?” Amias replied, walking over to his medicine cabinet in the center of the entrance hall, between the first steps of two grand spiral staircases on each side.

Opening the doors to this cabinet introduced Amias into a whole different world for a moment. He was a child in a freshly opened candy store. Encompassing all of his vision were different color vials, syringes, prescription bottles, large baggies and small baggies of pills and inhalant tubes. The bottom shelf was lined from edge to edge with boxes of his favorite Cubans, all of them still sealed except for the one he was currently using. The top shelf held multiple beautiful bottles of amber shaded liquor, and in the mix were a few dirty bottles of core shard alcohol. For special occasions, of course.

Sat directly in front of his nose was the shelf containing his favorite pills. Uppers, downers, pain medications, sleeping aids, anything the heart could yearn for, it sat in this cabinet. Amias quickly snatched a bottle of opioid painkillers, downing two of them with a quick swig of whiskey from the shelf above. He grimaced a bit at the discomfort, but let out a refreshed ”Ahh! when he felt the pills reach his stomach.

”Wow, ten years, and now, ya finally grow the balls to kill yourself. Glad ya finally found the courage, Amy.”

”Yeah, yeah, shut your mouth before I take you with me. Amias smiled.

Remembering he was still only in underpants, Amias continued onward to his bedroom, making for one of the large halls. Half way painted canvases and broken or old easels lined the hallway on the walk there, and even more paintings adorned the walls, with the occasional ornate statute in a glass case. The walls surrounding him were a shade of off-white, splattered all over with different color paints, some places even entire pictures were painted. Scenes of people standing among clouds, reaching the Heavens they were never meant to reach. Amias enjoyed viewing the old paintings, they were the products of a happier time in his life.

Forget sleeping, I feel like painting.

With Bules in tow, Amias passed his room up, opting to go to the end of the hall, where two large Mahogany doors sat. Amias took a hold of the gilded door handle, and turned to Bules before he opened it.

”If you’d be so kind, I’d like a plate of fruit and about a gallon of cranberry juice.”

”Look, you’re not the one who’s gotta clean the toilets, kid. Why don’t you take it easy on the diuretics, eh?” Bules replied with a chuckle.

”Ah, shut up, grandpa. And come here.” Amias laughed, motioning for Bules to come over to him. Bules took a few suspicious steps forward, getting within arm’s reach of Amias.

Amias turned around, sticking a hand in Bules’ vest and pulling the cigar out of his inner pocket.
”And please no canned fruit this time. Just the fresh stuff.” Amias said with a shit eating grin.

”Right away, sir.” Bules replied sarcastically.

Smile on face, Amias turned back around, and finally thrust the doors to his art room open. The morning light flowed in freely, as all of the windows were open, with the curtains flying and flirting with the breeze that flowed in. Amias felt the warm breeze embrace him, but, slowly, his body took a warmth of its own. The opiates were beginning to kick in. Amias gave a nice warm smile to himself, and noticed himself in a mirror on the opposite side of the room, clad only in his striped boxers and patterned socks. He posed and oogled his own body for a moment, before chuckling and moving into the rest of the room.

The artist, in an attempt to clear his mind, walked out into the patio, enjoying the view his elevated mansion allowed him. He could see miles of sprawling forests, with small pauses in between for villages and small clearings. In the distance, the massive walls around the Core could be observed, small dots of APD Interceptors and other aircraft buzzing around like flies to a corpse. The skyscrapers of the Core could barely be seen past the wall, shrouded in the clouds and mist.

Content to wait here for Bules to arrive with the fruit platter, Amias took a seat in one of the comfortable patio chairs he had out, and leaned back, taking in more of the view. He took his cigar, and stuck it in the small port in his hand that opened on command. With a quick flex of his palm, the cigar was cut, and was into the next opening port in his hand to start the lighting process.

Amias’ chin sat on his chest as he peered down, watching the cigar slowly light and burn, the end of it getting black in a few spots faster than others. With his nimble robotic fingers, he slowly twisted and turned the cigar, trying to get a nice ember going. Round and round the cigar went, the sweet smell of lit tobacco filling the air. Amia’s breathing slowed, and his eyes fluttered a little. A feeling of unbelievable comfort washed over Amias, and he leaned back, laying the cigar in his mouth and taking a mouthful of smoke. For a moment, he had found his paradise, but with his exhale, his eyelids finally lost their fight, and fell closed.

---


After what seemed like an eternity of sleeping like a rock, Amias’ eyes finally opened, and Amias immediately knew what he felt. Sober.

The mid-morning had turned into early evening, and the sun was making its descent downwards. The glow of the Core could now been see over the walls, which were still bustling with all sorts of traffic. Spotlights of Interceptors could be seen floating all around the city, just like usual. It was a sight that never ceased to amaze Amias. It was one of the most beautiful things about the Core. It’s neon dripping, authoritarian front, only shrouding it’s rotten and dying inner core. Beauty in it’s purest form.

”Ah, you’re finally awake, huh, sleeping beauty?”

Amias nearly jumped out of his seat as the gruff voice came from behind, startling him like a sleeping cat. He stood and faced Bules, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

”God, I would say I need to give you one of those bell collars, but I know even that shit wouldn’t help with you sneaking up on me.” Amias smiled.

”Well, I had to put up the fruit before it spoiled, but there’s still that.”

Amias turned to the patio table Bules was pointing to, and there sat a bottle of store bought cranberry juicy, sitting haphazardly in a champagne bucket it was a little too large to fit properly. Bule’s usual sense of humor.

Amias let out a laugh, and grabbed the juice, wrenching off the cap and taking a few good swigs. The ice had almost completely melted, but the juice was still pleasantly cold. A bit of the dark crimson juice spilled down his chin, and he stopped to wipe it, remarking ”But Christ, am I hungry!”

”Should I rev up the fryers for ya?

”No, that’s alright. I’ll grab something to eat when I head into town.” He said, motioning towards the brightly lit Core behind him.

”Two nights in a row? That’s a rare feat.”

”What can I say? I feel like a chipper little squirrel, only, instead of packing my cheeks with nuts, I’m packing my body with bullshit that shaves a few years off my life everytime I use it! Amias replied before taking another swig from the cranberry juice.

”Try to get the stick out of your ass before you get home this time, eh?” Bules said, a smile on his face as he took off his suit jacket, signifying he was to begin relaxing for the night once Amias left.

”Ha. Ha. Ha. I think I’ll keep it in there, let you use it as a cane so you don’t have to struggle up those stairs so much, huh?”

Bules gave Amias a light, friendly few slaps on his face, like a father would his son. ”Is all you got old jokes, you little shit?”

Amias gave Bules a brotherly pat on the back as he walked back indoors to go get ready for another drug run. What can I say? They’re easy!

---


”That’s what I think it is. We’re on the cusp of something….something… larger than us. I mean, it’s gonna be fuckin’ crazy. Like, some Judgement Day level shit. Chaos everywhere, people dyin’, all that good shit! All thanks to all this damn drug running and shit.”

”Oh, you’re so full of shit! The only reason the Core is still around is because the crime! We keep this fuckin’ place afloat! Without us movin’ this shit in and out on a daily fuckin’ basis, the Core would go down in flames! We’re the ones keepin’ this place alive, not the goddamn APD!”

”Ah, you’re both full of shit! It’s the balance, man. The balance. You know, that thing they say… ah shit what was it… Ah yeah! Without Chaos, peace cannot exist, and vice versa. If you didn’t have the crime, you wouldn’t have the cops, you wouldn’t have the core, but if nothing was illegal, you couldn’t make money off of it, so you need the law, too, you see?”

”I don’t give a shit about any of this, if you three don’t stop killing my high, I swear to God, I’ll kill you.”

Silence took over the room as people further elevated into their highs. It was one of the clubs quiet nights, where instead of partying and hookers, druggies could come to enjoy some silent space to experience their high. Of course, the party still went strong a few doors down, in case any of them got bored.

Following the rager the night before, Amias was slow to take his usual dosage. To keep from getting too sick, he had limited the amount of shard powder and inhalants, meaning his high was already starting to weaken.

Time to take my walk, while shit is all still wonky

Amias stood, unsteadily at first. The room was dimly lit by a red light in the center of the room, and Amias was barely visible, yet drew no attention. Everyone was too busy soaring to pay attention to him.

Slowly but surely, Amias stumbled his way out of the club, still visibly drunk and high. It was now, though, when his high was beginning to go away, that he liked to take walks through the Core and let his imagination go wild at all the sights he was sure to behold. Was it safe? Probably not, but Amias had made a good name for himself with some of the local bosses, so most criminals were smart enough to leave him be if they saw him waddling around late at night. The artist was also bound to see something crazy enough that he’d have to paint it the next day, but it was mainly for the experience of it all. Neon lights and hallucinogens were a great combination.

Step by step, Amias walked down the ever familiar street behind the bar that lead to a small town square where it was usually busy at night. What he remained oblivious too, though, were the small trails of blood and footsteps that he walked in tandem with. All the bright blurs and waves of warmth washing over him were to distracting, almost so much so that he didn’t notice that when he would lost balance and fall into a pile of trash or the random light pole.

What did occur to him was the unusual silence that had overtaken the street. Usually, at the very least, couples in the nearby apartments could be heard either vigorously arguing or vigorously having sex, but neither could be heard now. The only thing that Amias could hear was ragged heavy breathing and uneven footsteps, approaching his position quickly from around a corner. Instant, heavy paranoia took over Amias, and drove him to duck in a near dead end alley, and wait for whatever was approaching to pass.

