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The Koopa Troop

wordcount: 1,640 (+3)
Bowser: Level 12 EXP: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (130/120)
Bowser Jr: Level 12 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (20/120)
Kamek: Level 12 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (19/120)
Rika: Level 6 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (62/60)
Location: The Under - The Ruins - Dripstone Cave

There was no need for Rika to dance with little blobby death, as the seeker’s strategies worked like a charm before the light seeds could even try and charge her. The shields kept the silly Migospel from being infected, while Jr,Dazzle and Rika’s range attacks popped blobs left and right. The most effective strike came from Rubic however, his bouncing spell chaining kill after kill in quick succession and making short work of a swath of their foes.

”Is everyone alright?” Kamek enquired as he swooped over, to which he got a pair of affirmation from the two youngsters of the troop. Bowser caught up a little later just in time for Barnabee to fill them in more on what they had just stopped, namely some kind of zombie plague.

”urgh, yeah, good job troop. Those things remind me way too much of these little things from the dead zone. Just glowy instead of fleshy.” the king commented, relieved they were all right, and just a little annoyed that he had been too slow to help ”That place was the worst… or maybe the maw was the worst. Whatever. Still bad”

The other three nodded at that assessment, though Rika had no context for the first place he'd mentioned, while the koopas had all been in the dead zone at one point or other, however briefly, and got the jist of what he meant even if they hadn’t all seen the flood.

”Let us hope that this one being ‘close to the surface’ as you say, is just a coincidence. I think we could all do without another run of that wasteland” Kamek said, putting word to their shared sentiment about that place.

There was only one way to find out if his hopes would turn out true however, and that was to descend deeper. Fortunately, Primrose had managed to find a way and so, after a bit of spirit plundering of mosquitoes and light seeds and the stuffing of them into increasingly full jars, the troop followed her lead to the secret exit to the cave.

Once within, on top of sussing out the second hidden wall they had missed, she also pointed out something else obvious to her and not to them, and that was there was no way that the others had come this way.

”That is … concerning” Kamek noted before theorizing that ”maybe we missed a warp pipe? Or another hidden wall? I worry they’ll go try and find us by going the other way, and get very lost doing so”

”If we did, that map guy’ll point them after us if they try to go back right? So we should keep marking the way we went, and hope they catch up I guess?” Jr suggested, before expanding on Prim’s idea of marking the walls as they went, and doing some graffiti on the walls to point out both the secret walls and adding a tag to confirm that it was 100% him that had done said marking, and that they had gone this way.

Then all that was left to do was, well, keep moving forwards and hoping that Primrose’s idea that this was a shortcut to where the others where was the correct one.

Or, to be more specific, to keep moving downwards.

It went without saying that the troop, moving together, were a lot less stealthy than Primrose, particularly because they had to take rather specific routes that would let Bowser get down, instead of being able to squeeze through any which way. That said, they didn’t just walk either.

Jr and Kamek could fly, of course, while Rika got her Cocatrice swapped out for a hunting spider once again and used it to hop, climb and web build her way down. That left the big man himself, who equipped a bell to his spiked collar, and used his Meowser claws to slide down the side of the tree where he could, and also occasionally stopping to use Scissorman’s Shears he had acquired way back when for their actual intended purpose, namely pruning plants, which he did to help to clear his way down.

It also got used to prune other things, such as the fungus men who stood simply no chance against the grouped up troop, their reliance on punching attacks meaning that most of them that tried to fight them didn't even manage to get close before blasted by one of the fliers

It was the basilisk that where the bigger problem, and the troop’s first encounter with them was the roughest:

”Oh hey look! I see something shiny over there” Jr called over the sound of claws scraping through bark being caused by his papa cat scratching down the side of the central tree ”I’m going to check it out!”

Then he promptly flew off, dragging everyone but Bowser in his wake, where they promptly got ambushed by an equal number of basilisks.

Numerous eyes flashed from the shadows of a grand branch, causing armor negating damage to take a good chunk off of the trio’s health.

Several cries of pain were followed by a battle cry from jr as he pivoted to charge the oversized lizards, only to find his movements sluggish, and his machine diving forth without support. Rika and Kamek both found practically every stat of theirs greatly reduced by the basilisk's gaze from their strength to their magic, which caused both broom and spider construct to lose potency and to drop both of them to the ground unceremoniously.

Or rather it dropped Rika to the ground and Kamek out of the air. The mage cried out in alarm as he fell, plummeting towards the distant floor, only to find Rika dropping after him. Having lunged after him on instinct, the ship girl wrapped gauntleted arms around him, and then fired her maneuvering thrusters, blasting them forwards so that she hit a far less distant branch, the ship girl grunting in pain as she rolled the landing.

After a moment, she rose stiffly, only to find herself face to face with a grove of mushroom men, made suddenly dangerous by the basilisk's debuffing of them and her being alone and having to protect a stunned Kamek.

Up above, jr found himself alone vs three of the giant lizards, which turned to focus their gaze on him

”Oh no you don’t. Minions! Get them!” Jr cried out weakly, proceeding to hurl wave after wave of striker squads at the great beasts while he pulled back and tried to remedy himself. A battle of self healing being crippled and undone by basilisk gazes ensued, while the monsters themselves were chipped away at by minion wave attacks.

Then, a roar broke through the grindfest of a fight as Bowser, having ascended back up to to reunite with his son riding on the back of his trowlon striker, arrived on the scene

”You lizards are cooked now that the king of cat-astrophe is here!” he roared as he stepped off the lifting friend and changed … only to be promptly blasted by basilisk gazes that slowed that charge to a crawl.

He snarled and waved a fist angrily at them as he slogged on forwards towards the lizards, who were in the midst of cowing though the last of Jr’s goomba strikers and directed their focus onto the boy in full. Furious at being too slow yet again, the king hammered his chest once, twice and then on the third hit there was a flash of inspiration in the kings and all might crack from his shell.

Glowing lines of energy split his shell like a river delta of magma … and then he sped up once again, faster now than he had been before, but not, he somehow knew, as fast as he would go with this power un obstructed.

Another basalt hit him, but his lowered defenses ment naught when the shots were bypassing it anyway, and the debuff did not stack, shell smash continuing to counteract it. Then he hit the lizard pack, fits and claws smashing and slashing, and his own summoned strikers adding to his furious assault, hammers, bombs and bones flying.

This gave Jr time and space to ”Esuna!” himself clear of the buff. Then he turned the cure spell on his dad and promptly removed both the basilisk's debuff, and, unintentionally, his dad’s own effect, the glowing lines sealing shut as he was returned to normal.

It didn’t matter, the king was upon his foe already, and he dealt out brutal vengeance, and soon enough the basilisks were dust.

Down below, a panting Rika drove ripped her chainsaw bayonet down one final time, slashing the final mushroom monster from throat to gutt, just in time for the debuff to wear off upon the death of its caster. After checking that Kamek was recovering (he was), and calling up to see if Bowser and Jr where ok (they where) she moved to inspect a small treasure stash that had presumably belonged to the mushroom creatures in some shape or form.

”Huh, neat” she commented as she pocketed the items, right in time for a cry of ”Oh come on!” to descend from the branch above Jr found out that the shiny thing he had seen that had caused this whole mess was a mere shard of glass.

That discovery, plus the unpleasant encounter with the basilisks, put a damper on any other wandering off, and so the troop stuck together and took as direct a path as they could down, using Kamek’s whisps to scout out any threats and doing their best to nuke them down as quickly as possible when they spotted.

By the time they reached the bottom they had acquired a small collection of spirits, and a dire need for a rest, the troop parking themselves at the base of the tree, and taking a load off as they waited for everyone to regroup down there, lighting a little fire to roast some marshmallows over while they did so as a quick little pick me up.
Hot Pursuit

Sector 3-4-5-6-7 Hub Tunnels
Goldlewis, Roxas’ @Double, Karin’s @Zoey Boey, Midna’s @DracoLunaris, Pit’s @Yankee
Word Count: 4867 (+5)

”Jeez, can’t we go anywhere without trouble somehow finding us?” Roxas asked with a quick facepalm. But there was nothing to be done about it except act.

"Nope, it's part of the job description when you’re a world-saving hero!"

”Nothing but another opportunity to demonstrate excellence, Mister Roxas. Onwards!” Karin said, making sure her grappling hook was secure on her bare arm.

For a ten-ton titan of a vehicle, Goldlewis’ hummer could really move once it got going, which came in handy now that time was of the essence. The bright lights and screens inside the otherwise dark, near-trapezoidal tunnel quickly became a holographic blur as the Patriot Mammoth picked up speed, slowly but steadily gaining on their targets. Up ahead, the Neuron officer on his motorcycle had been waylaid by the Filthwing aberrations, which despite appearances seemed capable of not just catching up to him but exceeding his bike’s impressive speed. Once ahead of them the monsters turned to shoot backward at the speeding policeman, forcing him to return fire with the bike’s mounted laser guns to avoid getting swarmed. He’d put on a dominating performance against them so far, but their firefight hat gave the semi and its monstrous revenue time to catch up. Add in crashed cars, automatic roadblocks, and other debris to the mix, and things got more complicated still.

“I’m too old for this shit!” Goldlewis roared over the clamor of the engine. At these speeds the simple act of not crashing into something took every bit of concentration he had, and in fact he did graze wrecks or the tunnel walls a couple times, but somehow he managed to not only keep everyone in one piece but also creep up on the action bit by bit. Of course, he knew the aberrations would notice eventually, and sure enough the demonic-looking fliers began to harry his hummer with arrows of malignant red energy. “Y’all better start doin’ somethin’, or we’re gonna be a smear on the damn pavement!”

"You got it!" Pit said, preparing to exit the vehicle. It took two tries to get the nearest door open, the first time it slammed back shut due to the pressure from the speed they were going at. The second time Pit gave the poor hummer's door a good kick and slipped out before it closed again, climbing up onto the roof.

The angel was confident that he could keep his footing, and his wings were tucked in close to his body to prevent them catching any wind that might knock him off. This kind of high speed battle, while not the norm for him, was something he had experience in. Plus he couldn't exactly fire his bow from inside anyway. The weapon came to his hand, a light arrow manifested, and soon enough Pit was shooting back at the flying menaces. Thanks to the maneuverability of the light arrows he didn't have to be entirely accurate when judging his aim while hurtling down the road - the glowing blue flickers of light curved toward their targets, slamming into the Filthwings both from their sides and straight on.

