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Wards: Protean, the Protectorate's Strongest Part II

@Old Amsterdam@yoshua171@Gardevoiran@BCTheEntity@Lugubrious

And just like that the biggest battle, or at least the most important battle, of the Wards' young careers began. None of the teens were willing to back down to Protean's request that he be left alone to leave in peace, each one taking immediate action against the former trainer, former senior, former friend. Even though it was five on one the fight was sure to be highly taxing, as evidenced by Protean's initial demonstration. How could you fight someone who could conceivably do anything at any moment? Remotely, that was Tulpa's strategy as she manifested her projection from a suitably safe distance. The alien-like creature took a form suitable for direct confrontation, opting to absorb Protean's initial punch head on and anchoring itself to the floor. The claw had already retracted a safe distance before the projection's static field erupted outward, truly an incomprehensible speed.

The tulpa launched a counter attack, whilst Tiger Lily opted to run by Protean to reach the lobby, Mastar decided to hurl globs of tar at Protean's claws, and Messiah took a more support role than she usually stuck to, by emitting a bright blinding light. By the same merit as Tulpa, Margrave took to a "fight from further back" approach, unleashing a barrage of public brand safe rubber ammunition. He, and the rest of the Wards, were about to learn that lethal force would be necessary to have even a hope of incapacitating a high ranking brute like Protean.

"Predictable," the enemy quipped as he reacted to the five way assault. While his eyes certainly shut, incapable of operating under the conditions set by Messiah, he seemed to have zero trouble continuing to sense his opponents and operate efficiently. Perhaps it was those antennae he had sprouted, or some other animal organs that provided extra senses that were not so easily visible. The globs of tar wound up missing completely as he maneuvered himself into a new battle position, the black sticky stuff plastering onto the walls and floor around him. His claws opened up, revealing some strange orifice in the center: one pointed at the tulpa and one at the doorway Tiger Lily was trying to escape through. Spider silk shot out from both openings like a fire hose, blocking off the doorway with thick sticky webbing while the projection suddenly found itself entangled. The silk smoked a bit, heating up from the energy field, but otherwise acted as a strong insulator, and an efficient capturing tool. Meanwhile, the Margrave's rubber bullets bounced harmlessly off Protean's skin, leaving nary a mark.

"I taught you kids better than that," he continued, his left claw morphing before their eyes. Elongating, thinning out, stretching out toward Tiger Lily. It solidified into a king cobra, complete with eyes, tongue, and fangs, darting through the air directly for the young Ward."Appropriate force, Wards. These tactics work on lesser paras. I'm made of tougher stuff!!" Just then a number of sharp, pointed quills grew out from his main body, which fired outward with impressive force in nearly every direction. Tiger Lily was safe, probably because he did not want to risk hitting his own cobra arm, as was Margrave and Tulpa due to their distance, but the rest of the Wards as well as Tulpa's creation could not say the same.

"Now now, just what is it that you hope to accomplish?" the green clad tinker chided Thunderbolt, pausing his menacing advance for but a moment. "It is not as though you are impeding me in any manner. If your goal is to annoy me, then you have vastly overestimated your importance to my life."

Regardless of Thunderbolt's actual intentions, forcing Dr. Dean to stop for that lecture did buy his comrades a few precious seconds with which to reorganize themselves, mostly in having Alloy reconnect with Whimsy and Chatterbox. If this tinker could somehow still affect Whimsy despite the use of her power, then it stood to reason that the reverse would be equally true, at least that's the thought process that they had of the situation. It was more an act of desperation, but in all reality what other options did they have? Alloy made contact with the youngest member of the crew and thus fell under the influence of Whimsy power to "ignore" things. Then the lightning flew.

"What's this?" the maniac tilted his head at the display, his reaction time overall quite slow. The analysis of his helmet fed him information that was crucial, but he remained too slow to act upon it. If he had one weakness above all others (setting aside his pride), it seemed to be that he was not used to having to fight, and thus his reaction time left much to be desired. Only a single finger extended out toward a button on his suit by the time the lightning phased straight through Thunderbolt, and surged directly into Dean. "AAAAARRRRGGGHHH!!!"

