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“Yeah, I’ll admit to not really knowing what to grab other than the bow.” Inei would say with a shrug at Jinny’s statement. “Our dad taught us mostly how to handle more traditional weapons.” He’d add. Thought tat statement caused Kiri to throw a mild glare at his brother. One that Inei waved off without ever looking at it, while rolling his eyes.

“I grabbed the smaller ones because they look like they’ve got a lot of ammo and quantity has a quality all of its own.” He’d point at the uzi’s “And these” He would heft the MP5 “Because I’ve heard that our teacher uses them often.” Which wasn’t a wrong statement. Just slightly misguided, Slade used a lot of weapons often, but wasn’t partial to any one, save for his sword.

“Figured he’d be more wiling to give tips for something he favors, or seeing as he’s a harsher type, whip me into shape so as to not embarrass his preferred tools” Inei would finish as he performed a rather basic survey of the MP5. It was clear in the hesitancy of his movements that he knew very little about fire arms outside of the absolute basics.

“Always a glutton for more pain, aren’t you?” Kiri would snark at his brother, but tellingly enough still had yet to put down the bow for any length of time.

From there most talk drifted off as everyone get in to the rhythm of practice. It was hard to really gauge who was good vs who wasn’t for the most part with this range set up. Two people side by side shooting at the same range could have wildly different conditions for their shots making it near impossible to really say anything of note.

Or at least that was the case. A few minutes into the free-range practice Jinny would notice a small goggled emoji pop up on one of the more out of the way screens. Somewhere she could easily see it, but hard for others to notice if they were just walking by.

It would blink a few times before that screen would be over taken by a simple spread sheet of data. Listing the statistics of all the shooting stalls. Accuracy rating, average shot difficulty, primary weapon usage, average time between shots. Everything.

It would update every few seconds. A comment or two appearing beside some of them on occasion. Such as ‘The hell is this moron thinking?’ next to a shot layout where someone was apparently trying to use a shotgun in place of a sniper for a long-distance precision shot.

Or a ‘Okay, that’s impressive’ showcasing the accuracy rating of someone using twin uzi’s at full auto. Scoring a respectable eighty nine percent.

At first who the hell was feeding this information to Jinny was a mystery.

At least until she looked around and saw Gizmo wearing a pair of rather familir looking goggles. His tension was gone, and a smirk could be seen on his lips as he went through the motions of lining up his targets and taking them out. Seems that the pint sized genius found something rather relaxing in firearms practice.

It was also something that he seemed to be rather good at. His owns stall’s stats reading to be one of the better over all shots in the class. Though it wasn’t without some aid. He had rigged up some kind of clamp system for his revolver and rifle, since he was shorter than even Jinny was, he was obviously using such a system to compensate for the recoil as otherwise he’d lose the guns each shot. It might have done more than just that, but his accuracy wasn’t perfect, so it wasn’t all the machine doing the work.

Still, how Slade would take it was hard to tell. But Jinny would find out before she herself had to be tested, as Gizmo was before her in that line.

Speaking of Slade, that man himself was lurking in the background. Watching as everyone practiced, softly pacing the stalls back and forth. No one lit the stalls for assistance, but weather that was because no one needed the help, or they were a bit too afraid to ask was hard to say for sure.

Still it was one of the more peaceful times that had befallen this class so far.


The Engine felt a brief spark of satisfaction as she finished tearing the Lion to shreds. The fact that it continued to pursue her was a mixed blessing. The damage it inflicted on her was wide spread and significant. Some of that was because she had refused to face it, but their last exchanged told well enough that standing to face the beast wouldn’t have helped her get off lightly.

Still, she directed seething cloud of nanites she had slaved inwards. Her physical stability was in the yellow, and her mana reserves were nearing the red. A moment or two to repair and refuel was all she would need before she resumed her task of stopping the artillery that was still pounding away at the city. And for the moment it was safe enough, as there was nothing save the remnants of the devastated APC and soldiers were nearby for the moment.

A surge of magic, strong enough that even with her deadened senses she could sense it. Put an end to the though of catching a quick moment. She recognized the work of the portal witch on sight, but that did nothing to relax her. If anything, it was more reason to be on edge.

A belief that was proven to be correct not event a moment later. Even before the portal fully opened The Engine could recognize who it was that was planning on stepping on to the battle field.

That changed things; not significantly, at least not as far as the Engine was concerned. She was only out here to inflict as much damage as she reasonably could to the forces of Wonderland before the evacuation was complete after all. Something that sounded like it was more or less finished, if the intel coming in from her surveillance points were accurate, but she would wait until a more directed update before acting on that information.

Which mean that she now had a very small window of opportunity to launch an attack on Wonderland’s HQ.

The reintegration of the nanites was rushed, expedience now taking priority over efficiency. Her refueling, and sudden retooling, was complete just before the Queen of Hearts began speaking. As the enemy queen opened her mouth to speak The Engine lashed out. A metal ball twice the size of a bowling ball rushed past the Red Queens head with the force of a cannon shot. Seeming to simply be a missed attack, but only if one assumed that the Red Queen had been the target.

She hadn’t been.