In response there was the wiring of electric motors as one or more of the windows were rolled down. First to pop their head out was a masked and suited Midna, unintentionally looking like some kind of bank robber, an aesthetic only added to when she started out by firing off a few ineffectual pistol shots. She took the goddess name in vain, and then leaned back into the car, after which a shadow hand extended out in its place, and into its grip one of the Amazonian initiates was summoned.

Gripped around the waist by the massive magical hand that acted somewhat as armor, the striker hoisted a spear of psionic energy over her shoulder, and then hurled it like a javelin, though the attack designed for futuristic battlefields flew straighter and truer than any physical projectile might have against the rushing tunnel air the Hummer was blasting through. For all its absurdity, the clever maneuver paid off, spearing one of the Filthwings through the abdomen. More than that, the impact drove it into the road beneath, sending it into a wild tumble along the road.

Meanwhile, a window on the opposite side of the hummer slid down to open. And then a very nervous Roxas quickly leaned part way out of the window and called Oathkeeper to his hand. Aiming wasn’t exactly easy, considering the high speed and low visibility of the tunnel. In fact Roxas wasn’t even sure this was a good idea. But Mr. Dickinson said they needed to do something, so Roxas had to try something at least. He pointed the Keyblade at the general direction of one of the demon things chasing the motorcycle, ”Firaga!” and with that command, an explosive fireball launched from the weapon’s tip and flew forward.

Maybe shooting fire at a demonic creature might not have been the most tactically sound idea, but Blizzaga and Waterga would have created hazards that could cause a wreck, while Thundaga would have just showered their own vehicle in a series of indoor lightning strikes. Ergo, Firaga ironically seemed to be the least risky move here. Of course Roxas also had to quickly duck back into the window to avoid clipping against an oncoming obstruction, but otherwise he was still fine for the moment, ”Please tell me someone has a better idea?” he said, not exactly thrilled with the thought of doing that again. Despite his trepidations, he managed to land the shot, thanks mostly to the aberration’s remarkably stable flight pattern. A plume of flame blossomed in midair against the monster and it careened off course. While it didn’t die, it would be forced to catch up with the heroes once more.

At that point the other Filthwings really started to take notice. A flurry of crimson bolts flew the hummer’s way, and Goldlewis couldn’t evade them all. Despite its formidable appearance the vehicle wasn’t actually military-grade, and after just a few shots the windshield shattered violently, filling the inside with shards of glass. The veteran gritted his teeth as blood dribbled from fresh cuts on his face. “Damn it! They’re gonna pay!” He reached over and knocked on the lid of his coffin, causing it to slide open. “UMA! Give ‘em somethin’ to shoot with!” In reply the alien produced the hulking Skyfish minigun, which would take superhuman strength to wield, and certainly not within the confines of the hummer’s interior.

”Ohhhhh, gimme gimme!” Midna said as she made a grab for the massive gun with her shadowhand, wrapping it around the body of the gun and hoisting it up. She proceeded to shove open a door and shoved the minigun out of it, only to find actually firing it herself to be basically impossible, what with the open door being in the way and there being no way to lean out of it safely either.

”No … No… ok someone over there grab it” she instructed as she hauled the gun over the top of the hummer’s roof and then held it next to the other side of the car’s open windows. There someone could lean out of it, and fire it one handedly while relying on Midna’s supernatural strength to handle the recoil.

Karin, having been sat in the middle, was waiting for a moment to act. When the glass shattered she protected herself and then moved forward the passenger seat and moved with agility out the window and onto the hood of the car. With a back roll she steadied herself with a low crouch on the roof of the hummer. ”I’ve done battle on the wings of a biplane! This is nothing!” She declared. Extended her arm forward, she fired off a grappling hook to one of the Filthwings. She retracted, the wind at it’s back as she pulled it in for a stabbing punch to that torso that pinned it to the hummer’s roof. Following up with a viscous elbow, she then slammed it up with her palm where it scattered into dust on the ceiling.

After loosing a few more arrows ahead of them Pit glanced at his fellow rooftop fighter. "Me too!" The organizers for the Smash Bros. tourneys always loved getting creative with the stages.

Hopefully with Karin now being on the hummer it would attract some attention. Otherwise, she could get on the hood and defend from there. Luckily, the aberrations obliged. Two of the four archers currently shooting at the Patriot Mammoth flew toward her to attack in person. Wielding their deformed arms like clubs they aimed to clothesline the street fighter off the roof for a deadly encounter with the pavement, and she had less than two seconds to deal with one before the second joined the fun.

Before the first could reach her with its arms, she thrust her foot out to stop it dead in its tracks. She brought her other leg around and swiped it across the chest, slamming it into the path of its fellow before it could reach her. This would interrupt its focus but not stop all of its momentum. As it fell towards her she brought the back of her hand down atop its dome and struck her palm under its chin, sending it flying into the speedy roof tunnel above. Quickly she zipped back over to the first creature and slammed her back into it, knocking it into the hood of the humvee and then under the wheels, to the discomfort of those inside of it.

“The hell are ya doin’ with my gun!?” She heard Goldlewis holler at Midna down below. “Those kids can’t fire it like that! If Karin can’t hold it up top, put it back in the damn coffin!” With the driver’s attention diverted to something even more valuable than his car, he steadied the hummer as it continued to roar down the tunnel, filling it with a cacophonous echo. This made it an easier target for the aberrations, who pelted it with projectiles. One struck Goldlewis in the chest, inches from his heart. “Agh!” he growled. “UMA! Need a hand!”

In the middle back seat, the coffin began to shake. The lid lifted upward, and from within extended a spectral hand. Its translucent skin gleamed like cosmic nebulae on fingers much longer than a human’s. Then a second hand stretched outward. And a third. One by one ten hands appeared, borne on long arms of uncanny slenderness to reach out through the hummer’s windows. Five of them relieved Midna’s shadow-hand of the Skyfish minigun, then hoisted it up onto the roof for the other five to steady. With their staunch grip holding the minigun it could be aimed and fired like a turret.

”That’s basically just the same as my idea!” Midna complained, not at all put off by the weird spectral ghost thing, before she was forced to admit that while it was the same sort of idea, it was being done in a way that didn’t lopside the car.

”Fine, have it your way!” she declared, as she moved her shadow hand to grab the back of the hummer for support, and then pulled herself out the door instead.

There came an ”Eek!” as the wind resistance hit her and she was pulled back, but she got a hold of the situation and, rather than flailing around behind the vehicle, pulled herself around in an arc to land on top of the vehicle.

”I meant to do that!” she insisted, arms folded with faked confidence, as dragon claws spiked down from her toes, gripping the roof and negating the lack of friction her maglev mod created. Then she reached forward, grabbed the handle at the back of the minigun with both hands and promptly let it rip.

The sound of continuous gunfire and the increasingly manic cries of a woman who had little to no concept of recoil control or ammo preservation began to fill the air, along with a stream of lead. Despite the brain rattling and giving off the impression that she was rapidly going mad with (fire) power, the princess at least had the common sense to keep well away from the biker they were trying to aid.

”Why must you two insist upon that ungainly gatling gun?” Karin shouted from the roof.

If Midna could hear her over the roar of gunfire just a couple feet away also on the hummer’s roof, she gave no sign. Just a moment later, however, the minigun’s withering report gave way to a series of clicks. It was empty. Before the Twilight Princess could do much about it, the many arms of the UMA took the Skyfish away from her and into the coffin from whence it came. As it receded it gave both ladies up top as good a view of what lay directly ahead as their ride’s driver, much to his chagrin. Just a few hundred feet up and closing fast lay a row of emergency traffic blockers, but since they took the form of raised inclines the officer on his bike simply ramped off the top at high speed and hurtled through the air. “We’re in for it now, hold on tight!” Goldlewis yelled, and the next moment the ten-ton vehicle and all its passengers were airborne.

With the Palutena bow dispelled for now so that he could wrap both of his arms around the roof's metal bars, Pit did not cut an elegant figure as the hummer soared over the stretch of road. His joyful whoop at Goldlewis' action hero-style stunt soon turned to a noise of concern as the pavement came up to meet them again.

The hummer’s impact with the ground was tremendous. Those not currently wearing seatbelts received a powerful jerk and, if especially unlucky, a concussive collision with some other part of the interior as well. But the Patriot Mammoth, every bit as stout-hearted as the man who drove it, would not be so easily defeated. With a cry of defiance its engine got back into gear, accelerating the tremendous four-wheeler through the tunnel once again. Nerves afire from the jarring blow and heart pumping from excitement, Goldlewis wiped beads of perspiration from his brow with a shaky hand, thanking his lucky stars that nothing disastrous happened. “...Holy hell.”

Karin had anchored herself to the roof with her grapple hook, kneeled low. She grinned confidently as her golden ringlets blew in the wind.

Well before they caught up with the policeman, who’d been accosted by airborne aberrations again, disaster struck after all. A bassy horn resounded through the tunnel as the semitruck from before drew even with the heroes across the dividing line. It was crawling with enemies, whether inside the cab, in the trailer, or on top of the vehicle. Though wingless, some of these aberrations featured new mutations, including giant claws or crude facsimiles of sword and shield. In another moment the first few would make the jump, and the team’s ride would be boarded.

Karin eyed the semi-truck. Surely her allies were more than capable of defending the humvee itself. It was time to go on the offensive if they wanted to make progress in winning this battle. She fired a line across to the semi truck, and leapt forward. The line ensured her accuracy despite the speed of the moving vehicles. Along the way she knocked a leaping monster from its path, and landed with a roll on the semi truck.

”Kanzuki-Ryu!” She shouted, taking a solid stance, emitting an intimidating aura that bordered on physical. She moved to the nearest aberration, snatched its wrist and twisted it, before shoulder checking it off the edge.

"I know I'm gonna regret this!" said the Keyblade Wielder after recovering from getting jumbled around from the earlier impact. But he wasn't about to let one of his new friends go charging into a much larger group on her own.

With his own agility and momentum, Roxas sprang from his seat and - after worming his way past the front seat - launched himself through the now absent windshield. Thanks to flowmotion, he slammed onto an airborne aberration only to kick off of it and then again off of a second one before sliding and rolling to a stop onto the top of the semi truck.

"Finally, some breathing room!" he remarked as he summoned both of his Keyblades and held them crossed in front of him to block an incoming claw attack. Then quickly slid into a circular Dual Counter slash with both blades. The wide circular swing was handy for keeping other enemies from getting in too close. Then he hooked the Keyblades' teeth around the aberration he'd just countered and sent it sprawling in Karin's direction - hoping she'd have a good punch or kick ready for it.

