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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Divorarel
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For a phenomenon that scientists routinely describe as falling through a crack between universes, the process of surprisingly gentle, one moment you are:

Fighting for your life in a battle you cannot hope to win…

Dying in the back of an ambulance…

Passing through the veil in search of a cure for the uncurable…

Blissfully binging a brand new game…


And the next you’re gone, the world goes black, and you’re dreaming.

***

When next you wake it is to the sound of a bell ringing in the distance, deep and loud, cutting clean through the midnight fog that crept up on you while you were sleeping and thrusting you into the stark reality of your current situation. Beneath you damp concrete. The sky is dark and waves can be heard breaking against the shore in the distance if your hearing is keen enough, the area is all but empty, empty save for you and the bodies around you and the many keen eyes peering at you from between the many locked warehouses that pen you in. You cannot see the ocean but you can hear it nearby. In the sky hangs the moon, just one, wide as a saucer but with a visible chunk torn from the northeastern hemisphere like someone detonated a massive bomb beneath the surface and the wound continued to bleed into the vast empty sky even now.

But most of all, you cannot sense anything; long range sensors, divine connections, spiritual bonds. You are completely and totally alone in this world. For some of you this means nothing, of course, you’ve lived your whole life an autonomous individual but for others separation is worse than death. What you can feel is an intense spiritual pressure pressing down on you from every angle.

This is the Wharf, the safest place in Neo Babylon, but you don’t know that yet. It’s also the only place in the city where the homeless population is treated better than garbage on the side of the road, frequent patrols and the presence of shelters make it the most ideal place to live a life on the street, as if such a thing were possible. And it has made the rats bold. In Neo Babylon those without power, money, or the technology to make up for a lack of both are better off death. The average survival rate of someone living on the streets can be measured in months and the possibility of bouncing back is next to none, once you’re there it’s over, nobody thinks about it with how widely publicized all the supernatural occurrences that happen on a daily basis are but most of the people who fall in through the so-called Rift are normal versions of whatever passes for human in their corner of the universe.

It’s a tough life, and it only gets tougher.

The man in the lead seems like he might have been someone once, he’s still a bit handsome beneath the unkempt facial hair and bolder than usual as he stalks his way towards the group in a low crouch, behind him two more follow. A large man and a mousy woman. His hands twitch in their emptiness. He’s sizing up the group, it’s easy to see maybe—he thinks—he ought to try and kill the man in the armor before he can make trouble for himself. The boy who glows could be toxic for all he knows. Though that overgrown chicken sure looks like a fine meal…

In the end he settles for the small one, the robot, grabbing a large stone with two hands. He figures that metal chassis of hers will stand up to knives and fingers but a heavy blow from a blunt object might crack her open, technology is valuable in the city, scavenging it is one of the few get rich quick schemes that people on the lower end of society still clint too and she looks so much cleaner and smoother than any other machine he’s come across. So he hefts the stone high. Will you stop him? He doesn’t look particularly strong, none of them do, the rats are starving and even a moderate blow would likely snap them like twigs. Excepting maybe the large one. Will you talk to them instead? Surely they have valuable information to share being so close to the ground floor of this new place than anyone else…

Whatever it is, you better do it fast, you can see more of them are beginning to slip out of the shadows. Emboldened by the adventurous looters before them. You could stomp out any one of the rats as easy as taking a step but as your eyes adjust to this new dimension you start to realize that there are more of them than anticipated, a whole swarm of them, and the prospect of fighting the tidal wave at its apex is unappealing even for those of you blessed with unusual strength.


@Shinny @Circ @THE ADORATION @odium
Hidden 2 mos ago 7 days ago Post by odium
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"In the fifty-first cycle of my travels I came to the world of the songbird monks, practitioners of what they call the Skua Ree Cawta, or Way of Beak and Claw. I found them a peculiar but amicable civilization, and the mountain peaks of their great aeries a beautiful retreat from the busy worlds of the inner rim, and so I stayed to record their martial art in my chronicle, humbly unexpectant of a species whose bodies are so light, hollow-boned.

I asked one of the monks if I could observe their training and they obliged me, and on the morn I watched the monk perform ritual dances and squawking songs before a great stone in the shape of an egg. Awed was I when with a strike of the monk's tiny fist the stone crumbled to dust. So begins my tale of the Way of Beak and Claw..."
Volsaimmias, Codices on the Multiversal Arts of Battle, Tome IV


One minute she was Xx_haia-the-ill701_xX, clad in the full glory of her SSS gacha tier legendary loot, leading her guildmates into the Lunar Rift megadungeon with her fearsome battlecry Kokekokko! The next she was Haialark, eyes dilated from a cocktail of stimulants and raw catecholamines flooding every synapse, looking around herself and blinking in confusion, senses invaded by the utter disconnect. Wet cityscape and chilling fog assailed her eyes, the smell of asphalt in rain, faraway sounds of waves crashing against the shore punctuated by the deep, slow ringing of a bell. Funeral toll?

She tried to ping the guild channel but couldn't connect. For a millisecond Haialark was stunlocked, resisting the rising urge to incarnate the proverbial chicken with her head cut off, a hundred thoughts cramming themselves through her brain at once. The first were anger and confusion. The devs? Did the fucking server stutter or did she lag out for a second or what kind of shitty bug was--

Overhead she saw the chipped face of a hungy moon leering down at them and the adrenaline started to bubble back up inside her. She was supposed to be there with her guildmates, but that wasn't the megadungeon she remembered. She did not know those stars or constellations, couldn't fathom the prophecies they augured for her tonight. Then realization dawned on Haialark like the truth of battle to Phanskwa in the Scriptures of the Talon. Without taking her eyes off the crowd she peripherally noticed advancing towards them, her recessed little avian eyes swept over her new party, purple sparks of phosphorescence in the mist.

The glowing mammal and the shining geometrical synth were so-- so smooth, awakening an atavistic compulsion to collect them and fly off to put them in her nest, but in a stunning feat of self-control Haialark tore her gaze away from them. The soreness helped. She was getting insanely on point haptic feedback, like her gaming chamber's nutritubes and vitapumps had been undelicately yanked from her orifices as opposed to tastefully retracted. How had they imported her physical specs to sub in for her EO avatar? Brain-to-machine interfaces were supposed to be strictly one-way, making this highly illegal.

Haialark loved it. No UI was a nice touch.