No, the Engine had aimed at the closing portal behind the Wonderland’s leader. And there was just enough time to see her bomb punch into the wall on the far side of the portal before it closed. She had no idea how effective it would be, but she infused it with as much Importance as she could before she threw it. That and it had twenty of those augmenting crystals settled into it as well.

Shifting her attention away from where the portal had been The Engine spoke up, cutting off the Red Queen again. I ͟ha̵̷v͟ȩ̕ ̀n̨͡o͘͘͞ r̵̛ȩ͟͠aş͢o͡͏n̴͡ ̧t̛͠͏o̸ l҉̀͝i̡̕s̨t̴̀͢en̸ t̕͏o ͟͡òr ̴b͞e̡͜͢l҉i̕͡è̸v́͜͏e͡ ̧҉͜a͏n̷y̸t̴h͞i̷̴n̨g̶̢͞ ́͢y͟͡o̷̵͜u̸͢ s͠a̧͡ỳ͘.҉

Normally she might have been willing to at least humor her enemy. Normally she would use the time spent in conversation to regain her energy more fully. But this wasn’t normal, here and now it was The Engine unconstrained, not Penny. And that changed things.

Unwilling to let the momentum betaken from her The Engine blitzed forward. Though the rush was more feint than actual assault. The artillery still needed to be rendered inoperational after all and that was something she could still accomplish. A flat out fight with the Red Queen would serve only to get The Engine destroyed at this point. And if things turned for the worse The Engine knew she had at least one ally near by.

“All units be advised” Penny’s crisp voice would call out from all of the headset she had passed out earlier. “The Queen of Hearts has joined the fight. I repeat, The Queen of Hearts has joined the fight.”

“What’s the status on the civilian evac? Because we might need to leave and soon.”

It was times like this where it was all to apparent that Tina and Ellen weren’t frontliners, as the moment Tina was hit Ellen was shouting out her name.

Before she could anything Alex was already on the job of patching up her sister, assuaging her rising panic before it could make her things even worse. She was no more a doctor then he was, but she did know a fair amount about animals, both of them did, so she knew it was bad.

“Thank you!” Ellen would say emphatically, Tina nodding a shaky agreement. It was a closer breath with death then either of them was comfortable with.

Before Alex was able to fully take off, he would feel further Beast magics, further augmenting him. A pale shadow of what he himself was capable of, but more help would always be appreciated. At least that is what Tina and Ellen thought.

As he raced off the sisters fell back into the shelter, neither willing to risk the open air anymore. Still one could hear the start of a more light hearted conversation as they descended below. “Why is it the good ones are always taken?

-=Ǝ Second to the right E=-

“I get what you mean.” Aurelio would say with a rare grimace. ”This is the first time that I’ve heard about Beacon stepping aside in regards to a situation like this.” It was strange and perplexing to the young man. Even if he was one of the more vocal advocates for peaceful and non-violent interactions with non-Beacon members, he knew that there were situations that called for it sadly enough.

“Only thing I can think of is that Wonderland isn’t lead by a dark magical girl, but that feels like a stretch to me.”.” He would offer up his best guess.

Before that conversation could continue a rather unique individual would make their presence known. Being the gentleman that he was, Aurelio politely rolled down his window in time for them to hear Magical Dream Princess’ offer. One which the emotion mage was fully willing to go along with. He even started prepping some of his own magic to help everyone hit the right state of mind.

But he didn’t trigger that spell, instead he turned towards Alicia with a raised eyebrow. She was given the lead on this mission, and he wasn’t one to try and gainsay her. She was a good friend after all.

That wasn’t to say he wasn’t tempted though. The closer to Bolorton they got, the worse the atmosphere felt. Unsurprising for a battlefield really, but it hurt him nevertheless to feel.
“Yeah, I know how that can be.” Inei would sympathize with a grimace. “Me and Kiri ran into that as well in our first year here. There are others here that get it like you and I do, but not as many as we were expecting.” He’d explain picking up another bow and slinging it over his shoulder as well.

“The Teachers are all good about it though, thankfully, so at least there is that.” He’d add before tossing a quick appraisal around the room. “My guess is the main reason you freaked so many people out is…” He stalled for a moment contemplating how to finish his though. “Well, no offence, but you’re still a kid.” He would say at last with a shrug and an apologetic smile.

“Like I get that doesn’t mean all that much, but it still came out of nowhere.” Inei was quick to reassure Jinny. “It’s like how you don’t expect anyone here to already be blooded, but if you go looking you can learn who is. To be faced with the fact that the person someone next to you has already taken a life, it’s just unexpected really. Same thing here. Those that are going to be worth anything will shake it off soon enough I'd wager though.”

After Jinny collected her weapons of choice Inei would excuse himself “I’m going to go grab Kiri, and catch back up with you at the stalls.” Though from the look of it might be a bit still. Seeing as Kiri had yet to actually make any choices.

The stalls of the firing range were rather simplistic at first glance. Seemingly bare steel, with the only thing of note being the pair of ear bud sitting in the center of each stall

But any amount of poking around would uncover the fact that there were touch screens on most of the surfaces. Most of the screens held records of recent shots, along side other bits of useful information about those shots. But a pair of screens on the table top held the controls for setting up your targets, allowing for various different shooting environments or circumstances. High wind settings, low visibility settings, distance for the target, and things like that.

