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3 mos ago
Current Watch Across the Spider-Verse. You did? Do it again. You already did? AGAIN.
2 yrs ago
If ya can't handle the heat, don't go burning your bridges.


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Rank 6
28 / 60 EXP

Midgar, Suoh
The Otherlobe -> Clearing Party

Quick to realize the problem with standing still on a battlefield, Raz leapt off the post, just in time for the lightning to spark past him, making the hairs on his neck stand straight.

"O-kay, point taken!"

Raz stumbled into some ankle-height water, luckily not enough to summon the Hand of Galochio, but he still jumped out onto a raised platform as fast as he could - only just avoiding another zap to electrify the wide puddle he was in. "And here I was thinking water couldn't get any worse," he quipped.

Not alone for long, Raz hopped onto his Levball and launched up into the air to meet Peach as she float over. "Sakura!" He wasn't calling for their actual teammate of course, instead borrowing her power of Levitation. Like, sure, he was levitating too, but that was a different kind of levitation! One he needed, as, after the default Vision of Sakura appeared in the air next to him ("Here to help.") at the peak of his jump, his fall stalled. Raz was now floating, for real!

...though he didn't have much control of it. Whether from Sakura's inexperience with her new psychic abilities or his inexperience with this brand of levitation, Raz couldn't really maneuver in the air, leaving him to lazily forward at an even level. He twisted and turned midair, only succeeding in spinning him around like he was in anti-gravity.

As Raz passed by Peach above the battlefield, slowly rotating upside down, he shrugged. "Eh, better than nothin'." Following up Peach's volley on the Rummies below, Raz began peppering them with numerous Blasts once more, raining them down from above at a fast fire rate, helped in part by the subtle annoyance Raz felt in his failure to levitate properly. Together they literally rained firepower down on the group, with Raz twisting and spinning away from any bolts of lightning shot his way.
327 Words
+1 EXP

Level 3 (XP: 18/30)

Edinburgh MagicaPolis - Hideout

In the aftermath of their fight against their pursuers, Wonder Red noted Albedo's reaction to Frisk and Nightingale. While he didn't mean for his attack to bring much harm to the man, Red couldn't deny that he was getting careless. The whole situation was something he hadn't trained for, so he couldn't rely on what he learned from the CENITNELS for everything.

Reexamining his stance on how he proceeded, Wonder Red followed the rest as Albedo led them to their hideout, a cozy-looking restaurant helmed by an elderly cat. Wonder Red thanked her for her hospitality and discretion as everyone settled in to rest and formulate their next movements.

First matter of business was interrogating Sierra, who unfortunately didn't have much information on hand. Nothing that gleaned much light on the biggest mysteries the team had at least. "Consul N? Are they in charge of this region too, alongside L?" They didn't have a lot of information on the Consuls before coming here, and if Alcamoth gained any itself since they departed, they had no way of knowing. Red continued, "it sounds to me that Consul N didn't have much of a plan in dealing with us in spite of having one prepared for us in the Metro, meaning we're a rogue element to them. Either that or the impromptu attack was a method of testing us. He also doesn't have a way to follow our movements... outside of simply asking." Wonder Red nodded to Sierra. "We'll have to be more secretive of our actions from here on." Wonder Red pulled out a pamphlet from somewhere on his person. "If everyone could read these infographs on non-verbal military communication then we could effectively--"

Red's planned night of rigorous war-time lessons were unsurprisingly (to everyone but him) shot down. Trying very hard not to look disappointed he put the pamphlets away again. "...ahem. Very well then."

Even with the hideout supposedly safe, Wonder Red didn't want to take anything to chance, especially with their presence made known very destructively. "I'm going to keep watch for the night, in case anyone tries to hunt us down."

Grabbing a generic shawl from Grammeowster to hide his very noteworthy attire, Red took a seat in the restaurant near a window and settled in for a stakeout, keeping careful eye on any patrons that came in, or any goings-on happening just outside.
403 Words
+1 EXP

Rank 6
26 / 60 EXP

Midgar, Suoh
The Otherlobe -> Clearing Party

Oh, that was a lot easier than he was expecting. Maybe political espionage isn't all that tricky to do? Classic military-industrial complex move to make something seem super complicated just to get a bigger budget.

With the info leaked and about probably one person in Psych-OSF the wiser, Raz retraced his invisible steps back to the Cafeteria, though luckily he could make a shorter trip to the restrooms and exit from there to really sell the "I had to go to the bathroom real bad" alibi, as humiliating a cover that made.

"Oof, stay away from the french toast," Raz said to some passing breakfast-goers to really sell it. Of course Raz hadn't eaten any breakfast, and before he could chow down on anything, the squad was on the move.

Fighting eldritch monsters on an empty stomach? How hard could it be?
* * *

In a flash of spectacular psychic displacement, their platoon found themselves on a small concrete island within some dank, flooded tunnels. Seeing the terrain Raz grumbled. "Oh great." He scratched at his chest nervously. "Uhh, me and water don't do well together, so... are there any Other fish things we have to worry about?"

Luka mentioned his own ability to teleport, which Raz was all-too eager to try out. Teleportation was a power he never got the opportunity to try before, despite being sorta-mentored by Ford Cruller, teleportationist extraordinaire. It reminded him that he hadn't updated the old man in a while - even if Ford could see plenty through Raz's eyes, a verbal debriefing never hurt. Plus, he had to figure out where Ford was at!

All things for later, of course. For now Raz followed suit, utilizing the SAS connection to near effortlessly follow Luka to their next vantage point. "Whoa, that was awesome!" Raz did a little three-step dance in place, the young Psychonaut utterly ecstatic to be living his lifelong dream, even if it was a little to the left of what he was used to.

Making their way further through the tunnel, Raz - sticking to the railtracks and small bits of debris to stand on - tried a little something. Every since he'd been connected to SAS there was a fuzziness in his brain. Something in there felt loose, not in a loose screws kinda way, but more like a plug that wasn't quite in all the way. "Peach, Sakura," Raz thought to his two conspirators. "I think..." There was a slight static of interference as, for a brief moment, Raz mentally shifted the psychic transmitter stuck in his noggin (however SAS truly functioned) into a new 'port'. "Okay, I think that you guys can use my kind of Levitation now! I dunno how it works but, I don't really have ONE psychic power like you or the others have, so it sorta feels like I can kind of choose which one to provide? Psychic mumbo jumbo, it's more a feeling than anything, but try it out! You can levitate over water. I can't, but that's, uh, that's a me thing."