Claw rising to her back, the tattered damp robes of a songbird monk hanging from her scrawny limbs, a beatific calm settled over her. As the elders said, everything made sense once the Yolk settled. Of course this was merely a tutorial. Any newb fresh out of character creation that wandered into an Empyrea Online PK zone quickly learned the handle haia-the-ill (numbers and edgelord aesthetics notwithstanding, as anyway these varied from alt to alt) and to keep a finger on the logout button when her tag popped into draw distance on the UI.

If the devs wanted her to fear the fodder, they wouldn't have left her the Featherblade.

"Alright, DLC dropped, we just got drafted for the beta test. Get ready for some unbalanced PVE," she squawked. "Mid range add in front, if this goes violent, someone CC him and see if his loot's worth farming. If it comes down to it I'll go sicko on the trash mobs."

That was all the demented avian creature offered as far as a signal to her companions that may or may not understand the hoots and crows of the violet vulture alien beside them before, with a single steadying breath, she unsheathed the Featherblade and cawed a first and only warning, "Come no closer unless you want me to camp you for twenty respawn cycles, little lootboxes. Identify your faction and fetch quest, and be quick about it!"
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Shinny
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YOU MUST SURVIVE.


Alien runes transcribe a booting sequence within her mind, performing diagnostics and status checks until all systems are operational. Well, not all systems. Some were non-functional, her memory corrupted with all but the barest essentials out of reach. Cyan eyes lit up as she looked at her environment and she recalled the command.

YOU MUST SURVIVE.


That was the command, and it shall be done. But this command had been given without context. Who? What? When? Where? Why? The answer would be to reach out, to touch upon the noosphere of this world and glean some form of context, but the only reply was the universe’s screams. The din rocked her positronic mind until she deactivated her systems and made the screaming stop. There would be time for that later. For now she must survive.

The man holding a rock was an obstacle to this end, for he looked to her as if he were a gorilla gazing at a coconut. 017 was not a coconut, and she had no intention of being cracked. A quick whirr caused her hear to rotate, scanning the wharf for its rats. The number was discontenting, but more then that was the squawking of an avian samurai attempting to play seki-crow. Charging head-on into the swarm was certainly a strategy, but it was not one she would consider wise.

017 had a better idea.

Scanning her environment again, the machine searched this time for the flotsam and jetsam of the wharf, scrap items on the ground that even the rats had disregarded. She might have been out of weapons, but 017 was not out of options. A fragment of rebar. Too small to hold up infrastructure, too small to use as a weapon, but not too small for her purposes.

A quick dash and 017 grabbed the rebar, holding it in her right as her left began to change. Components slid, melded, altered, exposing a point resembling the point of an arc welder. She brought it towards the rebar, turning to her compatriots for a moment.

□□□□-□□□□-□□□□” The mechanical creature chirped, the only warning to close one’s eyes.

The arc connected.

A blinding light burst forth as the arc melted the fragment of rebar. It was as painful to look at as the sun, and it was just as damaging to the eyes. The damage would not be permanent, but it bought time. An escape? There was a door to one of the wharf warehouses, and though it was not much it was enough. A barricade against those too poor in power or equipment to blast the door down, which was all that they needed.

017 pointed to the door, running to it in a burst of speed. Hopefully her allies would follow suit — if they were wise enough to not get themselves blinded.

Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by THE ADORATION
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There is a door.

It stands alone, without any walls to support it, without any rooms to divide from one another. Its frame is made of ragged petrified wood, and the rest of stone so perfectly polished, so delicately and finely carved as to be a work of art. Its handles are two palm-sized diamonds that catch the pallid light of the suns in a soft kaleidoscope amidst the ceaseless dawn and dusk.

There is a door.

It is not far from the only building within a hundred miles, or perhaps in the entire world. It resembles a ziggurat, with its flat, narrowing terraces and climbing steep stairways. In place of greenery, however, there are only carefully-tended sand gardens; instead of trailing vines, strands of rough-cut gemstones that sparkle but dimly. No light comes from within, and seldom any sound, for its master knows his own voice well enough, and this land knows no other.

There is a door.

It is on a beach of the finest white, although the word lost its meaning around the time that the last of the ocean disappeared. Dunes stretch almost as far as the eye can see, broken only by the distant mountains, their shadows blacker than black, their peaks like the weathered ribs of the world poking at the heavens, their immensity, their weight so very real as to anchor everything else in place.

There is a door, and A GRACEFUL HAND has opened it, just enough.

It is the threshold from lands unknown unto ruination. It is the gate to a place bathed in the soft light of cooling stars, beautiful in its almost flawless desolation, terminus absolute. And, when seen in reverse, the entry to a high-fated city under the watch of merciless stars; it is the perfect place, and the only place, to best augur what will come next.

So through the door, the lonely path, not out of mind but out of sight...at least for the time being.

A HAND pulls upon the handle, just a little, and there is a satisfying click.

There is no door.

---

Gregor gasped, and it was the most wonderful breath he'd had in years.

The air tasted nothing of disuse, of decay, of a wasteland so complete as to reach down to the atomic level. It was damp - damp! - and alive with a hundred different scents. And the sounds! The roar of the ocean, so close that he wondered when it might start to wash up against his shell. The mutter of living, breathing bodies gathering closer to where he lay; not running and screaming, not gasping out their last, but persisting.

And the moon above...shattered, but so luminous as to almost blind (though that could have been something else, perhaps?)

He rose to his feet slowly, towering over the assembled wharf rats like a doomsday monolith: an impossible presence of slowly-shifting rock in the shape of a man. A trickle of white mist seeped from the gaping, lightless hole in its face, and but for that and a sniffle, nobody would have known about the tears streaming down his cheeks.

It was so beautiful, and none of it was dead. He was reduced.

He held up his palm at arm's length toward the leader, a slab of gray around the size of the man's chest. Strange symbols crawled across the skin, never staying the same for very long, never wanting the eye to sit upon them, never quite forming a recognizable pattern. There needn't be any killing today, he wanted to say, why not meet as friends, brothers and sisters?

And with a voice like an old radio playing down a long, dark tunnel he spoke:

"My friend, I have good news: your deaths are not guaranteed today! Come closer, let me see you, let's talk, let's eat! I stand here and everyone still lives, and we have to celebrate!"
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Circ
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White, weak light splays through a pane, intermittently illuminating a dew-warped reality in pulsar flashes complementary with a siren’s baleful wail. A world beyond his reach, increasingly distant, redshifted. Along his bewildered periphery, it forms a hole in the sidereal blur within which aperture clarity reconciles and digital mountains rise and crash. Rusty, cramped mountains with shattered pits for eyes. To him, they feel dead, and with him by chance or fate in passage intertwined. Ice knots up inside his gut, he needs to hurl. He can’t. Can’t move. Still, a few wink, offer hope—beatific, bright, neon, shimmering. He cherishes that, the light and its melancholy, anodyne lies. He mourns its transience, pattern ever less periodic and ever more by darkness deformed.