The ear buds were far from simple as well. Tiny, but vastly effective, noise canceling headphones. Would allow everyone to keep their ears safe but also able to communicate easily despite all the gunfire that would be soon to fill the air.

Shortly after choosing her stall, Jinny would see Gizmo setting in the stall to her right. Going so far as to evict the person who had been getting set up there before him. Doing so with a black glare that was miles more threatening than anything he had shot Jinny’s way so far.

He remained silent, but judging by the tension in his jaw it wasn’t an easy accomplishment for him.

Still, it didn’t take Gizmo long to go about familiarizing himself with how the stall was set up. He kept an eye out for what Jinny was doing as he did, but rather then waiting like he had earlier he was quick to move on and set up his targeting range and start getting a feel for the weapons he had brought with him.

Gizmo wasn’t the only student to already be setting up, but in total those that were comfortable enough to start practicing with the guns less than those that weren’t.

Still, it wasn’t all bad, or awkward as it might be, as not long after Gizmo had gotten underway Inei and Kiri would finally make their way over to the Stalls. Setting up in the two stalls to Jinny’s Left. Their weapons of choice being a Compound bow, An Uzi, and a MP5 for each of them.

A few minutes later Slade’s voice cut though the din of those already practicing, and would have done so even without the ear buds possibly. “I do not care.” He wasn’t shouting, that required more effort than what he was putting forth, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t loud. “You have ten seconds to pick or you will be failed on the spot” He was… Towering wasn’t the right word, as once again that implied more effort that what Slade was actually seeming to give. But he was standing close to a student who still had yet to choose what weapons they wanted to take to the firing range. A student that Slade happened to be over a foot taller than.

“Ten” Nothing happened for a moment. “Nine. Eight. Seven.”

The poor student was then quick to grab what ever was closest and book it over to the last open stall.

Slade simply let out a sigh before shifting his attention to the class as a whole. “In ten minutes, I’m going to go down the row.” He would explain pointing at the far end of the class room from Jinny. “When I get to your stall, I’m going to set up a prearranged set of targets, based on what firearms you choose. Each set will have a timer and I’ll be judging speed and accuracy. Once everyone has been evaluated, we will move onto the final portion of class. Until I get to you, and even after, I expect you all to be practicing.”

“If you have questions for me in the mean time turn on the stall light, and I’ll get to you one at a time.”

“Guess that answer what kind of Teacher he will be.” Inei would say after. “Harsh”

“But probably all the more effective for it.” Kiri would pipe in, already into the swing of things with the bow. Showing more than just a bit of passing skill with the weapon. Though he had also yet to even touch the other weapons.

“Yeah, sad that we likely won’t be able to see any of his skills in action today from the looks of things though.”


The damage to her shoulder was extensive, but also overall irrelevant. Its status as a primary limb meant that at this threshold of injury it had yet to lose more than twenty percent functionality, though the loss of the outer casing was a problem. As it left her internal mechanisms exposed to further damage.

Her best course of action was to set her auto-repair function to fix the issue from the external side inwards.

That done her attention flit towards the limited damage delt by the hails storm of bullets she had ran though. Her shields were restored with a flex of thought sealing up those gaps, the damage itself was assessed and then ignored.

The guns fired magically charged projectiles. The Engine knew this, she had torn more then one apart already and knew just about everything about the capabilities of the guns. This was actually to the Engine’s benefit at the moment, covered in nanites as she was, the bullets that dug into her had to pass though those nanites. Damage was inflicted yes, but more nanites were created as well. Cost ratio was not in her favor, but the limited damage was still worth the increased nanites for the moment.

Overall, all parameters were within tolerances.

Then she crested the hill and was overcome by a wall of static. Her awareness was constricted down to such a limited bandwidth of information as audio, radar, and other senses ran into a fast amount of interference. Even her sight was compromised.

It was to the point that she came to a halt. Part of it was shock, few entries could simply ignore their senses becoming this distorted. But the larger part of it was that this was a brand-new sensation. Something that she had never experienced, nor had any record of. And for all of her advancements, and evolutions she was still a machine. Machines do not react well to things they have no information on.

So, she stalled out, her systems poking and prodding at this strange disruption, cataloguing and pulling apart the cause and effects of it.

It was possible that the Engine would have stayed stalled out for the rest of the conflict, even with her inhuman ability to analyze, this chaff had been tailor made to disrupt her after all. But that was not to be the case. Because she was a machine and one of her highest priorities, hard coded into her very being, was combat.

And when she registered the Lion’s blade pierce her back, her system reprioritized, she reacted, and the stall was gone.

The Lion’s blade only got about half an inch in before the Engine’s torso came alive, it bucked and writhed around the blade diverting its momentum off to the side. This left a large gash on the Engine, but nothing more than surface damage. It was her luck that the beast aimed high, after all, she still needed the casing she cradled. In all that the flare along her spine that left a strip of bluish chrome in its wake was almost unseen.

That stirp of blue chrome, was vital however, just as it was an extensive drain on her mana. Caging her main systems in cold iron had two immediate effects. The disrupting effects of the chaff couldn’t affect her anymore but by that same metric, nearly all of her magical senses were rendered unusable as well. It was a quick and dirty fix, but would hold for now.

