As the first rays of sunlight began to touch over the colourful banners of the Erubescan Citadel, Serf Cadriel had already been up for a few hours. Not that he wasn't used to that. She was generally employed (well, 'employed' in a loose sense) as a custodial worker, and was usually mopping the floors in the research block, or trying to scrub something best uninquired about off of a test room wall. However this morning was different. One of the usual workers that dealt with service tasks had, apparently been taken ill, and all the recent chaos left things in the Citadel more short staffed than ever.
This had been relayed to her in a manner that didn't explicitly state it, but very much put across the understanding, that they would not be having Caddie, the little vintage horror movie extra from the lab floor, serving coffee and pastries to Knight Commanders, if they'd got literally any other option.
But clearly times were hard.
That was how Caddie found herself hurrying down the back corridors of one of Floor -1, with a box of pastries clutched in her bandaged hands, and a cafetiere, milk jug, sugar bowl and a number of white porcelain cups floating in harmony behind her as if she were being followed by multiple helpful poltergeists.
Her highly controlled psychokinesis, whilst certainly not trained for this reason, did come in handy from time to time in her line of work.
Which was just as well as getting her hands on the coffee had taken long enough. Since the attack a few weeks back and the havoc wreaked on the electrical system, lower level surges were still pretty common, and half an hour ago everyone had been once again scrambling for fuses and circuit breakers. It was kind of a nightmare.
Admittedly probably the most mundane nightmare the Erubescan research floors were likely to generate, but a bit of a difficulty none the less.
Caddie's bandaged feet slipped a little as she hurried into the meeting room, but the serf was used to compensating for that and skidded to a halt before the table, where she started setting down drinks and condiments and delivering the requisite amount of customer service talk to hopefully get herself off the hook for the hold up. "Apologies for the wait."
her tone sounded sincere enough, and generally, as serfs went, they had to be pretty sincere in their contrition when things went wrong. They were the bottom of the heap after all. And there were very few legal protections regarding their treatment. Caddie was slightly different though. For a moment her eyes moved up from arranging the cups to steal a glance at the Commander running the meeting.
Commander Lulu Vivianne Botrelle. An individual whom she had a rather...complicated history with. It was a little hard to reconcile 'understanding of shared goals' and 'bitter, seething resentment that this kind of human being exists and has gained success and favour whilst acting the way she does'. She did not like Lulu Botrelle. Lulu Botrelle was also the closest thing she had to friends in high places in this complex. Citadel was a bit like that.
The air was like trying to breathe boiling mud. Thick with smoke and plaster dust and heat. Her chest burned as she tore acorss a shattered wall of concrete, leaving the surface scarred with blood and scorchmarks.
She was furious. Angry. How dare he. How dare he come to her Kingdom. Her city. After all this. After she'd conceded. After those bastards had taken everything from her that was important. Everything. And it still wasn't enough. It would never be enough. You couldn't walk away. Couldn't just hope they'd leave you alone. This VERMIN would never stop until someone EXTERMINATED them.
The explosion had catapulted her out of the window for the second time today. Hot blood dripped from her eyes and from her mouth, beginning to boil and hiss when it hit her skin. The wounds she'd received in the first bouts of the fight had already cauterized from sheer heat. Her could feet the pounding of her heart in her head and in her stomach as her legs kept a pace beyond any sense of apprehension, leaping over a fallen girder and letting loose a feral snarl of frustration.
WHERE WAS HE
Heat. Concrete. Shredded bits of chairs and tables.
A figure trying to pick itself up. But it was pinned. A roof support on top of it, jagged ends digging into its back. He was trapped.
This wasn't good.
This wasn't honourable.
This was burning out poison before it spread.
This was was for the good of everyone.
THIS. WAS. JUSTICE.
With a screaming battle cry she leapt at the fallen figure, seized his neck in her hands, and-
"Okay that looks pretty gnarly but maybe a bit more of a smile, we're going for hero, right?"
Kora blinked through the camera flash and awkwardly nodded.
Honestly one of the easier parts of soldiering was that you really very rarely had to work out what to do with your face. Attempting to look intimidating and majestic but also friendly and marketable was the kind of conundrum that rarely came up in her career.
Though now it seemed to apparently comprise a lot of it.
Photoshoot for the new recruitment drive.
Join the Knights. Join the Fight.
Who better to head it up than the Knighthood's new red-headed posterchild.
Erubescan social media had gone wild that day, three weeks back, when a number of crowds had filmed Kora fighting a gifted terrorist in the Citadel City's commercial district. Like some comic book superhero. Being thrown from a second floor window only to pick herself up and run back in again, pausing to blast flying rubble away from fleeing civilians. The ever hungry publicity machine of Citadel propaganda could not have asked for a better story.
Kora, for her own part, had really not realised the impact that her part in the fight had had, well, not until several days later when she'd awoken in the infirmary with lots of stitches, and arm in plaster, and a really excessive number of bouquets of flowers sent to her from people she'd never met before. It had been a pretty surreal experience, and took a lot of getting used to.