“Hafadac, you’re going to be alright.”

Na~ah, he can’t articulate to rebuff, chemically sluggish and suspended from concern—ethereal. A cloud. A rain cloud. If only, ... if only he could gather his thoughts, exist beyond those argent pulses, ... care.

Eye droops, blinks, refocuses. So suave, his yellow and black kicks. Prized possessions, second only to his hooded jacket, similar color motif, but rather than abstract interlace it boasts eastern dragons racing down either sleeve. Must’ve been opened up, chill air and latex pressure probes inside his abdomen.

There’s so much he’d like to say, but his mouth won’t open. A gurgle, he hears—sanguine, the texture, not the hue. So much he longs to do, but his limbs lie immobile, his body inert. How can he denounce that acerbic stench or recoil from the roving six-eyed beast if he can neither plead nor flee? The light blinds, but the room is dark. Relentless, the wail drones on and on and on and his mind conjures up a tundra, two wolves, one dead, the other eternally mourning.

Finally it—zot swallows him, lured by his careless, carefree nature.

Tears trace down his cheek like Tetris blocks.
— ⚈ —

This feels right, Hafadac reflects, roused from a peculiar insight, a flash of portent between the when and the now.

Rump firm atop damp, rough concrete. A weird, cratered moon peers down at him, his vision captive. No need to shiver, he embraces the brisk foretaste in his soul before it robs him of warmth. Sonorous, distant, poignant, he hears the toll of a bell, as though it heralds an important moment.

Dunno where I’m at, how I’m here, who made me whole, but ... feels right. Dunno how else to put it. Better than ... what? What happened?

You there, Khodai? This Elysium?

No lingering musk.

Seated, propped up by a metal pole, detached, itself wedged against the floor and the wall of this large, dark, liminal space. Firm against his back, not sharp, piercing, penetrating like—well, perhaps best to dwell on that later. It feels empty, if only because he’s there again, in that moment. White, weak light. Reality on pause. No strobes, no darkness, no many-eyed monster. Just constant airy peace drifting on a night wind. Present within himself, in the lull, Hafadac breathes serene and silent. Waves break against the wharf, reliable, reassuring. Across the way, a dillapidated warehouse, vast sheets of aluminum pulled from the sides. Easy to see into. Starlings in the rafters, broken skylights with shards of glass lining the window frames, and beams that stretch on forever, foreshortening into an artificial horizon.

Now, the time is now.

Palm braced against the floor, Hafadac lets his wet eye rest, stands, and listens.

» “Alight, DLC dropped — I have good news — ” ...
» “If this goes violent — Come closer — □□□□-□□□□-□□□□ —” ...
» “We have to celebrate! — Be quick about it! —” ...

As desired, an eye in the storm. Photoreceptors in his digitized mask dim a brilliant arc display that fades to muted gold, this world cast in the light of his own blood. Three souls he feels an inexplicable bond with, strangers whom, in so brief a spell, he is too dumbfounded to assay. Pristine chaos saturates the milieu. ‘Ivory’ dashes for the door, ‘Skeksi’ speaks, and ‘Pillar’ rumbles. Meanwhile, Hafadac’s half-gaze settles on the dazed middle-aged man holding a large stone.

Cheeks hollow, clothing torn, the man’s appearance speaks to his begrimed and desperate but, as yet, undefeated spirit. Tenuous and selfish, yes, but it strikes Hafadac that this person and his comrades grasp at life, clinging to a narrow implausible hope that their crimes, as yet uncommitted, might improve their dire circumstance. So he strides forward, wraps his arms around the guy, back-taps, a real bro-hug, and, voice mellow, deep, soothes, “Hey, buddy, uh, just wanna let you know it’ll be alright. Keep blinkin’, you’ll see again. Say, wanna hear a joke? Yeah, yeah. Why did the Mexican take anti-anxiety meds? For HISPANIC attacks!” Another firm open-palm thump on the man’s back, and he steps back, catches the rock as it drops, and nervously tosses it from one hand to the other.

A pained chuckle and the man muses, “That’s messed up.”

Rather than ruin the moment, Hafadac’s half-mask flashes indecisive between a bright yellow pixelated half-smile over a winking eye and a thumb’s up icon.
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Divorarel
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Despite of their best efforts, the Rats were unable to get the drop on the travelers.

The drug-addled vulture was the first to wake and the first to react, screeching at them in her horrible alien language that somehow only became more unbearable as the city’s barrier began to translate her screeching into something passably human, but it was 017 who demanded all of their attention. Although not much taller than a child she released a blinding white light that lit up the entire street as if it were day, and though the effect diminished the further one was from her, not a single soul in the retreating tide of flesh left that evening without spots blooming in the corner of their vision.

And run they did, all of their confidence evaporating like shadows in the daylight.

Some were fast, some were slow, but by the time 017 was railing against the warehouse door there was not a one left to tell her that these storage units were not only locked but well protected too. Nothing but the rattling chain as she pulled and the presence of a relatively new lock. Perhaps the large man in stone might be able to split it if he applied a bit of the herculean strength he must have but given the minimal presence of rust this close to the ocean it stood to reason that this place was not quite as abandoned as the howling wind and empty alleys seemed to imply.

Then there were the three.

“That’s fucked up,” The man snarled as he wrenched his way out of Hafadac’s grip with a visible limp. His disposition was not nearly so pleasant, losing the life he’d clearly left behind had embittered him, being beaten by a glorified flashlight before the first blow had landed only made things worse. If allowed to keep pulling away he’d half-fall and half-sit on the ground before the group with smoldering hatred in his eyes.

thunk

Not long after the largest of the Rats surrendered too, in spirit if not verbally. Dropping the piece of rebar stuck in concrete that he’d been preparing to use like a sledgehammer after one look at Gregor, fighting was hopeless, his black face littered with visible scars that only made the defeated stare towards their leader all the more profound. ‘Say something’ his eyes pleaded, less prepared to die than he’d first imagined.

“P-please don’t kill us.”

