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Jemma… Jemma tried extraordinarily hard to focus on the woman in front of her. She really did.
But the world kept shifting. Astral eyes prying open and slamming shut. The woman, Jade, was a beacon of light that was almost blinding. Around her flowed currents of the concept of wind, to say nothing of the leakage of [PAIN] and [DISORIENTED] that radiated off of her in waves.

Jemma coughed once. Blinking in surprise at the ink that leapt from her lips and struck Jade across the cheek. Then once more as ink pulsed through the flesh of her face.
Jemma continued to stare at the woman across from her, processing and yet not, her words. Ink whirled on her cheeks, spreading across her entire face before settling into a bright array of colors and contrasts. Red that centered around her eyes, with pinks and blues and purples settling over her cheeks, forehead, eyebrows, and lips. White and black settled into the background, with floral patterns giving rise to a rapidly formed ‘Sugar Skull’ on her face.

Her irises shifted, colors rapidly rolling through before settling on a startlingly normal chocolate brown. Her pupils contracted to pinpoints, before exploding outward into four-pointed stars.
She took a breath…
Wh- A zombie? No. I’m… I’m not, I don’t think? … Where are we?” She questioned, glancing down at her blanket covered form. “Why are… Why am I restrained? What’s going on? Am I allowed to leave? I want to leave.
She continued, voice shifting between pauses, as ink pulsed at her throat and settled on… something familiar.

She tried to sit up again, yanking on the straps of nylon and steel buckles that kept her limbs still. “I want to leave. Let me leave. I want to leave! Let me go!
Her skin thrummed, eyes slowly going wild as observational machinery began beeping and chirping in alarming tones. Jemma yanked again, slowly beginning to wail as she thrashed in place.
Let. Me. Go! I want to go! Let me go! Alex?! Alex! Alex help! I want OUT!
Jemma yanked once more, shrieking indignantly. The strap on her chest strained, pulling against her skin before snapping abruptly. Muscle mass that had formed in a bout of hysteria ached for a moment.
Then her forehead collided with Jade’s.
She paused, staring into Jade’s eyes for a brief moment. Just… staring!

And then her head sailed across the room with all the ceremony of a sneeze.

The body was moving without input again. Memories were bubbling up, half formed and disjointed in their collection.
A flash of a child, with mouse brown hair, sitting on a slab of a table. Wires trailed from his shoulders, shiny metal gleaming in the surgical light—
It skipped. Again. Why couldn’t they hold onto the memories?!

Another flash, blooming like the pain of a migraine.
A birthday party. What was a birthday party again? … A celebration. A pair of hands reached forward, lifting a bottle of champagne. The collection of people— when did they get there? A surprise! They all cheered—
It skipped.

J-3 came to a stop in the middle of the street they had found themselves in. The world around them whirling and twisting as if in a dream.
Another flash. And another, and another. And another.

Memories of a birthday again, smaller and familial.
Memories of a question, “What is your name?”
Memories of an introduction, “Hi! My name is Jemma! You can call me Dove! I’ll be your Fixer today, okay sweetheart?”
One last memory, old and worn like a loved photograph out of its frame.

Dude, I’m telling you. We shouldn’t take her to the caves. She’s arachnophobic!
Is she? I didn’t know! … There’s the Sword-Singer’s Descent? She would love that probably. Kasha’s weird like that.
’Kasha’s weird like that’, you’re only saying that ‘cuz SSD has way too many movement mechanics, mister ‘tanktastic’.
And then… another response. But it was lost to a burst of mental static as J-3 abruptly crumpled.

The migraine was worse. Rippling through the core. Astral eyes closed, willpower was drawn upon like a well. An empty well. There was nothing left to give.
Ink exploded from the quadrupedal form, whipping through the air as the body began screaming. Pain worked through every aspect of J-3. Memories pressing up and forcibly slotting back into place.
Memories from two different existences.
A flash of the mana scape, staring up at [QUEEN-MOTHER-PROTECTOR-PROTECTED]. A pillar of marble white.
A flash of thought, chasing a beacon of [FEAR] and [FURY]. Subsuming it. Bringing it back.
One last flash, of searing pain and confusion, being forcibly melded with something. A shape. Small and [HATEFUL] and [TERRIFIED] and [REMORSEFUL].