Was still taking a lot of getting used to.
Especially the photo stuff.
She found herself posing amid some mock-up of the ruined library that had made up the arena of her final showdown, albeit far more artfully distressed. She was also a lot more artfully distressed, with one slender cut across her cheekbone painted on in make-up and a small amount of powdered ash dusted around the waves of her hair. Bits of the modified Knight uniform she were wearing, clearly just recently out of the box, were lightly tattered at the edges. The cape and the claymore were also rather peculiar artistic liberties.
Why had they given her a claymore. Claymores were Scottish, not Scandinavian.
Least it wasn't a horned helmet, she supposed.
Kora was just attempting to meet the two, entirely irreconcilable expressions for the shoot when her communicator chirped into life, and a not unfamiliar voice spoke up. Lu.
She was supposed to be filling in for Commander Gray today.
She had no idea what exactly she was supposed to do in a research meeting. Meetings in general weren't exactly her forte. But orders were orders. And being the populous' new flavour of the month didn't change that.
A few minutes later Kora came rushing down the -1 hallway as quick as she could manage, still wearing the knight field uniform and still looking rather artistically distressed. She felt fairly silly, admittedly, but when you were a 6'6 Norwegian redheaded woman on a US base you were pretty used to getting looks whatever you wore. She'd get over it.
Upon entering the room she dropped into a chair, grabbed a cup, some coffee, and the sugar bowl, and emptied about six spoons of sugar into it. Some things never really changed no matter where you were. "Sorry for the hold up..."
she added, deciding mentioning the costume would just be bringing more attention to the elephant in the room. "Schedule conflict."
Ranch House, Unknown Location
Rei wasn't enamoured to find the older of the brothers make himself known. Frankly she already felt surrounded when she was around just Hel, let alone her and her murder-dad. It tended to feel a little like being circled by a pack of hyenas.
His little supposedly throwaway remark, clearly not meant as a throwaway remark, made her bristle, but she kept a relatively straight face in an attempt to not let the resident psychopath know he was getting exactly the feeling of discomfort that he wanted. "Think she just got up. Montana only just left the kitchen, think he was taking some food to uh.."
Rei wasn't sure how to refer to the horrible thing they were doing. Spire and Montana's little project. Something that she felt a worse person due to a cursory attachment to but was really in no place to interrupt when the man could probably make her ribcage explode through eye contact if the fancy took him. If anything she took some solace in the fact that there really was nothing she could do to prevent whatever they were doing in the basement or attic.
That did, at least make her feel a bit better that she didn't feel a lot of empathy for Erubescan scientists.
Familiarity did certainly breed contempt.
On seeing Spire Hel wasted no time in making her way over to the man, the kind of father figure that only a daughter figure like Hel would adopt. She didn't tend to smile often, but she made it quite clear whose company she preferred. "No. Yeah. Montana was there getting food. I went to look for you."
Probably because she didn't trust Montana. And Montana didn't trust her.
It was hard to tell when Hat Guy was going to show up. That was what she tended to refer to him in her head. Along with numerous other more abusive names. He was the quieter one. She also didn't trust him anymore than the knife-wielding psychopath that had laid into her many times before. They wanted the same thing. Just different approaches.
It was hard to hear him. Seeing was less of a problem. Darkvision came naturally to her, and the gloomy basement might as well have been a well-lit room for all she could pick out. If someone were observant, they might have caught the glowy refection off of Oren's eyes when they were hit by light, like those of a cat's at night.
She could see him perfectly well, though greeted his appearance with a dull indifference.
He'd brought food, and set it down in front of her. She found one of her wrists loosened from its binding. Her fingers were cold, joints loked together from days in one position. She dropped her arm to her side, and it stayed there as Oren regarded the plate emptily.
She had felt hungry. Incredibly so. Would probably have cut her own hand off for a bread roll. Now that just felt blunted and numb, the smell of canned meat causing bile to rise in her throat. She coughed for a moment, before letting her head sit against the wall again.
How disappointing. Starved half to death. And even when she had food she couldn't eat it.
Not that that mattered.
This was a change.
A change was bad.
If they were giving her food then it was the least of her worries.
She didn't care anymore. Her body was failing her after weeks of misuse. Pathogens rushing to capitalize on partly healed cuts and exploit an immune system already stretched to breaking point from starvation and exhaustion. Whatever happened, she would die.
It was hard to speak. Her lip were cracked and tongue near stuck to the roof of her mouth. Words that usually came very easily to the caustic and wholly unfiltered alchemist were hard to keep hold of. "Just..do it.."
she muttered, voice raspy, her eyes setting onto Montana's in a bitter understanding of what he was getting at.
Erubesco. Liberty. Ashrat groups.
The whole rotten, merciless world worked the same way.
If you weren't useful, you were disposed of.