Around the corner came running a lone woman, half way crying, half way moaning in pain from the wound she seemed to be clutching on her shoulder. Amias watched in near disbelief, wide eyes following her until she was nearly out of sight, when suddenly, a second set of footsteps, more ragged than the last could be heard. Amias remained still and silent in the alleyway, blinking hard, trying to stay alert, as his high continued to make it hard to concentrate.

Finally, the second body rounded the corner, but, this body was different. It was distorted, and glowed blue from his skin, and dragged one of its legs raggedly behind it as it ran. Amias felt panic immediately rise in his throat, as the blue light distorted in his vision, blurring an already unnatural body. His lungs couldn’t steady themselves, and he felt his breaths begin to shake, as his chest tightened and his legs began to shake. Was this all a bad trip?

The creature suddenly stopped in it’s chase, standing and observing the area around it, seeming to look and listen all around. Amias felt his fear overwhelm everything in his body, and, without thinking, dashed from the alley way, some soberness being knocked into him. He began running as fast as he could towards the plaza, praying someone there could help him.

Before he knew it, he could hear the footsteps of the monster following behind him, and it only made him want to run faster, but his weak and drunk legs were already pushing their limits. His hands shot to his hip, and scrambled to find their way through his fancy outfit to his waistband, where his handgun sat, stashed in case of emergencies, and this certainly qualified as an emergency.

Finally, his fingers found the pistol grip, and Amia’s yanked the laser pistol from his waistband, pivoting around clumsily one his foot. Pulling the pistol up with shaky hands, Amias tried his best to steel himself, dragging whatever frightened voice he had to shout at whatever was chasing him.

”Look, you sunuva-”

Amias’ shaky voice stopped in his throat as the creature hurtled towards him, it’s single large mouth wide open, blue light emanating from inside it’s body. His eyes widened, and he felt his legs get even weaker than before. His finger squeezed and squeezed, getting faster and more frantic as the creature neared, but it was no use, his weapon wouldn’t fire. Amias’ finally legs gave out from under him at the perfect moment, sending the monster lunging right past him, as it lost its balance and fell over, same as Amias.

The artist, his eyes, in horror, still locked on the monster, began kicking and dragging, trying like a desperate trapped animal to get away from whatever demon it was that wanted him.

”Help! Oh fucking God, someone help me!” Amias called out, nearly in tears as his legs continued to be uncooperative with him. The monster steadily regained his footing, and turned to face Amias again, taking another charge. With shaky hands, Amias scrambled to flip the safety on the pistol before his sure demise. Switch flipped, gun ready, Amias began to shoot, bright lasers beginning to illuminate the darkened plaza he had run himself into. Most of the shots did not meet their target, yet the creature still flinched with every shot, even those that missed. It covered its face, letting out a feral screech that stung Amias’ ears, and made him shoot even more frantically.

The bright lasers of Amias’ gun were beginning to hit their targets, as intense fear and panic made Amias force his hands steady. Shots to the legs of the stunned creature did not phase it, as it tried to take a step closer between every shot that Amias fired.

With another screech and it’s face covered, the creature charged Amias, who returned with his own terrified yell, spastically pulling the trigger, with shots landing all over the creature’s chest and arms, as well as the walls behind it. Suddenly, one shot seemed to hit it’s mark, and sent the creature crumpling forwards, landing atop the crying high mess of a man that had shot it.

Amias yelped in terror, thinking the creature was about to eat him, but still fairly horrified to find it had died, slowly bleeding it’s glowing blue fluid all over him. Wincing in terror and disgust, Amias began trying to wriggle himself from under the bleeding corpse, which proved to be no easy task.

Suddenly, his vision turned white, as some sort of bright light shined directly into his sensitive eyes, blinding him and sending him back to the ground, covering his face, still stuck under the corpse.

STAY INDOORS, THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL.

The Interceptor flew over Amias, taking a few moments to scan the plaza, only noticing the two dead bodies, before continuing on, its message still blasting from its speaker. Once the spotlight stopped assaulting his eyes, Amias uncovered his face, discovering that he was not, in fact, having a drug induced nightmare. Whatever was going on, it was big, and it was very real.

The only sounds that pierced the silence that laid like a blanket over the plaza were now panting, wincing in disgust, and grunts of struggle as Amias tried vehemently to free himself, as he was now being thoroughly covered in sweat and thick blue blood.

”Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh God, please God, if you’re up there, help me out man, I swear I’ll throw out all my pills, all my booze, all that shit, just don’t let me die.”

The artist’s whispers went unheard in the dark plaza. And to make matters worse, he was still starving.
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Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Esoteric
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Esoteric Coquette

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Lucias Caldera
Graywall District

8:11p.m, Sunday, April Sixth, 187A.E


Heavy black boots rested atop a scattering of loose papers that were largely being ignore for the time being. A pale smoke drifted down a set of legs clad in the perfectly ironed fabric of black dress slacks, before billowing out over the polished, cluttered desk. A large man recline back in a chair, tipped to an angle dangerously close to snapping its tilting mechanism. A grizzled face wore a triumphant smile, one sculpted with a neatly trimmed beard and a fat patch of hair that sat above his lip. He inhaled again, savoring the flavor of the expensive cigar, something he only treated himself to on special occasions. The tingle on his tongue was a nice change of pace from the cheaper shit he smoked, but he didn't want to think about that now. His gaze traveled outwards, beyond the holo monitors currently broadcasting lives feeds of raids across the sector. Up and out, beyond two cushioned chairs, past the bookcase with books her never read and further still, beyond plants he never watered to the open office area of the precinct.

Cheap bottle of champagne were frothing as the desk jockeys congratulated themselves. Operations were going underway, and they seemed to be doing quite well. Weeks of compiling information, pulling all of the strings, double checking all of the sources for a simultaneous, sector wide raid against filthy terrorists. Lucias exhaled, watching the smoke frolic in the stir of cool air, as he watched the scene unfolding on his holo screen. Live coverage was being aired, showing a line of nondescript looking people on their knees, rough bags tied tightly over their heads. A moment later and the bodies fell back, limp, crimson stains oozing out against their cloth concealing their faces. Small fry terrorists only, not worth the time. Though, the execution was only a statement, the majority of the criminals would find themselves in Sector Three. The leaders, well, John would likely call for a public hanging, another statement to quell the common vermin.

He nodded in satisfaction to himself, yet a part of him longed to put his boots on the ground. This position had far too much paperwork for his liking, but since he began this position the watchmen were really making a difference. Lucias had a brilliant mind, and he knew it, his wits were far superior to whatever ragtag leader the terrorists were trying to hide. He would find them, and methodically crush them one by one. He sat up, flicking over the channel. 'Silence in the Slums, a vision of a peaceful future or an omen of war?' a headline read, scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Lucias shook his head, the news would make a story out of anything just to stir the pot. Always about the ratings, but nobody cared about the slums. Likely, the vagabonds and beggars had moved out in fear of Lucias' new campaign. Zero tolerance, that's how you cleaned up the streets.

The door to his office hissed up into the ceiling as one of the workers from communications and logistics strode in. Lucias returned the salute before beckoning the jittery looking fellow to a seat. The young man's mouth worked, but nothing came out. He looked like a fish struggling to speak. Well, it wasn't uncommon for younger lads to lose their nerve in Lucias' presence. The older man chuckled, taking a honey-amber bottle from his drawer. He poured two smalls glasses, motioning the rookie to have a drink. Lucias was enjoying the bitter, warming liquid when the kid finally found his words.

"There's ah.. trouble, sir," He murmured, deciding he did want that drink.

Lucias chuckled, like a bear having a good laugh, "There's always trouble son, that's the life we've chosen to live." Lucias slapped his glass against the desk, sighing pleasantly as he turned back to nursing his cigar.

"No.. I m-mean yes, Sir, it's the slums," The young man spluttered, swallowing his nervousness and downing the glass like a champ.

"What's your name son? Do you smoke?" Lucias asked, holding out a steel case holding rows of slim, cheaper cigars.

"T-Tobiath Daryl, Sir," came the reply, the boy's hands were shaking too violently to properly cut the end.

Alright, Tobiath," Lucias began, holding out a flame for his underling, "Why don't you take a deep breath, and relax a moment alright? Do you watch the news Son?"

"Ah, yes sir," Tobiath answered, choking on the repugnant smoke. Lucias let out a fatherly chuckle.

"You hold the smoke in your mouth, you've gotta be a grizzled old man like me to inhale it," Lucias instructed, tapping out the growing stem of ash into a small porcelain tray. "What's the situation?"

"There's a situation near one of the maintenance access points," Tobiath explained, finally composing himself though he retained a white knuckled grip on the cigar, "We lost a squad in the tunnels, and one on the surface."

Lucias nodded gravely, it was understandable that during these times of certain victory there would be some losses, "So the Libbies are hiding in the tunnels then?"

"Well.. comm chatter indicated that the ah, men saw something that.. well.. wasn't human," Tobiath managed.

"So, they're trying some sort of fear tactic then?" Lucias dug patiently, his eyes flickering to the holovision as he flipped through some of the channels.

"Perhaps sir, something about glowing blue monsters with uhm.. inhuman strength and speed, ripping people apart."

"Oh?" Lucias questioned, flipping back to the earlier story about the slums. He set the sound to low, so he could listen to the pretty blonde haired woman talk as he turned towards man before him, looking him in the eye. Tobiath was a thin, gaunt thing who barely seemed to fillout the chair he was residing in. A mop of sweaty brown hair was layered over his face, shifted only by his bony hands.

