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interested in the crowd-control character.
Name: Sóse Oakes/Tekaronhió:ken
Callsign: Hihnon


APPEARANCE


Age: 51
Height: 6'9
Weight: 405 lbs.

Description: A massive and imposing figure, Sóse is hard to miss. His face consists of broad planes cut by the sharp angles of ceramsteel ridges along his cheekbones, and could be considered handsome if his expression weren’t so naturally dour. Due to SimArt's Dermal Aegis, Sóse's skin is a uniform deep tan and fails to convince under close scrutiny.

A knee-length hydrophobic Deflexion trench coat over a gunmetal mycofiber suit is his go-to. Favoring heavy clothes to mask his augmented form, Sóse’s fashion is obstinately stuck in the past.

HISTORY


A cybernetic giant, Sóse is a veteran of the First Contact War; former Tier 0 Cybernetic Operative with USSOCOM; retired detective with the NYPD and is currently a private investigator. He operates out of Udica, North Capital City, formerly known as the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. Following the decimation of the American Interior and collapse of municipal governments, Discorporate Productions began to liquidate its newly acquired assets to the highest bidder. In an attempt to legitimize themselves, the Serbian Mafia purchased much of Northern Brooklyn in the year 2029.

One of the assets liquidated by Discorporate Productions was the NYPD. Facing unemployment and too familiar with the seizing of all he called home, Sóse decided to set up shop and do what he can to keep his neighborhood afloat. Notorious for taking any case, he navigates through the mire of a city left to fend for itself. His latest assignment has him investigating a recent spike in violence against xenoforms and rumors of a well-funded hate group operating in NCC.

C.I.M.P.T


Clout: 1
Intelligence: 1
Magic: 0
Physical: 3
Technology: 2

AUGMENTATIONS


- SiMart Series-8 OPHIUCUS is a modular nanocomputer implemented into Sóse's neural weave, allowing him complete control over hacking operations without the need for any tactile device or virtual interface. Fitted with a 30 teraflop quantum processor, polymorphic rootkit and an environmental dominator subroutine, Sóse has become a capable hacker during his time as a private investigator.

- SiMart Retinal Prosthesis serves as a chassis for Sóse's optical augmentations, installed with an optoelectronic HUD by default that syncs with the rest of his SiMart augmentations relaying real-time data.

Aim Stabilizer is a motion-dampening, stability-inducing augmentation which narrows the fire zone, allowing the user to aim at targets with greater efficiency while moving at speed or during extreme motion. Originating in the cranial area, the Aim Stabilizer is a decentralized augmentation with elements embedded in the user's nerve-brain connections, inner ear structure, and optic nerves. From second to second, the augmentation reads and processes inputs from the user's innate senses for balance and orientation, and modifies them accordingly based on current circumstances.

Augur Detection System emits carrier waves and combines them with enhanced visual processing algorithms to identify and render most physical structures and personnel in Sóse's visual field.

Flash Suppressant via the manipulation of the prostheses inherent self-preservation parameters, severely limiting the damage to sight incurred through the use of concussion and flash grenades.

Combat Analytics Augmented Reflex Engine is an optical membrane implant that synchronizes with a neural interface that jolts the user's parasympathetic nervous system for a brief time to increase synaptic connections and decision-making as well as syncing with the enhanced-functions of the SiMart Combat Prosthesis allowing for the acquisition of fast-moving targets.

- SiMart Cochlear Module is an infolink device capable of receiving and transmitting wireless communications, implanted directly into the inner ear. Sensitivity to minute vibrations in the larynx allows for subvocalized communication when necessary.

- SiMart Dermal Aegis is a supple, micro-thin material replacing the epidermis; the structure of which is phased composite plating. Rated as Class VIII armor, the base is a microfiber lattice weave made from ceramsteel nanotubes suspended in a dilatant fluid. When kinetic energy from a physical blow or a weapon discharge strikes the plating, the fluid becomes rigid, deflecting the impact shock. Heat and electromagnetically-conductive elements in the armor matrix serve to dissipate damage from fire-related or energized trauma. Cranium and torso are the most heavily fortified zones.

- SiMart Biofuel Converter uses electrochemical catalysts to transform consumed fat and glucose into energy stored in active-matrix magnesium salt biocells.

- SiMart Rx Monitor is an elegant collection of augments distributed throughout the body, protected by the layers of spacecraft grade ceramsteel housing.