Eventually they came across a more open area, and here is where they first caught sight of the Others. Seemed like a pretty small group, though it wasn't like this was all that'd be in there. "We shouldn't spend too much energy dealing with these guys," Raz messaged the platoon, "let's pick them off one at a time, don't let them group up." Not that he was the leader or anything. Hopefully Luka could do with a tactician.

Raz hopped onto one of the above-water tracks, grinding fast down the tunnel towards one of the Rummies, zipping towards it with a quick Mental Connection. He slammed into its body at full force, using the momentum to spring further up into the air. He took aim mid-flip, nailing the Rummie with a volley of Blasts, before finishing the flip by landing on top of a lightpost. "Can't reach me here, can you?" He taunted, continuing to fire at it, and any others his hit-and-run attracted. Even if he didn't do much damage to them on his own, the quick shots were sure to set them up for his teams' attacks.
713 Words
+1 EXP

Lv. 1

Location: The Under - City of Tears

Omori (@Majoras End), Koopa Troop (@DracoLunaris), Ganondorf (@Double)
- - -

When confronted over his breakfast-time thievery, Ichiban gave a sheepish look. "It's... free, right? Is there, like, a rule against takin' too much?" He looked down at his plate of half-eaten foods sadly, setting it down on one of the buffet tables, defeated by this supposed rule. He kept the stuff he put in his pockets, though.

"Mornin', Omori!" Ichiban greeted the monochrome kid, chomping on a piece of bacon he retrieved from his forgotten plate. What, he wasn't going to let bacon go to waste, was he? "Hope y'had a nice night. It's been forever since I slept in a place like this. Definitely better than getting rained..." His rambling slowed to a halt as his brain caught up with his eyes, staring wide at the ominous shadow, er, shadowing Omori. For a second he stood there, silent, then let out a sigh of relief as other people commented on it. "Phew, so I'm not going crazy here," he muttered. Omori didn't seem too bothered by it, but Ichiban kept his eye on this whatever-the-hell.

As it happened he was roped into the group's meeting, or at least he wasn't kicked out of it and decided to stick around. Not that it really meant anything to Ichiban. Three masks? Black Egg? Flame clocks? The talk of Consuls was a little more understandable, though Ichiban wasn't as familiar with them as far as them being some dudes in charge of a lot of stuff. And while he figured the talk of "this world" was just a funny manner of speech for these guys, there was enough of a grasp on the general concept for him to kinda follow along.

"So what you're sayin' is," Ichiban butted in, "these Consul guys are forcing all the folks that follow them to keep fighting each other? An endless gang war to keep them from crumblin'?" Ichiban crossed his arms and rubbed his chin. "Damn. If I'dve known what these guys were up to sooner I would've talked to them. That's no way to be runnin' things. The boss needs to look out for the people under him, not just use them for his own gain." Maybe not quite grasping the severity of things, but the sentiment resonated with the team's mission all the same.

Nadia offered to let him tag along. Ichiban chuckled nervously. "Who, me? I mean, sure, if you think I can help. A lotta what you guys were talking about, I honestly didn't understand it. But I'm always willing to lend a hand!"

They got underway, heading off to continue their quest, and on the way to meet IGV Ichiban struck up conversation with some of the other Seekers - namely Bowser's posse and Ganondorf.

"Hey guys," he said, excitement clear on his face. "Those're some great costumes! That Bowser suit looks super realistic, and your hair for Ganondorf, how long did that take to do?" Seemed he was nerding out over the pair, for... some reason.
* * *

With a short walk through the marketplace that was the Collection, Ichiban, Nadia, and the others arrived at the meeting spot their mysterious messenger said. A spooky mansion. Not the most comforting place to meet a stranger, though maybe that was the point. It wasn't like folks would be waltzing through and interrupting things in there.

Though just getting to the meeting was difficult on its own. The spooky building was full of weird things!

This is the riveting narration you get with Ichiban, here.

"The hell?!" Ichiban, as simple and down-to-earth as he appeared to be, had never encountered anything close to the spirits that popped up inside - it was a wonder how he was justifying their existence. Whatever the case he was quick to pick up a dusty stool from the ground and hold it up like a weapon.

"You sure this wasn't just a trap to get you guys with?" He asked as the group made their way through the ghosts, Ichiban a lot less flashy than the rest as he merely batted things away when they got too close, decently strong about it. "Like, this IGV guy could be workin' with the Consul?"

He didn't have nearly enough pieces to be speculating with, but Ichiban was a man who followed his gut, and right now his gut was saying how bad of an idea this was. Nobody was willing to just turn back though, so he stuck with them. Eventually they encountered a huge, monstrous mutt-looking creature, and Nadia prepared to do away with her only weapon to get rid of it.

"Whoa whoa, hold on!" Ichiban leapt in front of her, arms raised to get her to hold it. "Here, lemme try somethin'." Turning to face Endogeny Ichiban knelt down onto one knee. "Hey there, boy... or girl... you here all by yourself?" As he talked gently to the dog monster he reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a pair of sausages he swiped from breakfast, looking as clean and hot as when he first stuffed them inside. "Here, how about some food? Nice sausages like these, bet you don't get them often in here, huh?"
879 Words
+2 EXP

Rank 6
24 / 60 EXP

Midgar, Suoh
The Otherlobe

Raz had an uneventful sleep, the excitement of the day and what was to follow not keeping him up. Well, not much at least. There was a good minute or so of laying in bed, staring up at the bunk above him with anxiousness. The reality of things were starting to settle on him now that the action was done with. He was a spy. Maybe not in an official sort of sense, but he was inside the Psych-OSF as a kind of double agent, or interloper, whatever the right word was. In a way he was being an actual Psychonaut, against the Psychonauts!

In a way at least.

Raz woke up before he even realized he fell asleep. It almost felt like he didn't, instead the day changed over and he was less exhausted. Weird feeling.

