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Well, shit. Talk about fireworks.

Zoe's eyes widened as the laser shot through the sky, annihilating the helicopter way too easily for comfort. That wasn't exactly a confidence booster, although their classmates could hopefully take the hit. They were tough, but tough or not, that hadn't exactly looked good. She couldn't help the slight thrill that she felt in the back of her mind as she saw the destruction, the pieces falling to the ground. Were they alive? Much as she wanted to know, she couldn't worry about it, just had to keep going and focus on her own team.

Her expression remained neutral, looking away and out of the window as she tried to think things through. Better that she didn't seem anxious, she wasn't meant to be the one freaking out here. Somehow, she had a feeling that she'd have to hold it together for the healer's sake if nothing else. Of course she was worried for everyone -- Honestly, a huge part of her wanted to go out and try to help, dumb as the idea was -- but she had to stay here and look after these two.

So instead Zoe forced a grin as she turned towards the others, feigning confidence. The reaction was less out of actual callousness and more in an effort to piss Ernie and Christmas off in case the sight had gotten to them. If they were angry at her for being a heartless bitch, then that meant they weren't freaking out about the magical death lasers, which seemed like a good trade as far as she was concerned. Anger could be useful, panic not so much.

Luckily enough, it wasn't long before Callan's voice could be heard confirming that the two strikers were, in fact, alive. That was a relief, at least, allowing Zoe to relax a little. See, she'd known it'd be fine - Or told herself that, at least. As for her own team, with the knowledge that no-one needed immediate help, there wasn't much for the three in the building to be doing until someone else took action. Frowning, Zoe glanced out at the surrounding area one last time. Certainly didn't seem to be anything requiring their attention.

Still, with everyone on edge, she didn't want to spend too long around the other two with nothing happening. Even if it felt oddly restrained, the urge was definitely there after seeing the battle's beginning. She could deal with it well enough, sated as her Stigma was, but she needed to stay focused and if nothing else, it was a distraction from her job.

"Tell me if anything important happens."

Speaking abruptly, she turned away from the window and walked out of the room. It didn't sit right with her to be standing around doing nothing anyway, so it seemed like a good idea to start searching the rest of the house while they waited. Maybe there'd be something useful in here somewhere.
@January @Riffus Maximus Crap, I've been found out. Now I have to change my identity and flee to Switzerland. Again.

Also I did get checked out properly, CT scan and everything, so I'm definitely okay. Just banned from running/sports/headbutting doomsday devices for 2 weeks. Maybe I'll actually talk in the chat more or something crazy like that in the meantime.

Seriously though, thanks guys. That's actually really cool of you. I'll still be a bit slow for a while, but I'm mostly back to normal now and that made me smile a bit <3

As the briefing commenced, Zoe watched the demonstration of the alloy with interest, if slight irritation. Oh, sure. Armour. Every day, her restrictions got more and more annoying. Admittedly, even she would probably use a little of it, but there was definitely a trade-off to consider there. Maybe just going with the torso protection would be a decent compromise once they reached the battlefield. At the very least, the belt meant she could carry some stuff with her despite not having any pockets of her own.

She wondered if they'd make something her powers would work through one of these days.

Still, the extra safety it granted was definitely reassuring. If nothing else, it made her feel a bit better about the lack of protection she herself could offer the others. A bit. Being stuck hiding in some faraway building still hurt her pride somewhat, no matter how practical the decision.

The rest of it... Well, she already knew an attempt at escaping was pointless, even without knowing that she really wasn't the type to run off and leave the others to their fates. But the confirmation that the order was 'kill-on-sight' sent an odd mixture of feelings running through her head. It was horrifying, the idea that if one of them broke rank, the others would have to kill them. The people they'd fought and trained alongside, some of them even friends. Maybe not friends with her - she found it difficult to imagine most people even considering that idea - but certainly with each other.

So what did it say that part of her wanted it to happen? The yearning was faint, almost imperceptible after her morning session, but definitely there. And still odd, still not quite right in its intensity, in how it felt. But so soon after sating it... Was it just the stigma, or was she growing to like this?