This unit tracks the medical condition of the user and triggers secondary modules when it registers critical damage through internal or external trauma. These modules are implanted in heart tissue, the lymphatic system, and adrenal glands, and utilize micro-electric charges and phase-released chemicals to stimulate the human body's healing reaction.

Implanted Cardioverter Defibrillator capable of restarting a human heart. It is implanted directly in the sinoatrial node, and is specially tuned not to interfere with the user's other electronic implants.

- SiMart Combat Prostheses has seen the replacement of Sóse's organic limbs with enhanced-function cybernetic substitutes. Unique modifications to the Cybernetic Arm's shock buffers and sim-bone frames in conjunction with the use of an experimental neobohrium underlay enable Hihnon to effortlessly punch through 4" thick steel plating as well as discharge accumulated kinetic energy via dimorphic magnetorheological waves. The unique nature of the neobohrium underlay causes the tensile strength of the Cybernetic Arms to increase exponentially through applied force, returning to its default strength after discharge.

STEADFAST Recoil Negation System via reaction management buffers working in conjunction with bioplastic shock compressors that run along Sóse's arms.

In place of organic musculature, the Cybernetic Legs utilizes ceramsteel myomers that function similarly to human muscle, though with superior strength and endurance. By modifying myomer density and activating a shock-gel matrix, Sóse can neutralize damage incurred from high falls or perform leaps upwards of 25'.

SiMart Experimental Nanoshield is an attachment housed within Sóse's left thigh and knee, meant to be concealed until deployed. When activated, a high-energy molecular assembler uses a relevant silicon-carbide cartridge in order to create a lamellar graphene shield.

EQUIPMENT


Tawiskaron - A railgun modified into a revolver, Tawiskaron (Flint) is named after the Mohawk god of destruction. Equipped with a SiMart Holographic Sight and Bioware Safety System, Tawiskaron is capable of firing .223 caliber SiMart projectiles at 4,500 mph.

Coyote AS12 - Fully automatic, magazine-fed bullpup 12g shotgun with an overall length of 23”. Sóse favors mixing in thermite-core sabot slugs, thunderflash shells, titanium flechette and bionic brass buckshot rounds.

2025 Cadillac Escalade ESV - Sóse’s pride and joy, as well as his home away from the office. Fitted with a OPOC6 engine; last generation’s high-end surveillance equipment; armored windshield and composite armor panels; deuterium fluoride array defense system; EMP countermeasures and VFI run flat system.
they are living under ground but rations are running low so now they emerged to find supplies and they accidentally took over a small spot of Xanathan territory.They were living above ground but when the Val'gara started invading they hid underground to survive. Because there was no wood underground they became heavily reliant on technology,coal,and other ores. They became a small underground mining civilization.


if they've been around since the initial invasion in '08 then i'd reckon that would entail a few things. if they're within xanathan proper they'd either be in south africa or neighboring botswana or malawi as those countries are the most coal-abundant areas.

if you want to give yourself a bit more breathing room you could always go for morocco, niger or egypt as they are rich in coal and haven't really been explored so far in thread. but that does present the dangers of radiation and mutated flora and fauna.

i look forward to seeing what you come up with.
can i be a diesel punk nation?


if you could find a way to fit them into the narrative, sure. a few things to keep in mind is that xanathan dominates most of the hospitable territory or it falls under their influence. history in our setting was true to life until the alien invasion in 08.

feel free to join the discord and give us some insight into your faction
Hi i like to join the role play because my friend Nate here forced me to join


what did you have in mind?
Ok. By the looks of how NYUNDO has been acting, from what I can gather, they use magic and monsters... am I correct?


NYUNDO is a group of militant mutants and humans that resist Xanathan's current oppression. They do have magic users in their ranks but no monsters, unless you consider mutants monstrous. Their HQ was attacked by a monster, though. An old man that turned out to be a shapeshifting pain demon. The thread is split in two timelines with the events at Marange happening two weeks prior to the current activities of Xanathan, Nuberu/Reaex and your faction.
Welcome to my roleplay! In it, you will be attempting to overthrow a vampire tyrant. Every fight he wins, he gets stronger. If he loses, he dies and comes back weaker. If you can kill him enough times, you win! If he kills you, he steals your powers, and your character is dead. You can make another character to keep fighting him. Don't make any god level characters to keep it fun for everyone else. Good luck!