Meeting up with the other two in the cafeteria, Raz was a little surprised they hadn't run into each other at the outfitter, since they had all opted to change before heading over here. "Hey guys!" Raz hurried across the room to Peach and Sakura. His new uniform was a touch more practical than either of theirs, or at least it wasn't as impractical; a gray peacoat that reached his knees, under which he wore a black tactical turtleneck and a similar pair of some sorta cargo pants with kneepads. He swapped out his dress shoes for some boots, a dull red that matched his new gloves and messenger bag. He still kept his trusty helmet, though.

"Guess we all had the same idea, huh? I'm not great at picking out clothes for myself, but I think I did an... okay? Job." He looked over himself, giving his new duds a few tugs to fit right. "Kinda surprised they had things in my size! Well, my size-ish."

The three met up with Luka, were introduced to two of their other platoon members, and then Luka revealed that he would round the group out as the leader. A part of Raz had hoped that his experience in the old Psychonauts meant he could be the leader, but he set that disappointment aside for now. "I'm Razputin, but everyone calls me Raz. You guys ready for today? Operation... Scour, was it? Do we know a lot about it yet? We only just got recruited yesterday and didn't get much time for a briefing, eheh."

When everyone left to get their breakfast Raz sent a short psychic message to Peach and Sakura, bypassing the platoon's Brain Speak with his own psychic capabilities. "Before things kick off I'm going to sneak out. Get all the Psych-OSF info we have to the others... somehow." Hopefully Giovanna and her organization planned for an information relay with them!

Dipping away from the group when their focus was drawn to the breakfast line Raz made for the exit. The Otherlobe had a near identical layout to the Motherlobe, so it wouldn't be hard for him to find his way, but the tricky part would be leaving without being seen. Luckily, the familiar psychic training seemed to have knocked something loose in his mind...

Ducking behind a potted plant in the atrium Raz popped his newly recovered ability, disappearing from view entirely. Time was of the essence now; he made a break for the Otherlobe's exit hatch, slipping down the tube and through the lobby as quick and quietly as he could, while also avoiding the bodies of staff and soldiers milling around.

Without much time left to spare Raz rushed from the Otherlobe, racing as far away from it as he could in the last remaining moments of invisibility, before finally leaping sideways into an abandoned alleyway between some surrounding buildings. He popped back into visible form, flat against the wall. "Hoo boy. I really need to train on that one..." He muttered, sidling sideways to make sure he was out of view a bit more.

"Okay." Raz surveyed the area. "If I was a secret informant wanting information on the goings-on of a military organization on the cusp of serious business, where would I hide...?"
760 Words
+2 EXP

Lv. 1

Location: The Under - City of Tears

- - -

"Alright, have a good one!"

Ichiban had waved the other two off, not wanting to intrude on their time here any further, especially after kinda sorta being the one to almost get them murdered. That creepy guy in the sewers... Ichiban started down the opposite road, hoping to find some cops to tell them about a murderous guy under the city, the truth of the matter still lost in his Galeem-scrambled brain.

However he paused mid-walk. "Actually, hold up!" Ichiban turned on his heel and rushed back towards the sewer. Therion ducked out fast but he managed to catch up to Omori. "Yo, uh, hahh... sorry, outta breath after all that runnin' around for our lives, hahahh..." Walking alongside the kid Ichiban took a moment to catch his breath. "Look, I don't know this place all that well, but I do know you guys only just got here and probably don't have a place to stay. I'd feel pretty awful if I just left ya to fend for yourself so late. Here, I'll show ya to one of the big hotels around here. Your pals probably found their way there too!"

That justification settled Ichiban did as he promised, leading Omori around the intricate pathways of the city until the Habbo Hotel was in their sights. "I dunno much about this place but I heard good things. Plus it's the biggest one around. At least you know you'll have a room."

Ichiban shuffled around his pant pockets for his money, pulling out a fistful of limp bills as the two entered reception. Already his compensation for retrieving the medicine had dwindled to barely enough. Ichiban grimaced, but all the same passed what little he had left to the front desk. "Here, that should be enough for two rooms for one night, at least. One for Omori here," he gestured to the kid, "and for me. Yeah?"

Everything settled, Ichiban turned to Omori with a thumbs up. "Alright! Lemme know if you need anything else. I don't got much else to do tonight, was probably gonna hit the hay an' all that, but I'm still available to help."

The Next Day

The good part about paying just one night's stay at a hotel?

Free continental breakfast.

When nine o' clock rolled around, the meeting time for the Seekers that he'd been acquainted to yesterday, Ichiban was in the hotel's dining area, taking full advantage of the free food. Not only did he have two tiny plates piled with baked goods and breakfast meats, Ichiban also shoveled a good helping of everything on offer into his pockets. It was probably just coincidence that he was around at the same time this important meeting was to happen, but hey, maybe somebody wanted to say hi?
473 Words
+1 EXP

Level 3 (XP: 2/30)
Ace (@Yankee), Frisk (@Majoras End), Prisoner (@XoXKieroBombXoX)
Edinburgh MagicaPolis - Abandoned Store

It was good that Big Band took over for Wonder Red. The disadvantage was starting to catch up quickly, with Red having less and less precise movements, focusing more on defense than offense.

Wonderful One-Double-Oh 101; don't be prideful, you're one of a hundred.

Relinquishing the fight to the better equipped Wonder Red took a second to study his options. Nightingale was armed, threatening to shoot their newest companion, with Frisk and Albedo focused on keeping him from firing. Meanwhile Ace Cadet had been fighting a two-on-one fight with Byte & Barq - holding his own for now, but the odds weren't good for him. Red couldn't support both scuffles, and using a Unite Morph was still to their disadvantage.

So he had to improvise.

In his typical flashy manner Wonder Red sprung into the air, flipping backwards to distance himself from the fighting - and during his arc through the air, pulled out the spirit of Artemis he collected. Spirits and their properties were still a relative unknown to him, but gaining a weapon from one was something he knew. With a solid grip Red crushed the spirit, turning it into physical form...

Wonder Red landed with his new firearm in hand, readying it to fire. He never trained for gunplay, though by the looks of it this thing didn't need much aiming to begin with. Artemis charged, a tense five seconds to do so, Wonder Red watching the various fights from a distance. In the heat of combat those five seconds could mean a lot.