In near the same instant the Engine rotated its upper half to face the Lion, her left elbow leading said turn as she drove it into the beast’s jaw with as much of her considerable might she could bring to bear. Giving no real room to mount a proper response to this, the Engines unoccupied limbs lashed out at the Lion seeking to rip and tear into it for the insult of attacking her.

In the midst of the onslaught, she let out another roar. And like before her element’s responded, but this time it wasn’t electricity she was calling. Each bit of metal in the vicinity would feel a harsh jerk in her direction. Not strong enough to tear the guns from the hands of the soldiers, but impossible to miss as well.

This did lead to her suffering from another half dozen bullet wounds, but that was acceptable, because her primary target also answered her call. A wave of gray sludge came rushing from behind the Lion. But it wasn’t targeting the beast. It slipped around, over and under, all seeking to reach the Engine. Until she was subsumed in it.

The remnants of the APC, now melted into more nanites, covered the Engine. And unseen by all, a jagged, broken, grin torn open on the Engine’s face as the nanites swarmed over her. The gray sludge quickly took on a glossy black color, and red electricity could be seen arcing under the squirming mass as it shifted.

There was a central point coated in hardened crystal shapes with light arcing between them, where the engine presumably resided, but from that central point was several large tendrils that acted as limbs. One of these tendrils spooled out, lashing at the Lion, as it skittered away.

It was large, but only about half the total size of the APC that had been destroyed earlier. That didn’t stop it from being fast however, nor erratic, as it didn’t stick to a straight line. It jittered back and forth as it raced towards the nearest vehicle it could.

And neither was it passive, smaller tendrils would tear away from the larger mass and strike out at anything that it came near, the flowing nature of the nanites allowing the tendrils to carve though what they hit like blades.

And anything metal struck by those whips became more sludge that was called into the greater mass feeding it further.

-=Ǝ Fast travel E=-

Aurelio would nod his understanding at Alicia’s orders. Made sense to him as well, if for a different reason perhaps. Gabriel didn’t seem like she was interested in working along side the local branch, which if this was going to be anything like normal for Penrose responders that would be trouble.

“We’ll let you know what you missed.” The magician would say as he waved a goodbye to the Ascendency agent.

”And now that we’ve settled. How about I make the next leg a bit quicker?” He would ask rhetorically as he raised a hand dramatically, held the pose for a moment and then snapped. With that snap the party they had would find themselves enveloped in the teleportation that was prime for their next stop.

It was time like this he enjoyed the benefits of being a showman. So much easier to have dramatic timing when one could control the timing. Plus, it gave him time to link up with the teleportation network to let them know he was taking over their primed jump.

Honestly, being approved as one of their living teleportation nodes was always worth it for times like this if he was being honest.

”How long is the drive going to be you think?” He would ask once they all touched down. “Because if this is anything like normal, things are likely pretty hectic over there already.” He would continue on to say as he started packing up the mobile gate. After all, he was given the official training for dealing with this tech due to his status as living node.

Seeing as there was only two more houses left to evacuate Tina and Ellen had decided to leave that to those more capable of such and regroup. Just in time to see Annabell take off and Lily still trying to catch her breath.
“You okay?” Tina would ask as she stepped closer to the girl in case she fell over. Having seen the magical network spread over the town she wouldn’t think it uncalled for.

Ellen on the other hand answered the question that was posed, even if it was too late to also tell Annabell. “The Queen said she was going to be able to get us out of here. I would assume that would also include the evacuees. We just need to clear the last of the houses and hold the line until she gets back. Then we should be able to simply leave.”

Dina’s sharp gaze would snap to Sakura the moment she started speaking. “Simple paint won’t solve this issue.” The now vampiric girl would say as she turned her gaze towards the walls once more. Stray streaks of black had begun fade in and out of the gray walls.

“Her Majesty is the source of this I believe.” She would say after a moment. As of all the girls now in the Sanctuary, only Dina had ever pushed Penny far enough to feel the edges of the machine girl’s ire. Recently too, as it was back at the dexterous charismas party. And this felt much like that, even if it wasn’t directed at anyone here.

“Something is happening over in Bolorton. But that is not our concern for the moment.” Dina would go on to say, her voice projected out so that everyone could hear her. The magic inherent in her making it impossible to miss when she chose to speak like this.

“Ashlyn, Beatrice” Dina would call out “I am aware that the Scouts are currently abroad with Her Majesty. I need you two to set up a perimeter. I want to know if anything starts coming towards our home. I don’t know if this” she would gesture at the building at large “Has been noted by anyone else yet, but unless it stops soon it will become a problem.”

“Goblina I need you to start digging into those maps. We might need to abandon the Sanctuary earlier then expected. With her Majesty absent for the moment we will need to head elsewhere, but fret not I do know of a few locations we can stay at until she returns.”
Dina would continue to issue order. But outside those named few most of it was for people to prepare to leave.

Eventually however “Sakura. We are likely to be moving though the sewers I’ll be placing you on the vanguard. In the mean time if you wish to test your idea there should be some cans of paint in the storage room. If I’m correct however, you’ll want to start from the outside. As I’m sure our home is quite apparent at the moment.”