J-3 abruptly stopped screaming. Laying on her side on the street, heaving exhausted gasps. The world spun slowly, the migraine had faded.
Jemma stood up, moving cautious and slow. She could hear and [SEE] a couple of shapes approaching her. People.
One knelt, spoke to her. She blinked up at it blearily. Heard nothing.
Understood nothing.
Something behind her sternum shuddered, and she coughed once. Ink spilled past her lips, and the shape exclaimed.

The world cut to black for a moment, then clicked back in. She was on a stretcher. Screaming, again, as a far far distant pain bloomed throughout her flesh. What was happening?
Voices above her, rushing quickly. “… Call her then! I can barely find…”
The world cut again.

And clicked back once more, a bright light in both pupils. Screaming had faded for weak whines, begging. Eyes followed the light as it shifted back and forth. Astonished voices.
“Hey! Hey I know her!”
A voice ignored, before it shouted again. The response?
“We’ll let’em know in the morning then! She’s fuckin’ dyin’!”
Her hand reached up, swiping through the air. Astral eyes opened to see mana shift. A sprinkle of salt water fell.
“She’s got powers!”
“You couldn’t tell from the fuckin’ INK?!”
The world cut once more.

And then returned. She was laying on her back in a dimly lit office. On a desk, or a proper table? There was a wire connected to her head, trailing to… a display? An EKG? No. Tracking brain activity.
Jemma groaned quietly, tried to sit up only to find she couldn’t move more than an inch or two.
She blinked a couple times, noted the blankets that covered her. The material was clean, stained in a couple places. The stains were black as pitch, and we’re scattered at random.
Where was she? What was going on now?
Astral eyes opened.

There were two presences just beyond a door, to her right. One was leaving, nearly running, while the other was fumbling with something.
Both pulsed with [DETERMINATION] and [WORRY].

Well… Shit.
She still needed to find The Blonde Ally and Rat. Shit.
Felix gave Dawn an impish smile, chuckling faintly as the world slowly- Ever so slowly- began to match his speed. Or perhaps he began to match the world's speed.
It didn't matter. Focus.

Focusing WAS easier now, and after a moment Felix shifted. His gaze snapped up, only able to take in the star-scape that had now exploded overhead for a brief moment. The falling motes of light made him cackle, as his eyes danced with ideas and thoughts aplenty.

He turned to her, still smiling as he made his way towards... Well.
He certainly wasn't heading towards the doors that led out of the lobby. He also wasn't heading towards the doors of the nearby elevator. Or stairwell. Instead, he was approaching a window.
"God, I hope this isn't rude sounding but... I think if I saw that as a kid, I'd assume you'd hung the stars. That was so, well, so pretty!"
He spread his arms as he walked, fingers moving in slow waves as he 'stretched' his limbs.

"Also! I really am sorry I forgot about you down here. You're entirely too kind, and I really do appreciate your patience." Felix emphasized. His expression was one of regret, and again, his eyes met Dawn's.
He took note of her stance, trying to place her mood on that alone. Was she upset? Had he fucked up far too much?
Felix had started frowning, brows furrowing, when sovereign 'bee-bee-beeped' a message onto his HUD.
Lux Discordia paused for a moment, letting his civilian mask slide away, as he observed the message sent to him.
Thoughts spiraled rapidly through his brain, each being carefully looked over and noted, before he let his face split into a wide grin.

"Before we go anywhere or go any further... Is there anythin' I can do to make up for it? There anywhere you'd like to go? ... We could maybe leave your brother a surprise for bein' such a smart-ass? Or I could take you somewhere for some actually good food! Since Sai was bein' an ass and didn't share his with us!" Another pause, before he continued.
"Or we could do anythin' else too! Your wish is my command, o' lady Light, bringer of Helios across our mortal skies!"

