Hidden 4 mos ago Post by ERode
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Ah, humid heat. Now this was nostalgic. His lungs drowned gradually with every breath, and his hair stuck to his inflamed cheeks, the heat that accompanied the moist vapours such that even in the shadow of the research facility, one could not escape that pervasive warmth. Xuan-Yu rolled his shoulders back as he scanned about, coming to the same conclusion as Dulac: nothing hostile, nothing yet. He stepped over the virulent roots and the foliage, imprints in the moss and grass the only sign of his passing, before bounding gracefully over the receptionist's desk.

It had only been a handful of years. Though humidity, vermin, and vegetation could do work enough to destroy any chance one would have of recovering the electronics on the ground floor of the building, perhaps there were documents within the cabinets. A map of the place would be a start, certainly. Maybe keys left behind, so they didn't have to bust down any doors unnecessarily.
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While no animal life beyond the wayward rat seemed to be visible, the continual chatter of the local birds was a comforting background noise in a place that was so devoid of humanity in spite of formerly being occupied by it.

The desk in particular was seemingly colonized by a variety of arthropods beneath it, the underside proving to have become quite damp and moist. Still, even a particularly large centipede was hardly disconcerting compared to the Warped, and it seemed more interesting in finding cover under plantlife then anything else upon being disturbed.

Within the drawers were a few papers that were rendered rather difficult to read due to moisture. One labeled the facility something indistinguishable beyond the word 'research and development', and another seemed to be mentioning supply shipments.

But perhaps most importantly was the presence of a keycard labeled 'security level 1'. At the very least, it would potentially allow for an easier path into the facility without being forced to get louder.

A rustling from deeper into the facility signaled the presence of some kind of creature, down the hall.

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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Izurich
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--Quiet Before the Storm--


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Now joining Supplice - who was already in the air - and then followed soon by Selene, Infernus was technically in a squad of three, but she didn't physically stick close to them, instead spreading out in a deliberate manner; their current objective necessitated such a formation for the best area coverage after all. Right now, things seemed to be quiet, perhaps too quiet for those who remembered how Sydney Harbor was a decade ago, always bustling with activity, day and night. Now, its vicinity looked more like a tiny seaside village at the north end of Scotland or something. However, sailors and fishermen needed not despair for humanity now had the means to fight back against the xeno incursion. Fate willing, the harbor would return to its former glory sooner than later.

Blazing over the ocean, her flames yet untouched by the opposite element just underneath her, Pyra went about her task methodically, eyes and ears peeled for any signs worth noticing. There was an ironic twist to this situation when juxtaposed against the battle at Saitama. There, Warped were everywhere she could see, even up in the skies, but right now, she was struggling to even find one. Yet, the sense of danger was the same between then and now. Pyra had no reason to believe that the moment she let her guard down, some kind of titanic sea serpent wouldn't jump out of the surface and swallow her whole.

The brunette's meticulousness seemed to pay off as her sensors detected some kind of clue, it wasn't something that was in your face kind of sign, but in lieu of the lack of anything else, it was as good as any. "Infernus reporting, I detected unusual pulses of light from this area... the sunlight seemed to be blocked by something opaque and large enough to do so, akin to a whale. Over." A part of her wanted to dive to see get a clear visual on the thing, but between shooting her Chi-Mechframe in the foot and the possible risk of being nommed, it was wiser to err on the side of caution.
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Mole
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S E R A P H I M A D R A K O S
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Seraphima hugged herself as she thought of the victims and the disorderliness of the situation. Her lips pressed together, keeping herself quiet. A few ideas crept into her mind, and she contemplated them before speaking. She let out a small breath, Hoshiko was right. They needed to work quickly if they were going to keep the body count from increasing. There was a lot of guess work to do, and now was not the time to play timid novice.

"Okay, they were all alone, during times of the day when people are not out-and-about, which we've already determined," she started. Her eyes looked upward towards the ceiling. She had one hand that was using her fingers for counting her ideas, and the other hand was pointing towards these digit'd ideas. "Perhaps there is more than one killer, and they take turns and also work together in tandem," she let out a breath, feeling insecure with herself.