The force of the convulsions threw the man tinker back, a good several feet away from Thunderbolt. He lay in a pile of upending chairs, smoke rising up from his green cloak, which had caught aflame. No longer was he translucent, but a solid tangible mass. The tactic had worked perfectly, and Headhunter could even target him now.

"Ugh," he grunted, standing up as he discarded his green cloak and hood. What remained was unmistakably a suit of power armor, slimmer than most others built by combat tinkers, but no less a technological marvel. "I have underestimated you. Impressive." The tinker pressed a button on his belt, the same one that he had gone for before, when suddenly he completely vanished from sight. Was this some form of invisibility or cloaking? No, if it were then Headhunter would still be able to target him, but only received static at the moment. But that left another concern, a more immediately pressing one. In Dr. Dean's place was a small green orb with a red LED, which was flashing faster and faster. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep.
Since my buddy Lemonzest dropped out and Ratchet was made an NPC (and subsequently claimed by the forces of light again) I'm putting serious thought into friend hearting him to be my second character, but I have to seriously consider it for a bit before making that choice.
<Snipped quote by Archmage MC>

It looks like they're all different people's kindred spirits. I know one of mine is there.

Yeah, but they were asking who intends to take any of them on as your second character, as opposed to doing something else with them.
Naw, you don’t need to. Just wanted to point that out.
@Lmpkio Six’s statement about not embarrassing him was directed at the spirits he’s trying to bond with as strikers. Basically since they didn’t work the first time he’s just like, “don’t embarrass me, make it work.” It wasn’t directed at any of the other PCs.
Apologies for double post, only did it because mention tags don't work in edits.

@Lmpkio just making sure that you wanted Mario as your next character, right? That's part of why I just went ahead and friend-hearted him.
Aight, got to be a right dick to a bunch of people in that last post. Huzzah.
Courier 6

Level 3 - (24/30) EXP (+3 post length -1 friend heart)
Location: Scrapyard - End
Word Count: 1925

The Courier lay motionless, save for his pained breathing. It had seemed that reaching out to the spirits held clutched in his hands was to no avail. Either they did not connect and felt no need to heed his call in the same manner as King Bowser’s had chosen to do, or he simply lacked the strength to command them in his current state. While neither option was particularly ideal, the latter could at least be assuaged as soon as he was back standing on his own two feet. The former, however… Maybe it just took more effort? Required building an actual rapport? Perhaps it came so easily to the king of all koopas because those spirits he had taken were his subjects, already loyal in their natural, non-Galeem’d-in-the-head state? Lakelurks were just beastly creatures, they held no loyalty or even sapience. And the Bastion, that robot had actual feelings, a real personality. Could it be harboring a grudge from their battle, just outwardly refusing to help in any way? The Courier grunted, partly in pain but mostly in frustration. Perhaps it would be better to just crush the spirits into loot and be done with it.

"That is... bad. Gotta fix that!" Six couldn’t help but smile as he heard the synthesized voice of Blazermate approaching fast. That robot had definitely earned her keep around these parts, that was for damn sure. He’d have to think of some upgrades to her chassis, once the action had died down and they all had a bit of down time. Was that now? Naw, probably not. There was still a castle to take, after all. Ooh yeah, that’s the good stuff, that beam of healing energy really hit the spot. Wait, ouch, why was his gut hurting like that? With a small groan, he sat up through the pain and fingered the hole in his abdomen that refused to close. Poking around, wincing slightly, the Courier found why the injury wasn’t closing up properly: a loose bottlecap had lodged itself in there.

”Heh. Abuelo liked to say my greed would cause me heartache,” he muttered. ”Who knew it’d cause me stomach cramps too? Hey wait, where are you going, Blazer?” Six reached out with his bloodied hand, now holding the bottlecap between two fingers. It seemed the medabot had become distracted with the spirit of that mechanic fellow. Well, the Courier certainly understood the desire to prioritize loot. He was a prospector himself, after all, and it seemed that these spirits did have a time limit if not properly nabbed up. Still, didn’t doctors have some sort of oath or something? The Hippopotamus some such? Of course, then the Courier got to bare witness to something truly remarkable.