You do know the whole premise of this is that every time you beat him, he comes back stronger, right? It's a ongoing Arena.


those two statements contradict one another.
Assad’s eyes narrowed in contemplation, staring at the senterej board over the rim of a stoneware mug. Complex notes of cardamom melted into the black tea he’d taken to growing during his time spent away from NYUNDO’s command. With a satisfied smacking of lips, the old man leaned forward and moved his negus away from Najwa’s feresenya. “Kaliya kuwa jaahil ka ah dagaalka ayaa ku soo dhacaya. Only those ignorant of war rush in. This is a lesson you have learned well, habibti.”

Across the earthen table Najwa absently munched on a piece of muufo she’d dipped in her tea, eyes meticulously moving across each piece on the senterej board. The old man had made the first capture during werera, immediately setting the tone of the match. Since then she’d been on the defensive, capturing what few pieces she could in what was quickly becoming a war of attrition. “Still… I should have planned for the delay. For the Xanathan patrol. If not for that chi-”

Assad held up a wooden finger, its lacquered surface gleaming in dim quartz-filtered light set in the geotic ceiling above. “Hal farood maydhi karin wajiga.”

“Please, Baba. No more proverbs. I promise I’ll stop brooding.” Najwa groaned, placing a medeq one square forward. “Still, I think I’ll go see if I can help once I win this match.”

The old man feigned shock as he tossed a dried fig into his mouth, “Such disrespect! For your own father!” Chortling, Assad slid his remaining der across the board and set it defensively against her feresenya and medeq. Even now, after only a few hour’s rest following a night of horrors she only thought of others. A grin spread across his face as he looked at her and a memory was dredged out of the fog of time.

Through the lens of recollection he saw a child, trembling with fear as she stood up to the guards at a Xanathan research facility all those years ago. She had placed herself between the guards and a pair of younger children, eyes filled with determination. At 8 she was capable of keeping a contingent from joining the main XSF defense platoon. At 15 she accompanied Mshale and Semret in the clearing of a Durbaan hive. Now at 26, she was the heart of Marange; of NYUNDO. Ayanda’s withdrawal into the Kichaka Siri over the last decade had come as a heavy blow to all, but Najwa and Mshale were the ones most hurt. Yet while Mshale grew sullen and recalcitrant, Najwa resolved to fill Ayanda’s role. If only she realized how similar they’d become.

Assad was jarred from his daze by the grim turn of Najwa’s expression. “Ya amar, you don’t have to be so sore about losing,” he remarked with raised brows when he noticed the rippling surface of tea in his geotic mug. He rubbed at the stubble on his chin with curiosity when his eyes grew wide at the smooth veneer of his ligneous limb beginning to gnarl.

“Ya Allah!” Assad exclaimed while the fingers of his prosthesis exploded into a writhing mass of roots that splayed out over the table. Senterej pieces were rapidly enveloped in sprawling rhizomes that burrowed into the stone surface with a series of dull cracks, anchoring Assad in place.

“Stay back!” Assad exclaimed when a multitude of torn minds screamed in unison, their unfocused rage and euphoric agony crashing against his will. A leitmotif of disparate voices seethed within his mindscape as he furiously waved Najwa away.

“Abb!”

A litany composed from the commonality of humanity’s fears, appetites and pain created a psychic nebula through which only the truest of connections could pierce. Characterized in this instant as the concern that wracked Najwa’s face and caused Assad to rally against the intolerable noise that gnawed at his soul. “Habibti... you m-mun-must listen. Seek out… Omari a-atu-and use him to help t-tafa-the others!”

“Abb, what’s wrong!” Najwa pleaded as Assad continued to push her away with his unfettered arm, tears streaming down his scarred cheeks. She could hear the distant crashing of stone as tunnels collapsed. Paralyzed at the calamitous shift in their evening, Najwa watched in horror as Assad reeled back then slammed his face against the wooden and stone mass he was bound to. She took a step forward when he shot upright and bellowed “No!”.

Channels of blood poured from his lacerated forehead and shattered nose. As he tried to speak again the remnants of a tooth fell with a muted clatter from his nostril, encased in a thick glob of sanguineous phlegm. “O-Omari! Qatal takhatur!” At his limit, Assad embraced the void of unconsciousness with another self-inflicted blow that Najwa could not bring herself to watch.