Not right now.

That was right, she had to prioritise. Just focus on the fight. Always focus on what was coming next instead of giving herself time to think about it all. If she could keep moving, she wouldn't have to think anymore.

Mind you, she'd have a lot of time to think on the way there.

But the others would be in the truck, so she'd keep up the mask. Determination and resolve, strength enough to make sure she wasn't looking scared. Once the fight started, it would be true enough. She could lose herself, and then fear would be an afterthought. She was looking forward to it, in her own way, which was abnormal enough in itself. In a positive way, really. Wouldn't do to have everyone moping about their probable demise.

Yeah, she could deal with it. If she could look strong, then maybe the others could take something from that, considering she was basically running on 'completely-normal-human' levels of usefulness here. So if she wasn't scared of this, maybe it'd convince them things weren't so bad. Telling herself it'd help them out gave the facade a purpose, made it a lot easier to hang on to. Her natural eagerness for combat didn't hurt either.

After receiving the belt, she looked over the knife for a brief second before nodding to herself. It'd do. She considered taking a gun, but after a moment's consideration, scowled and decided against it.

I can kill anything a bullet would anyway, right? Waste of energy.

By the time she took her seat in the truck, she wasn't giving it any more thought - Her mind focused on the monsters they were about to face. Despite herself, the aberration wore a lazy, confident grin as she took her seat. It'd be fine. Even if there were plenty of reasons to feel fear, there weren't any reasons for her to show it. If she wasn't coming back, no way was she having them remember her whining like a little kid.

For the time being, she'd just try and relax a little. There were worse ways to spend a journey.
Zoe upgrade! Radius has increased again to 45m around her.

The knock on the door wasn't a welcome noise to Zoe, especially as she noted similar noises coming from further down the hall. So they were fetching the class again, no doubt because something had gone wrong somewhere and throwing kids at it was the best solution. Sometimes Zoe wondered if they'd considered just making better guns instead and letting her get her goddamned sleep.

"You can stop knocking now." She groaned, rolling out of bed. At this rate she'd have to just give up on having a sleep schedule. Maybe she could just learn to get up earlier in the mornings, but that somehow felt like giving in. Part of her wanted time to get dressed, but if they were going to be fighting then it didn't seem worth it all things considered. She sighed as she glanced out of the window, grabbing her phone, and after a second's consideration, her knife.

It was the kind of day where the freedom to put on a few extra layers would have been appreciated, really. Zoe had gotten over the actual 'running around in her underwear' issue by now, 'cause there were way more important concerns at this stage and if anything she figured some of the others were probably more embarrassed about it than she was herself. Honestly, she found it kind of funny looking back, but when conditions were like this, the irritation more than outweighed any entertainment she'd get from her situation.

As she opened the door, slightly groggy from her rude awakening, she couldn't help but notice the umbrella. On the one hand it was actually kind of helpful, but on the other she genuinely couldn't tell if they were making fun of the group at this point. Like, some of them were probably about to be sent to their deaths but the guys in charge were worried they might get rained on? What were the priorities in this place? Seemed dumb.

Heading out into the corridor, she glanced around. The others were being taken out of their rooms too, which at reassured Zoe that it was a group problem and not anything specific to her. Nothing unexpected seemed to be happening, at the very--

Like the stars. A shower of stars, crashing together. Seemed as logical as these things ever were. There was an ocean and now stars. Made sense as much as this place ever would.

It was far away. She couldn't tell what it was, couldn't quite understand but it was something. Too far for her to hope of touching it. But it was desperate to touch, and she didn't know why. Trying so very hard to get a hold.

There was strength here, endless strength, holding back the ocean as well. Keeping it back. How much power did that take? How long before it wasn't enough?

And as always, something approached. Tainted sparks of power she had no choice but to take, yet somehow less tainted this time.

For all of her doubts, it still didn't make her afraid.

Zoe stumbled as she came back to herself, disoriented by the suddenness of the vision. It felt... Odd. Like something was off, something she couldn't quite put a finger on. Forcing a chuckle at her own apparent clumsiness, she looked at the guard. "Guess I'm not really awake yet, huh?"