It's better to get all the guess work out instead of holding it in while doing the research. Seraphima preferred research, but usually she knew where to begin. This mysterious stuff was way different than what she had studied while on the monastery. Everything was much more straightforward, which was part of the reason she enjoyed it so much. Of course, she had to admit the Divine Mystery had a good hold on her; it did not involve so much blood, unless she was going to count the martyrs, and... Ugh! Seraphima looked back at the group. Her face went flat. I really focus much better in my suit.

"There could also be a similarity in location of body and how they were murdered," she offered quietly, while pointing to a third finger. Seraphima offered an uneasy smile as she looked at the other two pilots. She made a small shrug. She was secretly creeped out by this particular mission. She wanted to believe that the Warped were mindlessly killing civilians, but in reality, this mission made them see to have more will than she previously had believed.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by ERode
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Security level 1? Not much, and not what he wanted, but it was something. Rolling the plastic card between his fingers, the invisible Frame Pilot let out a low whistle to catch Dulac's attention.

"Think fast."

With that, he flicked the card towards her, the stiff material and slim form making it travel the distance easily. She would catch it, hopefully. If she didn't, that spoke terribly of their chances here. Regardless, Xuan-Yu bound over the reception desk once more, his gaze turning towards the hallway. There still was no sense that a Warped was present here, but expecting unexpected encounters was the sort of thing that a decade of war and paranoia ingrained upon you. Flicking on comms so he had no need to shout, the man said, rather curtly, "I'll scout."

And with that, he strode down the corridor, stilling his heart and opening all five of his senses.
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Laduguer
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_______________________________________________________________

Louisa sauntered over to the desk as Hoshiko fervently set to work on the paperwork, and paced the room as Seraphima listed off her thoughts. She sensed that all three of them were a little out of their depth with a case of this nature, and unless the piles of paperwork suddenly animated and turned into some kind of stationary demon that they could beat the crap out of, their skills were not well-suited to office work.

She made a distinctly half-hearted effort to leaf through a couple of documents, before shrugging and speaking up.

"You know, as much as I'm all for analyzing these reports... maybe we're overthinking this."

She walked over to where Hoshiko was sitting.

"The monster -- or monsters, like Drakos says -- clearly have a thing for targetting loners walking around the city at night. Most people wouldn't do that, even at the best of times, so the monster doesn't have a massive pool of potential targets. That means for a given person walking around at night on their own, they have a pretty good chance of being the next victim."

"For most people, that would be a distinctly bad thing, but for us, maybe we can use that to our advantage. Do you see where I'm going with this? Why try and go to the monster, when we can make the monster come to us."


She put her hand on Hoshiko's shoulder.

"If - I don't know - the cutest and youngest one here were to take a late night stroll, the monster might throw itself right into our grasp. Right? It comes in expecting an easy... err... dismembering, but instead -- BAM -- it gets dogpiled by three mechframes."

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When Louisa began her sauntering, Seraphima stopped counting and lowered her hands. More hypothesis were scribbling all over her guesswork, but she remained quiet, feeling quite scatter brained. She buried her hands in her lap and watched the snow haired frame pilot. Her lips pressed together.

Louisa walked over to where Hoshiko was sitting. She put her hand on the other frame pilot's shoulder. "If - I don't know - the cutest and youngest one here were to take a late night stroll, the monster might throw itself right into our grasp. Right? It comes in expecting an easy... err... dismembering, but instead -- BAM -- it gets dogpiled by three mechframes."

Seraphima made a small smile, mouth slightly opening, "That's a great idea, Louisa," she encouraged innocently. "Have the murders ever occurred in the same place? If not, then we can x-out the locations and try places that have not been scenes, yet." Her brows knit together, as she closed her eyes and made a wider, more hesitant smile. She really did not enjoy this mission, suddenly imagining a Warped being kept as a killer pet by a human. How much different was she to the government organization? Very different.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Medili
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Fishy Light Pulse

Sydney Harbor | Daytime
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"Now where could that big fishy thing be. Hmm..." Teodora mumbled to herself, off the communication channel of course, as she continued her search for the supposed sea monster while maintaining her speed and altitude. Despite the fact that it was an actual mission involving a dangerous warped, she found the act of slowly cruising and searching for the target to be rather boring. Never was one for this kind of mission, even in video games... Still, she tried to keep her senses up as best she can. The motivation to be successful and returning home as a hero again helped to fuel her in this regard.