"Well," Lucias sighed, thinking about the definite lack of extra resources he had, "Send in the Heimdall Unit, they can handle it. Kratos and Badger are also in the area, tell them to hold their positions after the raid, we don't want to overthink this too much."

The kid nodded, pulling up his wrist computer, his cigar sat forgotten in the tray as he send the orders back to Logistics, likely to someone higher of rank. Lucias reached over and tapped it for him, reminded of his early days with DigiCorp. The thought brought him back to his daughter, the chink in his armor. She had ripped a hole in his heart when she left, and filled it with blame and guilt. He checked his own communicator, debating on sending her a written message, or if he should just accept her hatred of him. His bushy brows drooped sadly as he turned away from the screen, once more returning to the simple pleasantry of his cigar.

"How long have you been here son?" Lucias asked absentmindedly, his attention once more captured by the images on the holoscreen.

"I'm a week out of the academy sir, I wasn't too great with the physical stuff.. but they said I've got a good head about me," Tobiath explained. Lucias nodded with a grunt, leaning closer towards the screen.

"Hold on a second," He murmured, turning up the broadcast. With nothing better to do as Lucias diverted his attention elsewhere, Tobiath finally remembered his cigar.

A new development was scrolling across the screen, it looked as if Lucias would get to see these new Liberata tactics first hand. Sometimes, the news gave information faster than his own intelligence department, which was disheartening, perhaps he should hire the reporters. He mused over the thought as the news crew ran towards, well, he didn't quite know but he was certainty going to wait and find out. The reporter was in a sort of half turn as she tried to jog towards the scene, and report the unfolding events at the same time. Lucias grinned through the cigar between his teeth, he wouldn't mind a blonde bombshell like her. Big brown eyes, big set of-

"Oh my god.." The woman said, frozen in the street. The cameraman, bless him, remained dutiful to his task and zoomed in on a.. Lucias leaned in further, captivated by the images, the boy was speaking but Lucias couldn't hear him. On the screen a blue.. a blue man was literally tearing somebody apart, blood and gore flying in all directions. Lucias stared at the deranged beings back, in tattered, bloody clothes and pasty gray skill split with glowing blue cracks. The thing stopped, snapping it's head up to attention with an unnatural jerk. It stood, head turned towards the sky, before looking ominously in the direction of the camera crew.

"What the.." Lucias said, his eyes pinching as he tried to make out more details.

Tobiath wandered up to the desk, unable to contain his curiosity from the other side, and peered over Lucias' shoulder rather meekly. Lucias heard the boy gasp as the faceless creature's mouth parted in an earth splitting shriek, it's disgusting flesh wobbling with the intensity of the sound. Its call was answered by another, and another, until there was nothing but a constant howl emitting from the speakers. It charged forward, towards the woman and her coworkers. It was so fast, too fast. In what seemed like an instant, a span of time much to short to be real, it was on her. She shrieked as the cameraman's human instincts finally kicked in. The image fell to the ground, dead center on her as the creature tore at her back, its ghastly hands tipped with claws that flung chunks off her off screen.

Somewhere off in the distance, Tobiath was retching, but Lucias couldn't look away. The beast kneeled on the open cavity ripped in her back, screaming once more into the night. He couldn't tell if there was more of the woman splattered against the beast, or splattered across the street. A low rumbling sounded through the feed. Seconds later the image began to shift slightly, which changed into a steady vibration as the object was shaken by the force of and endless number of legs crowding the small lens of the camera. It had to be hundreds, thousands even, the constant stream of blue flashes was like trying to watch a river composed entirely of fish. It was unending, a horde so thick Lucias couldn't see anything other than mottled gray skin and blue streaks as their stampede thundered out into the office.

He sucked in a breath, finally tearing himself away from the display as the feed broke, the image tearing and the colors warping before cutting completely. For a second longer, he stared at the technical difficulties message, moving to take a drag of his cigar and finding that it had gone out.

"I.." He searched for the words, an unfamiliar feeling ripping through his body. He felt cold, and hollow, and for the first time in years his hands were shaking. It was fear, he was truly, and honestly afraid. "Tobiath.."

"ugh..er.. yes Colonel?" Tobiath responded weakly from his position on the floor, that plant would never be the same.

"Send everybody.. pull them.. all of them," He began, his nerves returned, only gone for a second yet the dull feeling in the pit of his stomach remained, "Get a hold Syndustries and DigiCorp.. we're going to need them."

Lucias left the boy kneeling on the ground, Tobiath didn't even bother getting up, but rather was typing out a message to logistics with a furious intensity. The mood in the outer office died immediately as he swept through, before he reached the end of the room the terminals began going off. A cacophony of pulsing beeps echoed through the office as a swarm of messages came in. A buzz picked up as the employees dropped their celebration in light of the new task at hand—Mobilizing Everyone. Like a wraith from the shadows Sergeant Azerix was at Lucias' side within a minute of the order going out.

"Azerix?" Lucias asked, he didn't need to say anymore.

"I just got the message, the calls should be going out now. I've also put in to contact the private security firms sir, I'm sure by everybody, you meant it," The Sergeant explained, her never looked up from his wristpad as he matched Lucias stride for stride. "It must be serious.." Azerix noted, peering up the entryway to the precinct's armory.

"It is Sergeant, get me a van mobile and waiting I'll be down in four minutes," Lucias commanded, pausing in the doorway, "And Sergeant.."

"Yes sir?"

"Shut it down, all of it."

Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Esoteric
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Esoteric Coquette

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Annelle Caldera Freddy Copperfield
Karen Tobin Raen J. Thormund


The storm was still raging as Anne reached the bottom of the exit escalator, in fact it seemed to have only picked up in intensity. "What a cruel muse your are," Anne breathed, the symbolism was not lost on her. She pulled her soggy scarf around her neck a little closer, trying to trap some heat as the chill creeped through her. She checked the map on her wrist pad, ensuring she hadn't gotten too turned around, or strayed too far off course. It seemed she was still on the right track, she wasn't far from the district's edge. If she listened closely, she could almost hear the faint wailing of gunfire, she sincerely hoped that was a stable defensive line against the monsters. Albeit, that would mean she'd have to find some way through, but she'd take this one step at a time.

She continued her journey cautiously up the street, squinting through the driving force of fat droplets soaking her thoroughly. Conditions were only worsening, and with the icy rain meeting with the warmth of the infrastructure, of powered systems generating heated surfaces, a steady mist was slowly rising, quickly becoming a light fog. She didn't panic however, perhaps this would help her hide from the creatures, at least, when it thickened a little more.

Her heart gave a fearful start as pained shrieks shattered the ambiance, carried on the wind and echoing off of the metal surfaces of the city. The sound made her cringe, she wanted nothing more than to turn around, to go home and hide beneath a table. She grit her teeth, picking up her speed with a light jog towards the wailing cries of what was likely a victim to the creatures. A second scream mimicked the first, though deeper, it must have been a second person. The situation seemed bleak, Anne was sure she'd find nothing but the mangled corpses of other unfortunate travelers on this dreary night. However, it was in the direction she had been heading anyways, perhaps she would help—If she could.

---⚙---

To his bones, Freddy was chilled. His already dark brown coat was several shades darker from soaking in the rain -he gave off a musty air as he accrued more water, like a wet dog. Lizzie especially seemed to notice this, as she fell behind him a few steps. Foal fell back alongside Lizze, and the two began to converse in a harsh whisper. Though Freddy certainly noticed the strange behavior, he decided against commenting. The two seemed to come to a conclusion, and moved in line with Freddy. The soaked old man gave a curious look to Foal, saying nothing.

"Freddy, we shouldn't be getting involved in all this shit. This ain't our job, this is for the Spooks to take care of." Spoke Foal, putting a white-gloved hand on Freddy's back. Freddy frowned, brows furrowing in contemplation. He stopped, and pointed a meaty finger towards a crashed APD carrier, flaming in the streets.

"You fink they 'ave this under control? Our job is to clean this bloody place up, that's what we've always did." Freddy said, looking around at the strangely deserted slums. He pulled out a tablet, and again looked to his messages.

>No connection.

"Alroight. Listen, I ain't 'eard back from Dimes an' Dewy yet. I want the two of ye to track 'em down, okay? Stay off the streets now, they ain't safe." Freddy said, pointing back in the direction from which they had come. He turned from the two, setting a destination in his mind. Lizzie punched him in the shoulder lightly, stopping him in his tracks.

"What are you thinking, old man? You said it yourself, this shit isn't safe. If you're our here, we're out here." Lizzie said, giving him a shit-eating grin. Freddy smiled gently, pushing her away. He opened his mouth to speak, but was distracted by a blue glow stumbling out from an alley. A crack resounded through the slums as Freddy fired his weapon, splattering the head of the creature. He backpedaled from the duo quickly, as he fumbled to reload his weapon.

"Go, now! Get your bloody arses gone!" Shouted Freddy over the din of Advent howling. He ducked into the alleyway in a sprint, following the winding path over mounds of trash, hoping to shake his unseen followers. He looked behind him, and saw a blue glow rushing like a wave around the corner. A string of low curses escaped his mouth, before he found salvation. A boarded up section of wall he recognized very well, the back side of The Blind Harpy. He had told Brad time and time again, nail down the goddamn boards so hooligans couldn't waltz in whenever they liked. Lazy bastard just saved Freddy's life.