Karin kept a few enemies at bay with her kicks and blocking. The sprawling enemy, she caught by the arm with one hand mid-air. WIth seemingly no effort she elegantly twirled the minion into its fellows, flooring some of them. She back walked, wielding her flattened hands like akimbo blades. ”So you’ve seen fit to join me? If you are done complaining, I believe we can make quick work of them.”

And that was when Roxas had an idea, "Here we go," he said as he suddenly spun around and aimed the tip of Oathkeeper at Karin, "Light!" and with that command, a thin beam of light shot out at Karin, but it didn’t harm her. Instead she became cloaked in an aura of white light, much like what Roxas usually did with his own Keyblades. For the next few moments, Karin's attacks would be empowered by Roxas's Light.

With that, they went to town on the mutants. Their attacks circled around one another almost like they'd choreographed it. Karin's fists and kicks plus Roxas's keyblades created what looked like a glowing whirlwind of strikes atop the semi truck. Then - at the end of it - both Seekers jumped up and made one last attack. Karin brought her fist into a downward punch aimed at the truck's roof. Her cloak of Light expelled into a shockwave that launched the surrounding mutants upward into Roxas's followup. He began to zip and dart around between them all, looking like a ray of light bouncing off mirrors. Then he landed with a flourish that revealed he'd been slicing and dicing so quickly that the mutants were only now beginning to feel the attacks catching up to them.

”Kanzuki-Ryu hikari no ichigeki uki kagami!” Karin announced the long winded name of the special move on the spot with a finishing flourish.

As street fighter and keyblade master leapt into the fray, some of that fray came the other way, mutants leaping from their truck and onto the roof of the hummer. Atop that stood Midna, shadow hand having held fast to the car and prevented her from being tossed off of it. It was, however, also the only thing keeping her on it, which made for something of an awkward situation combat stance wise.

Add to that the rushing air that would sweep her summons off the roof before they got their own foot holds, and she was both on her own and gimped fighting style wise. Good thing she’d been diversifying using all those fusions.

The practically a mutant herself at this point princess retaliated to the border leaps by blasting sand out of portals to get it in their eyes and throw off their jumps, causing more than one to miss it and fall.

Those that made it found themselves contending with Midna wielding a (literal) fire ax. ”No free rides!” she yelled at the first, to make the jump, puppeting herself forwards via the shadow hand limb and bringing the ax down in an overhead chop.

The mutant, close to twice her size, raised an armored claw and caught the telegraph blow in it, only for its entire being to burst into flames from contact with the volcano fragment. They shrieked like a boiling lobster as the inferno engulfed them. As fire ragged before her, the princess let one hand go from her ax and used it to claw at the burning mutant, bright purple talons flaring at her fingertips expertly slashing through muscles and nerves on the arm restraining her weapon, forcing the grip loosen and let her blade free.

She pulled herself back using her shadow hand, leaving the mutant to burn, and then jerkily lunged herself towards another, and then another, the biological weapons of the mutants making them unable to properly parry her fire spreading blade, while her dragon claws meant she could follow up the first blow with something better than the ax’s mediocre slashing damage.

As she did this, her motor mouth really got running, generally to the tune of ”Ahahahah Burn, Buuuuuurn!” as her inherited quirks ran wild while the princess focused her brainpower on keeping both her and the other people still with the car alive and kicking.

"I never knew you were such a pyromaniac, Midna!" came Pit's voice from some feet away on the roof's other end. Then, after a slight delay, "Um, should we be worried about that?"

He'd swapped to the Upperdash Arm, catching a mutant leaping over with an uppercut that sent it bouncing off of the tunnel's ceiling and down onto the pavement. Hanger-ons that managed to get through the sand blasts were pummeled with the colorful weapon as Pit battered their heads and arms until they fell, left somewhere on the road as the car sped onward. And of course the enemies that hauled themselves onto the roof and chose to contend with Pit rather than the impish firebug suffered the Arm's back-dash shot, slamming them up into the air. Pit followed up by firing a disc and launching them away.

"Heh, bullseye!" he crowed, turning to shoot another disc at the next.

Between the heroes’ own boarding party wreaking havoc atop the rampaging semitruck and the pair soundly punishing any who actually managed to make it to the hummer, the aberrant attackers dropped like flies. Though stronger and tougher than the average human, not to mention more vicious, the Seekers were a lot stronger and tougher on average, not to mention more skilled. Sand scoured them, fists floored them, keyblades carved them, and light discs dismantled them. It didn’t take much to use the aberrations’ own murderous savagery against them and send the corrupt combatants flying from the vehicles’ rooftops to the roadway below.

As chaos unfolded on the semitruck and it racked up damage, however, its already-erratic driving grew even more unstable. The massive vehicle veered from side to side, grinding against the highway’s divider in a shower of sparks and shrapnel. Up ahead lay a pileup of wrecked and otherwise abandoned cars, which for the runaway hauler meant almost certain destruction. “Get your asses back over here!” Goldlewis hollered, drawing their attention to the obstruction ahead if it hadn’t been already. Roxas and Karin had mere moments to finish their tag-team scramble with a daring getaway.

”Let’s get outta here!” Roxas said to Karin as he knocked back an incoming mutant with his Keyblade. He didn’t need to be told twice and made a break for the edge of the truck. Leaping back to the Hummer was surprisingly easier than it was to leap to the truck. After all, this jump was going toward something coming in Roxas’s direction rather than something actively speeding away from him. Karin followed suit, pulling herself back to the humvee with her grappling hook.

Midna meanwhile snatched a single spirit of a fallen crab claw mutant from the air, and then deposited herself back inside the car. Once there swiftly strapped herself back in, really rather glad to be secured once more, suddenly finding an appreciation for seat belts that she had not had when they started this trip.

A second later the heedless semitruck careened into the pileup, and against the odds its sheer weight and momentum allowed it to plow through, albeit at a steep cost. The gut-wrenching sound of crushed metal rent the air as the terrific impact not just pancaked the aberrant driver but also pulverized the truck’s cabin into an unrecognizable flaming mess. Completely out of control and made worse by the weight of its trailer, the truck smashed into and tipped over the highway divider, rolling into the heroes’ lane as a twenty-ton, seventy-foot harbinger of devastation, its reinforced steel crumpled like tinfoil. Up ahead, the policeman had only the briefest window in which to react. He went low, grinding his motorcycle near-horizontal along the road at high speed. Sparks flew as he slid beneath the tumbling semi with nary an inch of clearance, but he made it, and a moment later rose up again to roar down the tunnel and out into the night.

In their massive hummer Seekers had no such luxury. Goldlewis hammered the emergency brakes as he swerved sideways, and as his vehicle screeched to a halt he stepped from the still-moving vehicle, coffin in hand. Hell itself thundered toward him, but this veteran had stared death in the eye before.

Goldlewis Dickinson planted his feet. As he gripped his coffin, his enormous muscles flex, and veins popped out all along his arms, neck and face. “DOWN THEEEEEEEE-!” He began to swing; his eyes went wide, the pupils shrunken to dots, and his mouth opened wider than should physically be possible. Sheer power rippled off him, blowing his own glasses to smithereens. As the semitruck’s bulk descended towards him and his friends, eager to squash the proud few upon whose shoulders the weight of the world rested, his fist -and his coffin- rose up.


Might met metal in a single, incredible blow. Dented by its force, the truck’s trailer bounced into the air, soaring over the hummer to crash down and roll to a stop behind it.

A few moments later and Minda peaked her head out of the shadows, glanced back at the crushed trailer behind them and then, in a shocked and slightly awed tone commenced that ”Well that was ridiculously impressive”

"Way more than impressive, that was awesome!" Pit corrected, having been rounding the hummer at the time. He had actually been thrown from the roof, the only thing able to dislodge him had been the sharp braking, but besides some ruffled hair and feathers he looked to be alright. Once he'd gotten back to his feet he'd swapped the Upperdash Arm for his Guardian Orbitars, but they floated around unneeded in thanks to Goldlewis.

In front of the Seekers, Goldlewis fell to his knees, panting. Steam rose from his skin, and blood trickled from his face, yet in all his years he didn’t know if he’d ever felt quite so alive. After a moment he rose, staggering back toward the car. “This ain’t over yet,” he barked hoarsely. “Let’s hustle.”

”Are you fit to drive like that?” Midna asked, as she mentally checked around her pocket dimension, and then made a little ”Ah!” as she found what she was looking for. She opened a little portal and pulled out one little hand sanitizer like bottle of orange goo which, having had a chance to read the label since she got it, she now knew was A. called Light Jelly, and B. was a healing potion of sorts.

A bit like Chu Jelly even.

This she offered to the man while saying ”Either way, here, for the bleeding” and then after a few more moments added ”And also thanks, for, well, saving us all”

“Heh,” Goldlewis huffed, accepting the medicine. Midna, at least, could have hidden in a shadow somewhere. “Nothin’ to it.”

Roxas looked around at Karin and Pit, ”Are… you two… okay?” he asked them through his heavy breaths. That had just been one heck of an experience for all of them. In fact Roxas had had to dive off the Hummer before it even stopped because the force of the bumpiness would have thrown him off completely if he hadn’t.

”Of course.” Karin replied, flipping her ringlets. ”A car accident could never destroy me. I was more concerned about all of you.”

The angel flashed Roxas the sign for victory, two fingers held up forming the V. "I'm okay!" he said, equally glad to see the flashy fighters not too worse for wear. "But we've got more to go!" Following the former Secretary of Defense's lead he clambered back to perch on the Mammoth's roof, foregoing the interior entirely this time in preparation for battle.
Sector 3 Supper

Goldlewis, Peach, Raz’s @Truthhurts22, Roxas’ @Double, Sakura and Karin’s @Zoey Boey, Midna’s @DracoLunaris, Pit’s @Yankee
Word Count: 3,701 words (+5)

There was a brief dip in chances to talk as appetizers were brought out, and orders were placed, but after that was out of the way, there came time for feeling out how dinner would go. This was both in terms of what the food would be like (and if there was one positive to the world Galeem had made it was the ability to try out of your world dishes) and in terms of seeing how the flow of talk would be going.

