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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Tue May 17, 2011 6:35 am

Spoiler:
 

Below Belig Aimar, Stilts oversaw Athen reading the information stored in the Library. Elves were seen busily running around.

As the successor to Gaia, Stilts was bound by obligation to the elves and Belig Aimar. Since the Library was something of a holy site to the elves, he watched Athen scan over the Library’s information.

Athen finished his current row of runic script. “As I thought, most of this writing is a formalized declaration. ‘The Confederation was here first. Long live the Confederation!’ At the time this planet was discovered, we were so useless. There’s not a single mention of the Extemos or how to fight them.” Athen ran a hand across the wall. “Just how to get into contact with the Confederation... well, Stilts, I guess I’m done here. I’ll return to Mendelgovi.”

A scout ran into the room, breathing heavily. “Terrus, Gaia’s servants are here.We can’t stop them.”

Thor stepped through the archway into the Library main hall. His tunic hung loosely over his massive frame. “The elves are decoration after all,” he boomed to the chamber as way of greeting. “Kyklos. What do you think you’re doing? You were Gaia’s agent.” He reached a hand inside his tunic and gripped Mjölnir. “You assassinated her!”

Loki followed him. “Thor, calm down. We don’t know what happened.”

“Be silent,” Thor growled. “You’re here at my mercy,” but he let go of his hammer. Thor turned to Stilts and asked, “Well, Kyklos, what do you have to say?”

“The death of Gaia was not avoidable. She was on the verge of destroying all of humanity, throwing away the Earth in the process.”

Thor’s voice filled the Library. “You can’t know that! How are you entitled to knowledge Gaia isn’t?!” Loki watched Thor with fearful eyes.

Stilts remained steadfast and calmly replied, “I have an ally with a great understanding of the threat that we face. Athen?”

Athen stepped up to stand next to Stilts. “I am the Second Prince of the Systemic Confederation, the second-largest galactic confederation. It was formed with the intent of defending its members from a threat known as the Extemos. This enemy is the same which nearly destroyed the Earth a century ago and returned recently.” Athen took a breath. “I can attest that Gaia’s actions would have lead to the destruction of Earth.”

Thor’s anger seemed tempered as he responded, “How can you know that – and why do you care about Earth?”

Athen regarded the spirit for a moment before figuring he probably already knew about Uranus. “Of the member planets of the Confederation, every one of them is governed by one or more planet gods. The Extemos act as assassins to these gods, who rely on their followers to protect them. The Extemos were engineered to kill gods. However, this planet is different.

“Uranus is Earth’s planet god. For reasons unknown to me, he stores his power in his creations rather than use it to garner more power for himself. This makes it difficult for the Extemos to kill him, so they tried to resort to destroying everything on the planet instead. They failed. If Gaia had succeeded in Instrumentality, the Extemos would be facing a singular god, and humanity would not exist to defend it. The Extemos would destroy it instantly.

“As for why I am assisting Earth... Earth is a peculiarity. No other known god has done what yours has. According to the current theory, it is possible to use mankind in the creation of more gods. We can finally destroy the Extemos.”

Thor stared at Athen in anger, his chance for destruction thwarted. “And what of you, Kyklos? What will you do with your responsibility?”

“I have many titles. I am Stilts, a mutant raised in Mendelgovi that seeks to end suffering and misjustice. I am Kyklos, an agent to Gaia who is tasked with causing the change necessary for the passage of time. I am Terrus, the representative Earth spirit. I must protect the planet at all costs. I will march to the west with Belig Aimar and the elves, where we will work alongside the humans to secure our future.” Athen turned to look at Stilts in surprise.

A devious smile split Thor’s face. “Then you can count me as another ally. I will wait here until you leave. Come, Loki.” Loki, tail between his legs, followed Thor closely.

Athen asked, “You’re taking Belig Aimar? Why?”

“I can’t leave the elves, and the elves won’t leave without it. In any case,” Stilts said, looking at the mark on the wall behind him, which lead to Heaven, “The further I take the Yggdrasil from the Stein Gate, the harder it will be for anyone else to initiate Instrumentality in the future. I don’t know if Gaia’s other servants will be as understanding as Thor.”

The scout entered the room again. “I’m sorry, Terrus, but somebody else is asking for permission to enter – the human wizard again!”
__________

“Ok,” Iliad said, “What are you two doing?”

Lieutenant Marx spoke first, as usual. “While the Russian attack was unexpected, our victory gave us access to a number of military arms. The battle left us with no deaths and eleven wounded; we don’t even need time to recover. We are already fully mobilized. In addition, we have captured a prominent Russian officer who is willing to cooperate. Other pertinent information on the results of the battle are included in my full report. Our training of the Mendelgovian police is also concluded. We have no ongoing business.”

“Excellent. Boisen?”

Boisen scratched the back of his head with one of his mechanical arms as he spoke. “Section A is, as usual, producing an maintaining military devices around the clock.

“Research in Section B is progressing well: we’ve managed to produce a stable zero-point energy field manipulator, but we can’t perform large-scale tests this close to the main base, and Section A has too few natural resources to build a test chamber. We’ve also begun researching alternatives for long-distance travel, but it’s still in its theoretical phase.

“Section C has a working prototype of a new weapon, essentially a magical gun. It’s very versatile and can fire bullets or improvised projectiles, like steel rods or small stones. It doesn’t rely on gunpowder or any fuel, so it’s completely silent. However, that also makes rifling ineffective, so it would need a short range of use. Also, in order to produce quartz crystals of the size Torvald needs, we would need specialized equipment for growing crystals – not impossible, but well out of our objectives. It’s very usable, though. I’ll show you later.

“And, finally, Section D has acquired a Russian technology from the officer Lieutenant Marx mentioned. It’s a portable device that affects the passage of time for the user. I’ve never even heard of this being feasible. However, it is obviously a very useful device. That concludes my report.”

“Very well,” Iliad said, “I have no questions. Dismissed.”
__________

Torvald stepped through to the Library’s main hall. Stilts said, “I seem to be popular today.”

“I could use your help again, Stilts. When I came here last, we killed three primordial spirits, and then Gaia. One of them was Thesis, a god of creation. I remember that Ananke said some of them would be replaced. We’re starved for resources, but if we could have access to the new god – even just knowing if there is one would be helpful.”

“I don’t know,” Stilts said. “We’re not a league or anything. Gaia knew how to contact the other gods. I do not.”

A feminine voice floated from behind Torvald. “Just being a god doesn’t let you know where the others are.” Ananke walked into the room.

Stilts made a face and asked, “What, you were listening?”

“In any case,” Ananke ignored, “I have access to a bit more information. Strictly speaking, no Protogenoi – those are the gods we’re talking about – are strictly able to die; it’s only their avatars that can. The roles themselves are replaced. Stilts replaced Gaia because he was an agent of hers to begin with and he formed a strong bond with Belig Aimar, the Yggdrasil. Of those that aren’t dormant...” Ananke closed her eyes.

“Oh, that’s interesting. Both Erebus and Khaos – avatars of death and chaos – as well as the dormant Tartarus, were all replaced by the same spirit. Chronos hasn’t been replaced – not yet at least – and Thesis has. Thesis is now somewhere in central Europe. More than that I can’t say.”

Ananke smiled. “Now, if that accomplishes your goal, kindly take Athen with you when you leave. Somebody has to tell the Legion about the Extemos.”
__________

There was a problem in the Legion, one that nobody was aware of: Synton was bored. Ha’el had locked himself in a storage room and nailed plywall over the room’s vent. Discouraged, Synton went to the roof and pulled out the jar of Bryophyta.

She gently poured him out onto the roof, taking care to scrape out any parts left inside. He spread out into a larger pool about a foot across. Synton placed her hands on either side of the pool and an unearthly light filled the space between them. The pool began to bubble and writhe as thought it were boiling, and something seemed to push its way out.

First came a hand, fingers clawing themselves free. The arm grew into a shoulder, growing a torso and featureless head. Starting from the hands, the mass became an opaque skin color, and the upper body lifted its legs out of the liquid. Synton took a step back as more details grew.

It was the size of a child, maybe around nine, with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes that looked at Synton fearfully. Bryophyta gasped and stood up shakily, running to the edge of the building before realizing he was on top of a building. Having no escape, he looked around slowly.

“So where am I?”
__________

Stilts and Athen persuaded their way to a meeting with Iliad and Marx. As a formality, Boisen was there, too. Stilts proposed that, while the Legion assumes control of the Russian research facilities, he moves with his ‘soldiers’ into Europe. With Athen’s help, Iliad was eager to begin with that plan. Boisen also perked his ears up.

“Very well,” Iliad commanded. “Lieutenant: take control of our military forces and go to Moscow. Boisen already has everything he needs. I’ll stay behind to help the science teams organize, and we’ll follow you.”

The four of them disbanded and Iliad went to Section B. “Boisen? You’re here. We need to start getting ready to move.”

“It’s a shame that we need to keep moving around, but I’ll welcome the use of Russia’s facilities. Judging from what they left us from the battle, they should be quite comprehensive.” Boisen was shaking with anticipation. “Also, there’s an allied force going to Europe, right? Torvald said it was in his best interests that Section C goes to Europe. Something about a source for supplies.”

Iliad said thoughtfully, “I’ll have to talk to him about that, then. Just get everything into the capsules and onto the trucks. I’ll help with the Section D materials.”

Iliad left and went to Section C to talk to Torvald, and his world went dark.
__________

Hanson woke up shivering, curled in a ball. The pain in his head was incredible, he thought, cradling it. Whoever did that has talent.

He sat up. He was in a plain concrete room with a dry light hanging from the ceiling and a plan door set in the wall. He heard Synton’s voice projecting through the ether.

“Welcome, Hanson, to my super-special game show! It’s a race against time – you have to pass through the five levels before Boisen leaves for Russia, or you’ll be stranded in Mendelgovi!”

“Synton, what are you doing?!” Hanson called out to the empty room.

“I’m bored! And, anyway, Epimor said we should do something to get on good terms. So I decided to play a game with you! There’s only one way up, so good luck!”

Hanson sighed. Judging from the temperature alone, he might have been underground – and there were no windows. He opened the door to reveal a large empty room, unlit. Where was this? It was like the entire floor of a building had been hollowed out. And there were still no windows.

The flourescent lighting flickered on, revealing one of the Synta standing by herself, head down. “I-I’m Ichi,” Ichi said. “And I’m y-your first opponent.” Hanson stared at her blankly as she looked up at him. “So, h-here I come!”

Ichi started running and tripped, falling to the ground loudly. She rolled onto her side and held her elbow.

Hanson didn’t know whether he should be concerned or not, but he decided to err on the side of caution. He actually didn’t know how the rest of the Synta were. “Hey, are you okay?”

“Y-Yeah,” Ichi said. “It just stings.”

“So can I go up?”

Ichi nodded. Hanson stepped around her and found the staircase. It was blocked off past the next floor, so he sighed and went to the second floor.
__________

The Hammer continued to wait for his time to arrive. Three months still remained until his war, and he was well entertained by watching spirits fight in his absence.

For the first time in three months, he heard a human voice. “I’ve found you, Erebus.”
__________

“Hey there. I’m Tachi.” Tachi was smiling and had a grin plasteres on her face. She pulled her arms across her chest by way of stretching. “I’m your second opponent. You ready?”

Hanson lowered himself into a fighting stance and nodded. He didn’t have any choice, really.

Tachi walked over to a table Hanson didn’t see before that had a chessboard with timers set up and stood next to her chair, her grin growing. “Then it’s war.”
__________

The Hammer’s visitor seemed out of place in his surroundings. The Hammer had moved to an undestroyed building, and now there was a very clean and almost deceptively attractive person standing in front of him. He wore a neat leather outfit, minimal but suiting him.

He smiled a disarming smile. “Of all of the vampire ninja clans, mine is the most powerful, and we have for generations produced the next god of death should the next one fall.”

His face became contorted with disgust. “I was preparing to become Erebus next, but you took the role yourself. I am here to kill you, Erebus, and take your title for myself. More than that, it is my duty to keep Erebus in our clan, as he has been for hundreds of years.”

The Hammer listened with amusement. This realm was full of interesting people.
__________

Tachi collapsed onto the chessboard. “I’m defeated,” she said. “You can go up. Where did you learn to play chess like that?”

Hanson said, “Before Synton arrived, that was how Epimor and I passed the time. Actually, that’s my set.” He looked up and shouted to the empty room, “I hope Synton will remember to give it back after this.”

“Well,” Tachi said, “Good luck with your third opponent.”

Shrugging, Hanson found another staircase, again blocked off, and found his way to the third empty floor. This time the person was Iliad.

Hanson was ecstatic with relief. “Iliad! Oh, thank God!”

“I don’t really know what’s going on,” Iliad said, raising a .357 Magnum revolver and leveling it at Hanson, “But I won’t let you pass.”

Hanson froze with fear and confusion. “C-Commander? What are you doing?”

“The faster I get this over with, the faster I can return to my duties with the science team. Now, I am going to ask you a riddle. If you answer correctly, I will leave and you will win a reward. If you answer incorrectly, I will immediately begin fighting you. Do you understand?”

Hanson nodded. “Good,” Iliad continued. “Now, the riddle: ‘What is it I’m always eating?’”
__________

The Hammer contemplated his vampire ninja opponent. So you wish to fight me? Right now?

He smiled. “I understand your hesitation. I will give you one week to prepare, if you’re okay with that.”

The Hammer’s eyes didn’t move as he considered his options. This may be a fun diversion.

He stood. I am willing to fight at any time. I won’t allow you to disadvantage yourself in battle.

His opponent’s eyes flashed red. “Then let us begin.”
__________

Hanson was frozen in fear. ‘What is it Commander Iliad is always eating?’ That was lollipops. Always. But that wasn’t a riddle. Could it be right?

Hanson looked at Iliad. He could see, just over the barrel of the gun, his eyes set with determination. He was going to shoot him if he was wrong. As he hesitated to answer, Iliad yelled, “Answer the question!”

Hanson yelled in panic, “Lollipops!” and jumped to the side to avoid the pistol shot.

Iliad didn’t fire, though. He lowered the revolver, smirking and causing the lollipop in his mouth to angle upwards. “You’re sharp,” he said, turning around. “I’ll keep my eye on you in Section C.” He opened a door and walked through.

There was a clang as a ventilation grating fell down. One of the Synta – probably Synton – poked her head out and dropped a backpack-sized object on the ground. “This is your prize!” She said. “If you push the button on the strap when you wear it, it’ll slow down time. Good luck in room four!”

She disappeared again. Hanson walked over and put it on – it was heavy. It sounded useful, though.

The next floor again, and the air smelled a bit fresher than before. Maybe he was almost done? Synton did say there were five levels.

Another of the Synta, standing with her arms crossed. “Yo. I’m Yuchi, your fourth opponent.” She picked something off of the ground with effort – Hanson felt instinctively cautious. Probably because she looks like Synton.

The thing she held looked vaguely gun-like, although it was difficult for her to hold. It was about two feet long. One end had a metal handle, and the other was glowing and ended with a claw.

Rather than holding it like a rifle, she held the handle and a metal bar sticking out of the top. The way she was pointing it at Hanson was clearly hostile, though. “Section B just finished it. It’s not very accurate, but if you get close...”

The gun discharged, sending what seemed to be a bolt of yellow electricity towards Hanson. It missed, striking the ground next to him and shattering the concrete. Dust floated around him and small bits of concrete clattered on the floor. Hanson was too distracted to notice Yuchi almost drop it from its recoil.

Yuchi smiled. “You’d best not underestimate it.”

Hanson was going to ask why she was going along with Synton’s plan but figured all of them were just crazy. He zigzagged back and forth to throw off her aim, but she still hit the ground right below him. Hanson almost tripped. Not knowing what would happen, he pressed the button on the machine he had won the earlier round.

Time seemed to stop – or, at least, slow down significantly. The concrete dust hung in the air and Yuchi was stuck in a pose that looked like she was falling backwards. Hanson walked over to her and took the heavy gun from her. Time returned to normal.

Because she didn’t know she lost the gun, Yuchi’s hands shot up and she fell over. “I don’t know what you did, Hanson, but you got me. Go up.”

He found the next staircase and started his way up. “It’s time for your next enemy,” he heard Synton’s voice say. The next door was heavy, and opened to reveal the lobby of the building he was in. Broken windows let in fresh air.

“Ramiel!”

The seven-foot tall armor stood in front of him menacingly. His eyes glowed with anger and reflected off of his sword as he held it towards Hanson.
__________

The vampire ninja raised a hand into the air, flames pouring from it up into the night sky. They coiled together and solidified to form a shining blade. Instantly, he brought it down in an attack, which the Hammer blocked with his own broadsword. The vampire ninja applied force in a test of the Hammer’s strength, but the Hammer just kept him from moving. Their eyes locked, their blades between them.

What is your name, mortal?

“Giving up already?”

I want to know what to carve on your tombstone when I bury you.

The Hammer forced the vampire back as he responded, “My name is Helsing.”

The Hammer drew a smaller blade quickly to catch Helsing off guard, but he disappeared in a puff of flame. Are you going to run until I die?

“No, Erebus, I will not run. I will wear you thin, and after you’ve tired, I will kill you.”

Red pinpoints of light searched the space around him, failing to find the vampire. Tell me, what will tire? Will my muscles grow stiff? Will my will to fight die down? No. The only thing I will grow tired of –

There was a flash of heat and Helsing appeared in front of the Hammer, his sword driven through the slits in his armor.

The Hammer’s eyes did not dim and he hit Helsing with a blow strong enough to send him back. – is you.

Helsing drew a pair of pistols, each heavily chambered. He began firing as the Hammer approached. The bullets were heavy, but their power paled next to the demon’s.

The Hammer dropped his broadsword and drew his namesake as he stepped towards the vampire. I won’t kill you, he said, his arms and chest bearing torn dents and bullet holes, Because you were not prepared. A bullet ripped through the Hammer’s visor, and more targetted at his head caused his helmet to deform and fall off, revealing the emptiness inside.

He swung his hammer with incredible force, but the vampire disappeared again. This time with no retort. Next time, bring your clan! the Hammer taunted.
__________

Hanson faced Ramiel. Synton’s voice came from inside. “I got Muchi to make it for me. It’s pretty neat.” One of the arms flexed.

Synton raised the sword and took a step forward. Hanson raised the weapon he took from Yuchi. Whatever.

He pressed the button –

– And it came flying at him!

Hanson went flying out of the way, Synton’s armored form sliding past him on the tile foor. Her voice echoed out from inside, “Oh, you broke it! Well, I guess you win.” The back swung open and Synton came up. “Congratulations!”

Hanson could only smile painfully. He could only hope Synton gave up on being his friend.


Last edited by debtmaster on Wed May 18, 2011 3:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Wed May 18, 2011 3:16 pm

Spoiler:
 

Exciting things were happening. Ha’el would be going to Russia with the Legion, and to Europe from there. He would be traveling.

Ha’el was just thinking by himself in an empty storage room. Everything had been moved to mobile storage for the trip to Europe, and everybody was missing. Hanson poked his head in, looking particularly weary.

“Hey, Ha’el. Synton needs some help in Section A with putting something of hers away. Do you mind?”

Ha’el sat up and started to leave. “Not at all.”

Hanson thanked him and went looking to Epimor to complain about Synton.

Ha’el had to wait at the door because Commander Iliad was coming in, then went to find Section A. Artis directed him to a side room, and Ha’el was shocked.

Inside were Ramiel, Synton, and Muchi. Muchi had a tool in Ramiel’s armor, and removed the breastplate, revealing bundles of wires and hydraulic pistons. Synton was watching.

Upon seeing him, Synton stood and smiled. “Alrighty! You can help Muchi, then!” and ran out. Ha’el, nonplussed, asked what Muchi was doing.

While Muchi spoke, she continued removing pieces of the mostly decorative armor. “I made this for Synton with scrap materials. If I’d known how she was going to use it... anyway, I’m packing it up now. We are leaving soon, after all. Can you get this arm?”

Ha’el held on to the limb while Muchi worked on the bolts holding it in place. “So what’s it like working with the Forge?”

Muchi shrugged. “Lift it up; the nut’s lose.” With Ha’el holding the arm’s weight, Muchi pulled out the bolt. “Section A isn’t exactly my thing. I like programming – having a goal in mind and trying to make the most elegant code to accomplish it. Or, if not elegant, efficient. No, the arm goes in with the other firmware.” Ha’el was going to put it in a box with the platemail.

“Still,” Muchi continued (removing wired connections to the other arm), “This is the place I work best. It’s all logistics. Section B is all theoretical and applied physics, while Section C is nonsensical.” Muchi looked at Ramiel’s torso admirably. “I designed this to work from scratch, and I can’t get the same sense of satisfaction working anywhere else. What about you? What’s the appeal of helping Torvald in Section C? This arm now.”