He finished with a flourish, that same impish smile only growing into a truly mischievous grin as he spoke. "Y'could even try tattooin' one of my arms, or legs, if you'd like! I refuse to let my slight against you go unanswered!"
Titan's Fall, The Undercity, Underground Headquarters Ichabod

To say that Maria Menagerie was having an interesting day would be, above all else, quite a disservice. If it wasn't the fact that one of her more experimental project/facilities was completely AWOL/destroyed, it was the fact that some of those under her direct supervision were getting... Big for their britches.
'The board' had wanted a meeting today. Apparently some site-directors of no small repute and size were getting nervous. They were losing sight of the future, and losing focus on the tasks at hand. 'The size of the projects, and the amount of them, are unreasonable!' they had decried.

Maria had rectified that.
Reminded them of what they could do with the limitless potential at their finger tips. Reminded them of what they accomplished without her input, and how she fully believed they could manage this much. Reminded them that they were the reason for this companies success, and that she only wished to see them push that much harder.
Reminded them of what they [SWORE], when they joined the upper echelon of employment at Menagerie Technical.
Only one needed to be... Re-educated. His departure was saddening, for sure, but the chance to teach with his leaving was beyond beneficial.
She hadn't even needed to be nearby to watch the [MANA] break his mind, to weave the threads of insanity that boiled and warped his thoughts.
He didn't know any of them! Where was he!? Who was he? Well! He couldn't very well keep the extremely sensitive data on his computer! This was after-all, not his to keep!
He left the conference call at that point.
He would not be seen for weeks, only reappearing later, under the scalpel of one of their cyber-ware clinics, while another of the more... Questionably dedicated, was on site nearby.

Maria huffed. Twitching like a spider's limb as Thomas- Her assistant- leaned over and placed a cup of faintly luminous coffee on her desk.
She gave him a nod, mentally twisting on the corded [ROPE-BRAID-CHAIN-WEB] that spanned between them. Another silent conversation passed between the two, with Maria staring Thomas directly in the eye the entire time.
Thomas nodded once. The conversation came to an abrupt end, the man silently striding off, and out of her office. He knew what she wanted of him.

She turned then, tapping twice upon the table-top of her desk as a keyboard overlay formed itself in the glossy plas-steel. Two points of light bloomed on the far corners, cycling through a multitude of colors. Then, quick as a blink, a holographic screen displayed itself before her.
Two taps; the screen shifts; and ID's tag displays itself on a map. Another two taps; the screen shifts only slightly; and MG's tag displays.
This process continues for precisely two minutes, and only stops when there are a total of sixteen tags moving throughout the Under City.
Maria hums, leans back, and watches quietly.

Perhaps it was time for her to start getting everything moving. Hm.

Shieldtown, Interior

They were walking now. Why were they walking? What had happened?
A force. Right. [ARTEMIS]. Right. Where… On a wall. Right.

J-3 shook its head, grappling with discordant thoughts and observations. There was… A threat display! Right? It was a threat display, had to have been. The other one only ever did threat displays, the one of [SUN AND FLAME].
And then there was [EARTH], still there. Still under their feet, watching. Was it still watching? Where was it? Where had it gone?
Had it always been so stifling in this town? This was home at some point— Wait.

A memory; but disjointed and foggy. It skipped through their mind like a scratched vinyl.
There was a flash; a familiar face; a smile given as he lifted— It skipped.
She was laughing; an instance cleared! Kasha was- It skipped.
She was crying; messy breakup; his was the only safe place to go- It skipped.
Chrome and plastic at her finger-tips; an attachment gone awry; a bad Fixer residing nearby- It skipped.
He was frowning at her now, she was yelling at him. An argument. She had to go to the Graves— it skipped.
Scrambling through the rubble, running. A flash of fire, brilliantly hot. Debris flares to ash. A cry on the lips.
Help me—
It skipped.

J-3 stumbled to a stop, shaking their head and staring upwards. They had walked into something. The idea of it just, wasn't coming to mind. Like sand in a sieve. The information just wasn't sticking! WHY!? Oh- Wait that- Never-mind. It was making sense now.
There was a building in front of them, and it blinded them with deja-vu. Did they recognize this house? And... And it was a house. Two stories… and… And the finer details of it slid past their mind. Like trying to take in the shape of it was impossible. The idea of a house was impossible to grasp. Shelter, yes, but, not what a house actually signified.
Where were they? What was happening?
Golden-threaded light danced in the air, abrupt and attention grabbing. The street. An intersection? Magic ward interlaced over the air. Unawakened and awakened both would avoid the area.
Two familiarly unfamiliar signatures tainted the air, as J-3 moved to a better vantage point. [THE ONE OF SUN AND FLAME] and [EARTH] were communicating. Arguing. A [ZONE OF TRUTH] had formed.
Their hearing was just sensitive enough to pick up what they were saying, from the distance that the two were at.