Midna for one started out by dropping her formality levels down a few notches in response to her first impression of their host ”If you don’t do formalities, then I won’t insist upon it either, so just Midna is perfectly fine. Never really cared for them anyway, but the title comes with expectations” she said, regarding his offer to refer to her as ‘my lady’ before commenting that ”Which does leave me surprised to hear that that a military organization would be, well, informal? Not that that’s a bad thing mind, my military advisor was always unbearably stuffy.”

Probably because the position had been of so little import … right up until it was vital and the lack of attention to such matters had nearly cost them everything, Midna thought, but managed to keep that to herself.

Luka tilted his head slightly, considering the sort of perspective that would see the prevailing attitudes within Psych-OSF as strange. “I suppose. It’s said that in the end, all that matters for a soldier is results. You could be a perpetual layabout who never trains or works more than a few minutes a day, but if you can do what nobody else can, you’re irreplaceable.” He laughed lightly to himself. “Not to name any names, of course.”

"...But only if you're psychic." muttered Roxas before he could stop himself, "Cuz if not, then… tough luck, I gue-" only now did he finally catch himself and hurriedly stood up, "I'm sorry, please excuse me." he blurted out before rushing toward the bathroom. Good job Roxas, way to make a fool of yourself!

Minda raised an eyebrow, having clearly missed something while she’d been running around the city missing every single time the group had intersected with Psych-OSF … and then promptly found herself putting a foot into the exact same cowpat

”What’s the deal with that by the way?” she had to ask, before adding not exactly the best set of caveats as an explanation for the question ”Sorry, I’m not too familiar with what makes psychic’s talents different from other types of supernatural abilities, considering they aren't exactly common anywhere else in the world. Galee-fate really did pack you all into this one inconvenient to everyone else city, or so it seems”
"I wanna know too," Pit chimed in after helping himself to the assorted gyoza on the table. "'Cause wouldn't you need all the help you can—"

Goldlewis suddenly burst out into a brief fit of coughing. He held up a cautionary finger to silently ask for the others to wait a moment as he patted his chest with his other hand as if to dislodge something that got caught in his throat, though given the sheer size of the man the idea of a tiny takoyaki ball stuck in his windpipe seemed somehow unlikely. “Beggin’ your pardon,” he said after a moment. “Didn’t taste bad or nothin’, I swear, just ain’t what we’re used to.” With Roxas already gone, his cool blue gaze turned toward Midna. “That’s the great thing about tryin’ new things though, you’ll always end up with somethin’ unexpected.”

“...Indeed.” Luka glanced at the place Roxas left behind at the dinner table. Based on who accepted and made use of the paper menus, he’d already realized who amongst this eclectic group possessed psychic powers, and who did not. Though they might bear ill will toward someone like him, which stung him with a bitter irony, he wouldn’t hold it against them. “Even if this sort of cuisine is rather ordinary for Suoh, the cooks here always surprise me with the amazing and creative ways they come up with to elevate it to the next level. There are many talented people out there, but given what Musubi’s is up against even on Main Street, only a special kind of culinarian could get the results necessary to survive in this sort of…business environment.” As he spoke the young man had loaded his plate up with dumplings, and when he finished he began to enjoy them one at a time, too polite to show how famished he really was.

Meanwhile in the bathroom, Roxas stood at the sink and was washing his hands. He stared at himself in the mirror and then shook his head with a bit of disappointment. ”Man, what was I thinking?” he asked his reflection, ”All I had to do was keep quiet, but I went and opened my mouth. What else could go wrong?” After he was finished rinsing, he cupped some water in his hands and splashed it on his face. After that, he reached for the paper towels and started drying off, ”Alright, enough feeling sorry for myself. Need to go out there and clean up my mess,” he said as he finished up and turned toward the door, ”here goes.”

He finally returned to the table after having been gone for only a minute or two. He gave a quick bow before he actually sat down, ”I’m sorry about that outburst. Won’t let it happen again.” and only then did he finally sit back down. For the moment he decided to focus his attention on the curry nanban in front of him. He didn’t always like spicy food, but he had to admit this stuff was pretty great.

Sakura and Karin exchanged glances. Karin with a cool, nearly imperceptible displeased glance. Sakura smiling and shrugging. Practicing with her psychic powers, she started using her chopsticks with them, picking up noodles and trying to get them into her mouth. They ended up mostly on her chin and off her plate, which cause her to giggle. Karin pinched the bridge of her nose.

”Sakura is a very promising recruit for basic braining, as you can see.” She said wryly.

Sakura shrugged again, good-natured. ”Well, that’s what the training is for, right? I didn’t know psychic powers were such a big deal ‘till I moved here.” Normally she would be a little nervous about lying, but with her newfound confidence she realized she was just omitting the full story. Besides, since when was she ever afraid to break the rules? Literally never.

Peach nodded. Though she didn’t see much reason to deviate beyond her own pleasant self for the sake of appearances, she did want to seem more eager and less carefree about the prospect of joining what was effectively the military. “We were hoping to start soon. As soon as possible, ideally. Actually taking the first step isn’t that big a deal, but the anticipation’s murder. Just can’t wait to start helping people, I guess!” After her peppy explanation she took a quick sip from her water, then gestured toward Raz as if to give him the floor. “It isn’t the first time for Raz here, though. He’s a bonafide Psychonaut! You met with, er, someone important from Psych-OSF today who said you might be able to breeze right through training, isn’t that right?”

Raz froze as all eyes turned to him, in the middle of scarfing down a bowl of thick, cold soup that the menu said helped bolster a psychic’s mental faculties. He wasn’t sure if it was just a marketing tactic, but the earlier trek through Sakura’s mind left him with a real appetite. ”Ohmmph. Nhyeh!” He took a moment to swallow, opening his mouth to continue only for a burp to rumble up instead. ”’Scuse me. I met up with a squadron when we first got into the sector, and it had some members I knew back home. The leader for them is Morceau Oleander, who was a prominent agent for the Psychonauts. He said he’d be able to fasttrack me through to Basic Braining, and I’m sure others can come with!” He went for another spoonful, stopping before he took it to add, ”Oh, there’s also Lili. She was a, uhh, close friend of mine. She’s actually the daughter of the Grand Head of the Psychonauts, Truman Zanotto, so we have an extra angle on the inner workings. I even managed to free her from the influence! With Roxas’s help, of course.”

Luka looked surprised, and a little impressed. "Well, well. While nepotism is anathematic to the OSF and strictly guarded against, a Septentrion and the Chief are some excellent connections to have. While I only saw Peach in action this afternoon, but I could vouch for your courage as well." The boy leaned back in his chair, rubbing his chin like an old sage deep in thought. "It's not unheard of for promising recruits to speed through Basic, either. While there are countless rules and regulations to acquaint oneself with, the most important thing is strength, as I mentioned before. If you blow the graders away in the providing grounds, it may not be long at all before you can attempt the SAS aptitude test. After that it's the final exam, and then you're in!"

The Scarlet Guardian's light, cheerful tone made it sound as if it really was that easy. He followed up his briefing with a shrug. "I'm sure the Chief would be happy for any last-minute reinforcements, anyway."

Sakura knew she could blow them away for sure. Demonstrating, she flexed her arm and grinned. ”I’ve got strength! And experience. I’m looking forward to this, it sounds fun. I hope there’s an obstacle course.”

"But what if it's more like a super-crossword puzzle..." Pit commented, thinking about obstacle courses for the brain. He shivered, a little exaggerated. Even though Luka talked of strength, the mention of graders and exams made him glad that he wasn't one of the volunteers.

Having finished his soup Raz set his spoon down and lifted himself a bit higher off the table. ”What did you mean by ‘last minute’ reinforcements, Luka? Is something about to happen?”

During all this, Roxas'd had a quiet and hushed conversation with Midna. Mostly just filling her in on what Psych-OSF was and why they were apparently such a big deal around here. He tried to keep his own reservations to himself, but a tiny bit of venting still managed to slip out once and awhile. The princess for her part didn’t mind said venting, as she could entirely see where he was coming from. Her occasional thoughtless comment probably did little to quell his simmering anger over the whole situation however.

And then Roxas heard Raz's question, "I'm guessing you have to be in to get that kind of information." he offered, doing his best to hide his contentions, "That's usually how these kinds of Organizations work, anyway."

Luka kept his expression amicable. "Well, we're technically not supposed to talk about it, but with the sheer scale of what's happening it's been an open secret for a while. The word on everyone's lips is that there's a joint operation tomorrow morning, spanning over a dozen Psych-OSF platoons. We're clearing out the old tunnels underneath the city fringes. Many say it was ordered by Shinra just to put a solid win under his belt on the day of the big debate, but its a good chance to wipe out a serious buildup of Others down there and keep people safe." He gave a mild, joking smile at Goldlewis and the other duds. "I hope you'll be cheering us on!"

Sakura nodded quickly. ”Then I guess we really better pass with flying colors if we wanna get in on the action.” She said.

”Oh yes. A lot of cheering.” Karin said, wryly, while Midna made a tiny pained sound as she bit her own tongue to prevent it from saying something much less wry about what they’d probably be doing.

Raz considered this, and nodded his head. ”Yeah, if there’s a big operation happening soon, I’d bet they would be willing to take on as many recruits and volunteers as they can. But what’s being cleared out, more Other?”

“Others, yes.” Luka’s response sounded particularly patient. “They’re the OSF’s principal concern. In addition to falling from the sky, they tend to swarm wherever the Extinction Belt descends, and the forecast for tomorrow morning is scheduled to be the heaviest in a long while.” He sighed. “Of course, the Scarlet Guardians tend to all sorts of other problems, as well. With DespoRHado not under the government’s control and the G-men the way they are, Psych-OSF ends up handling most of the Public Security Division’s…well, public security.”

At that Goldlewis shook his head in disdain. “That don’t surprise me one bit. Sure, the G-men might be strong and efficient, but those things ain’t human. They don’t got the people’s best interests at heart, and their handlers’re spread too thin to make a difference. That goes for Neuron, too.”

“Indeed. Though their officers enjoy a good reputation, that organization is minuscule and acutely specialized in comparison,” Luka agreed. “It occurs to me that you might have some special insight as the former Secretary of Defense, Mr. Dickinson, but I have no intention of prying.” His eyes drifted to an incoming server with various plates and bowls of Japanese cuisine expertly carried. “Though I’m sure you all have many questions, let’s put aside Public Security for a moment and enjoy our meal.” A couple moments later and the Seekers’ dinner had arrived, Suoh’s delicacies piled high.