It was the girl who swallowed her pride first, hands in the air, face so smudged with dirt it had become a part of her complexion and knees shaking as she stepped to the fore. She’d seen Rats beaten to death just for showing their faces in other parts of Neo Babylon, but these were travelers, and perhaps on the off chance that they came from somewhere mercy was still a thing she pleaded again.

“We won’t do it again, we promise, so please don’t kill us.”

“Or at least get it over with,” The sour man spat. “Your little light show is bound to attract attention and I’d rather die quick than be turned into an example by syndicate scum.”


***


Somewhere on the distant moon forty-nine members of CNTRL ALT ELITE that had logged into the Mega Dungeon alongside Haia awoke to find themselves in space, standing upon the pock marked ridge of Luna’s bleeding crust with a distant blue marble staring at them in the background, oddly they’d no trouble breathing in space and their UI seemed largely absent in favor of a more…

Immersive experience.

It took a minute for them to wake up and chatter among themselves, discovering what powers they retained and which ones had been removed with the latest update to realize that they were not alone. For somewhere roughly approximate to the crater’s center there sat the makings of a lonely city formed entirely of crystal, barely visible if not for the stark contrast it cut with the landscape and which each gust of stellar wind it seemed to whistle for them to come closer.


@Shinny @Circ @THE ADORATION @odium
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017 found herself bolting towards the door, trying to find an abandoned warehouse to hide in. There were two problems with this plan: One, the rodents of unusual size were already warded off by her arc-flare; and two, this place was not by any means abandoned. This left 017 looking at the lock, wondering how best to break it before turning to her ‘allies’ of convenience.

Oh.

There wasn’t any bloodshed, in fact it seemed that the most damage had been done by her at this point in time. This left the little robot staring at the group as they communicated with the homeless. Unfamiliar chimes and tones that became familiar through exposure and — memory? 017 cocked her head as she thought. This place was strange but… Familiar. Why it was familiar eluded her, her memory a jumble of moments without context, save for one single command.

YOU MUST SURVIVE


The question then became how she would survive in this situation. She had guaranteed her immediate safety, but what she needed now was time to think and plan. Planning in the middle of a wharf where you had announced yourself with the equivalent to a flare was not a wise idea. These were merely the first vultures, and soon more vicious scavengers would arrive to feast. Wait, vultures? How did she know the birds of this place? Questions for later.

“Pleasantries can wait,” 017 spoke. Her voice was a clear artificial trill, feminine, but with a tone that implied some degree of experience. Unbefitting of her small frame. “I would rather find a better place for recuperation, given that this place is evidently not safe.” 017 held the chain and the lock in her hand, pointing to it. She was a good number of meters away, but not so far that her voice could not be heard and her figure not be seen. “Given the lack of rust on this lock and chain, I suspect this warehouse is far from unattended to — but it is better than being in the open.” She jostled the chain for a moment, before her hand went into that familiar configuration that implied she was going to do some welding.

“Unless one of you has a suggestion?”
Hidden 2 mos ago 7 days ago Post by odium
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It is said that King Khuak the Wise fell mad with prey-lust and shiny-want in the latter days of his flight,
crowing that he would hatch again from the great egg of the sun immortal, his nest eternal,
and in glory he departed from the communal tree to soar into its light,
never to return from the answers he found there
Birdfolk cautionary folktale


Haialark's head twitched corvid-quick from scene to scene: beautiful glowbaby shiny-shining emoji-bright; golem man, stone-strong and definitely a tank, cool cosmetics but direly in need of a better mic if he wanted to voice chat that badly; lovely symmetrical smoothface, so alluring she could hardly control the impulse to collect her perfect geometrical chassis and bioluminescent glowbaby together in her nest and polish them —

GAWK! Daydreaming, the flashbang caught Haialark totally off guard. It so happened that simultaneously she hit the first peak on the fierce cocktail of stimulants intended to carry her through the next few days of raid-grinding. Everything looked mostly okay after a cursory sweep of her limited augmentations but she sincerely hoped her endocrine mods hadn't gotten disconfigured in the jump, because otherwise she was going to be one speedy roadrunner very shortly.

It troubled her that trash mobs were fleeing from their destiny as delightful little bags of xp locking whales like herself into the frictionless dopamine loop of watching numbers go up. Haialark singlehandedly represented a full 19% of average round DPS in CTRL ALT ELITE, a guild forty-nine members strong on this highly planned raid and who were absolutely screwed without her to outpace the regen on the megadungeon superboss.

Possessed of a supremely gifted mind when it came to MMORPG number crunching and the calculation of obscenely precise loot reward tables, Haialark instantaneously interpolated a rough polynomial curve of the revised guild DPS in function of buff cooldown timers according to a new pattern designed to conserve resources without her.

Maybe if they committed to a blind speedrun of the DLC she could pull something off, but her feathers ruffled as another thought cracked its shell against her mind. No one else seemed to be recognizing they were playing Empyrea Online at all. Had Haialark broken kayfabe?

In the truly grognardy secret subquests five layers into the alternate reality game simultaneously occurring within the matrioshka doll of Empyrea Online deeplore, if you didn't embrace roleplaying with fidelity to your character archetype you could miss certain triggers and fuck up years worth of progress. Terrifying to consider what she might have put at risk.

Vision sharpened again, hawk-hunting, she watched the fleeing creatures. Their tiny little mammalian eyes, white and wide. So afraid. Noticing silverface near the warehouse, Haialark took a breath, feathered arms shifting into full streamlined wings, raven-black. Allowing her boiling thoughts of the raid to go dim and monochrome, she ran, a great bird of prey rushing towards her companion with a hooked beak built to slip between vertebrae and sever spines, violet eyes alien and unreadable.

Meaning no threat Haialark chirped, "Of course, o stunningly polished one. Clever gambit, to hunt the hunter. Slip into their nests and crack their eggs. I shall open the way." Naturally she shared their mutual understanding that this was a way of progressing the main quest to an inevitable boss encounter. 017 had shown she was going to be the utility bot stunlocking the enemy, and her support would assuredly be necessary for Haialark to optimize her DPS.

This desire to be near 017 had absolutely nothing to do with her lovely metallic gleam, the declension of light off its surface, at each instant perfectly unique, shininess ever shifting...