In a full sprint, Najwa dashed past the growing discord. She was assaulted by the barking of commands in Shona and Xhosa. The tang of iron in the air from fresh wounds. Staccato eruptions of small-arms fire that echoed through the barrack's massive chamber. Every fiber of her being told her to stop and help her comrades. Torn between obligation and guilt, Najwa was prepared to disregard Assad’s commands when she saw it. The tell-tale saffron flash of Nkosiyabo’s magic illuminate the interior of his schorl quonset. The young Zulu sent the door flying with a blast of primal energy. Nkosiyabo beat his chest in defiance and yelled.

“Yidla umlingo wami, nina madube angahlanzwa!”

Bolstered by the sorcerer’s words Najwa roared like the Lioness she was, “FALL BACK, NKOSIYABO! TO THE HANGAR!” She bolted down the unblocked passage that connected the barracks to Marange’s cavernous hangar. With her speed it would take him nearly a quarter hour to catch up.

The steady emerald glow of the tunnel’s bioluminescent fungi had been diminished, a soft haze along twin channels that lined the over mile-long adit. Even now, nearly a third through she could feel the ambient heat of rising flames from the barracks. A heated sigh against the nape of her neck. Her ears rang as she pressed on into the intensifying pandemonium, an agonized cacophony amplified by the passage’s smooth walls.

Up ahead she could make out the growing aperture of the hangar’s quartz-filtered sunlight cutting through the virescent daze. Fists tightened with resolve as she charged forward, approaching the limits of her speed. Pupillary reflexes fired off at an accelerated rate continuously adjusting to the ever-brightening threshold.

Najwa hurtled through the luminous portal. Her jaw dropped in immediate horror. Bedlam gripped the subterrene hangar. The expansive chamber was dominated by a thrashing monstrosity. Mucilaginous grey flesh smashed against the kolwezite siding of a two-story tenement. Indigo ichor splattered from innumerable ocelli against the cerise structure with a sizzle. Slick ungulate forelimbs futilely sought traction against the hangar’s quartzite flooring. An equine skull was exposed, its elongated muzzle ending in heat pits that twitched wildly. A tripartite barbed tongue flung an oil drum in the air. The steel barrel was reflexively crushed in the vice grip of enormous oozing forcipules. Viscera pulsed within its translucent telson that skittered helplessly against the creature’s own bulk. The surrounding structures rattled as it threw its head back and keened. Cries of rage and terror were drowned out by a bestial wailing all too human in its expressiveness.

In her periphery she made out the nearby form of Imani beating a crumpled mass with a gore-coated wrench. She slowly turned her predatory gaze towards Najwa, wrench held high overhead. Directly across from her on the other side of the hangar she saw commotion in Omari’s clinic. Past the flailing abomination she made out warring silhouettes against the collapsed tunnel that led to Marange’s civilian population. An entire tenement missing with no signs of wreckage. Her nostrils flared at the pungent melange of innards and shit, petrol and ammonia. Her senses recoiled as they correlated and processed each heinous act slowed to macabre choreography.

Yet she never stopped her headlong charge. Najwa reached out as she dashed under Imani's vicious swing She firmly grasped the mechanic by the collar and flung her effortlessly. The enraged Swazi youth soared into a stack of tires with enough force to knock her unconscious.

300m away.

Najwa’s arms rose defensively, elbows tucked in tight. She approached a throng composed of corrupted comrades and refugees. They were armed and drawn to a distant clangor that boomed from the corridor that led to the training colosseum. Suddenly aware of prey in their midst, the drove turned on her. Situated between her and the clinic, she had no choice. Najwa slipped and wove her way through the crowd’s clumsy attacks. She took in each minute detail behind the reinforced knuckles of her combat gloves.

Dilated pupils. Flushed skin. Rapid breathing. Uneven heartbeats. The stink of adrenaline pouring from them. They’re stricken by rage. Najwa ducked, the glint of a blade slicing the space she’d just occupied. Her gaze shot past the immediate threats in her vicinity to a crowd of wailing children in the arms of immobilized mothers. Or fear.

Rolling forward Najwa positioned herself in the mob’s center. She took a step forward and planted the sole of her boot in Eshile’s stomach. His form smashed into two others, sending them to the ground. Turning, she lashed out in a flurry of strikes meant to incapacitate the remaining dozen hostiles before they could cause any further harm. Najwa stepped over their unconscious forms and peered towards the clinic.

200m. Need to get moving.