"S'pose I owe 'im a drink now." Freddy thought, slipping into the bar through the loose boards. As he slid the board back into place, he felt a wave of light brush over his face, as the zomibe-esque monsters sprinted violently through the alleyway, tearing through piles of garbage. Freddy backed away, chancing a sigh of relief as he moved from the back storage room to the main bar counter, where he hoped to find Brad.

"Oi, ye cunt! Where ye at?" He asked, in a very commanding whisper.

For all the while Karen tried her best to keep still and keep silent, straining her ears to make out any more screaming only to be met with the sounds of heavy rainfall. It seemed it started to rain quite hard since she entered the bar, but really that didn't seem that imporant considering there was a psycho murderer out there. Karen was so focused on listening out for trouble that she missed the subtle movements behind her, and so to say she was caught off guard was putting it lightly.

"FUCK!" she quite abruptly swore at the sudden appearance of a newcomer appearing from the goddamn backroom of all places, and turned to face the stranger.

Freddy raised his hands in a gesture of surrender as he saw Karen sitting behind the bar, before lowering one finger to his lips.

"Hush up now. Dunno if we've got more of 'ese ugly choffers runnin' about." Freddy said in a low voice, walking up to Karen. He took off his coat, and laid the dripping husk on the bar. Speaking up more, he extended a hand. "Names Te-Freddy. It's Freddy. Pleased to meetcha." He huffed.

As Freddy stepped closer to her, Karen slowly rose onto her feet, still making sure to keep her eyes directly on the man. He seemed to be friendly enough, at least that's the first impression she got from him, but then again there were two corpses right outside...

After a moment of tense silence, she met his hand, "Karen... what the hell's going on?" Thing is she knew about nothing, so crazed slasher or not, maybe Freddy here could clue her in on whatever was happening.

Freddy shook Karen's hand firmly, before dropping both his hands limp when she questioned him as to the situation. He pressed one hand up to his temple as he stared to the floor, rubbing it gently as he leaned back against the bar.

"Y'know, I was a bit hopeful 'at you'd 'ave some answers as to the particulars of all that." Freddy said, looking up at Karen. "I just lost one of my best men to some glowy blue fuck out 'ere, and I haven't the foggiest where four of me others are at. Where's Brad at, maybe 'e's got somefin better for me?" He looked around the bar with shifty eyes, scanning the picture of a ghost town before him.

At the mention of Brad, Karen sighed heavily and stared across to the front door. "Brad..." She hesitated to even utter the name. "He... died. We heard screaming outside and before I could really stop him, Brad ran straight out the door, and... yeah..."

She returned to face Freddy, her expression solemn, "Guessing you knew him too, Brad always had a bit of a hero complex... just never expected it to get him killed, not like this." Again with another sigh Karen started her way towards the many bottles of alcohol and then grabbed one, looked like whisky. She popped the top off then held to bottle to Freddy, "I need a drink, want one?"

Freddy didn't even think about the offer of whiskey, as he stared off into the corner. The realization of the night's going-ons finally struck with the news of Brad. Never again would Freddy walk into this bar and hear Brad's stories that went on and on for hours -never again receive the generous overflowing foam from Brad's taps. And Herman was gone as well -Herman's loss brought a deep numbness to Freddy, even deeper than the chill of the rain.

His contemplation was interrupted as he heard the door being fiddled with. An eyebrow raised, Freddy turned to look at the door, before turning back to Karen. He put his finger again to his lips as he slid over the counter, stalking silently towards the sounds. As he approached the door, he listened closely. When he realized he had no idea what he was listening for, he shrugged, and unlocked the door, opening it quickly. In the same movement, he pulled out his pistol, aiming it out the doorway.

Anne took a surmised step back, slipping on a puddle and falling to her ass with a squeak. "I ah.. just wanted a drink," She explained hesitantly, a bit embarrassed. Given the night she was having however, it was excusable.

Freddy lowered the pistol when he saw the face of a completely normal woman behind the door. Well, normal might've been a stretch, she was drenched like a used towel. He put away The Chunder, and urged her in quickly, closing and locking the door behind.

Karen watched with baited breath, with the multiple deaths that night she wasn't exactly thrilled to open that door, luckily Freddy was armed. Much to Karen's surprise, there was actually someone on the other side, and even more it was a normal, sane woman. The sane part was the important bit.

"Uh... welcome I guess, lucky you're not dead far as I know." She called out to the even newer, newcomer.

"I guess ya'll are having the same night I'm having then," Anne confirmed, pushing her wet hair from her eyes and slinging her jacket over the back of a chair close to the bar stool. She frowned down at her tank top, glad she had chosen a darker color to go underneath, as it was more than damp itself.

Freddy frowned at the words of Anne. It seemed all across the slums, no one was having a good time. He moved to the bar, taking a seat as he rested his chin in his palm. Fingers absentmindedly drummed on the bar to the beat of the rain as he sat in contemplation. He looked back and forth between the women, trying to wrap his head around the situation. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but his voice hid shyly in the corner, refusing to reveal itself. He looked to the others, before pulling out his flask and taking a long drink.

Anne's gazed passed across the two in the bar, it seemed to be quite a heavy, somber mood, "Where's Brad?"

Karen couldn't help but burst out laughing, although more of a nervous chuckle. "Didn't know Brad was so famous... well, he's dead. Killed by whatever goddamn thing is out there."

Anne merely looked at Karen for a long moment, poor girl must have been in shock. Fortunately, Anne had been through some shit with the Watchmen, and while not perfect, she hadn't broken yet. "Damn.. Brad was a good man," she said, moving behind the bar. She crouched, looking through the selection of liquor before procuring a mostly full bottle one flavored Butterscotch Pie. She took a long swig, grimacing at the bitter sweetness, before pouring some on the floor.

"...was a hell of a man," Anne whispered quietly, helping herself to a second gulp.

Freddy raised himself slowly to his feet. He gave Anne a curious glance as she poured some liquor on the floor, a look that was quickly wiped from his face. A familiar scent brought a blank stare to Freddy's face, a look of hopelessness. A distant scream brought Freddy back, revitalizing his thoughts.

"Roight, since none of us know what the bloody 'ell is goin' on, we'd best be gettin' to the bottom of it, then. We ought'a run down to the end of tha district, sure as 'ell the Spooks have a quarantine somefin or other set up there. Then we can get some answers, yeah?" He spoke, a bright smile lighting his face. The happy visage was lifelike, easily mistakable for genuine, but only a facade, a weak one at that.

Karen nodded slowly as Anne poured a drink out for Brad, very much understanding the gesture. Hell she even had half a mind to do the same, which reminded her of the whisky in her hands. She poured a drink out as well and then gulped down some for herself. The vague tingling helped her feel better, kinda.

After half listening to Freddy's reasoning, she shrugged, "Don't know if we would even survive out there, then again trying to hold out here doesn't seem like a good idea either, dunno honestly." Karen took her flask out and filled it up with her newly acquired whisky, she'll need this later. "What're you thinking we should do?" She turned to Anne, clearly meaning the question for her.

Anne ran a hand through her hair, mulling over the thought. "I won't lie, it's been pretty rough out there..." Anne began, stalling with another swig from the bottle, "I agree with ah..-"

"Freddy."

"Right, Freddy here. I was actually heading towards the Station district when I saw them glowies, a whole pack of them. Ran around a corner, so I hid a minute. Now that I think about it... one of the bodies they were dragging off did seem kind of familiar, though visibility ain't exactly the best out there, ya'know?"

"That ain't somefin I'm too keen on thinkin' about." Freddy slurred, looking down at his flask. Already, the mental image of one of those freaks carrying Herman off to do whatever they did was troubling him. Almost forcefully, he put down his flask, looking up to the girls. "Those things out 'ere are right tossers. And 'eres a bloody tonne of 'em, too. The two of you know yer way around these parts alright? Don't fink we stand much of a chance doin' much but runnin' for it unless one of ye're packin' some heavy firepower." He mused, looking down at his pistol, then to Anne, who seemed to not even have a sidearm.

Karen sighed and shook her head, "Unless a switchblade is enough then I got nothing either, although yeah guess I do know the Slums well enough, which is something." She downed another drink of whisky, straight from the bottle, feeling the liquid settle fairly well in her gut, which was surprising given the dire situation they found themselves in. "But..." She continued, "The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of trying our luck out there, I mean, I really don't think this bar is gonna be safe for that long."

As if cued by her words, a cacophony of light, metal objects falling sounded from the rear area of the bar. The three fell silent as a low growl followed the noise, followed by more debris shifting. "It seems that may be our cue to leave," Anne whispered, looking at her current would-be companions. Freddy nodded, motioning towards the front of the building with a curt, silent nod. Anne followed Karen as the two trailed close behind the older man, who moved with an unexpected, silent ease towards the door.

As gently as he could, Freddy unbolted the door, and put a hand on the handle. In a silent, yet projected whisper, he spoke to the two.

"We make our way north to the edge of the district, right? Keep close, don't wanna lose any more of ye tonight. Stick to the alleys if we git split up, try not to get caught wandrin' in the open." He said, before silencing himself, and pushing the door open slowly. A painful creak erupted from the door as it opened. Freddy held the door open, waiting for the other two to come out before shutting it. When they all were out, he brought his fist down in a quick motion on the handle, breaking it in order to jam the door, and earning a quirked eyebrow from the dark haired woman, likely surprised at his strength.. He had the strangest feeling no one else would be needing to get into the bar anytime soon.