As the gun charged Wonder Red locked targets on two individuals - Nightingale and Byte. Trusting Band to deal with Stryker, those two seemed the most pressing to deal with, even just disrupting them could net his compatriots a critical moment. Red afforded the gun as much time as he was willing to lose, finally releasing the trigger just as five seconds hit. Eight orbs shot into the air around him, glowing bright in the dim ruins, before each orb burst into an arrow of light after their targets. Four to Nightingale, and the other four to Byte. Hopefully it'd be enough to turn the tides.
516 Words
+1 EXP
Arm in Arm

Sector 5 Suoh - The Otherlobe
Peach, Raz’s @Truthhurts22, Sakura’s @Zoey Boey
Word Count: 5,666
+6 EXP

Test six was a pretty ordinary speed test, being the starting point for a timed lap around the rooms perimeter. The cadets would need to his checkpoints arranged at positions three, twelve, and nine before stopping at six again. There were a couple of literal hurdles on the way, but nothing serious. It went pretty unremarkably. Peach and Sakura simply ran the whole way, while Raz got to use his Levball.

Everyone skipped past the seven o’ clock spot, it being the scoring zone for test two across the way, and stopped at the eight o’ clock spot. It turned out to be a shooting gallery, the exact sort one might expect to find at a carnival. Moving targets shaped like Others needed to be hit, while cutouts of citizens and Psych-OSF troopers should be allowed to scroll by unscathed. Raz could use his own psi-blasts for this marksmanship trial, but Peach’s weapons were too explosive to avoid losing points on the wrong targets, and Sakura’s fireballs were too slow. Peach ended up using the provided pop-guns, but she did appreciably well.

Sakura was a little frustrated by this test. ”They’re right there. If this was a real fight I could just go over there and be 100% accurate.” She shot another fireball, predicting the path of a target. A civilian intercepted her ball before it could hit the target. ”Stupid grandma! Get outta the way!” She shook her fist. Then she shot a big fireball at a group of Others, the explosion hitting several Others, as well as a cutout of an OSF soldier. Dejected, she resigned herself to taking half-accurate potshots with the popgun.

After that, everyone arrived at test eight, the big one. At the center of an enclosed arena stood a big, mechanical platform. When Crenshaw turned it on, the doors slid open and towering machine made from stacked components rose up. With a loud slam it stopped at five stacks high, and the components began to rotate. “The Omen Modular Exterminator,” Crenshaw announced. “Re-engineered and made a little less deadly for testing purposes. Crammed it full of psych tech so that it uses Visions. Endurance is good, but not getting hit is better. This challenges your reflexes, pattern recognition, dodging speed… just about everything. Once you’re in the ring, you can only get hit five times. Go as long as you can, up to ten minutes.”

The machine featured five firing modes, one per stack. The Pendu Module at the very top would regularly create Pendu Visions that would fly down and home in on their targets at a decent clip, with low turn speed. Next, the Yawn Module would create bubbling circles on the ground every so often, which after a moment would give way to a Yawn Vision bursting up from below to snap its jaws. In the middle, the Pool Module would belch out a total of six tar balls from its sides to arc through the air. Second-lowest was the Perry Module, which would spit out high-pressure water jets at a consistent head height. At the bottom, the Sabbat Module would periodically slam down to release a wave of darkness that could cover the floor for a moment. At the start only one of the five would activate, switching after thirty seconds to another random module. When one minute passed two would turn on, only to flip to another pair thirty seconds later. At two minutes three would come online, and so forth, until at four minutes when all modules were active. If a challenger reached five minutes, a random module would suddenly double its output, and then Omen would repeat the earlier output until all modules were working double-time at the nine minute mark.

Raz worked out the kinks in his joints left over from the other tests. More than halfway through now. Raz usually had the stamina for long marathons but the directed, limit-reaching tests they were doing were wearing him down quicker. Not that he was going to let it stop him..

”Big attack maker sorta thing? I’ve got this, easy!”

Raz hopped into the area, immediately setting up Levitation, both for the speed and to keep him elevated off the floor. And for the first few minutes things went swimmingly. Having one, two, even three modules active at a time was almost a cakewalk for the dextrous psychic, the increase in difficulty still manageable for what was being doled out. He jumped pools of Yawns, skated past swooping Pendus, slipped under the balls of tar, and the waves of darkness weren’t even an issue as he was on his Levball.

At the third minute mark, things started going south. Four modules at once were pushing at Raz’s attention, making him act sloppier. He still hadn’t been hit but the close calls were beginning to pile up. Four minutes in and the hits started. He ducked low to avoid a jet of water blasting ahead of him, inadvertently scrunching his Levball down, which sprung him up afterwards right into a swooping Pendu. It knocked him to the ground just in time for the bottom module to activate, sending a wave of darkness to swipe him across the floor. Two hits at once!

After that Raz’s momentum petered out. He did manage to make it to five minutes, at least, before taking the fifth and final hit. ”Haaah. Are there going to be, like, cookies and orange juice after this? I’m gonna need a rest,” he muttered as he climbed back out.

“You’ll have as long as it takes the other two to finish. As well as their time spent on the next test, if you elect to go last,” Crenshaw told him, nonplussed.

Speaking of, Peach stepped up next. After seeing her teammate go at it she had a better idea of what to expect versus the total lack of knowledge Raz went in with. Through grateful for the knowledge, she did feel a little bad that she essentially used him as a guinea pig to get an advantage. Still, she knew that without a Levball of her own, it might be tough to emulate his feat. There was a lot going on at once, and mindfulness had never been her biggest strength. The princess descended into the arena, and the Omen Modular Exterminator whirred to life once more, ready to put her mettle to the test.

Things started off easy, almost insultingly so. Since the water jets from the Perry Module shot out at head height, simply ducking them was enough, giving Peach thirty seconds to build anticipation for the next escalation. When it turned on the Pool Module wasn’t much more challenging, and she just jogged around the area clockwise to stay ahead of the rotation. Next the Pendu and Yawn Modules came online, assailing her with a manageable sequence of imminent underfoot eruptions and incoming fliers. The crocodile-like Yawns could be avoided with any dodge but a jump, and the Pendus could be sidestepped. Unfortunately, at one point Peach got so focused on the enemies that she dodged into the Omen machine tower itself, and in the ensuing bonk the Yawn emergence she’d been trying to dodge clipped her.