Ha’el strained under its weight while Muchi removed what was securing it. It may be too embarrasing to say. “I’m really not doing anything useful. I’ve been feeling guilty lately about being inefficient, but I guess it works. Even though I can’t use magic, I can talk about how the systems in the weapons Torvald’s developing work.” Ha’el paused. What the hell. “For the most part, though, I’m just staying because I enjoy working with everybody.”

“Synton, right?”

Ha’el looked up quickly, his face hot. “I don’t really know...”

Muchi nodded. “That’s fine. Now that it’s less top-heavy, let’s tilt it on its back to get the legs off. No, I know how you feel.” Ha'el looked at her awkwardly. Her gaze stayed fixed on the connections in Ramiel’s legs. “While Section A isn’t my ideal place, it lets me work on my passion, artificial intelligence. And I help, of course.” Muchi stopped and looked at Ha’el. “You know, from what I heard, you met the AI Boisen’s kept locked up in Section D. I want to ask you some things about it.”

Ha’el decided to welcome the change in topic.
__________

Every moment the Hammer continued to exist, he grew in power. From his inherited role as the face of chaos and death, his mere presence caused his power to grow.

With his power, his bloodlust also grew. He suddenly realized he was more than a god of death: he was a god of the dead.

He was close enough to omniscience to realize where the Helsing clan resided. He shed his lethargy and began his newest journey.
__________

“Thank you for your help, Iliad,” Artis said, busily rushing to the final object to be loaded. “Sorry to ask you to do such menial work, but – ”

“It’s okay,” Iliad said. His powered suit was useful for heavy lifting.

“It’s in here,” Artis said, and opened the door to a room. Inside were a pair of crates, one of the Synta, and Ha’el.

Iliad looked at Ha’el with surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m sorry?”

“You’re Section C, right? They just left.”

Ha’el was equally surprised. “Oh, I didn’t know. Well, I’ll catch up with them on the way to Russia.”

Iliad couldn’t think of how to explain it. “Section C is going to Europe. We’re not seeing them for another two months.”

Artis left, leaving the three of them in a pregnant silence. Muchi hit Ha’el on the back heartily. “Well, welcome aboard!”
__________

The Hammer eyed the decaying mansion with disdain. Even in the thin moonlight, its state of disrepair was obvious. There seemed to be no part of this world that was still alive.

No, he thought. In three months’ time, he would find every sacred and clean place, every place where civilization stood, and grind them beneath his boots.

The doors opened, letting out a single figure who approached the Hammer. This was different from the one who challenged him previously. Where Helsing seemed to project an aura of naive power, this one seemed to have a confidence supported by experience.

He wore long-outdated red clothing, with a loose red fedora bent over his face. His whole aura was one of “Welcome, Erebus. I was expecting something less rash from you,” he said, tilting his head up, revealing a confident, malicious smile and a shining pair of sunglasses, each lens mirroring the moon that hung above them. “I’m not one to complain about fighting the one who disgraced my Master, though.”

You are incorrect, vampire. I have not come to fight you as Erebus. The vampire’s smile wavered. I come as Tartarus to rule and command you to fight for me. The vampire’s sunglasses mirrored the pinpoints of light from the Hammer’s helm.

Together, we will destroy everything.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Thu May 19, 2011 6:29 am

Spoiler:
 

The lead member of the Russian research team, Mikhail, sat alone in his office. Outside his office, he saw the Russian countryside covered in snow. He never wanted to die in winter, in desolation. He knew the Legion were advancing from that direction...

He was at the top of one of the three Efim Towers, named after their now-deceased czar, who issued their construction. All were devoted to research for Russia.

Mikhail rummaged through his drawers and found a cigar. While he smoked, he looked around his office. Maps and diagrams stuck to the walls were worn fragile by tobacco. He inhaled as he stared at the yellowed paper.

There was no future for him... and it was his responsibility to protect the facility’s research. There’s no way the remaining soldiers could stave off the Legion.

He bit down on the head of the cigar. He would order a retreat a prime a warhead underneath the facility.
___________

Stilts, with the Legion’s Section C following him, proceeded to Europe with no interference. There were no well-organized governments, and any fortified cities had no reason to attack. None of the areas he passed were strategically significant in the first place.

Stilts would progress into the former Balkan states and wait for a combined invasion of Europe when the Legion left Russia. Section C would continue to former Austria. All of their property combined fit into one truck, so they wouldn’t be noticed.

All the Legion needed was the productive capability of Europe’s factories – and fissile material.

Stilts and Belig Aimar settled after their journey.
__________

Kilf was brought to Iliad in handcuffs and was outlining the Efim Towers’ structure and defenses. As a high-ranking officer of the Russian army, he knew how they would defend the complex.

“There are three towers, each 112 floors tall. There is a wall around the perimeter, and each of the buildings is completely separated from the others – you have to go through the common area. The biggest threat is the underground systems. Sewage and waste management, but that’s shared by all of the buildings and isn’t regulated.

“Also, their protocol will be to destroy the buildings with a tactical nuclear weapon. It will probably be the underground system.”
__________

Taras had escaped the evacuation. He still had time to find the warhead. He had been running around for almost half an hour now, but his doglike athleticism and determination kept him going.

He sped through the cramped service tunnels, looking for it. If he didn’t find it, he would certainly die – but he would rather die than watch everything be destroyed.
__________

“Oh, wow!” Synton shouted, jumping out of the car and running up to the gate of Leucin’s mansion. “It’s so big!”

Torvald smiled as he looked at it. It was almost the same as before. Europe really managed to keep itself together after the Extemos arrived. So to speak.

Leucin himself came out to greet the wizards. “Torvald? It’s been a while. What brings you here? Please, come in. Who are these?”

“After our last meeting, I went to western asia and took an apprentice – Epimor, here. Then we trained Hanson, then Synton, and then we met Ichi.”

Leucin nodded appreciatively as he “That’s quite a few students.”

“And this is Leucin, a wizard I knew over a century ago.”

“While I’m glad to see you, I can’t help but feel it isn’t good news that brings you. Let’s talk in more detail in private.”
__________

The vampire removed his sunglasses, revealing blood-red eyes. “What is it that you want, Erebus? Tartarus?”

I want to reduce this world to rubble.

Alucard folded the glasses and put them in his pocket. “If that’s the case my Master will not allow me to help you.” He saw the Hammer’s tight grip on his mace. “Is it going to come to blows?”

The Hammer’s eyes brightened as he drew his mace, holding it in front of him with both hands. He did not want to force a fight upon his enemies yet, but he wouldn’t be able to control himself. Then I will destroy you now.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Thu May 19, 2011 4:10 pm

Spoiler:
 

Iliad sat confidently in his monthly meeting with Boisen and Lieutenant Marx. He looked proudly at the snow-covered landscape from the top of one of the Efim Towers, mouth – for once – closed. “Another month has passed, then. Just to be formal – how did the altercation with the Russians go?”

Lieutenant Marx could see the Commander was enjoying their success, so he humored him, responding proudly, “We captured the Towers effortlessly.”

Iliad reached down to a hatch on his lower leg and opened it. “I haven’t fully read your report yet. How did we manage that?”

Marx answered with a hint of faux surprise, “One of the Russian scientists helped us and defected so he wouldn’t watch their achievements destroyed. He disarmed the bomb before we got there.”

Iliad pulled a wooden cigar case out of his leg and asked if anybody wanted a Couture.

“No,” Boisen was about to say, “The smoke could damage electronics,” but Iliad slid the cover open to reveal ten gourmet lollipops with ornamented handles. Marx and Boisen still declined.

Iliad popped off the hard protective plastic of the oversized blue lollipop and put it in his mouth. “Sho,” he asked, “Anyhing elshe?”

“Because their scientist told us where their science team evacuated to, we captured almost everybody involved. I can safely say that the Russian army is no longer a threat, especially with the defensibility of the Towers.”

“Ekshellen. Boizhen?”

“While we’re still taking stock of what the Russians were researching, early signs are amazing. They’ve been working on similar teleportation than what I was, but they’re much better equipped. Also, there’s a chance more of their science team will be willing to cooperate with us, but that falls to the Lieutenant’s psych division. But, with the reduced need, the Towers are more than enough.”

Iliad smiled awkwardly around his deluxe lollipop. “Unlesh anybaa hajj shumhin to ahd, dishmished.”
__________

Alucard smiled and withdrew a well-kept pistol, almost humorously large, and aimed it at the Hammer.

His hands gripped the mace tighter with anticipation before he began running at the ancient vampire. Alucard didn’t move, taking aim and firing. The head of the Hammer’s mace flew off as the 13 mm round rent it into two.

The Hammer let out a bestial roar and punched, Alucard’s head twisting and cracking, his grin widening. The Hammer’s momentum continued as he took his destroyed mace and stabbed the vampire through the chest with it, lifting him into the air.

The Hammer grabbed Alucard by the neck and pulled his arms apart, tearing a greivous wound in the vampire’s chest while simultaneously breaking his neck.

The ancient vampire, still smiling, shot another round at close range, the bullet punching through his breastplate before the Hammer threw him to the ground.

Alucard drew himself to his full height and began laughing. “You underestimate me, demon. I have served the Helsing family for centuries. My power is not to be taken lightly.” He dropped his gun, raising his hands in a symbolic gesture. He recited a long incantation as the Hammer watched.

Alucard exploded with energy. His form intensified, and his power spread out in a dark cloud around them. The Hammer emotionlessly watched as several demonic dogs materialized in front of him. Hatred ran off of their teeth like they were rabid.

The Hammer wasn’t worried. They were Hellscape beings, made of malice. Though the vampire denied his power, they would not.

A few of them roared at him and one lunged. The Hammer grabbed it and it dissolved. Out of one of their mouths came Alucard’s arm holding his gun, letting out a quick series of shots. They punched holes in the Hammer’s armor from his right leg up to his left arm, breaking his arm off.

The pack of dogs tackled him, snarling and baring their fangs, the sounds of tearing metal and angry growling permeating the air.

Alucard walked over, standing over the Hammer. The dogs pulled back and stood behind him. His skin had melded together, healing his wounds. “What’s the matter? You chose this fight. You lost three limbs. Regenerate them! Get up! Fight me!”

Alucard scowled down at him. “In the end, you’re weak.” He gave the command for the dogs to attack.

They did not.

A glowing arm sprouted from the Hammer’s shoulder, and he stood up on his one leg. Another leg grew, and his other arm.

You underestimate me, human vampire. As the Hammer’s ethereal limbs faded into metal, a staff of pure white light appeared in the air and formed a longsword.

I have controlled this planet’s Hell for uncountable millenia. The dogs turned and surrounded the vampire, whose scowl deepened.

You will not use my own servants against me.

The Hammer exerted a mental pressure on the vampire as he killed his hounds, fighting him in melee. Alucard threw a high kick, but the Hammer raised his pommel and broke his leg.

It healed almost instantly, and Alucard was going to hold the sword away from himself when the Hammer deftly and swiftly decapitated him with it. He also made sure the vampire could not return, bearing down on securing his soul.

His eyes moved to the Helsing manor. None would survive.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sat May 21, 2011 10:22 pm

Spoiler:
 

Leucin showed Torvald and the rest of Section C to an empty barn that he had. “My house has been empty for a while – I’ll trust you to put it to good use. As soon as I finish your diamonds, I’ll head to Spain to see if Valerie knows where any others of us are... assuming she’s still there.”

And, again, everybody was left to their own devices. As they were moving things into the barn, Hanson looked around and asked, “Hey, where’s Ha’el?”
__________

“Thanks for doing this,” Boisen repeated. “I know you’re not technically affiliated with us...”

“Not a problem,” Ha’el said. “I’m separated from Section C anyways, and I still want to be useful.”

Still, he thought, If only there were a way that didn’t involve me being used as labor.

“Well, this is the suit you’ll be using. I know it’s not like what you normally wear, but it’s almost a requirement for this.” It was a yellow and gray jumpsuit which, Ha’el noticed as he put it on, was unusually bulky. “This is a Hazardous Environment suit, or HEV suit. It protects you from radioactive decay and short wavelengths, and it also has a built-in system to regulate temperature. It even has a reactive fluid inside to protect you from shrapnel – it’s like wearing a bulletproof vest.”

“Anything other than basic functions requires suit power, and you can monitor the power levels in the heds-up display on the helmet.” Boisen pointed at a wall terminal with one of his appendages. “Especially in high-usage areas, there are a number of terminals you can use to recharge your suit.”

Ha’el nodded diligently. Section B must be understaffed. Or maybe it’s just convenient to have access to somebody of little use to Sections A or B.

“Now,” Boisen continued, “Our first experiment we need your help for is loading a sample into the anti-mass spectrometer. The field produces electric fields that makes using electronics tricky, so it’s simpler just to push it in manually. Let’s get going.”
__________

The Hammer’s hulking form silhoutted the destroyed vampire den. Everything was destroyed. He walked with his back to the rising sun.

He was going to Moscow.

To end everything.
__________

Athen stood up. “Stilts. I need to go. You should come with me. The demon is on the move.”
__________

The Hammer turned his attentions to the Legion encampment in Russia. This was their base. This is where he would strike first.

He heavy footfalls punctuated the serene snow on the ground. His armor had changed. Rather than the proud silver platemail he previously wore, his armor now was blackened, and each piece of metal was furnished with serrated blades as grisly decorations.

From the nest of blades that formed his helmet, two piercing red points of light gazed over the barren landscape. They found one target.

The Angel.

The Hammer stopped and seemed to simmer with rage. Move aside, Angel. This battle is not yours.

“I cannot allow you to pass. There are still two months until your fight is supposed to begin.”

I can’t wait two seconds, the Hammer’s voice growled. You are not from this planet. I will spare you for last.

Athen stared at the demon dutifully. “You would go against your word?”

They’re going to die either way.

“There’s still your old enemy. The Extemos. There’s another fleet.”

Let them come, the Hammer yelled. I will be waiting. Buried in this planet’s infertile soil and covered with the ashes of this civilization. Nothing but destruction awaits them.

Athen looked at the Hammer, now with pity. “What’s happened to you?”

I have not grown one iota weaker! I only just realized how my time was wasted, how my power was squandered, with mercy and duty. I am powerful enough to destroy everything. If I do, there will be no opportunities for mercy. There will be nobody to whom I will be indebted! The Hammer was an icon of madness, senseless fury and desire to destroy.

“I see,” Athen said. “I will still perform to the best of my abilities.”

The Hammer drew a long, barbed sword, encrusted with the blood of vampires. You challenge me knowing you cannot defeat me? he taunted, holding the sword loosely.

“I know I cannot vanquish you. If I can destroy your physical form until my allies arrive, that will be enough.”

He entered a fighting stance and ignited his swords, their transparent forms shimmering out of his arms.

However, he thought, The Confederation is still years away.

The Hammer laughed and attacked.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Mon May 23, 2011 8:03 pm

Spoiler:
 

Boisen’s voice rang out through the anti-mass spectrometer: “It’s holding at ninety-five percent.” Through the small viewport, he saw the rotors spinning in preparation for the emission. Ha’el stood next to the crystal. He was probably nervous.

The intercom on the wall asked for Boisen. It was the chief of security.

High-energy reactions had been detected far outside of the Towers.

Boisen decided to leave to see the reactions in person. “Yuchi, you can handle the rest of the process, right?”

“Of course,” Yuchi responded haughtily. “I’ve read over all the past reports.”

Boisen left and went to the department of security, at the top of the tower. The Legion officer was visibly disturbed. “This is the area graph of the energy transmissions... the only time we’ve had a higher reading was in the first Russian battle.”

Boisen looked out the window. “Isn’t that in this direction?”

He could see nothing at this distance. Then... “A person?!”

A massive shape erupted from the ground. A humanoid shape, made of soil and rock, dominating the landscape.

A gryphon flew past the window. “What on Earth is happening?”

Boisen took the time to focus with his bionic eye. He saw very little; just a flash. But it was enough. “That’s Ramiel. Contact Iliad; tell him Ramiel’s here early.” Boisen ran out of the room, heading to the storage in the basement.

He had to get Nami.

Ramiel was here, and fighting. It couldn’t be chance. He was striking when they were weakest.

Boisen rushed into the elevator as the lights flickered. So Yuchi was finishing the transmission.

He got in the elevator and pushed the bottom button. He heard Ha'el voice over his communicator: "Boisen, are you there? What's going on?"

Before he could respond, though, the lights turned off.

Gravity stopped.

Boisen braced himself with him mechanical arms before the resistance kicked in, the elevator’s emergency brakes. The elevator continued at a painful speed down.

In just a few seconds...

Boisen grit his teeth as the elevator hit the spring at the bottom of the shaft, the force jarring the bones in his body. He relaxed when the elevator ground to a halt. He pried the doors apart and forced them open with his appendages, but he found himself facing a blank wall. He would have to break through the ceiling.

He couldn't get Ha'el back on the communicator. He was underground...

Regardless, he still had to get Nami out.
__________

The Hammer swung his sword in a broad arc, and a wave of insiduous energy radiated across the dead landscape towards Athen. Athen braced and the wave broke.

The Hammer menacingly walked over to Athen. So you aren’t completely defenseless.

Athen held his swords in front of him defensively. “I’m trained to fight enemies like you.”

The Hammer only laughed mockingly. His voice grated, Then let’s see your training!

He stabbed his sword into the ground and walked towards Athen, pulling out a spiked mace.

Athen jumped to the side to avoid dark tendrils that sprouted from the ground, and the Hammer took advantage, bringing his mace down.

He held Athen under his weapon, grinding him into the ground. Get up, Angel! Show me your training! He picked up his mace and kicked Athen away before walking up to him again. You see? Nothing can challenge me. Useless, he spat, raising his mace again.

He brought it down onto one of Athen’s swords, which pierced its head. Athen, staggering to his feet under the Hammer’s force, groaned and forced the martial weapon to the side. He swung awkwardly with his free sword at the Hammer, but the demon knocked his hand away and grabbed into his head, pushing him back. His swords flickered.

Useless, the Hammer repeated, and raised his mace for a final time.

The ground shifted under his feet, and a column of Earth rose in front of him. More, all around him.

He was captured in a giant palm, the soil surrounding him and restricting his movement. He twisted around, trying to see what was happening.

The rest of the golem rose, lifting him up into the air. The Hammer glanced at Athen, lying motionless, before throwing his mace down and tearing away at the golem holding him.

Stilts waved his hand and a shell of Earth rose over Athen to protect him, and blocked the Hammer’s mace. He watched the Hammer struggling in the golem. So if he fights something that can subdue him spiritually he doesn’t know how to react? Still, the golem can’t do enough damage to destroy him...

Sighing Stilts, looked to Athen, on the ground. His first thought was to check his wounds, but he was interrupted.

“TERRUS!”

Stilts looked up to see Thor riding a gryphon. Loki. Thor reached inside his tunic and pulled out Mjölnir, an almost impossibly large hammer. He stood up firmly, standing on the gryphon’s shoulders. He shouted again, “TERRUS, GIVE HIM TO ME!”

Stilts looked at the golem, who received his command. It pulled its arm back before throwing the Hammer like a cannon towards Thor. Thor jumped and Loki pulled out of the way.

The Hammer flailed through the air towards Thor, and they collided with explosive force. Mjölnir struck the Hammer just below his shoulder, shredding his armor and tearing his arm off. Thor twisted his hammer, trying to force the Hammer below him, when the Hammer grabbed Thor’s knee and twisted himself around in mid-air, forcing his knee to Thor’s chest, breaking bones.

From the ground, Stilts saw Thor and the Hammer collide before struggling in mid-air and plummeting to the ground in a cloud of snow.

Stilts hurried over to see the Hammer holding Thor. Thor turned and gave Stilts a pained smile. “I’ll leave you to take it from here.”

Before Stilts could react, the Hammer threw Thor to the ground and an unearthly light split through the snow. Thor screamed with rage as the Hammer channeled Hellscape energy into him. Stilts turned, and the golem sent a blast of energy at the suit of armor.

Smoke filled the air, and a few smoldering fires obscured Stilts view with an ominous cloud.

I am death incarnate, the Hammer said confidently. I am the spreader of chaos, god of darkness. He broke his way through the smoke and two pinpricks of light found Stilts.

Nothing can stop me.
__________

Ananke left Loki in the forest, exhausted after his flight. She knew Thor was dead; she knew Stilts had to fight the Hammer.

She smiled. He didn’t have to fight alone, though.

The goddess of fate smiled. “Let’s see what I can do here.”
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Fri May 27, 2011 12:10 am

Spoiler:
 

Ha’el was in the test chamber. Boisen had told him just to push the test sample into the beam when the emission started – it would be apparent, and he would be instructed on what to do.