Blazermate absorbed the spirit into her chassis, which turned into some sort of clay like goop and remolded itself. Once it was finished, Blazer had a hard hat and overalls… Just like that mechanic hombre. Was that what had happened to Zer0’s legs? Wait… Zer0.

Blazermate had returned to fixing the Courier’s wounds just as he caught sight of the assassin approaching, and Six couldn’t help but glare the Devil’s eye at his faceless “friend.” With a nod to the medabot, Zer0 turned his attention to the Courier himself and offered a hand. If that were the end of it, Six would have spat on the assassin’s gesture, but he had the gall to offer up the most piss poor apology the wastelander had ever heard. Learn to dodge? Learn to dodge?! Dodge invincible penetrating sniper rounds you have no way of knowing about, shot by someone who declared their friendship and loyalty?!

”Fuck off,” he spat, smacking Zer0’s hand away. It’s not like he could have taken it regardless, seeing as both his hands were still full of the little motes belonging to the lakelurk and Bastion, but it was the idea that counted in that situation. That, plus the pure venom in his voice. He stood up on his own power. ”You knew I was there and you took those shots anyway. I’ll freely admit I put myself in danger, but it’s never been a problem before now. Friendly fire? It’s never actually hurt before. Guess that’s just one more of my abilities that’s been suppressed since the giant lightbulb fucked us, but it never should’ve been a problem in the first place.”

He punctuated himself with two large middle fingers, still holding onto the spirits. He turned away, thoughts drifting back to the glowing orbs he possessed. Would it perhaps be better to simply try connecting with them again? He could merge with them the same way that Blazermate did, but… He disliked the notion. It was one thing to stuff a bunch of metal and cybernetic wiring into his body, it was a whole other thing to take in a soul. What came out of the process surely wouldn’t be the same person that went into it… Right? He shook his head, dismissing the idea. Gear and additions to the posse. That’s what he would focus on. Anything else would feel too much like an incursion on his own free will, and that was unacceptable.

”You have my gratitude,” he called back to Blazermate. ”When things die down, I’ll work on some upgrades for ya. Maybe some interchangeable parts. We’ll see.” With that, the Courier took a survey of the scene. All of his allies were still about, in various positions and circles, almost all having differing conversations. Only one truly caught his attention, that being between the dancer, Din, the Master, and the puppet, Geno-Wait.

”Geno you son of a radscorpion!” the Courier cried out, anger clearing reddening his skin. He approached the wooden puppet with heavy footsteps. ”What the fuck ever happened to scouting ahead, huh? You know that doesn’t mean a god damn thing when the scout doesn’t fucking come back right?!” He gesticulated in a variety of elaborate and energetic mannerisms, cleary beyond anything resembling reason. ”I can’t imagine how it would’ve been helpful if you had actually, I don’t know, reported that there was a fucking war up ahead! Or what was guarding the bridge! I’d rather deal with an army of tunnelers and marked men with five minutes to plan strategy than one mole rat in an ambush, and you could’ve provided that, but noooooo you had to go inside the castle without backup?! For what, to bring back some fat midget?”

The Courier was about to nudge the unconscious Mario with his foot just to emphasize his point, but at that moment his attention was demanded elsewhere as what appeared to be an unfinished house fell from the sky and into the moat, creating a small tidal wave that soaked all nearby. A small girl revealed herself, clearly the worse for wear, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

Following shortly behind the house came… King Bowser? The Courier had to do a double take between this massive winged behemoth and their own much smaller, and much better dressed, koopa king. When he compared the two, the biggest difference wasn’t the size or the clothes or the wings. Oh no, it was the sheer aura of menace. Their own Bowser wasn’t a good guy it seemed, but he seemed to more play up being a bad guy than actually being any sort of true malevolent. But this monster? Well, monster was an apt descriptor. And so the giant winged Bowser addressed the lot of them, and nobody could make a movement before the sheer size and power of this mighty being. ”SO, THESE ARE THE 'INTRUDERS' KAMEK TOLD ME ABOUT.”