The distressing stench of fumes grew as she approached the clinic. Half-way there Najwa skidded to an abrupt halt as a gargantuan insectoid telson crashed down. Quartzite cracked in an eruption of debris. Meters-wide forcipules clacked menacingly above Najwa’s head. Venomous beads of dark rust dripped from the pincers. Incapable of forward locomotion, the monstrosity had blindly skittered to her as she’d become the cynosure of whatever was corrupting Marange.

“I don’t have time for you!” Najwa yelled, slamming a fist against the abomination’s translucent tergite plates. The chitin fractured in a moment of magnificent kaleidoscopic impact. A faint shimmer emanated from the telekill knuckles. In the blow’s wake the atrocity reacted violently. The fringes of its form quivered sickeningly and in a fleeting instant of clarity the exposed equine skull mutated into that of a confused and terrified young woman. As the spark from the knuckles faded so too did the gleam of humanity in her eyes. Now Najwa understood Assad’s last words.

She apologized internally for what she was about to do while leaping away from a swiping tarsus. Najwa leapt atop its back, slick with blood sweat. She took two lurching steps then launched herself at the arm supporting the abomination’s weight. Her knee crashed against its enormous elbow and shattered every bone around it. Najwa catapulted away from the shapeshifter.

She was another fifty meters closer to the clinic when the creature struck the ground. Her resolve steeled at the far-off sight of a child’s form collapsed at Omari’s doorway. The tempo of her footfalls created a frantic beat. Just a few more seconds.

A mephitic cloud of formaldehyde and peracetic acid accosted Najwa as she slid to a stop at the entrance. The boy’s limp form felt weightless in her arms. She gingerly laid him against the clinic’s alabaster wall. Najwa softly brushed dirt from his cheek. Her ears twitched at the tell-tale sound of striking flint. She was already in motion by the time Omari could give the lighter another attempt.

She crashed through the wooden door without notice. Splinters of wood harmlessly bounced off her exposed skin. Omari’s thumb was pressed against the flint wheel. He sat in the clinic’s chair, covered in chemicals. The hiss of butane cut through Najwa’s focus. Sparks were set to erupt and engulf the clinic in an inferno. Just then a gloved hand wrapped around Omari’s fist and crushed the lighter and several bones in its grasp.

“ENOUGH!”

Najwa released the grisly pulp of Omari’s hand. She struck her knuckles together in a prismatic cascade of cleansing light that filled the small clinic.

Minutes later…

The gleaming glove resting atop an ornate rug in the middle of the room drew Nkosiyabo’s eyes. He sat in silence in the small alcove beside Omari’s clinic that served as the doctor’s quarters. Najwa had sat at the tunnel’s entrance, waiting on the sorcerer’s arrival. The unconscious form of Makemba was slung over her shoulder. He was lost in contemplation at what she’d told him as he arrived.

“Can your magic make people forget?”

He knew many spells and had made many pacts with the jungle’s own but this was beyond him. This was an ancient evil that preceded humanity. Perhaps even the Imimoya he had sworn fealty to.

Najwa returned with Omari and Makemba in tow, heads bowed in shame. Tears freely fell down the doctor’s face. Cradling the slowly mending mass of his hand, he muttered under his breath. “Etthu xeeni yootakhala evanrya aka?... Etthu xeeni yootakhala evanrya aka?...”

“Nkosiyabo, can you do what I asked?” Najwa fixed her gaze upon the Zulu, returning the glove to her hand. The sorcerer solemnly shook his head. “No matter. I have another plan in mind that requires each of your gifts.”

Omari began to protest but quickly went silent when Najwa shot a steely glare his direction. “Fix your hand, doctor. Makemba’s as well. I am going to ask much of you. But first, Nkosiyabo… you are renown in Marange for your guile and craft. In your travels have you made dealings with an imimoya of sleep?”

A look of understanding slowly washed over Nkosiyabo and he nodded, already exiting the cramped quarters. The others followed close behind. Omari and Makemba watched as the sorcerer began the ritual summoning. Najwa stepped away from the group, removing the telekill panga from its sheath at the small of her back. She grimaced at her blood-flecked reflection in the scoured stone blade.

Najwa struck the flat of the machete's blade with a glowing fist until it shone intensely, bathing her in its light. She gave a great hurl of her arm. The machete embedded itself deep in the hangar's ceiling. An imperceptible aura began to radiate from the panga and resonated through the quartz with a cleansing effect.