Haialark gently brushed the chain from her hands so it clattered against the door. She drew the breath inward, submerging herself in the divine yolk, and enacted the eleventh cawta of the wing, twenty-feathered strike of the roaring garuda (オタク面白い鳥人武道テクニック), the tip of her dark plumage thrusting forward at great speed so that its uttermost extreme rested softly against the lock. Haialark gave a squawk of exertion and her eerie purple luminescence radiated from the chain, rattling then exploding violently inward as if struck with great force, the door swinging open wildly on its hinges.

Haialark self-rationalized that she wanted to show her likely role in the party as glass cannon DPS and that this also had absolutely no relation to any of her lovely glowing companions, and waited for the rest of the group to gather.
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Tough, no chuckle even, Hafadac sighs inwardly as his joke flops, but he plays an upbeat farce. Wet eye scans the three Rats who haven’t thus-far fled, the sad circumstances of their present straits a log for later if rels unsour and situations norm: ‘Sledgie,’ ‘Sourpuss,’ and ‘Mouse.’ Syndicate scum, note—dangerous, probs own this place, harass squatters. Responsive, his other, digital eye relentlessly vacillates, the yellow on black dimming to a buzz-kill intensity while the smile halves and stops winking. Suddenly awkward, shy, he pulls up his hood. Where skin isn’t hidden by jacket, joggers, kicks, and power-fist, it is easy to see his life light mellows to match his mood and deep, smooth, unhurried voice.

“Heard the, uh, stone person; yeah? You’re safe, from us leastwise; maybe safer with. Heck, we should all stick together! You cool cats seem street smart. Why not? What’s worstcase? Oh, yeah... food, food. Don’t have any. Hah! But I’ve got energy shots, you can eat the whole thing.”

Without ado, he reaches in his jacket and reveals a handful of 2 ouncers. Luminescent green-gold liquid sloshes inside, shimmering with flecks of white and the promise of vital verve. They resemble little test tubes, but there’s no obvious cap. Hopefully they don’t assume these are exotic narcotics, he worries behind a grin. Hafadac offers them to the Rats and the stone person, Pillar, the latter whom he recalls mentioning eating. Clueless how. Nada point to prejudge, he decides. Better to observe. Allow others to observe, too. One of the two shots still in hand he pops into his mouth and chews through the sugar, cellulose, and glycerin casing until the flavor shot bursts with a vibrant cara cara punch, chews it all up like saltwater taffy.

“Name’s Hafadac,” he babbles around a chew, “friends call me Glowstick — maybe we catch up with Ivory and Skeksi?”

Too eager to await an answer, he scampers off, gesturing for them to follow. Dilapidated wood planks creak under his bounce, shadowless. Damn, that moon is bright. Weird, too. Where am I even? Time for contemplation short, he arrives at the door just as the avian and robotic duo finish wrecking the padlock.

“Thirsty?” he offers with a catch-toss of the energy shot still in his hand.

Bigger up close, the warehouse looms ominous, pregnant with possibility, perhaps with an exterior clue in the form of signage. Nada. No idea who’s bad side they’re about to get on, what with the breaking and entering. Maybe for the best. Lots of debris, with scans for objects of interest — weapons, spray paint, signage, architectural themes, wifi, access ports — ongoing. Maybe inside, he’d learn more. But for now, he sates his curiosity and asks, “Recouping from what?”
— ⚈ —

Intrusive thoughts unwind time in his mind, backing him into the corner of his situationship. He’s not physically tired. More manic than normal, actually. But his mind is fraught, nervous system taut, and he’s performing like an absolute fake. Bravado. Same insane mental mode that precipitated his pale paralysis ride of white lights and faceless phantoms. No accident, if bad decisions pass for intent. That’s nature, the fate of those who don’t fit in with the rest of society and have the temerity to believe, think, and act like they can just be. Just exist. Bright blood, body mods, tats—all cool. Animism—weird, but still friends. Backing down from a dare? Not in a dozen lifetimes, even if everyone knew the risks.
— ⚈ —

Stale air from the building’s exposed innards hits his nostrils, and just like that Hafadac’s back.
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by THE ADORATION
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"Kill...you?"

The voice that came out of that yawning black hole of a face sounded different now. A little closer, a little more focused, a little less imposing...and a lot more confused.

He stepped over to the filthy girl, his movements slow but strangely fluid, like lava sliding down a mountainside. His feet landed tombstone heavy on the damp cement and he knelt down to face her, the lightless chasm feet away from her dirt-streaked face.

"Who said anything about killing anybody? Nobody's here to kill anybody, right?" He looked around as if seeking confirmation from everyone present: from his fellow travelers (who had abandoned him, he saw, in favor of prying open a door to shelter) and from the other two Rats, the bruiser and the sour man whose faces showed a mix of fear, anger and acceptance.

"Life's precious," he said, stretching his arms out as if to grasp the whole of the city and the ruinous moon above, "this is all a gift. You haven't done anything here that you can't take back, so you don't need to worry."

He rose to his full height then, slow and steady as the tide washing away the shore, and considered the glowing capsule that Hafadac had tossed him as if just noticing it. With a little shrug - the rumble of wet stone against itself - he tilted back his head and dropped it into the abyss, sighing contentedly a few moments later.

"A gift," he repeated fondly, the words so unlike the crackling, distant buzz from before, "that shouldn't be wasted. Tell me your names, new friends. Tell me where I am. There's so much that I want to know."

"My name is-" he began, but when he spoke the Name, what came out was wrong; sounds layered and interwoven, contrasting and conflicting, disharmony conjoined.

"Gregor," said the man.

"Forever" said the serpent.

"Let's get inside with the others. It doesn't seem safe out here."
Hidden 28 days ago Post by Divorarel
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“I thought it was funny,” The girl says, offering Hafadac an apologetic smile.

Just like that, the Rats were forgotten, their grand scheme to swarm the travelers handwaved away. Bitter resentment and quiet relief hung in the air in equal measure. Each of the three eyeballing the gift they had been given with their own unique form of distrust before the silent man in the middle finally took the leap of faith, uncorking the bottle and tossing his head back, downing it all in one go so that the poison might take him quick if that is indeed what it turned out to be. Smacked his lips. Then commented in his clipped accent, “It is good.”

“I’m Peggy,” the mousy blonde girl introduced herself. “This is Batu, and that’s Conrad.”

Only one bastion of distrust remained among them, staring through a veil of matted hair, glaring at his friends as they fell to the strangers and their unerring hospitality. As they became comfortable. The City whispered into his ear then, ‘remember what happened last time’, and his grip tightened around the rusty pocketknife he’d been angling towards since the start of this little interaction. Conrad, his full name was Conrad Alderson but he’d not had need to use his full name for months, could not deny that they meant no harm but in a city like Neo Babylon even amiable ignorance could spell disaster and if they followed these fools surely they would die a horrible death.

