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You couldn't scythe the knees out from under Alexa more effectively with a cannon.

That's it? You're giving up? You attacked her, attacked her friends, you're just--you can't just decide that the fight's over, not when she's brimming with all this energy! Her head pounds, her chest heaves, her fingers clench and unclench uselessly on the spearhaft. She needs to move, needs to swing! Come on! Stand and fight! Give her satisfaction!

Her spear digs angry sparks from the floor as she paces, eyes always on the assassin. Come on, you, make your move! Come on! You have to do it, because you haven't surrendered and she can't hit you if you're not fighting back! Can't vent this energy, can't keep going! And if she can't keep going!--

Her body sings with energy! And so long as she's moving, pushing, attacking, she can keep going. So long as there's a threat to fight, she doesn't have to think about the nicks, the scrapes. She can stave off the moment her body insists that she's exhausted, insists that things are wrong, that she should take a moment to think!--

Thinking is bad. She's spent all these centuries thinking, being careful, and look where that's got her! Keep it up. You can push through this. Aggression. Anger! So long as you keep moving, you don't need to go back! You can keep this, can keep riding that razor's edge of this being alright!

Because if this isn't alright, then she has to go back.

"To be fair, if you had come for Nero as you were, I would not have done so," she admits. "But I cannot allow you to hurt them. So what now?"
Two continents collide.

The floor, poor bastard, whines and shrieks as craters are created, gulleys are gashed, and molten sparks spilled with every blow. The armor oozes, the assassin strives to push past her.

And Alexa laughs. She'd have to be mad not to! Here, now, against she who is filled with Ares' bolstering might? You seek to harm those she cares about? You want to push past her? You should be worried about getting away!

Arms grab like pincers. Beads fly, and armor crumples up where she grabs. Is this what she's been denying herself? What is the price going to be?

She headbutts a ceremonial skull, sending shards pinwheeling across the kitchen, and grins at the assassin. "So. Looks like we have some time to kill. What got you into poor decisions like this?"
There ought to be more fanfare to your first murder. The universe ought to hold its breath, the air full of tension at the possible decision, as it waits for him to choose a path through the future. Does he offer him life, or take that first step towards Black Coleman?

Indeed, as he kneels down besides himself, he can't help but feel vaguely insulted that it's so mundane. That it's so easy to help himself part the coarse hair, find the veins, grab the knife, and let the toxic sludge inside ooze onto the floor of the aquarium. Probably bad for the tile, that, his mind insists on chiming in. Better find a wet floor sign somewhere.

But... Well, he's uncomfortable with Black Coleman because he sees the path. He sees how he goes from himself to--well, himself, but with a patina of shame. Sees the logic. The emotions. Black Coleman is himself in ways he doesn't feel comfortable acknowledging.

And... Well, he did try to kill Sasha.

Lucien clowned! Ailee shattered! Jackdaw vanished! He can easily believe the first and last, but there was part of him that had even started to buy into Ailee's own beliefs about what would happen in the Heart.

"But do you remember this day? Are you here, in your memories? Is this a cycle we're starting here--the two of us, comin' back here and murderin' this poor jackass over an' over, and not changing a thing?"
Alexa has never felt so alive.

She is a fire! Every slab of stone sings with energy, every ornamental filigree must surely be streaming molten. Every step is forward--no phalanx to hold her back, nothing to stop her advance, nothing that could match her!

She is a song! Her every movement is grace, freed of thoughts of who she is, what she is, what others see her, how she must mold and fit what they wish. See her dance!

Careless! She should be terrified, concerned! Worried about the supports she's severing, worried about Isty! The moment a flurry of blows finally overwhelms the Aegis should put her to flight, but the thoughts won't come--refuse to come! Cower back into the mind with shame! See, now, the freedom denied her!

Honestly, she's pretty sure she's going to need help to unpack this. It's liberating! But confusing! There's no control! No defense! No concern for others! She is berserk, unleashed! It's glorious, beautiful!

And the most terrifying thing she's ever felt.
It would almost be better if Black Coleman weren't so mundane.

Give a man an eyepatch, a pegleg, and it's so simple to build a story to fit him. This is a pirate, surely! A blackhearted terror of the rails, pillager of the defenseless, cannibal of lesser trains! You can tell yourself that this is but a twisted shadow of what might be, an impossibility made real through some quirk of the Heart. It's not you, not really.