A while later, Teodora stopped her advance to take a short break. By now, the team was separated by quite a bit of distance. Selene stuck close to the harbor while Infernus was going the other direction from Supplice's own advance. At least they were still within distance to be able to spot each other, helped by the emissions and lights that resulted from each of their flight methods. As Teodora remained hovering in place, briefly looking at her far away teammates, the communication channel came alive with Pyra's voice.

"Infernus reporting, I detected unusual pulses of light from this area... the sunlight seemed to be blocked by something opaque and large enough to do so, akin to a whale. Over."

Unusual pulses of light? Well that's just downright... Fishy. Teodora giggled a bit at her own internal joke. A smile remained in her face following the brief giggle, excitement starting to build back up within her. What Pyra found sounded like it might be a pretty good clue. It might even be the warped itself. I wonder if it's a whale-jellyfish crossover then? These warpeds really like to take interesting forms and shapes, fufu... After that brief line of thought, the jet engines on Supplice's wings charged up once more before then sending Teodora flying through the sky at a significantly faster speed than the cruising speed she were previously maintaining. She headed straight for where Pyra and the pulses of light were at. "Understood, Infernus. Supplice, moving to your position!"
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by VitaVitaAR
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"... Heeeh?"

Hoshiko didn't really understand most of what she was looking at, nor did she have any idea of where to begin narrowing down potential locations to search.

But she definitely knew that Louisa was proposing that she act as bait.

"Cutest? Eh-heheheh..." she scratched the back of her head, cheeks flushing slightly at the praise. Regardless of the situation, it was still a little embarrassing to be talked up like that.

To be honest, she really didn't mind acting as bait at all. If it helped, and made sure that no-one else got hurt, she was open to pretty much anything. Besides, she was a frame pilot, right? Whatever attacked her wouldn't be ready for that. It was targeting defenseless civilians, after all.

Anything it took to protect innocent people was fine in her mind.

"Um... if that's what it takes to lure it out, then I can do it!" said Hoshiko with a firm nod.

But that wasn't all. She'd noticed something unusual about the map, even if she didn't quite understand it.

"Oh, right, speaking of luring it out... I don't know what these blue lines mean, but all the attacks happen right next to them?"

The brunette pointed to the blue lines in question, each of the attacks happening along one of them.

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by JDubs
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Norika didn't bat an eye, and caught the card between her fingers. She decided to go through the desk more thoroughly. Maybe there was something useful here. She heard Xuan-Yu's voice over the comm. "Copy that," she replied. "Just make sure nothing bites you in the ass or turns you into a sandwich." She opened up more drawers. The papers and books had been eaten away by natural world reclaiming the building. She couldn't make out much. R&D, supply shipments...

She walked around the desk, following after her partner's footsteps. Norika moved slowly, checking corners and rooms for any signs of Warped. "Deathstalker, this is Titania. Find anything useful yet? Herbs, maybe a secret passage or something?"

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by PKMNB0Y
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Elise Kim
Sydney — Coastline

Slow as she was to catch up with the others, Elise found herself able to slowly hover over the ocean below with a virtual HUD in front of her to supplement her vision. Though she could not naturally see into the ocean, her Chi-Mechframe would at least allow her to peer ever so slightly into the depths. Diving in would obviously be the best method of getting a glimpse within, but given the situation, that would be nothing if not suicidal.

In the midst of her search, though, Pyralis' voice would ring loud and clear to her communications channel—and given that Teodora seemed to be moving into position, it seemed prudent that she should do much of the same. Temporarily closing the display in front of her, Elise looked at the map in her peripherals before responding.

"I think it would be best to examine it together, then. Selene, heading to your position now."

After a short cruise in the skies above towards the other two Chi-Mechframes, Elise slowed to a stop next to both of her companions. Unlike the other two, she had no real way of increasing her flight speed, which meant that they were left trying to identify whatever was underwater without any real visual aids. Now that she was here, though, whatever Pyralis had found was most certainly visible to the naked eye—and stretched well beyond that of even the largest aquatic animals.