”That does leave something of a gap for” Midna began to say, before her words took a sharp right turn at the arrival of the main course ”Ooo, food. That smells lovely”

Once the dishes were all laid out the princess, for one, laid into them with gusto. Fighting, getting brain blasted, and then racing futility around the city having built up quite an appetite the sating of which was only really slowed by the fact that she had to learn how to use chopsticks. The same went for Raz, who decided to go with some popular sushi dishes, picking up individual rolls between his pair of chopsticks, one in each hand. ”I think I’m doing something wrong here.”

”Like this, Raz-kun!” Sakura reached over. She yoinked the chopstick from one hand and shoved it into the other. Then she guided her free hand over to demonstrate how to hold them. ”Think of it like holding a pencil.” She advised, before popping a sushi roll into her mouth.

Then there was Pit who was forgoing the traditional utensils entirely. The smaller items like some of the sushi and nigiri he simply picked up and ate in one bite. Thankfully it didn't seem to be an unusual way of dining, based on a handful of the restaurant's other guests.

Though rather hungry, Goldlewis took an almost excessively cautious and methodical approach when it came to his food. The last thing he wanted to look like in front of company was an inelegant oaf. At the very least he wasn’t the only one having trouble, and when others exchanged tips -including a few good-natured suggestions from Luka- he was careful to listen. Peach, meanwhile, had an easier time, even with her mind elsewhere. She hadn’t expected her team’s contact to so casually drop a few details regarding a major mission, and with that sort of knowledge came new opportunities, not just for her and the other recruits, but everyone.

Luka didn’t mind helping out the newcomers, being an expert in the art of chopstick-wielding. Rather than get for himself a selection of Musubi’s finest dining, however, he seemed to have gone for quantity over quality, specifically in terms of meat and protein. The heap of food he’d gotten seemed much too big for such a small kid, though to anyone familiar with the strict and oftentimes agonizing dieting regimen of powerlifters, it might not be so strange.

Once everyone was settled, he piped up with something new between mouthfuls. “So,” he began, “While Mr. Dickinson is from Midgar, it seems like most of you are new here. If you’re willing to tell, I’d be delighted to hear anything about the world far beyond its walls. Daring exploits, incredible sights, memorable experiences. Travel opportunities are very rare, you see, and even a few stories from afar go a long way.”

”Getting here was certainly an experience” Midna said, and then had to immediately follow it up with a pivot to avoid talking about the specifics ”But if you want to hear about somewhere you can’t just see from your window them. hmmm. Well I think the most out there place would have been the dessert. That’s Dessert with two s’es”

She then proceeded to run through a quick tale of their time in the sugary landscape, battling machines that the psychic might have found familiar, rescuing a fairy from a cage and people from sugar crystals (which included a tangent about the jerk called Crow she had freed, and the time he’d woken up a whole city just to taunt/mock her), and finding out just how quick you could tire of eating sweets and only sweets (two meals).

”And then we took a train ride out of there back into the regular desert that surrounded it” she concluded before adding ”Speaking of dessert, I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but I wonder if they have any good ones here” the experience having clearly not actually put her off surgery treats.

"And that's when I joined up!" Raz hooked a thumb at himself, a piece of sushi precariously clutched between his chopsticks. "We climbed this huuuge mountain out in the desert, it was awesome!"

Goldlewis leaned back in his chair, his brows raised. “Boy howdy, am I glad I headed back here instead o’ joinin’ y’all on that one. It was the biggest dadgum slab o’ rock I’ve seen in all my years, covered in ice and snow.” He held up his hands to help express his disbelief at the scale of the others’ mission. “And to top it all off, they had to fight a giant doggone monster at the top of it all!”

“You mean the split peak to the east?” Luka asked, his mouth slightly ajar in awe. “That’s amazing! Even the highest point of the Midgar building comes nowhere close! To tell you the truth, I’ve sometimes dreamed of climbing it myself.” He heaved a heavy sigh. “Maybe some day. To answer your question, Midna, this place does have a lot of sweets. Mochi rice cakes, dango dumpling skewers, yokan jelly, dorayaki pancakes…take your pick, it’s all excellent.”

”Oh you know I will” Midna replied, delighted at the number of things in that list that she had no idea what they were, and that thus would be a lovely sweet adventure to learn about.

”As for the split mountain, while the top is lovely, maybe stop when you get to High Hrothgar. Everything between there and the summit is ice and death, and we only made it to the top from some goddess given miracle” she added more context to their climb, probably putting something of a damper to his plan, before casually offering a more touristy option ”But if you do ever want to see the top, then I have a magic portal set up there that I just need to set up another end somewhere local to access”

"That sounds awesome, I want to go too!" He’d heard the secondhand reports, but listening to someone who’d actually been there made it sound a lot more exciting. If it was the highest place in the world, Pit definitely wanted to see it in spite of the danger Midna mentioned. And with any cover stories or secret identities thrown out the window, the angel eagerly took up the role of storyteller next.

"If you're looking for good views, there's this place called the Eryth Sea that's really pretty. It's like a big... um, well, sea. Surrounded by mountains! The water's super bright and blue, and there's all these islands in it - and a lot of them float! That's where I was before I came here, in a place called Smash City."

He didn't go into any more detail about Alcamoth, since while it may be interesting for outsiders it was a place already familiar enough to Pit that he breezed right by and into the next location that came to mind, after a quick pause to lift the bowl in front of him to his mouth and inhale some rice and katsuobushi.

"There are a lot of other cool places nearby too. Like there's this arena with a giant cage around it, and people drive their cars so fast in it that they drive upside around the cage!"

As the meal was coming to a close, Raz piped up. ”Excuse me, Luka? I was getting curious - what’s Basic Braining like? It’s been a….. while, since I’ve done it myself, so I wanna get the insider scoop on how it is now.”

That one left Luka a bit stumped. “Hmm. I’m afraid I can’t tell you exactly. It’s been a very long time since I went through training, and it’s probably changed since then anyway.” He scratched his neck. “I do know that some people refer to the training grounds as the ‘Fresh Meat Circus’ though, since the new recruits attempting it are supposedly pretty funny.”

On that note, with pretty much everyone quiet in order to focus on their food anyway, the conversation trailed off. Faced with a tasty meal and an uncertain road ahead as their first day in Midgar began to head toward its close, the Seekers could only relish the present while they contemplated the future.

The Koopa Troop

wordcount: 1,054 (+2)
Bowser: Level 11 EXP: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (240/110)
Bowser Jr: Level 12 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (17/120)
Kamek: Level 12 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (16/120)
Rika: Level 6 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (59/60)
Location: The Under - The Ruins - Dripstone Cave

Through flame, light and blow darts from a swiftly recovered critter the initial swarm of mozzies and their slow moving reinforcements were utterly exterminated from the swamp, with Bowser’s slow moving mega fireballs claiming what was quite possibly their first kills of the entire adventure.

Bowser certainly seemed pleased by this triumphantly cheering ”That’s right burn you schmucks!” as the last of them fell, before rolling his shoulders and rhetorically asking ”Man why can’t every fight be this easy”

Kamek meanwhile turned his eyes to the one who had won the battle before it had already begun, and offered him some praise ”Quick thinking there Rubick, and masterfully done. I would not have wanted to wade through all that mess to reach them that is for sure”

He then turned and addressed the one who the magus had saved, saying ”As for you, I am glad to see you have made such a swift recovery mr…” and leaving things open ended so that the fellow might introduce himself

Unfortunately, before Kamek could follow up and do the same for himself, Bowser did it for him by complaining ”Urrgh, Kamek, that idea of roasting them all was awful, it stinks even more now” while fanning a hand in-front of his face in a futile attempt to clear the air.

His comment got a seconding from Rika, who had it worse both because her gauntlets stopped her pinching her nose like Bowser was, and because she was also getting a hazy wisp of it though the cockatrice’s own nose, linked as it was to her senses.

The mage couldn't exactly disagree, the rotten blood of the burnt bugs had done nothing to improve the smell, even if the general vibe of the area had improved now that the danger and annoying buzzing was gone. At least that last was something they could still enjoy after getting out of the stink zone.

”Yes, well, how about we head back to safety? There’s a more pleasant spot where we can talk, as we have a few questions for you regarding some missing friends of ours, if you’d be willing to answer them?” he suggested to the others and requested of Teemo before noting with a hint of (fortunately unnecessary) worry that ”I also can't help but notice, but we’ve lost track of miss Primrose, I hope she hasn’t gone far”

Unfortunately, the way back to where the dancer had gone wasn’t quite as safe as the mage expected, as the boy prince’s attempt to help one the clown bugs had some unforeseen consequences.

His attempt to heal and cure the sickly looking Migospel did not go as hoped, and instead seemed to only make things worse. It jerked, squirmed and the sickly golden glow seemed to only spread, which left Jr only confused and annoyed, right up until the poor ant burst and revealed that it had been a living corpse, or an imposter, or something in between.

”Ew, what in the world is that?” he asked, with a mix of revolution and curiosity. The answer came swiftly, as Barnabee lept in and sliced the creature in half, crying out about something called the infestation.

”The what?” Jr asked, but he didn’t need to be told to know that the light seeds that burst from the collapsing corpse were bad news. He thrust one finger out, commanding his circus sea lion to attack with a cry of ”Dazzle, blast them!”

This the Popilio did as commanded, switching right from putting on a juggling act to an attack by slapping each bubble of water with his tail in quick succession, trying to nail the light seeds with water gun shots. Then he bounced up off of his beach ball sized bubble perch and landed back in Jr’s car to avoid being swarmed by the wretched little viruses.

Jr, even as he had been issuing the command, had used his other hand to hammer a button on his clown car, causing the side to pop open to deployed a robo arm that had the fleshy lightning gun know as a Synapse grafted to it. Turning the repurposed product of one infestation on the spreaders of another, the hovering Jr unleashed a tight beam of lightning from the weapon that sketched a squiggling line across the stone as he tried to use it to burst the luminous pustules while avoiding shocking the monsters.

Further back, the rest of the troop only got a half understood impression of the whole situation from Barnabee’s yelling. Bowser, much too slow to reach the site of the conflict, could only call for his son to ”Be careful junior, I'm coming!” as he started to stomp towards the fray

Kamek meanwhile heard ‘don’t touch them’ and reacted by casting ”Sphere of Protection” upon the group of small monsters, hoping to at the very least slow the contact and infestation spread, and not thinking about how bad it would be should that fail and they be faced with massively damage resistant infected.