“If anyone attacks, taken them down. If they live, bring them to me.”
"You missed out" The older boy would say as he picked up a compound bow to examine. “It wasn’t much more than him running, but his acceleration and deceleration was crazy. I wish I knew it was about to happen. I would have paid him more attention. I might have been able to learn something from that alone.” He would state as he gave the bow a full draw to test what the weight on it was.

“From what I saw of you, you’d likely have been able to as well.” The boy would say easing off the draw and shouldering the bow. “Only really saw your take down at the end, but you have definitely got the skill for it if that is anything to go by.”

“Name’s Inei” The now named Inei would introduce himself as he extended a hand towards Jinny. “My brother’s Kiri and while he’s too shy to admit it, we are both looking forward to sharing class with you. You are about the only other person here who seems to know what they are doing.”

A quick look would show that Kiri was on the other side of the room, looking at a pair of rifles. And though it was well hidden, he was also unfamiliar with the more modern firearms.
A longer look would show Bee had gravitated towards the submachine guns, a pair of pistols already on her hip.

It would also allow Jinny to notice Gizmo. More or less glaring at her still, though it was more determined than actively hostile. His three weapons have already been chosen; a revolver, a bolt action rifle and a crossbow. He seemed to be waiting for her to finish choosing her own weapons, as he was making no move towards the stalls of the firing range.

.:⋮Scorched Earth⋮:.

Penny’s gaze darted across the ever-unfolding chaos of this particular battle field. There was always something new to take into consideration, some thing else she had to commutate to keep up to date with the sprawling madness of it all.

She was hardly surprised when she felt her senses sharpen even further. Felt the world turn sharp as everything contrasted more. The world become exceedingly simple, the endless gray morality shifting to a straight forward black and white.

["Red A̴̺͑l̵̖̒ë̶́ͅr̶͚͂t̴̙́. Critical M̵̫̀ë̶̦́ḽ̶̅t̶̫̂ḍ̴̍o̶̫͒w̸̳͋n̸̂ͅ ̴̺̓Ĭ̴̲m̷̝͂m̵̮̓í̵̩n̴͈̽ë̵̲́n̵̟͆t̵̮̓.̶̦̄ D̷͞҉͏̡è̛͘҉̕s҉̶̛̛҉t́̀͘͢͜r̡ứ̧ć̸t̶̡̨͟į̛ơ̶͜͡͝n͏̡̛ ̴̵̛͞E͏̨ņ͏ģ́̕͠҉i̡͞͏̸͠n̴̢͠͝e͏̧̀ a̵̋ͅt 100%. Evacuate ṫ̵͉h̴͍̊ę̸͑ ̶͖͝a̴̱͗ř̷̡e̵̙͑a̴̟̎ ̴̝͌i̴̹͛m̸̳̕m̶̥̈́e̷͇͘d̵̋ͅị̸͂ately.]

She knew no one heard the warning, everyone already split off. No one would really notice the rest of the warning signs either, her colors bleaching away until she wore only shades of gray. Her eyes and lining colors becoming a bloody red.

"Initiating Phase four response configuration. Demon Attunement: Version 2."

Before she was able to do anything else, she had several hundred pounds of enraged leonine beast to contend with. She braced for impact, her upper upper clamps reforging into claws as she grabbed hold on the incoming blade. Even as she was pushed back by the force of the creature, her tendrils digging deep into the earth to stall out the force, the Engine refused to let go of the blade on the beast’s arm.

Matching gaze with it the beast the Engine waited a solitary moment. Before letting out a roar of her own, a deep metallic groaning sound utterly distorted by static.

And in response to her cry, the lights in the city behind her flickered and died. Because her tendrils found more than just rocks in the ground below, they found a power line, and the Engine drank deep in preparation.

Before the beast could respond to this the Engine’s chassis was subsumed by electricity, and she blitzed forward, dragging the beast along with her as she became a streak of lightning across the battle field. Bulldozing over the troops in her way they came to a sudden and violent stop as the Engine slammed the beast into one of the APC’s.

In the wake of thunderous crash, the Engine was no longer a mass of living lightning, though cords of blood red electricity coursed across her chassis, which was now a glossy onyx. Her holographic armor was wrapped around her like a second skin, and her extra limbs were each sporting a humming blade of energy. To say nothing of the vicious looking talons that now adorned her hands.

Slamming the Beast into the APC once more, the Engine flipped up and over the creature, before tearing her way into the APC. The edges of her forced entrance melting into metallic sludge that seemed to infect all the metal it came across spreading further and further.

Shortly after there would be a loud electric whine would be heard building with the APC, before a pressurized stream of condensed lightning and that same metallic sludge tore out from the inside seeking to cut a swath through everything it could. The Beast in particular if it was unlucky.

The Engine would swiftly remerge from the now devastated APC, leaving the wreck to melt into a pile of metallic sludge as she launched herself at the next APC. She was covered in a layer of that very same sludge and her lascasters firing at anything that moved.

On her back, the container she had been using to house the crystals she had been harvesting had changed. It was sleeker and now had gleaming lines of energy across its seams making it looked like a futuristic bomb. It was also being cradled protectively by two of her tendrils.