Just push a cart into a beam.

“It’s holding at ninety-five percent,” Boisen’s voice rang out. There was a bit of a pause. The only sound was the hum of the mass spectrometer’s rotors.

“Alright,” Yuchi said, “I’m taking over. Boisen has some business. Boosting the power to one hundred and five percent...”

Ha’el could only wait. A beam of energy shot down, filling the room with a thin light. Ha’el put his hand on the cart. “No, that’s only the first emitters. Initializing the second... they’re on.” The hum grew in intensity and the light took on a deeper green tint. “Ok, that should be it. Push it in.”

Ha’el grasped the cart’s handles and pushed it into position, with a slight click as it locked into position. A brilliant flash filled the room.

“That’s strange... energy’s flooding back to the emitter.” Yuchi left the mic on and Ha’el heard her muttering to herself. “Was the specimen too pure? Ha’el, get back!”

Ha’el stumbled back as the specimen flashed with light. From the emitter down, the room dissolved with a roar.

Ha’el found himself on an asteroid in silence. A yellow “O2” lit up on the corner of his HUD.

There were a brilliant number of stars, and galaxies. A number of objects floated past him, almost looking like birds. It was serene.

There was another roar and he was back in the anti-mass spectrometer. Yuchi shouted, “ – the doors, but they won’t open! Damn!”

A bolt of electricity struck the wall, causing an explosion. Debri rained down into the room, and the air sparked with energy.

There was another roar and he found himself somewhere else again.

He was in a curving hallway. The walls seemed strangely organic, and thing bustled around in the shadows, though he couldn’t make them out. The ceiling ended somewhere in darkness above him, and the only thing he could hear were alien chirping sounds.

He was, again, in the anti-mass spectrometer. The reaction seemed to have cooled, and there was only a static charge in the air. The spectrometer itself seemed to have failed and collapsed inwards; Ha’el was careful not to fall in. The entrace was ajar, and he slid past the heavy blast door.

He made his way through the crumbling facility. All sorts of computers were on fire, and parts of the floor had collapsed. The entire tower might fall, Ha’el thought. He got his possessions – his sword and pistol – and tried to contact Boisen. No response.

He went to the elevator and pushed the up button. He had to get to Yuchi in the control room.

The elevator doors opened on the empty elevator shaft. There was only the exposed elevator track.

Then the car fell past him at high speed into the darkness below. The stairs, then.

As he was climbing the stairs, an automated voice called all personnel to evacuate to the lobby. The building was being locked down.

Yuchi was int he control center. The reaction had punctured the glass and destroyed a bank of computers on the back wall. Yuchi was sitting in her chair. “What are you doing here? It says to go to the lobby.”

“I can’t just leave you here,” Ha’el said. “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine,” Yuchi said, standing up. “Just cut a bit from the glass. I’ve been researching for a while about what’s going on. I’ve just about figured it out. Let’s go.”

Yuchi led him to another stairway. “Those crystal’s we’ve been experimenting with have negative mass, which gives it some interesting properties on a micro scale. What we were doing here involves the Coppenhagen equations – it can create permanent wormholes.”

The next few steps had broken and fallen down. Yuchi jumped and landed on the next floor. “So far, all of the experiments required external power for the wormholes to remain open. This crystal was too pure, though – it’s self-sustaining.” She stopped. “So, this is it. I’m going into the lobby with everyone else. You can’t. You’ll need to make a broadcast from the upper atmosphere. You’ll need the Forge’s abilities for that. Ok?”

She handed Ha’el a small chip. “This has the specifications. Give it to Artis. You’ll have to take the service tunnels I wish I could go, but... it’s too dangerous with a hazard suit.” Yuchi looked at the reflective faceplate of Ha’el’s HEV suit before turning around. “I’m going through the airlock now. You movement will be restricted. The only ones who can end the quarantine are Artis, Boisen, and the chief of security. The chief’s trapped in his office, Boisen is missing, and Artis won’t lift it without knowing what’s happening. It’s up to you.”

Yuchi walked into the airlock, and Ha’el said, “Thanks, Yuchi.” He was interrupted by the airlock closing, though. “I won’t – ”

Yuchi looked at the door and the lights came on. Once she was done being scanned, she was let into the lobby with the rest of the scientists.
__________

Boisen pried the top off of the elevator car and climbed a maintenance ladder to his floor.

This was the underground complex that he used as Section D. Here he stored the Legion’s secrets, as the Russians had stored theirs.

As he made his way to the main complex, he ran through what had been stored in there: the Russians alone had a mountain of scandals alone. Most notably, their Xen wildlife. Activating the anti-mass spectrometer opened temporary wormholes to an alternate dimension, and these wormholes often deposited alien wildlife.

He reached the official entrance to the Xi Complex, a large blast door, and entered his passcode. The door lifted to reveal...

Boisen’s jaw opened in shock. The Complex was a mess. Pipes on the walls were leaking, the substances – maybe readioactive – pooling on the sides of the hallways.

Boisen kept walking to the hub. As long as none of the containment rooms were breached, he should be safe. The alien lifeforms took note of him as he walked past the glass windows. Boisen ignored the bullsquids spitting at him and the headcrabs’ chirping.

His jaw opened again, this time in horror.

Even though the experiment should be finished, there was still a large, amorphour green portal in the chamber. It was self-sustaining.

There was a resonance cascade. He would have to end it before it spread. In just a few hours it would destroy the Towers...

There was a burst of sound behind him, a drawn-out electrical whine, the screaming of space-time as it was torn open. It was accompanied by an alien green light.

Boisen turned to see a headcrab on the floor. It sat on its short legs, a little alien ball in front of him. It chirped lightly as it turned towards Boisen.

It was outside of containment.

Boisen took a step back. The noise caused the headcrab to squeal and leap at him. Instinctively, Boisen grabbed the headcrab in mid-air with his telescopic arm and bashed it into the wall and floor repeatedly before throwing it across the room. Its feet wiggled back and forth uselessly.

“Oh,” Boisen said, realizing what was happening. “Oh.” Smaller portals were opening... but they were temporary. Why?

The headcrab managed to flip itself over and was turning towards Boisen again. There was also that.

Boisen ran over, grabbed it by a leg, and tossed it in an incinerator used to dispose of garbage in the Xi Complex.

That was over.

He needed to stop the resonance cascade. And get Nami to help against Ramiel.

Actually, he’d need to get in contact with Artis – which meant getting to the surface. And the easiest way to get Nami up would be with the elevator.

Boisen ran through the Complex, closing every blast door he passed until he left the containment and reached storage. He heard the telltale signs of portals opening but ignored them; he could clear the area out later.

He was in the storage area now. It was pitch-black – it didn’t receive any emergency power – but even now Boisen could sense its clinical sterility. He called out, “Nami!”

A faint yellow glow appeared in the distance and brightened as Nami sought out Boisen’s voice. “Boisen? What is it?”

The glow intensified and grew into two points as the cyborg drew closer. “There’s a lot going on right now. There’s a resonance cascade and Ramiel’s arrived.”

“I do not know what a resonance cascade is,” Nami stated.

“That’s not important. Just that aliens can teleport wherever. More importantly, we lack anything more than a defensive force. We need you to go to where Ramiel is and help – or at least observe.”

“Understood. And for the moment?”

“Now,” Boisen said, “We need to get you to the surface.”

“Understood. Preparing for low-light activities.” Nami stared down the hallway for a brief moment before his highbeams turned on, illuminating the dark space. He turned back to Boisen, blinding him. “Let’s go.”

The teleportations were now few and far between. Nami handled the off headcrab or Vortigaunt with ease. As they neared the elevator, something else appeared.

Nearly eight feet tall, it seemed almost bursting with muscle. A number of reflective plates on its surface suggested it was armored. Nami quickly dimmed his eyes.

“What is that, Boisen?”

“I don’t know,” Boisen said. “The few specimens we have are kept unconscious or dead.”

“Very well.” Nami turned his eyes back on, and the creature noticed him. It raised an arm and fired a number of slow-moving projectiles which, despite Nami’s efforts to dodge, honed in on his position and sank into his skin.

Nami stepped towards the alien and it lumbered back at him, raising a heavy arm to swipe at him. Namie stepped back and threw the creature off balance, pushing it to the floor and crushing its skull.

Boisen stepped around its remains carefully. “Well, the elevator is right here, so let’s go up.”

The elevator itself was a square steel platform, ten feet to a side. “Let’s see,” Boisen said, “It should have power... there we go.” Lights came to life all the way up the shaft, illuminating the tracks the car would take. A loud whine filled the air as the high-powered motor on the underside began the climb upwards.

Boisen watched the surface access hatch at the top grow slowly larger. He could only hope he was acting fast enough.
__________

The six Knifeman nodded, their plan finalized. They turned and disappeared.
__________

Leucin grabbed his coat and hat as he left Valerie’s home. “Thank you for your help, though. Tell Valerie I came the next time you see her for me. Goodbye.”

When the door shut behind him, he sighed. Valerie was missing, as usual, and he didn’t know where anybody else was. Such a shame. Of course, Claire was the one that bound the mages together in the first place, and after the destruction of London...

Leucin suddenly felt another’s presence. “Who’s there?” He looked around warily before seeing a single figure, dressed in distinctive black robes. “A Knifeman.”

Leucin did not like the Knifemen. He knew no one who did. Of course, his interactions with the group were rare, but they always ended badly.

The Knifeman spoke. “I will be brief. You intend to aid Torvald in defending the Earth?” Leucin nodded. “His enemy has appeared. Your help is needed.”

“I won’t fight,” Leucin said. “That’s what Torvald’s for.”

“He is not ready,” the Knifeman stressed. “You are needed.” He flicked his wrist and struck a dagger into the ground; a shining circle appeared around it. The Knifeman outstretched his hand in request.
__________

Torvald and Hanson were perfecting their latest addition to their arsenal. Epimor, Synton, and Ichi were there, too, but they weren’t helping.

“It sure is boring,” Synton complained.

Torvald was placing a metal plate, attached to a wire, to another component of his gun. “It’s better this way. We still have another month to prepare for the demon. Epimor, are you busy?”

“Sorry,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “I’m wracking my brains over what to write next.”

“Is it f-fiction?” Ichi asked, to which Epimor responded, “Oh, no. It’s music. I’m writing a six-part a cappella for when you get reunited with the other Synta.”

Synton laid on the floor and stretched her arms out. “It’s so boring now...”
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sat May 28, 2011 12:43 pm

Spoiler:
 

Stilts watched the Hammer’s damaged form approach him from the clearing smoke. His arm, destroyed by Thor, had regrown in shining, sharpened metal. I will destroy all interlopers here.

He was taken by surprise as Mjölnir embedded itself in his armor. Thor pulled it out, gritting his teeth. Stilts saw what appeared to be a large burn on the left half of his body. “Strong, like the oak!” He swung again, down this time, crushing the Hammer’s shoulder. “Enough power to destroy mountains!”

Stilts couldn’t interfere; they were too close in combat. He was going to tell Thor to get back when the Hammer fit a blade through his chest and into his heart.

The Hammer withdrew his blade and Thor collapsed. Stilts rushed into action, and the Hammer swung at him, missing. Each of the Hammer’s blows seem to be off only by inches, and Stilts backed away.

The Hammer tried to move but found himself stuck. Stilts was exerting noticeable force and was holding a number of thin strings in his hands.

He had him tied and bound.

If the Hammer had the ability to do so, he would have smiled. Shifting his weight slightly, one of the chains slipped over one of the blades protruding from his armor and snapped. The loss of a single part of Stilts’ web caused the rest to fail, and Stilts suddenly lost his balance as the Hammer was freed.

The Hammer joyfully leapt at Stilts, bringing his sword towards him and would have connected had Nami not charged into him at that moment.

Nami’s momentum knocked the Hammer off of his feet and send Nami rolling through the snow.

“It appears the situation is more dire than I was lead to believe,” he said.

Is this a comedy? the Hammer intoned. The dents in his armor popped out and it seemed, if possible, to grow more sinister. He reached behind his back and grabbed the hilt of a sword, beginning to draw it.

Very well, he said, continuing to draw his impossibly long sword, I will accept your challenge.

He began to swing before his hand stopped in mid-air. With unnerving calmness, he turned to look at the five Knifeman who had arrived. The ceremonial throwing knife in his arm glowed gently.

You soulless cowards.

Wordlessly, they surrounded him in a circle and produced more identical throwing knives.

Your bondage cannot hold me forever – and for all your knowledge, you don’t have the power to defeat me.

They began throwing their knives. The Hammer blocked the first few on his left side with his shield, but the aim of the Knifemen was unparalleled. He was soon frozen in position, helpless.

Stilts noticed an older man, almost wizened, in a traveling coat unfit for this cold weather. “Well, this is interesting. It’s nice to be helped by the Knifemen for a change.”

Leucin looked around and saw Stilts, Nami, and Ananke. Stilts and Nami were nonplussed; Ananke smiled knowingly. He asked, “I assume you’re no friend of this demon?”
__________

Hanson, Torvald, and Ichi were almost finished working on their newest invention while Epimor and Synton were playing in Leucin’s manor.

“So,” Hanson asked, “Who’s Leucin, anyways?”

“He’s an old acquaintance of mine,” Torvald said. “A fellow wizard. He’s incredibly powerful.”

“Why don’t we get him to help fight the Extemos?”

“A long time ago, another wizard, named Alamir – probably the strongest mage I’ve ever seen – wanted to formalize magic as a science. He identified a number of basic uses of magic.” Torvald set the weapon down and looked at Hanson. “You and I – along with Epimor and Ichi – would be classified as ‘manipulators.’ We convert energy to other forms for prestidigitation, like moving things or making fire.

“Leucin was a psyker. He excels in manipulation and domination, or other ether-based uses. He would be useless against the Extemos.” Torvald picked up the weapon and aimed it down the range.

“Now, let’s see how this works.”
__________

Leucin observed the Hammer from all angles. While doing so, the Hammer tried to antagonize him.

You’re going to kill a defenseless warrior?

“If it suited me, I would. However, I know too well how being like you work.” He paid particular attention to the knives that bound the Hammer in space.

Leucin stood and turned to Ananke. “I guess this is the end for me, eh?”

Ananke smiled knowingly. “I like to believe you have a say in it, though.”

Leucin regarded the suit of armor and sighed, his breath appearing and fading away in the cold. “Well, then, let’s get started. Stilts, was it? I’m in a position where, although I don’t know you, I have to trust you.”

And then he told Stilts how he would die.
__________

Torvald pulled the trigger and a river of flame shot across the barn, landing on its target. He laughed and put the gun down. “We seem to be getting the hang of this! Wait.” Somebody else was here.

“Who are you?”

A thin figure stepped out of the shadows, cast in robes. “I am a member of the Knifeman’s Guild. I bring news of your companion.

“For the sake of defeating a threat to humanity – known recently as Ramiel – he has entombed himself in a device used to permanently hold the demon at bay. He is no longer alive.”

The Knifeman was silent as he allowed the information to sink in. “Wait,” Torvald said. “He’s dead? How do you know?”

The Knifeman stated cleanly, “I’m sure you know more than others the distinction between death and the state Leucin is in now. He was led to the construct by my fellow Knifemen.”

Torvald’s hand clenched into a fist, but he knew the futility of him fighting against a Knifeman. He asked with a forced calmness, “It was your fault, then?”

“Yes. It was necessary to prevent the destruction of the Earth either by him or the Extemos months from now. Had he been allowed to persist, the Legion would fall and the Earth would be defenseless to either threat.

“However, as a condolence, the Guild offers this tome.” The Knifeman produced a leather-bound book, which Torvald immediately recognized.

“That’s Alamir’s!”

“We hope you can utilize it to benefit mankind.” The Knifeman remained motionless until Torvald took the book. “Until we meet again,” the Knifeman said, and he backed into the shadows again and vanished.

Hanson was dumbstruck. “What was that?”

Torvald looked at the book and sighed. “Don’t worry about it. Leucin’s gone... but so is Ramiel.” He walked outside. He could see the manor from here, Epimor hanging from the rain gutter after Synton knocked him off the roof. What would happen to this place?

What was happening out there?
___________

After watching Nami bound away from the elevator and climb over the perimeter wall, Boisen made his way to the tower that held Section A while getting in contact with Artis.

“Artis? Are you there?”

Artis reponsed, “Boisen? What the hell is happening?! We’re under attack!”

“Yeah, I know. I need you to prep a rocket. I’ll need to design its payload to end the... attack. I’ll tell you more when I get there.”

If he kept moving, Boisen didn’t encounter any problems.

“Listen, Artis – can you lift the quarantine? Just for the front door, temporarily.”

“Sure. Hurry up. We’ll need your help with the rocket, though.”

“Ok. See you shortly.”

Boisen took shelter in a dark warehouse so he didn’t stay in the open. He broadcast on the channel the HEV suits used, “Ha’el, do you read me?” There was no response.

He keyed his communicator again and chief of security. “Haskill, do you read me?”

“I do, Boisen. What’s going on?”

“Listen. Just try to defend. I’m working on a way to fix this with Artis now. Can you hold?”

“Yes. Listen, I’m separated from everyone else, but the evacuation was successful. I’ll be fine for a few more hours at the least.”

“Good luck. See you when all this is over.”

Boisen was going to leave when he heard an explosion. The hangar door was blown open and one of the warriors Nami fought earlier walked in.

Boisen tried to stay calm and silently climbed up to the second floor. He heard what sounded like screeching metal. Were they looking for him?

He kept going until he reached the second floor. He could look down, but didn’t want to expose himself.

There. Escape. Storage crates stacked to the ceiling. Boisen lifted himself as silently as possible over the boxes.

He almost reached the ceiling when a box slipped and tumbled down, landing on the rail and falling down to the first floor. He heard the alien fire at him.

Boisen took cover behind another crate and felt the projectiles hit it. He couldn’t stop shaking.

He shoved the crate to the edge of the floor. He would distract it and cut a hole through the ceiling, then run.

Grunting with the effort, he lifted the crate to the rail and tipped it over, running back up the stack of crates. Something exploded below, but he raised an arm to the corrugated ceiling and began sawing through the roof.

It was going too easily. There was no more noise from below. Boisen didn’t care and frantically ripped the metal open, climbing through to the open air.

It was a mess.

Planes – they couldn’t be planes. They were flying to slowly, almost leisurely in the airspace. They intermittently caused vortices to appear beneath them, swallowing up the material in a tornado of debri. The roofing and drywall of the buildings were sucked away, leaving the gutted supports behind.

Boisen found the right tower and began running, his feet banging across the metal roof. He used his arms to build speed and launch him across the street below.

He landed on another building with a bang and looked back at the tower. He’d be there shortly.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Thu Jun 02, 2011 1:51 am

Spoiler:
 

Ha’el continued down the stairs when he stopped suddenly. On the level below him, there was a green flash of light and the sound of interdimensional tunneling. A small ball of meat appeared – no, it was alive. Ha’el gripped his pistol. “What are you supposed to be?”

It lifted itself up on its stubby legs and began turning towards Ha’el, who watched it curiously. Did he have to kill it?

Without warning, it let out a shrill screech and launched itself towards Ha’el, who immediately shot it in mid-air. It lay in the stairwell dying, croaking quietly.

Right, Ha’el thought. Those are bad.

He continued down to the test chambers like Yuchi said and found himself in an unremarkable hallway. All of the doors were locked.

There was a short, high-pitched chirping sound and something ran around the corner to Ha’el. It was short, barely three feet tall, and had three legs: two in front and one in back. Instead of a head there was a giant compound eye. It blinked at him.

Ha’el aimed his gun at him. Instead of attacking, it stood in place and made a number of short sounds increasing in pitch and ending with a whine. Was it trying to communicate?

A blast of sound knocked Ha’el off his feet and reduced his HEV suit’s energy to eighty-seven. No, it is not trying to communicate.

It tried to climb on top of him. Disoriented, Ha’el tried to kick it away before regaining his senses enough to shoot it.

Four rounds left. Anyway.

Ha’el saw another person trying to get his attention through a glass plate in a door. He opened the door when he got near.

The person was clearly a scientist or a good impostor: he was wearing a labcoat. “It looks like Boisen’s experiment had some unforeseen consequences. Not that they weren’t predicted. What are you doing down here? Looking for survivors?”

“Actually,” Ha’el said, “I’m trying to get to Section A. I can help stop what’s happening.”

The scientist regarded him skeptically. “You don’t know what’s going on, do you? Well, whatever. If you know that much I guess somebody who told you what to do knows what they’re doing. Listen, the subcomplexes of the towers are independent. You can’t get to the tower that Section A is in from here – unless you go through waste treatment.”

The scientist entered a code on a keypad that was on the wall, and a portion of the wall slid open, revealing a number of what appeared to be weapons. “If you’re traveling further down, you’ll need to protect yourself. The hazardous environment let’s the Xen wildlife flourish.”