The big one was never going to let them go, his focus too intense, his empathy too unyielding.

Before he knew it was the knife was drawn, adrenaline drove him to ignore the pain in his ankle, standing on it even as pain shot up his calf like hot magma injected directly into his veins and drove him towards Gregor’s back for one last heroic thrust. He would surely be crushed in the response. But in his death he would at least provide the other two the opportunity to run, yes, so resigned was he to his fate that he did not notice the iron hand closing in around his wrist and squeezing until the bone snapped.

Until the knife dropped.

“No, that is enough.” The culprit, his very own friend, shaking a head at him in silence. “Rest now.”

***


Inside the warehouse was wide and cramped, the roof high overhead, the windows cracked and dim. Row after row of crates greeted the travelers but none of the terrifying guards they’d been warned of. On the floor cigarette butts and empty beer cans could be found, and things worse than both too, but in general it seemed like at least some energy had gone into keeping the whole thing legitimate. Without cracking open the crates there was no way of knowing what hid inside them. Hafadac would surely recognize the discarded corpse of worn-out spray bottle but there was no graffiti to be found…

At least until one looked overhead and saw the great swollen belly of an eight-legged jade spider, spread out ominously across the roof with its legs draping down across the walls as if to engulf it all. And in the nearest corner, to the right of 017 upon entering, a cage that looked to be filled with gravel. Gravel that rose and fell in a too timely manner, and sometimes breathed dust into the air.

“This place isn’t safe…” Peggy panted as she caught up to the group, one hand reaching for the bird. “I know you think it is, but all of this belongs to someone and trust me when I say, they won’t be happy to find out you broke in here. Please just listen to reason.”

***


It didn’t take long for the members of CNTRL ALT ELITE to rally together after getting their bearings. Haia had trained them well, even without her they were a deadly unit, and they knew that she would chastise them for not having any spine if they were to back down from this dungeon just because they were down one member. They divided into teams of five and with a mighty cheer there were off.

Who knows, maybe haia was waiting for them down there, in the city on the dark side of the moon.


@Shinny @Circ @THE ADORATION @odium
Hidden 26 days ago Post by Divorarel
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For a phenomenon that scientists routinely describe as falling through a crack between universes, the process of surprisingly gentle, one moment you are:

Courting a beautiful woman…

Beating a man within an inch of his life…

Disposing the garbage…

Cradled in the hands of a new god…

Relaxing in your swamp…


And the next you’re gone, the world goes black, and you’re dreaming.

***

You awaken to the sound of a hundred different mouths chewing their food at the same time…

The ground is hard and sticky, rocks jut out uncomfortably into the body you recklessly laid over it. The air is moist, wherever you are this must be the worst season, and you are surrounded by trees. You’re in the forest, you’re in the forest and you’re sprawled out on moist soil, listening to a hundred somethings enjoy the last ravenous meal of their lives. Clarity seems to take forever—but not really. Soon you realize that that steadily moving mound on the edge of your vision isn’t actually blurry it’s just a dozen different massive fuzzy lumps having their way with the body of someone just like you who wasn’t lucky enough to wake in time…

They are the Perfect Food.

They resemble pill bugs with their round armored shells and dull brown bodies but with white fur. They flow across the ground on a thousand tiny unseen legs with just as many mouths beneath them to devour whatever they crawl over. They resemble pill bugs except for the fact that they are the size of a great dane. Their fat bodies must weight in excess of two-hundred pounds and if you were to strike one you would find that unlike most insects, they do not squish, they are thick and meaty. When they bleed it is a juicy tantalizing red. You don’t know this—you’ll never know this unless you ask the right people the wrong questions, but once upon a time, Reverence Institutional thought these things were the solution to world hunger until it became clear that their idea of perfect food also made for an eerily durable predator.

There is no one else around you, the forest is quiet in their presence, and as you stir the first of those things turns towards you in quiet eyeless realization. Detecting you in some unknowable way. Maybe it was the vibrations in the ground or maybe it was the stilling of your breath, then it folds its body up, exposes its horrible gore smattered underbelly to you and hisses with too many mouths. If you haven’t moved by now it decides to lunge on the closest body it can find, flinging into the air, somewhere deep down inside of its primal mind it has decided the green-haired human is probably the closest thing to an actual predator among its list of potential victims. Mentally. They have all decided to gloss over the oversized reptile. Crocodiles in Empyrea have long since learned to give them a wide berth and vice versa, why should things be any different this time around?


@Liaison @54v @Drifting Pollen @Spider Pickle @Alucroas
Hidden 19 days ago 19 days ago Post by Shinny
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017 stared upwards, lenses transfixed upon the spider that hung above them. She had already looked at the other aspects of the warehouse, the gravel, the drugs, the mysterious crates. Her processors danced within her digital mind, formulating strategies, comparing data, fugyring out what's what and who's who. This world was undeniably an enemy, who stood in 017's way and promised to threaten her primary order.

YOU MUST SURVIVE


The footsteps of 'Penny' and 'Glowstick' attracted 017's attention away from the spider graffiti, alien actuators turning her body around to look at her very fleshy compatriots. Her robotic voice rang true, and she spoke. "Recuperating from being taken from elsewhere and elsewhen. I suppose it might be a more trivial ordeal for one such as yourself."

Her lenses were cold and expressionless, head turning and staring at the homeless girl as she pleaded.

"Reason?"

There was a cold pause as 017 turned her head, noting the pulsating mass once again. "Reason dictates that a city that leaves so many upon its streets has nowhere safe. Reason dictates whomever owns this warehouse shall become my enemy sooner or later." 017 looked to the ground, already grabbing used needles and broken chains and spray cans — no, not that one, the one that was only partially empty — to assemble something that looked like a jury-rigged flamethrower. "I am sure you and your fellows may have some form of safe refuge, but what I need is something I can convert, alter. Somewhere that I can begin to build."

A warehouse felt familiar, even if it was something that was so very far apart from what she knew her kind used. Had she been here before? With each moment that something new became, something new became something familiar. The questions started to nag at her, and each second spent in a state where she could not answer them felt like a monumental waste. Yet she still felt like maybe, just maybe, this girl should get a chance.