When the third minute began, Peach faced the Sabbat, Perry, and Yawn Modules all at once. In frustratingly quick succession she ducked beneath a water jet only for the Sabbat floor wave to catch her, then jumped another Sabbat wave only to land on top of a Yawn. Three lives down, only two to go. Her heart pounding, Peach pushed herself into overdrive, but the panic that fueled her dodging spree came at a cost. Right after the Omen switched to Sabbat, Pendu, and Pool, she forgot what she was doing when faced with a Pool projectile and blocked it, leaving her with just once chance. “Gah, idiot!” she chided herself, gritting her teeth. Peach leaped a floor wave, airdodged a Pool globule, and ducked beneath a Pendu, but just shy of four minutes fifty seconds of living on a prayer she succumbed to an almost impossible combination that caught her in a corner. “Agh…” she griped as she exited the arena. Doing worse than Raz despite him going in blind was not a good look. Hopefully the average test-taker set the bar pretty low.

”Thanks for testing that out for me, you two.” Sakura said cheekily, sheepishly rubbing the back of her head. ”My turn!”

Sakura breezed through the earlier stages like the others did. Sakura could jump, and she could dive. With her telekinesis she could even redirect herself mid air, far more technically than just doing a spin kick mid air.

When things started to get more intense, Sakura started having more fun. The grunts of her exertion were often accompanied by sharp bursts of excited giggling.

”Wah!” Sakura shouted, leaping over a Yawn. ”I remember you! Not this time!” She said.

Without being able to block or Focus parry, her defensive options were somewhat limited. But she was fast and mobile, with good reactions and situational awareness. But when two started double timing at once, she jumped over a Yawn only to get clipped by a Pendu. When knocked from the air she was quick with a back roll and was right back up on her feet, and she never got tagged twice quickly. After a while though she couldn’t move in the air enough to avoid getting hit while also jumping over the floor obstacles. With the most intel to go off of she ended up doing pretty good. She rolled her neck and rejoined the others. ”That was pretty fun, I bet we could all beat it after a few more tries.” She said optimistically, nudging Peach on the shoulder and patting Raz’s head.

After the exciting challenge provided by the Omen Modular Exterminator, only two trials remained in the Psych-OSF proving grounds. Crenshaw led the three recruits over to test nine next. Much smaller than the last one, it featured a single psi-blast turret and a Vision of a generic OSF trooper. “It’s not just fighters with value,” the grader observed. “So this is the Support Test. The turret will open fire, and it’s your goal to keep the soldier alive as long as possible without physically blocking for him, since anyone can do that.” He looked between the three with a doubtful expression. “Do any of you have support powers…?”

“I do!” Peach replied, perking up a bit. “I can heal people in an area! Although…I kind of need someone else to team jump me into the air for it to work.”

Crenshaw furrowed his brow. “Interesting. Well, we can’t ignore any possible medics, so let’s see it.”

With a teammate’s help, Peach could be sent flying into the air over and over again, and upon landing a splash of healing magic restored the Vision. This went on for a little bit but the turret eventually outpaced her healing. Crenshaw noted the results down, nodding. “That could be useful. I have to ask though, how is that related to Materialization?”

“Uh…” Peach ran a hand through her hair, an embarrassed look on her face. “It actually isn't. It’s just a technique I learned a while back while fighting with the Rabbids.”

“I see…”

After that came the final test. “It’s said that the most important skill for any soldier is the ability to follow orders, so here’s the ultimate test,” Crenshaw said. He introduced them to what looked like a fancy dance pad machine, with four directional buttons on the ground, a screen in front, and a punching bag to either side. “It’s also good for reaction time and attack speed. Just step on the pads and hit the targets you’re supposed to. Simple.” Everyone got a turn on the machine and did pretty well overall, even Peach, who’d played plenty of minigames like this in the past. That said, she wondered if the sort of orders she might be expected to follow on the field would be more complicated than ‘left right left right punch punch punch’.

A few minutes later and the results were in. Crenshaw stood before the three in the center of the room. An array of dark Vision screens with outlines and contents in gold appeared all around them, displaying graphs and readings of their results. “Well, even if you didn’t ace every last test, the numbers don’t lie. You’re all ahead of the curve by a country mile. It can take ordinary civilians years of training to reach these levels, but it looks like you’re all pretty seasoned fighters in your own rights. It’s my official recommendation that Psych-OSF would be glad to have you.”

Peach jumped up and down, pumping her fists. “Yessss!”

”Heh, knew it.” Raz crossed his arms with a smirk. ”I already got in the Psychonauts once, a second time was gonna be a cakewalk.”

Sakura jumped up and down with Peach. ”We did it, we did it!”

Crenshaw held up a finger. “That means we can move straight to the hard part. That last test wasn’t exactly the ‘last’ test. More like the last qualifier. Before you can call yourself a Scarlet Guardian, you have one last test before the final: the SAS Aptitude Test. This aptitude test will determine your platoon assignment. Stand in a line here.” After the three did as instructed, Crenshaw crossed his arms. “The virtual brain-link cable will now be connected. This will hurt much more than anything you did in training. Be strong.”

A claxon sounded out from the room, and a female voice rang out over the intercom. “Systems all green. Beginning SAS cable connection.”

Behind the recruits, red cables suddenly materialized in the air like holograms. Their far ends dissipated into the either, but their fronts raised up like serpents about to lunge. Red ports that resembled gears appeared on the shoulderblades, spine, and head of the recruits. Very quickly they began to glow, first orange and then vivid yellow, before plunging down to violently plug into the ports.

Instantly, an immense pain coursed through the recruits’ minds, worse than a terrible migraine. It felt as if those cables had plugged into their brains themselves, pushing a stream of solid information through its neurons like drain cleaner through a clogged pipe. Peach cried out, thrashing around with both hands clamped against her head. The seconds felt like hours, but after only a mere moment, a bright red crack spread across her face from her eyes, and the pain ceased. With a whimper Peach crumpled to the floor, her breathing heavy. It hurt an awful lot, but it was over, and something felt different. Though the cables disappeared, she still felt connected–her mind more clear than she ever remembered feeling before.

Raz had his shoulders hunched from the pain, not as dramatic as Peach’s had been, but still visibly affected. ”Ahhggh,” he groaned, drilling two fingers each against his temples, where the sharpest stabs of pain had been, maybe due to being a natural psychic. He quirked an eye open - it was all he could do through the pain. ”S-So, that was the, ehhn, the ‘SAS’ thing? What’s it do… exactly?”