J-3 twitched, watching as communications developed. Then, with grace and strength that belied the shape they were in, J-3 turned and sprinted away. They wanted no part of whatever was happening there. Where were they anyways? What was happening...?

Rat! Rat. They had to find Rat, and The Sword Queen. How long had it been? Why was it so hard to think?!

J-3 scrambled along. Unknowingly leaving whorls in the manascape around them. Inky black-purple-pink, swaying like kelp in ocean currents, and filled with terror and confusion.
[Titan's Fall - Templar Tower - The Lobby]

Came the reply, leaving Felix blinking slowly as he tossed the burst of emotions in his chest around. Hm.
First came the swirl of irritation, followed and mixed with a whorl of admiration. Alongside that? A helping of guilt.
He definitely didn't MEAN to forget about her, but, sometimes work was just... So much more fun!

Anyways. Felix cleared his throat and turned on a heel, hand darting out to grab an unoccupied emitter-card. This one was... Entirely lacking in formatting, and would need to be coded by the time he got back, buuuut he could go ahead and get some prefabs set in on it while he was within range of The Tower!
Yay for potentially super duper illegal AI that apparently only a few knew about! Yay! Yayyyy!

Felix blinked, realizing he had been standing in place for... Huh. Four minutes. Wow. He needed to move, oops.

"Hhhhey Sovereign? Would you be so willing as to assist me down the stairs?"
He got an affirmative Beep-beep-beeeee-, and then, with a single blink and a gasp...

He was stood directly in front of Dawn, smiling brightly at her as the world yanked back into view.
He bowed, extending a hand in an exaggerated motion; not too dissimilar to a butler. If said butler was wearing a shit eating grin.
"Yeah hi, sorry! Sorry, I TOTALLY got distracted making... Something interesting! Working on something new always gets that, y'know, creatives focus-- ANYWAYS! Hold on, sorry! Okay. Okay! So. My meds should kick innnnn, in like, like, maybe three minutes and eighteen... Seventeen... Sixteen... Yeah, you get the idea."

He paused, making eye contact with her before continuing, rambling like a speeding train on the rails. "So! If you're still up for it, we're gonna A) go get some coffee and something to snack on, and B) if you're down for it, we're gonna fuck with your boss and SINS s'more."
Titans’ Fall, Templar Tower: Laboratory 3, Augmented Weaponry R&D

A man’s voice swore into the relative quiet of the lab. From his hands, sparks flew, and he jolted upright as if stung.
It was a massive room, populated by four large sized work stations, four ‘display’ tables- 1.60 meters by 1.60 meters. Mobile too, there were grooves in the floor with what appeared to be magnetic spheres laid within.

And towards one wall, an airlock that led into and out of the room. Alongside an attached observation area. The laboratory was stark white, with specific paths and stations and tools marked by flashes of accented colors: orange, green, blue, and pink.

Felix stood at the station awash in pink, hyper focused on the project between his hard-light fingertips. It was a strange device, pure black glossy metal, with faintly glowing lines of golden circuitry. His eyes were hidden behind a set of shades, never-mind that said protective eyewear was ALSO made out of a deep orange hardlight. The room was dimly lit SAVE for the station he was working at.

Anyways; the emitter in his hands was the product of … Uh. Oh shit. 8 whole hours. Between meandering around and engaging in-
The emitter sparked once, startling that train of thought right out.
Well, it was a product of hyperfixation. An upgrade! One made in the heat of the moment because panic, and all that good stuff.
His hands moved reflexively, as Sovereign blipped him twice. Right. His guest! Right. Oops. Shit.
The emitter was slipped into a perfectly sized slot on his left hip. The hard-light limb there flickered, before stabilizing. Then it flickered out of existence entirely. And Felix had to grab the work-station in front of him to avoid falling.
The limb returned after a solid two minutes of nothing, with Felix spending that entire time working on the projector base. After some time, the cyber-ware flashed with golden light, and projected. His other leg was humanoid enough; appearing like a ‘retro’ video game character’s limb might. Sixteen— No- twenty four ‘planes’ of light connected to eachother, but displayed no real details beyond blank sheets of orange light.