-=Ǝ New Party Members? E=-

“A Pleasure Vivianne” Aurelio would greet the maid’s maid with a nod and a tip of the hat. Finding that situation to be more that a touch humorous himself. Not that now was the time to get into it, but seriously what kind of maid had her own maid?

“No questions on my end.” Aurelio would quickly answer “It’s going to be a bit more dangerous then our normal search and rescue’s, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some familiar faces when we touch down.”

“I’ve also got nothing about adding another member to out merry troupe, Time magic alone could be a drastic help. But I’m also curious about Wonderland, no one I’ve met knows a whole lot about them despite most people having heard about them at least in passing now adays.”

Back in Bolorton Tina and Ellen had split up. Tina was out personally assisting with the evacuation efforts, while Ellen had retreated to the Bunker and was deep into her magics using every cat and dog, she could to help locate everyone still in the town, or at least identify houses that they could avoid due to them being empty.

Back at the Sanctuary the odd situation continued to develop. Though now at least the girls there had at least something of an idea about what was causing it. The walls, floor, and anything metal really, had started to lose color, leaving a vast majority of the building a sort of bleached off gray.

Those with extrasensory capabilities were starting to get a clearer sense of what was going on as flashes of pain and anger could be sensed echoing off the walls. That wasn’t the biggest worry, however, no that was the fact that the entire building was slowly starting to feel like a Monster unto itself. And while it was still not hostile, it was steadily growing to be uncomfortable.

Even as the aura of it felt vaguely familiar.

Still more and more of Sanctuary was being driven to the main hall by the growing atmosphere, even Dina had arrived. Though it was hard to tell if she was here out of concern like most everyone else, or to help keep things at ease while everyone tried to figure out what was going on.
Before Jinny’s final, lethal, strike could land home a voice was suddenly speaking from right next to her “That’s quite enough of that'' and just as suddenly she was wrenched up and away from Gzimo.

It didn’t take long to realize who it was that had interrupted her murder attempt, if his voice alone hadn’t clued her in, but that did nothing to stop her from being stuck dangling in the air due to Slade’s grip on the back of her shirt.

His gaze was resting on her, and for most people it would be a bland look that conveyed nothing of note, but she could detect the humor in his eye. “Wasn’t sure if I was going to need to tell all the classes this, but the trend seems to be holding so far. So take this as all of your one warnings: Don’t kill each other while in my class.” He would say, his amusement bleeding into his tone easily.

He shifted his attention down to Gizmo for a moment assessing the downed boy. Who was slowly pushing himself up, but surprisingly wasn’t shooting his mouth off as he normally seemed to do so. That wasn’t to say he wasn’t pissed, his glare was dark enough when he sent it Jinny’s way, but oddly enough it didn’t seem like the young man had taken the near death experience personally.

It returned to Jinny soon enough. “Overall not bad, you lost some points for the theatrics however.” he would say, setting Jinny down. “Tossing your weapon back and forth like that is asking for it to get taken from you.”

“There is a med kit in the closet over there” He would then say to Gizmo gesturing towards a door at one end of the gym. “You are welcome to it.”

With that he would turn away from both of them ostensibly to continue observing the rest of the class, but it was quickly apparent that wouldn’t be the case. As by now everyone else was watching them instead.

The students were of three minds, either they were looking at Jinny with fresh eyes, no one who could so easily go for a killing blow was to be ignored after all. Were looking at Gizmo with a mix of schadenfreude or concern, the pint sized genius had a reputation after all, but it was still a rather vicious looking take down. Or they were looking at Slade with growing amount of trepidation, his absolute nonchalance at the near murder reminding all of them that their teacher was a well known killer.

“I guess we should move on to guns then, since everyone seems to have finished up with their spars.” Slade would say after a moment of everyone staring at him.

A few students looked like they wanted to speak up about that, if it was about Slade’s disinterest in Gizmo’s injuries or that they weren’t done with the weapons was up to interpretation. Regardless, Slade didn’t address those that didn’t speak.

Instead he reached into his belt and pulled out a remote. Hitting a button on it the room began to reconfigure itself into a shooting range, the crash mats being retracted into the floor as shooting stalls began to rise up. The tables with the weapons were also removed as gun racks folded out of the walls. There were dozens of different firearms of all varieties, everything from state of art assault rifles to plain old fashioned longbows.

“For this you will need to choose three weapons.” Slade would go on to explain the next segment of class “You need a side arm, a primary weapon, and either a specialist weapon or a low tech weapon. Once you’ve picked your weapons, pick a stall. Once everyone is ready we will move on to the evaluations.” With that said Slade moved off to the side to wait for every one to finish with the task assigned.

“But what about these weapons?” one of the students would ask, holding up his ax for emphasis.

“They are yours now, keep track of them.” came Slade’s bored reply.

There were a few moments of uncertainty before the class started going about to look at the various guns that now hung from the walls.

Jinny would notice that she would be getting a handful of looks from some of the other students still. Most unsure of what to do in regards to her displayed willingness to kill. Bee was one of them, and looked a bit more disturbed than the rest of those that looked her way.

It would take a bit, but one of the other students would eventually approach Jinny while she was examining the guns. He was a taller student, not outstanding in the class for it, but notable nevertheless. He wore his dark hair on the longer end of short and had it slicked back. And his green eyes seemed cheerful enough.