Najwa turned to Nkosiyabo who was exhaling a ghastly wreath of violet flames. With a flourish a batá appeared tucked under his left arm. The drum was made of rich mpingo and emblazoned with faintly luminous sigils. A gossamer vellum was stretched taut over the drum's head. He struck the drum once and was met with the sound of beating wings. Rapid syncopation caused the plumes to condense into a blazing pillar Nkosiyabo slowly circled.

"Ibhumubi vusa. Ibhumubi vusa. Silethele. Silethele. Ibhumubi vusa…"

His chanting continued softly as the remaining conscious refugees and comrades awoke into a living nightmare. Disparate voices began to call out in sudden realization. Staggered gasps from weeping mothers. Outraged howls of confusion. Repressed sobs of self-loathing. All were soothed at the Ibhumubi's evocation.

Spectral scales shimmered along diaphanous moth wings creating a cloud of somnolescent powder that descended upon the hangar. The tenement Najwa presumed destroyed slowly materialized. Cries of lament and bellows of rage softened to a torpid murmur as the Ibhumubi navigated the cavernous chamber.

Najwa left Nkosiyabo to his work and approached the duo of Omari and Makemba. The two looked up at her lithe form as Omari finished healing the elderly woman’s hand. “Do you understand what must be done?”

They nodded gravely. Najwa’s eyes sharpened as she spoke. “Say it out loud.”

Makemba responded, rising to her feet with an aged groan. “You want us to heal everyone. Body... and mind. I have never tried to remove memories in this way… But I will. For them. For NYUNDO.”

Omari’s bowed head rose, eyes raw with tears. “For them. For NYUNDO.”

Najwa departed without a word. She eyed the returned tenement and the naked form of a young woman whose arm was shattered at the elbow as she strode towards the colosseum.

Two new individuals with gifts. What a foul way to discover them. I’ll protect them too. For NYUNDO.
@Nate1008 Circ has a post coming up, then after that it's up in the air. Gattsu has something brewing in his mind as well.
Saudade, Glasslands (formerly Tunis)

The stoic visage of Ali III Ibn al-Husayn looked back at Nuberu from weathered parchment, the portrait’s features loosening into a wide, displeased look as Nuberu vigorously worked with the material. He frantically scuffed the portrait’s hemp against the twisted frame of a short bench until he could rip the painting to shreds. Offering his condolences to the late Bey, Nuberu stuffed the fabric into a pair of oversized boots he’d scavenged earlier.

He’d lost track of how long it took him to arrive in Tunis. Long enough that he’d been barefoot until the mottled grey of his soles left a splattered trail of olive cruor. The sight of the beam consumed him, pushing him past the brink of total exhaustion. Only the very real threat of dehydration released him from his fugue.

The soft glow of a fire burning in a waste bin he’d pilfered from the Bardo Museum’s administration offices comforted Nuberu as he slipped the boots on over fresh bandages, lacing them with care. Reflecting on his luck of stumbling upon a crashed helicopter he’d converted into his shelter while attempting to access the museum’s roof, Nuberu felt a tinge of hope.

It had been his second day in Tunis, having depleted what little reserves he’d left that air traffic controller tower with in Tripoli, when the midday sun was serendipitously caught by the sullied steel of a rooftop water tower. Like a moth to the flame, Nuberu braved the flooded foundation of the museum.

Even through the muck he was taken aback at the skill and majesty of the mosaics that had been carved by a master’s hands thousands of years prior. Transfixed at the expertise he realized he was the first to marvel at these works in over three decades. A heavy pang struck his chest and he moved on, wading through fetid ankle-deep waters as he approached the stairs that would change his fortune.

Although he knew it would eventually be worn away by the toxicity of his being, he relished in the now unfamiliar feeling of man-made clothing. Dressed in the salvaged remains of a Russian Hind crew’s uniforms, Nuberu leaned forward to inspect his newfound canteen’s contents when the bottom of his stomach fell out.

Wh-where is my ring…?

Searching for the ring in a panic, he tumbled forward through the comfort of the cabin into a fuliginous abyss where he fell, perception molding the darkness into byzantine polders expelled by stygian depths. Obsidian mounds protruded from brackish waters where bloated figures bobbed languidly. This labyrinth was flanked by an anachronistic skyline that flew by Nuberu; the rich white and sapphire of the Ennejma Ezzahra contrasted by the stark remains of Carthiginian ruins as they melted against a tangerine aurora atop the Mediterranean.