The new limb was humanoid as well, none of that digitigrade shit. It was infinitely more detailed, and sported what looked like spurs on its heels and toes. Felix nodded as the leg finished stabilizing again, and then slammed his heel into the floor. He gave a delighted smile as his HUD shifted.


And from his shin, a massive tower shield of burgundy hardlight lanced into the air in front of him. It glinted like a shattered mirror in the dim-light of the lab. The barrier shifted as Felix clenched his fist on his left.
His HUD beeped again.

And like a thought, the shield vanished. On the back of Felix’ ankle, a wickedly sharp curve of hard light formed. It had a squared tip, a bit like a cleaver. It barely reached half a meter in length, just shy of about .48 meters, as a matter of fact.
He flexed, hopping away from his workstation and spinning about in an abruptly violent axe kick. The air hummed, as his blades limb cut through the atmosphere like it hardly even existed. Hm!
Felix twisted a wrist, listening as Sovereign beeped in the corner of his awareness.

< … … … Playing audio! >
Mister Lanning… You have a guest who has been waiting for a total of 67 minutes for your company.

Oh. Fuck, oops. Dawn was STILL downstairs, and Felix had promised this would be... Quick.
She was definitely going to bitch, if the prior eight-ish hours were any indication.
New memories though! She wasn't ALL bad, just, a bit misguided and assured of her own excellence! ... Like Sai. And Felix liked Sai!
A quick message was fired off, a text that simply read: [Hey, sorry! I got SUPER distracted for… a lot longer than I meant. I’ll be right there! I’ll come get you? … Where are you?]

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a simple message.
Oh, wait. She- Fuckin'- She was just down in the lobby, god, he could just-

[Heyyyy nevermind, just, don't move. Be right there. Sorry.]

Jemma twitched as she watched the Astral Scape shift and morph with this gathered assortment. First, the whirl and turn of Raudd's mood and thoughts. It smeared [CONFUSION] and [CALM-ASSES-MURDER?] into the milky cloud of static that [ENTROPY] created. Then, as if on the mightiest of breezes, [FRUSTRATION] speared through it all as the so called Artemis appeared. And after no small amount of response to their earlier, well, inopportune query... He turned to J3, [OH ITS YOU] rising into the air on a cloud of color. And then... His [AURA] shifted AGAIN.

Good god, he was always feeling that? There were SO MANY EMOTIONS, so many changes! What the fuck. Wait- He was talking again.
This was taking forever! Or... Maybe just a little bit. How long had it been? What was happening again? Struggles?

Struggling food? Struggling prey? Struggling Hunt? Hunt?- Wait. No. Focus. She could do this! The hunger wasn't worth it! Right!
Jemma blinked slowly, feeling the blooming sensation of relief settle in her throat. The buzzing had built up again, like a sickly insidious wave.
She had been reaching for the card on the ground, focused on just... Trying to keep it together, when all of a sudden.

There. In their face, far too close to the eyes and [The Eyes]. J-3 yanked back with a feral hiss, flinching away when it spoke in [POWER]. Something strong, in the shape of a man, made of [DEVOTION] like a concept made manifest and tangible. They were nothing to this!
It was just like her! Like THAT ONE!

[The one of Sun and Flame]. [HATE!]. [HATE], [HATE], [HATEANDHATEANDHATE]!
They needed to flee. They couldn't consume this one, this one was too big to consume.
They had to leave. Now. Fast.

J-3 leapt back, hissing again as [FEAR] and [BETRAYAL] and [knewit...] erupted through their ink-watery aura.
Back to the blonde one! Now! They had to go!
Or at least they had to know, they could always meet up somewhere else. Would only need to find a Rat.
'Rat guides the Templar' after all, right?

Fuck! Still there! Leave!