Sensing Ha’el’s reaction, the scientist added, “Those are the aliens. Anyway, this weapon should help. It’s the Tau cannon, which shoots bursts of elementary particles at relativistic speeds. Perfect for hard targets, and you will find those. Since I have a spare, I’ll lend you this shotgun I swiped from the security office when it hit the fan. You know how to use it, right? Also,” the scientist added, “The doors to the waste treatment are all locked down. You’ll have to blast your way in.”
__________

The Hammer was not defeated – but he had been bested. He was immobilized, with his arms spread and pinned to two bars created by Leucin.

It was a barbaric contraption.

There was a large metal post embedded in the ground, and a crossbar about ten feet up to which the Hammer’s arms were pinned. It was at too great a height for his feet to reach the ground.

Pinned by his wrists, the demonic figure was crucified and weakened.

Earth spirit, it said from its disadvantaged position,With this turn of events I find myself as your ally.
__________

Ha’el climbed through the smoking hole created by the Tau cannon. “Just be careful charging it,” the scientist warned from the other side of the doorway. “I can’t go with you. I need to protect the prototypes, and I wouldn’t be protected down there anyway. Good luck. It may be up to you.” The scientist turned and left before Ha’el could say anything.

Ha’el continued the direction the scientist suggested and found himself in an industrial corridor in stark contrast to the polished funtionality of before. The tunnel was filled with headcrabs, but the scientist had provided him with plenty of shotgun ammunition, and it proved itself more than effective. The tunnel quickly opened to an underground cavern.

Eight feet below, there was an small channel of quickly-moving water bordered by a platform on either side for people to stand on. The platforms below were inundated with headcrabs – and something hunting them.

The other creature was a nightmare. It had two legs – no arms – and ran quickly. It was short and stout, and covered in thick green skin. It spun quickly, smacking its heavily armored tail into a headcrab and sending it flying into the river below. From there is began shooting green balls at the other headcrabs, which killed them.

Ha’el put the Tau cannon down and pulled out his pistol. No, he thought, I shouldn’t be so hasty. This is killing the headcrabs; it might be an ally.

Then the Bullsquid turned to Ha’el and shot something up at him. Ha’el sidestepped and took brief aim before shooting it and killing it.

Three rounds. Moving on.

Now that there didn’t seem to be anything attacking him, he took stock of his surroundings. The tunnel seemed to be intended to cross through the chamber. There was a catwalk, which had broken and fallen down. There was also a ladder, which had also fallen.

There were a number of ropes hanging from the ceiling above, and Ha’el figured it would be an easy way down. He jumped and grabbed the rope – or, rather, it grabbed him.

It stuck to his arm with astounding force, and he couldn’t detach himself. His momentum swung him forward and the rope stuck onto his legs. When he started swinging back, he felt himself get hoisted up. He looked up and saw a gaping mouth attached to the ceiling, filled with rows of circular teeth. He was being dragged towards it.

He struggled to grab at his sword with his left hand as he reached the top of his swing again, and cut the “rope” in one swing.

He fell into the river. In his fear and surprise, both at the Barnacle and falling into the water. He was disoriented and the water pressure pushed uncomfortably against him in his suit. He noticed there were two indicators on for his suit: the oxygen light and the radiation hazard light.

He was swept away in the radioactive current, struggling to reach air. By the time he gained his bearings, he was in a completely different area.

He had dropped the Tau cannon in the channel, where it probably sunk to the bottom. Such a waste. He managed to hold onto his sword, though – it was too important to him to lose.

This seemed even more out of the way than earlier. Mold grew freely on the concrete walls, and water fell from various sources into stagnant pools. It seemed to be a dumping ground. The vacuous space seemed more like a product of convenience than planned engineering: large pipes stuck out of the walls at random heights, causing small waterfalls of water to plummet down.

Well, it was waste disposal. They can’t exactly shut it down, or the facilities would be literally flooded in radioactive waste.

Wait.

Ha’el couldn’t read Russian, but he was pretty sure that text that looked like “3AaHNE 2” meant “Building 2.” Section A. It was the label for a man-sized pipe jutting out of the wall about twenty feet in the air. It seemed like a way out.

Ha’el found a door and found it locked. The pipe seemed like the only way out – but how would he get to it?

Then he noticed the collapsed catwalk. It was a long intact section, and it was sitting on a portion of collapsed pipe such that it formed a ramp, but in the wrong direction. Ha’el looked at it thoughtfully.
__________

Stilts found Athen just as he was waking up. Nami addressed Stilts, “I do not see why we would work with Ramiel.”

Do not address me by the name of an angel! the Hammer exploded. I am a spawn of the dark netherworld, come to smite you!

“No,” Athen said, standing, “It is a fitting name. You were a human, remember? You told me. You’re not from the Nether – you’re an heir to the Earth’s God.”

Any humanity I may have had has been stripped from me.

“Regardless,” Athen pressed, “What should we call you? It looks like we’ll be spending some time together.”

That over there, the Hammer said, pointing his eyes at his mace in the snow. That is my way of life. That is the foundation on which I exist. I am the Hammer.

“Hammer, then. The first thing we should do is find a place to keep you.”

“Wait,” Stilts said. “Why are we suddenly friends?”

Athen sighed. “It can’t be helped. The Hammer is one of the strongest entities from the Hellscape, but now that he’s immobile, he’s an easy target for other demons.”

Correct, Angel. In this state I cannot quell my brethren from arising to slay me. His voice became excited. They will come in from the shadows, eager to inherit my powers – and then they will be unstoppable. Every single one of you will be crushed.

Athen listened. This is what happens when a Hellscape reaches critical mass, then...

Stilts was reluctant to believe him. “Why?”

You are too naive, human. Although helpless, I command a large portion of the Hellscape in my stead. Those who slay me will be able to acquire it and they will continue on to destroy humanity. As you said, I am helpless – so you must serve as my shield.
__________

If Ha’el walked to the far end of the catwalk, the entire thing shifted down and made a perfect ramp to the drainage pipe. He started running up to it – but, too soon, the ground started dropping down, the catwalk tilting back the wrong way.

He tripped and rolled into the waste water.
__________

“It’s fine, Stilts,” Athen said. “I’m sure the Legion will accomodate the Hammer. I have the feeling I’ll be able to convince their Commander.”

“Wait,” Stilts interrupted, “What about the other demons? How many of them are there?”

Your thinking is too grounded in reality, human. The Hellscape itself will form a flood of destruction that will sweep through the plains and cover the highest mountains – unless you stop them. The enemies are not definite. When destroyed, they will be cannibilized into the others until there remains only one force.

“Didn’t we already fight a demon?” Nami’s voice grated. “When we were in Mendelgovi. After we escaped from his maze, he was easily killed.”

Abaddon was a flea riding on my coattails. By the time the Hellscape reacts to my bondage, those who come will have power comparable to my own.

Nobody had anything to add, so Athen looked up at Stilts’ golem. “Could you help us take him to the Legion?”
__________

Ha’el took the last piece of debri, a large concrete chunk with exposed rebar, and placed it with the rest that he had gathered on the far end of the ramped walkway. This is good, he thought. This will weigh it down enough for me to reach the pipe.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Fri Jun 03, 2011 11:38 pm

Spoiler:
 

The blast doors ground open to the Section A and Boisen slipped inside. Artis reversed the doors and they shut again, protecting the inside of the building. “Boisen, I’m so glad you’re safe. Here’s what we’re going off of now.” Artis showed Boisen a schematic of the building. “We’ve been trying to take back the Forge to make a transmitter that fits your specifications, but we only have a handful of security personnel and Muchi’s exoskeleton. We also need to prep the rocket – it could take a while.”

Boisen looked over the floor plans. “I see. The most time-consuming part will be making the transmitter... but we have little time until the cascade breaches the containment. If that happens...” His voice trailed off ominously.

“Let’s see how they’re doing.”
__________

Ha’el climbed out of a hatch in the pipe and looked around. More signs pointing where he needed to go. He continued.

This area seemed different than the others. This was more focused on heavy machinery than laboratories. It seemed like a natural place for Section A to settle.

Of course, it was still filled with monsters. Ha’el was beginning to run low on shotgun ammunition, and he still had only three pistol rounds. His suit’s power dropped to thirty percent from wading through the radioactive water, but he was still doing fine.

Ha’el walked into the next room with his mouth agape. It was massive. It was cylindrical, and walkways jutted out from the walls. It continued endlessly down, but Ha’el was close to the top. It must have been four hundred feet across to the other side.

Ha’el kept looking. There were a number of tarps draped over machinery – it was probably machinery. The long arm of a crane jutted out from underneath one of the tarps.

The door he needed to go through was locked. He looked thoughtfully around the room.
__________

“It’s all in here,” Torvald said, lifting Alamir’s book. “Alamir developed a number of energy manipulation and routing constructs, but not storage. With our advancements and his research we can perfect our weaponry.”

“Who is Alamir?” Hanson asked.

“He was another wizard – probably the greatest. He lost his life a long time ago, but this is a book of his research. Go get Epimor and Synton. We’re going back to the Legion – even though the demon is contained, I have something to discuss with Boisen.”

The Extemos wouldn’t stand a chance.
__________

Ha’el maneuvoured a crane on a level above the door so that it jutted out over the abyss. Then he had rigged a number of wires that connected the arm of the crane to the higher walkways.

He climbed to the joint of the crane and looked at his creation. The wires, now taught, stretched across the chasm. It was a lot of work getting it set up.

He previously had set up a grenade (found in an abandoned security booth) and connected another metal wire to the pin. The grenade was now placed firmly in the joint between the upper and lower crane arm.

He pulled the pin and took cover.

There was an explosion. The upper arm of the crane came loose, swinging down on the wires Ha’el placed. It made a low arc before slamming into the locked door and knocking it out of its doorway. Ha’el cheered and ran to the open door, but became cautious when he heard fighting.

He looked through and saw Ramiel, its blank helmet staring right at him.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Mon Jun 06, 2011 6:00 am

Spoiler:
 

Boisen took notice of Muchi’s progress. “That’s amazing! How did she get so far?”

Artis said, “She made an exoskeleton in her spare time and reinforced it. Apparently, it’s been very effective.”

Boisen lowered his head thoughtfully. A large-scaled implementation would normally be infeasible... but if Section C could pull it off...

No, there wasn’t enough time for this. At the moment, he had to make the code for the broadcast.
__________

In her Ramiel-themed armored exoskeleton, Muchi forged ahead of the Legion security. They were too weak with their bulletproof armor, which didn’t protect against the Vortigaunts’ electric attacks. They were also vulnerable to the headcrabs and bullsquids that roamed through the base.

Muchi was invulnerable to most of their attacks. The Vortigaunts’ electricity routed through her suit to the floor, the headcrabs couldn’t penetrate her armor, and the bullsquids’ attacks were enzymatic and did nothing to the plate armor.

She was proceeding slowly but surely to the rocket control center. She had to secure it for Artis to enter the code to launch it. In the meantime, the Legion force was taking control of the Forge in order to make Boisen’s transmitter.

There were a few Vortigaunts and an armored alien in front of her. All three of her starting shooting at her.

The Vortigaunt’s electric attacks had no effect. She walked over and slammed them into the walls with powerful, pneumatic blows. The armored alien continued shooting at her.

Its projectiles spiralled through the air very slowly and tapped against her armor uselessly. Muchi walked over to it and, with practiced procedure, grabbed it with her left arm and broke its chest armor with quick punches.

She dropped it and hit it again in the chest; it fell.

One of the doors down the hallway was knocked off of its hinges and shot across the hallway. What appeared to be the end of a crane thrust into the hallway before pulling back out.

Muchi watched the doorway with apprehension, but nothing else happened. She walked slowly to the door with heavy footsteps. She was about to look inside when a person in an HEV suit walked out. It saw her and froze.

There was a moment when Muchi didn’t know what was going on. The other person slowly lowered into a defensive stance and reached for a pistol. Then – “Wait! Ha’el? You were helping Boisen and Muchi with that experiment. It is you, right?”

She reached her arm up and pulled off the helmet. “Ha’el?”

The person seemed to snap out of it. “Muchi?! Oh, thank God. I was so scared.” Muchi recognized the voice as Ha’el’s. He took off his helmet. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, to end whatever crisis is going on, we’ve got to secure two points. One is the Forge, in order to make some specialized broadcast hardware. I’m preemptively trying to take back the launch control. The only problem is the aliens seem to be gathering there, so... it’s dangerous.”

“Here,” Ha’el said, and held out a data stick. “Take this to the Forge. It’s from Yuchi; she said this is what needed to be broadcast.”

“But what about the rocket?”

“You said it’s dangerous. I’ll get it.” Ha’el wouldn’t be able to forgive himself if she got hurt, since he couldn’t be hurt.

Muchi looked at Ha’el for a moment before nodding. “Be careful. The red lines lead to the launch control. I’ll come back once I give this to Boisen.” She turned and left. Ha’el saw her go and put his helmet back on.

Wait.

Boisen was here?
__________

Michi sat in the quarantined Building 1. It was pretty boring.
__________

Torvald left a note on the Leucin’s door telling any others who might arrive that all known wizards were in Russia, in a military complex near Moscow.

He looked back at the manor as everyone else got into the truck and clutched Alamir’s book. Ramiel would surely be defeated.
__________

Nami and Athen carried Ramiel – no, the Hammer – to the Russian complex. Stilts followed. It was slow going.

Nami groaned as he shifted the heavy crucifix again. “I apologize, Athen. I require a rest.” They put the Hammer down as Nami went into hibernation.

The Hammer stared at Athen and Stilts.

“Stilts, what are you going to do for the Extemos? There’s just over six months until they come.”

“I will gather my resources with the elves. Unless you have another suggestion.”

Athen knew Stilts wouldn’t easily decide to guard the Hammer. “No,” Athen said. Magical creatures were best saving their energy anyways.

The humans, on the other hand, were something he could count on. Technological creatures were always building up in their power.
__________

Muchi walked back down to Boisen. Why did Ha’el opt to go? Was it for her? It’s true they had been getting along since Ha’el had been staying with Section A, but...

She was walking through the Forge when Boisen saw her.

“Muchi! What are you doing here?” Boisen was seated with a pen, trying to derive the calculations for the transmission. “Weren’t you trying to get the rocket secured?” He was going to ask the Legion forces if they had secured it when she interrupted.

“I ran into Ha’el on the way there. He said this was more important. It’s from Yuchi.”

“From Yuchi?” Realization struck. “It must be the transmission code! This is great! Yes, you can go. Now all we need is for Artis to finish the – ” Wait, Boisen thought.

Ha’el is here?
__________

Ha’el, leaning on the wall next to a doorway, thumbed the rest of his shells into his shotgun’s magazine. The next room was full of aliens, and it was small. He had taken note of their positions – there was also a steel table that had flipped over that he could use as cover.

He pumped the slide to put a shell into the chamber. His heart was beating fast. He didn’t see Muchi coming towards him and rounded the doorway, taking sight at where the first alien was.

They moved!

Ha’el took aim quickly, and fired as the aliens took notice of him. He dropped one of the aliens he hadn’t seen before.

Pump. The casing popped out.

Another shot as he walked over to the table, and another alien fell. By now a few of the aliens were surrounded by storming electricity, and one of them, covered in armor, fired slow-moving projectiles at him.

Ha’el fired a third time and pumped again, sliding down behind the table. There were three left, two of the small ones and a –

The table moved and he stood up reflexively. The large one had hit his cover to flush him out. He was pushed unconfortably against the control panel.

Preparing to fire, Ha’el pumped the shotgun again.

He watched as the unspent round went through the air. No, that was wrong. He messed up.

His rhythm interrupted, he pumped again to fix his mistake. Another perfectly usable round left the shotgun.

He pulled the trigger just before the large alien started firing at him again, and he heard the shotgun’s empty click.

Oh, that was all of my ammo, Ha’el thought as whatever the alien shot dug painfully into his suit.

Ha’el let go of the shotgun and pulled out his pistol, shooting the armored alien in the head and killing it. He dropped to the ground as he felt the other electricity arcing through the air above him.

He popped out of cover, quickly shooting both of the aliens with his revolver, using the last of its rounds.

“Wow,” Muchi said from the doorway. Dead aliens were scattered around the room. “Good work.”
__________

Artis sweated over the forge when a green light started flashing. His face brightened as he turned around. “Boisen! It’s done!”

Boisen walked over to the Forge’s monitor and saw it. “Perfect,” he said. “This is the information that needs to be downloaded to it – and then we’re ready for launch. Muchi and Ha’el have taken control of the command. Then we just have to clean up.”
__________

With Muchi’s help, Boisen fitted the device onto the rocket. “Looks like this is it. Ha’el, if you’ll take this key.” They stood at opposite ends of the room and turned the keys. A rumbling started and died off: the launch was a success.

To confirm their success, Boisen had to go back to Section D to make sure the resonance cascade ended. Rather than crawling through drainage pipes, he lifted the barricade on some rail tracks and took a tram. Ha’el escorted him but they didn’t run into anything.

They reached Section D.

The cascade was over.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Wed Jun 08, 2011 5:25 am

Spoiler:
 

The intruder crept around the military camp in the darkness.

Europe had died. Infrastructure, gone. With the exception of the Spanish-speaking west, Europe had fallen into disarray. This newest military offerred a plethora of goods to be stolen. At the moment, thought, hunger was the deciding factor.

He’d already procured some MREs. Staying in the shadows, where no one would find –

“There you are!” a sing-song voice shouted. “I’ve been smelling you for a while now. Nice to meet you. My name is Tachi.”

Was it mocking him? The voice wasn’t completely friendly... and he couldn’t make out the speaker’s face in the darkness. It was definitely a woman, though.

“Nice to meet you, too.” Why wasn’t she raising any alarm? She had to know he was out of place. More importantly, he heard more footsteps approaching. He glanced at the nearby buildings. They were temporary structures, and climbing on them would make a lot of noise, but they wouldn’t chase him and he could escape...

“You’re kinda tense. So what’s your name?”

“I’m – Lee Selby. Have some tuna,” Lee said quickly, and pitched an MRE at Tachi. By the time she batted it away, Lee had already turned and began climb up one of the buildings, eliciting hollow sounds. Tachi jumped up in pursuit and pulled out her knife.

Lee looked back and brought his arm up defensively as he saw Tachi’s knife. She brought it down, stabbing into the MRE and knocking him over. She held both of his wrists apart and had his lower half pinned.

One of the soldiers on duty shouted from below, “Hey! What’s going on?”

“Nothin’!” Tachi shouted back. “Just havin’ some fun!”

Ignoring whatever they shouted back in response, she leaned down over Lee. “I was wondering if I would ever catch you; you’re pretty sneaky. I can smell the magic in you.” She tilted her head and smiled playfully. “If you want to tag along, I know a wizard who would love to meet you.”
__________

The day had ended, and the snow fell lightly in the soft moonlight. Only the sillhouettes of the trees and the white blanket of snow could be seen. The silence was interrupted ocasionally by snow falling from overladen tree branches, which sprung back up when their weight was removed. In the distance, a pair of headlights, the only source of illumination other than the moon, swept calmly down a gap in the trees.

Hanson drove slowly through the snow. It wasn’t too thick, but the truck was heavy and couldn’t stop easily if he needed to. Epimor and Torvald sat in the front with him. In the back, Ichi and Synton slept among their cargo: large quantities of pure diamond crystals and some useful prototypes, with the dangerous magic pieces disassembled and stored safely. The Legion was near.

The ground shook and the snow came down hard, leaving the trees bare. Torvald jerked to alertness.

“Hanson,” Torvald whispered, “Stop the truck. Something big is here.”

Hanson slowed down and turned off the engine. Torvald said, “Stay here and watch over Synton and Ichi. I don’t want them getting agitated.” Ichi would be worried, and Synton would be Synton. “Epimor, come with me.” Epimor followed him out.

The ground shook again, with an almost imperceptibly low sound that hung in the air. There was the sound of breaking wood as a tree fell.

“It’s over here,” Torvald said, edging his way in the darkness, looking for footing. Epimor followed and tried not to fall.

After they had gone a short distance, there was the noise again, disturbingly close, and the icy ground shook harder. Epimor cried out as he fell.

There was more shaking and more trees fell – and then an inferno appeared in the air in front of them.

It was amazingly huge. It forced its way through the trees with ease, lumbering steps shaking the very Earth. Its two armored arms erupted in flames again, illuminating it with a hellish light.

Torvald raised a shield and the flames stopped before burning Epimor. The monster stepped forwards again and pulled an arm back.

Torvald yelled as he held it back. His arms started shaking in mid-air with effort. “Epimor,” he grunted. Epimor scrambled to his feet.