Sakura was laying flat on her back, chest heaving. She peeked one eye open. ”I-is it over?” She asked, voice weak. ”Th-that was pretty rough.” With a groan she pushed herself into a sitting position, rubbing her head. Then she sneezed, and rubbed her nose. ”Huh! It’s like I had the flu the whole time and didn’t even know it.” She looked down at her own hand with newfound appreciation and clarity.

Crenshaw nodded in approval at the cadets’ quick recovery. Then he replied. “The Struggle Arms System, in short, is a brain-to-brain connection that allows us to fight side by side, supporting another in a variety of ways. Now that you’re hooked up to the system I, the program allows to you to do a number of things depending on distance and whether or not you’re squadmates. By the way, your ‘squad’ is designated as the three of you right now, but that’ll change when you’re assigned a Platoon.”

He held up his fingers, listing features off one at a time. “First, it lets you send and receive Brain Messages. Makes texting look like writing letters. Brain Messaging works with anyone in the network.”

“Second, it provides a customizable, personal Vision overlay system you can use and share with others. You can pin useful information like your own health, resources, and stamina, make waypoints, mark locations and enemies for your teammates, bring up database information on things you find, leave notes and reminders in 3D space, and so forth. The world is your whiteboard. Just so it doesn’t surprise you, some of this stuff is enabled by default when you enter combat. So don’t freak out when stuff suddenly appears.”

“Third, you can use Brain Talk with your squadmates. Like your own private channel of telepathy. But before you do, I recommend switching on Protect so you don’t end up oversharing your thoughts by accident. Not having it on has led to some embarrassing situations in the past, to put it mildly.” The lack of amusement in Crenshaw’s voice suggested that it was less of a laughing matter than he made it sound like.

“Fourth, you and your teammates can share your primary psionic powers. This is our greatest weapon, but there are limits. When you switch on a squadmate’s power, you’ll get a brief Vision of them -which can also be customized, incidentally- and then the SAS gauge will begin to drain. It takes time to recharge and if it runs out completely there will be a delay before it starts again, so remember to switch them off again before they run out. Some drain over time, during use, or both.”

“Last but not least, support. The closer you are to your squadmates, the better connected you are, and the more you can do to help one another. With bonds high enough, you can call upon Visions of your teammates as Combo or Assault Visions, even if your actual teammate is busy or not close by. Visions might even appear on their own to block attacks for you, sometimes. You’ll also be able to use your friends’ powers more, and power them up. So don’t be lone wolves out there. You’re much stronger together.”

Sakura was shaking, hopping on her heels and wiggling her fist, her excitement and grin growing in equal measure the more and more Crenshaw talked.

Crenshaw crossed his arms. “It’ll take some getting used to. And that brings me to my last point. The Final Exam. It’s time to show what you can do in on a real-world battlefield.” He put his fingers to his temples. “Well, technically not real-world. But now that you’re connected to SAS, you can experience much, much more elaborate Visions. And be warned: the mind makes it very real.”

The female voice on the intercom spoke again. “Sakura Kasugano. Razputin Aquato. Peach Toadstool. Identities confirmed. The Psych-OSF aptitude test will now begin.”

Around the three cadets, the room began to disappear, going black in a somewhat psychedelic ripple. To each of them, the other two vanished as well. Then another ripple passed through the void, creating a new reality around them. This area, suspended in a black abyss, seemed to be a strange gameshow arena with four sections branching off from the main stage, where audience seating surrounded a central plinth. Everything seemed to be interconnected by hazardous obstacles, whether rotating bridges, perilous grind rails, sticky slides, or burners.

The three appeared on different sections, and a giant projection of Crenshaw floated behind the stage, read to quietly observe the proceedings. What he planned to watch the Cadets do became clear after only a moment. Others began to manifest across the arena, including Scummy Pools, fire-spitting Kitchen Rummies with bent steel pipes, and rotten-smelling Saws Paws whose blade-tipped legs were actually gloves arms holding knives. These simulated Others started moving the moment they appeared, ready to attack and kill just like the real thing.

“Exterminate all Others,” the voice simply decreed.

Sakura gasped, looking around. ”This is amazing!” She exclaimed. ”Peach-san, Razputin-kun…we can fight without any worries! If this wasn’t a test, I could spend a whole year in this place.” She said. Even as the Others started moving in, she looked at Peach and Raz and squinted.

”Testing, testing, ichi ni san!” She thought real hard at them, trying to get her new telepathy to work.

“I can hear you!” Peach responded in kind after a moment. She’d made sure to look through the virtual settings that Crenshaw mentioned and enable Protect, just to make sure she kept any unnecessary thoughts to herself. It felt weird to hear someone else’s voice in her head, but communication in this manner was as simple and easy as it could be.

”Awesome!” Sakura said in her thoughts back to Peach. It was like she had headphones on the inside of her ears!

”Hey I know this place,” Raz ‘thought’ to the other two, adjusting his goggles onto his face. It came much more naturally to him, for obvious reasons. ”’Ram It Down’, it’s a mental world!” He stopped short of blabbing more details, since that felt a little wrong to be doing. ”I’ll run point for this one. Now it might be a little weird to be having other peoples’ thoughts in your mind, but there’s an easy way to keep focused, and that’s–”

”Let’s go!” Sakura ran forward, looking to get into the action. Wasting no more time she skidded to a sudden stop in front of the nearest Saws Paws. It came at her with its creepy knife arm legs and she back pedaled. ”Ew, ew, ew!” She found her footing and knocked it away with a standing kick.

After wards, she pointed at it, and started spamming a perhaps unhelpful waypoint on it. Ping ping ping ping ping ping.

When the battlefield changed, Peach had readied herself for action. Sudden shifts in her surroundings were nothing new to her thanks to Mario Party and other such kingdom-spanning pastimes, and by now, sudden enemy encounters weren’t either. She took stock of the Kitchen Rummies that staggered stiffly up the orange ramp toward the prep station where she wound up. Remembering how her last confrontation with a whole gang of Rummies went, she brought out her Scatterboom and let loose a fiery blast while her foes were still grouped up. While it staggered them all, it dealt low damage given the distance, and the princess searched for a way to use her environment to her advantage. This prep station featured a giant mechanical pig clad in a white chef’s outfit with a cleaver, but it would be difficult to bait any enemies beneath Pork Chopper’s blade. Instead, she thought of something else. As the Rummies continued to totter up the ramp, she put her own kitchen expertise to good use and used her Materialization to manifest a giant rolling pin. With a grin Peach dropped it on the ramp and watched it roll right over the Rummies, knocking a couple of them off into the abyss.