"...Huh. I see what you mean," the young woman said, slowly moving about to gauge the size of the monstrosity for herself. "This thing is... Huge."

After finally slowing down again, Elise once again activated the HUD in front of her face and attempted to get a better look into the waters below, hoping to at least get some sort of clearer visual beyond all of the oddly-glowing lights underwater. What she found, though, was a bit more disconcerting than what she had hoped.

Some sort of odd fist-sized blue ball with a dark blue center seemed to be floating about connected to something translucent—or so she saw with her first look within. As she flew on above to get a better grasp for as to what that might have been, though, that thing seemed to be one of dozens, if not hundreds more attached to the body of the beast below.

And worse still, one of them seemed to be pointing towards her now. And another. And more still—

"...There's no way it noticed us, right?" Elise muttered, half out of a faint hope in her heart before the lights beneath the water began to grow brighter and brighter.

"I think it's hostile! Evasive maneuvers!"

With barely any time to react, Elise twisted her body around and to the side, dragging her Chi-Mechframe with her as a multitude of lasers seemed to pierce through the ocean below and towards her position. Through gritted teeth, the young woman pulled out her sniper rifle and took aim—

Only for one of the lasers to curve back around from behind, smashing into one of her wings and sending her hurtling towards the ocean.

@Izurich@Medili


Perth — Provisionary Office

"..."

Staring silently at the map that Hoshiko had marked up, Sherry seemed to have tuned out everything that the Pilots were saying as a frown slowly crossed her face.

"...There's no way I could have overlooked that... Could I...?"

Fingers tracing along the locations where Hoshiko had marked up and checking what map she had been using, the woman simply shook her head and stated her thoughts to the three present.

"The sewers. All of these are close to the main sewage canals in the city," she said, taking a deep breath before stepping back. "There are a few clusters at these two locations, given what has been marked, but even the more scattered incidents do line up with that."

Of course, traversing said sewers on foot could be a task that would take days, but at the very least, this might narrow down their choice of action somewhat.

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While Sherry began speaking, Seraphima quit rattling off incoherent ideas to herself -- now playing with her long black hair. She quieted herself, drawing her fingers away from her long strands, and suddenly gently clasped her hands together, "Thank God!" Her smile continued. "... a clue." The sewer made perfect sense and for whatever reason or another made the mission seem much more appropriate. Her hands unclasped and landed in her lap and toyed with her black skirt. She probably looked ridiculous. Who would be so excited for traveling through a sewer? Seraphima continued her hesitant smile. There was really nothing else left for her to do but keep a positive disposition.
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Izurich
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--Oooh, Pretty Lights- Oh Shit--


@PKMNB0Y @Medili

Now gathered with her two squadmates, Pyralis received second opinions regarding what she saw, confirming that her eyes - nor sensors - were playing tricks on her; there really was something titanic lurking under the surface. The brunette's instincts steadily went to a level where she subconsciously prepared for hostile engagements, especially when she saw those collections of lights; as mesmerizing as they might be, the circumstances surrounding them made them ominous instead. Thus, when the lights began growing brighter, Pyra didn't even regard Elise's half-hearted mutter and instead expected her shout.

"Infernus to Horizon Command, a hostile aquatic Warped engaged us at the Sydney Harbor, over." The short-haired frame pilot reported calmly to the mobile fortress even as her chi-mechframe blazed to the side, avoiding the torrent of beam attacks. "Engaging hostiles." If the thing was adamant at staying underwater - as expected - then she had to employ techniques with higher penetrating power. With a plan in mind, she began charging the draconic lance as swirls of dragonflame coalesced on it.