He didn't reply. Apparently he wasn't the talkative type.

The walk itself was uneventful to say the least. Not even a single explosion to liven things up. In a way, it was almost disappointing.

As for the briefing, Zoe had planned to pay full attention to everything said. Really, really planned on it, but as the construct showed up on the screen her eyes remained fixed there. One key fact about the image had caught her attention, and what she picked up on from the commander's words in the background seemingly confirmed it. The things were metal.

Metal. A one hundred percent non-living substance. Which made her certain of at least one thing.

This is bullshit.

Zoe scowled, frustration clear as day from her expression as her attention turned back to the commander. It felt like the whole thing was the universe conspiring to mess with her, leave her useless. Twice in a row, she was stuck with fighting in a situation where her power couldn't do shit. First time it was 'too lethal', and now they were up against robots? How was having her power grow so much supposed to help when she was never in a place to use it? How was she supposed to be strong when she was apparently gonna be the most useless person here?

She was with a healer group. Made sense that she wasn't on the frontline this time, she supposed, considering there was every chance she'd be defenceless against these things. Of course there was always the chance of an unexpected threat, but none they were aware of unless you counted the subnatural responsible for all this. That was another thing that concerned her.

Powerful though the strikers were, you could never be sure they were capable of carrying out the kill order on a real person, or dealing with it afterwards. There didn't seem to be much Zoe could do about it though - her job was to look after the healer and keep the others informed. Her, Christmas and Ernie. Ernie had been on the other team in the game, which made Christmas the healer. Didn't know much about the pair, but they had several hours, so she'd have time to figure out a plan. Hopefully a plan where she could actually help, though the odds were stacked against it working out that way.

First priority was dealing with her stigma and clearing her head, making sure she wouldn't be a liability. She'd been at Ground Zero yesterday, of course, but the vision meant she wanted to play it safe. There was that underlying strangeness to it, a feeling that she couldn't quite place yet. Maybe it wouldn't affect her Stigma too badly, but if she had to look after people then that wasn't a risk worth taking.

Once they had permission to leave, she was quick to do so. Five to seven hours sounded like a long while in theory, but there wasn't any time to waste.

19:00, 7 Sept. 2020

Zoe had been watching the group from as far a distance away as she was allowed, clearly not intending to invite a conversation. Or any human interaction. So that was it, then. The game was over. She had to wonder what sadistic exercise they'd have to deal with next time.

As the alarm rang out, she was quick to turn her gaze towards the source, catching a brief glimpse of the one responsible. Didn't recognise the pink-haired girl. Maybe they were bringing in more people? Seemed like right after the training session was missing the point a little, but then Zoe didn't care to figure out how this place was run. And maybe sparing anyone else the trouble of being made part of that particular session was a good thing. Whoever she was, though, Zoe didn't particularly care. She just knew that this was slowing them down, and that she really wanted to go. Now.

So she shook her head and turned away, disgust and irritation on her face as the guards all freaked out. Her mind was trying to be somewhere else, and the noise was just dragging her back here. She didn't want to think about here. It was easy enough to try and focus on something else, at least until the screaming started.

Normally she'd care, normally she'd pay more attention, but she needed time. She needed space. Needed everything to just leave. Well, other than the pink-haired girl, who seemed to have reached a whole new level on the whole 'going away' front. And judging by the staff mage's screaming, she hadn't gone anywhere good.

This was bullshit. All of it. What, were they just bringing people in to get rid of them now? Was it all some messed-up joke? Maybe not the staff mages - their concern didn't seem completely faked, anyway. And they weren't the main ones in charge. Of course, her own investment wasn't particularly strong. She didn't know who the girl was. Maybe she'd turn up, although the screaming made that sound a little unlikely.

Part of her wished she'd been able to do it herself. If they didn't need these people anyway, they might as well let her have a shot at-


What was she thinking?

The game, that's all it was. Just the game. Messing with her thoughts. It wasn't a problem. She'd just been in the wrong mindset. Or maybe that was always her mindset now. Training like back there wasn't safe, she knew that much. Not if she was like this. It shouldn't have happened.