At that point the princess noticed Sakura’s pings. She must need help! Without pausing to wonder why the better fighter would need her help, Peach moved to assist. “On my way!” she called out, not using Brain Talk. Rather than try to use the rails or navigate the obstacles separating the prep stations, she jumped into the air and floated over the gap. Quickly she realized that her natural float wouldn’t be enough to go the whole way, though. Peach started to finagle her way toward a landing point, but suddenly remembered what Crenshaw said about SAS. “Uhhh,” she muttered, imagining herself reaching out to flip a light switch. “Your power, please!”

A Vision of Sakura suddenly flashed before her eyes, performing a default fist-pump animation. ”Here to help” a slightly distorted version of her voice said, as if spliced together by an artificial intelligence. The ‘light’ switched on, and virtual cables extended from the back of Peach’s head, reaching out through the space to her teammate. Just as Peach’s flight would have been cut short, she held herself up with borrowed Telekinesis, bearing her the rest of the way to land near Sakura.

The princess arrived with a bang, showering the Saws Paws with a scatterboom blast. “We’ll mop ‘em up together!” she smiled.

Sakura grinned. ”Hey, it worked!” She pinged Peach a couple times, and then she pinged the Saws Paws again. She offered a fist for Peach to bump and then got to work.

Figuring it was too dumb to dodge, she charged up a fireball. ”Hadoken!” She unleashed the slow moving projectile it’s way and then followed up behind it. Even if it did move she was fast enough to react. She aimed a powerful swip towards the creepy wrists of the creature to knock it over and maybe even disarm it depending on how strong it was. Disarm? Disleg? Sakura wasn’t sure.

Peach unleashed her projectiles alongside Sakura, materializing an explosive grenaduck to blow apart the pack of bizarre predators apart, opening them up for further punishment from her ally. Once embroiled in close-quarters combat, she unloaded the withering might of her scatterboom at point-blank range to turn one simulated Saws Paws to cinders, then switched over to her parasol. Just like in the endurance test, however, she used not one but two umbrellas in combat, wielding once as a shield and the other as a a beatstick. Their crystalline construction, courtesy of her new power, boosted their durability beyond what they would have been as mere everyday items.

Still, these Others were vicious, putting heavy pressure on her with their ferocious power and agility. In a straight fight their numbers might overwhelm her, but Peach wasn’t about to give them that courtesy when she could fight a lot smarter. Jumping off the platform, she popped open one parasol to float in midair over the training area’s abyss. One Other leaped at her to cut her down, but she thrust her other umbrella forward to jab it right in center mass. After that, just popping her weapon open was enough to bounce it back toward the group. As it staggered to its feet among two other Saws Paws, not sure how it was going to reach her, she took aim with her rocket launcher. “See you on the ‘other’ side!” she quipped, and with a giddy laugh blasted all three monsters off the bridge to their deaths. By that time the sludgy Scummy Pools were getting closer, so Peach floated over to handle the fodder. Hopefully Raz was dealing with the Kitchen Rummies alright.

Peach might not have had much luck in traversing the field on her own, but Raz whizzed around like a mosquito. He skated across the many rails with ease, using the vantage point to pepper the mob of Kitchen Rummies with Psi-Blasts, a series of psychic drivebys that struck a good portion of the Others. Plenty more where they came from, though, and Raz realized that he was doing the thing Crenshaw warned against: going it alone.

He dived off the rails into the audience stands, where a lot of irate Kitchen Rummies had been trying to swipe at him from. ”Here goes!” Before the Rummies could get their vengeance, Raz concentrated hard, and in a tense moment a Vision of Peach popped up beside him. ”Here to help,” it toned, a similar cable reaching out to Raz, like Vision-Sakura had before with the real Princess.

Raz raised his hands, mimicking the gesture Peach did when she used her psychic power, and a large crystalline replica of her Scatterboom appeared in the air. With it, Raz BLAMMED the collected Rummies, tearing through near all of them in a single shot. Though not being used to the force, Raz himself was kicked backwards, nearly falling right into the dark abyss if not for a quick use of Mental Connection to pull himself into a thought bubble.

”Whoa, that thing’s got a real kick,” Raz sent out to Peach. Following the Brain Message to its recipient, Raz saw some of the Scummy Pools moving in to take shots at her. ”Hang on, I’m coming!” Raz leapt from his floating bubble onto another grindrail, taking it straight to those Scummy Pools closest to Peach. ”Hyaaaah!” A small battle cry as he jumped down, battering them with a solid downward slam with a psi-palm, followed by a backflip (for style) and blasting them even harder with a volley of Blasts.

Sakura tossed a Rummy of the edge and laughed as she saw Raz get cooking. ”Awesome, Raz-kun..! Can we really summon Peach-san’s gun?! That’s amazing!” Sakura blocked a few more projectiles and pushed forward toward Raz. Two more Saws Paws interfered but this time Sakura was prepared. She jumped up, kicked one and staggered it, using the momentum to launch herself fists first into the other one, slamming it onto the ground. She grabbed it, rolled backwards, and flipped it over her head, slamming both the Saws Paws into each other.

”Me next!” She said, willing a pulse of psychic Raz energy into her palms.

”Here to help” Creepy AI Raz said with the default animation, immediately repulsing Sakura’s chin into her neck as she cringed. ”Oh, what- anyway- Psychic Hadoken” She yelled, coming up with the attack name as she combined Blast with Hadoken to laws the Saws Paws off the edge.

She dusted off her hands, satisfied, then surveyed the battlefield. Sakura remained grounded, unlike her floatier teammates. ”Can you flyers group up by me or something?” She said. ”If we were playing Tag, maybe I could be the Base? If that makes any sense.”

Raz was already circling around to Sakura’s side, keeping the Others at bay with his continued fire. ”Uhhhh… no, no it doesn’t,” he replied rather bluntly.

”But sticking together, that I understand!”