Infernus then took aim downwards, holding her lance steady, "Gravios Beam!" she enunciated as she fired three successive jets of warped-scorching flames, much like an oversized blowtorch, a small but highly concentrated beam of steel-melting fire. However, at the same time, Selene seemed to be hit by one of the hostile projectiles, crippling her mobility as a result. Right, this was a battle, not target practice, their enemy was going to shoot back. "Supplice, please assist Selene, over." Fortunately, they weren't working alone.
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Medili
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Attack of the Sea Monster

Sydney Harbor | Daytime
@Izurich@PKMNB0Y


"Mmhmm. Huge is right. My, I think it's even bigger than a blue whale. No, definitely bigger. Also definitely fitting to be called a sea monster." Teodora said as she looked downward toward the underwater silhouette of the gigantic creature, hovering in place at a slightly higher altitude than the other two of her teammates. She continued observing the creature along with Pyra and Elise, noticing the numerous blue balls around the same time as Elise did. It was around that time as well that Teodora realized that they probably shouldn't be gathering motionless above the creature like this. The creature was a Warped after all, and there had never been such thing as a non-hostile Warped as far as Teodora can recall. "Btw..."

"...There's no way it noticed us, right?" Teodora's own words was cut short as she heard Elise muttering, the white-haired girl seeming to realize the same thing. "I think it's hostile! Evasive maneuvers!"

Attacks were launched by the creature immediately after that in the form of multiple beams of laser, mostly aimed at Selene. By reflex, Teodora performed her own evasive movement, dashing to the side as her eyes continued following the trajectory of the beams. Thus, she saw when the beams flew past Elise harmlessly; except for one which curved back around as Elise pulled out her sniper rifle and took aim at the creature, oblivious to the danger. The boosters of Supplice's wings were already charging by then as Teodora again got into moving by reflex, knowing that it was too late to warn Elise about the attack. As the laser struck one of Selene's wings and causing Elise to plummet toward the ocean, Supplice were already in motion, boosting toward her.

"Already on it, Infernus!" Teodora replied to Pyra as she stored back her rapier before then grabbing Elise by the waist as Elise and Selene passed safely through Supplice's energy barrier; Elise's biological marker and Selene both already registered as Friendly in Supplice's IFF system just like with practically all Chi-Mechframes and staff members of the Horizon. "Are you alright, dear Elise?" asked Teodora to the sniper as she continued grabbing Elise around the waist using her right hand. She then turned her gaze toward the creature under water, aimed her beam rifle at it, and then let loose a rapid burst of three beam shots flying toward it.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by VitaVitaAR
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There was a rustling ahead. Something was moving in a patch of plant-life that had sprouted in a particularly damaged portion of the facility. Something alive.

The plants swayed back and forth, and the creature within stirred more as it was approached. There was a dark, hunched shape, with a long tail and two small arms, twitching and fidgeting slightly as it slowly turned its head to face the frame pilots...

... And then sprang from the foliage.

The startled wallaby bounded away with considerable speed, having never expected to see human beings of any sort in this place. It seemed it had been feeding on the plants in a relatively sheltered area.

Its little paradise had been disturbed by the pilots investigation, but it had been too stubborn to leave until it was approached more closely.

Far more concerning, however, was what was entangled in the plant it was eating.

The bones were bleached white, but still recognizable. There wasn't a single scrap of flesh remaining on them, perhaps obviously due to the environment.

But the skeletal remains were intact enough to know that it was human, and to see the way the skull had clearly been pierced by something incredibly sharp, and the ribcage seemed to be sliced open, cut at odd angles.

The person who had died here was doubtlessly especially unlucky.

But to those who had seen the dead before, such a sight was perhaps not especially disturbing.

The fact that all the birdsong had suddenly ceased may have been moreso.

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Laduguer
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_______________________________________________________________

Louisa leaned over Hoshiko's shoulder and inspected the map along with Sherry, raising an eyebrow as she followed the blue lines running across the map with her gaze. She nodded slowly as the pattern sunk in and smiled at Seraphima as she made her exultation.

"That's definitely what you would call a clue, yeah. Okay, so... maybe there's something to be said for the virtue of paperwork after all."

She took her hand off Hoshiko's shoulder and folded her arms.

"We can put my plan on the drawing board then. No need to put Hoshiko in danger if we can be more confident about where this thing-- uh... or these things are."

She spoke as she wandered back over to the window.

"Maybe we can suit up and handle this the old fashioned way. It looks like this thing has some aversion to coming out during the day. So, if we get into the sewers before nightfall and cover as much ground as we can, we might have a better chance of both encountering it and cornering it."

She cleared her throat.