The alien tried to reach out with his other arm, but it bent away at an angle and shot flames into the trees, the tops of which caught on fire.

Epimor took off his right glove.
__________

Because the Synta weren’t combat personnel (with the exception of Tachi), they each had their own small quarters. Because of their proximity, they often spoke before lights out.

Only three of them were in Russia, and of those three, Michi was the only one who knew nothing about what happened. She helped as an assistant to the cooks – preparing some food and running errands.

She crept into Yuchi’s room. “Hey, Yuchi.”

Yuchi, sitting on her bed, look up from her book. “Yo. What’s up?”

“You’re in Section B. What happened today?”

Yuchi closed the book and turned to Michi. “I can’t tell you everything, but... basically, the experiment involved portals. Or teleportation, depending on the energy levels. However, we used too pure a sample and opened a self-sustaining portal on accident. That made all the aliens come out.”

“But it closed, right? Why are we still on alert?”

“Well, that doesn’t mean they all went back.”

Michi was silent for a moment. “So that experiment was what started it?” Yuchi nodded.

She didn’t know Yuchi was right next to the portal. “How did you make it out?”

Yuchi smiled. “Ha’el came for me to make sure I was ok, and he helped me back down. And because of that, I was able to give him something to take to Section A.”

Michi looked at Yuchi with a dark gaze before smiling. “Well, that’s good. Good night, Yuchi.”

“‘Night, Michi.”
__________

Lee and Tachi sat facing each other while Lee ate on top of the building. Now that her eyes could adjust to the moonlight, Tachi could somewhat make out what Lee looked like.

He was small, probably young – maybe a preteen, maybe a bit older. With that voice, he couldn’t be too old. He was skinny but muscular, expected of the environment he was in. He was eating tortellini that was in the MRE.

“You’re pretty risky, you know,” Tachi said as she watched her hostage eat. “Running around stealin’ stuff. If somebody more serious saw you, you could be dead.”

Lee opened a packet of salt and poured a bit into the main pack before stirring it. He smiled to himself. “I don’t think anything right now can kill me.”

Tachi grinned. A challenge.
__________

“Hey, Muchi?”

“Yeah Michi?”

“I wanted to talk about what happened today.”

Muchi was lying in bed, and she turned to face the door. “Come on in. I didn’t really do anything, though.”

“Well, it was probably exciting. I just sat around the whole time.”

Muchi tried to shrug while on her side. “I guess. It was actually pretty cool. You know the Ramiel costume Synton had me make? When I found out she wanted to fight with it, I reinforced it and made it more powerful. It turned out it was almost perfect for fighting off the aliens – and you know our security force was stretched thin. Defense is one thing, but they were teleporting inside our base. So I almost single-handedly retook the launch control center by myself, until Ha’el came.”

Muchi thought back to when Ha’el showed up, and how lucky it was for her. The armor could easily divert the charge of a single Vortigaunt, but she did some stress testing later. With how many Vortigaunts there were in the room, the suit could have been disabled, and they could have torn it apart.

Muchi rolled over and turned away from the door. “Ha’el... probably saved my life. I was really lucky.”

Jealousy flash across Michi’s eyes. Muchi turned over again and saw Michi’s smiling face.

“Well, I’m glad. I’d hate for something bad to happen to you. Good night, Muchi.”

“Good night.”

Michi left and went to her room.

This was no good.
__________

Epimor held his open hand towards the sky. It began glowing gently before increasing in brightness until Torvald had to shield his eyes.

This hand of mine is burning red!

As punctuation, the energy in his hand flared, sending a shockwave towards the alien that lifted its form into the air and blasted it back.

Its loud roar tells me to grasp victory!

In seconds, the trees around Epimor began to dry out from the output and caught on fire. The inferno around him raged as Torvald backed away and took cover in a depression.

Epimor clenched his hand into a fist and fire appeared around it. ERUPTING BURNING FINGER!

Epimor swept his hand quickly in front of him, and a wall of fire engulfed the alien as it was getting back on its feet. Epimor rested his hands on his knees as the fire around him continued to burn.

“It’s dead, Epimor. Let’s go.” Epimor nodded and followed Torvald wearily back to the car. “We’ll have to be careful from now on.”

They reached the car without incident, and Hanson’s face told them he could hear what was happening. Synton poked her head in the cab.

“What’s goinon?” she asked groggily.

“There was just a log in the road, and we had to move it,” Torvald lied. “You can go back to sleep.”

Synton groaned and withdrew.

Torvald looked at Hanson. “You good with driving more?”
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:42 am

Spoiler:
 

“We have arrived,” Nami said. “Boisen has been notified of our arrival.” The large door in front of them stayed firmly closed. The Hammer rested on his crucifix.

Still immobile, he said, We are here at last. I was just beginning to tire.

Searchlights on the door flicked on and the door began to slide up. “I’ll return to the elves now,” Stilts said. “Good luck, Athen. I hope you know what you are doing.” Stilts sunk into the ground like a fish returning to water. Athen nodded as he left.

Boisen, escorted by two security guards, greeted them. “Welcome back, Nami. And you’re... no! Is that Ramiel?!”

You insolent imbecile, the Hammer spat.

“He wishes to be called the Hammer,” Athen said. “He’s captured. Actually,” he said, his voice gaining layers of influential tones, “You’ll have to protect him from now on. I’ll tell you the details inside.”

Boisen looked at the Hammer. “What about him?”

“We’ll need to take him somewhere safe.” Athen had been on the Earth for some time, and had become familiar with some of the leading advancements in science. “This has an underground section, right?”

They took the freight elevator down. The surface hatch closed and blocked the sunlight. Athen felt a chill. The descent continued for some time, lights on the wall crawling up as they sank into the Earth.

The Hammer, on his side, glared at everybody.

“After this, I need to talk to Iliad. In person.” Or else he wouldn’t follow his orders.

“Iliad’s not here,” Boisen said. “You may not have heard about it, but there was some trouble here recently, and he’s on his way back now with a battalion. He should be in Western Europe by now.”

Iliad’s not here? “In that case, I need to leave a note for him.”

“We’re almost there,” Boisen said. “Oh, no. Um.” As the elevator slowed down, Boisen said quickly, “Yesterday, there was a problem with an interdimensional portal and aliens began teleporting in. If nobody was down here...”

The room came into view and the lights flicked on. In unison, a number of aliens turned to look at the elevator. Athen ignited his blades.
__________

Lee rested in a low rut by the Legion encampment, laying on a confiscated mattress roll in shadow. To be fair, their presence was mostly welcomed in Europe, or at least uncontested – after all, they claimed to end the reaction in the Earth’s core and had the might to back their claims, and they’re a force for order.

Still, they didn’t have the best security. On the other hand, Lee had a lifetime of experience in evasion.

Ah, so tired. He stretched out. Why did they have to march so far west? He hadn’t had a decent meal all day.

“Lee? Are you here?” That was Tachi.

“Yeah, I’m here,” Lee said, sitting up. “So you’re still curious?”

“Of course,” Tachi said, smiling. She was in casual dress, but with her Legion belt. “And I brought you food, since you came so far without any.”

Lee’s eyes brightened as Tachi gavehim another MRE. “Oh, thanks!” As he opened it, he asked, “You were talking about the magic yesterday. What did you mean?”

Tachi took her own MRE and opened it. “It’s a little complicated. See, I’m a clone, and – really!” Lee had started choking on his food. “The person I was cloned from was the apprentice of the apprentice of ... yeah, he was the apprentice of a powerful wizard.”

Tachi continued, “That wizard was involved when the aliens tried to blow up the Earth.” Lee’s eyes widened as he continued eating. “He would probably like to talk to you. Anyway. Oh, right. So I can use a little bit of magic.”

Tachi started eating as well. Now that she got a look at Lee, she was surprised this person was so skilled at fooling the Legion. His face was almost feminine – at least, it wasn’t masculine, probably due to his young age – and he sported worn pants and a thick shirt.

She decided to mess with him.

“Yeah, I’m one of five clones of somebody. And we all hang out together.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“It’s really true. I was the first clone. My name is Tachi, right? It means ‘two.’”

Lee opened a smaller packet. “In what language?”

“Okinawan. We had a language database and we named ourselves two through six.”

“Why that one?”

“Its numbers were the cutest.”

Lee rolled his eyes. “If you didn’t know about my magic, I’d say you’re crazy. So. Did you want to test it out?”

Tachi stood and took a step away, smiling. “Of course. You say you can’t be killed, right?”

“That’s right. So, how do you want to do this?”

“I was just thinkin’ we could fight.” Tachi spread her feet and ran her palms together.

“Then let’s go,” Lee said.

Lee was a bad fighter. Tachi managed, in one move, to get Lee on his stomach on the ground, his arm twisted behind him. He painfully tried to sit up until Tachi let him go. “What was that just now?”

Lee smiled playfully. “You weren’t trying to kill me, so I didn’t do anything.”

Tachi unclipped a knife from her belt and removed the sheath. “Better?”

Lee grinned and ran at Tachi, who again floored him in an instant, the knife pressed against his smooth throat. “You didn’t do anything,” she said jokingly.

“Neither did you,” Lee said. “You can’t just play around with a knife. You have to try to kill me.” Tachi’s smile faded. “Go on, do it.”

Tachi, jaded, looked down at him and his sardonic smile. “What are you talking about?”

“Kill me,” Lee said. “Try it.”

Tachi lifted the knife away from Lee’s throat. There’s no way she could bring herself to kill a kid just because he said to.

She stood up and put the knife back in its sheath, defeated. “Anyway,” Lee said energetically, “You know I’m magical. Are you still taking me to your wizard?”

Tachi nodded. “I’ll get some antibiotic for your cut,” she said, and left.

Lee climbed back onto the bedroll and laid down, spread-eagled. I was probably a bit too rough, he thought. I’ll have to apologize.
__________

In another day of helping Section A, Ha’el carried a box of high-voltage electrical components to Muchi.

“What’s going on?” Ha’el asked. “Normally you’d use the Forge, right? Or are you making something by yourself again?”

“Actually,” Muchi said, “Boisen wants to work with Section C on something. I don’t know the details, but it requires a lot of power, and I have to test the capacity of these. From the sound of it, though, it’s something big.” Muchi smiled. “Maybe something Section A would help with, too. Oh, that’s right,” she said, remembering. “Michi said she wanted to talk to you. In... ooh, 16 minutes. I just remembered in time. She said she would be in the pantry. Do you know where it is?”

The pantry? Strange place. “Yeah. I’ll start heading over there now.”

“All right. Thanks for the parts,” Muchi said.

He made his way to Building 1. What did Michi want?

Ha’el looked around for Michi in the darkened pantry. He couldn’t find the light switch. “Michi? Are you here?” He couldn’t find her, though. With the lights off, the flowery wallpaper was obscured and seemed foreboding.

Outside, Michi gathered her thoughts before going inside. “Ha’el?”

Ha’el turned to her voice. “Where’s the light in here?” he asked, but Michi walked up to him. He took a step back.

“You know, Ha’el, I talked to Muchi and Yuchi a few days ago and they both told me about you.”

Michi kept getting closer and Ha’el took another step back. “Oh, they were talking about me?”

Ha’el hit the back wall and Michi stood up and looked into his eyes. “Let me tell you something, Ha’el. When we were made, everyone stayed at the Legion so we could stay next to Synton. But I was the unlucky one. Muchi has a way with computers. Yuchi knows science. Tachi liked to fight, and was good at it. Even Ichi can use magic almost as good as Hanson. But what about me?”

Michi looked down and backed off a bit, and Ha’el relaxed. “I had to work to get to where I am. They just coast along.”

Ha’el was going to say something when Michi lashed out with a knife, which stabbed into the wall just by his neck. “They don’t deserve you! And I won’t – ” She stopped abruptly.

Ha’el wasn’t breathing. She pulled the knife out of the wall and turned to leave. “Try not to disappoint me.” The pantry door opened and shut again, leaving Ha’el in the darkness.

He dropped to the ground. What was that just now? He felt a drop of blood slide down his neck. What just happened?
__________

Michi walked briskly down the hallway. Her hand kept tightening around the handle of the knife as she went back to put it away.

She wasn’t sure, but she thought she might be falling in love. She might have seen something in him. It wasn’t fair that, without trying, Ha’el could control her this much.

She would definitely make him suffer.

She would definitely make him hers.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Thu Jun 16, 2011 1:07 am

Spoiler:
 

Section C drew ever closer to the Towers in their vehicle. “It should be close to here,” Torvald said, looking at the odometer. They topped a hill, revealing the towers in the distance. “There!”

The concrete towers were dyed red in the afternoon sunlight. The three towers were built as an exemplification of power, and they awed Torvald as he looked down on them. “Synton, Ichi, look at this! We’ll be staying here for a while.”

He continued driving and the Towers began to loom above them. “It’s kind of worn, though. Probably from the fighting...” One of the towers had a deep gash in the side going up, revealing metal reinforcement. What caused that?

They reached the gate and the blast door began raising before they could find a way to open it.

“Welcome,” Boisen said grandly, holding his mechanical arms out as though showcasing a new product. He walked to the passenger window and spoke to Torvald. “I’ve been expecting you to show up soon. I’ve got a place ready for Section C, as well as a proposition for research. Mind if I come in?”

Epimor stood up and climbed in the back, making room for Boisen. “I’ll direct you. Keep going for a while.”

Torvald drove slowly through the research facility. There were scattered scorch marks, and a large number of buildings showed structural damage: missing torn, holes torn in walls... “Whoa,” Torvald breathed.

The asphalt was ripped from the ground in a small alley of destruction, and the buildings on either side showed unbelievable damage, all but the main supports torn away, leaving a metal skeleton. “What did this?”

“Oh, we had an incident,” Boisen said. “It’s... a long story. I’ll send you the file on it later if you’re interested, but it’s ended now. Because of it, Iliad’s coming back with a battalion. The Second.”

Torvald drove slowly over the torn road. The car jounced back and forth. “I thought he was sending three back for Ramiel.”

“Ramiel is no longer a problem,” Boisen said. “Go right here and park on that spot.” Torvald did and Boisen got out of the car.

“What do you mean, ‘He’s not a problem’?”

Boisen keyed in his security number. “We’ve actually captured him. Probably, after you get moved in, you two can chat.” He pressed Enter and the lift started moving down.
__________

“Hey, Lee.”

“Oh, Tachi. Thanks for the food.”

Lee didn’t open the MRE, but held it and looked at the ground. “Listen, I’m sorry about yesterday. It’s just hard for me to explain how my power works because it’s not something I can just activate.” Lee smiled. “If anything, yesterday should have made you believe me more. I didn’t die.”

“That’s not funny,” Tachi said testily.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot like that.” Lee opened the MRE. “So where are we going, anyway? It’s cold.”

“Well, it’s Russia in the winter. Will you be ok for tonight?”

Lee nodded. “Yup. I’ve got enough to keep me warm.”

“All right. Our destination is a research facility - we’ll be there tomorrow. How do you want to get in? I know the layout, but I don’t know about patrols. I might have to – ”

“No,” Lee interrupted. “You can just tell me where to go. I’ll worry about patrols.” Tachi looked at Lee in doubt, which prompted him to add, “No, really. It should make you believe me.”

Tachi was hesitant to smile this time.
__________

The elevator stopped on Level 5 of the underground. Synton looked at the large hallway in awe. “It’s so huge! How much is there underground?! Are there secret tunnels? Air conditioning?”

Torvald drove the truck to storage to be unloaded later, and Synton disappeared. Boisen started to lead everybody on foot. “This’ll be your headquarters. There are a bunch of rooms for experimentation branching down this hallway, and there are armored rooms further down if you need them. I just finished preparing this room earlier, too,” Boisen said, reaching a pair of secure doors. “This is the password.”

Boisen keyed the password and the doors slid open. Hanson’s jaw opened with amazement.

The top level was a command center. From a single high-backed chair, one could see the entire room. In front of that there was a small bank of monitors before the rest of the room opened out. There were two more levels going down, each filled with monitors and computers. “It’s... massive.”

“That’s not even the best part. It’s not on, but the empty space across the room is actually a giant screen. There are four of these down here... this place really is too big for us.”

There was a clatter as something fell from the ceiling. Synton’s head poked out and her hair hung down. “Heya guys!”

Ignoring her, Boisen asked, “So, Torvald, let’s go see the Hammer now.”

“Alright. Hanson, can you move our supplies into the test rooms?”

“Of course. But I’ll need something for heavy lifting.”

“I’ll call Nami up here,” Boisen said. “Well, Torvald, let’s go.”

They went to the elevator and started going down.

Astounded as their descent continued, Torvald said, “I didn’t expect this place to be so large. Skyscrapers and a large underground portion.”

“Well,” Boisen said flatly, “It has its ups and downs.” Torvald didn’t respond, and he stood awkwardly in the grinding of the motors. “In any case, we’re keeping the Hammer at the very bottom.”

That name again, Torvald thought. Vaniah went by the same name, and as a Templar, was bound to the Hellscape... the Hammer couldn’t be Vaniah, could it? Then again, I might be able to persuade him...

The elevator stopped and the doors opened, interrupting his thoughts. It was an incredibly spacious room, not unlike Section C’s chamber were it devoid of any human accomodations.

It was empty. A tomb. Shadows hung over the bare concrete walls and drew Torvald’s gaze to the figure in the center of the room.

“My God,” he breathed.

For the first time he saw the changed Hammer. His sadistic armored form was confined to a metal frame. From his vantage point, Torvald saw the sharp lights in the Hammer’s helmet as he raised his head and the blue glow of the nails driven through his wrists, which reflected gently off his his armor’s edges.

Torvald recognized the seal’s caster. “Leucin...”

Boisen stood a bit straighter. “Oh. You were here?”

Athen, stepping out of the shadows, answered, “Yes. The whole time. I thought Torvald would come here. Hammer?”

He said patiently, Ask me whatever you wish.

Torvald approached the imprisoned demon. “You were trying to destroy us. How can we trust you?”

Rest assured, human, I am now reliant upon you. While I find this detainment undignified, it cannot be helped. I know you will not free me, as I would not hesitate to lay waste to you, and you do not possess the capability to kill me. However, he continued, turning his head away, at the same time, my comrades will seek to destroy me themselves. If you allow them to do so, you will suffer at their hands instead. Therefore, he said forcefully, looking back down at the wizard, You have to defend me.

“What, and that’s it? You expect us just to take you at your word?”

“He’s telling the truth,” Athen said.

“Why haven’t any other demons come, then? Why are you the first?”

The Hammer narrated, Most demons only seek more power. In the Hellscape, we fight for survival and the ability to survive better. We rule over weaker spirits and kill them if we desire. It is endlessly dynamic. I, however, am in love with more than power.

Destruction, he whispered enviously. I cannot destroy in the Hellscape. If I kill a demon it only spawns countless other, weaker demons. Here, I can cause permanent destruction. I can truly end things here, and it was... unbelievably satisfying. However, I underestimated your ability to fight back, and was defeated – and in my current state, I cannot defend myself. If I am killed, my killer will gain immense power, something you cannot afford to allow.

The Hammer lapsed into silence, and Athen said, “That’s true as well.”

“And I guess you know what’s going on?”

“That’s right. This is the only way, until more Confederation forces arrive.”

Torvald assented. “Then I guess we’re committed. Did you just come here to convince me?”

“Not only that,” Athen said. “I also came to say farewell.”
__________

After Torvald and Boisen left, Hanson waited for Nami with Epimor and Ichi. He started looking around the command room and looked up at the main chair, which was turned backwards. As he approached it spun to reveal a smiling figure.

Hanson didn’t know how to react. “You...”

Epimor recognized her. “Ananke!” he said enthusiastically. “You were here?”

“Yes,” she lilted as she stood up, “Always. Unless you object, I’d like to watch the events from here. I have the idea the next months are going to be very interesting.”
__________

“ ‘Farewell’? You’re leaving?”

“I don’t have a choice,” Athen said. “We’ve defeated, or at least disabled, Anamaluch, but I don’t think you’ll be ready to fight the Extemos, especially with how ingrained Iliad’s becoming in Europe. I’m going to look for more allies – in Western Europe and America.”

“Athen – you know more than anyone about the Hellscape.” The Hammer cleared his throat. “You can’t leave us alone to fight a horde of demons!”

That will not happen, the Hammer said. My successors will come in sequence. In the Hellscape, they will fight for dominance before coming here.

“Dominance?”

The Hammer’s eyes flashed. Yes. The fights rage over millenia, but one will inevitably –

“Millenia? Then we won’t even fight one of them?”

Human. Time between here and the Hellscape is not linear. I cannot say the exact time of their coming, but it will be soon.

Torvald didn’t completely understand, but, considering Athen’s acceptance... “Very well. Is that all you have to say?”

It is. Goodbye, human.