All in all not all that distinct, if it weren’t for the fact that there was another student in this class that looked nearly the exact same. But such is the life of a twin. “I have to say I was rather surprised that our teacher was able to stop you in time” The boy would say, a slight oriental accent to his words “Last I was aware he was watching me and my brother, and we were on the other side of the room.”

.:⋮Spooling up⋮:.

Ashlyn set down her book as a chill slowly crawled down her spine. Something was off, what that was she wasn’t exactly sure. Slowly she stood up and looked around the common room senses cast out as she tried to pin down the sense of dread that was pooling in her gut.

The Sanctuary normally felt calm, especially this time of night. But now it starting to grow cold and harsh. The place was still safe, what ever it was that was setting her on edge it wasn’t a danger as her Hero Token wasn’t warning her, but it was uncomfortable.

She wasn’t the only one who was noticing it either. A few other of the residents were starting to sit up and take note much as Ashlyn was. It wasn’t until Monica came up from their room looking pensive that Ashlyn was able to put to gather the common thread of those that were noticing something going on.

Everyone has some way of sensing extra about people. Psychic, Spirit, and Empaths all could feel something shifting about the atmosphere of Sanctuary. But no one could tell what.

They could only wait and hope it reveled itself soon.

The surge of power from the guns nearly went straight to Penny’s head, she was already on eradicating everyone that was attacking this town and the power swell from the guns went a long way towards recovering her spent mana.

The only thing that stopped from taking off was the feeling of oily new routines slipping into her systems. She couldn’t reject these new thoughts, the bubbling fizz of their presence was already burned into her, but she did recognize them for what they were. A consequence and warning.

These thoughts weren’t so terrible a burden, the stats and schematics were already a thing she pondered from time to time after all, and she already enjoyed putting her skill in to practice when the time arrived. No, these new thoughts were hardly a worry at all, their inherent priority wasn’t even as detrimental as her old enforced line of thinking was.

The crystals were a threat however. They were imbued with someone else’s thoughts and desires. And while Penny didn’t disagree with some of them, she would not stand to let this other inflict their thoughts on to her.

The guns fused to her were emptied of their ammo as fast as the weapons would allow. No reason to not take advantage while she could after all. Headshots became her primary target, as her ‘kills’ standing back up didn’t escape her notice, but the ones ahead of her had higher priority than the ones taken down already as she had stolen the weapons of everyone behind her.

Once Penny’s first array of guns were empty, she let them decouple from her systems and fall away. The ones connected to her outer limbs and chassis fell to the ground, while she retained the one in her off had as she came to a standstill. Her mind was running along a handful of thoughts at the moment, dealing with the rapid changing environment of the battle field. Movement was no longer a priority and she needed that processing power.

The light from the core embedded in her chest flared up as a wash of energy came over Penny. In its passing she looked much the same as she always did, the largest differences were in her legs and extra limbs. He legs had elongated and came to rest as points rather than feet, and were alight with complex circuitry that were lifting her up.

Her upper spider limbs had split into two pairs of two, smaller and thinner then normal and each tipped with a clamp rather than their normal claw. While the lower two had been reshaped into two pairs of long snaking tendrils several times linger than the spider limbs had been, though they were sill tipped with the tri-point claws.

In addition to all of this her coloration had become entirely monochrome. Broken up only by the neon glow of her eyes and various ports.

The moment her changes were done Penny rejoined the fight; a rifle held in each hand was her main offence while her Ray casters were also deployed and were intermittently discharging explosive blasts as well. Her upper limbs in charge of reloading her purloined weapons of choice when they ran dry, no longer was she interfacing with the guns directly, she wasn’t going to risk further corruption after all, but that hardly reduce her own efficiency with them. The empty clips were being feed to Penny herself. Waste not want not after all.

Her lower limbs were taking care of three things. First was removal of spare clips from the guns around her, those were being magnetized to her back for her own use.

Second was removal of the crystal from the guns she had called. Her interfacing with those guns told her where they were located and she had an idea for them. The crystals were placed into a tank on her lower waist constructed out of the metal of the spare guns willed into the correct shape.

Last was the collection of the now destroyed guns which were fed to Penny as she continued her onslaught. She had mana reserves to restore and damage to repair, and the de-gemed guns would help with both of those. Much the same as the empty clips and brass.

She would recast her call to metal every now and again to stay topped off on materials as well. The machinery of war would roll in her favor now as each dead man gave her more to work with.

Second assault was underway.

Or it would have been had the new comer not teleported not far from Penny herself.

“I’m more the strike leader and comms officer at the moment.” Penny would reply the emotionless of her face at odds with the near giddy tone of her voice. “But so long as you aren’t with them” She would sate launching a Gauss round towards an encroaching vehicle forces to emphasize who she was talking about. “Then I’m pretty sure we are on the same side. Myra, the fire drake, isn’t someone I can control. She’s only an ally of circumstance unfortunately.”

Before the new dragon could respond Penny heard another voice call out over the comms network. “My Queen! Bad news They brought a literal army here! This city is lost! We simply don’t have the numbers to defend.”