The Courier, having felt fear similar to this before and always rising up against it, breathed in deeply… Then turned to look at Geno once again. ”Is this your fault?” he asked, plain and simply, but rhetorically. He did not expect, nor care to receive, and answer.

The giant Bowser went about calling them all runts and weaklings, which, the Courier had to admit that when compared to this behemoth, was a pretty justified view. Of course, that didn’t stop the Courier from shaking in his boots from the sheer anger of such a comment. He had been underestimated before, called weak or insignificant, and it didn’t bother him none. But this guy, this guy was doing so from his lofty laurels. He held himself above everyone else. King or not, that royally pissed the mailman off. No gods. No masters.

A few of the others had their own things to add to the situation. Linkle wondered about the difference in their attire (a thoroughly pointless and idiotic line of questioning, in the Courier’s mind. What did dress matter if they were all crushed underfoot?), while Bowser (his Bowser) struggled to comprehend the existence of this copycat. Er, copyturtle? He even wondered if this was his own son (that’d be one hell of a family resemblance).

The Courier’s reaction to the situation was much more active. Working through the aura of dread this thing was making, he took a few steps forward. Finding his bottle of whiskey he’d dropped a minute or two ago, he picked it back up then took a few deep swigs, downing the whole bottle, blood and all. Then, after wiping his mouth on his sleeve, tossed the bottle aside haphazardly. Next he pulled out one of his jet inhalers and inhaled deeply, the drug permeating his lungs and working through his whole bloodstream. Then the inhaler too was tossed aside like so much trash. That got his spirits up. Nothing like some booze and chems to really fight through the fear and grant the courage to do pretty much whatever the hell you wanted to do. Like (proverbially) flipping off a giant turtle dragon.

”OH MIGHTY KING!” he called out, clearly high and drunk as balls, yet his coordination didn’t suffer a bit. ”FOR TRIBUTE I HAVE BROUGHT YOU AN ARMY!” He swept his arms around, gesturing to all of their allies. ”I HAVE BROUGHT YOU WEAPONS!” He pulled out his .44 magnum, presenting it high for all to see. ”AND I HAVE BROUGHT YOU A DEMONSTRATION!”

The Courier turned to the nearby unconscious Mario, then snapped his fingers together to create a friendship heart. The heart slowly drifted down until it latched onto the portly plumber, then seeped into his body. If they were going to take this monster down, then they’d need all the help that could be mustered. If that meant pretending to be his minions until his guard dropped, and this pressurizing aura was released, then so be it. The Ghost of the Mojave did the same thing to three armies at once before, and he could do it again to this giant winged ego with claws.

”Alright hombres, seriously this time. Don’t embarrass me in front of the giant dragon turtle king. Time to join my posse for real, now.” The Courier produced the two spirits once more, the lakelurk and the Bastion, and spoke to them in earnest. Hopefully softly enough that he wouldn’t offend the giant Bowser.
<Snipped quote by ProPro>

New Canon, I believe, is that the koopalings are adopted, with Jr. being Bowser's only 'blood' offspring.

Originally, the Koopalings were depicted as Bowser's children[3][4][5][6] and stated to be his offspring.[7][8][9][10][11] However, Shigeru Miyamoto eventually affirmed that Nintendo's "current story is that the Koopalings are not Bowser's children" in 2012, leaving the Koopalings as his underlings and Bowser Jr. as his only child.[12]
Super Mario Wiki

That is completely irrelevant to my joke, however, when you consider:

no other members of species at all except for…

No other members of his species? When he's the King Koopa? You can't even say that he's the only member of some elite breed of Koopa on account of the Koopa Kids all being unique koopas themselves. Everything about that line just feels... Off.
He had no brothers, no sisters, no mother, no father, no uncles, no aunts, no other members of species at all except for…



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