And so, they left. Cards forgotten and marked as signs of betrayal. Obviously. The [WHITE COAT EVIL MIND] ones always used cards, for everything.

Jemma blinked slowly, watching as the familiar one was abruptly surrounded by OTHER familiar ones. And two new people.
They were people. Not ‘ones’. People. People… Hm. What were they saying? Why was it so hard—

The one with the… Cigarette! Was lethal. Uncomfortable. He had no space to him, and while he flashed his threat display— Was it a threat display? She couldn’t figure it out.
So instead, Jemma abruptly stood, stepping back a fair deal as she narrowed her focus on the tattooed man.
She watched in silence, as they all talked, embraced, and displayed their familiarities. The air twisted with their collected Astral Selves.

And again, like a fool, Jemma spoke again. Her eyes went sliding to the [CRIMSON KNIGHT]. “Why are your eyes broken? Why does your [CRIMSON] move like that? … It’s very distracting.

All of this, spoken with the same air of simplicity that a child might tell an adult that the sky was blue, or that they were hungry.
She blinked again, and before any of them even answered, spoke again.
Also, I am going to leave now. I do not wish to be assaulted again. Or to assault all of you again. So. Goodbye.
Another two steps, wings flexing experimentally as she dropped down into a … Battle ready crouch. It was time to leave! Right? These were all former enemies. Right? Right.

Thinking was… Getting hard again.
Shieldtowne, Outskirts

The sensation of sparkling satisfaction settled in. Hunger had bloomed in her stomach after a time, and though she had been walking for… For… Well shit. How long had she been walking?

Didn’t matter! The flash of [MANA] that had sparkled into the air was too much to ignore, even with the sensation of [STONE’S GAZE] blooming underneath her. Maybe it would ignore this opportunistic hunt on its territory? And what even WAS it? Powerful, that was for sure. But it didn’t seem terribly annoyed by her?
Wait, what was she doing?

Where was she again— RIGHT! On the street, in… This odd town. Having just eaten what was effectively a massive [MANA] battery that got ejected into the air. [UNASPECTED] too. So obviously it wasn’t [STONE]’s.
God, she couldn’t focus, and she was TRYING.

She was tired too, but, alas. She hadn’t slept, not that she really ‘needed’ to, if what she remembered of the… Scientist?

Jemma paused in her jaunt, letting her thoughts trickle around in her core like water in a babbling brook. It was… Easier. To think, now. She had spent so much more time around people now. And the whorls and eddies of [MANA] that spiraled everywhere had done, well, something! To her.

A memory jiggled itself loose from the moors of the past; a clinical voice whispering to another. “Honestly? I think the more, ah, solution we feed it, the more stable it’ll get. We’re already seeing it comprehend reflections, and…
The words faded. The memory was fuzzy, like trying to hold sand. Hm.

Jemma shrugged, twisting herself in an acrobatic maneuver to duck under a massive length of bone being carried by two men. They called out to her, one scolding her inactivity. ‘Don’t stand in the middle of the road!’

The other whistled, congratulating the move she pulled. ‘Where were you when I need a gymnastics teacher?!’
They moved on, balancing the … rib? Rib. Between their shoulders as they continued up the street. They hadn’t even commented on her state of dress. Though… Maybe that had to do with the massive, now brown and navy feathered, wings she had wrapped around herself. Maybe they thought it was a cloak? Hm.

And for Jemma, the words settled on her thoughts like balm. The buzzing that had taken over her mind for MONTHS had faded.
She waved goodbye to the two of them, turning and sprinting down the busy thoroughfare she found herself in. Lights buzzed above her, surrounded by moths and other midnight bugs.

Time began to, well, melt. It stopped holding importance for her, even as she tried her best to hold onto it, and even as she tried to remember what a second meant, or even felt like.

She was all of a sudden stood at the wall again. Or… Part of the wall. There was a scent in the air. But it wasn’t a scent, as much as it was a [SMELL].
Her mind started buzzing again, but she tamped it down. Shut it in a box. Quieted it with a pillow. Slammed the door closed.