"And uh... catching it before it kills again, obviously."
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by PKMNB0Y
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Elise Kim
Sydney — Coastline

With the water rapidly growing closer as her body spiraled out of the air, Elise gritted her teeth and braced for the worst——

Only for the timely arrival of Supplice to save her from what would have likely been a gruesome death in the ocean below. A nearly-instinctual sigh of relief left the young woman's lips as she allowed her body to relax in her companion's grip before the sound of more lasers breaking through the water reminded her of her current position.

"Thanks for the assist," the half-Korean girl said, nodding her head as she turned her attention towards her Chi-Mechframe. "...I don't think I'm flying again 'til that wing gets looked at."

Though the opening salvo had since subsided, the returning fire from Supplice seemed like it had done surprisingly little—which, given the size of the Warped, might have been expected. As more beams flew through the air, Selene took a moment to examine the waters where the Warped had been struck.

And disconcerting as it was to see, even the small amounts of damage that had been inflicted by the beam rifle were being recovered, missing pieces of fleshlike form being regenerated at an alarmingly fast pace.

"...Of course it regenerates," Elise sighed as she looked back up towards Teodora before a call came in through their communications channel.

"This is HQ; the target's location has been verified. Selene, Supplice: disengage the Warped and return to base. Over."

"...Well, I suppose there's nothing else to be done. Sorry, but you might have to lug me back the whole way," the white-haired girl said as the lights below began to intensify once more.

And at once, another barrage of lasers broke through the water, piercing through the skies and curving back around, almost as if to chase after the two Frame Pilots flying through the sky.

@Medili
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It was a corpse, but at least it had the courtesy to look presentable. Bleached bone shone white in the shafts of light that still managed to penetrate the dilapidated roof of the facility, all signs pointing towards a Warped that possessed an exceptionally sharp blade or some sort of pressurized projectile that emulated an edge. It was humid enough, at least, that some waterjet-spewing plant monstrosity was an option.

Or a turtle.

"Found a dead 'un," Xuan-Yu spoke in comms. "If whatever killed them was still here, Dulac, we're dealing with a real keen fellow." The birds were silent, but he had not heard them fly off either. Was it danger? Or just surveillance? The man reached for his Stinger Blade, drawing out the cloaked weapon with nary a sound. "Pick up anything from those leftovers?"
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"Stuff's too old and faded to read," Norika said. "Something about supply shipments and research and development. Can't make anything else out. Wonder what they were doing here?" A corpse. Unsurprising, to say the least. It would be more surprising not to find any bodies somewhere likely to have Warped. "I'm moving towards your location." She could track him down with Titania's heads-up display without much problem.

When she found Xuan-Yu he had his blade drawn. Her eyes were drawn to the body. The bones were bleached white, and the skull was punctured. The state of the ribcage wasn't much better. Norika hoped that, whoever this was, their death had been as quick and painless as possible. "Find anything else? Or just our unfortunate friend here?"
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The only way to proceed through the rest of the building was down the crumbling, damaged hallway. Here and there were clawmarks, or places where the scaffolding had seemingly melted from intense heat.

Whatever had occurred here had most certainly been swift and violent.

The previously-loud forest had gone utterly silent.

And the pilots were about to learn why.

There was a strange sound, something like a heavy and wet object being dragged along a rough surface. A slimy, slopping sound from behind them.

A long arm reached from the foliage. It was pitch black, and on close examination one would be able to discern that its entire surface was writhing. It was covered, or perhaps entirely composed, of thousands upon thousands of black, sluglike creatures, and it twisted in a fashion impossible for something supported by bone as it placed one human-like hand upon the ground.

The thing that lurched from the forest was supported by at least five more of these limbs. Whatever was beneath the writhing, sluglike creatures was impossible to see, if there was even anything within the mass in the first place. There must have been hundreds of thousands of them.

The only thing that broke up this undulating 'skin' was a pair of bright, circular red eyes, which rolled about slightly before fixing squarely on both pilots.

Each of this limbs retracted into its body, its mass writhing and growing for a moment as the black slugs squirmed over it. Then they exploded back outwards, at least a dozen tentacles composed of the squirming creatures surging down the hall towards the pilots.

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