With a pair of fingers, he motioned for the two to follow him, staying close to the side of the building, where the rain was slightly less harsh. Taking a moment to peer around the corner, he ducked into the alleyway next to the building. As he sloshed through the film of water paving the alley, he flexed his fingers, keeping as much warmth within his hands as he could. He took a brief moment to look back at Anne and Karen, assuring that they were still with him, before focusing his eyes forward, straining to catch any telltale blue glare.

It was only when Freddy looked again back to the girls that he caught a glimpse of that eerie telltale glow. Perhaps the idea of them getting away scott-free was too hopeful, after all. "Ah, bugger." He muttered to the choir of unnatural wails echoing through the alley behind them. The other woman, Karen, seemed to visibly get chills from the unearthly cries as she peered into the murky depths of the night. "Bloody run." He stated simply, practically pushing the two to get them moving. Freddy lagged behind them just a bit, as he pulled out his gun. A frown crossed his face as he stood, pistol aimed down the alley, before he dropped his arm, and began running alongside Anne and Karen.

Anne cast a worried look over her shoulder, the increasingly familiar feeling of adrenaline surging through her veins as the blue horde literally scrambled over themselves in waves, their sightless stares and hungering mouths calling towards her. She dug in harder, pulling ahead of the other two, albeit slightly, as they too seemed to ramp up the speed. They burst from the alley, slipping and sliding across the slick sidewalks as they hurtles themselves towards the north end of the district.

Too.. far," Anne wheezed between breaths, her aching muscles burning, "Won't.. Make it"

"Can't stop now! We can make it!" Freddy shouted harsh words of encouragement, even as he felt fatigue weighing himself down. It was overly hopeful, perhaps, but he refused to be beaten by his own muscles.

---⚙---


It'd been an easy enough journey through the city; the navigation had guided them through the Slums with consummate ease and the Hunchback had enough bulk to plow through any of the obstacles that appeared along their path. Albert had swerved to hit one of the creatures a few times on the journey, raising inquisitive glances from the three soldiers strapped in the back but he'd merely replied with a curt "payback for Konrad" which the squad had passed over. The two of them had always been close and despite Albert's attempts to shrug off concern, he was feeling the loss of such a close comrade.

"Two mikes out" Raen called out as he saw the moving blip that represented Anne, mapped by the transponder Elliot had given to him as part of his 'job offer'. She was moving fast, surely not a good sign for most civilians would choose to bunker down in such a crisis and the dot only seemed to be picking up speed. "She's heading north" he called out to Albert, seeing the man nod in reply before Raen switched his focus back to his wrist mounted computer. He brought up a history of Anne's transponder, following their path to approximate an interception point and uploaded it to the nav-computer of the Hunchback.

"Put us there, Albert" he ordered, before he switched to face the rest of the squad who barely filled the interior of the massive armored vehicle. "Listen up, the VIP is on the move and likely to be panicked. I want everyone out once we get there. Isabella, Albert and I will take a forward sweep, Max you set up the big gun on the Hunchback. I want cover for when we make it back. We'll grab the girl, cover our retreat with rolling fire and make it back in one piece. We copy?"

"Copy" they all replied, almost synchronized in their discipline.

The Hunchback lurched to a stop before the driver's door and the back hatch popped open and the four soldiers came pouring out. Raen took point, Isabella on his left and Albert on his right, with the distinct sound of Maximus' Annihilator snapping open behind them. The rain was pelting down now, with the distant flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder lending an eerie aura to the deserted city they found themselves in. A quick check of Anne's position revealed that they'd meet her on the other side of a dark alley and that'd she'd started tiring. "Down the alley, let's go. Stay frosty, I'll grab the girl, you two cover my six" he called out over the squad radio, waving them in the direction of the blip of his HUD map before the three soldiers entered the dark alley with rifles raised.

The stormy night atmosphere continued to shatter beneath the howls of the glowing beasts, echoing calls scattered throughout the city blocks as their calls were answered by others of their kind. Like ants with the mentality of wolves they poured out of darkened nooks and hidden crannies, oozing out of the infrastructural chinks and oddities. Anne figured they must have been close to the edge of the sector, because the sheer force of the howls splitting through the air seemed to puncture her ears, assaulting her senses. Her tired body filled with sheer terror, her heart nothing but a pounding percussion to the chorus of beasts that wanted nothing more than to sink their claws into her.

The stitch in her side had grown into a burning pain, and her breaths were coming in sharp, ragged gasps. She didn't even have the energy to speak, everything was focused on running. To either side her companions didn't seem to be fairing much better, running in exhausted unison. There seemed to be an impossible number of creatures, she could physically feel the force of them charging behind her. A quick glance, one that had almost sent her sprawling to the ground, had shown an enormous herd, no, a horde. It must have been the wrong place, at the wrong time, because with numbers like that they seemed impossible to stop.

An intersecting block lay before them, it's buildings looming like dark monoliths. Anne felt the despair rising within her as they struggled to continue forward, looking for an escape. She didn't even know if she had the capacity to change her momentum with a turn, it was likely that she would fall. Still, they crossed the crossing street with the other two, who also seemed to share her opinion of squeezing into the narrow alleyway before them. Grimy walls rose up to either side, suffocating Anne, waiting to bury her. Not even the rain fell here, but ran down the walls in filthy streams, barely visible in the depressive darkness. The next thing Anne knew she ran head first into something solid, something strong that wrapped around her.

"Anne? Annelle Caldera?" he called out as the woman who his suit's computer had recognized as Elliot's friend. The girl had come barreling down the alleyway, her two friends holding stride with her but it was obvious to see they were struggling. A terrifying cacophony of howls filled the air in front of Raen; the walls seemed to crawl with a teal glow at the end of the alley. "Get behind us! We'll cover your back. Get to the vehicle at the end of the alley."

"Alpha team, rolling fire as we retreat. We'll cover their backs until Max can cover ours."

They have been running so hard for what seemed like hours, and like the others in her company, Karen was struggling to even force air into her lungs. There was plenty she wanted to talk about, which considering everything it wasn't too much to ask for some damn answers, but she couldn't waste the breath for words.

At the end of the claustrophobic inducing alleyway was the first comforting sight she's seen all night, a trio of armed men. In the darkness Karen couldn't make out who these soldiers were, and normally she would be at least a little wary of them, strangers with guns weren't often the friendly type. After the man's announcement, however, Karen was convinced these guys were actually there to help, and started to push herself even harder, her already heavily fatigued legs screaming in agony. At that moment her focus was solely on the armored vehicle that lied beyond, not quite noticing her two companions anymore.

Freddy stumbled through his long strides when he found their trail met by a line of riflemen in their path. When the other two had fatigued far earlier, Freddy had activated his internal cybernetics in order to keep himself moving. Still, he lagged just behind the two small framed women, even more so when he hesitated to continue charging towards the deep black barrels ahead, lined with death. Raen's call, along with the howls clawing at his back, kicked Freddy towards the line of gunmen.

"...into th' fryin' pan." He wheezed, following Anne and Karen. Glancing back over his shoulder, he saw the tide of pale glowing light creeping up, and more importantly, a pair of the clawed beasts making uncomfortable progress. He stumbled forwards even faster than he thought possible, approaching what he now saw to be a safe haven behind Raen and his comrades. A frown creased his face when he felt a claw just barely brush his back, and his reflexes wrestled the reigns away from his better judgement.

Whirling on his toes, Freddy pivoted to face the cobalt monstrosity behind him, and threw his shoulder into it's chest forcefully. Surprise, raw muscle, and momentum rose in a harmony as Freddy struck the beast, throwing it bodily to the floor. Before the first even hit the ground with a sickening thud, the second was upon Freddy. With a sinister wail, it heaved itself bodily at the older man in a leaping tackle.

It was all Freddy could do to keep the knives along the creature's hands from piercing into his chest as he was forced to the ground, just at Raen's feet. In a fit of panic, he tossed the beast to the side, and crawled through the line, struggling to his feet on the other side of the firing squad. He felt a sharp pain and a chill wind graze against his left bicep, and pressed his hand hard against the wound.

The two creatures, previously hidden by the fleeing trio were dispatched with a brutish efficiency by the rough looking man, he had clearly been in a few brawls in his life before. Isabella and Albert had put a round through each of the floored creatures. A quick glance behind him revealed that the trio behind him were moving far too slowly, evidently exhausted by the exertions they'd made getting so far. As the rest of the horde rounded the corner, Raen's heart skipped a beat as he realized there was just too many of them to hold off. "Full auto, open fire!" he ordered as the trio of rifles blazed into action, the soldiers continuously stepping back towards the Hunchback. The first trio of clips put a sizable dent in their approach, the dual-core rounds exploding on impact, knocking them back.

Yet the ground they made up while the three soldiers reloaded rendered the first volley almost pointless as they moved forward in a frenzied rush. The rearguard they were holding was as useful as stopping a flood with a sponge; before long they'd be buried beneath a tonne of the creatures. The second clip gave him a little more hope, the creatures had been thinned out, and the floor of the alleyway was coated in a thick sea of that teal goo. A quick glance back revealed the three were almost at the vehicle. As Raen's clip ran out he barked a quick "Break and run" before he rolled a grenade towards the onrushing horde. The grenade detonated behind the first line of the creatures, blowing a sizable chunk of them away but just as it looked like they'd make their escape, one of them crashed through a window next to Isabella and with a sickening speed plunged it's claws into her chest.