Wait! There. A wisp of… familiar… [CRIMSON]. What was it doing here?
A trail bloomed before her, as she focused, surprised that she could even MISS it in the first place.
It writhed in the [AIR], coiling and uncoiling like a snake being electrocuted. An eel out of water and struggling for breath.

Jemma tilted her head, and followed the path. It led up, and up, and up and up. She could [SEE] the main path above her, and the comparatively dim and dull branch that she was following.
Her wings flared open, and with a great WHUMP of air, she rose up.
And then swiftly settled fifteen feet away from a familiar woman, whose breathing was as erratic as her thinking.
[CRIMSON] seethed around her like a nest of vipers, lashing out at itself and everything around.

Another memory rose unbidden, of a man of auburn hair slumped against the wall. Another man knelt before him, and his voice and words were soft; gentle and quiet. He walked his fellow through… Breathing? Breathing.
The memory swiftly faded, and Jemma sat down silently.

And then, like a fool, she spoke.
You’re… Panicking. Do you want help?

Senior Laboratory Alma - The Graves

A woman sat in an office suffused by a source-less, ethereal, golden glow. Her features were sharpened by this light. She glanced around the well decorated office, letting her gaze fall on the intricately complex symbols that sprawled across the floor. They spiraled out from the center of the room, and had once been glowing with the very same golden light that now filled the room from the floor. The light was a sourceless thing.
She recognized the design as a temporary ‘Soul Cairn’. It was flawed. Whatever the trap had been designed to contain had clearly escaped.

[MANA] swirled in a whirlpool of faded power, an echo of a massive lake that had apparently passed through this space. Hm. ‘Improvised third tier spells’ indeed…
She snorted derisively, listening as the voice of her ‘Brilliant Star’ rambled on in the background of her hearing.
This office wasn’t her office, of course.

It used to be under the purview of a woman named Josephine Heller. But… Well.
Josephine had apparently taken a rather abrupt vacation.
A mere twenty four hours before she had arrived, which was oh so terribly convenient.

She clicked her attention back to the phone call.

Maria Menagerie would later remember her words as if they were from far away. The excitement filling her body at the time was… Almost blinding.
The Night Star’. So close, so close at hand… how exciting!
My Brilliant Star! Light of my life, how wonderful! I almost can’t believe that you’ve been so successful my dear!” she intoned calmly, though the wide smile in her voice was audible.

Never-mind that the smile wasn’t on her face. Never-mind that her expression changed not once during the entire conversation.

Her voice still held a happy smile, still exuded a happy warmth.
But I shouldn’t ever doubt you, should I, my dear? You’ve done so well! The mages can be handled by either yourself- if you feel up to the task- or by an intermediary of our choosing. Either way. We’ll have to start moving forward with plans for her rescue. Well! My dear my dear, it’s been lovely, but I will have to make this… Concise! I have two new tasks for you, my love.
She took a breath, ‘taking a moment to think’, as it were.

I need you to investigate something for me, as a favor, my love. Our… Marble Statue seems to have gone missing, and I would love for someone to investigate the circumstances for me! I haven’t been able to garner contact, and we both know everyone answers our calls, no?
A chuckle as she finished.

Then, before her daughter could reply.
And my dear? The… Missing project? I’ll pull Cobalt Weasel from following, and instead I’d rather have you, shall we say, observe. From a distance, preferably, my dear. We do not want to engage with the Templar. I’ll trust in your judgement, as you’ve shown yourself capable! I’ll have some… Discussions… About the details you’ve shared.

Maria flicked her gaze to the assistant standing behind her shoulder, watching as the stoic man tapped at the integrated slatephone on his forearm. He nodded to her, and she turned away.
You’ve done supremely well, dear. I’ll have Copper Drake take you wherever you wish to go upon your return to Ichabod. I have to go now! I love you.

The pause was long enough for the requisite reply, before the connection was severed.
Maria stood, crossing her arms and thinking silently, before she turned to her assistant again. They were about the same height, both about five feet and eight inches.

She hummed, he returned it in kind, a strand of [MANA] pulsing between them as speech without words passed.
Then, as one, they turned and strode out of the office, taking in the carnage of the facility before them.

Blood, viscera, bone, salt-water and ink made a mess of everything.

She sighed.
Idiots. All of them.
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