Then, with clearer thought, he sent his copies flying fourth to try and snatch up the incredibly stupid creatures in their drake mount’s claws, in order to kidnap them away from their own demise.

Rika meanwhile charged on ahead atop her swift steed, and as a result most likely put herself as the closest grounded hero to the light seeds. She tried to blast them with more of the cockatrice’s stony gazes that had proved so effective against the mosquitos, but it was really a flip of a coin as to whether the light based attack would be effective, or would be stymied by the seed’s own light related nature.

Should her attack, and/or subsequent attempts to backpedal to escape fail, and the pustules be able close in, then fortunately enough the cockatrice mount had one more trick up its sleeve. If attacked, the ridiculous creature demonstrated the agility of a prize fighting rooster, swift talons, flapping flightless wings and swift wyrm muscled body letting Rika maneuver herself such that she could land the first strike against her diminutive attackers, heavy gauntlets smashing down or forwards to pulp or bat away the golden blobs, combination of steed and rider unintentionally mimicking the shape and prowess of the mighty Brachydios the ship girl was fused with.

wordcount: 813 (+2) (+8)
Midna: level 9 EXP: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////(99/90)
Location: Suoh
Warp Charges: 2

After she’d relayed her latest mostly failure of an escapade to the group in an as un-embarrassing a manner as she could, Midna went to find Bede to fill him in too.

She’d assumed that he’d have ended up hanging around outside somewhere nearby after storming out… and yet a lap of the gym and a peek down the nearby streets and alleyways revealed no pink and teal attired teen to be found, which turned the building frustration she had been feeling into worry.

”Goddesses, did he just wander off into the city? Alone? Unable to see any of the signage or anything else?” she asked herself before darkly grumbling ”I swear, if he’s gotten himself into a carriage accident”

It was about that time that Goldlewis came out the door, heading for his vehicle again, with an aim to travel under the plate to see if they could set up shop there, and/or get anything out of those psifish.

Both of those where things she wanted to get in on, but, as she explained ”Someone’s got to try and find Bede, and I can at least bypass most of the issues with this whole psychic focused town has for the likes of us” and so she wouldn’t be coming.

She wished him and whoever else was going luck, and then began her fruitless search for the vanished boy. As she rode along the streets, shadow hopped across the streets and bothered random people on the streets, it started to look like the teen had just vanished into thin air.

Then again, the city was enormous, and a teen in bright pink and teal attire with white hair did not stand out in it nearly as much among the technicolor population as he might otherwise have. Add to that Midna’s eyes not working the best under the sunny skies, and, well, her efforts were ultimately futile.

It was like losing a kid in a crowded mall, one the size of a city, and with the searcher not knowing that the standard procedure in this case would be to find the equivalent of an intercom in-order to make a public service announcement.

As such, when six o'clock rolled around on her new watch, she was forced to admit that this was a lost cause. She left a note with the gym’s reception to tell him where they had gone if he turned back up there, and then headed for the restaurant with the others in Goldlewis’s hummer.

Within, she listened to the man’s explanation of what the whole plan was. Get two fused people and Raz into OSF and get some more details about the whole city’s situation if they could.

”Seems simple enough” she agreed, though she did not take up the offer of fusion. Best to spread the psychic ability out, even if her’s were contained entirely in some strikers.

If it was Sakura who was taking the plunge, she hoped that the fusion would not undo or make redundant whatever work Raz had done to quell a mental hiccup of hers. She’d certainly been interested in that when she heard about it, and as they piled out of the car she casually asked the boy in question ”Mind scheduling me in for a peek around the headspace some time in the future? I’ve … well let's just say that there is a lot going on in there lately”

If he could root out whatever fears she’d inherited from one of her fusions, that could most certainly be a boon and a half for her.

After that brief interaction she drifted on into the restaurant, and got her first look at Luka Travers, which resulted in the unfortunate comment that ”huh, wow. Age has certainly treated you well, if I understand things right. Maybe too well”

However that went down, the next thing that occurred was receiving physical menus, which apparently were not standard and had had to be requested. Another black mark for the city, but a positive one for the boyish psychic considering he had realized that would be an issue

”Oh, good. My interpreter would not make for a good table company” Minda said as she accepted the menu, glad to not have to rely on the initiate strikers for this ”or any company really.” The last few hours of leaning on them for city navigation while trying to find Bede had not been enjoyable.

She had a little read of the menu (and decided on trying out this whole sushi thing, having not yet tired of the novelty of seafood) before his comment about ‘never knowing who you’ll find’ reminding her that she and he had not been formally introduced.

”I’m Minda, princess of twilight” she said, doing just that and slipping into a more diplomatic tone while doing so ”It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr Travers”

The Koopa Troop

wordcount: 1,282 (+3)
Bowser: Level 11 EXP: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (238/110)
Bowser Jr: Level 12 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (15/120)
Kamek: Level 12 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (14/120)
Rika: Level 6 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (57/60)
Location: The Under - The Ruins - Dripstone Cave

As the Two older Koopas watched, the end’s dart struck true and the mineral encrusted bug was out like a light. Then it was just a matter of waiting for their prize to be fetched by Kamek’s toadies, during which they noted that the big jumpy worms were not going anywhere close to a pool of disgusting looking water.

”If they did go through this chamber” Kamek theorized, gesturing towards the waterside ”Then that would likely be the way they went, seeing as it is safe from the wormy hazards”

”Something like that” Bowser agreed, as he plucked the Huuli Hoarder’s hoard from its body, and then crushed its body and then spirit in his claw in a single motion to get anything else out of it that he could.

He pocketed the resulting mineral wealth for himself, naturally, and then suggested ”So how about we check the waterside for, uh, tracks or something?” before glancing over at the bugs jr had tried to communicate with and noting that ”Because those clowns seem several acts short of a circus, so I don’t think we’re getting anything out of them” based on their response to being asked questions being to put on a show rather than to, as a sane person might, answer the questions.

”yeah these guys are a bust” Jr agreed from where he was hovering, but as the adults started to move off, he lingered, eyes focused on the weird orange glow in one of the clown bugs. Then Dazzle wiggled out of the clown car and flopped down onto the ground, where the clown nosed sea lion began to put on his own act, producing a bubble of water, balancing on top of it, and then juggling several smaller bubbles on his nose.

”Oh come one we don’t have time for this” jr tried to tell his minion, but one pleading look got him to sigh and say ”Fine, have fun. Just don’t come crying to me if something dumb happens because of this”

He slumped down on the edge of his clown car… before glancing back at the sick bug and feeling, again, an unnatural desire welling up inside of him: to try and help the bug despite how useless such an act would be from a selfish standpoint.

”Uuuuuurgh. Fiiiiiine” the prince groaned, picking up his staff and pointing it at the drowsy insect and casting ”Cure” and ”Esuna” in an attempt to try and heal/clear whatever it was that was affecting the clown ant, cursing his new bleeding heart as he did so.

While jr was reluctantly bowing to the demands of his consciousness, his elders where coming nose first with the consequences of poking about a wretched swamp

”Yuck, this place stinks” Bowser complained in a nazily voice, the king pinching his nose shot with his fingers, before commenting to his advisor that this was ”Not one of your best ideas Kamek”

”I merely suggested this was where they might have gone sire, you are the one who suggested we follow it directly” the mage retorted, which left his king a little surprised truth be told, given its directness. Had the height provided by the drake the mage now sat atop given him confidence to see himself on more equal ground as the towering tyrant, or was it that his new ears were making him more catty?

Who could say.

Regardless, bickering further over their mutual blame for this whole situation would have to wait, as their escapade had once more annoyance added to it in the form of some high pitched buzzing.

Bowser groaned ”Now what” at the sound before taking a look for the source of it, and spotting a number of oversized mosquitoes flying through the air.

”Oh, right, more giant bugs, of course” the king said dismissively, turning back towards the trail around the lake, only to look back when Kamek grabbed the end of his sleeve, tugging it to get his attention.

”Wait sire! Look over there, at where they are going!” the mage urged the king while gesturing over to the slumped over figure on the ground, half hidden among the reeds.

”Huh? Is he asleep?” Bowser assumed incorrectly, before yelling ”HEY YOU, THAT’S NO PLACE FOR NAPPING! YOUR GONNA GET EATEN BY BUGS!” which utterly failed to rouse the knocked out fuzzy little guy.

Rubick's strategy meanwhile of just abducting the fellow with telekinesis first, and asking questions later, worked much better, stealing away the mosquitoes meal before they could get to him. Odds were, however, that that wouldn’t deter the bugs, and that they’d keep coming, right towards the lot of them.

”Koopa troop, let's blast some bugs!” Bowser ordered stepping up to form a welcoming party for the insidious insects.

”Busy!” Came a call from Jr, presently occupied with the clown situation, while Rika called out ”Coming!” as she quickly saddled up onto her cockatrice’s back to ride over.

”Just you and me then to start out then sire” Kamek said, before adding ”and me, and me, and two more on top of that” jokingly as he conjured up a set of doppelgangers, creating a cadre of drake riding hims to act as fire support.

Clones made, he tossed a red orb to the first three, turning into independent attackers, and then a white orb to the last, turning it into a discount white mage. This fourth directed its wand towards the floating fellow, giving him medical attention via weak but frequent bursts of healing magic while the others, along with Kamek, squared up against the incoming swarm.

”Let’s burn them all, shall we?” he suggested ”maybe the scent of cooked bug will improve the local atmosphere?”

”Now that? That’s a great idea!” Bowser commended him, before shouting ”Get roasted!” at the insects, prompting all five of them to unleash a burning hell upon them.

Fireballs began flying, the king blasting out with massive wrecking ball sized ones that were as much slow moving environmental hazards as they were attacks due to their lethargic flight though the sky. Meanwhile, Kamek and his 3 red hued doppelgangers waved their wands and unleashed volleys of fast moving flame blasts spells using the Fire Materia at the tip of their wands, the Grimoire of Ruin at the mage’s side glowed as it empowered his minions .

Rika dashed in a few moments later, and though she lacked her own firepower due to ammo shortages, her new Kamek provided steed allowed her to get in on the shooting gallery action.

Though the oversized chicken-drake hybrid with its useless wings, pink scaly skin and rooster head looked ridiculous, one baleful glare proved looks could be deceiving. Twin headlamps of illuminating power blasting bug after bug as Rika fired the construct’s doom gaze again and again at their foes. Worse for their foes, the closer the mosquitos got, the tighter the beam hitting them got, and the more likely it got that the blasts would petrify their target, causing them to stiffly fall into the water to succumb to the murk.