The landscape continued to streak past Nuberu in a viridian blur and inexplicably the distant form of Mt. Diaba appeared in his eyeline; austere planes meticulously accented with bands of green looming ever nearer. The pain in Paola’s voice as she cried out in protest when the Council delivered his fate bubbled up from the depths of his psyche. Conjuring her face gripped him in cold terror. He shot past the now shrinking mountain into another tenebrous void.

Weightlessly he tumbled through the dark, chest heaving when he was struck to his very core by a baneful magnificence that screamed across the cosmos, tearing space in its wake. Motes throbbed in sonorous contempt, precipitating the malice that struck the Earth with a horrendous boom that startled Nuberu awake.

Nuberu’s nails were dug into the thick hides he’d dozed off under, eyes adjusting to the predawn gloom. His breaths came in short gasps while the cabin of the helicopter juddered against the cocoon of marble and concrete that enveloped it. A fine mist of rain came in through the crater in the museum’s ceiling, drops suspended in an errant beam of twilight. Pushing the furs aside, he sat upright with a bolt and fished through the pockets of his new field jacket.

It’s got to be here. It’s got to- graças a deus.

Gently caressing the tantalum ring with his thumb, Nuberu took a deep breath when another peal of thunder caused a clatter of crashing marble. He cursed at himself, anxiety having hammered his emotions into an uneven edge. Enclosing the ring with the jerk of a zipperhead, Nuberu settled back against a bundle of cushioning he’d ripped from the pilot’s seat he’d found mostly embedded into a mosaic of slaves serving wine during a Roman banquet.

The thunderclap had nearly expended itself when he heard the panicked screams of someone in mortal danger. Nuberu scrambled up the inclined cabin of the helicopter towards the open cargo bay. Pulling himself up by a length of secured cable, he rolled over onto the rooftop just in time to regret his decision.

High above Saudade the muted wings of enormous raptors beat the night’s sky into submission. Clutched in their gleaming talons were the unmistakable shapes of two humans. Their pleas for death grew fainter as the monstrous avians soared towards the shattered ruins of the Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul.

Hours later

What am I doing… I’m no hero…

The charred sling of a grimy Vityaz-SN dug into Nuberu’s shoulder as he tried to quietly navigate his way through the cathedral’s rubble-strewn courtyard. Each step registered as a dull ache, the potent cocktail of adrenaline and morphine efficiently combating the pain he felt. He adjusted his hold on the firearm, inspecting it dubiously. Does this thing even fire? He wished he’d been brave enough to test the weapon earlier but couldn’t risk exposing his presence. Maybe I should go. They’re probably dead by now…

Soft cries of distress spilled out from the cathedral’s inner sanctum and Nuberu cursed internally, stepping through the threshold. Had it not been for the sling he would have dropped the Vityaz. The wide chamber that had once been filled with the light of a thousand candles, penitent heads filling the pews was now supplanted by visceral horror, dominated by the treacly, gnarled trunk of a towering acacia. Rotting carcasses were impaled upon massive thorns along its splayed branches.

The cries had come from a crumpled form half submerged in a viscous sap that bubbled menacingly. A pungent vapor hung thick over the pool as the body tried desperately to raise its arm. Abruptly their torso was crushed with a sickening squelch as one of the monstrous strigidae landed with an inaudible pounce. The ashen horror of its tripartite beak exploded in a shrill cry of rapture as it split the thorax in two with a powerful kick that flung caustic sap in a wide arc.

Nuberu watched on in horror as it devoured half of the gore it created in one disgusting gulp. As viscera and sap pooled at the tapered ends of its mighty wings, Nuberu noted the odd composition of the monster’s feathers; they gleamed like anodized titanium and seemed to be covered in a type of patina. He began to slowly back away when he noted two minuscule apertures focusing on him; posterior eyes protruded from the covert feathers along its mantle.

Merda!

Lustrous pools of deep amber the size of manhole covers glared at the intruder in its territory. Nuberu unloaded the Vityaz in a panic, completely missing his mark, before dashing down a hallway adjacent to the vestibule he’d just passed through. The Broxa’s rampaging form crashed through the rotting wood of an aged confessional then slammed into the stone archway. It desperately snapped its triadic neb, slavering gluttonously until its frustrations grew to a fever pitch. The raptor let loose a deafening screech that disoriented Nuberu as he struggled in vain to cover his ears. If he’d been able to hear over its incensed din, his heart would have sank at the number of calls that came in response.
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