Raen reacted with all the speed he could muster, yet he was too late to stop the creature's second blow which punctured straight through her neck. His first shot nailed it in the head and he scooped up Isabella's body, the blood pooling from the wounds in her chest and neck. His heart was almost in his mouth though his head rang with a cold fury as Isabella's life monitor began blinking as deceased. It was only Albert grabbing his shoulder and yanking him with a strong arm as he said "get back to the Hunchback, we're a few feet from having Max's cover!" that snapped him out of the dreadful mists his mind had wandered to.

Raen, refusing to let those things have her body, sprinted with all that he could muster, the body draped over his shoulder in a fireman's lift. As they popped out the other side of the alley, he saw that the three they'd come to save were just climbing into the Hunchback. The first shot from Max's gigantic rifle rang out, and a creature simply exploded into chunks as the energy bolt hit it square in the chest. A second shot rang out before Raen ordered him into the drivers seat, he'd need the extra time to pack up the rifle.

His heart was pounding in his ears as he pounded towards the Hunchback, the body over his shoulder slowing him down but his legs were driven by the cold anger which gripped his heart. He almost crashed in through the back of the vehicle, barely stopped himself as he entered the back hatch but spun as he heard the sound of Albert's Interdictor cracking into life. The man had stopped halfway to buy Raen some time but in doing so had stranded himself too far from the vehicle to possibly make it. "Smoke" Albert's voice cracked over the radio as he turned his head toward the vehicle "I'm not going to make it. Get those three out of here. Thanks for the good ride buddy". As he finished the sentence, he detonated into a fiery shower and all Raen could do is slump and cradle Isabella's body as Max launched the big vehicle away from that alley.

Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by NuttsnBolts
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R A C H A E L M O R T O N
...into the fire


Air is quite a peculiar element that both exists in the world and yet it is also nothing at all. Not many people would think twice about the invisible substance except when they felt the wind blow, where it created a perculiar combination of pressure and sound. This ghostly blend lashed over Rachael's body as she rushed her way along the magrail track, sending sounds of speed into her ears and pressing against her body. She could feel it flow through her hair, tugging it behind her head, waving it around like a flag announcing it's surrender. It was one of the few experiences she could feel that was similar to what everyone else felt. An element that did not require the need of sight.

Rachael stretched her arms out to the sides, opening herself up and pushing her chest forward in order to take on the full force of the wind that pressed firmly against her torso. She let one limb begin to drop as she entered a gentle swooping motion, lifting the arm back up to continue the sway from one side to the other. A technique that in her younger years would have attracted the desires of unsavoury men and women. A hypnotic dance, a mindless trance, a muscle memory movement of meditation and relaxation; all in order to push out the thoughts and memories that plagued her fragile, tortured mind.

Those very thoughts and memories she was trying to push out were of those she serviced, the ones that sexually abused her and the ones that cherished her intimacy. It was like a disease in the brain, constantly reminding her of what she had done, how she had gotten to this point, and how she would never again feel that childhood innocence that was taken away from her at such a young age. She had lost a lot of her identity over the years by playing the submissive part that oh-so many people wanted, just so they could get their jollies off, just to appease their personal hunger and thirst. A cash payment for whoring your inner self out to the world itself.

What kind of person was she originally destined to be? It was a distant dream that would never again be reached.

Gaze stopped swaying back and forth as the faint smell of the slums entered into her nostril. A disgustingly foul odour that was a harsh reminder of the home of where she once lived. The smell of smoke, of alcohol, of sewerage, of a rotting city that was left to crumble, it was a place that would never leave her past no matter how far she ran away. This night however she was venturing back in to find Elisha, to do as Julius ordered, to kill that little bitch and place a bullet in her god-damn-bra...

>Network Connection Lost

Rachael was completely ripped out of her zen like state with the digital voice that abruptly announced in her ear. She placed her hand over her wrist and tapped the problematic device, listening to the error filled buzzing sounds of a gadget that wasn't obeying her commands. Something felt off about this change. There was no reason why she wouldn't have a signal, especially around the rail network. Gaze let her visor drop down in front of her eyes intending to use it to peer down at her communicator, to see what was causing the technical glitch. She hadn't even reached that point when she saw the horizon around her.

Ash, carnage and fire; all doused in a downpour of depressing rain.

The grainy images fed into Rachael's broken brain through the cameras, lacking the colour range of a normal eye but filled to the brim with intensity and emotion. The glow of burning buildings filled the district skyline, a destruction that was spreading with very little effort. It was demonstrating how fragile this unclean ecosystem had become, how Rachael had received a front row seat to the premier screening, how her day could turn from shit to cataclysmic.

"I don't... understand?" It was a query that offered no answers at this point in time. She didn't want to believe what she was seeing, what she was experiencing. How did she come this far into the Slums and not realised something was amiss? She looked down at her watch and checked the time, noticing it would take at least 20 minutes to get back towards Neon.

A sudden explosion, followed by a harrowing screech of rubber, rang through the through the empty streets below. It pulled Rachael's attention away from her own concerns and back to the harsh, unfair reality. With intense haste she skated over to the side of the magrail and shot her attention downwards only to see a Hunchback flash past her vision in the alleyways below. She had seen Hunchbacks before and it didn't seem out of the ordinary to see one in the Slums, but it was the other being that caught her attention. A blue, glowing humanoid that howled to the moon like a werewolf.

The ambient sounds of the Slums shifted as more and more of these demon like howls could be heard. Their noise sent a cold, spine tingling shiver through Gaze's body, an unusual feeling into her hands and legs, causing her to feel the beginnings of a sickening numb sensation. The beginnings of fear was only aided when a body crashed into the rail beside her. Her view instantly turned back to the direction in which she was travelling from, only to see the lumped corpse of an Advent thrashing about on the tracks. It had clearly attempted to side tackle her but due to her speed she managed to escape it's mighty lunge.

Paranoia began to sink in with Gaze's breath quickening to account for the unneeded panic. With each intake of air she noticed another creature climbing up onto the magrail, rushing for her, attempting to bring her down. They were trying to kill her?! They were blood thirsty and targeting her, like an animal, like she was prey. No, she was prey!!! She had dropped to the bottom of the food chain and these "things" were going to be her end. They looked as if they wanted to rip her to shreds, tear her limb from limb, leave her screaming in pain, begging for dear death!

There was too much going on, she couldn't process what she was seeing, her mind was moving at a speed she couldn't control. Rachael instinctively reached for her injector, no second thought, no desire to fight through this without her high. She grabbing it off her chest strap, holding onto the chrome cylinder for dear life, gripping it the clammy hands that wanted to fumble it out of her fingertips. The addict held out her scarred left forearm and plunged the injector into her ravaged skin, pushing hard in order to ensure that she got the dose that she wanted, listening to the gentle chimes that it voiced. All she had to do now was wait...

"Beep...

Beeeep...

Beeeeeeeep..."


The very second Gaze pulled the syringe away from her arm she could feel the world begin to slow down. It would take her a moment to adjust as she felt the chemical concoction enter her body; travelling round her veins, dulling her senses, reducing the heighted psychosis that her mind had decided to cultivate. One poison to counter another.

"Focus on what you do best, what you've trained for, what he expects you to do..."

Her own words were reassurance that she had to survive, no matter what it took. The damsel reached behind her back and placed her hand on the long black case, clutching a soft grip, squeezing it hard, and finally giving it a slight tug. The metallic case immediately opened up, folding back it's protective sides to expelled it's deadly contents; a collection of wires, steel, ammunition and explosives. Gaze could feel the jerky motion of the Tarkus as she flourished it out before her body, still transforming, still aligning up it's corresponding pieces. If god could create life on the world in seven days, Gaze could create death in seven seconds. Each click signalled that it was getting closer to killing time, that her time as the prey would shift to that of a predator. That she would become the one most feared.

The hunter took one last view at her surroundings, analysing both exactly where she was positioned and the lane she was travelling in. She needed to rely solely on her instinct, her memory, her time spent on the magrails within the slums. The visor lifted up, sending her artificial world back into the darkness that she knew so well, all before rotating round and choosing to travel along the rail network backwards. A decision to fight her enemy face to face.

The Tarkus rifle was raised up to her eye, granting her the ability to see her glowing targets as clear as day. It made it easier that they couldn't hide their luminosity within the cold, wet night. Every being had a weakness and this was one of them, something that could be used against the monstrous beast themselves. Gaze lined up a shot within the cross-hairs, sighting down the gun, focusing on the one that needed to die... and pulled the trigger. The gun exploded with fury, sending three round flying down towards the enemy, hitting the target, downing the body, but regrettably she could not confirm a kill.

The Advent flailed on the ground, rolled over onto it's front and attempted to get back up to run after Rachael. Luckily for her she had created some distance between the two, but with more of these blue beasts coming after the human, it was in essence a bitter-sweet victory. Gaze took a shot, and another, and another. With each shot round she targeted a new creature, trying desperately to make sure she didn't miss, but also frantically finding out if she could kill them, if they were in fact mortal.

The gradient of the mag rail began to shift indicating that the female needed to quickly scurry to a safe, adjacent lane. She leapt the small barrier, entering the vehicular designated section just as the personal lane she was in branched off to one of the exit ramps. It was too dangerous to exit the rail network at this current point in time, she needed to build up some more distance, needed to ensure her safety. Rachael gave a quick sprint, boosting up her speed before turning back for round two. She didn't have much further to go but at this point in time it was a matter of if she would eventually make it.