Adding to all that, should against all the odds any of the bitty bugs manage to get anywhere close to the shoreline, well, then Bowser would switch to his flame breath, barbecuing bugs with great swaths of air clearing flame.

Suffice to say that, with Rubick’s swift action freeing them up to fire instead of having to have someone rush over to mount a rescue, it would take a real miracle or external intervention for a single bug to get into attack range. Or at least that’s what the ever confident troop thought, which was why jr was happy to leave them to it while he focused on the mystery of the clowns.

Midgar: Suoh - Anistar Gym, Part 4

Goldlewis' @Lugubrious & Midna’s @DracoLunaris

Wordcount: 4,203 (+5)

In the wake of the Other attack, Suoh had come alive again. Like a turtle peeking out from its shell, the populace had taken to the streets once more, all their business hastily resumed as if an assault from bizarre brain-eating monstrosities barely constituted a blip on the radar. The Sector 3 plate was a big city with an awful lot of ground to cover, enough to be overwhelming to an outsider even without the psychic sensitivity necessary to see its extravagant true form. When looking for a needle in a haystack like this, where could one possibly begin?

Luckily, Goldlewis had at least a semblance of an idea as for where to start. He set off at a leisurely lumber, trying to retrace his steps to where he began despite the detour offered by Luka’s teleportation. “Before everythin’ went belly-up, the Princess and I were in a courtyard kinda thing surrounded by apartments,” he explained to his companion. As he spoke, he paused whenever their trek brought them too close to a camera cluster out of an abundance of caution, which meant frequent breaks in the conversation. “People were walkin’ their dogs, and if I know anythin’ it’s that dogs love goin’ after other critters, so if there’s any psychic creatures around it ain’t a bad place to start. Plus, I remember seein’ some kind o’ board with some folks gathered ‘round. Didn’t think much of it at the time, but maybe it has to do with housin’ in these parts.”

Midna listened to this and then, considering there did not seem to contain nearly as much skullduggery as she had assumed, popped out of his shadow so he wouldn’t look like a weirdo talking to himself. Not that she was going to give up a free ride either, and so the princess wound up perching herself on one of his very wide shoulders as they navigated the dud unfriendly town.

Limited by the veteran’s rather pedestrian mobility, the two made their way back toward the bottom end of Main Street. With the crossing signs invisible to the mentally inept, they needed to use the raised walkways, which took them on a somewhat circuitous route. Good thing we’re in no rush, Goldlewis noted. He took advantage of the journey to keep a close eye out on the off-chance anything interesting appeared, but the Suoh streets didn’t cough up anything of relevance. After some time, though, his trip along the tiled sidewalk brought him near two people who seemed to be in a heated argument. Though both seemingly in their early twenties, and sported striped clothes, the young man and woman were otherwise diametrically opposed, their back-and-forth causing such a ruckus that Goldlewis couldn’t help but intervene. “Beggin’ your pardon,” he began. “But is everythin’ alright with y’all?”

“Ah!” The twin in green turned to face the newcomer, relief writ large on his face. “Everything’s fine. Better now that you’ve arrived in fact. You look like you have a head on your shoulders, sir. Maybe you could help me explain to my sister here that’s she’s talking complete and utter nonsense…”

The twin in pink scoffed. “Pff, don’t make me laugh! This guy’s obviously not from around here, so you’re about to get a serious reality check, Palom.” She looked from her brother to Goldlewis. “So? Who’re you rooting for?” With her eyes she motioned in the direction of the wall in front of the two of them.

Goldlewis followed her gaze, but he saw nothing there. Drat, must be one of them Vision things, he thought, trying to think of a way to handle this. “Well, who’re you two rootin’ for?”

“Shinra, obviously!” Palom laughed. “Like any self-respecting citizen of Suoh, or Midgar, for that matter! Thanks to his administration Psych-OSF is stronger than ever, doing the jobs of the other branches for them, and we’re finally making real progress against the Ever Crisis.” He crossed his arms. “Porom doesn’t get that if he’s voted out now, we’ll be right back to square one!”

Emphatically shaking her head, his sister jabbed her finger at him. “You’re full of crap. We’re not making any progress, it’s all smoke and mirrors. The media’s in Shinra’s pocket, and all he cares about is money and power. Meanwhile, people are suffering everywhere, even on the plates Shinra loves so much. It’s like Armstrong says: the administration’s rotten to the core. It’s time for a do-over, and when the undercities come to bat for him, you’ll see for yourself.”

“That’d cause so much more harm than good, it’s not even funny. Armstrong’s dangerous, he’s just taking advantage of people’s anger and resentment. Like lighting a powderkeg! Besides, it won’t matter what rabble thinks because it’s the councilors’ vote that matters, and they’re appointed by the administration.”

“That’s exactly the kind of BS I’m talking about, Palom! People are sick and tired of the way things are. If Shinra’s corrupt system wins again despite all the public support for Armstrong, there’s going to be riots, mark my words!” She rounded on Goldlewis. “So? Who’s right, me or him?”

Such vehement political discourse was nothing new to Goldlewis. Although not happy to be embroiled in this all of a sudden, he counted his lucky stars that it didn’t involve him directly. “Hmm,” he mused. “Well, I ain’t decided yet. Both sides got a point or two, I reckon. I’m gonna wait ‘til tomorrow’s debate.”

At that, both twins rolled their eyes and groaned. “Ugh, another enlightened centrist.”

“Must be tough having to lug that gigantic brain around with you everywhere.”

“I bet he’s gonna go third-party and throw away his vote.”

“Not even! That’s actively sabotaging whichever real candidate he agrees most with!” Suddenly united, the two turned to walk away together. “Hey, Palom, I could go for a latte right about now.”

“And overdose on sugar? Get bent. How about a nice tea instead?”

“If you like dirty water so much, go boil your head.”

”This seems like a pretty convoluted and ineffectual voting system” was what Midna had to offer on the subject, specifically to Goldlewis and not to the pair who she was happy to let get another argument started between each other.

Goldlewis shrugged. “Par for the course when it comes to politics, princess.”

”Can’t agree, mine is much better” she retorted, though she was incredibly biased of course, being that it had put her in power.

”I mean, if there’s only two people really in the running, and there’s these councilors who make the decision anyway, then it seems to me like the election part is pageantry to give the drapings of popular support and legitimacy? Or does it actually matter?” the princess asked the man who lived here, wanting to know if they should be paying attention to this at all, before realizing that ”Not that there’s really been one of these before I suppose. All the previous ones are fake Galeem memories”

“I…hmm.” Not expecting to have been left uneasy by Midna’s remarks on the matter, Goldlewis scratched at his neck, contemplating what she said. “Probably. Hard to tell what really happened, and what just started out this way when the World of Light got made.” He crossed his arms, his brow furrowed. “For instance, Shinra’s been president in the World of Light for years, that much I know, but when I ask most folks can’t say how many years. Now, I can rattle off fifty US presidents in a row, first name, last name, political party, home state, and favorite football team, but I couldn’t tell ya who took office before Shinra. And I used to be Secretary of State, for Pete’s sake! Somethin’s plain wrong when it comes to record-keepin’ in Midgar, and I’d sure like to find out why.” By this point the twins were gone, so Goldlewis and Midna got moving again.

”It must be a real headache to be a historian in this place, that is for sure” Midna said in agreement.

”You know I sort of want to find one and grill them now, just to see what will happen. Because that is the kind of thing that would be written down somewhere in a real world, and I have to wonder what is sitting in the places it normally would be written. Are they just missing? Are there empty books that the Galeeming see as full?” she speculated ”and I wonder if there’s a way to pull at the seams enough for the whole charade to come undone?” because wouldn’t that just be a mighty boon and a half to their efforts.

Her speculation earned her a shrug from Goldlewis. No matter which world he resided in, there would be countless secrets locked away behind closed doors. Given the sheer size and complexity of Midgar, his team would be lucky just to find and topple the Guardian here. Finding out and exposing the truth of this world was a much less simple and concrete task.

Before much longer, the two arrived back where Goldlewis and Peach began, the central courtyard of the apartment complex called Kong King. People were out and about again, some of them with their dogs or other critters. He sauntered over to the important-looking board he remembered seeing earlier, but could only heave a sigh when he came to a crucial realization. “...It’s psychic,” he said aloud, staring at the blank slate with its dark obsidian sheen. A discreet glance at a nearby homeowner, perhaps checking up on property values, confirmed the sort of rapid eye movements that one might expect when skimming through a spreadsheet or something similar, but whatever he was reading was completely invisible to Goldlewis. “I really oughta figured. Woulda asked Raz to come along, but I didn’t want to stress the poor boy any.” He held his hands up helplessly. “Not to disparage present company, mind.”

”So, I do have a way of reading this actually … it’s just going to be filtered through a, uh, well you’ll see” Midna replied, before she snapped her fingers and summoned one of the Psynumbra Initiates she had acquired from the convent atop the split mountain. The nearby homeowner’s jaw dropped, allowing his cigarette to fall to the pavement. He then cleared his throat, did an abrupt about-face, and strolled away with his hands in his pockets, whistling badly.

The dead amazonian woman, wearing hooded and spiked attire, and the general aura of desolation wafting off her, turned her glowing gaze from the man she had just scared off to the princess and asked, simply “what?” to which Midna replied by pointing to the board and telling her to to tell them ”What’s it say on here?” As it turned out, this particular board contained nothing of use. Just about every apartment around here was occupied, and the couple that weren’t all had dozens of bids on them, with amounts reaching into thousands if not tens of thousands of kins. Housing in Suoh Central was at a major premium, it seemed.

“That ain’t surprisin’,” Goldlewis said as the Striker disappeared. “Even the cheapest places are gonna be an arm and a leg when you’re smack dab in the middle of one of Midgar’s supercenters. With all the surveillance up here, we probably don’t want somewhere in Suoh anyhow.” He stroked his whiskers thoughtfully. “If anythin’, we oughta set our sights a little lower. And I mean that literally.” He extended a finger, circling in the air, then pointed it straight down. “In Seiran.”

He put his hands in his pockets. “From what I gather, Seiran ain’t bad as far as undercities go. The skyscrapers go all the way from the reservoir down below to the plate itself, like they’re helpin’ to hold it up. Might be easier to commute between Suoh and Seiran than most uppers an’ lowers in Midgar. And it’d be a hell of a lot easier findin’ somewhere to hole up. Only problem is, how to get down. We could…?”