"Unless you can find me such a place, then I shall work on cleansing here to begin my work." 017's finger rested upon the trigger guard, as if she was giving the girl one final chance.
Hidden 16 days ago Post by Liaison
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Liaison Passive Aggressor

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Two pairs of eyes locked. One, a fiery set of dark brown eyes below determined brows without a shadow of a doubt in their passionate gaze. The other, flustered red cheeks beyond their brush applied blush, below a confused, deep, cerulean set. An overwhelmingly collective gasp overtook the red carpet's audience and partakers.

Perhaps it was the collective acknowledgment of witnessing the rare spectacle many claim to have experienced but only a few have. The divine luxury of love at first sight. Red and white rose petals serenely peppered the beautiful scene as many twisted their necks searching for the source.

“At this glorious gala in which the moonlight caresses your pale skin, I now know. Under this atrium of stars, it is clear. A thousand sonnets grow in my heart for you shine brighter than them all.”

Kissing the silky opera-gloved hand nestled into the gentle embrace of his palm, out of thin air, on one knee, Edris presented the fullest, most lush, bouquet of roses to have met this woman he had just met eyes with. Dozens of camera shutters rang off, capturing this moment between the hitman and Jadwiga a hundred times over, for millions of impressions, for thousands of media outlets. You could almost mistake it for applause.

“Edris, you sly devil. One might think you're from Aeternus. You've outdone yourself again.” Mentally patting himself on the back, his Buloke-solid confidence was sure to woo the popular socialite. No woman escaped his charm but the pheromones from her direction seemed overmatched by a hostile odor. Surely such a wrathful scent couldn't have come from Jadwiga in her wondrous, violet, jewel-embezzled gown glowing in ethereal beauty. Only in raising his bowed head, whipping back his silver-ish lavender hair did Edris notice Jadwiga's date to the ball red as a tomato with anger.

Veins bulging, this monstrously tall man, well over eight feet tall, but fairly proportionate, practically flexed out of his teal three-piece suit. Off came his collar button, popping out of tension at such velocity it detached some unfortunate influencer's retina on impact. With the crowd paying no mind to that, an intense stare-off between Edris and Vellotoni Versarache visibly sparked. The crowd went quiet, tension thick as oatmeal left out for half a day.



“I'm not apologizing.”

Edris' palm held an imaginary grip in the shape of a hilt as a single vine crawled from underneath his gold cufflinks, sprouting a flower blooming into a sword. Then it was black. Surely he did not murder a man in blind rage. It was against the assassins code.

Only the sensation of a cold hand pressing against his hollow frame did Edris feel anything. Lids open but sightless, the same cold hand dropped something into his skull. Until then, it felt like the concept of vision was foreign to him. Another hand crept near his face, doubling it. The same hands navigated his sternum, installing piece after piece as if he were a creation at the hands of Geppetto. Edris thought perhaps, this is how God designed us all, until the moment came when we finally were seemingly complete, later carrying our limp frames, hooking us to a conveyor belt. To where? A journey back to them, but only after experiencing the world whilst bearing the intentional gift and curse of life. With pleasure comes great pain. The pain of knowing this is unattainable makes us human, yet, internally… Edris challenged that. Until now he only felt one with Mother Nature. Who was this? Blasphemy. Before he could oust these thoughts, an unfamiliar voice fancied the thought of a destination to his psyche. Where? Edris would know once saw it. It was near, but where was he?

The flow of petals stopped, laying soggy on the top of the murky marsh staining the hitman’s white, heeled leather boots. A rancid smell assaulted the nostrils of Edris' souring face, distracting from not only the dream he awoke from, but the not so distant chitters, crunching and tearing. Quick hands allowed him to salvage his impeccably stylish tweed suit aside from a few splashes of muck. Springing up immediately, it was only so long Edris could watch his hand model-caliber hands slowly sink into the mud. A line of dirt packed every distal edge of his nails. It was already the worst-case scenario. What if…someone…saw him? Whoever did this had to pay, and soon. It was a good thing he had an idea where to look.

Looking up, the grayed skies could be mistaken as smoke. As dense as the forest was, the fog affected the visibility of the colossal mangroves standing mightily in the bog. At first, Edris thought he may have gotten something in his mouth but it was just the aftertaste of the absurdly moist swamp air. Following him were squelching sounds of his trot out of the thick mire of mud he found himself as unfortunate to spawn in. Each step sunk him deeper into the morass of uncertainty. Getting back to the Gala was an impossibility at this point.
Hidden 16 days ago Post by Spider Pickle
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Spider Pickle [i]minecraft spider noises[/i]

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Artificiality became nothingness, then from nothingness came organic touch and feeling. Wet and dirty, hard and solid yet undependable and unreliable and unstable. Nobomi, hesitantly, gripped the stuff beneath her fingers. Cold earth.

She awoke. She'd been awake, but not fully conscious or aware. Sobering chill, a different chill from the drunken, drugging environment of before, of back there. She was in a new place.

New, but from where? What was that place that came before?

Her head rolled to the side automatically, alerted by strange noises. A creature. Many creatures. Domesticated? She didn't think so. Even if they were, the one now directing its body towards them-Potential threat to the godspawn.

Godspawn?

Her cleaner hand crawled up to the hem of her robes, outstretched fingers, tapped skin. Goosebumps. Tapped... metal. Important. But why?

Panic filled her muscles like hydraulic fluid and she hinged forwards. Panic filled her mind like cooling fluid as it overclocked itself.

It rose too. Viscera hung from its belly. Perhaps inside its belly as well.

Metal. Where's metal? It was a lifeline, something told her. Use it. Destroy your opposition.

Opposite to her instinct, she closed her eyes. This was the path of least resistance -- less distraction, more focus, despite this beast being exactly the sort of thing that should hold her attention. Trace amounts, iron in the earth, in their blood -- not enough. Milliseconds flying by and she's doing nothing.

Swollen with wakefulness, she let her eyelids fly open and her feet strike the stone in unsteady strides, moving aside. Perpendicular, the most logical direction given an airborne enemy. She ran. She stumbled. She gripped rough, scratchy material to stay upright, looped around this... organic support beam she'd grabbed, using its width as a shield while she cranked out thoughts, or tried, but the gears were rusty -- from disuse, she realized. She must not have used her mind much in that time and place before.

What did she need? To survive protect. How? She thought over the situation and her surroundings.

She was not alone, there were others too. She peered around her gray-brown protective barrier. A green, humanoid beast. A few humans. But were they humans? Close enough term. No metal, unless she was willing to risk their health by robbing them of important metals. But would it matter once their blood joined the bloodbath on those bellies of those disgusting creatures?