Boisen walked up. “Well, then. As I was saying earlier, I want to talk about a project I’d like to work with you on.” Torvald noticed Athen was gone. The two started walking back to the elevator. “It’s something I think could be amazingly helpful, a – ”

Wait! The Hammer interrupted. It is here!

The first of my rivals has stepped onto Earth, naively eyeing my power.

Beelzebub is here!
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Jun 19, 2011 1:49 am

Spoiler:
 


Torvald rushed to the elevator. “Boisen, send me up.”

Boisen hurried to the keypad and keyed in his code. “I’ll tell the others – ”

“No.” Torvald remembered when he, along with Hanson and Epimor, went to stop Gaia. At the time, nobody was ready, and the results would have been disastrous. “I’ll go alone.”

“At least take Nami. He can regenerate.”

“Fine. Let me go.” Boisen pushed a button and a door separated the two of them; then the elevator started going up.

Torvald looked up the elevator shaft. The lights on the side flicked down and the surface access opened. Wasn’t Nami at Level 5?

One of the doors above blew out, and Nami jumped out into the open space. He landed next to Torvald and caught the armored door.

“Hello, wizard.” The elevator began to slow as it reached the surface.
__________

“Will they really be ok?” Boisen worried aloud.

More than likely, they will prevail. Boisen looked at the Hammer. Beelzebub is powerful but impulsive, and a fool. He will not know what awaits him – probably, he does not even know what humans are.

After this, though, the other Princes will be alert.
__________

Hanson sighed: Nami was late.
__________

Torvald led Nami to the direction Beelzebub would come from. The strong wall around the Towers stood behind them.

Torvald stood in the snow in silence. Then: “There.”

There was a figure in the distance. It seemed hunched over, and as it approached, Torvald walked towards it. It walked with an irregular shuffle.

It was gangly and draped in a torn coat that hung loosely and trailed behind it. One arm was visible, which stuck out to the side.

“Halt, demon. If you want a fight, then – hey!” Beelzebub shuffled past Torvald. Nami stepped in front of it but Beelzebub, unaware, turned to go around him. Nami reached out to stop the demon and it instantly reacted.

In three short thrusts, Beelzebub stabbed Nami in quick succession before continuing his advance. Bleeding from a small wound in his arm, Nami went to stop him again.

This time, Beelzebub spun wildly, making wild blows at Nami’s body with a dark sword. None were serious – after a few blows, Nami caught his sword arm and brought his knee into the demon’s gut. It dropped the sword and, without Beelzebub flailing it around, it looked more like a curled piece of sharp metal.

Torvald sighed. He had some experience with killing demons with the Tempmlars, but those were incredibly weak. Still...

Beelzebub struggled ineffectually against Nami, who turned him to Torvald. Torvald raised a hand and killed Beelzebub.

“Nami, tell Boisen we’re coming.T ake it with us.” Nami carried the limp body and followed Torvald’s brisk pace into the Towers. They reached the elevator and wordlessly began the descent. When they passed the open door at Leve 5, Hanson was standing in the space. Torvald simply said, “Don’t follow me.”

They reached the Hammer’s level. Torvald entered and pointed at Beelzebub. “Hammer! What is the meaning of this?”

You destroyed the first of the seven Princes. Congratulations.

“You know what I’m talking about. Why was he so weak?”

Beelzebub is a fool and was unprepared. The others will not make that mistake.

“Why was he unprepared? Why were you not?”

The Hammer’s eyes pierced Torvald. Beelzebub does not know how to fight. In our realm, ferocity alone is sufficient. His gaze shifted to Nami and Beelzebub. He misjudged this realm.

Torvald clenched his jaw as a possibility appeared before him. “And you knew how to fight here? Have you been here before?”

The Hammer was silent for a moment. Perhaps.

“You used to be human, didn’t you, Hammer? Vaniah?”

The Hammer leaned forwards as far as his restraints would allow. That name no longer has any meaning for me!, his voice boomed. Vaniah fell into the endless abyss and was lost. Now there is only me.

“It’s the name of who you really are! Remember, and help us. You fought for justice. Why are you doing this now?”

The Hammer straightened and leaned back. It is too late for me now. Turn back – and imprison me further. I remain convinced I will see your fall regardless.

Torvald sighed. “Boisen, let’s go.” They went into the elevator and began to ascend again.

When they left, Ananke walked out of the shadows. “I thought for sure I would have to intervene. ‘You’re right, I am human! I’ll help you!’ was all it would have took, then they let you out and you can get back to smashing things.”

I would not resort to such a dishonorable ruse.

Ananke flashed her brilliant teeth. “Do you mean this is honorable? You’re defeated and bound.”

Although this is inconvenient, I will endure it. It is not dishonorable to admit defeat – and I cannot remain here forever. I have waited far, far longer in the past. As I told the human before, I will live to see their destruction, even if mine is ensured directly afterwards.
__________

In the elevator, Torvald said, “Boisen, there’s an idea I have for something to help us.”

Boisen responded, “So do I. What is yours?” With Muchi’s success in her exoskeleton during the resonance cascade, he considered a more comprehensive model: but rather than an exoskeleton, it would be something more of a robotic vehicle. Of course, it was infeasible without the use of magic.

“I acquired something of a textbook, and I know how to store large amounts of magical energy. Considering the size the demons can have, just looking at the Hammer, I was thinking about making a sort of articulate tank – but I would need cooperation with Sections A and B, probably. What were you planning?”

Boisen stood up a little bit straighter. “I actually had the same plan.”

“Great!” The elevator reached Level 5 and stopped. “Come on, let’s talk about it. I was thinking of starting with – ”

“Sorry,” Boisen interrupted, “But Iliad’s arriving imminently, and I’ve got to organize some things. Take Nami; you can finally unpack.”
__________

“This is it,” Tachi said to Lee. “Security’s tight – there are service hatches to the underground, though, and that’s probably where Torvald will be. Of course, he might not, but you’re also less likely to be caught down there. Be careful.”

Lee smiled at her concern. “Not a problem. Whenever you get free, find Torvald – I’ll already be there.” He took off running, getting the attention of some Legion guards, who shouted and ran after him. Tachi ran as well, worried, but they had already lost Lee’s trail.
__________

Torvald left the unloading of the truck to Nami and Hanson, instead choosing to rest in one of the many vacant test rooms that now belonged to Section C. He found Alamir’s book and opened it.

He was already prepared for preliminary tests of a techno-magical robot. What other secrets did Alamir record?

There was a section on clairvoyance. The magical book impressed its ideas onto his mind. Divination would be difficult – or, at least, extremely draining.

Torvald hesitated, but his curiosity won him over. He activated a part of the book that would use him as a medium to scry into the future.

Images appeared in his eyes, exotic and intense.

A raging storm above the Towers. The land in the distance was torn from the Earth as though in a tornado miles wide. The boiling clouds above loomed over the complex and grew closer to the ground. They reached the top of the towers, and they began to break apart, the debri getting pulled upwards into the tempest.

It was almost painful to keep watching. The vividity of the premonitions were taking their toll.

A foreign city. Rising out of it, a metal abomination rears its head and roars, the sound echoing. It lumbers onto its legs, shaking the Earth as it grows in size.

Torvald was reaching his limit. He wouldn’t be able to continue for much longer.

The Hammer, red eyes glowing. He was shaking back and forth, chanting angrily, his voice mingling with the metallic banging of his back on his platform. He stopped and shouted, clenching his fists as he fell to his feet and summoned a large warhammer.

Torvald slammed the book shut, breathing heavily and sweating. He was light-headed. He closed his eyes and heard a small voice at the door. “Hey Torvald.”

He looked over in surprise. It was a young girl – or was that a boy? “Who are you? What are you doing down here?” Now that he got his bearings again, he noticed she had a strong magic aura.

“Tachi said you would want to see me. So. How are you doing? You are Torvald, right? I’m Lee. You people seem to like first names.”

Torvald was still tired. “Find – stay in an empty room for now. We’re still settling in.” He turned away in his chair and fell asleep.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:18 am

Spoiler:
 

Lee stared around the empty room, next to the one Torvald was in. The walls were thick and there was a smoke-stained periodic table on the wall.

Lee was sitting there, not paying attention, when somebody walked in. That’s not good, he thought. I need to stay under the radar.

There was a strange man at the door – though, on second thought, Lee was probably the strange trespasser. “What? Who are you?” Hanson asked in confusion.

“My name is Lee,” Lee said plainly. “I’m going to live here from now on.” He would try to coax out some way to live in peace.

Although confused, the man seemed like he was starting to react sensibly. “No – well, I’d have to ask Torvald... what are you doing here?” Of course, he wouldn’t suggest a child of subterfuge. Nobody over the age of twenty could possibly have ill intent.

And now he knew Torvald was a man whose decision mattered to this person.

Lee focused for a bit and found himself in an empty room. He looked over to the door and faked a knowing smile. Hanson walked in again.

“Hello...” Ah, he didn’t know that yet. An error. “...you. What’s your name again?”

“What? Hanson. Who are you?”

Lee focused again, and was again in the empty room moments before Hanson walked in.

Lee posed again for the moment he entered. “Hello, Hanson,” he said. “How are you today?” Hanson stood in shock, so Lee continued, “Torvald told me I could stay here. Would that be a problem?”

“N-No,” Hanson stammered. “I guess it wouldn’t, but this room in particular would be. I could get you a dorm – ”

“No. I need something not supervised, out of the way.”

Hanson was immediately skeptical, but he’d just ask Torvald later. “Then, there are some unused rooms elsewhere.” Lee stood up. “But first, what’s your name?”

That smile again. “My name’s Lee. Nice to meet you.”
__________

Ananke sauntered through the halls that now belonged to Section C. It hadn’t been since the second World War that she found herself in the thick of things.

This door had Torvald, temporarily incapacitated from the force of the visions he had seen. Premonitions. Most of them were useless; Ananke knew that well enough. Many times she had seen the cords of fate become untangled at the last moment, or unexpectedly tighten around one’s neck. She had become very skilled in reading them, however.

Of course, that was all she could do. Read the fates and attempt to sway them in her favor.

Torvald’s premonitions were also important. He had seen Asmodeus, who appears over the research center – he would push for preparations against it. He had also seen the Hammer’s unavoidable escape, and he would attempt to prepare for that.

Ananke frowned internally. His efforts would be fruitless, but there were collateral benefits.

Torvald was not her concern at the moment. In the empty, sterile hallways, her footsteps continued to echo.

This was it.

Just another door. There were warnings on the door and next to it, all in Russian. “Do not enter without permission.” “Radioactive materials present.” Above the door, there was an unlit box, “Laser in use.” There was another addition, a scrap of paper taped to the door: “Lee.”

This was Ananke’s primary goal. She rapped on the door lightly and entered. She saw Lee, sitting alert as though waiting, with a face like a hunting tigress. “Hello, Ananke.”

Ananke’s perpetual smile sharpened. She thinks she’s being smart. “Hello, Lee.” A look of confusion flashed across Lee’s face at Ananke using her name. Ananke already knew it, and she knew Lee’s power. “Don’t bother doing it again. Like any other tricks, it’s not as impressive if the secret’s known.”

Lee’s facade dropped and she asked coldly, “What do you want?”

“Now, no need for that disdain. I just came here to welcome you to our ranks – I think you’ll find it very entertaining here. But that won’t be the case if you lock yourself in here the entire time.” Lee was caught off guard. Of course, the European wastes weren’t very welcoming of strays, and she hadn’t expected the Legion to be any different. “I know your worry, that you’ll be caught and driven off, but you have more room to move than you think.”

Lee just looked at Ananke in confusion. Ananke put her hand on the doorknob. “Unless you have something to ask me – ”

“Who are you?”

Ananke smiled softly. “Maybe, later, I’ll tell you.”

In the hallway again, she ran through the scenario in her head. That seemed good. Enough to get Lee to be more curious in Section C, enough to get her emotionally involved... her work here was done. She could already see the strings of fate shifting.

She considered continuing. It couldn’t do any harm...

She knocked on another door, and waited for a resposne. “Who is it?” Epimor’s voice asked.

Ananke edged the door open and went in. “It’s me.” Like all the other rooms, this was barren except for a few chairs and tables. Epimor was in one of the chairs, leaning back, with his gloved hand over his right eye. Annie flitted around nervously.

“Oh, hey, Ananke.” A purple light came out from under his palm, and his open eye turned to look at Ananke. “What brings you here?”

“I was in the neighborhood. What might you be doing?”

“Giving myself an advantage. Synton’s always trying to hide.” The light went away and he closed his eyes and turned his face to Ananke. “Imagine if suddenly I had an All-Seeing Eye,” he said as he opened his eyes.

His left eye was his normal blue eye. His right eye was... empty. The white sclera seemed to stretch over the entirety of his eyeball.

Ananke kept on a forced smiled. “And now?”

Epimor’s normal eye lost its focus and he became surprised. “Did you know how many Knifeman there are here? Well... I’m going to find Synton now, make sure she’s not getting herself in trouble.”

Ananke was disappointed, but knew better than to stop him. That man needs his lackeys. “Have fun hunting.”

“Bye now,” Epimor called back, and left.

Ananke eased back in her chair, slightly disappointed but generally pleased with today’s events. Everything was proceeding smoothly.
__________

Ha’el was reading in a secluded area of one of the Towers when Muchi interrupted. “Ha’el, good news.” He looked up to see Muchi grinning broadly. “Section C is back.”

A number of thoughts raced through his mind. This meant he would leave Sections A and B – but also that Synton was back. “Let’s go. Which building are they in?”

“Actually, they’re underground. Under Building 1.”

Muchi led him to the elevator that would take them down and they began moving down.

They continued moving down.

As their descent continued, Ha’el commented, “Wow, this is really deep.”

They reached the right level and the doors opened, revealing a stark and empty hallway. “Ah, that’s right,” Muchi said. “There are only five of them... they’ve got to be somewhere around here.”

After a few minutes of searching, they only got lost in the labyrinth of barren hallways. “That’s fine,” Ha’el said, “Let’s just go back and ask Boisen how to get there.”

“That’s not possible,” Muchi said, the situation beginning to bear on her nerves. “He’s in his monthly talk with Iliad. But we could go back up. Hey, where are you going?”

Ha’el stopped. “Where? I’m going back to the elevator.”

Muchi pointed the opposite direction. “The elevator’s this way.”

An uneasy tension hung in the air for a moment. “Wait,” Ha’el said. “We’re lost? We just came there, and turned left...”

“...which means we need to go this way now.”

“Hey, Ha’el, Muchi!” Epimor appeared.

Ha’el perked up. Epimor could direct them to- “Oh my God, your eye!”

“Ah,” Epimor said, blinking, “I thought it’d be neat. Don’t worry about it. What are you two doing down here?”

“We came to see everyone who returned,” Muchi said enthusiastically. “Welcome back!”

“Yeah, thanks,” Epimor said. “If you’re looking for anyone else, you’ll find them in the loading area. It’s, ah... that way. Take a right at the larger hallway this one crosses and it’ll take you straight there.”

“You’re not coming with us?”

“Sorry,” Epimor said with a grin, “I’ve got to find Synton. Tell Hanson for me.”

“Wait,” Ha’el said. “Where’s Synton?”

“She’s just exploring, probably. This place is huge. When I find her I’ll bring her back.” With that, Epimor left waving.

They a loading area. The hallway was large enough to accommodate heavy trucks. Ha’el looked in awe at the underground roadway. “This... this is amazing.” Muchi only smiled.

There was the truck, and Nami carried a crate out of it and out of sight. Hanson saw them and raised his arm into the air. “Hey there! Ha’el! It’s nice to see you again.”

“Hey, Hanson,” Muchi said as the two approached. “You’re here for good, then? Where’s everyone else?”

“Uh... Torvald’s resting, Ichi’s in the command center, Synton’s probably exploring, and Epimor...”

“Epimor’s with Synton,” Muchi offered.

“Well, that’s good. He’ll keep her from doing violent things. Also, there are two others here – Ananke, an... ally, probably, was here not too long ago, and there’s also some kid. I’m waiting for Torvald to get back up to talk about him, but he’s in the third hallway if you want to talk to him. Otherwise, you should stay in the command center until I’m done.” As if on cue, Nami walked back in. “We’re almost done, Nami. Take this crate next – it goes in the next room down.” Nami nodded to Ha’el and Muchi before hefting the crate and leaving. “Ichi’s in there, and I think Yuchi is, too. And once Torvald is up to it, he’ll be talking about our future plans. The command’s the second door on the right.”

Ha’el thanked Hanson and he made his way to the room with Muchi. More than before, he was awestruck by the size of the room.

“Yo!” Yuchi called out.

“Ah, you ended coming after all,” Muchi said. “And Ichi’s here, too!”

“Where’s Michi?” Ha’el asked in fear before adding, “And Tachi?”

“I asked. They’re both busy.”

As Muchi sat down next to Ichi and started asking her questions, Ha’el smiled. This atmosphere was something he could used to.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Jul 10, 2011 2:31 am

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This – this was bad.

The featureless hallways began to blend together after a few minutes, and now Epimor was hopelessly lost. He had been trying to find Synton, but she had been eluding him – he realized now. She managed to stay at the edge of his perception, and he had fallen for it.

He was hopelessly lost - all the signs were in Russian.

And to make things worse, there were things down here. Creature’s like he’d never seen before. Of course, he hadn’t been to Russia before, either.

He had no choice but to follow her. Except for Torvald and everyone else, the underground was deserted.

But he had no choice but to try to find her. He was climbing the stairs as fast as he could – looking up, the staircase seemed to go on forever. How deep was he?

“Whoa.”

A door, the kind that was normally locked, was missing. It was replaced by scorch marks and a rougher hallway. Was it a maintenance hallway? Could he use it to find Synton?

She would know, probably...

His train of thought was interrupted by a confident voice: “I’ve found you, Mouse!”

Epimor turned around. There was a man up the stairs. He had wild hair and a lab coat open, revealing a Russian jumpsuit, but the first thing Epimor noticed were his vibrant teal eyes. His face was completely serious as he looked down at Epimor. He didn’t know it, but this person helped Ha’el during the resonance cascade.

An ugly sneer split his face. “Or should I call you Rat?”
__________

After Torvald and Hanson stepped into the control center, everybody in Section C was present except for Epimor and Synton. Muchi and Yuchi were also there.

“All right,” Torvald said. “Since we’re all here, I’d like to go over our current projects. Hanson, if you’re find with it, I’d like you to continue developing the magic-based weapons as we were before.”

Hanson nodded.

“As for the runic research...” Torvald just now noticed he was missing. “Where is Epimor?”
__________

“As promised,” the doctor said, leading Epimor through the hallways, “If you pass this initiation, I’ll allow you to join me.”

Epimor plodded behind him. “Join you in what?”

“No questions now,” the scientist said tauntingly. “I’ll explain more later. This is the room.” He stepped in, and Epimor followed.

The room was bare, and small. There was two doors and a single table, with two chairs. There was some metal object on the table, and a coffee cup.

The scientist seated himself in the opposite chair, on the side with the coffee. “Come, sit. I’ll explain the situation you’re in.”

Epimor did and tried to study the object on the table. It was metal and appeared to have moving parts, but he couldn’t tell what it’s purpose was.

“Now,” the scientist said, “You are more lost than if you were in the middle of a desert, ripe to be swallowed by the shifting sands. I offer you a reprieve: if you participate in a dual interview with me, I’ll allow you the option to join me in survival.”

“Do you know how to get out?” Epimor asked warily.

“Yes,” he said sinisterly, “But I won’t tell you. If I give you directions out, you’ll have directions in. I won’t tell you more now. Instead, I’ll tell you about your options.”

He leaned forward. “If you decline my offer, you will leave this room, I will lock the door, and you will never see me again. There’s a chance you will escape – but, most likely, you will not.

“If you accept, and participate in the interview, you can, as I’ve said, join me. You’ll only find out more in the interview.”

Epimor was still cautious. This scientist seemed honest enough, but he was still so suspicious... “What’s the interview?”

The scientist’s face split again. “Quid pro quo. Asking and answering questions.” He saw Epimor’s nonplussed face. It must have been underwhelming. “I have a means to raise the stakes, though,” he said as he gestured to the machine. Epimor looked at it closer.

It had a flat metal base, which had a metal bar with half-inch-wide notches in the top, twelve total. It looked like the bar could move. On the base under the center four notches there was a seection of red paint. Separate from the bar, there was a vertical sleeve above the red paint.

“Of course, we alternate questions. On each question we bet one finger.”

Epimor was nodding until that point when he suddenly realized what he said. “What?!”

“You risk one finger per unanswered question, so there’s reason to answer. It will force us to trust. You put your fingers here,” he said, running a hand over the four notches in the metal which, Epimor now noticed, were indeed large enough to hold his fingers.