But those eyes... they're the same eyes he sees every day in Sasha's gleaming mirror-polished surface. This isn't some cackling villain, some nightmare mirror-version. This isn't a madman, somone who's lost his soul. He looks in those eyes and sees, behind the coldness and the determination, the regret hiding there. This is a Coleman who knows what he's done, what he's become, and would do it again. He made choices with the knowledge he had. To modify Sasha or hope that she'd be strong enough without Wormwood to protect her. To carry on, to build a family even despite the difficulties. To build a crew who loved her as much as he did. To join in the war, when all other options had been exhausted.

Gods. War amongst trains. As if things weren't bad enough without a thousand tiny gods deciding that, Right, it's time to show that shiny new up-and-comer down the rail exactly where they are in the pecking order.

Black Coleman isn't even that older than he is, he realizes with a start. No missing scales, no sagging crests or dulled claws. He's got more scars, and the bags under his eyes speak of many missed nights of sleep, but he can't be more than maybe five years into the future.

"You don't want to do this." Not a question, not pleading. Simply a statement of something they both know. "You didn't want to do most of the rest, either."

He's made decisions, yes. Necessary ones, difficult ones.

Maybe the wrong ones?

"Tell me what happened. Tell me how to stop this."

[EDIT: Talk Sense, 8]
[wrong thread, no delete button, ignore]
Caval is too recent for Alexa to feel anything resembling confidence. She is caught out, lax in her one task, with no offering to Athena or the other one. And here stands a glittering goddess, blessed with omens and favors wondrous and breathtaking to behold. She should be only a step behind Mynx in her flight!

And yet, her feet are firm, her arm steady. The spear--her spear, her gift--sits in her hand like it could belong nowhere else. The Aegis is a silver flame on her arm, eager to protect. Here and now, she is calm.

Because she has no other choice. If she falls here, the Assassin will kill Dolce, and then her, and then everyone else she cares for. She must fight, holding nothing back, and win.

It's been a long time since she's done that, hasn't it? How long, since she truly had a good reason? How long, since she could truly say she believed in her own cause?

The assassin can't kill her. Always useful to have an opponent who doesn't want to kill you--it means that, however briefly, you want the same thing.

No boasts. No challenges. But, as she stands and blocks the path, she murmurs:

"Ares. Guide my spear."

[3,5,+3. 11 on Keep Them Busy.]

Alexa doesn't smile, but the corner of one lip does tug upwards. Dearie me, we're all getting attached, aren't we? Would the Mynx of Tellus have been so caring, so desperate, as to say something so directly caring as "don't die"?

Still, keeping someone safe is nothing if not practiced for her. The VIP's safety takes priority over everything else. Dolce can't be allowed to fight, and Mynx has her own VIP to care for. Isty and herself as assets. Two powerful fighters, though mismatched in style--no phalanxes here. A narrow enough choke point could solve that issue, but also severely limit how well they could fight together. Put one of them at either end of a hallway? Risky. Two points of failure, and if either falls then Dolce and the other are stuck in a pincer. Besides, they're on a ship full of thrice-damned Hermetics--holding a choke point just means that they have time to pull out whatever esoteric they want.

So. Running. Or, for Isty's sake, tactically retreating. Not ideal, because ideally you need a place to retreat to. She doesn't know the ship. They're outnumbered. She won't know whether the hermetics are herding them until it's too late. The hermetics have a ship AI coordinating their every movement, for crying out--

A choke point with only one way in. No way for skirmishers to get around. And something they can't afford to fire an esoteric into.

"Mynx," she asks delicately. "Do you think Birmingham would afford Bella a personal audience?"
"Tell me about Black Coleman."

It's not the first time that Coleman's lamented how everything is obviously built the wrong size. If there were any justice, he'd be able to stand in front of his friend, block the Blemmyae's line of sight, let it know in no uncertain terms that she's said no so it's time to let it go.

Instead, the best he can do is distract him. Keep his attention off Jackdaw, let Wolf hold her, keep her warm and safe. She's good at that.

"Tell me about what he did. Did he say anything when he attacked you? What did he look like? What has he done to my baby? How did he attack your clan? Did he give a reason?"
Drink me until you're full of me.

Once upon a time, she would have given anything for that. Let something, anything, fill her up, ease her mind, bring her nothingness.. Plant her under a tree, bury her deep, let roots grow around and through her. It's calm down there, surrounded by earth. Let her drink deep the sweet nepenthes of oblivion.

Now, though, she wrenches her shoulder free, grabs Isty, and shouts "Run!"

Now, she has an image in her head that isn't complete without her in it.

Alexa bursts through the kitchen door like a wrecking ball through a building and seizes the first vaguely white coat she sees. "The sheep!" No, calm down, the little chef's terrified, be calm, be nice. "You! You. Have you seen a sheep? About yea tall, waistcoat, shaped like a friend?"
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