Goldlewis glanced over Midna’s shoulder. Pets weren’t an uncommon sight in this spot, but he had yet to see something unattended, or without an obvious owner. And just now he spotted a small, furry shape dart down the stairs from the central gazebo into the underground concourse. He blinked a couple times, knitting his brows together. “Huh, thought I saw somethin’ skedaddle down that way. Someone’s dog get loose?” He glanced at Midna, wondering where she stood on random acts of kindness.

”I missed it” she admitted, as she turned to look the way he was, peering down into the more comfortable looking dark before gave him a glance and asked ”What, do you want to go look for it?” rhetorically before shrugging and saying that ”I wouldn’t be against it. We can walk and talk and take a look at the same time. Or well, you can walk anyway”

”As for how to get under?” the shoulder riding princess said, getting back on that topic that had been interrupted, and having a think out loud on the matter ”Well… I’m not exactly familiar with how you’d even build a city like this … but, well, there have to be sewers, and big ones too, with this many people and with the streets this clean, right? Not that I like the idea of being in one, but the waste must go down from up here … and presumably under the plate somehow to a … lower sewer of some kind and then out to the sea … whichever direction that was in again”

Goldlewis shuddered as the two made their way to the courtyard’s central control point, then hooked a left to head down the stairs. “Not too fond of that idea. My first thought was to find some parachutes or somethin’, head to the edge of the plate, and just fly down. Buuut after considerin’ how far out o’ the way that is, and how it might leave us stuck down there, we best think o’ somethin’ else.” After reaching the underground concourse, he took a wide, sweeping glance around the partially-covered passageway, wide open as it was. Like the area up above with its projections of a grassy field dotted with wildflowers, this area used Visions as well; on the blue-tinged side it simulated an underwater reef, with fish and other creatures swimming around, while the red-tinged side featured a crystalline cave with miniature streams of magma. Goldlewis could see none of it, so all that he observed was a pretty stark, wide-open corridor. “Other sectors have ways to get between upper and lower legit, so I reckon there’s ways here, too,” he continued as he looked around for any sign of runaway critters. “Blue-collar workers gotta get up from cheap housin’ to work their city jobs somehow.”

”Guess we could always follow one home then” Minda said, before realizing how bad what she had said sounded and quickly detoured into suggesting ”or, well, I mean there must be somewhere where they have maps of the city, maybe even on sale, right?”

In the opposite direction, a couple boxes suddenly stirred. They rocked violently as a blue, raggedy shape pushed in behind them, trying to hide out of sight. With all the Visions around the average bystander would be experiencing too much sensory overload to notice, but for the nearby duds the desperate maneuver was a clear giveaway.

”I’m starting to think we followed whatever Midgar’s rat equivalent is instead of a lost pet” Midna speculated, before shrugging and slipping off the big man’s shoulder anyway ”oh well, in for a green in for a red. I’ll grab it, don’t want you getting physic rabies or something after all”

That said, she pulled out the sun on a stick from the twilight realm, floated silently over to the box, and then used the stick to tip up the box. Before whatever it was that had led them down here had a chance to run, she darted her shadowhand forwards to snatch it up in her magical grasp.

What she grasped was not a rat, but a cat. Or at least, something very cat-like. It had two puffy tails, ears tall enough to curl forward, and slitted green eyes. In pristine condition it might have been an adorable creature, in fact, but to say it had seen better days was a gross understatement. It was scrawny and clearly malnourished, and its blue fur was lusterless and thin. Injuries covered its body, including lacerations, blunt impacts, and even burn marks. In Midna’s grasp it struggled furiously, but weakly, equal parts angry and terrified. After a moment spent flailing its limbs around, the critter attempted to focus, and as its eyes began to glow it lifted its ears. A Psybeam shot at Midna’s head in a last-ditch effort to deal damage to and perhaps confuse its captor so that it could make its escape.

”On no you poor- ah!” the princess, who got completely blindsided by the attack due to a rush of empathy for the beat up cattish creature, cried out as she was blasted by psychic power … and also lost the 1 in 10 dice roll and was struck with confusion.

”What in their name” the princess said, holding her helmeted forehead in one hand as her mind spun and she lost her grip on the creature.

Goldlewis ran toward her, taken aback. “What happened? You okay?” He furrowed his brow at the critter as it ran, knowing that there was no way on earth he’d be able to catch it, let alone use his coffin on it–even if he wanted to. More than anger, he felt pity for the poor thing. Just what the hell happened to it?

The ragged stray scurried away on all fours, only for shouting from the direction of the stairs to freeze it in its tracks. Down the steps thundered three rank-and-file OSF soldiers, all of them very distinct. In the lead was a rather blobbish woman with little hornlike nubs on her head that bounced along with the rest of her as she plodded along, her skin slightly tinted green. Just a step behind her followed a yellow-haired man with a really big nose, his pupils beady and small, with a fancier Psych-OSF uniform than normal thanks to its fluffy white collar. A little farther back was a teenage boy with no outstanding features to speak of, although he did look rather distressed.

“There it is!” the woman thundered. She stopped, planted her leg like a sumo wrestler, and extended her palm. With a yowl the Meowstic floated in the air. “Ready for Somnokinesis, Mifune!”

Her colleague with the massive snooter stepped up to bat. Rather than wield the weapon slung across his back, he began making swirling motions with his hands. “...Sleep!” As if on cue, his target went limp, passed out and snoozing in the air. He relaxed, exhaling deeply. “...Alright, you’re up, Souta.”

“R-right.” As the other two watched, the boy stepped forward, a Pokeball held in his hand. He looked terribly reluctant, however, and his hand was shaking.

Goldlewis didn’t know what to make of the situation, other than that these people seemed to be some sort of supernatural animal control. Maybe someone had called the psychic pound on that critter if it had been running around blasting people’s brains. Unsure of what to do, he remained by Midna’s side, trying to literally snap her out of her confusion.

Midna, not in a state of mind to recognise that these were probably professionals and not threats to the poor panicked catcreature, but also aware enough of herself to know she was in no state to do anything, vaguely pointed in the direction of the pokemon and commanded ”Fetch”

Promoted by this her wolfos burst out of a portal and when scampering across the concrete towards the pokemon and a breakneck pace, only to skid to a halt right before the cat which it moved to gently pick up like a puppy/kitten by the scruff of its neck in order to transport it back to the princess.

“Hey! Stop!” Before the wolfos could get far, the catcher’s telekinesis lifted it into the air. It was too late, however; the sudden motion woke the sleeper up, and it began to attack, scratching its captor’s face. She flashed an angry look in Midna’s direction. “What’re you doing!? Call that thing off immediately!” Looking at the young man with his pokeball, the woman jerked her head in the stray’s direction. “Hurry and catch the Meowstic before that monster bites it in half!”

Souta grit his teeth and held up his pokeball. A streak of red light shot out and hit the struggling Pokemon it beamed out of the wolfos’ jaws and into the container, which continued to shake slightly as the feline’s rage subsided.

Goldlewis shook Midna by the shoulder. “What are ya doin’? We don’t wanna stick our noses where they don’t belong. That thing was feral, anyway. Could o’ had rabies or somethin’.”

”Huh, what?” The princess replied, shaking her head in addition to the shoulder shaking which managed to clear the confusion a little bit. Certainly enough to retort ”Wasn’t this your idea in the first place?” while waving a hand in the direction of her wolfos to get it to calm down and stop struggling in the telekinetic grip.

Taken aback, Goldlewis could only shake his head emphatically. While he suggested taking a look, he’d never once considered the possibility of fighting the Psych-OSF over whatever the two of them might find.

The woman seemed even less pleased. “What do you mean, your idea?” she questioned, her tone full of suspicion.

Then Midna took a breath or two, and apologized ”Sorry about that, it did something to my mind, didn’t quite get what was going on” while rubbing one of her eyes in a futile attempt to deal with the throbbing in her skull the psychic damage had left her with. ”As for the idea, man thought he saw someone’s lost pet is all, and looks like he .. we were wrong about that”

“Hmm…” The animal control team leader thought for a moment, then decided that a brain blast sufficed as an explanation for this behavior and shrugged. “Yeah, they’ll do that. You should steer clear of any and all Pokemon, they’re dangerous.”

That got Goldlewis’ attention. “Dangerous?”

“Uh, yeah.” The one called Mifune crossed his arms. “You must be new here. They’re heavily regulated in Midgar for safety reasons, and psychic ones are banned. Unregulated Psynet access drives them berserk, and once they go feral they cause no end of trouble. Right, Hifumi?”

The woman nodded, frowning severely. “That’s where we come in. Psych-OSF’s Containment Division. If you see any more feral Pokemon, call our hotline immediately. That is all.” She gave Midna and Goldlewis a stiff nod.

Before she could leave, however, the veteran piped up with one other question. “Beggin’ your pardon, but just so we know what to look for, I don’t s’pose there’s any other psychic creatures around we oughta be aware of?”

“Other than Others, not in particular,” Hifumi told them.

Mifune, however, had another answer. “If you head down into Seiran for whatever reason, stay away from the lower levels. The reservoir is infested with Psifish. They’re weak ‘cause of how polluted it is, but give them half a chance and they can still pop your brains like firecrackers.” On that note, the three soldiers departed, the captured stray in hand.

”Well… that could have gone better. Poor creature” Minda said, still somewhat sympathetic despite the brain blast and just a bit upset about what she expected the containment division would do with the illegal feral pokemon ”Still, guess we have two options if we want to go monster hunting for psychic powers as a group … though it seems pretty risky either way” as neither running afoul of the law or these ‘psifish’ sounded like a good time

”Oh and we’re definitely gonna need to warn Bede about both the law and that Psynet issue before something goes wrong” she realized, before also noting that she was also going to have to worry about part of the first half: ”and I’m going to need to be careful about using the dragonfly-thing … which I really should learn what its called”

Unaware that Bede’s Pokemon were psychic-type, Goldlewis gave a noncommittal grunt. “I reckon we should head back to the gym, then. Guess this explains why there weren’t any of ‘em Pokey-things in there.” With the commotion dispersed, small as it had been to begin with, the two began to retrace their steps away from Kong King. “When we get back, I wanna use that terminal again. See if there’s any transport hotspots that might get us down to Seiran.” Stepping back out from the underground concourse into the sunlight, Goldlewis looked out across the city of Suoh. There was a reflective window nearby, so he pulled out a comb to fix his pompadour before heading on his way with Midna along for the ride.
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