Zoe hardly waited for Freddy to finish speaking before she took off, troubled and angry behind the apparent boredom on her face. Angry at the staff, at the guards, at the class, at the director, the whole goddamn facility, and at herself most of all. She knew it wouldn't be as frantic in the morning, once she'd cooled off. It never was. But that was always going to take time. Once she was alone, she could at least stop pretending things were fine for a few hours.

And another upgrade! Added to the CS.

Slowly regaining consciousness, Zoe began to stir. She half-opened her eyes, glancing sleepily around the room, over the footage playing on the screens, trying to figure out where they were. Nothing really seemed to hurt, and the others from their fight were all here anyway, so maybe some sort of-

It took a moment to realise what was going on as she took in the sight around her.

Here again. Standing on the surface.

It was different this time. It felt different. The ocean was shifting ever so slightly, just enough to feel like something had changed.

But she reached down again, like she always did.

It wasn't a drop this time - it was a surge of power that flowed into her, more than it had ever been before. And with it, even more of that wrongness the others had brought. Danger.

Blue eyes took in the ocean around her, watching as two of the waves collided and sent a shock running through her - the last remnants of something that was far too much for her to understand.

And all of a sudden she was back to reality. Lying on a bed in a room full of screens. This must've been where they took her after she'd...

Her expression darkened and she lifted her hand, looking at it. There had been blood, a lot of blood, and not hers. But the idea didn't freak her out like it should have. She'd gotten carried away, but the worst thing she felt looking at it, was disappointment. The rest of what she felt? It wasn't disgust, horror, wasn't even resignation.

If anything, it was satisfaction. She could remember what she'd done vividly, crystal clear, and it felt like a rush. That wasn't how she was meant to feel, was it? But he'd pushed her- She'd tried to warn him, knew how it would turn out if he didn't just stay down. She'd known what she would do to him, and she'd tried to warn him, but not tried as hard as she could have. The staff knew what her powers did as well, and knew she had no business turning that on her teammates. But at the end of the day, they weren't responsible, and she was never very good at lying to herself.

Snapped again, didn't I? First Aaron, now Gregory. Just keeps on happening.

Cold anger bubbled to the surface, but she shook her head. It wasn't time to deal with this right now, she couldn't confront any of it until the others weren't there to see. Outwardly, she appeared to relax, a lazy smile appearing on her face. Like nothing was bothering her at all, like she hadn't done anything to worry about and hadn't been half-covered in someone else's blood. Although she wasn't a particularly great actor, and it was clear something was bothering her - or at least it would be if anyone looked closely enough to check.

Stretching, she stood up, and was halfway to the bathroom when she realised what she was wearing. Somehow she didn't think she was getting her clothes back either. It wasn't really the right thing to focus on, but it made a good distraction from thinking about her actions in the fight. Keeping her composure right now meant thinking about something else, even if it was pointless.

Especially when she remembered that everyone else in the room could also see the recordings. She paused halfway across the room, watching the screens to see what went on after she got knocked out, as well as to confirm her suspicions. Suspicions that seemed to be right on the money, because she was definitely naked for several minutes of that recording. Great. She'd melted half someone's face off and then spent the rest of the fight being thrown around with no clothes on.

Not really how I wanted to make an impression.

She could only imagine what the others thought of her after this. Nothing good, that was for sure. Hopefully they'd be allowed back to their rooms soon, because it was a lot more effort to keep this up than she'd expected. She wasn't even sure what putting on an act was achieving at this point, other than making her look more unhinged than she already did. Which almost felt like an achievement in itself at this point.

But maybe that was why she was doing it. It wasn't exactly like she could explain her actions to them, 'cause she doubted any of them saw things the same way she did. So what other option was there? Sure, she could blame it on her Stigma if she wanted, but... well, knowing what went on in her head would never make any of them comfortable around her either. No, the best thing she could do right now was sit back, smile, and pretend nothing was bothering her. Everything else could wait until she was out of here.
Could just do the introduction to Najenda and stuff I suppose.
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