The Advent kept coming. With each one that she took down, another two would appear. It felt like a never ending onslaught that was playing more and more against her with every passing minute. They were getting closer, clawing at her, reaching a few meters away from her body. Rachael felt a sudden burst of air pass her, causing her heart to stop beating in fright. Quickly she whipped her gun sight over to see an upturned car, an unexpected object that she narrowly missed. It was that moment she fully understood that if she made any mistake, any minor mishap, she would become mince meat. A silver haired dinner for the hungry ferals.

Rachael felt a shift in her plane of existence, it was that point she was waiting for, that saving grace moment. Steadily the ground began to rotate anticlockwise, pushing her body up slowly into a position that would eventually end up parallel to the earth below. She could see in her sights the creatures making a final leap for her, unaware that the angled ground would affect their trajectory. With one last hurrah Rachael lined up her launcher towards the middle of the hungry hoard and pulled the secondary trigger, sending a package of explosive death into the crowd.

The grenade hit it's mark, a fireworks display of limbs and bodies that rained across the magrail, scattering their fleshy mass in every possible direction.

Rachael breathed out heavily as her oddly orientated body whipped it's way between two narrow apartment blocks. She could feel the adrenaline and sedative fighting against each other in her system as she held her gun behind her back and let the case reabsorb it into it's protective cocoon. The visor dropped back down as she reached for the injector in order to analysed it, pulling it off her chest and checking the indicator gauge on its side. With a slight huff she realised that she may have made a mistake.

"I double dosed... didn't I?" she expressed wearily, realising that she may have been a bit too aggressive with the amount that she took. An error that could cause a problem if she was to get into another unnecessary fire fight. It wasn't the most difficult position that she landed herself in, but it was far from the most desirable.
Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Firecracker_
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Firecracker_ ever wonder if you're better off dead?

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A M I A S D A R R I E U X
R A C H A E L M O R T O N
A Collab by @Firecracker_ & @NuttsnBolts

The silent shroud of a pitch back night that hung around Amias suffocated him as he continuted his staggered trot down the dark streets of the Core. Instead of being lit to life by a dazzling spectrum of neon lights, advertisment screens and barrel fires, the only thing that gave any sort of visibility in the blackness was the occasional streelight or, frighteningly, the passing Advent. Amias stuck to the walls of the buildings, not being able to move much faster than an apprehensive side step, as his dwindling high was still strong enough to conjure images and faces from the darkness, often unsettling enough to make the artist shut his eyes and stop moving until they left him alone.

A noise peircing the silence startled the shaken artist as he dropped to the ground, shielding his face and head. Was it gunfire? Explosion? Impending death by evisceration? No, none of those. A small alarm chirped from Amias' right arm, making him feel foolish about his initial reaction. He rolled over onto his back, and opened the screen on his arm, the bright light of the medical computer burning his eyes.

Time to take my medicine. Fucking great.

It would only be a matter of time before the tingling and numbness would begin in his fingers, and only shortly after that before his arms would have no sensation at all. All the while, the pain in his shoulders and head would only be pounding more and more aggresively until he finally got his next dosage. Of all the nights to forget his medication, and it had to be this one.

I need to get back home. But I don't have any way to use the Mag Rail... I'll get Bules!

Connection lost...

FUCK.

At least making it to the Mag Rail was the first move. Stores around Mag Rails stations always sold pairs of Mag Rail Boots to people who needed them, at absorbidant prices, nonetheless. Credits were no issue, but seeing the way things were going, Amias could probably just swipe a pair for himself.

Now, for more walking in the pitch black. Hopefully he could still feel his arms by the time he got there.

♦ ♦ ♦


The world around Rachael felt as if it had been on a week long drinking binge, zipping past her body, pressing the wind against her back as she travelled backwards down the Mag Rail. It was an unusual mixture of a slow haze that felt overwhelmingly dull and repetative, leaving Rachael to experience the sensation of playing a zombified passenger on the worse rollercoaster ride in human history. She let out a heavy sigh knowing that if she hadn't double dosed she would be in a much better position than what she was now, but thanks to her recklessness she was now paying the price.

The mixture of sedatives and purple shard dust flowed through her bloodstream, entering into every cell in her body, fighting the adrenaline that was keeping her active. She could feel the responsiveness of her body gradually become harder and harder to control. Each movement required a proper thought process that would have been a lot easier if she managed her dosage properly, but instead she was now left with a nauseated, confused and uncertain mind that had no idea as to what it should be processing.

The Mag Rail twisted and turned around the abandoned building as it lead the girl into one of the empty stations in the Slums. She could barely register where she was, but naturally rotated her body around as she prepared to leave the network. Her thought process had gone into autopilot, instructing her to take the first few steps off the tracks and onto the concrete platform. The feet buckled, a result of reaching down in an attempt to turn off her boots, casuing her to fall onto the ground.

"Mother, fucken, bitch!" bellowing out as her knees hit down hard on the pavement, "Stuupid—whooore!"

Gaze pushed out her arm and pressed her hand against the ground, palming it order to lift her body back up. She hadn't anticipated how the ride would induce an unwanted numbness but knew that if she didn't move she would turn into a free lunch meal for those things.

Her legs ached, scratched up from the fall as she made her way back up. She dropped the visor to see where she was, noticing that the shops that surrounded the station were abandoned and silent. She only viewed the world for a minute or two before her head started to split open from the raging agony. Instantly she shut off and lifted the visor and staggered her way forward, landing up against a post and holding onto it so that she didn't fall over a second time. Rachael had pushed herself quite far, further than normal and was disapointed in herself for not controlling her emotions. The eyes began to water as the sadness and sorrow of the night weighed in on her.

Flinching when he heard yelling from ahead of him, Amias crouched into the pitch black shadows of a support column beside him. Resting on his heels, Amias slowly and silently set down his pair of stolen Mag Rail boots, and made sure the safety on his laser handgun was still off. His whiteknuckled grip was still going strong, the fear driven into him by the gunshots and explosions he had heard earlier approaching the station. There was somthing there, and it was heavily armed.

Hopefully it was still human.

Pushing all of his courage and guts into one step, the artist finally moved forward, silently stepping from the shadows into the albeit still rather dark Mag Rail station. Up a short set of stairs, Amias was level with the entirety of the platform, cursing that day he chose not to get the eye with built in night-vision.

All that fucking money and I still bou-

Shuffling ahead of Amias inturrupted his thoughts, and nearly sent him backwards tumbling down the stairs, had he not steadied himself in his crouch. His hands and weapon were barely visible had it not been for the moonlight flowing into the station.

He strained his eyes to see something moving infront of him, a figure of small stature, that seemed to be leaning or doing something to a beam near them. There were some sort of small lights, a glow that seemingly floating in the air around the head of the silhouette, sending another wave of apprehension into Amias. Was it beginning to turn into one of those monsters outside? Had they been infected somehow?

The being let out a small weeping sound as it limped from their resting position against the steel support, swaying back and forth as it made it's way towards Amias. From the view of an outsider it didn't have a true sense of direction; shuffling on the ground, stumbling about, groaning and muttering to itself. It's foot punted into a small step, sending it rolling forward, crying out in agony at the sudden misfortune that it had experienced. It rolled forward towards the artist, landing on the ground before him, narrowily missing a full body collision.

"Fuck! Amias hissed, jumping backwards away from the tumbling body, nearly losing his footing as he stumbled backwards. He took a shaky stance, pistol aiming at his best guess of where the silhouette had stumbled, difficult to see in the dark.

"You've got five seconds to say something human before I fucking kill you! Amias demanded of the being before him. If it came to it, he wasn't entirely sure he would survive another encounter with a monster, but at least he had the advantage for a moment.

The sweat in his palms and on his forehead began to trickle, and after a few moments of silence, Amias shakily pointed his pistol towards the ceiling of the station, and yanked the trigger. The shot made less noice than a gun would, but the bright flash and shower of dust that fell down reminded him he still had some sort of leathailty to him, even if he was a shaky, terrified mess. If only he could feel his trigger finger.

"Three. Seconds—

"Whaat d-do youu wannt!?!" Rachael let out a slurred cry, lifting her clammy hands up over her head, and curling up on the ground. She could feel the drug high taking over her body, causing her reactions to feel slow and uncordinated. With a sudden burst of adrenaline the girl kicked the floor, attempting to crawl away, attempting to prolong her life from yet another near death scenario. "Just g-get the fark awaay from m-me!"

The girl couldn't see what was going on and her head was starting to pound internally like a metal rock, a thumping sensation that was building up to a nausiating sickness. She hadn't felt the buildup of fear and terror like this for the longest of time. She activated her mask, letting her sights fill with digital strobe lights, gazing up at the one who threatened her and focused clearly on the gun in his hand.

"I... I... " she gasped, not sure if she was about to eat a lead salad.

Amias flinched at the sudden sounds of movement in front of him, listening to what sounded like a woman struggle around on the ground. A look aggresive confusion took over his face as he listened to the woman on the ground struggle to speak.

"You're really starting to creep me out, lady. If you are injured or infected or just on some really strong drugs, tell me so I can get the fuck out of here. Don't try an-"

Ping. Ping. Ping.

Amias's look of confusion turned into that of angered offense, as his arm's alarm began chirping abruptly. Opting to focus on the stranger in front of him, the artist tried to ignore it, but after a few moments of teeth grating irritation only adding to the tension of the situation, he broke his focus.

"You better not fucking move."