”Rodger that Tina, you and Ellen should regroup with Alex and Lily and focus on evac, I’ll hold out as long as I can before falling back to initiate the jump out.” Penny would say aloud. Her eyes refocusing towards the encroaching army.

”I’m guessing you already knew about the army incoming,” Penny would go on to state. ”Far as I am concerned you can leave with us when we cut and run if you need to.
After Penny spoke another chime echoed out, but the mechanical girl seemed oblivious to it.

[“Orange alḙ̷͒r̴̩̽t̴̝̂. C̸̰͛ȏ̴̬g̴̥̿ǹ̸̩à̷̧t̶̻͋ḯ̷͎v̴̯̿e̷̝̔ safeguards have M̴̛͙a̵̜̕l̶̯̅f̷͙͋u̴̢͋n̷̰̈́c̶̘̊t̸̠̕i̷͖͌ö̴͖́ǹ̴͍e̷͎̔d̴͕̀ D̷͞҉͏̡è̛͘҉̕s҉̶̛̛҉t́̀͘͢͜r̡ứ̧ć̸t̶̡̨͟į̛ơ̶͜͡͝n͏̡̛ ̴̵̛͞E͏̨ņ͏ģ́̕͠҉i̡͞͏̸͠n̴̢͠͝e͏̧̀ ̶̵̨̛ has reached 75%. Heightened Ḋ̸̯i̷̢͐ş̸̽c̶̗͒ṛ̴͝e̶̝̕t̸͈̍i̸͇̿ő̷̼n̸̹̓ required”]

-=Ǝ Party call E=-

Aurelio let out a sigh as he reappeared in Beacon HQ. Penrose was relatively quiet at the moment. No major attacks, no growing horror intrusions, no riots. All in all, that was a good thing. The problem was the growing unrest, though Aurelio would be willing to take bets that he was among the only member of Beacon that recognized it.

Penny was a well-known figure in this city and her removal from Beacons forces, while done bloodlessly and gently, had the darker aspects of the city on edge. After all Penny hadn’t done anything wrong except be herself and Beacon gave her the boot. It put them on edge.

With a bit of luck, it would blow over without anything coming of it, but it wouldn’t be hard to make something of the tension at the moment.

Putting those thought out of mind for the time being Aurelio rounded the corner towards the cafeteria, he was in the mood for some pudding, when he caught sight of someone he hadn’t seen in a long time chatting with Alicia. “Serenity!” He would call out joyously as he trotted over towards the returned girl. “Serenity” He would say again pulling the girl into a quick hug “It’s been too long. I heard you got called to go see the big wigs but missed you on your way out.”

He would say before taking a step back to get another look at her new appearance. “You’re looking good, as always, but I’m guessing you wouldn’t mind a jacket” came the appraisal as he took off his own before offering it over to her.

“Oh! Sorry” He would bow slight scratching at the back of his head sheepishly when he remembered that Serenity had been talking with others. “Didn’t mean to interrupt.”

Despite his absolute lack when it came to physical capability there was one thing that Gizmo did have in his favor, his awareness in a fight was razor sharp. Not that it helped all that much, seeing Jinny move too close in did nothing to help stop her as his body just wasn’t capable of keeping up with her, much less the speed of his thoughts.

Still it did allow him a partial victory when he was able to block the first strike, not that it was more than him getting a small length of chain between him and the gladius. He couldn’t do anything about the follow up strike however, and just grit his teeth at the painful smack.

His pain fed into his anger, which Gizmo had long ago learned how to use as fuel for his spite. Not directed at Jinny in particular, even if she was his current target. It sharpened his focus, and Jinny could almost see the gears in his head churning as Gizmo’s gaze flickered around for a moment not abandoning her, but calculating everything around her.

His attempt at retaliation was quick, impressively so considering his poor physical condition, a smooth pull and twist and Gizmo once again had the chain fully extended out and swinging down on Jinny from above.

But now that she was looking for it Jinny caught sight of the basis of Gizmo’s manipulations. There was about six inches of chain slack that Gizmo kept on hand and he was using that slack as a fulcrum to redirect the chain. Had he been in better shape it would have been easy to assign it as long hours of practice, the lack of that meant he had to be running the math in real time. He was simply too accurate for it to be anything else.

Still his overall attacks were simply too straight forward or too slow to be of much real danger to Jinny, Gizmo might have been skilled, but he wasn’t that skilled. Soo his attacks remained easy to dodge.

There is however always one thing that can bridge a skill gap. Sheer dumb luck.

With one of his strikes he miscalculated, put too much force into it, it went wider then he meant for it too causing the chain to run into the ground. Something that he had been trying to avoid as that normally would have killed any momentum the chain had.

It didn’t this time though, it wasn’t something Gizmo was expecting, so he wasn’t entirely sure what caused it, but instead of simply striking the ground the handle skipped off it. Reacting nearly blindly Gizmo was able to pull off one more redirection of his weapon. Whipping the length of the chain into Jinny’s ankles, which hurt, and pulling once the chain wrapped around her leg causing her to stumble at least.

Gizmo was quick to let out a triumphant “Ha!” at his first successful hit. Unknowing that he drew Slades attention back to the fight, and him in particular because of it.
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