By now, there wasn’t a lot of opposition left. Even if Psych-OSF was unfamiliar territory, fighting was old hat for the three cadets, and with a combination of potent powers both new and old they managed to make mincemeat of this training challenge. In a flurry of psychic rays, martial arts, materialized objects, and good old-fashioned bludgeoning the trio finished off the remaining Rummies and Pools. This environment offered a lot ot stuff that could be used to their advantage, probably in order to teach them to use every possible means at their disposal to combat this supernatural threat, and Peach especially did not hesitate. After what felt like mere moments of nonstop action and excitement, the Others stopped coming. Peach stood, breathing heavily as she looked around the strange arena, and after another few seconds the simulation fell away. Everyone stood in the training room once more, in the exact same spots as before.

Had that whole thing been in Peach’s head? But it felt so real! Or maybe she’d just been too distracted with the Others to look more closely. Either way, it felt like it went really well, and Crenshaw certainly looked impressed.

“Very good,” he told them. “I’d say you passed with flying colors. You may now consider yourself official members of Psych-OSF. I hope you’ll forgive the lack of induction ceremony, but there isn’t much time. Get yourselves situated in and well-rested in the dorms tonight, I’m sure you’ll be assigned to the operation tomorrow morning. In the mean time, all the rules and regulations are accessible via Psynet, so take some time to bring yourselves up to speed on the do’s and don’t’s. You’ll get your squad assignment tomorrow morning, most likely. That’s all for now.”

”All right! Yes sir, Crenshaw-san!”

”Thank you, sir!” Raz gave Crenshaw a salute before turning to the others. ”You guys really knocked it out of the park! If I didn’t know any better–” He paused, glanced sideways to Crenshaw, then continued in the trio’s personal Brain Speak. ”If I didn’t know better I’d think you were natural psychics yourselves.”

Peach smiled. “Aw, thanks. But all it really comes down to is fighting as part of a team, and we’ve done plenty of that.”

Sakura stretched, smirking confidently. She replied in Brainspeak. ”Yeah, we’re pretty great.”

(anything else more relevant here idk)

A thought occurred to Sakura and she switched the gears of the conversation. ”Did you guys see that weird little fake version of ourselves that appeared when we used each other’s power? What was that all about? Weird! I wonder if we could get rid of it or…maybe customize it!”

Peach nodded. Since the training was over, and Crenshaw was already going, she began to follow him out at a slow enough pace that the others could follow along easily. “Yeah, I think he said we could. Not that I’ve had much of a chance to try it out yet, but it’s rather incredible all the stuff we can do. Like using those computers we saw in Alcamoth, but anywhere, and without any extra equipment.” Just by holding her hand up and willing it into existence, she could conjure a Vision of a menu where she could access all sorts of information and settings. It was almost intimidating.

”I’ll fiddle around with it later,” Raz said with a shrug. While being lead out he tried to look for Lili, in case she had stuck around anywhere closeby, but it didn’t seem like it. Something came up? Hopefully nothing too serious… ”I don’t know about you guys, but I’m beat.” He stretched hard, trying to work a few knots out of his joints. Been a while since he worked himself that much. ”Shall we go check out those dorms?”

Level 3 (XP: 1/30)
Ace (@Yankee), Frisk (@Majoras End), Prisoner (@XoXKieroBombXoX)
Edinburgh MagicaPolis - Noumenon

Wonder Red's suggestion was shot down, which he was fine with. The teachings of CENTINELS combat and battlefield ops weren't going to be universal in this world, a fact he would need to get used to sooner or later. A chase it was.

Maybe less of a chase and more a retreat, though everyone was well aware that their trail would be picked up by the few higher-up officers Irons had picked to get them. Having a hideout certainly helped. But before they reached it they'd need to deal with their pursuers.

Ducking into an abandoned shop, the team hunkered down in wait for Nightingale, Stryker, and Byte & Barq to follow. When the trio arrived everyone prepared for a scrap. Wonder Red needed to consider his options a bit more; the fight against Artemis had totally drained his energy reserves, which would take a while to charge back up, though even if he did have the power to Unite Morph it wouldn't be the smartest play in the moment. One-on-one fisticuffs wasn't a Wonderful One's specialty, but they could manage if need be.

Ace Cadet got first strike on the robotic officer and its guard dog, to which Red followed up by rolling out of cover to face off against Stryker - brawler to brawler.

"Lay down your arms and you can walk away!" Wonder Red was poised to fight, giving Stryker the opportunity to surrender, despite the circumstances. The kombatant didn't take the offer, coming in at Red fast. Wonder Red sidestepped a kick, aiming a follow-up jab into Stryker's torso. He was a better dueler than Red, though, and easily blocked the counterblow.

Stryker had experience and technique, while Wonder Red had quicker reactions and a smaller target to hit. It wasn't going to be an easy fight, but there was some equal footing there...
308 Words
+1 EXP

Level 3 (XP: 0/30)
Ace (@Yankee), Frisk (@Majoras End), Prisoner (@XoXKieroBombXoX)
Edinburgh MagicaPolis - Noumenon

With Artemis defeated, Wonder Red joined the others in order to look after Sierra. It seemed the fight, at least, hadn't injured her, but nothing to be said about her time inside the angelic demon.

"It seems our movements have been tracked," Red noted. "The Consul in charge of this region caught wind and sent a foe our way. Still, why involve Sierra in this?" As he pondered the development, Red looked to the ashen Artemis, and made the decision to take its spirit before it vanished. If they were to get an edge in this world, he would need to augment his capabilities.

No time to rest, as Officer Lucia ran in with the rest of her more corrupt force stationed outside the library. Detective Band was right; an all-out brawl wouldn't go over well, especially after the fight they just finished and with the unconscious Sierra with them.

"A back way?" Wonder Red looked around, the debris from the attack making it hard to pick out an emergency exit of some sort. "I doubt the city's police force would overlook a possibly exit from here. We may have to take a less conventional path." Still, all the debris around did give Wonder Red an inkling of an idea. His gaze trailed upwards, up to the many, many floors of the Noumenon, precariously suspended above them after Artemis's attack. And also up there: the big, gaping hole the demon tore in the wall on its entrance.

Wonder Red turned to his teammates. "They'll charge the building soon enough. We don't know the city as well as they do so a chase outside would be to our disadvantage. We need to get back to the 27th floor - bring the upper floors down on them as a diversion. If we get there, I can handle the rest!"

The Wonderful One-Double-Oh never minded a little collateral damage, after all.
323 Words
+1 EXP
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