Amias drew his weapon away from the woman for a moment, opening the panel on his arm, and shut off the alarm. He grimaced at the intensifying numbness in his fingers that had begun it's slow crawl to the rest of his hands, before quickly remembering to aim back at the woman in front of him, noticing her make some subtle movements towards the case on her back.

Amias clenched his jaw, and pulled the trigger, letting a laser bore a hole in the cement flooring between them. He took a step forward, taking a blind kick towards the figure, not knowing what exactly he was hitting. His legs seemed to move themselves as he knelt down, poking the barrel of his pistol into the neck of the woman. Being closer, he could make out a few more details of the girl. Some metallic plating, dousted with light obscured her face. Amias' imagination began to wander a little on what it could be, but his voice spoke of a different subject.

"Look. I'm just trying to get out of this fucking hell hole before one of these monsters, or whatever they are, tears me a new asshole. I can't exactly leave if you're gonna shoot me in the back when I walk away."

Twisting and boring the still warm barrel of his pistol into the woman, he leaned forward.

"So convince me."

The force of the heavy kick that she didn't see coming and the burning sensation of the gun that dug into the side of her neck gradually flowed through her body as time passed. It didn't matter how many times she got beaten up over her lifetime, it always hurt like hell. This time she had excaped a hoard of monsters to only end up being the punching bag for an unknown man she only just met, and one that was threatening her life.

"Con-vince you? How?" she opened up frantically, laying slumped on the ground with the him pushing down on top, pressing her for answers. "Even if I did shoot you in the back it won't achieve anything."

Rachael deactivated her visor and lifted her head up so that she could look at the man questioning her. The combined pain of his beating and her headache were pushing her to the limit, causing her to feel weak and light headed.

"I'm fucken blind! Can't see shit without my visor... and you almost k-kicked the fucken thing!"

"Ah, is that so?" Amias said, letting up on his poking into her neck. He put a single hand over the visor on the woman's head, and gave it a slight wiggle.

"Maybe I'll just take it from you, then. Make sure I can trust you."

"Why? So you can draaag the blind girl around like a homeless puppy dog?"

A single puff of air shot out of Amias' nose in a quick laugh. "Who said I'd drag you around afterwards? World's a cruel place, Miss. I'm just watching my own ass."

Rachael scowled at his threat. While he wasn't technically able to remove the head piece without the required equipment, the thought of him doing something to hinder her was more than enough to convince the girl.

"So what are you exactly pro-posing?" she reluctantly asked.

"I'm suggesting you stay on the ground for a little longer, let me get on that Mag Rail, and get the fuck out of dodge. We part ways and that's all there is to it."

Amias removed the gun from the woman's neck, but kept it pointed at her as he stood back up.

"Whatever that is on your back you were reaching for looks like it should keep you protected pretty well. Provided you know how to use it, that is."

"Sooo. First things... first." Rachael drunkinly started, lifting up a finger to gesture the number one, "The Mag Rail is a terrible idea. Tha-t place is over run by the blue doods. You'll never make it past the first stop with that pissssy weapon of yours—" By this time she had stared to lean back on the ground, placing herself in a more comfortable position with her available arm as a resting point.

"—and SECONDLY!!!" she said louder than before, lifting up her middle finger to indicate that she had another important piece of information, "This thing here was no good... noooo goooood. Not that you would even know how to use it."

Amias lifted an eyebrow as the woman began to speak more openly, as she sounded incredibly inebriated, or at least under the influence of something. Having dealt with his own post-high crash for the past 30 minutes, Amias pitied what this girl would have to go through in a short matter of time. Quickly, though, the information the woman relayed to him began to sink into his head, which had slowly begun aching over the course of the conversation.

"Well, blue dudes aside, I can't imagine the APD is letting people out of here at the moment.Fuck!" Amias gritted his teeth, allowing his handgun to fall away from the girl. Now that he was sober, more rational thought was taking over his mind.

"Say, you wouldn't happen to belong to the...Underground, would you?"

Rachael shook her head, pausing for a moment when she felt her brain slosh from one side to the other. She took a deep breath in, hopeing that her actions would cause her to vomit before she was ready to reply.

"Nooo. I grew up in-the Slums, but I'm now living in Nee-on. I do k-now some of the routes undergrr-underground tunnels but hate using them." misinterpreting what he he was discussing due to the light concussion.

"Well, I meant, like, the criminal Underground, but, that works too. Amias watched the girl, looking her up and down for a moment. Whatever it was on her back, it had to be powerful, and no normal citizen carries weapons of that caliber. She had to have some sort of connections. But, the underground tunnels sounded like a good bet.

Amias knelt down, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder rather gently, and spoke more softly than before.

"I don't trust you. You don't trust me, and I'm sure you must not like me much after my little bit of roughness, but I think I know what you do like. Credits. You get me out of this hell hole, you get me into Sector One intact, and you can name your price. Within reason, of course." He gave one of his classic lady-killing smiles, yet he doubted she could see it.

"Farken credits dun mean shit to mee," Rachael sloppily swatted the hand on her shoulder away from her, hitting it with a slap that sounded like a small clap of lightning but lacked anywhere near the same force. "I didn't come 'ere to freaken escort sum rich jackass like you out of 'ere. Got my own shit to deal with. Okay?"

Rachael struggled as she began to push herself up, using a fair amount of her energy to balance herself out. She knew that she had to find Elisha, rampaging monsters or not. Julius wasn't the type of person that would care about the risks, only that she completed the task he set out for her.

"I've got a splicer to find," she expressed, tripping over her own feet as she tried to stand up. "My maaster ain't gonn-a like it if I don't... don't..."

Rachael held out her hand, first two fingers pointing forward, in the shape of a gun. She was motioning that she wanted to take a shot at something, at someone. The imaginary gun kicked back from the deaf shot as she landed her hand onto the side of her face, dragging it down as if to wipe away the thoughts of what she had to do.

"I have to do it..." not realising she was speaking her mind out aloud, "Julius will kill me if I don't."

Amias couldn't help but smirk at the girl. Not her problem, not even money could buy her. Just like him.

"Wait. Julius? That's funny..." He could immediately put his devilish face and haunting glowing amber eyes to the name, but there was no way.

There was no way Amias could be conversating with one of Julius The Leech's killers. He took a crouched step back.

"The Leech? Julius the fucking leech? And you're that blind killer everone pisses their pants over, huh? Funny, you don't seem much threatening to me, honestly. Then again, looks are always deceiving."

Rachael hacked in shock at his brasen remark.

"Well Excuuuse Meee!!! I've now had twoo floggingz today, thanks to you! I'm fukin 'igh on Purrrple Sleeep, aaannnddd I-amost-got-eaten-by-a-blue-fucken-zombie!!! So Itz not MY fault I'm not damn scary e-nuff!" By this point the girl was clenching her fists, leaning forward and yelling at the unnamed man like a childish brat. Overflowing with a built up of emotions that she had been bottling up since earlier that day. Rachael was lucky that Julius wasn't around to see this erratic performance otherwise she may have copped a fistful from him.

A faint howl rang through the streets from a distant, unknown location; a creature alerted by the commotion that the two individuals were creating. The hair on the back of Amias and Rachael neck stood on it's end, sending cold shivers down their spine, bringing back vivid memories of events from the most recient of time.

Rachael booted up her visor, instantly cycling into it's night vision mode as she darted her sights down the various pathways around her. The heavy panting in her breath was a clear indicator to the fears that she experiencing, the dosage that she had injected herself with seemed less and less effective with each passing moment, and on top of this the psychedelic haze that she was seeing before her eyes was adding to her nausia. Rachael's cheeks puffed as her stomached burped a rancid smell, forcing her to return back to the visual darkness that she knew so well.

"F-uck you..." she muttered, knowing that her best current chance of survival was to tag along with this man. "I'll do it. I'm yours..."

The words came out with a sense of defeat, knowing that she was pushing her body into dangerous territory, risking a collapse from exhaustion.

Amias' wide eyes shot in every direction around him, trying to make sure they weren't currently being surrounded by a pack of the blue-glowing monsters. Even thought it made him slightly happy knowing that he had managed to kill one of them, and she hadn't, he still had no idea how he pulled it off. Fear still ran rampant in his heart, and he tried his best to steady his voice before he spoke again.

"Purple Sleep? What the fuck are you doing taking downers when you're out on a mission?" Amias said, trying to force an entertained chuckle to mask his apprehension."We get to my place, I'll get you some shit to sober you right up. I would give you some now, but-"

As a panel in his right wrist opened up, Amias eyed his empty syringe vials regretfully. He had forgetten to restock on 'system flusher', a potent cocktail that helped flush the body of too many drugs, at the expense of plenty of loose bowel movements and dehydration.

"Fresh out... Well, it looks like I'm also doing you a bit of a favor by making sure you don't waltz your ass right off the MagRails, you're so damn out of it. We'll call it even, alright?"

Amias stood back up straight, taking a look around at the view of the city around them. Buildings burned in bright firest scattered across the cityscape. APD Interceptors zoomed and zipped about, searchlights illuminating all the chaos. If one stared hard enough, it appeared that an occasional body, dead or alive, Amias wasn't sure, would drop from various windows and roofs. Fear and desparation had taken their stranglehold of the Core, and now, it would probably move out to the surrounding sectors. Not even Amias was sure the walls would hold, but, he certainly prayed they would.

After putting on his freshly aquired Mag Boots, Amias wrapped a cold metal arm around the small woman's torso, and placed her gently in front of him to the ramp leading to the Mag Rails.

"You take point, so I don't lose you."
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