Wait. So much blood. So much iron right there! So much... or so she hoped... Pressing her back against the rough brown thing holding up the living ceiling above, she closed her eyes and searched for metals in all the blood both in and on the creatures' bellies, everything they had digested or attempted to ingest. Iron, zinc, copper -- anything. All the same.
Hidden 7 days ago 7 days ago Post by odium
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odium

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The realization that players and NPCs alike obeyed kayfabe provoked a profound unease in Haialark. Her body language became considerably more subdued as characters she had taken for low level trash mobs received names and even backstories, further reinforcing her belief that the usual rules of game design were not in play. The many databases of esoteric Empyrea Online lore and loot tables permanently cached in Haialark's memory reeled under the weight of all this new information. It was catastrophically uncharted, a whole new game, and she would have to improvise her strat on the fly...

Yet, how many myths discarded as EO cut content would turn out to be true? This was a neurodivergent genius tier easter egg, an entire layer of game hidden so deep within the game it would never emerge as more than rumor and legend. And the loot. Treasures unfathomable had to be waiting for them out here. Haia's head twitched and her eyes dropped to the hilt of the Featherblade. No matter how she balked at the loss of all her accumulated mastery, this was a golden opportunity to cut the name Xx_haia-the-ill701_xX permanently into the skin of history.

As the group moved towards the warehouse, her gaze swept over nearby rooftops, raptor vision keen to pluck the outline of a drone from amid the dark clouds bruising the night sky. This had to be livestreamed, Haia knew instinctively. The algorithm demanded an audience for content like this. Her best chance at confirming her suspicions about all of this would be to find one such seam in the game world, something the devs couldn't hide. She needed merely to wait. Outside, she noticed that the despawn timers hadn't expired on any of the corpses.

Her body prickled as they passed over the threshold into the warehouse and she immediately detected the massive arachnid creature sprawled over the ceiling. Excitement and bloodlust spiked through her -- she knew a boss monster when she saw one -- then died down as she realized it wasn't moving. Nonetheless, its presence and the undeniable dungeon vibe of the game assets strewn around them suggested to Haialark that they were headed in the right direction.

Permanently locked into the mindset of a gacha whale powerleveling a new account, it was practically impossible for her to focus on the dialogue of introductory quest NPCs, and Peggy's hopeful pleading slid off the smooth surface of her bird brain. When the beautiful precious shiny 017 spoke, however, she hyperfixated on the intricacy of every synthetic inflection. She nodded enthusiastially after her cherished companion concluded their speech and gestured with one taloned hand at the warehouse around them, the other never leaving her sword hilt.

"Yes yes!" she agreed in two staccato squawks, totally unaware of Peggy's warning. She took 017's dialogue to hopefully indicate the party shared her intuition that they needed to trigger some kind of gated story progression, most likely kill the spider demon unless the devs had included multiple paths through the questline, and continue on.

"We should investigate this place and see if we find any answers here." She took a few cautious steps towards the caged gravel, observing it with the predator curiosity of an eagle watching a mouse.

@Circ @Shinny @THE ADORATION @Divorarel
Hidden 1 day ago 1 day ago Post by Circ
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Circ Rawr

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A single step, that’s all it takes. Hafadac enters the warehouse and a tide of awe inundates him. Nostalgic, that’s his expression. Thoughts distant, eyes radiant with inner light, lips at a slight part midway through a breath vitrified in spacetime and made perfect through sentiment. Rust on the walls, dust and footprints on the floor, graffiti on the ceiling, and bone-rattling music reverberating throughout.

Just a wistful boy remembering something unimportant a multiverse away, a gold tear inexplicably on his cheek.

This is perfect.

The people he just met, he realizes, are also perfect. Working together, they have the tools for this job, whether they realize it or not. All their missing is a spark. Skeksi has moves, Ivory is a master artisan, and Pillar can boom with the best. Hafadac pulls his gaze down from the spider motif on the ceiling, turns back toward Penny, and declares:

“This whole place is too quiet, too afraid. Gotta flip the script. Gotta make some NOISE!”

“How is noise going to —” Peggy begins to ask, but Hafadac lifts a luminous finger to her mouth, cutting her off. Melodiously, he mansplains; an instant jarring transition from philosopher to performer, half-mask flashing a digital apologetic cringe,

“Stranger to stra~anger,
— Lest we forge~et,
— There’s thu~under in nu~umbers,
— There’s fre~edom in fri~iends!”


He takes a small step back, his finger gliding sensuously along her bottom lip and sweeping the grime off her chin. Propitiously, he implores, “— Fi~ind your hope, your voi~ice, your fight!”

A wink and a bounce, and he kick-slides over on his knees to 017. Glancing up at her at his half-height through an upchurn of dust — budget dry ice — he beholds her wicked-cool fabrication, and, with one big pleading puppy dog eye alongside a crying emoji, belts out in smooth baritone:

“There’s no survi~iving
— if we’re not thri~iving,
— let’s show this world what we~e can make!”


Kicking himself into a backflip from his kneeling posture, he somersaults off his palm and lands in before Haialark, crooning,

“Let’s see your ka~ata
— for this intifa~ada,
— a haka to embolden our clan!”


Twisting one-eighty on one foot, he stares up at Pillar, his big new pal with the rocky visage, and pauses for a moment, intimidation and uncertainty threatening to quench his song. Just a moment, an awkward gulp, then the spirit grasps him and Hafadac intones,

“You’ve got the re~everb,
— A voice that will be~e heard,
— Vibrating deep in our bones!”


Repeating the improv chorus, he marches himself outside, stranger to stranger, and at the top of his lungs finishes what he has to sing — for now,

“Arachnid defi~iers,
— We’ll defang the spi~iders,
— And show them that Rats can roar!

So don’t let fear gui~ide us,
— Nor quell what’s inside us,
— Tonight we se~eize our fate!”


Exaggerating a snap-turn, he takes in his new-found party in their bespoke and self-declared base of operations. Ebullient and glowing something fierce, the sheen of sweat acting as miniature prisms, he practically illuminates the chamber as he points to 017, “Ivory, PYROTECHNICS!” to Haialark, “Skeksi, DANCE!” and to Gregor, “Pillar, SUBWOOFER!”

In his mind, it is obvious what he, himself, will do. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

“Anyone else have a set of pipes?”
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