“If you don’t answer a question...” he reached to a dial on the side and turned it. With a click, the metal bar slid to the side and moved one notch to the side so that one of the spaces where his finger would have been moved over the red paint. He had Epimor turn a knob on his side to move it back to the center.

“And then, after our exchange...” He reached over to Epimor’s side and pressed a button. When he pressed a matching button on his side, a metal blade shot out of the sleeve down rails and over the middle four notches. It hit the bottom loudly.

It was a guillotine. Epimor felt a chill and tensed in his chair. “Why – ” He tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry. “Why would I agree to that?”

“Because it’s fun,” the scientist said humourlessly. “And it forces a trust. Besides, as long as you answer my questions, there’s no risk.” He sat straighter. “You also don’t have much of a choice.”

He’s right, Epimor thought. I just have to answer him. Otherwise, I’m stuck down here...

“Fine,” Epimor said. “How many questions?”

“Eight. Eight each, though that’s negotiable. You can ask first, since you’re the guest.”

Epimor considered the offer for a while. It didn’t sound too bad – if he was honest. “Alright.”

The scientist pulled the guillotine up and directed Epimor on where to place his right hand. He took his glove off, revealing the gently glowing arcane tattoo on his finger, and slid his hand into the spaces in the bar. “If you close the manacle, it won’t open until the the guillotine drops – and we need to press both buttons to close it.”

Epimor nodded and secured his hand in place.
__________

“Epimor’s looking around with Synton,” Hanson offered.

“Alright,” Torvald said, demurred. “I’ll have to talk to him later.” He stepped further into the room and began to explain.

“The main project for us is going to be a joint with Sections A and B – so Yuchi and Muchi would probably want to stay to hear it. I don’t know many of the details yet; I still have to work them out with Boisen. However, it’s certainly going to be a hybridized mechanical and magical construct. I just wanted to run some ideas by you before talking with him.”
__________

At the instant the restraint clicked into place, Epimor began to regret the decision – but he couldn’t go back. He began feeling claustrophobic. To make matters worse, the scientist added another pair of bars that would hold their fingers in place in the notches but allow the blade through. His palm was sweating.

“The first question is yours, Mouse.”

He had to put his reservations aside. “Who are you?” he asked.

Emotionlessly, as though he were reading a transcript, the scientist began, “I used to do research in the CERN remains before it fell, then I worked for the Spanish. The Russians offered me a great offer to defect, so I did. When the Legion invaded, I hid – nobody knows these tunnels better than I. My name is unimportant, but you can call me ‘Doctor.’ Is that answer satisfactory?”

“Doctor who?”

“Just ‘Doctor.’”

Epimor nodded. “Very well. My question is the same. Exactly who are you?”

Epimor tried to consider how to answer without divulging too much information. If he had to last eight questions, he didn’t want to tell too much at once. “My name is Epimor. About twenty years ago, I began training as a wizard and made a living researching and aiding a group of warriors. Somewhere around six months ago, the Legion landed and I started researching for them. Then we moved here.”

“A wizard?” the Doctor asked, incredulous. “Can you prove it? Reheat my coffee.”

Epimor placed his hand near the coffee cup and sat there. It soon began steaming, then it began roiling as he heated it further. Epimor stopped and its surface calmed.

The Doctor painfully took a sip of the boiling coffee and nodded. “Very interesting. Then, my second question. What were you doing by my secret lair?”

“I was... looking at the base. I didn’t expect to get lost at all.” To the Doctor’s prying gaze, he continued, “Really. I’m just lost, and then you forced me into this game.”

“Don’t be so ungrateful,” the Doctor said. “Were I not here or had I not contacted you, you would have had no choice but to continue. I at least extended an offer of aid – though I admit it is far from easy. Your second question?”

“How... how are you living down here?”

“The Russians were not so organized that detecting me is easy. The backup systems don’t deactivate automatically, so I shut some of them down in my sector and used the excess power for my own purposes. The Legion won’t notice me from the power grid. Logistically, the facilities are open and I can survive for the time being on harvested meat and abandoned coffee.”

“Then, for my third question...” Epimor couldn’t think of anything, and he didn’t want to probe too far, especially considering the Doctor’s light questions. There were still five questions left. “What meat are you eating?”

“The aliens’.” When he saw Epimor’s consternation, his eyes widened. “You didn’t know? There was an alien invasion – from another dimension. You had to see them on the way here. I farm them, and I’ve become quite adept at rendering their tough flesh palatable. I kill and eat them.”

He lowered his voice as though somebody might overhear. “I’m sorry if this offends you. What happened to your eye? It doesn’t look like trauma.”

Epimor offhandedly covered his altered eye. “I changed it, magically. It took a while to get the theory right. It’s All-Seeing, so I can see around corners, through walls... well, everything. In a certain range.”

The Doctor’s gaze was steadfast. “I admire your willingness to sacrifice your body for progress. My fourth question: what did you do to your hand?”

Epimor looked at his right index finger, decorated with spiralling runic script. “It’s something like a battery. It passively gathers energy which I can use when I need to. It’s been very useful in pinches.”

“I think, if you decide to join with me, we could create beautiful tools.”

Epimor relaxed a bit in his chair. “I think, for my next two questions, I’ll stop beating around the bush. What research are you doing down here?”

“I am only working with what I can scavange. There are more projects than I can name. My flagship creations are a device that can alter gravitational fields and another that can wreak havoc on a molecular level.”

Scary stuff, and hardly believable. The fifth question: “So, what is your ultimate goal for working down here?”

he Doctor stared at the white coffee cup on the table for a while, then scratched at a spot on the table, his face blank. The time passed but he only sat.

After a few minutes, he confidently looked up at Epimor. “I’ll not hand out my secrets so easily,” he said, and turned the dial on his side, sliding his hand one finger into the guillotine and moving Epimor’s hand further away.

Epimor was dismayed. What was this bravado? He didn’t want to make this man lose his fingers. He ran over the tallies in his head. The Doctor had four questions left to ask, and he had three. If he refused to answer a question, it would end evenly.

“Now,” the Doctor said, “Allow me to ask. For this questions background, I am unable to access the Legion network for fear of detection. How large are the Legion forces?”

Epimor hardly had to consider denying this question, and he turned his knob, centering the score again. No digits were endangered.

In the back of his mind, the Doctor enjoyed a gleeful smile.

“What,” he asked, “Does the Legion have in terms of military power?”

That’s strange, Epimor thought. That’s almost the same as the last question. Is he expecting me to answer because, by denying it, I’ll sacrifice one of my own fingers?

He considered his options. He wasn’t keen on betraying the Legion, even if his knowledge was limited. If he didn’t answer the question, he could simply ask another question that he knew the Doctor wouldn’t answer.

Epimor turned his knob again, eliciting another click as his finger was put over the crimson marking. “Sorry, but I won’t answer that question.”

Now he had his six and seventh questions. “What’s your purpose for researching down here by yourself?” The same question as before. He wouldn’t answer and then his finger would be safe.

The Doctor leaned back, cocked his head back, laughed. It was a vile sound, quick and staccato, full of malice, and it rang out in the empty room like gunshots.

He stopped abruptly and leveled his gaze at Epimor. The Doctor showed an intensity Epimor hadn’t seen before. “If you want to know, Mouse, I’ll tell you. I have never been appreciated as a scientist. I was always a political tool, either a commodity or a hostage. I came to Russia, a young government, to gain influence, but even here I was not safe.

“The Legion destroyed my plans, but not me. I will have my revenge on the Legion. They will surrender everything to me. I don’t want to kill them – humiliating them will be enough. When I’m done, I will move on to my grander plan.”

Now that Epimor noticed, he realized the Doctor’s eyes weren’t teal after all. They were just blue with a thick ring of green in the center.

That wasn’t the point. He answered the question.

Epimor looked down at his hand. He stared at it, his pupils wide. Apparently, he was immobile for some time, since the Doctor had to prompt him.

“You still have your seventh question.”

Epimor looked at him wildly. He just had to ask him something he wouldn’t answer. “Tell me what you’re planning afterwards!” he shouted.

The Doctor furrowed his brow. “Of course,” he said. “If you ask me, I can’t refuse. I said before I was used again and again. Why is that? Am I a fool? I think not. Why is an able mind like mine cast aside repeatedly? The answer is society. The norms of interaction. Those in power place their own power above others while denying their subordinates the capability to take what they may deserve.

“After destroying the Legion or claiming it as my own, I will move on – I will conquer the world, envelop it, and destroy society.”

Epimor’s hand was sweating excessively now. He had missed two of his chances to save himself. If he had something to grip, his knuckles would be white, but he could only flex them a few degrees.

“It’s time for my questions now, isn’t it? And, if I’m not mistaken, you can only move the rack one more time. If you don’t answer both of these questions, you’ll lose a finger for sure.

“Then, to begin. What research were you doing in the Legion?”

With no hesitation, Epimor began, “The Section I’m in has two main routes. The first studies runes – they use magic. The second makes circuits to gather energy and use them for runes. It makes weapons.”

The Doctor realized Epimor’s desperation and seized the opportunity. “What’s the Legion’s organization?”

In his state, Epimor didn’t see how this could be compromising. Just the chain of command. Not worse than losing a finger. “Iliad – Commander Iliad is in charge of it. At least on Earth. Boisen is the head scientist, and there are four Sections: A, B, C, and D. Manufacturing, Research, and Magic. I don’t know what D does. I don’t know about the military.”

The Doctor looked at Epimor. He was severely stressed after the last turn of events – he probably thought he was going to lose his finger. But the scientist wanted a partner more than information.

Epimor was sweating, and he seemed like he was about to go mad. The Doctor could have flaunted his power all he wanted, but that would have been contrary to his purpose. All that was left...

“I’ll take care of you, Mouse. You don’t deserve the punishment.” He turned his knob and set it to the middle. “I won’t answer the last question. Come in, for one day – I still won’t tell you how to get back to the Legion, but you’re welcome in the Lab.” He made sure to make his warm smile as convincing as possible.

For Lab Member 001.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:02 am

Spoiler:
 
Feet and legs sore, skin tanned, and thirsting for vengeance, Bryophyta finished his long march back to his destroyed city. His journey had been long enough, but not long enough to dissuade him from fighting the Legion.

He had been defeated, yes, but now he had an upper hand. If he was mobile, he could force his minions to follow him. A city’s worth of undead marching on the Legion – he would win. And then he would continue to spread.

He saw his haven, its towers rising in the midday sun. Reinvigorated, he urged his dirt-encrusted legs to keep moving. His borrowed clothes were torn and bleached from the constant sunlight. As he walked into the city, he noticed something was wrong. He could feel his power, his mental capability was still there.

But there was nothing in the city. It was empty. Did they leave? Why would they leave?

It became hard to breathe. Bryophyta continued to walk. The streets were deserted, even more than usual. He saw a body – a pile of bodies. His bodies, his soldiers, were dead.

He took a shaky breath. His vision blurred.

What could kill all of them? There were no signs of struggle.

He fell to his knees in exhaustion. What was happening to him?

The antidote Artis had engineered for the plague still hung in the air, and choked Bryophyta’s last breath, achieving its ultimate goal.
__________

Marx participated in the monthly meeting with Iliad and Boisen by radio, and his careful pride was almost visible to Boisen as he formally announced: the CERN headquarters were under Legion control, taken peacefully, and Legion scientists were working on a satellite uplink to allow Boisen remote access to their databases and equipment. The LHC was inactive, but other facilities seemed functional.

Boisen’s monthly report to Iliad contained no bad news. Despite the loss of an early prototype, the zero-point energy fields were almost ready for portable use. He was still reviewing the Russian data on portal technology, but he could tentatively say he was ready to duplicate it.

Oh, wait, there was one thing – according to the Hammer, a number of demons would be attacking. Yes, the Hammer is also a demon. Yes, they’re also strong.

To combat this threat, he was working with Section C to produce a hybridized mobile weapon, similar to Nami but heavier and less biologically based. He would use the Enforcer records to help create it. No details had been worked out.

Marx disconnected, and Boisen was about to leave he remembered something to ask.

“Oh, Iliad. Dagon was in the Second Battalion, right? For the Section C project, I was wondering if I could study his nanites to try to replicate them. It’s a bit of a stretch, but...”

Iliad responded briefly, “Sorry. Dagon’s on a mission right now. Seeing the success his recruits had in the resonance cascade, I decided to have him do more recon.”

“I see. No, it’s not that important. I’ll go discuss the project with Torvald – I’ll keep you updated.”
__________

After the brief discussion on Section C’s project, Torvald left and asked to talk to Ananke. Hanson left as well, taking Ichi to work on optimizing the circuits.

“Well,” Yuchi began, “It’s nice to have you back. Section C, that is. Boisen’s probably done by now; I’ll go see what’s going on there. Yuchi, are you staying?”

Yuchi stared at the floor. “I’ve got nothing to do here.” The two of them said their farewells and departed as well.

Which left Ha’el by himself. With nothing else to do, he decided to catch up on the progress Hanson had made.
__________

In the foreign room the Doctor used as a kitchen, Epimor and his savior talked over coffee. Epimor didn’t drink any.

After downing the first glass, the Doctor exhaled. “So, Mouse. What will you do? My offer will not stand indefinitely.”

The same important question. Should he trust his own skills to escape or seek refuge for now? Of course, his skills until now were useless.

“You won’t tell me how to get out?”

“No, Mouse. To do so would yield unacceptable risk – even if your life is at stake.”

Epimor sniffed at his coffee. It didn’t smell particularly appealing. Black. “I noticed before. Why do you take so much pride in being some sort of evil scientist?”

The Doctor stopped pouring his third cup of coffee and looked at Epimor angrily. “Evil? You misunderstand me. I’m merely practical. Whether or not I am evil is subjective. Even in the rigorous study of physics, the energy of a particle changes based on the frame it is observed from. Why would such a comparitively whimsical field such as ethics be any different?”

He stood and started pacing. “In criminology, legal action is often dependant on the circumstances surrounding an action, which may lesson or negate the consequences. Who is to say my circumstances don’t mitigate my actions? Who is to say the Legion isn’t evil, and I the steadfast opposition? I am not evil from my viewpoint – far from it. I merely want to take my well-earned position in the world, and the Legion is an obstacle. I even plan consideration for them, such as preventing undue punishment and offering them redemption.”

He dropped into his chair. “And you have the audacity to label me as ‘evil.’” He emptied the coffee pot into his glass. “You’re exactly the kind of person I need in my lab.” He raised the cup to his lips and tilted his head back.

As he continued to drink, Epimor said meekly, “Perhaps ‘evil’ was the wrong word...”

The Doctor finished and reached for the second coffee pot, his anger extinguished. “Perhaps. In any case, I trust you’ll decide to stay. The time for action is imminent. You’d do well to find yourself on the right side when the hammer falls.” Cup number four.

Epimor felt he had little choice. “I think I’ll stay here for now.”

The Doctor smiled and continued to drink.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Jul 17, 2011 7:15 am

Lee sat in seclusion, in the empty room. Each attempt to socialize failed. There was the same walk to the command center, then awkward conversations with Ha’el. Lee always felt out of place and retreated back in time, and back to here. Alone.

What was the point of conversing leisurely? Surviving was easy. Wasn’t that enough? The instincts of a minimalistically lived life were hard to shake off.

Doubt plagued Lee’s mind. Wasn’t it enough to stay here?
__________

Torvald asked to talk to Ananke in his office to describe the visions he saw, and if they were true.

There were three:

The storm that destroys the towers,

The metal golem rising in a foreign city,

The Hammer as he’s freed from his bonds.

While he was describing them, Ananke lost her perpetual smiler and charm.

Her gaze fell on the book he used. “This was written by Alamir, correct? If that’s the case, they are probably true.” Torvald’s spirits fell when she said that. She continued, “I would suggest you don’t meddle with the future from now on. Knowledge of this sort of thing upsets the balance and can make unwanted events happen.”

Even now, she could feel Lee slipping away. Lee was probably lost. Torvald, trying to keep up, asked, “What do you mean, unexpected?”

Ananke had had this conversation before, countless times. “Listen. I can see, a fair bit, into the future. If you see into the future for yourself, you’ll try to prepare, change destiny – and that upsets the equilibrium of my view. It tends to do more harm than good.” She stood and dropped her lecturing tone. “However, what’s done is done – keep your plans the same for now. Just stay away from that page in the future.”

She walked to the door before he could ask any more questions. “As much as I’d like to, I can’t tell you everything. In any case, you have a much more important meeting right now. Until later,” she said, stepping out. She held the door open for Boisen and disappeared into the hallway.

Outside of the office, she considered Torvald. His fate was set; the strings of fate were already tightening around his neck.

Inside, Boisen asked Torvald who just left; Torvald didn’t know what to say. A deity? Would he believe it? He just called her an important ally.

Then there was the joint project. It quickly became apparent that Boisen was far more prepared than Torvald. Torvald’s main contribution, the soul battery, wasn’t even ready – and then there was the issue of how the magic and electronic components would interact. Hanson had only created basic circuits.

They set plans for more research. Before the meeting ended, Torvald made sure to ask Boisen about something for future use: some sort of accelerator to shoot objects into the sky. He was thinking of the storm over the Towers.

That demon was in the clouds right above – or, more likely, the clouds were a manifestation of the demon.

“What, like a cannon? What sort of accuracy do you need?”

“No accuracy,” Torvald said. “It just needs to get to the height of one tower, preferably higher. And it has to have enough space for a round three feet across.”

Boisen considered it. “I could just rig one of the MAC cannons vertically... and fit it with a sabot. When do you need it by.”

Torvald felt that his visions were in chronological order, but he wasn’t sure. “As soon as possible, please.”

Boisen left with assurances that his request would be no problem.

Torvald thought of the project with Boisen:

Alpha.
__________

Below them, in his lonely prison, the Hammer continued to wait. He was enjoying this scenario.

In the Hellscape, he had been, like all others, at the mercy of the seven Princes, who were collectively greater than any other being. Now, though...

They couldn’t all attack at once. He had them in a narrow pass, forced to come at him one at a time – and, even better, the humans fought them on his behalf. If any of the Princes made it to him, he would break free of his bonds and destroy the Prince, and then humanity.

Until then, he would wait until his kingdom could be reclaimed. He had to. It was a flawless strategy.

He clenched and unclenched his restless hands, which sought sword and shield.
__________

“Good morning, Mouse. Today is a momentous occasion for you, and for my – no, our research.”

Epimor tried to wake up and make sense of what was happening. He had been sleeping in the Barracks, named by the Doctor. It housed his research assistants and had about forty stacked beds.

Epimor was the only person sleeping there at the moment. He tried to get up.

“I’ve prepared your breakfast. The coffee should invigorate you.”

Epimor looked distastefully at the sandwich. Two slices of stale bread and some dry, tough meat he couldn’t identify. Before he bit into it, he asked, “What’s momentous about today?”

“Until now,” the Doctor narrated, “I have been restrained by my own inability to procure results. I have sealed one sixteenth of the gargantuan underground complex, yet there are obstacles even I confess are beyond my abilities. Today will serve as a final test of your worth and, if you grasp success, today will be historic for our lab. Below, in a secure storage vault to which I have access, there are fissile materials that I require, but the entrance is blocked by a monster. I would have you defeat it.”

Epimor swallowed and washed it down with a swig of strong coffee. “I’ll eat the rest on the way. I had a question about my name – you’ve been calling me Mouse. Could you at least call me by name? And can I have something to call you instead of just Doctor?”

“You are naive, Mouse. To signify my separation from the world before my inevitable return, the old me has died, along with his name. Were I to use his name now, I would commit a heresy to my sacrifices and purpose.”

“Then make a new name.”

The Doctor looked shocked, as though such a novel idea had not occurred to him. “That may be viable. I will consider it. Now, let us depart.”

The Doctor led Epimor down a seemingly endless staircase, and they ultimately stopped at a door seemingly like all the others.

“Beyond this door is the antechamber to the supplies I require. The Guardian resides within. At this point, he most likely slumbers. Enter yourself when you are ready.” Epimor shrugged and pushed the door open.

It was another one of those, like that thing he saw with Torvald before arriving at the Towers.

He hadn’t seen one in light before – it was monstrous, three or four times as tall as Epimor. Both of its arms were larger than Epimor on their own – he steeled himself for a fight yet kept his distance, quickly moving to the other half of the room.

It groaned and began to stand. When it saw Epimor, it straighted to its full height quickly and took quick, heavy steps towards the intruder. Epimor removed his right glove and threw it to the side.

A celestial power guides my hand! A faint yellow glow built up around him. Epimor stared down the rushing alien. Just a little longer – but he couldn’t rush it.

The strength of the Big Dipper will crush my enemies! The alien was slowed by the intensity of the light. The Doctor shielded his eyes but did his best to watch intently. This was real.

You are already dead, Epimor intoned. He raised his hand higher and bent his knees.

This is... Fist of the North Star!

He launched himself as though shot at the alien, now dangerously close. He spun in mid-air and impacted with a resounding crack as its armor broke.

The Doctor found himself in shock. That wasn’t a punch! But his shock gave way to joy. Epimor was real – his power was real.

Epimor ground his heel further into the alien before kicking off and landing, preparing for a counterattack, but the monster fell backwards and didn’t move. The size of the whole in its chest surprised even Epimor, whose strength escaped his legs. He fell down, breathing heavily.

The Doctor walked to him. “I look forward to our future endeavors, Mikhael.” Epimor looked at the Doctor in surprise. “Your new name,” he said in explanation. “It suits you well, as you will herald our advance against our Enemy.”

Epimor – Mikhael smiled faintly. The Doctor continued, “I have also decided on a name for myself: Zhivago.”
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Oct 30, 2011 4:53 am

The next week passed in silence. Boisen slowly edged himself further into the workings of the installation: he managed to take control of the governing AI, Chandra, and integrated most of the facility with it.

Project Alpha proceeded, though Boisen was still concentrating on how Torvald’s magic component would interact with his mechanical components.
__________

Torvald was inspecting the soul battery. Its exterior was a heavy metal box, two feet across in either direction.

He had made it help from Alamir’s text. It was, in essence, a consciousness stored in a crystal, and a powerful one. It was sentient, however, and was currently refusing to accept him. It was central to project Alpha; without it, it would be entirely robotic and unable to defend itself against psychic attacks. It would defeat the whole purpose of Alpha.

It was surrounded by a heavy-metal case designed to reduce interference, and it acted as a transmitter of psychic information. It was connected to a headset that did the same, though that didn’t protect against interference. It was, in essence, a direct link to the spirit inside.

And Torvald couldn’t get it to respond. It was completely dark. Without it, the entire Alpha project would crash before it could get off the ground.

An instant before he left out of frustration, he heard something: a whisper, faint enough that he almost dismissed it. Something caused it – some external source. He glanced around the room frantically.
__________

Lee continued to sit in seclusion. Anything was better than this purposeless subsisting. There was nothing Lee could offer to these people. There was no reason to stay. No reason for friends.

Tachi had come by, probably to see if she made it. The loneliness that set in over the past days had dulled Lee’s wit. Tachi left, reassured only that Lee was safe.

Lee was a person who second-guessed every decision and was now in a flagellant spiral into despair.
__________

Attempts to get the Battery to react again quickly failed. There may have been somebody outisde.

Moments after the whisper, Torvald burst into the hall.

He glanced left. Nothing.

He glanced right. “Ichi! Ha’el!”
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Oct 30, 2011 4:56 am

Spoiler:
 


Epimor found nothing but boredom as Lab Member 001. He had access to the Research Wing, but all of the doors were locked. There was little of interest for him to do, and Doctor Zhivago spent most of his time in his office or parts of the Research Wing that were off-limits.

Of course, he was still somewhat grateful. The Doctor could have easily turned him away, and he didn’t have any special skills to contribute. Not much. Letting him stay was an act of charity.

He looked in Doctor Zhivago’s office. Everything was organized except a few open books on the desk. The Doctor himself was sitting, head forward in his hands over his desk.

“Excuse me – Doctor Zhivago?”

He froze. His hands seemed to press against his head harder before he abruptly looked at Epimor with a congenial expression. “What is it, Mikhael?”

That’s right, Epimor thought. “I was just thinking of something. You’re a scientist, right?”

He sat up in his chair and folded his hands delicately in front of him. “Of course, Mikhael,” he said grandly. “The study of science comprises all with which I am concerned.”

“Well, you don’t collaborate with anybody. The scientific community doesn’t know you exist; you just do... science... on your own.” He had to struggle with his word choice. Epimor – no; Mikhael didn’t know anything he did down here.

“And my inability to collaborate with other scientists prohibits me from being a scientist as well?” He stood, his lab coat falling straight like a sterile, white pillar. “Listen, Mikhael. I will not deny the advantages of cooperation, but is there anybody else able to think on my level?”

Mikhael was silent. “In today’s world, this desolate path is something I must embark on alone. In the early days of Science, when Reason triumphed over the superstitions of the masses, who was there to support Her? Was there a pantheon of logical scientists? No. One man after another, throwing themselves against Society until their common interests prevailed. Aristotle. Galileo. Newton. They made great advancements and showed remarkable insight – in those darkened times, it was they who lead scientific reasoning from the qualitative to the quantitative. It was a magnificent leap. Come with me.”

Doctor Zhivago lead Mikhael out and further down the hallway into the Research Wing. He followed with bated breath while the Doctor continued his monologue, walking slowly.

“From the inclusion of reason, science advanced through reasoning until the 21st century by uncountable discoverers. Its advance was unstoppable. Discovery after discovery, Science itself was a juggernaut, a force that could not be challenged. Almost without fail, observation brought to light some anomaly, which was then tested and its cause determined. Science triumphed all – to a point.

“However, Science began to grow complacent. It seemed as though there was nowhere to advance further. With knowledge of the laws of motion, chemistry, biology – what was left? Then, in the 21st century...” the Doctor stopped and entered a short code into a keypad next to a door, which slid silently open. “...there was another revolution.”

He walked into the room and it was suddenly illuminated. There was a single nondescript chair and a table. On the table there was a large helmet, with a cord coiled on the desk.

“At that time, a finite number of men hypothesized the tenets of quantum mechanics, which were
ultimately proven correct, along with relativity. This overthrew our view of how the universe worked. Together, one or two men redefined science from the study of reality’s explanation to that of it’s reason. To run experiments, countries funnelled billions into scientific projects. At its heart, though, Science is still an engine fueled by curiosity and insight. That is what I am doing now.

“Just as Albert Einstein accounted for discrepancies in Newtonian physics, I will account for discrepancies in quantum mechanics.

“The next scientific revolution is one I shall head – unified field theory. Even with my meager resources, I will unlock the bound dimensions predicted by string theory. As you saw, though, I am running into difficulties. This is part of my answer,” the Doctor said, gesturing to the helmet. “This generates a magnetic field that penetrates the brain and induces neurons to fire. When the field ends, the affected part of the brain no longer functions. On the right sections of the brain, it can cause one to cast away preconceptions. An invaluable tool for insight. With it, the Gods of Science shall become Newton, Einstein... and Zhivago.”

In front his stunned disciple, the Doctor sat in the chair and pulled the metal helmet over his head and plugged it in. As he fastened a strap under his chin, he explained, “The typical field strength for this device is three Teslas. Today, I will be using a field strength of ten Teslas.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?!” Epimor blurted out.

“Mikhael, please. Any harm that may come to me pales in consequence to what there is to lose to inaction. I intend for our debut against the Legion to occur within the month. Unnecessary hesitation must be discarded. Besides, you’re here to end this if anything goes wrong.” He gripped some device on the power cord and rotated a dial on it. “Now – it begins!” He pressed the button dramatically.

Nothing happened. Doctor Zhivago watched the clock. Every second there was a loud tick from his helmet, and his left cheek jumped as the magnetic field caused the muscles in his face to contract.

Epimor watched in silent fear. Was this the Science that Doctor Zhivago was talking about?

After fifteen minutes, he turned the device off. “It seems danger was avoided,” he slurred, making messy marks on the sheet of paper with his pen. He struggled to hold his head up with the heavy helmet. “I’ll ask you to leave me to my thoughts for now.”

Shocked, Epimor nodded and silently left, the door clicking shut behind him.

He smiled. Things were finally getting interesting.


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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Oct 30, 2011 4:59 am

Spoiler:
 


Tachi, in the Section C labs, had just found Lee and made sure he was fine; he was. On the way out, she saw Ha’el in a room by himself.

She had nothing to do with him – however.

She had been talking to her sisters, with the exception of Synton. There was something about Ha’el. He had some influence over them. When talking about Ha’el, Muchi seemed to brighten up, Yuchi became defensive, Michi clammed up, and even Ichi seemed affected.

Her instincts were telling her to go in with guns blazing.
__________

Ha’el rested uneasily in the command center. This Project Alpha thing seemed like a big deal.

Torvald called him and Ichi into his office after lunch, but he dismissed Ichi almost immediately. Then he seemed to get excited, which seemed out of character for Torvald. Then he gave Ha’el the headset.

He closed his eyes. Another consciousness flooded his mind at that moment. He had to completely rethink what magic was.

Was he so similar to Torvald, Hanson and Epimor? Their abilities seemed alien before, but were they so different after all?

Putting that aside, there was still the issue of the project itself. He had to bond with the cube – with Alpha, somehow.

He didn’t expect to be thrust into the limelight. This was Torvald’s main project, and he was tied to it. The thought was strange. Before, he’d never expected –

“Hey, Ha’el. It’s been a while.” He looked over and saw Tachi in her red outfit, marking her as a member of the military.

“Oh, Tachi. Hi. How have you been?” He hadn’t seen Tachi since Mendelgovi. She sat down next to him, and Ha’el noticed how much she seemed like Synton. Well, he thought, I’ve been around the others enough to tell them apart. He hadn’t seen Synton since Mendelgovi, either.

The month or so without seeing Tachi gave their conversation now a strange feeling. What exactly is my relationship to the Synta? The incident where the clones were created was too bizarre and he realized he hadn’t been seeing them completely as people. I suppose they’re individuals, too.
__________

Deep below them, the Hammer’s eyes flashed.
__________

In the Section C labs, Boisen was working with Torvald to optimize the junction between the magical impulse and electrical components. It was mostly a matter of stabilizing current, but he needed Torvald’s help.

He heard a chime – it was sent directly to his brain; there was no actual noise. His onboard computer had received a message.

His eyes widened when he read its contents. He hastily ended the experiment. “Torvald, there’s another one here.”
__________

The conversation between Ha’el and Tachi was completely normal. Ha’el, however, seemed to be distant, thinking of other things. That didn’t slow Tachi.

“You know, my sisters –” she began, but was interrupted by a rapid beeping. She unclipped something from her belt and looked at it.

“I have to go,” she said seriously. She smiled sympathetically. “Let’s continue later.” Moments after she left, Torvald and Boisen rushed into the command center.

“Move, Ha’el,” Boisen said seriously. Boisen sat in the main chair and began typing furiously on the keyboard. Lights sprang to life, and suddenly the vacant chamber seemed charged with energy.

“Chandra,” Boisen called out, seemingly to nobody, “Bring up video of the Hammer, from when he started. Main screen.”

Across the vast empty space, half of the wall lit up with a gargantuan image of the Hammer. It was a screen that large?!

In the upper corner of the video, there was a text that said “DELAY: –103s”. The Hammer’s heated voice echoed in the chamber rabidly.

Another has come! Another of my brethren, come to seek fortune at my expense! It is that dark master, Asmodeus...

His voice trailed off with uncertainty.

No, he said slowly. His head shot back up and he shouted, reinvigorated, It is the Leviathan! That endless maw, the Eater of Worlds. He has come! For the first time after he was removed from the primordial seas of this planet, he has come!

The Hammer stopped talking, and his fierce eyes stared into the command center. Boisen called out again, “Chandra, were there any high-energy reactions detected?”

‘Yes,’ a smooth, mechanical yet feminine voice said, ‘One, approximately 1.7 kilometers to the west. Its pattern is Blue.’ The Blue referred to a combination of electromagnetic wave frequencies generated by a portal to the Hellscape, as gathered from small gateway Torvald made and from the Hammer.

“Bring it up,” Boisen said.

The other half of the screen lit up. It was the outside, the frozen grass of the Russian winter. Mist hung thickly in the air, too thickly to see anything. At Boisen’s prompting, the camera switched to an infrared view which showed something circular hanging in the air in the distance.

“What’s its size?” Boisen asked.

‘The anomaly appears to be roughly spherical, varying twenty to twenty-five feet in diameter.’

Boisen looked at the red circle on the screen. It was growing slightly – coming towards them. It looks like the Hammer was right so far, Boisen thought, About how they will appear. He also said their power will rival his own.

“Fire a half-kiloton warhead,” Boisen said. “Non-nuclear.” No holding back.

Ha’el watched intently – so intently he did not notice Hanson and Ichi enter. These were the sort of things he would have to fight in the future. On the screen, a bright red dot raced across the sea of blue.

It got nearer, but the demon – the Leviathan – darted out of the way before it collided. The background of the entire screen flashed white before cooling to a red and then blue.

That was half a kiloton?!

‘Anomaly is within visual range,’ Chandra chimed, and Boisen asked it to switch the spectrum back.

Boisen’s draw fell open limply in shock. Was that... an eyeball?

Shrouded by a white veil, the Leviathan appeared, a massive red eye stalking the mists and approaching the Towers.

Boisen shouted, “Chandra, start anti-air fire. How ready is the Rapid Response team – and where’s Iliad?”

‘AA fire beginning. An RR team is deploying; Commander Iliad is currently on the freight elevator.’

“The freight elevator?!” Hanson said in surprise.

‘Yes,’ Chandra chimed calmly. ‘It appears his mass is too great for the personnel elevator.’

Heavy fire, from turrets mounted on the perimeter wall, peppered the Leviathan from afar. Its shield flickered like static as it prevented the rounds from damaging it.

Boisen tightened his grip on the desk. Another missile this close would damage the base, and the eyeball kept approaching unhindered.

A number of figures, about eight in total, appeared on another screen carrying rocket launchers. Boisen’s teeth ground together painfully – he didn’t know what to do in this situation. Combat?

He opened a channel to the RR team: “Exercise extreme caution. We don’t know what sorts of attacks it has.” Closing the channel, he turned and asked Torvald, “Anything to add?”

Torvald studied the image on the screen. “It was able to block your guns completely. I’m going up – we need to neutralize its shield.” Torvald turned and left the room, leaving Boisen in control, shaking in fear.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:02 am

Spoiler:
 

In a shadowed, seldom-trodden corner of the world, a group of four dark masked figures plotted together.

Words, however, were unnecessary. They communicated faster than they could with mere motion; the thoughts of one were the thoughts of all. All Knifemen, over one hundred thousand in total, heard their sermon, orated by the highest authority in their Guild.

The usage of the Cromwell blade Two has been unanimously authorized, their thoughts rang out, to lend succor to the Legion, under demonic onfall. We must preserve them – especially the Dual Gods – for the Promised Time, in order to affirm the survival of Humanity and the Guild.

The masses did not stir, but overwhelming support rose up and urged the Guild onwards.

In its midst, there was an irregularity: one dissenter, blasphemer, proclaiming his response.

You are incorrect.

Amongst the Guild Heads a shadow spun and ejected four darts. Two struck their mark, ending the existence of two Knifeman and causing them to vanish in a cloud of black dust. The other two were blocked by lesser Knifeman protecting their leaders, and then all motion ceased.

Imperceptably, tension grew. Though Knifemen, an incredible rage assaulted the lone Traitor. Like a roiling sea, their confused anger swept over him continuously, though none moved.

He could sense that all were there. All of the might of the Knifemen, minus four, in opposition of the one Assassin.

Contradiction, he thought, and the sea miraculously calmed. He could peer into the Guild’s deepest secrets, and saw their faults. They were incurable.

He plucked at these weaknesses, drawing their fallacies to light, but this was not something to which they had the capability to respond. Enraged, the Knifemen attacked him in unison – but they were not able to harm the enlightened dissident. He raised an arm, summoning an orb of light which exploded, illuminating the Guild as they kneeled down and died.

Among the dead and the emptiness, the lone exiled Knifeman turned and was there no more.

Separated by space and consciousness, Anamaluch waited for his reprisal. A single black shadow appeared before him.


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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:04 am

Spoiler:
 


Torvald strode confidently out into the battlefield. The Leviathan was only drifting through the air lazily, like a docile fish in a bowl. He noticed the AA turrets had stopped.

This demon really was powerful, moreso than anything he had seen before. It has been circling the Towers all this time... was it waiting? It had to attack. How would it?

He quelled his fear and approached the armed soldiers, taking cover inside what appeared to be a warehouse. “What’s the situation?”

One of the armored soldiers responded, “This is now a combat area. Civilians should evacuate to an underground shelter; the nearest is in Tower 3.”

Another soldier said, “Captian, that’s Torvald, the Section C head. Considering Boisen’s the acting commander...”

The captain didn’t move as he asked Boisen for confirmation. “Explosives had no effect,” he reported. “Boisen ordered us to stand down.”

Torvald nodded. “Tell Boisen to start the turret fire again. Open fire when its shields are down.” He looked up at the Leviathan.

He spread his arms, generating a strong field in opposition to the demon’s. The Leviathan stopped and stared at Torvald, its pupil dilating as though studying him. The field wasn’t strong enough – as the turrets opened fire again, a shimmering shield appeared and blocked them.

Torvald calmed his mind, collecting strength, as the Eye drew closer to him, its pupil splitting apart slowly to reveal a chasm within. With all of his strength, he clapped at its barrier and it broke. The guns now tore into its defenseless flesh.

Torvald collapsed and the RR team ran out, getting into position before firing a volley of four missiles at the demon.

It recoiled and rushed away, greatly damaged. The AA fire did not stop, but it became sporadic to avoid damaging the Towers. The great beast lumbered through the air, dropping junks of flesh like bombs, crushing what they landed on. Torvald sat panting on the ground, exhausted.

Then the beast roared. It was unearthly, as though it was merely a puppet emulating a roar.

Its intent was clear, however.

Its bestial yell echoed throughout the concrete complex and shook Torvald to his bones, giving him the adrenaline to stand and run. He looked up to see the Leviathan.

Its pupil and iris had fallen away, revealing a jawless mouth lined with circular rings of sharp, pointed teeth that seemed to swirl to ensnare any prey. At its throat was a portal to the Hellscape.

All of Torvald’s strength left his body when he saw it.

This was not an enemy he could defeat. It was ravenous, and now it wanted blood. It stopped flailing and began just skimming the ground, shredding the road below and pulling it into its gaping maw.

The RR team had retreated back into their shelter when one saw Torvald collapse outside.

“Torvald!” The soldier ran out and started pulling him inside; all the while the Leviathan bore down on them. The soldier knew at the last moment that both of them could not escape, and mustered enough strength to throw Torvald out of harm’s way before the Leviathan finally coated its teeth in human blood.
__________

Boisen watched the Leviathan circle back up into the air, its shield again deflecting the useless fire. He couldn’t feel his face, and his spine felt cold – he was shaking.

What can I do? At this rate, we won’t be able to stop it.

Everybody else was silent. Nobody had suggestions for this opponent, who stood before them like an unshakable wall. Drawn by the sirens, Lee had entered the room and was trying to make sense of what happened.

Commander Iliad brushed past Lee into the room, his heavy footsteps demanding attention. Boisen smiled in spite of the situation. “Commander!”

“What’s the situation?” Iliad asked, walking up to the console and looking down at it, unable to sit in the weak chairs.

Gesturing at the screen, Boisen said, “Nothing we use can damage it. Its shields withstand our close AA rounds and the equipped teams, and anything else would damage the Towers. Torvald tried to help, but it didn’t work.”

Iliad nodded and unwrapped a blue lollipop. “And it’s goal is the Hammer?”

Suddenly, Yuchi turned around and shouted, “Boisen! The RC cannon is online and charging!” With a button press, a number appeared in an unused sector of the screen: 13% and climbing.

Boisen turned back in shock. “What?!”

“What is that?” Iliad asked urgently.

“It’s... it’s a magnetic accelerator cannon, a railgun. It’s locked in a vertical position, but just activating it should require my authorization, and I don’t know how – it’s firing! Chandra, track the projectile!”


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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:07 am

Spoiler:
 


Safety shutters opened, revealing the RC cannon to the surface. It stored over half the power generated from the facility, charging energy that would ultimately used to propel the special sabot at the bottom upwards, along with its cargo.

Ninety percent.

A test current flowed through the sabot to ensure it was functioning correctly.

Ninety-five percent.

Along the entire length of the barrel, liquid helium poured onto the rails to lower them to superconducting temperatures.

One hundred percent.

Heavy current flowed under the sabot in one direction at the same time a powerful magnetic field penetrated it in another. The combination propelled the sabot upwards with hundreds of g-forces into the open air.

As the sabot cleared ground level, everybody in the control center let out a collective gasp of surprise.

“Synton?!”

Synton soared through the air, slowed by friction but still reaching her apex over the Towers. Below her, the demon Leviathan screeched and turned to face her. Snarling, Synton drew a clawed hand back and swept it in front of her, a magical shockwave tearing through the shield and destroying it.

Synton dug her fingers into the eyeball and hung on, letting loose one more powerful pulse that rent the Leviathan in two and destroyed it in one blow, the two halves falling to the ground.

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